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media watch with peoples input an organization of rastriya abhyudaya
month june 11, edition 000856, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.
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- MOCKERY OF JUSTICE
- MURDERED IN THE WOMB
- VANVAAS FROM RAM'S INDIA - ASHOK MALIK
- WHY FIGHTING CORRUPTION IS IMPORTANT - SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY
- 2G's next generation - J Gopikrishnan
- JAYALALITHAA HELPING MARANS TIDE OVER CRISIS? - BR HARAN (COLUMNIST)
THE TIMES OF INDIA
- A NETA'S SECRET DIARY
- MYTH OF STABLE DESPOTISM - SUNIL KHILNANISUNIL KHILNANI
- WAY TO GO, ARCHIE ANDREWS
- ARCHIE CAN'T BE INDIANISED - KISHORE ROYKISHORE ROY
- FOR THE US, GAME NOT OVER IN ASIA - NAYAN CHANDANAYAN CHANDA
- INJURIOUS TO ONE'S WEALTH
- CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS - RAJMOHAN GANDHI
- THE CIRCUS MUST END - BARKHA DUTT
- LESS EQUAL THAN OTHERS - NAMITA BHANDARE
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
- CONVERSATION PIECE
- LONDON REBUFF
- A, B, C... O
- THE OUT, THEIR RAGE - SHEKHAR GUPTA
- EYE ON GAZA - ALIA ALLANA
- THE BRUSH OF GREATNESS - K.P. SINGH
- THE SWASHBUCKLING OMBUDSMAN - SARITHA RAI
- THE ALGEBRA OF AUTHORITY
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
- PLAYING POLITICS AT MARUTI
- DIDI ACTS LIKE A DADA
- AMMA AND THE CABLE WARS - SUSHILA RAVINDRANATH
- A SMALL STEP TOWARDS JUSTICE
- HUSAIN AND THE IDEA OF INDIA
- PAKISTAN'S KASHMIRI PROBLEM - PRAVEEN SWAMI
- ONE BILLION PEOPLE DISABLED, SAYS FIRST GLOBAL REPORT - KAREN MCVEIGH
- EU TO GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO CROATIA
THE ASIAN AGE
- RAMDEV HAS A LOT MORE TO DISCLOSE
- JUSTICE IS RARE - ANTARA DEV SEN
- HUSAIN UNCENSURED - KISHWAR DESAI
- LITERAL SNOBBERY - FARRUKH DHONDY
- REMEMBERING MARTYRS
- CLOUDBURST IN DODA
- PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME - BY ML KOTRU
- ENERGY PRODUCTS ARE OVER-PRICED - BY NANTOO BANERJEE
- FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
- A BLOW TO DEMOCRACY - BY SUDHANSU R DAS
- MANUFACTURE TO GROW
- HOODA'S HARYANA
- TEENAGE TRAUMA
- THE SINO-PAK NEXUS - BY GEN (RETD) V. P. MALIK
- GETTING IT ALL WRONG - BY S. RAGHUNATH
- LEARNING FROM THE 'JEWISH SPRING' - DANNY AYALON
- VIOLENCE RATCHETS UP RISK - HUGO DIXON
- DO A GARAGE SALE - T N NINAN
- A LITMUS TEST FOR RBI - RAJEEV MALIK
- THE M F HUSAIN I KNEW - SUNIL SETHI
- UPA'S MIDNIGHT MOMENT - K NATWAR SINGH
- WHY MARX WAS RIGHT - V V
- BHARTI TO BJP'S RESCUE - ADITI PHADNIS
- NAC = ANNA = BABA? - DORAB R SOPARIWALA
- MUCH ADO ABOUT IIM RANKINGS - AJIT BALAKRISHNAN
- WELCOME SUPPORT FOR MANUFACTURING
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- INDEX OF GROWTH
- NO VIOLENCE
- AGE-OLD BELIEFS
- IMPROVING TELECOM USOF'S IMPACT
- SPOTLIGHT IS ON PAKISTAN'S DARKEST SECRET - AAMER AHMED KHAN
- A TALE OF TWO DECEPTIONS - RAJIV JAYARAM
- MAXIMUM MAYHEM IN MALAD
- HUSAIN UNCENSURED
- RAMDEV HAS A LOT MORE TO DISCLOSE
- JUSTICE IS RARE
- LITERAL SNOBBERY
- 'IRRELEVANT PARTS'
- JUST NAME IT
- SYRIAN NEWSLETTER
- ENERGY AND SECURITY - BY H KHASNOBIS
- '$1.5 TRILLION NEEDED FOR INFRASTRUCTURE'
- GANDHIAN JUSTICE - RAGHAVENDRA SINGH
- ON RECORD
- FROM ARTIST TO VICTIM
- DANGERS OF THE CIRCUS - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
THE NEWYORK TIMES
- TALKING TRUTH TO NATO
- WELL, IT'S A START
- REMEMBER MICROSOFT?
- DRUG BUST - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
- RONALD'S EXIT INTERVIEW - BY YONI BRENNER
- DEATH BY NOSTALGIA - BY SARAH WILLIAMS GOLDHAGEN
- BLOCKING ELIZABETH WARREN - BY JOE NOCERA
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
- STEPPING OFF THE MEDIA CURB INTO ONCOMING NARRATIVE TRAFFIC - DAVID JUDSON
- TO ADVANCE, DEMOCRACY NEEDS OPPOSITION - CENGİZ AKTAR
- EVERY VOTE IS IMPORTANT IN THIS CRUCIAL ELECTION - YUSUF KANLI
- WHAT THIS ELECTION IS REALLY ABOUT - MUSTAFA AKYOL
- CHINA'S TROUBLED NEIGHBORS - PHILIP BOWRING
- KAYSERI STOP OF NABUCCO - GİLA BENMAYOR
- THE CORRIDOR: WHAT DO CITIZENS EXPECT FROM THE NEW PARLIAMENT? - GÖKSEL BOZKURT
- TERROR IN UNIFORM
- MF HUSSAIN
- MISSING BILLIONS
- 'MY COUNTRY IS FINISHED' - AMEER BHUTTO
- OUR DEAR MAULVI - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
- OUR ONE-SIDED VIEW ON DRONES - ASAD MUNIR
- BEYOND SELECTIVE JUSTICE - NAUMAN ASGHAR
- BETWEEN REFORM AND ANARCHY - BABAR SATTAR
- MEMO FROM USA - ANJUM NIAZ
- GEN KAYANI RAISES SOME CRUCIAL ISSUES
- REVITALISATION OF CII
- STOP DEMORALISING THE NATION - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
- SOVEREIGNTY: A TIME FOR DELIBERATION - ABDUL WAHAB KAHLOON
- BEYOND ABBOTTABAD & MEHRAN BASE ATTACKS! - ASIF HAROON RAJA
- PAKISTAN WILL STAY AND PROSPER - SAEED QURESHI
- OUR FRUSTRATED MAN IN AFGHANISTAN - CHARLES MOORE
- LABOR NEEDS A SENSE OF PURPOSE
- RUDD TAKES THE LEAD ON LIBYA
- BAILLIEU MUST TAKE OWN ADVICE ON POLICE INQUIRY
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- THE TROUBLE WITH POLITICS THESE DAYS
- PLEASE ASSUME THE WOMBAT CRASH POSITION
- MORE JAILS WILL NOT MEAN LESS CRIME
- GREENS MUST SHOW THEY CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE FORCE
- UNEMPLOYMENT: THE BIG GAMBLE
- DROUGHT: NOT A DROP TO SHARE
- UNTHINKABLE? THE END OF THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
THE JAPAN TIMES
- PURSUING A NEW ENERGY POLICY
THE JAKARTA POST
- CLOUDS AND THEIR SILVER LININGS BEHIND ASIA - ORLANDO AYALA
- (PART 2 OF 2) PAKISTAN: A REALITY CHECK AMID TERROR AND CHAOS - PERVEZ MUSHARRAF
- ARE CHINESE MOTHERS REALLY SUPERIOR? - AIMEE DAVIS
- CANDIDATES AND BUSINESS COMPETITIVENESS - NOPHAKHUN LIMSAMARNPHUN
- THIRTEEN YEARS OF PRIVATIZED WATER IN JAKARTA - NILA ARDHIANIE
- E.COLI GIVES LANKA FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- CAJOLING WITH A HIDDEN CUDGEL
- A TERRORISM TURNING POINT?
- NO ABUSE OF EMERGENCY REGULATIONS: HRC CHAIRMAN
- HIGH LEVELS OF ARSENIC IN PESTICIDES - BY LAKNA PARANAMANNA
GULF DAILY NEWS
- MANIPULATION BY THE MEDIA - BY PAUL BALLES
MOCKERY OF JUSTICE
US COURT CLEARS RANA OF 26/11 CHARGES
The verdict by the jury of the Chicago court which has cleared Pakistani Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana of any involvement in the 26/11 terrorist attack on multiple targets in Mumbai that left at least 166 people dead has no doubt come as a dampener. It is amazing that despite the overwhelming evidence by way of extensive depositions by Pakistani American Daood Sayed Gilani, who later changed his name to David Coleman Headley, and what seemed to be a robust case presented by the prosecution, the jury thought it fit to absolve the man who played a key role in plotting the massacre. It is equally intriguing that Rana should have been found guilty on two other charges — providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and participating in the aborted plot to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for publishing cartoons allegedly caricaturing Prophet Mohammed — on the basis of the same evidence, namely Headley's disclosures. If we are to believe that the jury went along with Rana's lawyers who dismissed Headley's testimony as "unreliable" and termed him "a life-long manipulator, liar and con man" while striking down the prosecution's charge that he was involved in plotting the Mumbai attack, then it would be in order to raise the question as to why the star witness's deposition was found to be 'reliable' while upholding the two other charges against the accused. Headley's testimony was in continuum; it cannot be seen in separate compartments with facts being fitted in to suit the jury's verdict. There is obviously a missing link somewhere and the prosecution must address this issue. The ghastly bloodletting in Mumbai was not about either America (though American citizens were among the victims) or Pakistan (whose establishment was involved in planning and executing the attack); it's also about India and the US cannot be allowed to ignore this significant fact.
It is absurd to suggest, as has been done by Rana's lawyers — and accepted by the jury — that Headley had all along "duped" his associate. The two had discussed the Mumbai carnage both before and after it was committed; Rana was fully aware of Headley's association with the ISI and its pet terrorist organisation, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba; he knew all along what the America spy-turned-Pakistani agent was up to; he was deeply involved with the LeT (a fact that the jury has upheld); and, he entirely endorsed the butchery. To allow such a man to go unscathed — it's really not material whether he will serve 30 years in prison for plotting the aborted attack on Jyllands-Posten and his association with a banned terrorist organisation, the LeT — is both a travesty of justice and a repudiation of America's claim to be leading the war on global jihad. The US Administration will no doubt claim that the verdict is that of an 'independent' jury and the unexpected finding is one of the hazards of that country's justice system with which we must learn to live. But that's balderdash. The crime was committed in India and both Headley and Rana should have stood trial in this country. That never happened because the US did not want the world to learn more about the deadly duo than was told by American officials. The reason is obvious: The US has a lot to hide, both about itself and its frontline ally, Pakistan.
MURDERED IN THE WOMB
INDIANS IN AMERICA KILLING FEMALE FOETUSES
The evils of discrimination against the girl child which are most often manifested in the brutal act of sex-selective abortion leading to female foeticide are commonly associated with patriarchal communities in the developing world: Here, a combination of cultural and sometimes economic pressures along with access to relevant technology makes it possible for couples to terminate a pregnancy based on the sex of the foetus. Recent research, however, has now shown that even rich, developed countries which do not have a tradition of female foeticide are now reporting an increasing number of such abortions. The rising numbers are predictably attributed to immigrant communities that have built new homes continents away from their homeland but have nonetheless failed to rid themselves of their old mindset. A study conducted by the University of California has shown that immigrant women (and men) of Indian origin living in the US are abusing that country's liberal abortion policies to undergo sex-selection procedures and tests to ensure that either female embryos are not conceived in the first place, and if they are, they are aborted to prevent the birth of a girl child. Unlike in India where pre-natal sex determination tests and other sex selection processes have been declared illegal, the US has no such restrictions. Consequently, Indian immigrants are using sperm-sorting technology and in-vitro fertilisation to ensure that only male embryos are implanted while others are aborting female foetuses. What makes this shocking phenomenon more shameful is the fact that the women found participating in female foeticide come from various religious, educational and professional backgrounds, thus demolishing the myth that lack of education, economic backwardness and mileu-specific societal pressure are to blame for female foeticide. It also demonstrates that mothers have no compunction in destroying female foetuses.
The study, which was conducted to provide an insight into how women traditionally under pressure to have male children behave in an environment where they are allowed reproductive choice and have access to sex selection technology, has also found that women carrying female foetuses are allegedly subject to abuse and pressure from husbands and parents-in-law. This is a reason which is also cited in India. But it must not be allowed to be cited in justification of a gory practice that fetches shame and distorts the demography of the nation. Obviously, there is something deeply sinister about the Indian mind which perversely believes that glory lies in begetting only male offspring. It's also a dumb view because nobody pauses to think as to where their male offspring will find partners to beget further male offspring. The cure to this perversity is known to all.
VANVAAS FROM RAM'S INDIA
In the end, Husain lost to the mob. The gutter rhetoric on the streets kept him away from India. But the anti-Husain constituency has won a pyrrhic victory.
There is something downright disquieting about intellectual sensibilities in India. Even in his death Maqbool Fida Husain, India's best-known contemporary artist, has been subjected to abuse and only grudging praise from the Hindu Right. A BJP spokesperson argued Husain "should have come back, respected the law and people's sentiments and merged his breath and body with Indian soil". Instead, he got "got distanced from Indians". For good measure, "his caricature of Durga and Bharat Mata was obnoxious and unacceptable". It was unnecessarily convoluted phraseology, out of place at the time of departure of a titan of Indian creativity.
On Internet forums, the criticism of Husain was far worse. He was labelled 'anti-Indian', 'anti-Hindu', 'anti-national' and all the favoured cuss words of the Internet Hindus — a shorthand phrase for those who, while representing a minority of Hindus on the Internet, make up perhaps the most bigoted social media community anywhere on Earth.
It was left to Balasaheb Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena, to bring closure that was appropriate: "MF Husain was as strong-willed as he was fantastic. There are differences over his art, but he did not give up his obstinacy … An artist has his peculiar style, and Husain pursued his modern style wilfully. He only slipped up on the depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses. Otherwise, he was happy and content in his field. If his demise is a loss for modern art, then so be it. May his Allah give him peace."
The Shiv Sena founder's nephew Raj Thackeray, who now leads a breakaway party, was even more forthright: "He was an asset to the country. His passing should put an end to all the controversies surrounding his paintings."
Husain was not perfect. The films he made were an embarrassment. It was sometimes felt he courted controversy as a sort of publicity tool. His eccentricity was both genuine and on occasion cultivated. When he walked into a club barefoot, he knew what he was doing: Aiming for the next morning's headlines.
Even so none of this is unusual. Creative people anywhere, artists and writers, actors and even television anchors — 9.00 pm generalissimos for instance — often acquire affectations and mannerisms or merely say, draw and write things to attract attention to themselves and their craft. It is possible Husain's recent problems lay in one of these experiments having gone horribly wrong.
That aside, his choice of refuge from India was decidedly strange. Dubai and Qatar were scarcely domains of free expression, even if Husain made them his home. If he had migrated to, say, Paris, India's embarrassment would have been much more acute.
However, the anti-Husain constituency has won a decidedly pyrrhic victory. It kept him out of India but invited ridicule upon itself. By reacting churlishly to the great man's death and refusing to acknowledge he had been punished much more than his so-called sin merited, the extreme fringe of the Hindu Right — its influence largely limited to the Internet — has isolated itself even further.
Why didn't Husain come back to India and submit himself to court scrutiny? Why didn't he answer his opponents from behind a courtroom post? The questions may seem disarmingly simple. Yet those who ask them — people such as the BJP spokesperson who now stresses Husain should have "respected the law and people's sentiments" — are either innocent of the fundamental decency of a democracy or are plain disingenuous.
The hate-Husain brigade filed some 900 cases against him. Could a man past 90, past 95 when he died, be expected to run from one mofussil court to another, up and down the country? If India's most famous artist had actually subjected himself to this torture, his health and mental peace would have been shattered. More than that Indian democracy and commitment to artistic liberty would have come out looking like a caricature. Paradoxically, in not coming back to India, Husain did the Hindu right a favour.
The cry-baby Hindutva brigade — the type the members of which post replies on Internet forums using pseudonyms because a deep-seated inferiority complex prevents them writing under their real names — will no doubt point to Salman Rushdie, The Last Temptation of Christ, the Danish cartoons episode, The Da Vinci Code. The defensive (and defeatist) contention would be that if it is fine for (some) Muslims and Christians to take offence too easily, then it is fine for (some) Hindus to take offence equally easily and copy those they claim to loath.
This is flawed logic. For a start, no seriously democratic country — other than India — has placed prohibitions on almost any of the artistes or works of creativity cited above. Second, the international assault on Rushdie was led by a crazed Ayatollah in Iran. Does the Hindu Right see itself in the same league? Third, state-specific restrictions and clumsy attempts to censor films like The Da Vinci Code are abominable, but do not constitute the systematic targeting of a venerable artist by manipulating and misusing the Indian legal system.
In the end, Husain lost to the mob. The gutter rhetoric on the streets — now adopted by the Internet Hindu on Twitter and similar networks — kept him away from his beloved India (and make no mistake he loved this country deeply). It gave the mob an inflated sense of its strength. Today, more than ever before, books, films and paintings are subject to clearance by arbiters who cannot rise above the lowest common denominator. Politicians attempt to justify this by citing "people's sentiments". What they mean is the noise of the rabble.
Of course, this rabble is not exclusively Hindu. Even so the competitive hysteria of Hindu and Muslim self-appointed censors is nauseating. The banning of The Satanic Verses in 1988 and the driving out of Husain constitute the bookends of an extremely disturbing period in India's democratic discourse.
Husain's death so far away from India, and the fact that he has been laid to rest in distant London — rather than amid the smells and sounds of the Mumbai he so cherished — shames us all. How different is it from the British Government sending Bal Gangadhar Tilak to far-off Mandalay simply because it considered his ideas and writings dangerous? Can disagreement with an artist's sense of graphic description — and that right to disagree is no doubt legitimate — lead to such extraordinary expulsion? Can the land of Lord Rama be blasé about Husain's vanvaas?
These are troubling, even poignant questions. I suspect they won't get answers; they will meet still more Internet Hindu poison.
WHY FIGHTING CORRUPTION IS IMPORTANT
The entire world is watching as Indians attempt to purge India of corruption using classically Indian means of protest. Hindutva and Sanatana Dharma represent the only viable cures to the cancer of corruption which is destroying the entrails of our civilization
Corruption in India is now a major concern because of the gigantic and mind boggling amounts illegally appropriated in the Satyam, IPL, CWG, and 2G Spectrum scams. By all objective criteria, India today has by far one of the most corrupt governance. The 2G Spectrum Scam, the title of my new book released on June 11, is the most shocking rip-off of all.
As I have pointed out in the book, my curiosity was first fired by the fraud and forgery that became apparent in the sudden divestment of equity stake in Swan Capital Company by Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, the owner of ADAG who strategically controlled Swan, in favour of the Shahid Balwas-run DB Realty Company, and reportedly on then Telecom Minister A Raja's behest. DB Realty then sold the controlling shares of Swan to Etisalat.
This latter company was considered in a Home Ministry report to be a front for ISI and Dawood Ibrahim. Shahid Balwas was held by the Ministry to be an undesirable person. Yet, Etisalat was allowed by the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to buy out the Swan Telecom at eight times the price paid by Swan for the 2G spectrum licence. National security was seriously compromised for greed of money.
I had written to the Prime Minister a letter dated November 29, 2008, for sanction under Section19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (1988) to prosecute Telecom Minister A. Raja by filing a private complaint before the Designated Sessions Court. Thus began my venture into the 2G spectrum scam. The PM's procrastination led me to the Supreme Court.
Thereafter, a Bench of Justices Singhvi and Ganguli, by their meticulous reading of the briefs and documents filed and by their crisp orders and directions have changed the national public mood from despair and despondency to hope and expectation.
This judicial intervention came none too soon. An international watchdog committee conducted a study on the illicit flight of money from India, perhaps the first ever attempt at shedding light on a subject steeped in secrecy, and concluded that India has been drained of $462 billion (over Rs 20 lakh crore) between 1948 and 2008. The amount represents nearly 40 per cent of India's gross domestic product.
The unanimous view throughout the world today is that corruption is no more the inevitable grease or speed money to be tolerated in any system, but a cancer that could cause the death of a society by continuous debilitation — unless it is cured at an early stage.
The Indian financial system also suffers from a hangover of cronyism and corruption that have brought the government budgets on the verge of bankruptcy. This too needs fixing. India's infrastructure requires about $ 150 billion to make it world class, and the education system needs 6 per cent of GDP instead of 2.8 per cent today. But an open competitive market system can find these resources provided the quality of governance and accountability is improved. Obviously a second generation of reforms is necessary for all this.
One of the worst problems with corruption in India is the creation of "black money"— money that is used in such transactions and is obviously unreported, hence is neither taxed nor is spent openly. It travels to secret bank accounts abroad, or, worse, is used by the corrupt to indulge in gross luxurious consumption and bribery. Such black money stock also creates inflation by enabling easy finance for hoarding of supplies even as the GDP growth rate accelerates.
Corruption, therefore, impacts on economic development of a nation in five dimensions:
1. Decisions taken for corrupt motive sub-optimises the allocation of scarce national resources and hence in the long run lowers the rate of growth in GDP. It also encourages buccaneers instead of innovative entrepreneurs.
2. By the use of bribe money which escapes the tax net and is mostly stashed away in banks abroad or in trunks in safe houses, is deployed in luxury goods purchase, ostentatious life, splurging in five star hotels, real estate, and on partying. This raises demand for luxury production and services, and in turn distorts investment priorities. In India, 70 per cent of the investment goes directly or indirectly to sustain the luxury sector.
3. Unaccounted bribe money is lent to hoarders and speculators who then cause artificial shortages and thus inflation and property bubbles.
4. Since the most in corrupt activities would be in public office, they enact laws to not only to safeguard the booty by lax criminal investigations and prosecutions, but to enable earning interest or return on the bribe money. The invention of Participatory Notes (PNs) and the Mauritius Tax & Capital Gains exemption treaties is aimed at that sordid objective (see below).
5. Corruption enables beneficiaries to involve foreign governments seeking influence and criminal gangs resident abroad to launder money and provide protection.
The view of Integral Humanism as propounded by Deendayal Upadhaya or what we have for centuries have called as Sanatana Dharma is that a society is healthy only if there is a harmonisation of material pursuits and spiritual advancement in a human being. The social structure called Varna, till it degenerated into a birth-based social cartel, was designed to downgrade wealth as the indicator of status and elevate sacrifice and simplicity as a desirable value.
But now greed is driving all of us as it has become in the globalisation process. Materialistic progress alone however does not guarantee national security of a nation. What is essential is the character and integrity of its citizens. Hence, besides the objective of acquiring knowledge and getting employment that require cognitive intelligence, the youth must be motivated in other dimensions of intelligence that of emotional, moral and social.
In the United States, as Business Week has recently reported, these concepts have become highly popular in the corporate world, and have been incorporated in the best-selling books written by Daniel Goleman, Deepak Chopra, Anthony Robbins, among others.
In brief, out National Policy for integrating spiritual values and organisation leadership can be achieved by measures by which we can create a modern mindset in the youth of India, not only to motivate the youthto acquire technical competence, but to develop emotional, moral social and spiritual values that will make that person a self-reliant individual of high character, patriotic, and possessing a social conscience.
Our goal has to be thus the efficient use of resources, human and physical, hardware and software by an able and human spiritually guided and ethically organizational leadership in a framework of competitive market economies.
Hence, concisely stated, for a corruption free society to be achieved on a long term basis the Indian economy should be founded on a harmonisation of efficient organisational leadership and abiding spiritual values which we call as Sanatana Dharma. That can be nurtured only bottom up i.e., educate our growth accordingly — to synthesise material pursuits with spiritual values which lauds simplicity and eschews greed.
Ultimately it will also be decided by how we vote in elections. But we need a new ideology to combat the cancer of corruption in our system. For this we need a new breed of Indian leaders-educated, courageous, and rational risk takers. That we can get only if the ethos of our people changes from the purely individualist pursuit of material pleasures and goals, to an integral outlook. Corruption is the cancer today in our society but Hindutva (Hinduness) or Sanatana Dharma imbibed character is the cure.
The writer is president, Janata Party
2G's next generation
Kapil Sibal thought he could deflect public attention from the Congress' role in the 2G scam by bringing all deals since 2001 under the scanner. Now, he has ended up trapping the DMK all over again
The investigation into the 2G spectrum scam has now reached the doors of Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran. It was the result of the ill advise of the Congress' dirty tricks department which tried to draw the BJP into the net. They had that by bringing all telecom deals since 2001 into the ambit of the Joint Parliamentary Committee's probe they could somehow find a scam involving the NDA government, which, in turn could deflect attention from their own crime. However, that move backfired on them.
But whoever was advising the government forgot the simple fact that Pramod Mahajan, the Telecom Minister from the BJP, has been dead for five years and therefore it is no longer possible to take criminal action against him. Without checking facts they bayed for the blood of Arun Shourie (who was Minister from January 2003 to May 2004), who did everything with the approval of Cabinet and Group of Ministers. Congress crisis managers, especially new Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, who seems to believe that he is the greatest authority on law, could scarcely conceal his glee when the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to probe into spectrum allotments made in the 2001-2007 period. However, the UPA's managers somehow forgot that apart from A Raja, they had another man in the Telecom hot seat — Dayanidhi Maran. The son of Murasoli had headed that coveted Ministry from May 2004 to May 2007.
Now, Maran is facing the heat on a complaint or deposition filed by the business tycoon C Sivashankaran to the CBI. After five years, Siva, the founder of Aircel, the mobile telephony operations company, is alleging that Maran had arm twisted him to sell his company to the Malaysian giant, Maxis. He was forced to conduct the deal at the "meagre" price of Rs 4,500 crore in mid 2006. Siva further alleged that Maran had delayed his expansion by two years by issuing licenses in other telecom circles. The allegations of quid pro quo on Maran is that after this deal the Maxis group had invested Rs 600 crore in the Sun network which is owned by members of his family.
Maran counters Siva's allegations and claims Siva was planning to sell his company well before he became Telecom Minister in UPA-1. Maran's argument the he has no share in Sun Network controlled by his elder brother Kalanithi Maran is a laughable defense. Of course, Maxis' investment in Sun Network is not a secret deal like Shahid Balwa linked companies' dubious payoff of Rs 200 crore to Kalaignar TV. Maxis-Sun Network is approved by SEBI and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on foreign investment. Whether it was a quid pro quo for alleged arm twisting of Siva by Maran to sell his company Aircel to Maxis at "cheap price", is to be probed by CBI.
Yet, it is still amusing that after getting Rs 4,500 crore, why did Siva float another shell company called STel with just Rs 10 lakh capital. STel was ignored by Raja and won the case in 2G spectrum allocation violations. After winning the case in the Delhi High court, what made him compromise with Raja by withdrawing the case? Raja arm-twisted Siva by citing a manipulated Home Ministry's directive and ordered to shut down the operation of STel. Within three days, he withdrew from the case in Supreme Court. But Raja's designs collapsed after Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy impleaded in the battle between Raja and Siva. This murky deal is also under investigation of CBI.
CAG declared STel's licenses illegal for violating mandatory net worth guidelines of DoT. It is still a mystery why a person who got Rs 4,500 crore floated a shell company in somebody's name. Has he shared his booty with somebody in the Aircel selling?
I am not at all buying the versions in the report of Justice Shivraj V Patil, appointed by Sibal. It is nothing but a report written by a convenient judge. The retired Supreme Court judge never mentioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's direction to Raja for freezing the spectrum allocation on November 2, 2007. I have in my personal capacity submitted to this retired Judge the copy of the Prime Minister's crucial letter, which was first reported in The Pioneer in October 2009. This letter was kept in the safe custody in Raja's home, till CBI's raid at his home in December 2010. Raja never put this letter in the DoT files.
The violations in spectrum allotment started from UPA by ignoring the Cabinet decision of the NDA on this matter. During Shourie's tenure, the Cabinet decided in October 2003 that in determining the price of the spectrum, the DoT should consult the Ministry of Finance. But when Maran objected this decision and locked horns with the Finance Ministry with the argument that the pricing of spectrum was the prerogative of DoT. The then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, was not so strong to overrule Maran due to the compulsions of coalition politics. Upon Maran's pressure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sided with his argument. Manmohan Singh approved Maran's demand to change the Terms of Reference on spectrum pricing. The CAG report on the 2G spectrum scam mentions this incident and says quoting rules that a Cabinet decision can only be changed through another Cabinet decision.
This in effect shows that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approval to Maran's argument without going through the Cabinet decision route was wrong. Moreover, when two ministries have difference of opinion, like in the case of Finance and Telecom, the matter should be referred to the Cabinet. The CAG report exposes this irregularity. The entire UPA has now got to answer how they allotted telecom licenses and spectrums in 2006, during Maran's tenure, at prices fixed in 2001. The CAG did not find loss during Maran's tenure, simply due to the Prime Minister's approval in changing the Terms of Reference of the GoM.
The new controversy surrounding Maran is on the matter of operating an illegal telephone exchange of BSNL at his home and dubiously connecting it to the offices of the Sun Network. Maran had already sued all and sundry for making this allegation, though all the reports were based on CBI's note to Raja. Obviously this note was generated when Maran was at loggerheads with his grand uncle and party patriarch Karunanidhi.
Sibal is maintaining silence on this issue. The question today is: will the Maran controversy ultimately touch the Prime Minister?
The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer
JAYALALITHAA HELPING MARANS TIDE OVER CRISIS?
BR HARAN (COLUMNIST)
The Marans' success story has been at the cost of all market rules and, of course, the national exchequer. Curiously, Jayalalithaa knew everything all along, but chose to train her guns only on the Karunanidhi empire. Why?
"Virtuous living brings honour; but
Bad conduct brings unbearable ignominy"
(Verse - 137)
Thirukkural - Words of Eternal Wisdom
Business acumen, clubbed with wiliness and backed by political power, invariably results in the flow of pelf. The Maran brothers personify power and pelf. The phenomenal growth of their wealth and arrogance serve as classic examples of acquisition through abuse of power and perversion of law.
Kalanidhi Maran had his schooling in Don Bosco, graduation in Loyola College and went abroad for higher studies. He returned to India in 1987 after finishing his MBA in University of Scranton (USA) and worked for the Tamil Magazine Kungumam owned by his family. Between 1990 and 1992 he ran a video magazine called Poomalai. Later, on Tamil New Year's Day (April 14) in 1993, he started Sun TV on a bank loan of $86,000.
Within two years he became a millionaire and within the next ten, in 2005, became a billionaire. In 2010, he became the 17th richest Indian with a net worth of $ 4 billion. Today, he owns a vast empire of TV Channels, FM Radio stations, newspapers, magazines and movie production houses. Recently he also acquired Spice Jet, the budget airline.
As the first son Kalanidhimaran focused on building the business empire, the demise of their father Murasoli Maran in 2003 brought the younger son Dayanidhi Maran into politics. By then, the business empire was well established, and after getting a ministerial birth with the help of great uncle Karunanidhi, young Dayanidhi played his cards well to improve and expand his contacts. The other DMK ministers at the centre were no match for him and Karunanidhi could not control Dayanidhi as he developed a separate line of communication with central politicians, particularly Congress leaders.
Meanwhile, in course of establishing a monopoly empire, Kalanidhi made mincemeat of smaller players by using all sorts of devious strategies. Even a considerably healthy company like Hathway Communications could not survive the onslaught of the Marans. As the DMK has been sharing power at the centre for more than 15 years, the Marans created all sorts of trouble for ADMK's TV Channel. Even when Jayalalithaa was in power for the second term between 2001 and 2006, she couldn't move a finger against Sun. It must be noted that Sun TV was inaugurated during Jayalalithaa's first term between 1991 and 1996. During that period she was busy wreaking havoc in Tamil Nadu along with her adopted sister and failed to check the abominable growth of Marans.
When political power clubbed with money power in 2004, the Marans' arrogance grew exponentially and they unleashed a reign of terror in the field of mass communication, particularly in the cable television network. This is evidenced by the facts emerging now, one after another. They caused huge losses to the government (hundreds of crores) by secretly establishing a telephone exchange with 324 connections inside their residence by sheer abuse of power and authority; threatened former Aircel owner Sivasankaran to sell his firm to their Malaysian friend and owner of Maxis communications Anandakrishnan and, as is well known by now, accepted Rs 700 crore from him for allotting spectrum.
Media sources in Chennai say that the 'third family' has acted behind Sivasankaran, inducing him to voluntarily depose before CBI. It may be recalled that the Marans rubbed Azhagiri on the wrong side in 2007 by publishing an opinion poll in their Tamil Newspaper Dinakaran, which said that Stalin was the most preferred successor with more than 60 per cent votes and Azhagiri was the least favoured with just 2 per cent. A feud erupted within the family, resulting in Maran losing his ministerial position. His job went to A.Raja, and after 2009 elections, Dayanidhi tried to get back the same portfolio, but only in vain. So, when Raja was booted out of the cabinet in November 2010, Marans hosted a huge dinner in a 5-star hotel in Chennai for the 'second' family, which made the third family and their supporters fume with anger. It may be recalled how both Dayanidhi and Raja vied for the Telecom and IT ministry
The CBI report about the fact that the Marans ran an illegal telephone exchange from their residence was first brought out by Jayalalithaa way back in 2008 itself when Dayanidhi was in political wilderness. However, the patch-up between the Karuna and Maran families helped suppress the report. Due to her "own reasons", Jayalalithaa also refrained from proceeding further on the issue. It may be recalled that Sun TV gave excellent coverage for Jayalalithaa, including live telecast of her September 2008 public meeting in her constituency Andipatti.
As often stated by Dr Subramnian Swamy, Jayalalithaa's adopted sister Sasikala seems to act like a bridge between Karuna and Jaya through her DMK connections. Though Jayalalithaa government has mentioned nationalisation of the cable TV business in Tamil Nadu in the Governor's address, one must wait to see if she lives up to her commitment. A deal with the Marans cannot be ruled out at this juncture.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
A NETA'S SECRET DIARY
Bhaiyon aur behnon. It's hot. By that, i don't mean the mercury rising mercilessly around us. I mean the anti-politician venom spreading in society, as sour as lassi gone bad. People are breaking into fasts on every available street corner, or lighting candles at national monuments before making anti-politico statements. Why just grown-ups, even children seem to stare with hatred at my white Ambassador with its lovely red light and posse of personal security. It's almost like we politicos don't have feelings!
But we do. You may not believe it, but we're hurting pretty badly right now. Don't let our blank countenances, our sarcasm-laden comebacks or our topi-topped blitheness fool you. Deep down under we too have hearts which, as the great Diana Ross sang, can be broken. Ok, i grant you, this 1G, 2G, haan ji, na ji business over scams and skims has been rather heavy this time. But don't blindly believe grossly inflated reports of this scam exceeding the annual health budget, that swindle topping the education budget. Considering these sectors get peanuts anyway, what's the big deal if a con does exceed them?
And hey, with every larceny comes a grand time. Which other kind of political animal gives you all the fun we do, with our crackling nightly TV debates, our escapades on motorcycles through Uttar Pradesh, our line-ups before swami-bearing jets in Delhi? Be fair, not square. You're blessed with the world's most colourful entertainers as your politicians. The more vivid among us, like Lalu ji, entertain each time we open our mouths. The subtler of the species, like Sushma ji, say it with a shake of the hips at Rajghat. And the thrilling, like venerable home minister PC ji, simply sign with a stick.
How much we toil for our electorate, i.e. you. We stepped in and stopped Anna Hazare from fasting to death, even if it meant listening to all that silly Lokpal blather thereafter. We then wisened up and took the next potential faster-unto-death for a lovely five-star ice-cream. How were we to know he'd turn round faster than you could say 'pranayam' and bite the hand that fed him chocolate sauce! And then, for all our efforts, we take your shoes too. At press briefings, so they're not even remotely designer. Yet do we complain? But we still get animosity. It's not fair.
Imagine, if instead of us, your khadi-buddies, you had a bunch of sour jholawalas or dour generals ruling the roost. What kind of TV would you get? Long lists of statistics with debates over what Tolstoy said to Marx in 1922? Or some deadly army-type whose reply to questions would be, "I could tell you. But then, I'd have to kill you." Therefore ladies and gentlemen, while cussing also count your blessings. You'll find we're part of them.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
MYTH OF STABLE DESPOTISM
SUNIL KHILNANISUNIL KHILNANI
The 'Arab Spring', sparked by a fiery self-immolation in a Tunis marketplace last December, and now engulfing North Africa and West Asia, is the most spectacular example since 1989 of professional analysts and politicians being wrong. For long, it was believed the Arab political world was too fragile for anything other than strong leaders. Years of deep US involvement, melded with local skills in the tyrannical arts, sealed a dispensation distinguished by its apparently ageless and variegated range of despotisms and tyrannies (encompassing monarchs, military rulers, tribal sheikhs). Democratic change was not going to be coming in a hurry.
Now the perturbed experts and politicians are racing to rewrite their scripts. In the rewrite underway in Washington and western capitals, the haphazard events of the past months - even as they daily escape control by western governments - are being portrayed as a vindication of the West's policies: indeed, as a realisation of liberty and democracy's progress. And that story, we are told, is defined by values firmly rooted in the West. As US President Obama reassured the British parliament last month: "There are few nations that stand firmer, speak louder, and fight harder to defend democratic values around the world than the United States and the United Kingdom."
In fact, there is no single historical frame into which all the revolts can be fitted - and they certainly don't share a common future vision. That's not to say they are unconnected. But what unites the serial uprisings from Tunis to Manama is what they seek to depose - not what they wish to put in its place.
It is true that, so far, none of the uprisings has shown anti-American or anti-western inflections; and it is true that many of the activists have made creative use of social media technologies pioneered and operated by the US. But, throughout the Arab world, what is being repudiated are the very policies that the West has pursued towards it over the past seven decades.
Hence the deeply ambivalent, even distrustful, stance of the US and the EU towards these democratic urges. Unlike Eastern Europe's post-communist societies, where democracy's coming could be relied upon to align with western interests, it is unclear what democracy will give voice to in the Arab world - still less whether it may align with US and European interests.
Those interests are basic enough: the imperative to maintain uninterrupted supplies of oil, and to ensure Israel's security. And their pursuit has rested on what might be called the Myth of Stable Despotism. Developed during the heyday of European empire, the myth has taken new forms since the 1950s. Its crux is that in the Arab world, particularly those regions that contain rather desirable natural resources, the people are not ready for democracy. Susceptible to the sway of religious sirens and nationalist passions, the populace is better off under firm authoritarian leadership. Of course, there are Good and Bad Despots: Mubarak, Ben Ali, Saleh, until a few months ago all qualified as good (as Musharraf once had too); Gaddafi and Assad (as Saddam before them) as bad.
This myth of the 'good strong leader', the one who delivers stability and does the bidding of his paymasters (and the US certainly paid handsomely) is itself an emanation of a deeper fantasy - the quest for enduring stability across the international order as a whole. This myth has now imploded - leading to systemic instability across a vast, important part of the world.
India's role in all this has been in many ways a supplicant one. We have long provided a flow of cheap, compliant labour that has kept these despotisms functional - and on whose remittances we have come to depend. And, as our economy grows, we are increasingly dependent on the region's oil to fuel our growth. Yet we have little leverage over what happens in this region - and that little will likely lessen in coming years. Our own approach at present is fixated on not causing offence to anyone. No doubt, we'll make a virtue of having no strong views, and of not being able to do much anyway. But there is one wider lesson we'll need to face up to.
We've come to believe that, along with China, our turn has come. This assumes a lot about the world - that there will be a stable international order of states, in which we will one day take our appointed place. But we may be making a deep mistake by unthinkingly mouthing our professed conviction in the sovereign integrity of nations, in the belief that if only we pursue our interests as a state, things will fall our way. For the foreseeable future, the entire region to our west will be marked by tumult and uncertainty: sundered and agitated by inconclusive wars ( Afghanistan), dysfunctional peace ( Iraq), corroded states ( Pakistan), divided societies ( Yemen, Libya). Religious extremism, political instability and growing weaponisation will mark these lands. It is unlikely that any replacement to Nasserism or Ba'athism, any secular nationalism or Pan-Arabism, will emerge - whatever unifying ideology may surface will be at once more volatile and more fragile.
India will have to make its way in a world that will only in part consist of well-defined states, with tightly controlled armies, and clearly spelt out doctrines. The unruly politics of the street, of small wars and dispossessed peoples in pursuit of ill-defined goals, of listless young populations fed up with what exists - including their 'Good Despots' - but unclear as to any alternative: this world, now on our doorstep, will in part shape our options. We have left behind the age of ideologies, for the age of resentment: all self-satisfied predictions are off.
The writer is director, India Institute, King's College, London, and an author.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
WAY TO GO, ARCHIE ANDREWS
Must much-loved comic book hero Archie insist on die-hard Americanness? Must Riverdale, where he, Veronica and Betty have done a triangular waltz for seven decades, remain an all-American suburban bubble barricaded against outside influences? No, suggest producers of the Archie Comics franchise, and rightly. The comic book is not only launching soon in Hindi and Malayalam, its redheaded hero, his two girlfriends and his pals will also shake a leg Bollywood-style!
The clever idea to give the comic "some Indian flavour", as an Archie Comics co-CEO describes it, must flow from a hard-nosed assessment of its commercial potential. Players in the comic book trade can't ignore India's sizeable and growing readership. This goes especially for long-running franchises scouting for opportunities of reinvention and expansion - Archie, after all, debuted in 1941. If Archie gone desi wears kurtas and Jughead wolfs down samosas instead of hamburgers, call it the magical logic of the market. And if Archie and company pelt out classic Hindi film songs like "Kankariya maar ke jagaya", credit it to the reach and strength of the Bollywood brand.
Purists say cultural products, be it films or cartoons, need fixed contexts to have aesthetic integrity. They forget that, to stay relevant in changing times, the business of art is to lend itself to renewal and adaptation. That's why, in a post-Cold War gender sensitive world, James Bond sheds his signature machismo. Or why, with US preeminence being interrogated, Superman - iconic upholder of "American values" - wants to prioritise global causes over nationality. That's also why US fast food chains rustle up aloo tikki burgers and America's sweethearts come here to eat, pray, love and wed Indian-style. By embracing cross-cultural connect, Riverdale's Romeo too will link the imaginative small town he belongs to with the 21 st century global village. Way to go, Archie Andrews.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
ARCHIE CAN'T BE INDIANISED
KISHORE ROYKISHORE ROY
It's one thing to translate Archie comic books into Indian languages and quite another to Indianise the entire concept. Even the former, usually done with the best of intentions, produces dubious results. They are aptly captured by the phrase 'lost in translation'. And to attempt the latter is not only a travesty, it just won't work because it will ruin the series.
The reasons for this happening are multiple. People take pleasure in Archie because it is quintessentially American. That's manifest in the humour, storylines and setting. Combined, they make for a bit of harmless escapism, which adds to the comic book's appeal. The jokes play on American stereotypes - for example, Betty the dumb blonde who actually isn't. Similarly, the storylines revolve around American phenomena: high school kids competing over the size of their cars, Veronica's mansion house, American football and the local 'soda shop', Chok'lit Shoppe. Most significantly, the setting for all this is Riverdale. Archetypal of suburban life, all of these activities can only take place there. It all adds up to a bit of Americana neatly packaged in a little book for international enjoyment. All of this will be lost if Archie leaves his environs and ventures to Mumbai. To inflect Archie with things Indian is to undermine the series. How will the humour and the storylines be translated into an Indian setting? Can we really find plausible the idea of Jughead and Reggie singing and dancing to "Kankariya maar ke jagaya" or "Purani Jeans"?
Yet it is precisely this that Jon Goldwater, the co-CEO of Archie Comics, is committed to. If realised, it would be a pity because Archie has been going strong for 72 years. Tampering with a tried and tested formula is bound to ruin not only a successful business model but also the enjoyment of millions spread around the world. As a character from Archie might put it, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'
THE TIMES OF INDIA
FOR THE US, GAME NOT OVER IN ASIA
NAYAN CHANDANAYAN CHANDA
As the debt-ridden US struggles to reduce its deficit and a cash-rich China flexes its muscles, most of Asia is worried about a weakened America retreating from the region. Last week, Robert Gates, the departing US defence secretary, stepped in to dispel these fears. He told a gathering of Asia's defence officials in Singapore that America's "robust military engagement and deterrence posture" will not only continue but expand. Given America's deep strategic and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific region, it is not an empty assurance.
America's stake in Asia is enormous - nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade, billions of dollars of investment, to say nothing of the security of its allies, its global standing and the importance of the South China Sea that carries a third of the world's trade. Concrete reasons aside, for the US not to counter perceptions of declining commitment to the region would undermine its influence.
It is no coincidence that Gates's reassurance came mere weeks after reports of new tension between China and the South China Sea claimants - Vietnam and the Philippines. Vietnam has always been more public in its denunciations of Chinese harassment of its fishermen and exploration vessels. But last week, the Philippines too was uncharacteristically blunt in condemning hostile Chinese actions in what it claims as its territorial waters. Gates diplomatically blamed a lack of "rules of the road" for these clashes. But there was no mistaking who he saw as responsible for not respecting agreed codes of conduct.
It was against this backdrop of Chinese assertiveness that secretary of state Hillary Clinton launched her "America is back" in Asia slogan. China's spats with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and its support for North Korea's aggressive behaviour have prompted its neighbours to ask for a greater American commitment. In July last year, Clinton provoked a sharp Chinese response when she offered the US's good offices for a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute. Encouraged as they were by the new American assertiveness, they have since grown anxious about how impending cuts in the Pentagon's budget will impact the US presence in Asia. Gates was upfront in admitting that drastic cuts in the defence budget (of $400 billion over the next 12 years) are in the works, but assured allies that the focus has been first on cancelling troubled or unnecessary weapons programmes and culling excess overhead. However, "key remaining modernisation programmes - systems that are of particular importance to our military strategy in Asia - will rank at or near the top of our defence budget priorities," he announced.
In recent years, China has developed anti-submarine and anti-ship ballistic and cruise missile capabilities to counter the power projection of the US's carrier battle groups. But without mentioning China by name, Gates noted US concerns about "anti-access and area denial scenarios" and said that the US was working to develop a new concept of operations - called "Air-Sea Battle" - to ensure that America's military will continue to be able to "deploy, move, and strike over great distances in defence of our allies and vital interests". These programmes, he said, would grow "even in the face of new threats abroad and fiscal challenges at home, ensuring that we will continue to meet our commitments as a 21st century Asia-Pacific nation - with appropriate forces, posture, and presence". As part of an expanded US role in the region, Gates announced the deployment of littoral combat ships to Singapore. These short-range, high-speed warships, optimised for shallow-water operations with anti-submarine and demining capacity, would be best suited for Southeast Asian waters.
To underline America's new position in Asia, Gates noted how its former enemy Vietnam now has a "strong and vibrant bilateral relationship" in trade, security and defence. The US and India, he said, were working "more closely together than ever before".
Worth noting is that Gates underscored America's deepening commitment to Asia while taking care to avoid antagonising Beijing. Gates pronounced China-US relations as being on "a more positive trajectory", a view with which his Chinese counterpart readily agreed. Notwithstanding their recent provocative behaviour, Chinese leaders are aware of the limits to their power. The plain statements about the US's determination to stay in the region were thus a sobering message to take back to Beijing.
INJURIOUS TO ONE'S WEALTH
June is the month when most of us grapple with our tax declarations. The government makes it easy for a few taxpayers who are hapless enough to earn only their monthly pay — they need to fill a Saral form that merely notes the tax deducted by their employer. Other, more enterprising folks, are expected to tell the taxman how much they made from rent, interest and profits over the previous financial year. Typically, a person employed by a company with some money in the bank, a demat account and a house put out on rent will need to furnish a salary statement from her employer, an interest statement from her bank, a profit statement from her broker and rent receipts from her tenant. Millions of people do this year after year with mild muttering under their breath over how much the taxman takes away.
Contrast this with what Baba Ramdev declared on Thursday. Four of his trusts — Divya Yoga Mandir Trust, Patanjali Yoga Peeth Trust, Bharat Swabhiman Trust and Acharyakul Shiksha Sansthan — had a total capital of Rs 426.19 crore. These trusts had spent Rs 751.02 crore since inception. No details of where the money came from or where it went, apart from Rs 249 crore spent on charity. As declarations go, Ramdev's brevity is remarkable. Presumably donations by yoga aficionados make up for the bulk of the trusts' inflows, but there is the little matter of the 30-odd companies, including a television channel and a transport firm, the yoga instructor controls. They are diligently filing their profit and loss statements with the Registrar of Companies, claims the yogi and teasingly enjoins his detractors to seek the truth there. But this was supposed to be a declaration, not an investigation.
The dusty altar of the corporate registry is not exactly forthcoming about companies listed therein. Some details like ownership and line of business are available in the public domain. Vital ones like income and profit are not. Privately held companies mind their own business and are wont to erect high walls to guard against prying eyes. Their books are open to investigators on specific complaints, certainly not for fishing expeditions. If the body-shaping yogi's intention was to give his opponents a glimpse of his financial muscle, the declaration of assets will have served its purpose. Untangling the sinews of his business empire will take considerable time and effort by investigation agencies. Certainly longer than the hunger strike the Baba is on to force the government to commit to stiffer anti-graft measures. It would take a brave man to launch an agitation against sleaze if there is some to be found in his backyard.
CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS
After what he has said over the last days, it is plain that Indians will not accept Baba Ramdev as a guide. A person who repeatedly goes back on his word, claiming that previous commitments by him were purely "tactical", rules himself out of a leadership role, whether in politics or any other field. When such a person goes on to invite thousands of followers to be ready to use arms against the government, he asks for the law of the land to be applied against him.
This probably will happen, perhaps before these lines appear in print, but those who played up to Baba Ramdev in order to use him should recognise their blunders and revise their positions. If, as seems more than likely, the government and the Congress hoped that a pampered Ramdev would marginalise others in civil society who were demanding stronger measures against corruption, they should not only catch their ears and apologise to the nation; they should make a solemn promise to themselves that next time round they would look for the truth in civil society's demands, not for ways to foil those demands.
Equally, the BJP and the other parties and organisations, including the RSS, that tried to jump on the Baba's wagon should realise that the destination of that wagon is very different from what they had in mind, and realise also that the engine of that wagon has room only for one person. These parties and groups should return to their earlier caution about the Baba.
Clearly, the Baba's peculiar conduct should not be used as a whip against civil society in general, or against movements such as the one that produced a historic and overdue governmental commitment on the Lokpal Bill.
Baba Ramdev's follies do not whitewash the government's lethargy in the fight against corruption. The government should not forget that behind the broad condemnation of the pre-dawn swoop on Ramlila Maidan lay an impression that the government's words on the lokpal or black money lacked sincerity — that the government's energy was directed not at corruption but at those who claimed to fight it.
India cannot be equated with dictatorial countries in West Asia and North Africa that have witnessed courageous popular movements for democracy and against the transfer of ill-gotten funds to secret foreign destinations. Yet merely because India provides fair space for democratic protest does not mean that the way our democracy is being practised is satisfactory. All know that it isn't.
We have been reminded that our laws must in the end be enacted by elected legislatures. Nobody can dispute this, but only those with heads in the sand will argue that the proceedings of our elected legislatures have given great hope to the people of India. The state must be run by institutions, but the people have the right and the duty to remedy their defects, if necessary through non-violent struggle. Any attempt to stifle democratic non-violent protest in India will not only be opposed nationally; it will injure us worldwide.
Three steps might clear the air and help India return to sanity. One, the prime minister assuring the nation that he adheres to his commitments on the Lokpal Bill and on black money. Two, LK Advani or another BJP leader announcing that party's dissociation with Baba Ramdev. And three, Anna Hazare and his team announcing a clear separation from Baba Ramdev.
Rajmohan Gandhi is a biographer of MK Gandhi and professor at University of Illinois, US.The views expressed by the author are personal.
THE CIRCUS MUST END
A shoe-thrower; a swami who wants to raise a private army; a national debate over whether dancing is decorous and a government that went from supplication to abrupt scepticism all in the span of a week. It would actually have been rip-roaringly funny, were it not all woefully true. But sadly, this is the new India Story, one that has swiftly replaced self-confidence with self-loathing.
Oh yes, the circus has come to town. It has plenty of clowns, acrobatics, tight-rope walking, the juggling of balls, fire-eaters and indeed a few lions too. But what it's sorely missing is a Ring Master.
India's democracy has never been in such serious danger of being undermined and trivialised. But an inadequate, inconsistent response from the UPA — one that has swerved from silence to surrender and from paralysis to panic — has created the distinct impression of no one being in charge.
It's stuff made for satire. Remember Alice's conversation with the Cheshire Cat? Lewis Caroll wrote in 19th century England, but in the Blunder-land that is today's India, his words would be just as apt.
"What sort of people live about here?" Alice had asked the Cat.
"In that direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round, "lives a Hatter: and in that direction," waving the other paw, "lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
As a strange kind of madness takes control of the political discourse, the eventual responsibility for this turmoil must lie squarely at the UPA's doorstep. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum. And as the government steadily abdicated its own authority, the space for alternative non-political voices rapidly expanded.
The silence at the very top in an age of hyper-communication has only compounded the crisis. People expect signs of visible leadership from those who govern them. Even the Victorians restricted the proverbial wisdom of only being seen and not heard to children. In these globalised, inter-connected times when the White House in on Twitter and it is not uncommon for world leaders to talk directly to their constituents online, the opaqueness that surrounds our netas is anachronistic and exasperating.
