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month june 18, edition 000862, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.
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THE TIMES OF INDIA
- PUNCHES FROM A SUPERSTAR
- THE BABA WHO BLEW IT - CHETAN BHAGATCHETAN BHAGAT
- IT'S A DIVERSIONARY TACTIC
- ADDRESSES THE ENTIRE PROBLEM 0 ANIL THAKKARANIL THAKKAR
- WATCH THE MOVES AS THE MUSIC PLAYS - GAUTAM ADHIKARIGAUTAM ADHIKARI
- ASKED BUT DID NOT RECEIVE
- THE GREAT INDIAN NOVEL WILL NEVER BE WRITTEN - PRATIK KANJILAL
- A SPECTACULAR STORY - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
- FORCING OUR HAND - AYAZ MEMON
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
- COLONELS, THE GENERAL
- IT'S STILL UPMA
- NO MORE JAGIRS
- NATIONAL INTEREST: THE SUMMER FREEZE - SHEKHAR GUPTA
- GROUND REALITIES - SYED BADRUL AHSAN
- FAST APPROACHING FAST FATIGUE - DILIP BOBB
- DON'T CALL THIS BLACKMAIL - SHAZIA ILMI
- EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLING - RUCHIKA TALWAR
- AMERICA THE INSECURE
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
- RIL DISAPPOINTS RETAIL
- MANESAR GETS CALM
- GREECE TODAY, BRITAIN YESTERDAY - DANI RODRIK
- BOYCOTT HAS TWO FACES - PRADEEP S MEHTA
- FRIENDS LIKE THESE
- ON EXPECTED LINES
- SHOULD WATER BE MOVED TO CONCURRENT LIST? - RAMASWAMY R. IYER
- NSG ALL SET TO UP-END INDIA'S CLEAN WAIVER - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
- CLOSE UP, MERCURY IS LOOKING LESS BORING - KENNETH CHANG
- GAME CHANGING MOMENT FOR PAKISTAN'S MEDIA - ANITA JOSHUA
THE ASIAN AGE
- TACKLING INFLATION IS NOT RBI'S JOB ALONE
- A RESTLESS SUMMER - KISHWAR DESAI
- PERSONAL VS POLITICAL - FARRUKH DHONDY
- NUDIST CYCLISTS AND A FUNERAL - SHOBHAA DE
- OTTOMAN WHISPERS - S. NIHAL SINGH
- LOKPAL BILL MUST BE SALVAGED
- INFLATION DEFIES GRAVITY
- OBSTACLES TO GROWTH
- DIALOGUE WITH PAKISTAN - BY KULDIP NAYAR
- A MATTER OF PERCEPTION - BY RAJ KADYAN
- MANAGING GROWTH WITH FORESTS
- A GREEK LESSON - T N NINAN
- CHINA'S HUBRIS - DEEPAK LAL
- SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT, PLEASE - DEVANGSHU DATTA
- THE KOEL JUST GOES ON AND ON - SUBIR ROY
- IS PAKISTAN GOVERNABLE? - V V
- CORRUPTION EXPRESS - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
- THE RISKS OF COMING HOME - KALA SEETHARAM SRIDHAR & V SRIDHAR
- SPOOKING OURSELVES INTO A SLOWDOWN - RAMA BIJAPURKAR
- FISCAL POLICY AND INFLATION
- GRAFT AND SLUSH FUNDS - MOHAN R. LAVI
- TAX EVASION AS CRIMINAL OFFENCE - T.C.A.RAMANUJAM
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- CIVILITY, PLEASE
- SENSIBLE MERGER
- ONE UPMA-NSHIP
- DELIVERING SUBSIDIES THROUGH DCT
- 'NO QUESTION OF GOING BACK TO CONGRESS' - SREEKALA G & R SRIRAM
- SECURE, GOVERN AND DEVELOP - ROHIT SINGH
- SMALL STATES CREATING BIG FUSS
- TACKLING INFLATION IS NOT RBI'S JOB ALONE
- PERSONAL VS POLITICAL
- SEX AND THE MEASURE OF A MANLY MAN
- THE GOOD EARTH
- CIA AND ISI
- CIC CONDEMNATION
- NORTH & THE SOUTH - ARUP MAHARATNA
- 'WE CAN CHANGE AND PROVIDE A BETTER LF'
- CHOICE BEFORE GENERAL KAYANI - RAJINDER PURI
- PROMISES TO KEEP
- DELHI DELUSIONS - RAMACHANDRA GUHA
THE NEWYORK TIMES
- A BOOK AT THE BEACH
- SYRIA'S NIGHTMARE
- THE TREATY AND THE LAW
- DEBT LIMIT ENDGAME
- ARAB SPRING, KURDISH SUMMER - BY SEBAHAT TUNCEL
- REMEMBRANCES OF MY FATHER - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
- HOW TO END THE N.F.L. DEADLOCK - BY ARLEN SPECTER
- THE BANKING MIRACLE - BY JOE NOCERA
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
- A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: NEW CONCEPT, NEW CONTENT AND NEW NAMES
- AND THEN THERE IS THE 'SRI LANKA MODEL'
- WOUND FOR CHANGE, WOUND FOR LIGHT - HALA ELKHOLY
- WHICH TURKS HATE ISRAEL MOST
- BDP AS THE MAIN OPPOSITION
- PAYING MORTGAGE
- A HERO'S MURDER
- LOCAL ACCESS TO LOCAL ECONOMY - YUSUF H SHIRAZI
- INTELLIGENCE REFORMS - MAHMUD ALI DURRANI
- TAKING SOCIAL MEDIA BY STORM - MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR
- SQUANDERED HUMAN CAPITAL - JAMSHED IQBAL
- LAW AND THE ARMY - BABAR SATTAR
- MEMO FROM USA - ANJUM NIAZ
- BUILDING OF A MONSTER OUT OF AL-ZAWAHIRI
- ATTACK ON BAJAUR, WE EVEN DON'T PROTEST
- VIDEOS SHOW RAPE OF LIBYAN WOMEN
- RAMPANT CORRUPTION IN PAKISTAN - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
- PAK NUKES ARE SECURE AND SAFE - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
- ISLAMIC WELFARE STATE IS PEOPLE'S DREAM - ASIF HAROON RAJA
- KASHMIR IS KEY TO PEACE IN SA - COL M HANIF (RETD)
- INTELLIGENCE TEST FOR THE US - CHRISTOPHER DICKEY
- PARABLE FOR MODERN AUSTRALIA
- POLITICAL TRUST IS EARNED SLOWLY AND SPENT QUICKLY
- PURITY OR POLITICAL CLOUT?
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- PM HEADING FOR AN UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY
- A BUMPY FLIGHT WITH AIR GILLARD
- ARE YOU DEAF? I SAID F.A.B.
- PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS: TALKING NOT SHOUTING
- TRAVEL WRITING: LOST ART IN SEARCH OF A LOST WORLD
- UNTHINKABLE? NO SECOND SERVE
THE JAPAN TIMES
- CO² EMISSIONS ON THE RISE
- STEPPING UP THE WAR ON AIDS
THE JAKARTA POST
- THE JAKARTA FAIR MAGNET
- THE SCHOOL OF CORRUPTION
- EARTH AND THE 'ECOLOGICAL' CREDIT CARD - YANSEN
- FLAG-RAISING CEREMONY AND NATIONAL PRIDE - DONNY SYOFYAN
- MANAGING COMMODITY FLOWS AROUND JAKARTA - DANANG PARIKESIT
- NEW CORPORATE FARMING IN QUESTION - SUBEJO
- A TRIBUTE TO DUDLEY SENANAYAKE
- BY ILICA MALKANTHI KARUNARATNE
- SRI LANKAN TAMILS: A DISCONCERTING SITUATION FOR INDIA - BY B. RAMAN
- THE SUDDEN WAKE UP FOR THOSE 600 POLICEMEN - SUDANS PROPENSITY TO CONFLICT
- VISION FOR A NEW SRI LANKA
GULF DAILY NEWS
- CHANGING CULTURES - BY PAUL BALLES
- ERDOGAN'S STAR CONTINUES TO RISE - BY SIAMAK KAKAEI
- DID EGYPT REALLY OPEN RAFAH CROSSING? - BY RAMZY BAROUD
- RISKY TERRITORY - BY GWYNNE DYER
THE TIMES OF INDIA
PUNCHES FROM A SUPERSTAR
So there, Mr Clever Critic. I've proved you wrong - again. You said my new movie was unadulterated trash. Well, it's hit unadulterated gold at the box office! Despite your nit-picking and nay-saying, I've shown it's lip-syncing and hip-swinging that rule our audiences' hearts. With some shirt-stripping. It's not your fancy Fellini or smarty-pants Scorsese, but me, half-pant hottie, shaking up our box office - the world's largest, may i add - for the last 20 years. You sneer that my flying-shirt act's growing a little old while it's actually getting better! Look at my muscles, my six-to-eight pack, my sturdy legs that both kick and pirouette. Which star in your beloved West has all this - or more? Frankly, i didn't have much either when i started, but as they say, persevere, puttar, and you shall achieve.
And achieve i have. I may not have won those prissy awards you keep raving about - Golden Bear or Diamond Duck - but i've broken every commercial record that matters, and some more too. For instance, looking drop-deadpan-handsome over two decades. Big deal if it involved hair transplants and a few other procedures we won't go into right now. All that naach-gaana in the hot sun or pouring rain, thumka to tango through 20 years - and looking thrilled each time. Romancing heroines as fat as my yummy-mummy, then switching to Size Zero sweeties without missing a beat. It's hard work. But someone's got to do it. And that someone's been me.
And guess what? Despite all your moaning about regurgitated formulae and hackneyed plots, viewers adore me because of my record-breaking feats. I may not be able to put it properly in words but boy, do my pectorals speak to them. Why do you think they go mad when i tear off my shirt? It's not because of chemistry, dummy, but because of history - they see every hour i've sweated it out, in gym and jail, my bulging body and heavy wallet speaking. They see their journey too - rayon to Teflon, frontbench 'cheapsters' to multiplex-hipsters, grubby popcorn in plastic packs to cheese and caramel feasts. When my shirt comes off, they see all the toil and tears it takes to make that ultimate blockbuster - the India story. And they love it.
That's why i'm still a superstar. Not an armchair intelli-gent complaining about unimaginative characters. Or saying art cinema doesn't get the money my movies do. Of course it doesn't! Who needs art when you have life in surround sound? Who needs sagas about struggle when i say it all with a whip of my shirt? When you criticise me, pal, you're taking on total India. So yaar, quit carping. Or else fight it out, pen to sword (let's just settle, once and for all, which is mightier!). After 20 years of guts and glory, i'm so Ready for you.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
THE BABA WHO BLEW IT
CHETAN BHAGATCHETAN BHAGAT
A few weeks ago, Baba Ramdev (henceforth referred to as Baba, given his dominant position in the Indian Baba industry) was a likeable man. His recent volatile moods apart, Baba is funny, articulate, teaches yoga, is a rooted Indian and immensely entertaining. I love his wonderful Hindi vocabulary. And yet, despite having the chance of a lifetime and coming awfully close, i am sorry to say that Baba blew it. This has life lessons for all of us on how not to blow it when you are almost home. To understand this, let us look at the Baba case study.
Baba may have had his heart in the right place when it comes to corruption. His journey is inspiring as well. Coming from nowhere, he became the biggest yoga teacher in the world. Using personal charisma and something taught for free in India's neighbourhood parks, he created an empire worth thousands of crores and touched millions.
Baba's mixed serving society and personal ambition, which isn't a bad thing. Once at the zenith of the yoga game, and having the attention of millions, Baba started airing political views. Corruption became his cause but he also had a view on an India he wanted to see. Whether it was the kind of medicines we would have or the MNCs he wanted out, to views on sexuality.
Some of Baba's plans were good. However, many were outlandish. For example, Baba feels homosexuality is a disease curable with yoga asanas. He also wants to ban 1,000 and 500-rupee notes to kill black money. What if people with black money start to hoard dollars or gold? What about the inconvenience it will bring to the people who don't have black money?
Even at a policy level, Baba's views are not clearly thought through. Baba wants non-tech MNCs out, but what exactly does that mean? Are banks non-tech? Should we kick out all the foreign banks and all the employment generating FDI with it? Baba's recommendations were silly. Still, none of this mattered when Baba combined his charisma with saffron robes. Millions still followed him, for Indians rarely look at politics in a rational manner. It is all about the leader's personal charm. Baba's rise worried the central government. What the BJP could not do, Baba could do independently - curse the government and gather crowds at the same time. Baba could rise to be the communal-lite, a more palatable saffron dish for the masses. His big move was the June 4 fast. Many felt it wouldn't work; after all, who wanted an Anna-me-too?
But Baba made it work. From the start, he had success. The PM cajoled him not to go on a fast. India's senior politicians rushed to the airport to greet him. More ministers met him at the Claridges hotel. The RSS (which currently includes any Hindu against corruption as per government definition), the BJP and almost anybody anti-Congress backed Baba. Even Anna and company boosted him, hoping this single yogi would add pressure on the government for the Lokpal Bill. The fast had barely begun. However, Baba had arrived, and how.
Soon, the government panicked, fearing Baba's becoming viral like Anna did. In a huge lapse of judgment, it used force to kick out the protesters. Baba hit the jackpot. He didn't just have fame, he now had the most invaluable asset in Indian politics - public sympathy. The images of a helpless crowd being attacked by the police became Baba's money shot. On the night of the police crackdown, Baba had become a legitimate, emerging star of Indian politics.
And that is when Baba blew it. Right when the nation was in shock at the attacks and silence would have worked wonders, Baba was back on TV. He screamed and whined on prime time about the wrong done to him. Sympathy in India comes to those who are seen to suffer in silent dignity. But Baba can't remain silent or resist TV cameras. He could have retreated, laid low for a while, re-strategised and come back with another agitation. But Baba made it worse. The next day, his whining turned to anger. He made proclamations about raising an 11,000 strong personal army. He withdrew the statement later, but the damage was done. From a messiah, he came across as somewhat psycho.
