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Friday, June 17, 2011

EDITORIAL 17.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 17, edition 000861, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


















  1. ANNUAL PLAN 2011-2012


















































The twain were never destined to meet and it comes as no surprise that the inevitable falling out has happened in so dramatic a manner. Ever since the Government capitulated before the self-appointed representatives of the so-called 'civil society' following Anna Hazare's much-publicised — or, rather, televised — fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and accepted the demand for setting up a 'Joint Drafting Committee', a first of its kind, to draft the Lok Pal Bill, those in favour of an all-powerful ombudsman with sweeping powers over one and all have been coming up with clauses that are patently unacceptable for a variety of reasons, not the least because they impinge on the rights of the executive and legislature as defined by the Constitution. On its part, the Government, goaded by the Congress which now appears to have decided to adopt a tough line towards those agitating against rampant corruption under the UPA's tutelage, has let it be known that every wish of Anna Hazare and his chosen few cannot become the law of the land. For instance, the demand to bring the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India under the purview of the Lok Pal has found no favour with the Government; on their part, Anna Hazare and his nominees in the committee are determined not to let the Government have its way in drafting the proposed Bill. The differences are not over minor issues that can be ironed out or language that can be tweaked to make it acceptable to both sides. That's the way it was meant to be: In a sense, the dialogue between the Government and Anna Hazare's team has followed a pre-determined script along expected lines.

The need for an ombudsman — it's immaterial whether the individual selected for the job will be called a 'Lok Pal' or a 'Jan Lok Pal' — cannot be overstressed. If anything, the gross abuse of power by the incumbent UPA regime has made that need into an immediate necessity. The Prime Minister may claim that he is ignorant of his Ministers looting the nation right under his nose, but if there is an ombudsman, perhaps the loot can be checked. It is equally important to make bureaucrats who are bereft of ethics or elect to become handmaidens at the beck-and-call of their corrupt political masters rather than stand up to them, accountable for their misdeeds. But the job of defining the powers of the Lok Pal is entirely that of the political establishment — elected representatives of the people must undertake this responsibility and be held accountable if they fail in their task. In other words, the executive should draft a Bill and the legislature must deliberate on its provisions, amend them if required, and append its approval to make it into law. To circumvent this procedure, as laid down by the Constitution, would be tantamount to circumventing the democratic process which should fetch no joy to those who value the principles of parliamentary democracy. Anna Hazare's intentions are no doubt noble and he is at liberty to lobby with parliamentarians to push his ideas. But to force them on the country without either debate or deliberation in Parliament is neither fair nor acceptable. This is not to suggest that the Government is free of blemish. It opted for short-sighted tactics to silence its critics; those tactics have now begun to unravel. The chickens of UPA's chicanery are coming home to roost.







That Turkey's two-time Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won himself a third term in office is no surprise at all though the numbers from his stellar victory are still worthy of mention. During this past Sunday's general election, Mr Erdogan raked in nearly 50 per cent of the votes — a significant increase from his first electoral victory in 2002 when he won about 34 per cent of votes. The reason behind Mr Erdogan's growing popularity in Turkey is simple: He has done wonders with the country's economy. Today, if there is one man responsible for Turkey's current envious nine per cent a year growth rate it is Mr Erdogan. Under his leadership, millions of Turks have come out of poverty, especially with the emergence of a new class of entrepreneurs in the Anatolia region which until recently was considered to be a backward and religiously conservative area that was incompatible with growth and development. And perhaps this is where the crux of Mr Erdogan's successful governance model lies: Its ability to produce that elusive combination of economic growth brought about by capitalism and political stability resulting from democratic rule, all within the religious framework of Islam. By showing the world that it is indeed possible for Islam, capitalism and democracy to co-exist, Mr Erdogan has seemingly presented to the Muslim world a viable socio-economic model.

While it is yet to be seen to what extent the Muslim world replicates the Turkish model, there is no doubt that a stronger and more confident Turkey is already asserting its position in the region. As was evident from Mr Erdogan's post-election speech — "Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul, Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, the West Bank..." — Turkey is now clearly aiming to become a regional leader. With several countries in West Asia witnessing popular revolts, the region now stands on the brink of unprecedented change — what better time than now for Turkey to fulfil its ambitions. But let there be no doubt that as Mr Erdogan paves the way for greater influence in the Muslim world, he will have to win over the remaining 50 per cent of his country, including the military and the judiciary, which is largely Kemalist, as well garner the unflinching support of the Arab world that believes Turkey might be too West-friendly for its taste. So, on the one hand, Mr Erdogan must come across as more secular at home (his support for Islamic conservatism has led many to suspect that the AKP is a pseudo-Islamist party) but appear more Islamist abroad. For now it seems, he has been catering to the latter by ignoring the EU and improving ties with Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizbullah and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. This is a worrying trend.









Lobsang Sangay, the new Prime Minister or Kalon Tripa of Tibet in exile, is an astute lawyer who can use Chinese law to the advantage of Tibetans.

When the Chinese rejected the offer of talks "any time, anywhere," by Mr Lobsang Sangay, Tibet's new Prime Minister or Kalon Tripa in exile, they fell back on the legality that only the Dalai Lama can speak for Tibetans. Of course, they placed restrictions on what even he can negotiate, but the very fact that they recognise his authority, vestigial though it might be, is a pointer to China's sense of insecurity even in the artificially truncated Tibet Autonomous Region.

Beijing's policymakers must recall with chagrin the scolding Nikita Khrushchev gave Mao Tse-tung at their last meeting on October 3, 1959. "You ruled in Tibet, you should have had your intelligence there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama," he stormed, brushing aside Mao's attempts to blame India and Jawaharlal Nehru. With memories of butchering the Romanovs 40 years earlier, the Soviet leader said, "If we had been in your place, we would not have let him escape. It would be better if he was in a coffin." Mao must have sounded naïve pleading China could not "arrest" the Dalai Lama or "bar him from leaving" and that the border was so extended "he could cross it at any point". Khruschchev's reply gives an insight into the Marxist-Leninist state's methods. "It's not a matter of arrest; I am just saying that you were wrong to let him go."

The Soviets would not have bothered arresting the Dalai Lama. He would have been liquidated like Trotsky in faraway Mexico. The Chinese probably hoped that a Dalai Lama out of sight would be out of Tibet's mind. Mao's Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution killed millions of Chinese and Mao is suspected of engineering the September 1971 plane crash that killed Lin Biao, his designated successor. But Stalin's Russia had more experience of solving political problems with selective murder. The Soviet state did not negotiate with the Cossacks: At least 1.5 million were massacred while others were transported to the Russian Gulags.

But as Mr Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the Dalai Lama's special envoy, reminded a Singapore audience last November, in 1979 Deng Xiaoping sent a message to the Dalai Lama through his elder brother, Mr Gyalo Thondup, saying that "except for the issue of Tibetan independence, all other issues could be discussed and resolved". Mr Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari has led the Tibetan team in all the negotiations since then, the last being in January 2010.

The parleys have not produced the desired effect but it's interesting that the emphasis on legality has been maintained. During the eighth round in November 2008, for instance, the Tibetans formally presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People outlining 11 basic needs which are provided for in China's Constitution and Law of Regional National Autonomy. As Mr Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari says, the document set out how genuine autonomy and "the specific needs of the Tibetan nationality for autonomy and self-government can be met through application of the principles on autonomy of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, as we understood them". The Chinese could have refused to accept the document which had the potential of hoisting them with their own petard. But they didn't. They studied and rejected the Memorandum on the basis of contents, whereupon the Tibetans gave them a Note addressing their concerns and clarifying Tibet's minimum expectations.

No one can grasp the implications of these exchanges better than the new Kalon Tripa. Mr Lobsang Sangay is a law graduate of Delhi University and of Harvard Law School where he was a Senior Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Programme. As he told an interviewer, he is "in agreement with Tibet supporters that one tactic is to conduct a thorough examination of existing Chinese laws and use them to alleviate challenges facing Tibetans in Tibet". He quoted Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic's former President, saying in The Power of the Powerless that when a state mistreats people, it uses law as a justification.

"Therefore, the power of the oppressed is to utilise the same law to seek redress. It is a win-win proposition, because you can prove either that China does not abide by its own laws if they do not implement their laws or if they do implement, then we can gain our rights." Mr Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru were all lawyers who used their oppressors' laws to gain rights for their people. "I humbly feel my years of having studied Chinese politics, Chinese laws and monitoring the legal situation in China will come to good use in our movement."

History is on his side. One of the "10 Major Programmes" that the Chinese Communist Party announced at its second national congress in 1922 and reiterated at the sixth congress in 1928 read, "We would be truly Communists only if we acknowledged the right to independence of ethnic minorities; in other words, acknowledged the rights of all minority groups to separate themselves from China and establish their own country." Deng announced in 1931 that Article 14 of the new China Soviet Republic's Constitution "recognise(d) the rights of ethnic minorities to self-determination, including their right to separate from China and set up their own nation" which Mao, as chairman, confirmed. It was not until June 15, 1949, shortly before the PRC was proclaimed, that the CCP changed its mind in favour of a "unified multilateral state" whose minorities would enjoy autonomy but not the right to independence.

Now, the Chinese object to the Dalai Lama taking up the cause of Tibetans outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. A junior Minister, Mr Zhu Weiqun, says he can discuss only his future and "that of a few of his personal aides". These might be bargaining positions. Or, China may be using the dialogue process as a sop to the international community. An astute lawyer can sift the chaff from the grain. As for China talking only to "the Dalai Lama's private representatives", Mr Lobsang Sangay can be that as much as Mr Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari. If China doesn't recognise him as Tibetan Prime Minister, neither does India. Neither refusal affects his credentials as representative of the Tibetan people. He can succeed if the atmosphere in Tibet and international pressure persuade Beijing of the need for a negotiated solution.







The move by Delhi University's 'elite' colleges to set ridiculously high cut-off marks for this year's admissions is a reflection of all that is wrong with our education system. If the Government were to allow the setting up of more colleges offering quality education then these 'elite' colleges with decrepit infrastructure would find few takers

Finally, it has happened! After the ridiculous 95 per cent and 96 per cent cut-off marks for the last few years, the cut-offs this year have finally touched 100 per cent, exposing the joke of these cut-offs in totality. The 'first list' cut-off for science students at Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi, has been declared at 100 per cent; Hindu College is at 99 per cent; and, Lady Shri Ram College is at 97 per cent. What people were failing to understand all these days — the ridiculousness of it all — they have suddenly understood in one stroke: Education is no more a matter of choice for Indians, it's just a matter of chance.

First, let me get into the logic of the SRCC cut-off. Well, the principal of SRCC of course thought it was a natural progression and he was playing to the market demand and supply. As the number of students getting 96 per cent plus in commerce rose ridiculously, he realised that SRCC seats could possibly get filled by declaring a 96 per cent cut-off for commerce students. For science students, traditionally, the cut-off has been about four per cent higher — since it's easier to score marks in science subjects than in commerce and humanities. So naturally, the cut-off for science became 100 per cent.

Now, of course he could have kept it at 99 per cent and avoided all the ridicule, but he obviously thought that this could also turn out to be a good publicity gimmick for SRCC to show how top-grade the college is. The other logic was that it's a commerce college and science students who fail to get into institutes like the IITs typically join colleges like SRCC taking advantage of their high percentage — such students keep appearing for IIT exams for the next couple of years and leave the college midway through the course. So why give science students an unfair advantage when there are so many commerce students who intentionally chose the commerce stream, have worked hard and are more deserving?

Whatever the logic, it has backfired — simply because from the college admissions perspective, what was a demand-supply situation made a glaring point about the education system in India. One of our professors at IIPM once told our Dean that he had studied at SRCC many years ago and that too after scoring only 64 per cent in the board examinations. A few years later he went to get his son admitted but couldn't due to the huge 90 per cent plus cut-off. But what he noted with immense sadness was that while the cut-off figures had gone up, the infrastructure had become totally dilapidated; the number of seats had remained almost similar to what they were years ago (SRCC has just 272 seats this year); and, the quality of the faculty had worsened too — hearing the SRCC principal speak during a recent debate on Times Now was living proof of that for me, although my past interactions with SRCC faculty members had never given me a sense of elation ever.

And there lies the irony of our education system. Investment in education gives the highest returns to any nation and this has been repeatedly stated by UNDP. But unfortunately, education is the only public service in India other than health which suffers from the old baggage of scarcity. So, dilapidated institutions due to their aura and the advantage of scarcity — which too is deliberately created — are most sought after by students. Why? Because they were the most sought after in the previous years! That seems to be the only logic.

If institutions like the IIMs limit the number of their seats to keep their placement rates high instead of contributing to the process of nation-building by spreading education, then institutions like SRCC restrict the number of their seats so that every year they can keep increasing their cut-off percentage and give the world an impression that they are great places to study. The truth, of course, is that from the perspective of education, they are providing just about standard — if not sub-standard — education with the biggest weakness being the abysmal quality of their faculty, teaching methods and communication abilities.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has no clear-cut policy or determination to provide quality education to every qualified and deserving student. That could have been done through action on two fronts: First, by increasing the number of seats in the so-called highly reputed colleges; and, second, by setting up hundreds of such colleges all over the country. Both require a world class process of creating quality faculty — apart from, of course, the determination of the Government and the investment to back it up. This is where we are clueless. We don't know how to create great teachers and are unable to attract top quality students towards the profession of teaching. Therefore, we are facing a perpetual shortage of quality teachers who can help increase the number of seats and establish quality colleges.

The private sector is the other option. But there are two key problems here. The Government has to decide whether to allow the private sector to contribute productively or to make money by blackmailing private sector establishments all the time, thus crippling their growth. Second, the Government needs to know that the private sector will always have its profit calculation — which it must. Therefore, in the short-term, investments won't happen in a manner that changes the entire education landscape. It's only in the long-term that the private sector can contribute in key sectors like health and education and that too after years of competition, shake-out and growth since initially it will concentrate only on markets which give higher and more immediate returns.

Given this situation, the only way out of this kind of a crisis is the Government filling the quality gap as well as the supply gap with the help of a determined education policy which has its focus on making high quality education available aplenty for the masses so that India can make the best use of its youth force in the years ahead. And it's time for people to realise that only when institutions like SRCC will have 2,800 seats instead of 280 will they be the real pride of India. Till then, they will remain non-contributing and farcically elite institutions fooling people into believing their non-existent greatness by taking advantage of the scarcity of seats and increasing cut-off percentages every year instead of doing the hard work of increasing the number of seats and producing and reproducing quality faculty.

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





The NAC should also be made accountable to the people

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari would do well to remember that people in glass houses should not throw stones. While railing against civil activists, spearheading the anti-corruption campaign, he reportedly said that the greatest peril for democracy "is the tyranny of the unelected and the unelectable". If that is indeed so, the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council, constituted by the UPA Government, should be dissolved as it is crammed with civil society representatives, most of whom are not elected leaders. In fact, they are not even politicians. This extra-constitutional body, to quote from its website, was "set up as an interface with civil society". The very same civil society that has been slammed for trying to appropriate political functions, without ever having gone through the electoral process.

Or, is one to assume that the civil society, with which the NAC chooses to interact, and the activists in NAC, all involved in providing inputs for shaping Government policies on poverty alleviation, education, agriculture, health, communal violence, information, etc, are somehow acceptable whereas others, critical of the ruling regime, are not? The Congress needs to recall that the UPA itself gave legitimacy to civil society by setting up the NAC on June 4, 2004 at Ms Gandhi's behest. One quotes again from the website to explain the objective: "Through the NAC, the Government has access not only to their expertise and experience but also to a larger network of Research Organisations, NGOs and Social Action and Advocacy Groups".

But the duplicity inherent in the move is exposed by the diatribe launched by Mr Tewari, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh and others against anti-corruption activists, who are anathema for the ruling coalition because of their blunt refusal to comply with its dictates. Do-gooders and NGOs, part of the NAC's charmed circle, are above suspicion. The NAC itself is specially empowered since its mandate, as per the website, is also to "review the flagship programmes of the Government and suggest measures to address any constraints in their implementation and delivery". In a sense, it supervises Government functioning, thereby relegating the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to second place. Yet, there is no constitutional provision for such a supervisory body.

To consider the NAC, besides Ms Gandhi, who is the elected MP from Rae Bareli and NAC head, of the 14 members, only two are members of Parliament: Mr Ram Dayal Munda and Prof MS Swaminathan. But they have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha, and not elected by the people. Mr Munda is a Congress leader. The remaining members consist of retired bureaucrats, economists, academics and social activists, all hand-picked by the Prime Minister and Ms Gandhi. The "tyranny of the unelected and unelectable" is thus most evident in the functioning of the NAC, which in its earlier avatar between 2004-2006, had just two politicos as members: Congress MP Jairam Ramesh and Mr Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok Satta founder and MLA from Andhra Pradesh. Mr Ramesh was a Rajya Sabha member. Then, too, Ms Gandhi was the chairperson of the NAC. The office of profit dispute had forced Ms Gandhi to quit the NAC on March 23, 2006. The body was re-constituted in March 2010, with Ms Gandhi as chairperson, with the status of a Cabinet Minister.

Congress spokespersons need to explain how this extra-constitutional body, with only one elected leader, Ms Gandhi, has greater legitimacy than civil activists Anna Hazare and his supporters, and the Baba Ramdev-headed group. Further, with regard to the framing the anti-corruption bill, the debate on bringing the Prime Minister and higher judiciary within its ambit should have a broader focus. It is equally important to bring the President of India and NAC, as a supervisory planning body, within the ambit of the proposed Lok Pal Bill. Eminent jurist and retired Justice VR Krishna Iyer in an article, titled "Baba Ramdev is one of the symbols of India's anarchy", explains why the anti-corruption campaign led by Baba Ramdev has attracted people's attention:

"This because the executive today is vitiated with bribery. Even the judiciary, once regarded as untouchable, and unapproachable by money power, is tarnished and sullied. People will soon cry for a national revolution. Not mere socialism but a republic governed by the little man and not, as Churchill put it, 'rogues, rascals and freebooters'. Judges have lost the values of the Preamble... MPs today only keep their little constituency in mind and thereafter are busy making money. The executive has no sense of accountability."

The office of the President may largely be that of a titular head but is meant by the Constitution to be impartial. However, the failure of Ms Pratibha Patil to act on complaints of Opposition leaders against the rampant corruption has shown her to be a Congress and Gandhi family loyalist. BJP president LK Advani has criticised her "unresponsive" attitude after she ignored the memorandum submitted to her, demanding her "immediate intervention" to force the Union Government to call a special session of Parliament to discuss the police action against Baba Ramdev and his followers at the Ramlila Maidan. He said that appealing to her had become a "mere formality".

Given these facts, it is necessary to make all the powers that be accountable.






A decade in Opposition has done the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu much good. Her visit to New Delhi, where she was treated like a national leader, bears testimony to her stature

She came, she saw but did she conquer? Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa was in the capital in search of a new political equation with the Congress-led UPA Government. Among the new crop of Chief Ministers who have emerged after the recent Assembly elections, Ms Jayalalithaa stands alone as the others — Mr Tarun Gogoi from Assam, Mr Omen Chandy from Kerala — are all either Congress members or like Ms Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal have an alliance with it. The Chief Minister of Puducheri is a former Congressman as well.

Like her earlier visits, her trip this week after her landslide victory was also high profile, and she has already created a stir during her two day visit. Her trip was being closely watched by her rival, the DMK which lost in the recent elections, as well as by DMK-ally, the Congress, which maybe looking to get her support in the eventuality that the DMK pulls out their members from the UPA2 regime.

Ties between the DMK and the Congress have weakened significantly since the Assembly polls and the DMK has every reason to be nervous about Ms Jayalalithaa's meetings with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

During the visit, political messages were sent out loud and clear. Ms Jayalalithaa's importance, for instance, was clearly underlined as Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit called on her within hours of her arrival. Then there was a stream of visitors from different parties like the BJP and the CPI.

So, what were Ms Jayalalithaa's goals as she dashed to the capital? The first was to secure a financial package. Ms Jayalalithaa had to ensure ample assistance from New Delhi as she begins work on preparing the State Budget, her first major task. Since she claims that the coffers are empty, finding money is indeed a major concern. She knows that since she is leading a non-Congress Government, she has to be in the good books of the Centre to wrangle out adequate financial assistance. Tamil Nadu Governor's speech had already laid the ground that the State will have no confrontation with the Centre.

Ms Jayalalithaa's second goal was to make her presence felt in New Delhi. She now wants to play a bigger role in national politics. As we already know, she has Prime Ministerial ambitions. She also remains friendly with the BJP, the TDP, the Left parties CPI and the CPI-M and is also on fairly good terms with the Congress as was evident from her offer to support the UPA regime, in case the DMK left. Although it is too early to talk of a new front as general elections are two-and-a-half years away but clearly Ms Jayalalithaa has kept her options open as she wants to be a national leader in her own right. Her aspirations were visible in her invitations to the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, Telugu Desam supremo Chandrababu Naidu and CPI leader D Raja to attend her swearing-in ceremony last month.

Ms Jayalalithaa's last and final aim was to send a message to the DMK, which of course is already worried about the signals sent by the Congress (party chief Sonia Gandhi called her after her electoral victory to congratulate her). As mentioned earlier, DMK-Congress ties have been under strain since the arrest of DMK members A Raja and Kanimozhi but the DMK had decided to stay put with the congress due to political compulsions. To make matters worse, now another DMK Minister Dayanidhi Maran is also under the scanner for his alleged role in the 2G Spectrum scam. Ms Jayalalithaa would of course like to keep the DMK on tenterhooks by cosying up to its ally, the Congress.

From the looks of it, there is little denying that Ms Jayalalithaa has been successfull in achieving all her goals. She has always shared a good relationship with Mr Singh and vice versa. She has also made it clear that she will have no confrontations with the Union Government. This works very well for the Centre, as it can do without a hostile State, as well as for Ms Jayalalithaa who wouldn't want a hostile Centre either as she need its support for all her develpoment schemes. So that takes care of her first goal.

As for her second aim, that too has been achieved to a large extent as she has sent out clear political messages. She also gave all the right answers on questions on the role of civil society, the Lokpal Bill and other national issues. She was friendly to the BJP and the CPI. She was also cordial to Ms Dikshit. Even on the question of support to the Congress she merely said that it was for the Congress to make the move leaving the political space open. Her political relevance was thus quite visible.

The only jarring note was her demand that Home Minister P Chidambaram should step down because he did not win his seat in 2009 polls and was elected through "fraudulent means". But then again her quarrels with Mr Chidambaram go back to the nineties. As for her objective of scaring the DMK, that too she has done it effectively.

Clearly, Ms Jayalalithaa has come a long way in the last 10 years. Being in the Opposition for a decade has surely mellowed. As she begins her third term as Chief Minister, her newly gained confidence is very visible.







Talk of water and mineral is indicative of the changing paradigms of growth. Coupling it with finances and investment policy creates the perfect requirement template of where attention needs to be focused

The mortgage to GDP ratio is expected to rise from eight per cent to 20 per cent by 2020. This is an indicator of the times to come. When this is ensconced in an environment of huge undocumented sources of wealth deposited in undocumented repositories, the leverages of influence and power become in great measure 'invisible'.

A situation where several players affect the decision-making process but their role does not get factored into the planning process makes a large part of the context well beyond any legitimate system. The attraction to join the band of the select few who can get away with it influences the mind of a large number of youth powerfully and that is difficult to countermand. It is what lends to the current talk of corruption and black money its dangerous overtone.

The risk to orderly governance comes from many quarters and one of them is leverage of power which governance does not regulate.

The other side of the coin is the very large need of capital required over the next five years to ensure India's growth. That public sector banks are starved of capital is well known and serious thought needs to be given to merge the public sector banks, which do not have the capacity to perform, with another public sector bank so that the necessary mass gives strengthens opportunity for action.

Some unconventional thinking may also help and one possibility is to use the forex reserve to recapitalise the banks. It has already been attempted in China and has a potential for success in India. If there could be an option of golden share and non-voting share or some such capital variant for public sector banks and their composition that may be a part of the way out.

There are other obvious requirements namely the need for inter-regulatory coordination while ensuring their independence and operational autonomy. But none of this is likely to happen unless there is streamlining and simplifying the legal system. Mercifully there are some indications of this happening.

The NRI sector comes to be significant in this direction and financial products directed towards mobilising these funds would be useful to look at. If insurance schemes could be bundled with NRI saving deposits; forward cover could be bundled with FCNR-B deposits, this could, also be, a part of the solution. Focussing on low cost funds and joint venture in not so prosperous regions of Africa could be a part of the solution.

All round response time of financial institution needs to improve and lowering the cost of operations in all its manifestation is a must. Universal banking, as is known, would give the advantages of economising of skill, profitable resources utilisation and easy marketing on the foundation of a brand name. Unfortunately, the universalisation of universal banking itself, at times, flounders on the rock of poor infrastructure.

The need to weld micro-finance strategy with strategy for HNI is likely to lend strength to both. However, for this to happen stricter regulatory action against dubious MFIs operated by rogue financers would be needed.

In the meanwhile, there are serious changes in environmental concerns. Water has acquired a prime place in battle of resources. When this is compounded with issues of river pollution, ground water pollution, even agricultural products get affected and one is not certain whether even the vegetables which one is eating are wholesome.

There is no way of reversing or controlling this unless the sources of pollution themselves are checked and controlled. The situation is made more complicated with aquifer depletion, in adequate storage capacity and water conflict. The recent news of what is projected to happen in the upper reaches of Brahmaputra in China can not be a source of comfort.

By the same token mineral resources (where the important ones would be crude oil, coal, bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, gold, iron ore, lime stone) are going to determine to a large extent the future of industrial growth.

The talk of water and mineral is indicative of the changing paradigms of growth. Coupling it with finances and investment policy creates the perfect requirement template of where attention needs to be focussed.

It is about time we realise the gravity of the situation and got cracking with action where it is required. That would mean building economic stock pile, diversifying sources of supply, intensifying search for metals and minerals, research and development and having a foreign policy initiative which gives to India its fair share of planetary resources.








Some of Delhi University's premier colleges have generated controversy by announcing very steep cut-offs for admission, going as high as 100% for entry into a commerce institution. This indicates a deeper malaise plaguing our higher education system. Over the years, prestigious colleges have used admission cut-offs to advertise brand value. If cut-offs are meant to reflect how sought-after colleges are, they're also used to counter what some educationists call the "trend of inflating results" at board levels. Either way, students are the victims. If they can't afford to get anything short of a perfect score to get into their dream colleges, it points to a severe demand-supply imbalance. That one popular DU college received over 21,000 applications for just 420 seats exemplifies the problem. We have a serious dearth of quality institutions, a situation that'll only worsen without urgent systemic reform.

The problem lies in the government's approach to higher education in general. For far too long the education sector has laboured under the mistaken notion that government alone can facilitate the creation and running of top quality universities. This has led to an administrative regime marked by rigid rules and regulations stifling the growth of colleges. The crunch for seats combined with irrational admission norms has spawned a capitation fee culture, especially in the south. Universities have little room to innovate and, with academic promotions a matter of loyalty rather than merit, there's little incentive for cutting-edge research. While capacity building has been stymied by official caprice, teaching methodology is largely focussed on churning out degree-holders. No surprises then that Indian universities fare poorly on most international rankings.

The government does have a huge role to play in expanding education, especially at the primary and secondary school levels. But it needs to encourage the private sector to build capacity at the university level. This requires creating a level playing field for such investors and giving universities and institutes far greater autonomy. Ultimately, it is the market that determines the real value of a college degree. It's when universities have the freedom to structure curriculum, hire teaching staff based on merit and seek independent funding for research that competition will raise overall standards. As also increase access to quality education for greater numbers of aspirants.

There's bound to be resistance to change from vested interests within government and the academic community. Both must realise that the education pie needs to be enlarged by bringing in more private players in the field. There's a case for institutional and private philanthropy in higher education as well. Investments, however, will only be forthcoming if the sector is freed up, giving greater independence to institutions. Policy reform, based on this shift in perspective, is imperative to give higher education the boost it so badly needs.






Matters are heating up in Afghanistan. The post-Abbottabad situation was always going to be a tricky one, but just how tricky is being revealed now with the July 2011 kick-off date for the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan fast approaching. Just a few days ago, CIA chief Leon Panetta travelled to Islamabad to confront the generals with evidence of possible cooperation between the Pakistani military and pro-Afghan Taliban militants. And now, Islamabad is sending an equally clear message by targeting informants who helped the US track Osama bin Laden to Abbottabad. In this vitiated atmosphere, it seems clear that despite domestic pressure, US President Barack Obama should not be precipitate in weakening the American presence in Afghanistan - or the Taliban, backed by Rawalpindi, will be in a position to undo all the hard-won gains of the past decade.

Plainly, domestic compulsions or no, Washington is aware of this. Hence the reports of secret talks between US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and the Afghan government about an arrangement that would see US military power based in the country indefinitely. While India, Russia and China have all expressed concern, such a move could prove beneficial in the short to medium term. New Delhi must push for more inclusiveness in deciding Afghanistan's future. The US should stay involved, but a regional approach that pulls in as many of Afghanistan's neighbours as possible is desirable as well. Pulling out and leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban and ISI, and turning the country into a US outpost are two extremes, both dangerous. Washington must find the middle path, maintaining a military presence but also bringing Afghanistan's neighbours on board.









At a seminar held in New Delhi recently to mark the 10th anniversary of the Arun Singh committee on the management of defence, Chief of Air Staff P V Naik reignited the chief of defence staff (CDS) controversy when he claimed that it was not needed. His claims notwithstanding, there are significant problems in tactical interoperability, defence planning and overall coordination that suggest otherwise. The defence reforms process, initiated over a decade ago, has largely failed to deliver. Significantly, however, the Arun Singh committee itself was flawed in its approach. Hence, instead of contradicting the Kargil review committee, Naik would do better to focus on the need for the next generation of defence reforms.

That the services lack the capability to operate seamlessly has been proven time and again in operations. During the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, the army used to embed its radio detachments with naval ships and air force attack helicopters to enable communication links. Among the few instances where the army requested naval gunfire support, the navy engaged targets two kilometres away! More recently, during the Kargil war in 1999, air force jets did not have the capability to communicate with troops operating on the front. In fact, the air force did not have secure, encrypted communication capability (and still does not) in some of its planes, forcing them to fly in radio silence - a characteristic of the WW II era.

Similarly, intelligence gathering and analysis has been one of our weakest links. There are reports that in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, while the air force was prepared to carry out surgical raids, it was hampered by a lack of accurate intelligence on the location of terror facilities in Pakistan.

It was to obviate some of these weaknesses, recognised during the Kargil war, that the Arun Singh committee was formed. It comprised 11 people with varying backgrounds and experience. In carrying out its mandate, the committee deliberated over testimonies from different stakeholders. However, it did not examine the files that obviously illuminate the functioning of different organisations. Hence, its analysis was more opinion based than data driven. For instance, when it argued that "the COSC [Chiefs of Staff Committee has not been effective in fulfilling its mandate", it did not provide any evidence for this claim. An examination of the files of the COSC would have been more helpful in identifying the structural problem, which probably is the difficulty in making controversial decisions in a consensus-based committee. As a result, the Arun Singh committee's recommendation was simplistic - appointment of a CDS. For historical and bureaucratic reasons, this measure was not approved.

As an illustrative example, the Arun Singh committee can be imagined as a group of car mechanics who attempted to fix the vehicle based on their opinions of what was wrong without once opening the hood. But this in itself should not be surprising, for a similar methodology was adopted by subsequent reform committees like the Kelkar committee, the Defence Expenditure Review committee and so on. The conclusion, though, should be startling - the government of India bases its national security policies on opinions of stakeholders rather than facts. This is not to deride the efforts of the people who manned these committees - it is difficult if not impossible to get bureaucracies to share their files.

If, somehow, the government does decide to revisit defence reforms, then it should begin by re-examining the issue of integration of armed forces headquarters with the ministry of defence. While the Kargil review committee recommended such a measure, the Arun Singh committee simply devolved financial powers and recommended a change in the nomenclature of the ministry. Many in the armed forces erroneously believe that this measure is the 'silver bullet' that will resolve all problems. In fact, there is a need to have an agency that can deliberate over proposals emanating from service headquarters and examine them purely on its merit. However, the manning of such an agency should be expertise based, which is impossible in the generalist civil service system. It might be instructive, therefore, considering our similarities, to study how the British ministry of defence functions - more so as they are presently engaged in organisational reform. Next, we will have to revisit the conceptual relevance of CDS. Currently, there is little enthusiasm for creating this post. Moreover, it is not even clear if the CDS will automatically enhance jointness. Instead, one of the issues that require deliberation is perhaps the need to have a joint chiefs of staff system with integrated theatre commands. This measure was deliberated upon by the Arun Singh committee but was discarded as too futuristic. That future might be upon us now.

Finally, the government must re-examine its entire declassification policy. It is simply untenable to deny scholars access to documents post-1960. This is also a problem of capacity as there is no office or officer designated to declassify and release documents for scholarly study. All of these measures ultimately require deliberations at the highest levels of the cabinet. And that is what the service chiefs should lobby for.

The writer is research fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.









Foreign minister S M Krishna attended the Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers' meeting at Godollo in Hungary where he spoke with Deep K Datta-Ray:

As India's foreign minister, you are invited to innumerable meetings. Why did you come to this one?

This conference is important because it's a bridge between two extremely important parts of the world - Europe and Asia. A large part of actually devising relations is to get a feeling for the thinking in other capitals and since i can't visit all of them, this is an excellent forum for all of us to work together and to hold bilateral meetings. That's why we decided to come.

Having engaged your European counterparts, what are the particular commonalities and differences in our relations with the European Union?

The commonalities are multiple. They're political and multi-sectoral. Broadly speaking, there's trade and economic growth. The Europeans want to be a part of the Indian growth story. This is encouraging from our point of view because we're interested in deepening our engagement with the European Union (EU). As for differences, i can't really think of anything noteworthy at this level. That's not to say that there's perfect alignment between us. There are differences but these are relatively technical and minor compared to the overall situation. One has to go very deep into the relations individual European countries have with us to actually find discordant notes in what's a fine symphony.

The EU is our largest trading partner and we're currently working on an India-EU FTA. What chance of it being realised by the end of this year?

Indeed, the EU is our largest trading partner and both parties are working to realise an FTA. This will not only make trade easier between us but, we also hope, will facilitate the movement of peoples between India and the EU in certain professions. I'm hopeful that it will be realised this year. We're committed to it happening.

What were the main issues for India at this conference? Was climate change raised?

India has such a broad and deep relationship with the EU. In a meeting like this what we do is to get, and give, exposes without going deep into any particular issue. The general theme has been non-traditional security threats but still, there are multiple issues. They include climate change and how the developed and developing world can ensure growth while not destroying the environment. An issue of great significance to us was nuclear safety. We've agreed to take a new look at nuclear safety issues and stressed that the IAEA should take a lead role in maintaining nuclear safety. Ministers are briefed, and we comment on our take at such meetings. In short, it's stocktaking, a forum to exchange views, requiring much preparation by our foreign ministry working in conjunction with other ministries. The main thing is to understand other people's point of view and to appreciate them.

Do you find the Europeans understand and appreciate our point of view?

Yes i think so. India's voice is being heard with considerable attention. If i may say so somewhat immodestly, with respect too.

EU parliamentarians have a focus group for India. Why don't we have something similar for them?

Parliament is the exclusive domain of the Speaker in the Lok Sabha and the chairman in the Rajya Sabha. The executive has very little elbow room to move in a particular direction. All that can be done is to make the request that it is necessary to reciprocate the EU's interest in us.








My 24-year-old niece, Parul, from Baroda recently stayed with us for a bit, while she was doing a stint as a trainee executive in a nearby 5-star hotel. She proved to be a perfect houseguest, unobtrusive, undemanding and considerate. Self-confident and articulate, while being very much her own person, Parul is also representative of what is called Youngistan: the republic of youth which constitutes the major part of India's overall population and which has given the country the demographic dividend of the 8%-plus growth which comes from having a lot of young people who have ahead of them long careers both as productive workers and as consumers keeping the economy buoyant.

Yep, in many ways, India is blessed by its demographics, by its young people. And it's not just in terms of its economy. For far too long, ours was a society in which being young was a literally minor but nonetheless irritating ailment - like mumps and measles - which had to be got over as quickly as possible so that one could gain the respectable - and respected - status of middle age and beyond.

Young people - anyone under the age of 30 and/or unmarried - were deemed not to be sufficiently equipped with the wisdom of experience, which only age could bestow, to be allowed to make decisions for themselves, whether that decision involved matrimony, career choice or what salwar or shirt to wear when paying a family visit to Uncleji's and Auntieji's house. Age was an advantage, youthfulness a disadvantage, and between the two yawned the seemingly unbridgeable chasm of the generation gap.

Today, if anything, those traditional roles have been reversed. Youth is wooed by potential employers and by producers of goods and services; age is often at a discount. Far from resenting it, i find the role-reversal stimulating. The energy, zest and intensity of the young is highly infectious, a benevolent virus that leaps across the erstwhile generation gap and transforms it into a generation rap: a jugalbandhi in which youth and age play counterpoint to each other and extemporise a new tempo.

Talking to young people, listening to what they have to say about big things and small - about career prospects, or the latest app offered by BlackBerry, or the Meaning Of It All, if All indeed does have a Meaning - i get to know better my own opinions on the subject (BlackBerrys excluded, what with me being a totally techno-challenged dummy who can just about tell a Nokia from a Nike).

Generation rapping is more than a comparing of ideas from different sides of a dividing fence; it's an exchange of views using the common telescope of time. Senior cits like me tend to focus the telescope on the past, the future being a horizon far too close to bear magnified scrutiny. (Good god, did that really happen 30 years ago? Seems like only yesterday). With hardly any past to speak of, the young must turn time's telescope to the distant realm of the future, which seems to grow more distant every day (When will i at last finish college, get a job, find someone i might want to spend the rest of my life with? Will it ever happen?).

With the future so far away, for the young time seems to pass with maddening slowness. With the future already becoming the past as we look at it, for us who are no longer young time seems to accelerate with scary speed. Being with young people, full of future, helps slow down time for me. For the young, being with oldsters like me might help speed up time's frustrating slowness (Don't be so impatient for the future; it'll be there all too soon, along with wrinkles and worries about your BP).

So i'd like to thank Parul, and all of her generation, for the gift of future they give us. My regret is that the future they'll inherit from my lot could have been much brighter and better. And maybe they'll make it just that. I hope they do.






Would you buy the apartment that sets you back Rs20,000 every month in rent for Rs1 crore? You might if the flat were appreciating 15% a year; you earn Rs25 lakh a year; have Rs20 lakh in the bank; and the interest rate on the Rs80 lakh loan were 10% a year. The incentive to buy drops off appreciably as the interest rate on the home loan climbs. And if more people choose to live on rent rather than buy houses, residential property prices cool, although rents start climbing. When interest eats up all the gains from rising house prices, the decision to buy is dictated more by lifestyle than economics. This is broadly what the Reserve Bank of India hopes to achieve by raising interest rates 10 times in the last 15 months. Real estate bubbles are among the first targets for central banks trying to battle inflation.

Bank lending to new homeowners grew 15% last year, while their loans to builders climbed 21.4%. These are roughly in line with the 20.6% growth in credit to the non-farm economy in 2010-11. The central bank wants to put the squeeze on lending for housing, and it is eminently capable of doing this because banks have become intrinsic players in the Indian urban property market. Banks put up Rs4 for every Rs1 that most urban buyers bring to the table when they purchase a house. Similarly, they lend builders 60% of the cost of developing real estate. Typically a bank has a Rs1 crore exposure to the Rs1 crore apartment that you may be thinking of buying: Rs80 lakh as a loan to you and another Rs20 lakh loan to the builder who is selling it at a 10% mark-up. By raising interest rates and the money that banks need to keep aside for real estate lending, the central bank has a grip on both the demand and supply feeding the bubble.

All this, of course, hurts the bloke looking to buy a house in, say, Aurangabad, where prices are not in as much a tear as they are in the big cities. He, and the hapless end-user in the metros, pays the price for excessive speculation in select pockets. The black money chasing Indian housing compounds the problem, taking it beyond the realm of textbook policy suggestions. If half the price of a house is transacted in cash, the central bank can compress demand only up to a point. The Reserve Bank has been consistent in its zeal to prick housing bubbles, but it cannot be left alone to do so. The government must chip in by flushing black money out of the walls we live within.






Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is a noble soul. Now that you have survived this early morning jolt, please take a look at the irrefutable proof we have at hand. The president, a noble soul we insist, has asked the country's National Database and Registration Authority to use his name as the father's name in official documentation for children of unknown parentage. A large number of such children were sent to the country's welfare centres after they lost their parents in the devastating 2005 earthquake and last year's floods. Pakistan has no law on the rights of such children, including their financial entitlement or inheritance. This will, we hope, go a long way in ensuring that the unfortunate children get their due.

But like all good intentions, this one too may face some real problems. Or let's say the president might face some problems in future, especially some searching questions. But let's assure you that there will be, as happens so often in Pakistan, no answers. Take for example, when all the president's children grow up and realise the worth of having such a weighty surname. Many would surely wear it as a badge of honour (we hope if no more Osamas are found in Islamabad's backyard that is). But there's also a strong possibility of a few having serious doubts when a related question crops up in their innocent minds: why isn't their elder brother Bilawal called Bilawal Zardari, but Bilawal Bhutto? Or some more enterprising ones will say: thank you for the surname but what lies behind it? Maybe some property too, at least 15%? Or maybe someone will be bit bolder and ask for a higher amount adjusted to inflation.

As we said in the beginning, Mr Zardari is a noble soul. He might part with some dough considering that the 15% days are long over and has also now been inflation-adjusted. And, he has some extra cash to spare.






Harsh Mander, in his article Let's have a fair deal (June 15) discusses some recommendations of the draft bills on land acquisition and resettlement & rehabilitation as effective safeguards for farmers, landless workers and forest-dwellers.

Three of the recommendations are noteworthy. One, if the entity benefiting from acquisition resells the land, the owners should get a share in the profit. Two, the compensation should be increased to six times the registered value of the land. Three, 100% compulsory acquisition of land should be allowed only for defence, infrastructure and 'social-service' projects. Moreover, states should regulate the direct purchases of land by companies.

The proposed measures betray the ignorance of the ministry of rural development and the national advisory council (NAC) about the fundamental causes behind the protests against land acquisition, the inadequacy of compensation and the resulting litigation.

For instance, registered values don't exist for a large portion of agricultural and forest lands. Ownership and land records are incorrect, outdated or simply absent. Under such conditions, affected people can't be ensured adequate compensation by simply choosing a high multiplier for the non-existing registered-value.

In contrast, there is market value in the parcels located near urban areas. While the acquired property may not have a registered price here, it's possible to find other properties with registered rates and claim them to be 'similar'. The question is: which available rate should serve as the basis for determining compensation?

The initial compensation is awarded by the land acquisition collector (LAC) on the basis of the 'floor-rate', which is perpetually outdated and below the market value. In contrast, courts generally use relatively high-valued sale deeds as the basis. So court awards are substantially higher, a claim which Mander corroborates. For example, in 96% of the judgements delivered by the Punjab and Haryana high court in 2009-10, the average judicial awards were 342% higher than the LAC awards. Understandably, affected people have a  strong incentive to go in for litigation.

But litigation is a socially inefficient and regressive way of granting compensation, as under the existing law the onus of proving the market value is on the owner, notwithstanding the fact that the government possesses the relevant information. Therefore, a dedicated state-level body, with representation from all stakeholders, should decide on compensation. It should also be responsible for determining and updating floor-rates and compensating even the landless.

The abuse of the eminent domain power can't be stopped by restricting compulsory acquisition to certain categories of projects. On the contrary, diluting the distinction between public and private objectives could further facilitate the misuse of the law. The apparent objective of public-private partnerships is to tap private funds for infrastructure, education, healthcare services, etc. As its share, the government acquires land, which is way more than it really needs. The project company uses excess land to serve its private interests. With an increasing reliance on private funding of public goods, such practices will increase and become subtler. Unfortunately, the proposed measures can't stop them.

The amended law should allow compulsory acquisition for companies only if the activity yields direct benefit to the general public, like roads, airports and ports. Even then, companies should get only the usage rights and not the land's ownership. Also, the project should not have real-estate or other commercial components. For social projects, which require small land and are flexible in terms of location, like schools and hospitals, companies must buy land directly from the owners.

When a company is using acquired land, the department concerned must publish project details beforehand, like the purpose and duration of the project, the area to be acquired, how the public will benefit from the project, who will own the acquired land and who will bear the cost of acquisition. To give bite to these provisions, the proposed legislation should provide for an independent 'land acquisition and compensation regulatory authority'. Approval from this authority should be a prerequisite, whenever a company uses the acquired land.

Ram Singh teaches at Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.





The 24x7 media is an amoral beast and the camera is Shiva's third eye. It sees the positive and the negative, and it doesn't blink: it is indeed a double-edged weapon. Television magnifies sound and images, but it can also be used to completely distort them. An artful government will recognise the power of the media but will harness it to its advantage. An under-confident government will allow the media to dictate the agenda, petrified by the media's power, and then merely react to it. UPA 2 is a prime example of what happens when TV becomes the Pied Piper and the government desperately plays catch up. Ubiquitous TV images will show up an absentee government in high definition every day.

In recent weeks, as the images of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare played out across TV screens, the government appeared to panic. Four cabinet ministers rushed to the airport to mollify the yoga guru. In Hazare's case, a fast at Jantar Mantar was enough to hasten the government into issuing a order appointing a lokpal committee without any consultation process.

In both instances, the government blames the media for forcing it to act in an unwise manner by giving disproportionate coverage to the agitations. Such an accusation stems from a failure to recognise the nature of the media. Twenty-four hour news TV, in particular, is a carnivorous animal that needs to be constantly fed. The likes of Ramdev and Hazare have realised this only too well while staging 'made for TV' events in Delhi.

In contrast, the government hides in the shadows of the forbidding walls of power. Occasionally, the PM mumbles a few words, Rahul Gandhi is sometimes seen in well-choreographed meetings while Sonia Gandhi seems to have retreated behind the barricades of 10 Janpath. When the three most-powerful people in the UPA 2 are not available to the media, who will feed the appetite of the 24-hour news cycle? So, every night on prime time TV, hapless Congress spokespersons have to answer for the government's sins. With no real mandate, the spokespersons have little option but to attempt to filibuster their way out of difficult situations. It could well be argued that news TV, especially English language TV, doesn't have any impact on political electability. A Mayawati, for example, has been consistently contemptuous of all media, refusing to do any interviews or take any questions from journalists. She is firm in her belief that her Bahujan Samaj voter will not be influenced by media perceptions.

At least, Mayawati is consistent in her disdainful attitude towards the media. The problem with the UPA is that it wants greater media approval at one level, and yet remains suspicious of it at another. You can't have it both ways. Either the government must embrace the media like a Barack Obama, where the US president misses no opportunity to play the media, be it an intimate chat on an Oprah Winfrey show or a hard talk interview on network TV. Else it should be prepared to allow high-decibel TV to set the agenda for it. Television abhors a vacuum. If the government, for whatever reason, will not fill the black hole of  information, then it will be filled by noisy news anchors and equally loud arguments.

Take the debate on corruption. Through his public life, Manmohan Singh's calling card has been his personal integrity. And yet, how often have we seen Dr Singh take on his critics on corruption? In the two years of UPA 2, he has done just two live press conferences but not a single one-on-one interview. Perhaps, Singh's image-makers fear that the TV lens will expose his limitations as a public speaker. Since he is a soft-spoken individual, the fear is that his voice will not be heard in the cacophony around him. Once again, this is a misunderstanding of the media. Just as the camera captures the noisy, it also zooms in on sobriety and decency. At a time when the viewer seems to be tiring of the constant barrage of zero-sum debates, the PM has an opportunity to set himself apart as a voice of reason and rationality. Yet, by staying silent, he almost confirms his critics claim of being in office, but not in power.

Sonia Gandhi's approach to the media is equally mystifying. In the run-up to the 2004 general elections, her roadshows established her as an astute and charismatic campaigner who could use the media to her advantage. Now, by refusing to engage with the media, she gives the impression of a leader who wields power without responsibility, who is unwilling to be held accountable for any of the mistakes of  the government. As for Rahul, have we ever heard him express his views on matters of national importance? Or does he too, like a Mayawati, believe that the media is a pestilence best avoided?

Post-script: It is not just the power elite, but also we in the news business who need to introspect. Why is that we cover a Hazare or a Ramdev with such intensity, but barely touch the story of an Irom Sharmila, the Manipuri activist who has been fasting for over 10 years for revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act? Or is Imphal simply too distant and complex for the country's 180-odd news channels to report on?

Rajdeep Sardesai is editor-in-chief, IBN 18 Network, The views expressed by the author are personal.





The starkly disproportionate response of the government, media and the public to the two babas on fast over the last few days is symptomatic of a deep malaise in our democratic set-up. Capturing the headlines was Baba Ramdev, fasting on the issues of black money and corruption; completely sidelined was Swami Nigamanand, fasting on the issue of mining and stone crushing along the Ganga. The former was 'persuaded' to break his fast even though the government had not met his demands; the latter, refusing to break his fast till the mining was stopped, perished for the cause.

This differential treatment reflects how we treat different kinds of corruption. The word itself has come to mean only financial irregularities with the intent of personal or group enrichment. But corruption can also mean the abuse of power by decision-makers, the use of personal relationships and influence to gain favours, and so on. What the Swami Nigamanand tragedy highlights is the corruption of economic decision-making by the elite in ways that undermine the  life and livelihoods of those less powerful.

Tackling black money and financial corruption is essential, but it has to be complemented by fundamental reforms in the way our economy is governed. If all the black money stashed abroad is rescued and put into the same hands that today control India's economy, it may make things worse.

Indiscriminate mining or other destructive economic activity is not confined to the Ganga's banks, it is rampant across the country. Much of it is sanctioned and sanctified as part of an economic growth model that parades itself as 'development'. The era of financial globalisation has rapidly changed the face of India. For the 'upper' classes, the change has been shining; for large parts of the rest of India, it has, at best, been neutral, at worst, disastrous.

One major casualty has been ecological sustainability. The rate of diversion of forest land for mining, industry, expressways and the like has risen significantly; exploitation of marine resources for export are taking many of our oceanic areas to the brink of collapse. Equally stark are the social impacts. Inequities amongst different classes are rising, one estimate suggesting that the wealthiest 10% of Indians now own 53% of the country's wealth, while the poorest 10% own only 0.2%. If the abysmally low indicator to determine the poverty line is corrected, anything between half to 80% of the population would be considered too poor to have adequate food, shelter, and clothing.

One basic cause for this is that those negatively impacted have hardly any say in decision-making. Surely, it is a very shallow democracy that allows those we elect to do virtually what they want. The corruption of power and mindsets that allows an economic and political elite to take decisions that leave out half of India can only be checked if our democracy goes much deeper. If anything, this is a far more pervasive corruption to fight than financial. Citizens need a right to participate in decisions affecting their daily lives, and the capacity to engage in them meaningfully.

The only step towards this would be a Right to Participate Act. The last few years has seen a spate of rights-related legislations related to information, employment, education. But this package of laws is incomplete without a fundamental right to participate in decisions relating to local development, welfare, and conservation. This would need a gradation of decision-making institutions, since a billion people cannot participate in decisions taken in New Delhi; it would need checks and balances at the grassroots and building of capacity. Primacy needs to be given to gram sabhas and urban area councils, which can involve the full population but which today are not empowered with the citizens' right to participate.

Such a genuinely decentralised democracy would ensure that decisions taken in state capitals or Delhi are based on what is emerging from grassroots democratic processes. It can check the abuse of power by those who listen more to World Bank, powerful corporations and the financial elite. Only then will we further the cause for which Swami Nigamanand lost his life.

Ashish Kothari is member, Kalpavriksha Environment Action Group. The views expressed by the author are personal.




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

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

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

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






The Reserve Bank of India has raised interest rates for the tenth time to bring inflation under control. The tone of the policy is consistent with that of the annual policy last month when interest rates were raised by 50 basis points. Immediately before the policy, numbers released showed that inflation continued to be high. At the same time, inflationary expectations continued to rise. The RBI survey showed that households expect inflation to be above 12 per cent. It was thus important to raise rates and continue with the anti-inflationary focus of monetary policy.

While the RBI's policy statement is consistent with that of the last policy, it does not have an easy job in bringing down inflationary expectations. The difficulties arising from higher fiscal deficit, the pending diesel price correction, the rise in global commodity prices and any increase in food prices pose potential sources of trouble. However, as the monetary authority, the RBI does not control these possible sources of inflation — therefore, it will have to communicate to the public that inflation will not be allowed to rise to a higher trend level. When there are shocks to prices they can result in persistently higher trend inflation if the higher cost of living feeds into higher salaries and higher cost of production.

The battle against inflation will require the RBI to build credibility as an inflation hawk. Inflation has to become the prime focus of the RBI and the public has to see that and believe it. If this requires the RBI to give up all conflicting objectives which make it appear that its commitment to inflation-control is weak, then the RBI must give them up. It is difficult for a central bank to keep interest payments low for the government, as is its job as the banker or debt manager of the government — especially at a time when the fiscal deficit is rising — as well as be equally committed to raising interest rates to tighten monetary policy. RBI communication on all subjects should reflect its commitment to low and stable inflation. In the long run, no one but the monetary authority can be held responsible for the average medium-term inflation rate. Only consistent policy with a commitment to low inflation clearly communicated to the public will allow the RBI to deliver that low rate.






Share with a UPA government a concern relating to governance, and it shall give you a law — or a draft legislation, to be very precise. This tendency to reduce matters of gritty structural or administrative reform to a neat tabletop exercise in law-making is on display again. In what can only be described as a midsummer madness, the Congress-led government in Maharashtra wants to set up a panel to give the final touches to a piece of legislation that would make an attack on a journalist a non-bailable offence. There, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is seized of the legislative agenda, and so the drift in his administration has presumably been arrested.

Leave aside the fine print — for instance, who could qualify as a journalist, and what enhanced punishment an attack on her may invite. Chavan's plans for the bill invite a greater worry. To provide for the security of all those who reside in the realm is the oldest compact between the state and an individual. The maturity of a democracy, in fact, is measured by how well a state manages to provide security and justice within a framework of individual rights, civil liberties and equality. In Chavan's Maharashtra, some will be more equal than others. Doctors and paramedics already are — attacks on them are non-bailable offences. Now, if his plans materialise, journalists shall be too. Tomorrow, lawyers may demand similar provisions, then farmers, then teachers, then shop assistants, perhaps political workers too. Till one day, we shall all be equally honoured by the protection of non-bailable provisions in the statute book.

It is worth asking the chief minister why the lives of criminals too should not be of equal concern to the government — a modern, rational, humane criminal justice system brings offenders to justice, it doesn't make their personal safety any less valuable. But that would be to put too fine a nuance on a proposal that exudes laziness of thought. All that's left is for Chavan to requisition the services of the National Advisory Council.






An entente comes with a dual import. It's good for some, bad for others. At least, that's been the received wisdom of alliances in the last century. Once Russia reasserted itself after its post-Cold War slump, and a rising China showed its ambitions, an Asian bloc was on the cards. With the perceived decline of the US, the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), in its 11th year now, was being viewed by sceptics as an anti-Western formation. Now, what could India have to do with a group that, its enthusiasts believe, may soon ask New Delhi to choose between itself and the US maritime coalition in the Indian Ocean?

India is an observer at the SCO, hoping to be a member soon. But the SCO — despite its strong criticism of the US missile shield in the just-concluded summit in Astana, Kazakhstan — doesn't voice any specific anti-Western agenda, nor is there any pressure on India to choose. As a rising power, Delhi has no hurry but plenty of room for hedging. On the other hand, the SCO could change the India-

Central Asia dynamic and improve Delhi's ties with Beijing. Its current three major concerns are all relevant for Delhi.

First, the stability of Afghanistan, a special invitee in Astana. India, China, Russia and the Central Asian republics know the consequences of disruptive forces taking over after an eventual US withdrawal. Second, terrorism and internal conflict, wherein Delhi and

Beijing have common interests. Third, connectivity. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna emphasised the need for reducing the transportation time for goods to and from Central Asia and cumbersome customs procedures. What's involved here is India's economic integration with Central Asia.

Currently, India uses Chinese ports and land routes, losing a good two months, or a similarly tedious option in Iran. Given its economic depth and market-size, India should urge the SCO to encourage Pakistan to open its routes to India. Notwithstanding the unpredictability of the future, India has a lot to gain from a stronger, closer partnership with the SCO.








Economic growth is slowing and inflation is rising. This may seem to describe the Indian economy. But in fact, these ailments are afflicting China, long thought to be immune to the laws of economics. Based on the data coming out of Beijing, annual GDP growth in 2011 is expected to be 9.2 per cent, down from 10 per cent for 2010. At the same time, inflation is reaching its highest level in three years. The consumer price index in May shows a year-on-year increase of 5.5 per cent. Like in India, Chinese policy-makers are faced with a dilemma: slow growth will increase unemployment, but runaway inflation will make growth unsustainable and lead to social discontent.

But unlike India, which has a far more market-based economy and a democratic political system, the politics of inflation and growth in China is very different. Chinese leaders are thus driven by a unique set of political calculations in deciding whether to prioritise price stability over growth.

It is commonly believed outside China that the ruling Chinese Communist Party needs at least 7 per cent of growth per annum to ward off social unrest. The basis of this speculation is that growth at this level will create enough jobs for new entrants in the labour force. Unfortunately, this theory has never been tested because average growth rate in China in the last three decades is roughly 10 per cent (even though in some quarters growth dipped below 7 per cent). So we do not know whether persistent slow growth will indeed lead to social unrest.