Yes, senior ministers have spoken, as have party leaders. But firstly, their accounts have been cacophonic with the party openly contradicting the government. Second, while one is dismayed to see someone as toxic and communal as Sadhvi Ritambhara (a key figure in the Ayodhya demolition of 1992) be accorded the legitimacy of an anti-corruption crusader, there's no point telling us that after you have first laid out a red carpet reception committee for Baba Ramdev.
As people, we must also confront our contradictory responses to the phrase that has come to define this debate — 'civil society'. It's a term has that has myriad definitions, often traced back to Adam Ferguson and GF Hegel. As a concept, it was born in the effort of citizens to assert their individual rights in 18th century Europe, in the face of an aristocratic State.
Before it shut down, the London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society offered a working definition: "Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the State and market,though in practice, the boundaries between State, civil society, and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated."
In India, the 'civil society' debate is a polarised one, pitching ideologues of the left and the right against each other. So, the liberal enclave that welcomed the Anna Hazare movement is now horrified by some of the religious components of the Baba Ramdev campaign. However, whatever one's individual differences and discomfort may be with Ramdev, once you give one group the legitimacy to influence the political space, you do not have the right to shut out any other group, even one at ideological odds with your beliefs. After all, civil society is not an exclusive, members-only club. And it has long been pointed out that it was the Congress that set the precedent of giving sweeping powers to voices outside of Parliament, with the creation of the National Advisory Council.
Yet, the BJP must also ask itself whether it really wants to hitch its wagon to a motley crew of politician-hating vigilantes. Does the party support Ramdev's call to arms or his demand that economic offences be punished with the death sentence? The demand for public accountability and transparency is of course an unexceptional one. And the fact that these anti-corruption campaigns have made the political class nervous is also to be welcomed. But does the BJP not worry about the fact that we are in serious danger of becoming a lynch-mob society where, to borrow again from Lewis Caroll, the Queen of Hearts has only one thing to say: "Off with their heads... I warn you dear child, if I lose my temper, you lose your head..."
As we slip-slide into a self-created chaos, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi must break down the walls of silence around them and talk to the people who elected them. Political leadership demands a certain amount of emotional intimacy along with assertiveness. Thus far, we are missing signs of both. For how long will the party and the government regard themselves as separate entities? In the minds of the people, that is a technical difference, the re-iteration of which only adds to a perception of drift. India needs its sense of self back. Else, we can get ready for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. And it doesn't promise to be fun.
Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV. The views expressed by the author are personal.
LESS EQUAL THAN OTHERS
In the photograph they are just numbers: 3, 14, 7. But their headscarves, covered necks and full-sleeved shirts do not mask their cheekiness. The one with #3 on her jersey has her chin up and eyebrows raised. The goofball is clearly #14, the tomboy with a scar on her left eyebrow, the practical joker of this team. On #7, there is a look of passing confusion as if asking, what just happened, how could it?
Moments later, another photograph captured the Iranian women's football team collapse in tears after being banned by FIFA for wearing tight headscarves. The ban came minutes before a qualifying match against Jordan, the outcome of which would have determined whether they would make it to the 2012 Olympics. FIFA authorities say the so-called 'snood', a headscarf that covers head, ears and neck, contravenes its dress code. They say the Iranians were 'informed thoroughly' of this. Not so, says Iran. FIFA had amended its dress code last year and the new outfit had been approved by the federation's Sepp Blatter — a man who had recommended in 2004 that women wear tighter shorts for a more 'feminine aesthetic'.
In Saudi Arabia, women are banned from competing in sport. So, you could argue that the Iranian women, who must observe hijab under law, have it somewhat easier. Women athletes have shown remarkable resilience in repressive environments. In the 2004 Olympics, Nassim Hassanpour, a teenage gymnast and the only Iranian woman to participate in the Athens Olympics switched to shooting because it was one of the few events that allowed her to participate in a headscarf and long coat. In the 1992 Olympics, Algerian Hassiba Boulmerka won the 1,500 metres wearing a pair of shorts, received death threats and was forced into exile. The Muslim Women's Games, allows women to compete on one condition: no men are allowed to watch.
Amazingly, they play on. Yet, regardless of where they live, hijab or no hijab, women athletes face discrimination. They earn less in prize money and get niggardly media coverage, as if they are adjuncts to the main game. Sports writer Rohit Brijnath writes of how in 1970, tennis star Billie Jean King was told by a male player, "No one wants to watch you birds play anyway." Things are better today, he writes, but 'equality in sport is still an idea'.
It is. Last month, the Badminton World Federation with only two women on its 25-member council ruled that women must play in skirts to create a more 'attractive presentation'. Following an uproar over such an obvious attempt to sex up the game, the federation has agreed to 'further study' the proposed dress code.
In India, Sania Mirza, the country's highest-ranked woman tennis player, has been scrutinised nearly as much for her skirt — briefly earning a fatwa for its length — as for her game. Another athletic role model, Saina Nehwal, born in Haryana, which with 847 girls to 1,000 boys has one of the worst female-male sex ratios in the country, counts herself lucky because her parents allowed her to play: "Many Haryanvi sportspersons, particularly women, are not half as lucky," she says. Women's hockey had its moment of shame when players accused their (male) coach of sexually inappropriate behaviour. On TV, Ashwini Nachappa said it was not uncommon for coaches to get women athletes to do sundry chores, including washing their sweaty clothes.
Women athletes deal with sport's chauvinism everywhere, every day. Women who must observe hijab by law or custom have the additional burden of demonstrating that their athleticism does not mitigate their faith: switching games, wearing restrictive garments, performing before an all women-audience, facing fatwas and death threats — whatever it takes.
The photographs don't tell the stories of the Iranian women's football team. We don't even know their names. What battles were fought just to play? What taunts were faced? What hurdles overcome? What now of shattered dreams and hopes? We don't know. FIFA should have been more welcoming, more accommodating, certainly more understanding in order to fulfill its stated goal of helping women overcome 'social and cultural obstacles'. The ban only serves to push them down.
Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Government," thundered the editorial in the latest issue of Congress Sandesh, "has the duty to respond to the demands of civil society, but it should be done in a way that does not compromise the dignity and rightful authority of an elected government." The journal was affronted that four senior members of government had gone to the airport to receive yoga guru Ramdev prior to his threatened fast, something it declared was "unnecessary". This is a dispute on which reasonable people — including whichever fraction of them are in the Congress party — could conceivably have different views. And it is fortunate, and overdue, that some of these views are being expressed. Congress Sandesh's editorial went on to argue that civil society, too, was not represented by Teams Anna and Baba alone, that those should realise that "the elected government and Parliament also represent civil society and its aspirations."
This is a sensible development, in that sections of the Congress party should now remember that identification with the government — and, indeed, with its legitimacy — is a crucial political task. Criticism of policy should not be seen as sniping or as positioning, but as part of a genuine conversation within a democratic party, allowing it to correct its mistakes and errors and allow it to better represent the people whom it claims to. Some Congressmen outside government live too easily on the idea that the party is easily separable from the government, that it breathes a different, more rarefied air, one that it shares with "civil society" and NGOs and other, non-political things. This would, of course, be far from the truth. The party has to win elections, and it forms a government to implement policies that it deliberates and chooses.
The Congress's tendency to behave like an outsider in its own house has contributed to the drift in the UPA 2 government. Few in the party step up to elucidate what the party's political reactions are to the issues of the day. With three more years to go of its scheduled term, does the party have the will to move beyond reactiveness, to frame debates instead on the unsettled issues that define our politics? What is the party's thinking on questions of land acquisition, for example? We don't know. Where are the debates on it being played out by party members for the benefit of the public? They aren't visible. For the sake of mature politics, this opacity must be dispensed with.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Since contributing her bit to the loss of John McCain's US presidential bid to Barack Obama in 2008 (as American voters realised that being able to see Russia from Alaska wasn't sufficient foreign policy experience for the person a "heartbeat away" from presidency), "Mama Grizzly" (aka Sarah Palin) has provided great entertainment. One such example was her recent "mystery tour" around the US, where she came up with comical lines such as, "I love that smell of emissions," whilst on the back of a motorbike during a veterans' rally.
Attempting to top off this gimmick aimed at consolidating her Republican credentials, the woman of wise words (such as "refudiate") had high hopes for a meeting with the Iron Lady, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on an upcoming stopover in London. Palin saw such a meeting of power-women as a perfect way to reaffirm her image as a no-nonsense Republican, like the party's hero, Ronald Reagan. Therefore, comments reported in The Guardian from Thatcher's aides that such a meeting is unlikely to happen as "Sarah Palin is nuts," are unsurprisingly far from what she hoped for. Predictably, being "refudiated" has set the American extreme right media abuzz.
Whilst public opinion is widely polarised on both women (Thatcher widely divides opinion, at home and abroad), Thatcher's allies have issued a reality check by deeming Palin "frivolous". Although she's a darling of the bigoted tea party movement, which sees attacks on her as politically partisan, globally Palin has failed to strike a chord. Let's see if this dampens her presidential ambitions.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
A, B, C... O
The Left Front will observe "Emergency Days" in West Bengal on June 25 and 26 to enlighten the youth of Bengal about the infamous June 25 of 1975 when the Emergency was declared and June 26 when it came into effect. All this, for the benefit of the "common people" who, the Left claims, are suffering under the "terror" unleashed by the Trinamool Congress. Here's a clearer, saner picture. Alimuddin Street is struggling to come to terms with its new identity: just the regional CPM headquarters, not the de facto seat of power and policy that had deluded itself into believing it would never fall from grace.
An uninterrupted rule spanning 34 years robbed the Left Front of any inkling as to what it is like to be in opposition. Many of its legislators, and most of its party workers, too have undergone a generational change, with the pre-1977 days having long faded from the Left's collective memory. Now, its 60-odd MLAs will have to begin by learning the rudiments of parliamentary democracy. For three-plus decades, legislators, party members and workers of the Left had enjoyed a sense of entitlement that was never questioned. All that has gone in one fell stroke on May 13. Suddenly, the CPM finds its worker strength reduced to less than half. The majority of these people were mere beneficiaries, who are now abandoning ship. So, one by one CPM offices are shutting down in the districts. There are also two big debates raging — the post-defeat blamegame within the CPM, and the rising cry from the smaller parties for a change in the state CPM and Left Front leadership.
These are early days of loss. When the post-mortems are done, the Left Front will have to preclude the portal that can take it back to its old obstructionist, agitationist, street-fighting days. Political discourse and practice have changed across the country; Bengal too has embraced change. In the assembly and on the street, the Left will have to be conduct itself responsibly, if in five years' time it is to challenge a chief minister who, right now, is seizing the initiative with her words and actions.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE OUT, THEIR RAGE
Here are the two questions you are most likely to be asked these days: One, when was the last time India looked so rudderless and angry? And two, do people of India bother about corruption? Hasn't it just been a way of life for ever?
The answer to both lies in 1989-90, in what should be one of the most important years in our political history. Rajiv Gandhi lost power to V.P. Singh, mainly because of the Bofors stink which raised an almighty popular outrage that devastated the Congress in the north. And then, soon enough, V.P. Singh, the victor himself, was running for cover, with his rude implementation of the Mandal Commission report unleashing an even angrier storm. In each case, India looked even more anarchic and furious than it does now. So that should answer the first question.
The second question was asked a little differently in 1989. It was more like, would Indian voters understand Bofors? Would they care? Surely, V.P. Singh was himself asked this question all the time. And to those of us who followed him, on motorcycles in 48-degree heat in the 1988 by-election in Allahabad, what followed was a fascinating tutorial in political communication.
In village after village, V.P. Singh would get down from his motorcycle, and speak to small groups of people. "Your homes have been burgled," he would say. In fact he would use the more colloquial sendh lag gayi hai — sendh is the hole a burglar makes in your wall to break into your home. Then he would pull out a matchbox from his kurta pocket, and hold it up: when you buy a matchbox for 25 paise, five paise go to the government. It is your money, with which the government builds schools and hospitals for you, buys guns for your army. If somebody has stolen a part of this, isn't that the same as your house having been burgled? The voter understood. And you have not seen him angrier since, except, perhaps, now.
The difference is that this new surge has not even needed a V.P. Singh to explain it in such simplistic terms. It is mostly a result of how India has changed. If our people have moved so firmly away from the politics of grievance to the politics of aspiration, they will also not accept day-to-day corruption as a normal, chalta hai part of life. Second, aspirational people have higher self-esteem, so they are also less willing to swallow the daily humiliations they face wherever there is an interface with the government, whether to get a driving licence, a passport, an income tax refund, admission in a Central school, a decent college for your children, a hospital bed for your old parents and so on. One of the more profound statements Rahul Gandhi made some time ago (at the Congress's Burari plenary in December) was the way he defined the aam admi: one who is left out of the system, who has neither the contacts to manoeuvre his way through it, nor the cash to pay his way out of it. It is a different matter that his own party's government, or its hallowed NAC, has done nothing to ease the pain of the same aam admi, squandering money, energy and political capital behind populist yojanas and laws instead. That aam admi is out on the street now, with the cry of "enough". This aspirational, new Indian will not be resigned to her fate just because she is "out" of the system, and incapable of paying her way through it either.
There is an old Punjabi truism. That all those who beat their breasts at someone's funeral are actually each crying for their own. That is true of this anti-corruption mood as well. Please do not miss a story in tomorrow's edition of The Sunday Express ('Unseen, unheard') where our reporters have spoken to a wide range of people attending the various protests, all at their own expense, sacrificing a day's work or more. Each one has a story to tell.
A story of having been made to pay a bribe for a petty service, or a straightforward entitlement, like a hospital bed, a property registration, a passport and, worst of all for the urban middle class, a simple income tax refund, a school admission. Or having been denied it, just because he did not have the money or contacts. In today's aspirational, competitive upsurge, he will not take this with that old stoicism. If your child does not make it to the IITs/ IIMs through a competitive exam, you are disappointed, but not livid with the system, because that exam is a fair, level playing field. But what happens when you cannot get your child into a Central school, but your neighbour can, just because his distant cousin is an MP with a quota slip, or has the money to buy it from an MP?
That is why this rising anger has not even needed a V.P. Singh to explain to people what corruption and scams mean for them. They actually neither understand nor bother about 2G, or CWG, nor is their anger going to be sated by the mere fact that those allegedly involved in these scandals are all getting locked up in jail. People of India are not looking for revenge. They are looking for justice, and an equal playing field for themselves, and their children. They want politics to respond to their aspirations. That is what widespread corruption, nepotism and "connection-ocracy" denies them.
The recent burst of scams, particularly 2G and CWG, are playing in 2011 the role V.P. Singh played in 1989, by confirming the aam admi's worst suspicions and fears. And if these scams are the new V.P. Singh, in a manner of speaking, the media is their new megaphone. Those coming out on the street in Delhi's 44-degree heat are not doing so because they have done any fine reading of Team Anna's Lokpal bill, or because they believe it will eradicate all corruption, or that Baba Ramdev's campaign will bring "400 lakh crore" rupees worth of black money from foreign banks. They are coming in, because they are angry, they are finding no redress, not even the hope or promise of a reform. So they just want to kick butt.
The answer to all this is neither any apologies or promises from the government or the party, nor just locking up people in jail. It is not even the most draconian anti-corruption law and ombudsman ever in human history. You talk about hanging those involved in major scams? The Chinese execute hundreds for corruption every year, including governors of their provinces. Has that ended corruption? Transparency International ranks them higher than us on its scale of corruption: so even here the Chinese are ahead of us!
The answer is governance reform. India needs to launch a massive reform in every area where a citizen comes in contact with the sarkar, from getting ration cards to driving licences and passports, birth certificates, property registrations, municipal clearances, tax assessments and refunds and so on. Availability of quality schools and colleges, something the aspirational young Indian and her parents value most of all, hospital beds, has to be quadrupled in the next five years, and a credible programme needs to be launched now. Land records, registrations must be computerised, and a new system ensuring deadline-bound delivery of routine government services must be set up. It is more complex than reforming the economy in 1991, but the gains will be enormously greater. More important, this is the only way to bring back some of the constructive, if competitive, calm we were just getting used to in our society.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
EYE ON GAZA
Deprived and locked in," that's how Elham Badri, an aid worker in Gaza, described her situation. Her garage roof had a gaping hole in it, caused by an Israeli bomb that fell during Operation Cast Lead. It took a year-and-a-half to fix it, because in Gaza cement is a prohibited commodity.
The thin Gaza Strip, with its borders sealed, has been called many names: "a prison camp", its people under "collective punishment" (the UN), living under a "medieval siege" (David Cameron). But a door has been unlocked for the people of Gaza. After four years of confinement, of living in a "big jail", the Egyptian side of the border at Rafah has "permanently" opened. Women, children and old men will be allowed entry into Egypt; men between the ages of 18 and 40 require an Egyptian visa to enter.
Gazans found themselves in this unfortunate position following Hamas's victory in the Strip in 2007. Hamas, declared as a terrorist organisation, has refused to recognise Israel. And Israel maintains that the siege — with all three borders closed — is to bring an end to the Qassam rockets that Hamas lobs into its territory, weaken the organisation and eventually get back captured soldier Gilad Shalit. Hosni Mubarak, an Israeli ally, sealed Egypt's border with Gaza despite condemnations from Egyptians.
But then the Arab Spring happened.
As Egypt restructures after its revolution, rebuilds its domestic institutions, a new foreign policy is emerging. Gaza is post-revolution Egypt's first initiative and has been a resounding success. Egypt's foreign minister, Nabil al-Arabi, pushed for lifting the blockade to alleviate the "suffering of the Palestinian nation". Two months of negotiations between Hamas and Fatah have resulted in a reconciliation and the formation of a unity government — expected sometime this month.
For Egypt, the Gaza initiative also means a more stable Egypt. As the country grapples with the fallout of the revolution and people unite behind different banners, the Muslim Brotherhood stands at the forefront of the political game. Just across the border in Gaza, then, the cries for freedom can't be ignored, especially when Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Life in Gaza is no walk in the park. The situation has in the past got so dire that Gazans have stormed the Egyptian border to get essential supplies. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees lists light bulbs, candles, matches and books as goods refused entry. Building material such as concrete, cement and wood are generally always prohibited into the Strip. Gazans cannot export their agricultural products and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation states that 61 per cent of Gazans are food-insecure. It's in this climate that Hamas's power has become further entrenched and the organisation has often steered towards a reformist path.
To attain greater political legitimacy, Hamas has edged away from violence towards infrastructure development projects such as construction of paved roads and a water and sewerage network. Schools are built and electricity supplies are better rationed. Hamas is also divided between the hardliners and pragmatists, and for much of the past year there has been a move towards better governance. It must be noted that Hamas has recruited independent and qualified technocrats to serve in government.
Despite the celebrations following the Rafah border opening, the siege will continue. Rafah is just a pedestrian crossing; passengers are allowed to move freely but cargo is still prohibited and it is basic goods that the people of Gaza need the most. A statement from Israel, following the opening of the border, maintains its position of no cargo entry. Israel thus continues to control all of Gaza's cargo crossings.
But another development is taking place. It was in May last year that international audiences saw footage of Israeli commandos storming an aid flotilla — the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara — and killing nine people. It was then that Israel, under immense pressure from the international community, eased the blockade. In the third week of this month, a flotilla of 10 ships with around 1,000 passengers will travel to Gaza, to protest the blockade.
It is the reaction to that flotilla that should be watched. The siege of Gaza has failed. Hamas has not been weakened, in fact it has cemented its power further.
Fatah has almost faded away in the Strip and the punished are the ordinary citizens of Gaza. The Arab Spring is changing the face of the Middle East, Gaza is in desperate need of change. Thus the next aid flotilla should be a reminder of Gaza's plight. For, in Gaza, the UN has found bottled water to be contaminated as well.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE BRUSH OF GREATNESS
There is a gigantic, vibrant, awe-inspiring painting on the dome-like ceiling on the ninth floor of the DLF Centre in New Delhi. Visitors are struck by the sheer grandeur of the unique work of art, which is called the The Enchanting Damsel of Delhi, depicting the evolution of this historic city into a modern metropolis and bears the unmistakable style and signature of the greatest artist of modern India, M.F. Husain.
After months of agonising over the theme, it took him just four days of frenzied work to complete the masterpiece. This was in the late '80s, and all he asked for was a huge canvas, copious supplies of paints, loud music playing in the background and naan and chicken for lunch.
I have always been fascinated by both his creations and his persona. Indeed, if the most striking feature of Husain's works of art is their sheer vitality, the most endearing aspect of his personality was his zest for life, his energy, passion and the often surprising simplicity of his tastes.
I first met him purely by chance. I was traveling by train from Hyderabad to Delhi when a scraggy-looking man with an unkempt beard and dressed in pyjama-kurta, rushed up and asked if he could enter the air-conditioned coupe. I reluctantly let him in. He said he painted hoardings for a living in Hyderabad. He started sketching me while we were chatting. He handed it to me but I was not impressed. Before reaching Delhi, he took my address. I never expected to see him again but there was something about him that had intrigued me, a vibrancy and self-confidence that belied his bedraggled appearance.
A few years later, a young Indian Foreign Service officer, K. Natwar Singh, was my house guest. He had a visitor and it turned out be the same bearded painter. A few days later, the painter returned and asked if I could loan him Rs 600. I gave him the money. A few months later, he was back, asking for another loan. At this point, I offered him a job at DLF to do some paintings. He agreed. We would provide him the paint and material he wanted and he would paint when he felt like it.
He had simple tastes and was happy with the monthly salary of Rs 800. He lived in a small barsati in Jangpura in New Delhi where I used to often visit him as I had started to admire his work. He created some of his finest paintings in that barsati.
He produced some stunning, priceless works for me between the mid '60s and late '80s. The testimonies to his genius are all over my home and office. One is an exquisite portrait of Indira (my wife).
Our relationship went beyond patron and artist. He was a simple soul who loved the basic things of life. Food from roadside dhabas was preferable any day to a five-star hotel meal. He was also delightfully disorganised. I once asked him if he wanted help from the DLF office to file his tax returns. 'What is a tax return,' he asked innocently. When I told him, he laughed saying that the taxman would never come calling as he did not make that kind of money.
I got him a small residential apartment in Gole Market so that he was more comfortable. In May 1986, we elevated him to the position of Art Advisor at DLF at a salary of Rs 2,500 a month plus accommodation. He had not asked for a raise but I felt he deserved it since he was producing such wonderful paintings. He remained with DLF till September 1993.
Towards the end of 2010, I was lucky to meet him in Dubai. He came all the way from Qatar just to meet me, picked me up from my hotel in his Bentley and drove me to his museum in Dubai that houses some of his recent work. They are truly magnificent and worth all the millions of rupees his paintings command.
He turned 100 on December 7, 2010, according to the lunar calendar, and we spent an entire afternoon talking of how we had first met, his days at DLF and how he had become an international celebrity. I kidded him about his wealth, asking who kept track of it. He laughed and replied that he recorded all transactions in a pocket diary and somewhere in his head. Fate takes care of everything, was his philosophy. He was as animated as ever and full of life and passion. 'What is the secret of your youthfulness,' I was tempted to ask. He said that for many years now, he only ate half of what he felt like eating.
I consider myself twice blessed to be surrounded by wonderful paintings at home and office and to have enjoyed a close friendship and lifelong relationship with a man of such sheer genius. His passing is a loss not just to me, my family and my company but also to humanity. The only consolation is that, like all great legends, Husain leaves behind a legacy that will be enduring and inspiring to generations to come.
The writer is the chairman of DLF
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE SWASHBUCKLING OMBUDSMAN
The hottest speaker on the school and college graduation-day circuit in Bangalore is neither a cricket idol nor a film star, neither a high-ranking politician nor a corporate mogul. Nitte Santosh Hegde is a tough-talking, no-nonsense 70-year old hero-worshipped by a generation of students.
Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge, is Karnataka's Lokayukta, the anti-corruption ombudsman. But setting him apart from his counterparts in some other states is Hegde's crusader-like drive against corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
By the innovative use of button cameras and phenolphthalein (invisible ink used to powder currency notes in a trap), Hegde has rattled the political and administrative establishment. His raid team's exploits were the stuff of headlines.
Hegde has become part of the committee drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill, as his five-year tenure as Karnataka's Lokayukta nears its end. With just over two months to go, the countdown for his exit has made anti-corruption supporters and student activists gloomy. There is the dawning realisation that a replacement of Hegde's calibre will be hard to find.
Newspapers and television channels have followed his raid teams as they swoop down on wads of currency notes hidden inside mattresses, roomfuls of money stashed away in suitcases, gold jewellery and silver by the kilograms, palatial bungalows and fancy cars in the possession of government officials with wealth wildly disproportionate to their legal income.
Among those probed by the Lokayukta have been influential politicians of the ruling and opposition parties, including the infamous ministerial trio, the Reddy brothers. Hegde's investigation into an industrial land scam led to the arrest of the son of Karnataka's industries minister, Katte Subramanya Naidu, caught red-handed attempting to bribe a scam witness. Predictably, courts have stayed the Lokayukta investigation into the industrial land scam and a probe into the chief minister's assets.
About 3.5 million tons of illegal iron ore was tracked and seized by the Lokayukta team just as it was being readied to be exported out of the Belekeri port. Following the seizure, the Karnataka High Court refused to permit its export without the requisite paperwork. Caught on the back foot, chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa for the first time admitted that illegal mining is at epic levels in Karnataka.
Despite the blitz-like raids and the seemingly-clinching evidence, the Lokayukta has no binding powers to punish anybody. So, while many corrupt officers blatantly carry on, even those raided flourish because of the Lokayukta's inability to initiate prosecution without prior sanction from the government.
But that has hardly deterred Justice Hegde and his team, who continue to push on with fighting sleaze by acting on anonymous tip-offs and grievances. The raids shot up from about 35 a year during the previous Lokayukta's term to over 100 annually now. The number of traps laid tripled during Hegde's term; only about 100 were laid earlier.
The limiting part of his job, Justice Hegde said in a conversation, is that it is not mandatory for the government to accept his recommendations to prosecute corrupt officials. The wheels turn so slowly that it often takes six months or more to get government sanction to prosecute an official after he has been caught through a trap. "When civilians have no such protection why should government officers be treated so leniently," he asks. Even when the sanction comes through, the law typically takes a winding 15-year course before a final judgment.
As he prepares to take his bow, Justice Hegde has many people asking him if he is seeking an extension to his term. Would he consider a career in politics? The answer to both questions has been a vehement negative from the Lokayukta.
But there is one thing he does intend to do. Release what is been widely anticipated as an "explosive" concluding report on illegal mining. This time, Justice Hegde promises, the roles of big-name politicians and bureaucrats will be detailed. In keeping with his swashbuckling image, Hegde wants to go out with a bang.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE ALGEBRA OF AUTHORITY
Why do certain dictators survive while others fall? In history, 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 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. If 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 ageing 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. Security forces might then 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 rumours of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's and Hosni Mubarak's health concerns, Tunisia and Egypt suffered serious economic problems. 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. 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 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 per cent of GDP, declining oil revenue and high unemployment among the young, 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 per cent 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 jeopardise 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 Muammar Gaddafi has given little hint of compromise from the start in Libya. As NATO bombs fall on Tripoli, however, Gaddafi 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 mobilisation 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 liberalise 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 democratisation 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 & Alastair Smith, the writers are professors of politics at New York University and the authors of 'The Dictator's Handbook'.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
PLAYING POLITICS AT MARUTI
The irony is stark. On the day the PM cleared the new manufacturing policy that seeks to raise industry's share of GDP from 16% now to 25% by 2025, the strike at Maruti's Manesar plant threatened to spill over to neighbouring units in India's largest auto-hub with the Congress-backed Intuc joining hands with the Left-backed Aituc. The Haryana government's decision on Thursday to ban the strike should help contain the damage since Maruti's management can now cut salaries as well. Interestingly, the ban happened after it was discovered the strikers were trying to bring politicians into the company union through the back door (see our front page story). Provisional labour ministry data shows strikes and lockouts have fallen dramatically, from 349 in 2009 to 99 in 2010, but a series of high-profile strikes last year made you doubt the data a bit—there was a strike at Nokia, at Tata Chemicals, Hyundai, MRF, Neyveli Lignite, and the one at Allied Nippon resulted in an assistant general manager getting lynched. The numbers may be falling, but they're more high-profile now.
In many cases, the proximate cause seems similar, that of contract workers wanting pay parity with full-time workers—a fourth of organised sector employees are said to be on contract. While unions argue this is a ploy to keep wages down, the real reason is different. Given how labour laws make it near impossible to lay off workers, companies prefer to hire contract workers. Just 7-8% of India's total work force is in the organised sector—that's around 35 mn of the total work force of 450 mn. Of these, 24-25 mn will be government, quasi-government (teachers) and PSU employees. Just 6-7 mn of the 55 mn persons in manufacturing are in the formal private sector—and within the formal sector, there is a greater tendency to hire casual workers.
You'd think that when such a small fraction are getting decent wages, the attempt would be to grow the number. Maruti is a good example to study in this context. According to the management, while contract and full-time trainee workers start at roughly the same salary, full-time salaries rise to around 70-80% more in two-three years. But there are a couple of caveats here. One, the contract workers get higher salaries in Maruti than they do outside. Two, Maruti's second plant in Manesar is to go on stream by September and around 200 contract workers who performed well in Plant 1 have already been absorbed in Plant 2; while there is scope to absorb more, a third plant is to come up next year—Maruti's Manesar capacity is 3 lakh in Plant 1, 2.5 lakh in Plant 2 and 2.5 lakh in Plant 3. At the end of the day, the choice is really between a small minority who get very high wages and a larger majority which gets decent wages.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
DIDI ACTS LIKE A DADA
This has to be the most laughable aspect of the sorry Tata-Singur saga. While announcing the ordinance to take back 400 acres of land given by 'unwilling' farmers for the Tata Nano plant, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee cites Tatas' non-performance! That is, the group had failed to do anything with the land they had got from the West Bengal Industrial Development Corp (WBIDC) around 3 years ago.
First, she uses Singur to kick the Tatas out, along with 34 years of CPM rule, and then she accuses them of not doing anything with the land. While it is true Mamata needed to take back the land to satisfy her political constituency, let's keep in mind the entire land purchase was upheld by the Calcutta High Court. Surely that has to stand for something? Mamata's comment about being willing to pay a compensation to the Tatas is also laughable given that the land has been forcibly taken back—the land's rightful owners now have to plead before an arbitrator for their compensation, and it's unlikely the state even has the money to pay back anything.
Returning the Singur land was one promise she made, but so was the one to pull the state back from a stagnant phase, to return it to a growth trajectory, to generate more development and jobs for the state's people. She needs industry to keep this promise. And what signal may the industry be getting from the Thursday ordinance? How are others who are supposed to invest in the state—we've heard of a rail coach factory and a Chinese auto hub—going to view all this? Land given to them can just as easily be revoked, and given Mamata's brute majority, it doesn't require an ordinance, it will be passed by the assembly.
Sadly, the practice of governments changing laws midstream, to suit their political interests, is not restricted to Mamata. In 2005, when ITC won the R803 cr excise evasion case, the Centre had to refund, with interest, the R350 cr advance tax it had taken from the company. Instead, it passed an ordinance with retrospective effect to change the excise laws and kept the R350 cr and interest. In 2005, when there was a dispute on edible oil, the Budget had a retrospective amendment, all the way back to 1986; another amendment in the same Budget went back to 1996. Many Budgets have similar retrospective amendments, but Pranab Mukherjee's last Budget takes the cake—despite the SEZ Act exempting SEZs from taxes, he slapped a MAT tax on SEZs. And we still expect investors to trust us.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
AMMA AND THE CABLE WARS
About a 1,000 cable operators gathered in Chennai for a one-day fast against the high handedness of Sun TV and its cable operations. Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), which is a separate company, is the cable distribution wing of Sun TV. Cable TV distribution in the state has been dominated by SCV. The cable operators flung many accusations against the Maran brothers. What they want is an end to the monopoly of SCV in the state. They aired their many grievances (a few somewhat wild) against the Marans. The operators have alleged that Maran brothers have threatened them. They have demanded the revival of Arasu Cable Corporation (ACC), launched by the previous DMK government. They are just reiterating what the Tamil Nadu government has already announced. The state will nationalise all private cable TV operations and will revive ACC, which was defunct for the last three years.
The Tamil Nadu government launched Arasu Cable TV in 2008 when the Maran brothers fell out with their grand uncle, then-chief minister M Karunanidhi. Kalaignar TV, too, was launched by the Karunanidhi family to take on Maran's Sun Group, south India's largest satellite TV network.
The cable distribution business grew right under the government's nose. By the time any sort of regulation was thought of, it had spread all over the country, giving employment to lakhs of people. Most of them were video shop owners, who pulled cables over tree tops and apartment buildings to provide a service when satellite television was opened up. This happened in the mid-1990s. Cable television services were brought under Trai only in 2004. The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) is now available for settlement of disputes between broadcasters and multi system operators (MSOs)/ cable operators.
The Indian TV distribution industry now comprises of more than 6,000 MSOs, around 60,000 local cable operators (LCOs), seven DTH/satellite TV operators and several IPTV service providers. In the 1990s, the business was dominated by street-level cable operators. Then came the large operators from Hinduja group (InCablenet), Zee group (Siti Cable), Asianet, Raheja group (Hathway), RPG group (RPG Netcom) and SCV—who are now known as MSOs. In Tamil Nadu, Sun TV needed distributors. They literally introduced cable operations to the state by persuading video shop owners to turn cable operators.
They entry of the big corporate players changed the way the industry was run. It led to the consolidation of small operators. The MSOs could offer better quality of services and give a wider range of channels. They operate on the model of franchising their cable TV feeds to the small operators. However, many customers felt that they did not have a choice over channels and they had to take the bouquet their local operator offered. By this time, pay channels were increasing, which led to a steep increase in subscription fees. To overcome this problem, the conditional access system (CAS) was introduced.
CAS is a digital mode of transmitting TV channels through a set-top box (STB). The transmission signals are encrypted and viewers need to buy a STB to receive the signal. CAS was introduced by the government in 2001 to control and monitor the cable operators, and to improve the quality of services and control the tariff. Initially, CAS was supposed to be introduced in all the four metros. In Chennai, it was partially introduced in 2003. CAS is not a success story. The DTH TV continues to expand rapidly, attracting large investments from new and existing players. The DTH market began its commercial operations in 2003. The Sun Group launched its Sun Direct in 2007 and is racing towards 6 million subscribers. Its attractive offers have got itself a solid customer base.
In Tamil Nadu, the cable business has always been political. The AIADMK launched an MSO during one of Jayalalithaa's earlier regimes, which did not take off. It is a fact that SCV has a near monopoly in the state and it managed to edge out Raheja's Hathway. There has always been a section of cable operators who have been against SCV. There is also a large section that gets along with SCV. The recent protest has been against the Sun bouquet raising the carriage fees. Then all popular channels raise their fees periodically. The sports and movie channels are by far the most expensive.
The new government has promised to reduce cable charges considerably. It will be interesting to see how it will manage to do it. Will it end up subsidising cable households each month? Or can the state government nationalise cable distributions? Opinions differ. Technically, the state government can increase entertainment tax and control the laying of cables. On the other hand, it can pass legislation to nationalise a business if it can prove that it is because of over-riding pubic interest. It will be interesting to watch how all this will play out.
A SMALL STEP TOWARDS JUSTICE
Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Husain Rana's conviction this week on charges of providing material support for the Lashkar-e-Taiba marks a small step towards justice for the 164 men, women, and children whose lives were taken in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Instead of taking what satisfaction can be had from the fact that a small cog in the jihadist machine that delivered death to the city is now likely to live out the rest of his life in prison, Indians across the political spectrum have been outraged by the decision of the twelve-member jury to acquit Rana of having played a direct role in facilitating the attack. Even before sentencing has been pronounced, the government voiced "disappointment," while Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed that the Chicago verdict "disgraced India's sovereignty." India's anger that Rana was acquitted of charges related to the Mumbai attack is understandable: the wounds the country suffered in the tragedy will take a long, long time to heal. The outrage and anger are also misplaced.
Evidence directly connecting Rana to the massacre in Mumbai, as this newspaper repeatedly pointed out in its coverage of the trial, fell some distance short of the exacting standards needed to establish guilt in a criminal trial. Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley, who carried out reconnaissance in Mumbai for the Lashkar under the cover of Rana's immigration business, said he had informed his associate of his plans in advance. Little corroboration could be found, however, for this claim. Indeed, Rana's lawyers plausibly argued that a man with foreknowledge of that terrorist operation was extremely unlikely to have put his children, his wife, and himself in harm's way by visiting Mumbai just when the attack was about to take place. Prosecutors were able to demonstrate that Rana was aware of Headley's mission in Mumbai, and acted to facilitate it — part of the larger body of evidence that led to the businessman's conviction for providing material support to the Lashkar and plotting to stage fresh attacks in Europe and India. They could not, however, establish beyond reasonable doubt that Rana actually had a hands-on role in the carnage. U. K. Bansal, the Secretary responsible for internal security at the Ministry of Home Affairs, has said the National Investigation Agency would now consider filing charges against Rana. New Delhi has also said it might consider seeking Rana's extradition. Precisely what this course of action would achieve is unclear: unless compelling new evidence is found, an Indian court will probably arrive at the same conclusions. It would be wise, instead, to focus on the real challenge: pushing Pakistan to complete the prosecution of the suspects it has arrested, and to act against the key perpetrators it has so far shown no willingness to act against.
HUSAIN AND THE IDEA OF INDIA
The death of 97-year-old Maqbool Fida Husain represents the passing of many things – of the country's most celebrated artist, of a genius who created a unique visual language by combining the grammar of European modernism with the idiom of India's cultural syncretism, of a man of the world who was as comfortable in his red Ferrari as he was walking barefoot through a city's streets, of a free spirit whose humility and generosity never failed to touch anyone who knew him. His remarkable journey from humble origins to become a name virtually synonymous with Indian contemporary art has only added to the legend that he was. Although he was tutored briefly by N. S. Bendre in Indore and mentored by Francis Newton Souza as a co-founder of the Progressive Artists' Group in Mumbai, his real apprenticeship was with poverty. He was largely self-taught and his success as an artist owed in no small measure to his determination to find the free time to pursue his passion while making ends meet as a cinema billboard painter in Mumbai. He had a natural flair as well as an instinctive liking for the country's folk and mythological traditions, for the patterns of its everyday life, and for the varied manifestations of its syncretism – all of which found expression in a dizzying range of canvases. He lived in and for his art, which he repeatedly showed would not bow down before the dictates of narrow-minded, petty men.
It is a tragedy that someone so rooted to this land, who at the time of his death was working on a major project on the history of Indian civilisation, was hounded out of this country. It is a national shame that he was subject to an orchestrated and mischievous controversy over some of his paintings, violent and communally inspired attacks on his residence, exhibitions and museum, and harassed by a string of vexatious criminal court cases; and that the legal and political system failed to protect him. It is doubtful that those who vilified him for certain paintings of Hindu goddesses knew or cared half as much about Hindu mythology, iconography, and folklore as Husain did. Their bigoted campaign was not merely an attack against a great artist; it was an assault, to use Sunil Khilnani's evocative phrase, on the idea of India. Although Husain was obliged to make Dubai and London his home during the last five years of his life and died in London as a Qatar national, nobody could take his Indianness away from him. He was a citizen of the world who was proud of his roots – of the land and people he loved best.
LEADER PAGE ARTICLES
PAKISTAN'S KASHMIRI PROBLEM
EVEN IF A MILITARY OFFENSIVE AGAINST JIHADIST LEADER ILYAS KASHMIRI'S BASES IN NORTH WAZIRISTAN MATERIALISES, PAKISTAN'S PROSPECTS OF CRUSHING THE JIHADIST MOVEMENT ARE BLEAK.
Eleven years ago, Muzaffarabad newspapers carried photographs of a grinning jihad commander carrying the severed head of Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar of the Maratha Light Infantry, a macabre trophy of a raid across the Line of Control.
Last week, the man in the photograph was reported killed in a United States drone attack. In the years since it was taken, Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri had emerged as the head of Brigade 313, a feared al-Qaeda linked group that draws its name from the number of followers of Prophet Muhammad who defeated the numerically stronger armies of pagan Mecca. Even though media reports that Kashmiri was connected to the 2008 Mumbai attacks are erroneous, he was responsible for a string of attacks within Pakistan, including the recent strike on a naval base in Karachi. Brigade 313 is also alleged to have jihadists plotting attacks in Europe last summer, and has been linked to the 2009 Pune bombing.
There is still contention over Kashmiri's fate — Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, said he was "98% certain" that Kashmiri was dead, while the United States military says it has no confirmation. But reports have come amongst renewed debate over a possible Pakistani offensive against his bases in North Waziristan, the epicentre of the country's jihadist movement.
Forces loyal to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-linked Afghan warlord, are reported to have relocated to adjoining Kurram in anticipation of an attack, and Mike Mullen, the United States' military chief, fuelled rumours that an attack was imminent, saying the operation was "very important."
Not without reason, sceptics are unmoved: Admiral Mullen had said just the same thing in October last year: Pakistan's military chief General Pervez Kayani, he said, "committed to me to go into North Waziristan and to root out these terrorists."
Either way, the bad news is this: going into North Waziristan is profoundly unlikely to have an abiding impact on the jihadist movement — as opposed to particular terrorist groups — in Pakistan.
Politics and peace: Long before 9/11, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan brought about seismic political changes in north-west Pakistan's political landscape. Inspired by the example of the Islamist insurgents they had fought with, young commanders who had participated in the Afghan jihad began to displace the traditional tribal leadership. In some cases, local Islamist militia were set up. North Waziristan's Dawar tribe, for example, formed its own Taliban as early as 1998-1999.
The case of Umar Khalid, a jihadist commander from Mohmand with whom Pakistan signed a short-lived peace deal in 2008, is instructive. Born into the Qandharo sub-tribe of the Safi, and a school drop-out, Khalid had no traditional claims to leadership. Instead, he fought with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir and in Afghanistan after 9/11. Following Pakistan's 2007 raid on the Islamist cleric Abdul Rashid's Lal Masjid in Islamabad, he used his jihadist militia to impose a brutal new order in Mohmand: women were forbidden from receiving an education, music was banned, and barbers were punished for shaving beards.
Leaders like Khalid show that the Pakistani Taliban aren't just ideological enemies of the Pakistani state: they are rebels against the traditional structures of power among the region's societies, and a political challenge to the complex order that sustains Pakistani sovereignty there.
Sana Haroon's path-breaking history of the region, Frontiers of Faith, suggests that north-west Pakistan's jihadists are heirs to a long tradition. Haroon has shown that the political life in the region involved a complex negotiation between tribal custom and clerical authority. Ayesha Jalal's Partisans of Allah, in turn, demonstrates that the ideological foundations of Islamism in the region date back to the collision between Empire and Islam in India. Indeed, as scholars like Thomas Ruttig have shown, much of what is passed off as tradition, like the code of Pashtunwali, is an expedient justification for political expedience.
Back in 2002, under intense pressure from the United States to mop up jihadists fleeing Afghanistan, General Pervez Musharraf ordered the Pakistan army into the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, the site of these contestations. Operation Meezan, or Balance, was the army's first intervention in the region since independence in 1947. In 2004, a further offensive targeted jihadist strongholds around Wana, in South Waziristan.
Less than prepared for the rigours of a counter-insurgency campaign, Pakistan's army was mauled. Lieutenant-General Safdar Husain, the commander of the Peshwar-based XI corps, persuaded General Musharraf to back down, and seek negotiated deals with the jihadists.
In April 2004, the pro-Taliban legislators Maulana Merajuddin Qureshi and Maulana Abdul Malik Wazir secured a peace deal with 10 commanders of the Islamist insurgency in North Waziristan — an arrangement called the Shakai Agreement. In essence, the commanders promised not to target Pakistan, if the army called off its offensive and let foreign jihadists live in peace.
Less than seven weeks later, though, the deal fell apart, after the two sides failed to agree on the registration of foreign jihadists — in the main, Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs. Even though Nek Muhammad, the key signatory to the Shakai deal, was killed in a missile attack, the Islamist insurgency went from strength to strength: North Waziristan is now the most important hub for jihadists fighting the Pakistani state, as well as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces in Afghanistan.
The February, 2005, the Srarogha deal went much the same way. Facilitated by the Jamiat Ullema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman — whose abiding relationship with the Pakistani state has led to his twice being targeted in suicide-bombings this year — the deal saw the jihad commander Baitullah Mehsud agree to expel foreigners from South Waziristan.
Mehsud, though, simply used the deal to regroup, and began fighting again in 2007. The army initiated a half-hearted offensive against Mehsud late that year, but called it off in the wake of the Mumbai attacks: in a briefing for media, an official spokesperson even described the jihadist commander as a "patriotic Pakistani."
Large swatches of South Waziristan are now ruled by Nazir Ahmad — a Taliban leader who proclaimed last month that his Taliban forces and al-Qaeda were united. "At an operational level," Nazir said, "we might have different strategies, but at the policy level we are one and the same."
Finally, in 2006, the Pakistan army signed a third peace deal with the Uthmanzai Wazirs of North Waziristan, hoping to stave off the prospect that low-level attacks would escalate into an insurgency. The agreement, in effect, handed power to Islamists; their flag was flown at the function where the deal was signed. Less than a year on, the two sides were at war, once again.
General Musharraf's desperate peacemaking needs to be understood in the context of the crisis Pakistan was confronted with after 2001. He was faced with multiple lobbies calling for dismantling the army's historical clients, the jihadists: India threatened war, following the attack on Parliament House in New Delhi; the United States was irked by the support jihadists in Pakistan's cities offered al-Qaeda; military insiders like former ISI chief Javed Qazi argued that the military-mullah alliance made attracting desperately-needed investment impossible.
His eventual half-hearted crackdown on jihadist infrastructure, though, proved enough to send thousands of jihadists fleeing the plains into areas like Waziristan. There, they soon realised Pakistan's threats were pyrrhic — and prepared the terror offensive now tearing apart cities in Punjab and other provinces. The scholar Hassan Abbas has recorded, in a seminal paper, that from "March 2005 and March 2007 alone, for example, about 2,000 militants from southern and northern Punjab Province reportedly moved to South Waziristan and started different businesses in an effort to create logistical support networks." Events have shown that jihadists can be crushed — but at a cost. In 2008, the secular-nationalist Awami National Party took power in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, sparking off a collision with jihadists in neighbouring Swat. Swat's jihadist movement dated back to 1989, when local cleric Sufi Muhammad's Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) sought to replace tribal custom with Shari'a law. Backed, ironically enough, by smugglers and druglords who wanted to eject the Pakistani state from the region, the TNSM waged a low-grade war against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's government in 1994-1995. The insurgency re-erupted again in 2006.
The ANP government's attempts to reach a deal with Muhammad came to nothing: by 2009, its cadre were being systematically eliminated. The last straw, by some accounts, was a 2009 speech where Sufi Muhammad declared that democracy and Islam were irreconcilable — and that women should only be allowed to leave their homes only for the Haj, not even medical treatment.
Finally, the military went in — crushing the TNSM insurgency, but in the process causing massive civilian displacement and hardship that some fear will lead to a pro-jihadist backlash. Notably, the victory did nothing to end terrorism in the region, which rages on.
Now, though, with a middle-level officer corps ever-more sympathetic to the Islamist cause, a substantial popular constituency hostile to backing the United States' war on terrorism, and a military that has demonstrated few counter-insurgency skills, there is little stomach for another campaign. Fighting in North Waziristan, without doubt, degrades the jihadist movement's capabilities, but large-scale terrorism will not quickly end. For that, Pakistan needs political resources — a commitment to democratisation and development, and parties that can deliver them — that it simply does not possess.
For the foreseeable future, Pakistan's descent into the abyss seems inevitable: war or no war in Waziristan.
ONE BILLION PEOPLE DISABLED, SAYS FIRST GLOBAL REPORT
THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION SAYS DISABLED PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO BE DENIED HEALTHCARE AND LESS LIKELY TO FIND WORK.
The proportion of disabled people is rising and now stands at one billion, or 15 per cent of the global population, according to the first official global report on disability.
An ageing population and an increase in chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, mean the proportion has grown from an estimated 10 per cent in the 1970s.
But, despite a robust disability rights movement and a shift towards inclusion, disabled people remain second-class citizens, according to the report by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank. One in five experience "significant difficulties".
In developed countries, disabled people are three times more likely to be denied healthcare than other people. Children with disabilities are less likely to start or stay in school than other children, while employment rates are at 44 per cent, compared with 75 per cent for people without disabilities in OECD countries, the report found.
Barriers include stigma, discrimination, lack of adequate healthcare and rehabilitation services, and inaccessible transport, buildings and information. In developing countries the picture is even worse. Tom Shakespeare, one of the authors of the World Report on Disability, said: "The clear message from the report is that there is no country that has got it right. Italy is a world leader in terms of inclusive education and de-institutionalisation of people with mental health problems but in other areas it is not. In the U.S. the access is phenomenal — it is a civil rights issue. However, if you are looking at poverty and employment it is not good.
"Disabled people do not need to be poor and excluded; they do not need to be segregated. They do not need to be second class citizens." One of the most "shocking and powerful" issues to come out of the report, according to Mr. Shakespeare, was the discrimination in healthcare.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, said disability was part of the human condition. "Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life. We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society." Professor Eric Emerson, of the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University, England, said the findings on healthcare were not surprising.
"In the U.K., there have been numerous independent reports documenting the systemic discrimination faced by people with disabilities, particularly people with learning disabilities. The health and wellbeing of disabled people is not simply as a direct result of their impairment. It's a result of the way that people with impairments are treated by society." Last year, the Life Opportunities Survey found many disabled people in Britain were isolated, cash-strapped and struggling to participate in normal activities, with a fifth saying they suffered from so much anxiety and lack of confidence that they lacked the ability to work.
The WHO report, which did not compare countries directly but highlighted best practice, singled out the U.K.'s Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which places a duty on public bodies to promote equality and its direct payment policies for disabled people as an example of good practice.
But Mr. Shakespeare said: "The U.K. has done very well, due to its direct payment mechanisms, and benefits like independent living allowance and access to work. It appears that many of these developments are under threat. The axing of the independent living fund and other changes to benefit appear to move away from what was a good situation." Liz Sayce, of the U.K. disability campaigning organisation Radar, said: "The UK has made some real progress and it's good to be reminded that there's something to celebrate, but the employment rate of disabled people has crept up by only six per cent in recent years to 47 per cent. But it is still only 47 per cent and many people are working below their potential." Tim Wainwright, of ADD (Action on Disability and Development) International, said: "We welcome the fact that there's a lot more clarity on the figures. It confirms that disabled people are the world's largest minority. Great strides have been made in making sure that women are included in international development programmes. The next biggest group is disabled people." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011
EU TO GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO CROATIA
The EU Commission will give the green light on June 10 for Croatia to join the union, with membership likely to start by 2013, the European Union justice chief said.
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the Commission would recommend that EU nations wrap up talks and prepare to welcome Croatia as the 28th member state.
Reding said the negotiations with the Balkan nation could be wrapped because talks on reforming the Croatian judiciary have been successful. The EU leaders now have to officially approve Croatia's membership.
Croatia started membership talks around six years ago, and would become the second former Yugoslav nation to join following Slovenia.
Several member nations and EU President Herman Van Rompuy had already expressed confidence that Croatia's path to the EU could be approved on Friday but the EU had insisted on a thorough reform of the legal system. The EU kept Croatia's membership application on ice for years until it improved its cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal. In 2005, the government helped track fugitive Gen. Ante Gotovina and extradite him to the court in The Hague, Netherlands. But legal and human rights issues remained among the most thorny to solve.
Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said the country's goal is to complete its EU accession talks this year when it marks the 20th anniversary of independence from the former Yugoslavia. — AP
THE ASIAN AGE
RAMDEV HAS A LOT MORE TO DISCLOSE
It is just as well that yoga teacher Ramdev, who of late had created something of a dramatic atmosphere in the country on the issue of black money and had gone on a hungerstrike with a view to making his point more effectively, had to reportedly end his fast on Friday with the administration of glucose. His health parameters had begun to deteriorate. It is to be hoped he emerges from the ICU in Dehra Dun soon with his health restored so that he may go about his normal life once again.
Recent events have clearly drained the yoga instructor physically and emotionally. All steps should be taken by the district administration to ensure nothing untoward happens and that Ramdev's recovery is speedy.
The man who styles himself as a "Baba" had quickened the tempo on the issue of corruption in public life, and put a question mark over probity within the government. He should have expected return fire, which was not long in coming. As such, a well-publicised and elaborate press conference followed, held at his Hardwar ashram on Thursday expressly to disclose his assets.
However, what transpired at the media interaction may have left even curious onlookers wondering. Precious little was revealed about how the "Baba" came to acquire a tidy fortune in a relatively short time, or indeed the extent of the assets and income streams that accrue from the numerous trusts and companies he commands along with his aide, "Acharya" Balakrishna. It is evident that Ramdev runs an impressive business empire, selling ayurveda medicines and herbal foods and applications. This area of his activities is obscured from public view, and the man is generally known only as a yoga guru. His orange robes deepen that impression. One significant detail to emerge from the press conference was that the Astha television channel, on which Ramdev teaches yoga live, is owned to the tune of 99.9 per cent by Mr Balakrishna. In short, Astha is the yoga instructor's captive channel. This makes him a media magnate, besides a food, beverages and pharmaceuticals entrepreneur.
So there should be no surprise that the disseminator of live yoga on television flies in a private plane and has an island that he can call his own. With a lifestyle such as this, a businessman would have to be weak of judgement if he goes about pointing finger at others in case he cannot be transparent about the sources of his own wealth. Therefore, Ramdev might do himself and his followers some good if he candidly disclosed the names of members of the public whose contributions to his trusts have made him the industrialist that he is. He has claimed, after all, that the business enterprises he presides over through his trusts have grown on the base of donations from devotees. This needs to be backed up with the right paperwork for even his devotees to be reassured.