It was frustratingly stupid to throw away so much political gain for the sake of false bravado. Baba aspires to be a national leader. However, his team seems to have no proper advisers on policy or politically correct conduct. Given his wealth, it would be easy to surround himself with the best experts in law, economics, policy, media relations and social welfare. Yet, he chooses to spend Rs 18 crore on tents but not a fraction of that on the right advisers. Perhaps sycophancy surrounds him, something i have seen with a lot of successful people, and nobody points out his flaws to him.
I am not a particular well-wisher of Baba. However, i am concerned because Baba's missteps have cost the anti-corruption movement. All anti-corruption activists could be clubbed with Baba. Even Anna's team got dragged down with it.
Above all, Baba's escapades have learnings for all of us. Being angry isn't yogi-like at all. Loony solutions do not work, good economic and legal frameworks do. Passion, restraint and the right judgment in choosing between the two are the hallmarks of a leader. Baba may not realise this, but teacher that he is, he has ended up giving all of us an unintentional lesson.
The writer is a best-selling novelist.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
IT'S A DIVERSIONARY TACTIC
Amidst the civil society-led chorus against corruption, the government's proposal to amend the Indian Penal Code to bring the private sector and non-government organisations under the anti-graft ambit is a red herring. There already exists a plethora of laws to check corruption in the private sector. The ministry of corporate affairs is dedicated to this purpose. Its primary concern is the administration of the Companies Act, 1956, which empowers the government to regulate the formation, financing and functioning of companies in accordance with ethical business practices. This is not to say there isn't any scope for improving on corporate governance legislation. However, the government is already armed with considerable powers to check private sector or NGO corruption, which it can exercise if it so chooses.
The real problem arises when authorities are themselves corrupt, which is what anti-graft legislation should focus on. A case has been made for putting the private sector under the graft scanner, because of its growing footprint in public service delivery. But this doesn't require separate legislation as it can easily be incorporated into contracts for delivery of such services. If governance is good but private sector delivery is bad, then provision of deficient services can be punished through fines or non-renewal of contracts or other penalties.
Sensibly, the aviation ministry has opposed the move to bring the private sector under the proposed legislation, as it raises the spectre of excessive state intervention in the economy. Surely it would be a travesty if, in the guise of checking corruption, the government were to bring back the licence raj. Bureaucratic red tape, after all, has consistently been used as a tool to incentivise bribery and kickbacks. Let the government not run circles around us.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
ADDRESSES THE ENTIRE PROBLEM
ANIL THAKKARANIL THAKKAR
It's the same old tired story playing out again. An implacable Anna Hazare and a volatile Baba Ramdev are hounding the government, backed by a frustrated - justifiably so - public that wants answers and wants them now. But when the government works towards giving those answers, it finds that there are no takers. The perception of all politicians as fraudulent and corrupt is simply too deep-rooted for an administration of any stripe to shake. Doubtless, the proposal to amend the Indian Penal Code to bring the private sector and non-government organisations into the ambit of anti-corruption laws will be dismissed as another attempt to distract from the real issues at hand.
This would be a mistake. What the government is trying to do with this move is precisely what activists are demanding, and in a more complete way than they have suggested so far - by targeting not just government officials but the entire ecosystem of corruption. Plenty has been written about the misdeeds of politicians and bureaucrats, but there have been relatively few acknowledgements of the blame civil society must shoulder. It functions very often as an enabler for corruption, finding ways around rules and regulations - or avoiding punitive action for breaking them - by the judicious application of money.
This is what the proposed amendment seeks to address - laws to dissuade the corporate equivalents of paying off a cop at the traffic signal to avoid being booked for running a red light. It would do little good to implement the Lokpal Bill as Hazare wants without addressing the other side of the equation. With the private sector taking over increasingly vast swathes of the national economy and NGOs providing many vital socio-economic services, such an amendment is needed more than ever. To suggest otherwise - to say that only government corruption needs to be targeted - would be hypocrisy of the worst kind.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
WATCH THE MOVES AS THE MUSIC PLAYS
GAUTAM ADHIKARIGAUTAM ADHIKARI
WASHINGTON: If you love jazz, or music of any kind, you have to watch the video. If you don't care much for beat and harmony, watch it anyway just to marvel at yet another face of our complex neighbour.
Go to YouTube and punch in "Lahore Take Five" and you'll find it. At a bit over five minutes, it's an amazing rendition of Dave Brubeck's composition Take Five by a Pakistani ensemble. It starts off with a soft pitter-patter of the tabla, rises to the sound of violins and cellos throbbing with Brubeck's rhythm. Then a sitar captures the lead yielding way every now and then to a classical guitar. It's entrancing.
The string musicians, they are all men, are dressed elegantly in white. The conductor is a burly man with a beard waving his baton to weave magical music. And as you listen, you can't help wondering why the world rarely gets to see this face of Pakistan instead of all those pictures of burly men with beards waving carbines.
Our neighbour has many faces, perhaps far too many. The world today nervously sees Pakistan as a hydra-headed monster-nation. It seems to lack any overarching identity. All you see is a conspiracy-driven terrorist sanctuary managed craftily by generals and colonels who are masters of cunning and little else.
In his excellent book, Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan, M J Akbar blames not Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, but Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, and his disciple, the late General Zia-ul Haq, for the nightmare that Jinnah's dream has turned into. "Pakistan can become a stable, modern nation, but only if the children of the father of Pakistan, Jinnah, can defeat the ideological heirs of the godfather, Maududi," writes Akbar. Perhaps. For now, the military plays the tune of Islamism to its advantage to make Pakistan the world's most dangerous nation.
After the killing by the Americans of Osama bin Laden almost next door to a military complex in Abbottabad, that alarming image of Pakistan has grown in the eyes of outsiders. Here in the US, voices are rising to ask what to do with that country in the near future. Anxieties, expressed so far in hushed tones, have come out in the open. Some are urging Washington to end its marriage of convenience with Islamabad.
Last Saturday the Washington Post had a story on its front page that began: "Twice in recent weeks, the United States provided Pakistan with the specific locations of insurgent bomb-making factories, only to see the militants learn that their cover had been blown and vacate the sites before military action could be taken." US officials suspect the ISI to have tipped off the militants.
A few strategic analysts want the US to recognise the rapidly declining value of its alliance with Pakistan. As it is, Islamabad has begun to flirt openly with Beijing, its "all-weather" friend. It has even advised Afghanistan recently to rely less on the Americans, who will go away in any case, and develop a relationship with China.
As for the billions of dollars they get from the Americans, Pakistan's rulers realise they will have a tough time convincing the US Congress to pass the next instalment, given the anger that has risen here in recent weeks. But they can turn to their other trusted friend, Saudi Arabia, for help if necessary and tell the Americans to buzz off.
The analysts who want the US to end its alliance with Pakistan also want to reinvigorate a growing US-India partnership. They feel the shared values of these two democracies can form a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship in a world that will see an inevitable realignment of power among nations. But are India's policy planners ready to tango in such a partnership?
In his new book, Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy, David Malone, Canada's former high commissioner in Delhi, says our foreign policy remains reactive and lacks a grand vision. He believes pragmatism and economic interests will guide India on the world's dance floor. Well, as the music plays on, we can only hope that our mandarins are studying the moves on the floor carefully.
ASKED BUT DID NOT RECEIVE
When the J Jayalalithaa juggernaut rolled into the Capital this week, the political ground literally shook with expectations. The decimated Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) will be shown the door and a weightier All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) will be given the keys to the house, said political pundits.
The mercurial AIADMK supremo may indeed have come to signal her willingness to join the UPA coalition, she dropped several hints to that effect. But astute politician that she is meant to be, she seemed to have lost her deft touch, making several demands that could, at best be termed unrealistic and at worst, flaky.
There may have been some controversy over the election of home minister P Chidambaram from Sivaganga and a petition on this filed by one of her own partymen is pending in the courts. But for Ms Jayalalithaa to ask for him to be dropped from the Cabinet is unfeasible at this juncture.
Then even as she suggested that she would play ball if asked very nicely, she demanded the dropping of textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran from the government on the grounds that he was involved in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Conversant as she is with the law, surely she could not have been unaware of the fact that neither of these demands make much sense unless charges against the gentlemen concerned are proved in a court of law. And she also cannot have failed to notice that despite the fact that she is indeed the giant killer of Tamil Nadu today, the UPA did not go very much beyond laying out the red carpet for her.
A photo-op with the PM, a non-tea party with the Congress president and a stilted press conference was all she really got. In real terms, the UPA is in no danger at all and in no need of new allies at the moment, despite the taint on the DMK.
But realpolitik would dictate that had Ms Jayalalithaa been serious about displacing her arch rival from the coalition, she would have displayed a slightly more soothing touch in her opening gambit.
To add a faintly comical touch to the proceedings, she asked the Centre to foot the bill for the laptops she had promised to people as part of the assembly election sops. Had we not known better, we might have thought that she has lost touch with reality after a considerable period of time in the wilderness.
The fact that the UPA is not camping at her doorstep could be because she has in the past proved a notoriously fickle ally. True she holds all the aces today as far as numbers from Tamil Nadu are concerned. But she should play them well instead of revealing her hand in the very first move.
We could be forgiven for thinking that she is more intent on settling political scores than on gaining a foothold in the Centre. And we thought she might have turned over a new leaf with this new lease of life, or two leaves which is her party's once-frozen symbol.
THE GREAT INDIAN NOVEL WILL NEVER BE WRITTEN
On Thursday, the incisive Serbian-born artist Viktor Mitic unveiled a portrait of Amitabh Bachchan in Toronto. So? The Big B must be a fairly familiar figure in desi-infested Toronto. What interests me is another recent work by Mitic, a portrait of the Great G — Mahatma Gandhi.
It's drawn with bullet holes. Real holes, made with a real gun and live ammunition. Apparently, a dealer had told Mitic that his art needed to be more "penetrating". The artist, who had seen military service in Serbia, took it literally. He grabbed an automatic rifle and let rip at canvas.
Is that high calibre art or just a big bore? I'm in no position to judge. My artist friends think I'm a philistine in need of mercy killing. But I do know that Gandhi's bullet-riddled portrait made me uneasy. I also know that Mitic targets people who actually fell to bullets, like John Lennon and JFK.
But to see an extraordinary pacifist sketched with gunfire was cringe-making.
But here's something else I know: you should pay no attention to my sentiments. You should not attack this artist in distant Toronto, armed with banners, slogans, ration and pani. We have made fools of ourselves by listening to anyone who yowls that their sentiments have been hurt.
Colonial authors — we would call them analysts now — had dismissed us as an extraordinarily sentimental race. In the 21st century, we have done everything in our power to validate their diagnosis.
Until the passing of MF Husain, I didn't really understand how stupid we looked. I'm not talking about concern for the obvious moral and ethical deficit, the lack of political courage that the Husain episode represents. I'm talking about just plain shame, which we Indians are extraordinarily sensitive to.
Sometimes, I think we have huge glands unknown to medical science, copiously secreting sentimentality and shame. They make us do peculiar things.
In Husain's case, our shame glands seem to have been suppressed, with particularly peculiar results. In Pakistan, after the torture and murder of the journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, the government amiably permitted hacks to bear arms.
Since the State could not protect them, they should protect themselves. In India, we've done no better for artists, except that we haven't allowed them to arm themselves like Mitic. Is that shameful, or am I just sentimental?
The Husain affair was about the suppression of oil on canvas, a medium largely restricted to the circuit of connoisseurs. Visual art can shock immediately, but the written word casts a longer shadow, especially when it is adapted for the screen. Even in our ban-happy nation, it can alter the present, rewrite history and prophecy forth.
When it is written in a widely understood tongue — Hindi or English — it is accessible and assailable everywhere.
This means that the great Indian novel will never be written. No great experimental work like Ulysses will come out of India. We can never freely evaluate our contending pasts or our possible futures.
Because somewhere down the line, we lost sight of the basic nature of the creative arts. Like rifleman Viktor Mitic, every creative writer and artist draws first and answers the critics afterwards. That's what makes art useful.
(Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine. The views expressed by the author are personal)
A SPECTACULAR STORY
Sevagram swung suddenly into my brain this week, triggered by two very different reasons. The first was the prevailing talk of 'civil society'. I was reminded of what Jawaharlal Nehru, barely a few months into office as prime minister, said at a meeting of political and constructive workers or what may, today, be called 'civil society'.
It took place at Sevagram in March 1948. The Mahatma had planned this meeting to discuss the post-Independence equation between those who had entered public life through the portal of elections and those who were doing 'constructive work'.
January 30, 1948 intervened.
Rajendra Prasad as president of the Congress and of the Constituent Assembly, and Union minister for agriculture, was then foremost among the elected representatives. Vinoba Bhave, already regarded as the undeclared spiritual heir of the Mahatma, was the pre-eminent representative of the spirit of Gandhi outside politics.
The two of them were determined to organise the meeting as Gandhi had proposed.
Those attending the first and last meeting of its kind included Jayaprakash Narayan, the economic thinker JC Kumarappa, the scholar and reformer Kakasaheb Kalelkar, the teacher Ashadevi Aryanayakam, the balladeer Tukdoji Maharaj, the expert on tribal affairs AV Thakkar, the intrepid rescuer of abducted women during Partition, Mridula Sarabhai, the Gandhian leader from Andhra, Konda Venkatappaiya, the khadi pioneer, Srikrishnadas Jaju.
Nehru inaugurated the meeting, Rajendra Prasad presided over it and Maulana Azad made the keynote speech. Representing government, they were about the only 'elected' representatives of the people or 'politicians' present.
But it was the non-elected, the 'constructive' group that really powered the proceedings, setting the agenda, asking the questions, identifying the issues to which the three leaders from Delhi responded. There were many subjects under discussion but underlying them all was the question : 'Gandhi is gone: Who will guide us now?'
Speaking on the new equations between political and non-political field work, Nehru observed: "My thoughts on all these issues are not clear and I feel quite perplexed in my mind.
Whenever I have managed to get a few free minutes to myself, I have thought over this year and a half that we have been in government, and of how we have done some things but left a great deal undone... When I look back at it all I am not happy… The government has its own unique way of solving issues.