In all likelihood, slower growth poses other more potent threats to the Chinese government. The political perils of unemployment may be grossly exaggerated. In other words, China needs high growth not because of the need for job creation, but for other reasons. When you look at the job growth data in China, you will find that employment generation has been slowing despite high growth — due to the rising capital intensity of the economy. If the ruling Chinese Communist Party is truly scared of slow job growth, it would have done something a long time ago to channel investment away from capital-intensive projects to labour-intensive ones.

That Beijing has persisted in investment-led capital-intensive growth model suggests that something else is driving Chinese leaders' political calculation in deciding whether to prop up growth or fight inflation.

High growth rate in China is critical not simply because it creates jobs, but because, more importantly, it provides the grease to keep the one-party state and an inefficient economy running. Politically, investment-driven high growth allows the Communist Party to allocate hundreds of billions of capital to its supporters (bureaucrats, state-owned companies and local governments). Of course, a significant portion of these resources is siphoned off into the pockets of the ruling elites. This rent-allocation scheme is made possible by high growth. If growth slows down, the competition for rent among the ruling elites will intensify, causing disunity, a very dangerous outcome for the Communist Party.

Investment-led high growth also allows the Chinese government to conceal the inefficiency of its state-owned companies. Based on scholarly research, most of these companies have razor-thin profit margins and must rely on volume to maintain profitability and service their debts. Should growth slow, their losses will mount and their bank loans will become non-performing, making the banking system much riskier.

Compared with the perils of slowing growth, rising inflation poses different political risks for the Chinese Communist Party. Here the conventional wisdom is more or less correct. Economically, rising inflation eventually will lead to a hard-landing (collapse of growth). Politically, rising inflation generates widespread social discontent. Two unique features of the politics of inflation in China are particularly noteworthy. First, inflation may hurt the poor harder than anybody else, but it also harms the urban middle class in myriad ways. The party is not afraid of Chinese peasants rioting over rice prices, but it is deathly scared of (more privileged) urban residents complaining about skyrocketing consumer prices because the centre of political gravity in China is urban, not rural. Disturbances in cities can threaten the foundation of the party's rule.

Second, inflation performs a magic coordination function — it signals to different social groups that things are not going well. As a result, social unrest under inflationary circumstances tends to be larger in size and involves more diverse groups. Just witness the large-scale riots in China in the past two months and you would notice that their participants ranged from ethnic minorities, migrant labourers and farmers, to disgruntled urban residents. It is hard to prove that inflation was the primary driver of social unrest, but it is reasonable to suspect that it has played a critical role.

So it is easy to see that slower growth in China tends to endanger the unity within the ruling elites and the health of the financial system while high inflation can spark large-scale social unrest. For the moment, Chinese leaders have opted for fighting inflation first. Beijing has raised the interest rate (although it is still too low), allowed the Chinese currency to appreciate gradually (it is rising at roughly 10 per cent a year in real terms against the US dollar) and tightened the availability of credit (by raising the bank reserve ratio to more than 20 per cent). China can afford to do so, at least temporarily, because growth rate is high enough.

But it would be foolish to believe that sound economic policy will triumph bad politics. Leadership transition is under way in China. If economic tightening hurts the elites too much, they are sure to complain. Because Chinese leaders are selected by members of the ruling elite, not elected by the voters, elites who are unhappy about slower growth will use their power and influence to force the government to loosen up economic policy. What this means is that China's macroeconomic policy will remain murky and uncertain for the next two years.

The writer is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in the US







Far away from Delhi, yoga guru Baba Ramdev has ended his fast and now he must exercise all his expertise to hold his breath for a future that may no longer be smooth. But he is a yogi and has not much to lose. He, after all, did not create a situation that resulted in dramatic stupidities which plunged our polity into a remarkable low. The government at the Centre, with all its talent and brains trust, seemed to be in a state of disarray when it was expected to be the most active. And the opposition BJP shrank its initiative to settle for a piggy-back and extended support to non-political entities for purely political causes. The BJP has thoroughly marginalised itself by aligning with the Babas and Annas. It must ponder why a cause it had vociferously raised lost its appeal and became a people's movement when taken up by yogis and activists of civil society. This is a new India, a new generation. People want a transparent system, a dynamic political leadership and effective governance that is capable of meeting the challenges of our times. So far, Manmohan Singh's government has been a disaster in the second term. But the BJP, the main opposition party, has been a bigger disaster. In Parliament, it has failed to act as an effective opposition party; outside Parliament, it has been indulging in the politics of negativism. It is mainly the BJP that is responsible for creating a political vacuum that is now being filled by the Annas, Babas and NGOs.

Today, it has been diminished to a level of just extending support to the movement led by "civil society" and sanyasis. It has no alternative programme to offer.

This is the same party that gave the people probably the best government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Those were the years of rapid changes in our nation's history. Now the BJP stands for opposing everything — from the historic nuclear deal with the US to deregulating petroleum prices, from bringing in VAT to opening up the financial sector. When it was in power, it had embarked on a positive agenda. It had a vision under the wise leadership of Vajpayee and a plan for the future. It had created hope. Not any longer.

The Anna-Baba movement against corruption clearly reflects the failure of our political parties. Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and others have picked up an issue that has been hurting the common people for a long time. The BJP did raise the issue in Parliament and boycotted it for a full session. But since no serious effort has been made to address corruption, people are impatient with the political system and political parties. Urban populations in particular have developed a contempt for politicians.

Meanwhile, political parties seem to be in a time-warp. They are still engaged in the politics and political philosophy of the past. The BJP is no different. It doesn't learn or like to learn. When the nation is debating the present situation, no one seems to bother where the country's opposition party is. Over the years, instead of expanding its leadership and its ideological horizon, there has been a narrowing. People are desperate for a modern, secular political alternative. The BJP must come out of its conservative, religion-inclined cocoon if it wants to own the future. The state's role is fundamentally governance and it has nothing to do with religion. Hinduism, in its history of almost five millennia, with a few rare exceptions of no consequences, never persecuted other religions and other people. It's a religion of tolerance and debate. India is a great civilisation and its single biggest achievement was the adoption of parliamentary democracy after Independence when it faced the biggest onslaught in the name of religion. When undemocratic and autocratic regimes and systems are crumbling in Arab countries, and old democracies like America and Europe are facing new challenges, India is looked at as the future of democracy.

The Anna-Baba movement should be a turning point for the BJP. It must learn from its past and come out of its negative mode, widen its canvas and junk its narrow thinking. There is no place for the politics of hate and exclusivism. India is in dire need of political visionaries like Vajpayee, a leader with a sense of the future. The BJP must realise that it came to power only after it abandoned its narrow political agenda and agreed to a common programme with smaller parties. This is the time for it to turn itself into a modern, secular, democratic party that is open to all.

The writer is a journalist with the BBC. Views are personal







These are interesting times for the Pakistan military's top brass, which seems to have been over-burdened by various accusations from within and outside the organisation. Besides the accusation of being incompetent in protecting itself — as was borne out by the PNS Mehran terrorist attack — the military is being accused of harshly manhandling people. The death of a young man in Karachi at the hands of paramilitary forces, and several videos of people being tortured by men in uniform add to internal resentment.

This is indeed an unprecedented moment in the history of post-1971 Pakistan. However, today fingers are being pointed at the military, and the military believes this is the handiwork of those conspiring against the country's national integrity. The armed forces' public relations agency, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) is generally extremely resentful of such stories, including the latest New York Times report that the current army chief,

General Ashfaq Kayani, is facing a lot of internal resentment due to his decision to support of the US. The same story even mentions the possibility of a "colonels' coup" since, it is believed, the junior officer cadre is unhappy with the current political conditions in the country, especially the manner in which the US continues to attack Pakistan with its drones, or the way in which it conducted the operation to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. Apparently, junior officers questioned General Kayani about his connection with the Abbotabad operation.

In a hierarchical, British-style bureaucratic organisation like the Pakistan military, the chief is considered to be an extremely powerful man. It is at his table that the buck stops as far as the entire armed forces of Pakistan are concerned. So questioning the army chief is a rarity. However, it is also a fact that there is a growing perception regarding the divide between the senior echelons and the junior cadres. Reportedly, the latter are far more ideologically conservative and nationalist in their thinking, while the former are influenced by the needs of realpolitik. Therefore, the understanding within the diplomatic community in Pakistan for a long time has been that junior officers think differently from senior officers. This was a perception that the diplomatic community was willing to live with as long as it did not really interfere with the war on terror.

However, there is now increasing talk of junior officers becoming resentful of the battles they have to fight on behalf of the US. This gives, to some, the impression that there is an increasing likelihood of some crisis in the organisation.

Thus far, no one knows exactly the extent of the ideological penetration of jihadis in the military. It seems that those who were responsible for journalist Saleem Shehzad's assassination were unhappy with his report on al-Qaeda's penetration of the military. There is a possibility that this resentment from the bottom is now reaching the top of the organisation, and senior officers are now becoming increasingly worried about their ability to control such resentment — and thus the officer corps — if they do not put their foot down as far as toeing the American line is concerned.

There is also a possibility that ideological resentment will be compounded with the frustration felt by part of the senior officer cadre pertaining to General Kayani's decision to get a three-year extension of his service, as well as a one-year extension for his favourite, the director-general of the ISI, Lt General Shuja Pasha. The army chief's extension deprives almost 24 lieutenant-generals from the possibility of making it to the top.

Indubitably, General Kayani will come under mounting pressure from outside and inside his organisation. As mentioned earlier, civil society is increasingly critical of the army. Nevertheless, the possibility of a colonels' coup is distant. The current army chief has tried to expand the distribution of benefits to the lower cadres of the armed forces. And let us not forget the several layers of intelligence which work as much inside the armed forces as outside, intended to keep the ranks under control.

But what is most certain is that the top brass have to be cognizant of popular sentiment within the military, which is growing increasingly anti-American. It should not be forgotten that Pakistan's armed forces have been fed over four decades of anti-US propaganda. Under the circumstances, General Kayani will have to become a tough bargainer as far as Washington is concerned. He is certainly under greater pressure to emerge as a winner and a man who could salvage national pride — as defined, that is, by the Pakistan military.

The writer is an Islamabad-based defence analyst








In a few recent issues of The Indian Express, I find an extraordinary, incessant vehemence in criticising Anna Hazare's and Baba Ramdev's agitations. The principle underlining this criticism appears to underscore the sovereignty of the Parliament. But is that sovereignty absolute? No, it is relative.

If this Parliament, or any other Parliament of India, decides to pass a law declaring India henceforth a fascist or a communist state, can it do so? No, it has no power to do that, because its powers are limited by the preamble of the Constitution which declares in no ambiguous words that India shall be a "democratic republic." If Parliament passes a law that is against the words and the spirit of the Constitution, the judiciary has the power to strike it down, declaring it ultra vires. In short, the sovereignty of Parliament is not absolute, it is relative. The Constitution is superior to Parliament. And as for the Constitution, the people are superior to it. It is thepeople who have framed the Constitution. The very words that begin it are "We the People of India" have resolved to have this Constitution. People are supreme; and people constitute the nation. Actually the people are the nation. The Parliament as well as all other institutions of democratic polity are, in a way, subservient to the people.

Article 79 of the Constitution says that the president and the two Houses shall constitute Parliament, but the two are not of equal power and influence. In a democratic, parliamentary system, the Lok Sabha is the real representative of the people. But for the last seven years, we are suffering a head of government who is not a member of the Lok Sabha. Why?

Because, the Constituion is silent about it? But is that the spirit of the Constitution? In exceptional circumstances, for a short period, the president can appoint a person who is not a member of the LS. For six months, you or I can be appointed the PM. But an exception is not a rule. In 1966, after Lal Bahadur Shastri's sudden demise in Tashkent, Mrs Indira Gandhi was sworn in as PM. At that time she was a member of the RS. She could have continued as PM, even in that capacity. But she understood the spirit of the Constitution and fought an election, got elected to the LS, became the leader of that House, and continued in the august office of the PM. We need an amendment in our constitution that will make mandatory for the PM, to be a member of the LS.

If civil society drafts a bill, what is the harm in it? It does not become a law. Even this bill will have to be discussed and debated in Parliament. If Parliament passes it, then only can it become a law. Anna Hazare's team that drafted the Jan Lokpal bill is denigrated as outsiders with no mandate to draft it. May I ask then about the National Advisory Council (NAC) drafting the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence bill? Which provision of the Constitution empowers the NAC to draft the Bill? If NAC can draft a bill, why not Anna's team? A bill drafted by civil society neither usurps nor curtails the legislative powers of Parliament.

As for the prestige of Parliament, whose responsibility is it? Are MPs by their behaviour in the House, maintaining the stature of the Parliament? Are they ignorant about how one indicates opposition? Why do they so often rush in the well of the House? Why is the speaker required so frequently to adjourn it? How much time is wasted in slogan-mongering, how little is spent in serious debate and discussion? How many MPs are present in the House? A whole fortinght was lost on the issue of the JPC. Is this lapse excusable?

It is my considered opinion that UPA 2 has lost the confidence of the people. Its methods of handling Baba Ramdev are whimsical and arbitrary. The midnight crackdown on a sleeping crowd, beating them with lathis, lobbing tear-gas shells on them, is criminal. A PIL to prosecute the home minister will be legitimate. Had there been a provision for right to recall, at least 100 MPs of the ruling combine would have lost their position. I think that such a provision is essential. The conditionality and methodology of recall is a matter of debate and deliberation. Let us not overlook the significance of huge gatherings of people, both men and women, voluntarilly assembled at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila grounds.

The writer is a former spokesman for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh






After some days without a public appearance there he was, black sunglasses firmly in place, playing chess with the head of the International Chess Federation in Tripoli. An easy metaphor perhaps, but with an unmistakably clear message: Muammar Gaddafi will take on the best in the world, and win.

Images like this, reinforced by the Libyan leader's words and deeds, form part of a powerful story — and by any measure Gaddafi understands how to communicate a a good story. He understands it, seemingly, much better than the NATO-led coalition, now in the fourth month of UN-sanctioned military operations against his small country.

Here's how Gaddafi tells that story: He is in power, and in control. Should he leave the country, Libya will dissolve into untold chaos. He says the Libyan people love him. The "colonialist crusader aggressors" (that's NATO) are not protecting civilians; they are massacring them.

Every day a barrage of pictures of bombed mosques, sad-eyed children in wrecked schools or wounded civilians and corpses in hospitals appear in Libyan and international media. A Gaddafi spokesman claims nearly 800 Libyan civilians have been "martyred" and more than 4,000 wounded so far. Are the numbers correct? Who knows. Does it influence perceptions? You bet.

Gaddafi's unflinching response to the Atlantic alliance's far superior military power, combined with images of dead and dying Libyans, doesn't play well with the intervention's many critics. The African Union recently called for an end to the NATO air strikes — citing in part the need to prevent further civilian casualties. Russia has also repeatedly criticised the alliance's use of disproportionate force and the mounting civilian casualties. And, of course, there is always the possibility that, faced with a long stalemate, internal cohesion in NATO will falter.

So where are the countries of NATO in this, with all their communications resources? There are regular tallies of bombs dropped, dry press conferences at NATO headquarters in Brussels or in Naples, video of NATO fighter jets screaming through the skies on Libyan missions. NATO's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has been very active — providing comment or reaction almost daily in international media.

Taken all together, the overriding message is: The nations of NATO stand united to help the Libyan people. Will this influence perceptions? It's a very earnest story. What it is not, any way you slice it, is compelling and engaging. It may win minds, but it certainly won't win hearts.

Where is NATO's counter-narrative to colonialist crusaders massacring innocent civilians ? A number of non-NATO members, including three Arab countries, are participating in the intervention — why don't we see images of their generals side by side with NATO generals? And who are the rebels — the band of fighters NATO is supporting with air strikes so they can hold off Gaddafi's forces?

The conflict is four months old and stories from behind the rebel lines are just now starting to drift out. If Gaddafi can get reporters safely to certain areas, surely NATO rebel "advisers" in Benghazi can help reporters as well.

And where is the world-wide support for the citizens of Libya and what NATO is doing for them? It is most certainly out there. In my hometown of Toronto, the local public radio morning show has featured a number of inspiring interviews with Libyan-Canadians who have risked their lives returning to Libya for short periods of time to help in places like hospitals. Could Brussels, with its huge international staff, find and build on these stories around the world?

To be clear, this is not to suggest that the NATO allies resort to propaganda. Still, the NATO-led coalition must and — as these few examples show — can make a more compelling case for the Libyan intervention. NATO has the high moral ground here: Gaddafi is a brutal dictator. He has repressed, tortured and killed his own people for four decades. He has financed and supported international terrorist attacks. He is a threat to international peace and security. The world will be a safer place without him in control of Libya. The global community has decided to step in to protect innocent civilians from suffering further harm. NATO is preventing Gaddafi from winning this conflict with weapons. He should not be allowed to win it with words.Lynda Calvert






As the world struggles to emerge from the greatest financial crisis since the Depression, the institution at the heart of the global economic system is facing a profound crisis of governance. Since the International Monetary Fund's inception at the end of World War II, Europe and the United States have dominated decision-making. Incredibly, and possibly dangerously, decisions are now being made to keep the backward-looking status quo for at least another five years.

True, the final stage of the race for the top job at the IMF still offers the possibility that a Mexican might beat out the French frontrunner. Unfortunately, with Europe's excessive voting share, the outcome has all the suspense of a Soviet election. Worse, the IMF board does not seem to feel the need to establish even a pretext of legitimacy for the powerful No 2 position; it's taken for granted that the board will rubber-stamp whomever Obama nominates.

In a world where markets already pay more attention to what happens in China than in Europe, and where loans from emerging economies are keeping the debt-challenged US economy on life support, the IMF's outdated governance practices have become an accident waiting to happen. The IMF has long been the last line of defense in emerging-market debt crises, combining big short-term loans with technical assistance that has proven effective far more often than not. Today it is on the front lines of the European debt crisis, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal teetering on the brink. Given Japan's huge debts and demographic implosion, and China's runaway boom, it is not hard to imagine a vast IMF program in Asia in the next decade. Even the US is a potential customer if it continues for another 10 or 15 years to neglect its soaring debt burden.

If the fast-growing economies of Asia and Latin America feel disenfranchised from the IMF — there is still a strong undercurrent of hostility over the fund's handling of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis — it will be difficult for the IMF to raise money to deal with Europe and potentially Japan and to credibly do its work in emerging markets now and in the future. And because American and European leaders do not want to hear when their monetary, fiscal or regulatory policies are out of whack, the IMF is really the only strong voice that can deliver the message; a non-European is best-equipped to deliver it.

Until a few weeks ago, everyone seemed to agree that it was high time for a change. The presumption was that the IMF board would choose its next managing director from the handful of supremely qualified candidates from emerging markets, thereby strengthening its claim to be a truly global institution. The incumbent, Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France, was on record supporting a transparent, merit-based approach for choosing his successor. Given the prestige he had amassed leading the IMF during the crisis, it was assumed that he would use his influence to shepherd in the new era.

Everything changed in mid-May. Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign after being accused of sexual assault. Suddenly, the IMF became tabloid fodder and the plans for an open and meritocratic selection process were tossed out the window. With the IMF's legitimacy now under unexpected attack on a second front, gender inequality, European leaders inventively coalesced around the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde.

Just a short while ago, the fact that Lagarde is French would surely have been disqualifying, given that the French have led the IMF for most of the last three decades. Her training as a lawyer, rather than as an economist, might also have been an obstacle. The head of the IMF is like the head of a central bank, and is frequently confronted with difficult judgments on the sizing and timing of debt programs, not to mention on monetary policy and regulation.

Lagarde has provided a strong and clear voice on the need for dramatic financial sector reform. But weighed against Mexico's candidate, Agustín G. Carstens, she might have come up short prior to the DSK debacle. Carstens, who has a Ph.D from the University of Chicago, has a golden CV for the job. The head of the IMF routinely deals with central bankers as well as finance ministers, and Carstens had held both positions in Mexico. He has also served as a deputy managing director of the IMF and knows the institution inside out.

Carstens has rightly argued that a European is going to be hugely conflicted in managing the IMF's central challenge: Europe. Soon, it will likely have to help manage government debt defaults in more than one European nation, starting with Greece. European leaders want to kick the can down the road by bribing the Greeks with more loans to prevent them from defaulting. This is where the IMF normally preaches tough love. The IMF board has given itself until June 30 to decide. The circumstances of Strauss-Kahn's departure have to be taken into consideration, and the fallout on gender issues is not over. There has never been a woman as head of a major multilateral lending institution, and Lagarde is a credible candidate. It seems a done deal, though perhaps there is some way to cap the length of her tenure and improve the selection process next time.

And the MD is not the only position that matters. At the end of August, John P. Lipsky, the first deputy managing director, who was named to the job by the Bush administration, is due to step down. Why not see if one of the top emerging-market candidates can be a replacement? An effective No 2 would also be well-positioned to take over when Lagarde herself steps down.

There is still time to set in place a merit-based selection process that could eventually form the basis for filling the top job. The IMF may be a poorly understood institution, but it does not have to be a poorly governed one.

Kenneth Rogoff is a professor of economics at Harvard, was chief economist at the IMF from 2001 to 2003









RBI has stuck to the course in its anti-inflation stand. The 25 bps hike is just as much as the market expected. The surprise is the guidance from Mint Street. It has clearly indicated there will be no pause in the rate hike cycle for now, even at the cost of decelerating growth. The tightening cycle could cease only if adverse global developments begin to hurt growth more. Now the question to ask is whether the rise in interest rates will deliver results. RBI is confident it will, given that the transmission mechanism through the banks has begun to yield results. The policy actions have pushed up the base rates of banks by 150-300 bps in the last year. One may recollect that the Annual Policy had spoken a bit on making this transmission more transparent. This being the case, it may be argued that RBI could have also considered increasing the savings rate by, say, 25 bps as that would have directly impacted the cost of funds and hence the base rate. The fact that it has not done so could indicate it wants the banks to decide which way they want the interest rate on savings deposits to move in the deregulated world. Does RBI's job end here? Not really, because for monetary policy to be effective, higher rates should also translate into a slowdown in growth of credit, which, in turn, must lower the demand pull inflationary forces.

This raises the issue of whether the level of borrowing will decrease on account of these hikes. Growth in credit was high last year and even until May was above 20%. So far, RBI has taken the view that there is no sharp or broad-based slowdown in the economy on account of this approach, which is also a vindication of the interest rate hikes so far, which justifies its own stance that its decisions have not come in the way of growth. This view is notwithstanding the fact that growth in GDP and manufacturing has shown a declining trend in the four quarters of FY11. On the other side, this is not the sense that one gets when one talks to industry. The letter from industry leaders to the governor is clear: they expect a deceleration of investment because of high interest rates. This holds more so for investment in infrastructure where the onus of high rates today will have to be taken along till maturity.

Goalpost: Inflation inching back to around 6%

We can be quite certain that RBI will continue to increase rates until the inflation number, which is around 9%, starts inching back to a more palatable 6%, assuring the monetary authority that its target will be attained by March 2012. In fact, the statement also talks of high global risk, which can be read to mean crude oil prices, and this signals a global inflationary bias too, which RBI will be monitoring closely. RBI has already buffered for a slower growth in GDP of 8% as against the 9% put by the ministry of finance at the time of the Budget.


While this is a valid approach to take, a broader question is that such interest rate hikes will come seriously in the way of future growth too if investment decisions are being deferred. This is because there are gestation lags for fructification and if investment has to return once interest rates move downwards, which could be in a year's time at an optimistic level, there will be nagging supply problems for another 1-2 years. Hence, while growth of 8% in FY12 may be okay, we could end up with lower GDP growth numbers in FY13-14, even when policy variables return to their means. At the ideological level, the question is how far ahead monetary policy should be looking.





Against the backdrop of the Indian government giving a hard time to BlackBerry, telling Nokia to ban pushmail and generally struggling to compensate for its own sleuthing shortcomings by pulling the ban card, the cyber law panel constituted to examine the security threat posed by communication platforms like Gmail (Google) and Skype (Microsoft) has come with some sensible suggestions. To highlight a few, the panel suggests that (1) the intercepting ability of the upcoming Central Monitoring System (proposed by telecom minister Kapil Sibal) should be really built up, perhaps with the help of indigenous resources like TCS and Infosys, (2) the business aspect of blocking strategies must be taken into account before they are executed, (3) encryption levels in India should be raised from 40 bits to 256 bits (which will bring us up to standard with the US and Europe, providing a more secure background for the development of new age services like mobile payments). Members of the home ministry and the Intelligence Bureau, who were members of the panel, have reportedly submitted a dissent note for reasons like the "current experience was that government agencies were unable to track such services". This appears a lame excuse; why should service providers and users suffer because government agencies move slower than them?


To state the obvious, stodgy red-tapism is singularly unsuitable for tackling security issues in a fast-evolving communication space. To illustrate, BlackBerry maker RIM is now offering enhancements to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server that will allow deployment on devices that run on Apple and Android OS! And consider a speculative possibility, what if Google buys RIM? Bloggers are strongly rooting for such a merger, although odds are split between whether this will be a Charles-Di or a Will-Kat marriage. Our point is, will India be able to bully Google into giving way when railroading RIM has proved hard? Consider that the communication and information technology ministry's budget for cyber security is just 0.098% of Google's revenue. Acquiring the monitoring solutions that other countries are using, improving our own intercepting capabilities and keeping them updated in a state-of-the-art fashion seem more rational and promising solutions.







Governor Subbarao has dutifully lived up to the market consensus of delivering the 10th rate hike in 15 months—a 25-basis-point rise in the repo and reverse repo rates, bringing them to 7.5% and 6.5%, respectively. The cash reserve ratio (CRR) remains constant at 6%.

But the decision was not really as straightforward as it may appear. In many ways, this review by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was close to the sharpest edge of the classical central banker's dilemma, whether to cut rates and boost growth or raise them to contain inflation. In a rather unusual show of transparency, the Chief Economic Advisor himself had commented publicly a few days ago advising RBI to take into account slumping industrial production and hold back on raising rates. Probably he was just giving an opinion, not really trying to influence RBI, for if it was the latter the choice of communication channel could hardly have been more counter-productive. In any event, the latest inflation figure, northwards of 9%, is away from RBI's "comfort zone"—and it better be—while the slump in the April's year-on-year index of industrial production (IIP) to around 6% is equally lacking in comfort for the growth advocates.

The governor chose inflation as the bigger evil. The choice is well grounded in both economic theory and central bank wisdom. It is difficult to argue with RBI's view of things—the relative importance of the two threats—explained in the quarterly review.

How much dent a 25-basis-point rise is going to have on inflation immediately is, and will remain, an open question. The rain gods are being invoked to take care of not just inflation but of growth as well. In any case, the direction of the move is beyond question. It signals RBI's hawkish-on-inflation stance and helps fixing the inflationary expectations at a lower level. It probably also suggests that the tightening phase of monetary policy that the country has entered since October 2009 still has a few notches to go. Indeed, the repo rate stood at a full 9% on the eve of the Lehman collapse.

That said, things do not look very bright just now on the investment and growth side for India. The clouds on the international horizon grow darker. At home, projects are being held back or shelved indefinitely. Perhaps the most telling indicator is an unlikely source—the foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow data. FDI in India declined by over 30% in 2010 and the trend shows no sign of turning. One can always blame it on global factors but, given that other Asian emerging markets have shown strong increases—from 14% in Thailand to a whopping 163% in Indonesia—we are clearly losing out projects to other countries.

This trend is important because in today's world what works for foreign investors, holds true for large Indian projects too. Something is clearly amiss in the Indian investment climate that is holding investment—domestic and foreign—back. Regulations would be among the usual suspects, except that investments have grown to higher levels in an era of worse controls.

So we are left with something that is clearly Indian and evidently of a recent nature. Policy uncertainty seems to be the most plausible action. The shadow of the multiple crises as well as the recent civil society protests against corruption may well have contributed to this slowdown.

The point here is that one cannot expect monetary policy to untangle these knots. Doubts are often expressed about the efficacy of India's monetary policy on inflation. The link between monetary policy and investment is equally, if not more, tentative. Unless the investment environment in the country is more conducive, a softer monetary policy is not going to help output growth. It would only be akin to the proverbial "pushing on a thread".

Monetary policy is too often expected to do several things—control inflation, bring forth growth, and keep the value of the rupee at desired levels. Sadly, it is just not possible to use the single instrument of interest rates to achieve all that. It is in this connection that one is reminded of possibly the most controversial of the suggestions made by the Raghuram Rajan committee on financial reforms, that RBI adopts a variant of "inflation-targeting".

While clearly the government has not moved towards formally adopting the suggestion, and RBI has opposed it vocally, in effect, RBI actions have been following the spirit of that approach in recent years. It only has to work harder to convince the world that it considers inflation the biggest danger. After all, when it comes to monetary policy, the difference between "comfort zones" and "tolerance zones" is more than just semantic.

The author teaches finance at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad





In April, IMD gave us a monsoon forecast of 98% of the long-term average, with a model error of plus or minus 5%. There can be a lot of variation around these central tendencies, based on variations in timing and regions.

So I have argued that a Met drought and an agricultural drought can be very different things. As this column is being written, average rainfall was 2% above normal but was below normal in Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP, Bihar and West Bengal. These are rainfed regions with low irrigation coverage, and this is the sowing season. But the Met assures that due to the formation of two low pressure areas (one over the east-central Arabian Sea on June 6 and another over northwest Bay of Bengal and coastal Orissa on June 8), the southwest monsoon has advanced into some more parts of Maharashtra (including Mumbai), most parts of Karnataka, some parts of AP and some parts of the northeastern states. So, it seems that despite some glitches, we may well have a normal monsoon on our hands.

The really good news is not about the rainfall until now, but about the fact that agriculture seems to be on a roll in India. Agricultural growth in the season just ending is 5.4%, admittedly on a low base. The average of the last three years is less than 2%, meaning that a half per cent of GDP is weather-related. But this is not the whole story. The increase in agricultural production shown by the third advance estimates for 2010-11 was impressive by any standards. Weather plays a role in short-term agricultural growth in India and assessments are treacherous, but this time—whichever way you look at it—the going is green by all accounts. Sure, the pattern of a low growth of cereals, and more of oilseeds and cotton, remains intact. It's pulses that deliver a welcome departure.

Comparing rice production (third advance estimates, this year against the last), we see substantial growth, largely in yield. The eastern and the central regions showed good performance, as did Gujarat, of course, flush with Narmada waters. Embarrassing the diversification ayatollahs and international think tanks that say it is specialising in commercial crops, the state is growing more rice and wheat, and the share of area with grains has gone up again. In rice flush with Narmada waters, some received directly and some through tanks (since the lower level canal system is yet to come up in a big way), the area has gone up to 0.76 million hectares and the price of paddy in the mandis is among the lowest in India. Ditto for wheat and BT cotton (where technology is a forward force).

For pulses, the MoA portal tells the story with some pride. Their strategy was to bring in new areas and to concentrate on the seeds they had. The universities in Maharashtra and MP had achieved, in some districts, yield almost 40% higher than average. ICRISAT and the Kanpur institute also delivered. Good prices helped and the retiring Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices chairman Mahendra Dev's parting gift of high MSPs gave out the right signals. Some private players also entered the market with packets for farmers in selected areas. Area under tur and gram went up by almost a million hectares each. Urad was also on a high, with an increase of four lakh hectares. Output went up by almost a fifth. Had this not happened, we would have had to double our imports for similar supplies.

Here policy could play spoilsport since price support will be important. When you go to villages, Nafed agents say they cannot buy if the loss is more than 15%; this is a finance ministry directive, whatever that means. Also, traders are not allowed to stock pulses because of the Essential Commodities Act, which is intact from World War II. If you raise the issue, you get more lectures on liberalisation.

The other happy news for me was soya, and not only because I stay away from bad cholesterol! Here the production went up by 20% (and I am being closely watched for saying seeds are important, supposedly an anti-national statement!). If soya is a star performer, another oilseed that got a 1980s technology push is castor, and it too has done well, with a 30% increase.

Oilseeds and pulse crops delivering 20-30% growth rates! We have never heard of this earlier. Does this mean that we have crossed the hump? Looks like the kisan has done it again. When the planner and the policymaker have a clear vision, Krishi Bhavan has a go-getting crowd, then we know India does well in agriculture. It happened in the mid-1970s and also in the later half of 1980s. This time, the problems are more complex, because the demand increase is larger and more diverse, and the resource base is shrinking in terms of land and water. We will need more grains from less land. Growth of 7% per capita will mean we will need more of everything in agriculture. It is good to succeed but the goalposts will keep getting raised.

The Indian dilemma is not just food supply bottlenecks in a fast growing economy, but pushing grains without adequately developing the rest. We need some more grain, say 15% more in the rest of the decade, produced with high technology and less land. But we need a lot more of everything else also and it seems we are on our way to achieving this. I don't agree with the Planning Commission in forecasting low agricultural growth this year. They should read the tea leaves better. Indian agriculture is growing in places and with crops that didn't grow earlier. This will continue.

The author is a former Union minister






Since its formation in 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has slowly begun to establish itself as an important forum for the Eurasian region. As a club that has China and Russia and most Central Asian states as members, there is an obvious strategic dimension to the SCO. In the initial years, Moscow and, to a lesser extent, Beijing used the forum to re-inject a dose of Cold War politics into the region. At its 2005 summit, for example, the SCO asked the United States to set a date for the eventual withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. A lot of water has flowed down the Oxus since then. Now that the U.S. has said it hopes to end all offensive operations in that country by 2014, the Shanghai grouping realises it needs to step up to the plate to ensure Kabul has the capacity to deal with those who challenge its authority. Terrorism and Islamist extremism pose a critical challenge to Russia and China and both know the consequences of instability in their wider region. This is where the SCO has an important role to play. The regional format allows its members to involve themselves in economic and even security-oriented initiatives without reviving uncomfortable memories, as in the case of Russia, or triggering unnecessary rivalries, as in the case of China, India, and Pakistan.

If the SCO can be faulted, it is on its excessively cautious approach to membership. Most groupings go through three stages: a rush of recruits, followed by brief consolidation, and then further expansion. But the Shanghai club closed its doors too soon, holding India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia as observers for the better part of a decade. India's attitude, of course, did not help matters. Whether for fear of offending the U.S. or out of a misplaced sense of grandeur, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh preferred to keep his distance from the SCO. The Yekaterinburg summit of 2008, which he attended personally, marked a change. This was also the time South Block realised it needed to get serious about the organisation. Last year, a formal expression of interest was made and now that the SCO, in its summit this week in Astana, has reached agreement on the criteria for membership, India is likely to join soon. It is crucial, though, that New Delhi takes a constructive and long-sighted view of the opportunities the SCO provides for integration of South and Central Asia rather than looking forward to pushing an agenda narrowly focussed on terrorism. SCO members do not need to be reminded at every meeting about the safe haven Pakistan provides to extremism. India's agenda for the grouping must be broader than that.






The Panchdeep project of the Employees' State Insurance Corporation to provide health and social security services to millions of contributor-members through a national digital network from July 1 is a laudable initiative. Workers have been waiting for some measure that ensures they do not lose their welfare benefits simply because they have to relocate. Happily, they will now be able to use their identity cards to access the services in any networked institution. Achieving such scale is no easy task, considering that the membership base of the ESIC stands at 56 million, and the number of hospitals, dispensaries, and offices is 2,220. Networking will also bring about another significant advance: the families of the insured can get health care without the insured member having to accompany them. These are overdue measures, and they lend belated impetus to India's efforts to provide low-cost health insurance and welfare support to workers. Over the decades, the agenda has made only fitful progress. Often, the huge cash reserves with the ESIC have contrasted sadly with the less-than-average quality of its services. Against this backdrop, the 2010 amendment to the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 to widen its reach was welcome. The new provisions enabled extension of coverage to any institution with a manufacturing process, and employing 10 or more people, irrespective of the use of power.

Impressive as the networking achievement is, the ESI system now has to turn its focus on strengthening its core purpose — to safeguard employee health. There are acknowledged problems starting with the sheer demand for facilities, inefficiency, official indifference, corruption, and a lack of accountability. Improving medical infrastructure is a key priority, as is an administrative revamp. A legitimate question is whether the Hospital Development Committees constituted by the ESIC have brought about any perceptible change. Policy concerns at the State level also remain. For example, a liberal approach would facilitate the inclusion of more shops and establishments. The Centre has been appealing to the States to invoke the powers under the Act and lower the threshold for coverage from 20 employees to 10. But not all States have acted. Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge told Parliament recently that only Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal had issued the necessary notifications. The decision of the ESIC to start 18 medical colleges "in phases" to provide the human resources for its expanding hospital operations is a step forward. At a time of rising costs and debilitating out-of-pocket health expenditure, it is vital that governments widen social security.







The 1990s saw marketing whiz kids at the largest English daily in the world steal a term then in vogue among sexually discriminated minorities: PLUs — or People Like Us. Media content would henceforth be for People Like Us. This served advertisers' needs and also helped shut out unwanted content. As the daily advised its reporters: dying farmers don't buy newspapers. South Mumbaikars do. So the suicide deaths of a couple of fashion models in that city grabbed more space in days than those of over 40,000 farmers in Maharashtra did in a decade.

February 2011 saw one of the largest rallies staged in Delhi in years. Lakhs of workers from nine central trade unions — including the Congress party's INTUC — hit the streets to protest against rising food prices and unemployment. This was many times bigger than the very modest numbers at Anna Hazare's fast and larger than Ramdev's rollicking 'yoga camp.' These were workers and unions not linked to the state. Not market-driven. Not corporate-funded. And expressing clearly the interests and values of their members. In fact, fitting some classic definitions of 'civil society.' The rally was covered by the BBC, Reuters and AFP but was mostly invisible in mainstream Indian media except when attacked for creating traffic jams.

Perhaps the whizz kids were on to something larger than even they knew. At least one dictionary has since added this entry under People Like Us: "A subtle reference to people of the same socio-economic class." Only, there was nothing subtle here. The Indian elite play the PLU game like few others do. Entry into the club is by birth or invitation only. And getting certification from the classes that matter takes some work. Your own background can be surmounted however, even turned to advantage, if there are enough strong PLUs around you. Anna Hazare had this. Baba Ramdev did not have it. Both claimed to speak for 'civil society.' A media applying that word with reverence to those around Anna Hazare, denied it with scorn to those they saw as Ramdev's rabble.

Sections of the media embarrassed by Ramdev point, in contrast, to the 'many fine people' around Hazare. Most of them part of the Delhi elite with indeed impeccable records of service. Yet, how did their approach differ in principle from Ramdev's?

Both were self-selected groups claiming primacy over the elected government. Both asserted they knew what was best for the nation. (Rather than an electorate they scorned as sold on a bottle of liquor or a hundred-rupee note). Both had no qualms about breaking down the walls between the institutions of state. Never mind the Constitution, they sought a body whose members they would largely appoint. A super organ above the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Take the government notification on the drafting body for the Lokpal bill. It uses the words: "The five nominees of Anna Hazare [including himself] are as under…" When have such vital national appointments been made by and in the name of one individual, however noble?

Both felt they had the best solutions for fighting corruption, which is fair enough. Both, however, demanded that their fatwas be written into law. That their will prevail in the writing of the bill. That the Constitution assigns this right to the legislature mattered little. Both saw themselves as more representative of the nation than its people. In months, they would succeed where "in 62 years" the nation had failed.

Electoral democracy drew special contempt. In this, they were at one with the top tier of PLUs. "Who takes all that stuff seriously?" asked one celeb on a television panel discussion. Well, it seems people do. Voting in Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu crossed 75 per cent in May 2011. In West Bengal and Puducherry, it edged towards 85 per cent. Tamil Nadu in May 2011 saw its highest turnout in 44 years. And voters there showed how vital the issue of corruption was to them. Money power has surely corrupted the electoral process severely. But does the electorate deserve the scorn poured on it by 'civil society?' If the latter has struck a chord at all, it is because of the deep concerns of the former.

So who do these versions of Indian 'civil society' represent? Do we take the World Bank's definition? Civil society would then be: "a wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations that have a presence in public life." And which express "the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations." The European Commission states flatly that there is "no commonly accepted or legal definition" of the term. It also "does not make a distinction between civil society organisations or other forms of interest groups."

The U.S.-based Civil Society International raises the question of whether the media should be included in 'civil society.' More so when they are privately-owned and hyper-commercial in character. It points out that some notions could render both the League of Women Voters and the Ku Klux Klan part of civil society. In India, the RSS is a large voluntary organisation claiming to be cultural and non-political in character. Ergo, civil society?

Theory aside, civil society in India seems defined by exclusion. It is crowded with human rights lawyers and activists, NGO leaders, academics and intellectuals, high-profile journalists, celebrities and think tank-hirelings. Mass media debates never see landless labourers, displaced people, nurses, trade union workers, bus conductors being asked to speak for 'civil society.' Though, indeed they should.

Marketing minds would define civil society more clearly as a prime PLU platform. They'd be right, too. Who else do we see out there? The PLU syndrome goes way beyond the Lokpal bill. When Kaushik Basu, chief economic adviser to the Finance Ministry, called for a certain class of bribes to be legalised, 'civil society' simply shut its eyes and brain. The National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information — a flag bearer of civil society — maintained a studied, shameful silence. Professor Basu was not pushing this idea in his private blog. He put it up on a Government of India website. Yet, thundering anchors who 'skewer' politicians in television interviews uttered not a squeak. Had this insane idea come from a Ramdev, or even a Lalu Prasad, and not from a certified PLU member, imagine the fun the media would have had trashing it. As for the NCPRI, it might have begun a special desk to campaign on the issue. True, an individual associated with it did write a mild critique of the economics of Prof. Basu's folly — evading its moral degeneracy. But the NCPRI let itself down (and all those who support the RTI movement) with its craven silence.

The same media now trashing Ramdev came out snarling in his defence when he clashed with Brinda Karat in 2006. That was over the exploitation of 113 workers thrown out of the pharmacy controlled by Ramdev's Trust and facing false cases. The media brushed that aside and slammed Ms Karat. In the PLU food chain, workers are a low form of pond life. (Oh yes, the PLU syndrome has a strong caste component, too. But that's another story.)

Ramdev had carved out a base in sections of the elite. He also counts some media owners amongst his followers. Though not, perhaps the more anglicised anchors of television. He even has a following in Bollywood. He had attained the celebrity status so vital to gain any media attention at all. And had done so by using television itself for his 'brand' of yoga. But he overplayed his hand when the desired 'A-level' certification from the south Delhi elite was still pending. Otherwise, his claim to represent 'civil society' is no weaker than that of the group around Mr. Hazare. The 'my-civil-society-is-more-civil-than-yours' squabble has begun. And both groups have failed to pin down a corrupt, bungling government that made such a pig's breakfast of the Ramlila event.

There is nothing wrong in having advisory groups. Not a thing wrong in governments consulting them and also listening to people, particularly those affected by its decisions. There is a problem when groups not constituted legally cross the line of demands, advice and rights-based, democratic agitation. When they seek to run the government and legislation — no matter how well-intentioned they are. Pushing a coherent vision is a good thing to do. So is demanding that the government do its job. Beyond that lies trouble.

Meanwhile, a section of Platinum tier PLUs have become champions of the parliamentary democracy they actively helped undermine during the past two decades. They cheered loudly for giant economic and financial decisions taken outside the budget, bypassing Parliament. So long as the destruction of institutions favoured corporate power, they welcomed it, collaborating with corrupt governments such as this one wholeheartedly. The Ramdev route would have done much the same in time — the Baba himself is a spiritual corporation. But he just wasn't one of us. These new champions of parliamentary democracy have no qualms when the groups dictating terms to the government are CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM or their ilk. They didn't like it when the bypassing of institutions came from Mr. Hazare. They hated it when it came from Ramdev. Dumping democracy is, after all, the privilege of the Platinum PLUs.









 "Liberating the Muslim nation" reads Knights under the Prophet's Banner, "confronting the enemies of Islam and launching a jihad against them, require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land, that raises the banner of jihad and rallies the Muslims around it".

"Without achieving this goal, our actions will mean nothing more than mere and repeated disturbances."

Four weeks after Ayman Muhammad Rabi al-Zawahiri published al-Qaeda's seminal manifesto online, the forces unleashed by the tragic events of 9/11 led to the disintegration of the state he hoped would spearhead a global Islamist revolution. Taliban-ruled Afghanistan disintegrated in the face of western military power. In the years since, al-Qaeda has re-emerged resurgent, building ever more powerful in the arc of states from Mali to Indonesia.

But the real goal remains elusive: and now, as al-Qaeda's newly-appointed chief, it will be al-Zawahiri's goal to see what might be done to secure it.

Faced with deep and little-understood dissent within his ranks, and a storm of events across the Middle-East which seem to have rendered irrelevant al-Qaeda's core belief that Islamist-led violence would alone spearhead change, his prospects appear bleak.

Born into a well-connected upper-middle class family from suburban Cairo, al-Zawahiri grew up in a scholarly milieu: he is said to have excelled as a student, been drawn to poetry, and hated organised sports, seeing them as "inhumane".

He was drawn to the teachings of the Islamist ideologue Syed Qutb as a teenager, and joined the Muslim Brotherhood when he was just 14. Qutb, whose works Milestones and In the shade of the Quran are foundational texts for the global Islamist movement, was executed in 1966, for his alleged role in a plot to assassinate Egypt's President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Al-Zawahiri, with four other schoolchildren, set up an underground cell to stage an Islamist revolution.

In the years that followed, al-Zawahiri would train as a doctor and specialise as a surgeon. He married Cairo university philosophy student Azza Nowari in 1978; their wedding, held at the Continental Hotel, attracted attention in the liberal Cairo of the times: men were segregated from women, photographers and musicians were kept away, and joking banter was discouraged.

But following the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, al-Zawahiri was among hundreds arrested and tortured. Released after three years in prison, he fled the country, and began practising medicine in Saudi Arabia. There, he came into contact with Osama bin-Laden. He first travelled to visit bin Laden-funded jihad facilities in Pakistan in 1985, a relationship that would slowly mature until 2001, when the EIJ formally merged with al-Qaeda.

The two men became inseparable: the intellectual, serious al-Zawahiri providing the perfect foil to the enthusiastic but politically immature bin Laden. Both men helped plan 9/11; it was to be al-Qaeda's greatest moment: a spectacular gesture that would precipitate a civilisational cataclysm between Islam and the west and signal that the power of the United States was illusory.

Azza, al-Zawahiri's wife, and his youngest daughter Aisha would both die in November, 2001, pinned under the debris of an al-Qaeda guesthouse hit by American bombs in Afghanistan.

Al-Zawahiri himself would spend the rest of his life trying to clear away the wreckage from around al-Qaeda.

The schisms within

Now appointed commander of the organisation following the killing of his friend by United States special forces, al-Zawahiri also faces a war within. More than a few inside al-Qaeda are said to believe the job should have gone to Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, also known as Saif al-Adel: part of a small caucus of top al-Qaeda commanders, including Saeed al-Masri and Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, who are reputed to have opposed the 9/11 attacks, saying they would destroy the Islamist state in Afghanistan and thus retard the movement's progress. Ever since 2009, following the death of jihadist commander Muhammad Atef, Makkai has commanded al-Qaeda's military assets—which means al-Zawahiri will have to rely on his allies among the jihadist movement in Pakistan to exercise power, not the people who built the organisation. Part of the story about al-Qaeda's internal dissensions became public in 2009, when the jihad veteran Abdullah Muhammad Fazul published his memoirs online. Fazul, who joined the jihadist movement as a teenager in 1991, drew a sharp distinction between the jihadists grouped in what he called the "original al-Qaeda" and al-Zawahiri's Egyptian Jihad cadre.

For all practical purposes, he wrote, the original al-Qaeda jihadists saw al-Makkawi as their commander. Even though, he wrote, al-Zawahiri "is called the number two man in the organization, but we don't have firsts and seconds in Islam, all are equal before God, and in any case I have never once taken orders from [him]"

Last year, Nasser al-Bahri, bin Laden's bodyguard until the events of 9/11, published memoirs which included a similar unflattering assessment of al-Zawahiri. "Bin Laden," he argued, "is a born leader." But Zawahiri had "generated a great deal of reserve, sometimes very harsh criticism," al-Bahri wrote. "I doubt he has sufficient authority for such a position, even with his well-known authoritarianism and his penchant for centralizing power in himself."

Kuwaiti cleric-turned al-Qaeda operative Suleiman Abu Gaith — who won notoriety by appearing in a video broadcast on al-Jazeera weeks after 9/11, proclaiming that "the storm of the planes will not stop" — also last year published an online manifesto highly critical of bin Laden's leadership.

Ghaith lashed out at al-Qaeda for "taking decisions in haste which led to a big defeat." The poor decision making, he said, was a consequence of bin Laden being "encircled by a bunch of advisers who do not qualify to give advice"— a reference, presumably, to al-Zawahiri. He was also critical of al-Zawahiri's politics, which had led to "isolation of yourself and the mujahideen from the mainstream Islamic movements and from the Muslim world."

Zawahiri has repeatedly attempted to defend himself. In 2008, responding to such criticisms, he said his critics, by refusing to countenance the loss of innocent life in a contest between grossly asymmetric adversaries, were in effect advocating capitulation. The voices of Islamist critics of al-Qaeda appear to have been growing ever louder.

The new ideologues

Even as al-Zawahiri's military success will depend on the cooperation he musters from Pakistani jihadist groups, the outcome of these debates could lie in the hands of a new generation of jihadist ideologues who have proved adroit in using new media to spread their message.

Key among the new ideologues are Libyan-born Muhammad Hasan Abu Bakr, who has occupied centre-stage in al-Qaeda's media campaigns since he escaped from Kabul's Bagram prison in 2005. Known by the alias Yahya al-Libi, Abu Bakr has delivered several impassioned video sermons, drawing from Islamic juridical tradition to argue al-Qaeda's cause.

Jarret Brachman, a counter-terrorism expert and former Central Intelligence Agency analyst, said this of al-Libi: "He's a warrior. He's a poet. He's a scholar. He's a pundit. He's a military commander."

Libyan-born Jamal Ibrahim Ishtaywi, from the war-torn city of Misrata, and Kuwaiti national Khalid bin Abd al-Rahman al-Husaynan, a former prayer leader employed by the country's ministry of religious endowments, have also acquired great visibility.

Perhaps best-known, though, is the Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki — the English speaking face of al-Qaeda, whose sermons and books have been translated into a dozen languages. Al-Awlaki's words inspired the actions of Umar Farooq Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national who attempted to blow himself up on a transatlantic jet in 2009, as well as the United States military psychiatrist, Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 when he opened fire inside a military base in Texas

Barack Obama authorised the assassination of al-Awlaki in April 2010, making him the first citizen of the United States to be placed on the Central Intelligence Agency's death-list.

In a recent article, researcher Christopher Anzalone argued that these "charismatic communicators will play an increasingly important role in ensuring the survival of the transnational jihadi trend in the aftermath of bin Laden's killing".

But will Zawahiri and the al-Qaeda he helped build guide that new jihadist current? Cut off from the mainstream of the Islamist movement in the Middle-East, where parties like the Muslim Brotherhood are poised to acquire power through democratic means; battered by relentless United States military pressure; isolated from his own organisation's most influential minds, Zawahiri more likely than not has often contemplated the terrible strategic error of 9/11.

He may in time come to be seen as the figure who presided over the death of the old al-Qaeda — not the man who gave it birth again after bin Laden's death.





A fortnight after Nepal's Constituent Assembly's term was extended for three months, there is good news from Kathmandu. All parties have shown a degree of urgency and seriousness, which was missing in the past two-and-a-half years. The peace process, largely understood as settling the future of Maoist combatants through a process of integration into security organs and rehabilitation into society, is finally moving forward. And the political class has been mature enough not to immediately get into another round of wrangling for power, but focus on the bigger picture.

But there is a caveat. Difficult decisions regarding the details of the peace process have yet to be taken. The same urgency is not quite visible in the constitution-drafting exercise. And a new power-sharing arrangement will have to be worked out at some point. All of this is complicated by the inner divisions within the Maoists, the key driver of the process.

Ending dual security

Within a week of the extension, the Maoists delivered on an informal commitment they had made to the other parties during the negotiations when the Assembly's term was ending. Top leaders of the party had continued to be protected by both state security personnel and combatants of the Maoist People's Liberation Army (PLA). More than 90 weapons owned by the party, registered by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) in 2007, were outside the containers for the protection of these leaders. The non-Maoist political class had demanded that the Maoists give up this "dual security" system. While the Maoists did not feel secure enough, relying exclusively on personnel of the "old regime" they had fought, the other parties saw in it remnants of the parallel state that the Maoists had maintained during the insurgency.

Last week, party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" ended this dual security, bid an emotional farewell to fighters who comprised his security detail, sent them back to the cantonments to join the rest of the Maoist combatants, and said that his security was now solely the state's responsibility. Leaders belonging to Mr. Prachanda's faction, vice-chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and his loyalists also did the same. Weapons for VIP security were brought to the party headquarters, and according to Maoist leaders, are now in the process of being transferred to the cantonments. However, another party vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya "Kiran" and his supporters kept the PLA fighters meant for their security and refused to turn in the weapons. Mr. Kiran, who represents the dogmatic faction in the party, alleged that this was tantamount to "surrender" and has now put forth an 18-point criticism of the party chairman accusing him of betraying the revolution.

Special committee

The Special Committee for the Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation, which has representatives from all parties, has also been working with renewed energy in this period. The Secretariat under the Special Committee has finally deployed monitoring teams in all the seven cantonments and the 21 other satellite camps — the camps had been without monitoring since the UNMIN left five months ago.

The committee has also adopted a timeline which involves coming to an agreement on the modality of integration, numbers to be integrated, ranks, norms of entry, and rehabilitation packages by June 19. It has asked the Secretariat to recruit 120 new personnel, who would form four groups of 30 each, and begin their survey in the cantonments from June 27. These teams will brief the combatants on the integration and rehabilitation options. The process of regrouping — of those to be integrated, those opting for rehabilitation, and those who wish to voluntarily exit and join political work — will conclude in 63 days, right before the end of the CA's term.

Whether this timeline can be met or not largely depends on the internal dynamics of the Maoist party, and the degree of flexibility both sides show on the specifics.

Prachanda's balancing act

To prepare the combatants for integration and rehabilitation, and manage internal dissent, chairman Prachanda called a meeting of the PLA general staff recently, which included commanders and deputy commanders of all seven divisions of the Maoist army. Mr. Prachanda told them he was now committed to the "peace and constitution" line, and that they should inform the fighters under them to be ready for the next stage in the process.

While communicating the party decision to accept the Nepal Army's proposed modality of creating a mixed force under an NA directorate, Mr. Prachanda assured the PLA leaders that any deal on integration will be "respectable." The PLA leaders were broadly supportive of the chairman. But they demanded that the mixed force must have combat functions and not only development and relief work as proposed by the NA. The PLA proposed the integration of 10,000 combatants, and wanted rank harmonisation based on their existing positions in the PLA hierarchy. Mr. Kiran's faction has asked the party to demand the leadership of such a mixed force, and said it should have responsibilities of border security.

Discussions on the specifics have now started in the Special Committee. Technical as it may sound, these are significant details which revolve around what would be politically feasible and advantageous for various forces. It is unlikely that the Maoists will get either the leadership of the new mixed force, which will be under an NA major general. Six to seven thousand fighters could be integrated, but the most contentious issues will be around ranks and responsibility of the mixed force. The shape of the final deal will depend largely on Mr. Prachanda's ability to balance the proposal of the non-Maoist parties and the red-lines drawn by his own party and PLA commanders.

Simultaneously, the Special Committee has to finalise a deal on rehabilitation packages and a "golden handshake" proposal for those who may just want money and opt out. Non-Maoist parties are suggesting a figure around NRS 4,50,000 (about $6,300), while the Maoists are asking for no less than NRS 7,00,000 ($9,800). If the latter is accepted, it will be among the highest cash packages handed over to combatants in a peace process anywhere in the world.

Here is the dilemma for the decision-makers. If handouts are high, the incentives for combatants to opt for rehabilitation packages and even integration diminish. But donors are unwilling to underwrite direct monetary transfer since they fear that a part of the money will go straight to the Maoist party; this will also set a wrong precedent. This is a fear shared by many non-Maoists. On the other hand, if the golden handshake amount is not appealing, Maoist combatants may ask for integration in greater numbers — which will complicate the overall deal. Special Committee members are learnt to be working on a compromise formula which will encourage combatants to opt for rehabilitation and skills training, and transfer a limited amount of money to them in instalments.


Other challenges persist too.

Along with progress in the peace process, it is important to re-energise the constitution-drafting exercise. There has been procedural headway in extending the term of a sub-committee on dispute resolution led by Mr. Prachanda, and setting a timeline for adoption of a draft constitution. But serious and sustained discussions to bridge differences on electoral system, form of government, and federalism are missing.

The demand for the Prime Minister's resignation has receded for now, with the main opposition, the NC, deciding that its priority is the peace process. Insisting on a new government, it rightly feels, would only distract from the core task of arriving at a deal on integration and rehabilitation. But once the peace process is operationalised, both the NC and Madhesi parties may bargain hard to be included in the power structure.

The Nepali Maoists are displaying much-needed commitment to the process; the non-Maoists have done well to be flexible, and there is an air of cautious optimism. The challenge now is sustaining the momentum, arriving at a detailed agreement, and meeting the tight deadlines.





Two-thirds of New York City's rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city's demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map made public on June 16.

The map, which shows the solar potential of each of the city's one-million-plus buildings, is a result of a series of flights over the city by an airplane equipped with a laser system known as LiDAR, for light detection and ranging.