The "Baba" has been accused of strong RSS and Hindutva links. Apparently it is these connections that are said to dictate his public agenda. In a democracy there can be no bar on this. A man's ideology is his own business so long as actions in pursuit of a particular brand of politics or ideology do not lead to violence. It is on this level that Ramdev has faltered. He publicly announced that he would be raising an army that will be trained in both shaastra (scriptures) and shastra (weapons). When this domain is entered, the entrant cedes the privilege of being the leader of "civil society". Raising a private army is the first step towards striking up postures of militancy. That fear cannot be dismissed lightly in this country, given the shades of terrorism that it has suffered in recent years.
THE ASIAN AGE
JUSTICE IS RARE
ANTARA DEV SEN
You can't help marvelling at how multifariously inept we are in matters of life and death. First, the President turned down two appeals for pardon — of pro-Khalistan militant Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted for killing nine people, and Assam's Mahendra Nath Das, convicted of beheading a man in a fit of rage. The political process snatched up Bhullar's cause, while the only thing keeping Das from being hanged was the lack of a hangman.
But this week, responding to an appeal by Das' mother, the Guwahati high court temporarily stayed the execution and asked the Centre and the Assam government to explain why it took 12 years to respond to his mercy petition. Meanwhile in Delhi, oblivious of the dearth of hangmen, Baba Ramdev demanded that all corrupt ministers be hanged. If you put your ear to the ground, you could hear the mercy plea of our beleaguered justice system.
Of course our judicial process can be efficient, too. Why, just this week a Delhi court sentenced four youngsters for stealing `740 three years ago. "Keeping in view the young age of the convicts a lenient view is taken", the court said. So two of them got seven years' rigorous imprisonment. The other two got just four years in jail. Wasn't that awfully kind? After all, they did steal `185 per head.
The guilty must be punished. We want justice, we bellow. Meaning we want justice for people like us — look at the sparks in our eyes, the flickering flames of our candles, our animated street marches and feisty TV appearances.
So this week there was a Bihar bandh to protest the police action against Ramdev's rally in Delhi. Curiously, the same day as Ramdev got bullied, Bihar cops shot a boy in Forbesganj, jumped on his face and kicked him to death for taking part in a rally opposing land acquisition. Police guns and boots had killed four protesters in Forbesganj, including a child and a woman, but they were too poor, too downmarket to merit big protests.
These murderers in khaki will not get even the seven years' rigorous imprisonment that the petty thieves got. And no question of the death penalty — that's for the "rarest of rare" cases.
Not that we know what "rarest of rare" means. It depends on the judicial mood. The Supreme Court tried to define it as murder "committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner", or if the motive betrays depravity and meanness, etc. Didn't help. Similar crimes got dissimilar punishments as power games took over.
So Das got death. He had charged up to Hara Kanta Das in a busy marketplace one morning in 1996, beheaded him and cut off his right hand. Then turned round — reportedly screaming "I have killed him!" — and walked to the nearest police station with the severed head and bloody machete to surrender. Where should he put the head and the weapon, he asked the cops. The cops proudly seized the weapon and arrested Das.
In 1997, Das was sentenced to death. In 1998 the high court upheld the verdict. In 1999 the Supreme Court turned down his appeal to commute it to life imprisonment. The SC said the murder was "extremely gruesome, heinous, cold-blooded and cruel". It was "atrocious and shocking". The court was particularly shocked by Das carrying the victim's head "through the road to the police station ('majestically', as the trial court put it) by holding it in one hand and the blood dripping weapon on the other hand. Does it not depict the extreme depravity of the appellant?" It was thus a "rarest of rare" case and deserved death.
So a man who kills someone in a rage, doesn't harm anybody else and voluntarily surrenders deserves to be hanged. We don't know why he killed his victim.
Even after 15 years, we know very little about Das and the circumstances leading to the beheading. But his jailors and fellow prisoners like him. So much that the inmates have appealed for mercy. In December, Das had started a fast unto death to end the agony of waiting indefinitely for the gallows, but was forced to break the fast in hospital.
What aggravating and mitigating factors did the court examine before dealing out death? Or did it forget about them while dwelling on the blood-dripping head and machete? We know from the recent judgment on Dara Singh, Bajrang Dal leader convicted of burning alive Graham Staines and his sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, six, that these are important.
As the Staines slept in their car at night, Singh and his people had crept up, doused it with petrol, set it afire, and blocked their victims' escape. "The court has to take note of the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances", the Supreme Court had said. And because "the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity", Singh deserved life, not death.
Similarly, last year the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of Santosh Singh, convicted of the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo, to life. The murderer is a lawyer and the son of an inspector-general of police. The court believed that because the murderer had meanwhile married and become "the father of a girl child" he deserved to live.
So our justice system believes that Dara Singh's or Santosh Singh's planned, spine-chilling, brutal murders were
not depraved acts but the beheading by Das, blinded by rage, was.
And it took 12 years for the President to reject Das' mercy plea. If Das had political clout he would have been saved, of course.
In a democracy, we cannot have different standards of justice.
Whether you live or hang depends more on your class, your counsel, stereotypes, biases, public passion and political demands than your crime. As a mature democracy we must move from retributive to corrective justice. And abolishing capital punishment is the only civilised option.
Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ASIAN AGE
Of course we will miss him. Even if Maqbool Fida Husain were in exile, he was now a Londoner. One of us. It was a sight that always cheered us up — the flowing white locks and beard — and the trademark barefeet. In fact, it was this time of the year that he would be spotted the most, with London warming up, the start of the cultural get-togethers, the celebration of the art exhibitions and auctions, and also the arrival of Indians "summering" in London.
As we all mulled over the wonderfully eclectic collection of Indian art that is now available in London — we would always find a "Husain" to admire. And sometime later, one would spot the artist himself, looking as much at home as he probably did in the streets of Mumbai. Though a little more frail each time one saw him.
It could not have been easy for him though he always smiled cheerily about it all, and dismissed any gloomy thoughts. Very rarely would he speak about his own desire to go home and no doubt there would always be a longing that would never go away. But it was something he preferred not to voice too openly because sadly, his very vocal fundamentalist critics had found him here as well. Some years ago, it had been a huge shock for all of us when his exhibition in London had also been threatened. It must have been a complete surprise for him too because London is a place where freedom of expression is almost a dharma. But, unfortunately, the self-appointed thought police proliferates in the name of securing "culture", and that exhibition, despite protests from many of us that his works should continue to be displayed, had to be removed. That was probably the last time a full fledged public exhibition of his original works was held here as well.
The reality was that apart from the frequent exhibitions by auction houses of South Asian art, Husain sahib was not given the same platform, even in London, as has been given to other Asian artists. Recent entrants like Subodh Gupta often drew much more comment and interest than he did. Perhaps the reason could be that the art appreciated in the UK is often about exhibitionism and even performance. Marketing is also very important. Husain sahib's art was probably far too deeply rooted in the ethos, politics and colours of India to be truly appreciated by the masses here in the UK, or even by art critics who did not really engage with him. Perhaps this is a sad commentary on how little we, as a community have done to promote our best known artists. Recently, I was at a dinner that was attended by movers and shakers (who were 99 per cent white and British) most of whom would have been familiar with India. Many spoke to me about cricket, but no one mentioned Husain sahib's passing away or had even heard of him. This is indeed a tragedy. For us he was probably India's greatest painter — but he was living in a country which allowed him his freedom but possibly could not give him the recognition he deserved.
As I pay him my respects, I cannot but imagine the grand memorial he would have got back home in India, the cavalcade of people who would have attended — and how everyone from the Prime Minister downwards would have been there. Now his body lies in a mosque in Tooting — and will then be taken for burial at a cemetery in Woking. For a man who had grown up wandering the streets of India — it is a strange farewell. So far from a land that had loved him — but had kept him at a distance!
Strangely enough barring an obituary in the Financial Times, and a photograph in the Guardian, India's Picasso died here, mostly unnoticed. Of course, now the memorials will begin, but I cannot but be depressed that today we, among those who appreciated him, could not give him the last salaam he so deserved.
In fact, we had talked about him just a few days ago at a pre-auction champagne viewing, of a superb collection of South Asian art at Christie's where some of his works had been displayed. Observing the energy with which the paintings were made, we had discussed how prolific Husain sahib was. And what a great legacy he had created. Learning that he was in hospital was a shock because he seemed eternal. How could one ever know that we would never ever see that familiar figure on the streets of London again? This time the Christie's collection had a superb range of Souza's etchings, as well, which had apparently been lying with his children and had only now been displayed. These etchings were bold and quite risqué, and one wondered what the thought police would have done if a similar exhibition had been held in India. They would have gone berserk. Is this going to be the future for us then — that the work of our progressive, provocative artists will be divided —and the really bold work will only be seen in foreign countries?
Meanwhile, it has also been a season of book readings, discussions and launches — and having just returned from the Hay-on-Wye festival — it was lovely to attend a completely different sort of book launch at the House of Lords. This is a very unusual book written by a feisty young woman, Malini Chib, called One Little Finger. It is rare that even a book reading can be inspirational but this certainly was. Malini has cerebral palsy making it difficult for her to communicate and yet this gutsy girl has got a double MA, runs a book shop in Mumbai and has even managed to write a book. While much of the credit must go to her mother Mithu Alur who has led the crusade for the differently-abled in India, Malini, on her own, has shown an immense amount of courage and independence.
Over tea and scones, at the lovely Cholmondeley Room, overlooking the Thames, many of us were teary-eyed listening to the amazing journey of this brave young woman. Another tale which celebrates the triumph of the spirit…
Kishwar Desai can be contacted at email@example.com
THE ASIAN AGE
"I didn't mean death
The abstract reaper
But the stalactite melting:
From The Songs of Gutta Percha by Bachchoo
I suppose if I had a trumpet I'd be tempted to blow it, though this is universally regarded as not quite in the best of taste. The trumpets of others ought to ring out on one's behalf and their hautboys (love that spelling!) herald one's arrival, pavilioned in splendour and girded with praise.
If one ignores the fact of whose lips are on the trumpet's mouthpiece, it remains true that writers must be compared, one against the other. It is part of the process of making a literature. It is, in an age which asserts that all values are relative, a difficult thing to say. Even so, I was once asked to think of a single important thing that university education had taught me and I said it was that one poem is better than another.
It took some growing up to absorb that as a self-evident and paradoxically arguable truth. I didn't just mean poems — I meant novels, travelogues, plays and all the stuff we call "literature". The very label begs definition and I don't think a succinct or static one exists, even though we may all agree that Batman or Bond may contain more superficial excitement than say the dilemmas of a Prince of Denmark. And then perhaps agree that those dilemmas are more rewarding. One would be called upon to define "reward" and, though it can be done, I believe it will beg further definitions.
The process of such definition with practical examples becomes the stuff of criticism whose first task is elucidation, comparison and ranking.
These conclusions, clichés perhaps, were I assure you, hard won. My reading in my childhood and through my teenage years was random, undirected and pretty voracious. I didn't lead a particularly lonely or sedentary life and there was plenty of loafing about with gangs in Pune through school and college. A very few of this teenage crowd belonged to a decrepit old library on what was then East Street, called the Albert Edward Institute. Its clientele consisted mostly of old men, the Prufrocks of Pune, who wore the bottoms of their trousers rolled and needed thick leather belts to keep their trousers in gathers round their waists. They sat in the reading room which was no more than two wooden tables and chairs or on two creaking, cane easy-chairs on the verandas reading the daily papers.
An equally pretentious friend and I paid the monthly rupee subscription to join the borrowing library and take away the works of, among others, Marie Corelli, Paul de Cock, Thomas Hardy, Eric Linklater, Charles Dickens and many more.
We read their works compulsively, in a point-scoring task to get through the whole shelf — not with appropriate absorption and admiration, but with the determination to have done with it, like some Japanese tourists on sight-seeing foreign tours.
My friend and I would boastfully compare the quantities we had read. We had no way of comparing or estimating quality. For us Marie Corelli, who started one of her novels with the intriguing sentences "I, one Fabio Romani am dead! Dead and yet alive..." was as good or bad as Thomas Hardy or Dickens.
I can't pretend that there was no discrimination or snobbery about our reading. We assumed without question that the fare of the Albert Edward Institute was sui generis superior to that of the Punjab Book Exchange (PBE) on Mahatma Gandhi Road from which others of our friends borrowed their reading. The PBE had titles such as Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy and Totem and Taboo by Freud in its showcase window, but its shelves in the shop were full of "Western" novels with titles such as Gunsmoke Gold. Behind the beaded curtain there were even more esoteric titles to be borrowed at a slightly higher price — The Nun's Delight and Confessions of a Russian Princess among others.
Obviously, we readers of Marie Corelli felt superior to those who lived imaginatively in the worlds of cowboy violence and mild or grievous pornography.
In the bookcase in the front room at home, among other things. were collections of Readers' Digests, Mahatma Gandhi's My Experiments with Truth, the Oxford Book of Modern English Poetry and several titles by Kahlil Gibran. To me they were all "literature".
The first critical admonition I ever came across was my mother encouraging me not to read the American comics that I and my friends bought and passed around. They were all sorts, from Classics Illustrated to Archie and Veronica, The Fox and the Crow and diverse cowboy series such as Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. My sister and I were not in any way forbidden to read them, but were encouraged to widen our tastes to prose unassisted by pictures, even if it was only Just William or Enid Blyton.
The culture of the British university to which I subsequently came, and the distinct hierarchy of taste that it favoured and religiously engendered wasn't exactly a shock, but it was new. And it was deeply enticing. Here was F.R. Leavis telling the world that literature had replaced religion and had to be relied upon to furnish civilisation with the moral, emotional, intellectual and practical possibilities, with all their infinite nuances, of life. To read was not enough. If that which had been written had this overweening task, then there had to be a system of discrimination. Examine the words, criticise the mechanisms, breadth, appeal and felicities or otherwise of a work. Through this process would emerge various definitions of truth and beauty. Leavis went a bit further. He actually wrote essays and then books to say which novelists and poets were better than others and why. The judgements could never be final — literature and writing were not to be diminished to the status of Top of the Pops. Criticism was always to be "Yes, but..." or "Yes, and..."
So, apart from the question of who blows the trumpet, it shouldn't shock or bewilder the reading public if a writer says that he doesn't judge any woman writer to be his equal. Such a statement should be taken not as an outrage but as a challenge to compare the historical and social contexts, the subtlety, the accuracy and breadth of characterisation, the freshness and penetration of insight in the works of, say, George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) and that of the writer who makes the claim. (No women novelists were injured during the writing of this column)
Minister for Technical Education, Youth Services and Sports, R.S. Chib paid floral tributes to martyr Bicky Singh Chib on his 5th death anniversary at Raipur Saizdian in R.S. Pura. Shaheed Bicky Singh attained martyrdom at village Ara in tehsil Bandiora of Kashmir while fighting against militants. Highlighting the role of security forces in fighting the militancy in the State he said that the valiant soldiers of Indian Army and other security forces have made great sacrifices to save Jammu and Kashmir from enemies both from outside and within the State. He said hundreds of army, BSF and other security forces personnel laid their lives while fighting militants and protecting the frontiers of the Sate. It is because of their sacrifices that peace is returning in the state paving the way for development and growth. Chib said, adding that he people in the state who were living in constant threat of the gun are now able to breath in a free atmosphere and enjoy the fruits of development.
Is the society really conscious of he sacrifices of our armed forces in the State of Jammu ad Kashmir right froth the day when Pakistan sponsored tribesmen lashkars from NWFP and Swat area launched an incursion on the state and had come almost to the doorsteps of Srinagar city? The invading hordes of marauding tribesmen were driven out of the valley when the jawans of Indian Army inflicted a crushing defeat on their advancing columns around Bemina and the present Damodhar Udar, the site of the Srinagar airport in the outskirts of the city of Srinagar. Pakistan made three more attempts to wrest Kashmir from India but had to face repeated defeats. Nevertheless, the valiant soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces made supreme sacrifice of their lives in defending the country against a brutal enemy. It is just because of their sacrifices that today the civil society enjoys the freedom and democratic dispensation. Had they not made sacrifices, the story of Jammu and Kashmir would have been entirely different today.
Any patriotic nation would feel pride in paying tribute to the martyrs who made those sacrifices. A mother keeps vigil all the night to ensure that her baby sleeps in peace. That is the role which the personnel of our armed forces have played in Jammu and Kashmir. Obviously, the martyrs deserve to be shown far greater respect than what they have received at the hands of the nation. It is usually the job of the mainstream political parties to keep fresh the memory of those sacrifices by organizing befitting functions to emulate the martyrs, observe martyr's day, organize seminars and symposia, cultural shows and fanfares in this context. Our young student community in schools and colleges needs to be familiarized with the great sacrifices of our war heroes and martyrs so that they draw inspiration of patriotism from them. This has not been happening to the desirable level it should have been. For example, except for a small street named after Brig. Rajinder Singh or a square named after Maj. Gen. Bikram Singh, we have little signs and symbols in Jammu city to remind us of our valiant martyrs and their heroic deeds. We have not been able to raise a war memorial and adjoining complex where functions related to the armed forces achievements would be staged and popularized. The text books of school and college going students do not carry lessons on the heroic deeds of our martyrs. Their biography is known to none. Our radio and television channels in Jammu are very miserly in this connection. Just broadcasting few film songs under "Fauji bhaion kelie programme is at best a lip service and not at all recognition of the sacrifices made by the heroes of three wars. The situation in Srinagar is worse just because the government and civil society both have succumbed to the threats from the militants whose creed is to malign the armed forces and lionize their own brutalities. While the Army is trying its best in fraternizing with the civil society by more than one means, it is unjust that the civil society is not responding adequately giving back to the army what it deserves by way of credit to the jawans and tribute to the martyrs. We are hopeful that adequate and befitting war memorials will be raised in both the capitals of the state and closer relations will be established between the Army and the civil society. The J&K civil society must reach out to the hand of friendship which Army has extended.
CLOUDBURST IN DODA
The loss of life and property in the cloudburst in Doda district could have been averted, at least partially, had the India Meteorological Department (IMD) taken timely steps and installed modern weather forecasting equipment in the state. Even after the cloudburst of Leh last year in which nearly 179 persons were killed and about 400 injured, the state office of the IMD continues to be without any equipment to forecast a cloudburst. According to an IMD senior official the state is not well-equipped and cannot forecast a cloudburst. The equipment available with the department can forecast temperature and rain only. A Doppler Weather Radar is an effective tool for the forecast of a cloudburst, and the state has not been able to install one. The result is that there is heavy loss of life and property as was witnessed in Ladakh last year and now in Doda. Why is the government taking weather forecasting so lightly when it knows that in a mountainous region like J&K even a light cloudburst can cause havoc much beyond the capacity of the people to withstand? It is surprising that the IMD officials came to know about Doda cloudburst disaster 24 hours later and only through some newspapers and external TV channels. Explaining a cloudburst, an IMD official said," A cloudburst means 100 mm of rain per hour. It lasts for almost 15 -20 minutes and affects 2-3 sq km area". In an overview, one may say that though a cloudburst cannot be stopped from occurring, but certain precautionary measures if taken preemptively may help save human lives and cattle wealth in rural areas. Moreover if the IMD is equipped with proper paraphernalia of forecasting cloudbursts, relief measures can be speeded up and very little time would be needed to rescue the persons becoming victims of cloudbursts. This is the time that the government should wake up and equip the IMAD properly.
PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
MEN, MATTERS & MEMORIES
BY ML KOTRU
It must be a thrill for the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb to be able to travel wherever he wants and be able to talk to anyone he chooses to be. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, made a 'bakra' by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani military ruler, mainly to please the White House and the Pentagon, his bosom pals then. Dr. Khan, hugely regarded by Pakistanis as the father of their nuclear bomb was even jailed by Musharraf and finally held under house arrest near Islamabad, made to feel like a criminal by the man who deep in his innards must have been grateful to Qadeer for having given Pakistan a credible deterrence. Musharraf was even put on TV for what was then tomtommed as the great confession.
But those who knew the story of the Pakistani bomb, floated first as the Islamic bomb by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, were in full know of how the bomb at Kahuta was made, almost each part smuggled from as far away as Europe, the US, China and North Korea. Qadeer's burning desire saw and excited military establishment eager to throw in their all into the Qadeer mission. Nobody had any qualms in using the late Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister, was in one case used as a courier to North Korea carrying blueprints and what have been.
All because Qadeer was not only committed to giving his country a nuclear capability but was also on the side, raking in millions, as an adviser to a handful of client States wishing to have the bomb. In a recent interview to the Newsweek Qadeer said "I would like to make it clear that it was Indian nuclear explosion in March 1974 that prompted our nuclear programme, motivating me to help create a credible nuclear deterrent and save my country from Indian nuclear blackmail".
In his own words again "after 15 years in Europe with invaluable experience in enrichment technology I came to Pakistan in December 1975 and was given the task of producing nuclear weapons by then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. On December 10, 1984 I informed Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, then military dictator of the country, that we could explode the device at a week's notice, whenever he so desired. We achieved a credible nuclear capacity by the second half of the 80's and delivery system was perfected in the early 90's. An astounding achievement for a country that could not produce a bicycle chain to have become a nuclear missile power within a short span of time -- and in the teeth of western opposition. To give the man his due, Qadeer, the metallurgist's pomposity is understandable when one considers the terrifying zig zags he had to make in smuggling crucial parts for the operation to get going. Pakistani diplomatic missions, Pakistani arms agents and Dr. Qadeer's own old European contacts were made part of a manical mission. There were occasions when some of the consignments were nearly caught in transit but the country's diplomatic missions were always on hand to help out. Or, there was the major option of falling back on Chinese and North Korean expertise.
Qadeer claims lack of knowledge about the present status of the programme after he left Kahuta, Pakistan's main nuclear facility 10 years ago but hopes that his guess was that efforts to perfect the design, reduce the size of the weapons to fit the warheads and the missile system and their storage have by now been given shape.
The Pakistani nuclear daddy bemoans the fact that countries like Iraq and Libya need not have under gone the aggression by western nuclear powers. Even Pakistan wouldn't have been disgraced the way it was when it lost half its territory, Bangladesh. To quote one of his former aides, not even ten India's could have inflicted a defeat on Pakistan in 1971 "if we had the nuclear capability then". Dr. Qadeer himself leaves no one in any doubt that Pakistan's nuclear programme is hundred percent India-centric. Says Dr. Qadeer Khan: "Our nuclear weapons programme has given us an impregnable defense, and we are forced to maintain the deterrence until our differences with India are resolved. That would lead to a new era of peace for both countries. I hope I live to see Pakistan and India living harmoniously in the same way as once bitter enemies, Germany and France live today".
The American view of the Pakistani arsenal though is markedly different. Even in best of times Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme warrants alarm. At a moment of unprecedented misgiving between Washington and Islamabad new evidence suggests that Pakistan's nuclear programme is barrelling ahead at a furious pace, unlike Iran, which has yet to produce plutonium, or North Korea, which has produced plutonium but still lacks any real weapons capability, Pakistan is significantly ramping up its nuclear weapons. The Under Secretary for Defence under George Bush, Eric Edelman says "you are talking about Pakistan even potentially passing France at some point. That's extraordinary".
The Americans are not particularly impressed by Dr. Qadeer Khan's explanation that the bomb is essentially to keep India at bay. Pakistani officials are quoted saying their build-up is a response to the threat from India, which according to them, is spending 50 billion dollars over the next years on its military. But former Senator Sam Nunn, who co-chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative, responds to say that it's just an issue between India and Pakistan, divorced from reality. "The US and the Soviet Union went through 40 years of cold war and came out every time from dangerous situations with lessons learned. Pakistan and India have gone through same dangerous times, and they have learned some lessons, but not all of them. Today, the whole idea of deterrence has changed. The whole globe has a stake in this. It is dangerous".
It's dangerous because Pakistan is also stockpiling fissile material, or bomb fuel. Since Islamabad can mine uranium on its own territory and has decades of enrichment know-how beginning with the work of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan - the potential for production is significant. Pakistan has already developed fissile material enough to produce more than 100 warheads and manufacture between eight and 20 weapons a year. It's the fastest growing weapons programme in the world, US experts have noted. What causes most worry the world over is what is popularly called as "loose nukes" - nuclear weapons or fissile material falling into the wrong hands. There is no transparency in how the fissile material is handled or transported, experts say. According to another analyst the bomb lends Pakistan a certain diplomatic in insouciance. Nukes, after all, are a valuable political tool for Pakistan, ensuring continued aid from the United States and Europe. Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear Physicist, is quoted saying that "Pakistan knows it can outstare" the west. And the West knows that Pakistan's collapse is too big price to pay. So the bailout is there in perpetuity.
ENERGY PRODUCTS ARE OVER-PRICED
BY NANTOO BANERJEE
Believe it or not, billions are being doled out to India's new generation energy companies at the cost of the nation, all in the name of deregulation. The government is now mulling to totally deregulate coal prices to facilitate new generation entrepreneurs to invest in coal mining at home and abroad. Electricity tariff is largely deregulated after providing a guaranteed return on capital cost on projects by energy companies. Costs are invariably inflated to help promoters rake in fatter profits. The principal beneficiaries of the government policy are just around a dozen companies and industrial houses, although their number is set to double in the next five years.
The government policy has made energy tariff in India the costliest among other fast-growing emerging economies, including China, Brazil and South Africa. Russia is not included because it is one of the world's largest energy producer-exporters. Energy prices in Russia, China and the United States are among the lowest in the world. India's high energy cost is stifling its industrial growth potential and export and causing high inflation which affects the whole nation. India's private sector energy companies are among the highest corporate profit makers.
The prices of petro-products are being raised at will by oil oligopolies with total disregard to its impact on consumers - industrial and domestic -- as well as on the national economy. The present lop sided energy policy could prove to be suicidal to the country, which is severely energy-starved, in the long-run. Free pricing of scarce commodities having inelastic demand benefits only suppliers. Nearly 80 per cent of India's petroleum needs are met through imports. At nearly 139 million metric tons of petro consumption last year, India ranks fourth in the world in this regard. India's domestic crude oil production is just around 32 million metric tons.
These are reasons enough for the need of a strong government control over this sector to prevent market speculators and profiteers take control of the vital commodity. The oil sector was totally regulated by the government until private sector players were allowed to enter the scene in the 1990s. The prices of products such as petrol, diesel, cooking gas and Kerosene were partly subsidized by the government, which otherwise gets large revenue income out of import tariff, excise duty, production cess and state sales tax on petroleum and products. Much of the petro-product subsidies are covered from the government's revenues from taxes and levies from this sector.
The price deregulation policy's proclaimed objective is to reduce the government's subsidy burden. But, the actual intent appears to be to make energy companies richer by billions of dollars per year. One such company's books of account showed a net profit of nearly US$ 4.5 billion in 2009-10, even without price deregulation which came last year. Ironically, the government paid no attention to price relaxation requests of the industry as long as it was in the public sector.
In the 1980s, ONGC's plea for parity between its crude price fixed by the government and the average global crude price on f.o.b. basis was sternly turned down. ONGC crude price was almost 75 per cent cheaper than that of, say, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Texaco and BP. Thus, the government kept ONGC price-starved for years to keep a check on the rates of end products. Yet, ONGC was able to make good profits, pay high dividends to the government year after year and generate resources to invest in prospecting, exploration and exploitation of oil.
Consider the Chinese policy on energy subsidy and price regulation in the Indian context. China is the world's largest energy consumer. It is the second largest importer of crude oil. In 2010, China consumed 455 million tons of oil, of which 200 million tons were imported oil. It is the world's largest producer of thermal and coking coal. The energy sector is highly regulated in China. It is also heavily subsidized. The total subsidy comes close to US$ 30 billion a year. China regards energy as a strategic sector to power the growth of all other sectors of economy. Only a fraction of higher international crude price movement is passed on to domestic consumers. The rest is absorbed by the government.
China's energy subsidy became a global concern in the 1990s. The high energy subsidy continued even after the country became a full member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) called upon China to cut down government subsidies on electricity, gasoline and diesel. But, Chinese policies are not known to bend under external pressure.
China's under-priced energy sources have helped the country emerge as an export power house, from ordinary merchandise to high value engineering products and armament. China has exponentially boosted its steel output in the past decade through large trade-distorting energy subsidies. Steel is identified as a strategic industry. From a net importer of steel in the 1990s, China has emerged as the world's largest steel producer and exporter.
Behind the current high inflation rate in India and economic slow-down is the sudden spurt in the domestic energy prices especially over the last two years and the deregulation of this sector. Even some of the capitalist economies offer fuel price subsidies to specific sectors in the public interest. Taiwan, for instance, offers oil subsidy cards to operators of public transport, including taxi-cabs. India's sudden U-turn from an age-old practice of central control on coal and hydrocarbon production, distribution and pricing to a near total deregulation of this vital energy sector is inexplicable. Certainly, it does not sync with the technical data on the country's alarmingly low domestic commercial reserves of conventional energy sources. The policy of deregulation has only made a few new operators billionaires overnight. And, all this is at the cost of the industry, agriculture and the common man. India can ill afford a deregulated, over-priced energy sector, now or, maybe, ever. (IPA)
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.
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.
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.
A BLOW TO DEMOCRACY
BY SUDHANSU R DAS
Delhi police in a midnight swoop has ended Baba Ramdev's fast with 144, teargas cells and lathi charge. Baba Ramdev was forced to flee to Haridwar in the darkness which he describes as his darkest night. Delhi police attack on innocent civil society members who assembled there to express their solidarity with Baba Ramdev in a peaceful manner raises doubts about the intention of such midnight attack on sleeping volunteers. Why it happened so suddenly and at midnight with 5000 armed policemen who had injured volunteers, burnt down stages and ransacked the Ramlila maidan. The midnight attack aimed to terrorise civil society activists so that they would not assemble to take on greed and graft unleashed by politico foreign business agents who have made India unlivable. Baba Ramdev does not belong to any political party and he enjoys the support of both left and right wing political cadres. He has millions of supporters across the world. He wanted to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks and he wanted to reduce foreign influence on our policies, polity and social life and all for a strong and self reliant India which continues to delude Indians for decades.
The contribution of all Indian politicians will not even match Baba Ramdev's contribution to the society. Indian social life has been devastated due to propagation of negative western culture through cinema and electronic media which are bent open marketing consumer products instead of art. Majority of engineering students have developed drinking habit in most of the engineering colleges in Orissa from first year onwards due to negligence of college authority. A simple alcohol test will check addiction level. Many state governments like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa earn huge revenue from liquor sale. In fact, those states earn revenue from liquor sale on the ruins of thousands of families. What is wrong if Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Sri Sri Ravishankar want to cure people from addiction. If Ramdev Baba wants a policy to stop it what is wrong. If Ramdev Baba shows the way to economists how to earn from natural sector it is worth emulating. It took Anna Hazare 20 years to free his Ralegaonsidhi village from liquor addiction. Today liquor and pornography materials are flooding the Indian villages. UPA government wants to provide broadband connection in every village without understanding the repercussion if illiterate villagers have access to porn websites. Gulbarga district of Karnataka is the victim of such behavior change as the district has the second largest population of HIV patients in India. AIDS is the outcome of societal behavior change and breaking down of Indian family value. What is wrong if Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar works to restore Indian family value which is being adopted in the west.
India's perennial poverty amid plenty continues to confuse economists and planners. Sixteen major rivers, the rich Sahyadri and the Himalayan range, 20 Agro ecological regions which produce all kinds of food grains and vegetables, huge mineral resources and 120 crore people, India is still reeling under poverty with half of the population living with $ 1.25 dollar a day, 60 million underweight children as per World Bank report and one out of three women are underweight as per NSSO Report.
What has gone wrong with this country which gets embarrassed by its neighbor Pakistan from time to time. China building defense infrastructure on India border and Pakistan occupied Kashmir has clear aim to circumscribe India. Over the years, USA has created many frankeinstain monsters in Asia which will constantly haunt India's defense thinking. Asian nations have witnessed aggressive demographic change which will threaten US and European nations' economy. In fact, India under Baba Ramdev's guidance can only stop the menace of demographic change. A strong self reliant India with 120 crore consumers can always boost US and European Union economy. Similarly a corrupt and weak India can create geo political imbalance.
If some body wants to make India free from corruption it is good for the future generations. Transparency International ranks India among the top corrupt nations at par with El Salvador. Both Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev campaign has activated the ever dormant civil society. It had activated the nation's intellectual impotency and made people more vigilant. Baba Ramdev has contributed immensely to increase the productivity hours of people across the world. The US and European Union countries have internalized yoga in both public and private sector organization in order to increase the efficiency and productivity level of their employees.
The attack on Baba Ramdev's Satyagraha is a blow to democracy. Even British had never attacked Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha venue. The attack on Baba Ramdev's Satyagraha venue will be a black chapter in Indian history which may activate the civil society.
MANUFACTURE TO GROW
INDIA MOVES CLOSER TO POLICY REFORM
In the last decade as India focussed on services and excelled in IT outsourcing, manufacturing suffered. China, in contrast, emerged as a global leader in manufacturing. While China is now turning to develop services, India has been trying to resolve differences over manufacturing policy for the past 18 months.
The Environment Ministry wants to control project clearances. Another ministry favours an empowered authority for the job. On Thursday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh buried inter-ministerial wrangles by approving a draft manufacturing policy. He wants it to be fine-tuned and placed before the Cabinet in a month.
As disputes over land acquisition have held up special economic zones — announced with fanfare to catch up with China — the new policy draft has suggested "national manufacturing and investment zones" with advice to states to set up land banks. Getting land is a hurdle. Another deterrent to manufacturers is labour. The draft policy gives companies the freedom to hire and fire, while advising them to adopt job loss policies to compensate workers. The draft policy allows firms to exit, if need be. Labour unions will fight to retain the present legal protection. This will put the government to test. The policy thrust is on creating a Western-type corporate work environment and the selling point is: 100 million jobs by 2025.
Even after the policy framework is in place, India will have to compete with China, Brazil, South Korea and Russia to attract foreign investment. Some global automobile giants have set up manufacturing bases here for exporting vehicles and auto parts to other markets. But this is despite internal bottlenecks, including corruption, red tape and creaky infrastructure. China has ten times more express highways than India and its power costs 40 per cent less. India has its advantages too: political stability, democracy, a reliable judiciary, a fairly free media and a young skilled workforce. Only corruption has crippled governance. To make India a preferred destination for foreign investment the government will have to push second-generation reforms, including further opening up of retail, insurance, banks, defence and media to FDI.
BUST THE RACKET OF SELLING 'JOBS'
Criticised frequently in the past for not taking prompt action at the first sign of trouble, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda , for once, did the right thing by calling for the resignation of his Transport Minister Om Prakash Jain and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Zile Ram Sharma.
Both of them stand accused of extorting money by holding out the promise of securing employment. Both were named in a complaint sent to the Chief Minister, among others, and also in the "dying declaration" made by a former Sarpanch, who alleged that he had paid Rs 12.45 lakh to the duo for securing three different jobs for his son and nephews.
The declaration, reportedly recorded in front of a doctor and a nurse in the hospital, may not technically be accepted as a 'dying declaration', which is usually recorded by a magistrate. But in the given circumstances, it would be interesting to see how the police and thereafter the judiciary deal with this bit of evidence.
The credibility and integrity of the much-maligned Haryana police will be on test as it goes about investigating the case. It is not clear at this point why the Chief Minister deemed it fit to hand over the investigation to the crime branch, unless he had reasons to believe that the district police would not be able to do the job; or else he may have been convinced that the two high-profile politicians could have influenced the district police. It remains to be seen though, whether the crime branch itself is able to ward off political interference. While the two politicians may only be indirectly responsible for the death of a common man, they need to prove their innocence in the 'cash-for-jobs' scam as well.
It is a sad commentary on governance when the common man is forced to beg and bribe people in power to secure employment. While it is entirely possible that the killers of Karam Singh, the former Sarpanch, may not be brought to book, it would be even more tragic if the 'cash-for-jobs' scam is also overlooked.
SUICIDES CAN BE PREVENTED
Each time a young person resorts to suicide, it leaves behind not only a grieving family but also a host of uncomfortable questions. The foremost among them is why should youth, associated with verve and energy, feel desperate enough to end their lives? Thus the death of a teenage girl in Chandigarh, who recently jumped from the school roof, is not only an individual tragedy but also symptomatic of deeper societal malaise.
Changing societal mores that lay great emphasis on achievement as against harmony and balance are some of the reasons that have contributed to the growing incidence of suicide among youth. Add to it the latchkey syndrome that children of working couples encounter and the loneliness of their lives often acquires a dangerous and, at times, fatalistic hue. In a competitive world often the fear of failure too becomes debilitating, pushing the young ones—at times as young as eleven — on the path of suicide.
Experts say suicide is an outcome of depression that can be attributed to both genetic and biological factors. The role of environmental factors has not been truly ascertained but cannot be discounted either. Indeed, several reasons, including broken homes, may lead to trauma that the young find difficult to handle. However, the bottom line is that suicides can be prevented. While parents must realise that parenting is one job that cannot be outsourced, educational institutions too must understand that children are fragile beings with brittle egos and have to be treated with love and respect. Suicide is an extreme cry for help and the significant others would do well to pay heed to the warning signals.
THE SINO-PAK NEXUS
LEARN FROM CHINA'S STRATEGIC THINKING
BY GEN (RETD) V. P. MALIK
It is often stated that at the strategic level, one requires a long memory and a longer foresight and vision. There are many people in India who have a tendency to overlook the Sino-Pak strategic nexus in the dialogue over India's boundaries with these two countries. Boundaries are a manifestation of national identity. Disputed boundaries are often trip-wires of war.
It is, therefore, necessary to place this issue in its historical and futuristic perspective.
Soon after its Independence in 1949, China set out consolidating its historic frontiers and placing administrative authority and military boots on the ground in Tibet and Xinjiang. India did not do so and rues till date this Himalayan blunder in strategic terms. India's northern boundary from the Sino-India-Afghanistan tri-junction to the Sino-India-Nepal tri-junction on the maps remained marked with the legend 'Boundary Undefined' till 1954. No serious attempt was made to establish administrative authority or place military boots on the ground in this area.
On July 1, 1954, Nehru ordered, "All old maps dealing with the frontier should be… withdrawn… new maps should not state there is any undemarcated territory… this frontier should be considered a firm and definite one which is not open to discussion with anybody." By then, China had placed its military boots in Tibet and Aksai Chin and started the construction of a strategic road connecting Tibet to Xinjiang (China National Highway 219). Construction of this strategic road, started in 1951 but not noticed by India till 1955, was completed in 1957. It was seen in the Chinese maps published in 1958.
Nehru tried to justify the loss of Aksai Chin by calling it 'a desolate area where not a blade of grass grows'. Nevertheless, it became one of the triggers for the Sino-Indian war of 1962.
Soon after the war, China began Xinjiang boundary negotiations with Pakistan. This was a period when both China and Pakistan were upset over the post 1962 war US military assistance to India. They signed the Sino-Pakistan Border Agreement in 1963 in which Pakistan ceded Shaqsgam Valley of the Northern Areas (J&K territory, under occupation of Pakistan) to China. This agreement described the eastern termination of the Sino-Pakistan boundary at Karakoram Pass. Pakistan promptly delineated NJ 9842 on the Soltoro Range towards the North East to Karakoram Pass, ignoring "thence north to the glaciers" statement of the 1948 Karachi Agreement between India and Pakistan. The result: Karakoram Pass, till then on the boundary between India and China, now had a third party access and claimant.
China maintained a studied silence over the Pakistani cartographic manipulation. It continued to show the area north of Karakoram Pass as being under China. Meanwhile, Pakistan and China started building the Karakoram Highway, linking Xinjiang to Pakistan through the northern areas.
Pakistan's cartographic manipulation was followed up in international mountaineering journals and Western atlases. It started sending civil and military mountaineering expeditions to the mountain peaks and glaciers in this area.
It would be noted that the Chinese were willing to negotiate and settle the boundary issue of J&K (west of Karakoram Pass) with Pakistan. But they have refused to discuss that boundary with India on the ground of its being 'disputed'. That 'dispute' did not come in the way of their negotiations with Pakistan.
In April 1984, India reacted to these developments and intelligence reports about Pakistan Army plans to deploy troops in the Siachen glacier area by occupying the Soltoro Ridge (now called the Actual Ground Position Line or AGPL) to secure the glacier and the territory to its east. This deployment (a) dominates Pakistani positions in the valley west of Soltoro Ridge (b) blocks infiltration possibilities across the Soltoro Ridge passes into Ladakh (c) prevents Pakistani military adventurism in Turtuk and areas to its south. Its northernmost position at Indira Col overlooks the Shaqsgam Valley, illegally ceded by Pakistan to China, and denies Pakistani access to Karakoram Pass and beyond that to Aksai Chin.
In 1987, China and Pakistan signed the protocol to formalise the demarcation of their boundary. Its termination at Karakoram Pass and Pakistani recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Aksai Chin clearly indicated an understanding between them. In the late 1980s, China started assisting Pakistan on the development of nuclear weapons, long-range missiles and in large-scale sale of conventional weapons and equipment.
In 1997, China agreed to send its military commander opposite Ladakh to meet his India counterpart in Leh as a confidence-building measure. Near the date, it was proposed that the meeting be held in New Delhi instead of Leh. It had to be called off. After the Kargil war, military attaches from all countries except Pakistan were invited for a conducted tour of the battle zone. The Chinese attaché declined that invitation.
Three years ago, China started issuing "stapled visas" to visitors from J&K, thus bringing into question its status as part of India. It refused a visa to the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, who was to make an official visit to China as a part of ongoing military-level exchanges. It has now increased its civil and military presence in the northern areas, purportedly to improve infrastructure there. Among the infrastructure reconstruction projects to be given priority are those related to the repair and upgradation of the Karakoram Highway, which was damaged in 2009. China also plans to construct railway tracks and oil pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port in Pakistan.
In December 2010, while addressing a joint session of the Pakistan parliament, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stated: "To cement and advance the all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Pakistan is our common strategic choice…The two neighbouring countries are brothers forever. China-Pakistan friendship is full of vigour and vitality, like a lush tree with deep roots and thick foliage. China-Pakistan relationship is strong and solid, like a rock standing firm despite the passage of time."
Recently, India and Pakistan resumed talks over the Siachen glacier issue. As in the past, Pakistan refuses to authenticate the AGPL and the existing troops' positions and demands the Indian troops' withdrawal to the pre-1972 position i.e. to the east of the line joining NJ 9842 and Karakoram Pass. Pakistan had formally authenticated the line of control in 1949 and 1972 but has consistently refused this position. The strategic consequences of a deal without such a formal authentication are obvious. Besides, it will re-introduce China into the end game because of its illegal control over the Shaqsgam Valley.
Without formal authentication of the AGPL, how does one detect any future encroachment into this area? It must be stated categorically that no amount of existing technology can have fool-proof surveillance and capability to detect small-scale infiltration, which is sufficient to hold and defend a tactical feature in this terrain. Can India afford to forego the strategic significance of the Soltoro position due to the financial cost-benefit ratio analyses? Or because not a blade of grass grows in the area? (Then why put up the Indian flag at Gangotri in South Pole?) Can India trust Pakistan to the extent of foregoing formal authentication of the AGPL after what Gen Pervez Musharraf did across the formally delineated LoC in Kargil? Our negotiators must keep all these points in mind in their discussions with Pakistani counterparts.
In his latest book On China, Henry Kissinger states that China's strategy generally exhibits three characteristics: meticulous analysis of long-term trends, careful study of tactical options and detached exploration of operational decisions". He describes the Chinese style of dealing with strategic decisions as "thorough analysis, careful preparations, attention to psychological and political factors, quest for surprise, and rapid conclusion." There is much that our political leaders and officials can learn from China's strategic thinking.
The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff
GETTING IT ALL WRONG
BY S. RAGHUNATH
A telephone subscriber in the US who dialled his laundry got connected instead to the top-secret telephone of President Obama: News report.HELLO, Snow White Laundromat? Look, this is utterly outrageous and I'm certainly not going to take it lying down. Last week, I sent you three trousers and four shirts to be drycleaned and pressed and I've got them back minus all the buttons and fly zippers. What kind of a laundry service are you running anyway?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but you've got the wrong number. This is the emergency hotline scrambler telephone line to the President and used to alert him to an imminent and devastating nuclear missile attack and the total annihilation of the US and the free world. I request you most urgently to hang up immediately and try dialling the correct number of the Snow White Laundromat."
"Okay, this is the emergency hotline scrambler telephone line to the President and I'm Bill Clinton coming clean over the Monica Lewinski affair. Yesterday, I sent you my Levi's to be stonewashed and darned and I've got them back minus the 'I Love America' and 'God bless America' patch on the bum. I tell you, I've never seen a lousier laundry service in my life."
"I repeat most urgently, sir, this is the emergency hotline scrambler telephone line to the President and blocking it causes a grave national security alert and US military forces worldwide being placed in the highest state of readiness to launch an all-out thermo-nuclear strike. I request you to hang up immediately and try again to dial the correct number of the Snow White Laundromat."
"Look, you can't brazenly rip off my buttons and fly zippers and bum patches and then try to fob me. Off with this hotline scrambler telephone line malarky. Last month, I sent you my white dressing gown to be dyed saffron and pressed. I was thinking of giving up the senior vice-presidency of the Microsoft Corporation, relinquish the stock option and hit the road with the Hare Krishna guys. You still haven't delivered my saffron dressing gown and my ardour for exotic eastern religions and nirvana has cooled off. I warn you, I've got a good mind to take my business elsewhere."
"I repeat most urgently, sir, this is the emergency hotline scrambler telephone line to the President and why, even now Russian nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles might be on their way and with you blocking the hotline, they might well zap us!
"No, they won't, not a country with a laundry service that can't wash its customers' clothes well. Listen, I've got another grouse. You advertise: 'We wash Your Things in automatic high-speed computer-controlled machines'. Well, last week as I was driving along Lake Chicago, I swear I saw your workmen beating clothes on a rock and washing and rinsing them in a stagnant cesspool by the lake. I ask you, is your advertising fair. Another thing, your starching...."
"I repeat most urgently, sir, this IS the emergency hotline scrambler telephone line to the Oval Office and to convince you, though this might cost me my job, I'll put the President himself on the line. "Hello, this is the President. Don't tell me that the Russians have got a drop on us?
"Mmm you do sound like o1' man Barak. For heaven's sake, what are you doing working in the lousy Snow White Laundromat ?
LEARNING FROM THE 'JEWISH SPRING'
THE REVOLUTIONARY WAVE OF DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTESTS THAT HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE IN THE ARAB WORLD SINCE DECEMBER 18, 2010, HAVE LARGELY FOCUSED ON REGIME CHANGE, WITH VARYING DEGREE OF SUCCESS. HOWEVER, MUCH REMAINS TO BE DONE
It is extraordinary that many supporters of the so-called 'Arab Spring' have criticised and condemned the only real 'Spring' to have successfully brought democracy and freedom to the Middle East. The 'Jewish Spring' is 63 years old and showing no signs of weakening.
While many take the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for granted, the details could serve as an inspiration for the region.
Since the expulsion and exile from the Land of Israel by the Romans, the Jewish People have largely only known repression, persecution and massacres. Wherever many of our ancestors lived they yearned for freedom and equality with the nations of the world by returning to the land that they were expelled from two thousand years prior and rejoining the remnant who maintained the Jewish presence in Israel.
The Jewish struggle for full civil and national rights is unparalleled in the annals of time. No other people survived such a long exile with their language, civilization, culture and attachment to homeland intact.
Perhaps even more remarkably, the re-established Jewish State created a stable liberal democracy out of a population, the vast majority of whom had never experienced representative government for even one day. While there are those who claim that the lack of democracy in Arab history negates its possibility of success, their Semitic cousins, the Jews, have proven that lack of experience should not prove a barrier.
Moreover, Israel is a bastion of decency and human rights. Our Declaration of Independence is the only such document that actively invokes the universalist principles of the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, Israel's founding document extended a hand of peace and fraternity to all of our neighbours, even while many at that moment were massing at the Jewish State's borders in a war of attempted extermination.
Learn from Israel experience
If the 'Arab Spring' is to succeed it could do worse than learn from the Israel experience. While successive Arab rulers have instilled a 'scapegoat mentality' in parts of the population, this must be removed at the earliest opportunity. Arabs have been distracted from the real issues for too long by blaming all the ills of the Middle East on the colonial powers, Israel, the U.S. and the West in general.
The broken bodies and souls that escaped the Holocaust, the excesses of Communism and suppression as dhimms in Arab lands had ample reasons for failure bar one, the determination to succeed, build and look forward.
Israel began its existence as a developing nation with all of the challenges that entails, and many others, like mass immigration, and boycotts and other embargoes laid against it. Nevertheless, Israel met all these challenges and many more, and is a proven success by any measure.
Challenges for Arab world
The challenges facing the Arab world are many. The UNDP Human Development Report for Arab states report in 2009 placed the Arab world at the lowest level on the development ladder. The ever-increasing poverty, unemployment, desertification, water scarcity, rising food prices, civil wars, sectarian and ethnic conflicts make the task daunting.
According to the report, the Arab countries will need to create around 51 million new jobs by 2020 just to maintain their current precarious unemployment figures.
Many of these challenges were Israel's challenges. However, regardless of the fact that Israel had to fight many bloody wars and spend an enormous amount of its budget on defence, Israelis continue excelling in many areas.
We started with fewer resources
Perhaps Israel's key is not letting our challenges define us. While many around the world associate Israel with war and conflict, Israelis define themselves by their achievements as a society.
We measure ourselves by the most developed and wealthy nations and in areas such as hi-tech, innovation, medicine and finance and others, we compare well. Perhaps our over-achieving has entitled many to criticise us more than our neighbours. However, we started with far fewer resources than any in our region, so if we have reached a high level of development it should be to our credit, not our detriment.
Yearning for freedom
Few understand the yearning for freedom and an end to repression more than the Jewish People. We commend those in the Arab world who have the courage to end their tyranny. However, we should not confuse the start of the process with the process itself. There is a long and difficult road ahead.
I hope Israel can serve as a model for the region. The Jewish Spring is a remarkable story and disproves many of the geographic and historic arguments that seek to excuse failed societies in the Middle East and North Africa.
Arab world must be accountable
The West has a role too, the narrative of victimisation and the allowance of moral relativism must cease. The Arab world must be deemed accountable as any other, when nations, international organizations and NGO's hold a people to a different standard; this discourages and does not embolden those that seek change.
Israel remains to this day under the largest magnifying glass of the international community and we have been held to the highest standards, some would say unfairly so. If the Arab Spring is to match the Jewish Spring, it deserves no less.
The writer is the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel.
VIOLENCE RATCHETS UP RISK
The Arab Spring's violent phase is ratcheting up investor risk. Hopes that further dominoes would fall with minimal violence, in the same way that regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were toppled, have been dashed. Others-notably Libya, but also Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and even Saudi Arabia-are still tottering. But none will fall easily. The prospect of bloody conflicts will push up already-heightened risk premia, including the resurgent oil price.
Conflicts are bubbling up throughout the region-most obviously in Libya, where it is unclear whether the Western-led imposition of a no-fly zone will lead to the swift ousting of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or a long drawn out civil war. Yemen could be next but it probably won't fall in a happy manner: the al-Qaeda-infested country could split and turn into even more of a failed state.
Elsewhere, sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ites is rising. It's already rampant in Bahrain. But it could spread to Syria and Saudi. Riyadh is increasingly worried. Not only has it just sent troops into Bahrain to help suppress the Shi'ite majority there; it has also promised domestic handouts worth an astonishing $93 billion in an attempt to keep its own population quiet. The cash won't just be used to pay for homes and social programmes, it will be used to boost the morality police and security services.
Shifting geopolitical relationships are also adding to instability. The previously rock-solid Saudi-U.S. axis, one of the few fixed points in a rough neighbourhood, is looking a little wobbly. The two countries still need each other. But the United States is finding it increasingly hard to maintain its traditional approach of backing friendly autocrats. Its abandonment of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and slightly critical stance on Bahrain seems to be unnerving the Saudis. Meanwhile, Israel is increasingly twitchy and Iran potentially capable of causing trouble.
It is still possible to hope that the region will eventually make a transition to peace and prosperity. But the short-term risks are mounting. — Reuters
DO A GARAGE SALE
EVEN IN THE PROTECTED WORLD OF INDIA'S SICK PSU, IT TAKES A SPECIAL KIND OF GOVT COMPANY TO LOSE RS 8 CR A DAY, WHILE EARNING JUST RS 10 CR AS REVENUE
T N NINAN
Even in the protected world of India's sick public sector units, it takes a special kind of government company to lose Rs 8 crore a day, while earning just Rs 10 crore as revenue — and that in the booming field of telecommunications. That's Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) for you. Its big sister, the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), also loses Rs 8 crore a day, though it earns much more revenue — about Rs 90 crore daily. BSNL blames the jailed former minister A Raja for its troubles, but there must be more to the story. Now the two companies propose to merge; expect an Air India kind of situation, with staff from the two companies battling over pay and seniority many years into the future.
Air India, meanwhile, provides more proof that the government is a lousy shareholder. One minister destroyed the airline. Another now watches while the airline cuts flights because it has exhausted its credit and credibility, and therefore has to pay for fuel in cash. The staff, meanwhile, is not paid incentives that are equal to something like half their monthly salary in most cases — and the government expects this de-motivated staff to fight and regain lost marketshare, to offer service with a smile to passengers.
And what about Prasar Bharati, the once supposedly autonomous broadcaster which is now once again little more than a government department? It employs 38,000 people, and loses Rs 2.5 crore a day, to earn about as much revenue. Someone should ask the obvious question: Why is the government in the business of running phone companies, airlines and news broadcasting when it is losing large dollops of money, when private providers are doing a reasonable job, and when there is no shortage of competition? For that matter, does the government need to make watches (at HMT), cement (at Cement Corporation of India), tyres (at Tyre Corporation of India), or shoes (at Bharat Leather)?