It has certain limits and restraints of its own. The mere power of the government is not in itself enough to solve anything. I am part of the government. I live in Delhi. And night and day I have to live under guard… This is more of an imprisonment for me than Ahmednagar or the other jails were…"
Later the same day, addressing an open session he introspected on the period prior to the traumatic episodes pre-Partition and said: "Why, ultimately, did India get out of control?
There are many reasons. As far as Congress is concerned, the Congress leaders got so bound up in election arguments and in running their own governments that they had no time for serving the people. A wall came up between the people and ourselves, and Congress increasingly lost stature — even if a few individuals retained their influence and standing.
Conspicuous squabbles between Congress people came under the public gaze and the leaders were busy with superficial matters; nobody thought in terms of public service. So other kinds of people rose up between them and the people."
Asking the gathering to establish a new connection with each other in order to give India the direction it needed, he employed a splendid Hindustani phrase that captured the essence of his thought :"… in savalon ko phir se nayi fiza ki roshni mein sochna hoga (… these issues will have to be reconsidered in the light of a new fiza).
Fiza means atmosphere. Nayi fiza invokes a fresh breeze, an altogether new ambience. The 1948 meeting discussed many burning issues — security, war, refugees, terrorism, communalism, industry, agriculture etc — but not corruption. That was not an issue then. Today, all those issues remain with us, urgent and pressing, plus corruption.
Is it impossible for a Sevagram 1948-type meeting to be convened by the equivalents of those who organised that meeting to discuss corruption? Is it inconceivable that they can be inspired to gather for a meeting chaired by the Congress president, inaugurated by the PM and addressed by representatives of the 'unelected' to discuss corruption?
The second trigger for Sevagram dominating my thoughts this week came from a news item: a pair of Gandhi's spectacles were reported to have gone missing from Sevagram.
Gandhi is known by three material objects of use: round-shaped spectacles, the pocket-watch which dangled at his waist, and his two cross-strapped slippers.
The first helped him see the universe around him with clarity. The second helped him keep and respect time — that of others' as much as his own. And the last symbolised his light but unmistakable footprint on our diverse soils. Gandhi began using glasses only when he was around 50 — an opthalmologically interesting fact, considering the phenomenal strain he was putting his eyes to.
But once he took to glasses, there was no going back. The two became inseparable. A famous 1940 photograph of his with a young Vinoba Bhave at Sevagram shows both bespectacled.
If we ponder his photographs we will notice how important spectacles were in his life.
And we may assume they helped him to see the human condition in India not through the bi-focals of political versus 'constructive', official versus 'civil', bureaucratic versus non-governmental, elected versus non-elected but through the honest lens of what and not who, is right.
(Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor. The views expressed by the author are personal)
FORCING OUR HAND
It may seem impetuous for Mumbai's journalists to demand a CBI inquiry within a week into crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey's murder, but this is only symptomatic of the low trust that the state government and Mumbai Police command today. Such sentiment is not restricted to just members of the fourth estate but sweeps the citizenry and judiciary as well.
Over the last week as journalists demanded rapid action, police and politicians scrambled to find answers and theories ranged from gangsters to oil, quarrying and sandalwood mafias. Chillingly, these theories also included the possibility that policemen were involved in Dey's death.
Without evidence it would be unfair to assign any diabolical angle to the murder. But attention has veered to the police-criminal nexus. Juxtaposed with the growing ineptitude of the police, this has led to a rise in despairing anger.
In days gone by, the Mumbai Police was compared to Scotland Yard; today such comparison would only invite derision. Over the past two decades, the situation has been exacerbated by the tug-of-war between coalition partners who have formed successive state governments.
In this unseemly power play top policemen have become political appointees, often for such a short tenure as to be totally ineffective. The last police commissioner to have got a three-year term was Julio Ribeiro almost three decades ago (1982-85); nowadays, there is a scramble to get even six-eight months.
This has led to unhealthy competition among senior policemen for the top job to the extent that stories of officers paying huge sums to get high postings are now mundane. Internecine warfare is an open secret, reducing a once proud and elite force to shambles.
The seriousness of the problem becomes evident during a crisis, like the 26/11 terror attacks when Mumbai's police was exposed as being unprepared, inefficient and confused. Indeed, it was the bravery of a few officers and constabulary which led to Ajmal Kasab being taken alive.
The rest of the work was done by commandos.
The Mumbai Police are burdened not just by the corrupt black sheep and rampant factionalism, but also by the way its work has been haphazardly divided into departments, often at loggerheads with each other. The crime branch and the Anti-Terrorism Squad, for instance, often investigate the same crimes and come up with opposite results.
Over and again, courts have found fault with investigation, skills and the accused — who were paraded as being guilty by a media-happy police — have been let off.
On a broader scale, the Justice VS Malimath committee on reforms to the criminal justice system, which submitted its report in 2003, is still awaiting implementation. It recommends, for instance, that the investigation and law and order wings of the police be separated, a plea reiterated often by retired police officers who served before rot set into the system.
Recently, a controversy broke out over police stations getting a government order which stopped them from recording calls from politicians to influence cases.
Surprisingly, the police followed this in spite of it going against the highest principles of 'Rule of Law'. It was only after public protests that what was clearly an illegal order was recalled.
The implication is obvious: that politicians be allowed the run of the investigation system and that such interference be hidden from the public. What recourse does the public have in the face of such blatant misuse of the system? Malimath recommends that the police should be accountable only to 'Rule of Law'.
Ideal as that sounds, in the current situation it is difficult to see how it can be enforced.
Politics and money are a lethal combination and has struck a death knell — almost — for Mumbai's law and order situation, now as good or poor as the much derided 'badlands' of UP and Bihar. Unfortunately, politicians have tended to obfuscate the problem by burying their heads in the sand or focusing on puerile issues.
Recently deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, illogically chose to make raising the age limit for alcohol consumption to 25 as his major agenda. Not too long back, another preachy politician, home minister RR Patil, squandered time and state money in getting dance bars shut. Patil was also to say (in)famously after the 26/11 horror that "in big cities small things happen''.
He lost his job for that, but incredibly is back in the same chair again.
In the Dey murder case, Patil has vowed to bring the culprits to book soon, police commissioner Arup Patnaik has flexed his muscles saying that the murderers cannot get away while beleaguered chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has clucked, clucked in agreement with both: all of which suggests that the administration is clueless as yet.
Perhaps the demand for a CBI inquiry is not so impetuous after all.
(Ayaz Memon is a journalist based in Mumbai. The views expressed by the author are personal)
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
COLONELS, THE GENERAL
Noises about a "colonels' coup" in Pakistan may be overstated. But Pakistan's army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is undoubtedly under pressure from within and without. The arrangement that Kayani had worked out after taking over from Pervez Musharraf in 2007 brought the military power-without-responsibility. Over time, his claims about non-interference with the civilian government were eclipsed by the visible influence Kayani began to exercise. Most importantly, as army chief, Kayani made himself indispensable to the United States in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pumping in at least $2 billion a year as military aid, it is that relationship with the US that has now cornered Kayani. The increasingly radicalised, anti-American middle and lower ranks have come out in open criticism of the general, unheard of in as hierarchical an organisation as the Pakistan army, after the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. So much so, that reports emerged of Kayani having to battle for his survival, as the elite Corps Commanders pressed for a tougher line against the US.
While a "colonels' coup" may yet be unlikely, Kayani finds himself pressed on the one hand by the US, with US-Pakistan ties at their lowest in years. On the other, the ranks and mid-level have turned the heat on. Indeed, with these soldiers' deep resentment of fighting who they believe are their fellow Pakistanis and the humiliations of the May 2 raid and the terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran base, Kayani has had to distance himself from Washington. But how far the US is going to let him get away without losing its plot in Af-Pak will determine how secure the disgruntled officers are going to let Kayani feel. Kayani and Pakistan find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Although he manoeuvred regional geopolitics to Pakistan's advantage, Delhi knows the game will become much more dangerous if the Pakistan army drops out of the tribal battlegrounds, makes full peace with the militants and concentrates all its attention on its eastern border.
The Pakistani state, along with its army and civilian government, is going to find a means to relieve this pressure. There is too much bearing down on it from every direction, and something is going to give.
Historically, that is how Pakistan has wiggled itself out as, for instance, it did with Musharraf's coup post-Kargil. No matter what happens now, or whether anything happens at all, India must keep its eye firmly on its neighbour, on whose stability it stakes its own peace.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
IT'S STILL UPMA
Fusion food's home is never home. It begins, always, in that other land where memories are sharp and ingredients scarce. Like that supremely skewed stew of Britain — the curry. Even William Makepeace Thackeray wrote an ode to the packaged wonder that made the dish possible, along with "Epping butter": "She pops the meat into the savoury stew/ With curry-powder table-spoonfuls three/ And milk a pint (the richest that may be)." But it is in New York that Indian food, like Japanese and Italian and Thai cuisine, has had wild incarnations. Naans arrive in pumpernickel-caper flavour, garam masala truffle becomes dessert and a Mumbai-born chef wins the latest season of Top Chef Masters with an upma.Floyd Cardoz of the nouvelle
Indian restaurant Tabla in NYC and two other finalists had to make a three-course meal. And the first had to be inspired by a childhood memory. Cardoz, not surprisingly, remembered the upma that he snacked after school and, surprisingly, decided to toy with a dish that could be perturbingly muted in its flavours. But Cardoz's upma is not the everyday easy breakfast of south Indian homes; he made a semolina polenta flavoured with coconut milk and kokum and topped with sauteed wild mushrooms.
Upma has had many makeovers as it travelled across India. And Cardoz's uber-preparation is also upma. In this age of food fetishisation and celebrity chefs and signature dishes, where your next meal just cannot be the same as your last, where more experiments seem to be taking place in the kitchen than in the CERN laboratory, that semolina revisionism is the story of every dish. It's also the grandiloquent story of the migrant's table.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
NO MORE JAGIRS
That the Planning Commission needs to update its ability to serve as a resource for government policy-making is something most people agree on. That will, certainly, require it to expand its own resources, allowing it to access and commission the best in outside research, as well as ramp up in-house ability.
It is important, however, that we take into account the need to keep the reform going; the boost the commission receives should outlast individuals. It's this test that, unfortunately, the latest proposal from within the Planning Commission fails. It is proposed that discretionary funding of up to Rs 1 crore a year be allowed to the commission's members, allowing them to personally engage individuals, firms or institutions to assist them in research in areas that they feel are important to the planning process. This money is unlikely to be subject to gross misuse. And yet the proposal falls into the trap that has bedevilled too many of the Indian state's attempts to expand the scope of research: the inability to craft institutional structures that are effective beyond the tenure of a few particularly motivated or visionary individuals. The Planning Commission goes on, apparently, for ever, even as its members come and go. And while its members deserve the best resources possible as they work, there need to be structures that direct and target what that work is, as well as ensuring its benefits are not lost even after the individual who has commissioned it leaves. Otherwise, we will get a Planning Commission that produces little beyond ephemeral reports written by outside consultants on matters of interest to one commission member, and not the body of area experts and constantly growing in-house expertise we require.
India suffers from too many experts and too few places to put them. We need incubators of original thought, of careful analysis, urgently. But the really good think-tanks are never those places which rely constantly on individual discretion. Nor are they merely staging points to fund external research, or for a de-committed class of roving consultants. This proposal is a step in the wrong direction for the Planning Commission.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
NATIONAL INTEREST: THE SUMMER FREEZE
Finally, there is unanimity at least on one thing in this capital city: that this has become our most dysfunctional real government in three decades. Real, to distinguish it from the obviously temporary arrangements like Chandra Shekhar's, Gowda's and Gujral's, described by late Vithal Gadgil in his immortal phrase, "ten-day wonders". It passes the buck to GoMs and EGoMs, which in turn only make news in single-columns on inside pages for postponing their meetings. The government is too scared to raise petroleum prices, treating the three-figure Nymex and Brent quotes with suspension of disbelief, indecision over coal mining is blighting power generation, and waffling over the Cairn-Vedanta and Reliance-BP deals is being watched with such dismay by foreign investors. Appointments of heads of the most important PSU giants like ONGC and UTI, chairman of our most vital infrastructure organisation, NHAI, even the CVC, are stuck. There is no progress on the ambitiously high-sounding National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), though the president promised it in her address to Parliament.
Our higher defence organisation is a mess, with chiefs speaking out of turn and an unedifying controversy over the army chief's birth certificate which is not being set at rest one way or the other, thereby dividing the brass. Such is the state of paralysis that even members of this cabinet, senior leaders of the "party" and definitely its furious coalition partners all acknowledge it with a shrug of helplessness. We have seen how devastating a government which is non-functional despite a majority can be in West Bengal in the two years under Buddhadeb since May 2009. Now to have a government in that condition at the Centre, and that too for three full years?
It is a frightening prospect. Businessmen are voting with their feet, taking a bulk of their new investments overseas. The markets are usually the first to sense policy paralysis. The markets, languishing in the third position among the world's worst performers in the past 12 months, have brushed aside Egypt to become the second worst. Given the mood of dismay in Dalal Street, Russians should be feeling threatened at the bottom.
The paralysis in the government is matched by the confusion in the Congress party. Its carefully scripted strategy of distancing itself from all government decisions except the most obviously populistic ones has now unravelled and backfired. While the government finally responded to this by suspending all decision-making on anything even remotely controversial, it is the party that is now getting the rap for all the scams, some real, some exaggerated and some (as a most eminent and honest scientist-entrepreneur, Kiran Karnik, explained in an interview with me, IE, March 8) mostly imaginary like ISRO/ Devas. You can blame the formidable whispering machine of the RSS for it, and maybe you are right, but the clamour over "hundreds of lakhs of crores of dollars" stashed away in foreign banks has a very strong undertone of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin. The same whisper machine talks of her recent Europe visit as some smoking-gun evidence of a conspiracy to vacuum-clean India's wealth. The more brazen, like Subramanian Swamy, say so in public: that Sonia and Rahul have gone to Switzerland to sort out their secret accounts, nervous that now their time is up. Over the past three weeks I have been stopped by ordinary people at airports, in shopping malls, at a petrol pump, in a spiritual ashram, at the national athletic games in Bangalore and so on with a question that seems to have become a clamour: why are you in the media so scared of the Gandhis? Why is no one exposing their humongous stash overseas?