Swooping over the five boroughs last year, the plane collected precise information about the shape, angle and size of the city's rooftops and the shading provided from trees and structures around them.

The map is at the Web site of the City University of New York (CUNY) []. City officials said the information should advance efforts to increase the city's reliance on solar power as part of its energy mix, reducing the metropolis's greenhouse gas emissions.

What LiDAR shows

"The quality of the LiDAR information is so remarkable that it will much more rapidly unlock usable sites," said Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor for operations.

Over all, the images show that 66.4 per cent of the city's buildings have roof space suitable for solar panels, said the CUNY team, which developed the map in partnership with the city and the federal Department of Energy. The rooftops could generate up to 5,847 megawatts from hundreds of thousands of buildings, the team said, compared with the negligible 6.5 megawatts yielded now from about 400 installations.

At those output levels, the panels could meet 49.7 per cent of the current estimated daytime peak demand and about 14 per cent of the city's total annual electricity use, the officials said. The figures consider typical weather conditions.

Yet harnessing solar power also involves overcoming barriers like the upfront costs of installation, the availability of installers and the ability of utilities to integrate solar power into their grid.

Solar power is projected to grow into a $12-billion-a-year industry this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, but the sector is still in its infancy.

Nationwide, the installed solar capacity is just 2,300 megawatts, less than half the rooftop potential of New York City.

"We're just really beginning," said Rhone Resch, president of the trade group.

Solar map

The solar map will allow New Yorkers to type in the address of a building where they live or work and find out how much solar power the roof can yield and at what cost. The Web site indicates what government financial incentives are available to help cover the costs and calculates how long it would take a building's owner to recoup the costs in energy savings.

For the more environmentally minded, the map also shows how much carbon dioxide emissions each property would avoid, in pounds and by the number of trees that, if planted, could absorb that amount of emissions.

The solar map alone cost $210,000 and was financed by the federal Department of Energy's Solar America Cities programme. The city provided $450,000 for the LiDAR flights.

LiDAR produces images of structures, trees, wetlands and other surface terrain by shooting laser pulses from an aircraft and measuring the time it takes the pulses to bounce back. Its data will also be used to update flood maps.

More than a dozen cities already use similar maps, although not necessarily prepared with the LiDAR system, and some of the maps have contributed to broadening the use of solar power. In San Francisco, the number of solar installations on private roofs rose to more than 2,300 this year, from 551 in 2007, when the solar map was introduced along with financial incentives like tax credits and rebates.

"It's sort of a one-stop shop for people to understand what the technology is, does it make financial sense, are others doing this," said Danielle Murray, the renewable energy programme manager for San Francisco's Environment Department. "You realise that you're not alone, and that it's a smart investment."

In New York, David Bragdon, director of the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said the city could realistically add "thousands of megawatts" in solar power.

To that end, Mr. Bragdon said, it has been working on streamlining the installation permit process and relaxing building regulations to accommodate the panels, in addition to pursuing larger-scale solar projects at landfills and other sites.

Officials with Con Edison, the utility that supplies electric service to most of the city, said they were developing a centralised Web site to reduce the cost and time of going through all the paperwork required to install the panels, which currently can take up to a year.

The city had already identified some "solar empowerment zones" where solar energy would be most beneficial, based on growing demand for power and other factors. The solar map now will offer roof-by-roof information within those zones, allowing planners to locate and aid owners in areas with the highest demand on hot and sunny days.

"This map can serve as a key foundation toward building a new infrastructure, a clean energy infrastructure, for New York City," said Tria Case, the director of sustainability for CUNY. — © New York Times News Service




The Brazilian government signed a partnership agreement with IBM on June 15 which will enable Brazil to digitalise information on Amazonian biodiversity with the help of the U.S. company.

The project, called Wikiflora, aims to allow the research community such as scientists and teachers to share knowledge and findings on biological diversity by the model of "citizen science," similar to Wikipedia. Brazil claims it has strong IT infrastructure to do the project. — Xinhua








The 100 per cent cutoff for school-leaving science and humanities students hoping to gain admission to the B.Com. (Honours) course at Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce has caught the nation's attention on account of its dramatic absurdity. The inversion of logic was perhaps best highlighted by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who tweeted to ask if there might be students who can get a higher grade than 100 on 100 if the minimum requirement has been pegged at 100 per cent!

While the SRCC case has permitted a key point to be raised about the way our education factories go about their business, it should not be overlooked that SRCC is not quite alone in raising admission stakes to mind-boggling levels. Another college has fixed a cutoff of 99 per cent for a different course, and any number of other Delhi University institutions are also playing with fire when they ask for nothing less than 96 per cent even for the B.A. (Pass) course, leave alone requirements for an honours course in any discipline.
At this rate, very soon we might be looking at numbing statistics of youth unemployment within our system which is already groaning under the impact of Naxalism and other ills that plague an unhappy society. The new data of 24 per cent youth unemployment in the United States is raising deep concern in that country about the behavioural impact of the phenomenon that recalls data of the period of the Great Depression of the 1930s. But at least the American figures are a consequence of an economy on a sharply declining curve. In India, that cannot be the reason. The plain truth is that in this country we have singularly failed to provide good colleges in enough numbers that can take on the rush emanating from school-leavers of quality. In other words, we are looking at a supply side constraint. The grouse earlier was that we don't have enough quality institutions to impart education in medicine and technology. Looking at parallels made it clear that a single top US university offered as many seats in some of these disciplines than all of India taken together. Now we know that the problem is not confined to engineering and medicine.
The question is: where will all the toppers go? To America obviously, in droves, and also to fairly ordinary institutions in Britain, Europe, Australia or Singapore, to name a few popular destinations. As a result of the outflow, the cost of education at foreign universities for Indians could shoot up, not to mention sociological downsides related to race attacks against Indians, as we have witnessed recently in Australia. Human resources development minister Kapil Sibal would do well to look at the totality of the picture when he speaks of the need for changes in both policy and present-day rules to cope with the bizarre situation being encountered at Delhi University. Quite clearly, if we don't invest enough in education by opening more quality colleges, we cannot sustain the demands of a rising economy and will fall behind in the knowledge stakes, which is the stuff that will make or break nations in the 21st century. It might be useful to recall that former US President Bill Clinton had once spoken of the education sector in his country being a matter of national security. The case of Delhi University is important as students come to this centre of learning from all corners of India in large numbers. And if the pond is brimming over at DU, other universities in the country too would be catching the disease sooner or later for the rising overflow is bound to hit them.





The recent talk of a happy reconciliation between the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) after some 47 years fills me with perverse nostalgia.
Many years ago, when rents were still affordable for small businesses in Central London, Charing Cross Road used to boast a quaint Left-wing bookshop called Collets.

Apart from stocking Marx, Lenin and the more abstruse authors of the New Left pantheon, the bookshop had an anteroom we called the Cave. The Cave was generously stocked with contemporary agitprop published by an astonishing variety of Left-wing groups. There were tomes by groups claiming to represent one of the umpteen Fourth Internationals, pamphlets produced by pro-Albanian Maoists, and even copies of speeches by a French Trotskyist named Jacques Posades, who, I was informed by a Maoist friend who claimed to know, actually favoured a nuclear strike on the West by the Soviet Union.
I never did imbibe the wisdom of Posades, but thanks to the esoteric company I chose to keep, I was introduced to an astonishing world of theological hair-splitting, feisty denunciations of individuals who have long since been forgotten and dissection of obscure sectarian battles in countries ranging from Iran to Peru. Apart from puerile titillation, the Cave introduced me to an important facet of the Left political culture: the visceral hatred Communists felt for each other. A loathing for those who had apparently deviated from the true path easily exceeded their distaste for the capitalist order.
In those halcyon days of the Seventies, there was still a Soviet Union that disbursed patronage to the official Communist parties and their "progressive" fellow travellers in the labour and peace movements. At that time China still hadn't embraced capitalism and consequently confined its propaganda to distributing the Selected Works of Mao and organising tours for the gullible to China's showcase communes. Finally, there were eccentric dictators such as Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi with enough spare cash to bankroll a daily newspaper in London run by a bunch of venal Trotskyists.
Patronage from modified equivalents of the old Comintern was one reason why many Communists still clung to a faith that increasingly generated diminishing returns. In post-1969 India, after the Soviet Union reposed all its faith in the "socialist" credentials of Indira Gandhi, the CPI virtually ceased to exist as an independent political entity. Apart from those old-timers who clung to the organisation either out of a sense of corporate loyalty or because they made a wrong choice in 1964, the CPI was reduced to two distinct groups: fellow-travelling intellectuals who became progressivism's certifying authorities; and socialist entrepreneurs who profited enormously from trade with the Soviet Union.
By 1971, the CPI(M) replaced the CPI as the custodian of the Red Flag in India. However, the eclipse of the pro-Moscow party had little to do with the popularity of People's Democracy over National Democracy. Ideology was never a strong point with India's Communists: they attached a greater premium on activism and agitation. The CPI carried the Marxist intellectuals who had by then come to acknowledge the impossibility of a Communist-led revolution in a democratic country but the CPI(M) got the upper hand because it was more radical. In time the CPI(M) acquired its own intellectuals but by then the CPI had shrunk to a mere letterhead. After the Soviet Union collapsed, CPI lost its raison d'etre altogether. Like the Revolutionary Communist Party of India, Workers Party of India and something called the Bolshevik Party — groups that were part of the United Front in West Bengal as late as 1969 — the CPI has become a leftover from history.
Throughout this week, the idea of a grand reconciliation between the CPI and CPI(M) has been endorsed by stalwarts from both parties — cautiously by CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury and more enthusiastically by CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan. A CPI leader from Tamil Nadu has even identified March 2012 as the date when the process can be completed.
The impetus to Communist unity has, ironically, come out of the worst defeat the Left has suffered since Indira Gandhi (with lots of help from the CPI) decimated the CPI(M) in West Bengal in 1972. The Left Front government, which ruled West Bengal uninterruptedly for 34 years, wasn't anything that remotely offered an attractive alternative to the much-despised bourgeois-landlord class rule. It suffered from inefficiencies, a lack of political imagination and its professed "pro-poor" tilt was tempered by the socialist cronyism that was the hallmark of the Soviet Union and other countries of the erstwhile socialist bloc. However, a succession of election victories in West Bengal enabled the Communist movement to cope with the shock waves from the collapse in Moscow in 1991.
In the aftermath of the collapse of the moral centre of the Communist movement, many Communist parties either went into terminal decline or gave up the battle altogether. The once-grand Communist Party in France has disappeared as an electoral force and its erstwhile voters have drifted to either the socialist camp or switched sides and become camp followers of the neo-fascists. In Britain, the Communist Party of Great Britain that once controlled the CPI through its "colonial department" simply dissolved itself.
The defeat in West Bengal and the collapse of its alternative model of governance should force the CPI(M) to confront an issue that should have been deliberated at least 20 years ago. In effect, the Communist movement has two choices. It can redefine itself as a socialist movement and tacitly acknowledge that the split from the Second International by Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg in 1914 was wrong. Such a move would imply that much of the shrill orthodox denunciation of the "renegade Kautsky" was misplaced. Alternatively, it can embrace the class war being waged by the CPI(Maoist) and rekindle the revolutionary fires in the exhausted comrades.
Whichever "line" prevails, the outpouring of polemics in the coming months should be enthralling — but hopefully not as intense as the vendetta that drove a Stalinist to put a pickaxe into the brain of Trotsky. As I discovered in the Cave, Communists are best when hating each other.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist





As a child, I lived in a world where computers were not taken for granted. The toys ranged from the Meccano set to the kaleidoscope. They were toys, they were tools, they were metaphors. The Meccano taught you that building was a concept with which you could construct a house and also a cosmos. The kaleidoscope gave you a playful sense of patterns and provided hours of entertainment.

They were old-fashioned ways of making sense of the world. I love in particular the philosophy of the kaleidoscope. It shows you how to construct life even out of broken bangles.
Whenever I read the newspaper today or watch news, I see confusion. The world seems to be a collection of broken glass and I seek my patterns. I love the cast of characters India generates. They range from characters out of a great Russian novel to those from a giant comic book. Recite their lines aloud and sense the sheer laughter and pathos in each.
Think of it. Baba Ramdev. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Anna Hazare. Suresh Kalmadi. K. Kanimozhi. Jairam Ramesh. Manmohan Singh. Rahul Gandhi. Sushma Swaraj. Don't ignore the supplements; They provide their own little dramas about dress, the body, about morals. Add to this the Page 3 excitements, the scandals in a teacup that filmstars provide. Stir all this with the confidence of a cultural chef and enjoy what India brings you everyday.
The first thing you discover is that it is an exciting time and more fascinatingly we as a democracy are open about our mistakes, our scandals, our battles. A free press tells you there are free people. Without gossip there can be no democracy. Gossip and rumour are double-edged. They play moral policemen; they also substitute for the conscience.
Think of it. Mamata Banerjee, Anna Hazare, Aruna Roy and Baba Ramdev are all soap operas around the ethical issues of our time. The Right to Information (RTI) and the Arjun Sengupta Commission Report on the informal economy are and should be treated as ethical documents. For me, Aruna Roy and Anna Hazare are ethical figures, like Ela Bhatt and the Dalai Lama. They appeal to an ethics of the everyday and yet show you that everyday ethics may be inadequate to cope with terror or even political correctness.
Just think of the debates on mining. We have to thank our social movements and environment minister Jairam Ramesh that the mine as a moral system is subject to scrutiny again.
We suddenly realise the strange hold that the Reddys have on our politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party cannot call for a cleanup because it is a creature of mining magnates. We also realise growth needs an ethics we desperately lack. It also needs methodologies of evaluation which our business lobbies are resisting. It shows us that mere character-building or honesty is not enough to build the integrity of a system.
Mr Ramesh's contention that mines need forest cover or that tribals also need a voice that can be institutionalised into legislation are ethical statements. What is the ethics of memory, of obsolescence, of care we bring to tribals displaced from their land? Are we technocratically and indifferently going to say that progress is inevitable? Is what we call "inevitably" merely the logic of vested interests? Another great ethical figure Medha Patkar raised the same question. She asked if a bad science can cover for an indifferent ethics. A series of clear-cut, nuanced points are being made. Firstly, mere personal honesty will not do, especially if it condones the dishonesty of your colleagues. Secondly, when one is debating competing goods, transparency is a required part of ethics. Thirdly, goodness needs to be defined. One needs a new ethics for technology, for growth, for consumption.
This opening out of issues is fascinating and frightening. It shows we have exemplars courageously leading the way but sadly no paradigms that institutionalise such ethics.
The newspapers are full of violence, from rape to murder, to terror. As a society, we are still silent on it. Mere protest or even battle for human rights is the beginning. As a society, we have to go beyond Gandhian platitudes back to his experimenting with truth. We need to ask about violence, suffering and evil and the complexity of forces that generate them.
Ask yourself why India needs one million troops outside the Army for internal order and control. Ask for how long survivors must wait for justice while they see people who have raped and burnt walk around happily. Ask for how long any moment remains in memory. A slum demolished or people evicted are forgotten. We remember history but what about the unwritten history of these events. Also why do we treat people who remind us of our amnesia as problematic?
Turn to the supplements for what is news in a lighter vein. You realise that the language of the supplements, the colloquialism of "youngistan" hides deep problems about the body, about relationships, about sexuality.
It takes seriously the question of balance. It realises that one woman's fashion might be another man's moral policing. Think of a simple example. For years, activist Teesta Setelvad has sought justice for the victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Why do we treat her as a suspect? Is it for her courage and honesty?
Suddenly, our ethics come on two fronts. It confronts the everydayness of diet consumption, discipline, caring for old people, understanding new forms of illness. It also comes at a public level as we confront ethics of dams, mines, terror growth, violence, or even the ethics of forgetting.
Every issue of a newspaper becomes an ethical puzzle, a moral science quiz which recognises life has no easy answers. It asks us to respond to the tragedies of our time and to thank those who have kept issues alive.
There is a lot that is frightening, even evil, but you know it is there on the front page. You have to respond.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist





A few months ago a sunbird built a nest in a bamboo bush in our driveway. As nesting spots go, I thought it couldn't have chosen a worse place: we were in the midst of renovating our house and the carpenters, painters and masons had turned the driveway into their workstation-cum-adda.

At any given time, there were half-a-dozen people around that potted bamboo, hammering nails, sawing pipes, welding metal, or just sitting around and chatting loudly. Noise and human traffic apart, the nest itself was low enough for anyone to touch.
I hadn't noticed the nest till I heard the carpenter tell the mason not to go near the bamboo bush. When the mason asked him why he pointed towards the pear-shaped nest, and said, "There are three eggs in it". (When the eggs hatched we realised there were two and not three). The nest was the size of a tea-cup, balanced precariously on two bamboo twigs.
I asked him about the bird and he said, "It's the smallest bird we've ever seen, the size of your finger". He said there are two of them and they take turns to incubate the eggs. That "smallest bird" turned out to be a pair of purple sunbirds.
I see these tiny birds all the time in our little garden, hopping restlessly from one bush to another, but I've never seen their nest.
My birdwatcher friend Bikram Grewal tells me they are among the more common birds in this part of the country. They look like hummingbirds but don't hover in mid-air to drink nectar from flowers; they perch to feed.
The pair in our bamboo bush was olive-brown, just about four inches long, and had a sharp, curved bill. During the mating season in March-April, the male turns a gorgeous deep purple to attract a female. Its metallic colour shimmers in Delhi's summer.
Every time I look at one, I admire the amazing metamorphism that scientists call "sexual dimorphism". The bird is also quite vocal at that time of the year. I've heard it sing all day long. Once the breeding season ends it sheds its brilliance and looks — at least to a person who is not a birdwatcher — quite like the female: shades of olive, yellow and brown. It's hard to believe that it's the same glistening bird.
During the two-odd weeks that the birds incubated the eggs, our workforce had learned to recognise their call. They would often try and imitate the call — and then correct each other: "No, it's shriller like a patla (I think he meant high-pitched) whistle", said the painter who was more observant — and also more caring — than the rest of the group.
The species guide at the delhibird website says different species of sunbirds have different calls. It describes the purple sunbird's call as "zit zit" and "swee swee". Describing bird songs and calls is a science in itself. On an impulse, I recently bought a book titled Aaaaw to Zzzzzd by John Bevis (published by the MIT Press). It's a lovely little bibliography of birdcalls and though it's not about birds from this part of the world (it's about birds of North America, Britain and northern Europe), I love its description of the call of a Swainson's hawk ("kreeaaaaaaaaaaar") or the "hirruc-chirruc-chirruc-teer-tuk-tuk-tuk-jag-churr-churr" of a bird called the reed warbler. In comparison, the purple sunbird in our garden had a very humble cheewit-cheewit call.
When the eggs hatched, the painter would occasionally toss a little crumb near the bush in the hope that the birds wouldn't have to fly far for food; they didn't know that sunbirds feed mostly on nectar and insects. In fact they were all quite caring and moved away from the bush. They knew where the other bird would perch itself when one was in the nest with the babies.
The moment one went off the other would fly in.
One morning last month, as I was setting out to work, I found a few workers huddled under a tree, speaking in hushed voices. They were looking at the daring fledgling that had jumped out of the nest and fallen flat in a bush a few feet away. It was fluttering its wings, struggling to fly off. We could hear the parents' call from the neighbour's tree across the driveway: they came with food and helped their baby fly off the ground. The second baby was still in the nest.
In the evening when I returned home, I went straight to the bamboo bush to find out if the other chick, too, had flown off. It had. They told me "she" (I don't know why they chose to use the female gender) flew off as they were busy trying to "protect" the first baby.
A few days after the chicks flew off, as I walked up to the bamboo bush to take a close look at the nest, one of the workers asked me, "Do birds come back to their nests at night?" I know what he meant. Are humans the only species that need — and build — a permanent home to live in, a place they come to at the end of the day?
I don't know. But I still have the nest in the bush, and I hope they'll come back next year.

Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at








ANNUAL PLAN 2011-2012


Giving an impression of its frugality, The Planning Commission has approved a Rs 6,600 crore Annual Plan for Jammu and Kashmir for 2011-12, Rs 600 crore higher than the last year's outlay. This is the highest ever annual outlay in the state's history. Its main highlights are:
* The Annual Plan outlay this year is Rs 600 crore higher than the allocation of last year.
* The state has also got an additional Rs 1,200 crore under the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Plan.
* This is the highest-ever plan allocation in the state's history.
* The Chief Minister sought Rs 356 crore for meeting the rehabilitation costs of Dal Lake dwellers.
* He also demanded Rs 150 crore for the rejuvenation of the State Financial Corporation and an Rs 100 crore corpus fund for micro, medium and small enterprises.
The one important point that helped the State Chief Minister see his demand for enhanced allocation through at the Planning Commission level was the satisfactory conclusion of recent Panchayat elections in the State. Being a solid step in empowering the people as important factor of good governance and economic development, the Chief Minister played his cards well and emerged a happy man from the meeting hall. With such a gesture of goodwill from the Union government supporting him, he should be able to deliver the goods to the entire satisfaction of the people of the state. Now with these massive allocations, the ball is in his court and he has to see that the funds provided so liberally are utilized properly and within time. In a sense this makes the position of the Chief Minister precarious if he is not able to deliver the goods. The foremost priority with him is to ensure that corruption is wiped out and the funds allocated to projects are utilized in proper way. The Dal Lake and now the Wular both are proving white elephant to the State exchequer. Having consumed billions of rupees in the past with hardly any satisfactory result, the Chief Minister will be sinking another over 350 crore rupees on these projects. We hope this time the result will be different. Likewise, the question of removing the menace of unemployment among the educated youth has to be on his priority list. Though he has taken some steps in the direction, but keeping in mind the vast unemployment scenario, he has still lot to do to overcome this debility. Power and water supply are at their lowest ebb. These services are almost on the verge of collapse. How will he address them is what the people will watch keenly, and that could be the litmus test of his government's good governance. The Chief Minister is committed to just and equitable development of all the three regions of the state and he has to ensure that no discrimination happens during his tenure.






The much-awaited train services in the Valley were inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on October 11, 2008. It was the first stage of the project of bringing railway line to Kashmir valley. Actually it has had two stages. One is of connecting Udhampur with Qazigund by means of an 11 kilometer long tunnel in Banihal Mountain, and the second was connecting Qazigund, the first station of the valley railway to Baramulla, the last station 120 kilometers away to the North. The first stage of this project ran into some technical difficulty last year and had to be suspended for new study of the site of tunnels. In due course of time this difficulty was overcome and the work on the construction of the tunnel has been resumed. In the second stage, the railway service between Qazigund and Mazhama ran smoothly and then the authorities proceeded with the plan of extending the line to Baramulla. This project was also completed with a stop at Sopore-Hamray, on way to Baramulla.
Owing to turmoil in Kashmir last summer, among other damages caused to the public property, the railway signals and the line at Sopore-Hamray were badly damaged. Damages were caused to the railways at other places also. This presented a grim scenario and the railway technicians and staff was forced to close the services and leave the valley. Thus the entire project was stalled for some time. As conditions improved in the valley, the railways revived the valley service and the first thing to do was to repair the extensive damage done to the rail line and the signaling and other components.
Repairing was undertaken sometime in December last and now on 15th June, the trial run from Qazigund to Baramulla has been successfully completed. This is great news for the valley. Ordinary people were impatient to see the track in order because the railway connectivity provided quick means of transport and also cheaper one. Hitherto only Somos and taxis plied on the stretch consuming lot of time and proving very expensive for the ordinary passengers especially the student community.
Now that the railway service in the valley has been resumed and people are happy to be relieved of an expensive and cumbersome journey, the next thing that the people and the railway authorities should bring under focus is that of extending the railway in Kashmir from Baramulla to Kupwara and Lolab on one hand and from Jammu to Rajouri-Poonch on the other. With this connectivity project in the pipeline, the entire state will find a sea change taking place in communication and transportation with immense impact on the economy of the entire region. It is learnt that survey of these extended routes has already been completed by the Railway Department and the plan might be tabled at proper time. That would be great and good news for the state. However, while these improvements are being contemplated at relevant levels and in proper circles, the awkward question is why should the people damage and destroy such a vital public facility even if they are much irritated against the Government for one or the other thing. In view of the large scale damage done to the rail track and signaling system at Hamray last year, railway authorities could have dragged on the repair work to another two years or more. Who would have been the sufferer? But not taking recourse to vengeance, a democratic government proceeds with doing what suits national interests. Hence the repair work was undertaken on war-footing and what would have easily taken two years to accomplish has been completed in six months. The people at large have to realize that we are the citizens of a welfare state and any damage unnecessarily done to the public property is in fact damage done to ourselves and our property.








ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha warned India that any Abbotabad like attack by it would invite a befitting response from Pakistan as targets inside the country had already been identified and rehearsal carried out. Pasha's warning came as he addressed the incamera joint session of the senate and National Assembly on May 13.
He repeated the warning of Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who was the first senior official of his country to speak to a news conference on the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who had said any country that attempts to mimic the unilateral act of the US would find "it has made a basic miscalculation and is indulging in misadventure."
Both were reacting to the remarks by Indian Army Chief General VK Singh that Indian forces had the capability to mount raids like the pre-dawn assault on the mansion in garrison town near army cantonment in Abbotabad that resulted in killing of Osama bin Laden. He reflected rising anti-Pakistan sentiment in India as many find it a rare opportunity to avenge 26/11 Mumbai attack and target terrorist leaders like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed and Zikiur Rehman Lakhvi whose addresses are known to every body unlike Osama who was living incognito.
Potentiality of Indian forces is not in doubt. But before undertaking any such adventure, the differences between the roles of America and India and alternatives best suited to the national interest should be considered. The operation is estimated to have cost America three trillion dollars. Moreover, its forces and intelligence agencies were operating in Pakistan for over a decade with the consent of the Government. There is admittedly visible resentment that may have been caused among the people in Pakistan over the secret action of America, in violating its sovereignty and without the knowledge of its Government. But the Government is trying to offer explanation about its inefficiency or incapability for not knowing the whereabouts of Osama and not keeping America informed. Its Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced on May 9 an inquiry into intelligence failure. Whatever differences might exist between the two countries, both are keen to maintain their strategic alliance against terrorism. Pak premier attached high importance to relations with America.
India cannot compare itself with the only super power of the world. Nor it has its net work as entrenched in Pakistan as America had. Any overt or covert action by India within Pakistan will only help its government to convert anti-America sentiment of its people into anti-India sentiment. Even America would not approve of such action. Its State Department has already pointed out the vast difference between 9/11, which took a toll of 3000 human lives, and 26/11 in which casualty was 166. Moreover, war against terrorism was yet to be won within Afghanistan. Any action by India would only force Pakistan to divert its forces from Western to Eastern front. Already it has sounded high alert not only along LoC, in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh but along the entire Indian border. Indo-Pak tension will also push Pakistan closer to China, where its Prime Minister was assured of China's friendship and offered joint manufacture of 50 Jets fighter when he visited China recently.
No doubt India cannot afford to be complacent about threat of terrorism. So is it to Pakistan only in a much greater degree. Where according to Pakistan Prime Minister, 39,000 persons have been killed by terrorists. It is therefore, also, in the interest of Pakistan to seek India's support to fight the common menace. Even America has supported India's claim for extradition of Pakistan based terrorist leaders, responsible for Mumbai attack.
India has a stake in the current fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. It has made investments in many constructive and welfare enterprises. The main indigenous terrorist force there is that of Taliban which has Pushtoon ethnic base, on both sides of the Durand line which divides it from Pakistan. Al Quada has no local ethnic base. It was imported to Afghanistan by USA to provide ideological support to Taliban to fight against Soviet occupation in 1980's.
Al Qaeda believes in Salfi Islam, the most radical brand of Islam which Saudi Arabia is exporting to many countries, including Pakistan while Talibans believe in Deobandi Islam which is of Indian origin. It was al Qaeda which was inspiring most of the terrorist groups in the rest of Pakistan which are posing threat to India. As governments of Pakistan and America might succeed in weakening al Quada with its symbol and source of inspiration gone, it should be easier to deal with Talibans. It has not only to be dealt with through arms but also through political means to satisfy their ethnic urges.
Their legendary leader Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was a close colleagues of Mahatma Gandhi and was along with him a leader of the non-violent movement for India's independence and opposed formation of Pakistan. The key to Pushtoon sentiment is provided in a statement of his son Wali Mohammad Khan in which he said, "I am a Pakistani for 50 years, a Muslim for 1400 years and a Pushtoon for 5000 Years." Mere religious appeal of al Quada was not enough to satisfy their aspirations.
First step in that direction should be to reorganise Afghanistan on some sort of federal system where Pushtoon and other ethnic communities should have some measure of autonomy. As far Pushtoons in North West of Pakistan are concerned, they should have an easy access to their counterparts in Afghanistan by making Durand line soft. Greatest injustice to Pakistani province of Pushtoons was being done by calling their province as NWFP which only denoted a sense of direction where it lay. Only recently it has been named Khyber Pushtoonwah. As India has better experience of dealing with ethnic diversities, its involvement in evolving an Afghanistan policy should be welcome by America and Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister has done well in visiting Afghanistan at earliest opportunity where he received very warm welcome. He emphasized thousand of years old common civilisational link between the two countries and offered to increase economic aid to it by $500 millions.
It would be in the interest of Pakistan to seek India's help in resolving problems in Afghanistan instead of accusing it for fomenting trouble there. A peaceful and contented Pakistan should be welcome to India also.
Rightly governments of the two countries have reiterated their resolve to resume dialogue to which the two Prime Ministers had committed at Mohali, notwithstanding some sabre rattling at lower and non-official levels. Any steps we are able to take towards friendly relations between India and Pakistan, would not only be of mutual benefit but would be a source of strength to the entire region and be welcome to the wider world. Manmohan Singh has righty assured Pakistan of India's best wishes for Pakistan from Kabul as well Delhi. Saner voices have also been raised in Pakistan where tallest opposition leader Nawaz Sharief had warned his country against considering India as their main enemy.
A closer understanding between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan is the need of the hour and in the best interest of all of them. As a bigger power in the region, it is the responsibility of India to take a lead in that direction.







In December 2001, as thousands of American coalition forces troops scoured Afghanistan and its border with Pakistan, the then Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf, pledged that his country will turn Osama bin Laden over to the United States if the fugitive terrorist leader was captured fleeing across the mountainous frontier.
Some time in 2004, Musharraf's comment to a foreign media agency while referring to Osama bin Laden, then believed to be hiding, was, "It's a failure of intelligence in not being able to identify where this man is. Most of the intelligence ... is directly provided by the United States of America."
In 2008, a foreign news agency stated that Pakistan is not specifically looking for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as there was no proof of him being there. President Parvez Musharraf was quoted: "We are not particularly looking for him, but we are operating against terrorists and Al Qaeda and militant Taliban.
And in the process, obviously, combined, maybe we are looking for him also," the Musharraf had said in a CBS television interview. Asked what Pakistan was doing to find the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Musharraf said it was fighting extremism and terrorism. "We are fighting first of all Al-Qaeda. Let's take Al-Qaeda.
We have arrested or eliminated about 700 Al- Qaeda leaders ... which other country has done this?" "Well, which other country has Bin Laden?" his CBS interviewer replied, inciting a sharp retort from the Pakistani leader.
Almost ten years after 9/11, following a series of denials, deceit, double-dealing by Pakistan on his whereabouts, the CIA-SEALS team proved that Osama Bin Laden was not gifted with a tenth life like the cat with nine. Without doubt, Op Geronimo was most meticulously planned, prepared and implemented.
The operation and its success became far more significant, with the target being a very well shielded mansion barely half a kilometer away from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbotabad cantonment. Because there is no way that Laden could have been where he was found and killed-for even a day or for six or eight years- without the specific approval and support of Pakistan's military or/ its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Pakistan military's first reaction of believing that this was an attack from India, while nothing short of ludicrous, but not surprising, also meant quite obviously, that it was not within the planning loop of Op Geronimo. And probably just as well, because otherwise, Laden may have lived ten lives and more.
The timing of two reports in the media days before the operation was launched is interesting. One was about leaked documents of Guantanamo Bay stating that the US military classified Pakistan's top spy agency, ISI, as a terrorist support entity in 2007 and used association with it as a justification to detain prisoners there.
The other was about a senior Al-Qaeda commander claiming that the terrorist group has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will be detonated / unleash a "nuclear hellstorm", if Laden was ever caught or assassinated.
However, it is the avalanche of news, reactions, speculations etc following Laden's killing that need to be analysed for old and new lies they expose about Pakistan's military-mullah combo, some of the omissions and commissions of the US and Afghanistan, what they indicate about the possible post-Laden developments related to these three countries and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and implications for India.
The war against terror that the US has been fighting since 9/11, is certainly not going to end with Laden's elimination. Over these ten years the, US has many more Islamists gunning for it in addition to the surviving players like Mullah Omar in Afghanistan/Pakistan and others elsewhere.
Having been on the run/in hiding for a decade, Laden's exit may only mean a loss of the ideological figurehead, which may affect Al Qaeda a bit but it is not expected to peter out.
By committing Laden's body to the sea, the US may have denied him a grave, with the potential of being developed into a shrine, the Abbotabad mansion certainly has the potential to be the same. Destroying it may not help unless the Pakistani establishment decides to ensure that Laden will not be deified.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar- Toiba (LeT, who abandoned its leadership after India blamed it and another terrorist group for attacking the Indian Parliament in December 2001), was one of the first to take to the streets urging his followers to be "heartened by the death of Osama bin Laden, as his 'martyrdom' would not be in vain", he had LeT organise special prayers for Laden in several cities and towns, hailing him as a great person who awakened the Muslim world.
America must now focus on LeT, one of the largest and best-funded militant organisations in South Asia, and behind the November 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai, which killed 166 people including Americans and other foreigners. Admiral Robert Willard, heading the United States military's Pacific Command, recently expressed concern over the expanding reach of LeT, saying it was no longer solely focused on India (as per specific design of Pakistan army) or even in South Asia.
LeT, which has links with Al Qaeda (and even brought its members to pitch in into its anti-India operations), has been in an expansion mode, trying to attract well educated youngsters into its fold and may well try to fill any gaps of Al Qaeda created by Laden's death in other countries. US must stay the course in Afghanistan to maintain its painstakingly achieved intelligence grid there and in Pakistan and must target and neutralize more terrorist leaders and modules. US must also ratchet its pressure on Pakistan army and at least stop the supply of arms for supposedly combating terrorists , as all these consignments have only been used to build up its arsenal against India.
In October 2009, when President Obama signed a legislation that tripled economic aid to Pakistan, he aimed at shifting the focus of the US partnership with Pakistan from the military to the country's people and civilian/ democratic institutions and the Pakistani people.
In scores of articles and papers written since 9/11 by some analysts and this writer, the question that came up was, for how long could the US carry on with Pakistan is its 'frontline ally in the war against terror'-that at some stage it would have to rake some drastic steps of stepping into Pakistan to deal with terrorists attacking its forces in Afghanistan.
It appears that such action has begun now. While it remains to be seen how events will unfold in the next weeks and months, there seems little doubt about the tenuous divide that is beginning, marked prominently by the disappearance of ISI's boss Lt Gen Shuja Pasha.
After four military dictatorships in over six decades of Pakistan's existence and over two decades of Islamist terrorism nurtured by Pakistan army, the US should in its own interest, continue targeting jihadis, who Pakistan army will not or cannot neutralize and actually do South Asia, the world and India in particular, a great favour. Because US pressing India to continue talks with Pakistan cannot at all be meaningful till Pakistan's military maintains its stranglehold over the civilian political leadership.India, though vindicated again by re-exposure of Pakistan Army's duplicity regarding its strong terrorist connections, may not have much to feel elated about as there may be no progress on proceeding against 26/11 perpetrators like Hafiz Sayeed and his minions.
Even if US decides to repeat Abbotabad in other Pakistani locations to nab or eliminate other terrorist leaders, India must not expect even any benefit unless it amounts to reigning in Pakistan's military and ISI..
However, Centre and State Government must be clear that Kayani's recent rhetoric is bound to have a fallout of this summer being hotter terrorwise not only on the Line of Control, the Valley and the International Boundary in Jammu and Kashmir but in other States also.
For India, there is little to be satisfied about and much to be very careful along its long International boundary and the Line of Control.
While on the ground one long encounter in Jammu and Kashmir, leading to three LeT terrorists being killed by Rashtriya Rifles occurred a few days ago, Headquarters, Northern Command has clearly stated that there are at least seven hundred terrorists waiting to succeed in crossing over and making the summer in the Kashmir Valley and elsewhere in India really hot.
India must treat recent developments as yet another important wake-up call and shake out of its historic soft- state syndrome. Its sheer size, geostrategic location, history, threats from within and its neighborhood, necessitate it to develop and steadfastly maintain conventional superiority and deterrence capability beyond its borders, which it has the potential of.
Long pending security related reforms, cleansing its body-politic of the scourge of communalism and corruption, expediting necessary arms acquisitions and most important, straightening and strengthening of the political backbone are no longer merely seminar points but very crucial factors, which must be implemented for India's well-being.







When 21-year-old Ranjana Tiwari was harassed by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's guard she did not hesitate to raise her voice even when Delhi police officials refused to register a formal complaint against the guard. While recounting her horror story, she said, "I'm an educated girl, and never at a point did I get scared. I've always been hearing that girls don't come out and raise their voice. They never complain, so how will the authorities take any action against the culprits. So, when this happened with me, how could I have kept quiet?"
Ranjana is the quintessential empowered urban Indian woman who knows her rights, speaks with confidence, does not shy away from taking the powerful to task and lives her life on her own terms. "It feels like there's no justice, and I just want justice," said Ranjana. What happens to the case finally is for the judiciary to decide, but the message is strong and clear: women empowerment has come a long way and it is really happening now. For women like Ranjana, speaking out is just one way to feel more empowered.
Thinking of empowerment, what about the rural Indian women living in remote areas? Do they still continue to find their identity in their husband's name and property? Is women empowerment really happening? For 62-year-old Uttamuduli, a tribal woman living in a non-descript village in Koraput district of Orissa, property rights, particularly land rights are a far more important prerequisite than all others for women empowerment.
"We fulfill all the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, child bearing, collection of fuel, fodder, water, but when it comes to ownership of land we have no rights," said the widow who lives with her blind son and daughter in Gunnar village of Koraput district. While continuing, she said, "Land a woman's family purchases and land that the government grants to her family is almost always titled in her husband or father's name. We need to change that." She is one among many women leaders in Koraput fighting for land and property rights. Women leaders like Uttamuduli reaffirm the fact that in a male-dominated society, women, through federations and women's forums, are now coming forward for their rights and creating space for themselves.
While emphasizing on the importance of education Dr Mohini Giri, an internationally renowned social activist, who has been addressing women's issues and fighting for gender justice, said that as far as women are concerned, all issues relate to all of them whether they are in urban areas or rural areas because patriarchy is all pervading. "The patriarchal mindset of man is the same, thus she has to face the same problems wherever she is."
Though there are good policy steps taken by our Government in the area of women empowerment but we must remember what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had once said, "You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women".
Recently, President Pratibha Patil while quoting Pandit Nehru highlighted the role of a woman as a critical determinant in the country's growth. Spelling out an agenda for female empowerment, Patil called for gender sensitisation at every stage — right from the protection of the female foetus to the security of the working woman.
They say that the most extensive element of women empowerment is providing them with justice, and let's hope Ranjana gets it! (NPA)










The 10th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Astana, Kazakhstan, will be remembered for two significant developments. One, it has smoothened the process for full-fledged membership to India and Pakistan. Two, Afghanistan has been granted the status of an observer. This will add to the weight of this key regional grouping, so far believed to be dominated by China. The elevation of Afghanistan's status is a victory for Russian diplomacy as Moscow had been working hard for this to come about. The entry of India and Pakistan is interesting in the sense that the two major countries of South Asia will be in a forum which is poised to play a balancing role at the international level, with the world no longer being driven by the US alone, the sole surviving super power.

The SCO in its expanded form may focus more on Afghanistan and Pakistan so as to eliminate terrorism root and branch. There is great anxiety in the region that extremist and terrorist forces will find a fresh opportunity to strengthen their position once the US and allied forces leave Afghanistan with the various Taliban factions not allowing Kabul's writ to run in many areas. The SCO can now prevent Pakistan from helping the friendly Taliban factions to increase their influence in Afghanistan as part of Islamabad's old strategy of strategic depth. No foreign country should be allowed to meddle in the affairs of Afghanistan. The SCO can start advocating forcefully for a regional formula for establishing peace in Afghanistan.

India will now be in a better position to highlight the need for forcing Pakistan to destroy the infrastructure and plug the funding sources of terrorist networks in Pakistan. Terrorist and extremist forces remain well entrenched in Pakistan. The unending suicide bomb blasts provide proof of this ugly reality. These forces have their sympathizers in Pakistan's armed forces and most government departments. One can imagine the scenario that may emerge once the extremists capture the levers of power in a nuclear-armed Pakistan. The SCO will have to play a more pro-active role for peace and stability in the region.









Students who have scored high marks in their Class XII examinations find that in order to get admission to good colleges, their marks have to be superlative — cent per cent, or at least 95 per cent. The first round of cut-offs announced by various colleges in Delhi have been roughly 3 per cent high this year, compared to the preceding session. After the cut-offs are announced, eligible students from anywhere can then submit forms seeking admission to the relevant colleges. This move is particularly helpful to students from far-off places, as earlier they had to make two trips, whereas now they will have to make just one. However, from this year, colleges do not have cut-off points based on the profile of the students who had submitted forms to them. Instead, they have gone in for higher marks in the first round.


Even though the 72 affiliated colleges of Delhi University have around 50,000 seats for undergraduates, the number of students seeking admission is substantially more, and thus there is great pressure on admissions. The fact that between 25,000 and 28,000 applications are submitted at St. Stephen's for 400 seats illustrates the point well. The number of CBSE high-scorers has also increased four-fold this year, which has made the screening process more daunting.


HRD Minister Kapil Sibal will have to do a lot more than "feel sorry for the parents and their children who have worked hard and got 79 per cent or 89 per cent". The quality of teaching has to be improved across the board so that all colleges become attractive, rather than a few that are perceived to be 'good'. Many more educational institutions are needed as quality has to be ensured. However, precious little has been done for higher education and thanks to various controversies, parents are still at sea in judging the quality of the extant private educational institutions. In the next few years, many more students are expected to pass out of schools, partly because of the Right to Education Act, and thus the pressure on graduate institutions will only increase as time goes by. Mr Sibal needs to urgently take remedial measures to ensure that the number of colleges is adequate to meet the needs of students.











It is unfortunate that the world community has been so utterly lacking in genuine concern and action over the reports of atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan army against civilians while the army was fighting the Tamil Tiger rebels in the final months before the Tigers were decimated two years ago. The British government's recent expression of outrage and its advice to the Sri Lankan government to investigate the reports is one of those feeble attempts to get the insensitive Rajapakse government to act on the issue after a British documentary aired by Channel 4 recently showed horrific images of blood and bodies and sadder still, the terror and distress of the survivors, many of whom had watched their loved ones die. The documentary which has been largely authenticated by experts showed scenes of army shelling of helpless men, women and children in so-called 'no-fire zones' and hospitals, which may have been deliberately targeted.


A UN human rights panel report released in April had highlighted strong evidence of war crimes by the state. The Sri Lankan Government had been urged to take forward an effective accountability process, beginning with genuine investigations. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which it has set up is regarded by independent agencies and individuals as ineffective. Indeed, the Sri Lankan government is loathe to admitting that it might have done anything wrong. President Rajapakse has also been successful in portraying himself as a victim of the international community, and any criticism of him is widely regarded as a slur on Sri Lanka. The human rights activists and journalists in Sri Lanka are scared of a government that has a record of coming down hard on dissent.


While punishing the offenders may be difficult in the circumstances, it is fair to expect that the Rajapakse government would atleast relieve the problems of the survivors. By all accounts, they have been living in acute misery and squalor. Governmental help is necessary also for ensuring that Tamil extremism does not raise its head again, with angry youth taking the law into their own hands in deperation.









PRESIDENT Barack Obama is under pressure from his own party leaders to hasten the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan scheduled to begin in July. They want the draw-down to be carried out at a pace that is much faster than what Gen David Petraeus, commander of the US and allied forces, has recommended as an operationally viable rate. Now that Osama bin Laden has been killed, Senator John Kerry and other Democrats are urging Obama to change the campaign's course from fighting the Taliban all over Afghanistan and continuing the unsustainable efforts at nation-building to targeting only Al-Qaida and protecting US interests.


Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, still a perceptive observer of the emerging strategic environment, has written that four conditions must be met to make the exit strategy viable ("How to exit Afghanistan," Washington Post, June 8, 2011): "A cease-fire; withdrawal of all or most American and allied forces; the creation of a coalition government or division of territories among the contending parties (or both); and an enforcement mechanism." None of the four appears viable at present. Nor do these conditions look achievable in the 2014-15 time-frame in which the exit strategy is planned to be completed.


As widely anticipated, the Taliban has launched a vigorous spring-summer offensive and the US-led NATO-ISAF forces have retaliated with equal force. Nuristan, a north-eastern province bordering Pakistan, has been almost completely taken over by the insurgents. Despite repeated offensive operations being launched by the US-led NATO-ISAF forces, the situation in Helmand, Kandahar and Marja is still grim.


The Pakistan Army has apparently learnt nothing from the killing of Osama bin Laden and continues to pretend that his presence at Abbottabad was a mystery. Instead of reinvigorating its efforts to eliminate terrorists who are undermining Pakistan's security, the army is still holding off from launching the long-delayed offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan. Meanwhile, reports of US drone attacks against terrorists along the Af-Pak border continue to trickle in virtually on a daily basis despite the Pakistan Army's strident protestations. While it is early days in this year's military confrontation, a continuing stalemate will be the most likely outcome.


A US Congressional study report, released on June 8, has found that nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are floundering as the massive economic aid programme lacks proper oversight and breeds corruption. It says that most local officials are incapable of "spending wisely". It also says that there is little evidence to support the view that even the "politically pleasing" short-term results will be sustainable once the draw-down begins. The report notes that the Afghan economy could easily slip into depression as it is mainly a "war-time" economy that is a "huge distortion". It is well known, of course, that the US military conducts its own development programme in the areas cleared of the Taliban to win the people's support. Some of these aid programmes are completely out of sync with those approved by the Afghan government.


The two-year-old efforts to move towards reconciliation with the so-called "good Taliban" have not made much headway. Secret talks being mediated by Germany between the US government and Tayyab Agha, said to be a close confidante of Mullah Mohammed Omar, are unlikely to achieve a major breakthrough as no one is quite sure whether Agha is actually negotiating on behalf of Mullah Omar or whether the Taliban are simply using the talks as a ploy to buy time. The Haqqani group that enjoys ISI support and patronage is not part of the reconciliation process as General Kayani's offer of his good offices to negotiate with the Taliban has not found any takers.


While regional efforts to secure peace in Afghanistan remain haphazard, these are likely to slowly gather momentum when the draw-down of NATO-ISAF forces finally begins. During a visit to Kabul in mid-May, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsed President Karzai's "process of national reconciliation" and said, "We hope that Afghanistan will be able to build a framework of regional cooperation that will help its nation-building efforts." There is increasing realisation even in Washington that there cannot be a lasting solution to the intractable Afghan conflict unless Afghanistan's close neighbours and those in its extended neighbourhood provide reasonable guarantees of non-interference. Also, in the post-Osama environment, it is being gradually realised that Pakistan is part of the problem and cannot, therefore, be part of the solution. The international community is realising that Pakistan's sensibilities have been given too much weightage in the various major conferences that have been held to seek a solution to the conflict.


Overall, the situation in Afghanistan offers little cause for hope. The security environment is still fragile. Poor governance, political instability, ill-trained, badly equipped and poorly motivated Afghan security forces, rampant corruption, gross misuse of international aid, the resurgent Taliban, lack of political and military will among several members of the coalition to continue the fight and Pakistan's continuing double game do not augur well for peace and stability. While President Obama's domestic political compulsions are understandable, militarily the time is not ripe to commence withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. In fact, what Afghanistan needs is another military surge to be able to hold cleared areas against the Taliban, rather than the thinning down of troops.


Finally, there is so far no evidence yet that the US and its allies are planning to make substantive efforts to put in place a viable international peacekeeping force to help the Afghan government to maintain security after their own exit from Afghanistan in 2014. If this is not done, the Taliban will gradually seize one province after another, with covert help from Pakistan, and will eventually force the capitulation of the government, paving the way for their triumphant return to power to once again practice their peculiar brand of Sharia.


Conflict termination on such terms would signify not only the failure of President Obama's exit strategy but also that the war in Afghanistan has been fought in vain. It would mean that one more American intervention has gone hopelessly wrong.


The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.









When I arrived in Hamburg , my colleagues working there arranged a welcome party for me in a restaurant. As we walked into the restaurant, we noticed that many tables were empty. There was a table where a young couple was having their meal. There were only two dishes and two cans of beer on the table. I wondered if such simple meal could be romantic, and whether the girl will leave this stingy person.


There were a few old women on another table. When a dish was served, the waiter would distribute the food for them, and they would finish every bit on their plates.


We did not pay much attention to them, as we were looking forward to the dishes we ordered. As we were hungry, our host ordered more food for us. Since there were other activities arranged for us, we did not spend much time dining. When we left, there was still about one-third of unconsumed food on the table.


While we were leaving the restaurant, we heard someone calling us. We noticed the old women in the restaurant were talking about us to the restaurant owner. When they spoke to us in English, we understood that they were unhappy about us wasting so much food. We felt that they were really being too intrusive. "We paid for our food; it is none of your business how much food we left behind," my colleague told the old women.


They were furious. One of them immediately made a call to someone. After a while, an officer from the Social Security organisation arrived. Upon knowing what the dispute was, he issued us a 50 Euro fine. We all kept quiet. The local colleague took out a 50 Euro note and repeatedly apologised to the officer.


The officer told us in a stern voice, "Order what you can consume. Money is yours but resources belong to society. There are many others in the world who are facing food shortage; you have no reason to waste resources".


Our faces turned red. We all agreed with him in our hearts. The mindset of people of this rich country put all of us to shame. We really need to reflect on this.










'Punishment of wise men who refuse to participate in affairs of the government is to be governed by unwise men."


In the last few days, I have been asked by a large number of people, especially youngsters and media professionals, about my feelings towards Baba Ramdev's protests. The enthusiasm with which this question is asked makes me a bit uncomfortable, simply because I don't have a simplistic 'yes' or 'no' answer for this.


Yes, there are particular aspects of the issue which need to be outrightly applauded or condemned. For instance, the manner in which the government suppressed a peaceful gathering in New Delhi and the way Baba Ramdev and his supporters were manhandled was disgraceful. The opprobrium that has come the government's way is just. Corruption has assumed alarming proportions in India. People's anger, especially at lack of adequate response from the government, is therefore understandable.


But at the same time, I am apprehensive about the modus operandi of some of these protests. The other day, I read a statement by one of politicians exhorting Baba Ramdev to start a similar campaign in Punjab. What worries me is  that many people have started believing (wrongly!) that no solution is possible within our Constitution. More unfortunate is the fact that certain opposition leaders are fanning this sentiment.


It is interesting to find parallels with the sentiment and feelings in late 1960s and 70s. Back then, common people's frustrations and the failures of the government were the prime moving force behind Loknayak Jaiprakash Narain's movement. The intentions were noble back then as they are now. The motley government, formed after Mrs Gandhi's defeat post-emergency, assumed power in a euphoric atmosphere where everyone thought that we were entering a brave, new world.


But the reality turned out to be very different; simply because the honest vision of JP was not shared by many of his comrades. Many members of this new group were found wanting on propriety and more importantly, the ' total revolution' itself fizzled out in view of certain impractical goals it had set for itself.


I see stark similarities in some of the current demands voiced by the protesting leaders. Calls of absolute revolution may sound romantic but they are not necessarily the best option as instances all over eastern Europe have shown. This is why change brought about by Democracy is far more effective and long lasting.  The good part is that constitutional democracy does allow enough opportunities to bring about changes that we want to see in the government.  Or to quote Bernard Shaw, "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve"


I will candidly say that the fact that governments have become vile and dysfunctional speaks a lot about our own failings. We allowed the governments to become so by our own misconducts and apathies. If we want to see change for the better now, the change has to be initiated by us, but that change has to come through democratic means.


About eight months ago, I and my supporters too were dejected at the state of affairs that I found the Punjab government to be in. But we realised that if Punjab has to change for the better then this change needs to be brought about by the common people. This is why we launched the Jago Punjab Yatra, which has taken us to every constituency in the state, exhorting people to wake up and save Punjab from distress. The response has been stupendous. People know that things have come to a low ebb, but they still repose faith in democratic means.


I am stunned when some people ask me whether it isn't time that India too had a 'Arab spring' sort of revolution witnessed this winter in the Middle East and North Africa.


But India is no Egypt that was dictatorially governed. Nor do we have a ruthless monarchy. The people who govern us have been elected by us. If we think that they are repeatedly failing in the duties expected of them, it means that we are not exercising due discretion in selecting them, keeping track of their performance and then questioning them when they are found wanting.


As Plato once said, "Punishment of wise men who refuse to participate in affairs of the government is to be governed by unwise men."  


The solution of our problem lies within the realms of Constitutional Democracy. Calling for a television revolution or a purge is stupidity. If you think I am wrong, go and check with what happened to Romania under Ceausescu and Iraq under Suddam Hussain. 


(The writer is a former finance minister of Punjab)








Baba Ramdev as a phenomenon is reflective of our time: muddled, convoluted and confused. His mercurial rise can be seen as a backlash to the failures of an agenda inspired by Western thought and systems, its science and its faith-negating world view. He is a product of these times and certainly not a prophet.

He began with an onslaught on Western medicine and sciences as opposed to Yoga and Ayurveda. His tirade against multinationals, drug companies, life style diseases and subsequent claims that Yoga is the ultimate panacea of all ills including cancer, helped him reach out to a section of the masses. People disillusioned with 'systems' (not just political) were groping for an alternative when Ramdev seemed to provide it.

The problem with his politics lies in inherent contradictions. Support from the khap panchayats and the backing of the Right wing lobby flies in the face of his claim that there is no political design behind his agenda. Presence of Sadhvi Ritambhara, Major Unnikrishnan's parents, relatives of Bhagat singh and similar diverse elements on his stage only indicated an ideological anarchy.


His invocation of hyper nationalism and sacrifice besides selective use of secular slogans (sarfaroshi ki tamanna, vande matram, Bharat mata ki jai) and symbols (Bhagat singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad) from the freedom movement seemed contrived in the backdrop of his vast commercial empire.


He also seems incapable of appreciating that corruption is rooted in the system and institutions or individuals cannot be hanged like the Taliban did in Afghanistan. By demanding that the guilty be hanged in public, he merely betrayed his own limited thinking. Institution building in a democratic society is a painful process, takes a long time, requires perseverance to arrive at a consensus, maturity and above all a liberal and humanitarian vision.


Revolutions in these times take place through technology, through micro finance, self-help groups and legislations like the Right To Information. Dramatic demonstrations of frenzy, sustained by the politics of convenience, do not make for revolutionary changes. His announcement that he is going to raise an independent army to protect himself is another ominous and fascist signal that is frightening.


Modernity is not just about Western medicine and science. Modernity is also about humanism, democracy and secularism. It will undoubtedly do Ramdev a world of good if someone presents him with a collection of Gandhi's writings to calm his combative nerves and give him with some much needed lessons. 


The iconic status of Ramdev as the man who once made Yoga a household name in the remotest corners of India and his mystique have clearly taken a beating. Sadly, he has emerged as an ordinary and seriously flawed character. Intoxication with power has this effect on most people. Baba Ramdev was clearly not an exception.


The writer is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Ambedkar University, Delhi








The Sangh Parivar, by now it is clear, had no option but to prop up the strident agitation against corruption spearheaded by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. That is because the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is sardonically described as the other side of the Congress coin by none else than Govindacharya, has very little credibility to fight against corruption.


Allegations of corruption against BJP governments in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and in Jharkhand and Punjab, where the BJP is part of the ruling coalition, have considerably weakened the party. It is clearly in no position to cast a stone at the Congress.


The plot came unstuck also because of the skeletons tumbling out of Anna Hazare's Trusts in Maharashtra and details of land holdings held by the father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan. The news that Baba Ramdev has been gifted an island and that he has built up an empire worth over one thousand crores in a matter of years raised serious questions about their standing. Prime land given to the Yoga guru for a pittance by the BJP state governments also dented his credibility.


To be fair, the saffron brigade has been at the forefront of anti-corruption crusades in the past as well. In 1967 anti-corruption agitations led to the overthrow of several state governments and opposition coalitions for the first time tasted power from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu. But these governments were short-lived and turned out to be even more corrupt.


In 1974, the Sangh Parivar lent its weight behind Jai Prakash Narayan's agitation for Total Revolution. With the promulgation of the Emergency, Sangh affiliates went underground to fight the draconian measures and finally led to the Janata Dal coming to power at the Centre in 1977. Corruption once again became a public issue when the Sangh targeted Rajiv Gandhi on the Bofors deal in 1989. Even later, in 1996 the Sangh fuelled the agitation in the wake of the fodder scam in Bihar but had to wait till 2005 before it could dislodge Lalu Prasad Yadav.


There is little doubt that this time too the RSS is targeting Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. The difference this time is that unlike in the past, there is no leader of impeccable integrity and stature like Lohia, JP or even VP Singh. That itself weakens the agitation but the history of anti-corruption campaigns shows that they have succeeded only when they have secured the support of two very large constituencies, one the rural folk and the other, the minorities.  


Communal riots, forcible sterilisation, Muslim Personal Law, allowing the opening of the lock at Ayodhya and demolition of the Babri mosque etc. alienated the Muslims while the rural folks faced the pinch of price-rise and poor governance.