These questions were asked frequently till a few years ago. But the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has become so inactive on the reforms front that most people have simply given up arguing the case for even the most obvious steps. For instance, a quarter of the 48 units that come under the department of heavy industry are lying closed, or have ceased operation (but are not "closed"). Many others are close to being irrelevant — like Hindustan Photo Films in the era of digital cameras, and Nepa which makes the poorest-quality newsprint at a substantial loss. The shuttered companies include two bicycle makers (imagine them competing against Hero), and Mining and Allied Machinery Corporation which goes back to the heavy industry planning phase of the Second and Third Plans. Many of the firms still up and running are companies that were taken over by the government in the heady days of nationalisation, 40 years ago, and the majority of these have struggled to make good ever since —like most of the textile mills of Mumbai that were taken over in 1982.
Privatisation is of course a risky business, because controversies erupt over valuations. Also, unless a defunct company has substantial real estate (like Scooters India, which is on the block), it is not likely to attract very high bids; and that would make a sale look unappealing. The point, however, would be to clean up the books, get rid of dead assets, and use the sale proceeds productively — as so many other countries have done. To the UPA, however, this would be capitalism red in tooth and claw. So we'll keep using our tax money to pay for MTNL and BSNL and Air India and the rest.
A LITMUS TEST FOR RBI
THE CENTRAL BANK WILL APPEAR VACUOUS IF IT HOLDS FIRE NEXT WEEK FOLLOWING ITS ULTRA HAWKISH GUIDANCE AT THE LAST MONETARY POLICY REVIEW
All eyes are on the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) upcoming mid-quarter monetary policy review on June 16, the first review following the unexpected 50 basis point (bp) increase in early May. It is ironic that the RBI's aggressive 50-bp move came just as global commodities hit an air pocket. Indeed, the CRB index of commodities and Brent are both slightly lower now compared to early May. However, neither decline is big enough so far or can be viewed as being firmly sustainable to prompt the RBI to stay on hold. India's inflation remains suppressed owing to the lack of a more complete adjustment in several local prices.
After having sounded exceptionally hawkish just six weeks ago, the RBI will appear to be avoiding its own guidance if it stays on hold next week, especially since inflation remains worryingly high. Also, the inflation data are yet to be fully impacted by the long overdue adjustments in local fuel and other prices, and the much-needed meaningful fiscal adjustment remains uncertain. Even a slightly better-than-expected wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation for May should not be a cause for celebration. In the absence of fuel price adjustments, looking at the inflation readings is like looking at a swimsuit without a body — it just does not capture the real effect.
The March quarter GDP report cannot be an excuse for staying on hold as signs of moderation existed even when the RBI increased key policy rates by 50 bps. GDP data are, for the most part, a lagging indicator, as several monthly indicators provide earlier clues. It has been widely overlooked that non-agricultural GDP growth moderated only marginally to 7.8 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in January-March from 8.0 per cent in the December quarter. A sizeable upward adjustment in the GDP for January-March quarter in 2010 also made the YoY comparison less flattering. Further, gross tax receipts suggest a better tone of economic activity even though economic growth is widely expected to moderate as a desired policy outcome.
In the annual policy, the RBI stated the obvious that there is no trade-off between growth and inflation in the long run. While that it true (and it is encouraging that the RBI discovered that after missing inflation forecast in the last few years), it conveniently overlooked to point out that there is little role for monetary policy in the long run. Low inflation is favourable to long-term growth as interest rates decline, which in turn boosts growth, which in India's case could also get a shot in the arm if the government ever wakes up to work on reforms.
In an earlier piece ("Lower growth, higher inflation", May 11) , I had pointed out that there is a risk of over-tightening as the WPI inflation that the RBI focuses on appears to have little sensitivity to softening non-agricultural GDP growth if commodity prices are rising. This is because WPI inflation (and non-food manufactured goods component) is significantly more sensitive to international commodity prices than the typical consumer price index (CPI)-based inflation. It is instructive to note that the new CPI series shows inflation running around 6.0 per cent YoY, and a sequential pass-through (not seasonally adjusted as there are still not enough data points) that is much lower than what the WPI indicates. This is as it should be, but the RBI appears idiosyncratically wedded to the input prices in the WPI for setting interest rates, an approach that is faulty, in my view.
India has not had many monetary tightening cycles in the last two decades. The first cycle, in the mid-nineties, ended in tears. Unstable domestic politics, post-reform bust in investment, and external events (ie Chinese renminbi devaluation in 1994 and the Asian financial crisis in 1997) were among the important reasons, with the RBI's tightening being a contributor to but not the key driver of the domestic slump that followed. The industrial sector was painfully flat on its back through FY02, although the downturn was also instrumental in restructuring businesses. Essentially, inflation was killed but so was the industrial sector — hardly the desired finesse.
The last monetary tightening in 2004-08, especially the mature phase of 2006-08, is a far better case study to gauge the RBI's response function. However, it too had several important differences from the current monetary tightening that began in early 2010 following the exceptional easing in late 2008 put in place after the global credit crisis. Higher inflation due to global commodity prices is common to both cycles, but there are several important differences on the composition and drivers of economic growth, magnitude of capital inflows, and the nature of the RBI's tightening (for example, less reliance on the use of cash reserve ratio). In particular, domestic demand was much stronger and more balanced in the last cycle. However, the cycle was cut short by the global credit crisis that prompted an aggressive monetary and fiscal easing by the RBI and the government.
An important aspect of the last tightening that is overlooked is that the RBI had maintained the repo rate (at which banks borrow from the central bank)at 7.75 per cent for a little over a year before an unexpected jump in inflation (driven mainly by global commodity prices) prompted an additional tightening of 125 bps packed in June-July 2008. Non-agricultural growth had been slowing until then but we never got to see the full impact of the tightening as the deceleration that followed was also affected by the global credit crisis. Subsequently, there was a quick and significant reversal in policy.
Even though the RBI's policy comes every six weeks, the central bank appears to have a bias for announcing rate increases more often in the quarterly reviews than in the inter-quarter meetings. That bias should be eliminated unless that is what the RBI intends, in which case the sensible approach of inter-quarter reviews is a waste.
The bottom line is that in the absence of favourable lasting inflation news, holding fire next week will only compromise the effectiveness of the RBI's signalling from the last meeting. At the very least, the guide should follow his own guidance.
The author is senior economist at CLSA, Singapore. The views expressed are personal
THE M F HUSAIN I KNEW
THE VANDALISING OF HIS ART AND REVILING OF HIS REPUTATION THAT LED TO HIS EXILE IN 2006 IS A BLOT THAT THE MODERN, SECULAR REPUBLIC CANNOT ERASE
In April 2003 I had a call from art gallery owner Arun Vadehra. "Are you free this afternoon?" he asked. "Can you please drop by? Husain Sahib is here and would like to see you." In an acquaintance of more than 30 years, it was often like that with M F Husain: someone calling on his behalf, out of the blue, to set up a meeting. Even if he called, it was either to pass on a message or arrange an appointment — there was always the risk of being stood up. Spontaneous, changeable, notorious for sudden appearances and non-appearances, an air of the unexpected hovered about him. He enjoyed turning encounters into assignations.
He had commandeered a corner of the gallery that day, and had been painting all morning; paints and canvases littered the floor on newspaper sheets. Unwinding his tall frame, rubbing his fingers with a rag, he settled down to chat in his soft drawl, before coming to the point. "I saw your article on my Iraq War paintings. I liked it very much." The images, or large digital prints, had perplexed viewers with their mix of brutality (drones and machine guns), romantic film imagery (Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik) and religious symbolism (the martyrdom of Hussain at Karbala denoted by his rearing, dying horse Dul Dul). If this isn't the magic realism of an artist's eye, I argued, what is?
He picked up a newspaper parcel; inside was a small canvas, two-feet-by-two, of a horse in a vivid palette of cobalt, red, yellow and black. "For you," he said, "with my appreciation." I was touched and embarrassed. He laughed off my hesitation in throaty chuckles. Flipping the canvas over, he said, "And this is the best part." Mere sahafi dost Sunil Sethi ke naam (To my writer friend Sunil Sethi) ran the inscription in elegant Urdu calligraphy; below it a carefully-drawn cartouche with a stirring couplet by poet Jigar Moradabadi.
M F Husain's generosity, like his boundless energy and originality, or the miasma of controversy, the stream of admirers, detractors, girlfriends and hangers-on that surrounded him, made his life the biggest artwork. The late hotel tycoon T R S "Tiki" Oberoi told me that his splendid Husains were a trade-off for a free room he gave the neither very well-known nor well-off artist at the Maidens Hotel in the 1960s. A former picture framer of his became a millionaire from the number of Husains he sold, real or fake.
Arab emir or Paris grande dame, struggling gallerist or entrepreneur, he carried the whole shebang on his hunched, but never stooping, shoulders. For someone who preferred to walk barefoot, he appreciated the comfort of being well-shod. In the late 1970s he introduced me to the only shoe shop in the Taj Mahal hotel for which he designed a smart logo. "Chalo kabab roti khayen," he said afterwards, shepherding me to Bade Miyan's stall. I seldom pass up an opportunity in Mumbai to visit both.
The vandalising of his art and reviling of his reputation that led to his exile in 2006 is a blot that the modern, secular republic cannot erase. No Indian government, despite the honey-tongued political hypocrisy on display at his death, was willing to guarantee the safety of its most famous and decorated artist at home (as the British did for Salman Rushdie). In this column, when he accepted Qatar nationality ("Husain: The misery and the mystery", March 6, 2010), I noted that it was a tragic failure of democratic consensus that a 95-year-old man could not return for the incipient fear of being swamped by harassment, litigation and bodyguards. "Maybe Bharat Mata has found in him an unwarranted martyr."
I had spent time with Husain in London some months earlier. He insisted that he could return to India any time he wanted. But it was bravado, an old man seeking peace. He quoted Faiz Ahmed Faiz's famous verse: "Aur bhi gham hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke siwa." Surely the sorrow was his unconditional love of India?
UPA'S MIDNIGHT MOMENT
K NATWAR SINGH
Let me begin by quoting from Barbara Tuchman's book The March of Folly: "Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defended as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why does [sic] holders of high office so often contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?"
Even for the best-run governments, there always comes a moment when the scenery collapses. For the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II) government, that moment came at midnight on June 5. No amount of verbal sophistries can undo the damage the central government caused itself. From the unseemly rush to the airport by four distinguished Cabinet ministers to the appalling thoughtless midnight onslaught on unarmed sleeping individuals, this government cannot get a thing right. It became the butt of unkind jokes and sneer. No one bought the explanations and justification emanating from the loudmouths.
A senior Congress leader – an eminently level-headed one – called Mr Ramdev a "thug", while two Cabinet ministers are now negotiating with the same "thug". Clearly, there is some disconnect. This melancholy episode highlights the grim fact that the right hand (the government) doesn't know what the left hand (the Congress party) is doing.
Mr Ramdev was already out-talking himself. A little more well-calculated patience would have taken the wind out of his yogic lungs. He is no politician. Nor does he have an organised mind. Instead of jumping off the stage and dressing up in women's garb, he should have got himself arrested. That would really have put the cat among the pigeons.
The wise and weary Prime Minister declared that the police action was unfortunate but there was no alternative. Heavens above! One could give at least half a dozen options. I do not wish to burden the readers with the list of alternatives; even a university student can do that.
Not only does UPA-II have egg on its face, it has given the Bharatiya Janata Party a political blood transfusion. A party without a worthwhile programme was handed a readymade political knife. On almost every count the government fared poorly. That is a huge loss of credibility. In a democracy, a government must never take public opinion for granted. The ruling establishment continues to misjudge the temper of the times. That is a near-fatal error of judgement.
An extraordinary and welcome phenomenon is to see the youth joining Mr Hazare's non-violent movement. This reminds one of the student revolt in France in 1968, which led to the departure of the great and good Charles de Gaulle, who, after all, had the machinery of state at his disposal. Mr Hazare has nothing but his passion for honesty, integrity and non-violence. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is his inspiration. What attracts people is his sparkling non-political candour and his astute employment of Gandhian vocabulary. He is no Gandhi – and he does not claim to be one – but his use of Gandhian techniques has made him a national icon of sorts. He reflects the public mood.
The late Pope John Paul once said, "If it does not happen on TV it does not happen." Mr Hazare is a daily, hourly happening on TV. He occupies a huge portion of TV space. The entire media is with him. He is a non-intellectual who attracts intellectuals. He does not offer a 20- point programme. His is a one-point programme — get rid of corruption.
For the last six months, the UPA's performance can be summed up in four words — downhill all the way. This has decidedly serious domestic ramifications. But we cannot ignore international reaction. UPA-I was the toast of the world. UPA-II is anything but that. In New Delhi resides a large diplomatic corps. In normal times, high commissioners and ambassadors have little to do during the summer months. But this summer is different. Each head of mission would be sending long coded messages every day to his government. These would be pointing to a government that is in disarray and in a state of drift. Krishna Menon put it very well: "Even a drift has a direction." The UPA-II government is in search of an elusive direction.
Mr and Mrs Kunchithappatham hosted a reception to celebrate the silver jubilee of their wedding, in their hometown, Gopichattipalium. Many friends attended the celebration. One of them went up to the couple and asked, "How does it feel, after 25 years of marriage?" Mr Kunchithappatham declared, "When I married Lalitha she was awfully simple. Now she is simply awful."
WHY MARX WAS RIGHT
As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attempts to bail out the crisis-ridden Portuguese, Irish and Greek economies from the profligacy of consumer capitalism and the limitations of neo-liberalism become increasingly apparent, there is a growing appreciation for Marx's predictions of globalisation, rampant capitalism and the instability of international finance. Students of economics and political science had never lost faith in their master but Stalinism and Soviet Gulags that finally climaxed with the collapse of command economies smothered further debates on Marxism in the nineties. The philosophical beliefs of Marxism came to be associated with the terrible atrocities of the 20th century because many believed that theory and practice were merely two sides of the same coin, though the two often diverged because of the demands of the time. So, Terry Eagleton, one of the leading Marxist critics of our times has taken upon himself the task of explaining Why Marx was Right (Yale University Press, $25) because his prognosis is the only way to explain the crisis of late capitalism that we see today.
Mr Eagleton begins by asking, "What if all the most familiar objections to Marx's works are mistaken?" So, he takes on "10 of the most standard criticisms of Marx to refute them one by one". This approach, simple and direct, is necessary because capitalism is uniquely in crisis: "The system has ceased to be as natural as the air we breathe and can be seen instead as the historically rather recent phenomenon it is." Mr Eagleton supplements the thrust of his argument by quoting Friedrich Engels: "This time there'll be a dies irae [Latin hymn describing the Last Judgment used in the Mass for the dead] … such as never seen before … all the propertied classes in the soup, the complete bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie, war and profligacy to the nth degree."
The book, which has been written for the common reader and not for the Marxist scholar, is a work of intellectual rebuttal as chapter by chapter Mr Eagleton takes on a misreading of Marx for over a century. Spread over ten chapters, he takes the most common objections to Marxism — that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic factor, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on.
These arguments against Marxism have been heard time and again but Mr Eagleton opens each chapter with a summary of each concept and the case made against it, and then goes on to rebut it with sources drawn from a number of disciplines. What he shows in effect is that there has been a misreading of Marx's writings which has led to misunderstandings all round. Basically, Mr Eagleton is keen to emphasise that "Marxism was a critique of capitalism … the most comprehensive critique of its kind ever to be launched ... and that as long as capitalism is still in business, Marxism must be as well".
The book opens with the prediction made so often after the collapse of the Soviet Union that Marxism "is finished". It may have had some relevance "to a world of factories and food riots … but it certainly has no bearing on the increasingly classless, socially mobile, post-industrial societies of the present". Mr Eagleton accepts that the world has changed with the Industrial Revolution and new information technologies have played a key role in the increasing globalisation of the system. But the question is: Changed for whom? It is still an unequal world, both within states and among states and as long as this inequality exists because of the capitalist system, Marxism will always be relevant.
Mr Eagleton then moves on to the central criticism of Marxism, that it may be all very well in theory but whenever it has been put into practice, the results have been terror and mass murder on an inconceivable scale. Marxism may look like a good idea to western academics who can take freedom and democracy for granted. "For millions of ordinary men and women it has meant famine, hardship, torture and forced labour, a broken economy and a monstrously oppressive regime… Socialism means lack of freedom, it also means a lack of material goods, since this is bound to be the result of abolishing markets."
This is the argument that has cut the most ice largely because of the Soviet experience, which made many would-be socialists shy away from socialism.
Mr Eagleton takes them on to stress the centrality of democracy to Marxian communism, and to explain successfully the nature of free will within Marx and Engel's account of history. This is the humanist side of Marxism, the Marx of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. Mr Eagleton also stresses the modernity of Marx's thinking and how, for example, he saw the nature of social class shifting with the progress of capitalism.
This is a stout defence of Marxism but when it comes to the human condition under communism, Mr Eagleton has little to offer except to say that "Marxism holds out no promise of human perfection … and envy, aggression, domination, possessiveness and competition would still exist". There's not much you can do with the crooked timber of humanity and it is just as well that Eagleton recognises it.
BHARTI TO BJP'S RESCUE
THE PARTY'S MOST OUTSPOKEN FEMALE MEMBER WILL BE ITS FACE IN THE UP ELECTIONS
Being around Uma Bharti can be exhausting: she's such a quicksilver motormouth. Two weeks before she was readmitted into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) she was sprawled on a sofa at BJP President Nitin Gadkari's residence. "Now don't you go writing that I am meeting him because I want to beg him to take me back in the BJP," she said, wagging her finger at reporters. "I'm here because I just love fat people…" she said. Then looking at Smriti Irani (television actress of Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi fame) with an arch smile, she added, "that's why I'm so fond of Smriti." Irani looked at her distantly, smiled lightly and said, "Arre didi, I thought you were going to say I've lost weight."
Little wonder then that the most indiscreet – and most outspoken – woman member of the BJP found herself evicted from the party: once in 2004 and then again in 2006. At the ceremony marking her "re-entry" earlier this week she said, "For me, the past six years never existed." But for many of her colleagues who were vocal about their lukewarm feelings on her return, it was impossible to forget some of the things that were said six years ago. She charged Arun Jaitley with planting stories against her behind her back, criticised Sushma swaraj and tore into many members of the BJP's national executive — in the same way that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee denounced the government led by Jyoti Basu ("I cannot exist in a cabinet of thieves," he had said, before resigning).
This was not all. When she had to resign from the chief ministership following an old case against her in Hubli, both her successors found her a handful. Poor Babulal Gaur – so named because his teachers in school would say "Babulal! gaur se suno (Babulal! listen carefully)" when he was not paying attention – found it hard enough to be taken seriously. But when Bharti began pressing on him her ministerial choices, he found it impossible to cope with her. His successor, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, tried to shrug off the Bharti mantle as conclusively as he could. But much to his dismay she's now been welcomed back into the party.
In the BJP, Bharti's return was a well-kept secret. Several attempts were made in the past to get her back but they had to be abandoned because of the hostility of BJP leaders. It follows that Bharti will be under intense scrutiny and if she slips and falls, there are many in the BJP who will applaud. Some may even create conditions for her to fall.
But the thinking of the current BJP leadership, specifically Nitin Gadkari, is clear. Bharti has been brought back and given charge of UP that has been her area of operation since the days of the Babri Masjid demolition. She is an OBC. The most important face in the Congress is her long-time political baiter, Thakur Digvijay Singh. So, if it is Sushma Swaraj to counter Sonia Gandhi and Varun Gandhi and youth wing chief Anurag Thakur (as he claims) to counter Rahul Gandhi, it is Uma Bharti to counter Digvijay Singh's effect in UP.
The BJP is trembling on a political cusp in UP. Drifting away from the upper-caste and dalit tactical coalition of Mayawati, which served her well when she came to power four years ago, the brahmins are now looking for other mentors. They have a choice between the Congress and the BJP. Television images of the Delhi Police rousting the sleeping supporters of Ramdev have, no doubt, caused indignation. But the BJP's perceived weakness in UP is its biggest disadvantage.
By contrast, the Muslims are applauding from the heart the action the Congress-led government took. In their eyes, for the first time in years, justice is being done. In areas like Moradabad, for long a Samajwadi Party bastion, Muslims are thronging offices of the Congress, homes of political leaders and anyone they think would represent them.
In the circumstances it is clear, at least for the moment, that the politics of religious polarisation is going to play a big role in the forthcoming UP elections. If the BJP is trying to position things that way politically, the Congress is responding too. In this context, Home Minister P Chidambaram's decision to order police action against Ramdev's supporters may have upset the Hindus, but his statement that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is backing Ramdev and the following action has made Muslims very happy.
In this configuration, who could be better than Uma Bharti for the BJP? If the colour of the battlefield is going to be saffron, why not the best-known face of the demolition moment?
As far as power politics in the party is concerned, Bharti's intervention will have to take a party that was predicted as being number three in UP to the second place. If the BJP slips to the fourth slot, then Bharti's homecoming will have been a wasted journey — both for her and the party.
NAC = ANNA = BABA?
OR, THE BUSINESS OF EXERCISING POWER WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY
DORAB R SOPARIWALA
Our Constitution describes India as a sovereign, democratic republic. And we have a system of representative democracy. But after 60 years, the question arises: do we?
In a representative democracy, "we the people" elect our representatives and they make laws for us till the time they enjoy the confidence of the legislature or their term runs out. We then have the option of rewarding them with another term or booting them out. It may be true, as Walter Bagehot, an expert on the English Constitution, wrote: "Democracy is the way to give the people the greatest illusion of power while allowing them the smallest amount in reality." But, in the final event, it is a contract between "we the people" and those we elect.
It is true that during the 20th century, in communist countries the party was supreme and unelected apparatchiks ruled. That did not matter because the concept of free multi-party elections was alien to these countries.
But party supremacy is unheard of in a modern representative democracy. Equally unusual is the ability of civil society and NGOs to determine policies. Though civil society and think tanks across the democratic world have presented and forcefully promoted policy alternatives to governments, they have rarely been able to dictate policies.
Perhaps the first serious attempt by a party to dictate policy to the government was in 1945 when Harold Laski, the great political scientist, became chairman of the British Labour party. He thought he could tell the mild-mannered prime minister, Clement Atlee, how to run the government's foreign policy but Atlee forcefully told him to back off, writing: "You have no right whatever to speak on behalf of the government." By the following year, Laski was no longer chairman of the Labour Party.
Our problem currently lies in the fact that for the first time since independence, the power lies outside Parliament — in the hands of Sonia Gandhi. Her colleagues on the National Advisory Council (NAC) are not elected and, thus, not accountable to the people. In a democracy, once a government takes office, the party almost becomes a cypher. For instance, how many people can name the chairman of the British Conservative Party or of the US' Democratic Party? In India, however, we have no such difficulty!
Though there may be a wide agreement on a number of NAC's suggestions, in a parliamentary democracy, it is the government that must initiate policy, draft Bills and pilot them through Parliament. But here are some headlines from national dailies over the past few months: "Communal Violence Bill unlikely to get NAC nod in this session"; "Govt to introduce 3 bills before NAC nod"; "NAC pulls up tribal affairs ministry on Forest Rights Act"; "NAC clears communal riots bill"; "NAC opposes land bill"; and "NAC objections block land bill". NAC nod? NAC pulls up? Who is running this country?
This is preposterous and weakens and discredits parliamentary democracy. Who are these unelected people to dictate to the people's representatives? The bureaucrat-NAC members have worked with ministers during their IAS tenures. Surely they know that it is for the minister to make a policy. Perhaps the chance to make policies is too heady to resist? Some NAC members strut around as if they were ministers of the republic.
The latest edition of a newsmagazine carries an article on the Land Acquisition Bill. There is just one reference each to the ministry and the minister and long interviews with two NAC members who hold opposing views on the Bill. Let us assume that the government is dragooned into accepting the view of the majority of the NAC. Now something goes drastically wrong; there are riots and many lives are lost. Who will be held accountable? The superannuated bureaucrat who, firing from the shoulder of the NAC chairman, thrusts the Bill down the government's throat or the minister?
Is it not ridiculous that self-appointed civil society lay down conditions to talk to the government on the Lok Pal Bill? And if the Anna-backed Lok Pal Bill causes serious problems, who do we nail? The Bhushans would have retreated to their legal practice, Mr Hegde back to his Lokayukta job, Mr Kejriwal back to his RTI applications and the good Anna back to Ralegaon Siddhi. All gone to the hills (as the Baba already has) and the minister left holding the baby.
Frankly, how is the NAC any different from groups backing Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev? It is the brazenness of the NAC towards the elected government that has encouraged the Annas and the Babas. Who are all these Sawdust Caesars and who has appointed them to represent us? They all claim to represent civil society but none of them have any legitimacy at all. These are all marks of an unconstitutional grab for power — no more and no less.
The NAC has played a major role in weakening the elected government. It is about time the NAC was disbanded lock stock and barrel, and the authority of the government restored. An extra-constitutional authority has no place in a democracy. If Mrs Gandhi wants to run the "social" agenda of the country, let her join the government as minister of social welfare with a number of relevant ministries reporting to her — but not wield power from outside the cabinet.
Protest fasts are fine but fasts unto death have no place in a democracy. Invoking Gandhi and going on fasts unto death and blackmailing the government for personal agendas is shaming the Mahatma. His fasts were primarily against alien rule and not against an elected government.
The words of Stanley Baldwin, a British prime minister, correctly describe the NAC, Anna, Baba and others of their ilk: "Power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot through the ages."
The author is a political commentator
MUCH ADO ABOUT IIM RANKINGS
The Jet Airways flight from Bombay to Delhi had hardly started taxiing for take-off when the attractive 40-something woman seated next to me, glancing at the stack of IIM reports on my lap, flashed a friendly smile at me and said, "What do you feel about Jairam Ramesh's statement that reputation of IIMs and IITs are not because of their faculty and research but because of their excellent students?"
I turned around to take a closer look at my co-passenger. She was trim and fresh-faced even at this unearthly hour and wearing what looked me like a Ritu Beri outfit. "Isn't such a public debate healthy?" I countered as I tried to figure out what kind of an answer would make sense to her.
"I think such statements by ministers bring down the image of institutions that we Indians are proud of," she declared.
Reputations of higher educational institutions are a complicated thing to unravel. What makes these reputations, whether it is the research output of the faculty or the latter life success of its graduates or even the iconic style of its campus is something that truly deserves a debate. It is as esoteric a subject as figuring out what sets a company's stock price: over the long run it has something to do with that company's past profits and future prospects but it also seems to matter whether that industry is in fashion right then. Some academic researchers have even concluded that picking stocks to invest in by throwing darts at a board listing all the companies trading on the stock market and picking those that the dart sticks on is as good a way as doing rigorous analysis. That is to say, random chance, does as well as analytical rigour.
Something similar could be said about the rankings and reputations of business schools. The rankings that Indian and international magazines give out from time to time usually ascribe a weightage of about 20 per cent to the "quality" of research output. By far, the highest weight – often adding up to as much as 40 per cent – across all such rankings is given to the salaries awarded to the institute's graduating students. And since, in recent years, international investment banks and management consulting companies have offered the best salaries, those institutions that place their students in these sectors tend to get the best starting salaries and hence the best rankings in surveys.
Judging the research output of an IIM is an art form. The current method is to count the number of research papers published in international peer-reviewed journals. This is somewhat like judging a person's health by looking at his weight-to-height ratio. Too high a weight-to-height ratio probably means you need to exercise more or eat less, too low a ratio probably means you are neglecting your food. But for a vast majority of us who fall in the middle range, the ratio may not reveal much.
Most of the IIMs, at least the older and settled ones, neither publish too little nor do they dominate the international sweepstakes with their output. Most published papers in the world seem to be the result of the mandatory doctoral work of PhD students. So, a sure way to increase the research output of the IIMs is to substantially increase the number of PhDs we produce across the IIM system. That should increase the research output dramatically.
But then, there is a raging debate in international academic research circles whether getting published in reputed international journals really amounts to anything.
Two academics, Julian Birkinshaw and Michael Mol, took a look at the 50 most influential ideas in management of the last 150 years – things like Just-in-Time inventory management, the Six Sigma quality system, and the Balanced Scorecard method – and point out that all these breakthrough ideas originated within real-life business settings, not from within academia. The role of management academics in these innovations appears to be merely documenting them and spreading the word about them.
"Well, what do you think?" asked my attractive travelling companion, bringing me back to earth from my reverie.
"I think that the IIM faculty does a great job of picking the right students for the IIMs, they run the entrance exams and interview process strictly on merit and in a country where most things can be bought, an IIM seat cannot be bought, so the credit for even the student quality should go to the faculty. And do you know that 75 per cent of the students come from families with a family income of less than Rs 70,000 a month."
"But still, should ministers say such things in public?" she asked. "I think such public debates are good," I said, realising immediately that I was repeating myself. "Are you worried about these issues because you are an alumna of an IIM or perhaps a faculty member?" I asked. "No!" she said, drawing herself up in her seat. "My husband owns a business."
"See!" I said triumphantly, "Jairam Ramesh's statement has drawn even you into the debate about research at the IIMs and IITs. Is that not a good thing?"
She gave me a sidelong look, checking whether I was pulling her leg, then opened the copy of Bombay Times and buried her head into it.
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
WELCOME SUPPORT FOR MANUFACTURING
It is manufacturing and associated mining sectors that will provide the thrust for future income growth — a reality the policy reflects.
Ajoke about the government in Poland's central planning at the height of the communist rule in that country went something like this: No one has done so much for the theory of planning and so little for its practice. India finds itself in much the same situation, albeit in a different context. The country pioneered the concept of export processing zones as a policy initiative for boosting exports, the Commerce Ministry Web site proudly proclaims. Yet, it is the 'tiger economies' of South-East Asia and, more recently, China that have claimed global honours for export performance. And it is clear why. The most elegant policies on economic growth are no proof against a governance structure that is held hostage to a combination of administrative sloth and the rapacious rent-seeking behaviour of its rulers in both the State and the Central administrations.
That is the challenge that awaits the Government, which has unveiled a policy to give a leg up to the manufacturing sector, not just for exports but local consumption as well. Its conceptual underpinnings are flawless. Apart from the usual homilies about reducing paper-work, granting administrative clearances faster and cutting down on the number and frequency of clearances sought, it does come up with new ideas. For instance, the notion that only export-oriented units need special dispensation but others can be put through the wringer of a hostile administrative dispensation has been, quite rightly, rejected. It rightly recognises the need for identifying a much larger and contiguous landmass that goes beyond the size currently viewed as adequate for locating a cluster of units engaged in similar export activity. Excellence in manufacturing is achieved, ideally, in an ecosystem involving people — not just those directly engaged in manufacturing but their dependents as well, the satisfaction of whose personal and professional needs requires a parcel of contiguous land that is much larger in scope than anything conceived under the present policies for export promotion. It truly breaks new ground when it talks of an insurance policy that would facilitate payment of retrenchment compensation without recourse to lengthy legal processes and early closure of an unviable unit.
The big question is whether the Government can muster the political will and moral authority, dented badly by the series of scams, to bring about a consensus among the stakeholders in the new policy regime. There is, however, no denying that change is needed. The rapid growth in jobs in the services sector, especially in IT and IT-enabled services, is the low-hanging fruit the Government has plucked to improve income levels in the economy. That must, sooner or later, give place to diminishing returns. Manufacturing and associated mining sectors will have to provide the thrust for sustaining future income growth.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
INDEX OF GROWTH
THE REVAMPED IIP IS A MORE ACCURATE INDEX OF INDUSTRY THAN ITS PREDECESSOR
The revamped, updated index of industrial production (IIP), with 2004-05 as base year, reveals a more upbeat growth trend than hitherto estimated by the old 1993-94-base series. The latest figures show that for April 2011, the index as per the new series has risen by 6.3% over the same period last year. Going by the old series, with its dated sectoral weightages (reflecting the industrial scenario then) and limited number of goods, growth in April would have amounted to a poor 4.4%. The revised figure points to the vital need to regularly update the industrial index, preferably every five years. This will better reveal ground realities, in what is a fast-growing economy undergoing rapid structural change. Also, for April-March 2010-11, the new series shows a strong 8.2% industrial growth over the previous fiscal. Further, disaggregated figures for April show continuing sluggishness in the mining sector, which has 14.2% weightage in the industrial economy, with growth a lacklustre 2.2%. Policy dithering in mining is clearly reducing growth. As for manufacturing (weightage 75.5%) growth for the month added up to 6.9%, while electricity output (weight 10.3%) grew 6.4%.
Overall, industrial growth seems less than buoyant. It calls for proactive policy to rev up production. Use-based data for April (new series) do show continuing strong performance in the capital goods segment, an indicator of investment demand, with growth for the month (over previous April) estimated at 14.5%. For last fiscal as a whole, capital goods growth was a solid 15%. Additionally, the new figures suggest broad-based growth in capital goods, with the earlier emphasis mostly on power-related segments like boilers, turbines and heat exchangers now including textile, plastic and earth-moving machinery. Note that as per the old industrial index, capital goods output would have added up to a lowly 2.5% for April, with growth for last fiscal not even touching double digits. However, under the new series the growth in consumer goods output (with almost 30% weightage) remains modest at 2.9%. High inflation seems to be hitting the consumption of both durable and non-durable goods.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
THE ANTI-COMMUNAL VIOLENCE BILL IS GOOD, FIGHTING COMMUNALISM IS A BIGGER TASK
The proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, is a significant step towards tackling communal violence and delivering justice and compensation to victims. Indeed, in bringing categories like sexual offences, hate propaganda, dereliction of duty and culpability of officials within its ambit, the Bill charts new ground in penology on the spectrum of crimes that constitute communal violence. While there should be a constructive debate on the Bill, including aspects affecting the federal structure, there is no merit in the saffron charge that the Bill seeks to exempt crimes committed by minorities and solely targets the majority community. Given the history of communal violence in India, not least the fact that in a country where the majority community comprises around 80% of the population, it is patently clear that it is the minorities which need the most protection. The draft Bill's definition of 'group' as a religious or linguistic minority (and Scheduled Castes/ Tribes) within a state will also cover states where members of the majority community, nationally, are in a minority. After the Gujarat riots, it is clear that we need to deal with a potential situation where the state machinery can be complicit in acts of communal violence, with little by way of justice being delivered to victims. That is also, critically, what the Bill addresses, even as a cursory reading of its provisions makes clear that the Bill seeks to prevent all forms of violence against all communities. Communal violence, even the spectre or threat of such violence, is something that tears apart the most basic of our Constitutional ideals. And despite expected BJP opposition, it would be a giant step forward in combating that evil when the Bill is passed in Parliament. But there is a wider issue too. The Bill can help tackle acts of violence, not communalism per se. Communal riots are a manifestation, the instrumental side, of divisive politics. Combating that, through a re-envisaged politics that eschews all forms of competitive identity management is the larger task before political parties.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
PRINCE PHILIP'S PRESCRIPTIONS BELIE OUR NETAS' NEVER-SAY-DIE SPIRIT
Though he is not known for the profundity of his pronouncements, Prince Philip's latest comment should be heeded at least by the political class in India. After being in public life for well over 60 years as the consort of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh remarked in an interview to mark his 90th birthday this week, "There is an ageism in this country, as everywhere, and quite rightly so, because I think you go downhill — physically, mentally and everything. It's better to get out before you reach the sell-by date." Considering Britain's Prime Minister, Deputy PM and Chancellor of the Exchequer are all well under 50, the duke may well feel the weight of age. Our n e t a ssuffer no such pangs of mortality, soldiering on in quest of eternal high office and relevance unless ill-health puts a spanner in the works. No wonder young India's PM and finance minister are going strong at well over 70, and every party has its evergreen senior league. Indeed, no senescent Indians worth their official bungalows (particularly if they are as spry and brighteyed in their ninth decade as the British prince is) would make the mistake of saying as Philip did, "I reckon I've done my bit, I want to enjoy myself for a bit now. With less responsibility, less rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say....On top of that your memory's going, I can't remember names. Yes, I'm just sort of winding down."
Despite his son Edward insisting that "he's still got that fascination and interest and energy" — that can be said about his Indian contemporaries too — Prince Philip's belief that "you don't really want nonagenarians as heads of organisations which are trying to do something useful" should be given deep consideration. It all depends on the definition of 'useful', of course.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
IMPROVING TELECOM USOF'S IMPACT
A REVIEW OF THE UNIVERSAL SERVICE OBLIGATION FUND IS IN ORDER TO BRIDGE THE RURAL-URBAN TELEDENSITY GAP
Despite the growth in both urban and rural teledensities (urban teledensity was 140 % as of December 2010 and rural stood at 30%), the increasing gap between them and the consequent implications for differential economic growth between the two areas is a cause of concern. Further, with 3G services and smart handsets with easy Internet availability that are likely to be deployed first in urban areas will further accentuate the socioeconomic divide. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was designed to support "access to telegraph services to people in rural and remote areas at affordable and reasonable prices" (http://usof.gov.in/usof-cms/ usof_home_contd.htm).
An analysis of the USOF disbursements indicates that of the . 37,000 crore collected so far since its inception in 2002, nearly . 7,000 crore have been given to BSNL as reimbursement of licence fee and spectrum charges from 2002-03 to 2005-06 for fulfilling rural obligations. Nearly . 13,000 crore has been disbursed for creating rural infrastructure. There is an unspent balance of nearly . 17,000 crore. The question is, has this money been spent most effectively?
USOF has very largely and explicitly supported fixed lines in rural areas, with the largest allocations of nearly 80% for private rural lines (RDELs). Making an optimistic assumption that it costs . 10,000 per fixed line in rural areas, nearly 11,00,000 lines have been provided, increasing the teledensity by nearly 0.08%, which is an extremely small impact considering that it's almost eight years since the fund has been operational.
The second area of focus has been on provision of village public telephones (VPTs) where nearly 20% of the infrastructure amount has been disbursed. VPTs enhance public access, thus increasing both the economic and social capital. However, a recent report done by the USOF indicated that nearly 38% of them did not have more than local connectivity and the extent varied from as high as 100% for J&K. VPT provision with only local connectivity does not make them commercially viable.
Many publicly-funded VPTs were located in private residences, and only 15% had metering devices, leading to lower revenues, the inability to pay and consequent disconnections. Near about 20% of VPTs were non-functional at time of inspection and disconnection was a major contributory factor followed by faults. Not surprisingly, the report indicated that more than 50% earned less than . 100 per month and about 40% generated revenues between . 100 and . 500. Thus, it is obvious that they cannot be a source of livelihood for those designated as VPT providers. Lack of electricity reduced availability for VPTs that used fixed wireless (83% of new VPTS). Solar chargers which were a part of the scheme had not been provided or did not work, essentially reducing the public access. While VPTs are an important way for giving villages connectivity, alternative technologies and better implementation needs to be focused on.
The amounts spent on mobile infrastructure provision are nearly . 120 crore or just 1.8 % of the total. Given that the costs of mobile connections is low and is coming down even further rapidly and that it is the aspirational medium of connection, should not USOF have innovative policies for mobile proliferation?
As has been suggested several times in the past, USOF needs to adopt demand-side rather than a supply-side perspective. For example, instead of identifying the location of towers, it could pay a fixed amount of subsidy to any operator in specified areas, provided there is no existing tower within a close radius. The amount of subsidy could be based on benchmark costs indexed to the distance from the closest urban centre, etc and levels of tenancy.
The fact that there are large unspent amounts should lead the USOF administrator to lobby for changes where the private operators are required to contribute only as much as the administrator has the capacity to spend. The reduced burden on private operators in a competitive environment will lead to reduction in costs of service and help to penetrate services more, including in rural areas. The ministry of finance should trade off the lower receipts against increased service tax revenue and higher taxes due to higher economic productivity.
That DoT governs both the USOF and BSNL, makes it difficult to evaluate the performance of BSNL, the largest USOF beneficiary and ensure that it complies with its contractual obligation for its USOF mandate. For example, BSNL delayed the provision of mobile tower infrastructure, of which it had a nearly 80% share by more than a year, whereas the private operators had a better compliance. Therefore, a structural review of the Fund and its focus is required. The focus on wireless needs to be drastically increased, with USOF supporting far greater wireless infrastructure, backhaul connectivity and tying up more intensely with a variety of players such as SHGs, cooperative societies, etc to support economic value creation through mobile/wireless connectivity.
EXECUTIVE CHAIR, IIMA-IDEA TELECOM CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE, IIM-AHMEDABAD
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
SPOTLIGHT IS ON PAKISTAN'S DARKEST SECRET
AAMER AHMED KHAN
Never before has Pakistan's security apparatus come under as much local and international pressure as it has in recent weeks. The killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbotabad on May 2 has raised questions about Pakistan's intelligence and security agencies that they had successfully managed to avoid for decades.
The one thread that runs common through the dozens of questions spawned by the Bin Laden affair revolves around the country's security policy. Is Pakistan really serious about dismantling extremist networks that have wreaked havoc across the country — and at times well beyond its borders — over the past three decades and even more so since the country became a frontline state in the US-led war on terror? The last 10 years alone have seen more than 30,000 Pakistanis falling to terror attacks that range from bombings to suicide attacks.
Pakistani authorities often cite these figures as evidence of the high price the country has paid for its efforts against Islamist extremism. But few in the world are willing to accept them as evidence of Pakistan's sincerity in fighting this brutal war. Why could it not have been any different, they continue to ask.
It is a question that no Pakistani leader, be it the all powerful army chief, the unanimously elected president or a popularly elected prime minister, seem to have no convincing answer to. And the reason for that may lie in the simple fact that Pakistan's security and foreign policies are not set by its elected elite guided by a foreign office staffed by skilled diplomats, but by soldiers who run its powerful intelligence and security agencies.
And this has been the case for well over 30 years when General Ziaul Haq's dictatorship first pushed Pakistan into an intelligence-driven war that has since refused to go away. It is a well-documented fact that when Pakistan agreed to fight the CIA's war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the early 1980s, control of the country's foreign policy was wrested from the foreign office to become the exclusive domain of the ISI. Till then, the ISI was literally what its name suggested–a small time group of spooks who spent most of their time keeping tabs on what was going on within the armed services–be it the officers' assets or their love affairs. But with the war against Soviets, it mushroomed into one of the most powerful intelligence setups in the world entrusted with the task of managing a multi-billion dollar arms pipeline for the mujahideen fighting the Soviets.
Backed by Saudi money, it amassed immense wealth and power as it made and broke Islamist networks both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, convinced that it had come up with a winning formula of fighting its wars through non-state actors against real and perceived enemies.
No wonder then, despite the Soviet withdrawal 10 years later, the army and the ISI refused to relinquish control over the country's foreign policy. Throughout the 1990s, it focused its efforts on aiding insurgents in Kashmir, propping up the Taliban in Afghanistan and making sure that no civilian government in Pakistan became strong enough to challenge its security analysis.
However, while the post 9/11 battleground was the same forbidding but familiar landscape of Afghanistan and the allies were the same countries that had helped Pakistan fight against the Soviets, the war sparked by al-Qaeda's attack on the US was very different from what Pakistan's military establishment was used to.
Ideologically, it was antipodal to what had happened in the 1980s. The Islamists were the bad guys and General Musharraf, the military dictator leading the charge was a supposedly secular person. Many analysts argue that the abrupt change created deep ideological fissures within the country's security establishment — fissures that kept widening as the war progressed. Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad who was recently murdered after writing about contacts between the Pakistan Navy high command and al-Qaeda was one of the strongest proponents of this theory. He had been consistently arguing that while most of the Islamist elements with Pakistan's security forces had opted to quit after 9/11, some had remained behind to act as Al-Qaeda's sleeper cells.
Senior US officials may have stopped short of directly accusing Pakistan of facilitating or at least deliberately ignoring Osama Bin Laden's presence in the country but they have continued to insist that he did have support at some level from within the country's security establishment. In the coming weeks and months, the nature and extent of this support may emerge as Pakistan's darkest secret. But as pressure continues to pile up on the country's security planners, they increasingly find themselves facing what can only be described as a lose-lose choice. They will either have to concede that their cadres are riddled with Islamists or they will have no option but to admit that their current policy on the war on terror is not as transparent as they would like the world to believe.
Either way, they are unlikely to win many friends.
(The writer is Editor, West and Central Asia, with the BBC World Service; he was editor of Pakistan's mainstream political magazine The Herald before joining the BBC)
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
A TALE OF TWO DECEPTIONS
Scan the anti-corruption, anti-black money discourse of the past few days and there will be no need to labour the point that it has all been reduced to, to borrow that phrase Shashi Tharoor used in a different context, a moralistic running commentary. From the government to the so-called civil society leaders, everyone mouths those clichés — to see corruption "rooted out" and black money "stashed abroad" repatriated: Except that each side wants to do this on its own terms and conditions.
The Prime Minister says that there is no magic wand to remove corruption from Indian society. Whenever he doesn't have the coalition dharmato pin blame on something wrong with the government, he invokes the magic wand theory. However, it's futile to pretend that empty rhetoric or partisan political posturing can banish, or even minimise, corruption and venality, either. The danger now is that a lot of deception and meaningless politicking have entered the discourse to make you wonder whether it's mobocracy in the name of civil society action or political damage control in the name of appeasement (or if it fails, law-enforcement). Two episodes of deception, each with its own touch of comedy, illustrate this reality well.
One, the yoga multimillionaire-turned-anti-black money crusader shedding his saffron attire and posing as an injured woman trying to escape from the protest site in Delhi in the early hours of June 5. Baba Ramdev's antiblack money satyagraha staged at Ramlila Maidan from June 4 and broken up by the police in a crackdown in the early hours of the following day was attended by naiveté all along. The yoga rockstar was so impressed by his own 'magic wand' that to the end, he clung on to his "all-ofthe-above" strategy, expanding the list of demands from black money to a plan to popularise Hindi to banning genetically modified crops and what not. Sitting on the airconditioned satyagraphaplatform on June 4, he looked supremely confident that he would carry all before him. It even seemed as if the Ramdev's hubris as well as intolerance at any hint of criticism grew with every passing moment he spent on the platform. But then, hidden flaws never remain hidden. It soon became clear that the fast was grounded in political calculations of the yoga guru, and had nothing to do with a nonpartisan civil society yoga movement against black money. At moments, like when he called Kapil Sibal a liar with whom he never would talk in his life for making public the letter in which he himself had agreed to stop the fast in two days, it bordered on blackmail. 'No, the fast would go on till the government submits to all my (plausible and implausible) demands,' was the message Ramdev conveyed. Whether or not the government did the wrong thing by moving in police to disperse the crowd at midnight, it's a fact that it had to act somewhere to stop this kind of reckless vigilantism, regardless of whether the vigilantes were armed or unarmed.
By the time he got his farewell package of teargas, Ramdev was all washed up as an anti-black money hero. "It was not a sign of weakness to be in a woman's dress. A mother gives birth to a man," Ramdev said at a press conference in Haridwar on June 6. Oh, really? Then, why didn't he wear a ladies' salwaar-kameez when his self-conceit was at full flow a few hours earlier at the fasting stage? The baba's cowardice was akin to the fiery Maulana Abdul Aziz's in trying to flee the Lal Masjid crackdown in Islamabad in July 2007 in burqa, even though the situations were completely different. With such a dismal finalé, the least one would expect from Ramdev was to show the courage of conviction and admit that much of the wealth he and the trusts he commands have amassed in a short period of time is black money, pure and simple. If only!
The second episode of deception was enacted by the government: the comic drama of four senior Union ministers trooping in to the Delhi airport to receive Ramdev and then two of them, with Sibal as chief negotiator, closeting him — for nearly five hours — for negotiations to mollify the baba prior to the fasting drama. The fancy term for this craven show was 'public perceptions management'.
The real message? Yet another committee or group of ministers would be instituted, but overhauling the system in which corruption is so deeply entrenched in a manner that the political-corporate-bureaucratic nexus takes the right to loot the exchequer, sell patronage and expect the normal functioning of the state as a means of extortion for granted. This is beyond any scam and scandal-hit coalition government: this one, the previous one and maybe, the next one, too. Moral grandstandings are alright, but it's too much to expect that political parties — from right to left — will come clean on black money by cleansing the way in which they mobilise their funding. Babas may exploit it for political gain, but who's the angel who will cast the first stone amidst this moralistic cacophony?
MAXIMUM MAYHEM IN MALAD
TROUBLING ASPECTS OF THE MURDERS INCLUDE LAX POLICING, EXCISE ON ALCOHOL AND A CONNECTION WITH SLUM REHABILITATION SCHEMES
The gruesome murders in Kurar are utterly disheartening. Apart from revealing new depths of human depravity and cruelty, the murders also unfortunately reveal lawlessness in the city.
How is it that dozens of thugs can get into filmy style "cycle chain and chopper" kind of confrontation, openly, without fear of police action? Can a drunken brawl happen in front of Mantralaya, or on Marine Drive, or near Bandra Kurla complex? But Malad or Goregaon is not that far away.
Certainly not as far as Gadhchiroli or interior Jharkhand where the law cannot reach. Is the rule and fear of law restricted only to a small circumference around legislatures and lawmakers? (Just days after the Kurar murders, this author was witness to a member of Parliament being received at the airport by a large posse of senior police officials. It seemed like a courtesy reception. But every officer deployed for VIP duty, is one less available for patrolling the streets.) The Mumbai Police Commissioner has admitted that lax policing led to Kurar murders. Such killer monsters like Pathak are not born overnight, and heinous crimes have a history. Pathak was a known criminal with several pending criminal cases against him, including charges of murder, attempt to murder. He wanted an unchallenged reign of terror around Malad, and perhaps the carefully planned murders were to send a signal to would be challengers, and other ascendant goonda elements. Once a kingpin, he could command vote banks, signature banks, organize riots, morchas and rasta rokos.
The trivial provocation to Pathak and gang was the act of "staring".
"Kya ghurta hai be, bahut tashan hai kya tereko?" is what he said to the victims. Next time you dear citizen, try to stare at that street hawker stealing municipal water, or someone putting up illegal hoardings, you better be careful. Don't stop them, and don't stare at the crime. God forbid, don't even think of capturing it on your cellphone camera, unless you want to be beaten up for keeping your eyes open.
With this background of terrorizing onlookers, the idea of Clean Up Marshalls is laughable. The BMC wants us to police fellow citizens.
Imagine some Malad citizen walking up to Pathak and demanding a fine for loitering or littering (they were after all creating public nuisance)! Can the Municipal or the Police Commissioners guarantee the safety of Mumbaikars who want to be Marshalls and helpers of the upholders of the law? Or is it best to avert one's eyes, and not get involved?
There are three other troubling aspects to the sad Kurar story. Firstly, as per reports, it seems that after the initial altercation, the victims rushed to the local MNS office. Rather than go to the police, they chose to go to a political party. Does a party inspire more confidence than police, for reporting criminal activity? Worse, will the party give justice, or will it be the law enforcement machinery?
The second aspect, is related to slum rehabilitation. As per reports, Pathak had a history of tiffs over slum rehabilitation schemes (SRS). He was also supposedly paid by a businessman. Was he the chief enforcer of getting 70 per cent signatures from slum-dwellers? For without those signatures, builders and developers cannot initiate an SRS. And a terror like Pathak is always useful to extract signatures from unwilling persons. Or even to ensure that everybody votes as per his wishes.
A third point relates to public drinking. High taxes on bars and excise on liquor is forcing people, either to skip bars, or to buy bigger bottles and drink on the roadside. Alcohol definitely played a role. Is there no way to control alcoholic nuisance on the streets, other than increasing the drinking age only? In America you can be arrested even for merely carrying an open beer bottle. Kurar murders, like the 1978 serial murders in Pune raise too many troubling questions.