It is all bunkum, of course, and in any case the beauty of Swiss accounts is that nobody needs to go to Switzerland to do anything with them. But the Congress defends itself very poorly when it merely responds by calling those making such allegations deranged or uncivil, or sounding as if the RSS is the new ISI. People of India are not stupid. They know who to trust and who to laugh at. But the Congress party steps on its own toes by even treating its top leaders' travels as some kind of a national secret. Of course, they are perfectly entitled to spend their vacation wherever they wish, whether within the country or overseas, but why should that be kept so hush-hush? So far, the Congress has got away with treating its top leaders as some kind of an endearing, mysterious, aloof royalty. The use-by date on that self-imposed mystique is now over.
Ditto for the Gandhi family. The strategy of controlling the politics and government from a distance without directly speaking to the people has become counter-productive and has contributed to the current paralysis. The Congress is not the Communist Party of China, when you had to face-read Mao or Deng to figure out what the party line was, and it is not the seventies or the eighties. In this increasingly young, aspirational India of 2011, leaders have to talk not just to their partymen but also to their people. Because if they don't, the so-called civil society, hyperactive judges and a hyperventilating media will grab that space. To take this space back, the Gandhis have to not only totally reboot their politics, but also their political style.
There are two areas where we Indians believe we can teach the world a thing or two: politics and cricket. So if you see this peculiar party-government arrangement, it is a bit like you send out a nightwatchman to play out the difficult half hour at the end of the day, so your main batsman, some Sachin Tendulkar, can come and shine the next morning. That is the way the party looked at UPA 2, presuming it had already won 2014. But it forgot that five years of governance was not the difficult last hour in a day's play, but an entire innings. The main batsmen (in this case the main batsman, Rahul) can no longer be hidden in the safety of the pavilion. He has to step out and speak up. So must Sonia.
The same nightwatchman syndrome has caught the government as well, with the prime minister and the seniormost ministers being totally out of the picture. Just as the Congress has outsourced its fight to Digvijaya Singh, the government has left it to Kapil Sibal. Why should the government continue to sound like it has a bad conscience? It is shockingly, suicidally stupid to go on saying that the prime minister himself does not mind being under the Lokpal, but the government doesn't want it. The prime minister may be reticent about speaking in public, but he has to now step on the podium to explain to us one simple point: that while he may personally have no problem with being under the Lokpal, these are the problems it will cause in governance, and the reason his government is opposed to the idea. He is still trusted and respected as one of our most selfless, honest leaders ever. Where is the need for him to be silent?
This has been a remarkably unique period in our political history, where three seniormost leaders of the establishment have not been speaking to us, the people, as a matter of policy and strategy. It is not working. They have to reinvent both their politics and their style, and start conversing with
India. Since it is primarily because of their silence that the whisperers are now winning. The victory they had taken for granted in 2014 is now most certainly a fantasy. Worse, if they do not change tack, 2012 may indeed be the new 2014.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
SYED BADRUL AHSAN
Our history, Bangladesh's history, is somewhat rich in irony, assuming you have cared to notice. Observe the defiant manner in which Sheikh Hasina argues today in defence of an abolition of the caretaker form of government. She bases it on the recent Supreme Court pronouncement that the caretaker concept is a violation of the law and therefore cannot stand. We understand that. But even as we do, we recall the vociferous manner in which Sheikh Hasina and her party, back in the mid-1990s following the fiasco of a by-election in Magura, campaigned successfully for a renewal of the caretaker system that had engineered our progression from military rule to government by popular consent in early 1991.And that stretch of irony is not all. In the mid-1990s, Khaleda Zia, then in her first stint as PM, laughed off the whole idea of a caretaker government as either naivete or insanity. In the end, in March 1996, she did hand over the reins of office to a caretaker regime. Today, she and her party are determined defenders of the caretaker form of government. So irony remains a potent presence in our collective life. You wish it were not like this. You wish it were an aberration in our scheme of things. Unfortunately, irony is what we have lived with for as long as we care to remember.
How's this for one more study in irony? Back in December 1971, the Mujibnagar government led by Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmed decreed, to loud public acclamation, a ban on religion-based political parties. These parties, it was truly and credibly put across, had waged war against their own people in collaboration with the Pakistani occupation forces. For three-and-a-half years, until the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the murder of the Mujibnagar leadership, we were happy. Yes, we were clawing our way to the top of the hill, in however tortuous a manner. But we were happy. That happiness was soon reduced to ashes when, in the protective shadow of the nation's first military regime and in the name of a restoration of multi-party democracy, all those collaborationist parties and politicians emerged blinking from their dark caves, happy to be allowed to do politics in a country they had once tried murdering with the help of crude men come from an alien land. Irony was getting to be quite thick for us.
A tragic irony we have been assailed with came from the Awami League in early 1975. For a party that had historically waged a tireless movement for a democratic polity in Pakistan and for full, purposeful autonomy to be granted to Bengalis, indeed for a parliamentary system of government in the country, its shift in January 1975 to a one-party system in the country was pretty ironic. The Fourth Amendment to the constitution disappointed and embittered all of us.
Our struggle within Pakistan and then against it was focused on according pre-eminence to participatory government, one in which the people would matter. A tight lid, we assumed, would be put on extra-constitutional means of political change. That did not happen. In proper Pakistani fashion, we began to have our own ambitious military officers informing us on murky dawns that they had taken over, that Bangladesh was under martial law, that the eventual goal of the new regime was to take the country back to democracy. Irony once more; and yet again when, following in the footsteps of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, our indigenous military rulers tried donning civilian clothes, formed political parties and informed us in grandiose terms that democracy had returned to the people. It was nothing of the sort.
And that is not the end of irony. The Awami League goes on enlightening the nation on the secular principles, as enshrined in the constitution adopted in 1972, it means to restore as a follow-up to the annulment of the Fifth and Seventh Amendments to the constitution. That is cheering news, until the leading lights of the government proclaim loudly that while the state will be a secular entity once more, nothing will be done to do away with such factors, injected into the constitution per courtesy of our military rulers, as "Bismillah" and "Islam as state religion".
The Sector Commanders' Forum has promised to go on a fast-unto-death if those two thematic ideas remain in the constitution. Notice, though, that one of those commanders is an influential minister in Sheikh Hasina's government. Irony? Or are the gods being unjust to you and me?
The writer is editor, current affairs, 'The Daily Star', Dhaka; firstname.lastname@example.org
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
FAST APPROACHING FAST FATIGUE
It's becoming the weapon of choice for activists and crusaders — but here's the catch. Those who are depriving themselves of food and drink to project their message and pressurise their perceived targets are achieving varying levels of response and success.
Anna Hazare opted for the right approach, a dais in India's Hyde Park Corner where hundreds of ordinary, anonymous citizens were inspired to participate. Baba Ramdev made a holy mess of his, a massive tent city with coolers, air-conditioners and thousands of his own devotees, converting it into something resembling a political rally. Anna raised his stature, Ramdev lost some of his. We also had Swami Nigamanand, on a fast for three months to protest illegal quarrying along the Ganga, who died in the same hospital where Ramdev was being revived, unsung, unknown, and largely ignored.
Then there's the iron-willed Irom Sharmila, on a fast for over ten years now demanding the government withdraw the Armed Forces Act from Manipur. An iconic figure in the north-east, her fast is perhaps the longest political protest of its kind in history in any part of the world. She has not eaten anything or drunk a single drop of water since November, 2000. She is been forcibly kept alive in an Imphal hospital room. For all those years, no one from mainstream political parties or the Centre has paid her much attention. Finally, in Mumbai, we have the rather incongruous sight of journalists who report on fasts, going on one themselves, to demand action against the killing of one of their colleagues. No one's paying them much attention either.
What it does signify is that fasting as a political weapon is back in fashion after many decades of, well, abstinence. Just as times have changed, so too has the act and its potency. Over the past century, periodic political fasts had lost the initial Gandhian feature of being directed inward, and ceased to be a spiritual dialogue. Instead, the hunger strike became the weapon of last resort, to be used when all else had failed. And, in today's context, tragically, they have come to represent the end of the possibility of dialogue. The Lokpal bill meetings are now reduced to farce; the might of the state will eventually prevail. Instead, what we have is the emergence of a moral dilemma, both for participants and for the government the fast is directed against. In attempting to undermine the political resolve of the state, the fast has instead raised moral issues that are more ambiguous to resolve and even debate.
In a parliamentary democracy governed by a federal system, the question of whether civil society and yoga gurus are entitled to determine serious constitutional issues that circumvent the natural process of law-making and even Parliament is entering a very grey, very debatable area. The "tyranny of the unelected" may be going a bit overboard — but the key issue is that the credibility of the political classes and the government itself has fallen to a new low, hence such acts of fasting for a cause acquire a greater legitimacy than they normally would.
On the other hand, by reducing mass action to solitary actions of self-denial, the hunger strike does seem incompatible with mass, democratic politics. When Ramdev boasts that 90 per cent of India is behind his crusade, it makes a mockery of his purpose, considering the fact that apart from his concerns about black money — ones that a majority of citizens would share — nearly all his other demands can be dismissed as illogical, impractical and unconstitutional.
A fast unto death is easily the most potent weapon of peaceful protest devised by man, and yet constitutes a very opaque area of politics. No one, certainly not any government, would want to be seen as being responsible for the death of an individual, yet, in many cases, it is essentially a form of blackmail. However, if the demands are legitimate, as is Anna's crusade against corruption — shorn of the issue of the Lokpal's jurisdiction — it becomes even more contentious. And more so when the government in question is presiding over what looks like the biggest loot of public money since the East India Company set up shop in Calcutta. That poses another dangerous dilemma for the crusaders, as well as those who choose to follow them: the danger of an anti-corruption movement turning into an anti-government movement, an entirely different political ball game.
During Mahatma Gandhi's many fasts, Dr Ambedkar, the father of our Constitution, reportedly said that he considered Gandhi's use of this method/weapon unreasonable but because of his stature and the need of the hour, he went along. After the Ramdev fiasco, it is becoming clear that fasts have lost their high moral standing and even diluted much of what Anna Hazare is attempting to achieve. Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of the original fast master, has said that Hazare and Ramdev were poor imitators. "These are not Gandhian fasts, they are finger-pointing exercises," was his verdict.
That may contain some element of truth but what he fails to recognise is that there is a new elephant in the room: live, 24/7, TV news. Knowing your every gesture and word is going out live to a national audience adds immeasurably to their immediacy and power. Hundreds of ordinary citizens being interviewed, live, on being harassed for bribes at every level of existence cannot but attract sympathy, however debatable the method. That, however, was before Ramdev decided to join the fast bandwagon and diluted the campaign. It could prove the game-changer.
Anna Hazare, having failed to convince the government representatives on the legitimacy of his demands, has now threatened another fast to protest. It will also be an occasion to assess whether there is such a thing as fast-fatigue. Gandhi's fasts always carried an element of self-examination. Self examination is quite removed from self-denial.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
DON'T CALL THIS BLACKMAIL
There is a rather uncivil campaign afoot to discredit the role of "civil society" in co-authoring the Lokpal bill draft. While some serious commentators and members of the NAC have pointed out reasonable doubts and genuine misgivings, the bulk of the criticism has been centred on a series of platitudes and banalities based on the supposed "lack of legitimacy" of the civil society members themselves.
When Anna Hazare reminds everyone that the people are sovereign, the argument thrown back is that this "unelected tyrant" is taking on the democratically-elected representatives of the people. This deliberate attempt to use the very essence of democracy against itself is disturbing.
If being elected or not elected is the question, then one must remember that our prime minister lost the only election he fought, that some Union ministers have lost more elections than they have won — some having won only one election and some none at all — and that most of the members of the Planning Commission and now the NAC are unelected. Some of the biggest players in Indian politics hail from the Rajya Sabha. I'm sure Anna Hazare, Santosh Hegde and Prashant Bhushan could match the lofty credentials of at least some of the esteemed members of the upper house — and, if RS members can deliberate over the prospects and processes of a bill journey's into enactment, why can't civil society members participate pro-actively in the process?
Another oft repeated argument is that elections are a great leveller. Yet look at people's choices: between Mulayam Singh and Mayawati in UP, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren in Jharkhand. People don't really experience more honest governance. And while the financially compromised B.S. Yeddyurappa government of Karnataka and that of morally compromised Narendra Modi in Gujarat can quote electoral numbers to cite their political legitimacy, it is the pressure of some citizen groups that prevent them from claiming universal acceptance and "moral legitimacy". Those who challenge the moral authority of civil society members must be warned that the same question can be asked of them, when they question an Amit Shah or a Madhu Koda.
Money, sycophancy, nepotism and self-serving interests have choked all pathways of our electoral processes, from tickets to portfolio allocation. Then why, pray, should we citizens outsource our right to ask questions and seek answers to our elected leaders?
One puerile argument being bandied about is that the government should not have hobnobbed with non-state actors from the outset. If so, how will this or any other government explain why they ever had any dialogue with Syed Ali Shah Geelani? Why did Rajiv Gandhi sign the Assam Accord with the agitating All Assam Students Union in 1985, for it was only after the accord was signed that their members formed the Asom Gana Parishad and blended into the electoral canvas? Why did the Indian government engage with Laldenga in 1986 when he had fought a secessionist war against the state?
I wonder what those who castigate Anna Hazare and his ilk as hunger-striking blackmailers would call Potti Sreeramulu, who fasted for Andhra Pradesh's statehood in 1952. He died on March 16; the news spread like wildfire and created a mass uproar. On December 19 that year, Jawaharlal Nehru announced the formation of a separate Andhra state.
If peaceful assembly and street agitation in order to express outrage or discontent against any existing practice or system is termed as blackmailing the government, then we might as well cease to call ourselves a democracy. Team Anna might have demonstrated a novel approach to pre-legislative debate and drafting but the fact of the matter is that all bills presented in Parliament are made with the national and state level consultation by government officers of civil society groups, NGOs and stakeholders.