However, the RSS itself is facing a crisis after investigative agencies pointed an accusing finger at its associates for their involvement in Meca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Samjhauta Express and the Malegaon blasts. The NIA has got Swami Aseemanand to testify and is hinting at the involvement of senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar in terror strikes. Some more embarrassment may come its way after the cases related to the Gujarat massacre of 2002, monitored by the Supreme Court, come to a close.


The Congress, therefore, can afford to breathe easy. While the RSS is on the run, the Muslims see no reason yet to desert the Congress. And the UPA II government is just about doing enough for the poor in rural areas to dissuade them from rocking the boat. That would also explain why the Congress did so well in the recently-concluded Assembly elections in the states and was swept to power in Assam, Kerala and West Bengal.






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Those who did not get the message in May when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised policy rates by 50 basis points (bps), ignoring expectations of a 25 bp hike, should get it at least now. By ignoring pleas for a pause this time, RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao has clearly shown that he meant business when he said six weeks ago that the central bank will maintain "an interest rate environment that moderates inflation and anchors inflation expectations". There's a new gun in town and he's determined to take on the persisting problem of high inflationary expectations. It was amusing to see those who were votaries of "pause" on television earlier this week forecast another 25 bp hike six weeks from now minutes after the RBI made its announcement at noon time on Thursday. This fact alone should prove that central bank sceptics have finally taken note of the new mood. With hindsight it should be clear to all that last month's decision to go in for a 50 bp hike was meant to send a strong signal to all concerned that India's macroeconomic authorities will use monetary policy to fight inflation. Whether they will also use fiscal policy and economic liberalisation as policy instruments remains to be seen.

A second important message emanating from the RBI's statement that industry must take note of is the reference to pricing power. While not dismissing complaints from the corporate sector about being hurt by rising rates, the RBI has gently drawn attention to industry's ability to pass on rising wage and input costs to consumers, calling this "pattern" in non-food manufactured products inflation "a matter of particular concern". The RBI has also called the bluff of the banking sector with many bank chiefs assuring markets that they will not immediately pass on the higher rate increases to customers since they have the cushion to absorb this hike.


 By categorically stating that it will continue to raise rates and by rejecting the view that this will have a debilitating impact on growth – conceding though that there could be some moderation of growth and this is a price worth paying – the central bank has left no one in doubt about the direction of monetary policy in the medium term. The one important information that will be available six weeks from now, when the next policy statement is due, is the data on monsoon. By July-end, the monsoon picture will become clearer, which would shape expectations and, therefore, policy. The RBI would be well advised to return to its quarterly timetable of policy statements, dumping the current six-week calendar that the International Monetary Fund sold to it as a pro-market initiative. Given the clarity with which the RBI has made inflation control its main policy objective and considering the determination with which it is pursuing this objective inflationary expectations should begin to moderate. Even if a fuel price increase pushes up energy prices, it need not automatically translate into cost-push inflation, especially if the demand pull gets weakened. Stabilising growth at home is even more important at a time when the global economy is once again a bit wobbly.







What is driving the recent surge in Indian exports? Improved competitiveness even in a slowly growing world economy? An ability to serve buoyant markets in Asia better? Or, just a rush to beat the now-extended deadline for the winding-up of the Duty Entitlement Pass Book (DEPB) scheme? The last hypothesis suggests that Indian exporters are simply relocating inventories from godowns at home to warehouses abroad to get the benefits of DEPB before the scheme is wound up. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that the April 2011 exports of $23.85 billion represent a year-on-year increase (in dollar terms) of 34.4 per cent. This comes on top of an even more impressive performance in March 2011. An uncomplicated extrapolation of these numbers would suggest that exports for FY 2011-12 would be of the order of $286 billion, while imports would correspondingly be $394 billion. The resultant annual deficit of $108 billion would be slightly lower than the $115 billion witnessed last year. At this rate of growth, the 2015 export target of $500 billion set by Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar could be reached a year earlier. It would take a lot though to sustain this rate of growth in exports. The decision to diversify export geographies to include Africa and Latin America needs to be commended as astute out-of-the-box thinking, brought about through a combination of aggressive business and sensitive diplomacy. The composition of the export basket, especially to these destinations, has also changed to include a higher proportion of value-added goods. This trend is likely to continue into the foreseeable future as the effect of the expanded Preferential Trade Agreement with MERCOSUR pans out and the proposed free trade agreement on similar lines with the Andean economies is signed. The prognosis for Africa is similarly optimistic, as African economies especially in West and sub-Saharan Africa grow at unprecedented rates and local incomes rise sharply. However, sharply increasing domestic wage rates and high input costs can be potential headwinds that can slow down the export growth story.

The increase in imports during April 2011 has been mostly due to non-oil imports that grew at a year-on-year rate of 17.5 per cent as opposed to 7.7 per cent for oil imports. There is not much that India can do to influence oil prices. Improvements in efficiency and inter-fuel substitution impact consumption with a lag and, hence, cannot be expected to have an immediate impact on imports. The biggest disappointment has been the tardiness with which domestic oil and gas discoveries that were announced with great fanfare are being brought on stream, if they have been at all. Among non-oil imports, capital goods and consumption goods are the largest contributors. The import of capital goods is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it helps engender economy-wide productivity gains. The same cannot be said of consumption goods, especially at a time when India does not have a foreign exchange buffer to fall back on. While the impact of a withdrawal of the DEPB scheme remains to be seen, sustaining export growth requires a range of policy initiatives aimed at improving the overall environment for manufacturing and business in India.







In the last one month there have been several commentaries on who should or would be the next managing director (MD) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An IMF press release dated May 20, 2011 stated that the "nomination period (for the next MD) shall commence on May 23, 2011 and will close on June 10, 2011" with the objective of "completing the selection process by June 30, 2011". These tight deadlines have shifted the focus to support for individual candidates, rather than on the development of an impartial process by which a widely acceptable candidate would be appointed as MD.


The chief executives of the IMF and the World Bank have always been European and US nationals, respectively, since the two institutions were set up in the mid-1940s. In the light of the rising shares of Asian and Latin American countries in global gross domestic product (GDP), commentators have suggested that the heads of the IMF and the World Bank should no longer necessarily be European and American. However, according to the May 20 IMF press release, shortlisting of candidates will take into account the Fund's "weighted voting system" and the final selection could be by a "majority of votes cast" even though the objective would be to reach a consensus.

The voting shares of the G20 members of the IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) are shown in the table. The table also lists the percentage shares of G20 countries and the EU27 in global GDP in 2010 as well as the projected percentages in 2016. These IMF projections show that by the end of the next MD's five-year term, i.e. by 2016, the US and EU shares in global GDP would be substantially lower. However, under Section 2(c) of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, members can block any proposed change in quotas (voting percentages are directly proportional to quotas) with just 15 per cent of the vote.

Europe and the US together command nearly 50 per cent of the votes in the IMF and if they agree on the choice for the next MD, the views of the other members would probably not matter. In this respect, the IMF and the World Bank are more like corporations where the views of the majority owners tend to prevail. Effectively, the consensus decisions in these two institutions are implicitly driven by the voting strengths of the member countries concerned.

Developing countries have played along with the polite fiction that the IMF and the World Bank are equitable across all members since they receive development funds and financial support at times of balance of payments crises. In the past, these institutions also had widespread influence because of the high quality of analysis carried out by their professional staff. There was, however, valid criticism that their thinking tilted towards the "Washington consensus" and that recruitment of staff favoured those who have a finishing degree from the US. 

On balance, given the multiple constraints imposed by member governments, the research and lending policies of the IMF and the World Bank have been usually impartial. However, their positions on issues tinged by political sensitivities have been invariably driven by "North Atlantic" considerations. To that extent, these two institutions could be categorised as the economic counterparts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation except that their membership has gradually become global. For instance, China joined in 1980, about eight years after Nixon's trip to China in 1972, and Russia became a member in June 1992 after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.







% share of
global GDP*
in 2010

Projected %
share of global
GDP* in 2016




































































South Korea


















Saudi Arabia






South Africa






























Total G7






Total US + EU27






Total G20#





*Share of world GDP based on purchasing power parity # Total for countries listed at 1-19
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook Database - April 2011, World Bank; 

In the last one year, the IMF's loan portfolio has grown sharply due to its lending in Europe. And, about a third of the funds committed to Greece, Ireland and Portugal are to come from the IMF. It is not clear, despite the negative global implications of potentially disruptive sovereign defaults in Europe, that this is an efficient use of the IMF's resources. It is also not apparent that the current mix of policies prescribed for the debt-strapped countries in Europe, to which the IMF subscribes, is a sustainable way to address their comparative lack of competitiveness.

Based on their difficult past experience with the conditions that accompany loans from the IMF or the World Bank, wherever possible, developing countries have built up large stocks of foreign exchange reserves as a form of self-insurance. Consequently, in the last ten years, the IMF and the World Bank have come to be less needed in Latin America and Asia. It follows that if the IMF's diminishing imprint in developing countries is to be addressed, the process by which its MD is selected should be transparently credible with all member countries.

Since late 2008, the G20 has replaced the G7 as the group to which the international community looks to articulate policies that balance the economic interests of different parts of the globe. Therefore, a G20 approach towards the selection of the next IMF MD should have wider acceptability. Alternatively, if it remains business as usual, we should expect the emergence of other multilateral arrangements that better represent the new world economic order.  

The author is India's Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg
Views expressed are strictly personal  






Many companies have seen their margins being seriously hit as a result of sharply higher raw material prices in 2010-11. While this has increased the value of inventories, few companies carry sufficiently large inventories for this to make a material difference.


Instead, the real impact is a double whammy, with some (Chinese) suppliers holding up or reneging on shipments while buyers, of course, remain resistant to price hikes. Fortunately, in some industries there are pass-through contracts, but even these are subject to renegotiation and most companies, caught between raw material markets, on the one hand, and customers, on the other, find their margins getting squeezed.

The situation does not get meaningfully better if raw material prices fall suddenly. Here the double whammy is of a decline in the value of inventories and buyers demanding price reductions or, worse yet, declining prices in the product markets.

Since this is a key business risk, most companies have strong materials and purchase teams that work to manage this squeeze, but these efforts are often constrained by the fact that there are no (or limited) hedging markets for most raw materials and, very often, because companies have inadequate risk monitoring systems. This is further complicated by the fact that companies sometimes try to judge markets without a singular focus on the risk they are carrying. While this sometimes ends up in windfall gains, the sharp volatility in the underlying commodities often ends up eroding margins dramatically.

Most companies do, of course, have an informal risk management system of co-ordination among finance, purchase and marketing, that work together to manage the input/output price squeeze. However, there are often gaps as a result of incomplete or inadequate information flow across departments, inability to agree on the best way forward, differing market views and so on. Indeed, corporate politics also comes into play, as the most aggressive or the most important of the three business heads often gets to call the shots.

Technically, a sound risk management framework needs a special node for risk monitoring — the middle office, in financial parlance. It needs to be separate from and independent of both the back office, which tracks and records business transactions, and the front office, which comprises both materials and sales, and works to mitigate price risk, either through back-to-back hedging (in either the paper market, if it exists, and/or the physical market), and/or through contract and price negotiations with customers and suppliers.

While billion dollar-plus companies can afford to – and sometimes do – designate an independent chief risk officer who would run the middle office, it is usually not a cost-effective investment for a mid-sized company. In these cases, the job falls to the CFO, who needs an objective tool to enable disciplined monitoring of the risk on the company's margin, while balancing the needs of both sides – materials and sales – of the business operation.

Creating this risk monitoring tool is not a trivial job, since it needs to be customised to the company by building in the specific micro-structure of each business segment (contract terms, sales cycle and so on) as well as of the particular raw material and product markets. For instance, for a manufacturer of conductor cables, the risk profile is complicated because there are different benchmarks for buying and selling aluminum. Further, some sales contracts have price variation clauses requiring the price to be hedged at the average of a fortnight (or a month, in some cases).

On the other hand, for a lubricant manufacturer, back-to-back hedging of commodity risk is very difficult since the lead time for raw material buying is much more than the lead time for delivering on customer orders. Again, there is no strong short-term correlation between the company's raw material price and the underlying (petroleum) market. Here, risk has to be managed on a portfolio basis.

Clearly, managing raw material price risk is much more complex than managing risk in financial markets, not least because there are few benchmarks against which risks can be hedged or performance can be measured. Nonetheless, there are processes from financial risk management that can – and should – be translated into companies' inventory and gross margin management operations.

While it is impossible to eliminate raw material price risk – and there are some views that investors actually want companies to carry these risks – I believe it is prudent to build some kind of objective risk monitoring system. It is equally prudent to implement it in a disciplined fashion – a tall order, in many cases – to minimise the impact of being hit on both the swings and the roundabouts.  






The fate of the controversial Bt brinjal is blowing in the wind! At a meeting of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex body for transgenic crops in India, several experts favoured a "limited release of Bt (brinjal) seeds to identified farmers under strict supervision" (Business Line, May 26, 2011). NGOs, however, remain opposed to the introduction of Bt technology in food crops. So, too, are some scientists who want more studies to assess the safety of such Bt food crops. Bt brinjal has been embargoed and the prospects of it being introduced soon looks grim because it faces a bio-safety burden of proof that is impossible to meet.

This transgenic crop was approved by the GEAC in October 2009, following nine years of testing involving as many as seven government departments, committees and institutes. But shortly thereafter, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh stated that he would not accept the GEAC's decision and went in for public consultations. It was this ministerial decision – ostensibly taken in the national and public interest – that single-handedly blocked the transgenic brinjal.


In bypassing the GEAC, Ramesh stated that the moratorium would continue as long as it was needed to establish public trust and confidence. But what conceivable tests would establish public trust and confidence?

Clearly, this set the bar impossibly high, felt Professor Ronald Herring of Cornell University. "There are still large groups around the world who are not 'satisfied' with the science supporting evolution, viral origins of HIV AIDS, global warming or even lunar landings… Sociology of knowledge tells us ex ante that the standard invoked by the minister is essentially impossible to meet... This was precisely the intent of activists campaigning to stop even field trials of Bt brinjal: to raise the bar from acceptable uncertainty to absolute consensus on absence of risk," he argued in his recent paper "State science and its discontents: Why India's second transgenic crop did not follow the path of Bt cotton".

As if all this weren't bad enough, the environment minister consulted state governments who also urged caution and delay in the introduction of Bt brinjal. Kerala went one step ahead and stated that the state government's policy was not to allow genetically modified (GM) crops, not even field trials and was in favour of a moratorium at least for the next 50 years until complete safety is proven! The verbal communication from Uttarakhand was equally blunt: "Ban Bt brinjal". By such standards of safety even a peanut wouldn't be approved for cultivation! Such responses are not surprising because, barring the Congress, most other political parties were opposed to agricultural biotechnology in their electoral manifestos in 2009.

A puzzle indeed is how did Bt cotton get introduced in the fields while Bt brinjal got embargoed? The same transgene (cry1Ac), producing the same insecticidal protein, in the same regulatory process produced very different outcomes. According to Herring, Bt cotton has done extremely well in agro-economic and environmental terms. The fact that Bt cotton has catapulted India into the second position in the world in cotton production; that 90 per cent of farmers cultivate Bt cotton has also been admitted by Ramesh. But Bt brinjal, which in field trials offered greater benefits to farmers in net income and pesticide reduction, failed to receive regulatory clearance by the minister for environment!

The divergent trajectories of these two transgenic crops basically stem from the role of farmers. In the case of cotton, farmers "voted with their ploughs", to borrow an expression of Herring, under the regulatory gaze of the state to force it to act speedily and approve Bt cotton. They were upset that the GEAC was taking its own time in approving this technology. Maharashtra and Gujarat also took a more proactive role in this regard because farmers were demanding this technology and these governments in effect legalised Bt cotton months before the GEAC ruled on this matter. As Herring puts it, the GEAC science was rendered irrelevant by the political power of the states in a federal polity.

Bt brinjal fared poorly in comparison because its farmers are not so powerful as a lobby. Those who grow brinjal grow other crops as well. They do not control a lot of land and earn no forex. They are also not organised as cotton farmers are. There are only about half a million hectares of brinjal grown in India — cotton is closer to 10 million hectares. The number of brinjal farmers is around 1.4 million scattered all over the country unlike the greater concentration of cotton farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra. For such reasons, brinjal farmers got no such support from any of the states. The GEAC science, in this case, was successfully attacked by a Union cabinet minister.

Bt cotton, thus, made it — thanks to wholesale farmer acceptance that sidelined opposition from NGOs and some scientists. These forces got resurrected in the case of Bt brinjal and successfully managed to get it embargoed.

From the Ivory Tower makes research from the academic world accessible to all our readers








Anna Hazare and Mr Ramdev have taken up a campaign against corruption and black money — out of sincere belief in one case and as an opportunity for self-projection in the other. It is an issue that resonates well in the educated classes, which feel insulted by the brazen corruption that has come to light recently. But the Tamil Nadu elections, in which the principal guilty party, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, lost many seats but saw only a modest erosion in the votes polled, suggest that the electorate at large is still swayed by other concerns.


The cancer of corruption in politics must be addressed. But the methods chosen by the anti-corruption campaigners could endanger other aspects of our governance system that we value highly. Constitutional democracy is eroded by the executive giving self-appointed spokespersons of the people more importance than the elected representatives. The processes of policy formation are distorted by including people who are not accountable to the legislature or the executive in operational policy making. But the greatest challenge is to a democratic political culture. Protests that hold out the prospect of social violence and seek to coerce an elected government, threaten to overwhelm the ethos of a democracy in which differences are mediated through elections, party politics and parliamentary debate.

Part of the reason for this is the sheer incompetence of the United Progressive Alliance government in handling the politics of protest. Setting up a National Advisory Council of NGOs that draft legislation, buying time by incorporating civil society representatives in an operational process for drafting the Lok Pal Bill, sending four ministers and a battalion of secretaries to cajole Mr Ramdev into calling off his fast and then sending in the police in force to break up his meeting are all symptoms of confusion.

If all that is at risk is the present government then perhaps not much is at stake. It is recovering its composure and hitting back now and the risk will pass. But the fact is that our polity faces a deeper problem of learning how to cope with the persistence of protest and violence in the vocabulary of politics.

Protest is in our DNA as a nation. By 1920, the political leadership of the freedom movement had passed from those who espoused constitutional processes to those who believed in civil disobedience and street protest. Gandhiji was the main architect of this transition but there were others like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai who played an important role. But note that in their effort to reach the masses, these leaders used religious symbols, predominantly Hindu like Ganpati puja, cow protection, or in Gandhiji's case, a renunciatory lifestyle. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, secular by temperament, had to resort to religion in an even more fundamental way to establish a mass political base. Religion has never been very far away from the processes of political mobilisation for almost a century now. A brief, aggressively secular Nehruvian interlude led us to forget this. Hence, the first challenge is to find a modality for mass mobilisation that transcends religious and caste divisions.

There is a certain theatrical quality about protests because they use the language of gestures. The acts of protest – shouting slogans, disrupting traffic, breaking shop windows, fasting, courting imprisonment and, as an extreme case, striking terror – are not in themselves capable of realising the aims of the protest. They draw attention to the aims in an arresting way. (Pun not intended!) The aim of protest is the same as that of a theatrical performance — grabbing the attention of the audience with a gesture that conveys the meaning better than words alone. Gandhiji was an absolute master in the theatre of politics. The Salt March to Dandi was a spectacular instance of this and it had a remarkable effect in rejuvenating a demoralised freedom movement.

Mr Hazare's and Mr Ramdev's fast has this theatrical air with fellow performers and bit players joining them and a live audience providing the applause when needed. The impact of extra-constitutional protest politics has been enhanced now with 24x7 coverage by TV news channels and willing sutradhars in TV anchors competing for ratings.

Protests do have a role to play even in a democracy. A society that is successful in handling conflicts is in a state of "controlled rebellion" with organised modes for expressing conflict but preserving unity. In the words of Georges Balandier, a political anthropologist, "The supreme ruse of power is to allow itself to be contested ritually in order to consolidate itself more effectively." Mr Hazare's fast and Mr Ramdev's theatricals are best seen as this type of contestation. The NAC is a more decorous instance of a ritual opposition to the realities of power.

To cope with this, political leaders must master the art of gesture and understand better the rituals and protocols of protest. Indira Gandhi did this when she travelled to Belchi in Bihar on an elephant to sympathise with some Dalits under attack. A closely related competence has to be a subtle skill in the management of the feverish 24x7 TV news channels.

Civil society, on its part, must also understand the limits to the ruling classes' tolerance when protests escalate to large-scale disruption. That is the stage we are at with the anti-corruption crusade. The crusade will lead to some change but the basic structure of economic and political power will not be disturbed as long as the elite in charge does not lose its nerve.

For protests to become a game-changer, we need leaders who can work with the elite and the masses at the same time. That is how they can help society overcome its weaknesses. Gandhiji did this by helping a society coerced into submission to overcome its sense of fear. Nehru persuaded a stagnant society that it could change and grow into prosperity. Jayaprakash restored our faith in the power of the people. They did this because they appealed both to the masses and to the political and media elite.

Does Mr Hazare have the charisma to persuade the mass of citizens to be ready for the long haul? Can he build a viable coalition? Will the appeal of his simplicity survive the attention deficit disorder of the chattering classes? Time will tell, but right now the odds are that the empire will strike back and survive.  








The RBI's Mid-Quarter Review is a document not just of the central bank's limited effectiveness, but of New Delhi's wilful failure to lend a helping hand.

The Mid-Quarter Monetary Policy Review of the Reserve Bank of India shows that it may be succumbing to an inflexible faith in the role it is meant to play rather than in the cold logic of a complex reality and the colder evidence of the results of its previous actions. When it raised the repo rate by 25 basis points to 7.5 per cent, it followed its script faithfully; inflation, it said, "persists at uncomfortable levels". Headline numbers, it stressed, "understate the pressures because fuel prices have yet to reflect global crude oil prices."

From the RBI's viewpoint, the logic of its actions appears unarguable. Monetary policy is an effective instrument of inflation control. Students, TV commentators and research analysts believe so. But some feel that domestic inflation originates not in excess liquidity or overheated demand, but in supply shortages unaffected by monetary policy changes. The fact that food prices are still at high levels and that manufactured goods prices have climbed a percentage point in May from 6.3 per cent the previous month, shows that the RBI's actions over the last nine months have not succeeded. Leave alone food prices, non-food prices have remained above the targeted level of 4.5 per cent. To a large extent, global commodity prices have added to the spike in prices, but so have interest rates, that have virtually doubled in the 15 months since the RBI began its tight money policy.

Inadvertently, the RBI's rate hikes, along with food and commodity prices, may have contributed to sustaining non-food prices at higher levels. Yet, mindful of its script, the central bank avers "some short-run deceleration in growth may be unavoidable in bringing inflation under control." In nine attempts, the central bank has failed; it might pass off that failure on "transmission problems" but the manufacturing sector has felt the pinch. At this point, the relevant issue is not whether growth is moderating, but whether inflation is; so far, the verdict is no. But even more significant is the absence of any action from New Delhi from pledging its armoury of fiscal and public policy measures to ease supply constraints and, thereby, control input prices. The RBI's Mid-Quarter Review is strong on diagnostics, but weak in its prescriptions. The principal cause for this weakness lies in the abysmal lack of actions by New Delhi against the systemic weaknesses of the economy. In that sense, the Mid-Quarter Review is a document not just of the central bank's limited effectiveness but of New Delhi's wilful failure to lend a helping hand.







In the first part of my series yesterday, I had stated that big multi-brand retailers in the West like the Walmarts and Tescos and Carrefours routinely mark up the prices on their entire basket of products by a minimum 2x, and this goes as high as 9x, compared with the retail/wholesale mark-ups in India.

The point that was made was that the efficiency of the channel should be determined by how much they charge the end consumer by way of mark-ups (which is the aggregate of the costs incurred and profits made by the channel). By this measure, I had concluded that the Indian distribution chain comprising wholesalers, distributors, stockists and retailers is among the most cost-effective and efficient in the world.

How can this possibly be?


Anyone who has followed business practices and rules will know the following simple truth about markets. The more consolidated a market is, providing less choice to the consumer, the more the retailer can mark up and charge ever higher prices. In reverse, the more fragmented a market is, providing ever more choices in terms of sources to the consumer, the lesser is the mark-up, as the retailers have to charge the least possible amount to be competitive and stay in business. When big multi-brand retail gets into a market, their game plan is to eliminate competition and build market clout. Let us look at two examples. In the US, the retail market size (excluding food service and automotive) was estimated at $3 trillion in 2009. Walmart clocked over $300 billion in US sales, for a remarkable 10 per cent market share. Such consolidated power, acquired over time, is used to squeeze cost on the supplier side, and improve mark-ups on the consumer side.

Walmart aims to be cheaper than other retailers, but its end goal is still to maximise returns to its shareholders. (People interested in learning about Walmart can get the book How Walmart is destroying America and the World … by Bill Quinn.)

UK's Tesco clocked sales of £61 billion ($99 billion) last year, and has a 30 per cent market share of the UK grocery store market, according to Wikipedia. This level of consolidation is unprecedented in the retail world, giving Tesco extraordinary power over both suppliers and consumers. A grocery shopper in the UK has at best a choice of two or three retailers in her vicinity (Tesco or Sainsbury or maybe an Aldi). This means, notwithstanding promotional offers, the price is always a premium, and retailers' power over the consumers' shopping pound is enormous. Their power over the manufacturer is also enormous, but that is another story altogether.


Compare this with India. We have dozens of small retailers in our immediate neighbourhoods vying for our shopping rupee. There is intense competition. Prices and mark-ups tend to be the lowest possible. We have a near-perfect market structure, where thousands of producers are providing goods to tens of thousands of retailers who are serving millions of consumers. No one really has the clout in the market to charge extra mark-ups. This is a ground-up phenomena, created by the energy and entrepreneurship of millions of small businesses. The government has played no role in organising this. The difference in market structure is illustrated in the visuals alongside.

If big multi-brand retail is allowed to enter India, what happened in the West will be repeated here. The story is well documented. A big retail outlet will be launched in an area with big fanfare. There will be lots of promotions and predatory pricing below cost of many essentials for extended periods. (Walmart has an expression for this called "Stomp the comp", meaning sweep aside the competition.)

Consumers will be attracted by these deals, and will flock to the store. Small retailers cannot sustain loss of business for long. Most of them will fold up against this assault of big retail. It has happened without fail in every market. As the competition is wiped out, the big retailer gains clout over the suppliers and the consumers. They then get pricing power, gain control of the market, and steadily increase the mark-ups over time for maximising profits.

Against the background of the information above which is available in the public domain, one cannot help wonder how FDI in multi brand retail has been recommended by the committee, led by the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government. Some of the criteria for investment are also inexplicable. For example, the committee has specified a minimum FDI investment of $100 million. That is like asking an Olympic heavy weight lifter to lift a 10 kg weight to qualify! While I respect the senior minds that have looked into this, I would venture to suggest that the role of policy in this matter should be to ensure the common good of the broadest base of the Indian population over an extended period of time measured in decades and not in years.


Policy makers should not rush to please Western governments that are lobbying hard to open up the Indian retail market. Opening FDI in multi-brand retail will ill-serve the Indian retail sector and the hundreds of millions of households struggling to make ends meet.

When the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, India was protected because the banking industry was not exposed to risk. The situation is similar in retail. Let us not bring in the bad oligopolistic structure of Western retail into India, a move which will really be irreversible and hold Indian consumers captive for times to come.


(The author is Group CEO, R. K. SWAMY HANSA and Visiting Faculty, Northwestern University, US. The views are personal.






Chitra Narayanan

The Murugappa group chairman's strategy is clear – become so big that you hitch your wagon to the economy.

June 17, 2011:  

On a hot July day in 1964 the Grand Trunk Express from Madras Central slowly rolls out. Aboard is a nervous little Tamil boy going to Doon School – into exile, as it were.

"So your Hindi must be good," we ask Mr A. Vellayan, Chairman of the Murugappa Group, the $3.8- billion fertiliser-to-tubes-to sugar-to-finance conglomerate, who is telling us about his first brush with the north.

"Aath saal kaate hain, yaar," he says, including three in Delhi, studying at the Shri Ram College of Commerce. "Maheene me teen baar Dilli jaana padta hain." Hindi test passed, but Kaate hain? – he makes it sound like being sent to Kaala Pani.

We are at Raintree Hotel in Teynampet, Chennai, having a leisurely breakfast. Originally scheduled to be a lunch at Dare House, the historic headquarters of the 111-year old Murugappa group, it's shifted to this business hotel because a ministerial event came up.

Mr Vellayan tells us that the Uttar Chalo strategy was his father Mr M. V. Arunachalam's to level the playing field with the Marwaris.

"One of the problems my father had when he was president of FICCI was that all the Marwaris were talking in Hindi and he couldn't understand. So, early on, he decided that if one had to run a national business, one had to know Hindi," he says. Which is why, the young Vellayan had to trudge North, unlike most of his kin who studied at Lawrence School, Lovedale in the Ooty hills. The first term at Doon was tough, he says.

But life changed after the second term. Lasting friendships were formed with Doscoes. Their class (of '68), which includes writer Vikram Seth, meets at least once a year.

Doon made him tough. "Compared to my brethren from the North, I was diffident. But climbing rocks on a rope at Rohtang Pass is good for confidence," he says dryly.

The Murugappa group chairman dwells fondly on the bond with his school chums – not just from Doon, but Don Bosco, where Vijay Amritraj, Royappa and he were tennis buddies.

So it was rather natural that when Amritraj faced a crisis with the ATP tournament, Mr Vellayan rushed to the rescue. "When the Tatas pulled out of sponsoring the ATP tournament, he and I got together with the thought that somehow we must keep this tournament in Chennai. He was able to get the government support and I got the corporates into it," he says.

Dosas, fish and merit

Our breakfast — idlis for us and a plain dosa for Mr Vellayan – arrives slowly, like the Grand Trunk Express. Mr Vellayan says he is not a fussy eater. Boarding school and constant travel have prevented him from being picky.

But surely there is one particular comfort food? "It's Chettiar food," he confesses, "Dosas and fish curry or rice and mutton curry."

"What, no thayir sadam)?" we ask in horror, "The essence of a Tamilian?"

"I think thayir sadam defines a Tamilian, but not a Chettiar," he retorts.

He asserts his Chettiarness proudly. "We still maintain our homes in Chettinad and go there often. All functions are held there — my son recently got married there," he says. "It keeps the family well bonded."

Is that why the family business has so far avoided splits and rifts? Or is it because of the well thought-out succession plan?

"Meritocracy is the only criterion we follow," he asserts. "We have had two professional chairmen in the last ten years – Mr P. S. Pai and Mr N.S. Raghavan."

Only size matters

So, how are they going to meet the projected target of $7 billion revenues in three years?

"By growing at 25 per cent CAGR, which is three times the GDP growth," he replies coolly. Then there is inflation and the combination of organic growth and acquisitions — 60 per cent of our growth will be organic and 40 per cent through acquisitions, he says.

Acquiring size is a recurring motif during the conversation. The strategy is that if you are big enough, you get a fair share of voice.

"By sheer size, we are creating an inter-dependence in the economy. As the economy grows, we grow."

So if you are so big, why do you keep a low profile, we ask. "Being visible is a must, but being loud is another thing," he says with disdain.

Three pronged strategy

A daily routine of either swim and yoga or walk and yoga is his fitness routine. A good part of his time also goes in reading up the voluminous sectoral reports his team dishes out to him. "You cannot buck the trend, but you have to be ahead of it," he says, as he tells us the three key elements in the group's fertiliser strategy.

Backward integration in raw materials is the first step. "It is your life line – without that you are dead," says Mr Vellayan. "For our fertiliser business, we have this in South Africa and Tunisia, so we are secure. This is a self-protection mechanism," he says.

The second element is dynamic management. "Our fertiliser business is run by 4 IIM graduates. We go all out to attract the best talent with ESOPs and it works."

The third part is to move consciously away from the dependence on the government subsidy dole-outs. "We have derisked the business — gone into rural retail, water soluble fertilisers, pesticides, farm mechanisation and so on," he describes. The objective is that in the next three years only 50 per cent of the revenue will come from subsidy-dependent businesses."

Only, we wonder.

Lessons from China

Wearing his Fertiliser Association of India Chairman hat, Mr Vellayan suddenly launches into how we can learn from our neighbours. "In China, they use 50 million tonnes of organic to 90 million tonnes of chemical fertilisers. In India, we use 55 million tonnes of chemical fertilisers and just 0.5 of organic fertilisers. So the soil is not rejuvenating. In China, they have a superb municipal system of composting domestic waste and feeding it into the farm system. Here we don't have a system and have to go through several hurdles," he says.

He also rues India's lack of a long-term plan on natural resources, unlike China which has an aggressive stance on this. "We must have reserves which can be enough to feed us. Otherwise inflation will cripple us," he says. If you take the total subsidy paid by the government over last ten years, you could have bought out all the major corporations in all the major commodities, he observes.

The head rules

By now, we have gauged that behind his genial exterior there hides a tough businessman. "We are not emotionally attached to our businesses," he says referring to the sale of Parryware to Spain's Roca group. Although a great brand, the sanitaryware business had to be sold as there was no clear competitive edge. "In Parryware, we realised we don't have gas as compared to Hindware and Cera that have gas in Gujarat basin. Nor did we have the design capability. But what we had was a brand."

For the brand value itself, the group got a good valuation - 30 times the EBIDTA. "Even if we had created value for 10 years, we would not have got this kind of a number. And we needed the money to consolidate our fertiliser and sugar business which we were focusing on," he says.

On the joint venture with DBS, which was terminated, he says, "There were lessons from that too. One learning was not to go with 50:50 venture."

The gender thing

Finally, we ask him about the issue of women in the Murugappa family not being in the family business. "My great grandfather was a strong believer that if a girl gets married into another family, she must learn to get along with that family and not rely on the might of this family. The philosophy is: don't impose your parentage on them. Likewise, for the women married into the family. They have been making very good contribution working on the social side of the businesses," he explains.

But that was another era, we murmur, what about now?

"I am from the fourth generation, it has worked so far. And in the fifth generation, there is only one girl, That is the reality of it!"







Most of us, the aware citizens, exercise dutifully our franchise whenever elections are held, and vote massively in favour of a change, hoping that the new government makes beneficial changes. And that only after dissemination of information, dialogue, discourse and even informed dissent as befitting a mature and enlightened democracy. But what we witness today is disruption, dismantling, demolition, or an attempt to throw out of the window the bath tub and the baby just because something was initiated by the predecessor government.

If only this TGV- (Train a Grand Vitesse)like speed is the standard the new government has set for itself in reforms, particularly in bringing to the people services without elements of a patronising culture and executing infrastructure projects ahead of schedule, then there is no doubt that Tamil Nadu will be numero uno in India in the near future.

However, a doubt arises regarding the interface of aspirations of an elected government and the advice of the permanent bureaucracy. Even if many projects in infrastructure, office space, education and health are not exactly to the liking of the new dispensation, surely they were prepared by competent bureaucrats after thinking through and writing elaborate internal notes and power point presentations. Why is it that our corps of "neutral" officers, even if not individually but collectively is not able to prevent costly disruptions and new misadventures at the whims of the new government?

The MRTS experience

Be that as it may. Highly qualified town planners, experts in urban economics, aces in transportation had been engaged for decades in debate over the issue of the right mode and mix of mass transit for the exponential increase in requirements for Chennai. It was thought MRTS (Mass Rail Transport System) would be an answer or at least a partially. MRTS was and remains an eternal WIP (Work In Progress). Of course, when it was planned in the eighties no one may have foreseen that the entire landscape would change with the advent of IT industry and services and rapid urbanisation. In a recent article in the New York Times about the chaos called Gurgoan near Delhi, it was pointed out that the meagre administration in Haryana could not cope with the lightning speed with which private industry, office space and transport requirements grew phenomenally. . At least Gurgaon has an excuse that the only officer posted to look after its development till 1990s was a Commissioner of Industrial Development in Haryana. Chennai grew right under the nose of powerful Chief Ministers.

Travails continue

For over two decades, all we had was seminars, newspaper articles highlighting commuters' travails in the form of foot board travellers, strap hanging rail commuters and parlous obstacles for pedestrians. With the success of the Delhi Metro there appeared to be some hope of replicating the model here. The hapless citizens were informed that a 45-km Metro would be constructed with Japanese assistance to be operational from 2013 and fully ready from 2015. There are always arguments about the relative merits of various mass transit systems: Metro Rail, Mono rail, Rapid Bus Corridors and so on.

To the limited knowledge of the author and his stay and visits abroad it appears the Metro is a clear choice for the teeming and dense population such as Chennai. It is reported that the new government is having a rapid rethink on Metro to supplant or supplement by Mono rail. In the end, should we blame electoral democracy for our uncertain destiny?

(The author is a former Member, Ordnance Factories Board.)









The RBI has raised policy rates by an additional quarter of a percentage point, bringing the rate at which banks can borrow from the central bank to 7.5%. This is still significantly below the 9% effective before the financial crisis and below the rate of inflation, keeping real interest rates still in the negative territory. It is difficult for the central bank to ease off on restoring policy rates to where they were before the crisis when inflation continues unabated, and when a largish current account deficit indicates that the economy's appetite for goods and services is running ahead of domestic supply. So, the RBI is likely to raise policy rates even further in the coming quarters. Where would this leave growth? The simple reality is that neither growth nor even inflation is determined solely by domestic monetary policy. The government has to step in and take the corrective action that only it can take. It has to act at three levels: at the level of the G20, to initiate action on reining in global commodity prices as they ride a wave of gushing liquidity flowing out of developed economies; at the level of fiscal consolidation, to prevent government expenditure adding to excess demand in the system; and in terms of policy and governance to restore investor confidence and kick-start investment, particularly to remove the supply bottlenecks that feed inflation.

Fiscal consolidation and policy reassurance would converge in a long-awaited decision to deregulate diesel prices. It would help anchor inflation expectations as also free up for others the huge chunks of bank lending that oil companies corner at present, to make up for under-recoveries. If the government swiftly moves to shed dither and policy paralysis, the mood would change, definitely for the better. It could easily allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, write off a fifth of the debt of all states that scrap restrictions on farmers' freedom to market their produce and permit workers to voluntarily shift their retirement savings from the moribund Employees' Provident Fund to the forward-looking New Pension System. The fields would bloom, and so would the markets. That would revive confidence.







India's two communist parties, the original CPI and the CPI-M, which broke away from the parent in 1964, might come back together. This is a good idea, even though in electoral terms the impact might be minimal. For many years, the two parties have worked together during polls, making sure that they do not eat into each other's votes. Unification will bring the many grassroots organisations of these parties together, a process that should not be too acrimonious. After all, the big ideological difference between the two parties, over the class character of the Indian state, has been settled: not by the Moscow, which supported the CPI, nor by Beijing, which supported the CPI-M briefly before adopting the breakaway CPI-ML in 1967, but by the historical, state-assisted evolution of an indigenous capitalist class that takes advantage of global capital without being subservient to it. The CPs of all varieties got their original formulation wrong and must now also abandon their blind antipathy to development just because it necessarily is capitalist. Their political programme must shift from throwing capitalism into the Indian Ocean to broadening the base of globalised growth.

After the merger, will the united CPI continue to call itself a communist party, dedicated to revolution, or will it embrace social democracy openly? It will have to reconcile itself to the fact that capitalism exists, continues to be creative and liberating for the millions it lifts out of the wretchedness of poverty around the world. The communists seemed to recognise this in the area of agriculture where they implemented extensive land reforms with positive results for farming. But they balked at nurturing capitalist enterprise in industry and services and sought to promote such ventures only as a compromise for the sake of electoral politics. Compromise can be quite compromising, as many leaders and followers discovered to their delight/dismay. Finally, the united CPI must wake up to the reality of caste, preferably by adopting an anti-caste agenda made possible by the diversification of economic structure wrought by globalisation.









Grown-ups never seem to make up their minds about the capabilities of the youth, at least in India. Presuming that those who comprise 'the authorities' in particularly every field here are made up of people who belong to the first category, their views on young people seem curiously inconsistent. On the one hand, they think that it is perfectly sane to expect teenagers to score maximum marks in their school leaving examinations (usually conducted well after brain-scrambling Indian summers have set in) and coolly decide upon their future careers at the same time as they get their first voter cards and driving licences. In other words, they are deemed capable of deciding their own future, that of the nation and those of other road users, not to mention those sleeping on pavements, even before they complete their second decade on earth.

And then the strange anomaly surfaces. Girls and boys of 18 can drive, vote, and chart their careers together but they cannot marry at the same time. For some reason, that maturity is officially denied to male 18-year-old Indians for another three years though their female contemporaries are not similarly restrained when it comes to getting hitched. So the poor fellows have to just grin and beer it for another few years. They are, of course, joined in that particular predicament by girls too as neither gender can drink strong spirits legally till they are 21 to 25 years old, that too depending on where they live. Given that seeking election to the Lok Sabha is also denied to those below 25 of age (and the Rajya Sabha to those under 30), the thought does arise whether these same adult authorities tacitly consider political power to be as corrupting as alcohol and therefore best left out of bounds for those who are too tender to handle it.








The services sector value added in the Indian context has grown persistently and now accounts for a large percentage of the economy. However, it is pertinent to know whether the services sector could create employment opportunities on a large scale and if the services sector can be treated as pro-poor. As trade in services expands, it holds a large potential for future growth. The possible effect of trade in services on employment is also an important issue.

In the employment structure, the services sector stands next to agricultural in terms of relative size. But the high productivity component within the services sector does not have adequate openings for productive absorption of the workforce pushed out of the agriculture sector. Subsectors like transport, communication, finance, information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing services (BPOS) have experienced sustained growth in value add and employment for skilled workers. Most of these high-income activities are not conducive to absorbing the unskilled and semi-skilled workforce, but generate secondary or indirect employment effects in the economy. Besides, these activities are concentrated mostly in a few large cities as they have a strong preference for areas which have basic infrastructure and a large concentration of educated workforce, resulting in agglomeration benefits. Since trade in services has been expanding rapidly, we may like to know its possible impact on employment. Based on time series data, the elasticity of organised or formal services sector employment with respect to value-added, exports and imports have been estimated. These exercises have been pursued separately for four broad groups of services: (a) trade and hotels, (b) finance and business services, (c) transport, storage and communication and (d) community, social and personal services. After controlling for growth, international trade does not seem to be contributing to employment growth in the organised services sector in a significant manner. We have also tried to work out the direct and indirect effects of exports and imports on employment after deciphering their effects included in overall growth. However, the positive effects are not sizeable.

Since there is no time series information on the informal services sector employment, NSSO's surveys on the informal sector employment for 1999-00 and 2004-05 were considered and the cross-sectional information were used to examine the relationship between formal and informal sectors. The elasticity of informal to formal sector employment has been calculated and based on these estimates the impact of international trade on the informal services sector employment has been worked out. The effect does not seem to be greatly different from what was observed in the case of organised services sector employment.

For recent years, we used company-level data in order to understand employment growth and its relationship with economic growth, which has indeed shot up in the recent past. Though Capitaline data indicates high employment growth in the services sector during the period 2005 to 2008, CMI data for around 3,000 firms in the services sector does not reveal such a pattern. Since some of the firms in the services sector, as per the Capitaline data, recorded an employment growth in double-digit, suggesting possibility of close links between growth and employment, we have tried to assess the effect of international trade on employment in these units. However, as per the findings, international trade does not seem to be an important determinant of employment, implying that trade liberalisation per se did not contribute significantly to employment growth in the services sector.

    These propositions are not to be judged in absolute terms of course — what we refer to is the responsiveness. However, what is important to note is if growth in services is capital and skill intensive in nature, the employability of unskilled and semiskilled workers would obviously remain insignificant. Even if we presume that employees in the high productivity segment can generate demand for several activities which are supposed to employ less skilled workers in a big way, the overall situation may not improve substantially given the vast size of the unskilled and semi-skilled work force and further additions to such labour supplies over time.
In terms of policy, this seems to have important implications. The question is how to make services sector employment more responsive to growth and international trade. Trade with developing countries will possibly hold brighter prospects of growth in employment intensive service activities. Several services in which India has a comparative advantage over other countries, have to receive supportive measures for their expansion so that foreign demand and domestic demand do not conflict.
For example, the health sector can be developed extensively to tap the demand potential of several developing as well as developed countries. The price differences with respect to the developed countries can attract a great deal of foreign demand for health services. However, supplies often are too scarce even to meet the domestic demand.
Similarly, in the education sector, India has great potential to attract foreign demand, particularly from south and east Asia. The backward areas in India require massive infrastructure investment in order to get integrated with the rest.
Skill upgradation programmes, spread of quality and technical education in the rural and small towns can improve the employability of the new entrants to the labour market.










The suggestion floated by the chief economic advisor to the finance ministry in a recent working paper that bribegiving for a class of bribes — 'harassment bribes' — be decriminalised is quite dubious. If the class of bribes he refers to as 'harassment bribes' involves a payment that a citizen has to make in order to get a good or a service which she is legitimately entitled to — like a tax refund, a pension, a telephone connection, a school admission, etc. — then the suggestion is a trivial one.
Logically, the 'harassed' citizen can approach a superior public official, elected representative or an ombudsman to complain against such harassment. The complaint can be probed, the 'harasser' warned or removed, and the 'harassment' of the citizen redressed. Such an institutional arrangement exists in most cases, or can be put in place with much lesser effort than to implement what the economic advisor suggests. He proposes an institutional arrangement where citizens can pay bribes, get their job done and then report it to the authorities without the fear of being punished. This begs the question why an authority, which can punish a bribe-taking official ex post facto, cannot prevent it prospectively. The logic of lack of evidence of the bribe is trivial in this case, because the fact that a citizen is being denied of a good or a service which she is legitimately entitled to, is prima facie mala fide.
The reason why such institutional arrangements have almost ceased to work in our setting, however, has less to do with the incentive structure within the arrangement vis-à-vis whistle-blowing, but because of the sabotage of our institutions by the collusion of greedy profiteers, seeking illegitimate and windfall gains, and venal officials and corrupt ministers who are only too happy to oblige. This has been aggravated by the growing power of big capital and commodification of all aspects of our life. Arms of the state, which are supposed to draw the boundaries between the legal and illegal, are colluding with profiteers in pushing those boundaries into extinction. What we need is a reversal of this process and not a legitimisation of bribe-giving, which will possibly strengthen such collusion. Let us not miss the wood for the trees.


SOMASEKHAR SUNDARESAN PARTNER, JSA Bribe-Givers can be Offered Immunity
Kaushik Basu's objective has been achieved — provoking debate on an issue that truly deserves acute attention, not just because of the currently heightened anti-corruption consciousness in the country. 'Harassment bribes' — essentially, bribes that people are forced to pay, not to get a favour done, but to get what one is legitimately entitled to — indeed have a corrosive impact on society. The person demanding and extracting a harassment bribe is an extortionist. The person constrained to pay a harassment bribe is a victim. To treat the perpetrator and the victim as co-conspirators is truly unjust. Basu proposes that the victim's role be decriminalised, with full immunity from punitive action, and a legal entitlement to a refund to incentivise him to complain. He hopes that such a framework would induce the victim to speak up and attempt bringing the extortionist to book.
There is real merit in this game theory. Such a framework, when backed by a reasonably expeditious enforcement platform in the form of criminal courts, conducting a free and fair trial, would indeed preempt the extortionist from even demanding the harassment bribe in the first place. Such a framework should indeed be attempted. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, which makes no distinction between a victim and an abettor, is Utopian in intent, and therefore, hopelessly ineffective.
The concept of not treating a bribegiver as a criminal may seem shocking at first blush, but truly it has other parallels in law. Illegal income, including bribe earnings, are indeed subject to incidence of income-tax. Over a decade ago, when Mumbai was reeling under criminal extortion by the underworld, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was forced to take note of ground realities and ruled that payment of extortion money was an allowable business expense. This was reversed by legislative amendment. In fact, the only catch could be that over time, the victim of harassment bribes could fall in love with the bribe extortionist — the Stockholm Syndrome in the world of bribery. The harassment would cease to be harassment and would become a way of life — precisely the concept acknowledged by the US' anti-bribery law as permissible 'facilitation payments'.
(Views are personal)







The fact that India is at the crossroads in terms of employability is widely acknowledged. Many studies document the enormous potential of our demographic dividend as we morph from one of the oldest civilisations to one of the youngest nations in the world in the next decade. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has begun partnering with the private sector to create a skilled workforce of 150 million by 2020. Skill development is crucial, because the failure to transform our youth into productive citizens may lead to a demographic nightmare of social unrest.

In 'wake-up call' article in this newspaper on February 28, Milind Deora, MP, made an impassioned plea for greater training capacity and funding, and implored industry to focus on rural India to help mitigate urban migration. Our article highlights some of the NSDC-funded skill development initiatives that are addressing very similar concerns, especially relating to the three million students that graduate every year from our colleges.

To start with, there is an urgent need for a geographically dispersed network of skill development centres that can transform unemployed graduates into industry-ready professionals. David Kolb, the father of the experiential learning method, observed that adults learn best when they are faced with a concrete experience of reality; in other words, to do is to learn. Too many colleges are still imparting outdated and narrow theoretical content, taught by instructors with no understanding of industry. The result is a startling 80% unemployability rate among our educated youth. In addition, these centres must also intervene in the area of personality development, because a majority of our youth do not have the confidence or communication skills to secure and retain well-paying jobs . A first set of skill development centres must be in urban locations, where it is relatively easy to attract high quality instructors with solid industry experience. These centres will cater to resident and migrant unemployed graduates, turning them into certified, employable professionals ready to join the nation's workforce. The second set of centres must be in rural or remote locations. Since it is not easy to attract industry-savvy instructors to such settings, these centres will be connected to their urban counterparts through a huband-spoke model, with the aggressive use of technology to replicate the instructor experience. Such centres will address the large segment of economically-challenged graduates who can neither find employment locally nor migrate to urban centres for jobs. Considering the economic vulnerability of the target population, rural skill development programmes can be subsidised considerably. The third set of centres must be located within college campuses. Unlike urban or rural centres that cater primarily to a'post-campus' population, 'incampus' skill development centres provide an opportunity to make early interventions and impact students well before they graduate. Done right, this can save a great deal of downstream remedial expense and attendant frustration.
With regard to funding, government subsidies have a legitimate place in the scheme of things, but the best way to create an efficient and accountable ecosystem in the long term is to enable collateralfree, small-ticket bank loans that cater exclusively to the skill development sector. The basic idea is that trainees must be allowed to borrow from banks to pay for their skill development, and then repay their loan over a short series of affordable instalments once they start working. To that end, Central Bank of India has taken the pioneering step of creating a skill development loan product in partnership with our respective organisations. Once the issues of capacity and funding begin to get addressed, it is conceivable that industry will start to migrate from their current practices to new ones. For example, the practice of recruiting graduates and running in-house training programmes is a proven profit-killer. Similarly, industry's overdependence on urban talent has been wreaking havoc in terms of wage inflation and attrition. Therefore, it is quite likely that the very promise of a large talent inventory will encourage industry to conduct bolder experiments. Instead of training their recruits, they may insist on recruiting the trained. When choosing the location for their next back office, they may skip Hyderabad and head for Hindupur.

Helping our youth earn their first paycheques is the first step towards inclusion. At the same time, it is important to make skill development efforts commercially sustainable, and not have it become another arena for perennial government subsidies. In that sense, private sector initiatives in skill development that lead to high employability must be encouraged as legitimate business for social good. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, for all stakeholders, an investment in skill development should pay a really good interest.

(Paul is MD & CEO of Talent-Sprint and Chenoy is MD & CEO of NSDC)









 Who or what is this "civil society" that has occupied so much airtime and newsprint, and what gives it the right to speak for everyone? Let's be clear: "civil society" means half a dozen people who, by their own admission, refuse to face citizens at an election. These people have assumed the moral, legal and Constitutional authority to govern us. They say that "just because" a party won an election a few years ago does not mean it can "sit on our chests".


There's a small problem with this argument. It's called the Constitution. Which demands periodic elections, and says that the people's voice is to be heard at the hustings. That is the correct method of change; the way to combat corruption. And that is what recent State elections have shown can be done. It is one thing to protest and demand change. Everyone has the right to do this, perhaps even a duty. It is another thing altogether to demand involvement in actual government. That's an usurpation of authority, and a hijacking of the Constitution. Nothing in our system of governance permits people like this to get involved in drafting legislation. Allowing them onto a drafting committee was a catastrophic blunder by the clod-hopping UPA government (and it doesn't help that that government now has about as much credibility as bread pudding). Imagine the chaos if everyone with a wasp in his beard decided to participate in the running of the country.
    References to Martin Luther King and other leaders of civil disobedience movements miss the point. Those leaders demanded change. They did not demand the right to eject democratically elected governments. What the Hazare Brigade is saying is that the last Parliamentary election was a fraud and everyone in Parliament must be thrown out because, according to the "civil society" they claim to represent, everyone is corrupt; and that includes even the Election Commission, against which no case has ever been made out.
    This is the second problem – the nature of the debate itself. On television and in print, these "civil society" leaders tell us that if we are not with them then we are against them and are, by definition, in favour of corruption. This insults their own self-adopted constituency. This is not debate. It is not even discourse. It is bullying.
    Contrast this with Constituent Assembly, the level of dialogue it engaged in, and its composition. It had 217 members from 30 states. Working for over three years, it covered every possible issue, from broad policy objectives to minute detailing. The speeches and addresses are measured, intelligent and perceptive. Dr Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution, is often heard defending a position and, too, accepting points made by others and withdrawing his proposals. And corruption itself was one of the many issues the Assembly discussed – at least 60 times through the debates. What, according to the Assembly, was the correct approach in dealing with corrupt governments? Here is Dr Rajendra Prasad, the president of the Assembly on 26 November 1949:
    One of the dangers which we have to face arises out of any corruption which parties, candidates or the Government in power may practise. ... Now that we have got real power, the danger of corruption is not only imaginary. It is therefore as well that our Constitution guards against this danger and makes provision for an honest and straightforward election by the voters.


Nobody in the Hazare team is even capable of this level of discourse. What it proposes instead is a legislation that sits outside the Constitution in many key ways, one that is not even made as other laws are. Its sweep and ambit must, according to these people, be far wider than anything we have ever seen and the power it confers is in the hands of individuals who are not subject to Constitutional disciplines. For instance, bringing the judiciary under the Lokpal is the worst possible idea. It will not eradicate corruption. It will however paralyse justice. Similarly, including the Prime Minister will make governance impossible. These suggestions have no place in a democracy.


Everyone agrees that corruption is pervasive, systemic needs to be combated, perhaps even that people enter politics and join the civil services to make money. But, as the PM says, there is no magic remedy to this. The answer is not a potentially tyrannical extra-Constitutional system hobbling the working of every institution. What is needed is something more subtle, a law that compels swift and severe action against corruption and yet sits within a Constitutional framework: rapid investigations, for instance, with severe penalties. In fact, looking at what the Supreme Court has done in the last year, this is already happening. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity, Hazare's supporters shout about corruption in the judiciary.


Leaving aside hairy swamis, the group's motives are perhaps well intentioned. Their methods, however, are questionable; and the solution they suggest, which implies a jettisoning of our Constitution, is both unacceptable and dangerous.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The 100 per cent cutoff for school-leaving science and humanities students hoping to gain admission to the B.Com. (Honours) course at Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce has caught the nation's attention on account of its dramatic absurdity. The inversion of logic was perhaps best highlighted by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who tweeted to ask if there might be students who can get a higher grade than 100 on 100 if the minimum requirement has been pegged at 100 per cent! While the SRCC case has permitted a key point to be raised about the way our education factories go about their business, it should not be overlooked that SRCC is not quite alone in raising admission stakes to mind-boggling levels. Another college has fixed a cutoff of 99 per cent for a different course, and any number of other Delhi University institutions are also playing with fire when they ask for nothing less than 96 per cent even for the B.A. (Pass) course, leave alone requirements for an honours course in any discipline. At this rate, very soon we might be looking at numbing statistics of youth unemployment within our system which is already groaning under the impact of Naxalism and other ills that plague an unhappy society. The new data of 24 per cent youth unemployment in the United States is raising deep concern in that country about the behavioural impact of the phenomenon that recalls data of the period of the Great Depression of the 1930s. But at least the American figures are a consequence of an economy on a sharply declining curve. In India, that cannot be the reason. The plain truth is that in this country we have singularly failed to provide good colleges in enough numbers that can take on the rush emanating from school-leavers of quality. In other words, we are looking at a supply side constraint. The grouse earlier was that we don't have enough quality institutions to impart education in medicine and technology. Looking at parallels made it clear that a single top US university offered as many seats in some of these disciplines than all of India taken together. Now we know that the problem is not confined to engineering and medicine. The question is: where will all the toppers go? To America obviously, in droves, and also to fairly ordinary institutions in Britain, Europe, Australia or Singapore, to name a few popular destinations. As a result of the outflow, the cost of education at foreign universities for Indians could shoot up, not to mention sociological downsides related to race attacks against Indians, as we have witnessed recently in Australia. Human resources development minister Kapil Sibal would do well to look at the totality of the picture when he speaks of the need for changes in both policy and present-day rules to cope with the bizarre situation being encountered at Delhi University. Quite clearly, if we don't invest enough in education by opening more quality colleges, we cannot sustain the demands of a rising economy and will fall behind in the knowledge stakes, which is the stuff that will make or break nations in the 21st century. It might be useful to recall that former US President Bill Clinton had once spoken of the education sector in his country being a matter of national security. The case of Delhi University is important as students come to this centre of learning from all corners of India in large numbers. And if the pond is brimming over at DU, other universities in the country too would be catching the disease sooner or later for the rising overflow is bound to hit them.