Of course we will miss him. Even if Maqbool Fida Husain were in exile, he was now a Londoner. One of us. It was a sight that always cheered us up — the flowing white locks and beard — and the trademark barefeet. In fact, it was this time of the year that he would be spotted the most, with London warming up, the start of the cultural get-togethers, the celebration of the art exhibitions and auctions, and also the arrival of Indians "summering" in London. As we all mulled over the wonderfully eclectic collection of Indian art that is now available in London — we would always find a "Husain" to admire. And sometime later, one would spot the artist himself, looking as much at home as he probably did in the streets of Mumbai. Though a little more frail each time one saw him. It could not have been easy for him though he always smiled cheerily about it all, and dismissed any gloomy thoughts. Very rarely would he speak about his own desire to go home and no doubt there would always be a longing that would never go away. But it was something he preferred not to voice too openly because sadly, his very vocal fundamentalist critics had found him here as well. Some years ago, it had been a huge shock for all of us when his exhibition in London had also been threatened. It must have been a complete surprise for him too because London is a place where freedom of expression is almost a dharma. But, unfortunately, the self-appointed thought police proliferates in the name of securing "culture", and that exhibition, despite protests from many of us that his works should continue to be displayed, had to be removed. That was probably the last time a full fledged public exhibition of his original works was held here as well. The reality was that apart from the frequent exhibitions by auction houses of South Asian art, Husain sahib was not given the same platform, even in London, as has been given to other Asian artists. Recent entrants like Subodh Gupta often drew much more comment and interest than he did. Perhaps the reason could be that the art appreciated in the UK is often about exhibitionism and even performance. Marketing is also very important. Husain sahib's art was probably far too deeply rooted in the ethos, politics and colours of India to be truly appreciated by the masses here in the UK, or even by art critics who did not really engage with him. Perhaps this is a sad commentary on how little we, as a community have done to promote our best known artists. Recently, I was at a dinner that was attended by movers and shakers (who were 99 per cent white and British) most of whom would have been familiar with India. Many spoke to me about cricket, but no one mentioned Husain sahib's passing away or had even heard of him. This is indeed a tragedy. For us he was probably India's greatest painter — but he was living in a country which allowed him his freedom but possibly could not give him the recognition he deserved. As I pay him my respects, I cannot but imagine the grand memorial he would have got back home in India, the cavalcade of people who would have attended — and how everyone from the Prime Minister downwards would have been there. Now his body lies in a mosque in Tooting — and will then be taken for burial at a cemetery in Woking. For a man who had grown up wandering the streets of India — it is a strange farewell. So far from a land that had loved him — but had kept him at a distance! Strangely enough barring an obituary in the Financial Times, and a photograph in the Guardian, India's Picasso died here, mostly unnoticed. Of course, now the memorials will begin, but I cannot but be depressed that today we, among those who appreciated him, could not give him the last salaam he so deserved. In fact, we had talked about him just a few days ago at a pre-auction champagne viewing, of a superb collection of South Asian art at Christie's where some of his works had been displayed. Observing the energy with which the paintings were made, we had discussed how prolific Husain sahib was. And what a great legacy he had created. Learning that he was in hospital was a shock because he seemed eternal. How could one ever know that we would never ever see that familiar figure on the streets of London again? This time the Christie's collection had a superb range of Souza's etchings, as well, which had apparently been lying with his children and had only now been displayed. These etchings were bold and quite risqué, and one wondered what the thought police would have done if a similar exhibition had been held in India. They would have gone berserk. Is this going to be the future for us then — that the work of our progressive, provocative artists will be divided —and the really bold work will only be seen in foreign countries? Meanwhile, it has also been a season of book readings, discussions and launches — and having just returned from the Hay-on-Wye festival — it was lovely to attend a completely different sort of book launch at the House of Lords. This is a very unusual book written by a feisty young woman, Malini Chib, called One Little Finger. It is rare that even a book reading can be inspirational but this certainly was. Malini has cerebral palsy making it difficult for her to communicate and yet this gutsy girl has got a double MA, runs a book shop in Mumbai and has even managed to write a book. While much of the credit must go to her mother Mithu Alur who has led the crusade for the differently-abled in India, Malini, on her own, has shown an immense amount of courage and independence. Over tea and scones, at the lovely Cholmondeley Room, overlooking the Thames, many of us were teary-eyed listening to the amazing journey of this brave young woman. Another tale which celebrates the triumph of the spirit… Kishwar Desai can be contacted at email@example.com
RAMDEV HAS A LOT MORE TO DISCLOSE
It is just as well that yoga teacher Ramdev, who of late had created something of a dramatic atmosphere in the country on the issue of black money and had gone on a hungerstrike with a view to making his point more effectively, had to reportedly end his fast on Friday with the administration of glucose. His health parameters had begun to deteriorate. It is to be hoped he emerges from the ICU in Dehradun soon with his health restored so that he may go about his normal life once again. Recent events have clearly drained the yoga instructor physically and emotionally. All steps should be taken by the district administration to ensure nothing untoward happens and that Ramdev's recovery is speedy. The man who styles himself as a "Baba" had quickened the tempo on the issue of corruption in public life, and put a question mark over probity within the government. He should have expected return fire, which was not long in coming. As such, a well-publicised and elaborate press conference followed, held at his Hardwar ashram on Thursday expressly to disclose his assets. However, what transpired at the media interaction may have left even curious onlookers wondering. Precious little was revealed about how the "Baba" came to acquire a tidy fortune in a relatively short time, or indeed the extent of the assets and income streams that accrue from the numerous trusts and companies he commands along with his aide, "Acharya" Balakrishna. It is evident that Ramdev runs an impressive business empire, selling ayurveda medicines and herbal foods and applications. This area of his activities is obscured from public view, and the man is generally known only as a yoga guru. His orange robes deepen that impression. One significant detail to emerge from the press conference was that the Astha television channel, on which Ramdev teaches yoga live, is owned to the tune of 99.9 per cent by Mr Balakrishna. In short, Astha is the yoga instructor's captive channel. This makes him a media magnate, besides a food, beverages and pharmaceuticals entrepreneur. So there should be no surprise that the disseminator of live yoga on TV flies in a private plane and has an island that he can call his own. With a lifestyle such as this, a businessman would have to be weak of judgement if he goes about pointing finger at others in case he cannot be transparent about the sources of his own wealth. Therefore, Ramdev might do himself and his followers some good if he candidly disclosed the names of members of the public whose contributions to his trusts have made him the industrialist that he is. He has claimed, after all, that the business enterprises he presides over through his trusts have grown on the base of donations from devotees. This needs to be backed up with the right paperwork for even his devotees to be reassured. The "Baba" has been accused of strong RSS and Hindutva links. Apparently it is these connections that are said to dictate his public agenda. In a democracy there can be no bar on this. A man's ideology is his own business so long as actions in pursuit of a particular brand of politics or ideology do not lead to violence. It is on this level that Ramdev has faltered. He publicly announced that he would be raising an army that will be trained in both shaastra (scriptures) and shastra (weapons). When this domain is entered, the entrant cedes the privilege of being the leader of "civil society". Raising a private army is the first step towards striking up postures of militancy. That fear cannot be dismissed lightly in this country.
JUSTICE IS RARE
You can't help marvelling at how multifariously inept we are in matters of life and death. First, the President turned down two appeals for pardon — of pro-Khalistan militant Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted for killing nine people, and Assam's Mahendra Nath Das, convicted of beheading a man in a fit of rage. The political process snatched up Bhullar's cause, while the only thing keeping Das from being hanged was the lack of a hangman. But this week, responding to an appeal by Das' mother, the Guwahati high court temporarily stayed the execution and asked the Centre and the Assam government to explain why it took 12 years to respond to his mercy petition. Meanwhile in Delhi, oblivious of the dearth of hangmen, Baba Ramdev demanded that all corrupt ministers be hanged. If you put your ear to the ground, you could hear the mercy plea of our beleaguered justice system. Of course our judicial process can be efficient, too. Why, just this week a Delhi court sentenced four youngsters for stealing `740 three years ago. "Keeping in view the young age of the convicts a lenient view is taken", the court said. So two of them got seven years' rigorous imprisonment. The other two got just four years in jail. Wasn't that awfully kind? After all, they did steal `185 per head. The guilty must be punished. We want justice, we bellow. Meaning we want justice for people like us — look at the sparks in our eyes, the flickering flames of our candles, our animated street marches and feisty TV appearances. So this week there was a Bihar bandh to protest the police action against Ramdev's rally in Delhi. Curiously, the same day as Ramdev got bullied, Bihar cops shot a boy in Forbesganj, jumped on his face and kicked him to death for taking part in a rally opposing land acquisition. Police guns and boots had killed four protesters in Forbesganj, including a child and a woman, but they were too poor, too downmarket to merit big protests. These murderers in khaki will not get even the seven years' rigorous imprisonment that the petty thieves got. And no question of the death penalty — that's for the "rarest of rare" cases. Not that we know what "rarest of rare" means. It depends on the judicial mood. The Supreme Court tried to define it as murder "committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner", or if the motive betrays depravity and meanness, etc. Didn't help. Similar crimes got dissimilar punishments as power games took over. So Das got death. He had charged up to Hara Kanta Das in a busy marketplace one morning in 1996, beheaded him and cut off his right hand. Then turned round — reportedly screaming "I have killed him!" — and walked to the nearest police station with the severed head and bloody machete to surrender. Where should he put the head and the weapon, he asked the cops. The cops proudly seized the weapon and arrested Das. In 1997, Das was sentenced to death. In 1998 the high court upheld the verdict. In 1999 the Supreme Court turned down his appeal to commute it to life imprisonment. The SC said the murder was "extremely gruesome, heinous, cold-blooded and cruel". It was "atrocious and shocking". The court was particularly shocked by Das carrying the victim's head "through the road to the police station ('majestically', as the trial court put it) by holding it in one hand and the blood dripping weapon on the other hand. Does it not depict the extreme depravity of the appellant?" It was thus a "rarest of rare" case and deserved death. So a man who kills someone in a rage, doesn't harm anybody else and voluntarily surrenders deserves to be hanged. We don't know why he killed his victim. Even after 15 years, we know very little about Das and the circumstances leading to the beheading. But his jailors and fellow prisoners like him. So much that the inmates have appealed for mercy. In December, Das had started a fast unto death to end the agony of waiting indefinitely for the gallows, but was forced to break the fast in hospital. What aggravating and mitigating factors did the court examine before dealing out death? Or did it forget about them while dwelling on the blood-dripping head and machete? We know from the recent judgment on Dara Singh, Bajrang Dal leader convicted of burning alive Graham Staines and his sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, six, that these are important. As the Staines slept in their car at night, Singh and his people had crept up, doused it with petrol, set it afire, and blocked their victims' escape. "The court has to take note of the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances", the Supreme Court had said. And because "the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity", Singh deserved life, not death. Similarly, last year the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of Santosh Singh, convicted of the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo, to life. The murderer is a lawyer and the son of an inspector-general of police. The court believed that because the murderer had meanwhile married and become "the father of a girl child" he deserved to live. So our justice system believes that Dara Singh's or Santosh Singh's planned, spine-chilling, brutal murders were not depraved acts but the beheading by Das, blinded by rage, was. And it took 12 years for the President to reject Das' mercy plea. If Das had political clout he would have been saved, of course. In a democracy, we cannot have different standards of justice. Whether you live or hang depends more on your class, your counsel, stereotypes, biases, public passion and political demands than your crime. As a mature democracy we must move from retributive to corrective justice. And abolishing capital punishment is the only civilised option. * Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I didn't mean death The abstract reaper But the stalactite melting: Life's time-keeper..." From The Songs of Gutta Percha by Bachchoo I suppose if I had a trumpet I'd be tempted to blow it, though this is universally regarded as not quite in the best of taste. The trumpets of others ought to ring out on one's behalf and their hautboys (love that spelling!) herald one's arrival, pavilioned in splendour and girded with praise. If one ignores the fact of whose lips are on the trumpet's mouthpiece, it remains true that writers must be compared, one against the other. It is part of the process of making a literature. It is, in an age which asserts that all values are relative, a difficult thing to say. Even so, I was once asked to think of a single important thing that university education had taught me and I said it was that one poem is better than another. It took some growing up to absorb that as a self-evident and paradoxically arguable truth. I didn't just mean poems — I meant novels, travelogues, plays and all the stuff we call "literature". The very label begs definition and I don't think a succinct or static one exists, even though we may all agree that Batman or Bond may contain more superficial excitement than say the dilemmas of a Prince of Denmark. And then perhaps agree that those dilemmas are more rewarding. One would be called upon to define "reward" and, though it can be done, I believe it will beg further definitions. The process of such definition with practical examples becomes the stuff of criticism whose first task is elucidation, comparison and ranking. These conclusions, clichés perhaps, were I assure you, hard won. My reading in my childhood and through my teenage years was random, undirected and pretty voracious. I didn't lead a particularly lonely or sedentary life and there was plenty of loafing about with gangs in Pune through school and college. A very few of this teenage crowd belonged to a decrepit old library on what was then East Street, called the Albert Edward Institute. Its clientele consisted mostly of old men, the Prufrocks of Pune, who wore the bottoms of their trousers rolled and needed thick leather belts to keep their trousers in gathers round their waists. They sat in the reading room which was no more than two wooden tables and chairs or on two creaking, cane easy-chairs on the verandas reading the daily papers. An equally pretentious friend and I paid the monthly rupee subscription to join the borrowing library and take away the works of, among others, Marie Corelli, Paul de Cock, Thomas Hardy, Eric Linklater, Charles Dickens and many more. We read their works compulsively, in a point-scoring task to get through the whole shelf with the determination to have done with it, like some Japanese tourists on sight-seeing foreign tours. My friend and I would boastfully compare the quantities we had read. We had no way of comparing or estimating quality. For us Marie Corelli, who started one of her novels with the intriguing sentences "I, one Fabio Romani am dead! Dead and yet alive..." was as good or bad as Thomas Hardy or Dickens. I can't pretend that there was no discrimination or snobbery about our reading. We assumed without question that the fare of the Albert Edward Institute was sui generis superior to that of the Punjab Book Exchange (PBE) on Mahatma Gandhi Road from which others of our friends borrowed their reading. The PBE had titles such as Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy and Totem and Taboo by Freud in its showcase window, but its shelves in the shop were full of "Western" novels with titles such as Gunsmoke Gold. Behind the beaded curtain there were even more esoteric titles to be borrowed at a slightly higher price — The Nun's Delight and Confessions of a Russian Princess among others. Obviously, we readers of Marie Corelli felt superior to those who lived imaginatively in the worlds of cowboy violence and mild or grievous pornography. In the bookcase in the front room at home, among other things. were collections of Readers' Digests, Mahatma Gandhi's My Experiments with Truth, the Oxford Book of Modern English Poetry and several titles by Kahlil Gibran. To me they were all "literature". The first critical admonition I ever came across was my mother encouraging me not to read the American comics that I and my friends bought and passed around. They were all sorts, from Classics Illustrated to Archie and Veronica, The Fox and the Crow and diverse cowboy series such as Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. My sister and I were not in any way forbidden to read them, but were encouraged to widen our tastes to prose unassisted by pictures, even if it was only Just William or Enid Blyton. The culture of the British university to which I subsequently came, and the distinct hierarchy of taste that it favoured and religiously engendered wasn't exactly a shock, but it was new. And it was deeply enticing. Apart from the question of who blows the trumpet, it shouldn't shock or bewilder the reading public if a writer says that he doesn't judge any woman writer to be his equal. Such a statement should be taken not as an outrage but as a challenge to compare the historical and social contexts, the subtlety, the accuracy and breadth of characterisation, the freshness and penetration of insight in the works of, say, George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) and that of the writer who makes the claim. (No women novelists were injured during the writing of this column)
IS 'SHUNGLU' BEING SHELVED?
LOST in the thunder of the Ramdev botch-up has been a significant element to the current corruption-induced ferment. Delhi's chief minister has quoted the Prime Minister as saying "some portions of the Shunglu Committee report were irrelevant". In the absence of any clarification from the PMO, suspicions are gaining ground that there will be limited follow-up action to the inquiry that established several shortcomings in actions allied to last year's infamous Commonwealth Games. Reeling under the impact of a spate of financial scams, there is reason to "understand" why UPA-II would like to go slow on the Shunglu front, mislead public opinion into believing the looting was confined to Suresh Kalmadi and his cohorts in the Organising Committee ~ currently weathering the Delhi summer in the confines of Tihar. A go-slow on the panel's findings pertaining to agencies functioning under the Delhi government could well suit political interests: Sheila Dikshit has been projected as a model chief minister, the only one from the Congress to secure three successive recent electoral triumphs, a 10 Janpath favourite to boot. From the moment the panel submitted its report it has been slammed by Sheila, her government has submitted a 3,000-page "response" and now she quotes the Prime Minister on partial irrelevance.
There are a couple of extremely grave implications to the "development" ~ if the term has negative application. Not all the CWG shenanigans would attract attention from a criminal angle and subsequent action by the CBI, IT or ED authorities etc. Myriad were the administrative lapses, ignoring prescribed norms, cutting corners and so on that facilitated many a mini-scam that never made front-page news. It was that vacuum that the Shunglu panel filled: its investigations were critically complementary to what the CBI has tried to do on a larger plane. Failure to act on the panel's finding would mean petty crooks ~ who collectively reaped a rich harvest ~ could go unpunished. Equally serious would the impact of any "shelving" be on Dr Manmohan Singh's severely emasculated personal stature. As controversies raged he promised a thorough probe, was quick in tasking former Comptroller & Auditor General VK Shunglu with leading that inquiry, and its findings have found much resonance in the Capital. So, taking things to their logical conclusion amounts to a test of the Prime Minister's waning credibility.
JUST NAME IT
BUT IT MUST MAKE SENSE
THE controversy over a name has turned out to be disruptive. There was no call for the new government in West Bengal to change the name of Aliah University within a week of the swearing-in. An announcement by the Chief Minister to the media at Writers' Buildings ~ without even waiting for a legislative amendment ~ renamed the institution as Aliah Madrasa University, provoking a wave of student protests and a memorandum to the Governor. The academic schedule of this fledgling institution, set up primarily to take care of the minorities, has gone haywire with the boycott of classes and examinations. While the government doesn't have a raison d'etre, the students have cited cogent reasons for their opposition. They do have a point when they cavil that the Urdu term, madrasa, denotes a school and not a university. There is no denying that the new name is a contradiction in terms. A centre of higher learning has been stamped with the term madrasa. To this day, they remain essentially Islamic schools. Inherent in the new name is a confusion over the institution's identity. While madrasas are identified with largely fundamentalist instruction at the school level, the new university offers contemporary disciplines, including integrated M.Sc and professional courses. An "Aliah Madrasa University" is neither here nor there. Misgivings of the students that the insertion of the word madrasa might alter the public perception are not wholly unfounded. This could even affect their prospects once they pass out.
Was the term inserted to placate the minorities further? If so, it was done thoughtlessly. The demonstrations and the meeting with the Governor suggest that the move may have backfired already. Electorally, the name-change will not benefit Trinamul nor the Congress nor the CPI-M. Mamata Banerjee and the higher education department ought to have realised that the term madrasa doesn't gel with a university. As a minority university, it would have made far greater sense had it been renamed on the lines of Aligarh Muslim University or Jamia Millia Islamia University. And that of course if the need to re-christen was so compelling in the aftermath of victory. It is the minorities who have overwhelmingly rejected the nonsensical name. Surely one of the many sycophants surrounding the Chief Minister should have advised her of her folly.
ASSAD'S SUPPRESSION DOESN'T WORK
THE Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad's desperate attempt to hermetically seal the country by imposing a bar on the entry of foreign journalists has come a cropper. News can scarcely be suppressed in today's age of technology, and the world is aware of the latest massacre perpetrated on the orders of a beleaguered President. In a prompt and swift move, the UN Security Council has in a resolution crafted by Britain and France condemned the mayhem in the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour, where no fewer than 120 protestors were done to death. However, given the twists and turns of international relations, misgivings that the resolution could be vetoed by Russia and China are substantial not least because both countries would rather a Syria under Assad ~ ruthlessly trying to cling to power ~ than without him. Indeed, this international power-play has been another striking feature of the Arab Spring. Libya is the only state where the UN resolution has been executed and with war-like precision chiefly to safeguard its oil reserves. Repressive regimes per se, notably in Syria and Yemen, have not really provoked the West to act in the absence of enlightened self-interest. Barack Obama's feet-dragging over Egypt chimes oddly with the subsequent mobilisation in Libya.
After several weeks of the operations against Muammar Gaddafi, the USA and NATO may have lost the nerve for another offensive in the Arab world. Not that such interventions can all too soon lead to a change of dispensation and restoration of democracy; after more than two months, Libya showcases quite the obverse. In both Syria and Libya, the struggle is becoming increasingly vicious and costly in terms of resources, material as much as human. That struggle, judging by the momentum after more than two months, is likely to continue. The impact of the unrest in Syria has spread beyond its borders. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have already streamed into Lebanon and Turkey. In due course of time, it could turn out to be a humanitarian issue. The escalation of the movement in one country could well destabilise an already fractious region.
ENERGY AND SECURITY
LESSONS FROM CHERNOBYL AND FUKUSHIMA
BY H KHASNOBIS
ENERGY security and global warming are challenges that are closely interlinked. To fight climate change, a substantial reduction of carbon emissions is imperative. But this is bound to create serious problems for national energy policies and energy security; it could even lead to economic, social and political tensions. Almost all countries in the world face this dilemma. Should they implement their national development plans to improve the living conditions of their people? And by doing so, take the risk of future generations having to pay a very high price for global warming? Or should governments invest national resources to help address global warming? And by doing so, keep the living conditions of their people at a lower level for the sake of a better life for the future generations fifty years later. This is a very painful and difficult investment decision that governments will have to take.
Decades ago, nuclear energy appeared to lead the race as an energy alternative; countries with proven technology started building reactors. Across the world, approximately 450 nuclear reactors generate 15 per cent of the earth's electricity requirement. These reactors have a median age of about 27 years with a design life of 40 years. Most of the installed nuclear capacity is in the US, Europe and East Asia. France gets 75 per cent of its electricity from fission. The compulsions are clear: abundant power, no carbon emissions, no blots on the landscape except an occasional containment dome and cooling tower. These plants generate power more cheaply than through gas or coal plants.
Hopes of a burgeoning nuclear industry were dashed more than 30 years ago after the partial meltdown at one of the Three Mile Island reactors in Pennsylvania. This was followed by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Most recently, nearly 80,000 residents near Fukushima have been evacuated from their homes and may never be allowed to return. Chernobyl has demonstrated that the effects of radiation linger for generations. Radiation has been described as "a fire that cannot be put out."
Health experts are more concerned about the fact that those who survive radiation will not be aware of the long-term consequences. The psychological impact of Fukushima is bound to affect the natural rhythm of life.
Nuclear energy has other problems ~ storage, high construction costs and possible use of nuclear fuel for weapons. Most experts agree that such problems are serious enough to deter an aggressive nuclear energy programme. Unresolved waste is another issue.
The OECD countries produce more than 80 per cent of the world's nuclear electricity. They argue that it is irresponsible to build additional nuclear power stations before these problems are resolved. These countries are trying to build a bridge between fossil fuels and renewable energy. In Germany, for example, the government decided in 2002 to phase out all nuclear power stations until 2022. Last year the government extended the lives of seven reactors by eight years. In the aftermath of Fukushima, an anti-nuclear wave is sweeping Germany.
Nuclear power is seemingly dangerous, unpopular, expensive and risky. After Fukushima, it is likely to be still more expensive in view of the uncertainty over licensing and regulatory approval.
That said, a complete withdrawal from nuclear energy is not possible. China, which has 77 reactors at various stages of construction and planning, had reviewed its programme. Latest press reports indicate that it intends to construct 25 new nuclear power plants. China has remained undaunted by the radiation in Fukushima. Its political system is immune to adverse public opinion. In a word, Fukushima has had no effect on China's nuclear policy.
In India, the scenario is completely different. Farmers in Maharashtra and West Bengal have been agitating against land acquisition for the construction of nuclear power plants. This movement has been stepped up after the Fukushima disaster. The Economist has reported that within the European Union, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland and Portugal are strongly anti-nuclear. However, Britain, the Czech Republic and Finland have plans to build more plants. France remains resolute, and the export of nuclear power through the corporate giant, Areva, is a thriving enterprise. A single large reactor can cost several billion dollars.
Nuclear energy had its genesis in the "atoms for peace" proposal adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1953. That proposal led the United States, the then Soviet Union, and Canada to provide hundreds of research reactors and other nuclear technology to several countries. India was also a beneficiary. It received a research reactor, CIRUS, from Canada in 1954 with heavy water supplied by the US. This marked the start of India's nuclear energy programme. The reactor has been closed since 31 December 2010 under the terms of the Indo-US nuclear agreement. The UN resolution also proposed the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Its task was to help member-states obtain peaceful nuclear technology, develop safety standards for nuclear energy and make sure that these programmes are not misused to build weapons.
Thus, at its very beginning, peaceful nuclear energy became a double-edged sword. It provided ready access to technologies that were useful for developing weapons. A civil nuclear energy programme carries a military deterrent value because it keeps opponents guessing about whether the state also has a hidden agenda for weapons.
Nuclear power is no alternative to the world's dependence on fossil fuels. According to one estimate, in order to displace only one-seventh of the projected growth in greenhouse gas emissions, the world would have to connect one large new nuclear reactor to the electrical grid every two weeks between now and 2050. This is a rate of growth not known since the Eighties, the heyday of nuclear energy. It takes eight to ten years to build a nuclear power plant. Due to the rising demand for scarce nuclear parts and the shortage of qualified vendors and technology providers to build and operate these plants, all countries will not be able to acquire them till 2020 at the earliest. The countries will have to deploy other technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is the opinion of climate-change experts. India should draw a lesson from this forecast and seriously reconsider its ambitious nuclear energy programmes.
The earth's electricity consumption is expected to more than double in the next 25 years. Natural gas and coal, the biggest carbon producer, will meet most of the demand. For nuclear power to replace them, all countries will have to build thousands of expensive reactors. This is unlikely to materialise. Meeting future energy needs will require various types of fuel. Nuclear power can be part of the mix.
The writer is a retired officer of theMinistry of Defence
'$1.5 TRILLION NEEDED FOR INFRASTRUCTURE'
Latest data has put India's exports at $23.9 billion (April 2011), a 34 per cent increase since last year, while the trade deficit narrowed to $8.9 billion compared to the same period in 2010. Exports are a key component in reaching India's ambitious target of 10 per cent annual economic growth in the next few years. In this context, the role played by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) is seen to be crucial. FIEO has recently elected its new president, Mr Ramu S Deora, brother of Union minister Mr Murli Deora.
Mr Ramu Deora is an acknowledged leader in the export sector. He returns to the federation as its president after a gap of some six years. Mr Deora was director, Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd (ECGC); he is member, RBI Committee on Customer Services on Banks; member, All India Export Advisory Consultative Committee on Exchange Control; member, Study Group on Opening of Foreign Currency Accounts by Exporters; member, Standing Committee on Promotion of Exports (SCOPE) among bodies.
Mr Deora sets much store by exports in India's pursuit of speedy economic growth. He is keen that Indian exporters should know "where to sell! whom to sell! what to sell!" When India's foreign trade was at a nascent stage, Mr Deora played a crucial role by travelling in India and abroad with exporters. He spoke to RC RAJAMANI on India's export scene and FIEO's mandate and contribution in enhancing exports and reducing trade deficit.
What is FIEO's mandate and how has the organisation been discharging its responsibilities?
The FIEO's mandate is basically to promote and facilitate export from the country. As a part of its mandate, the organisation is guiding new entrepreneurs with a view to secure them exposure in international markets. Undertaking market surveys and market research and furnishing their results for the benefit of MSME exporters, serving as a link between the government and the exporting community, providing market enquiries to members, helping settlement of commercial disputes, increasing awareness of government policies, rules and regulations, overseas market conditions, new regulation affecting exports are other responsibilities discharged by the Federation.
What is the road map of FIEO for the decade 2011 to 2020?
The FIEO roadmap is to increase the share of international trade in India's GDP to 50 per cent by 2020. The Federation is also focusing on making India a net gainer in merchandise and services trade by 2020 resulting in surplus as against the trade deficit witnessed by us in the last few decades. The share of manufacturing sector will go up with value added and branded exports dominating this sector by 2020. We also feel that the benefit of economic reforms will percolate to the poorest of the poor for achieving inclusive growth. Exports will be the engine for generating employment.
What are the main hurdles in the way of enhancing Indian exports and what are your remedial suggestions?
The main hurdle affecting exports will be supply side constraints. Infrastructure bottlenecks will be a challenge to address for achieving quantum jump in exports. Infrastructure will be crucial not only for exports, but for the economy as a whole and this would require massive investment coupled with stable policy regime. We need to invest over US $1.5 trillion in infrastructure in the current decade which would also require a public-private partnership model. While 70 per cent of the contribution will come from private sector, the same would require a long-term stable policy in all fields as infrastructure is a long gestation project. We need augmentation of capacity of our ports, airports, roads and power to make exports competitive.
What are the areas that FIEO would like to focus on to step up exports?
While infrastructure will be the focus, FIEO would like to devote its time and energy in curtailing transaction cost and time of Indian exports. As per a rough estimate, the transaction cost of Indian exports ranges between 7 and 10 per cent of export value. The transaction cost in most South East Asian countries is less than 3 per cent. If we are able to reduce transaction cost by 50 per cent, we will be providing 3.5 to 5 per cent additional competitiveness to our exports. Assuming exports is in the order of US$ 1,200 billion by 2020, it would amount to US$ 40-60 billion gain to Indian exporters without any cost to the exchequer. The focus for us will be on complete electronic data exchange connectivity among all the 13 agencies involved in imports/exports so that single point interface is implemented, doing away with repetitive documentation and chasing numerous agencies.
How do you see trade between India and Pakistan given the uneasy bilateral relations?
India-Pakistan trade, which is currently at US $1.85 billion, does not reflect the true picture and potential. Due to restrictive imports policy of Pakistan for Indian exports, most of the trade takes place via Dubai. However, recognising this fact, Pakistan has agreed to draw a negative list (as against a positive list of 1,938 items) of exports from India. This is a move in the direction of providing most favoured nation (MFN) status to India. That will be key to increasing our bilateral trade. We feel that the agreement signed between the two countries recently will pave the way for greater economic engagement. However, the two countries need to address their concerns on non-tariff issues as well.
What are the strong points and weak points of Indian exports?
The strong point of Indian exports is their increasing competitiveness even in the wake of global slowdown and currency appreciation. This itself indicates the fundamental strength of Indian exports that are insulated from currency or market conditions. The weak point is the lack of branding as very few Indian products are exported under a brand name. The primary reason for that is the huge cost involved in the development of the brand, that a small or medium exporter can hardly afford. However, of late, there has been increasing awareness on this front and investment in development of brand is now considered an intelligent investment, which will reap rich dividends.
What are your suggestions to reduce trade deficit?
Trade deficit per se is not of much concern as even the deficit of US$ 104 billion in 2010-11 is within the manageable limit. If the deficit is on account of capital goods and raw materials, this is an indication of either expanding our manufacturing base or fillip to domestic manufacturing. We should be concerned with the deficit if it is on account of finished goods imports. If the kind of growth witnessed in exports in the last decade continues, it will help in bridging the trade deficit to a large extent. However, we should see that none of the government policies give encouragement to imports at the cost of domestic manufacturing which was seen when we signed International Trade Agreement ~ I. There are problems in refund of 4 per cent additional customs duty on imports which is refunded to a trader immediately while the manufacturer goes through a cumbersome process to claim it. The inverted duty structure is an area of concern which has aggravated after signing of free trade agreements (FTAs) and domestic manufacturing needs to be provided a cushion by allowing inputs of any product covered under FTA at a concessional duty.
The Pulitzer prize winning author Joseph Lelyveld's book on Gandhi has created quite a stir in India. The book is banned in Gujarat. Many of Gandhi's colleagues, as we know, had been at odds with certain facets of Gandhi's personal life. The British too at times found Gandhi exasperating, unable as they were to explain his political demeanour. He remained an anathema to them right till his end. His behaviour and actions often gave cause for consternation. The enigma that he was, Gandhi's conduct can perhaps be best explained as striving to "recover balance after the need for adoration had disturbed his equilibrium". In the process many, directly or otherwise, stood the risk of coming to grief. Examples abound. Here is just one such.
What I describe concerns Nehru, Gandhi and an individual of no fame; an episode of little account compared to the momentous events of 1940. The embarrassment "this individual of no fame" caused to the British authorities resulted in his immediate deportation from India. In August 1940, Jawaharlal Nehru arrived in Bombay for a series of meetings. He had already been at loggerheads with the British Indian administration. The Congress ministers had resigned in several Indian provinces because of the then Viceroy Linlithgow's failure to consult them before involving India in war with Germany. During the August 1940 meetings of the Congress Planning Committee, Nehru was staying at the Bombay residence of his sister. On the day in question, he had just returned home for lunch. His meal however was interrupted by an uninvited caller who made him forget for a while his haste to return to the committee's afternoon session. The man who presented himself at the door was no ordinary visitor. He was dressed in Khadi ~ in homespun shirt, loose pajama and a Gandhi cap, quite a symbol of defiance those days. But he was not an Indian, rather a British army officer. He had come not only to seek Nehru's advice but to offer him his services.
Convinced of the Indian nationalist cause and unwilling to play a part in the defence of an Empire whose existence he could not justify, the young Englishman was bent upon leaving the army. He had disposed of his uniform and was seeking help from Nehru to stay in India and contribute to India's struggle for Independence. This was an impossible ambition in the circumstances of 1940, for Britain then was fighting for her very existence. Patriotic duty was the norm of the day. The newcomer also revealed that he was the great-grandson of Sir Charles Napier who had conquered Sind for the Empire a 100 years ago and had gone on to become the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian army.
Nehru's startling visitor was Second-Lieutenant Charles Napier of the Northamptonshire Regiment. This 1940 episode is of interest primarily because of the very different reaction that Napier evoked in Nehru and Gandhi. At first glance, the ancestry of Napier made his behaviour appear bizarre and ironic. Sir Charles Napier, his great grandfather, had retired from the army as a national hero. Napier, on the other hand, not only chose 90 years later to reject the British presence in India, but refused to have any further part in that presence.
Napier's battalion was posted in Bihar in 1939. In Patna, his troops were frequently subjected to great provocation by anti-British elements. Early in 1940, his battalion moved to Jhansi in the United Provinces. When Major AOF. Winkler became the new Commanding Officer of the Northamptonshires, Charles Napier was far from pleased because his boss made no secret of his racial contempt for Indians. Napier never flaunted his ancestry. He in fact took to wearing Khadi when off duty. Nehru recalled that Napier did not fit in with his brother officers. He gave a good part of his salary to the poor. "The Empire," he asserted in a statement to his Commanding Officer, "was no more than an association for the making of money, propagated by merchants in England under a hypocritical screen of Empire glory and betterment of the native races." Such views were incompatible with the retention of Napier's commission. Towards the end of his statement, he had also expressed his wish to leave the army and give up his income.
In Nehru's eyes, Charles Napier's statement of his belief was "very fine". In private, Nehru viewed the Anglo-German war as "a purely imperialist venture on both sides" in which he "hated to see India entangled". "My heart went out to this young and terribly sincere boy," he wrote to Gandhi. Impressed with Napier, Nehru sought to save him from charges of desertion. He wanted Napier to stay in the army and therefore suggested that Napier return to his unit, and having changed out of Khadi, report to his Regimental Commanding Officer. Napier accepted Nehru's advice and left for Jhansi. Six weeks later, however, Nehru still had not heard from him. In October, Nehru wrote to Gandhi describing the incident, enclosing Napier's statement and asking Gandhi whether he had advised the young man correctly. Gandhi's reaction, however, was very different. Gandhi replied: "My dear Jawaharlal, your letter about Napier with enclosure. I am sending it to the Viceroy. It is a pathetic case." And send it to the Viceroy he did. Linlithgow in turn passed on the papers to the Commander-in-Chief. Gandhi's remarkable response is best understood in terms of his strong aversion to anything smacking of disloyalty to a person's own nation or sworn duty. Gandhi was to deplore the actions of those members of Indian Army who, after being captured by the Japanese, fought as the Indian National Army alongside the Japanese.
Napier was placed under arrest awaiting Court Martial. Gandhi's unfeeling initiative did indeed make matters more difficult for him. He was eventually found guilty and dismissed from service. Under arrest, he was put on a ship at Karachi and deported to United Kingdom. Subsequent efforts to trace him in United Kingdom were not successful.
The writer is West Bengal's tourism secretary
It is a historic day. The Gorkha problem is resolved. I've already informed Union home minister P Chidambaram.
West Bengal chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee
We are happy. Several issues, including demarcation of territory, have been discussed.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha spokesman Mr Roshan Giri
It is time for a second struggle for Independence. This time it would be against corruption. I will fight till my death.
Lokpal draft panel member Mr Anna Hazare
We will have to train them in shastra and shaastra. We will request Acharya Devbrat to train them. After the fast ends, they will be fed milk, ghee and almonds to make them strong. Let's see who wins at the next Ramlila
Ramdev during a yoga session at his Haridwar ashram
We are not against any individual leader. Our party feels that the CPI-M leadership needs to change.
Forward Bloc leader Mr Alam Sairani
She (Uma Bharti) will work in UP ~ helping us further our Ram temple pledge to herald a Ram rajya. I have discussed this with all Central and state leaders.
BJP president Mr Nitin Gadkari while welcoming Miss Uma Bharti back into the party
I congratulate Mamata Banerjee for her initiative to restore work culture in the state. I also request the Trinamul-led government to take lessons from the lapses of the erstwhile Left Front government. People of this state have expressed their unstinted support for you (Trinamul Congress). Now it's the time to fulfil their expectations.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker and expelled CPI-M leader Mr Somnath Chatterjee
We had an excellent meeting and we were able to review quite a few issues concerning the current status of the Indian economy as well as my own perspective to the candidacy for the post of managing director of the IMF.
French finance minister Ms Christine Lagarde in New Delhi
I'm not concerned about a double-dip recession. I am concerned about the fact that the recovery we're on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen.
US President Barack Obama
I'm not the best player in the history of tennis. I'm amongst the best. That's enough for me.
Tennis player Rafael Nadal after winning the French Open for the sixth time
FROM ARTIST TO VICTIM
The need to mourn an artist's death springs from the need to remember his special contribution to his country's, even to the world's, cultural history. In this sphere, there is much to recall with M.F. Husain's passing. He lived long, and could have enriched his country further with his vibrant presence, his love of life and the dynamic syncretism of his ceaseless work. That this did not happen is because Husain died far from home, forced into self-imposed exile to protect himself and his art from the violence of boors who savaged his home and art in the name of Hinduism.
Husain's death has left India face-to-face with one of its greatest shames — its cowardly surrender to violence that cites religion as its pretext. When politicians mouth banalities about the "national loss", they conveniently gloss over the disgraceful fact that the nation did nothing for Husain except hound him out. The persecution of the artist was a direct attack on his right to freedom of expression. His nude paintings of Saraswati and Bharat Mata were the source of Hindutva-soaked nationalist anger, and gave rise to a series of criminal cases against him. But organized thugs have never waited for the law, and they attacked his home, his exhibitions here and abroad, vandalized his paintings and threatened his person. The cases against Husain remain; the thugs go free.
By not coming down heavily and unforgettably on the hordes of criminals who organized the attacks on Husain and his work time after time, two successive Indian governments, one of which claims a 'secular' tradition, have demonstrated a compliance with deep-seated religious intolerance and divisiveness that makes nonsense of India's 'inclusive', 'tolerant' culture. Even a hint of religious ire can tear rights and values to shreds, be it the freedom of thought or expression, the value of an artist's work and contribution, or even the fundamental right to live. What happened to Husain can happen again; there has not been a peep from the government — it made no effort to bring him back and let him live and work in safety — to suggest that things will be different. Social pressure may have changed that, but Indian society revels in its own prejudices. In complete irrationality, it would rather see a 'Muslim' artist penalized for painting a nude Hindu deity than feel shame at the violent suppression of guaranteed rights. It is no wonder that intolerance and persecution have become institutionalized in India. No one is allowed the courage to express himself in ways or speak truths that cause discomfort to those in power, whether socially or politically. So Binayak Sen had to languish in jail for months at the behest of a government that wished to silence him, and M.F. Husain must die abroad because pseudo-religion and false patriotism must be appeased. What is ominous is that such an ethos perverts all institutions: law and religion become handmaidens to the agents of oppression
DANGERS OF THE CIRCUS
DEMOCRACY DOES NOT FEED ON IGNORANCE AND CREDULITY ALONE SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
Asked by Karan Thapar in a CNBC programme whether the Ramdev episode had damaged the government's image, I had no hesitation in replying that it had damaged India's image. Governments come and go, and no one is surprised when they stumble. But for a government to be seen to be held to ransom by a dancing, prancing performer who mesmerizes thousands of people who know nothing of the billions he has stashed away in business enterprises is a slur on the country's pretensions to modernity and rationalism.
My comment was not well received, as I had known it wouldn't be. Earlier, the e-mail brought me a heavily sarcastic message titled, "The babagiri in emerging India". It was not, as the title seemed to imply, an indictment of "godmen" (that hideous oxymoron with which India pollutes the English language) who exploit faith, sell their benediction and run profiteering ventures. Instead of ridiculing "babagiri" like "dadagiri" or "Gandhigiri", the e-mail ranted against the "roughly 2% population of the so-called intellectuals/upper strata" who apparently resent "this rural, illiterate ruffian… trespassing on their zamindari". Echoes of that same class complex surfaced on television with a snide reference to Doon School and St Stephen's College (distinctions I cannot claim), presumably as bastions of the English-speaking elite that is supposed to feel threatened by holy con men.
Leaving aside vitriol which says more about a speaker than his target, the only new aspect of the current furore over corruption is the attempt to package it as a mix of moral crusade and political theatre. Televised meetings of the lok pal committee would serve a similar populist effect by enabling viewers to feast on the circus of histrionics even while denied the bread of true reform. No one quarrels with the need to address the core malaise but the way it is being done replaces all sense of serious purpose with showmanship. That is not to endorse the charge of a conspiracy of right reaction and left anarchism which, as I also said on CNBC, smacks of an afterthought. But no one in his right senses would ever imagine that, however shrewd and versatile the star performer might be and however devout the crowd he assembles, they can come to grips with the legal, political and social intricacies of widespread corruption.
The Kripalani Commission that Jawaharlal Nehru set up was before my time. But I remember writing to welcome the appointment of an independent Central Vigilance Commission as a result of K. Santhanam's report, while criticizing the refusal to grant the CVC the wide powers of inquiry and investigation Santhanam proposed. We also deplored the rejection of the recommendation that "[if] a formal allegation is made by any 10 members of Parliament or a legislature in writing addressed to the Prime Minister or Chief Minister, through the Speakers and Chairmen, the Prime Minister or Chief Minister should consider himself obliged, by convention, to refer the allegations for immediate investigations by a committee".
Every government since then has been under pressure to take decisive action to check corruption and has avoided doing so. The legal framework to bring to book serious offenders, especially in the areas of tax evasion, misuse of position by public servants to award contracts, black marketing and adulteration that Santhanam listed, has not been strengthened. As prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not act on his own admission to a parliamentary committee when he was a relatively young Opposition politician that all Indian legislators start their careers with the lie of the false election spending returns they file. Even if a prime minister like Manmohan Singh were prepared to accept a lok pal's jurisdiction (and I cannot think of a single other soul in Indian politics who would be willing to take such a risk), the system will not allow him to do so.
Jayaprakash Narayan well understood the ingenuity with which authority takes away while appearing to give. "Let me not create the impression that the appointment of a Lokpal and Lokayuktas will in itself cure the disease of corruption so rampant among Ministers and civil servants," he wrote, saying that a careful scrutiny of draft legislation would reveal that "the action of these vital officers is severely limited and hemmed in by restrictive provisions". Bureaucratic transfers, postings and promotions were major sources of ministerial corruption in JP's time. Globalization, the economic boom, spiralling exports and imports, sophisticated technology, soaring election expenses, arms purchases, trade in contraband and the ramifications of terrorist activity have added many layers since then to the business of generating illicit wealth.
That apart, any assemblage centred on a so-called godman who talks of mobilizing 11,000 armed followers warns of the peril India faces of being dragged back into its own dark ages. Recognizing the danger, the first Press Commission denounced as "undesirable" what it called "the spread of the habit of consultation of, and reliance upon, astrological predictions" that was "certain to produce an unsettling effect on the minds of readers". The second Press Commission called on editors "who believe in promoting a scientific temper among their readers and in combating superstition and fatalism" to "discontinue the publication of astrological predictions". No editor took the least notice because astrology, like vaastu, appeals to a huge mass of Indians whom newspaper circulation and advertising managers can't afford to ignore even if some of them practise gender discrimination, bride-burning and caste persecution, and indulge in sporadic sati, honour killings and khap activism.
Tragically, it's not only the poor and uneducated who are prisoners of ancient superstitions. Hamish McDonald's racy account of the Ambani story describes members of the warring clan going off to temples and ashrams to muster the spiritual forces on their side for the epic showdown. Indira Gandhi's socialism did not exclude a curious succession of supposedly holy men and women. The Bharatiya Janata Party's pyramid of rational conservatism rests on the base of sangh parivar primitivism. Some among West Bengal's Marxists may nurse the private conviction that they wouldn't have been trounced if they had paid greater attention to pujas that animate the masses. Many corporate chiefs won't stir an inch without consulting the stars. It isn't considered patriotic to cite Churchill but one of his more memorable speeches roundly castigated "these Brahmins who mouth and patter the principles of Western Liberalism, and pose as philosophic and democratic politicians" but, at the same time, cruelly suppress "untouchables". "And then in a moment they turn around and begin chopping logic with John Stuart Mill, or pleading the rights of man with Jean Jacques Rousseau."
Such contradictions are seared into Indian society. The obvious reason for the government's initial placation of Ramdev was fear of the wrath of his followers. But I also suspect superstitious fear for similar Ramdevs might come tumbling out of the cupboards of many Congress party members too. Both sides of the political divide are also accustomed to passing responsibility to what used to be called extra-constitutional centres of power. The category might include sundry sadhus but it's an insult to the masters of India's spiritual life to compare every Tom, Dick and Harry in beads and saffron to Swami Vivekananda or Mahatma Gandhi.
Politicians are expected to go all out to court society's largest section, but seeking their votes and allowing them to take over are altogether different things. Much was said during the CNBC discussion (echoing comment elsewhere) about mass movements being of the essence of democracy. But democracy doesn't only feed on ignorance and credulity. It has established rules and procedures, forums for discussion, elected leaders and well-defined channels of redressal. Those who spurn these institutions for the circus are votaries not of democracy but mobocracy. Far from sanctifying their performance, a devotional veneer reduces religion itself to a charade.
******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES
TALKING TRUTH TO NATO
Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke bluntly to America's NATO allies on Friday. They needed to hear it.
America's key strategic alliance throughout the cold war is in far deeper trouble than most members admit. The Atlantic allies face a host of new and old dangers. Without more and wiser European military spending — on equipment, training, surveillance and reconnaissance — NATO faces, as Mr. Gates rightly warned, "a dim if not dismal future" and even "irrelevance."
The secretary is retiring at the end of this month, which is likely one of the reasons he jettisoned the diplomatic niceties. But not the only one. As he made clear, this country can no longer afford to do a disproportionate share of NATO's fighting and pay a disproportionate share of its bills while Europe slashes its defense budgets and free-rides on the collective security benefits.
NATO's shockingly wobbly performance over Libya, after the Pentagon handed off leadership, should leave no doubt about the Europeans' weaknesses. And while America's NATO partners now have 40,000 troops in Afghanistan (compared with about 99,000 from the United States), many have been hemmed in by restrictive rules of engagement and shortages of critical equipment. Too many are scheduled for imminent departure.
The free-rider problem is an old one but has gotten even worse over the last two decades. During most of the cold war, the United States accounted for 50 percent of total NATO military spending; today it accounts for 75 percent. Mr. Gates was right when he warned of America's dwindling patience with allies "unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense."
Decades of underinvestment, poor spending choices and complacent denial about new challenges have created what Mr. Gates called a "two-tiered alliance." He is right that too many of its members limit themselves to "humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and talking tasks," and too few are available for the combat missions the alliance as a whole has agreed to assume.
Libya, a mission much more directly linked to the security of Europe than of the United States, strikingly illustrates the consequences.
Fewer than half of NATO's 28 members are taking part in the military mission. Fewer than a third are participating in the all-important airstrikes. British and French aircraft carry the main burden. Canada, Belgium, Norway and Denmark, despite limited resources, have made outsized contributions. Turkey, with the alliance's second-largest military, has remained largely on the sidelines. Germany, NATO's biggest historic beneficiary, has done nothing at all.
Even fully participating members have failed to train enough targeting specialists to keep all of their planes flying sorties or to buy enough munitions to sustain a bombing campaign much beyond the present 11 weeks.
That should frighten every defense ministry in Europe. What if they had to fight a more formidable enemy than Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's fractured dictatorship?
Combat is not always the best or only solution. NATO needs those European development and peacekeeping capabilities. All alliance members must also have at least the basic military capacities to meet common threats. Without that, the alliance will grow increasingly hollow — a fact that enemies will not miss.
Mr. Gates was right to speak out. We hope his likely successor, Leon Panetta, will keep pushing hard. A two-tiered military alliance is really no alliance at all.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
WELL, IT'S A START
The New York State comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, has proposed an excellent way to clean up the costly and tainted campaigns for his powerful job. He has submitted a bill that creates the state's first voluntary public campaign financing system, which would apply only to his office. To clean up Albany's muck, the state needs a much broader system. But this is a start.
The comptroller acts as sole trustee of the state's $141 billion pension fund. And as we saw in the Hevesi scandal, contributors are eager to trade campaign contributions for a piece of the investment business.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has since barred anyone from conducting business with a state pension fund for two years after contributing to a comptroller candidate. The DiNapoli bill, which would go into effect for the 2014 elections, would take the next step.
It would encourage small donations and help less-than-wealthy candidates by matching the first $250 of each contribution with at least $1,500 in public funds. Participants would have to raise $150,000 across the state to be eligible, and the limit per contributor would be $2,000.
New York's extremely lax campaign finance system allows individual contributors to give $19,700 during the primary to a candidate in a statewide race and an additional $41,000 in the general election. In the comptroller race last year, Mr. DiNapoli spent $4.09 million; the Republican candidate, Harry Wilson, spent $6.97 million.
The Legislature should pass the bill swiftly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should sign it into law. They can't stop there. New York needs full campaign finance reform.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Steven Ballmer is going through a rough patch. Not only did the influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn call for him to step down from the top job at Microsoft, "to give someone else a chance," Microsoft stock jumped right after he said it.
Investors' frustration is not hard to understand. Over the last 10 years, Microsoft's stock price has flat-lined as those of rivals Apple and Google soared. The biggest American company by market capitalization in the late 1990s, it was surpassed by Apple last year. Last month, I.B.M. briefly overtook it for the first time in 15 years.
This is probably little consolation, but Mr. Ballmer's plight is an example of one of the core strengths of American capitalism: the ease with which new technologies emerge to challenge the most entrenched colossus.
Sure, Microsoft missed a few boats. It misunderstood the importance of Internet search. It's missing the smartphone and tablet revolution. But figuring out the next big thing is not easy. Over the last 25 years the number of industrial companies in the S.& P. 500 has fallen by half.
Technology upends companies in different ways. It allows new firms to deliver better products and services in a more efficient way; it also creates new goods and services for consumers to want. Eastman Kodak, the fifth-biggest company in the S.& P. 500 in 1975, was almost destroyed by digital cameras and is no longer in the index. General Motors, fifth biggest in 1985, was hobbled by rivals that could make more fuel efficient cars. Microsoft still rules the PC desktop. But that will matter less and less as users migrate to tablets and more computing takes place in "the cloud."
There is another lesson in Microsoft's long slide. It is about how far corporate behemoths will go to stop technology that threatens their dominance. Ten years ago, Microsoft tried to use its virtual monopoly of the operating system to strangle potential rivals and their new technologies. Fortunately, it failed. But the new rising behemoths will likely try similar tactics on whatever new gizmo challenges them.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
BY CHARLES M. BLOW
Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: The war on drugs.
On the morning of June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon, speaking from the Briefing Room of the White House, declared: "America's public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive. I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world."
So began a war that has waxed and waned, sputtered and sprinted, until it became an unmitigated disaster, an abomination of justice and a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities.
(Since 1971, more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses.)
And no group has been more targeted and suffered more damage than the black community. As the A.C.L.U. pointed out last week, "The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites."
An effort meant to save us from a form of moral decay became its own insidious brand of moral perversion — turning people who should have been patients into prisoners, criminalizing victimless behavior, targeting those whose first offense was entering the world wrapped in the wrong skin. It feeds our achingly contradictory tendency toward prudery and our overwhelming thirst for punishment.
Last week, the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a 19-member commission that included Kofi Annan, a former U.N. secretary general; George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state; and Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, declared that: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."
The White House immediately shot back: no dice. The Obama administration presented a collection of statistics that compared current drug use and demand with the peak of the late 1970s, although a direct correlation between those declines and the drug war are highly debatable. In doing so, it completely sidestepped the human, economic and societal toll of the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, many for simple possession.
No need to put a human face on 40 years of folly when you can swaddle its inefficacy in a patchwork quilt of self-serving statistics.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
RONALD'S EXIT INTERVIEW
BY YONI BRENNER
McDonald's Corp. is standing by its clown. The 48-year-old, red-haired mascot has come under fire from health-care professionals and consumer groups who, in recent days, have asked the fast-food chain to retire Ronald McDonald.
— The Wall Street Journal, May 20
HUMAN RESOURCES Good morning, and thank you for participating in this fully confidential exit interview. Just to begin, how many years have you been with the company?
RONALD MCDONALD (stares blankly at the wall, not seeming to hear)
H.R. Er ... Mr. McDonald?
RONALD ( singing the Big Mac song softly, like a hymn) ... two all-beef patties ... special sauce, lettuce, cheese ... (Distraught, he retrieves three single-serving packets of ketchup from his jumpsuit and squeezes them directly into his mouth.)
H.R. I realize this must be difficult for you. It's quite normal for employees in your position to experience a period of grief.
RONALD Forty-eight years ... forty-eight years... (kneading his forehead) How could I have been so stupid! Why didn't I put away more? Or even a little! I don't even have a résumé! (suddenly engaged) Hey, maybe there's something else I could do! Maybe in payroll or Web-development — even something on the political side? I know politicians! I once went on a golf trip with Steny Hoyer. (pulls out cellphone) Hold on, I think he's still in my contacts —
H.R. Mr. McDonald, once again, I want to stress that this has nothing to do with your performance. Management simply feels that, amid skyrocketing rates of diabetes and childhood obesity, it is no longer appropriate to retain a children's character within the corporate structure.
RONALD Good point. So maybe we can "age me up" a little bit? Lose the wig, hire a trainer, maybe engineer one of those sham P.R. relationships — how about Ke$ha? And then I could be Rona£d! You know, with a pound sign.
H.R. I don't know if we want to go there.
RONALD (backtracking) Right, you're right. Forget it. That's just the ketchup talking. (introspective sigh) I guess I should have seen this coming. I heard they're test marketing a Filet-o-Kale. Is that true?
H.R. I wouldn't —
RONALD Aw, forget it, you wouldn't give me a straight answer anyway. "Chinese wall," right? (dark chuckle) You wanna know the hardest part? They're right. (slaps his knee) They're totally right! Maybe it didn't seem so bad in the '60s, but today? With everything we know about sodium intake and LDL levels? And let's not even talk about factory farming! Who are we kidding? They're not "Happy Meals," they're "Gateway Meals!" (shaken) I'm a monster.
H.R. You're not a monster.
RONALD Statistically, I am. H.R. (protective) But how could you have known?