The much-delayed Womens Reservation bill was backed by more than 35 women's organisations which put pressure on parliamentarians to pass it in the Rajya Sabha. Aruna Roy, Sandeep Pandey and Arvind Kejriwal gave up brilliant and profitable careers not to get elected, but to lead campaigns for the RTI and the NREGA. Academic and activist Madhu Kishwar has helped formulate state policy for rickshaw-pullers, street vendors and hawkers, and says people's movements are an inherent part of democracy and serve to strenghthen it.
The government can either dampen the prospects of this nation by presenting a watered-down version of the Lokpal bill in the monsoon session, or be on the right side of history forever by taking credit for it, in what would be the watershed moment for the world's largest democracy, and its biggest battle so far.
The writer is an independent mediaperson and is associated with the Anna Hazare-led 'India Against Corruption'
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Pakistan's supreme court ordered an inquiry into the extra-judicial killing of 19-year-old Sarfraz Shah by the Rangers in Karachi last week . The News reported on June 13: "The investigation team formed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan under the supervision of Deputy Inspector General West Zone Sultan Khwaja recorded statements in the Sarfraz Shah killing case at Boat Basin police station here on Sunday. On the orders of the Supreme Court, Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) has been included in the case against Rangers personnel involved." Daily Times added on June 14: "The Supreme Court's order... will be implemented in letter and spirit, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Maulvi Anwarul Haq said on Monday. The AGP said the federal government will not file a review petition against the Supreme Court order... He, however, said the concerned affected officers, if they wished, could file their review petitions against the court's orders in their personal capacity." The court ordered the transfers of the director-general of the Sindh police and the inspector-general of the Rangers.
Daily Times reported on June 16 that journalists from all across Pakistan staged a protest in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore to demand a probe into Saleem Shahzad's killing. "The journalists rejected a government decision to put Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Agha Rafiq in charge of the inquiry... calling instead for a commission under a Supreme Court judge." An offer by the federal government to constitute a judicial commission under a high court judge was also rejected. Dawn added on June 17 that human rights activist and Supreme Court Bar Association president, Asma Jehangir, petitioned the supreme court on behalf of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). "Taking up a petition requesting the setting up of a judicial commission to investigate the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, the Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the federal secretaries for law, interior and information with directions to submit their responses before the court by June 20..." Jehangir's petition stated that Shahzad's mobile phone records spanning over 15 days had been wiped out. She also suggested the court summon the ISI chief and "added that intelligence agencies were capable of wiping out telephone records."
The report added that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry objected to the way the federal government appointed supreme court judge Justice Saqib Nisar as the head of the commission after the journalists' insistence. A report in The Express Tribune on June 17 elaborated: "The government appears to not only have missed the nail but also created another controversy for itself. Its nominee to head a commission to probe journalist Saleem Shahzad's murder, Supreme Court judge Mian Saqib Nisar, refused to lead investigations shortly after his nomination on Thursday.
Nisar said he would not undertake the job because Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani did not consult Chaudhry prior to nominating him, in violation of established judicial norms." Asma Jahangir was reported to have criticised the way the government nominated Justice Nisar and termed it as "tantamount to violating the judiciary's independence: hand-picking sitting judges at whim is interference in judiciary's affairs."
Pakistan lost an Olympian boxer to a targeted killing in Quetta, reported The News on June 17. Syed Abrar Hussain, three-time Olympic boxer and deputy director-general of the Pakistan Sports Board, was gunned down by unknown armed men outside the Sports Complex at Quetta on June 16. He represented Pakistan in three Olympic Games: Los Angeles (1984), Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992). Apart from other laurels, Hussain laid claim to a gold medal at the 11th Asian Games in Beijing in 1990.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
AMERICA THE INSECURE
Perhaps foreign policy doesn't matter in US elections. President George H.W. Bush orchestrated a peaceful unwinding of the Cold War that united Germany within the West. A Europe divided became whole and free. This was one of the finest hours of American diplomacy. His reward for great achievements was to be defeated in the 1992 election. After all, he'd raised taxes. He'd let the size of government grow. Confronted by a grocery store checkout scanner, he looked like a genteel space cadet. So he had his comeuppance from Bill Clinton, who knew how groceries get bought.
Yes, Americans want money in their pockets that keeps food on the table: to heck with huge events across the oceans. They think foreign policy is for the birds.
Or do they? Americans have an exalted sense of their nation and its liberating mission. That self-image stops making sense if the US is not engaged. The authoritative 2010 survey of American public opinion by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that more than 8 out of 10 Americans think it's either "very desirable" or "somewhat desirable" for the US to "exert strong leadership in world affairs."
In the real world that means doing foreign policy. I see Americans torn. There's a quasi-isolationist urge. They're tired of wars. They want jobs. They see problems piling up on the home front that they want fixed ahead of foreign adventures. Something rankles when they hear talk of American decline and the end of the American century and China rising. They want a president to stand tall for American greatness if only to anaesthetise them against hardship.
Republican wannabes sense this. To judge by the 2012 campaign, they think foreign policy might matter after all. They're trying to cast Barack Obama as a president who has sold America short, an impostor who has ditched the mystical belief in the unique calling of the US that is American exceptionalism. So Mitt Romney says Obama takes his values not from the small towns of America but from "the capitals of Europe." He's offering "European answers to American problems." He's projecting a weak US: "We're following the French into Libya." The president is a naïve idealist undermined by his "questioning as to whether America is an exceptional nation."
Newt Gingrich has decrypted in Obama a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview. Gingrich wants a "foreign policy that is clear about the evil that we face" — that would be Shariah law among other things — and rooted in this universalist message: "America is still the last, best hope of mankind on Earth."
I have several reactions to this that all fit under the rubric: baloney! First, we're not in 1990: America remains dominant but can't resolve problems alone and will in the next decade, by some estimates, see China overtake it as the world's largest economy.
Second, it's precisely Republican factionalism in Washington that's stopping the US from attaining again the greatness Republicans invoke. It leaves critical challenges unmet, stops investment in education and research, and leaves America trailing China on the green technologies that will be big job-creators in coming decades.
Third, it's just delusional to imagine that any president, confronted by the meltdown of 2008, would not have seen as a core task a retrenchment of US overseas commitments to bring them in line with diminished resources.
But with an angry, anxious nation, Republicans are betting that invocations of greatness and dominance, however illusory, will resonate. Bruce Jentleson, a political scientist at Duke University, said, "After the killing of Osama bin Laden, they can't attack Obama as a wimp, but they will attack him as not being a real American." Obama, he added, must answer by demonstrating "what this generation of Americans is going to show the world, how it's going to compete in a global era. Against the illusion of restoration, he must offer adaptation."
With the US economy wobbling, Obama runs the Bush Sr risk. He got bin Laden and has been on the right side of the Arab Spring — what Timothy Garton Ash has called "the most hopeful set of events in the 21st century so far, comparable in scale and potential to 1989." Americans respond to that kind of hope. They care about foreign policy and see through foreign posturing. What they need now from Obama is a better sense of how their economy can thrive in this changed world. Roger Cohen
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
RIL DISAPPOINTS RETAIL
The stock markets have historically rewarded the RIL stock paying a premium since they anticipated, rightly, that the company would generate strong cash flows that would be channelled into new businesses, thereby creating value. Shareholders' expectations were justified; RIL's earnings per share (EPS) grew at a compounded 15% between FY1993 and FY2001, and at an even more impressive compounded 24% between FY2001 and FY2011. However, the stock has underperformed the Sensex in the past two years, even though the oil and gas exploration opportunity was promising, and RIL's refinery is undoubtedly among the most efficient in the world. The disenchantment probably set in about a year ago when chairman Mukesh Ambani announced at the company's AGM that RIL was looking to double its enterprise value in ten years—it translated into an uninspiring return of around 7% a year. While the outlook was a tad disappointing, analysts figured the foray into the power sector would be a good way to use the huge cash flows that RIL would generate from its incumbent businesses. Little did they expect that RIL would abandon the idea altogether; this year's AGM saw Ambani talking about the initiatives in broadband wireless and organised retail, businesses that are not likely to contribute meaningfully to the bottom line in the near term.
What's really taken the sheen off the stock is the lower-than-expected production of oil and gas at the KG-D6 basin, where volumes are currently at around 17,000 bpd and 49 mmscmd, respectively, well below the peaks seen in the March 2010 quarter (of 25,000 bpd and 60 mmscmd). More important, the management hasn't really provided any clarity about when production is likely to be scaled up, except to say that the KG-D6 reservoirs would be jointly assessed by RIL and BP to address the technical issues relating to ramping up of production. While there have been media reports suggesting that it may not be possible to scale up production of gas for a couple of years (an assessment reportedly made by RIL and its partner Niko Resources), these are unconfirmed. Nonetheless, the Street is nervous and reports to the effect that the CAG is looking into whether RIL inflated costs that adversely impacted government revenues haven't helped. The stock has now fallen below R900, close to a two-year low and, given that it is the largest constituent of the benchmark 30-scrip Sensex, the severe underperformance in the last few months is disconcerting. Analysts who had pencilled in gas production for FY12, FY13 and FY14, at approximately 50 mmscmd, 55 mmscmd and 70 mmscmd, respectively, may now have to rework their numbers, which means that RIL's earnings may not grow at the expected 8.5-9% compounded between FY11 and FY14. No one doubts that BP, which has committed an investment of $9 billion, will ultimately set things right. Meanwhile, though, RIL may want to keep shareholders posted, reassuring them that cash flows will be put to efficient use.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
MANESAR GETS CALM
The Indian experience with industrial strikes can be summed up in two words—violent and unproductive. The two key causes of Indian labour problems have been the misplaced reluctance of governments to allow flexibility in hiring and the consequent enthusiasm among employers to use contract labour to get around the problem. All the big strikes of recent years spring from this policy muddle. The 13-day-long strike at Maruti Suzuki was predicated on the same issue, though the overlaying drama was the right of the workers at Manesar to have a separate union. With this sort of history, the key aspect of the Maruti strike was the pragmatism displayed by both labour leaders and management. This demonstrates an important difference from earlier strikes. We seem to have progressed quite a bit from the violent Honda strike in Gurgaon in 2006 to a still belligerent one at Hyundai Motors in Chennai to the peaceful termination of the dispute at Manesar. This also mirrors the trend of industrial relations in India. While the number of strikes in the country dropped from 227 to 79 in the last six years up to 2010, the number of lockouts too fell from 229 to just 20, with the total number of mandays lost from strikes and industrial disputes dropping from 297 lakh to 17 lakh over the period. These trends also coincide with changes in the pattern of unionisation, where the focus has shifted from an industry or statewide approach to independent unions operating at the enterprise level, and being more concerned with employee issues rather than being simple surrogates of political parties.
At Manesar, neither labour leaders nor the management approached the strike as an either-or strategy, a sharp differentiator from the previous dispute a decade ago when work almost came to a halt over a three-month strike. This time, the Maruti management agreed to reinstate the terminated workers and reduced the penalty, even as it held out against allowing a new union at the Manesar plant. This is a workable template.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
GREECE TODAY, BRITAIN YESTERDAY
Greece has bought some time with a new package of financial support, but the country is not out of the woods yet. It remains to be seen whether the souped-up austerity policies that Prime Minister George Papandreou's government has promised will prove to be politically acceptable and sustainable.
History suggests some grounds for scepticism. In a democracy, when the demands of financial markets and foreign creditors clash with those of domestic workers, pensioners and the middle class, it is usually the locals who have the last say.
Britain's exit from the Gold Standard in 1931 remains the historical landmark. Having made the mistake of restoring parity with gold at a level that left the economy desperately uncompetitive, Britain struggled for several years with deflation and rising unemployment. Industries such as coal, steel and shipbuilding were hit hard, and labour strife became rampant. Even as unemployment reached 20%, the Bank of England was obliged to maintain high interest rates in order to prevent a massive outflow of gold. Eventually, increasing financial-market pressure pushed the country off gold in September 1931.
It wasn't the first time that financial probity had required the real economy to suffer under the Gold Standard. What was different was that Britain had become a more democratic society: the working class had become unionised, the political franchise had expanded fourfold since the end of World War I, mass media publicised ordinary people's economic plight, and a socialist movement was waiting in the wings.
Despite their own instincts, central bankers and their political masters understood that they could no longer remain aloof from the consequences of economic recession and high unemployment.
Even more importantly, investors understood this, too. As soon as financial markets begin to question the credibility of a government's commitment to a fixed exchange rate, they become a force for instability. At the slightest hint of things going awry, investors and depositors pull up stakes and move capital out of the country, thereby precipitating the collapse of the currency.
This movie was replayed in Argentina in the late 1990s. The linchpin of Argentina's economic strategy after 1991 was the Convertibility Law, which legally anchored the peso to the US dollar at a one-to-one exchange rate and prohibited restrictions on capital flows.
Argentine economy minister Domingo Cavallo envisioned the Convertibility Law as both a harness and an engine for the economy. The strategy worked well initially by bringing much-needed price stability. But, by the end of the decade, the Argentine nightmare had returned with a vengeance.
The Asian financial crisis and the Brazilian devaluation in early 1999 left the Argentinean peso looking decidedly overvalued. Doubts about Argentina's ability to service its external debt multiplied, confidence collapsed, and before too long, Argentina's creditworthiness slid below that of some African countries.
Ultimately, what sealed Argentina's fate was not its leaders' lack of political will, but rather their inability to impose ever-more costly policies on their domestic constituents. In fact, the Argentine government was willing to abrogate contracts with virtually all domestic constituencies—public employees, pensioners, provincial governments and bank depositors—in order to meet its obligations to foreign creditors.
But investors grew increasingly sceptical that the Argentine congress, provinces and ordinary people would tolerate the austerity policies needed to continue servicing foreign debt. As mass protests spread, they were proved right. When globalisation collides with domestic politics, the smart money bets on the home team.
Perhaps there is another path. Consider Latvia, which recently found itself experiencing economic difficulties similar to those of Argentina a decade ago. Latvia had grown rapidly since joining the European Union in 2004, on the back of large-scale external borrowing and a domestic property bubble. It had run up a current-account deficit and a foreign-debt burden that were literally of Greek proportions.