London When my son Ludo first suggested selling lemonade outside our house in Acton as a way of earning some extra pocket money, I was a bit dubious. Don't you need a licence from the European Union before you can set up a stall in your driveway? And what about 'elf and safety? I could picture some busybody from the council, armed with a testing kit, reprimanding my six-year-old for not using organic lemons. Then I thought, "Sod it". If he wanted to earn some money instead of depending on handouts from his parents, then good luck to him. He set up his stand at the end of our driveway at around 1 pm on June 11, complete with a handwritten sign, a pile of cups and a jug of freshly made lemonade. I advised him that he'd need his money box in case people needed change. Five minutes later, I was pottering about in the garden when my wife Caroline came running out. "Quick", she said. "Someone's stolen Ludo's money. You need to get after him." "How big was he?" I asked. "Don't be pathetic", she said. "Go." I raced outside to find Ludo standing behind his lemonade stand in tears. Apparently, a teenage boy had cycled past, then doubled back and asked Ludo if he could speak to his mum. Ludo came in to find Caroline and when they headed back outside the money box was gone. I ran back into the house, got my bike, and tore off in the direction I thought he was most likely to have gone in, but there was no sign of him. I doubled back and began searching the surrounding streets. Nothing. It's probably just as well I didn't find him. Later, when I asked Ludo for a more detailed description, he told me that the man was big — "bigger 'n you, Dad". I don't know what I would have done if I'd caught up with him — probably not brave enough to fight him for Ludo's money box — but I was pretty angry. What kind of lowlife steals from a six-year-old boy? A couple of months ago, my wife's bicycle was stolen from outside the front of our house and, more recently, we had the satellite navigation nicked from our car while it sat in our driveway. These are the kind of petty crimes that everyone in Britain has learnt to live with and we scarcely bat an eye when they happen. But the sheer venality of this crime was shocking. For most people, seeing a little boy standing behind a stall outside his house would bring a smile to their faces. They might even stop to buy some lemonade. Not this particular teenage boy. All he saw when he spotted my six-year-old son was an opportunity. I'd wanted Ludo to learn an important lesson and I suppose he has. It just wasn't the one I had in mind. He has been taught not to trust people. He's discovered that if you don't remain vigilant at all times when it comes to guarding your property, the chances are you'll lose it. No doubt that's a useful thing to learn in contemporary Britain, but I couldn't bear to see all Ludo's hopes crushed. Surely there had to be a way of extracting something of value from this episode? I decided there was. I told Ludo he shouldn't let this minor setback deflect him from his original goal. I replaced the float and urged him to sell the rest of his stock. He was understandably nervous at first, but he perked up when the neighbours started buying lemonade. Not everyone was a heartless criminal. There were some kind-hearted people out there, too. I kept an eye on him this time and parked my bike in the driveway, ready to jump on it and give chase at a moment's notice. Luckily, there was no repeat of the first incident. By the end of the afternoon Ludo had made £8. He insisted on going to Sainsbury's to buy some more lemons so he could make a second batch of lemonade next weekend. That's the spirit, I thought. Bloodied but unbowed. Ludo has learnt a valuable lesson after all. If the universe turns out to be not as nice as you thought, you don't withdraw and hide behind closed doors. You get right back out there and carry on. I hope that's a principle he can stick to, no matter what the world throws at him. By arrangement with the Spectator







MAQBOOL Fida Husain and Ustad Asad Ali Khan, both of whom passed away this month, were furiously creative artists whose eclecticism transcended stereotype definitions of religion and nationality. Husain rose from a billboard artist for Bombay movies to global heights as India's most sought after painter. His brush with religious fanatics at home who mocked and violently challenged his motifs as blasphemous was quite possibly a deliberate ploy to put art in a political context. In a way his self-imposed exile following threats by Hindutva groups to harm him was of a piece with the prevailing political climate in India. Years of ideological decay of the political Left — once the mainstay of liberal arts in the country — with the ascendance of the Indian variant of a cultural Taliban, be they of Hindu or Muslim or of any other religio-political DNA. Asad Ali Khan was the last of India's legendary beenkars — practitioners of the ancient rudra veena. His orthodox grooming as a devout Shia Muslim had left enough space for him to be in obeisance to a deeply resonant string instrument that claimed lineage from Lord Shiva. Husain's aloofness from religion did not obscure his reflections of it on the canvas. Khan's engagement with religion represented a multilayered dialectic between faith and music that straddles much of our region. In his increasingly Talibanised milieu though he was susceptible to being seen as a sinner. The ustad's Dhrupad ang music enriched the rudra veena as an instrumental variant of Dhrupad vocalism. The genre has been traditionally rooted in the celebration of Shiva as both a subject of adulation and as an invisible but ever-present audience. Husain was more at home with his understanding of ancient religions but it did not result in ritual or a deeper tryst with faith. He flaunted the frequently present horses in his paintings as his muse. But when he drew the horse in his "Iraq war canvasses" it was as much a symbol of Imam Husain's steed wounded in Karbala as it was a protest against unacceptable violence perpetrated by foreign armies on a peaceful people. Narrow religion, whose practitioners tormented the painter in his last years, is an ally of global militarism; this is evident from their critique of the iconoclastic Husain, and his of them. Of course, this was neither new nor unique to India. Husain himself affirmed so in his tribute to Pakistan's equally loved and reviled artist Sadequain Naqqash. They met in Delhi in 1981. Husain's reflections on the meeting offers a glimpse of the common cultural moorings they shared. "Very seldom I use words. That too for a painter of my time", he wrote. "Sadequain has drawn inspiration from medieval Arabic calligraphy. His present phase is heavily etched with Quranic scriptures." Husain was familiar with Sadequain's work since the 1960s. Occasionally, he would peep through the Pakistan airline office in Paris or International Biennials where Pakistan's "holy sinner" was on display. "Half open suitcases", recalled Husain of his visit to Sadequain's hotel room in Delhi. "Ruffled newspapers spread on the floor. Suddenly, Sadequain bent over the newspapers reshuffling. Thought he is about to read out a shocking news item. Instead, he took out a broad point pen. Scribbled on newsprint the Arabic letter 'noon' twice, two semi-circles side by side with dot in each. Sadequain stopped there and chuckled, 'whenever so-called mullahs see this in my country, they proclaim the nudity of feminine breasts immoral'. Later the two letters joined together to become (another) word… and there the mullahs are terribly disappointed". Sadequain on his arrival in India went straight to the tombs of Sarmad and Ghalib. Sarmad was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb for apostasy, which probably became an inspiration for Sadequain's Sar-ba-cuf that Husain openly admired. The tragedy of Sarmad — and to an extent of Husain and Sadequain in our times — is akin to the destruction of the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban or the demolition of the 16th century Babri mosque. It all gets more worrying when a democratic state like India finds itself helpless before, when not directly colluding with, its own cultural Taliban variants. The state was reminded of its responsibilities by a learned judge but to little avail. Delhi court's Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed in 2008 after Husain went into exile: "It is most unfortunate that India's new 'puritanism' is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and ignorant people vandalise art". Pakistan's Fahmida Riaz once chided her Indian audiences thus: "Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle, ab tak kahaa'n chhupe thay bhai?" (You have turned out bigoted like us, where have you been hiding, O brother?") Ustad Asad Ali Khan recited one to me that perhaps more neatly describes Hinduism's foray into Semitisation and Islam's surge towards the Taliban mindset. Zid to dekho jiski khaatir apna mazhab chhorh kar Mein huwa kaafir to wo kaafir Musalma'n ho gaya" (Just as I left my religion to be close to my kaafir friend My sweetheart became a Muslim, pity the tragic end.) By arrangement with Dawn







As a child, I lived in a world where computers were not taken for granted. The toys ranged from the Meccano set to the kaleidoscope. They were toys, they were tools, they were metaphors. The Meccano taught you that building was a concept with which you could construct a house and also a cosmos. The kaleidoscope gave you a playful sense of patterns and provided hours of entertainment. They were old-fashioned ways of making sense of the world. I love in particular the philosophy of the kaleidoscope. It shows you how to construct life even out of broken bangles. Whenever I read the newspaper today or watch news, I see confusion. The world seems to be a collection of broken glass and I seek my patterns. I love the cast of characters India generates. They range from characters out of a great Russian novel to those from a giant comic book. Recite their lines aloud and sense the sheer laughter and pathos in each. Think of it. Baba Ramdev. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Anna Hazare. Suresh Kalmadi. K. Kanimozhi. Jairam Ramesh. Manmohan Singh. Rahul Gandhi. Sushma Swaraj. Don't ignore the supplements; They provide their own little dramas about dress, the body, about morals. Add to this the Page 3 excitements, the scandals in a teacup that filmstars provide. Stir all this with the confidence of a cultural chef and enjoy what India brings you everyday. The first thing you discover is that it is an exciting time and more fascinatingly we as a democracy are open about our mistakes, our scandals, our battles. A free press tells you there are free people. Without gossip there can be no democracy. Gossip and rumour are double-edged. They play moral policemen; they also substitute for the conscience. Think of it. Mamata Banerjee, Anna Hazare, Aruna Roy and Baba Ramdev are all soap operas around the ethical issues of our time. The Right to Information (RTI) and the Arjun Sengupta Commission Report on the informal economy are and should be treated as ethical documents. For me, Aruna Roy and Anna Hazare are ethical figures, like Ela Bhatt and the Dalai Lama. They appeal to an ethics of the everyday and yet show you that everyday ethics may be inadequate to cope with terror or even political correctness. Just think of the debates on mining. We have to thank our social movements and environment minister Jairam Ramesh that the mine as a moral system is subject to scrutiny again. We suddenly realise the strange hold that the Reddys have on our politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party cannot call for a cleanup because it is a creature of mining magnates. We also realise growth needs an ethics we desperately lack. It also needs methodologies of evaluation which our business lobbies are resisting. It shows us that mere character-building or honesty is not enough to build the integrity of a system. Mr Ramesh's contention that mines need forest cover or that tribals also need a voice that can be institutionalised into legislation are ethical statements. What is the ethics of memory, of obsolescence, of care we bring to tribals displaced from their land? Are we technocratically and indifferently going to say that progress is inevitable? Is what we call "inevitably" merely the logic of vested interests? Another great ethical figure Medha Patkar raised the same question. She asked if a bad science can cover for an indifferent ethics. A series of clear-cut, nuanced points are being made. Firstly, mere personal honesty will not do, especially if it condones the dishonesty of your colleagues. Secondly, when one is debating competing goods, transparency is a required part of ethics. Thirdly, goodness needs to be defined. One needs a new ethics for technology, for growth, for consumption. This opening out of issues is fascinating and frightening. It shows we have exemplars courageously leading the way but sadly no paradigms that institutionalise such ethics. The newspapers are full of violence, from rape to murder, to terror. As a society, we are still silent on it. Mere protest or even battle for human rights is the beginning. As a society, we have to go beyond Gandhian platitudes back to his experimenting with truth. We need to ask about violence, suffering and evil and the complexity of forces that generate them. Ask yourself why India needs one million troops outside the Army for internal order and control. Ask for how long survivors must wait for justice while they see people who have raped and burnt walk around happily. Ask for how long any moment remains in memory. A slum demolished or people evicted are forgotten. We remember history but what about the unwritten history of these events. Also why do we treat people who remind us of our amnesia as problematic? Turn to the supplements for what is news in a lighter vein. You realise that the language of the supplements, the colloquialism of "youngistan" hides deep problems about the body, about relationships, about sexuality. It takes seriously the question of balance. It realises that one woman's fashion might be another man's moral policing. Think of a simple example. For years, activist Teesta Setelvad has sought justice for the victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Why do we treat her as a suspect? Is it for her courage and honesty? Suddenly, our ethics come on two fronts. It confronts the everydayness of diet consumption, discipline, caring for old people, understanding new forms of illness. It also comes at a public level as we confront ethics of dams, mines, terror growth, violence, or even the ethics of forgetting. Every issue of a newspaper becomes an ethical puzzle, a moral science quiz which recognises life has no easy answers. It asks us to respond to the tragedies of our time and to thank those who have kept issues alive. There is a lot that is frightening, even evil, and but you know it is there on the front page. You have to respond. Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist









IN her bid to undo what the DMK government did, AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalitha has made a mess of school education in Tamil Nadu. The Samacheer Kalvi Thittam (uniform system of school education) was introduced by the DMK government to provide a level playing field for school-going children in the state. Earlier, Tamil Nadu had four unequal streams of school education ~ the State Board, Matriculation Board, Anglo-Indian Board and the Oriental Board.  By the Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education Act, 2010, a common curriculum was introduced in classes I and VI last year.  The remaining classes were to follow suit this year. The outgoing DMK government had even printed 6.5 crore textbooks at a cost of more than Rs 200 crore. The AIADMK government of Jayalalitha at its first Cabinet meeting held on 22 May decided to defer the uniform system of school education indefinitely and revert to the old system of multiple school boards. The next day tenders were floated inviting bids from publishers to print textbooks according to the syllabus followed earlier. Schools were to reopen in the first week of June. Meanwhile, the State legislature amended the TNUSSE Act by adding a new clause to postpone implementation of the scheme and ordered schools to reopen only on 15 June. The Madras High Court stayed the amendment and ordered to implement the original Act. Not wanting to admit defeat, the Jayalalitha government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. A vacation Bench comprising Justices BS Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar upheld the validity of the Act and ordered the Tamil Nadu government to continue implementation of the uniform system in classes I and VI for 2011-12 and directed the State to appoint an expert committee to examine the syllabus/textbooks and ways and means to implement the common curriculum. The state was asked to submit a report to the High Court in three weeks. The Division Bench of the High Court should hear the main writ petition after receipt of the report of the expert committee to be headed by the Chief Secretary and deal with it expeditiously by day-to-day hearing.  The order added to the confusion.


School textbooks are mostly in Tamil. Debendranath Sarangi, the Chief  Secretary to head the Supreme Court-directed expert committee to examine the textbooks, is an Oriya with only rudimentary knowledge of Tamil. Schools reopened in Tamil Nadu on 15 June with no textbooks or syllabus. Jayalalitha's main objection to textbooks authorized by her predecessor is their hidden agenda in promoting the cult of Karunanidhi and family. Half a page in one book was devoted to Sangaman, the rustic cultural festival promoted by Kanimozhi, Karunanidhi's daughter now lodged in Tihar jail. A Tamil poem of hers also found place in one of her books. The new government could have incised the impugned portions instead of creating chaos. The worst affected are the students of class X who have to appear for Board examinations at the end of the school-year. Teachers were at a loss what to teach when classes began. By the time the expert committee examines the syllabus and textbooks, the Division Bench of the High Court disposes of the writ petition and new textbooks are printed, half the year will be over. Party leaders should refrain from tinkering with the education system affecting millions of young children just to settle political scores.



GIVEN the reality that the people of Arunachal Pradesh (or NEFA as it was previously designated) still recall with horror how they had been virtually abandoned by "mainstream" India in 1962, they are entitled to a little exaggeration of their fears. As manifest in a minister of the state government warning of the possibility of a "Kargil-like" situation: the result of both a series of incursions by Chinese soldiers, and the substantial infrastructure development north of the Line of Actual Control. Even if articulating such concerns was intended to pressure the Planning Commission into enhancing outlays for the state ~ a sign of the leaders, eventually, learning a few political ploys ~ there was little need for the defence minister to make so light of them. For while he claimed upgrades on the Indian side of the disputed boundary too, on previous occasions has he not lamented the slow pace of road construction in the border areas, and so on? True the air force has re-activated some World War II landing strips, and based a unit of its frontline SU-30s in Tezpur, but the military imbalance persists: plans to raise additional mountain divisions will fructify only after a decade. AK Antony constantly claims that the situation is being "monitored": but those select schoolboys would appear better equipped to enforce their authority than the defence minister. And how effective is that monitoring was portrayed when it took days to detect the wreckage of the helicopter in which the state's Chief Minister had crashed to his death.
  The MoD is yet to convince everyone that it is alive to the Chinese having different game-plans for the Ladakh and Arunachal sectors, and is developing adequate counter- measures. In Ladakh the tie-up with Pakistan is intended to facilitate a land route to the Gwadar port; since Beijing never "recognised" the British drawn McMahon line (never translated from map to the ground) territorial expansion in a mineral-rich region could be the goal. Traditionally has New Delhi sought to underplay the less-than-tranquil conditions on the Chinese frontier ~ "varying perceptions" of the LAC is the explanation trotted out whenever PLA personnel make a point of dropping their calling-cards south of that Line. The intention is to lead mainland India into believing all is well, but it has the opposite effect on the people living in the frontier regions. Such insensitivity to their "live" fears only exacerbates their alienation, reminds them of Nehru's "farewell" message some 49 years ago. Does Antony understand that?



IN Tripura, no Congress leader commands a pre-eminent position because the party's central leadership remote-controls every move, however minor. And it is perhaps because of this dictatorial approach that the state unit has not been able to hold organisational elections since 1998. This explains the rot within the state unit. Central leaders continue to meddle in state affairs, trying to foist their own man as PCC chief. That during 1999-2001 three PCC chiefs came and went was indicative of the extent of infighting. Encouraged by the humiliating defeat of the Marxists in the recent Bengal and Kerala assembly elections, the Congress was supposed to prepare with renewed vigour for the 2013 battle and unity was the prime need. But once again party leaders seem to be quarrelling among themselves. According to reports, a former minister, Ratan Lal Ghosh, quit the party on 13 June taking with him as many as 500 supporters. He was followed by the party president of Khayerpur block and also the chief of Mahila block. Ghosh was apparently unhappy because he was not given a responsible position despite serving the party for 40 years. In 2003, many Sonia Gandhi loyalists joined the Trinamul Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. There is little prospect of the Congress ever bouncing back to power in the state. In the tribal area it is a non-entity. The Marxists are safely ensconced in the Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council. The Tripura Upajati Yuba Samity, with whose support the Congress won the 1988 assembly poll, ditched the party before the 1998 assembly elections over seat adjustments and joined a tribal organisation. The Congress must clear its internal debris and try to act as an effective opposition that wants to wrest power.








AFTER the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor of France. He introduced in 1804 new civil and criminal legal codes that came to be known as the Napoleonic Code. As a soldier and administrator he had clear ideas about what was required. He gave explicit instructions to a commission of four jurists who rapidly translated his wishes into laws. It was the first modern legal code which strongly influenced the law of many countries. It was a major departure from prevalent feudal laws. Historians regard it as one of the few documents to have influenced the whole world. Till today it survives in France without change. Napoleon accomplished this because he understood the architecture of governance. Jurists may quibble about words and meaning. They seldom appreciate the practical challenge of providing sound administration. Had Napoleon been alive today what would he have thought of the Lokpal Bill?

The politicians and lawyers of the government and civil society engaged in fierce debate regarding the drafting of the Bill reveal pathetic ignorance about the architecture of governance. In a newspaper interview, Mr Prashant Bhushan supporting the Lokpal's power to oversee the judiciary was asked about the Lokpal's accountability.  He said that the Lokpal should be under judicial purview. So he wants the Lokpal to oversee the judiciary and the judiciary to oversee the Lokpal! Even the manager of any small firm would tell him how daft this arrangement would be. It would lead to conflict, hostility and deadlock.
Digvijay Singh, Arvind Kejriwal and several others are also demanding that the Prime Minister and the judiciary should be under the purview of the proposed Lokpal. Mr Kejriwal wrote that since the CBI functioned under the PMO there should be an independent agency to probe the PM. Fair enough. But how would the Lokpal be accountable? Mr Digvijay Singh provided this profound piece of wisdom. He said: "There should be a system to ensure that the Lokpal does not misuse his powers." Exactly! But what might that system be? There is only deafening silence with regard to that. Indeed, addressing that question should have been the starting point of the Lokpal exercise.

It might be recalled that I had petitioned former President Zail Singh for permission to prosecute Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi after it was confirmed that he had lied to Parliament and to senior military commanders regarding payments made in the Bofors deal. The President was surrounded by mindless advisers loyal to the Dynasty who warned him about his arrest if he granted permission. Therefore a pre-emptive action to dismiss the PM was touted. After mulling over this wholly unnecessary option Zail Singh chickened out and refused to grant me permission although prima facie evidence against the PM was ironclad. All that the President was required to do was to grant me permission and allow the courts to decide the case. If the courts had admitted the case the matter would have been resolved by Parliament after deciding how to deal with a PM facing a corruption case in court. That is how the system should have worked. It didn't because it was not allowed to.
If the proposed Lokpal sees the light of day and a similar situation recurs, who will grant permission to prosecute the PM?  Apparently the Lokpal would not need anyone's permission to investigate and prosecute the PM. The Lokpal would either control the CBI or create a new independent investigative agency under its command. By acquiring the power to prosecute, the Lokpal would poach on the powers of the President. By controlling the CBI or a similar agency the Lokpal would poach on the powers of the Prime Minister and the Home Ministry. And who would appoint this monstrously conceived entity that could probe and prosecute all and sundry with accountability to none? The proposed Lokpal surely would not be accountable to Parliament because all the MPs in or outside the House would also be under its purview.

The view has been expressed that the responsibilities of the Lokpal and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) would overlap. No problem. Veteran journalist Mr Kuldip Nayar, in an article, has suggested that because the CVC has not delivered satisfactory results it should be scrapped and replaced by the Lokpal. The option of creating new undefined posts seems to be very popular in India. Why cannot the CVC be reformed to provide adequate results? For that we would have to analyse its functioning to determine why governance and administration are failing. That is hard work. It is much more exciting to create a new wonder post that would with the wave of a wand banish all corruption…

So if Napoleon were alive today how would he have reacted to the Lokpal Bill? I venture to opine that in the light of the Constitution and prevalent laws he would have thrown the Lokpal Bill in the waste paper basket. He would have made the CBI and a newly created Judicial Reforms Commission into constitutional bodies accountable to the President. He would have allowed the President as the elective post with the widest mandate in the country, as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, as the single office holder under oath with the responsibility to preserve and protect the Constitution and laws, and as the office- bearer who appoints, transfers, promotes and demotes all government officials, to oversee all the constitutional bodies made accountable to him. The President would act as the Super Lokpal to address corruption and restore governance. If the President despite the widest mandate for the post misbehaves, Parliament can remove him through impeachment. That is how our Constitution was supposed to work. That is what the architecture of governance suggests. That is how I think Napoleon, were he alive today, would have decided.   

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






India is a democracy, and governments that challenge the people's democratic rights have to be countered ~ the democratic space has to be reclaimed. Hazare does not need to fight an election to satisfy the Congress. Prashant Bhushan does not need to go on a fast to make Union minister Mr Kapil Sibal happy.

Corruption seems to be the flavour the day with the world and its uncle having something to say about it. If that wasn't enough, people had to suffer the sight of a yoga expert fleeing from police dressed as a woman, breaking down in front of the media a day later and not being able to explain why he could not fast for no more than nine days when ordinary mortals do it for health or religious reasons for weeks at a time.
The yoga teacher is fading in the background as the country's two most corrupt parties ~ the Congress and the BJP ~ are slugging it out.  Ramdev was used by both to score points and was discarded when he failed to deliver because of a variety of reasons. BJP president Mr Nitin Gadkari has attacked Congress chief Mrs Sonia Gandhi, saying she was as much fit to tackle corruption as Pakistan was to deal with terror. The Congress, predictably, has jumped to her defence but Mr Gadkari has a point that is probably being endorsed by Congress members in the safety of their chambers. Of course, the point remains that the BJP did rope in Ramdev to lead its campaign against corruption. Fiscal probity of members is neither the Congress' strong point nor the BJP's and a race to the "most corrupt" post will result in a photo finish for the parties.
There can be no two views on the need for a battle against corruption (it has long transcended the limitations of a "fight") to be political. It has to be waged by political parties at different levels, within the government through stringent investigation and action, through effective legislation; within the political system through mass campaigns and mobilisation of public opinion; within the judiciary through quick and far-reaching rulings; and, of course, within the media with unbiased and factual exposure of corruption and the corrupt. All the pillars of democracy are required to work together to check and eradicate this menace.
But what exactly is happening on the ground? The two main parties, along with many other regional parties, have not only not joined the battle but have created a situation in which the corrupt flourish and, in many cases, are rewarded with national honours! The government is unable to take free and fair action against the corrupt and is fighting even today to resist a Bill that proposes to make politicians think twice before committing an act of corruption. The judiciary is also finding it difficult, except at higher levels, to bring the guilty to book. And media, which should have worked as an independent watchdog at this hour of crisis, has taken to cronyism as a survival kit. So, instead of fighting the corrupt, the media has by and large decided to join them, and, in some cases, leads the way through telling editorials and comments.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Miss Mayawati is one of the few chief
ministers to have joined the Congress in its tirade against civil society, accusing it of overstepping its limit. Well, if the political parties had done their work, civil society could have restricted itself to social work.
The Congress is now talking of "good" civil society as opposed to "bad" civil society. How does the demarcation work? Does only the one that carries the National Advisory Council's seal of approval become good? "What do they mean by civil society," thunders the Congress party's politically-challenged leader Mr Manish Tiwari, "are we not civil?" Perhaps he should pick up a book or two to understand what "civil society" means in real political terms. The Congress should desist from this absurd categorisation as it only reveals its highly authoritarian and intolerant tendencies.
Just consider the amount of energy and time the Congress is spending in just fighting those who are raising questions. It has an entire industry to counter Mr Anna Hazare and his followers, to tackle Ramdev by first pleading and then beating, to disinform the media on a daily basis, to counter the BJP and other parties, to work with MPs in Parliament to ensure there is no support for those who are shouting against corruption. Instead of all this, all it needed to was redraft the pathetic Lokpal Bill and table it in Parliament.
Perhaps Mr Gadkari has a point when he says that the Congress is not equipped or willing to deal with corruption as it is too much of a part of it. The reason why the political parties are keeping out of a campaign against corruption is evident. They are all complicit. The BJP and RSS had to hide behind Ramdev who eventually proved to be a paper tiger, but even so, the BJP could not pick one leader from its ranks to spearhead the movement. Miss Mayawati, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and other politicians can only oppose civil society but cannot join the movement without dire consequences ~ every CBI case against them will come to the fore. Of the national parties, only the Left can agitate against corruption politically as it does not have crippling skeletons in its cupboard. And judging from a mass dharna in New Delhi, some sense seems to have dawned on the Left.
However much the government opposes him, Mr Hazare should balk and should continue his anti-corruption campaign if that is what his group and he himself wants. India is a democracy, and governments that challenge the people's democratic rights have to be countered ~ the democratic space has to be reclaimed. Mr Hazare does not need to fight an election to satisfy the Congress. Mr Prashant Bhushan does not need to go on a fast to make Union minister Mr Kapil Sibal happy. They are free to protest as long as they are peaceful and the cause is just. And as the politicians are so fond of saying, let the people be the final judge!

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman





If ever the death knell was sounded for an organisation, it was sounded by the US defence secretary, Mr Robert Gates, in a farewell speech to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) in Brussels last week.
Of course, in talking of the 60-year-old alliance facing a "dim if not dismal" future of "military irrelevance", he was primarily expressing Washington's growing irritation with its European allies for not doing more in Afghanistan and over Libya. If they didn't pull their socks, up, he said with the bluntness that only a departing minister can voice, it would all be over for Nato. You can't fault his analysis. The longer the Libyan intervention has gone on, the more it has shown up an alliance whose European members are divided on the goals and whose leader, the USA, just doesn't want to go on providing the heavy lifting for something it feels should be a European show.

But then this only reflects the fundamental dichotomy of view between the USA and Europe over how they see their security interests now. For most European countries, the fall of the Berlin Wall meant the end to the most direct military threat to their security, the raison di'tre of Nato. Their populations looked for a scaling down of defence investment, not an expansion. For the USA, on the other hand, the Fall of the Wall left a fractious and unstable world in which they, as the sole hyperpower, now had to hold the ring. What they wanted was support from their allies, not a lessening of it.

It is this divergence of interest which is coming to the surface with the interventions in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. To the military leaders of the organisation in Brussels and some of the more enthusiastic political supporters, such "out-of-theatre" operations were seen as a welcome opportunity to reassert Nato's relevance in the post-Cold War world. To the population of most European countries, they were aberration. There was never the political consensus behind either Iraq or Afghanistan intervention, still less so as the costs escalated and the purpose became more confused. Washington might paper over the cracks with the help of Britain and some tokenism by others in Afghanistan, but the longer the entanglement lasted, the lower became the enthusiasm for it.

Could Libya prove the straw that breaks the alliance's back? In one sense it ought not, for the Europeans, led by Mr David Cameron and President Sarkozy, were the ones who forced the pace of this intervention. But the same problems of sustaining determination in a long haul that we have seen in Afghanistan applies to Libya as well, while the big difference this time round is in Washington's willingness to lead. Behind Mr Gates' speech was the clear implication that the USA itself is beginning to tire of shouldering the burden. "The blunt reality", he said, "is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress ~ and in the American body politic writ large ~ to expand increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources to make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defence."

Mr Gates might phrase this as a warning to Europe, but the "blunt reality", as he knows himself, is that it isn't the pusillanimity of its Nato allies which is driving Washington to think again but an American public that is turning more inward and has grown tired itself of expensive foreign wars. Washington will no doubt try to keep up its obscenely large military expenditure (the equivalent of the budgets of all its allies put together), if only in response to China's rising spending. But ~ and President Obama's recent speeches reflect this ~ America is turning away from the idea of working through alliances towards taking care of the threats it sees as directed towards itself. China's rise is one. Terrorism from Pakistan is another. But Europe and Nato, once the troops are out of Afghanistan, don't really figure.

The implications for Europe, including Britain, are clear enough if only any politician was willing to own up to them. The transatlantic partnership, in so far as it was a military alliance based on the mutual self-interest, has reached the end of its shelf life. Attempts to give it new meaning as an arm of US post-Cold War policy and as a global intervention force have proved expensive and divisive. Of course it would be more effective to keep the US involved in European defence matters, and they may well see it in their continued interests to do so. There are many mutual concerns, from terrorism to the Arab Spring. If it helps to keep Nato alive as a pact, then it may serve a purpose.

But it is really up to the Europeans to organise their own defence now for a new era. Britain and France have made a start in co-ordinating their forces, as much for financial as strategic reasons. But there is no point in repeating the mistakes of Nato in the last decade, with one tier of the "willing", ready to offer up "hard power" troops and equipment, and another of the reluctant, giving only soft-power support in a non-combat role. You're not at the moment going to get public backing for European states to up dramatically their defence spending, nor to see in defence an arm of an expansionist EU foreign policy. But Libya has given a start in propelling Britain and France together. Given the leadership, wider integration is possible. It's not as though there are plenty of security challenges in the region, from what is happening now in north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean to troubles in former Soviet republics. On this, at least, Mr Robert Gates is right. It's time for Europe, including Britain, to get its defence act together.

the independent





To discerning researchers on Latin America, one question is particularly relevant: why did the Zapatistas (both the 1910 and 1994 varieties) ~ a Mexican indigenous armed revolutionary group ~ fail to create a national movement? The answer is that the bases of their regional success in the Mexican provinces of Morelos in the 1910s and Chiapas in 1990s were the same, and that restricted their national viability. Both movements relied on American-Indian populations settled in closed and autonomous communities with strong intra-community ties and grievances against encroaching capitalist and government interests. As a result, these movements were successful in fighting off local encroachments against the indigenous communities. Conversely, the social networks they relied on were not available outside certain socio-cultural zones. Moreover, because they relied on self-sufficient agriculture based communities they lacked the economic power to fight the better armed and financed forces of the national government.
In India, the inability of the rural insurgencies to dominate national politics has a similar explanation. In terms of the people and the cause of the revolt, the rural insurgencies center on agricultural communities fearing the loss of economic security, in the form of land, to capitalist interests. Tribal communities feature prominently among those involved in the insurgencies because their land is especially lucrative to entrepreneurs in the natural resources sector, be it lumber or minerals. Also, land demarcation and rights in tribal areas are vaguer than their non-tribal counterparts, which ease dispossession by entrepreneurs with access to the judiciary and administration.  Insurgents and their sympathisers from these communities want the government and the capitalists to get out of their lands.
The agricultural communities do not want better or more government. Historically, outside of policing duties, government presence was minimal in these areas because economic interests were not pushing the government and the government lacked the money to cover these areas. Similarly, rebellions by Santhals in the 1800s resulted from the domination of indigo planters and the intrusion of a colonial government allied with the planters.
Nor are the insurgencies a unified Maoist movement led by a political party, as the popular press and some intellectuals believe.  These insurgencies are based on local causes, while the organised party is made up of city intellectuals who provide an ideology and leverage the scattered movements to gain national or provincial level power.  Other intellectuals create civil society organisations, provide media coverage, and defend the insurgents in the international arena. The celebrity and fortune acquired by one authoress may explain why.  Whatever their personal motivations, these intellectuals do not control the local insurgencies.
In terms of the process of the rural insurgencies, the movement centers on local community ties and inter-personal relationships. The external origins of government officials and paramilitary forces exclude them from participating in these local networks. In these areas there are no organised parties or trade unions whose offices can be monitored. If security forces can threaten a person with physical harm or imprisonment if he or she does not collaborate, that threat is counter-balanced by the socioeconomic and physical harm the community imposes on the families of collaborators. Furthermore, the insurgents' better knowledge of the terrain and sympathetic populations allows them to strike and easily evade capture.       
Paradoxically, for the above reasons, the rural insurgencies cannot capture established agricultural communities, small towns and cities because their underlying social networks do not exist in these areas. Languages change, social orders vary, the economic structure differs and, most importantly, government and society are more interdependent in these areas. Also, people from these areas want faster integration into the capitalist market provided by better jobs in the private sector and better physical infrastructure by the government. Given the rural to urban demographic shift occurring in India, these areas will represent the majority of the population and the largest part of the economy. Thus, demographic change, better finance, organisation, and equipment systematically disadvantage the Maoists. We should look no further than Nepal to find supporting evidence: almost immediately after its  triumph, the Maoist movement fragmented into competing ethno-nationalist groups; also, the national leaders compromised with middle class parties such the Nepalese Congress.
However, there is a revolution occurring in India. The Indian reform of 1947 transferred power to Anglicised elites without changing the socioeconomic structure of India, which remained semi-feudal. The brown sahibs maintained power by controlling (commanding) socioeconomic modernisation and balancing various rural and urban interests until the 1980s. From 1989 until the present, the Indian revolution continues based on the aspirations and support of the urban and rural middle classes that arose from the 1947 reforms.
Akin to our revolution, the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920 too was won by the rural and urban middle classes. The only difference is that Mexico returned to authoritarianism because people's aversion to political violence made them choose stability over political freedom. Chesterton was right when he stated "You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution". Indian intellectuals justifying rural insurgencies should heed the statement.

The writer is a freelance contributor

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Shutdowns and street violence seem to be staging a comeback in Bangladesh's politics. A possibility of this happening always loomed over the country, where hartals or general strikes had long been the most favoured ploy of the political class. But the strikes called by the opposition parties over the past two weeks and their threats to organize more later this month are ominous signals. The most worrying aspect of the current spell of political unrest in the country is its timing. The general elections in Bangladesh are still three years away. There was always a threat of some kind of political turmoil in the run-up to the polls. But the opposition alliance, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, seems to be in a hurry to hit the streets. The ruling coalition, led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed's Bangladesh Awami League, had used the same tactics during its years in the Opposition. But there was some hope in recent years that politicians in both camps would respect the growing public sentiment against strikes. It now appears that the hopes were rather misplaced.

The issue that has stirred the current unrest, though, is of major political significance. The Opposition has its point about the government's decision to scrap a constitutional amendment that provides for a non-partisan caretaker administration to oversee the country's general elections. It is not a good enough argument to point out that Ms Wajed's government has only acted on the basis of a judgment by the country's supreme court annulling the amendment. It was the Awami League which had once wanted such an administration to take over in order to conduct a general election. It was another matter that the BNP used the amendment to serve its partisan interests. Worse still, the provision was abused before the last general election to try and make the army the final arbiter in Bangladesh's politics. For a country which has seen several army coups, this was clearly a dangerous precedent. Both the supreme court judgment and Ms Wajed's decision to scrap the amendment are apparently aimed at eliminating the risk of an army-backed subversion of democracy. But then, the court ruling had also kept some options for having a neutral administration between two elected governments. All these are matters of important debate inside and outside the country's parliament. Street battles and strikes can only trivialize the issue.






A culture addicted to cheap thrills is always self-destructive, for it cannot focus its mind on anything that lacks a circus. The cleaning of the Ganga is an old and dull subject, even if it be of fundamental importance to the life of a large part of India. It is just one of those things that chief ministers sign agreements over — the Uttarakhand chief minister did — without interrupting ongoing activity or trying to change anything. So when the young Swami Nigamanand, to whom the cleanliness of the river was actually equal to godliness, began to fast to draw attention to illegal mining, sand-quarrying and stone-crushing as polluters of a stretch flowing to Rishikesh, no one seemed to notice. At least no one bothered. Mining and stone-crushing companies are too good a source of funds for a government to pay much attention to a sadhu with neither political connections nor media presence, and who was innocent enough to think that fasting for a good cause would bring about change. Politicians, who barely paid attention to the Supreme Court's directives on clearing the banks of polluting industries and were busy pleading with Baba Ramdev to end his fast, were really not interested. After 115 days without food, Nigamanand had to die to be noticed.

The incident is shocking, and not just because of the obvious contrast with the fuss over Ramdev. It is a terrifying revelation of how skewed India's priorities have become. A man fasting to make a point, any point, must be looked after, even if the point is not worth making. On top of that, in this case the point was of overwhelming importance, and Nigamanand's courage in taking on powerful mining bosses and indifferent or greedy politicians should have been recognized and fêted. The mutual accusations of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are simply ugly; instead of humility and shame, each side is using a death to score a point against the other. All the politicians can think of are the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttarakhand; Nigamanand and the Ganga are far from their minds. The mutual accusations — the Congress gave the stone-crushers their licence, the BJP allows the mining to continue and so on — include one of poisoning the sadhu. They expose the sorry fact that politicians and governments are least interested in the good of the people or the improvement and preservation of the environment. Nigamanand's death is proof of that.





Latin America was, in the 1950s, mostly a cluster of banana republics in the firm grip of military dictators who had not a thought in the world. Their cockiness had a firm basis: they were under the benign protection of the state department in Washington, DC and the Pentagon across the Potomac. Playboys from these supposed republics, offspring of the ruling juntas, would come to the United States of America on the pretext of pursuing higher studies and have a rollickingly good time in Las Vegas, Palm Beach, and other such bracing places. One of them, equipped with a low-grade bachelor's degree from an obscure university in Montana or Nevada, would perhaps turn up at Washington, DC. Eager to stay on in the US, he would seek a job with the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. He would carry a strong recommendation from his country's ambassador. A senior Bank or Fund official would receive him with deference. At the end of a longish conversation over lunch at the Fund-Bank executive dining room, the Fund/Bank functionary — invariably a US citizen — would politely inform the young aspirant of some technical difficulty to absorb him in the international institution; his academic record was not exactly A plus plus; besides, he had unfortunately no previous experience. But, please, there should be no hard feelings; should he be interested, Fund/Bank authorities might sponsor his name as his country's finance minister, would he like to go back home? In case the playboy would respond positively, wheels would start moving, a Fund (or Bank) big shot would get in touch with the state department, which in turn would discuss the matter with the Pentagon; the brat would fly back to Asunción or Caracas, whatever it be, and take over as finance minister of his native land.

The above narrative is no doubt apocryphal; it is, however, not an altogether unfair representation of the reality in that era. The banana republics could be so because these were US protectorates, the generals ruled by the leave of the US, which played the role of Uncle Sam to the hilt, often to the extent of naming persons of their choice for a key slot in this or that country's administrative hierarchy. The arrangement was taken as granted at both Washington, DC and Asunción/Caracas ends and there was no question of consulting the vox populi.

An extraordinary transformation has taken place in the landscape over the past decades. The banana republics have disappeared, cheeky upstarts like Chavez and Morales have spoiled the broth for the US. Foggy Bottom is no longer in a position to handpick the army chief of staff or the finance minister of Paraguay or Venezuela.

Latin America would however seem to be out of step with history since in the rest of the world, US dominance has increased by leaps and bounds. The Soviet Union is gone, the Chinese leadership, obsessed by the goal of making giant strides in national economic growth, has relegated way down to the bottom the agenda of international solidarity of oppressed peoples. China's growth model itself is awesomely dependent on tacit American collaboration. That apart, those pygmies who tried to create a bit of nuisance with their alignment of so-called non-aligned nations for some while have comprehensively lost their profession following the eclipse of the socialist bloc. The US, as a result, faces no competition or hindrance in pursuing its single-minded objective of establishing absolute hegemonic control over the globe. The incumbent president of the US has been as candid as he could be: his country and its allies — read loyal flock — have taken over as leaders of the world, period. Whether they have done so with the consent of the different entities constituting the world is a query considered not worth answering.

The only cloud on the horizon is the emergence of Islamic terror, so styled, here, there and everywhere. The self-appointed global super-guardians are determined to stamp out, mercilessly, that scourge. All told, the US, the mightiest and richest of countries, is confident that its position is beyond challenge and things would remain that way for ever. The banana republics in South and Central America might have withered away, but hopefully circumstances are propitious for the birth of similar species in the other nooks and corners of the world.

All this can hardly be regarded as empty boast. Consider, for instance, the state Pakistan is in. Ever since the late 1950s, ruling groups there have been in the habit of running to Washington, DC, seeking protection against malign forces allegedly intending to do their country in; they obviously meant India. John Foster Dulles, hell-bent on extending the network of regional defences against 'the red scourge', did not let go of the opportunity this obsession over India provided. Pakistan was entrapped by defence treaties. The story from then on has been one of increasing American involvement in the country's affairs; at the same time, it became second nature for important factions — political, military or whatever — to plead for intercession of the US on their behalf in a domestic squabble. The sequence was predictable. Even as the magnitude of its military and economic aid to Pakistan kept mounting, insistence on the part of US officials to have a larger and larger say in the country's foreign and domestic policies also grew. Pakistan's defence and intelligence apparatus passed under American tutelage, indolent politicians got totally suborned. The country's special relationship with China, too, was on basis of the leave of the US.

Pakistan remained under army rule with occasional shaky experiments with civilian governance. Such internal developments did not interrupt the inexorable process of US takeover, so much so that American presence was an integral element of the Pakistan polity. Conditioned reflex, Benazir Bhutto, fearing assassination by unnamed enemies — a fate she could not finally avoid — sent a plaintive appeal to the US to provide her security in her own country.

Meanwhile, other forces had been at work; the core of threat perception gradually shifted from India to the Taliban. Some resentment against American overbearingness must have welled up in significant quarters, of which advantage was taken by fundamentalist groups like al Qaida and the Taliban who succeeded in making deep inroads into Pakistan's intelligence and defence networks as well as civil administration. Paradoxically or not, this nudged many politicians alongside senior army officers and civil servants to cave in, even more abjectly, to US pressure. The Osama bin Laden killing has now clinched the point: Pakistan has ceased to be a sovereign nation and has slipped into the status of a banana republic subservient in practically all respects to the US.

The mess in Pakistan has fostered some sort of smugness among smart alecs in India. But are we in any better shape? Exports, especially of services, are booming, foreign institutional investors are flocking in, the affluent set had never had it so good, there is hardly any visible manifestation of anger at the blatant nonchalance with which hucksters are making a mockery of the pompous pledge to usher in inclusive growth. The ruling establishment is nonetheless in dire straits on account of the aggressive stance of the Supreme Court on the issue of black money, which in turn stirred social activists into launching stray protests.

Unsure of itself, it has descended to the level of trying to negotiate a deal with a rabble-rousing godman of odious antecedents and, when the negotiations collapsed, ineptly lashing out at him, thereby worsening the situation. Almost simultaneously, its internal contradictions are out in the open. State-level electoral reverses have added to the worries. Overshadowing all else is apprehension over where the nation's highest judiciary might strike next.

Fear of the imminence of surcease supposedly clears the mind. In certain circumstances, it may lead to loss of mind too. The nation's largest political party is facing a crisis of existence. It is now politically on much wobblier ground to be tempted to repeat the grand adventure its imperious leader had embarked on in 1975. Were it firm in its resolve to go astray, it might still cry uncle and run to the noble and great strategic ally its prime minister worships to step in and rescue it, pronto, from internal enemies who were doubtlessly in league with global terror. Would not this be an exact replica of the Pakistan paradigm and amount to admitting that the concept of a banana republic was no longer repugnant along our shores either? However, in this kind of game the Bharatiya Janata Party, given its common class base with the Indian National Congress, was bound to offer tough competition; the BJP would have the additional advantage of being a greater enthusiast for the war against global Islamic terror.

With India's two major political formations vying with each other to prove their fidelity to it, it would be eternal springtime for the US in the subcontinent.






The 'magic' rate of growth, for which all else was ignored at huge cost to the society, has now dipped from what it was once expected to be, to seven per cent or thereabouts. Inflation abounds, social tensions are high, the law-and-order situation leaves much to be desired, primitive honour killings and underworld encounters grab the headlines, and the past misdeeds and illegal activities of men and women in positions of power shame us. The overpowering greed of the ruling class, and the gross mismanagement and manipulation of the 'system' both by leaders and their administrators — topped with the abuse of every constitutional tenet — has set this once emerging economic power back in time. The 'rate of growth' in a devastated and completely polluted environment can only trigger further anarchy.

This is what happens when those at the helm — mandated to call the shots and lead from the front — have neither the political clout nor an understanding of the 'many' Indias and their plural, diverse aspirations, all of which require urgent attention. This is a frightening weakness which shows the government as being under siege. Its delayed, 'committee'-type actions are reactionary when they should have been strong and proactive, having addressed the possible implications well before an impending explosion, or even an implosion. The Baba Ramdev kissa is a case in point — the government was seen going off in different directions, bungling its way through all manner of external blackmail and internal sabotage.

People have a fairly good idea of both the sub-standard decision-making processes and the lack of transparent political judgment on critical national issues. In a country where adda and oral, tactile communication are intrinsic to the larger culture, a political dispensation that is in constant maun, or silence, is unacceptable.

Archaic tactics

Indians want to hear their leaders speak to them, engage with them — as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee did. They spoke from the heart, extempore, and held the attention of India. Barack Obama and his opponents do so in the United States of America, David Cameron in the United Kingdom, as well as 'real' politicians and rulers everywhere in the globe. The disconnect in India today between the prime minister and his people is palpable.

Politics must take centre stage along with economic, social and administrative reform if the Congress has any intention of winning the next general elections. 'Trickle down' and the 'rate of growth' will not convert to votes in this age of inflation, corruption, extortion, abduction, greed, militancy and arrogant misrule. The archaic 'tactics' of a fading generation, with its clumsy and rusty ideas, initiatives and actions, can only hasten the end of empire.

We need a leadership that is committed to its social responsibilities and is politically proactive to ensure that the basic infrastructure is in place. Sixty-five years after Independence, there is a breakdown of electric supply after half an hour of rain in the centre of the capital. Such is the reality of this 'emergent' economic power. The mind boggles at the thought of what the reality is in less privileged parts of India. The tragedy is that no leader in Delhi cares because he or she is sheltered in insular and isolated cocoons, and the people of India are exploited to deliver for the few. We desperately need a new, young leader in his 40s, inexperienced and without the corrupt, faulty and failed baggage of the past decades, to put India back on track. This generation speaks a different language and we deserve a leader of this generation to mould our future. The hopelessness of failed muddas and faulty delivery systems have no place in the India of today.







Author Etgar Keret, on assignment from Haaretz, accompanied the prime minister on his trip to Italy this week and reported on Benjamin Netanyahu's perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"This is an insoluble conflict because it is not about territory," Netanyahu said. "It is not that you can give up a kilometer more and solve it. The root of the conflict is in an entirely different place. Until Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, there will be no way to reach an agreement."

On Wednesday, Netanyahu reiterated this position in the Knesset. "The reason for the conflict, and for its continuation, is the refusal to recognize the Jewish people's nation-state in any borders," he said.

By declaring the conflict insoluble, Netanyahu is dooming Israel to live eternally by the sword, leaving no opening for reconciliation and understanding with the Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim world. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni was thus right to attack Netanyahu in the Knesset for burying the prospect of a peace deal and of normal life in Israel. She was also right to insist that the conflict can be solved if Israel makes "tough decisions."

The practical conclusion Netanyahu derives from his pessimistic evaluation of the situation is even more disturbing. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinians renounce their national ethos and recognize Israel as "the nation-state of the Jewish people." He demands that Abbas commit himself to saying that a Jew in Brooklyn or London has more right to this country than an Arab citizen of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa - and thereby essentially acknowledge that the Palestinians are foreign invaders in the Jewish people's state. Neither Abbas nor any other Palestinian leader could accept this diktat.

The chance of resolving the conflict lies in pragmatic arrangements to divide the land, which would lead to a new relationship between the two countries, Israel and Palestine. But Netanyahu is evading the task of building the future, which will inevitably require Israel to withdraw from the territories, evacuate settlements and divide Jerusalem. He prefers to entrench himself behind a pointless, hopeless argument about the past and demands that the Palestinian narrative be rewritten.

Netanyahu wants to debate with the Palestinians, not to compromise with them. There is no surer recipe for turning his claim that the conflict is insoluble into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and for driving the Palestinians into a third intifada.







One good thing has already come out of the cottage cheese revolution: The public has proven that it is no longer apathetic. That it is no longer willing to purchase any product at any price. That it can organize voluntarily on Facebook and threaten a consumer boycott of anyone who makes a laughingstock of it - in this case, the dairy product manufacturers.

Tnuva's management has proven that power has gone to its head. It believed it could raise the price of cottage cheese (a key component of its profitability ) time after time with impunity.

But it turns out that Tnuva raised the price of cottage cheese one time too many. The vociferous public protest that ensued has already yielded results: Some supermarket chains have reduced the price of cottage cheese, along with the price of milk and white cheese. Yet these are short-term price cuts that will last just a few days. This is not yet a consumer victory.

It's no coincidence that the anger focused on the dairy industry. The prices of milk, cheese and yogurt are many times higher in Israel than they are in Europe or the United States. This is due to the industry's cartel structure - an archaic, inefficient structure whose goal is to protect the dairy farmers and manufacturers at the consumer's expense.

This unacceptable cartel has three layers. The first is comprised of dairy farmers from the kibbutz and moshav movements together with private farms. This is the strongest group, as it is backed by the entire agricultural lobby. Each farmer has an allotted quota for milk production, and these quotas were set long ago on the basis of political affiliation. The price farmers are paid is also dictated from above, by the Israel Dairy Board.

There is no competition among the farmers, and as a result, they are less efficient than the international norm. Yet the price they receive for milk is higher than what their counterparts in Europe and the U.S. get.

The cartel's second layer is comprised of the manufacturers: Tnuva, Tara and Strauss. This is a market where competition is limited to three companies, of whom one, Tnuva, is the dominant player. If Tnuva jacks up its prices, Strauss and Tara do not need to receive an email or a telephone call. They see what is happening in the market and adjust their prices accordingly. The result is high prices for consumers and hefty profits for the producers.

The cartel's third layer is a bizarre government decision that effectively bans the import of milk and dairy products. Steep tariffs, ranging from 100 to 200 percent, have to be paid by anyone who wants to import white or hard cheeses. It is thanks to these import restrictions that prices in Israel can be kept so high: They face no competition from abroad.

Some say the solution is to introduce price controls for dairy products. But they are wrong. The worst thing that could happen to us would be for two government officials to determine the prices of dairy products. After all, it's easier to "persuade" two such officials than it is to convince the market. Mark Moshvitz, the legendary owner of Elite, once told me that the company's most profitable period was when it was subject to price controls.

The public should know that when products are subject to price controls, quality plummets and variety is limited, as companies do not invest in development and innovation. Just consider the miserable, outdated assortment of products that Communist countries provided for their citizens. In those states, everything was price-controlled.

The solution to the dairy cartel lies elsewhere. The Dairy Board should be disbanded, so that farmers would have to compete over price and quality. In addition, the draconian quotas on milk production should be abolished, and dairy imports should be allowed with no restrictions.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz should not "consider" allowing imports of dairy products; he should simply abolish all the tariffs and restrictions. Only then will the price of cottage cheese plummet to a reasonable level, akin to what it sells for in Europe - with no price controls, no policemen, no fines and no Dairy Board.

Unrestricted imports and improved competition are what will do the job. And then, the cottage cheese revolution will end in triumph.







This newspaper recently reported that due to pressure from the religious, whose power in the army is growing in any event, the chief of staff agreed to deploy God instead of the people of Israel in the Yizkor prayer of remembrance for fallen soldiers. If this affair did not affect so many bereaved families, who hear the official Yizkor recited each year on a very painful day, it could be turned into a parody of our political life.

MK Yaakov Katz, leaders of the National Union Party, was quick to exult, as though now the war against Iran will be won. "Like all the generals of the people of Israel throughout history, who uttered the name of God and were successful, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz joins all those who have led the people of Israel, for the armies of Israel always set forth with God's name on their lips," Katz said. Do not be misled by his limping logic and language. Had the reporter asked for examples of "generals of the people of Israel throughout history who uttered the name of God and were successful," he would surely have enlisted the biblical bully Yoav Ben-Tzruya.

MK Tzipi Hotovely, as always more intelligent than her parliamentary surroundings, said in a statement that she "welcomes the chief of staff's decision to retain the original wording of the Yizkor prayer." She clearly knows this is not the original text and meant that Yizkor, which is recited four times a year in synagogue by observant Jews and said by large numbers of less observant ones on Yom Kippur, at the very least, was changed in its official state version. God was removed from the prayer; in its place appeared, in all its vague glory, the nationalistic expression Am Yisrael, "the people of Israel." Including Diaspora Jewry? The Judaism of the past? All inhabitants of Israel? Only the Jews?

The parody reached its height in the response of Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, representing the left. "The chief of staff's decision is infuriating. This is another example of halakha [Jewish religious law] taking over the army. Just as Israel is becoming a halakhic state, the Israel Defense Forces is becoming a halakhic army. Perhaps its name should be changed to Israel Halakha Forces?" Really? On Shabbat the base canteen was always closed and the coffee cold, bread has never been served during Pesach - and now the army is a "halakhic army"?

As if Gal-On's panic were not enough, she then added the cherry on top: "We must remember that some of the fallen soldiers and the bereaved families, are not Jewish." And if some of the fallen soldiers and bereaved families are not Jewish, then is "Elohim" - also known as Boze and Allah, among other names - less close to them than the remembering entity known as Am Yisrael"? And is the sweeping declaration in the original prayer for the fallen - "who sacrificed their lives in the war for Israel's resurrection" - any better? Did those who died in the Lebanon war, in suppressing the intifada and in Operation Cast Lead, for example, die for "Israel's resurrection"? Is that any less infuriating than inserting God into the Yizkor prayer? And how many secular Jews refrain from reciting, over the grave of their loved ones, the line "Yehay shmay raba mevorach" ("blessed is the name of God" ) in the Kaddish? Yes to blessing the Hanukkah candles at home but no to saying a blessing at a state ceremony, of all places? Does God really not belong to this military-national-official death culture?

But the response of Meretz is a symptom of something far worse than the empty "secular" squabbling of the "critical" intelligentsia. The irritating, anti-religious, sometimes almost anti-Semitic character of the liberal discourse has distanced it greatly from the "people of Israel" whose honor they are now seeking to salvage, or on behalf of whose agenda they are battling. It could have been a parody. It's not even a prayer for the elevation of the soul of the left. As it is written: Ein lahem Elohim - They hold nothing sacred.







Over the last four years, since I left the political arena, I've written for this newspaper - and not by necessity. I decided to choose the liberty of writing over other forms of expression that provide wider exposure. I won't disclose to you my financial compensation, so let's put it this way - the writing is my wage. And now I get the feeling even this pittance won't be paid.

Two weeks ago, a well-known professor crossed my path. I was happy to learn that he's a devoted reader of my pieces, and I was sorry to hear he had canceled his subscription. One of my colleagues criticized him, the professor got angry and removed himself from the newspaper's list of subscribers, though he continues to read the paper.

I told him I thought he had made a rash decision unworthy of a person of his caliber, and that he should reconsider once the anger subsides. After all, given his worldview, he wouldn't expect a publisher or editor to censor journalists. Self-censorship, based on fear of tycoons or politicians' reprisals, is certainly unworthy. The professor listened and promised that he would give the subject some more thought.

Frequently, when I'm about to finish and sign an article, my conscience troubles me. Once again, I'm exploiting Haaretz's policy of nonintervention; once again, I'm damaging the newspaper, and someone will be enraged and boycott it because of me. Threats by big advertisers, interested parties, arrive each day; they must not be allowed to impose silence and carry out their plots.

Despite such qualms, and as though with an intent to provoke, I send my draft with the expectation that revisions will be recommended. This expectation has yet to be met. One might ask, has the owner gone mad and betrayed his economic interests? With our own hands, we're cutting down the branch we're sitting on.

This week an old acquaintance told me he will not remain loyal to the newspaper, after a 30-year allegiance. The new investor, the oligarch, is not to his liking, or to mine. I asked my friend whether he would have preferred investing himself, and I got the impression this wasn't an option for him. I reminded him of the global crisis in which print journalism is enmeshed, and that high-quality newspapers are showing the first signs of strain, threatening to leave us with only yellow sensationalist journals. He too promised to reconsider his position.

A few weeks ago, this page published a fine piece by Amalia Rosenblum, who lived overseas for 10 years and recently returned to Israel. She described how her father urged her to subscribe to Haaretz, even though it's not cheap. Rosenblum will not, I hope, be angry if I reveal her father's identity - the late Adam Baruch, a gifted journalist who worked for many newspapers but was never affiliated to Haaretz. Nonetheless, he had regard for its unique contribution to Israeli society.