RONALD Oh, don't be naïve. We all knew! Grimace knew! And he has a brain the size of a pearl onion. To be honest, I'm amazed that guy can even stand up.
H.R. (suddenly indignant) Mr. McDonald, you're an ambassador of joy and optimism and generosity — everything that makes America great! You're not just a clown. You're an icon.
Long, awkward pause.
RONALD O.K. Well, thanks. That's nice to hear.
Longer, more awkward pause. Suddenly, Ronald's cellphone rings.
RONALD (He glances at the caller I.D.) Well, will you look at that? If it isn't my good friend, Steny Hoyer!
H.R. (skeptical) Really?
RONALD (Guilty pause. He lowers his eyes.) No.
Yoni Brenner is a writer for print, film and television.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
DEATH BY NOSTALGIA
BY SARAH WILLIAMS GOLDHAGEN
THE modern historic preservation movement started in New York City in the early 1960s, when a band of locals pushed the issue into popular awareness with their unsuccessful effort to block the destruction of the old Pennsylvania Station.
Now, nearly a half-century later, New York is home to the most high-profile attack on the movement yet: in a recent exhibition at the New Museum, the architect Rem Koolhaas accused preservationists of aimlessly cherry-picking the past; of destroying people's complex sense of urban evolution; and, most damningly, of bedding down with private developers to create gentrified urban theme parks.
Some of Mr. Koolhaas's criticisms are on target — but his analysis is wildly off-base. It's not preservation that's at fault, but rather the weakness, and often absence, of other, complementary tools to manage urban development, like urban planning offices and professional, institutionalized design review boards, which advise planners on decisions about preservation and development.
It's that lack, and the outsize power of private developers, that has turned preservation into the unwieldy behemoth that it is today.
Some historical context is in order. As American cities expanded rapidly between 1890 and 1930, urban dwellers and municipal governments realized that developers, who were building ever-larger and ever-taller buildings, would never reliably serve the public interest.
So cities tried to strike back: Manhattan's hulking Equitable Building, which blocks street-level sunlight practically all day, helped provoke New York's 1916 zoning resolution that required significant setbacks for tall buildings.
Then, in 1926, the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities could regulate the use of private property based on the broader public interest. Professional city planning was born, but systems to vet building and urban design quality at the federal, state and local levels — common in countries and cities across Europe — were never institutionalized.
By midcentury, professional urban planners were developing and sometimes designing large-scale, long-term regional and urban plans and helping write land-use and other laws to govern urban development's shape and future.
But without design-review mechanisms, their output of low-quality public housing and ill-conceived megablocks soon turned the public against them. By the late 1960s, an emergent populist, antigovernment sentiment among voters began to shift power back into private hands.
City governments, suffering the economic downturns of the 1970s and '80s, gave ever more leeway to real estate developers, and ever more voice and political power to hyperlocal community boards; both groups typically focused on their own narrow and usually short-term interests rather than the broader, long-term public good.
As a result, historic preservation laws, which by the late 1970s were increasingly popular in a country bored by modernism and excited by nostalgia, became, de facto, one of city governments' most powerful instruments for influencing private development.
Tax-starved cities, inspired by earlier preservation projects like Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and Faneuil Hall in Boston, began to use preservation to create so-called target destinations; New York's first foray was the initially successful South Street Seaport.
Savvy developers soon began collaborating with cities and preservationists, co-opting the movement for their own interests while capitalizing on the public's nostalgia for yesteryear. Developers became experts at including just enough of the old — a facade here, a foyer there — to ease the approval process and even win sizable tax breaks on their projects.
In other words, preservation morphed into a four-headed monster: a planning tool, a design review tool, a development tool and a tool to preserve genuinely valuable old neighborhoods and buildings. Today decisions about managing urban development are frequently framed as decisions about what and what not to preserve, with little sense of how those decisions affect the surrounding neighborhood.
Worse, these decisions are mostly left to the whims of overly empowered preservation boards, staffed by amateurs casting their nets too widely and indiscriminately. And too many buildings are preserved not because of their historic value or aesthetic significance, but because of political or economic deal-making.
Instead of bashing preservation, we should restrict it to its proper domain. Design review boards, staffed by professionals trained in aesthetics and urban issues and able to influence planning and preservation decisions, should become an integral part of the urban development process. At the same time, city planning offices must be returned to their former, powerful role in urban policy.
That's the way things work in Europe, where vibrant contemporary cities like London, Berlin, Paris and almost any city in the Netherlands blend old and new without effacing their normal evolutionary processes.
As these cities demonstrate, preservation should be one of several instruments necessary for creating livable, attractive and vibrant urban spaces and architecture. Otherwise, in the hands of weak local governments, powerful real-estate interests and untrained panels, it is indeed an impediment to the healthy modernization of our cities: a recipe for aesthetic insipidity and urban incoherence.
Sarah Williams Goldhagen is the architecture critic for The New Republic.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
BLOCKING ELIZABETH WARREN
BY JOE NOCERA
It's official: Elizabeth Warren will return to the torture chamber known as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 14. Earlier this week, Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is chairman of the committee, tweeted the news. Apparently, Democrats aren't the only ones who use Twitter to harass women.
The last time Warren appeared before the committee, on May 24, she was mauled by the Republicans in a brutal hearing during which a North Carolina freshman named Patrick McHenry twice accused her of lying, while conducting a Perry Mason-style interrogation ("Yes or no, Ms. Warren") that was at once ludicrous and shameful. Afterward, Issa expressed outrage because she had dared to defend herself and demanded that she return for another round of browbeating. Hence, July 14.
Ostensibly, the House Republicans are outraged that Warren, in her capacity as a special adviser to the White House, offered "secret" counsel to the states' attorneys general, who have been investigating the big foreclosure robo-signing scandal. Never mind that she has repeatedly acknowledged that she offered her advice, which they had asked for — and that there is nothing wrong with a federal official advising state officials.
No, the real reason Warren has become a piñata is that, as a Harvard law professor, she dreamed up the idea of a federal agency that could help prevent consumers of financial products — like, oh, predatory subprime mortgages — from being taken advantage of. Then she lobbied to turn it into reality, as part of the Dodd-Frank reform law. And now, working for the administration, she is busy setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will "go live" in less than six weeks.
What's worse, she's been doing a pretty good job of it so far. When she was first appointed to set up the agency, I heard rumbling that she had no management chops and would make a hash of things. This prediction has turned out to be spectacularly wrong. She has attracted first-rate talent for virtually all the top jobs. The new bureau's first move was to persuade two government agencies to combine mortgage forms into one easy-to-read document — no easy task given how government works. She has consistently talked about making bank disclosures easier for consumers to understand.
You would think that Republicans would like this sort of thing. Instead, they portray Warren as a polarizing ideologue bent on creating an agency that, as Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, put it recently, "could be a serious threat to our financial system." How, precisely, an agency that tries to keep financial consumers from being gouged threatens the system is something no one ever explains. (Unless, of course, gouging consumers is central to bank profitability. Hmmm...)
On the Senate side, the approach of the Republicans has been to claim that their real issue is not with Warren but with the structure of the new bureau. Some 44 Republican senators recently sent a letter to President Obama saying that they would not approve any director without major changes. In particular, they want to deprive the agency of automatic financing, so that, unlike other bank regulators, it would have to go through an annual appropriations process. Which, of course, would then allow the Republicans to starve it via budgetary deprivation.
Unfortunately, the president's response has been to dither. Despite the impending start date for the bureau — and despite the fact that Warren is the clear and obvious choice to run it — he still hasn't been able to pull the trigger. For months, there were rumblings that he would name Warren in a "recess appointment," which wouldn't require Senate confirmation. But that is simply not going to happen: There are parliamentary maneuvers that will allow the Senate to remain "in session" even when there are no actual senators in the vicinity.
Besides, this is a president who sees himself as a consensus-seeker. His first instinct is to try to cut a deal. Thus it was that just a few days ago, the White House floated the name of Raj Date as a possible compromise candidate. Date is one of Warren's terrific hires; he's a former banker who, in recent years, has been a vocal consumer advocate. McConnell, however, quickly shot down the idea, and stuck to his guns: no structural changes, no director. End of story.
In politics, there are certainly times when compromise is the right approach. But this is not one of those times. The agency needs to begin its life unafraid to do its job, which won't happen if the White House backs down now. By contrast, nominating Elizabeth Warren, who is nothing if not unafraid, would send exactly the right signal.
Yes, the nomination would spark a partisan fight, and, yes, there is a high likelihood that she would not win confirmation. But it would redound nicely to the president's advantage. Americans would be able to see, in the starkest way imaginable, who's trying to help them — and who's not.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
STEPPING OFF THE MEDIA CURB INTO ONCOMING NARRATIVE TRAFFIC
The establishment of broad narratives in the collective consciousness of the world's dominant media is a complex process. Conspiracy theorists, including Turkey's prime minister and Cabinet if we take the example of their reaction to one narrative of recent days, usually visualize some kind of committee at the heart of the process.
Press lords, intelligence agencies of "the powers," maybe an oil company or arms dealer all huddle. If a Jewish cabal is not explicitly present, it is often hinted at. Then this "gang" to use one word heard frequently of late, concludes its shadowy meeting. The orders are issued. The anchors take their places in front of the cameras. The headlines begin to appear on the world's front pages on cue. This is pretty much the official explanation for the temerity of the Economist, the Wall Street Journal and now the Christian Science Monitor. This is how they came to introduce the "beware of one-party rule" storyline into the ongoing drama of Turkey – as seen from abroad.
This is pure nonsense, of course. But it has always fascinated me that a version of this imagery animates discussion across ideologies whenever the subject is "just how the media works." The right will strike out at "liberal bias controlling the media", while the left will decry control of the same institutions by "Big Pharma" or the most recent gathering of the Bilderberg Group.
If one has the opportunity and endurance to listen to an hour or so of America's talk radio programming on a topic such as Islam, you will find the paranoia and fantasy is virtually of a set with the drivel emanating from Twitter feeds and blog chats in Pakistan. If only these two groups locked into such mutual hatred could just get together to compare notes. That would be a real partnership for a new beginning, to steal a phrase from America's president.
Which is not to say that a process of narrative formation, a group-think exercise, a "what's the story?" conversation does not take place. It does. Whether it is the "war on terror" or the "rise of the BRICs" or "red states-blue states," or the "Jasmine Revolution," these various forms of shorthand are the currency of journalists' tradecraft.
While politicians, business leaders and university-based media critics argue about the stories that journalists are working "on," they would do better to debate the stories that journalists are working "from." This "from-to-on" continuum, first suggested to me by the American academic Betty Sue Flowers, is useful.
The "from" part is kind of like the non-verbal communication that takes place before a group of Istanbul pedestrians step into the threat of traffic. Will that bus slow down? Will the trajectory of that cab remain the same across lanes if we step off the curb? Furtive looks are exchanged. A critical mass emerges. The ad hoc group braves the traffic.
There is safety in numbers for journalists too. Based on the clips at hand, the preconceived notions that might please an editor or just the conversation with the next reporter at the bar in Istanbul's Cihangir, we develop what assumptions we will be working "from." We can then proceed to the "on" side of the "from-to-on" continuum. As with a group of pedestrians now crossing the street, we can write from within that protective narrative cocoon about the "Kurdish question," "Islam vs. secularism" or the "Armenian genocide." Sure you can write about urban planning or the school system if you want, just make sure you tuck in the phrase "echoes of the Friday call to prayer" to ensure authenticity back in Stockholm or Stockton.
If you think I am bluffing, please test me. Just type two words into Google search: "Turkish" and "model." Calculate the hits just in the last six months as the world's commentariat has found common cause in proposing Turkey as the elixer for strife in just about every place between Eastern Europe's Carpathian Mountains and the Hindu Kush.
If only places like Bosnia, Egypt and Afghanistan could just be more like Turkey, the thousands of arguments go. Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, the real lament is that they should have rulers like Turkey's Justice and Development Party.
Here's a gushing (and staff produced) example of my own search Friday, from the website of the satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera: "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party have been able to reconcile democracy, electoral victory, economic development, and national independence together with the promotion of Islamic values and Muslim authenticity. In short, the Turkish model is the most successful between it, Iran and Indonesia."
That's comforting. We'll see by Monday morning how many million Turks agree.
It is healthy for deeper understanding of Turkey that the Economist magazine summoned the original thinking to step into the oncoming narrative traffic. I am glad too that the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor chose to step off the curb and follow.
This is how new global media narratives begin. Sometimes, as with the "Turkish model" when watered by the Internet, they grow like mushrooms after the rain. Let's see how "beware of one-party rule" fares in the media traffic to follow Sunday's election.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
TO ADVANCE, DEMOCRACY NEEDS OPPOSITION
For years, European liberals, greens, social democrats and even communists, were able to correctly interpret the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, policies and show their support for them – despite differences between themselves and with the AKP. The most symbolic example of their political stance, still remembered by all, is the "yes" posters that were raised for the start of EU negotiation talks in the European Parliament on Dec. 15, 2004.
After the AKP came to power in late 2002, question marks existing in European and American minds were replaced quickly by meaningful support thanks to reformist moves and their social implications. This heterogeneous group considered the AKP's Muslim Democrat posture as the first example of a brand-new political horizon toppling established clichés about Islam and political Islam and advocated by the Christian Democrat community.
As a matter of fact, within a few years, a new research field emerged in the West against the clichés that were claiming that Islam and modernity and Islam and democracy could not be compatible, and that modernity could only be possible in Muslim countries through military and strictly secularist regimes. Within this framework, numerous newspaper articles, scientific papers, books, master and PhD theses were written, and are still being written, covering the transformative soft power of the EU, the necessity of Turkey's integration and the synergy Europe holds with the new Turkey.
The support of European politicians contributed greatly to the image of the AKP outside as well as supporting the AKP domestically. The attention of the Arab world toward Turkey took its shape, before the "one minute" venture, through the EU path and reforms. The United States, observing the AKP-ruled Turkey advancing on the EU road, proved how right it was at those warnings it had forwarded to Europeans for years. This atmosphere continued despite EU-Turkey relations' slow pace after 2005 and the slow disappearance of the AKP's reformist appetite.
For a few months, however, we have observed the Green/Liberal/Social democrat support being supplanted by an in-depth questioning and concern. The same is true for the U.S. and particularly true for support of intellectuals in Turkey. Add to these, the Arab world that no longer needs "Erdoğan the Savior" in the wake of the public upheavals. These developments, although the prime minister dismisses every objection and remains completely indifferent to them, are good neither for the AKP nor Turkey. Because for Turkey's transformation, these interactions, exchanges and inspirations are necessary and beneficial.
How come The Economist, the magazine that has always supported the AKP's reformist, out-of-the-box, bold and determined policies, started looking at the AKP with a different eye? Financial Times, Time, Observer and the New York Times did likewise. These and several other various foreign media outlets are all aware of the narrowing democracy, as well as Erdoğan's ever-expanding authority and authoritarianism. Well, it is proved by experience that power changes the chemistry of even the most democratic politician. Today, foreign observers, just like the domestic ones, emphasize the need for a system of strong checks and balances fully incorporated into the new constitution to counterbalance the uniqueness of power. Their focus on the opposition, though, is more on its very existence rather than its political arguments and programs.
Lack of opposition is the end of democracy
The AKP was both Turkey's ruler and the opposition. As is reforms directly challenged the foundations of the regime, almost no space was left for a political formation that could be more reformist than the AKP. Yet it filled the stage for years.
In time, once the power of various centers of political tutelage was neutralized, the democratic functions of the party were limited to the field occupied by its direct supporters. The AKP was not able to show adequate empathy with those who did not think like itself and other excluded groups in society. As it ruled by getting closer to the center of the state, its reformist appetite disappeared quickly while it lost all its "dissident" or oppositional identity.
Today, there is no trace left of the redefinition of laicism, of getting rid of military tutelage or expanding the democratic field. The legal basis and the achievements of the reformist period are eroding fast. The party has even landed behind its constituencies. Thus the fairy tale has ended, at least from the perspective of its supporters, when, in the end, democratic and social transformation was reduced to the primitiveness of letting society blow off steam with shopping malls, highways and consumption frenzy. This is why we constantly hear "What a pity" in almost every article and in every observation. Apparently, it was not possible to be the ruler and the opposition at the same time.
In countries like Turkey where democracy has not yet matured, governments seek a rose garden without thorns. They do not want to acknowledge the value of the interaction with the opposition. The AKP government did not have an opposition and when an opposition piped up, the AKP's dislike came out.
Alongside with societal objection, a meaningful opposition made up of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, is a chance for the third Erdoğan government and Turkey.
Because what is needed for this country is a de facto coalition of the AKP-CHP-BDP to write a new constitution issue and solve the Kurdish conflict. The BDP's suggestions, however extreme and unlikely they may be, are now ahead of those of the AKP's. Hoping the same for CHP.
This opposition, even if it doesn't help in solving these issues, will be useful to curtail the outburst of hubris and over-confidence the prime minister develops every time he wins outright.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
EVERY VOTE IS IMPORTANT IN THIS CRUCIAL ELECTION
Since this edition of the Daily News will have been published Friday night and it will be on the market early Saturday morning, from a purely legalistic approach, election-day bans cannot be valid. From an ethical point of view, however, as this paper will be a weekend or Saturday/Sunday edition, I may assume the bans are already in place.
Thus, I do not feel I have the right to express my personal, biased and indeed prejudiced perceptions and ask people to vote for a certain party or not to vote for a certain another party.
Yet, I want to express my firm conviction that this election will indeed be a landmark for the shaping up of a new Turkey. For the better or for the worse, that will be seen in time and frankly it will be determined with the votes of the Turkish electorate.
No, please don't raise your eyebrows. The number of eligible electorate might have been inflated a bit and some nine million increased in the eligible voters in this election compared to the 2007 vote might create some worries. The so-called "Secsis" program used in the counting of votes might have been considered not reliable enough for the entire international community. The complaints that it is open for domestic and outside manipulation, worse the fact it is under the control of the Justice Ministry, that is the political authority, rather than the Electoral Board might create some serious confidence problems.
Still, we have to believe Sunday's elections will not be cheated by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and we will have a just and fair election. If a certain party wins a certain parliamentary majority, name of the party and what majority explained repeatedly in this column and elsewhere over the past many months, it may change the current parliamentary democracy with a presidential system of governance. In principle that cannot be a problem but presidential governance with the executive having vast influence and indeed control power over the legislative and the judiciary highlights the imminent and serious autocracy threat. Remember, even that foreign weekly, which has been so supportive of that certain party could not resist and warned Turks last week of the imminent autocracy threat.
Every vote will be of great importance. Naturally hundreds of people sent behind bars and hundreds of thousands imprisoned in their heads because of the atmosphere of fear the country has been pulled into over the past years will not be freed immediately should that certain party fail to get the certain majority it has been aspiring to obtain to achieve the great ambitions of its supreme and absolute ruler. Yet, perhaps an atmosphere of reconciliation might be opened and seeking consensus instead of a majoritarian and imposing "I have the majority, the minority should reconcile with me… No one should expect the majority surrender to the minority," understanding might become valid for this country as well.
For that and for many other reasons, every vote is important. No one should waste their vote.
Thus we have to know voting stations are open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., except the eastern and southeastern Anatolian Adıyaman, Ağrı, Artvin, Bingöl, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Erzincan, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Giresun, Gümüşhane, Hakkari, Kars, Malatya, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, Muş, Ordu, Rize, Siirt, Sivas, Trabzon, Tunceli, Şanlıurfa, Van, Bayburt, Batman, Şırnak, Ardahan, Iğdır and Kilis cities where voting will be held between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m..
Even if for some reason we do not have an electoral ID card, a valid ID card with citizenship number will be sufficient for the eligibility vote. We have to make sure there should not be any mark, sign or even a comma or any kind of symbol on the front and the back of the ballot paper. The "Yes" choice should be made in the center of the separate marked area under the emblems of parties or independent candidates. If a ballot paper has more than one "Yes" stamp, it will be declared invalid. Thus, make sure that before you fold the ballot paper the ink dried out. Otherwise your vote will be discarded as invalid.
Except for help to the disabled, who might be assisted by first-degree relatives, everyone must be alone in voting in the voting booth.
One last note, other than the ballot box there should not be anything in the envelope. Don't forget as well, cameras, video cameras and even mobile telephones should not be taken into the ballot boxes.
Remember, every vote is important in this crucial election.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WHAT THIS ELECTION IS REALLY ABOUT
Millions of Turks will go to the polls this weekend to shape the Parliament that will rule Turkey for the next four years. We will all see the result on Sunday night, but, before that, let me share with you my bet.
First of all, it seems almost certain to all that the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will have yet another election victory. If that turns out to be the case next Sunday night, then the AKP will have done something that no other party has done in Turkey in half a century: win three elections in a row. (Only the center-right Democrat Party of the 1950s was able to do that – before being taken down by a junta in the wake of their fourth probable victory.)
The AKP owes this popularity mostly to its success in managing the economy and making Turkey a much more prosperous and developed country. Their religiosity is a major problem in the eyes of their opponents, yet is only a side issue for almost half of the country, who feels that Turkey has become a better place to live since the coming of the AKP in 2002.
But the size of the AKP victory also matters. Polls show that votes for that party fluctuate around 45 percent. If that turns out to be the case, then the party will have a safe majority (anything above 275 seats in the Parliament) to form a stable government. But if the party receives an even higher number of votes, it might then grab more than 330 seats in the parliament. This result might give AKP the power to rewrite the constitution unilaterally, before taking it to a referendum.
Here is my guess: AKP will win big, but not big enough to reach 330 seats. And that would be good; for I believe the party must seek consensus with the opposition on the new constitution rather than drafting it all alone.
The most important opposition party, of course, remains to be the Republican People's Party, or CHP. Until recently, their obsessive secularism, and we-do-nothing-but-venerate-Atatürk sort of stance, had given them a stagnant 20 percent of the votes. But lately, the party's new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, brought some change and started to sound a bit more like a social democratic party of the European fold. That's why the CHP is likely to increase its votes in this election. How considerable that increase will be is one of the most curious questions of this election.
Personally, I hope that CHP will have a considerable increase in its votes, which will create more incentives for the party to renew itself further. But a CHP victory would be terrible, for the party seems to have no clue about the economy, other than distributing state funds irresponsibly. Luckily, an imminent CHP government seems out of question.
The third largest party is the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which represents an emotional, if not occasionally chauvinistic, form of Turkish nationalism. The party recently went through a crisis which exposed some of its senior members in ugly sex tapes. That intensified the question of whether the MHP would be able to pass the 10 percent national threshold in order to be eligible to make its way in Parliament. (That is also crucial to the question of whether the AKP will get more than 330 seats.)
It is not only my guess, but also my hope that the MHP will pass the threshold, even if only barely, and enter Parliament. If more parties are represented, the better it is for democracy. Moreover, the MHP's success would be a good response to the sex-tape conspirators, whomever they may be, to show that their tricks did not influence the political scene that much.
Independents and others
Then there are the Kurdish nationalists, who are supported by the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, but enter the election as independent candidates. They seem to have gathered more support than they had in the past, and not just among Kurds but even some left-wing Turks.
The BDP owes its ascendance to its wise steps. Until recently, the secular-Islamic divide ran across the Kurdish community as well, as more secular Kurds supported the BDP (and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, the terrorist organization it identifies with); whereas most Muslim Kurds preferred the AKP. But lately, the BDP welcomed Islamic Kurdish figures such as Altan Tan, who is now one of the Diyarbakır candidates they support. They also gave out religious messages by organizing "civil prayers," in boycott of government mosques. Plus, the AKP has sounded disappointingly silent lately on the Kurdish issue, probably opening more space to the BDP.
There are other independents and smaller parties in the race, too. Among the latter, the People's Voice Party, or HAS, is my favorite. It is a new synthesis of Muslim values and social democratic left, and sounds quite fair minded on all major political issues. (It also has the highest number of non-Muslim candidates.) The party will probably fail to pass the 10 percent threshold, but its modest and articulate leader, Numan Kurtulmuş, who is the most popular figure among conservatives after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, might still have a significant political future.
Briefly put, this election is all about how powerful the governing AKP will be, and how opposition parties will fare as opposition. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a stable yet balanced Parliament.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
CHINA'S TROUBLED NEIGHBORS
Appropriately, the meeting straddled the anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre. Defense ministers and top brass from the United States, China and a host of lesser regional powers were in Singapore for meetings known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Just as June 4 in Beijing ended many illusions about the nature of the Communist Party of China, so events of the past year have stripped away many 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 attempting to allay 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 United States was spurred into declaring that peace and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea were among its vital interests. The U.S. 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 United States is keen to show it wants dialogue with China's military, recently hosting the PLA's chief of staff. President Hu Jintao has visited the United States, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has been conveying good will around the globe, and China has been emphasizing how far behind the United States it lags in armaments. But it is too late for China to restore the status quo ante.
China is also finding it difficult to translate top-level smiles into restraint. Days before the Shangri-La meeting, it damaged a Vietnamese exploration vessel off Vietnam's central coast, within what other countries regard as Vietnam's exclusive economic zone. A feisty Hanoi, with old connections to Russia and India and warming ties with the United States, has galvanized others in the region to see the South China Sea as a crucial test of China's intent.
But 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, the aircraft carrier will be a source of pride and a constant reminder to China's neighbors that they would do well to bolster their regional alliances.
The major focus of arms build-ups, however, remains neither the South China Sea nor the Indian Ocean but Northeast Asia. Whether or not this constitutes an "arms race," there is plenty of reaction to China's acquisition of missiles, stealth aircraft and a range of other sophisticated weapons. Japan and South Korea may have no answer to Beijing's 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. In the wider context, U.S.-Japan disagreements over repositioning Okinawa bases are a minor issue. Russia too 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 United States and the other nations of the region.
*Philip Bowring is an analyst on foreign affairs. This piece originally appeared on the Khaleej Times website.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
KAYSERI STOP OF NABUCCO
There is an interesting side to the general elections.
Those cabinet ministers who are running for office are organizing several activities in their election regions where their election offices are based.
The Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay is visiting wine producers with journalists to gain votes from İzmir, which is traditionally "cold" to the ruling party.
Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek is kneading "çiğ köfte" (a local Turkish dish made from raw meat and spices) at his election region of Batman. He addresses the public in Kurdish.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız has taken one step further during his election campaign in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri and has invited the media to Kayseri together with all other relevant parties for the Nabucco Natural Gas Pipeline project that has completed its legal, technical and commercial infrastructure. When referring to all parties, Hungarian MOL, Austria's OMW, Bulgarian Energy Holding from Bulgaria, Transgaz from Romania, German RWE, plus Botaş from Turkey are included. In addition to representatives from those companies I listed above, it needs to be mentioned that ministers and ministerial officials from the same countries are also flying to Kayseri from various European locations.
Sitting on the next seat on the Istanbul-Kayseri plane was Hungarian MOL company representative and a foreign ministry official who asked me what they can do in Kayseri and what they can eat. Come to think of it, the Nabucco activity is certainly contributing to Kayseri tourism.
Who will provide the gas?
Very well, what was on the agenda at Nabucco's Kayseri stop?
Let's take a look at what Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız said to members of the media at the horse ranch where he was hosting them at the skirts of the snow-peaked Erciyes Mountain.
Minister Yıldız at first emphasizes that Nabucco is a natural gas pipeline project of a global scale.
Nobody can object that.
Above all, as I had written last week, when giant oil companies and those countries that are abandoning nuclear energy are focusing increasingly more on natural gas, the 3,500-kilometer Nabucco pipeline that will carry the Caspian and the Middle East region's natural gas starting from Turkey via Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to Austria is truly important.
However, it looks as if there is a long road in front of us for this pipeline to be finalized.
For as much as Minister Taner said, "Necessary circumstances are present for Nabucco but adequate circumstances are not."
To cut a long story short, there is no natural gas to be pumped through the pipeline. The only country up until now, that has emerged to provide the natural gas is Azerbaijan and they have not yet decided how it will distribute the natural gas to come out of Shah Deniz-2.
Will it give it to Russia? Or to Nabucco? Or Trans Adriatic Pipeline TAP? Or the Italian led ITGI project?
Azerbaijani President Aliyev has sat down at the chess board and is preparing for his next move, a move everybody is curious to see.
According to Minister Taner Yıldız, Azerbaijan will need to decide by the end of the month.
But British Gas director Mehmet Öğütçü said the decision on Shah Deniz-2 can be postponed until autumn or even till the end of the year.
Threats and opportunities
Öğütçü's projections about the future of the Nabucco pipeline are more pessimistic than Yıldız's.
"How many deals have been signed over the Nabucco pipeline since 2002? It is the supply of gas and the question of how it will be financed, that is important. There is still no progress on these issues," Öğütçü said in our phone conversation.
Russia, which prepared the South Stream project, would not easily give up on Azerbaijani gas, as they view the prospects of a rival pipeline reaching into Europe not as an issue of economic competition but of national security, Öğütçü said.
Other potential sources of gas besides Azerbaijan are Iraq, Turkmenistan and Iran.
The supply of Iraqi gas, however, still remains on paper, as the country's leaders are more concerned with feeding gas to their own domestic market, according to Öğütçü.
Iran, which contains the world's second largest gas reserves, also represents problems, he said.
As Iran has not invested in its own gas reserves for years, there is no question of Turkey importing large quantities of gas from that country. In fact, Iran imports a portion of its own domestic needs from Turkmenistan. On the other hand, sanctions are in question, also.
Iranian gas, however, will enter the market, sooner or later, according to Öğütçü.
That Turkmen gas first flows to Russia and China is also a glaring fact. Still, Turkmenistan seeks to meet the Western demand for gas as well, according to Yıldız who added that in such grandiose projects as Nabucco, there was no end to either threats or opportunities.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
THE CORRIDOR: WHAT DO CITIZENS EXPECT FROM THE NEW PARLIAMENT?
Turkey will be expecting a loaded agenda in the wake of the June 12 election results. The formation of the new government and who will take the ministerial posts, the Kurdish issue, the new constitution and the term of office for the president are just some of the issues.
But what about people on the street? What about their political expectations, their expectations from Parliament? What do they want in the new term?
The Association for the Protection of Citizens' Taxes, or VAVEK, has conducted a fascinating study, preparing a report that will be enlightening for the political parties entering Parliament in the new term. The report was submitted as a declaration but did not draw much attention even though it includes a list of public expectations from the new Parliament.
The new constitution, the unregistered economy, the tax system, the social security system, local governments and the fight against corruption are the topics that come forward. Let us elaborate…
The association wants the new constitution to be prepared with the highest level of social consensus and with the participation of all political parties, universities, professional associations and nongovernmental organizations. It strongly and especially stresses "consensus." The report demands that a relevant article be included in the Constitution so that tax amnesties can only be passed in Parliament with a qualified majority (367) just like other amnesty arrangements. It also draws attention to the significance of an effective Parliament auditing of government spending by including special articles in the constitution.
The association also demands certain important arrangements in the new constitution in the fight against corruption. According to them, articles that would allow the trial of civil servants in cases of corruption without prior permission from other authorities and the lifting of the immunity of parliamentarians should be included in the new constitution.
The association is proposing the formation of a data bank system based on the Turkish Republic identity numbers of citizens and the monitoring of fortunes and revenues of all real and legal entities through this system. It is also advising the legal infrastructure be formed so political financing is transparent and audible. The association also believes that it would be beneficial for assets of close relatives of politicians and top-level civil servants to be publicized every year to show the determination of the Parliament on the fight against corruption and advocates that this would increase the credibility of the Parliament.
The association suggests that the new constitution should include new adjustments that would expand the jurisdiction of local governments without violating the country's integrity. It also states that social aids should also be under the guarantee of the constitution. It says, "Social aids provided by private persons and institutions should be based on legal grounds and should be seriously monitored by the state. We expect the necessary sensitivity to be shown on this topic during the legal preparation process in the new Parliament."
The proposals of the association are striking and noteworthy.
Parliament will work during the heat of the summer
Parliament will work in the heat of the summer after elections. According to the parliamentary law, new deputies should take the oath on Friday, June 24. The assembly will be headed by the oldest member. Then there will be a five-day recess for preparations for the election of the speaker. This election is earmarked to take place on June 29 while the parliamentary presidential board elections are scheduled for June 30.
At the same time, the process of the formation of the 61st government and vote of confidence will start. The president will assign the head of the political party with the most seats to form the new government. The program of the new Cabinet will be read in Parliament no more than one week after its date of formation and a vote of confidence will be held. This process is expected to last until the middle of July. Unless there is an unexpected decision, Parliament will have a break until Oct. 1.
I. THE NEWS
TERROR IN UNIFORM
The murder at point-blank range of an unarmed civilian by the Sindh Rangers has caused an uproar in the National Assembly where government and opposition benches have both condemned the brutal act, with some MNAs going as far as to call the Rangers 'terrorists in uniform'. Additionally, the prime minister has promised to take personal interest in the case. While these condemnations are welcome, mere statements will not be enough. On the practical side, efforts look terribly uncoordinated and muddled. For instance, Rehman Malik has announced the setting up of a joint investigation team; the Rangers' chief has declared that an in-house inquiry board will be instituted; and police investigators say they are still waiting for the go-ahead from seniors to initiate the "process". On the sidelines of this confusion, most are wondering why the investigation process has been launched by different institutions separately and why the main investigative organisation in such cases, the city police, is nowhere to be found.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, the Supreme Court's direction that both DG Rangers and IG Sindh be removed from their posts is welcome and reflects the court's understanding that responsibility and punishment need to be fixed not just on the ordinary solider but also on those who are at the helm of affairs. Already, this revolting show of naked aggression by the Rangers has brought back the memory of the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot while a crowd that included district police officers looked on. This memory combined with recent events has filled most with shame – except perhaps the interior minister who seems to think the killing by Rangers is somehow justified because the deceased was a 'criminal'. Since when is the interior minister the competent authority to declare anyone a criminal? Isn't that the domain of the courts? And even if the boy was a thief, is death the commensurate punishment for theft? Is it time for Rehman Malik to deeply rethink his shoot-on-sight orders? In the long run, ex post facto, ad hoc accountability cannot work. The only sustainable way to check such events is to improve the quality of law enforcement as well as judicial functioning.
I. THE NEWS
The exiled Maqbool Fida Hussain, one of the most admired and controversial painters India has produced, died early Thursday in London, far away from the country whose very vibrancy and multiplicity the artist's work had come to stand for. After coming under attack at home for his paintings of Hindu deities, Hussain was driven in 2006 to self-imposed exile in Dubai and London and in 2010 took Qatari nationality. Sources say his body will not be brought to India and the final rites will be performed in London. In a television interview, Hussain had described his vision as linked to "Five thousand years of our [Indian] great culture." Indeed, his work drew most heavily from Indian history and iconography and sought to capture the evolution of the Indian subcontinent and its shared inheritance of Hindu and Islamic cultures. And yet, for someone so invested in India's diversity, Hussain spent much of the past decade defending his work against the intolerance of right-wing Hindu activists who threatened his work with vandalism and lawsuits, and his person with harassment and physical threats.
Though Indian courts intervened on the right side in 2008 and dismissed the obscenity charges against Hussain's work, it was too little, too late. By then 93-year-old Hussain said he was too old to deal with politics and wanted only to focus on his work. "Politics...has always been in history a detriment to creativity," he said. Hussain's quiet passing in London, in the words of his old friend, N Ram, Editor, The Hindu, "brings to a close one of the sorriest chapters in independent India's secular history." But while Hussain's passing in a land other than his own is a personal tragedy and a national shame, his memory and message are forever immortalised through his timeless works.
I. THE NEWS
The gargantuan scale of corruption and mismanagement of the national finances has been exposed by the auditor general of Pakistan in his latest report. It says that Rs35 billion was either embezzled from the public purse, irregularly spent or paid, or, astonishingly, it was simply 'missing'. To place this in perspective, the budget for education in the coming fiscal year announced in Punjab on Friday was Rs25 billion – or Rs10 billion less than what had disappeared between the cracks nationally in the last year. Put yet another way, Rs35 billion is close to the sum required to fund the solution to our education crisis, and it has disappeared into the pockets and bank accounts of bureaucrats, contractors and political back-scratchers. The level of detail provided by the report is such that individual cases of mismanagement or corruption are identifiable. The AGP noted the Rs236.45 million of unauthorised payments made by the law ministry to lawyer associations. It will be remembered that the then law minister, Babar Awan, toured the nation dropping bundles of money on bar councils; none of which was in the form of officially authorised payments. The interior ministry has failed to provide any record or receipt of Rs515.51 million generated by the issuance of 88,838 arms licences between March 2008 and June 2009. Perhaps Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a man known to be nimble with his sums, could enlighten us as to the whereabouts of this money.
At the parliamentary level, Rs252 million air tickets have been issued to MNAs as per their entitlement, but there is no record of how or if they used the tickets, cashed them in, or returned them. The Frontier Constabulary in Peshawar has been playing fast and loose with public money as well. It has made irregular payments of Rs248.73 million whilst purchasing vehicles, and retained Rs2.69 million in unauthorised and presumably unlawfully collected monies from private and public sector organisations for whom it was supposed to be providing security. Perhaps the most incredible fact revealed by the AGP is that the Rs248.73 million for vehicle purchase was actually deposited in the private bank account of the inspector general of the FC. A sum of this size would attract substantial interest even if deposited for a relatively short time – interest that would accrue to the account holder which, in this case, is a private individual. The AGP has recommended disciplinary action against those responsible but the chances of that ever happening are remote. The corruption, ineptitude, and thievery exposed by this report are not the product of some hidden foreign hand. It is the hands and fingers of our own public servants that are robbing us. They will continue to do so as long as they are allowed to.
'MY COUNTRY IS FINISHED'
In an interview with Oriana Fallaci, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said that when he was awakened by the sound of gunfire in Dacca on March 25, 1971 and saw the army sweeping through the city, he wept and said "My country is finished!" Today, Pakistan stands at the same threshold of history. The circumstances and the players on the stage are different. The poisoned chalice we hold to our lips is different. But the country is being pushed towards the same outcome. It is Pakistan's present generations' greatest misfortune that they are eye-witnesses to the systematic dismemberment of their country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was right; independence was indeed a myth. But the myth has now become a nightmare.
What is left of Pakistan? There is no visible administrating authority. A free-for-all prevails, in which the politicians in power are looting the state in broad daylight, vital state institutions are decaying due to neglect and the appointment of cronies who only cover their sponsors' criminal tracks, the government has done its best to sideline the judiciary by flouting its authority and the houses of parliament have been reduced to a joke. The hapless citizens do not know whom to fear more; criminals or those who are supposed to protect them from criminals but are themselves out of control. The remaining vestiges of sovereignty have been sold to foreign masters for the sake of power.
Consequently, while the people of this country stew in the sweltering heat without electricity, without water, without petrol or gas, without security, without access to adequate educational or medical facilities, without solace or succour and without any ray of light or hope of relief from the painful battles they wage every day just to survive, those who wield the reins of power make hay while the sun shines and pander to their foreign masters who sustain them in government.
In just the last month, we have had to endure the US Navy SEALs operation to take out Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, the terrorist attack on Mehran Naval Base in Karachi, the Kharotabad incident, the murder of a journalist in Islamabad, and now the Clifton shooting, to mention just a few prominent incidents. These are symptoms of a comprehensive collapse. Such a status quo is unsustainable.
Pressure is building towards a climactic explosion which will blow away much debris, but is also likely to irreparably damage the edifice of the state. The important question is, who is attending to the national interests of Pakistan?
Countries have to be governed. Problems and crises need to be resolved. Policies and plans have to be made for the future. Laws, structures and systems have to be evolved, refined and updated. Development work has to be carried out. The writ of law has to be established. There appears to be no one doing any of this crucial work.
How can this mess be set right? There are corrective mechanisms that can fix a system or jolt it upright, but a society that possesses the wherewithal to deploy such mechanisms would never let things deteriorate to such an extent as this in the first place. The process begins with the electorate making the right choices at the polls based on merit, past record, and a sound manifesto for the future. But that does not happen here.
Our choices are ruled by personality cults, which charlatans and their puppeteers find convenient to manipulate, leaving the people writhing in agony till the next election. But given the chance to remedy their mistake, the electorate repeats the same mistake all over again. This is what has been happening since 1988. We are told that the electorate will mature in time and learn to properly use the vote. The problem is we do not have the luxury of time, like most western democracies which developed over several centuries. Struggling in a sea of crises, we have to either swim or sink today, not a hundred years from now.
The second option is honest and sincere leadership that can pull us out of the quicksand. We do not have that either. How can we, when the electorate falters at the first step of the process? Despite the examples of the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein, our rulers prefer to stay in power with the support of foreign powers rather than the support of the people, like Iran's President Ahmadinejad. That is why they serve foreign interests rather than national or public interests. In an almost comical development, the Sindh Assembly recently banned smoking hukkas, as if that was the only vice left in society!
The nation can expect no good from this lot. When all else fails, the system and state institutions can rescue and resuscitate the country, provided they are vibrant and effective. But the system is not allowed to function here as it should and institutions have been rendered hollow and ineffective through years of manipulation by successive governments. The constitution, parliament, laws and courts have atrophied under the influence of those whose intentions and purposes are not identified with national interests. If even this option fails, then there have been instances in history whereby intervention by military rulers has provided the requisite jolt that has saved countries from ruin.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Jamal Abdul Nasser, Fidel Castro, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata come to mind. Unfortunately, Pakistan's experience with military rule has been far less constructive. Besides, whether it is because of their engagement in the war against extremists in the northern areas, the hopeless economic situation, or foreign pressure, there appears to be no evidence that the men in the GHQ are prepared or willing to make a putsch.
The last option is a mass public uprising along the lines of Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab states. When people lose confidence in the system and those who run it, they come out in the streets and take matters in their own hands. The people of Tunisia and Egypt even shattered the age old myth that revolutions cannot occur without strong leadership. But there are no signs of such an uprising in Pakistan. People protest sporadically and burn tires because of power outages and water shortages but there was not a squeak out of them over issues of national sovereignty like the Raymond Davis issue or the US Navy SEALs operation in Abbottabad.
The government has turned us into a nation of beggars. Instead of questioning why millions are spent daily on lavish presidential and prime ministerial palaces while even after almost 10 months, the flood refugees have not been fully rehabilitated, people are content to live off handouts. Those who used to, in the name of honour, kill any man who so much as glanced at their women folk, now send their women to stand in lines outside banks all day and suffer unmentionable humiliation for a few rupees of charity. This once proud nation has become addicted to taking the path of least resistance, even if doing so piles on more misery and insult upon them.
So if the electorate cannot make the right choice at the polls, the government is not sincere with the national cause, the system and state institutions are atrophied and useless, the army is not willing to intervene and people are not ready to come out in the streets, then what's left?
We have pretty much run out of options as far as corrective mechanisms go. Decay, left unchecked, can only generate more decay. How will this country survive the crises it faces? How will it withstand the menacing storms that loom over the horizon? I now begin to understand what Pervez Musharraf meant when, in his farewell address to the nation, he said "Pakistan ka Khuda Hafiz".'
The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.
I. THE NEWS
OUR DEAR MAULVI
DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
"Ma as-salam," she said as she handed me my room key after completing the check in. She was efficient, well-dressed and polite.
"Is the meat halal?" I asked. "Yes," she said, with a smile, "it is all halal." I was relieved. This was my first visit to Kazakhstan and having experienced the destruction of even the most basic Islamic norms in Uzbekistan three years ago, I needed to be cautious. In Uzbekistan, I had seen pig farms all the way from Samarqand to Bukhara, both being the mysterious and romantic cities of my childhood, both being associated with personalities noble in my memory: Bukhara with Imam Bukhari and Samarqand with Abu al-Layth Samarqandi, the renowned exegete of the Qur'an.
Despite what the lady at the front desk said, the first time I walked into the hotel restaurant I found out that there was no distinction between beef and pork on the buffet table; everything was next to each other. There was a terrible smell in food; even cheese and vegetables had the same smell. When I asked the cook about how they separate halal from non-halal meat, the young man stared at me; he did not know what I was talking about. I had already asked him if he was a Muslim and he had very proudly said, yes. When I came downstairs without eating anything, there was the same lady at the counter. I asked her again about halal and non-halal, she repeated the same answer which she had given me yesterday; after a few more questions, I realised that what she meant that their hotel had halal pork!
After a few more minutes of conversation, I realised that she has no idea of halal and haram. This was, however, only the beginning of the shock. Within the next four days, I was to find out the true extent of destruction of Islam in this ninth largest country in the world - the world's largest landlocked country with an area greater than entire Western Europe. This destruction happened during the Russians occupation which began in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century, all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire.
Most of the terrible crimes against Kazakh people were committed following the 1917 Russian Revolution and the entire religious infrastructure and educational institutes were destroyed between 1917 and 1991. Kazakhstan declared itself an independent country on December 16, 1991, becoming the last Soviet republic to do so. But just like the other Republics of the former USSR, the communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became the country's new president and the euphoria of Islamic resurgence in Central Asia died out. Officially, more than half of 16.2 million people are Muslim, but there are only a few remains of Islam in reality.
This destruction is fundamental; that is, it was systematic, organised, and brutal. It plucked out hundreds of years of history of these people from their consciousness by removing the basic building blocks of an Islamic polity. Russians were thorough in their ruthlessness; they destroyed mosques, madrasas, slaughtered religious scholars, and killed everyone who publically professed Islam. Compared to the Russian colonisation of Central Asia, the British seem benign. In India, Egypt, and all other lands of Islam where British occupiers ruled during the 19th and 20th centuries, there remains a strong fundamental presence of Islam in the lives of people.
The difference in the benign nature of the colonisers notwithstanding, behind this fundamental reconfiguration of Muslim lands stands a one-man institution, that of the maulvi, which is ultimately responsible for the survival of the basic knowledge of Islam during the last three centuries which have been the most devastating for Muslims in their entire history. It is the maulvi who has kept the low flame of Islam flickering in the darkness of the colonial era and even now. He was degraded, devalued, kept in contempt, in a state of perpetual poverty, but nothing severed his ties to the religion he was hoping to keep alive in a polity going the other way; his was a lonely calling. Even in lands where one would not expect this destruction, it is the maulvi who has been instrumental in keeping this flame alive
A few years ago, I was in a small hillside town of Morocco, where the sound of adhan was an enchanting experience. But when I went to the mosque, I found that the maulvi and myself constituted the entire congregation. The maulvi had dutifully called out the adhan, but no one came. Then he called out the iqama and no one came; then he led the prayer and before we departed, he said, this is what he experiences every day, but that does not deter him from his calling.
The maulvis of the Indian subcontinent are far more than mere keepers of faith; they have also kept Islamic scholarship in a few places across the subcontinent alive. While it is true that most mosque-maulvi have little knowledge of religion, they are at least able to lead congregational prayers and perform the rites of birth, marriage, and death in a polity where most educated people have no idea what to do in these situations. Imagine the state of a society from where even these fundamental rites of one's passage through life have disappeared! Can our educated men and women, who even call adhan in the ears of their newly born babies, show some more dignity and self-respect by respecting the maulvi of their masjid?
The writer is a freelance columnist.
I. THE NEWS
OUR ONE-SIDED VIEW ON DRONES
In a unanimous resolution on May 14, the joint session of parliament called for an immediate halt to US drone attacks, failing which Pakistan would be "constrained" to consider necessary countermeasures, including withdrawal of transit facilities allowed to the US-NATO forces. Since then there have been at least eight drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, but there is no reaction worth the name, let alone the countermeasures recommended in the resolution.
Is Pakistan in a position to face the consequences in case the countermeasures are taken? The answer is a big no. So why are we trying to deceive the people of Pakistan? Why can't the government apprise them about the effectiveness of the drones, and the number and names of those terrorists killed in the strikes who have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Pakistanis?
There have been about 249 drone strikes in different parts of FATA since 2004. Except for three attacks, most of the strikes have targeted and killed terrorists and their facilitators. The strikes have played a major role in the elimination of some of those who were directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of more than 35,000 innocent Muslim Pakistanis and armed forces personnel. The drones have killed many prominent commanders of Al-Qaeda, which is operating in Pakistan since 2002.
There are a number of them, but the more important names include Khalid Habib, a Moroccan and commander operating in the Mahsud area of South Waziristan, Abu al-Laith al-Libi, commander of North Waziristan, Tahir Yaldashev, commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) who was responsible for the killings of prominent tribal maliks, Baitullah Mahsud, who was reported to have been involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Abu Suleiman Aljazairi and Abu Kash.
Ilyas Kashmiri, the news about whose death is not yet confirmed, is alleged to have been the mastermind behind many attacks on the armed forces and on defence installations, including Mehran Base. The huge army land and air efforts resulting in hundreds of casualties may not have achieved what the precision strikes by drones have accomplished.
No one has the accurate estimates of the casualties caused by the drones. As a practice, the Taliban always surround and cut off access to the site of drone attacks to prevent people from knowing as to how many and who perished in the strike. The mere fact that the Taliban are the one cordoning off the area indicates that the casualties are actually those of terrorists and their facilitators.
These terrorist groups have a very effective media propaganda system. In case there had been a large number of civilian casualties, their names, photographs and other details would have been displayed on various jihadi sites. The three strikes based on inaccurate and faulty intelligence resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians were, shown to the media: Damadola 2006, South Waziristan 2008, and North Waziristan 2011.
According to the New American Foundation, the total drone number of casualties resulting from drone strikes ranges between 1,520 and 2,408. Out of these, between 1,227 and 1,937 were confirmed terrorists from Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the Haqqani group, the Taliban and other outfits. So, according to the data of the New American Foundation, the maximum number of civilian casualties caused by drones has been 471 in seven years. However, out of these civilians most would have been facilitators, providing boarding, lodging, transport and other facilities to the terrorists, and therefore cannot be described as innocent civilians.
According to the Long War Journal, the total casualties are 1,954, out of which 138 are civilians. The Brooklyn Institute estimates that ten civilians are killed for every single terrorist eliminated. Their data is based on various news reports.
The figures released by the army commander about strikes in North Waziristan for the 2007-2011 period should be more authentic, as he is present on the ground and therefore has more reliable means of information than that gathered by the Americans. According to his statement, 964 militants died in 164 drone attacks in four years, in North Waziristan. Out of these, 793 were locals and 171 foreigners, including Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens, Filipinos and Moroccans.
Parliament, certain political parties and the media are raising the issue of the country's sovereignty being violated by the drones. It is a fact that the US drones are violating our sovereignty, but what about the people's sovereignty? The people of Pakistan were deprived of their choice to elect their representatives for decades. Their sovereignty is as important as that of the state. In 1980, Zia opened our borders to Muslim jihadis, from all over the world, to participate in the so-called jihad. None of them required any visa or travel documents.
That was a severe blow to our sovereignty against which the print media never raised its voice. A reasonably liberal country was converted into a battlefield. Even now, there are more than one thousand foreign militants using our soil for terrorist's activities. These terrorists, besides violating our sovereignty, are involved in the killing of thousand of innocent Pakistanis.
The drone is an unmanned machine, with no US pilot violating our border. But the terrorists are roaming our cities, towns and villages, killing Pakistanis and destroying our defence installations. We must raise our voice against these foreign terrorists since we organise dharnas against drones.
The political parties, as institutions, are required to educate their supporters. They should not formulate policies keeping in view the opinion of their voters, which may be flawed and based on misinformation, emotional and irrational rhetoric. The PPP, instead of supporting Salmaan Taseer's bold and just stance, went on the defensive once he was assassinated. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto would certainly have reacted in a different way to the death of a great PPP leader, who lost his life promoting the cause of the party.
The rightist parties have an agenda. They have to appease their conservative voters. Nevertheless, the so-called liberal parties, the PPP, the ANP, the MQM and the nationalist parties should apprise their followers about the effects of the drone attacks. The coalition government should release data on these strikes. It should take the people into confidence and make it clear that the drones are operating in our areas with our consent. The number of civilian casualties is much less compared to those resulting from bombing by the air force and artillery and mortar fires.
The violation of our sovereignty by foreign militants is more dangerous than the action of the drones. The strikes by drones are indirectly supporting our operations against those terrorists who are killing innocent Pakistanis and attacking defence installations.
The writer is a retired brigadier who has served as head of the MI and the ISI for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Fata and the Northern areas.
I. THE NEWS
BEYOND SELECTIVE JUSTICE
The recent arrest of Ratko Mladic and his transfer to The Hague have brought the international mechanism to dispense justice into sharp focus once again. Mladic's arrest has been hailed by the international community and declared a milestone in the path to ensure international criminal justice as after Mladic, only one major Serbian war criminal remains at large. But it is worth noting that selective international prosecutions cast the legitimacy of the system into doubt as justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done.
Throughout human history, war has brought about suffering and misery to humanity. In ancient and medieval ages, warfare was especially cruel and excessive. For centuries, over and over again, war has been extended to the civilian population leading to the ill-treatment and killing of women, children, and the elderly. Notwithstanding the existence of rules and laws regulating the conduct of warfare, war crimes were committed with impunity for the most part, till the twentieth century.
Over the last century, the world has witnessed the establishment of an international mechanism to bring the violators of the laws of war to justice. At the end of the Second World War, international military tribunals were established at Nuremberg and Tokyo for the purpose of trying German and Japanese officers charged with war crimes.
Twenty-two Nazi leaders were prosecuted of which three were acquitted, 12 were sentenced to death by hanging, and seven were sentenced to imprisonment of varying terms. Among the 28 Japanese defendants charged with war crimes and crimes against peace, two died during the course of the trial, seven were sentenced to death, and the rest were sentenced to life imprisonment. In the post-WWII trials, the reflection of victor's justice is glaringly evident. The war leaders of the Allied countries in the Second World War who had committed atrocities against civilians went scot-free. However, those responsible for dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the axis powers were close to surrender, were never held accountable.
In the decade of the 1990s, two more ad-hoc international tribunals were established to deal with war crimes committed in the territories of former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The judgements of both these tribunals have significantly contributed to the development of jurisprudence of international criminal law. The establishment of these tribunals also gave an impetus to the founding of the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that the perpetrators of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity may not escape justice. Unfortunately, even today, the establishment of 'universal justice' remains a remote possibility in the face of realpolitik.