Predictably, the global financial crisis and abrupt reversal in capital flows in 2008 left the Latvian economy in dire straits. As lending and property prices collapsed, unemployment rose to 20% and GDP declined by 18% in 2009. In January 2009, the country had its worst riots since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Latvia had a fixed exchange rate and free capital flows, just like Argentina. Its currency has been pegged to the euro since 2005. Unlike Argentina, however, the country's politicians managed to tough it out without devaluing the currency and introducing capital controls.
What seems to have changed the balance of political costs and benefits was the prospect of reaching the promised land of eventual membership in the Eurozone, which compelled Latvian policymakers to foreclose any options that would endanger that objective. That, in turn, increased the credibility of their actions—despite those actions' very high economic and political costs.
Will Greece be an Argentina or a Latvia? The economics is not encouraging. Unless the Greek economy recovers, taking on new debt is a temporary palliative that will require even more austerity down the line. And, as long as domestic demand remains depressed, structural reforms—privatisation and liberalisation of labour markets and professional services—are unlikely to deliver the needed growth.
As the experiences of interwar Britain—and, more recently, of Argentina and Latvia—show, it is the politics that ultimately determines the outcome. For the Greek programme to have any chance, the Papandreou government must mount a monumental effort to convince its domestic constituents that economic pain is the price they are paying for a brighter future—and not just a means to satisfy external creditors.
The author, professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, is the author of 'The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy'. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
BOYCOTT HAS TWO FACES
PRADEEP S MEHTA
When it is difficult to find a remedy through the competition law, buyers often gang up to call for a collective boycott to pressure the suppliers. And most of the times it is against a cartelised industry, which may work.
This has been seen in the cases of tyres, cement, fertilisers etc, where the market is infested with cartelised behaviour. These sectors function on the perverse proverb: The competitor is our friend, the customer is our enemy. These are horizontal restraints. Another phenomenon, but on a vertical axis, is when traders use strong-arm tactics against pharma manufacturers to obtain higher margins, using boycott as a tool to make them comply with their demands.
In this article, I deal with both types of cases, where boycott has been used by a section of the trade as an aggrieved group of buyers and as a bunch of traders asking for higher margins. Both actions are violative of the competition law, though the second one is treated more seriously against the boycotting parties. In the earlier case, it is the boycotted parties' provocative actions that would raise the eyebrows of the competition authority and end up in investigation and prosecution. One cannot expect the competition authority to go after the boycotting buyers, even though it is a violation of the law, while the aggrieved suppliers also do not complain.
In another case, freight transporters called for a boycott of Apollo Tyres because of alleged cartelisation in the tyre sector. The call was made by the All India Motor Transport Congress. It said that tyre prices shot up by 52% in recent times, which is not commensurate with the general inflation trend. The boycott was operationalised by blocking all raw material flows to Apollo's factories in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat.
In another case, but of a cross-border variety, fertiliser companies in India, in early April, called for a 'holiday' for importing potash fertilisers, a euphemism for boycott. The boycott is against a global potash cartel because it refuses to bring down its prices from $500 to around $390 per tonne. Later, this offer was raised to $450 but the cartel did not budge, claiming that 'the markets are not waiting for India and that talk of an import holiday is a negotiating tactic'. The fertiliser industry gets huge subsidies to enable them to sell cheaply to farmers. Unlike tyre or other companies that have to rely upon various externalities, muriate of potash is a naturally mined mineral that has considerably less externalities to cope with. Thus, pricing depends upon the elasticity of demand rather than a result of the competitive forces. While there are just four suppliers in the world—Canpotex of Canada, ICL Fertilizer of Israel, the Belarusian Potash Co, and Arab Potash Co of Jordan—there are few large buyers of potash including the US, China, Brazil and Australia.
Due to varying agriculture seasons, and thus the purchasing cycles, it has been difficult to coordinate among the buying nations to tackle the cartel through monopsonistic action.
The cement sector is one which is the best flavour for competition authorities around the world because of several actions against their collusive practices. In late 2000, cement manufacturers raised their prices in tandem by about 50% in one stroke. The peeved Builders Association of India (BAI) hit back through a collective boycott. Rather than targeting all manufacturers, it launched a selective boycott against Grasim and Gujarat Ambuja, who were believed to be the ring masters. As the AIMTC has done through a selective boycott of one manufacturer, the idea was to create an incentive problem amongst the players, which could lead to a rift. Further, BAI lobbied the finance ministry to lower the import duties on cement, in spite of all efforts by the cement industry against it. Following this, BAI arranged imports of cement from the Far East, which brought cement at a landed cost of R140 per bag as against the local price of R185 per bag.
These are a few cases of how cartels had to be dealt with through either boycott or imports. But the case of rent-seeking by pharmacists is another endemic problem. The pharmacists are organised under the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD). They are currently facing an enquiry by the CCI, but this is nothing new for them. In the 1980s, AIOCD and some of their state bodies faced action by the MRTP Commission for boycotting pharma companies on a demand for higher margins. Such margins are never passed onto consumers, though. When faced with action under the MRTP Act, they changed their strategy to call for 'non-cooperation' or even negotiate an MoU with particular companies on margins, thus escaping the scrutiny of the competition law.
A similar case has been reported from Brazil, though this also went to the competition authority. Twenty pharma companies operating under a cartel were fined by the competition authority, CADE, for boycotting the entry of new generic medicines into the market by spreading a disinformation campaign against less costly generic medicines in association with general practitioners in 1999 and later to kill competition. The companies included Roche, Aventis, Bayer, GSK, AstraZeneca etc, who are all operating in India as well. There was double collusion here, among the pharma companies, and between them and doctors, a very unhealthy alliance. Barring generics is an issue of grave concern because patients implicitly rely upon the doctors and thus are deprived of quality products at lower prices. This is one area where consumers themselves do not decide which medicine or brand to buy or not. The same thing happens in India also, i.e., collusion between pharma companies and doctors (http://www.financialexpress.com/news/When-doctors-go-downhill/682026). Alas, patients cannot gang up to boycott doctors. Subject to various factors they can always shift to another doctor, but there is no guarantee that they will get a fairer treatment. The pharma sector is too clever to allow fair competition, they thrive on sickness!
The author is secretary general, CUTS International
FRIENDS LIKE THESE
The reported arrests by Pakistan of at least five people who are said to have helped the Central Intelligence Agency locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad are a sign that the Pakistan Army is now furiously engaged in repairing the dents to its power and authority since the killing of the al-Qaeda leader in a secret operation by the U.S. military. Since the May 1 operation, the Pakistan military has been accused at home, even by its own ranks, of allowing national sovereignty to be brazenly violated by the Americans and of gross incompetence in not being able to prevent it. The attack by militants on the Mehran Base was yet another blow to its image. After a mensis horribilis, the military is eager to demonstrate control. Arresting CIA "collaborators" is a good way to do that, particularly as it taps into the anti-American mood in the country. Tellingly, the Pakistan military has denied only that the arrests include an Army major. It can be assumed a similar crackdown on those who helped bin Laden is unlikely, as is any anti-Haqqani group operation in North Waziristan. The Pakistan military is also said to be considering restrictions on U.S. drone operations. There are renewed suspicions of an intelligence breach by the Pakistanis after the CIA shared information about two militant compounds in the tribal areas, only to find its quarry had cleared out soon after. This was possibly one incident a senior CIA official had in mind when, asked recently by a Senate committee to rate Pakistan's cooperation in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts on a scale of 1 to 10, he declared it to be a dismal 3. But if all this places more tensions on its already fraught relations with the U.S., this is a risk the Pakistan Army is apparently prepared to take. Its priority now is to regain lost ground at home.
Perhaps it is confident that its decades-old marriage of convenience with the U.S., which has weathered other storms, is not about to break down. Indications abound that such confidence is not misplaced. Answering angry questions about Pakistan's conduct at a Senate Committee hearing, U.S Defense Secretary Robert Gates said countries — even allies — routinely lie to each other, spy on each other, arrest each other's spies, "and that's the way business gets done…that's the real world that we deal with." Meanwhile, the New York Times has raised fears of a coup by disgruntled junior officers against Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is viewed as pro-American. A top U.S. military official has jumped to his defence, declaring that the Pakistan Army needs "time and space to introspect". Mr. Gates too has urged patience with Pakistan, saying "we need each other" in the interests of "regional stability." That really sums it up for this relationship — it's not that complicated after all.
ON EXPECTED LINES
A day before the scheduled unveiling of the Reserve Bank of India's mid-quarter policy review the May figures for headline inflation were released, and they showed the rate had crossed the psychologically important 9 per cent mark. For a fairly long time, the central bank has focussed its policy initiatives on containing inflation even if that meant forsaking growth. The spurt in inflation was not unexpected, but its unrelenting nature made certain that the RBI would mark up the policy interest rates. The question really was by how much. In the event, the 0.25 percentage point increase in the repo rate to 7.5 per cent has been at the lower end of market expectations. In its annual statement, the central bank had introduced major changes in the operating procedure of monetary policy, making the repo rate the single independent varying policy rate. The reverse repo rate has remained operative but has been pegged at one percentage point below the repo rate. Consequently, following the mid-quarter review the reverse repo is now fixed at 6.5 per cent.
Far greater interest, however, lies in the RBI's assessment of inflation and growth. In its annual policy statement, the RBI had forecast inflation hovering around 9 per cent during the first half before moderating to 6 per cent by March 2012. That inflation is already at the higher end of the forecast is ominous and it suggests further monetary tightening in the days to come. The widespread expectation that fuel prices will be raised has definitely boosted the already high inflationary expectations. The challenge of containing inflation and anchoring inflationary expectations persists. The RBI has in its recent policy statements clearly underlined the role of global factors — not just high commodity prices — in influencing the domestic economy. On the growth front, the mid-quarter review is slightly more upbeat. Although it has lowered the GDP growth forecast for 2011-12 to between 7.5 per cent and 8 per cent, the latest policy review claims that, despite some signs of moderation in certain sectors, broad indicators of economic activity (based on recent figures for the last quarter of 2010-11 and credit expansion) do not suggest any sharp or broad-based deceleration. That statement can evoke two different reactions. On the one hand, there would be scepticism: recent data on industrial growth, for instance, are far from robust. On the other hand, the RBI might be moderating unreasonable expectations by suggesting that a growth rate of around 8 per cent will still be very creditable.
LEADER PAGE ARTICLES
SHOULD WATER BE MOVED TO CONCURRENT LIST?
PUTTING WATER ON THE CONCURRENT LIST IS NOT NECESSARILY AN ACT OF CENTRALISATION, THOUGH IT COULD LEAD TO SUCH A DEVELOPMENT. THAT DANGER IS REAL AND NEEDS TO BE AVOIDED.
RAMASWAMY R. IYER
The Union Ministry of Water Resources has for long been arguing for a shift of water to the Concurrent List without any serious expectation of its happening, but has now begun to pursue the idea more actively. The Ashok Chawla committee, which was primarily concerned with the question of rationalising the allocation of natural resources with a view to reducing the scope for corruption, was reported by the media to have recommended inter alia the shifting of water to the Concurrent List. There seems to be no such specific recommendation in the draft of the Committee's report that one has seen, but the possibility is referred to in the text and there is an Annexe on the subject. These developments have revived the old debate.
Let us first be clear about the present constitutional position in relation to water. The general impression is that in India water is a State subject, but the position is not quite so simple. The primary entry in the Constitution relating to water is indeed Entry 17 in the State List, but it is explicitly made subject to the provisions of Entry 56 in the Union List which enables the Union to deal with inter-State rivers if Parliament legislates for the purpose. This means that if Parliament considers it "expedient in the public interest" that the "regulation and development" of an inter-State river, say the Ganga or Yamuna or Narmada, should be "under the control of the Union", it can enact a law to that effect, and that law will give the Union legislative (and therefore executive) powers over that river. That enabling provision has not been used by Parliament. No law has been passed bringing any river under the control of the Union. Under Entry 56, Parliament did enact the River Boards Act 1956 providing for the establishment of River Boards for inter-State rivers, but no such board has been established under the Act. That Act is virtually a dead letter. The reasons are political, i.e., strong resistance by State governments to any enhancement of the role of the Central government.
Is the present constitutional division of legislative power relating to water between the Union and the States satisfactory? The Centre does not think so. None of the Commissions that has gone into the subject so far has recommended a change, largely because it seemed unrealistic. (The Sarkaria Commission thought that a change was unnecessary.)
The present writer had earlier argued against a move to shift water to the Concurrent List on two grounds. First, a move to put water into the Concurrent List at this stage will be generally regarded as a retrograde step that runs counter to the general trend towards decentralisation and enhanced federalism, and it will face serious political difficulty because there will be stout opposition from the States. Secondly, an entry in the Concurrent List will mean that both the Centre and the States can legislate on water, but the Centre can already do so in respect of inter-State rivers under Entry 56 but has not used that power. It seemed sensible to use that enabling provision, and also re-activate the River Boards Act, rather than pursue the difficult idea of a constitutional amendment to bring water on to the Concurrent List.
It will be seen that the above arguments against pursuing the idea of moving water to the Concurrent List are practical ones: the political difficulty of doing so, and the fact that the Centre can do certain things even without such a shift. That does not amount to a statement that there is no case for the shift. Let us ignore political and practical considerations, and ask: if the Constitution were being drafted for the first time now, where would one put water? The obvious and incontrovertible answer is: in the Concurrent List. There are several reasons for saying so.
First, it appears that to the Constitution-makers 'water' meant essentially river waters and irrigation. This is quite evident from the wording of the entries. In that context, it might have appeared appropriate to assign the primary role to the States, and provide a specific role for the Centre in relation to inter-State rivers. However, even from that limited perspective, a primary rather than a secondary or exceptional role for the Centre might well have been warranted: most of our important rivers are in fact inter-State, and inter-State (or inter-provincial) river water disputes were an old and vexed problem even at the time of drafting the Constitution.