And this is the goal, if I understand it correctly: to stick to important matters when everything is saturated by a ratings-culture; to reveal reality, when reality television brainwashes the public.

There's more: to express a different voice at a time of conformity, to set a different tone when everything else combines the voice of the masses with the bond between money and government - one national choir, reciting together.

Haaretz today is the fortress guarding Israel's democracy, and it needs to be defended, just as one fights for one's home. In a place where there is no opposition, it has become the opposition, and its work is more crucial today than ever before. Imagine what the country's landscape would look like without it. Once it was marketed as the "newspaper for thinking people," whereas today it's more accurate to define it as the newspaper for people who sometimes obstinately articulate their right to think a little differently and independently.

Every day, when picking up this newspaper on the doorstep, readers can think of themselves as having more than a subscription - they have a share in the Zionist enterprise, whose existence is threatened by those who distort it. And it's important to protect this enterprise from their clutches.







On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. That is truth, not narrative. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked and destroyed the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. That is truth, not narrative.

Of course, there are also narratives. For example, the Germans had quite a few complaints against Poland. First, that in the 1919 Versailles Treaty, the victorious Western powers stripped Germany of territories with a large ethnic German population and annexed them to Poland (the "Polish corridor" ), while declaring Danzig, which had been a German city for generations, an international city. Moreover, Nazi Germany accused the Polish government of discriminating against ethnic Germans under its jurisdiction.

Not every claim in the German narrative was baseless, but the factual truth is clear: On September 1, 1939, it was Germany that attacked Poland, not Poland that attacked Germany.

There is also a Japanese narrative: The United States, together with Britain and Holland, imposed an embargo on the export of iron, steel and oil to Japan after the Japanese invasion of China. Japan suggested negotiating over these issues, but the U.S. refused, and Japan considered the embargo an act of aggression that threatened to paralyze its economy.

These were weighty claims, and it's impossible to ignore the fact that the American and British attitude contained a whiff of white racism against the rising "yellow" power in East Asia. But the truth is that on December 7, 1941, it was Japan that attacked the U.S., not the U.S. that attacked Japan.

Why is this important? In recent debates about the Palestinian "Nakba," the claim has been made that there are two "narratives," an Israeli one and a Palestinian one, and we should pay attention to both of them. That, of course, is true: Alongside the Israeli-Zionist claims regarding the Jewish people's connection to its historic homeland and the Jews' miserable situation, there are Palestinian claims that regard the Jews as a religious group only and Zionism as an imperialist movement.

But above and beyond these claims is the simple fact - and it is a fact, not a "narrative" - that in 1947, the Zionist movement accepted the United Nations partition plan, whereas the Arab side rejected it and went to war against it. A decision to go to war has consequences, just as it did in 1939 or 1941.

The importance of this distinction becomes clear upon perusing the op-ed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently published in The New York Times. Abbas mentioned the partition decision in his article, but said not one single word about the facts - who accepted it and who rejected it. He merely wrote that "Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs."

That is like those Germans who talk about the horrors of the expulsion of 12 million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe after 1945, but fail to mention the Nazi attack on Poland, or the Japanese who talk about Hiroshima, but fail to mention their attack on Pearl Harbor. That is not a "narrative," it is simply not telling the truth. Effects cannot be divorced from causes.

The pain of the other should be understood and respected, and attempts to prevent Palestinians from mentioning the Nakba are foolish and immoral: Nobody prevents the descendants of the German refugees from Eastern Europe from communing with their suffering.

But just as nobody, even in German schools, would dream of teaching the German "narrative" regarding World War II, the 1948 war should also not be taught as a battle between narratives. In the final analysis, there is a historical truth. And without ignoring the suffering of the other, that is how such sensitive issues must be taught.







Outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan did an exceptional favor to Israeli citizens by revealing his insights on the subject of Iran: that an Israeli attack against Iran, in anything but a last-resort situation - in his words, one in which the knife is at our throat - would be an act of utmost irresponsibility; that most of the recently retired leaders of national security organizations share this opinion; and that he has fears regarding the judgment of the elected political leadership on these questions. By doing so, Dagan dramatically challenged the accepted rules of the game in Israel regarding what is permitted and forbidden to people in his position to say publicly after their retirement.

Until now an inflexible code of discourse, backed by tradition, was common here - to the effect that those leaving the defense establishment must keep mum regarding their thinking and experience in the spheres of their official activity. This code of discourse has been especially prevalent concerning sensitive matters of national security, such as Israel's policy on prevention of nuclear proliferation, and specifically regarding the wisdom of an Israeli attack on Iran. On these issues, the top national security professionals, past and present, have always been expected to remain silent.

Although the question of the military option against Iran has (almost ) nothing at all to do with the policy of nuclear ambiguity, according to the accepted code of Israeli public discourse, the consequences of discussing the rationale of either a military operation against Iran or Israeli nuclear policy would be the same. In both instances, Israel - certainly its decision makers but the public as a whole too - must accept the restrictions of the policy of ambiguity.

The practical result is that there has been no genuine public discussion in this country regarding the rationale of a possible attack on Iran. When it comes to decisions on this issue, decisions unlike any we have had to grapple with in the past, the political leadership is given almost total freedom of thought, decision and action. Those in the know - in other words, all the senior defense establishment officials, both present and past - are expected to hold their tongues. The national interest demands ambiguity, and ambiguity means silence. And so, although an attack against Iran means a war the likes of which we have never known, a war in which the home front will become the battlefield and there is no way of knowing how it will end, the public has entrusted the duo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, backed by members of the septet of key ministers in the cabinet, with the absolute right to decide. But is this code of discourse wise and correct?

Those who think so claim that a public debate about Iran will of necessity lead to a decline in ambiguity about Israel's intentions, thereby damaging state security in two ways: It will undermine the credibility of Israeli deterrence vis-a-vis Iran; and it will undermine the willingness of the international community to act firmly against Iran.

The first argument is clearly groundless: There is no evidence that threats of an Israeli attack have deterred Iran, or even significantly influenced the way in which that country is planning its nuclear program. It's true that, in general, the present leadership in Tehran does not want war, or even conflict with the international community, but this does not stem from any implied Israeli threat. In any event, Dagan's words probably have not caused any change in Iranian plans.

The second argument may contain an iota of truth, but it is exaggerated and biased. If in the not-so-distant past there was a certain fear in the world that Israel, particularly under Netanyahu's leadership, was liable to attack if the pressure on Iran were to be weakened, this fear is gradually disappearing. First, the sanctions against Tehran have been reinforced, and their results are already evident. Second, there is today an almost wall-to-wall Western consensus that a military operation against Iran will achieve exactly the opposite of its objective: Instead of distancing Iran from the bomb, it will only bring that country closer to it. We can reasonably assume that, under normal circumstances, it is inconceivable that Israel would challenge such an international consensus on its own.

What is seen by many in Israel as a clever policy of ambiguity vis-a-vis Iran is seen in the world as a dangerous and arrogant approach that is meant to conceal a bluff. The general assessment among experts is that Israeli talk of a military option is mainly empty words. Not only does Israel not have the military capability of striking at Iran over a period of weeks, not to say months, on end, but also such a foolish war would not only fail to improve Israel's situation - it would actually cause it mortal harm. Unless it finds itself in a genuine emergency situation, Israel does not have a genuine military option.

The problem is that Benjamin Netanyahu is liable to be tempted to think otherwise. Netanyahu is seen by many people, both in Israel and abroad, as a leader who can astonish with his decisions, a leader who could try to lead his cabinet into dangerous and fateful decisions. Meir Dagan did us a favor when he revealed that he too shares these concerns.

Avner Cohen is a professor and senior fellow at the Monterey Institute for International Studies, and author, most recently, of "Israel and the Bomb" (Columbia University Press ).







For the third time, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has walked away from the polls with a stunning victory, with his party sweeping up almost 50 percent of the total vote in the country's legislative elections. In his victory speech on Sunday night, Erdogan declared that his win constituted a victory not only for the Turkish people, but was also one to be celebrated in "Izmir as in Beirut, in Ankara as in Damascus, in Diyarbakir as in Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza."

Nonetheless, Erdogan's new term in office will begin with his Middle East policy in disarray, with the brewing crisis across the border in Syria, the threat of instability spreading to Lebanon, and sinking credibility among the Palestinians, whom he used often as a rhetorical tool during the election campaign but whose long-term prosperity he had done almost nothing tangible to advance during his eight years in office.

During the last two years, Erdogan wholeheartedly adopted the policy of his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, which calls for working to secure strong relations with all of the states bordering Turkey. Few could argue against the wisdom of this policy. Indeed, the Turkish economy owes much of its success to its massive investments in northern Iraq, its strong economic ties with Iran and the more recent investments in Syria. With the situation in Syria spiraling out of control, however, Erdogan is now faced with a dilemma, caused by his having misinterpreted the two states' relationship: Where President Bashar Assad saw his newfound relationship with Turkey as one between equals, Erdogan perceived Turkey as serving as some of sort of surrogate big brother to the weak Syrian state; in essence, Syria was to serve as a regional satellite state of Turkey, while the latter would reap the benefits of the underdeveloped Syrian market.

It seems clear that Bashar Assad's days are numbered, and there is no doubt that Turkey will enter a period of "damage control" to secure its investments in Syria and to try to foster a stable transfer of power there. Nevertheless, Turkey will have a hard time coping with the regional implications of continued civil strife in Syria, and its possible spillover into Lebanon - not to mention the destabilizing effect it could have on Turkey's Kurdish southeast.

If Erdogan is sincere about his victory also being one for the "West Bank and Gaza," then he and Davutoglu will need to take two steps back and rethink their role vis-a-vis Israel and the Palestinians, and perhaps address the internal contradiction between their respective visions.

Whereas Erdogan often meddles in internal politics, Davutoglu opts for the hands-off approach, understanding that as long as Turkey remains an economic powerhouse with a dynamic society, the states of the region will naturally drift toward it. In other words, it seems that Davutoglu understands that the Turks' real legacy in the region will be to act as a neutral moderator between the various Arab parties, and to work toward a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That's a much different stance than that of Erdogan, who during the elections did not miss a chance to use Israel as a punching bag - something which, even if it scores points with the Turkish electorate, does not necessarily play as well with Palestinians, who know from past experience with Arab regimes that empty rhetoric does not translate to a better future.

Furthermore, the fact that it was the post-Mubarak Egyptian government, and not Turkey, that was able to negotiate a rapprochement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas shows how much Erdogan's grandstanding in support of Hamas has isolated Turkey from Ramallah's halls of power.

If Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks back to his first years in office, beginning in 2003, he will see that Arabs admired Turkey for its ability to retain a strong relationship with both sides of the conflict. Arab societies and states have lived in a polarized system for decades now. They simply do not need a new polarizing force in the region, something that Turkey - through Erdogan's assertive politics - has become. While Ankara believed that its new regional role would translate into political leverage, Damascus has displayed in the harshest way that it does not. And although Israel certainly deserves its share of the blame for the rapid deterioration in relations between Jerusalem and Ankara, there is no question that, without Israel, Turkey will not be able to make any real progress on the Palestinian front, let alone on larger regional questions.

For now, Turkey's priority should be to prevent the region from falling into another war, which only can be done by rekindling its ties with Israel, even as it continues to strengthen its links with the Palestinians and other regional states. If this happens, plenty of leaders will be knocking on Erdogan's door, and he will be able not only to prove himself to be one of the great masters of Turkish politics, but also the leader who helped bring stability and prosperity to the region as a whole.

Louis Fishman is an assistant professor of history at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and divides his time between New York, Istanbul and Tel Aviv. He blogs about Turkish, Israeli and Middle Eastern politics at:







The latest volley in the campaign of persecution of Israel's civil rights community came this week with an initiative seeking to prevent national service participants from volunteering at rights organizations. As part of the legislative process outlining new guidelines for national service, Israel Hasson of Kadima demanded that any NGO that cooperated with the Goldstone Commission would lose the privilege of receiving national service volunteers.

Compared to placements at schools, hospitals, or, for that matter, institutions that operate in West Bank settlements, only a minuscule number of volunteers are placed at civil rights organizations, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International. Apparently it's enough to raise up the Goldstone bogeyman once again, in order to attack NGOs and concerned citizens who fail to toe the current political line.

Hasson may be piqued that rights organizations, as part of their proper role in a democracy, can criticize the same military establishment that provides them with (a very few ) volunteers, but his unfortunate initiative falls in line with much of the antidemocratic legislation that we have seen coming from the far right and the government over the past year. In a camp that now stretches from the extreme right through the prime minister to Kadima, criticism of the Israel Defense Forces is forbidden. No matter that the IDF made use of some of the information provided by rights NGOs for its own investigations.

What is not often debated is the idiosyncratic view of national loyalty that underlies these attacks on civil society organizations and generates so much emotional heat on their part. Nationalists have conflated loyalty with both the security concerns and the Jewish identity of the country. They adopt a mantle of patriotism, but also position themselves as the protectors of the Jewish side of Israel's Jewish-democratic balance. They deliberately confuse concern for the state's Jewish character with their own political agenda. In other words, if you support settlement building and never question our military practices, you are both a good Jew and a real patriot - and if you don't, you are neither.

Once the false association between protecting Israel's Jewish character with knee-jerk patriotism has been established, those who challenge this view are branded as both anti-Jewish and potentially traitorous. This is the club used to scare off critics. No Jewish politician wants to be considered patriotically suspect or insufficiently "Jewish." To anyone who has lived through ideologically motivated smear campaigns in other countries, this will seem very familiar.

Underlying the nationalist strategy, however, is a categorical error. To work against democracy is not to protect the Jewish character of the state, but to prevent the development of the Jewish-democratic synthesis required to face Israel's 21st-century reality. To silence dissent and to repress the minority - that is, the "ger" who lives among us - is certainly anti-Jewish. To spread fear of Arabs and openly threaten them, to work to "put them in their place," is not the expression of a proud Jewish nation, but the ethos of cowardly, national chauvinists. A political agenda that is hate-filled, vengeful and bullying does not make Israel more Jewish, but less Jewish.

According to the nationalist calculus, our democratic tradition can be dismantled, and organizations such as ACRI should be weakened - and certainly not assisted by young, idealistic volunteers performing service in the name of the state. The democratic culture that ACRI and other rights organizations try to promote is falsely presented as a threat both to national security and to Israel's Jewish character.

In fact, respect for civil and human rights goes beyond liberal or nationalist political affiliations; it is the best long-term protection we have from political persecution, wherever we may fall on the left-right spectrum as it exists in 2011.

Unfortunately Kadima, which has been silent in the face of most of the antidemocratic legislation that swamped the Knesset over the past 15 months, has now joined our right-wing leadership in lashing out at Israel's civil rights community.

If there is anything we should have learned from Jewish historical experience, it is that a strong and vibrant democracy is the best guarantor of Jewish security. If we want the Jewish character of the State of Israel to be a source of national pride, we must resist - not legislate for - the repression of dissenting voices, just as we must be the first to protect the rights of our minorities. To preserve the Jewish side of the equation, we must guard Israel's democratic character with all of our energies.

ACRI, the rock and cornerstone of Israel's small but impressive civil society, is devoted to guarding the rights of all Israeli citizens. It provides us with protection at home, and some much-needed legitimacy in the democratic corners of the West, where support for Israel has so dramatically diminished. It is in our interest to encourage young national service patriots to volunteer at organizations like ACRI, not to outlaw their chance of contributing to Israeli democracy.

Don Futterman is the program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation that supports the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and numerous additional civil and human rights NGOs.




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





The latest volley in the campaign of persecution of Israel's civil rights community came this week with an initiative seeking to prevent national service participants from volunteering at rights organizations. As part of the legislative process outlining new guidelines for national service, Israel Hasson of Kadima demanded that any NGO that cooperated with the Goldstone Commission would lose the privilege of receiving national service volunteers.

Compared to placements at schools, hospitals, or, for that matter, institutions that operate in West Bank settlements, only a minuscule number of volunteers are placed at civil rights organizations, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International. Apparently it's enough to raise up the Goldstone bogeyman once again, in order to attack NGOs and concerned citizens who fail to toe the current political line.

Hasson may be piqued that rights organizations, as part of their proper role in a democracy, can criticize the same military establishment that provides them with (a very few ) volunteers, but his unfortunate initiative falls in line with much of the antidemocratic legislation that we have seen coming from the far right and the government over the past year. In a camp that now stretches from the extreme right through the prime minister to Kadima, criticism of the Israel Defense Forces is forbidden. No matter that the IDF made use of some of the information provided by rights NGOs for its own investigations.

What is not often debated is the idiosyncratic view of national loyalty that underlies these attacks on civil society organizations and generates so much emotional heat on their part. Nationalists have conflated loyalty with both the security concerns and the Jewish identity of the country. They adopt a mantle of patriotism, but also position themselves as the protectors of the Jewish side of Israel's Jewish-democratic balance. They deliberately confuse concern for the state's Jewish character with their own political agenda. In other words, if you support settlement building and never question our military practices, you are both a good Jew and a real patriot - and if you don't, you are neither.

Once the false association between protecting Israel's Jewish character with knee-jerk patriotism has been established, those who challenge this view are branded as both anti-Jewish and potentially traitorous. This is the club used to scare off critics. No Jewish politician wants to be considered patriotically suspect or insufficiently "Jewish." To anyone who has lived through ideologically motivated smear campaigns in other countries, this will seem very familiar.

Underlying the nationalist strategy, however, is a categorical error. To work against democracy is not to protect the Jewish character of the state, but to prevent the development of the Jewish-democratic synthesis required to face Israel's 21st-century reality. To silence dissent and to repress the minority - that is, the "ger" who lives among us - is certainly anti-Jewish. To spread fear of Arabs and openly threaten them, to work to "put them in their place," is not the expression of a proud Jewish nation, but the ethos of cowardly, national chauvinists. A political agenda that is hate-filled, vengeful and bullying does not make Israel more Jewish, but less Jewish.

According to the nationalist calculus, our democratic tradition can be dismantled, and organizations such as ACRI should be weakened - and certainly not assisted by young, idealistic volunteers performing service in the name of the state. The democratic culture that ACRI and other rights organizations try to promote is falsely presented as a threat both to national security and to Israel's Jewish character.

In fact, respect for civil and human rights goes beyond liberal or nationalist political affiliations; it is the best long-term protection we have from political persecution, wherever we may fall on the left-right spectrum as it exists in 2011.

Unfortunately Kadima, which has been silent in the face of most of the antidemocratic legislation that swamped the Knesset over the past 15 months, has now joined our right-wing leadership in lashing out at Israel's civil rights community.

If there is anything we should have learned from Jewish historical experience, it is that a strong and vibrant democracy is the best guarantor of Jewish security. If we want the Jewish character of the State of Israel to be a source of national pride, we must resist - not legislate for - the repression of dissenting voices, just as we must be the first to protect the rights of our minorities. To preserve the Jewish side of the equation, we must guard Israel's democratic character with all of our energies.

ACRI, the rock and cornerstone of Israel's small but impressive civil society, is devoted to guarding the rights of all Israeli citizens. It provides us with protection at home, and some much-needed legitimacy in the democratic corners of the West, where support for Israel has so dramatically diminished. It is in our interest to encourage young national service patriots to volunteer at organizations like ACRI, not to outlaw their chance of contributing to Israeli democracy.

Don Futterman is the program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation that supports the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and numerous additional civil and human rights NGOs.






In the landmark Miranda case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution's guarantee against self-incrimination required that police warn criminal suspects about their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present when they are taken into custody for questioning.

Now the court has ruled in J. D. B. v. North Carolina that police need to consider a suspect's age when deciding whether they must give him Miranda warnings.

Under earlier rulings, the court said that whether a suspect was "in custody" for Miranda purposes depended on the circumstances of the interrogation and whether a reasonable person would have felt free to leave.

In its new decision, the court concludes that age matters because a teenager is likely to think he is not free to leave an interrogation even if a reasonable adult would think otherwise.

The case involved a 13-year-old seventh-grade student in North Carolina who was taken out of a classroom by a uniformed police officer and questioned for at least 30 minutes in a closed-door conference room about the theft of a digital camera. The police did not tell the student that he was free to go and did not give him Miranda warnings. The student eventually confessed to the theft — after an officer told him that "this thing is going to court" and that he might be "sent to juvenile detention before court."

Writing for the 5-to-4 majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that "children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults" and said "a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go."

The majority sensibly holds that "courts can account for that reality without doing any damage to the objective nature of the custody analysis."

For the four conservative dissenters, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. contends that the majority has turned the decision about when to give Miranda warnings from a simple, easily applied rule into a complicated undertaking, upsetting the balance between society's and a suspect's interests.

But considering a suspect's age doesn't alter the warnings. They remain simple and clear-cut. It is not in society's interests to have confessions from young suspects thrown out because they were coerced, as happened before Miranda.

Police will find that considering a suspect's age in delivering Miranda warnings is a prudent safeguard for that individual's rights and also for their work.





In the landmark Miranda case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution's guarantee against self-incrimination required that police warn criminal suspects about their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present when they are taken into custody for questioning.

Now the court has ruled in J. D. B. v. North Carolina that police need to consider a suspect's age when deciding whether they must give him Miranda warnings.

Under earlier rulings, the court said that whether a suspect was "in custody" for Miranda purposes depended on the circumstances of the interrogation and whether a reasonable person would have felt free to leave.

In its new decision, the court concludes that age matters because a teenager is likely to think he is not free to leave an interrogation even if a reasonable adult would think otherwise.

The case involved a 13-year-old seventh-grade student in North Carolina who was taken out of a classroom by a uniformed police officer and questioned for at least 30 minutes in a closed-door conference room about the theft of a digital camera. The police did not tell the student that he was free to go and did not give him Miranda warnings. The student eventually confessed to the theft — after an officer told him that "this thing is going to court" and that he might be "sent to juvenile detention before court."

Writing for the 5-to-4 majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that "children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults" and said "a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go."

The majority sensibly holds that "courts can account for that reality without doing any damage to the objective nature of the custody analysis."

For the four conservative dissenters, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. contends that the majority has turned the decision about when to give Miranda warnings from a simple, easily applied rule into a complicated undertaking, upsetting the balance between society's and a suspect's interests.

But considering a suspect's age doesn't alter the warnings. They remain simple and clear-cut. It is not in society's interests to have confessions from young suspects thrown out because they were coerced, as happened before Miranda.

Police will find that considering a suspect's age in delivering Miranda warnings is a prudent safeguard for that individual's rights and also for their work.





At last, there was a dignified moment in the decline and fall of Anthony Weiner.

Certainly there had been none in the New York Democrat's personal behavior, his stalling and lying to his constituents, or the way he seemed to have misused his position to promote his online sex life. Neither was there any in the undisguised glee of his opponents, or the expediency that drove the reaction by his Democratic colleagues.

But Mr. Weiner was clear and direct at a Thursday afternoon news conference, packed with reporters and one exceedingly creepy heckler. He did not offer tedious "mistakes were made" evasions. "I'm here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused," he said. "I make this apology to my neighbors and my constituents, but I make it particularly to my wife, Huma." (She wisely avoided the excruciating loyal-wife-by-his-side appearance.)

There is no excuse for Mr. Weiner's behavior, but it is worth noting the cynical way lawmakers from both houses and both parties piled on to demand his resignation. There were reports before Thursday that the Democrats might deprive him of his committee assignments in hopes of pushing him out of the House altogether.

Senator David Vitter was not pressured by fellow Republicans to resign after he was identified as a patron of a prostitution service. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't immediately take away Representative Charles Rangel's chairmanship of the tax-writing committee after allegations of misuse of campaign donations and tax evasion that eventually led to his censure.

We would like to think lawmakers have learned something from those episodes. We fear it was just that Mr. Weiner's offenses were particularly tabloid-worthy, his abrasive manner never won him many friends and the Democrats worried about losing his seat.







IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America's "war on drugs," which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

These recommendations are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: "Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."

These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.

This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.

The commission's facts and arguments are persuasive. It recommends that governments be encouraged to experiment "with models of legal regulation of drugs ... that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens." For effective examples, they can look to policies that have shown promising results in Europe, Australia and other places.

But they probably won't turn to the United States for advice. Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole — more than 3 percent of all American adults!

Some of this increase has been caused by mandatory minimum sentencing and "three strikes you're out" laws. But about three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980.

Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state's budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.

Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America's drug policies. At least the recommendations of the Global Commission will give some cover to political leaders who wish to do what is right.

A few years ago I worked side by side for four months with a group of prison inmates, who were learning the building trade, to renovate some public buildings in my hometown of Plains, Ga. They were intelligent and dedicated young men, each preparing for a productive life after the completion of his sentence. More than half of them were in prison for drug-related crimes, and would have been better off in college or trade school.

To help such men remain valuable members of society, and to make drug policies more humane and more effective, the American government should support and enact the reforms laid out by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.






"WHAT was he thinking?" That's the question columnists, talking heads and my (mostly female) friends have been asking about Representative Anthony D. Weiner of New York, who announced Thursday that he would resign, just over a week after admitting he'd sent sexually explicit photographs and messages to women over the Internet.

Sadly, that question has been asked of a dizzying number of unfaithful men in recent memory: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton ... the list goes on and on.

The conventional answer is that when it comes to sex, a certain kind of man, no matter how intelligent, doesn't think at all; he just acts. Somehow a need for sexual conquest, female adulation and illicit and risky liaisons seems to go along with drive, ambition and confidence in the "alpha male." And even if we denounce him and hound him from office, we tend to accept the idea that power accentuates the lusty nature of men.

This conception of masculinity is relatively new, however. For most of Western history, the primary and most valued characteristic of manhood was self-mastery. Late antique and Roman writers, like Plutarch, lauded men for their ability to resist sexual temptation and control bodily desire through force of will and intellect. Too much sex was thought to weaken men: a late-15th-century poem mocks an otherwise respectable but overly sexually active burgess who has "wasted and spent" his "substance" until there is "naught left but empty skin and bone."

Rampant sexuality was something men were supposed to grow out of: in medieval political theory, young male bodies were used as symbols of badly run kingdoms. A man who indulged in excessive eating, drinking, sleeping or sex — who failed to "rule himself" — was considered unfit to rule his household, much less a polity.

Far from seeming "manly," aggressive sexuality was associated with women. In contrast to the Victorian view of women that is still influential today, ancient and medieval writers described women as consumed by lust and sexual desire. In 1433, officials in Florence charged with regulating women's dress and behavior sought "to restrain the barbarous and irrepressible bestiality of women who, not mindful of the weakness of their nature, forgetting that they are subject to their husbands, and transforming their perverse sense into a reprobate and diabolical nature, force their husbands with their honeyed poison to submit to them."

Because of this association of sexuality with femaleness, men who failed to control their sexual urges or were susceptible to feminine attractions found their masculinity challenged. Marc Antony was roundly mocked as having been "softened and effeminized" by his desire for Cleopatra. When the king and war hero Pedro II of Aragon spent the night before a battle not in prayer or council but in bed with a woman, he was labeled effeminate.

Few of us would wish to revive these notions or endorse medieval misogyny. But in the face of recent revelations about the reckless and self-indulgent sexual conduct of so many of our elected officials, it may be worth recalling that sexual restraint rather than sexual prowess was once the measure of a man.

How and why have we moved so far from this ideal? Why do so many powerful men take sexual risks that destroy their families and careers? Contemporary worship of youth is one explanation: rather than shunning the idea of childishness, many adults, male and female, now spend much of their time clinging to an illusory and endless adolescence. The ability to be a "player" well into middle age thus becomes a point of pride, rather than shame, for the modern man. Perhaps the erosion of men's exclusive status as breadwinners and heads of households also figures in: when one no longer "rules the household," there may be less motivation for or satisfaction in "ruling oneself."

But in the face of recent headlines I find myself less inclined to analyze or excuse current mores than to echo medieval ones. The critics of Pedro II of Aragon would have turned Arnold Schwarzenegger's own words against him and his kind: Who are the girlie men now?

Sara Lipton, an associate professor of history at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, is a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.






Most political scandals involve people who are not really enmeshed in the Washington establishment — people like Representative Anthony Weiner or Representative William Jefferson. Most scandals involve spectacularly bad behavior — like posting pictures of your private parts on the Web or hiding $90,000 in cash in your freezer.

But the most devastating scandal in recent history involved dozens of the most respected members of the Washington establishment. Their behavior was not out of the ordinary by any means.

For that reason, the Fannie Mae scandal is the most important political scandal since Watergate. It helped sink the American economy. It has cost taxpayers about $153 billion, so far. It indicts patterns of behavior that are considered normal and respectable in Washington.

The Fannie Mae scandal has gotten relatively little media attention because many of the participants are still powerful, admired and well connected. But Gretchen Morgenson, a Times colleague, and the financial analyst Joshua Rosner have rectified that, writing "Reckless Endangerment," a brave book that exposes the affair in clear and gripping form.

The story centers around James Johnson, a Democratic sage with a raft of prestigious connections. Appointed as chief executive of Fannie Mae in 1991, Johnson started an aggressive effort to expand homeownership.

Back then, Fannie Mae could raise money at low interest rates because the federal government implicitly guaranteed its debt. In 1995, according to the Congressional Budget Office, this implied guarantee netted the agency $7 billion. Instead of using that money to help buyers, Johnson and other executives kept $2.1 billion for themselves and their shareholders. They used it to further the cause — expanding their clout, their salaries and their bonuses. They did the things that every special-interest group does to advance its interests.

Fannie Mae co-opted relevant activist groups, handing out money to Acorn, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other groups that it might need on its side.

Fannie ginned up Astroturf lobbying campaigns. In 2000, for example, a bill was introduced that threatened Fannie's special status. The Coalition for Homeownership was formed and letters poured into Congressional offices opposing the bill. Many signatories of the letter had no idea their names had been used.

Fannie lavished campaign contributions on members of Congress. Time and again experts would go before some Congressional committee to warn that Fannie was lowering borrowing standards and posing an enormous risk to taxpayers. Phalanxes of congressmen would be mobilized to bludgeon the experts and kill unfriendly legislation.

Fannie executives ginned up academic studies. They created a foundation that spent tens of millions in advertising. They spent enormous amounts of time and money capturing the regulators who were supposed to police them.

Morgenson and Rosner write with barely suppressed rage, as if great crimes are being committed. But there are no crimes. This is how Washington works. Only two of the characters in this tale come off as egregiously immoral. Johnson made $100 million while supposedly helping the poor. Representative Barney Frank, whose partner at the time worked for Fannie, was arrogantly dismissive when anybody raised doubts about the stability of the whole arrangement.

Most of the people were simply doing what reputable figures do in service to a supposedly good cause. Johnson roped in some of the most respected establishment names: Bill Daley, Tom Donilan, Joseph Stiglitz, Dianne Feinstein, Kit Bond, Franklin Raines, Larry Summers, Robert Zoellick, Ken Starr and so on.

Of course, it all came undone. Underneath, Fannie was a cancer that helped spread risky behavior and low standards across the housing industry. We all know what happened next.

The scandal has sent the message that the leadership class is fundamentally self-dealing. Leaders on the center-right and center-left are always trying to create public-private partnerships to spark socially productive activity. But the biggest public-private partnership to date led to shameless self-enrichment and disastrous results.

It has sent the message that we have hit the moment of demosclerosis. Washington is home to a vertiginous tangle of industry associations, activist groups, think tanks and communications shops. These forces have overwhelmed the government that was originally conceived by the founders.

The final message is that members of the leadership class have done nothing to police themselves. The Wall Street-Industry-Regulator-Lobbyist tangle is even more deeply enmeshed.

People may not like Michele Bachmann, but when they finish "Reckless Endangerment" they will understand why there is a market for politicians like her. They'll realize that if the existing leadership class doesn't redefine "normal" behavior, some pungent and colorful movement will sweep in and do it for them.

Paul Krugman is off today.







LATELY, the Sun has been behaving a bit strangely. In 2008 and 2009, it showed the least surface activity in nearly a century. Solar flare activity stopped cold and weeks and months went by without any sunspots, or areas of intense magnetism. Quiet spells are normal for the Sun, but researchers alive today had never seen anything like that two-year hibernation.

Now that the Sun is approaching the peak of its magnetic cycle, when solar storms — blasts of electrically charged magnetic clouds — are most likely to occur, no one can predict how it will behave. Will solar activity continue to be sluggish, or will solar storms rage with renewed vigor?

Luckily, policy makers are paying attention to space weather. Late last month, President Obama and the British prime minister David Cameron announced that the United States and Britain will work together to create "a fully operational global space weather warning system." And just last week, the United Nations pledged to upgrade its space weather forecasts.

But most people have never heard of space weather, which is a problem, because both high and low solar activity have serious effects on life on Earth.

Modern society depends on a variety of technologies that are susceptible to the extremes of space weather. Spectacular explosions on the Sun's surface produce solar storms of intense magnetism and radiation. These events can disrupt the operation of power grids, railway signaling, magnetic surveying and drilling for oil and gas. Magnetic storms also heat the upper atmosphere, changing its density and composition and disrupting radio communications and GPS units. The storms' charged particles can be a hazard to the health of astronauts and passengers on high altitude flights.

Severe storms in 1989 and 2003 caused blackouts in Canada and Sweden. In 1859, a solar super storm sparked fires in telegraph offices. Such storms are predicted every century or so, and perhaps we're overdue. According to a 2008 National Academies report, a once-in-a-century solar storm could cause the financial damage of 20 Hurricane Katrinas.

A quiet Sun causes its own problems. During the two-year quiet spell, our upper atmosphere, normally heated and inflated by the Sun's extreme ultraviolet radiation, cooled off and shrank. This altered the propagation of GPS signals and slowed the rate of decay of space debris in low Earth orbit. In addition, the cosmic rays that are normally pushed out to the fringes of the solar system by solar explosions instead surged around Earth, threatening astronauts and satellites with unusually high levels of radiation.

The more we know about solar activity, the better we can protect ourselves. The Sun is surrounded by a fleet of spacecraft that can see sunspots forming, flares crackling and a solar storm about 30 minutes before it hits Earth. NASA and the National Science Foundation have also developed sophisticated models to predict where solar storms will go once they leave the Sun, akin to National Weather Service programs that track hurricanes and tornadoes on Earth. Thanks to these sentries, it is increasingly difficult for the Sun to take us by surprise.

If alerted, Internet server hubs, telecommunications centers and financial institutions can prepare for disruptions and power plant operators can disconnect transformers.

But what good are space weather alerts if people don't understand them and won't react to them? Consider the following: If anyone should be familiar with the risks of space weather, it's a pilot. During solar storms, transpolar flights are routinely diverted because the storms can disrupt the planes' communications equipment. And yet a space weather forecaster we know at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration often tells a story of a conversation he had with a pilot:

Pilot: "What do you do for a living?"

Forecaster: "I forecast space weather."

Pilot: "Really? What's that?"

The point of the story is to highlight how far the scientific community and the government have to go to raise awareness about space weather and its effects.

With the sun waking up, trans-Atlantic cooperation comes at just the right time. Let us hope it is only the beginning of a worldwide effort to forecast and understand space weather.

Madhulika Guhathakurta is a solar physicist at NASA. Daniel N. Baker is the director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. These views are their own.







A recent meeting in Istanbul discussed whether the so-called "middle powers," both traditional and emerging ones, could play a role in dealing with today's global problems. Participants were from Australia, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland, Japan, Indonesia and South Africa. A few more countries could be added to this list. It is clear that these "new" actors are playing roles on a regional scale as well as in the global arena. They build coalitions across the regions, as we have seen in the failed attempt of Brazil and Turkey in the Iran nuclear swap agreement. This is a response to the increasing interconnectedness among different regions and issues across the world due to globalization.

The meeting explored the possibilities of cooperation and coordination between these countries in playing constructive roles in world politics. Thus the constructive powers are those countries that are able and willing to play roles beyond their borders and are accepted as legitimate players by others. Material attributes, such as geographical location, military and economic capabilities, are important, but the non-material attributes, such as soft power and recognition by others, also carry weight. They are also more inclined to play certain roles; emphasize multilateral diplomacy, engagement, facilitation and build coalitions. They are active in peace-keeping and peace-building activities.

There are other commonalities of constructive powers: They are democratic countries, none of them are nuclear powers and, except Switzerland, all of these countries are members of the G-20.

However, questions still remain: Do these countries have the collective capacity to identify and solve problems? Is it possible for them to act together? What are the limits of cooperation among them? Can they play critical roles only on a case-by-case basis? Or can they develop general perspectives on global governance?

More importantly, should their role be just to manage global order, in a way, acting like firefighters to extinguish fires? Or should they promote new understandings of global politics, particularly with regard to security and economic issues? One major problem is the democratization of current international institutions, which affects their legitimacy. Could they effect a change in that regard? The answers of these questions are still not clear.

Why is Turkey considered one of these countries? Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has become more willing to take an active approach beyond its borders – even in areas of less direct interest. Turkey's increasing activism has started to focus on playing more constructive roles and promoting a network of political and economic relations.

Turkey is more involved in international organizations, such as its membership in the U.N. Security Council, a first since 1961, the post of Secretary General in the Organization of Islamic Countries, permanent observer status in Organization of American States, Organization of African Union, plus dialogue and partnership with ASEAN. Turkey has also been eager to take independent initiatives. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, Iraq's Neighbors Initiative and the stability pact proposals for the Balkans and the Caucasus are just a few examples. Similarly, Turkey has shown more willingness to get involved in mediation activities, between Israel and Syria, among Iraqi groups, Lebanese parties, Palestinian groups, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bosnia and Serbia and in the Iranian nuclear issue.

Participation in peace-keeping and peace-building operations has also become an important characteristic of Turkish foreign policy. According to the U.N., Turkey is presently among the top 15 nations contributing civilian police forces to the U.N. peace-keeping missions.

But Turkey has also failed in some of these roles. The mediation activities in most cases did not bear fruit. Some regional initiatives could not take off. Thus, there are limitations to what constructive powers alone can do. In fact, the Turkish case shows the possibilities and limitations of constructive powers. Turkey can be more influential when it acts together with the EU and other like-minded states in dealing with regional and global challenges.





Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan got a clear victory in the June 12 elections, yet unlike former ballot victories he seems to be refraining from an exaggerated celebration, decorated with bitter rhetoric.

Instead, at least for now he keeps his promise he gave in his victory speech that "today is the day for mutual forgiveness." Yesterday he withdrew all the court cases he opened against journalists, writers and politicians on claims they insulted him.

After the election night statements, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, officials and joyful ministers patiently kept their profile low and stayed away from giving any interviews to the media. This can only be possible with a strict directive from Erdoğan, as anyone who has some knowledge of Turkish politics would know.

One effective advisor to the government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, explained this situation yesterday as cooling down the overheated political atmosphere during the election campaign. Linking the situation with Erdoğan's withdrawal of court cases, the advisor also said Erdoğan and his team were particularly keen on not agitating the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, as Turkey prepares for a major debate over constitutional reform. That is because, despite the election victory, Erdoğan failed to get a parliamentary majority large enough to write a new constitution according to his and his party's political needs. There are calls from all over society that a new and individual freedoms-oriented constitution is necessary for Turkey, but it has to be rewritten with as wide a consensus as possible.

Hüseyin Çelik, a deputy chairman for the AK Parti, has already announced a vague schedule for the new constitution work. He said the efforts would officially begin by Oct. 1, the opening of the new term of Parliament after the summer recess. Parliament will be opened briefly for the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected members. Then following the vote of confidence in the new Cabinet, the session will be closed until the fall. Çelik said that would give enough time for all parties to work on their new constitution models.

And CHP is always a safer partner for the AK Parti for major political projects like amending or rewriting the constitution, in order to secure a consensus acceptable for a wider base in society. The Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, which is focused more on Kurdish rights, might be an easier partner for Erdoğan at first sight, but such a partnership, which might exclude both the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, might cause new fault lines in Turkey's political arena. It may cast a shadow over the new constitution, creating doubts whether the government sort of bargained for the presidential system in return for group – not individual – rights for Kurds.

The AK Parti would not like that option and would like to try once again the 2002-2005 option, where an AK Parti-CHP consensus on European Union harmonization efforts resulted in nine constitutional amendments and two major legal reforms smoothly, without causing any serious cracks among the people.

The CHP rejected a consensus commission offer by the AK Parti in 2008 under its former leadership, which was a matter of regret by its new leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. In his election campaign and post-vote speech he promised the CHP would like to contribute to the efforts toward a new constitution. Therefore, Erdoğan has a point in his efforts not to agitate Kılıçdaroğlu during the critical months before the opening of the new parliamentary term.






Senior European politicians who are trying to consider the "big picture" for Europe continue to speak up for Turkey's place in the EU sun. Two such politicians, Spain's Javier Solana and Britain's Jack Straw, felt the need again, after Sunday's elections, to voice their strong opinions on the topic.

Former Foreign Secretary Straw, quoted in The Times, said Turkey is now "the dominant actor" in its region and urged Germany and France to offer Ankara a strategic support similar to that given by the United Kingdom.

"The one looser from these elections is the EU. At a time when it desperately needs strong allies to help ensure a benign outcome to the Arab spring, it is myopic in the extreme for its leaders to appear to be turning away from the strongest, richest and most democratic state in the Middle East," said Straw.

Javier Solana, the European Union's former High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and a former Secretary General of NATO, for his part, argued that with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan elected to another term, the EU and Turkey should "reset" their negotiations for Ankara's membership bid.

Writing for "Project Syndicate," which brings together major thinkers such as Daniel Gros, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Jaswant Singh, Dominique Moisi and Joseph S. Nye - to name a few - Solana argued the following:

"The good that Turkey can bring to Europe was visible even before the 'Arab Spring.' Europe is, by definition, culturally diverse, so diversity is the EU's destiny. And, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of the people of Turkey."

But given the increasingly introverted mood Europe find itself in these days it is unlikely that such views will find much support among the weary public, in Western Europe in particular.

Neither will such support sway Turks much, given that the EU is barely on their radars now. Some polls still show the majority of Turks endorsing the notion of membership. But this does not mean Turks believe this will happen anytime soon given the resistance from France and Germany.

It was also noticeable that the EU was not mentioned once by Mr. Erdoğan during his victory speech on elections night, although he touched on a host of issues. "So why doesn't Ankara just drop its membership bid and give us all a breather," I hear right wing demagogues in Europe say.

This is highly simplistic of course, since the economic and political ties that already exist between Turkey and the EU are much deeper than some may think, even at this moment of stalled membership talks; so much so that the next AKP government is planning to establish an EU ministry.

But a simplistic question still merits a simplistic answer. Why should Ankara provide European right wingers with satisfaction? After all, as Mr. Erdoğan has said, the decision to start membership was taken unanimously by the EU.

So if there are those who want to put an end to these talks then they should work to make the EU come up with a unanimous decision to do this. Put briefly, as long as those who oppose Turkey's bid are unable to get a unanimous decision in Europe to stop Turkey's membership talks, these will trundle on somehow, despite resistance by some countries and quarters in Europe.

None of this means Europe is not important for Turkey and will not be in the future. This is after all a two-way street. It is hard to disagree therefore with Andreas Schockenhoff, who is ironically a parliamentary leader of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, that is cool to Turkey's EU membership.

Quoted by the daily Rheinische Post, Schockenhoff was reported as saying, following Sunday's elections, "Turkey has European common values, and we expect that will continue."

These are interesting words at a time when many in Europe argue that Turkey does not share European values. Erdoğan should also note these words as he heads for his third term in office.





The diagnosis is wrong.

Turkey's poor democratic standards have almost nothing to do with the country's charter. It is not because Turkey's Constitution was written by the junta three decades ago that the Crescent and Star fail to appear in the 100-to-150 range in internationally accepted rankings on gender equality, press and civil liberties – or any other democratic listing. It does so, because (a) the average Turk could not care less about freedoms, and (b) the legislation and executive branches are genetically anti-democratic.

Let's put it in reverse reasoning. For more than two decades Turkish politics operated under military tutelage. That was not because of the Turkish charter. Had it been so, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which also governed under the same charter, would not have been able to successfully end the unofficial military reign.

I am not suggesting that the new Parliament, with a record 95 percent representation of the electorate, should not rewrite the 1982 Constitution. On the contrary – it should do so; but expecting genuine democratic practice under a more democratic text would simply be over-optimism.

The proof is in the present charter.

Article 5, for example, promises "to ensure the welfare, peace and happiness of the individual and society (and) to strive for the removal of (obstacles) which restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms."

Article 6 states that "sovereignty is vested in the nation without reservation or condition."

Article 10 is one of my favorites. "All individuals are equal before the law without any discrimination irrespective of language, race, color, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect or any such consideration."

Article 20 states that "everyone has the right to demand respect for his private and family life. And Article 22 guarantees that "secrecy of communications is fundamental."

When read in 2011, Article 24 is probably the funniest in the whole charter: "Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religious belief and conviction…

"Education in religion and ethics shall be conducted under state supervision and control…

"No one shall be allowed to exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings… for the purpose of personal or political influence, or for even partially basing the fundamental, social, economic, political and legal order of the state on religious tenets."

Don't laugh, but Article 28 even claims "the press is free, and shall not be censored."

All the same, the trouble about elegant language in national charters and not-so-elegant practice is not exclusively a Turkish malady.

Let's have a little fun:

Paragraph 6 of Article 2 of another constitution dictates "negation of all forms of oppression, both the infliction of and the submission to it, and of dominance, both its imposition and its acceptance."

Paragraph 6 of Article 3 in the same constitution decrees "the elimination of all forms of despotism and autocracy."

Paragraph 7 talks about ensuring political and social freedoms while paragraphs 8 and 9 pledge "participation of the entire people in determining their political, economic, social, and cultural destiny;" and "the abolition of all forms of undesirable discrimination and the provision of equitable opportunities for all, in both the material and intellectual spheres."

And Paragraph 14 promises to secure "the multifarious rights of all citizens, both women and men, and provision of legal protection for all, as well as the equality of all before the law."

Which lucky country is that? Iran.

This is precisely why this column argued last September that:

"Constitutions are human-made (like software). And there are endless human-made means to 'hack' constitutions (like viruses). Mankind has always been more than prepared and willing to bypass, twist and corrupt even holy scriptures. In comparison, constitutions are a piece of cake…

"Constitutions do not work unless people make them work. And countries do not become decent places because their constitutions promise all possible elegance."





Behind closed doors, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and top foreign ministry, security and intelligence officials held talks Wednesday and Thursday with Hassan Turkmani, a special envoy of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and warned him of Ankara's deep concern for the future of its Arab neighbor.

Turkmani was reported to have been told plainly that his country had almost reached a "point of no return." Unless the military operation was immediately stopped, urgent and radical reforms were undertaken and some key demands of the revolting people were met, the international community might be compelled to take some measures.

According to Turkish and diplomatic officials, as of June 15, some 8,568 refugees had crossed the Syrian border into Turkey and more than half of them children. In two refugee camps in the Altınözü district of Hatay there were around 5,200 refugees, with the rest in the Yayladağ camp, in the same province, while 73 were receiving treatment in Turkish hospitals.

About 260 refugees, 108 of them Syrian and the rest Iraqis, who primarily took refuge in Syria but now felt compelled to travel to Turkey, have sought asylum from a third country.

On the Syrian side of the border thousands were reported to be gathering, increasing Turkey's anxiety that it might feel compelled to ask for international assistance to cope with the "imported human tragedy."

Turkish officials, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR, and other relevant U.N. agencies, have apparently devised three contingency plans. The first plan is based on the assumption around 10,000 refugees enter Turkey, the second envisages up to 50,000 refugees and the third assumes a mass influx of refugees from anywhere between 500,000 up to 1 million.

Under the first plan, envisioning up to 10,000 refugees, the existing infrastructure, work plan and cooperation scheme between Turkey and the "international community" would be maintained. If the situation deteriorates and number of refugees exceeds 10,000 then headed by the UNHCR, Turkey would need additional resources to cope with the humanitarian challenge. Turkish officials said besides the three camps in Hatay, contingency plans and preparations were completed for the creation of additional camps in provinces along the 800-kilometer (500-mile) Turkish-Syrian border.

The worst, of course, would be if Turkey is faced with a mass influx of refugees. If Turkey starts getting symptoms of such a development, the demined border region on each side of the joint border with Syria would be turned into a buffer zone camp under security provided by the Turkish military. Besides the crisis center in Ankara, an emergency crisis center would be opened in the region; all ministries would be placed on red alert and in regards to health, education, food, family matters, security and infrastructure, assistance of U.N. agencies, headed by the UNHCR, and the international community would be sought. The UNHCR told the Daily News on Thursday that it has completed contingency plans to assist Turkey in case of such a demand.

The "buffer zone" camp to be established under security provided by Turkish troops would be a safe haven for refugees. Though Turkey has no intention of undertaking a unilateral intervention to stop the "savagery" in the neighboring country, in Ankara talks Turkmani was clearly told should things deteriorate to that level, Syria should not blame any other country of not trying hard enough to prevent an international undertaking against Damascus.






It was about five years ago, I guess, when we visited Syria with a friend of mine who was getting ready to make an investment in the country. I remember our long conversations during which I raised some of my concerns about the country's political situation. Anyway… My friend took the risk and made quite good money until now.

Recently we got together. The Arab Spring seemed to be an Arab Storm to him. Production was interrupted; he closed down the factory. He entrusted the factory to local security guards and brought all the Turkish personnel back with him to Turkey. He was angry and impatient. "When will things settle down?" he asked - a question that lately I've been hearing more often.

First, I mentioned Afghanistan. How much time has passed since the Red Army's invasion? 32 years... That specific invasion was to lead to socialism, not democracy. Moreover, the regime that was to be constructed seemed authoritarian and discipline-oriented. It appeared to be the right fit for a fragmented social fabric. But it did not work. Nowadays, the U.S.-led coalition forces are struggling to build democracy. The monthly figure spent in Afghanistan is about $10 million. No one knows when this will possibly end and democracy will finally arrive.

Then, I mentioned Iraq, where bombs explode almost every day. I reminded him of the first Gulf War which started after Saddam invaded Kuwait. It occurred 21 years ago. God knows how many people lost their lives and how much money had been spent for this war. Then it was clear to us that the objective of a "stable Iraq" was replaced with the task of promoting democracy.

So, we returned to our initial question on the future of Syria. First of all, we questioned the motives behind the insurgency. Then we considered the possibility of an escalation in the short run. I reviewed the current political actors, political system, beneficiaries, and such institutions as the Baath Party, the Parliament, the Army, and intelligence services. I tried to answer the question, "When was the last time a Syrian government was peacefully replaced by the opposition?" Then I examined the tribal system, social system, ethnic and sectarian cleavages. I reconsidered the still vivid memory of atrocities. Add to this list the current international conjuncture, the concerned international public opinion, and all the high-spirited political speeches.

I ended up with David Galula, the famous theorist of insurgency. It is true that there are many reasons behind insurgency. When an insurgency starts, the initial cause immediately loses its eminence, says Galula. New struggles produce their own daily motivations.

As more and more refugees crowd and cross the Turkish-Syrian border, I can see that the initial causes of the insurgency have begun to lose their force. Nobody talks about democracy anymore. Those women and children who managed to cross to the Turkish side talk about bread and the fathers and husbands they left behind. As more lives are lost, the insurgency starts to produce its own causes. Spreading beyond the Turkish border, this has become an internationalized insurgency, too. It seems that, like the above-mentioned examples, it will last for years. To conclude; my friend's factory will not be producing anything for a long time.






It was about five years ago, I guess, when we visited Syria with a friend of mine who was getting ready to make an investment in the country. I remember our long conversations during which I raised some of my concerns about the country's political situation. Anyway… My friend took the risk and made quite good money until now.

Recently we got together. The Arab Spring seemed to be an Arab Storm to him. Production was interrupted; he closed down the factory. He entrusted the factory to local security guards and brought all the Turkish personnel back with him to Turkey. He was angry and impatient. "When will things settle down?" he asked - a question that lately I've been hearing more often.

First, I mentioned Afghanistan. How much time has passed since the Red Army's invasion? 32 years... That specific invasion was to lead to socialism, not democracy. Moreover, the regime that was to be constructed seemed authoritarian and discipline-oriented. It appeared to be the right fit for a fragmented social fabric. But it did not work. Nowadays, the U.S.-led coalition forces are struggling to build democracy. The monthly figure spent in Afghanistan is about $10 million. No one knows when this will possibly end and democracy will finally arrive.

Then, I mentioned Iraq, where bombs explode almost every day. I reminded him of the first Gulf War which started after Saddam invaded Kuwait. It occurred 21 years ago. God knows how many people lost their lives and how much money had been spent for this war. Then it was clear to us that the objective of a "stable Iraq" was replaced with the task of promoting democracy.

So, we returned to our initial question on the future of Syria. First of all, we questioned the motives behind the insurgency. Then we considered the possibility of an escalation in the short run. I reviewed the current political actors, political system, beneficiaries, and such institutions as the Baath Party, the Parliament, the Army, and intelligence services. I tried to answer the question, "When was the last time a Syrian government was peacefully replaced by the opposition?" Then I examined the tribal system, social system, ethnic and sectarian cleavages. I reconsidered the still vivid memory of atrocities. Add to this list the current international conjuncture, the concerned international public opinion, and all the high-spirited political speeches.

I ended up with David Galula, the famous theorist of insurgency. It is true that there are many reasons behind insurgency. When an insurgency starts, the initial cause immediately loses its eminence, says Galula. New struggles produce their own daily motivations.

As more and more refugees crowd and cross the Turkish-Syrian border, I can see that the initial causes of the insurgency have begun to lose their force. Nobody talks about democracy anymore. Those women and children who managed to cross to the Turkish side talk about bread and the fathers and husbands they left behind. As more lives are lost, the insurgency starts to produce its own causes. Spreading beyond the Turkish border, this has become an internationalized insurgency, too. It seems that, like the above-mentioned examples, it will last for years. To conclude; my friend's factory will not be producing anything for a long time.








For years beyond count journalists and members of the media in general have suffered death upon death at the hands of unknown assailants. The registration of a case is unusual, let alone anybody being arrested or arraigned before the courts. Today there is a whiff of the wind of accountability in the air; the police and 'agencies' are finding they are no longer able to operate unchallenged or with impunity. For the men and women of the media, the sticking point has finally been reached with the murder of Saleem Shahzad, the investigative journalist whose tortured body was found two days after he had been abducted in Islamabad. There is a strong suspicion amongst his colleagues that Shahzad was killed because of what he had written, of the linkages he had exposfuroureed between members of the security apparatus and extremist elements. News of the murder caught the attention of the wider world. Shahzad had an international profile, and his work was well-known outside Pakistan. The government eventually condemned the murder but, as is usual, waited to see if the furoure was going to die down – it didn't. Shahzad's death is not one that can be brushed under the carpet.

Journalists' protests got louder, support for their cause grew and hundreds of journalists marched on Constitution Avenue on Wednesday to demand a judicial commission of investigation – they then sat down beside Parliament House and refused to move until the government gave in to their demands. Early on Thursday morning it appeared that they had got their way with the announcement that Prime Minister Gilani had signed the summary for the judicial commission to probe the killing. It will be headed by Justice Saqib Nisar of the Supreme Court and also includes the president of the Pakistan Union of journalists. The commission is to report in six weeks. But all was not as it seemed and true to form, the government was playing dirty. There had been no consultation with the chief justice or with the judge announced as head of the commission, and it would appear that the government is deliberately trying to make the issue controversial. The commission will get tangled in procedural and legal impediments and will fail to materialise. The journalists are muzzled, the truth remains hidden, and the guilty may get away scot-free once again. Justice Nisar said he was willing to head the commission if it had the approval of the CJP, but there was no word as to whether the government was prepared to follow procedure and consult with the CJP. It is unlikely that the government has any real investment in the truth emerging about Shahzad's murder, any more than it wants the truth about the murder of any journalist to be revealed. But it is up against a people sick to death of being lied to and deceived, and a media that this time is not going to let go. Truths, even the most unpleasant ones, have a way of finding their way out.






Inspector-General Sindh Fayaz Leghari and Director-General Sindh Rangers Major-General Ijaz Chaudhry have been removed from their posts following the killing of an unarmed youth by paramilitary soldiers on June 8. The move follows a Supreme Court order that they be removed from their posts within three days. However, there is little to suggest this action means they have been or will be suspended from service. Six Rangers personnel and seven others involved in the extrajudicial killing have also been remanded in police custody. They face murder and terrorism charges. In another positive move, the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court has ordered a departmental inquiry into the manhandling by two policemen of Dr Baqir Shah, the police surgeon who conducted autopsy on the victims of the Kharotabad shooting. Similarly, the Lahore High Court has taken suo motu notice of the murder of 22-year-old Shahbaz Butt by policemen in what is alleged to be a fake encounter.

The Lahore High Court chief justice was correct in noting that the killings in Kharotabad, Karachi, and now in Lahore, at the hands of the police and Rangers have given rise to an intense sense of insecurity among the people and the image of law-enforcement agencies has badly suffered on account of their callous misconduct. It is worth mentioning here that the newly inducted CCPO Lahore is reported to have directed the police to adopt offensive policing against criminals, which many say has made police officials trigger-happy. Around seven accused have been killed in staged encounters since the CCPO assumed charge. All these transgressions have attracted criticism of law-enforcement agencies already under fire from the public. Already in the thick of public suspicion, one would think they would have better sense than to display increasing arrogance and heavy-handedness. But these ever-increasing incidents of brutality continue because they are symptomatic of a larger problem: lack of democratic accountability in police functioning. When protectors become predators, civilised society ceases to exist. Transparency of action and accountability of police, Rangers, and other such agencies are thus important safeguards which courts and rulers must insist upon in order to once again make the police accountable to the communities they work for.