Israeli forces have been guilty of war crimes on many occasions but there is no concern expressed by the international community for the impoverished Arab victims. According to an Amnesty International report (published in 2006), in 1982 the Israeli air force conducted more than 7,000 aerial attacks in Lebanon, supplemented by 2,500 naval bombardments, and an unknown number of artillery barrages. An estimated 1,183 people were killed, about one-third of whom were children, 4,054 were injured and 970,000 people, or 25 percent of the total population, were displaced. The massacre of around 2000 Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps was aided by the Israeli defence forces. Ariel Sharon was held personally responsible for this wholesale massacre by independent investigative commissions but Israel was not pressed by the United Nations to prosecute him for breaching the laws of war. Likewise, in 1998, Israel refused to extradite Solomon Morel who was responsible for the killing of 1,500 German prisoners of war in Poland at the end of WWII.
The United Nations Security Council took notice of the genocidal crimes taking place in Darfur and referred the case of Sudanese President Omar Al-Basher to the International Criminal Court. But the United Nations has blinded its eyes to the humanitarian disaster in Gaza wrought by the Israeli blockade and other atrocities committed there. The original Goldstone Report also held Israel responsible for war crimes in Gaza.
The 2003 US invasion in Iraq is another case in point. Hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed by US soldiers and WikiLeaks videos show the intentional killing of journalists by US troops. In 2008, an enquiry by the US Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that torture and abuse of prisoners in US custody in Iraq was the direct result of policies authorised by senior officials within the Bush administration and not merely isolated events. Will the former US president George W Bush, then vice-president Dick Cheney and secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld ever face trial for war crimes in Iraq before an international criminal tribunal?
The effectiveness of accountability mechanisms hinges on across the board application, without discrimination. The international criminal justice system cannot attain legitimacy if it becomes a tool in the hands of powerful, hegemonic states to arm-twist weak nations, allowing the former and their allies to unleash cruelty with impunity. It follows that ultimate responsibility for forging a coherent universal framework of justice at the international level rests with the influential states that wield clout in international politics.
The writer is a Rhodes Scholar who teaches International Law at the University of Punjab. Email: email@example.com
I. THE NEWS
BETWEEN REFORM AND ANARCHY
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.
Some recent events have methodically sucked hope out of even the optimists within Pakistan. The complaint that our state is predatory, brutish and unjust is not new. But there are manifestations that our transformation into a predatory society might be in the offing. Once a predatory society inhabits a predatory state, the vicious cycle is complete. The values that might seem dishonourable and vile to a civilised people become the norm. Those fighting against them are in a minority and the logic of democracy doesn't work anymore.
How does one instil reform in a society that has made peace with depravity, corruption and violence? Can the rule of a degenerate majority produce any good? Can a society caught in such downward spiral produce leaders who are untainted, who would have the courage to speak the truth to power and the ability to change the majority mindset?
Salmaan Taseer's death was a tragedy. But the outrage was the timidity of our political and thought leaders in failing to condemn such a heinous crime unequivocally, together with the confused reaction of large segments of the society wondering whether the killing was a righteous act to be celebrated or a despicable crime to be condemned. The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti should have left this nation hot with shame. But most of us were unperturbed and saw his death as a fait accompli. When the US discovered that we were hiding the world's most wanted terrorist in our bosom, we got mad at them for trespass. Our homebred terrorists continue to attack our citizens and security facilities alike at will and we are counselled to shun accountability in the name of patriotism and national interest.
Shahzad Saleem's body turns up with tell-tale signs of torture and many of us proclaim it a conspiracy to make the ISI look bad. We cry ourselves hoarse over human-rights abuses in Kashmir but can't seem to fathom that we have created our own Kashmir in Balochistan. We are told there was a time when even misuse of the fringe benefits that come along with public office was deemed a vice and those living beyond their means were severely censured by society. Today a public officer who accepts bribes but doesn't engage in extortion is a decent man.
What is shocking is not just that the motives and actions of many in public service are base, but that the individuals concerned are unabashed about it. There might have been a time when getting caught while in the wrong caused embarrassment. Today the whistleblower is the object of wrath. Has our society fallen into a state of ethical disrepair? Have we lost our ability to tell right from wrong?
Our nation and state is hanging in the balance. One option is denial and delusion, but that will perpetuate a culture of intolerance, ignorance, bigotry and violence in a brutal state that will continue to breed a predatory society. The other is introspection and no-holds-barred self-critique focused on instilling course correction with the aim to reconstruct a responsible, law-abiding and ethical state capable of rehabilitating a traumatised society by investing in the character and skill-set of citizens. We can tip either way. There are options before us, but the consequences that will flow from following one path or another will be stark. This is no longer a philosophical debate. It is an existential one.
If we continue to totter down the path of denial there will be nothing left to save. But if we elect to engage in self-appraisal and reform we will need to start by telling and hearing the bitter truth. As a society we have lost our ability to speak our minds. We have no tolerance for dissent or disagreement, and consequently every difference of opinion is viewed as personal affront. This cultural malaise has replaced candour with sycophancy as the prevailing norm.
And it afflicts all institutions and segments of the state and the society. Whether it is a project being discussed within a government department, a policy being debated within a political party or parliament, or a case being adjudicated in the Supreme Court, everyone seems to want to become the voice of the most powerful person in the room. We need to transform the right to free speech and dissent into a meaningful legal and social right.
When we have made conformity and expediency the hallmarks of success in practical life, wherefrom do we expect character to emerge? If impressionable Pakistani youth can't acquire character by emulating examples, can values, ethics and character not be instilled by instruction?
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had declared that 2011 would be "the year of education." A high-profile taskforce set up by the prime minister recently published a report entitled "march for change" and presented shocking statistics about the dismal state of our literacy, education and resource allocation to the future of Pakistan. There were op-eds written every week throughout March highlighting the imperative of education being made a priority. And then the government unveils the budget for 2010-11 and it turns out that education still gets a pittance.
The priorities of our decision-makers are inexplicable. Even the smallest organisation with a limited lifecycle puts in place a human-resource plan. Here we have the future of a country of 180 million at stake and we don't wish to invest a penny in developing their faculties to distinguish right from wrong, earn themselves a decent living, develop a civic sense of responsibility and acquire the skill-set to administer the country and compete with the rest of the world? How hard is it to grasp the fact that providing education is not simply about the state's responsibility to uphold an individual's fundamental right but a mandatory human resource requirement to prevent Pakistan becoming a menagerie? Pakistan's median age is 21.6. There are more than 25 million children who should be in schools but are not.
Imagine what a jungle we'll turn this place into within a decade-and-a-half when these 25 million enter adulthood without any education, comprehension skills or ability to earn a living. Through the 18th Amendment, parliament has written down in the Constitution that not only does each Pakistani between the age of five and 16 have a right to free education but also that it is mandatory for the state to ensure that he gets one. A year later there is no law providing for such mandatory education. And now the money being allocated for education by the centre and the provinces is proof in itself that the constitutionally mandated fundamental right of Pakistani children to free education will continue to be thwarted.
Why is this not the burning issue for all those across the political divide who wish for the 18th Amendment to be implemented in letter and spirit? Is the meagre educational allocation an IMF and US conspiracy to push our upcoming generation, and consequently our future, into darkness? Do our political parties and our legislators not understand that what we have in place is an educational apartheid, and what it is breeding is intolerance, bigotry, desperation and violence, along with an intellectual drought that will sound the death-knell for Pakistan's future? Is Atiqa Odho's possession of two wine bottles a more consequential matter of public importance deserving a suo moto notice than 25 million children of school-going age being left in a lurch?
There is anarchy on the one hand and painful self-reform on the other. The choice is ours, and time is of the essence.
I. THE NEWS
MEMO FROM USA
Killing of hapless citizens by security-intelligence splinter groups within our military is serious. Unless our establishment acts swiftly, defending our case abroad is hard. The daily rat-tat-tat in the foreign press against the 'military-jihadi complex' is already a killer for Pakistan's image.
Perhaps definable retaliation is now a task beyond the pinheads in the civil and military PR outlets. Most 'independent' columnists writing in the English press don't know what to say; who to defend. The lone voice fighting Pakistan's case is the British author Anatol Lieven. He told his New Delhi audience this week that Pakistan was NOT a failed state, as many Indians would have the world believe, nor must US stop giving it aid.
No thank you, says General Kayani. His army does not want US money. Has the stinging criticism from the West finally gotten to him? Take this infernal Pakistan-basher, for example. Does he bash us because he's an 'Indian lover' or is best friends with blasphemer Salman Rushdie or he's dying? God knows. But then he does not believe in God either! It was over ten years ago when I first heard his mean remarks against Pakistan on a television channel in the US. Having just returned from a visit to Peshawar and other places, the chap had nothing positive to say about his visit. He made fun of the people, places, food – just about everything. It was galling to hear him.
I took an instant dislike to Christopher Hitchens, the British born author now an American citizen. Cancer may be killing him, he may have lost his power of speech but his pen's rancour against Pakistan is alive. Here goes his tirade against Zardari who according to Hitchens is "a man so lacking in pride – indeed lacking in manliness – will seek desperately to compensate in other ways. Swelling his puny chest even more, he (Zardari) promises to resist the mighty United States, and to defend Pakistan's holy "sovereignty". This puffery and posing might perhaps possess a rag of credibility if he and his fellow middlemen were not avidly ingesting $3 billion worth of American subsidies every year." Speak up (and defend your boss) or hold your voice forever, Mr Farhatullah Babar, Sir.
His next target is our military. According to the writer, our army routinely "violates" the sovereignty of three states: USA, India and Afghanistan! We send in terrorists he accuses. Oh really? Hitchens ends his dirt-pile of a column by denouncing Gen Kayani: "That we (USA) should still be submitting ourselves to lectures and admonitions from General Kayani is beyond shameful."
Personally, it's Hitchens' shameful duplicity: not once does he care to tell his readers about the death toll Pakistan suffers at the hands of terrorists each day.
The Wall Street Journal is another anti-Pakistan spewing organ. It never lets a juicy story on Pakistan go waste, especially if written by an Indian. "Cut Pakistan loose" by Nitin Pai in WSJ advocates a total end of US aid to our country. He says that the "military-jihadi complex" eats up the money because the "Pakistani state is little more than a shell entity".
While presiding over a "business empire with interests ranging from nuclear technology to breakfast cereal...using terrorism as an instrument of policy (the army) is secure in the knowledge that its nuclear arsenal shields it from punishment." Shush you fellas! Take your loathing elsewhere. Kayani has spoken.
The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: anjumniaz@ rocketmail.com
GEN KAYANI RAISES SOME CRUCIAL ISSUES
CORPS Commanders' Conference, the highest military platform to discuss security and strategic issues and formulate policies, is generally devoted to professional matters, internal security environment, regional situation and what should be the response. But Thursday's meeting was different one as it was taking place in the backdrop of a number of developments of far reaching importance and consequences and it was expected that the conference would not only deliberate on these issues but speak out its mind to send right signals to right quarters as well as people of Pakistan and it surely came up to expectations.
During the marathon session, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in his usual free, frank and straightforward manner, raised a number of crucial issues for threadbare discussion and resultantly a clear cut picture has emerged on these points. Pakistani nation is passing through a very delicate and difficult phase of its existence and that is why clarity of vision and thinking has assumed greater significance to steer the country out of multitude of challenges. Each and every word of the hand out issued after the meeting reflects agony and woeful state of the mind of the military planners and policy-makers who feel hard pressed because of some dangerous dimensions of the situation. The CAOS was perfectly right when he regretted moves by certain quarters to slander army and that too at a time when some foreign powers were dreaming to cut the armed forces of Pakistan to size through different tactics. Armed forces never frustrated people of Pakistan and always excelled in their duty to defend the motherland and it is because of their formidable strength that the enemy has not so far been able to translate its designs against the country into reality. The situation demanded greater cohesion and complete backing of the armed forces by the entire nation but unfortunately some elements in some political parties, media, commentators, legal community and foreign-funded NGOs have launched an incessant campaign to malign the army and bring it into disrepute. The frequency of anti-army statements, write-ups, demonstrations and seminars has increased to an astonishing level these days, which speaks volumes about intentions and designs of those behind the curtain. The commanders have a point in complaining that there was no justification for malicious tendencies when the leadership of the armed forces gave comprehensive briefing to the parliament and a Commission has already been announced to probe into different aspects of Abbottabad operation. Similarly, they have also punctured the balloon by releasing details of the actual American assistance during last decade, pointing out that out of $8.6 billion received by the government of Pakistan only $1.4 billion were made available to the army and relatively smaller amounts to PAF and Navy while the rest of $6 billion have been utilized by the Government for budgetary support. The Commanders went a step further and offered to the Government to convert the military assistance being received from the United States into economic assistance for the sake of providing relief to the people of Pakistan. This is reflective of the desire of the military leadership to ensure availability of greater resources for economic development, which is the real strength of the country. Again, some circles have been floating conspiracy theories and perhaps it was in this backdrop that the conference reaffirmed its resolve to continue supporting the democratic process without any preference to any particular political party. We also welcome a clear cut statement by commanders that military operation in North Waziristan would only be carried out after political consensus, which seems to be unachievable because people of Pakistan are deadly against expanding the scope of war on terror when the army has already much on its plate. We have been pleading in these columns that Pakistan can ill-afford to take a plunge into darkness and chaos at the instance of the United States, which itself is pursuing the course of discussions and dialogue with Afghan Taliban but denying this to Pakistan. Presence of American troops in Pakistan is widely being resented especially following Raymond Davis episode and Abbottabad operation, which has raised the spectre of American action against Pakistan's nuclear programme, and, therefore, the announcement that all American troops have been sent back would help allay some of the apprehensions in the minds of the people. We also hope that all the points addressed in the hand out would be interpreted by different circles in their true perspective and this would be helpful in forging national consensus on them.
REVITALISATION OF CII
IN a belated but appreciable move President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday appointed eight eminent persons as member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). Those selected for the onerous responsibility belonged to different provinces and schools of thought and hopefully they would be able to contribute a lot towards fulfillment of the objectives for which this constitutional body was established originally in August 1962 as Advisory Council on Islamic Ideology under 1962 Constitution and re-designated as Council of Islamic Ideology under 1973 constitution.
Under the Constitution, Pakistan is an Islamic State and it is responsibility of the state to take measures to facilitate citizens to order their individual and collective lives as per Islamic injunctions. Islamic norms, values, culture, traditions and identity are sources of strength for the country and therefore, it is imperative to preserve and promote this strength. The mandate of the CII was to make recommendations to the Parliament and provincial assemblies whether a particular law was in consonance with the injunctions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. The Council has rendered immense contribution for the purpose by carrying out scholarly research on most pertinent issues and questions including Islam and Extremism, Future Agenda for Change, Religious Sects in Pakistan, Domestic Violence, Non-Muslim Citizens, Land Reforms, Jail Reforms and Hudood Report besides comprehensive annual reports and issues dealt with in Ijtehad magazine. But it is regrettable that its reports and recommendations about conformity of laws with Islamic injunctions were not given due consideration by the successive Governments and at times even composition of this constitutional body remained incomplete for long as happened during tenure of the present Government as well. In the given circumstances, the Council can play a dominant role in establishing a system of governance based on Islamic principles of social justice, equity, tolerance, freedom and peaceful co-existence. It can also strengthen hands of the Government in ensuring that each and every citizen of Pakistan regardless of his race, colour, sex, language, religion, ethnic or social origin enjoys all basic human rights conferred on him by Islam as well as the Constitution. We would, therefore, recommend revamping and revitalization of the CII through active support of the Government and the law-makers both in terms of provision of necessary funds and encouragement.
STOP DEMORALISING THE NATION
NEWS & VIEWS
Enemies of Pakistan use every ruse and subterfuge to demoralize the nation. International media for quite some time have been trying to raise doubts about the security of Pak nukes. They also questioned the ability of the armed forces to decimate terrorists' strongholds and safeguard the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. After US Special Forces operation in Abbottabad on 2nd May 2011 and later terrorists' attack on Mehran Naval base, there has been onslaught on Pakistan's military. Of course, there should be investigations and inquiries, which reportedly are being held, as the armed forces are keen to understand to take remedial measures. But unfortunately our political class is recklessly politicking on these gravest issues. Even on the formation of commission on the May 2 American adventurism, which should have been a calm and serious affair, has been turned into a blistering controversy. Of course, the government should have formed the commission with the consent of the leader of the opposition. But the government has taken the position that with Chaudhry Nisar's letter recommending the names of proposed commission including the name of Justice ® Fakhruddin G Ibrahim was part of the consultative process, as it had included his name in the commission.
There could be no greater curse on a people to be foisted with a worthless leadership in their hour of dire vicissitudes, as we are presently. The nation is confronted with gigantic challenges, both externally and internally; and its economy is in dire straits. America is tightening screws on it and sending ominous signals of extending its war in Afghanistan to Pakistan. Internally, the nation is facing vicious terrorism involving a multiplicity of terrorist forces including foreign proxies and homegrown militants, sectarian fanatics, ethnic firebrands and criminal thugs. To extricate the nation out of this morass, Pakistan needs visionary leaders with creative ideas. Instead, we have pygmies and dwarfs and devoid of courage and wisdom. Leaders of both the major parties have an image problem for one because of general perception and secondly because of corruption cases filed against each other during their tenures in 1990s. The PML-N top leaders have been talking about politics of principles, yet they promoted lotacracy by seeking support of the unification bloc to stay in power in Punjab. They also have been ranting irrational talk about formation of commission to punish those who were responsible for security lapse.
After 2nd May episode, it was hoped that politicians across the divide would put their heads together, as did the 9/11 episode to America. Unfortunately, that has not happened. It has to be mentioned that no heads rolled after 9/11, but their political and military leadership worked out a strategy that helped save America from any disaster during the last 10 years. Some of our political eminences, analysts, and 'brilliant' panelists have chosen to malign the armed forces. PML-N leaders are asking for accountability of those responsible for the security lapse vis-à-vis attack on Mehran Naval base or inability to unearth Osama bin Laden. They are not coming out with some concrete suggestions to put in place a strategy that could ward off any possibility of such happening in future. On the other hand, our print and electronic media has started onslaught on the military and intelligence agencies of Pakistan. Our media men are on self-infliction course perhaps with a view to proving that they are independent. It is true that the government's procrastination on coming out with the statement after 2nd May episode caused concern to the people, but the fact remains that the government, military and the ISI were taken by surprise.
In the past, whenever the military adventurers had promulgated Martial Laws, it was perfectly justified to criticize and condemn the violation and subversion of the Constitution. However, it should be noted that after promulgation of every Martial Law, there were celebrations because people were fed up with the internecine conflicts of the political parties. Political parties had formed alliances to get rid of the elected government. All those who claim to be champions of democracy have at one time or another supported, aided and abetted Martial Law dictators. Now when the military has confined itself to its role as defined in the Constitution, some politicians and media men have taken recourse to scathing criticism. On TV talk shows, anchorpersons and panelists relish Pakistan-bashing, military-bashing and agencies-bashing not realizing that something sinister is being played around Pakistan. Cyril Almeida, columnist of renowned English daily in Pakistan wrote in his column: "If we didn't know bin Laden was in Abbottabad, we are a failed state; if we did know, we are a rogue state". These are almost the same words of chief of the CIA Leon Panetta.
No democrat or anybody in his right sense would support a military dictator. If in the past the politicians, judiciary and people in general supported the dictator, there must be some reason. However, armed Forces of the country besides performing basic task of defending the motherland have always played a significant role in various other nation-building projects and specially disaster management in the wake of earthquakes and floods. Under the Constitution and law, the services of the Armed Forces can be acquired to act in aid of the civil power and for maintaining law and order situation. And in the exercise of such powers, the Armed Forces in the times of natural calamities played commendable role in the rescue and relief operations, which was always admired, whether it was the devastating earthquake in Kashmir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa and Islamabad in the year 2005 or the recent flood catastrophe. Since the civil administration is not geared to fight such calamities, such magnitude of rescue and relief operations could only be undertaken by the organized and discipline forces. If the Armed Forces would have not responded promptly and effectively to these catastrophes, the destruction in term of precious life and property would have been more severe and painful.
In April 2011 while addressing a delegation of officers of Command and Staff College Chief Justice of Pakistan Chaudhry Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said: "Our Armed Forces successfully maintained the writ of the government in different parts of the country, sacrificing precious lives of many Officers and Jawans while fighting terrorism and restoring normalcy and maintaining peace in the country. I am confident that keeping in view the role of the defence forces in the past against external aggression, you would live up to your traditions, whenever you were called upon to defend your country". People should listen to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and not anchorpersons who are immature and inexperienced, media men and those who are playing in the hands of Pakistan's enemies. Perhaps some of them may have sold themselves out to malign the armed forces. Some commentators pass remarks which the US and the West wish to listen and read. It should be borne in mind that this is the first phase of weakening Pakistan and efforts are being made to create wedge between the armed forces and the people. And in case they succeed in their nefarious designs, we all stand to suffer. The nation should not listen to them and keep their morale high.
—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.
SOVEREIGNTY: A TIME FOR DELIBERATION
ABDUL WAHAB KAHLOON
My fellow beloved Pakistanis! Pakistan is no stranger at the global front. The tremors of terrorism have displaced Pakistan's sovereignty, the perplexities of global politics have left the country estranged from international law, the wreaking stench of death and destruction has brought tears to the eyes of its' children, yet the silence of international community is deafening. State Sovereignty has become a forerunner in illustrations of contemporary policy making and unfortunately, humanity, as we know it today, stands deluded from the decisive meanings of this word. The economic turmoil and political aggrandizement over the last two decades have left 'state sovereignty' as mere a fragment of the Westphalian dream of self-determination and independence. The post 9/11 era has revealed a new dimension in International politics as superpowers armed themselves with increasingly confrontational and counterproductive foreign policies. In a world where the absolute power of nations is unjustly scaled by the might of warheads rather than ability to produce positive and enduring resolutions, war seems to become increasingly inevitable in many regions across our globe.
When a discussion of Pakistan and state sovereignty is highlighted, valid questions remain unanswered by successive governments. Should we all abide by the statutory declarations on state sovereignty or are there those who can make exemptions on this? And when and when not! Are we allowed to make such exemptions? In the pursuit of self-interest, the temptations of practicing the unthinking traditions of war have strengthened and the blind injustice and immaturity of war has begun to burden Pakistani's conscience. As a Pakistani, my skepticism is prevalent as I see the emergence of a new and dangerous doctrine, selective sovereignty. Arguably, one can suggest that our internal and external problems reflect upon one another. In the race to become true internationalists, many of us have forgone our capacity to rationalize between what is just and what remains taboo. The same way the as hapless woman is stripped of her honor, so the hapless nation will be stripped of its sovereignty. Sovereignty is a political emotion, one that embodies peace, prosperity, humanity weighed upon the golden hand of justice. It is the political emotion that voices freedom and self-determination and unfortunately the sun never sets upon this issue.
In 2009, The News, a Pakistani English Daily, reported staggering figures underscoring the immoral use of counterproductive technologies in Pakistan by the US. Of the sixty cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only ten were able to hit their actual targets, killing fourteen wanted Al Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians'. Pakistan's territorial integrity, supremacy of state and lawmaking authority have all been undermined by the largely ineffective and corrupt politicians and institutions, the US's war on terror that cost us over 5000 security personnel and a judiciary whose high horse aged too quickly. Ruling Parties in all the provinces are guilty of taking foreign US aid, which creates further problems for Pakistan as a result of the corruption culture. US aid and Pakistan have a history that dates all the way back to Baghdad Pact of 1955 until present day. With staggering US aid figures ever since Pakistan was acclaimed the US's 'most allied ally' in1955, it is evident that Pakistan has been utilized as a strategic battle ground for pre and post cold war crises. It is certainly upsetting, because! Pakistan's leaders have often traded its sovereignty for self richness. The recent resolution has voiced the opinion of the public and the actions taken place during the National Assembly Session is evidence that Pakistan could still function as a true republic if it desires to practice its parliamentary resolutions.
There are many lawmakers from around the world who still believe that far more is to be done; as if the price of 5000 Pakistani personnel fell short of their expectations. This year, David Miliband, former foreign secretary of UK addressed an audience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology reiterating that the West needed to be firm with Pakistan on extremism. It is strange because as far as my memory serves me, the bilateral history of both the nations remains absent of a pact that states Pakistan will be receiving dictation from the US. These international lawmakers are in for a rude awakening because they have a nation before them that needs no dictation. Despite all odds, we produced a nation, we have produced one of the finest women politicians, we have produced the most intelligent minds in education, the greatest international leaders, a military might that can rival any when necessary, a judiciary that rivaled the military dictatorship last year. We don't need dictation; we don't need to be a part of any unilateralism that bypasses our safety and security, we don't need to be told that we are not doing enough because this war has affected over 400,000 Pakistanis. In these games, we have taken arms against ourselves; we have killed our children, murdered our brothers and sisters, and contaminated the moral fabric that once held us together so firmly that we graced ourselves with a nation vis-à-vis the British Colonialist prowess. We certainly need no dictation.
The Politicians, Judiciary and successive Democratic governments should jointly indulge in good governance, practice institutional justice. Governments and Political parties alike need to rise above the luxuries of self-Obsession, self-Aggrandizement, Corruption, Extra-judicial killings and must envision justice, unity, discipline and solidarity. We need to educate our masses about the fundamentals of our nation, democracy, freedom, self-determination and more importantly sovereignty. We need to educate the masses beyond our borders in both politics and faith, that we are not the nation that has been so unjustly perceived by the international media and the West. We need to remind our people that nations were built on the perseverance of public, independent of race, cast, creed or religion. Over the last decade Pakistan has modulated into Lebanon of the 1980s, rife with anti-shia sentiments. There is a need for reason and now is a time for change, a time for deliberation. When relationships subside, the subtleties of our religious deliberations and discontent remain starved of two things that my religion Islam asks of us, rationalizing and reflecting.
So let us summon our conscience, bury the hatchets and stand united against international odds. The need to circumvent our differences in order to stand united against international odds becomes ever more necessary with friends and foes alike. Build yourselves, not individually, but as a nation. Insha'Allah, Through the education that we will give our children, a new age of enlightenment will dawn over Pakistan, where choice itself will cease to be a voluntary dimension of Pakistan's political, social and educational infrastructure. My message to the skeptical Pakistani could not be more direct than what the Qur'aan has stated, 'Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). (13:11). By the grace of God, I wish my fellow Pakistanis everlasting happiness and my Pakistan, everlasting justice prosperity and more immediately sovereignty.
—The writer is a freelance writer a Political Science and Economics student at the University of Toronto
BEYOND ABBOTTABAD & MEHRAN BASE ATTACKS!
ASIF HAROON RAJA
The US in pursuit of its strategic and economic objectives in this part of the world arm twisted Gen Musharraf in September 2001 soon after 9/11 and made him do its bidding. Pakistan forces were pushed into the inferno of war on terror which was not Pakistan 's war. To start with, flames were lit on two extreme flanks resting in Baloch inhabited interior Balochistan and Pashtun inhabited FATA. The course of flames was gradually channeled towards settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), then to other cities of KP and subsequently to major cities of Punjab as well as Islamabad .
Flames of terrorism were stoked by CIA and FBI outposts established in 2002 with the concurrence of the ruling regime. Spider network comprising Pashto speaking retired army officers and Jawans, particularly ex SSG was created by CIA and made to operate in FATA. ISI and other intelligence agencies were asked to take up a backseat and intelligence collection, collation and dissemination was taken over entirely by CIA on the plea that it had superior technological means. The CIA then brought in RAW and RAAM agents to boost its strength and collectively gave birth to Pakistani Taliban, who later got organized and formed Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) in December 2007. They were won over by providing them bagfuls of dollars and meeting all their weapons and equipment demands and also promising them that FATA will be made an independent caliphate and submerged with Pashtun belt of Afghanistan. In Balochistan, disgruntled Baloch Sardars of Bugti, Mengal and Marri were cultivated to start insurgency. They were lured by promising them independent Balochistan full of mineral resources and Gwadar Port falling in the path of envisaged energy corridor from Central Asia . About sixty Farari (training) camps were established in interior Balochistan and supply routes both from Afghanistan via Spin Boldak and Shahgarh in India were made operational to meet all their demands. Later on, several terrorist outfits like BLA, BRA and BLF came into being and their leaders were given asylum in Afghanistan and London.While our intelligence agencies got busy in nabbing terrorists from all over the country and the Army got embroiled in fighting tribesmen in FATA and Balochistan, foreign got on with their job of destabilizing Pakistan from within. Besides sabotage and subversion by terrorists, drones were also introduced by CIA to further fuel terrorism. Shamsi airbase was used for the purpose. Sold to the idea of enlightened moderation Musharraf accepted the US advice to expand and liberate the media. Media was then decisively penetrated by foreign powers to be able to promote their coined themes and to change perceptions of the desired audiences in Pakistan . By the time Musharraf left the scene, all institutions of Pakistan including Army, ISI and judiciary stood discredited.
When the US realized that Musharraf had lost his popularity and would not be helpful in changing the perceptions of people from religious conservatism to secularism, and was not in a position to make compromises on joint Pak-US operations in FATA, or opening up nuclear and missile assets and placing them under a joint control mechanism, or reducing Chinese activities in Gwadar Port and Balochistan mineral projects, or shelving Pak-Iran gas pipeline and in curbing anti-Americanism, it decided to bring in Benazir and make a dream team of liberal parties. When Benazir started to act too independent, she was removed from the scene and handpicked puppets were given reins of power. They pursued Musharraf's policies in letter and spirit and went a step ahead in keeping their patrons appeased. The Army, ISI and the judiciary however made recoveries by recapturing lost spaces and soon were able to re-establish their image and credibility. The political leaders deeply engrossed in lot and plunder were slapped and humiliated but were also given blandishments and a free hand to milk the country and reduce it to a carcass. Their incompetence to govern and their corrupt practices were acceptable since they obediently served Washington 's interests. In order to cripple Pakistan 's economy and make it dependent upon US aid, rulers were told to put Pakistan 's neck in the stranglehold of IMF and to keep borrowing and keep spending lavishly.
After the enactment of Af-Pak policy in March 2009, which heralded the beginning of the final phase against Pakistan 's strategic assets and passage of Kerry-Lugar Bill, large number of under cover CIA operatives mostly belonging to US Special Forces made their way into Pakistan in 2010. Their inflow increased in second half of 2010 as a result of removal of all security checks by ISI and Special Police. Raymond Davis who had earlier on been deported due to his shady activities also managed to sneak back. By end 2010 an effective countrywide CIA-Blackwater network duly connected with militant groups and criminal gangs had become operational.
This network provides the local militants intelligence and intimate guidance of marked target areas. Its ramifications came to light after the arrest of Raymond but also led to intensification of CIA-ISI rivalry and nose-diving of Pak-US relations. Till April, the militants targeted mostly soft targets in cities to create harassment and fear among the public and to accentuate problems of security forces and intelligence agencies. Mosques, worship places and markets were targeted to pitch Islamists against Islamists and defame Islam. Helicopter assault on 02 May duly assisted by CIA base in Abbottabad was executed to achieve multiple objectives. The foremost was to restore declining popularity of Obama and US military in the eyes of Americans in particular and world in general. Second; lower the image of Army, air force and ISI that had risen high and to discredit the three institutions in the eyes of the public. Former CIA Director Panetta who had crossed swords with Lt Gen Pasha on several occasions had sworn to teach him a lesson. Third; embarrass Pakistan and to put it in a tight corner, leaving it with little space to defy US dictates.
Having created desired effects through media and Congressmen, US high officials visited Islamabad and further harassed the already hassled leadership by conveying that Pakistan would from now on be judged by its acts and deeds. To give heart to the fainting leaders, the visitors gave a clean chit to them saying that they were not directly involved in hiding OBL but there was a support group inside Pakistan which had protected OBL. This certification was music to the ears of our leaders. Feeling relieved, they readily agreed to let CIA inspect Abbottabad House compound where OBL lived, hand over the tail of the destroyed Blackhawk helicopter, launch an operation in North Waziristan and to conduct joint operations to eliminate terrorists. These concessions were doled out in violation of the spirit of 14 May unanimous resolution of the Parliament.
Mehran Naval Base attack was executed on 22 May to dishearten the Navy, to shatter the confidence of the people in armed forces and to completely demoralize the nation. Among several hypotheses, one of the assumptions was an attack conducted by Ilyas Kashmiri group. If so, he has been reportedly killed on 04 May fearing that he may spill the beans. Apparently 5/2 and 22/2 incidents were also intended to create divisions within forces by suggesting that there were sympathizers and supporters of al-Qaeda and Taliban in each service and intelligence agency and that there was an urgent need to purge such undesirable elements. Since Mehran Base attack is a prelude to a bigger disaster, it is time to shun our differences and collectively stand against the impending threat. It is absolutely necessary to get to the bottom of the two incidents to prevent suchlike recurrences.
—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.
PAKISTAN WILL STAY AND PROSPER
COLUMN FROM DALLAS
We all know Pakistan is in deep quagmire. Yet I believe Pakistan will come out of its daunting challenges with flying colors. Since its inception, Pakistan has witnessed and gone through several conceivable trials and tribulations because of both internal and external factors. Barring the cataclysm of the cessation of East Pakistan in 1971 that truncated Pakistan into two parts, the rest of the problems were of similar import as encountered by nascent nations. Pakistan's strength lies in the patriotism of its people, its untapped natural resources, its hardworking manpower, its fertile and vast land, its strong armed forces, resilience of its people to overcome one crisis after another and undying will to survive against odds.
I cannot side with the skeptics and dooms day despondents who claim Pakistan was moving towards disintegration and collapse. Such people are either enemies of Pakistan or paranoid. Or else they don not have the intention to wish well for Pakistan. The refrain on this setback and that tragedy is the favorite pastime of such individuals who with their trumped up apprehensions sow dejection and despondency to weaken or break the will of the people to live together. Admittedly there are myriad problems such as bad governance or alloyed democracy or delicate law and order, religious militancy, sectarian strife, poor civic facilities, socio-economic irritants and so on. But does that mean that we should disown the very country and start tolling the bells for its demise? These problems are much more ferocious and bounteous in several other countries but no one talks about there about the end game or the disintegration. Look at whole Africa from North to South and Asia minor immersed into a doom' day stranglehold. Is Pakistan not better than the horrendous conditions prevailing in those states? Granted that in Pakistan the law and order is fragile and there are murders, kidnapping, assassinations and vendetta killings, bomb blasts and suicide bombings. But can these incidents be compared with what is happening in the entire Middle East and the civil war raging and ravaging in African countries, like Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda , Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea ,Ethiopia, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Western Sahara. No matter how flawed the system of government in Pakistan is but fundamentally there is a democratic form with three branches of state functioning relatively free, albeit not as immaculate as we can find in West Europe or the United States.
Those countries reached the stage of mature and accountable systems and good governance after great tragedies and crises and a prolonged period of time. The American civil war alone is a grim reminder of the destruction and horrendous manslaughter and instability that took place during those wars. Have we forgotten the ideological tussle between the Catholics and Protestants after the onset of Reformation era entailing the spine chilling barbarities perpetrated by the Catholics against the newly emerging breakaway Protestants? My vision is that Pakistan despite its countless problems including the oft repeated skepticism about its viability and survival will stay and in due course move steadfastly on the way to becoming a modern state with all attending hallmarks. The brighter side of the present day Pakistan is that the women are more empowered, and there is some kind of accountability although the executive has not moved fast to take action against the culprits.
A stage would arrive when civil society would be vibrant enough to press for dire action against the defaulters, outlaws, delinquents, bribe takers and so on. Notwithstanding the personal objectionable character or the villainous volition of the individuals in power in Pakistan, the fact cannot be ignored that it is essentially an elected government. Still it is a democratic dispensation that retains some semblance of accountability and censure as exercised by media and judiciary. Instead of condemning or berating the government for every major and minor fault, let us see it in a broader context. At least it is being run by the people's elected representatives. Let us strive and wish that the incumbent government can move away from its mistakes and follies, corrects its rudder, and drives the country out of dire straits. The "worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship", goes the adage. The grassroots revolution that is much wished seems to be a far cry at the moment because there is no leader that can motivate the people to come out in the streets and create havoc against the privileged classes. The army basically in Pakistan is not for people friendly change as it comes in power to serve the interests of its own cadres.
Starting from Imran Khan, down to a labor leader no one has the charisma and the caliber to spur a revolution that should be ruthless or if peaceful must be thunderous to root out the morbid status quo. The socialist or proletariat revolution would be tenaciously resisted by the rightist groups and the conservative bands. Similarly, the religion based change a la Taliban would be narrow and would be hotly contested by the rival groups professing different faith from the mainstream torch bearers. We cannot see a religious revolution in the contemporary history. But if it takes place, then such a society turns the clock back and remains far behind the developed nations, in social and political terms. Saudi Arabic is one example. Iranian revolution is not essentially a religious change but bears the character of a nation state.
If Taliban remain confined to Afghanistan let that government deal with them. At best we can stop and block the infiltration of the militants into Pakistan for which not the armed forces but our tribal population is enough and effective. It is foregone that once we wind up our partnership in regional wars, the radicals and extremists would call off their anti-Pakistan operations and activities.
—The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.
OUR FRUSTRATED MAN IN AFGHANISTAN
In the 1990s, when people thought that history had come to an end, the Foreign Office became obsessed with "diversity". It wished to widen the pool of recruits – more black faces, more women, fewer old school ties. The apparently paradoxical result was more uniformity of mind. Once you launch a cultural attack upon yourself, you disable independent thinking. Diplomats became embarrassed about their role, and more inclined to watch their backs. The past, of which Britain's foreign policy experience is uniquely deep, was forgotten. Sherard Cowper-Coles never succumbed to any of this. He sees British diplomacy in historical, even romantic terms. Being a classicist, he has studied the Roman imperium; having an old-fashioned English education, he compares that empire to our own and to the American one that succeeded it. He also has an adventurous spirit.
So when the "end of history" itself ended in the ashes of the World Trade Centre, Cowper-Coles's time had come. Britain found itself with an active role in the world crisis. After serving as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he was translated, in 2007, to Afghanistan, where our embassy became our biggest in the East. He was playing the 21st-century version of the Great Game. I stayed with Cowper-Coles while he was in Kabul, and I can testify to his excitement at the drama, his pleasure in the ridiculous and his engagement with the issues. I can also testify, however, to his sense of frustration. One morning, having arranged for us to call on President Karzai, he went first to a separate meeting with him. When we met Cowper-Coles at the presidential palace after it, he was looking dishevelled with rage. Karzai had discovered that one of his warlord enemies was holed up in Kabul and had demanded that American and British forces help go in to capture or kill him. When Cowper-Coles and the US Ambassador refused, the Afghan president had succumbed to paranoid ravings.
This vivid book is chiefly an account of the author's frustration, not only with the mercurial Karzai, but with the entire Afghan situation. Because Afghanistan is a problem shared between many nations and international institutions, Kabul is infested with non-Afghans. And because the security situation is so dangerous, it is natural for those non-Afghans to spend most of their time being driven in bullet-proof vests and helmets to meetings over breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea. The place is stuffed with the multifarious operatives of the "post-conflict stabilisation industry". You could work there for years without having any real idea about what any real Afghans think. Besides, the conditions are so arduous that tours of duty are short and leave (the author is scathing about the effect of "breather-breaks") generous. Before you have time to learn much, you go home.
In these trying circumstances, those involved, particularly the military, try to sustain themselves with an optimism not necessarily supported by the facts. As Cowper-Coles says, the mantra is "We are making progress, but challenges remain". He became more struck by the challenges than by the progress. What renders the diplomatic comings and goings even more absurd is that the only Western power which truly matters is the US. America spends about $125 billion a year on Afghanistan. It loses more men than any of its allies.
So Britain finds itself, in Cowper-Coles's phrase, "lashed to the American chariot". It was far more important for our ambassador to cultivate the American one than to deal with Karzai. Eventually, Cowper-Coles became the British special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The real purpose of the post was to try to keep up with the US equivalent, Richard Holbrooke. Some of the author's best comic passages describe his efforts to engage Holbrooke's attention when the great man is thinking of his dentist, his BlackBerry or his dinner.
Cowper-Coles admires Holbrooke (who died last year) and dedicates the book to his memory. But one of his themes is that "Americans are just too democratic, and too nice, to be very good at ruling other people".The Cowper-Coles thesis is that allied attempts to achieve an "Afghan lead" have not worked. He gives a striking example. One day, the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, asked a couple of Afghan ministers how long Afghan government authorities would stay on in Helmand after Western forces left. The expected answer was "decades" or even "forever". The actual answer was "Twenty-four hours".
The author advocates a "political solution", a politer way of saying a deal with the Taliban. Although he does not state this directly, my memory is that he pushed hard for the new Obama administration to reconsider America's unconditional support for the unreliable Karzai, as part of this solution. Instead, along came General Petraeus's surge – a bad example, in Cowper-Coles's view, of the military dominating the political. In the end, Cowper-Coles's frankness and impatience worked against him. Less adventurous colleagues secured the top jobs he wanted. He left the service earlier this year, a disappointed man. He will probably have the satisfaction, however, of seeing the policy he advocated put into practice. With bin Laden dead and US and British elections needing to be won, "moderate" Taliban will no doubt be unearthed soon and bound in to some deal. There are several morals drawn by the author from his story, all of them interesting; but the reader may add another one. If your son or daughter is a person of talent, courage and originality, don't let them go into the Foreign Office. — Courtesy: The Telegraph
LABOR NEEDS A SENSE OF PURPOSE
JOHN Faulkner gave the Australian Labor Party food for thought in his Neville Wran Lecture at the NSW parliament on Thursday.
His pleas for the party to listen to its rank and file and repudiate powerbrokers who put themselves ahead of party interests were valid. A son of the Left, Senator Faulkner, who with Bob Carr and Steve Bracks reviewed the party after last year's federal election, is concerned that the party has lost a " generation of activists" who have joined "organisations that provide the engagement they seek" such as Get Up.
The speech attracted wide coverage but must have astonished followers of soft-left media, which has been so weak in scrutinising federal Labor. The problems raised by the party's elder statesman are the very issues this newspaper has reported consistently. Such responsible journalism, however, has drawn false and outrageous accusations about "hate media".
Senator Faulkner fears that Labor is at risk of "losing a generation of voters." It is. The party should address his arguments, but should be even more concerned about heeding the advice of the man in whose honour his lecture was delivered. Former NSW premier Neville Wran, who was Labor's most successful state leader and whose first cabinet included a bricklayer, a car salesman, a rail worker, a pharmacist and a fitter and turner, put his finger on the nub of the party's malaise in an interview with The Australian last week. Labor's problem, as he said, was that it no longer represented its traditional base but had become dominated by a political class who moved from university to a trade union, ministerial or MP's office and into parliament. Such a limited career path leaves politicians and their staff aloof from the lives of those they represent.
First-term governments make mistakes, but the limited experience of many in the Rudd and Gillard governments contributed to bad decisions. A more worldly team with trades or business experience would have avoided the pitfalls of the pink batts fiasco or worked more effectively with Indonesia to resolve problems of animal cruelty after a short suspension of live cattle exports. Ministers with more common sense would not have announced so early that a deal was in the offing with Malaysia over asylum-seekers or floated a half-baked East Timor solution.
Mr Wran was right when he said Labor needs a "sense of purpose". John Howard often defended his government by arguing from first principles based on his philosophy about the importance of choice. In contrast, Julia Gillard's responses in interviews tend to be more repetitive and limited, as though shaped by what staffers deem should be the small message of the day to feed the news cycle. Inexperienced staffers have allowed social media to change the nature of government, leading to hasty, bad decisions.
As Labor has disconnected from aspirational, working families, Tony Abbott has garnisheed their support from Wollongong to Cairns. So remote have Labor careerists become that they gloated when Mr Abbott first became Opposition Leader, failing to see that he shares the values and interests of Labor's traditional base. This was one reason NSW Labor stalwart Johno Johnson tried so hard to recruit him 20 years ago. From opposite ends of the ALP, Senator Faulkner and Mr Wran know the party must be more than an association of political professionals focused on the machinery of elections but detached from its supporters.
RUDD TAKES THE LEAD ON LIBYA
RESCUING Libya's people from the ravages of the Gaddafi regime is one of the great moral challenges of our times, and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's success in placing Australia in the forefront of countries doing something tangible about it deserves bipartisan support.
On its own, Mr Rudd's announcement that Australia is joining a handful of nations according formal recognition to the Libyan National Council representing anti-Gaddafi rebels won't secure the dictator's demise. But such a worthwhile endeavour demonstrates that though we may be a middle-ranking power, we can be counted on to play a leadership role while bigger countries shy away.
At the meeting of the Libyan Contact Group where Mr Rudd made the announcement, he disclosed that Australia was the third- or fourth-largest contributor to Libya's humanitarian needs, behind only the US, EU and possibly Britain, and that a delegation of officials would go to Benghazi to assess further requirements. Such commendable moves underline Australia's role as a good global citizen and owe much to Mr Rudd's energy and foresight. By leading as forcefully as he has in the international debate over Libya, Mr Rudd has shown that Australia can play an influential role. For that he deserves praise.
BAILLIEU MUST TAKE OWN ADVICE ON POLICE INQUIRY
ON this day, precisely a year ago, the Victorian opposition leader, Ted Baillieu, stood on the steps of parliament and said: "There are a suite of issues, a suite of allegations, which need attention."
"We cannot wait 18 months to have the answers on this, for the establishment of a broad-based anti-corruption commission. These should be investigated now, these are critical issues, they go to corruption issues, they go to murder trials, they go to the issues of corrupt police, there has not been a full judicial investigation of all of these issues -- there should be." Now Mr Baillieu is Premier and the urgency is manifestly greater. He should take his own advice, not wait for his delayed Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission, and establish a royal commission.
The essence of the problem is as stark as it is confronting -- Victorians cannot currently have confidence that their police are focused on the primary aim of maintaining law and order. Mounting concerns about the Chief Commissioner, Simon Overland, have reached a heightened level with revelations he triggered an Office of Police Integrity investigation, including phone taps, into his deputy, Ken Jones. Mr Overland has been close to both the former Labor government and the OPI. Information on the public record raises concerns that rather than keeping cops honest, the powers and resources of the OPI have, by accident or design, branched into matters of political, personal and professional preferment. This is the proposition that must be tested. Despite separate inquires by the Ombudsman and Jack Rush QC, only a full royal commission with adequate terms of reference can get to the bottom of the matter and ensure that Mr Overland, rank-and-file officers and the public, can be confident in the processes and personnel at the highest levels of the state's law enforcement. It was Mr Overland's inadvertent leaking of information from a phone tap four years ago that triggered the public side of this policing crisis. A murder investigation was ruined and Mr Overland's rivals in police ranks and the Police Association suffered setbacks, just as the career of his deputy, Sir Ken, seems to be in limbo now.
The Melbourne media must share some of the blame for this controversy dragging on without resolution. The commissioner has been a favourite of some elements of the media and has boasted of his media management skills. In a statement to the OPI when he was deputy commissioner in 2007, Mr Overland said: "We have tried to cultivate relationships with some of the key journalists. (The Age's Nick) McKenzie is one of them. The strategy has worked to a degree. We then had some influence."
This situation has gone on long enough. Media manipulation and ongoing public doubts are not what is needed in law enforcement. Mr Baillieu needs the courage to consider the grave issue of standing aside his commissioner and launching the inquiry he said was sorely missing a year ago: ". . . and there have been as a result of that, a collapse of murder trials, the OPI-related trials have collapsed, reputations have been tarnished, nothing's come of it, and there are still outstanding allegations, and those haven't been investigated, and they should be."
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
THE TROUBLE WITH POLITICS THESE DAYS
SENATOR John Faulkner has re-entered the debate about the future of the Labor Party with his Neville Wran lecture on Thursday night. Faulkner's points are not especially new, but his speech is an eloquent, thoughtful and heartfelt restatement of a familiar case from an experienced politician.
To outline it briefly: Labor has been hollowed out from within by a kind of political managerialism which encourages careerist politicians who see winning power through the manipulation of public opinion as their, and their party's, chief goal. Far less thought is given to what they might do once they win office. Indeed, strong beliefs are discouraged, because they may make it harder to implement policies based on the findings of focus groups and polling. Moreover, the process of reshaping the party this way, though successful for a time, has stifled internal debate. Achieved in the name of unity, this silencing of dissent has deterred active and politically involved people from joining and contributing to Labor's continuing development. It is not seen as the broad-based party of government-sponsored reform it once was, but as a career platform for hacks. With Labor's political fortunes now on the decline, this lack of renewal and energy is potentially fatal. And the strength which this discipline supposedly brings is illusory: after a bad poll or focus group, the party can abandon supposedly firmly held beliefs overnight - as policy reversals on climate change and asylum seekers show. To the electorate Labor looks united, but mute and fundamentally weak.
Faulkner's diagnosis of Labor's disease is acute - but his prescription for a cure may fall victim to the same factors which produced the party's present condition.
On the other side of politics, Peter Reith has presented the Liberal Party with his review of its performance in last year's federal election, and recommendations for reform. The detailed contents are unclear because the document has not been published but, as we have reported, it is understood to contain a recommendation for US-style primary elections to preselect Liberal candidates. The suggestion mirrors one which Faulkner, along with Bob Carr and Steve Bracks, made to Labor, and it suggests that the senior Coalition party shares with Labor concerns about declining grassroots involvement in party processes. Like Labor, the Liberals fear becoming a skeleton political operation - perhaps seeing membership swell a little before elections, but otherwise operating through a centrally controlled structure in which branches and branch members play a minor role.
The similarities in the predicament of both sides of politics suggest that something more is at work than the decline of single parties. The nature of politics is changing. The former Labor minister Lindsay Tanner has described the relentless trivialisation of politics under the pressure of unsparing media attention, to the point where it has become like a Hollywood blockbuster, ''all special effects and no plot''. Both parties have reacted in more or less the same way - concentrating on managing the 24-hour news cycle, staying on message and deploying the rest of the public relations profession's techniques for deadening opposition. Meanwhile, out in the electorate, debate and activism are migrating from political branch meetings in draughty scout halls on a regular weeknight to the more convenient, more public, but also more diffuse forum of the internet. Individuals connect online, but the nature of the relationship they form is different. The engagement can become at once deeper - because distance is annihilated and large groups with special interests can form easily - but also more superficial, because internet interactions lack the personal touch. In this new, slick but insubstantial environment it is not surprising that government now is less about difficult reform, more about manipulating perceptions and giving the electorate what it says it wants.
A third factor contributing to the decline of the old-style political party is an antipathy to politics itself. Even politicians have started to see themselves in some situations as the problem, not the solution. The removal of substantial powers from their control is evidence.
Where once parliaments debated the merits of capitalism and socialism in debates on economic measures, elected representatives on both sides now reinforce the need for control of the economy to be given to independent, unelected experts in the Reserve Bank. Similar arguments have been arrayed in support of an independent body to rule on environmental, specifically climate change issues. There is much to be said in support of both changes. But the trend also raises the question: if politicians are leaving the biggest, hardest questions to experts as the only ones competent to answer them, is there any surprise that voters are giving up on politicians and their political parties?
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
PLEASE ASSUME THE WOMBAT CRASH POSITION
A CERTAIN Scandinavian car maker has discovered Australia's unique fauna, and is not impressed. The shape of kangaroos and emus, the maker says, foils their new radar-based safety system. They are promising to send a team of experts out to adjust the head-to-body ratio which the radar expects, so it will know what sort of problem it is dealing with.
That is all very fine, but we can't help thinking this is rather too sophisticated an approach. The unique things about Australian fauna are speed and cunning. In other countries, the large animals a motorist is likely to strike suddenly in the middle of the road tend to stand still. On other continents it may be helpful for the car to know what it is about to collide with - and it may indeed be able to adjust the braking and fine-tune the engine revs to the most suitable pitch for hitting, say, a moose rather than an elephant.
In Australia, though, things are more rough and ready. The wildlife here either bounds through your windscreen before you or your car know it (kangaroos) or being broad and flattish (wombats) stumps around under the radar. What we need are cars both will bounce harmlessly off.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
MORE JAILS WILL NOT MEAN LESS CRIME
Attorney-General Robert Clark has said, "We are determined to make clear that jail means jail". Photo: Justin McManus
AS EVERY politician knows, there are votes to be had in being tough on crime, or at least in being thought to be so. And it is just as much a part of the received political wisdom that there are no votes to be had in extending and modernising prisons or building new ones, because that is easily portrayed as being soft on prisoners. The problem, of course, is that policies regarded as showing ''toughness'' on crime are likely to result in an increase in the prison population, who must be properly housed, fed and, if they are not to re-offend on completion of their sentences, rehabilitated. Victoria's Baillieu government is here in a bind of its own making.
Having won office vowing to crack down on crime, the government has since been busily turning that vow into legislation. Judges will no longer be able to suspend the sentences of adults convicted of serious crimes, and 16 and 17-year-olds convicted of crimes involving gross violence face mandatory jail terms. As Attorney-General Robert Clark has said, ''We are determined to make clear that jail means jail''. And Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh has conceded that the government's agenda means there will be more prisoners: ''Of course that [Coalition policy] meant there was clearly going to be an increase in the number of prison beds that we would have to provide.'' Why, then, did the government slip into last month's budget, without fanfare of any kind, an announcement that it will build a new men's prison, with $2 million allocated for a study of the business case for the prison? It was as if the government was hoping that this might be overlooked.