Secondly, that limited perspective is in fact inadequate. Water as a subject is larger than rivers; ponds and lakes, springs, groundwater aquifers, glaciers, soil and atmospheric moisture, wetlands, and so on, are all forms of water and constitute a hydrological unity; and there is more to water than irrigation. If the environmental, ecological, social/human, and rights concerns relating to water had been as sharply present to the makers of the Constitution as they are to us, it seems very probable that the entries in the Constitution would have been different. (Incidentally, there are serious concerns now relating to groundwater — rapid depletion of aquifers in many parts of the country, the emergence of arsenic and fluoride in many States, etc. — and it is interesting that there is no explicit reference to groundwater or aquifers in the Constitution.)
Thirdly, the Constitution-makers could not have anticipated the sense of water scarcity and crisis that now looms large. It is clear that while action will be called for at the State and local levels, the perception of a crisis casts a great responsibility on the Centre: national initiatives will definitely be called for.
Fourthly, a new factor not foreseen even a few decades ago is climate change and its impact on water resources. This is a subject which is still under study and research, but it is clear that coordinated action will be called for not only at the national level but also at the regional and international levels. The Central government has necessarily to play a lead role in this regard.
The theoretical case for water being in the Concurrent List is thus unassailable. Of all the subjects that are or ought to be in the Concurrent List, water ranks higher than any other. The practical and political difficulties of shifting it there remain, but these would need to be overcome.
However, if those difficulties prove insuperable, then we have to settle for the second best course (a modest one) of greater use by the Centre of the legislative powers relating to inter-State rivers provided for in Entry 56 in the Union List, and re-activation of the dormant River Boards Act 1956. It would further have to be supplemented by recourse to the wide-ranging provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA). It is of course possible for Parliament to legislate on a State subject if a certain number of State assemblies pass resolutions to that effect: that was the route followed in the case of the Water (Control and Prevention of Pollution) Act 1974.
At present, the EPA is being extensively used by the Centre for water-related action. For instance, the Central Groundwater Authority was set up in 1998 by a notification under the EPA. More recently, when it was considered necessary to set up a National Ganga River Basin Authority this was done under the EPA, instead of following the right but difficult course of enacting legislation under Entry 56.
Finally, putting water into the Concurrent List is not necessarily an act of centralisation, though it could lead to such a development. That danger is real and needs to be avoided. Legislation and executive action must continue to be undertaken at the appropriate level (Central, State or local) in each case. The subsidiarity principle, i.e., the principle that decisions must be taken at the lowest appropriate level, will continue to be valid.
NSG ALL SET TO UP-END INDIA'S CLEAN WAIVER
PROPOSED RESTRICTIONS ON TRANSFER OF SENSITIVE NUCLEAR ITEMS ARE A 'DEROGATION,' 'ROLLBACK' OF U.S. COMMITMENTS, INDIAN OFFICIALS HAD WARNED
NEW DELHI: Barring last minute objections, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is set to approve new guidelines for the transfer of "sensitive" nuclear material that will do undo the hard fought "clean" waiver India obtained in 2008 from the cartel's restrictive export rules.
At stake is India's ability to buy enrichment and reprocessing technology and equipment (ENR) from NSG members. Under the terms of a landmark September 2008 agreement, the NSG waived its catch-all requirement of full-scope safeguards as a condition for supply in exchange for a concrete set of non-proliferation commitments by the Indian side. This agreement means NSG members are allowed to sell any nuclear equipment and material they want, including ENR, to India despite the fact that it does not allow international supervision over all its nuclear activities and is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Two months after that waiver — a product of the July 2005 Indo-U.S. agreement in which Washington committed itself to "work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India" — the Bush administration threw its weight behind a bad-faith effort to remove ENR equipment and technology from the purview of the NSG-India bargain.
It did so at least partly in order to keep a promise Condoleezza Rice made to the influential Congressman Howard Berman during the passage of the Hyde Act — that if Congress were to approve the proposal for nuclear commerce with India, the administration would get the NSG to ban the sale of ENR equipment to countries that had not signed the NPT.
Thus, under the proposed new guidelines as framed by the NSG in November 2008, ENR transfers will be allowed only if the recipient state fulfils a number of objective and subjective criteria. Top of the list is the requirement of NPT membership and full-scope safeguards. Since India is the only country outside of the NPT that NSG members are allowed to sell nuclear material to in the first place, it is obvious that these two criteria are aimed exclusively at India.
The revised NSG guidelines, known as the "clean text," have not been adopted yet largely because a number of the 46-nation cartel's members have been objecting to some of the other proposed restrictions such as the requirement that recipient states adhere to an Additional Protocol. To push the process along, the U.S. got its G-8 partners to declare at L'Aquila in 2009 that they would abide by the "clean text" in the interim. The G-8 has sent the same message every year, most recently in Deauville. On a parallel track, U.S. diplomats have worked behind the scenes to bring each of the NSG dissenters on board. Language has been found to address the concerns of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and the Netherlands. The only holdouts until a couple of months ago were Turkey and South Africa but even they are now believed to be ready to vote for the new ENR guidelines when the NSG holds its plenary in The Hague next week.
India has objected to this unilateral redrawing of the nuclear bargain with both the U.S. and the NSG, but mostly in private and mostly without any impact on the process.
On February 3, 2009, for example, Shivshankar Menon, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, wrote to Under Secretary William Burns in the U.S. State Department that the American initiative on an ENR ban at the NSG constituted a "derogation" of the bilateral India-U.S. agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, or "123 agreement." "Menon's February 3 letter … made a legal claim that an ENR ban would be inconsistent with Article 5.2 of the 123 Agreement itself, which provides for the possibility of amendments to the Agreement to permit ENR transfers, claiming that a ban in the NSG would eliminate the possibility of making such changes," Ambassador David C. Mulford told Washington in a cable accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks dated February 12, 2009 ( 191725: confidential).
The U.S. envoy went on to describe the exchange he had had on the ENR subject with the Foreign Secretary on February 11 as "an un-enriching discussion of reprocessing." The cable says that Mr. Mulford "asked what more we could say to convince Menon that this issue did not warrant the aggressive posture adopted by India. Menon expressed surprise that his letter had generated concern. He replied, "All we need is a clear statement that your position has not changed. We would like to know that what we agreed in the 123 Agreement stands." Ambassador Mulford noted that Indian officials felt the "criteria-based approach to ENR transfers" that requires NPT membership "is discriminatory toward India and not consistent with the spirit of the Agreement." He cited, in particular, the views of Anil Kakodkar, who was head of the Department of Atomic Energy at the time, "who professed a sense of 'betrayal' over the issue."
Though he noted the Indian view that U.S. policy "is not consistent with their view of assurances provided during the 123 Agreement negotiations that, while the U.S. would not transfer ENR to India, we would not stand in the way of others doing so," Ambassador Mulford said. Mr. Menon was "vague" and "not clear how reaffirming the 123 Agreement commitments would satisfy India's concerns." He concluded that section of his cable by commenting: "Whatever the truth behind India's concerns, a good place to start would be with a clear affirmation that the Obama administration stands by the commitments made in the 123 Agreement."
An anodyne and ultimately pointless affirmation was made a month later by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, but the U.S. continued to press ahead with its effort to ban ENR sales to India. The July 2009 L'Aquila statement on non-proliferation at L'Aquila took a complacent Indian establishment completely by surprise. In public, the government tried to brazen it out, denying there had been any setback. "We have a clean waiver from the NSG. We have an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. We are not concerned over what position the G8 takes [on implementing the 'clean text']," Pranab Mukherjee told the Rajya Sabha on 13 July 2009. In private, of course, Indian officials were indeed concerned, very concerned.
During the November 2009 strategic security dialogue with the U.S., Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao reminded Under Secretary for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher that India took a dim view of the proposed ban on ENR sales at the NSG. A U.S. Embassy cable sent soon after that dialogue reported: "Rao stressed that India supported the goal of preventing transfers of … ENR in principle, but asked that the United States' position in favor of a global ban not be seen as a "roll-back" of the NSG decision that made India a partner, and that India can't be seen as "half in and half out (of the NSG)." She characterised the pending decision as an "issue of significance for Indian perceptions about the Civil Nuclear Agreement and our partnership," said a cable dated November 27, 2009 ( 236981: confidential).
The cable notes that Ms. Rao "raised the politically sensitive nature of the issue again over lunch, stressing that it was an issue 'close to the heart'" and that India was "counting on the United States to value the spirit of the Civil Nuclear Agreement in the NSG." She concluded that India's core concern was that "the September 2008 NSG decision not be seen to be rolled back."
The U.S. official's response to this expression of Indian concern was three-fold. "Tauscher reassured Rao that restricting ENR transfers via the NSG criteria-based approach is based upon long standing U.S. policy, that decisions are up to the consensus-based body (46 members), and that the U.S. was not targeting India."
The cable does not record what Ms. Rao might have said to contradict Ms. Tauscher but, in fact, each of her three arguments is false.
If anything, U.S. policy on ENR transfers has been quite flexible. It sold reprocessing technology to Japan in the 1990s after making a determination that the sale of liquid metal reactor reprocessing technology "did not constitute 'sensitive nuclear technology'" as defined by its domestic statute "since Japan already possesses extensive reprocessing technology" [Fred McGoldrick, Limiting Transfers of Enrichment and Reprocessing Technology, 2011]. At the NSG level, the U.S. had no firm policy on ENR transfers until 2004. That year, George W. Bush floated a tough new proposal — which, ironically, would today suit the Indian nuclear industry better — that there should be a global ban on ENR sales to countries that do not already possess these technologies. India has reprocessing and enrichment facilities and would not be covered by such a ban; indeed, in July 2005 and September 2008, it assured the U.S. and the NSG respectively that it would be guided by such a strict approach in its own export policies. The U.S. came to embrace the "criteria-based approach" to ENR exports in the NSG only in November 2008, after the India waiver was adopted, and its policy can hardly be called "long-standing."
Ms. Tauscher's second and third arguments — that the NSG operates by consensus and that the U.S. is not targeting India — begs the question of why Washington is actively pushing for the unilateral redrafting of the cartel's bargain with India. The waiver of September 2008 was not granted by the NSG as an act of charity. It extracted a number of non-proliferation commitments from India in return, insisting, at the eleventh hour, that the Government of India make a formal statement listing out what it was prepared to do. Several of its members also expect lucrative contracts, especially the US, which squeezed India for a Letter of Intent promising to buy 10,000 MW worth of American reactors. The Indian side has scrupulously adhered to its side of the broad bargain and has assumed the U.S. and the NSG would do the same. But if the latter are going to cherry-pick which of their own commitments they will adhere to and which they will not, India may well be tempted to examine its own options.
CLOSE UP, MERCURY IS LOOKING LESS BORING
For years, many planetary scientists did not express much curiosity about Mercury, which looked gray and cratered — a slightly larger version of the Moon.
But data released on June 16 from NASA's Mercury Messenger spacecraft, which entered orbit around Mercury in March, is painting a more vibrant picture of the solar system's innermost planet.
"Mercury ain't the Moon," Ralph L. McNutt Jr., the mission's project scientist, said at a NASA news conference on June 16.
Among the new findings: Some of Mercury's topography is not seen anywhere else in the solar system — rimless pits, for instance — and its mineralogy is vastly different from the Moon's, whose rocks have much less potassium. Scientists already knew that Mercury has a magnetic field, while the Moon does not.
The latest batch of data includes the clearest pictures yet of Mercury's polar regions, plus readings of the elements in its crust, which have helped scientists rule out some theories about the planet's origins. Mercury Messenger has also discovered that the planet's magnetic field is stronger in its northern hemisphere than in its southern, which hints at something odd in the structure of its molten core.
The new information could reveal how Mercury formed and changed over the 4.5-billion-year history of the solar system, which in turn could help astronomers understand the panoply of Earth-size planets around other stars and the possibility of conditions friendly for life on them.
NASA's Kepler telescope has discovered dozens of possible Earth-size planets, but its observations can determine little beyond their size.
"We have in our solar system four experiments in how four Earthlike planets evolve once they form under slightly different conditions," said Sean C. Solomon, the principal investigator for Mercury Messenger, referring to Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, the four rocky planets of the inner solar system.
"What we're learning is that each of those experiments had an extraordinarily different outcome," Dr. Solomon said. "And one of those experiments we live on. So it really behooves us, in a very general way, to understand how Earthlike planets form and evolve and operate."
One of the mysteries is why the iron core of Mercury is unusually large, extending out three-quarters of the way to the surface. Earth's core, by contrast, extends a little more than halfway.
One idea was that Mercury was originally larger, and the young Sun was so intense that the radiation stripped away the outer layers, leaving behind the Mercury seen today. But that theory predicted low abundances of certain elements like potassium that would have easily evaporated in the intense heat. Mercury Messenger measured ample amounts of potassium.
"We can rule out this kind of model," said Larry R. Nittler, a staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a member of the science team.
Another theory is that Mercury formed out of metal-rich meteorites. By and large, the observed composition of the surface rocks does not fit with that theory either, although a variation could still prove the correct explanation, Dr. Nittler said.
A third idea is that a giant impact early in Mercury's history knocked off a large fraction of the planet. "This is the model that is still in the running," Dr. Nittler said. "There are probably going to be many more models devised before we have an answer on this."
High-resolution images of craters revealed irregular pits, ranging in width from several hundred feet to a few miles. The pits do not have rims like craters produced by impacts, leading the scientists to speculate that they were etched by some unstable material that evaporated quickly when exposed at the surface.
Mercury Messenger's one-year mission around the planet is only one-quarter done, so more information about the planet will be forthcoming. Already, Dr. Solomon said, the orbiter has dispelled the misconception that Mercury is a boring place, and that what NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft saw in 1974 and 1975 during three flybys was all that was to be seen.
"Some even in the planetary community, after the Mariner 10 mission, placed a low priority on returning a spacecraft to Mercury on the grounds that it was very much like the Moon, we'd been to the Moon," Dr. Solomon said. "It was an example, to use a phrase coined by a very famous space scientist, of 'one of the burnt-out cinders of the solar system.' And it is anything but that." — © New York Times News Service
GAME CHANGING MOMENT FOR PAKISTAN'S MEDIA
"I have never worked for any well-funded international news organizations. Nor have I worked for the mainstream national media. My affiliations have always remained with alternative media outlets. This has left me with narrow options and very little space to move around in. Those who loom large on the political horizon by and large target mainstream information outlets and well-financed news organizations for the launch of their media campaigns, interviews and/or disclosures. Alternative media persons need to work twice as hard as others to draw their attention…," wrote Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was tortured to death, in the preface to his book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 that hit the stands just 10 days before his brutalised body was fished out of a canal.