Corps commanders? Our guardians seem more like cry commanders these days, wearing their anger and hurt on their sleeves and refusing to come out of the sulk into which they went after Abbottabad...a place destined from now on to be less associated with Major Abbott and more with that warrior of Islam from whose parting kick we have yet to recover, Osama bin Laden.

True, May has been a cruel month for the army and Pakistan, with troubles coming not in single spies but entire battalions: the Mehran attack, Frontier Corps marksmanship in Quetta, Sindh Rangers zeal in Karachi, and the death by torture of the journalist Saleem Shahzad... this last bearing all the hallmarks of insanity tipping over the edge.

Which raw nerves had his reporting touched? Who could have kidnapped him on a stretch of road probably the securest in Islamabad? Mossad, RAW, the CIA, the Taliban? Definite proof we don't have but circumstances point in an uncomfortable direction. If this is another conspiracy against Pakistan we ourselves have written its script.

Still, since when was sulking an answer to anything? It may suit kids and pretty girls but it makes an army command look silly, especially one prone to take itself so seriously.

Terseness should be a quality of military writing: that and precision. The rambling nature of the statement issued after last week's corps commanders' conference is likely to leave one baffled. It rails against the "perceptual biases" of elements out to drive a wedge between the army and the nation; contains such bromides as the need for national unity; and in part reads like a thesis on Pak-US relations, which it should not have been for the corps commanders to delineate in public.

The army has "perceptual biases" of its own. It should keep them to itself.

The National Defence University, one of the biggest white elephants in a city dedicated to this species, seems to be an idea ahead of its time. Pakistani generals putting on intellectual airs is no laughing matter. Half our troubles can be traced to 'intellectual' generals.

Admittedly, these are troubling times for Pakistan and the army command post-Osama is under a great deal of pressure. But the answer to this should be grace under pressure, coolness under fire, rather than desperation and hurt pride.

There are legitimate questions arising from the discovery of Bin Laden's hideaway in Abbottabad. We should answer them without losing our cool. And, preferably, we should avoid the temptation of climbing the rooftops and beating the drums of national pride and dignity. Why is it so difficult for us to understand that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have compromised our sovereignty more than all the drones fired by the CIA?

And, please, let's get rid of the notion that Islamist militancy is a response to the American presence in this region. Uncomfortable as this truth may be, Pakistan had become the crossroads of international jihad much before 9/11 and the subsequent American invasion of Afghanistan. The ISI was up to its neck with Afghan and Kashmir jihad much before these events. It won't do to hide our heads in the sand and pretend that none of this happened or that the world is responsible for our woes.

In fact it is the other way round. The CIA footprint in Pakistan is a response to the jihadi footprint in this country. The Raymond Davises came afterwards. The flaming warriors of Al-Qaeda and its local affiliates, many of them trained and nurtured by the army and its subordinate agencies, came earlier. And if we are to be honest with ourselves, the CIA footprint, unconscionably large as it may be, could never come close to the enormous dimensions of the jihadi footprint on the variegated landscape of the Islamic Republic.

If half the passion the army is now showing in defence of national sovereignty in the wake of the Abbottabad embarrassment, had been displayed against Al-Qaeda-inspired jihadism we wouldn't have been in the mess we are in now.

The world has moved on, other concerns have risen to the fore and no one, anywhere, has any patience for these games any more. They just don't fit into the framework of present-day events. Why can't we move on?

Let's disabuse ourselves of another notion. There is no international conspiracy against Pakistan. We are not that important an international player to merit that kind of attention. No one is eyeing the nebulous frontiers of our sovereignty. We are the authors of our own troubles and the sooner the army command starts accepting the truth of this the sooner can begin the task of rectification.

Let us be firm with the Americans. Let us not allow them the freedom of our country. But at the same time it makes little sense to go out of our way to pick quarrels with them. It is fine to arrest local informants who may have helped the CIA to reach Osama bin Laden's doorstep in Afghanistan. But this will be more convincing if some of our anger is also directed at our own failure to get a whiff of his presence in Abbottabad.

Five long years secreted in a compound that should have excited the suspicion of the local police station let alone our vaunted intelligence outfits. So whether we like it or not there is a case to answer and this is best done calmly instead of going red in the face.

A line should also be drawn between the larger national interest and individual discomfiture. Abbottabad was not only deeply embarrassing for Pakistan as a whole. At a personal level it must have been deeply distressing for the army chief, Gen Kayani, and the ISI head, Lt Gen Pasha. They had confronted the CIA in the Raymond Davis affair, lecturing their American counterparts about violated sovereignty and the dictates of national honour. The Americans, knowing more than we did about the trail leading to Osama bin Laden, took our inflamed looks and angry words lying down. And our senior commanders puffed up their chests in the belief that they were standing up to the Americans.

Gen Kayani declared that the back of terrorism had been broken. At a ceremony in the GHQ to remember our dead and wounded in the war in Fata, he said that prosperity could not be bought at the expense of national honour. And then May 2 came and the wind was taken out of our sails. The army command was shell-shocked and did not know what to say. Statements coming out of the Foreign Office and the GHQ soon after the American operation make for awkward reading.

Even so, whatever the blow to individual egos, Pakistan's interests vis-à-vis the US should be projected with as little rancour and bitterness, and as much equanimity and composure, as possible. Our differences with the US should not be personalised.

True, this is not the time to attack the army or the ISI. Harsh winds are buffeting Pakistan from all directions and we will face them if all of us stand together. But the army command should also emerge from the deep bunker it went into after Abbottabad. It must emerge into the light and adjust itself to the new state of play.

It would also help if the Foreign Office, instead of always taking its cue from elsewhere, were to learn to think for itself. We do no favour to India by talking to it. It is in our interest as well. India would push its own agenda, which may be Mumbai or anything, as it has every right to do. We should push our agenda. But prior to foreign secretary-level talks what is the use of proclaiming through a loudspeaker that Kashmir was the "core issue" and it was imperative to discuss it? Do we want to step into the future or are we determined to stay in the past?









We are once again passing through a national crisis where everything seems to be going wrong. The Abbottabad incident, the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, the killing of a brave journalist and the cold-blooded murder of a young man in broad daylight by the Rangers are the latest manifestations of that crisis. The leadership is paralysed, the situation is alarming that it is a wakeup call for us to do something, besides merely talking about our problems.

It is an opportunity to take stock of the situation and move forward with determination, guided by well considered plans. It is only this approach which will help us face the growing multitude of challenges our nation is facing for so many years. Many individuals amongst our leading politicians, senior bureaucrats and military leaders have the capacity to develop the workable solutions required for Pakistan to emerge from its crisis.

If we do not subdue the militancy with determination, terrorism and militancy have the potential of destroying Pakistan from within. Before we even begin to fight the militancy on the scale required to contain and ultimately eliminate the menace, a truly effective intelligence network should be in place. And to be effective, our intelligence needs to move out of the past and be prepared to face the challenges of the future.

We should create a professional institution committed to serving the nation. It should be firmly under the control of the political leadership, and with parliamentary oversight.

Before we reform our intelligence, it is imperative that we define and understand the security challenges our nation is facing, both internal and external.

The second important step would be to tabulate the components of the existing intelligence network, including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Special Branch and the police, and understand their respective roles and structures.

Today the primary and immediate security threat to our national security is internal, in the form of the militancy. In the prevailing geopolitical environment around Pakistan our neighbours and global powers play important and often negative roles. Besides the primary threat of militancy, we face a number of external threats. Almost every time there is a linkage between the external and internal threat. Pakistan has to walk through this internal and external minefield, not only to survive but also to thrive as a nation.

It is not possible to give a comprehensive presentation on the threats being faced by our nation. But a proper threat analysis is critical to the development of a broader response and to reform our intelligence assets to face the security threats of the future.

There are a host of intelligence assets within our country but I will only focus on the major assets we possess and propose some corrective action. Let me clarify that my focus is purely on intelligence and not investigative assets, though most times there is a direct relationship between the two and many times major investigative agencies have their own intelligence assets.

The ISI is, of course, the best known of our intelligence as the super agency and many foreign analysts call it a state within a state. Others have rated it as the top agency in the world. Since the Abbottabad incident it has come under severe criticism both externally and internally. When established after independence, its primary role was in the area of defence – to develop the capacity to deal with the current and future military threats to Pakistan. In addition, the ISI conducts counterintelligence to protect our armed forces from hostile actions by foreign intelligence agencies. It is comparable to the Defence Intelligence (DIA) of the United States. The leadership of the ISI is provided by officers of the armed forces.

However, for a number of reasons, over the years the ISI has grown into the primary intelligence agency of Pakistan with an enviable reputation and a global role. There are a number of reasons for the phenomenal growth of the ISI. The basic reason is the trust that the military rulers of Pakistan have had in the ISI. In fact, an effort was made by the military rulers to militarise the IB. I recollect the appointment of Gen Agha Neik as the head of the IB by Gen Ziaul Haq. Because of the efficiency of the ISI, even civilian rulers placed greater reliance on the ISI. Surprisingly, a popular civilian leader gave the role of political espionage to the ISI.

In the undeclared war to defeat the Soviet forces in Afghanistan after their invasion of the country in December 1979, the ISI played a successful and pivotal role in dealing with the Afghan crisis in accordance with Pakistan's national interests. However, many analysts in Pakistan today feel that our participation in this war was a grievous error. The war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan gave a major impetus to the growth of the ISI. As a result of that, the ISI has now become the CIA of Pakistan. The director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence reports directly to the prime minister of Pakistan.

The second important intelligence agency at the federal level is the Intelligence Bureau. The IB generally receives its leadership from the police, although a number of army officers headed it from time to time since 1980s. The IB is the oldest and the only federal intelligence agency Pakistan inherited on its creation. Its roots are believed to go back to the 19th century when the British tasked it to collect intelligence for operations against highway robbers known as thugs.

The IB still feels akin to MI5 and MI6 of the British intelligence system. Unfortunately, as the ISI grew in stature, the role of the IB diminished. Today the IB is a junior partner to the ISI. However, even though its external operations were curtailed, the IB still has a fairly broad role in national security. I feel these external operations need to be restored. The IB's director general also reports directly to the prime minister.

To be continued

The writer is a former national security








Pakistan has a strange history of strongly directed, self-centred, military rule followed by a democratic drift into an abyss; it is, once again, in the midst of a drift, like a ship without a captain. If logic dictates historical necessity, then the next military coup should not be too far.

This is not a forecast, just a possible outcome of the current so-called democratic experiment, which is perhaps the greatest watershed in the political history of this unfortunate nation where genuine leadership has been as rare as the legendary Huma bird.

One does not need to turn to fortune tellers to see where the country is going; the drift itself is so obviously toward a certain chaos which will leave nothing intact in an already fragmented polity.

One can understand how the ruling party has led the country into this state, but it is hard to understand the impotency of the official as well as unofficial opposition. In more concrete terms, all that the country has is empty bombast, being issued from the frothy mouths of the entire spectrum of those who constitute "opposition".

The froth intensifies with each US drone attack; each extra-judiciary murder adds to the empty chatter of those who are outside the government. Recall Imran Khan's sit-in stint over a month ago: he gave one whole month to the government and vowed to march onto Islamabad if drone attacks did not stop. Then he disappeared from the scene. Look at the statements being issued by the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership: it is always the next drone attack after which they will do something.

And if anyone had any hope in the official "opposition", then it is sufficient to see what happened to Nawaz Sharif's three-day ultimatum for the constitution of a commission to probe the Abbottabad event. In fact, one must be living in a fool's paradise if one is unable to see that Nawaz Sharif is a broken man, a lion without teeth. Yet, all of these are merely etceteras in the long march of history; Pakistan's real dilemma is graver than the failure of individuals; it is its chocking political environment which has not allowed any real political development over the last 64 years.

Pakistan never had a chance for the independent growth of a political culture based on talent, commitment, and vision. Part of the problem is the psyche of its people: Pakistanis have always been looking for a messiah, a hero who would come and take them out of their abysmal state. Since the expectation has been there, false hero-cum-messiahs have come and gone, without solving anything. In fact, every such messiah has left behind a bigger mess.

Since there has never been any growth of a genuine political culture, people have always voted for a Bhutto or a Sharif and having done their part, have waited for the messiah to deliver. Since there is no concept of a genuine political process that allows individuals to come forward, grow, learn, and eventually provide leadership, the half-literates who come forward as candidates during elections all remain hostage to a dozen or so tiring faces who hurl the generality of their rank and file like cattle. No one has a voice except their master's voice and no one represents anyone but their own bosses and their interests.

This state of political underdevelopment could have been rationalised 20 years ago, but now that there is a sizeable young and educated population, it is hard to rationalise and understand Pakistan's political vacuum except by recourse to an overwhelming hopelessness that is spread all over the country. This death of hope is not circumstantial; it is embedded in history and it projects onto a future which is turning increasingly bleak by the day.

The state has nothing left; neither sovereignty nor institutions which can be relied upon: the judiciary is only able to pass verdicts which may be good for the books but which have no practical utility; the executive is utterly rudderless; passive and subordinate to the dictates of its American masters; the official opposition is impotent and the unofficial opposition is without the necessary public support which can translate its foam into substance.

In such a situation, people like Imran Khan, who used to evoke hope, have themselves become so hopeless in their empty rhetoric that it is better for them to leave the political arena and do something more respectable. That "something more respectable and meaningful" is now the only hope left for Pakistan and it is none other than what Mawlana Mawdudi abandoned in 1955: to train a new generation of Pakistanis through a well-thought of generational plan in the art of governance. This is still possible in Pakistan and this is the only hope for this country which is visibly falling apart by the day.

What this means in practical terms is a rigorous programme of education, involving a very large number of young men and women, leading to the growth of a politically conscious generation of honest and talented young people who are deeply committed to a certain vision for their country and who, moreover, understand the complex realities of our post-modern world. This new generation of Pakistanis should have analytical tools to examine the history of their unfortunate country without becoming emotional.

They need to evolve into a cohesive social and political force which can give birth to a Pakistani Spring in a decade or so. In that native spring lies the hope for a polity now hopelessly drifting in dangerous waters.

In order to start that process, we need some elders, some wise old men and women who are not interested in immediate returns, whose vision is embedded in a long historical process and who can provide a nucleus for the young generation.

People like Imran Khan, if he still has anything real to offer to this country, can also be part of this process. In fact, he can lead this generational process if he is able to come out of his self-created cul-de-sac.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:








Under tremendous pressure from abroad, we are also deeply fractured within. Political rivalries are benign compared to the real fissures that have opened up in the body politic.

The political class, in government or opposition, is not on the same page as the military. The top office holders pretend to support it because of fear but their world view, whatever of it they have, is very different. Left to themselves they would totally tow the American line and move forward on issues with India in no time.

Others, like Nawaz Sharif, may have greater caveats on the American association – without wanting to be its adversary – but on India, he and Zardari are not that far apart. In fact, strange as it may seem, given the fiery rhetoric on all sides, there is a virtual political consensus within parties in parliament on most foreign policy questions.

This unacknowledged reality of the political class having divergent views from the military on most things is a serious hindrance to common state policy in these difficult times. Add to this the deep divisions that have emerged between the country's intelligentsia and the security establishment and we have a perfect recipe for state failure.

States go under not only due to foreign aggression. Even when they lose wars, are occupied and sometimes divided, they recover because of internal unity of purpose. With everyone pulling in the same direction, the task becomes easier. Germany and Japan after the Second World War and Vietnam among the less developed countries are excellent examples

With the US and Nato as our Western neighbours, with a specific agenda that needs our cooperation, and India in the East with its demands, we are under tremendous pressure. But, ways can be found to negotiate through these minefields, if there was a semblance of unity within. The sad part is that little is being done to create it.

The way that traumatic events starting with the Osama killing in Abbottabad have been mishandled by the government is a case in point. The people want to know the truth but are being given nothing. What is the problem in appointing a commission for the Abbottabad and Mehran base issues? These can be so framed, keeping in view state security, that no damage is visited upon any state institution. Yet, there is dithering and near paralysis.

The demand for an independent inquiry into the tragic murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, has also been badly mishandled. The media traumatised by this ghastly killing and concerned about the safety of journalists, wanted an inquiry from a Supreme Court judge. Why did it take a 'dharna' in front of the parliament to convince the government?

All that these delays and prevarications in Shahzad's case have done is to make the ISI guilty by default. The implication being that it was standing in the way of an independent investigation because it had something to hide. These conjectures could have been avoided if there was immediate agreement to a judicial commission of inquiry from a Supreme Court judge.

Let us be straight. If there are elements within the ISI that are involved in Shahzad's murder, and acted without the knowledge of their superiors, they must be exposed, brought to trial and punished. Alternately, if the agency is being maligned because of its history of roughing up brave journalists like Omar Cheema, it should seize the opportunity of an independent inquiry to rehabilitate its image.

The simple point is that efforts can be made to bridge the divisions within by making an attempt to protect institutions rather than individuals. At a time when the nation is in an existential battle, it is the responsibility of those in power to choose the correct path. A few deviant individuals are not important. Even if the reputation of state institutions suffers a bit, it can be rebuilt, provided the right action is taken. Truth has a tremendous ability to reconcile.

A case in point is the arrest of Rangers personnel in the Karachi incident and the removal of the Director General Rangers and Sindh Inspector General of Police. It does not bring poor Sarfaraz Shah back to life but it satisfies the people that the guilty are being punished and those responsible for poor command and control have been removed.

The same approach needs to be taken on the Kharotabad incident and on Saleem Shahzad's tragic murder. Let the truth come out. It will not ease the pain of the tragedies but will begin the process of healing. And it is a process of national healing and coming together that we need. The political class, media, civil society, the armed forces, and indeed the people, must stand together. Otherwise, we will go through this terrible struggle for survival with internal weaknesses that will be debilitating.

What we need is a grand national dialogue between all important elements of state and society. It is true that in a democracy parliament is enough of a forum to debate all national issues. But, let us be real here. The locus of power in our country is not the parliament. It passes resolutions, even in joint sessions, that nobody cares for.

What we need is something bigger, more serious, because these are not ordinary times. Nations in existential battles need not remain wedded to form, if form does not deliver. A forum has to be created, albeit temporarily, that allows the political class, judiciary, military, media, and civil society to sit together behind closed doors and thrash out state policy on domestic and foreign policy issues.

This should be done with an agreement that nothing will come out until the final positions are worked out so that the temptation to score cheap political points is minimised. There will obviously not be complete agreement on everything but the purpose would be to build a minimum framework to deal with internal and external issues.

This proposal may seem extraordinary but special times require special solutions. What we are today is a nation divided. Not only by ethnicity, provincialism, class interests and education but by divisions within the state structure among the political class, the judiciary, and the military. There is also a disconnect between the armed forces, the media, and civil society. This is no way to go into a war, and war is what we are in.

Let the military take a lead in pushing this because the political leadership by itself would do nothing. Zardari is benignly presiding over this storm as long as he remains in office. And as far as he is concerned, things couldn't be better. The armed forces and the judiciary have been put in their place and the political challenge to him is weak. So, why should he do anything?

The country's survival needs a broad national consensus. If we do not move forward to create it, the future is bleak.









The Arab revolution has entered its second phase, which is characterised by foreign interference. The gains of the revolution go much beyond the expectations of the outside world. The people in the Arab world have broken the shackles of psychological fear and seem determined to take their destiny into their own hands.

The revolution in Egypt swept away one of the most entrenched dictatorships in the Arab world. Egypt's biggest problem, in the wake of the ouster of Hosny Mubarak, was to chart a new path to reforms. The people there have for the first time freely voted in a referendum on constitutional changes defining the framework of the country's future political order. Members of the former regime in Egypt, including the ousted president and his key cabinet figures, face trial in courts. Without their accountability, the aspiration of the Tahrir Square protestors will remain unfulfilled. The changes envisaged through the constitutional referendum include reduction in the tenure of the president from six years to four years and a limitation of two terms for the president. There will also be fewer restrictions on the nomination of a presidential candidate, and judicial supervision of the entire election process. The highest court will get the authority to arbitrate disputed election results and there will be restrictions on when the president can declare a state of emergency.

Some sceptics say that the revolution in Egypt has been hijacked by the Military Council with the collusion of the Muslim Brotherhood. But such apprehensions are baseless. The ruling council has introduced a new Political Parties Law which eases restrictions on the legal establishment of new political parties in Egypt. Parliamentary elections in Egypt are set to take place in September 2011. It may take some time for the democratic process to take roots there.

In Tunisia prospects for democracy are equally promising. Elections to the new constituent assembly of Tunisia will be held in October. Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the leader of the largest religious party, Al-Nahda, has signed an agreement with secular parties under which no restrictions will be placed on women's freedom, because Al-Nahda cannot afford to lose voters. A consensus is emerging among the political actors on what shape the new government will take. Eighty-two political parties have got themselves registered and the people will get an opportunity to exercise the right to elect their own government in the forthcoming general elections. One-party dictatorship has given way to a pluralistic culture where values of tolerance and co-existence will thrive.

Intense violence erupted in Yemen after President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to accept the power transition deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council last month. The task of orderly, peaceful and democratic transition in Yemen has been complicated by the tribal rivalries and the biggest challenge is to stop the country sliding into civil war. Despite the fact that President Saleh has left the country for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, the protests involving the youth are not likely to cease unless a complete transformation is achieved. The regional states must play a role in post-Saleh Yemen to put the country on the path to normalcy. The international military Intervention in Libya authorised under the United Nations Security Council 1973 has made things complex, but the endgame for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is not far away.

Muammar Qaddafi has set a bad precedent through his violent crackdown on demonstrators. President Bashar al-Assad is also unleashing brute force on his people. President Assad is fighting a losing battle and has forfeited his chance of exit with some semblance of dignity. His regime has been shaken to its foundations and the people will be satisfied with nothing less than a complete overhaul of the authoritarian system. The increasing use of force, intimidation and torture has strengthened the Syrian people's demands for change.

The increasing pressure for reforms has not left the kingdom of Saudi Arabia unscathed. A campaign has been launched in Saudi Arabia urging the authorities to allow women to drive cars. This campaign was started by a 32-year old Saudi woman, who has withdrawn from the protest under the coercion of state officials. But the movement will gather momentum in the days to come and King Abdullah will not be able to resist the change, like his counterparts in the neighbouring countries. King Abdullah is trying to prevent a revolution breaking out in his country. He has also unveiled a $36-billion public spending programme, but he must realise that time has come to start political reforms and give civil liberties to the people. A "new order" is born in the Arab world and these political changes will go a long way in ultimately bringing about social revolutions in Arab societies.

The writer is an advocate based in Lahore. Email:







You wake up with the timepiece ringing or just get up on your own and look at your wristwatch. You use the water tap, the washbasin, and the toilet facility. Whatever clothes you end up wearing have buttons or zippers. A cooking range, stove, microwave oven, frying pan, or toaster is used to get breakfast ready. You pop out of the house, use a car, bus, or motorbike. Your cell phone rings right then.

You may start your day by reading newspapers. At work, you use pens, computers, telephones, staplers, files, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, post-its, flipcharts and multimedia projectors. You may well be using the internet. All day long, the air conditioner, light bulbs, and other fixtures help make your work environment comfortable. There may be an electricity generator or a UPS that comes to your rescue during power cuts.

If you're in a workshop, you would use machines and various tools such as wrenches, hammers, forceps, screwdrivers and drillers. In a shop, you may be using a computerised teller. You are increasingly selling more packaged goods.

In the evening, the vehicle that takes you back home, your own or rented, stops at a petrol pump or gas station. On reaching home, you eat your food at some point, drink water from the refrigerator, play with children and chat with family or a visiting friend. Some may pick up a book or a magazine and some may listen to the loudspeaker calling for prayers and head towards the mosque. Finally, the family would get together and watch television.

A holiday arrives. You are invited to an old friend's place for lunch. After sharing nostalgic accounts of your school, village, old neighbourhood, a common workplace, health issues concerning each other's parents, cricket or some other sport, you finally resort to discussing politics.

You discuss how a great conspiracy is being hatched against the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular. That's what you get to understand from most local newspapers and a large number of primetime TV programmes conducted with commentators specialising in patriotism. They are invited and promoted by boisterous talk show anchors.

Further, you get to listen to the sermonising and moralising by televangelists who have their own channels as well as a lot of space in mainstream shows. You feel special because your belief system, culture, and way of life are morally superior to anyone else's in this world. So on a hot Sunday afternoon you resolve with your friends that Pakistanis must take on the Americans, the Indians, the West and all other profane and immoral forces. After all, you possess a nuclear device, F-16s, long range missiles and above all, an unmatched jazba (passion).

Now you see there is a problem. From the timepiece, the buttons and the zippers, the toilet, the vehicle, the office and workshop tools, the television, the loudspeaker, anything and everything that you have used from morning until evening, were invented by the same profane and immoral nations of the world over the past 400 years whom you now want to beat.

You are just a user, a consumer, a beneficiary or a copycat at the most. Even to strike down the drones, the aircraft you wish to use are made by the same people responsible for deadly drone strikes directed at parts of your country.

This can change. But unfortunately, there is no shortcut available. Hollow rhetoric is arresting your thinking and possibilities. Commit yourself to new ideas, knowledge, education, art, science, and technology. Wage a war within first - war against ignorance and bigotry.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.








PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari has said Pakistan will work together with member states of Shanghai Cooperation Organisaton (SCO) for maintaining regional peace, spreading shared prosperity and defeating terrorism. Speaking at the 10th anniversary summit of the SCO in Astana, Kazakhstan Wednesday, the President hoped that Pakistan's application for full membership will be processed expeditiously as the country intends to fully associate with all programmes of the organisation for peace and development.

The milestone summit gave the SCO member States, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and four Observer States including Pakistan a chance to review their progress so far and map out the way ahead through the adoption of Astana Declaration. Under the guidance of the "Shanghai Spirit", which endorses mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development, the SCO has expanded cooperation in political, security, economic, cultural and other fields. The SCO, over the past years has emerged as a powerful and promising organization. The group's professed purpose is to further cooperation between its members in social, cultural, security, and economic areas and stresses the goal of combating the 'Three Evils' of Terrorism, Extremism, and Separatism. As President Zardari rightly stated Pakistan belongs to the SCO region and is keenly interested to become the full member of the Organisation because it wants to cooperate with other countries in financial, banking sectors and for joint ventures in energy, infrastructure, education, scientific and technological development programmes. In the present day world regional groups like the European Union and ASEAN are playing increasingly important role and the SCO with the passage of time need to promote economic and trade relations among the member countries. Pakistan has already offered its Gwadar Port and land route, which is shortest route to China and the Central Asian Republics for trade with the rest of the world. The proposal has been welcomed by these countries and we are confident that the President's parleys with the leaders of the SCO countries would yield positive results. The SCO has great potential and we are confident that cooperation in such spheres as economy, science and technology, energy, transport and sharing of experiences in different fields would facilitate comprehensive and balanced economic growth in the region and help in maintenance of peace and stability and in raising the living standards of the peoples of the member States.








WHILE plans for construction of the vitally important and technically feasible Kalabagh Dam were arbitrarily shelved by the incumbent PPP Government on parochial considerations, the fate of other mega, medium and small dams and hydro-power projects is also uncertain because of total apathy of the rulers. Even in case of non-controversial projects, the state of indecision is costing billions to the national exchequer.

A report appearing in this newspaper reveals that construction cost of Shadi Kau dam in Balochistan has alarmingly swelled by whopping 59% to Rs 4.196 billion from original Rs 2.367 billion just because of unjustified delay in its implementation resulting into cost escalation. As is the case with the bureaucracy, the Ministry of Water and Power has attributed the increase in the cost of the project to increase in scope for work, revision of design parameters and price escalations — proverbial excuses coined to fill the stomach of official files. We have a full-fledged Ministry of Planning and Development to evaluate project proposals but despite that the process consumes indigestible time, as proposals keep on shuttling between ministries and departments and awaiting approval from competent forums. But even projects that successfully go through the cumbersome process fall victim to bureaucratic rigmarole meant to jack up the cost because of massive corruption. With the exception of some projects where foreigners like Chinese or South Koreans are involved, who are known for treating the completion deadline as sacrosanct, hardly any project is completed on time because of corrupt practices and lack of necessary monitoring and oversight. Pakistan is facing shortage of both irrigation water and electricity and the situation is complicating with the passage of time but there is no urgency in the relevant governmental circles to speed up work on construction of dams for which potential is there. President Asif Ali Zardari deserves appreciation for taking keen interest in building of dam and for this purpose he has been talking to Chinese as well but so far there is no worthwhile progress on any of the projects conceived by the present Government. It has even failed to initiate work on the highly publicised Diamer-Bhasha dam that is ripe for implementation. Delay by the previous Government in starting work on the strategically important Neelum-Jhelum project is now threatening denial of priority rights for river water as India is proceeding ahead with speed to complete work on Kishanganga project. We hope that the President and the Prime Minister would pull up relevant quarters expedite initiation of work on all feasible dams for the sake of food and energy security of the country.







JOURNALISTS, for the last few days, are understandably in a state of extreme shock and agony because of rising number of incidents of violence against media-persons. The killing of Saleem Shahzad in mysterious circumstances and death of 74 others forced them to stage a sit-in before the Parliament House in Islamabad to press for their demand for establishment of a judicial commission to probe all such incidents.

The democratic Government has been trying its level best to ensure maintenance of friction-free rather cordial relations with the press, which is rightly described as the fourth pillar of the state. In our context, the media has rendered tremendous sacrifices, along with politicians and other members of the civil society, for restoration of democracy and strengthening of its roots and independence of the judiciary. However, unfortunately, the incidents of violence against journalists are on the rise, sending alarm bells among media-persons who are suffering from a sense of insecurity. It is true that the overall law and order and security environment in the country is worrisome and life and property of citizens is not safe anywhere but journalists being ears and eyes of the society need special attention of the authorities concerned for provision of necessary security and removal of their genuine grievances. The best course would be to invite their leadership for talks on the issues involved so as to work out a strategy that addresses their concerns. If the worthy Prime Minister cannot squeeze some time from his busy schedule then luckily we have a very vibrant Information Minister in Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, who should play an instrumental role in this matter as well.









In times past, a section of society was treated as "untouchable" by the rest. They were not allowed to approach the others, and if by mistake one of them made physical contact with the "touchable" part of society, the unfortunate individual was put to death. In the south, a section of society was not merely "untouchable" but "unseeable". This lowest of the low was forced to ring bells or shout out their location, so that others may be warned to keep away. They were not allowed to use the same paths as others did, having to content themselves with moving around inside fields and jungles, out of sight of others. The rigid stratification of society - which after a while became based on birth - helped weaken the different kingdoms within the country such that they became easy prey for invaders from Afghanistan, Arabia, Central Asia and the territory that is modern-day Iran

One of the few benefits of British rule was the springing up of reform movements within the Hindu religion, many led by thinkers from Bengal. Raja Rammohun Roy and others like him understood that there was no way India could expel the British, unless society itself became more just. For millenia, learning had been confined to a small proportion of the total population. The rest were given no opportunity to study. This state of affairs continued till the Mughal era, when several from the lower orders of society discovered that they could vastly improve their status by adopting the faith of their conquerors. Of course, such individuals could not dream of equality with the Mughal princes and their retinue,just as later on Christian converts in India were still treated as inferior to the British,despite both having the same faith. However, the treatment given to them was far better than the discrimination they had endured when they were in their previous faith, a factor that encouraged a steady flow of converts for several centuries

Ever since the 1857 uprising, the British in India were reluctant to force social change,or to impose their systems and standards on those who did not want them. Hence the country had to wait till independence in 1947 for laws to get passed that criminalized discrimination on the basis of caste. A section of government jobs was set aside for those from the castes that had suffered discrimination. This was meant to be a temporary measure, but now seems to have become permanent. Thanks to such policies, many from the former "untouchable" castes got educated, and these days, include within their midst some of the country's most talented people. Since the 1990s,they have begun to vote tactically, such that in several parts of the country, chief ministers have come from their midst. An example is Chief Minister Mayawati of India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. She has proved to be an effective administrator, as well as a determined campaigner.

Should she succeed in coalescing the underprivileged across the country, she may even emerge as India's first-ever "Dalit" ( or "untouchable") Prime Minister. At present, her only challenger for such an honour is the telegenic Speaker of the Lok Sabha ( or Lower House of Parliament), Meira Kumar Meira Kumar, who entered the Indian Foreign Service due to her studious qualities, is the daughter of the late Jagjivan Ram, who for decades was a Union Cabinet Minister under successive PMs. Each portfolio that he handled was administered well. This columnist's father was in charge of rural credit at the Reserve Bank,and he used to say that he found Minister Ram to be "the most efficient member of the Cabinet". His daughter has clearly inherited these qualities, for she is handling her duties as Speaker very well, without once losing her temper. As a senior leader of the Congress Party, Meira Kumar has a chance to be the PM, except that she is scrupulously honest, and hence not popular with other party leaders, most of whom view politics as a means to riches. However, the decision on whether or not she gets selected as a replacement for Manmohan Singh is entirely in the hands of Sonia Gandhi. Of course, the choice of a non-family member to be PM is only in the event that her son Rahul decides not to take up the job. So deep-rooted is loyalty to the Nehru family within the Congress Party that Rahul Gandhi would have the support of 100% of Congress MPs,including current PM Manmohan Singh, if his mother decided to appoint him. His father Rajiv Gandhi was about the same age when he took charge of the country in 1984, and like Rahul today, Rajiv too had zero experience in government before taking up the Prime Ministership.

The steady drumbeat of scandal has lowered the chances of Home Minister Chidambaram or others in the Union Cabinet of ever replacing Manmohan Singh. Each day fresh reports of corruption are emerging, the latest being allegations of favouristism shown to two oil companies, one foreign and the other Indian. Should this scandal become too hot to handle,the way the telecom scam has developed, it is possible that some minister or the other may first be thrown out of the Union Cabinet and thereafter be sent to Tihar jail, the way the former Telecom Minister has been. The calculation would be that the sacrifice of a minister would satisfy the people and douse their anger. However, the reality in India is that although others sign on the files,the real decision-making power vests with Sonia Gandhi. Trusted officials and party members convey her commands to the ministers and even the PM. Indeed, Manmohan Singh has been honest enough to admit before television cameras that he follows the "orders of Soniaji and Rahulji"

That Sonia Gandhi frequently uses the corporate aircraft of one of the oil companies that is the subject of public attention is known to mediapersons and others in the national capital. That Sonia Gandhi, her two children and her two sisters travel extensively is equally known. Many times,such visits are made on corporate jets, although no photographer is permitted near the runway when such flights take off and land. The media in India is silent as a mouse about such travels of the First Family of the Republic.

And while the same ministers who dance to her commands get excoriated for possible corruption, Sonia Gandhi herself is kept out of controversy. Recently a Canadian diplomat even wrote in a newspaper that she was among the country's most determined corruption fighters, an image shared by the foreign media, who give her favourable coverage even as they have now begun to expose the failings of Prime Minister Singh. Indeed, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has become the new "untouchable", only this time, she is at the top of the heap rather than at the bottom. Whether it is key decisions or changes in personnel, hers is the final – often the only - say. So pervasive is her authority that many are now saying that it would be best for the constitutional fabric of the country if she were to take charge as PM, rather than - as now - exercise power without responsibility.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.








Truth is the first casualty in the fog of war. The War on Terror (WOT) being waged in Afghanistan and Pakistan is no exception. The managers of the WOT in Pakistan have their own modus operandi and checks and balances but the operations in Afghanistan are often shrouded in cloaks of conspiracy, disinformation and spin doctoring. Take the recent example of General David Petraeus, who is being kicked upstairs to becoming the head honcho in Central Intelligence Agency; in his capacity as Commander of the allied forces in Afghanistan, in August 2010, he released figures to the news media that claimed spectacular success for raids by Special Operations Forces (SOF): in a 90-day period from May through July 2010, SOF units had captured 1,355 rank-and-file Taliban, killed another 1,031, and killed or captured 365 middle- or high-ranking Taliban. The claims of huge numbers of Taliban captured and killed continued through the rest of 2010. In December, Petraeus's command said a total of 4,100 Taliban rank and file had been captured in the previous six months and 2,000 had been killed.

Those figures were critical to creating a new media narrative hailing the success of SOF operations as reversing what had been a losing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, these exaggerated claims were not based on facts, as Gareth Porter's Op-Ed titled: '90% of Petraeus's captured 'Taliban' were civilians' reveals. The correspondent discloses that it turns out that more than 80 percent of those called captured Taliban fighters were released within days of having been picked up, because they were found to have been innocent civilians, according to official U.S. military data. Even more were later released from the main U.S. detention facility at Bagram airbase called the Detention Facility in Parwan after having their files reviewed by a panel of military officers. The timing of Petraeus's claim of Taliban fighters captured or killed, moreover, indicates that he knew that four out of five of those he was claiming as "captured Taliban rank and file" were not Taliban fighters at all. Checking on the claims of the number of Taliban commanders and rank and file killed is impossible, but the claims of Taliban captured could be checked against official data on admission of detainees added to Parwan. An Afghan detained by U.S. or NATO forces can only be held in a Forward Operating Base for a maximum of 14 days before a decision must be made about whether to release the individual or send him to Parwan for longer-term detention.

The author states that the Institute of Policy Studies has now obtained an unclassified graph by Task Force 435, the military command responsible for detainee affairs, on Parwan's monthly intake and release totals for 2010, which shows that only 270 detainees were admitted to that facility during the 90-day period from May through July 2010. That figure also includes alleged Taliban commanders who were sent to Parwan and whom Petraeus counted separately from the rank and file figure. Thus, more than four out of every five Afghans said to have been Taliban fighters captured during that period had been released within two weeks as innocent civilians. When Petraeus decided in mid-August to release the figure of 1,355 Taliban rank and file allegedly captured during the 90-day period, he already knew that 80 percent or more of that total had already been released. Here are some examples of the contradiction:

Major Sunset R. Belinsky, the ISAF press officer for SOF operations, conceded last September that the 1,355 figure applied only to "initial detentions." Task Force 435 commander Adm. Robert Harward confirmed in a press briefing for journalists Nov. 30, 2010, that 80 percent of the Afghans detained by the U.S. military during the entire year to that point had been released within two weeks. "This year, in this battle space, approximately 5,500 individuals have been detained," Harward said, adding the crucial fact that "about 1,100 have come to the detention facility in Parwan."

In early December, ISAF gave Bill Roggio, a blogger for The Long War Journal Web site, the figure of more than 4,100 "enemy fighters" captured from June 1 through Nov. 30, along with 2,000 rank-and-file Taliban killed. But during those six months, only 690 individuals were sent to Parwan, according to the Task Force 435 data—17 percent of the 4,100 Taliban rank and file claimed captured as "Taliban." The total of 690 detainees also includes an unknown number of commanders counted separately by Petraeus and a large number of detainees who were later released from Parwan. Considering those two factors, the actual proportion of those claimed as captured Taliban who were found not to be part of the Taliban organization rises to 90 percent or even higher.

Three hundred forty-five detainees, or 20 percent of the 1,686 total number of those who were detained in Parwan from June through November, were released upon review of their cases, according to the same Feb. 5, 2011, Task Force document obtained by IPS. The vast majority of those released from the facility had been sent to Parwan in June or later. Detainees are released from Parwan only when the evidence against them is so obviously weak or nonexistent that U.S. officers cannot justify continuing to hold them, despite the fact that the detainees lack normal procedural rights in the "non-adversarial" hearing by the Task Force's Detainee Review.

This scribe believes that the figure of 90% of inflating claims is too high for any credible commander and cannot be brushed under the carpet. The deliberate confusion sowed by Petraeus by referring to anyone picked up for interrogation as a captured rank-and-file Taliban was a key element of a carefully considered strategy for creating a more favorable image of the war. Petraeus made sure the impact of the new SOF narrative would be maximized by presenting the total of Afghans swept up in SOF raids as actual Taliban fighters. The deceptive nature of those statistics, as now revealed by US military data, raises serious doubts about Petraeus heading a sensitive organization like the CIA.








Rajab is the seventh month in the Islamic lunar calendar. This month was regarded as one of the sacred months (Al-Ashhur-al-hurum) in which battles were prohibited in the days of the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is also a prelude to the month of Ramadan, because Ramadan follows it after the intervening month of Sha'ban. Therefore, when the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam sighted the moon of Rajab, he used to pray to Allah in the following words: "O Allah, make the months of Rajab and Sha'ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadan (i.e. prolong our life up to Ramadan, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings)."

Yet no specific way of worship has been prescribed by the Shari'ah in this month. However, some people have invented some special rituals or practices in this month, which are not supported by reliable resources of the Shari'ah or are based on some unauthentic traditions. We would like to explain here the correct position about them. It is generally believed that the great event of Mi'raj (ascension of the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam to the heavens) took place in the night of 27th of Rajab. Therefore, some people celebrate the night as "Lailatul- Mi'raj" (the night of ascension to heavens). Indeed, the event of mi'raj was one of the most remarkable episodes in the life of our beloved Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. He was called by Almighty Allah. He traveled from Makkah to Baitul-Maqdis and from there he ascended the heavens through the miraculous power of Allah. He was honored with a direct contact with his Creator at a place where even the angels had no access. This was the unique honor conferred by Allah to the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam alone. It was the climax of the spiritual progress which is not attained by anybody except him. No doubt the night in which he was blessed with this unparalleled honor was one of the greatest nights in the history of this world.

But, Islam has its own principles with regard to the historic and religious events. Its approach about observing festivals and celebrating days and nights is totally different from the approach of other religions. The Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam did not prescribe any festival or any celebration to commemorate an event from the past, however remarkable it might have been. Instead, Islam has prescribed two annual celebrations only. One is Eid-ul-Fitr and the other is Eid ul-Adha. Both of these festivals have been fixed at a date on which the Muslims accomplish a great 'ibadah (worship) every year. Eid-ul-Fitr has been prescribed after the fasts of Ramadan, while Eid-ul-Adha has been fixed when the Muslims perform the Hajj annually. None of these two eids is designed to commemorate a particular event of the past which has happened in these dates. This approach is indicative of the fact that the real occasion for a happy celebration is the day in which the celebrators themselves have accomplished remarkable work through their own active effort. As for the accomplishments of our ancestors, their commemoration should not be restricted to a particular day or night. Instead, their accomplishments must be remembered every day in the practical life by observing their teachings and following the great examples they have set for us.

Keeping this principle in view, the following points should be remembered with regard to the "Lailatul-mi'raj": (1) We cannot say with absolute certainty in which night the great event of mi'raj took place. Although some traditions relate this event to 27th night of the month of Rajab, yet there are other traditions that suggest other dates. Al-Zurqani, the famous biographer of the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam has referred to five different views in this respect: Rabi-ul-Awwal, Rabi-u-Thani, Rajab, Ramadan and Shawwal. Later, while discussing different traditions, he has added a sixth opinion, that the mi'raj took place in the month of Zulhijjah.

All these points go a long way to prove that the celebration of the 27th night of Rajab, being the lailatul-mi'raj has no basis in the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam or in the practice of his noble companions. Had it been a commendable practice to celebrate this night, the exact date of this event would have been preserved accurately by the Ummah and the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam and his blessed companions would have given specific directions for it. Therefore, it is not a Sunnah to celebrate the Lailatul-mi'raj'. We cannot declare any practice as a sunnah unless it is established through authentic sources that the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam or is noble Companions have recognized it as such, otherwise it may become a bid'ah about which the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam has observed in the following words: "Whoever invents something in our religion which is not a part of it, it is to be rejected."

It is believed by some that the Muslims should keep fast on 27th of Rajab. Although there are some traditions attributing special merits to the fast of this day yet the scholars of hadith have held these traditions as very weak and unauthentic reports which cannot be sufficient to establish a rule of Shari'ah.







The European Union was established with the aim to strengthen economic ties between the member sates and nations and preventing future conflicts in the Europe. Originally the European Union was organized as the European Coal and Steel community after the Second World War and this was the first step in the federation of Europe. Due to economic cooperation now the European Union is enjoying unprecedented economic growth and stability in the region. Today conflict is unthinkable between the member states of the European Union.

The economic integration in the region not only increase the trade volume between the member sates also reduce the chance of any conflict because of common agendas and interests in the region. At present most of the countries focused on economic diplomacy to improve growth rate, reduce poverty and conflicts. The foreign policy of China is also emphasized to encourage economic diplomacy via worldwide rendezvous. Now China is the largest exporter in the world and also largest lender to the US by actively engaging in international trade. Since, enhancing economic diplomacy China's international trade has been increasing by leaps and bounds. In 2008 its international trade volume exceeded $2.56 trillion which was 70% increase in trade volume with in last ten years. Economic diplomacy is an engine for growth of the country.

However, foreign policy of Pakistan only focused on military-strategic relation with the international communities rather than to enhance economic diplomacy. Due to constant and long ruling period of military dictatorship, the priority of our foreign relation has to increase military cooperation to strengthen our defense system. Yet regional economic integration has not been focused.

Though our relationship with China, deeper than ocean and higher than the mountain, the military-strategic cooperation is in good shape but the economic dimension is not as promising. The growth and volume of foreign trade of China with India is greater than Pakistan. In addition, Pak-US relationship has accentuated only on the base of military engagement and on aid. The increase of economic cooperation with US and EU has not been promoted as our military rulers have not come with the exposure of enhancing economic diplomacy. After the 9/11 Pakistan has become front line state in the US-led war against terrorism. In that time focus of our policy was to support US-led war on terror on the base of some aid not on trade. By this lapse of our foreign policy, Pakistan is now facing menace of terrorism with eroding the social structure, economic development, political and defense system.

Geographically Pakistan has much importance for Asian countries as its strategic location particularly to boost the regional growth. Pakistan can become a hub of economic activities for the Asian countries as Pakistan share its border with very prominent countries of the Asia like India, China and Iran. Land lock countries do not have route for the transportation of goods by sea therefore, Pakistan provides sea transportation to many countries of Asia. Pakistan is very important for China as it is one of the mid-range powers of South Asia and its geographical location is helpful to create link between China-Middle East and China-Central Asia. To maintain economic and strategic connectivity with these regions, China requires safe passage through Pakistan and the Gwader port is also an emerging gateway to Central Asia and China because it would be providing opportunities for promotion of global shipping in the region. Moreover, Pakistan has all feature of Nature like sea, deserts, mountains, rivers, huge mineral and energy recourses and four seasons. With the help of modern technology agriculture production massively increase in Pakistan whether in the form of raw material or finish goods. Pakistan consist the bulk of resources for economic development but required to increase their excess to international market through economic diplomacy of our foreign policy.

Keeping in view the comparative advantages of Pakistan, our foreign policy should be emphasized to enhance the regional and international trade as economic integration would helpful to reduce poverty, food insecurity and unemployment in the country. During policy formulation the trained workforce, improvement in technologies, develop infrastructure and provide uninterrupted supply of energy should be focused to attract foreign direct investment. To overcome on the trade deficit, our policy maker should take serious measure to promote international trade and investment, improve functioning of markets, achieve internationally accepted standard and reduce the cost risks of cross border transactions.







Just five months ago, Osama bin Laden was alive, Hosni Mubarak was firmly in control in Egypt, and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia with an iron hand. Today, popular rebellion and political change have spread throughout the region. We have witnessed brutal repression of protests in Syria and Yemen, Saudi troops crossing into Bahrain, and an ongoing battle for Libya. For Europe, the "Arab Spring" should refocus attention on an issue largely ignored in recent months: the benefits of Turkey's full membership in the European Union. Given the tremendous opportunities present in the current circumstances, the advantages for Europe of Turkey's accession should be obvious.

With Recep Tayyip Erdogan now elected to another term as Turkey's prime minister, and with Poland, a country well acquainted with the importance of Europe's strategic position in the world, assuming the EU presidency at the end of the month, now is a time for the EU and Turkey to "reset" their negotiations over Turkish membership. The good that Turkey can bring to Europe was visible even before the Arab Spring. Europe is, by definition, culturally diverse, so diversity is the EU's destiny. And, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of the people of Turkey. Europe today is both larger and different compared to the Europe of 1999, when Turkey was invited to begin the accession process. It is also experiencing a profound economic crisis, which erupted around the same time that the Lisbon Treaty — aimed at accommodating EU enlargement — was finally approved. Had the treaty been approved in 2005 as intended, it would have been in place for six years, and the strain placed by the crisis on EU economic governance — so visible in the euro zone's recent problems — would have been much more manageable.

But the EU always faces problems, resolves them, and moves on. Today, we don't have a treasury, but we are about to have something similar. Similarly, the European Central Bank has capacities today that no one imagined in, say, 1997. A major challenge that Europe must still face is migration, which will only become a bigger problem over time. Between now and 2050, Europe's workforce will decrease by 70 million.

Maintaining our economy requires migration and open EU borders — and facing down the populist movements in Europe that would shun "outsiders."Today's Turkey has also changed dramatically since 1999, both politically and economically, and this has much to do with the EU accession process. Indeed, without the attraction of the EU — its "soft" power — such changes would not have occurred. Economically, Turkey is now in the G20 — and playing an effective role there. And, politically, Turkey has emerged as a regional leader, a role that it takes extremely seriously. With just-concluded parliamentary elections, and a new constitution to be approved, Turkey is approaching an epochal moment. I was a member of the Spanish Constitutional Commission that wrote the Spanish Constitution in 1975 and 1976, following the death of Franco, so I know what it is to move from dictatorship to democracy — and how important it is that a constitution be framed by consensus.

The EU-Turkey relationship began with an association agreement signed in 1963. Now the accession negotiations have started, and 35 "chapters" — covering everything from agriculture to energy, competition, environment, employment, social policy, and beyond — must be opened. We have already opened 19 chapters — fewer than we would like. But the real problem is that we have closed only one, and, worse, the pace of negotiations has slowed. In fact, in the second half of 2010, nothing happened. I hope that meaningful progress comes in 2011. Turkey and the EU need each other. The EU now accounts for 75 percent of foreign investment in Turkey and roughly half its exports and inward tourism. Likewise, Europe's energy security depends on cooperation with Turkey on transit of oil and natural gas from Central Asia and the Middle East.

We need each other politically as well. Turkey's neighbourhood is our neighbourhood; its problems are our problems. The security benefits and strategic advantages for the EU with Turkey as a member would be many, starting with the relationship between the EU and NATO, of which Turkey has long been a member. Likewise, the EU's involvement in today's problems in the Mediterranean region would be much easier in concert with Turkey. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, EU-Turkey cooperation is fundamental to achieving a durable solution.

In 1999, Turkey did not want to become an accession candidate, because its leaders thought that the conditions would be too tough. I was there; I talked to Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit at midnight, then to President Süleyman Demirel. And, two days later, Ecevit was in Helsinki to declare formally Turkey's wish to become an EU member. And we said: Turkey will be an EU member. I supported the signature of that document; I would do the same today. In these times, difficult and unpredictable but full of hope, the world needs Turkey and the EU to work together. That does not mean meeting every now and then to decide how to handle a certain problem. It means something much deeper and well defined. It means Turkey's admission to the EU. That is my dream, and I will continue to fight to make it a reality.

—The writer formerly the European Union's high representative for foreign and security policy, and a former secretary general of NATO, is a distinguished senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and president of the ESADE Centre for Global Economy and Geopolitics.Courtesy: The Japan Times








IT was the French writer Voltaire who said that the "best" was the enemy of the "good".

More than 200 years on, it is a message the Australian Greens should heed as they equivocate between purity and political effectiveness. The party is at the crossroads and the decisions Bob Brown and his colleagues take in the next couple of weeks over the details of the proposed carbon tax could determine whether they evolve into a serious, long-term parliamentary force or become minor players unable to see the wood for the carbon sinks.

The question du jour for the Greens is simple: will they be part of the solution on climate change or risk once again being the party that helps destroy Labor's efforts to reduce carbon emissions? As the negotiations on a carbon tax reach their end point, the Greens have indicated they will accept a package that offers 94.5 per cent free pollution permits to emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries. But they appear to want to cut the level of compensation to the coal and steel industries while increasing the level of funding for renewable energy.

There's nothing wrong with an ambit claim from those who from next month will hold the balance of power in the Senate, but the Greens will be rightly seen as climate vandals if they cannot find a pragmatic compromise that allows them to back the tax as a first step towards the market-driven emissions scheme Labor argues will ultimately emerge from its model. The good news is that Christine Milne, the party's climate spokeswoman with a hardline history, has come a long way since the Greens helped stymie the Rudd government's carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009. On Wednesday, she conceded the party's original desire to come up with a different formula for industry compensation - one based on the relative impact of carbon prices in competing countries - was not a goer. Instead, the Greens seem prepared to revert to the far more generous compensation offered by the pollution permits - a package first advanced by Kevin Rudd and the then climate change minister Penny Wong two years ago. Senator Milne and her colleagues eschewed the achievable for the perfect back then, but these days she talks about a carbon "program that will improve over time". This increasingly pragmatic tone is important. July 1 will bring power but also more pressure as four new Greens senators enter the upper house and compete for support inside and outside the party. Among the newcomers are Victorian Richard Di Natale, a public health specialist, and drug and alcohol clinician; Queensland environmental lawyer Larissa Waters; and South Australian social issues advocate Penny Wright, all of whom are seen as "green Greens" - that is, people grounded in the environmental movement and prepared to do deals to advance the cause.

Compromise is important if the Greens truly want to stay connected to the electorate. The broader support they have attracted in recent years could dissipate if they put ideological purity ahead of reasonable policy outcomes. Senator Brown and his group largely escaped censure in 2009, even as they helped block a cap-and-trade emissions scheme. They cannot risk a repeat performance. The Greens should know that in politics, as indeed in life, it sometimes makes sense to settle for "good enough" rather than risk everything in the pursuit of purity.






THE resignation of the chief commissioner of Victoria Police, Simon Overland, is the first step towards re-establishing confidence in the state's law enforcement hierarchy and processes.

Mr Overland eventually did the right thing by removing himself from the position, but his limited comments yesterday gave no suggestion he was aware of the mistakes that came to embroil his leadership. An Ombudsman's report, released yesterday, confirmed he was responsible for deliberately bringing forward the release of incomplete and misleading crime statistics on the eve of last year's state election. But Mr Overland did not blame his exit on those findings, saying instead there were "significant distractions" that would continue so long as he remained in charge. He said it was in the best interests of the police and the state that he depart. On that we can agree, but his abrupt departure, and atypically pithy press conference, only heighten the need for Victorians to be given some more detailed answers.

Last week, The Australian called on the Premier, Ted Baillieu, to make good on his own advice from opposition a year earlier and establish a royal commission into Victorian policing, perhaps standing aside his chief commissioner in the interim. Now, by "mutual agreement", his police chief is gone but certainly he should still proceed with a royal commission.

The suspicious mishandling of crime statistics last year is but one of many worrying aspects of senior police behaviour on Mr Overland's watch. It culminated this year when the Office of Police Integrity, using information provided by Mr Overland, used phone taps to investigate then deputy commissioner Ken Jones.

This episode seemed particularly foolhardy, given Mr Overland's involvement in the dubious, damaging and failed Operation Briars in 2007, when he was deputy commissioner. It was one of the most expensive operations ever mounted by Victoria Police, acting in concert with the OPI, yet it was based on the word of a career criminal whose own lawyer did not believe him. Mr Overland's inadvertent leaking of covert phone tapping led to the abandonment of the murder investigation. But the operation damaged the reputations and destroyed the careers of two of his police force rivals - assistant commissioner Noel Ashby and police association boss Paul Mullett. The murky undertones of this series of events have never been properly investigated and still cast a pall over the state's law enforcement agencies.

Victorians have every right to be worried that extensive and intrusive police powers might have been used to resolve what could be seen merely as internal politicking. The OPI was established to ensure honesty in the police force, not become a plaything for ambitious police careerists. Only a judicial inquiry can adequately probe these matters and discover the true extent to which police powers have been used, and for what purposes.

Apart from legal and investigative processes and guidelines, an inquiry needs to examine the culture extant in the senior ranks of law enforcement agencies. With the rise of organised and trans-national crime, and the terrorism threat, governments have given our agencies sweeping powers that, if misused, can inflict grievous infringements of privacy and personal liberty. This makes it all the more important that officers entrusted with these powers respect their privileges and responsibilities, and can be held to account where necessary.

When men and women dedicate their careers, even putting their lives at risk, to support the rule of law and combat evil elements within our society, they can be infused with a missionary zeal. With that commitment can come the temptation to see their own cause, their own preferment, as being indispensable to the public good. But no crime fighter's mission or talents are so important that they should override the checks and balances on police powers. Officers need to be alive to these temptations and risks, and understand that the ends do not justify the means. Once law enforcement officers misuse any of their extensive powers, for whatever trivial or high-minded purpose, they head down a slippery slope that can corrupt the integrity of their organisations. They should not see themselves as the sole repositories of moral rectitude. They must know their place, remain dedicated to their work and operate within their carefully delineated rules.

Mr Overland is a clever and dynamic man, not yet 50 years of age, whose career was on a consistent upward trajectory until this series of events began to unravel in recent years. His penchant for massaging media relationships saw him escape scrutiny from much of the Melbourne media for an extended period. He has often refused to answer questions from The Australian because of our determined pursuit of these matters. He deserves credit for recognising the need to move on. But he would do the force he led a great service if he publicly supported the police association's calls for a royal commission. It is unusual for the police representative body to push for such an inquiry, so this reflects the serious concerns and the depth of rank and file concern. Mr Baillieu did not create this policing crisis but he bears a heavy responsibility to resolve it. He must choose his next chief wisely, and he should immediately establish a royal commission to clear the air.





READERS of Melbourne's The Age yesterday were provided with an amazingly stark, if unwitting, confession about how Fairfax seems to have ceased pretending to publish newspapers in favour of political pamphleteering.