As Royce Millar, of the Age investigations unit, reports today, the government's coyness almost certainly derives from the same instinct that drove the Brumby government to keep quiet about its refusal of a Corrections Victoria plan for building a new 800-bed men's prison and a new 550-bed women's prison as public-private partnerships, at a construction cost of approximately $550 million each and an operating cost that would run into billions over decades. Simply, there are no votes in prisons. Yet the previous government was acutely aware of overcrowding in the state's 13 existing prisons, because, under pressure from Coalition criticism and media reporting, it, too, had been ''getting tough'' on crime. Victoria's incarceration rate, with 105 prisoners per 100,000 of the population, is lower than the national average of 170 per 100,000, but in the past decade the prison population has soared by almost 50 per cent, triple the rate of general population growth. Last year the cost of maintaining a prisoner in Victoria's jails was $300 a day, more than in any other state or territory except Tasmania and the ACT, and the Baillieu government's swelling of the prison population will require a huge blowout in the corrections budget.
The real cost, however, will be measured not in dollars but in the self-defeating nature of the policy itself. As ''get tough'' governments around the world have increasingly found, the consequence of relying on incarceration with mandatory terms as the answer to crime is more prisoners, not greater public safety, because the experience of jail is more likely to harden young offenders than to rehabilitate them. If courts are to respond effectively to rising crime, they need to retain the discretion in sentencing that the Baillieu government is so intent on removing from them.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
GREENS MUST SHOW THEY CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE FORCE
The party has power and also a lot to lose.
LAST August, Australia voted for a step into the unknown. By delivering the Greens a lower house seat and four more senators, the electorate promoted what started in the 1980s as a niche environmental party to the role of major player in running the country.
It quickly became clear that business would not be as usual, as the Greens parlayed their status into a deal with the ALP that gave them extraordinary access to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Within months, the carbon tax that Ms Gillard promised she would not introduce was back on the agenda.
But it will be in the days ahead that the full impact of last year's federal election will be felt. When the four incoming Greens senators take up their seats on July 1, the party will hold the outright balance of power in the upper house for the first time, meaning they have the ability to block legislation. The question that both the country and the Greens themselves will be asking is: What will they do with it?
There is nothing new about a minor party holding the balance of power. The Australian Democrats did so from 1980 to 2005, and their votes decided issues as significant as the potential damming of the Franklin River and the introduction of the GST.
The Democrats, though, were a different beast. Created by a former Liberal minister to run an avowedly centrist agenda, they were defined by their catchcry, ''Keeping the bastards honest''. The Greens are more clearly left-wing, although they have worked hard to expand their interests beyond the environment. They have attracted considerable support from former Labor voters, in part due to their insistence - somewhat justified - that they are a political party of principle. Nonetheless, they will need to compromise if they are to play a constructive role in the new Parliament.
If there is anyone who defines the tension within the Greens it is New South Wales senator-elect Lee Rhiannon. The former Socialist Party member is a long-time activist on environmental, feminist and human rights issues and is often characterised as the classic watermelon - green on the outside, red in the centre. There are many in the party who believe - off the record, of course - that she represents an old-fashioned, left-wing style of politics that does not suit today's Greens.
She has been at odds with leader Bob Brown over her support for the international campaign to boycott Israel, an issue that cost the party dearly in the recent NSW state election.
She is also seen, rightly or wrongly, to harbour ambitions of taking over from Senator Brown, a move that some believe would be a disaster and which she dismisses as untrue.
The Greens must tread carefully. Despite their showing at the last federal election, or perhaps because of it, they have a lot to lose. They will hold the Senate balance of power for the next three years, time enough to show that they can be a cohesive and effective force. Already there are warning signs. In the past year the Greens have fared worse than expected in two state elections, while Ms Gillard has described them as a party that does not share the values of ordinary Australians, a cheap political shot to be sure, but one that has some truth to it. The Greens' success has been in the progressive, educated inner city, not in the outer suburbs or regional areas.
Regardless of the dangers, fate has dealt the Australian Greens a remarkable hand. Despite polling about 12 per cent of the vote, they have become an unusually powerful junior partner in a minority government and have an opportunity to show exactly what sort of party they represent.
And another thing ...
IT SOUNDED pretty right when Joni Mitchell crooned: ''You don't know what you've got till it's gone.'' Now the National Trust has turned that sentiment on its head. The Trust has alerted us to the existence of buildings in Melbourne many of us didn't know we had, raising the question: Now we know what we've got, do we want it gone? Does, for instance, a suggestion to preserve a former bank that's now operating as a convenience store deserve anything other than derision? And how can those of us who are not experts assess the architectural merits of buildings that have all the aesthetic appeal of a fortified Nazi pillbox on a beach at Normandy? We know what Prince Charles, an avowed fan of the classic style, would think. But who can say for sure that all ancient Athenians loved the Parthenon in the years after it was built?
UNEMPLOYMENT: THE BIG GAMBLE
The government proposals deserve some praise, but they also merit a huge dollop of caution – and anxiety
Over the past year, the coalition has established a rhythm in unveiling new policies. First, promise a revolution in a particular field, be it health or schools or another key public service. Claim it will sweep away the ills of the current system, painstakingly identified as largely the fault of the previous administration. Second, do a slow reveal of the actual proposals. When under fire from the commentariat, brief that they are really little more than "Blair-plus". Third, wait for reality – of both the policy and the political kind – to hit, forcing necessary adjustments to your hoped-for reforms.
The government's work programme has just begun phase two. There is a lot to fill in: the back-to-work scheme is apparently at the heart of Iain Duncan Smith's reinvention of Beveridge. The scheme is, said employment minister Chris Grayling yesterday, "revolutionary … [tackling] the endemic worklessness that has blighted so many of the country's communities for decades". A huge promise, and the key to fulfilling it will be paying private companies to find jobs for more than 500,000 people a year – a policy first tried out by Labour (this is where the "Blair-plus" line gets wheeled out). But as Mr Grayling points out, where these proposals are really radical is both in scale and in the briefing that this privatisation of the delivery of public services will be used as a model in both prisons and among drug abusers. In short, this experiment needs to be watched closely.
The proposals deserve some praise, but they also merit a huge dollop of caution – and anxiety. Let us say at the outset that getting people off the dole and into decent work is an excellent and essential objective. There is nothing wrong in encouraging people to take advantage of all the training and employment opportunities they can – Labour tried this approach and, provided it is done fairly, with a sense of helping jobseekers rather than tipping people from one form of penury to another, it can be helpful. More specifically, Mr Duncan Smith is surely also right that there are too many obstacles to getting people back into work and that a slow and costly benefits system that often penalises recent returners to the lower end of the job market needs reforming. It is also a good idea to offer private firms additional sums to help the longer-term unemployed with greater barriers to work – otherwise the temptation is to concentrate on the comparatively easy cases of 18- to 24-year-olds. All of these areas are largely agreed on by all the mainstream political parties – and have been for many years.
But the first worry in back-to-work politics is that Blair, Brown and now Cameron have all been quiet on just what work jobseekers are meant to take up. Studies done by Manchester University's Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change show that under New Labour there was precious little private-sector job creation outside the south-east. By expanding in Wales or the north-east, say, the public sector was expanding to fill in for the lack of private work. The big change under David Cameron is that public jobs are being slashed by the hundreds of thousands – amid a slump. If Mr Duncan Smith wants to help the jobless on the Easterhouse estate, he would be better off thinking about how to provide jobs in Glasgow.
Second, there is no reason to think that the likes of Serco and other private firms will be any better at helping those on the dole than trained and committed staff in jobcentres. That is not our view, but the one expressed by a Commons select committee last year. In an assessment of pilot schemes, the MPs wrote: "Private providers have seriously underperformed against their contracts and their success rates are worse than Jobcentre Plus even though private contractors work in easier areas." If that is the considered verdict of a well-advised group of MPs, why should the government want to plough billions into a grandiose scheme that is not substantially better?
DROUGHT: NOT A DROP TO SHARE
No government can control the weather, but it can shape the way we respond to it
It never rains but it pours, except in England this spring, which, regardless of showers forecast for this weekend, has been extraordinarily dry. Yesterday officials confirmed what parched brown lawns have already made obvious. Eastern parts of England and the Midlands in particular are experiencing a drought. The driest spring for 20 years – with rainfall across the country only 45% of the long-term average between March and the end of May – has triggered the bureaucracy of water management, which might lead to hosepipe bans and even rationing. Already farmers in some of the UK's most productive land face restrictions on how much they can take to irrigate their crops.
Not yet, though. For now, reservoir levels are healthy, even if river levels are not. Much effort has gone into plugging leaks and providing additional supplies. Water companies have been required by the Climate Change Act to plan for shortages, and a wet summer could wash away the problem (though that won't help farmers with crops).
But the shortage is also a reminder that Britain is both a densely populated and in places unexpectedly dry country. Sydney's annual rainfall is double London's. There is less water per capita in some southern parts of England than in some Mediterranean countries. Climate change is expected to make the situation worse, with less predictable rainfall, more frequent droughts and damaging floods. No government can control the weather, but it can shape the way we respond to it. The Environment Agency is rightly sceptical of expensive technical fixes such as energy-intensive desalination. Every drought is followed by calls for a national water grid, but pumping water around the country would be inefficient. The answer must be to better manage the water we have already, especially by reducing leaks and encouraging more sensible use.
The challenge facing Britain is smaller, but similar, to the one being tackled in many countries. On Thursday the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that climate change would bring more droughts and reduce food production. Water from glaciers supports 40% of the world's irrigation, but as they melt so do consistent supplies. Crops can be adapted to require less water, but consumers are hungry for imports from sunnier and drier parts of the world. The current drought has been caused by short-term weather, not long-term climate: but though Britain is mostly spared extreme conditions it cannot ignore the consequences of climate change. Look out of the window today and it may be raining. But grey skies are no guarantee that there will always be water to come out of the tap.
UNTHINKABLE? THE END OF THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
John Humphrys is right to complain that it is 'bizarre' to set aside three minutes a day for a sermon on breakfast radio
In a review this week the Guardian's radio critic Elisabeth Mahoney delivered a slap to the two religious slots that are supposed to add a "but seriously, folks" moral tone to breakfast radio. Why, she asked, should people without faith have to listen to these irksome homilies, while those with faith find their spiritual guidance reduced to chunks? There is no equivalent moment of scientific guidance, classical learning or poetic interlude, only a sermon dropped somewhere near the paper review on Radio 4 or a Coldplay track on Chris Evans's Radio 2 show. The fact that something makes little sense is not always a good reason for discarding it – the Duke of Edinburgh, being celebrated this week, is both pointless and popular – but in the case of Thought for the Day, John Humphrys is right to complain that it is "frankly bizarre" to set aside three minutes a day for a sermon. This column, rejoicing in its inconsistency, has praised the slot before, and of course it is sometimes of interest. More often, it is a vapid interruption in the business of understanding the day's news, doing no credit to the various religions from which its presenters are drawn. Sometimes people propose adding an occasional atheist thought, as if that would achieve balance, but the point is not the range of beliefs but the context. You should no more expect to hear a prayer during a train guard's announcement than a sermon not long after Gary has presented the sports news. Or indeed a news bulletin during a Sunday sermon in church.
THE JAPAN TIMES
PURSUING A NEW ENERGY POLICY
The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has prompted the government to launch a seemingly radical rethink of Japan's energy policy. On May 25, Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that Japan will generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the early 2020s, but without clearly saying that Japan will reduce its dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels.
Currently, Japan imports nearly 80 percent of its energy supplies, and nuclear power accounts for 30 percent of the nation's electricity generation. Renewable energy resources such as wind and solar account for only about 1 percent. When hydropower is added in, the total is about 9 percent.
The challenge of achieving the new target will be daunting, but a report released last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that it is achievable. By mid-century, close to 80 percent of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables if the right public policies are put into place, the report states.
The IPCC's "Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN)" presents some encouraging findings about the state of renewable energies:
? Of the roughly 300 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity added worldwide from 2008-2009, nearly half came from renewable energy.
? The technical potential of renewable energy technologies exceeds global power demands by a significant amount, both globally and in most regions.
? More than 97 percent of the globally available renewable energy sources remains untapped, meaning that availability of renewable sources will not be a constraining factor.
Of the six key renewable energies reviewed in the report, bioenergy is the most popular, accounting for 10 percent of the current global energy supply, or 50 exajoules. Bioenergy technologies can generate electricity, fuels and heat from a variety of feedstocks.
While some bioenergies generate more greenhouse gas emissions than they save, the review notes that others, such as advanced conversion systems that convert wood waste into liquid fuel, can generate 80 to 90 percent reductions in emissions compared with fossil fuels. The review concludes that it could supply between 100 to 300 exajoules by 2050.
Solar energy contributes just a fraction of one percent of the global energy supply, but the SRREN notes it has the potential to become one of the major sources of energy supply by 2050 depending on continued innovation, supportive public policies and cost reduction.
In the most ambitious scenario, solar energy could account for as many as 130 exajoules per year, mostly through photovoltaic electricity generation.
Geothermal energy generates about 0.7 exajoule per year, but by 2050 it could supply roughly 5 percent of worldwide demand for heat and more than 3 percent of the demand for electricity. Hydropower produced 16 percent of the world's energy supply as of 2008, making it the largest renewable energy source, and is expected to continue to grow, although its total share may decline.
Ocean energy technologies, which use the kinetic, thermal, chemical energies of seawater to produce electricity, are mostly at pilot project or demonstration phases, but could deliver up to 7 exajoules of power annually by 2050.
SSREN identifies wind energy as one of the most promising renewable technologies. Accounting for nearly 2 percent of the world's power supply in 2009, wind energy capacity is growing rapidly in Asia, Europe and North America, and is expected to produce more than 20 percent of the global electricity supply by 2050.
While Mr. Kan did not go into details on how Japan would achieve the goal of producing 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources by the early 2020s, he did state that the country would strive to reduce the cost of generating solar power to one-third of present levels by 2020, and to one-sixth by 2030. Solar power generation costs roughly ¥50 per kilowatt hour, compared with the ¥5 to ¥13 per kilowatt hour cost of nuclear and thermal power.
The prime minister set a goal of having solar panels placed on 10 million homes by 2030.
At least one astute businessman feels that solar power has great potential in Japan. Softbank Corp. President Masayoshi Son, who has called on the government to end its dependence on nuclear energy, announced at the end of May that his company is establishing a new subsidiary to build about a dozen large-scale solar-power plants on unused farmland in Japan, with construction starting this year.
Given Japan's abundant waterways, woodlands, geothermal activity, energy experts also see hydropower, biomass and geothermal energy resources as capable of making substantial contributions to Japan's future power portfolio.
But the presence of sufficient resources alone won't guarantee results. To achieve its goal, the government needs to take several steps.
First, it must secure funds to promote the development of renewable energy sources.
Next, it must liberalize the power-distribution system to make it easier for people to buy electricity from small-scale power companies that use renewable energy sources.
And, finally, it must enact a bill that will obligate power companies to buy surplus electricity generated by renewable energy sources.
THE JAKARTA POST
CLOUDS AND THEIR SILVER LININGS BEHIND ASIA
"Potential" is one of the world's most powerful words. It marks the precise point where popular consensus deems that the sprinter who didn't place first on the podium this year, despite running a good race, could become next year's winner.
It is loaded with intent, power and an element of unpredictability: Potential links the forces of possibility with the forces of growth and expectation, and nowhere is that concept more applicable right now than in Asia and in the field of technology.
The World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report 2010-11 places Asia at the top of the world in terms of ICT preparedness: according to its Networked Readiness Index (NRI) Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand are all peak performers when it comes to preparing their economies for the digital age.
As the largest economy in Southeast Asia in terms of GDP, Indonesia still shows signs of growth and movement in the right direction. The government's growth forecast for 2011 is upgraded to 6.4 percent, and target 7 percent - 7.7 percent growth in 2014.
The Indonesia government has allocated economic stimulus for the agriculture, infrastructure (transportation, irrigation, clean water) and energy industry. As the economy grows and the Indonesian government invests in development, IT will be a catalyst for economic growth across all of Indonesia's major industries.
We are at a transformative time in the world – at a time when trade and communication across borders has become faster, easier and cheaper, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to help advance the economies with which they interact by both building new wealth and creating social and economic opportunity for the communities in which they operate.
At the same time, Asia is riding a wave of invention that is improving services, personal communication and speeding up the process of ideas and knowledge exchange.
It is also turning the region into the world's largest ICT exporter. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) earlier this year painted a picture of robust growth in Asia's ICT exports with their increase in share up in 2009 on the previous year.
Indonesia's key priority will remains attracting foreign direct investment and ICT will play a key role in Indonesia's economic development. Technology has been a significant contributor to all of these advances and a new paradigm and what many consider to be "IT's next big thing", Cloud Computing, promises to deliver the next wave of innovation, with increases in computing power at a lower cost.
Cloud computing promises much: A new study from Springboard Research reveals that cloud computing is poised for very strong growth in Indonesia over the next 12-18 months. 50 percent of Indonesia orgs are currently using or actively planning cloud initiatives — rising to 68 percent among large organizations. Of these respondents, almost half view cloud as a top priority and have significant funding in place — one of the highest rates in the region.
From an economic perspective, Cloud Computing not only enables a shift from capital expenditure to operational expense, but also, the scalable and multi-tenant characteristics of Cloud Computing enable a significant reduction in cost since resources are shared among customers in the datacenter and customers can use only what they need, with real-time adjustments based on real-time demand.
On the social front, the power of Cloud Computing to enable data sharing provides a platform foundation that places an emphasis on transparency, a concept that by definition promotes inclusion, entrepreneurship and democracy.
While I wouldn't say technology is a magic bullet that will automatically improve a country's productivity and competitiveness, there are a few key areas where its solutions can help make a noticeable difference – primarily in education, public safety scenarios and transparency.
The signs are that Asia's governments understand the need to adapt their policy settings to encourage ICT development and embrace new technologies. Workforce development programs reaching schools and communities in Indonesia has been run by Microsoft through Community Technology Centers (CTCs), having contributed more than US$5 million since 2004 – covering 120 CTCs in 20 provinces to reach out to farmers and migrant workers. So far we have reached more than 2.3 million farmers and more than 41,000 migrant workers.
It recognizes also ICTs role as an essential enabler of growth and competitiveness that opens up enormous opportunities for advances in services and opportunity, but it requires a responsible and methodical strategy for efficient and effective implementation.
To realize this potential, new technologies must be part of a mix of productive changes and supporting capabilities. Resources must be matched with resourcefulness combined with initiatives by local leaders, educators and entrepreneurs to achieve individual and institutional objectives.
With a more holistic approach to ICT strategy, the countries that make up the Asia Pacific region have the capability to build a globally competitive economy that is a beacon for the region and the world.
By focusing on the unique assets that helps differentiate an economy, a country can align around its core strengths and determine optimal strategies for improving basic needs in health, safety, education and transparency to deliver greater opportunities for citizens and better innovation for the country.
The writer is corporate vice president, chairman of emerging markets and chief advisor to Microsoft's chief operating officer (COO) Kevin Turner. The opinions expressed are his own.
THE JAKARTA POST
(PART 2 OF 2) PAKISTAN: A REALITY CHECK AMID TERROR AND CHAOS
The locating and killing of Osama bin Laden in the most unlikely hideout of Abbottabad has shocked the world — most of all Pakistan. It indeed strengthens the argument about Pakistan's complicity with the Taliban.
The question being debated is whether this is complicity or incompetence. I would certainly go for the latter: incompetence and callousness of the highest degree.
The simple logic that I would apply, whether anyone believes it or not, is that if Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad for five years (which my sense of logic does not readily accept), then any complicity involves me also.
I knew nothing about it, and I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams that the intelligence agencies were hiding it from me. Therefore, there was no complicity at the top.
Could rogue elements within the intelligence services have been harboring him? Not possible. The intelligence detachment personnel in the area, or at least the commander, must have changed at least three times in this period.
Could all of them have been aiding and abetting him? No. Does not knowing Bin Laden's whereabouts, for however long, stand the test of reason?
I think it does. After all the thousands of people living around Osama's house also did not know. Human intelligence, after all, gathers information from people.
Let me finally come to the way ahead. Does the present environment bode well for the global war on terror? Certainly not. Therefore, the earlier we mend fences, the better for Pakistan, the United States, the south Asia region and indeed the whole world.
The first and most urgent need of the hour is to restore trust. We must speak the truth with each other very openly and frankly.
Pakistan needs to explain clearly why it is not acting against the Haqqani group or when it will operate in North Waziristan.
The intelligence agencies of Pakistan should be purged of any elements who may not be committed to the official line of fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The United States, on the other hand, must trust that Pakistan is committed to fighting terrorism and that it is doing this in its own interest. Attacking targets in tribal agencies must be left to Pakistani forces, even if it means giving drones to Pakistan.
Our sovereignty must be respected. Pakistan's army looks overstretched and maybe somewhat fatigued.
There is a need to raise about 20 more wings of Frontier Corps and equip them with more tanks and medium guns.
Abandoning the area by US and other Coalition forces without creating the appropriate political environment and the military capability in the Afghan forces would be most inadvisable.
The ulterior Indian motive of creating an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan has to stop. Afghan President Hamid Karzai must also understand this and stop stabbing Pakistan in the back.
Only the United States can ensure such an essential change. The Kashmir dispute needs an urgent, amicable settlement. That is the core towards stopping the religious militancy of the Kashmir-orientated Mujahedeen.
In the final analysis Pakistan also has to look inwards to resolve its sociopolitical conflict. We, as a nation, have to boldly demonstrate our resolve towards moderation and rejection of extremism from within our society.
We have to follow, with courage, the five-point agenda that I created to check extremism within: 1. Stop misuse of madrassas and mosques from preaching militancy of any form. 2. Stop printing/publishing and selling/distributing any material spreading violence and militancy. 3. Ban militant religious organizations and deny their reemergence under different names. 4. Keep the religious syllabus and curriculum in schools under constant review to prevent any teaching of controversial issues, which could lead to religious rigidity, extremism and intolerance. 5. Implement a madrassa strategy to mainstream Taliban into the social fabric of the nation.
All this is easier said than done. It needs a government that comprehends the magnitude of the task, has the following of the people and the determination to change.
In the present political scenario none of the political parties or their leaders has the acumen to achieve such lofty ideals. We face an acute leadership vacuum.
This has to be filled. We have to break the political status quo. We have to produce a political alternative to be seen domestically and internationally as viable and take it to victory through democratic means.
Time is of essence for Pakistan. Too much water has flown under the bridge.
The next elections will be the mother of all elections.
The writer is former Pakistani president and writes specially to CNN
THE JAKARTA POST
ARE CHINESE MOTHERS REALLY SUPERIOR?
Amy Chua's article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" appeared in the Wall Street Journal in January. It included excerpts from her best-selling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which caused an uproar in the US upon its release.
Critics slammed the Yale University law professor's book as an example of "extreme parenting". Chua has been accused of stereotyping Chinese mothers as "excessive parents" who will stop at nothing to get the results they desire from their children.
Chua believes that Chinese children who perform phenomenally well in their studies or who become music prodigies owe their success to their strict mothers.
The book detailed the strict regimen Chua imposed on her two daughters, Sophia and Louisa. Among the things her daughters were never allowed to do were attend sleepovers, have play dates, get a grade less than an A, play a musical instrument other than the violin or the piano — or refuse to play the violin or piano
Instead requiring her children to practice the violin or piano 30 minutes a day as is usual for Western parents, according to Chua, her daughters had to spend up to three hours a day perfecting their performances.
When her youngest daughter encountered difficulties in playing a particularly complex piece, Chua resorted to emotional blackmail, coercion and even told her daughter "to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic."
Chua's husband was aghast and asked her to stop insulting the seven year old. Instead of backing down, Chua retorted that she was "motivating" Louisa.
She continued working with her daughter every night until Louisa perfected the piece and played it beautifully at a recital.
As an Indonesian of Chinese descent and a mother myself, I followed the reactions to her article and book with interest.
Two of the most intriguing responses I came across were David Brooks' Amy Chua is a Wimp and Lee Wei Ling's Tigers or Not, the Best Parents are Wise.
Brooks, a New York Times opinion editor, acknowledged that Chua's book was a "courageous and thought-provoking read".
He also said that Chua's style of "hard core" parenting missed out on the most important cognitive development training that children might learn from social activities such as sleepovers and play dates.
At a sleepover, according to Brooks, children learn to negotiate group dynamics, manage status rivalries and navigate the distinction between self and group.
Lee, the director of Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute and, incidentally, the daughter of Singapore's founder, Lee Kuan Yew, offered a milder response.
Describing herself as a highly motivated individual since childhood, Lee never had a need for a "tiger mother". She would study for her tests long before they were administered and would get up at the crack of dawn on the day of her examinations to go over the most important points.
Lee's mother would tell her to take up more hobbies so to relax instead of prodding her to study
Then again, Lee said, she was a girl. Her parents would not have worried if she failed to excel.
Her brothers, Hsien Loong and Hsien Yang, also excelled in their studies – both graduated from Cambridge University. Following in his father's footsteps, Hsien Loong became Singapore's prime minister.
Like Brooks, I do not agree with banning social activities such as play dates that allow children to understand social norms.
I am also not comfortable with publicly chastising my children. A child's self-esteem needs to be nurtured and supported by her parents – not destroyed.
Chua's determination to see her daughters succeed and the self-discipline that she instills in them is admirable. However, each child requires a different level of parenting.
Chua herself said during a book signing in San Francisco that her methods worked better for her older daughter, Sophia, than for Louisa.
Family background is also an important factor in a child's motivation to excel academically. While Lee Wei Ling claimed that she did not need her parents' urging to push her towards distinction, one cannot help but wonder if she and her siblings encountered subliminal pressure due to their family's high stature.
At the other end of the spectrum, minimal supervision of children's work often results in poor academic achievement. I saw this happen to many young Chinese-Indonesian children who were sent to Singapore in the 1980s and 1990s for an education.
With virtually no parental supervision, these children, who often lived with Singaporean families, performed poorly and sometimes fell in with the wrong crowd.
As one of these children sent to Singapore, I was fortunate to have my grandmother as my guardian during the eight years I spent there. Although she was no "tiger grandmother", I was self-motivated and excelled academically at a competitive all-girls school.
In Indonesia, my sister and brother also succeeded in their studies – both became the valedictorians of their schools and earned their degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.
My parents, educated in Chinese schools in Bandung and Medan before they were closed in 1965, instilled in us a love for learning. Always busy with their work, however, they never sat down with us to do our homework or practice musical instruments.
However, we shared what Chua called an obligation to our parents to do well at school. Seeing our parents work so hard to send us abroad to pursue our education, we pushed ourselves to achieve the best results possible so that they would not be disappointed.
This kind of obligation is not limited to children with Chinese parents. They may have "tiger mothers" like Amy Chua who demand nothing less than perfection from their children — or parents who take a more nurturing approach.
Ultimately, all children should know that their parents only want the very best for them.
The writer teaches at the University of Indonesia and is the author of The Chinese of Indonesia and Their Search for Identity: The Relationship between Collective Memory and the Media.
THE JAKARTA POST
CANDIDATES AND BUSINESS COMPETITIVENESS
Dr. Olarn Chaipravat, head of the Pheu Thai Party's economic team, last Thursday said the corporate income tax rate would be cut from the current 30 percent to 23 percent if his party won the July 3 poll.
Meanwhile, caretaker finance minister Korn Chatikavanij of the Democrat Party pledged to boost the capital market by linking it with other stock exchanges in ASEAN countries if the party is re-elected to head the next government.
Speaking at a seminar on the role of capital markets in boosting Thailand's competitiveness, Olarn said the Pheu Thai Party's tax cut is aimed at boosting the competitiveness of Thai companies and industries.
In the following year, the corporate income tax will be further lowered to 20 percent, so that the tax rate in Thailand is more competitive when compared to those of Singapore and Hong Kong, according to the Pheu Thai pledge.
To boost the Thai capital market, Korn promised that the Democrat Party would promote the framework of an ASEAN asset class to draw international investors to Thai and other regional equities.
Besides helping Thai investors to invest more easily in other ASEAN exchanges, the Democrat Party would also push for implementation of cross-exchange trading of major regional stocks in ASEAN countries.
At present, the Thai market is too small for international investors, so promoting the ASEAN asset classwill help boost liquidity and also lower transaction costs and other costs.
For example, investors would be able to invest more easily in Thai and other ASEAN banking stocks across the Thai, Singaporean or Malaysian markets.
If re-elected, the Democrat Party will also provide new tax incentives to Thai small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to apply for listing on the Market for Alternative Investment (MAI). There are over 2,000 SMEs in the country, but only 70 are currently traded on the MAI.
In addition, the party will develop Thailand as a fund mobilization center in ASEAN countries, especially for Laos, Burma and Cambodia.
Another election pledge from the Pheu Thai Party is to develop a futures market for agricultural crops, especially rice, tapioca, sugar cane and rubber. Dr. Olarn also plans to combine the gold futures and agricultural futures markets in Thailand to boost effectiveness as tools for risk management.
Besides farm commodities, Dr Olarn also pledged to boost the liquidity of the Thai bond market to attract more retail investors.
Goanpot Asavinvichit, head of the Chart Pattana Puapandin Party's economic team, said if his medium-sized party won enough seats in the election and became part of the next government, he would offer tax and other incentives to promote mergers and acquisitions as a way to boost the competitiveness of Thai companies and industries.
This will prepare Thailand for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which is due to become effective in 2015.
THE JAKARTA POST
THIRTEEN YEARS OF PRIVATIZED WATER IN JAKARTA
Time has passed quickly. The privatization of piped water service in Jakarta will mark its 13th anniversary on June 6.
In Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, 13 years was the period required by the government there to significantly improve its service.
When introduced in 1993, piped water in Phnom Penh was only accessible to 25 percent of the population. Thirteen years later 90 percent of the population enjoys 24-hour water service and the leakage rate is 6 percent, down from 72 percent. Revenues have increased dramatically by approximately 50-fold to US$8.4 million.
After years of management by gigantic international water companies, only 34.8 percent of Jakarta's population has access to clean and healthy water, according to the Central Statistics Agency.
Jakarta's piped water service was transferred to the private sector in 1997, when Suez Environment and Thames Water were each awarded contracts covering half of Jakarta, by PAM Jaya, a company owned by the Jakarta government.
It has been a one-sided contract from the beginning. The agreement protects the interests of investors at the expense of consumers, PAM Jaya and the Jakarta government.
Currently, the western part of Jakarta is managed by PT. Palyja, which is owned by Suez and Astratel, and the eastern half is being managed by PT Aetra of Acuatico.
PAM Jaya and the Jakarta administration accumulate a staggering Rp 18.2 trillion in debt if the contracts continue until 2022, according to a report from PAM Jaya.
The debt is the product of the contracts' unusual payment schemes. The private operators are paid a "water charge" whose value can be adjusted every six months. Customers, however, pay rates that most definitely cannot be increased every six months.
If the water charge paid to the companies increases every six months while the rates charged to customers do not the result is an underpayment, which is considered the provincial government's debt to the tap water operators.
To avoid debt the governor has to raise water rates to match the pegged value of the operators' water charge. However, this would ignore common sense.
How can an entity that has transferred its business to other parties, including its authority to receive payments from customers, continue to book new debt?
Palyja's financial statement for 2010 clearly shows this: The company booked Rp 216 billion ($25.27 million) in profit that year while PAM Jaya, as the supervisor, registered Rp 62 billion in extra debt.
After years of complacency, PAM Jaya and the Jakarta government have begun to show their teeth and asked for a contract renegotiation.
PAM Jaya has not increased the water rate for 18 months. This financial tightening policy did not pose a serious financial threat to the two private companies, except for reducing their profits between 2 and 3 percent.
This indicates that people in Jakarta have been overcharged for water while the operators have obtained huge profits.
The profit rate pegged for the private companies is high, as much as 22 percent - far above the 10
percent mark set by the Home Ministry.
The Financial Development Comptroller (BPKP) and the University of Indonesia have recommended that the water companies' profit rate be set at 14.8 percent, but the companies are insisting on 22 percent.
The funding scheme chosen by the private parties creates commercial obligations that results in increased operating expenses and higher water rates.
This problem, if ignored, will worsen and bring about complex consequences. Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo must show wisdom and the courage to take action.
Negotiations or contract amendments are unlikely to bring about significant change. It's better to terminate the contracts and bring the operation back to a public water company under the close watch from representatives of the people and the community.
It would be better yet for the Jakarta administration to use the hundreds of billions of rupiah paid by tap water customers to improve water service for the citizens of Jakarta.
In many other cities, the termination of contracts is common. A report from the Public Service International Research Unit in England said that as of February 2011, 51 cities in the United States, France, Germany, Canada and others had ended their contracts with private water companies.
Many have warned that termination of contract will tarnish the image of Indonesia in the eyes of foreign investors, but it is the responsibility of the state, i.e., the Jakarta administration, to protect the public interest.
The writer is the director of Amrta Institute for Water Literacy.
E.COLI GIVES LANKA FOOD FOR THOUGHT
With the German Cabinet on Wednesday defending its response to the E.coli outbreak that has killed 27 people and signalled possible changes in the way the country handles health crises in the future, the epidemic gives Sri Lanka also much food for thought especially regarding the long-felt need for a National Food and Nutrition Policy.
The German government has been criticised at home and around Europe for failing so far to pin down the cause of the outbreak that has stricken more than 2,700 people in 12 countries. All cases have been traced back to near Hamburg in northern Germany.
About a quarter of E.coli patients in the latest outbreak have developed a severe complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) affecting the blood, kidneys and nervous system.
In Sri Lanka while measures are being taken to prevent the import of contaminated food from Europe or elsewhere, the government needs to deeply reflect on some vital issues regarding food and nutrition.
In 1970, the United Front government led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike with Dr. N.M. Perera as Finance Minister launched the policy of producing most of our food and other important items. The socialist Dr. Perera in presenting his first budget based on the "be Sri Lankan buy Sri Lankan" policy based on one of Mahatma Gandhi's principles said this pathway would be long and difficult but he saw "the dim light of the distant dawn". Indeed the policy turned out to be difficult with queues at cooperative stores, quotas and shortages of essential food items. Some Sri Lankans also saw the dim light of the distant dawn and followed this policy of producing our own food and buying other items made in Sri Lanka. But for most Sri Lankans, the queues and quotas were unbearable and the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government was reduced to shambles in the July 1977 general elections. The JR Jayewardene government, which swept to office with an unprecedented five-sixth majority turned the tables and swallowed wholesale the globalised capitalist market economic policy. Thereby anyone was allowed to import anything and in the years that followed we saw Sri Lanka becoming a dumping ground for loads of garbage and processed rubbish, food items declared unfit for human consumption in western countries were freely imported and forced down the throats of Sri Lankans, resulting in a waste of valuable foreign exchange and worst still making most people sick most of the time.
Most people were eating imported poison or polluted food most of the time and wondering why they were falling sick so often. That is one of the important reasons why we urgently need a National Food and Nutrition Policy so that we could produce most of the food we need while imports are strictly monitored and regulated. The other issue is that where locally grown food items like fruits and vegetables are concerned, the excessive use of imported chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides has created a crisis where even locally grown food is virtually poisoned or polluted. Earlier this week Customs officials said they seized a huge stock of agro chemicals allegedly containing dangerous substances such as arsenic. But yesterday the Pesticide Registering Office (PRO) denied it.
Eventually the only way we could ensure that we are not eating poisoned or polluted food is by going back to the good old but unfashionable concept of home gardens. We need to grow our own food and this concept needs to be encouraged in the National Food and Nutrition Policy, which we hope the government would introduce soon.
CAJOLING WITH A HIDDEN CUDGEL
Tamil Nadu, the southern most State of India is heating up once again with sentiments against Sri Lankan leaders in respect of alleged human rights violations by the Sri Lankan security forces during the war against the LTTE. The sentiments of the people of the State are normally whipped up by their politicians on the eve of national or State elections, but this time it is an exception. There is no election in the offing.
Soon after her election as the Chief Minister of the State on May 13 Jayalalithaa Jeyaram had roared against President Mahinda Rajapaksa and had called on the Indian government to take measures against the Sri Lankan president for alleged war crimes. This seemed as a mere pacification of her constituency that had overwhelmingly supported her to bag a landslide victory at the State Assembly elections.
However, this exceptionally timed roar by the new Chief Minister was followed by another serious statement, the joint communiqué issued at the end of the visit by the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Professor GL Peiris on May 17 which still remains contentious in the political circle in Sri Lanka. Terming this joint statement as one "strongly worded" the AFP had said "India broke with past practice and called on Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during the island's civil war, upping pressure on President Mahinda Rajapaksa."
Interestingly, one month after those incidents Tamil Nadu leaders have taken another serious step against Sri Lankan government while a defence related high level delegation from India was expected in the island. Tamil Nadu State Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for the "imposition of economic sanctions on Sri Lanka until all Tamils now staying in camps in Sri Lanka are rehabilitated in their own land and given an opportunity to lead a life of dignity with rights equal to those of the Sinhalese."
Also on Wednesday Jayalalithaa in a statement in the Assembly appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to approach the Sri Lankan government and obtain the release of four Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan police custody. The fishermen had been caught in inclement weather and heavy winds on June 2 and reached the coast of Nainatheevu in Sri Lanka. However, deviating from her hostile attitude the Chief Minister said that the State government would be grateful if they were released immediately as a gesture of goodwill by Sri Lanka.
Two days later, on Friday (yesterday) India's National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar arrived in Colombo with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao for high level talks with the Sri Lankan leaders. Meanwhile, pointing to the mood of the State, Canada Based veteran Tamil journalist DBS Jeyaraj reported in his website on Thursday that an elaborate structure called "Mullivaaikkaal Martyrs Memorial" is to be constructed in the Thanjaavoor district of Tamil Nadu state in India. P. Nedumaran who is famous for his anti- Sri Lankan attitudes is said to be behind the project.The website stated that the monument will be dedicated to the memory of all Tamils -both civilian and militant-killed in Mullivaaikkal at the final phase of war and will be modelled on the lines of the famous "Periya Kovil" (great temple) built by the Chola emperor Raja Rajan in Thanjaavoor.
To the fury of the Sri Lankan leaders the sculptures of the monument will denote scenes like the alleged massacre at Mullivaaikkaal and confining of civilians behind barbed wire detention camps.
These pressures are brought on Sri Lanka by its northern neighbors while calls for an international investigation on the alleged war crimes are mounting in the West following the UN Secretary General's three member experts panel presented its report to the UNSG. It is only against this backdrop Indian leaders have visited the island reportedly with a bunch of issues that were in the joint communiqué issued last month.
The joint statement included three kinds of issues, namely pressurizing issues, Indian economic interests and issues of common interest such as the solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. One may argue that India is attempting to use the pressurizing issues such as the alleged violation of human rights in a bid to gain the economic interests. However, in an ethical point of view India cannot do this since it was with the support of the India that the security forces launched their operations against the LTTE.
On her part Jayalalithaa who is lamenting about human rights in Sri Lanka too said that "some civilian casualties are inevitable during wars" at a time when the whole State was fermenting against the war against the LTTE and last year she said that she did not condemn the annihilation of the LTTE in war. She seems to be attempting to divert the attention of the State from its economic woes.
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, awhere 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.
NO ABUSE OF EMERGENCY REGULATIONS: HRC CHAIRMAN
Chairman of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka Justice Priyantha Perera spoke to the Daily Mirror on the prevailing Human Rights situation in the country, the relaxing of Emergency regulations and the erosion of independence of the judiciary.
Q: In the past we have seen that although a number of recommendations have been made by the HRC not all of these have been implemented. Under your tenure what changes do you intend on making to ensure that these recommendations are implemented?
After a certain process if parties do not comply we will report them to the Supreme Court as a matter of contempt and we are also looking for some changes to the Amendment.
This is one of the most crucial problems we are facing today, under the law we have two sets of powers one is to make a recommendation and the other is to make an order. Strictly reading on the face of the statute; once you make a recommendation the parties involved are bound to carry out the recommendations made. If they fail, there is provision for us to report this matter to the President and then to Parliament, which is a long process—this is exactly the reason why upto this point most of the recommendations have not been implemented.
We have now done some rethinking and once a recommendation has been made, if that recommendation has not been carried out by the parties we have decided to summon the parties before the commission again and ask the parties concerned the reason why these recommendations have not been carried out. If they have a good reason may be we can review, because it could be that we have had wrong information. But if they don't have a valid reason not to comply with the recommendation, then we have decided to make an order—that that recommendation must be carried out, and if they act in violation of that order we can report this to the Supreme Court as a matter of contempt.
In point of fact we have had a couple of instances where we have resorted to this procedure and it has worked. Besides we are also considering the possibility of suggesting an amendment to the law.
Q: What are the changes you intend on making to the Act?
Changes to ensure some
sanction for the noncompliance with recommendations
As it stands when you look at the law there is no sanction set out in it that compels a person to carry out the recommendation. In respect of an order which is not complied with we have the ability to report the parties on contempt but when it comes to a recommendation the only avenue is to report it to the President, who has to take some steps with Parliament. To implement that is problematic because the President is also overworked and therefore it is not a very salutatory procedure, which is why we proposed to the President and Parliament to amend the law to give affect to the recommendations straight away.
Q: Considering the number of complaints the HRC is getting, the significant backlog and the lengthy procedure of investigating these complaints and thereafter reassessing them as you detailed above; does the HRC have the necessary resources to carry out this task effectively?
At the moment I am unable to answer your question because I have been in office only a few months.
The officers are working satisfactorily. The back log is due to certain other reasons.I would say it is good to increase the recruits but at this moment I don't want to interfere, in this because I think that the work is going on satisfactorily. If we clear the backlog which is about a 1000 cases, we should be alright.
Q:What are the reasons for the backlog?
The commission has not been operating for some years now and there was nobody that could have supervised the functioning of the commission.
Therefore now, in order to expedite the disposal of these arrears, we have decided to recruit certain judges from the Supreme Court, the Appeal Court and Minor Judiciary to deal with the backlog of cases and to make payments on a piecemeal basis.
Q: What percentage of these cases has to do with the last stages of the war?
I am unable to give you a breakdown but these figures relate to the whole country.
And I would say a fair amount of it is to do with the last stages of the war. So I want to pick some of the more serious cases and give them to senior judges to make recommendations.
Q: When it comes to the work of commissions, the issue that is most often raised is whether the commission is impartial. What would you say to these skeptics?
I think that is an allegation that has to be rejected in total, because those who make these allegations are misinformed.
This question was posed to me when I went to Geneva recently. And some of the top people in the Asia pacific region spoke to me in this regard and I found that they were misinformed. One individual asked me "how can your commission be an independent commission when the appointing authority is the President and he can also dismiss the commission?" I told him that this was a totally false claim, and pointed out to him that in the act the President is backed by the 2/3rds Majority in Parliament and therefore democracy is maintained and he appoints but had no power to dismiss.
However in the case of misconduct by a member of the Commission or the Chairman there is a certain procedure to be adopted, as in the case of the impeachment of judges.
Q:Despite the end of the war the Emergency Regulations are still in force and many feel that they are no longer necessary. In terms of fundamental rights, what is your view on this matter?
I can say that at present there is no abuse of emergency regulations.
My own understanding is that the government is of the view that the emergency regulations have to be systematically reduced, but it cannot be done overnight. They are gradually reducing the emergency regulations that are obnoxious.
Q: What is your basis for saying that there is no abuse of the Emergency Regulations?
I'm not saying that 100 percent there is no abuse of the Emergency regulations, I can't say that. But now at present they are doing away with the regulations gradually.
Q: What investigations are ongoing into the incident at the Free Trade Zone recently?
We have taken to task the Director and Deputy Director of the Colombo North Hospital for interfering in the investigations of the Commission.
When one of our officials went there, they were not allowed access. We summoned those concerned and asked why they acted in this manner and they explained that their superiors were away and therefore we let them go on humanitarian grounds. We asked them to apologize in writing to the Commission, which they did.
Q: Amnesty International has alleged that the LLRC is not mandated to look into accountability; will the HRC look into matters of accountability with regards to the last stages of the war?
I don't agree with that view about the LLRC, because they have also made certain orders of reparation.
If the HRC receives complaints with regards to the last stages of the war we will look into them and ensure that proper compensation is paid.
Q: The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute has written to the government about the erosion of judicial independence of the country. As a former judge how do you feel about this international and even local loss of confidence in the judiciary?
I stand for complete independence of the judiciary and as a person who has been a part of it; I can say that in my tenure of office I have not had any occasion to complain about interference from any source.
I don't believe that there is any interference even now, although I don't have complete information on this. I presume some might be trying to interfere but I think the judges still value the tradition of independence and they always try to comply with that.
HIGH LEVELS OF ARSENIC IN PESTICIDES
BY LAKNA PARANAMANNA
The raid carried out by Sri Lanka Customs on a consignment of toxic substances last week triggered a controversial debate concerning certain discoveries made by a collaborative research carried out by the Universities of Kelaniya and Rajarata about high
levels of arsenic and mercury found in pesticides available in the country.
The research which is currently debated on, had been initiated in 2010 November with the involvement of some 30 doctors and 10 academics on causes behind the chronic kidney disease prevalent in the North Central province. "We conducted post-mortem studies on patients who had died of the disease and discovered accumulations of arsenic unusually high to human bodies in the cadavers," research team member – Rajarata University Medical Faculty lecturer, Dr. Channa Jayasumana said explaining the research details.
Among tests carried out to determine the source of arsenic, the soil profiles had indicated a high level of arsenic in the topmost layers of soil. "Since Sri Lanka does not have natural arsenic in the soil we determined that the arsenic source should be external." This breakthrough had led the researchers to examine pesticide samples which led them to the discovery of hazardous arsenic levels contained in pesticides available in markets.
The samples had been tested repeatedly in several other labs and even before agrochemical company representatives. All tests had indicated high levels of arsenic that is deadly to human beings. "The results were compatible in all the tests and our figures were even compatible with the independent investigations carried out by the Sri Lanka Customs on the consignments of pesticides," Dr. Jayasumana said.
Another research team member - Kelaniya University Science faculty Dean Professor Nalin de Silva speaking to Daily Mirror said that the concentration of arsenic or mercury should be zero percent in any pesticide or any other agro-chemical as the accumulation of such compounds in the environment results in adverse impacts on the biological system as well as humans. "Even the smallest trace of arsenic is prohibited to be included in any substance. With strict regulations introduced both locally and internationally on the use of arsenic, who authorized such substances to be imported to Sri Lanka?" Professor de Silva questioned.
improbable – PRO
The national authority responsible for regulating the pesticide trade – the Pesticide Registering Office (PRO) in Peradeniya dismisses data brought into light through exhaustive research carried out by academics on high levels of arsenic and mercury in pesticides claiming they are certain that none of the pesticides available in the market contain arsenic or mercury in a hazardous range.
"There might have been traces of mercury or arsenic in the pesticides but not in the unusually high levels as claimed by the researchers. Some 28 chemicals including arsenic and mercury contain sanctions in importation only if such compounds are 'active ingredients' in the pesticide," Registrar of Pesticides Dr. Anura Wijesekara said.
The PRO has introduced a set of guidelines to be considered during the importation of pesticides. It is compulsory to obtain a registering certificate from the PRO prior to releasing any brand of pesticide into the market. "The application has to be submitted by the pesticide distributor inclusive of a report on toxicological data of the pesticide's composition. The quality certificate is issued only after the composition report is studied. It is vital for the report to be issued by an independent lab with a GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) rating," Dr. Wijesekara explained.
Inconclusive enforcement mechanism?
Environmentalists point out that although the existing legal framework is sufficient to effectively regulate the trade and minimize possible hazards that are caused through pesticides, it is the loopholes in the enforcement mechanism that has left scope for swindles to occur. "The consignment of banned toxic substances seized at the Customs cannot be an isolated incident. It is possible that numerous other consignments could have been brought into the country for use in the similar manner. That is why it is important for the trade to be constantly monitored," senior environmentalist and environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardena said.
Mr. Gunawardena further pointed out that the toxicology reports submitted by the distributors during the registration of the pesticide could contain inaccurate information. "It is vital for the regulating bodies to be re-checking the data submitted by the distributors. It is a big weakness of the only regulating authority to base their conclusions on biased reports," he pointed out.
However, Pesticide Registrar Dr. Wijesekara says in order to monitor and regulate the trade; the registration certificate is issued to be valid only for three years. "The registration certificate has to be renewed by the distributor every three years and the distributor is not given provisions to import the pesticide from a company other than the initial supplier during the validity period of the registration," he added.
Although the possibility of inaccuracies in the pesticide composition report is not completely overruled by Dr. Wijesekara, he seems to be of the opinion that it is highly improbable. "This is an international trade - therefore practices and regulations are strictly followed by the distributors and the companies. There have been no reports of such swindles so far," he added while supporting his opinion.
Impacts of arsenic on humans and nature
Rajarata medical faculty lecturer Dr. Jayasumana pointed out that WHO Recommended Classification of Pesticides very clearly states that even the smallest trace of arsenic or mercury is in an 'active' state in pesticides. "The agro-chemical companies might not declare the compounds such as mercury and arsenic to be active ingredients in the pesticide. But it is the duty of the regulating body to re-check the information submitted by the companies without being dependant on their biased reports to support their conclusions," he pointed out.
He pointed out that when arsenic contained pesticides are used, the compounds are accumulated in the biological system. "Apart from chronic cases of kidney diseases, the compound could result in cancers, skins diseases such as keratosis, heart attacks as well as diabetes," Dr. Jayasumana added. He also added that since arsenic easily replaces the phosphate groups in the DNA structures, it results in adverse impacts mainly concerning virus and bacteria DNA structure changes. "The virus or the bacteria becomes virulent which could once again impact on humans negatively."
Arsenic not linked to NC kidney disease - IFS
Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS) based on their research findings claim that they do not believe arsenic to be directly linked to the chronic kidney disease prevalent in the North Central province. "The World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, sets a limit of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic in drinking water. We have checked ground water samples in various provinces including Jaffna, Hambanthota and Batticaloa but we have not detected arsenic in hazardous levels in any of the tested water samples from those districts," IFS Research Fellow Dr. Meththika Vithanage said speaking to Daily Mirror. She pointed out that even in districts such as Jaffna where a high amount of pesticides are used in comparison to other districts, they did not detect high arsenic levels and neither are any unusual numbers of kidney patients reported.
However, Kelaniya University Science faculty Dean Professor Nalin de Silva said that a special method was developed by the Kelaniya University to detect arsenic since conventional methods do not give accurate results due the composition of water in the North Central province. "Wells and rivers in those areas contain hard water (kivul) which contains of high mineral content. The minerals in the water prevent arsenic from being identified when it is tested in conventional methods," he explained adding that several more researches were carried out on plant life as well.
Raid conducted by the Customs
Customs Bio Diversity and National Heritage Deputy Director Samantha Gunasekara speaking to Daily Mirror said that investigations are still being carried out in the consignments of pesticides which were seized last week on suspicion of containing banned chemicals.
The consignment had contained some 400 packages of toxic substances containing banned chemicals such as arsenic and mercury. The shipment had been imported as insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, bacteriacides and fungicides by six multinational agrochemical companies operating in the country.
"The importers have not included the banned chemicals in their declarations. The initial tests carried out indicate that several banned chemicals including arsenic and mercury were detected in the consignments. Some of the pesticides in the consignment are categorized under "restricted use" - meaning only authorized personnel may buy or use such pesticides," Mr. Gunasekara added. The value of the pesticide consignment is yet to be established.
GULF DAILY NEWS
MANIPULATION BY THE MEDIA
BY PAUL BALLES
I am not blaming those who are resolved to rule, only those who show an even greater readiness to submit. - Thucydides
Day after day, TV anchor after anchor has been boasting "news from all angles, from all points of view."
There's never been such an open campaign to convince viewers they aren't being brainwashed by the media's restricted point of view.
In what appears to be an attempt to outfox the Fox News Network which has never admitted the truth about their political bias, the more liberal networks of NBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and CNN now propagandise their viewers with outright lies.
Dozens of liberal commentators, from MSNBC's Chris Matthews to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, have been making a mantra out of "news from all angles, from all points of view."
When a media spokesperson makes a claim like that, he or she should make sure of its truth or refuse to repeat the falsehood.
Those who have been misinforming their audiences are intelligent enough to know that they are deceiving their viewers. Is it possible, for example, that any news reporter would not know of the media's anti-Islamic brainwashing?
How can they continue to report on events like the Quran-burning or the objections to the planned Islamic centre in New York without exposing the Islamophobia? Where has the Muslim angle or point of view in the news been?
The Internet is full of examples of under-reported news. One source of such stories is Project Censored who lists the Top Censored Stories of 2011:
1. Global plans to replace the dollar
2. US Department of Defence is the worst
polluter on the planet
3. Internet privacy and personal access
4. ICE operates secret detention and courts
5. Blackwater (Xe): The secret US war in
6. Health care restrictions cost thousands
of lives in US
7. External capitalist forces wreak havoc
8. Massacre in Peruvian Amazon over US
free trade agreement
9. Human rights abuses continue
10. US funds and supports the Taliban
Harvard Professor Stephen Walt reports that as early as 2005, 78 per cent of the news media, 72pc of military leaders and 69pc of foreign affairs specialists believed that backing Israel seriously damages America's image around the world.
That certainly isn't a factual revelation that you hear on TV. If 78pc of the news media hold that belief, they aren't reporting it.
Former Israeli author and jazz musician Gilad Atzmon writes regular Internet columns on the Middle East. He has zero respect for the mainstream media, commenting:
"Our independent websites and blogs are far more informative than the mainstream media. Collectively, we provide a source of information that people can trust, and we are rapidly becoming the main source of information."
Facebook, Twitter, online blogs and websites with alternative news and commentary are slowly making mainstream media obsolete.
Major stories have been censored by the mainstream media. Often the censorship raises questions about why an important story has been censored.
The media has kept the fact that Obama has cut domestic spending while increasing military spending under wraps. Much military spending is unjustifiable and wasted.
Apart from any conspiracy theories about 9/11, serious questions about discrepancies in official reports have been ignored by leading commentators.
Also censored by the networks are health risks in personal products like cosmetics and suntan lotion with nanotech particles.
Not bad enough to manufacture cover-ups, the networks have now resorted to brainwashing viewers with lies about reporting the news "from all angles and all points of view".
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