A front-page article reported that a group of prominent Australians was taking a public stand in favour of pricing carbon. The group included Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, the mother of the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, publisher of The Australian. The Age's Michael Gordon wrote: "Dame Elisabeth's stand is consistent with the stated position on climate change of her son Rupert, but out of step with coverage in his newspapers, as reflected in the front pages of flagships The Australian and Herald Sun yesterday. While The Australian splashed with a report saying a carbon tax would force eight coalmines to close and cost thousands of jobs, the Herald Sun 'revealed' that the carbon tax would push up the prices of Mars bars and McDonald's."

In those two sentences Gordon, the paper's national editor, no less, betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of newspapers and exposed how Fairfax newspapers such as The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald break faith with their readers. No longer do you need to take our word for it, it is the national editor of The Age who tacitly admits Fairfax papers share with you only the information that supports their political positions. Regular readers of this newspaper will be aware of our consistent support for a market-based price on carbon as the most efficient method of reducing emissions. But regardless of our considered position, this newspaper takes seriously our duty to provide news coverage on policy debates that covers all significant information, views and perspectives. We respect the intelligence of our readers and have confidence in their ability to make up their own minds. We operate on the understanding that you expect us to provide as much relevant information as possible, enabling you to be well-informed. It is our unwritten compact. The story in Tuesday's edition of The Australian to which Gordon referred, a front-page exclusive, detailed research commissioned by the coal industry showing a carbon tax could force mine closures and cost 4000 jobs. By claiming this report was "out of step" with the Murdochs' support for a price on carbon, Gordon seems to suggest we should suppress the coal industry's research and its point of view. Yet it is clear the industry's fears are of legitimate public interest, as shown by the government's negotiations to provide compensation, and the response to the story by Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who said: "No one can rule out a mine or two closing." For a newspaper to censor or deliberately avoid points of view, such as these, because they conflict with or undermine its own position would be a fundamental breach of trust. Fairfax editors must hold their readers in such low esteem that they will only share with them information that will help shape pre-determined opinions. What a deceptive manipulation of public discourse and an insult to the readers. What disregard for the essence of news and journalism.

The other story Gordon referred to was a Herald Sun survey that found companies providing goods and services intended to pass on to customers the extra costs of the carbon price. The story noted, prominently, government plans to compensate householders for these costs. Yet Gordon's analysis suggests these increased costs should be hidden from the public, lest they oppose the tax. This would be an old Soviet Union level of censorship. Surely, you would think, Fairfax papers are not shielding their readers from reality. Sadly, it seems they do. This suggests a blatant disregard for the first point of journalism's code of ethics: "Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply."

The fleeting moment of frankness from The Age enlightens us to the dark heart of Fairfax, where complex debates are distilled to simple viewpoints, peddled to a deliberately misinformed readership. This is why readers of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald must have been so surprised by the demotion of Peter Garrett, the demise of Kevin Rudd and the disastrous electoral performance of Julia Gillard -- because editors shielded them from the preceding bad news they didn't want their readers to know about. The decline in relevance of these papers is directly related to their surrender to advocacy journalism. They no longer attempt to appeal to the broad population of the cities they serve but increasingly reflect the narrow interests of those who would shut down any argument that does not accord with their prejudices. To their journalists and editors, life is a battle between right thinkers and wrong thinkers in which they, naturally, are on the side of the angels. A newspaper which aspires to play a constructive role in civic society cannot afford such conceit, or such contempt for its readers. Its pages should be a clearing house for ideas that stimulate rather than suppress debate and play a part in the development of sound public policy. The vast majority of Australians have open minds and are willing to change them when presented with new evidence or fresh information.







GIVEN the security panic which engulfed world aviation after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, it seems surprising that in Australia, nearly a decade later, a committee of Parliament could recommend that passengers have to show photographic identification before boarding domestic flights. Or that it should be an offence to travel deliberately under a false identity. Doesn't all that happen now?

It seems not. Federal Parliament's joint committee on law enforcement should be thanked therefore for pointing out holes in security arrangements. Perhaps it helped that it was not conducting its inquiry immediately after a terrorist attack. Its focus was on measures to stop organised crime - not terrorists - from infiltrating air and sea ports. The level of hysteria associated with organised crime is lower, allowing a less hurried and more thorough response.

Qantas has made significant objections to the proposals in its submission to the inquiry. The airline said identity checks were outside the responsibility of its staff. That is perhaps the case - although Qantas staff already check the passports of travellers on international flights. Those checks, though, are not identity checks; their purpose is to ensure a passenger has the documentation required to pass customs at their destination. On domestic flights - if the committee's recommendations are taken up - such checks would be intended to ensure the stated person was the one boarding the aircraft. The purpose would be to make it harder for organised criminals to operate around the airport.

Qantas is right to object to its staff being used for a police task. If the committee's measures are implemented, the job of checking passengers' identity would have to be given to the ''suitably trained government security force'' which the committee says should police our airports.

Here, objections to parts of the committee's plan start to become visible. A new security force for every domestic airport would be expensive. How would it be funded? By another levy on air tickets? Then there is the question of a suitable identity document. Many people carry a driver's licence - but even if that easily obtained document is good enough identification, and there are questions on that score, many do not possess one. The elderly, the incapacitated and the young would all have to obtain some other photographic document before they catch their plane. This is starting to look cumbersome.





THE growing crescendo of alarm over Greece's financial position is approaching a climax, but whether it will prove decisive for Europe's future is not clear. In Athens, rioting has broken out over plans - as yet unrealised - to cut government spending yet again, and sell publicly owned assets in order to pay the country's debts. Members of George Papandreou's socialist government will not back his austerity plan, and his attempts to form a coalition with his New Democracy opponents in order to pass it have so far proved fruitless. Sharemarkets around the world have looked on in alarm, with particular fears held for European banks holding Greek bonds, a situation grimly reminiscent of the start of the global financial crisis. The country may yet default on its loans, which ratings agencies have reduced to junk status. The fear is that the ensuing panic over which banks are affected may parallel the credit crunch after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. To avoid default, Greece is seeking a second immense bailout from the European Union, to follow the €110 billion package it received a year ago.

With Portugal and Ireland, Greece represents a serious threat to the stability of the euro, and to the project of monetary union. Many outcomes are possible, including the bailout, and Greece abandoning the common currency. Monetary union may even be at risk. What has kept things together so far is the patience of Europe's successful economies, principally Germany. That patience is wearing thin, as German taxpayers - with those of the EU's other donor countries - tire of paying billions into what appears to be a bottomless pit of Greek financial ineptitude, and populist politicians outside the affected countries see a chance to win power on a xenophobic platform.

But those are not the only forces at play. The woes of Greece, Portugal and Ireland depress the euro's value. As commentators have said, although things may be painful and disrupted in those countries, the cheap euro is good for exporters who fear the revaluation which might occur if the sick economies of Europe were cut loose.

And although it might suggest the opposite, the crisis may even suit the long game being played by Eurocrats who seek to consolidate power at the EU's centre. Monetary union without fiscal union was always a dangerous structure - manageable in good times, not in bad. Adroitly managed, a full-blown crisis over a defaulting member may be enough to convince the EU's governments to cede more economic power to Brussels. The EU's tectonic plates grind against each other under immense pressure. An earthquake is predicted, but whether tomorrow, next year or later, no one knows.






A cut in VAT makes sense only if one wants to shovel £2.5bn a month out of the Treasury as fast as possible

Ed Balls may be many things – as people on both sides of the Commons will tell you – but two of his strengths can't be denied. First, the former Harvard scholar and student of Larry Summers knows his economics. Second, the former student of Gordon Brown is well-schooled in political tactics. As Michael Gove could tell you, having Mr Balls as your opposite number is a job in itself. But these two formidable attributes can come into conflict with each other, as was demonstrated in an important speech he made yesterday.

It displayed the shadow chancellor's grasp of economics and economic history to a T. There were references to the views of Nobel laureates, and a potted history of the ERM crisis as related by newspaper cartoons. More to the point, his analysis of the UK's economic prospects is serious and convincing. Obviously no one can be sure what lies ahead, but Mr Balls must be right to say that the signs are sufficiently worrying that any prudent chancellor would be trying to establish a buffer against a further downturn. For the past nine months, the economy has pretty much flatlined. The main reason for the improving trade balance is that Britons are buying fewer imports, not exporting more. The high street remains a bleak place to be, as yesterday's news of a 1.4% slide in retail sales shows. What's more, economic prospects for our major trading partners, the eurozone and the US, are not much better.

Far from facing up to such unpleasant facts, George Osborne has spent a large chunk of his time in No 11 arguing about how well the economy is doing. Meanwhile, the main thing the chancellor has by way of an economic insurance policy is the hope that the Bank of England will keep interest rates ultra-low for a long time to come. Given the call this week from monetary policy committee member Martin Weale for a rise in rates, that cannot be counted on. All in all, there is a good case not only for slowing the pace of fiscal consolidation but for preparing for another shot of government stimulus – although that would need to be managed over some months to ensure a steady reaction from bond markets.

But this is a case of right diagnosis, wrong prescription, because a cut in VAT, as Mr Balls proposed yesterday, makes sense only if one wants to shovel £2.5bn a month out of the Treasury as fast as possible. That is costly for a policy whose effect might be drowned out by higher inflation. More sensible and politically adept might be to bring forward a public infrastructure project in an effort to create jobs. The big job for Labour, though, is not to dream up a couple of policies but to work out a cogent position on the deficit. No sign of that yet.





The man who tried to warn Greece about the dangers of corrupt political elites has become, in the eyes of his colleagues, a man of flip-flops

It was never really in doubt that Greece would get the money it would need to stay afloat for a few more weeks. The attempt by the IMF to dictate the terms of the rescue to the eurozone, by threatening to withhold the next €12bn tranche of the bailout package agreed last year, was never going to work. Nor can there now be much doubt that a second EU support programme will be agreed this Sunday. Each move, however, will simply postpone judgment day.

Greece cannot dig its way out of the mountain of debt it has now been placed under, and that reality was clear months ago. Since then, a political reality has been born. Even if he manages to stitch together a cabinet and win a vote of confidence from his party, Pasok, to force through a second austerity package to avoid default, prime minister George Papandreou has run out of road. So there is neither a workable plan nor, crucially, a political consensus in Athens to enforce one, let alone one including mass privatisation. Even if Greeks could be coerced into accepting more pay cuts and state sell-offs, most are convinced, probably rightly, that more austerity will just damage the economy further. Remember, they have already been taking the medicine for the past year, since public workers took a 20% pay cut. It has not worked. Greece has missed the targets set in the current bailout due to a deep recession and the chronic revenue shortfall, and debt is still projected to hit 160% of GDP. Now they are being asked to take another dose, this time in the form of tax rises.

That this meltdown should happen under the leadership of a decent man, a Swedish-style social democrat all too alive to the dangers of division and conflict, is perhaps the saddest accident of history. Mr Papandreou is no neoliberal. He does not light candles each night at the altar of the free market. He set out as a reformer of the very ills that contributed to this crisis, like the problems with tax collection and political patronage which successive governments failed to deal with. But things have now gone far beyond that. With unemployment at 16% and seven out of 10 pensioners living on €700 a month, any social pact is now in shreds. And Mr Papandreou is marooned on an island amid a shipwreck.

His is no longer the hand that can reach out to the "outraged" of Syntagma Square. If there was a peaceful insurrection in the central square of Athens, a few hundred yards away from the ancient agora where democracy was born, he would now be one of its targets. The man who tried to warn Greece about the dangers of corrupt political elites has become, in the eyes of his colleagues, a man of flip-flops, and in the eyes of the people he once felt comfortable among, one of the symbols of the elite. If the proper democratic process were to assert itself, it would be active against the very austerity package he is trying to push through.

Politicians of all colours are right to be scared. And not just because violence can break out. Although petrol bombs flew last night outside the finance ministry, the protest has been largely peaceful, and ordered. No, the fear is that mass popular protest makes the whole political class, and the patronage from which they draw their authority, irrelevant. A mass demonstration outside a government building is one thing. But tens of thousands of citizens outside parliament itself sends a message of a different order. The string of parliamentary resignations yesterday, which could make it difficult for Mr Papandreou to form a team capable of doing the things Greece is promising the EU and IMF, is a response to that warning. For a party with Pasok's history to be outside the mass demonstration staring in is a bad place to be.

However it is termed, default is looming one way or another and the French, German and Greek banks, who are also at the centre of this crisis, could still face their Lehman moment.





Her drawings spring from the page, and fit beautifully with sparse words

Judith Kerr. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

It is over 40 years since the tiger came to tea, and two generations have now grown up on this and other Judith Kerr tales, and – with the books still selling well – a third is in the making. Her drawings spring from the page, and fit beautifully with sparse words which relay everything that needs to be said, and not one iota more. She launches into incredible imaginative flights: the idea of the tiger who drops by unexpectedly, and eats a family out of house and home, grew out of an idle daydream. But the whimsy is often grounded in sly, real observations: Mog was inspired by the family tabby's refusal to use the cat flap. If the mark of art is that it transmutes the everyday into something rare and wonderful, then Kerr is an artist. While there are some books parents would gladly ram into the blender after the umpteenth bedtime encore, the sheer loveliness of Mog's simpleton smile makes it a pleasure to revisit her. No subject is off-limits, from toilet training to what happens when mogs (and by extension people) die. Take When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – a novel based on the Kerr family's escape from Nazi Germany. It deftly introduces big ideas like exile with compassion, and has become a set school text in Germany. Having turned 88 this week, Kerr continues to work. Her latest book, My Henry, is a wry take on widowhood. The celebratory retrospective of her work now at the Museum of Childhood in east London is as deserved as the medal placed around Mog's neck for busting a burglary.






As people in northeastern Japan devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami are struggling to start their life anew, they are facing a big financial problem — that is — their debts. They are obligated to repay loans taken out in the past on what are now destroyed or damaged residences or business facilities; now they must take out new loans to build new residences or business facilities.

More than 200,000 buildings are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged in the disasters, most of them in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. About half of them are unusable because they were fully or half-destroyed. Fishing boats, fisheries and other business facilities and agricultural machines were also destroyed or damaged.

Local financial institutions have an estimated outstanding balance of loans worth some ¥2.8 trillion. Many people have to pay back their loans even though they have lost property they had acquired after taking out the loans.

The government and the Democratic Party of Japan have worked out relief measures. The Japan Housing Financing Agency would provide low-interest loans to people who want to build new houses or buy new apartments. Repayment of their earlier loans would be put off, or the interest on them would be lowered.

In case they do not plan to get new housing, they would go through voluntary liquidation to be exempted from the repayment of earlier loans.

Private financial institutions and the Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation would set up funds, which would buy debts owed by small- and medium-size firms or extend new loans to them if there is a prospect of reconstructing their business.

But the government and the DPJ have to make adjustments with the opposition parties on relief measures.

If the debt problems are not solved, there is the danger that local companies, farmers and fishermen will opt to give up restarting their operations. This would also affect local financial institutions.

The central and local governments, local financial institutions and local agricultural and fishing cooperatives should cooperate to quickly work out ways acceptable to both creditors and debtors.





The Diet on May 17 enacted a law to integrate the management of Kansai airport and Itami (Osaka) airport. The transport ministry will establish a new firm by April 2012 with all the capital coming from the government. It will start operating in the summer of that year.

Kansai airport opened in 1994 with a 3,500-meter runway on an artificial island. In 2007, it gained a separate 4,000-meter runway on another artificial island.

Some ¥3 trillion was spent to construct the two runways, burdening the current firm managing Kansai airport with a total of ¥1.3 trillion in interest-bearing debt.

The construction cost also led to the imposition of a landing fee that is about three times that at South Korea's Incheon airport and China's Shanghai airport, putting Kansai airport in a disadvantageous position competitively.

The new firm could sell the right to operate Kansai and Itami airports, although it would continue to own the two airports. The right to operate them would last more than 30 years.

The government hopes that the new firm can find a buyer of the operation rights by fiscal 2015 and receive enough money to offset the ¥1.3 trillion in residual debt. Selling the right to operate the airports would be the first of its kind in Japan.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated northeastern Japan, and the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have clouded prospects for the airline industry.

The question is whether a company or an investment fund would be interested in buying the right to operate Kansai and Itami airports from the new firm.

The current Kansai airport firm hopes to invite low-cost carriers and increase the number of cargo flights. But there is the need to improve access to the airport.

In the Kansai region, Kansai, Itami and Kobe airports are vying to attract a limited number of passengers. Parties concerned, including the prefectural governments there, should work out a basic policy. Questions include how to divide functions among the airports, how to coordinate flight schedules and whether one airport should be closed.






Some three months since the colossal earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan, stricken areas are getting on track for recovery with local industrial production capacity having been restored to as much as 90 percent of pre-disaster levels.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has announced plans to ensure stable cooling of reactors in its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant within six to nine months. But the situation does not warrant optimism due to various unpredictable difficulties.

Amid the international community's deepening concern about nuclear power safety, the Group of Eight leaders held a summit in Deauville, France, in late May, and asked all countries operating nuclear power facilities, including emerging nations, to use relevant guidelines issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The triple calamity of a massive quake, tsunami and a nuclear power plant crisis inflicted enormous damage along the northeastern coast of Japan, while providing a number of precious lessons. The foremost lesson is that the disasters have brought home to us the urgent need to make changes in our industrial civilization.

The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century rested on the premise that Earth's resources and nature's recycling capability are everlasting. Critics point out that this premise has begun to break up. The unprecedented East Japan calamity has aptly proved their opinions correct.

The world's energy demand is increasing drastically due to sharp population growth as well as brisk economic development of emerging nations. The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, estimates that global energy demand will grow about 50 percent through 2035. Oil prices persistently rise even as the world's oil resources have passed their peak and begun to wane. Meanwhile, political unrest persists in some major oil-producing countries.

China, India and other emerging countries, whose demand for oil will rise sharply in the future, are scrambling hard to ensure ample supplies while the resource majors are endeavoring to strengthen their control over resource development and trading.

Over time, major consumer countries have stepped up their reliance on nuclear power to meet their rising energy demand and plan to continue to do so. For example, current rates of reliance on nuclear power are 29 percent for Japan, 20 percent for the United States, 75 percent for France and 26 percent for Germany. China is planning to increase its reliance rate drastically in years to come.

Another key factor behind the tendency for heavier reliance on nuclear power is the problem of global warming. Heat waves, torrential rains, floods and tornadoes have killed and displaced large numbers of people in the U.S., Europe, Russia and China year after year. In Africa, there have been reports of lakes shrinking and disappearing, one after another. As a result, many countries now pin their hopes on the use of nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gases.

The Fukushima disaster, however, has badly harmed public trust in nuclear power technology and given rise to widespread fear of radiation.

Now the circumstances no longer permit us to maintain our traditional industrial system based on mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal, which rely on assumptions that usable resources and energy are limitless. We need to reform our industrial structure in a way that enhances the value of products and services and that reduces the load on energy resources and the natural environment. That means we should become more strongly oriented toward improving efficiency in production and consumption, and in the recycling of industrial resources.

People's needs have greatly changed in recent years as they tend to seek fulfillment from human values rather than from material affluence alone. This tendency is widely expected to help improve quality-of-life functions and raise the level of human interactions.

People are attaching more and more importance to values such as culture, sophistication, medical treatment, nursing care, the natural environment, safety and security. Highly advanced technology is capable of upgrading the added values of these categories.

At the same time, we should mobilize our knowledge and skills to use energy efficiently and expand the use of green energy. While improving production processes drastically, we need to exert our best efforts to develop next-generation cars — hybrid, electric and fuel battery — introduce highly efficient battery recharging systems, popularize LED and other energy-saving products, and introduce advanced systems such as the Home Energy Management System and the Building and Energy Management System.

Another project worth addressing is the development of green-conscious smart communities that control demand and supply in a comprehensive manner.

Germany has decided to abolish its nuclear power program by 2022 while the U.S., Britain, France and China plan to continue their nuclear power programs.

In view of the world's overall demand for and supply of energy, it seems practically impossible to eliminate the reliance on nuclear energy completely. Therefore, it is necessary to absolutely ensure an optimum mix of safety and efficiency in nuclear power generation.

From May 24 an IAEA team of experts investigated the Fukushima nuclear accidents and delivered a preliminary report to the Japanese government; release of a final report is set for an IAEA meeting later this month. Japan should thoroughly study the causes of the accidents, examine relevant remedial measures and then share its conclusions at a global level in order to help guarantee the safety of nuclear power generation.

The technology concerning nuclear power safety has become precious international public goods, requiring comprehensive scientific and technical reviews of developments.

Our industrial civilization should be aimed at promoting the recycling of resources, an orientation toward nature, public safety and the enrichment of human values.

The latest leading-edge information technology should give us intellectual tools that will make achievement of these goals possible.

With this in mind, we Japanese should work hard to overcome our current national crisis and pave the way for a new industrial revolution. In this way we will respond to the expectations of the international community.

Shinji Fukukawa, former vice minister of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and president of Dentsu Research Institute, is now chairman of the Machine Industry Memorial Foundation.






NEW YORK — The discovery that two new drugs can control melanoma could revolutionize the treatment not only of melanoma but also of other cancers as well.

Melanoma is cancer of the pigment cells in the skin. Although it accounts for only 4 percent of all skin cancers, it is responsible for almost 80 percent of the deaths, particularly because it tends to spread early in its course.

Melanoma kills by spreading through blood and lymph nodes into the internal organs of the body. This is what makes it more dangerous than other skin cancers, which don't metastasize as easily.

A melanoma the size of a dime on the skin has a 50 percent chance of having already spread. In addition, melanoma is spreading faster than any other kind of cancer in the United States. It is estimated that at least one person in the country dies of skin cancer every hour.

One study focused on an experimental drug Vemurafenib. It was given to 675 people worldwide with late-stage metastatic melanoma. The drug acts by targeting a mutated gene — carried by 50 percent of melanoma patients — that tell cancer cells to grow rapidly. In patients with this mutation, the drug not only killed cancer cells but also shrank tumor size.

And Vemurafenib, which is taken orally, produces fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

Tumors result from cell growth that gets out of control. Those patients who were responsive to Vemurafenib had a mutation in the "BRAF" gene. The mutation causes production of a protein that triggers rapid cell growth to form tumors. Vemurafenib acts by neutralizing the effects of the mutation in the BRAF gene.

What makes this finding particularly important is that a similar approach may be tried with other cancers whose origins can be traced to a genetic mutation.

The role of the BRAF mutation in the production of melanoma was discovered in 2002 by scientists at the Sanger Institute in Britain. Since then, in Britain and in the U.S., research has focused on whether drugs targeting the mutation might interfere with tumor growth. Although initial trials were disappointing, a new formulation of the drug under study increased penetration of target cells for better results. Prior to this study there were no treatment options for dealing with metastatic melanoma resulting from the BRAF mutation.

"Until now, available therapies [for metastatic melanoma] were few and unreliable, so these findings can really change the outlook for patients whose tumors are fueled by this mutation," said Keith Flaherty, M.D., director of development therapeutics at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and author of the article describing the effects of the new drug.

In a second study, a drug called Ipilimumab, sold under the trade name Yervoy, was tested for its effects on advanced-stage melanoma patients. Yervoy acts differently from Vemurafenib in that it does not target cancer cells but instead stimulates the patients' immune system response.

The study with this drug showed that 21 percent of patients treated with Yervoy were alive after three years compared to 12 percent of patients who had received traditional chemotherapy or a placebo.

Because Ipilimumab acts by stimulating the patients' immune system it has been observed to produce serious side effects, including liver damage.

A disadvantage in the use of both drugs is the elevated cost of treatment. However, given the promising results so far, efforts are under way to observe the effects of both drugs used in the same patients.

If initial results are improved, we may be facing a radically new and effective treatment not only of melanoma but of other cancers as well.

Cesar Chelala, M.D., an international public health consultant, conducted research in molecular genetics at the Public Health Institute of the City of New York.








The May 28-31 visit to the Maldives by the most senior Chinese official ever to visit the Islamic archipelago-nation, went largely unreported in the Western media. The significance of the visit by Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, underscored the increasing importance of the Maldives to China's regional strategic calculations.

China and the Maldives first established diplomatic relations in 1972. Since then, relations have gradually developed. More recently, Indian policy analysts referred to China's soft power rise throughout South Asia as a "creeping expansionism". They went so far as to accuse China of harboring ambitions to set up a submarine base facility in the Maldives.

For instance, in 2005, Indian commentator, A.B. Mahapatra, asserted that: "China has engineered a manner of a coup by coaxing Maldives' Abdul Gayoom government to let it establish a base in Marao".

Marao is one of the largest of the 1192 coral islands grouped into atolls that comprise Maldives and lies 40 km south of Male, the capital.

Scientists warn that global warming is pushing up ocean and sea levels. They fear that most of Maldives will be submerged by year 2040. Marao may be one of the few large islands that may survive.

"And even if it goes under water", said a naval official, "it will be ideal for submarines."

In February 2001, a small delegation from Pakistan visited Maldives to boost cultural ties. "The Pakistanis put pressure on Male to facilitate Chinese plans for a naval base," said an official. "China used Pakistan to play the Islamic card with Maldives. But the Marao base is not expected to be operational until 2010."

President Gayoom ruled the Maldives for around 30 years. Following his election defeat in November 2008, his successor, President Mohamed Nasheed, has shown greater willingness to accommodate Indian interests.

As reported widely in the Indian media in late 2009, the Maldives acceded to India's request to deploy 26 coastal radars to monitor its territorial waters.

"India is not trying to influence us. We wanted the radars. A lot of biomass poaching (poaching of fish and corals) happens in the area. So does a lot of illegal commercial fishing," President Nasheed said.

Latterly, it transpired that India's coast guard and naval vessels would patrol the Maldives' territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, and a private Indian company was contracted to refurbish the former British Gan Island air base for use by Indian reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft.

Trade in minerals and energy, worth many billions of dollars annually, passes near the Maldives, which is strategically located astride the major sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. It is hardly surprising therefore that former Indian diplomat Kuldeep Sahdev mentioned: "It is a country of immense strategic importance to us."

Historically, India has long seen the islands as within its sphere of influence and has sought to underwrite the security of the Maldives.

This was demonstrated in November 1988, when heavily armed ethnic-Tamil militants staged a coup to oust President Gayoom, but were rapidly intercepted and neutralized by expeditionary forces dispatched by India.

More recently, in February 2011, President Nasheed made a tour of India to enhance cooperation in trade, investment and security, and chose to use the opportunity to reiterate his pro-India stance.

"Maintaining balance in the Indian Ocean is very important. There is not enough room in the Indian Ocean for other non-traditional friends," he said. "We are not receptive to any installation, military or otherwise, in the Indian Ocean, especially from un-traditional friends. The Indian Ocean is the Indian Ocean."

He added: "India is a better investment destination. It's far easier to deal with India than with China. We had discussions on the Indian Ocean, piracy, climate change and trade and investment. Piracy is a very important issue for us. We are sitting right in the middle of the Indian Ocean."

Yet, although India is clearly strategically pre-eminent in the Maldives, China has continued to expand its soft power influence in the archipelago nation. Since the Maldives attained independence in 1965, China has built the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs building and also the national museum. More recently,

China formed a Maldives-China Parliamentary Friendship Group and China's parliament has also set up a focus group, intent on further developing relations. In 2010, bilateral trade between both countries reached US$64 million, a reported increase of nearly 56 percent from 2009.

Concessional loans provided by China, such as to build the 1000 Housing Units Project, have served to further expand goodwill and cooperation. Indeed, in 2010 some 117 Maldivian expatriates were reportedly studying in China, and over 120,000 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives, making China the largest source of tourists for the Maldives. Similarly, during the same year China and the Maldives signed a number of cooperation agreements, including in culture, education and sport.

Given the economic benefits of its association with China, regardless of current strategic imperatives vis-à-vis the rivalry between China, India and the US, the Maldives will continue to be reliant on China's investment, trade and goodwill, even though India has also sought to enhance its investment, trade and economic assistance to the island-nation.

Hence, the visit of Wu Bangguo is likely to make India increasingly anxious about China's growing soft power influence.

"This is the highest-ranking visit from China to Maldives. This visit is therefore very symbolic," said Abdulla Shahid, the speaker of the Maldivian People's Majlis.

Indeed, the implications of China's growing soft power influence are likely to be critical considerations for India, especially when President Nasheed goes to the polls in the upcoming 2013 presidential election.

The writer is a senior analyst at Future Directions International, a privately owned think tank based in Perth, West Australia.





A recent IndoBarometer survey found that 29.7 percent of 1,200 respondents were satisfied with the Yudhoyono administration and 40 percent thought the New Order was better than the reform administrations. This, in my opinion, marks a hypothesis that the people are missing a stable and secure social condition.

It appears that the freedoms that we have been enjoying for the last 13 years seem to be unfettered, particularly the freedom of expression. Meanwhile, it is also undeniable that in some cases the state has perplexed in enforcing legitimate limitations and restrictions on such freedoms.

In relation to this issue, London-based human rights NGO Amnesty International (AI) recently published its Annual Report 2001: The State of the World's Human Rights, which provides an overview of the state of human rights around the world.

In the sub-section on Indonesia, AI highlights some setbacks related to the freedom of expression.

The report mentions at least four cases of suppression of freedom of expression, including in the arrest of several activists, and an incident in which some journalist were killed. These facts convey that there is something wrong with our way of dealing with the restriction of expression.

One element in the international legal basis to the freedom of expression can be found in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of
frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his [or her] choice".

In relation to this, in April this year the Human Rights Committee of the ICCPR issued the Draft of General Comments no. 34 on Article 19 on the freedom of opinion and expression. This draft should in fact expand our horizons in interpreting such freedom.

In the draft, the committee mentions that freedom of expression shall include political discourse, commentary on one's own and on public affairs, canvassing the discussion of human rights, journalism, cultural and artistic expression, teaching and religious discourse. One should bear in mind that although the right to hold opinions is indeed broad, it is not limitless.

The few legitimate restrictions that can be imposed by the state on this right are: (i) for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, and (ii) for the protection of national security or public order, or of public health or morals (Article 19 (3) of the ICCPR). Here we arrive at the most debatable point.

Around the region many repressive actions by police or military forces upon individuals, who are exercising their freedom of expression, have been largely based on the aforementioned legitimate restrictions.

However, it is worth noting that the committee in the Draft takes a broad point of view by stating that "it is not compatible with paragraph 3, for instance, to invoke treason laws to prosecute journalists, researchers, environmental activists, human rights defenders, or others, for having disseminated information of legitimate public interest".

In addition to this, the committee in the Mukong v. Cameroon case clarifies that there can be no legitimate restriction under Article 19 (3), which would justify the arbitrary arrest, continued detention and treatment in violation of the right to life. (Comm. No. 458/1991, 21 July 1994).

Up to this point, in order to balance law and human rights, it should be quite clear that the application of the law on treason and subversion in Indonesia ought to follow such an understanding. As a result, any arrest of activists on the basis of national security or threat to public order because of their activities of public interest must be deemed illegitimate.

A question may subsequently arise as to how the state shall determine a proportionate restriction upon one's expression. In answering this question, for the importance of supportive legal arguments, I would like to cite some case-laws proceeded at the Human Rights Committee.

In the Faurisson v. France case, E. Evatt and D. Kretzmer of the Human Rights Committee conveyed a rather insightful separate opinion by stating that "the Covenant [ICCPR] therefore stipulates that the purpose of protecting one of those values is not, of itself, sufficient reason to restrict expression.

The restriction must be necessary to protect the given value. [...] The scope of the restriction imposed on freedom of expression must be proportional to the value which the restriction serves to protect. It must not exceed that needed to protect that value. [...] the restriction must not put the very right itself in jeopardy".

Furthermore, another nature of legitimate restriction departs from the case-law of Shin v. Republic of Korea.

In its consideration, the committee concluded that a legitimate limitation must demonstrate, in specific and individualized fashion, "the precise nature of the threat and the necessity of the specific action taken, in particular by establishing a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the threat".

Consequently, such a degree of proximity between the expression and the threat is not within the ambit of the executive's margin of appreciation to determine. In my view, such proximity has to be assessed by an independent national or international body, because otherwise the government will be the jury of its own cases.

All in all, it is internationally a common consideration that the application of the principle of proportionality has to be respected not merely in the law that prescribes the restrictions, but also by the administrative and judicial authorities of the state applying the law.

The state is facing the tough duty of maintaining "legitimate fetters" of freedom of expression, particularly the need to reformulate the law of treason and subversion. While this is no easy task, promoting freedom and enforcing the law is an essential means to establishing a more secure and stable society.

The writer is an employee at the Human Rights Research and Development Agency under the Law and Human Rights Ministry.







The aims of the criminal justice system basically cover three phases: The short term is for the re-socialization of perpetrators through penalization, the medium term serves as a means of criminal prevention, and the long term serves as a means of achieving and guaranteeing public protection and public welfare in a democratic atmosphere.

By considering and observing the actual performance of law enforcement, the ruling authorities and society should always avoid the possibility of a shift from the essence of the criminal justice system to a criminal "injustice" system on the basis of some of the negative practices listed below.

First, if there are "disturbances to justice", comprising the use of physical force, threats or intimidation or promises, lures, improper gifts or benefits to induce false testimonies or intervention in giving testimonies; or the use of physical force, threats or intimidation to intervene in the performance of the official duties of judges or law enforcers in the context of a criminal offense.

Second, there are "legal malpractices", some sort of substandard practices or unprofessional conduct on the part of law enforcers that cause somebody to sustain damage, loss or suffering based on the principle of cause and effect (the loss being proven as a result of substandard performance).

The root of the professional carelessness is the lack of knowledge, skill and experience.

The third is in the context of a "failure to bring about justice" if a suspect or defendant or convict is treated by law enforcers in some way that violates their rights, whether this is due to an inappropriate process or application of flawed legislation or the absence of factual justification to apply an action or penalty, or if the suspect or defendant or convict receives arbitrary treatment in a disproportional way compared to the need to protect the rights of other people, or if the rights of others are not effectively and proportionally protected or preserved by the action of law enforces against the guilty party.

The fourth scenario concerns the "politicization of the criminal justice system", which involves a the misleading of the criminal justice process or criminal justice system for the purposes of reaching certain political goals.

These goals are generally intended to criminalize the opponents of the ruling regime or prevent other people from following in the footsteps of the opponents. The orchestration of cases results from this category.

The last scenario concerns "corruption in the criminal justice process", especially in the context of bribery crimes, covering several acts against the law such as offering promises, lures or gifts to a judge or law enforcer directly or indirectly, certain improper benefits to the relevant official or others or some agency, for the purpose of persuading the judge or official to do or avoid doing something in accordance with his or her official duties.

The ideal and expected outcome is the integrity of the court of law, including the criminal justice system. Without impartiality in the court of law and independence in the criminal justice system, the democratic character of society will be harmed.

Impartiality is not to be merely applied to the judicial framework, but should also inspire all the sub-systems of the criminal justice system, because as far as we have understood, the National Police and Attorney General's Office are a branch of the executive government that is vulnerable to a lack of independence.

Improving the integrity of the criminal justice system in the future will fully depend on the willingness and capacity of the State, the government and citizens to safeguard or uphold the ethics of public service in the handling of crime and justice by the police, prosecutors, judges, penitentiary personnel and other professionals of law such as relevant attorneys.

The ethics encompass several principles of public service as a reflection of public confidence, objective decisions, accountability, respectable attitudes, and last but not least the quality of democratic leadership to ensure honesty, justice, professionalism, common concern and respectability, and to prevent behavior that can lead to inappropriate deeds by public officials.

The writer is professor of law at Diponegoro University, Semarang, and a former governor of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas).








The week-end Sri Lanka visit of the Indian troika comprising National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshanker Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar is important to both the nations for reasons that are more than the obvious. Media reports in the two nations have highlighted discussions that had centred on rehabilitation and reconciliation, 'war crimes' and fishermen's issue, including the two Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions in this regard.

These reports made a passing reference to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepting the invitation of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for visiting Sri Lanka. According to these reports, NSA Menon handed over the letter of acceptance from Prime Minister Singh in this regard. The President had earlier invited Prime Minister Singh to participate in the year-long 'Sambuddhatva Jayanthi' celebrations of the 2600th anniversary of the Buddha attaining Enlightenment.

The last time an Indian Prime Minister undertook a bilateral state visit was in July 1987 when Rajiv Gandhi signed the India-Sri Lanka Accord with President J R Jayewardene. In India, this visit is also remembered for a Sri Lankan naval personnel attacking Prime Minister Gandhi at the honour-guard. No Indian President has visited Sri Lanka in living memory. All visits of successive Indian Prime Ministers to Sri Lanka since 1987, including that of Singh in 2008, were to participate in SAARC Summit. Though efforts were made to provide a bilateral content to the Singh visit, undertaken at the height of 'EelamWar IV', it was once again restricted to discussions on the sidelines that touched upon the ethnic issue, and also the stalemated Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries.

For many years now, every President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and also the Leader of the Opposition and a host of other Ministers and political leaders from Sri Lanka, have made New Delhi their first overseas destination after assuming office. They have also been visiting the Indian capital more frequently compared to equivalent traffic on the reverse route. This has contributed to consternation in a section of the Sri Lankan establishment. The implied generational gap in perceptions has meant that young leaders, officials and people in Sri Lanka, barring those tasked/privileged to be in India from time to time, have not seen an Indian Prime Minister in flesh and blood, for them to make instant contact and draw implicit conclusions. In the absence of constant interactions of the kind, younger generation Sri Lankans in walks of life have been left to make their own guesses, based on ill-conceived political criticism and ill-informed media perceptions.

Prime Minister Singh was in office when the Sri Lankan State caused the military exit of the militant LTTE. The Indian acceptance of the ground reality, and the consequent support and sympathy extended to the Sri Lankan Government was accompanied by promises from Colombo and consequent expectations in New Delhi on the post-war rehabilitation of the Tamil IDPs and political reconciliation involving their leadership. Both have made a start but little headway, according to critics of the Rajapaksa Government, nearer home and afar. The two Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions recently were reflective of these concerns. Rightly, Colombo refused to bite the bait. It declined to take official notice of the resolutions and said it would discuss the matters contained in those resolutions only with the Indian counterpart.

Enabling environment and 13-A

While in Colombo, the Indian team met with President Rajapaksa, External Affairs Minister G L Peiris, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, among other officials, and also leaders of various Sri Lankan Tamil political parties not part of the Government. After the talks, Menon was quoted as saying that "the quicker Sri Lanka can come to a political arrangement 'in which all communities are comfortable, the better. We will do whatever we can to arrive at it'." Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and Parliament member Suresh Premachandran said that the "Indian team did not suggest any political settlement but assured 'full support' for the Tamils' demand for a life of "dignity and security" in Sri Lanka".

Singling out nations at Geneva?

The Menon statement clearly underlines the fact that India was not dogmatic about 13-A, as attributed by critics in the Sinhala and Tamil communities. In another juncture and another environment, whatever was acceptable to all Sri Lankans, New Delhi would have no hesitation in acknowledging it as such. There, however, was an underlying Indian concern for the Sri Lankan State providing for the operationalisation of the legitimate aspirations of the moderate Tamil leadership, and the latter, particularly the TNA, accepting the ground realities and not sticking to pedagogic positions that had their roots in the pre-war past and had made them suspect in the eyes of the Sinhala majority.

Sri Lankan political/media criticism of the joint statement of May had also referred to New Delhi not supporting Colombo on the 'Darusmann Report' on 'war crimes', commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the past two years, when India was a member of the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva, New Delhi had not publicised its support, yet was canvassing the Sri Lankan case with fellow-members. So was it in relation to the Indian support for IMF credit-line for Sri Lanka, at the height of 'Eelam War IV', where it took a more stringent position.

In Colombo, Menon clarified that Sri Lanka did not seek India's support on the Darusmann Report. According to him, India was against singling out nations at the UNHRC, and that the veracity of reports of 40,000 civilian casualties at the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces could be questioned. In the global context, talking out against 'singling out' of a nation is a significant Indian position on 'war crimes' and 'HR violations'. Considering the content and the timing of the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions, and also his pre-visit meeting with Tamil Nadu's AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, it is again a strong statement from the Centre on the matter.

New Delhi's position in the joint statement, indicating the need for an internal probe into human rights violations, had also been the stand of China, a P-5 member and considered by some in Colombo a red-herring to India. Critics of India on the Darusmann Report are silent on this aspect. Likewise, those who have linked TNA and India far too much in their assessment of the post-war ethnic negotiations, refuse to refer to the former urging Russia and China, the two backers of Sri Lanka at P-5 and elsewhere, to hear them out.

Russian Ambassador Vladimir P. Mikhaylov, who was vociferous in his public defence of the Sri Lankan Government on the Darusmann Report, received a TNA delegation, possibly a first of its kind. The Ambassador later clarified that the TNA delegation did not ask Russia not to support the Sri Lankan Government. "More than that, they assured me that the TNA adheres to peaceful means of political struggle and is going to solve all the existing problems through dialogue.On my part, I reiterated the well-known principled position of the Russian Federation and expressed hope that the dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil community will bring complete reconciliation in near future," Ambassador Mikhaylov said in the statement.

Though China has not responded to the TNA request for a meeting with its envoy, a party MP and another sympathiser were reported to have visited Beijing in the year, on invitation. The pregnant Chinese silence in the first fortnight of the publication of the Darusmann Report was deafening. It was followed by nuanced support that referred to internal mechanisms for investigating rights violations in Sri Lanka. The support for Sri Lanka, as coincidence would have it, became louder and clearer only after the Sri Lanka visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, whose balanced approach was unlike what Washington was purportedly saying earlier.

The Colombo discussions between India and Sri Lanka naturally referred also to the fishermen's issue, which could be a real thorn in bilateral relations, independent of the ethnic issue and negotiations in Sri Lanka, in turn impacting on India. Post-war, the problem of fishermen from the two countries sharing the Palk Strait has become as much a livelihood issue as it has been a live issue for long. The Joint Working Group (JWG) of officials from the two countries met in New Delhi recently, and fishermen representatives too have been exchanging visits, to understand the inherent problems, before being able to address mutual concerns.

Menon said that officials from both sides would build on the ideas put forward by the fishermen representatives, to try and find a solution. At the JWG meet in Delhi earlier in the year, Sri Lanka was expected to propose a route-map for normalisation on the fishing front, but that did not happen. Given the complexities of the situation, where livelihood concerns on both sides are contested also by considerations of sovereignty and territorial integrity by Sri Lanka, and the consequent calls in Tamil Nadu for the re-take of Kachchativu islet, both sides need to grabble with the related problems even more to arrive at a solution acceptable to all stake-holders, including the two Governments. If unresolved, the vexatious problem could have a lasting impact on bilateral relations in real terms than even the 'ethnic issue', with which emotional bondage does exist in Tamil Nadu and greater concerns in New Delhi.

ORF Exclusive





Strategic realignment is underway in South Asia. If reports from Kabul and Washington are to be believed, both the countries are in detailed talks to reorient the security umbrella over Afghanistan, and to work out modalities to station troops beyond the end of 2014.

Presently around 130,000 combat soldiers and an extensive war machinery is in the war-weary country, but with little or no success against the Pashtun Taleban militia. How effective this policy of retaining foreign troops will be for Afghanistan, however, cannot be assessed at the moment. The fact is that such a desire and necessity is purely borne out of real-politick considerations and doesn't have much to do with the long-term peace and solidarity prospects of the war-destructed country.

The United States long-term objective of maintaining its presence in this part of the world is two-pronged: fighting the terror nexus, and ultimately flexing diplomatic muscles when it comes to dealing with China, Russia, Iran and India. This strategy is inherently ill-advised as it will hardly be a source of stability for the region, thereby buoying jihadi tendencies.

It is, however, unclear whether this script is solely that of Pentagon or allied countries are also on board. Washington, for long, has been pressurising its NATO allies to adopt a pro-active policy in Asia and the Middle East, and not to take cover behind US armoury while dealing with expeditions. Britain and France going solo in North of Africa, despite limited successes over Libyan skies, is gradually unfolding into a new intervention doctrine of Europe, and the Obama administration has stressed at length in copying the same elsewhere to further the agenda of West's assertiveness.

While dealing with Afghanistan, the West's strategy cannot be military-specific. The allies have already experimented at length with firepower. The need of the hour is a political approach to address the concerns of the locals, and ensure that the war-torn country sooner than later comes out of the abyss of indifference. Given to understand that the political and military leadership in the US is in favour of initiating a broad-based dialogue (process, how effectively that is contoured in the forthcoming strategy remains to (be seen.

Washington should tread a cautious policy and keep in mind that neither can it abandon Afghanistan nor afford (to remain there for good. Exiting from (Kabul with grace is sine qua non for regional (stability.

Khaleej Times





At a time when the Arab Spring is shaking the political order in the Middle East, the election victory of the AK Party (Justice and Development Party) in Turkey — a country which had ruled much of the troubled region for centuries till upto the end of First World War — offers a solution to the political conundrum.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led his party to its third consecutive general election victory which many analysts see as an endorsement of his economic policies and his efforts to take the country to the world's centrestage as a big power, reminiscent of the role the Ottoman Empire played in centuries gone by.

Days before the election, the London-based Economist magazine hailed Turkey's economic performance and advised the Turks to vote for the AK Party. That a capitalist mouthpiece went to the extent of telling the Turks how to vote is, on the one hand, an expression of support for Turkey's free-market policies, and on the other a desire to promote Erdogan's Turkey as a role model for the Arab world so that the West's Middle Eastern interests can be safeguarded.

The West is not unaware that the people in the Middle East are against it. This is largely because of the blind support the United States and its allies extend to Israel even when the Zionist state is wrong. Canada, for example, at the G8 summit last month opposed the mentioning of the 1967 borders in the final statement, though US President Barack Obama wanted it. The US, in February, used its veto power in the UN Security Council to quash an Arab resolution condemning Israel's settlement-building activities, though its action contradicted the Obama administration's own policy of opposing any new settlement building activity in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Western leaders apparently believe an Arab leader elected through democratic means won't or won't be able to bow to the US, as the region's monarchs, dictators and despots do now. The West's open support for Israel is likely to draw hostile reaction on the streets across the politically rejuvenated Arab world or it may even lead to an oil boycott like in the 1970s. The one way to avoid such a situation is to promote Erdogan's Turkish model.

Since Erdogan led his Islamic-rooted party to its first electoral victory in 2002, Turkey has made great strides in economic development. Under Erdogan's leadership, Turkey, withstood the shocks of the global economic crisis in 2008 and continued to progress as Europe's fastest growing economy. It also charted a course that balanced the state doctrine of secularism with Islam. The balance extends to the realm of Turkey's foreign policy as well while it projects Erdogan as a hero in the Arab-Islamic world.

Erdogan's Turkey while remaining a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and a US ally and maintaining diplomatic and military relations with Israel, has not hesitated to condemn Tel Aviv's atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territory. It refused to join George W. Bush's coalition to attack Iraq and did not grant permission for US troops to use Turkey as a launching pad to invade Iraq in 2003.

Again, while being a US ally, Turkey together with Brazil last year came to the rescue of Iran to protect it from tough UN sanctions.

When NATO joined the war in Libya, Turkey refused to undertake any combat role. On the current crisis in Syria, Erdogan plays a key role in efforts to bring about a peaceful end to the pro-democracy riots there. While being a good friend of Bashar al-Assad, Erdogan opened Turkey's borders to Syrians fleeing the ruthless crackdown. When pro-democracy protests shook Egypt, Turkey stood by the protesters. After President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, Turkish President Abdullah Gul became the first world leader to visit Egypt. Gul met Egypt's new military leadership and leaders of political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and impressed upon them the merits of the Turkish model which is a mixture of secular democracy, free-market, modernity, Islamic identity, western military alliance, diplomacy with Israel and advocacy of the Palestinian cause.

The West apparently believes that the Turkish model is the best option for the emerging democracies in the Arab world since the other two options are dictatorship and Islamic extremism.

Though Erdogan's model is hailed as an example to follow, his domestic problems are far from over. The Kurdish autonomy issue, the threat from the military and the secular elites, the European Union membership and corruption are some of the issues the popular leader, who as a poor boy sold bread and lemonade at traffic lights and played soccer on the backstreet, has to deal with.

Turkish nationalism has prevented the formulation of a viable solution to the problem of the Kurds, who constitute one fifth of the population. Erdogan's party wants to introduce a constitution to replace the present 'military-made' constitution. But his party fell short of the required numbers in parliament to initiate on its own the process of introducing a new constitution that will address the Kurdish issue and check the role of the military in governance. To do that, Erdogan now needs the opposition's support.

A big hurdle will be the 'Deep State', a clandestine clique dedicated to the secular ideology of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. The group still controls the country's military, judiciary and public service. But Erdogan has succeeded to some extent in shaming them.  He took the bull by the horns and arrested scores of serving and retired military officers on charges of trying to topple the elected government. The case is known as Ergenekon, a mythical place in Turkish fables.

But the sword of Damocles is far from being removed. Erdogan has one thing in common with Adnan Menderes, a former Turkish prime minister. Both won three consecutive elections. The Turks believe the comparison should end here because Menderes, who tried to cut the military budget, was overthrown in a military coup and hanged. But with the Arab Spring drawing millions of people to the streets, any attempt by the military to undermine democracy in Turkey is sure to give rise to a Turkish spring.





In the psyche of modern society, there seems to be a lack of inter-relatedness. We may see a huge mass of humanity converging each day on our streets; going to work, or going home after. Yet we fail to recognize the need for a communality of our aims. The new vision of reality shows that all social movements are going in the same direction. We can expect the various movements to flow together and form a powerful force for social change. Yet fear hinders this flow.

Do we not see a harmonious inter-relatedness in nature? The eco systems complement and sustain each other. Humanity too, has to achieve a state of dynamic balance. The survival of our whole civilization may depend on whether we too can bring about a state of inter-relatedness.

If we look at ourselves, we see that we are comfortable only with like-minded people. Anybody having a different way of looking at things disturbs us. This would naturally give rise to fear in our hearts. Yet we are called to not entertain fear as a destructive force for what it is, but as a stepping stone to liberation. In this regard, we see politicians of all parties manifesting such fear. It is pitiable seeing them paranoid over their security. Recognizing their negative emotion however, is a stepping stone for liberating themselves from fear for social ascendancy. Having a positive attitude of wanting to touch and relate to the people on the street would bring about their own popularity.

In families we may live together with each other, yet fear of being hurt or unable to cope with demands of family members, makes us hide within ourselves and live in seclusion. We could hide behind the internet, TV or any other distractive activity. The weaker ones could take cover in various forms of addiction, drugs, liquor, sex, clubs or fashions. The struggle to interact is awakened. Moment by moment, make those little efforts to communicate and relate in family till we overcome our own fears and weaknesses for inner freedom.

Another alarming feature in our metropolis is the prevalence of high walls protecting our houses. We have lost our culture and identity of the village concept. Could it not be the psyche of fear that has crept in through haphazard and one sided economic growth at the expense of those who could not make it?

Many have lived among neighbours that they have hardly seen or spoken to. Gone are the days when private lanes were places, neighbours gathered, seated on chairs, sharing tattle, time, tea and the latest gossip.

What does inter-connectedness or communication do?

We learn skills in communication, which is sadly lacking today; emotional growth is assured, this would take care of the mental and emotional problems confronting society today; we would learn how to show interest in the other; giving rise to the other showing interest in us; slowly we develop our self confidence and trust in the other, thereby dispelling the basic fear inherent in humanity.

Therefore we see tack of relatedness causes conflict or discord. Fear and suspicion of others, is the cause of conflict. Paranoid protection of self, race, creed or religion, is the other. These could be broken by interaction, pulling down walls we built. This would give rise to one day war and conflict becoming a thing of the past. In the future humanity when it looks back, would feel ashamed and embarrassed at what made brother to kill brother, or a neighbour killing another.





The Minister of Labour has already confirmed through a communication from the Ministry on the 03/06/2011, to the members of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) that the Pension Fund Bill has definitely been withdrawn. Amidst all this information, an effort is made in certain quarters to reformulate the bill to be tabled in the Parliament after consultation with the NLAC members. 'Lankadeepa' on 07th June 2011 announced this in its headlines as genuine information from the Ministry of Labour. At the last Parliamentary debate, certain Ministers have said very clearly that the same old bill will be taken with certain amendments.

These set of people are able to make such irresponsible statements as the strikes wave has calmed down after the death of the FTZ worker Roshen Chanaka. The immediate need of the Trade Unions and the Workers' Movement in general, is to bury this nefarious Pension Fund Bill and force the legislature to remove it from the order paper.

The setback of the government not being able to rush through the bill in the Parliament and the anxiety of the President to announce jubilantly on the last May Day, was frustrated by the injunction order taken by the Ceylon Bank Employees' Union (CBEU) in the Supreme Court. This allowed the Trade Unions a breathing space to organize themselves for a broad-based education and campaign.

The Ruling clique and the Ministers are unable to face the defeat at the worker's uprising. So they make very effort to reintroduce this Bill. Former Judge Mahanama Tillekeratne's investigations are not known to anybody. Every young worker is very anxious to find out who gave the order to shoot. Whether this was the sole responsibility of the IGP or of the Defence Ministry?. The Government is unconcerned about the critically injured workers. Some of these young people seriously injured by the live bullets will become "Invalids" for the rest of their lives.

Everybody understood the ulterior motive behind this Pension Fund Bill. This is not a Private Sector Pension Scheme to sustain the workers in their old age. This is only an effort to initiate  a  Fund. It is an exercise of capital accumulation in the country.

The Government is compelled to show the IMF that it is capable to be an equity-investor to receive IMF loan. As this is the motive of the government, they will try to grab all the financial resources available in the country. The EPF together with the ETF are the most flourishing funds. The total assets of these two funds amount to Rs.1027 Billion of which Rs. 902 Billion belong to the EPF already in 2010. Now it will be close to a trillion.

Now the Government is making a desperate effort to make JVP the scapegoat of the FTZ workers' rebellion. But the actual reality is that the unionized - members of the FTZ is a tiny minority. There was no way of inciting the workers of the 3 zones – Katunayake, Biyagama and Koggala.

It became very evident that certain influential Trade Unions including the UFL linked together with the national-level Trade Union – the Ceylon Bank Employees' Union (CBEU) and formed the Joint Trade Union Alliance. It was through this Joint Trade Unions that we started a strong Joint campaign against the Pension Fund Bill. The Free Trade Zone and General Workers' Union was instrumental in organizing the FTZ Katunayake.The JVP union did an excellent propaganda against the bill reaching the extreme villages.

The joint work of the Trade Unions has overflowed to the marginalized sectors, to the non- unionized workers of the FTZs. It was an upsurge of an informal, unorganized sector which automatically evolved as a mass struggle. But it is still the beginning of the upsurge in the mass consciousness of the working people.

The young workers shed their blood and their prime youthful lives to defend their financial resources- EPF, ETF and the Gratuity. No government or any authority could grab their hard-earned money.

We reiterate very clearly our position:

Defeat totally without any compromise whatsoever the nefarious Pension Fund Bill, till it is totally removed immediately from the Order Book of the Parliament.  

Linus Jayathilake

United Federation of Labour







You don't normally spot any news about Bahrain in the Mumbai Press.

So, it was quite a surprise to see the kingdom mentioned on the front page of the city supplement of a leading national daily.

The news story was about a Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank entering into a partnership agreement with a local developer about developing an area of northern Mumbai for commercial purposes.

Increasingly, India's financial capital has undergone a sweeping, but gradual change in its skyline.

The Bahrain company is said to build malls, multiplexes and high-rise infrastructure that have already begun to reflect its growing economy.

But this development, which has caused some parts of the city to resemble Hong Kong or Shanghai, does not come without a price.

The Maharashtra government's decision to redevelop Dharavi, Asia's largest slum famously featured in films such as Slumdog Millionaire and Salaam Bombay, met with stiff opposition from those dwelling there.

The slum houses a large migrant population working in leather and several other small industries. People living there fear that the redevelopment will ruin their livelihoods and communities.

Their ramshackle houses may be basic and congested, but they are home and they don't wish to see them razed.

Residents argue that if they were moved into high-rises, the close-knit communities they have built for years will be destroyed.

Across the country, many voices of dissent echo the resentment of people for whom India's growth doesn't feel very inclusive.

Plans to rebuild bazaars or raze them to make way for infrastructural projects such as flyovers in Mumbai and other cities have met with opposition.

The century-old bazaars are little suburbs of their own with their own food networks, flea markets and rich culture.

Transplanting these societies into vertical structures will kill their character, according to some.

Heritage conservationists and architects I've spoken with here say it is wrong to impose a Western model of redevelopment that wipes out the character of a place.

One interior designer told me that there are multiple ways of looking at an architectural project and implementing a method that worked in Dubai won't necessarily work in India, as it discounts the country's heritage structures.

Mumbai, with its colonial architecture reflecting its Portuguese and British history as well as those built by its original inhabitants, presents an interesting dilemma.

How to allow space for companies to set up offices, industries to grow and job-seekers to live while making sure it doesn't lose its history is a question many urban planners grapple with.

One-tenth of India's top 200 cities have a five-star hotel and a little less than three-fourths are still awaiting a hypermarket, according to a recent Morgan Stanley report on India's urbanisation.

In the face of a growing consumer population, it is highly likely that these cities will meet their needs and make themselves attractive for big retail chains.

Demand for a better standard of living on par with metropolises around the world is justified as there is undeniable squalor in most Indian cities most people now wish to change.

However, the challenge for those seeking to change the city's landscape such as the Bahrain company is to ensure that Mumbai gets to keep its heritage and doesn't look just like any other soulless concrete jungle. * Ms Gnana is a former Bahrain resident now studying in Mumbai.