But in death, Shahzad — who was the Pakistan bureau chief of the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online — has turned out to be a game-changer in a country where journalists are often part of the collateral damage in the war on terror. Before his body was found on May 31, over 70 journalists had been killed in the country since 2000. And, in the fortnight after his end, at least three journalists have been killed — two while reporting a blast in Peshawar and a third in mob violence outside the Multan Press Club.
While some of these journalists killed in the line of duty were victims of targeted attacks, Shahzad's case shook media honchos to the core. Top guns of the industry — seldom seen in protest meetings over attacks on freedom of expression and minorities — took to the streets; rubbing shoulders with lesser mortals in the profession and, more importantly, began openly questioning the feared Inter Services Intelligence by name.
Had Shahzad been killed at any other time, the volte face by some of the media bigwigs would not have been so evident. But, Shahzad died at the end of a month which began with the U.S. raid in Abbottabad to take out al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and terrorists laying siege of a naval airbase for 17 hours three weeks later.
After the initial loss for words at these show-stopping events, the media — particularly, the mood-setting television news networks — stuck to the all-too-familiar narrative on security-related matters; pedalling conspiracy theories that sought to put the blame outside Pakistan. Of course, there were some notable exceptions who questioned the country's strategic policy that has harmed Pakistan most than any other country and called for introspection, especially by the military which has shaped not just the nation's history but also its thinking. But the mainstream narrative focussed on the U.S.' violation of Pakistani sovereignty in the Abbottabad raid and the "outside hand" in the "PNS Mehran" attack; prompting columnist Ayaz Amir to write: "Islam is not the state religion of Pakistan, denial is. And our national emblem should be the ostrich, given our proclivity to bury our heads in the sand and not see the landscape around us as it is."
Shahzad changed that. Known to have contacts within terror networks and intelligence agencies, the unsaid view is that he had crossed some "red lines." What these lines were or who drew them will probably never be known — given the track record of enquiries in Pakistan — but it drove home the fact that proximity to the security establishment does not necessarily ensure personal security.
Overnight, several prime time television anchors and columnists — known to toe a certain line — changed their tone, began asking searing questions and joined the 24-hour protest staged outside Parliament House on Wednesday to demand the setting up of a commission to enquire Shahzad's killing. Some of them did live talk shows from the site of the dharna and openly admitted that the media — which had been so supportive of the security establishment — had been forced by circumstances to turn against it.
In all this the democratically elected government got a bit of a breather for the first time since it was voted to power three years ago. The guns were trained elsewhere with even the higher judiciary coming in for some fire over the Supreme Court taking suo motu notice of actress Atiqa Odho being let off by airport authorities after detention for carrying two bottles of liquor in her luggage. What peeved a lot of people was that the Court could take notice of this but not to a petition filed in January to act against a cleric who had issued a fatwa against Asia Bibi, the Christian woman facing death sentence for blasphemy.
However, this comfort was short-lived. Though the federal government accepted journalists' demand for a commission headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge, the past-midnight decision to assign the task to Mian Saqib Nisar was taken without consulting the Chief Justice. As a result, Justice Nisar has made his acceptance conditional to approval by the Chief Justice. The Government's contention is that the law does not mandate consultation with the Chief Justice before appointing a judge of the apex court to head a commission. But, Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jehangir said, "the government just cannot disturb benches of the apex court by picking judges of its choice to head such commissions with consulting the Chief Justice."
Given that there was an identical hiccup in the setting up of the commission to enquire into the circumstances that led to the U.S. raid in Abbottabad, the government's decision to walk the same path has led to questions about its own seriousness in getting to the truth in both instances. So much so that now the Pakistan People's Party — which has always been regarded as an anti-establishment party and one of the few that does not owe its existence to the powerful military — is being called the security establishment's bedfellow.
THE ASIAN AGE
TACKLING INFLATION IS NOT RBI'S JOB ALONE
The bottom line of the Reserve Bank's mid-year policy review is that we have to live with soaring inflation and high interest rates to protect future growth. The price of diesel is expected to be hiked as soon as the government gathers enough political courage — this will spark a fresh round of price hikes and further inflation.
The RBI's quarter per cent hike in the repo rate (that at which banks borrow from the RBI) almost appeared to have been effected because it had to be seen doing something.
There was obvious pressure from the government. But why is it that it's only the RBI's responsibility to tackle inflation? It looks like a losing battle as monetary measures have their limitations and it well knows that steps have to be taken on the fiscal side as well — which is the government's responsibility. Thursday was the 10th time that the RBI has hiked the repo rate in the past 14 months, in which time the rate has gone up by four per cent while inflation, at 9.1 per cent, burns a hole in the economy. Both the rich and the middle class have to bear the brunt of rising interest rates. The shadow boxing between inflation and growth continues — with growth falling (at least in some areas) and inflation rising. The silver lining in the RBI's statement is that growth is not as big a concern as inflation. While there has been a slowdown in some areas — interest-sensitive sectors like auto and real estate — the overall picture is still one of broad-based growth.
Unlike the government, the RBI is not overwhelmed by low industrial production growth (6.3 per cent in April) or GDP fourth-quarter growth being down to 7.8 per cent, or investments being postponed or reduced to a trickle. Industry is said to be setting up projects abroad as it's easier to do business outside India given the government's indecision and the absence of a policy on the vexed question of land. The RBI is also looking to the rain gods for some help as a good monsoon will bail out the agricultural economy.
But it's perhaps time for the government to look afresh at ways to tackle supply-side problems. Food and fuel are supply-side problems and largely reflect imported inflation. It's the same in the case of manufactured goods. There is no use blaming the Pay Commission largesse or that there is more purchasing power in the hands of people due to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or on the rise in minimum support price for foodgrains. All these are as necessary as the steps the government takes to subsidise industry and exports. They are also minuscule in comparison to the pay hikes and bonuses that company chairmen and directors routinely award themselves and their executives. We have a Planning Commission which should tackle such issues: it should be questioned on what steps it proposes to take to ensure supply keeps up with demand.
High inflation has been with us for almost two years now, but the government is yet to get a grip on tackling it. Even on the question of fuel, it has not been able to boost non-conventional energy supplies that could cut down dependence on imported fuel. Its lack of decision-making, for whatever reason, has also seen the new oil and gas exploration policy floundering, at great cost. The foreign partners of Indian companies have walked away as the waiting period proved too long for them. If the government cannot give its undivided attention to tackling inflation and its root causes, the people can expect little respite.
THE ASIAN AGE
A RESTLESS SUMMER
In London, you know that summer has arrived when the sky is overcast, your umbrella becomes your favourite accessory, you head home groggily every night from a party and friends from India are as visible as the red double-decker. So, in this last one week one has already met Harish and Meenakshi Salve, Suhel Seth, Shobhana Bhartia, Soli Sorabjee… to name just a few.
And this is why I love summer here — not only can one talk about the politics of this city, there is more than enough interaction to make sure you are well abreast of the latest shenanigans back home, as well.
However, while the Indian government has got itself into some convoluted yogic postures over their "fast-track" policies, the British government is not far behind with a whole series of U-turns over their proposed plans. And there may be more flip-flops to come as there is a fear that a summer of discontent is lurking around the corner.
So far, the British government has been "forced" to take the decision to cut the deficit by slashing public spending, and this can never be a popular move. As trade unions threaten to go on strike in the United Kingdom to express their unhappiness over new pension policies and the severe cuts, I am reminded of a time when the Left-leaning parties in India would similarly organise public demonstrations to paralyse the economy. (It doesn't happen that frequently anymore does it? I wonder why.) Has that space for those pressure groups in India been occupied by civil society movements as well as babas and swamis? In Britain, trade unions are still very active and it is also no secret that they largely support the Labour Party, which is now in the Opposition. Thus, while the latter may not publicly endorse every demand of the unions, it will certainly suit them if the coalition government is embarrassed. So are we heading for the good old "chakka jam" out here?
This weekend might be the start of the protests as apparently Tube workers begin seven days of walk-outs leading to a rather horrid time for millions of commuters. The Royal Mail workers have threatened to stall work next week over proposed cuts to some of their centres, followed by a strike call by various teachers' unions around the end of the month… even prison officers are threatening to disrupt work. There may also be strike action by National Union of Journalists over cuts to the BBC and so on. Some estimates show that overall 750,000 workers in various departments, including immigration and taxation, might just take to the streets to focus attention on their grievances and exhibit their anger with Prime Minister David Cameron's government. Since much of this action will take place in London, perhaps it is time to pack away that umbrella and look for less stressful, sunnier climes.
Perhaps one could join a yoga group in India? Any suggestions? I believe there is a really great "protest pranayama" now being taught somewhere in Hardwar.
Meanwhile, central London came to a halt the other day, too, but for completely different reasons. There was a fire in a building near the Waterloo bridge at Aldwych, leading to blocking of all routes for hours. But for those of us who were attending the celebration of the women's achievement awards at India House, hosted by Poonam Surie, the high commissioner's wife, it became a real battle to reach the venue as the police had cordoned off the entire area. Many of us tottered along in high heels through little alleys and cobbled pathways to reach the venue; they don't call Asian women gutsy for nothing. We dodged the fire brigades and the smoke to celebrate with samosas the wonderful function that was organised by the Women's India Association of the United Kingdom.
The three women who were being honoured well-deserved their place in the limelight. They included the well-known, multi-faceted Baroness Usha Prashar, and also the very bright 22-year-old Firoza Ahmed Nekiwala who is a Labour councillor from Newham, London. Getting into politics at such a young age while juggling her studies must be quite difficult, I asked her. Young Firoza, however, gave me a big grin and said it was "hard" but then it is obvious that she is managing extremely well. It is wonderful to see young people here enter politics without being supported by money or dynastic power. When will India catch up with this trend?
The third achiever that afternoon was the amazing Asha Khemka who heads the West Nottinghamshire College, one of the biggest in Europe, with over 20,000 students. Her story is also truly inspirational as when she arrived in Britain she had to teach herself English. She was a housewife and the mother of three children, but persisted in improving her own skills, till what she is today — a full-fledged educationist.
The number of Asian women who are breaking barriers is growing. As are the platforms on which they are given recognition for their hard work!
However, life would not be complete if we did not have a conversation about cricket. I have to confess, I am probably the last living person on this planet who does not watch or follow the sport, but I am always willing to learn. So on another (drizzly) afternoon some of us accumulated at the Nehru Centre to discuss Soumya Bhattacharya's crisply analytical book Why India Can Never Do Without Cricket. What was interesting for those like me who are not cricket crazy was that the dialogue covered not just the sport in its ever-changing avatar but also issues of development, corruption, identity and media... and one realised that, perhaps, cricket is only a metaphor for real life. Just about everything in this world seems connected to it! Well done, Soumya, you have made me a cricket convert!
And I would add that not only can India never do without cricket, but cricket, too, can never do without India!
Kishwar Desai can be contacted at email@example.com
THE ASIAN AGE
PERSONAL VS POLITICAL
"Challenge your fate
Toss a coin
Heads means death
Tails means death..."
From Cool-dhan-sakh by Bachchoowalla
In the Sixties and Seventies, the feminist movement coined a slogan: "The personal is the political!" I tried this out on my, now, 17-year-old daughter and though she studies English and politics, she didn't quite get the meaning of it.
The era in which the slogan was naturally understood has passed.
In the decade in which it was coined, I understood it instinctively — it was a self-evident truth. It meant that the moves and stratagems of one's personal relationships were in the end part of a larger battle for the equality of the sexes or even part of the eternal war between them.
Those were the decades when the feminists were trying to put D.H. Lawrence behind them, but had, I suspect, read and absorbed everything he'd written and even appreciated his novels as a significant contribution to the records of gender embattlement and warfare. I always took Lawrence to mean that the "war" was on some spiritual plane though it was fought at a visceral level.
Having tried the slogan out on Tir (the above-mentioned daughter), I got thinking about what I now thought of it myself. It meant less to me than it had. I had been reminded of the slogan through a peculiar circumstance: Two weeks ago in these very pages I wrote in this column about the death of Mala Sen, my childhood girlfriend and subsequently my wife for a period. I said I couldn't bring myself to write an obituary because there was too much to say. A friend of hers, having read the column asked me what I meant by it. I said I meant just that — my over-40-year up and down and round and about relationship and the assessments it generated wouldn't fit into an obituary. They would merit a "novel".
"Don't you dare", was the response from this friend.
"I might have to dare", I said. "It's what I do for a living."
"Don't write any rubbish", was her response in a rather menacing tone.
"The truth?" I asked.
"Maybe not your truth", she said, "her politics were more important than your personal stuff".
That was when I was reminded of the slogan and it occurred to me to brandish it. I didn't.
I know I will write about that phase of my life and times — I have already set out to do it through commissions and compulsions. What shall I say about Mala? Will I use her name? Will anyone care what I say?
One knows that words, books and articles can hurt, especially when they are critical, outspoken and dig up dirt. They can hurt the subject if he or she is alive and friends and relatives if the subject is dead.
One of the earliest models of "Indian" writing that I had was Dom Moraes' youthful biography Gone Away. I was in college and fascinated by the fact that he had written about his mother's mental illness and made some rather intimate remarks about his aunt. His cousin later told me that the family, though very proud of Dom's emergence as a poet and writer, didn't appreciate that aspect of it.
"The boy shouldn't have written that", was what was said by a senior family member.
A roman-a-clef, a novel of the truth, can also wound. A few years ago Hanif Kureishi wrote Intimacy. Its stark, bright, plain yellow cover drew me in. The "novel" purported to be about the lostness of men who grew up in the Sixties, in the era of the personal (read sexual) being the political.
The main character has a wife about whom he is extremely disparaging. The descriptions were, I imagined, cruelly accurate. The narrative was about falling out of love and into disgust. There was a passage which some reviewers found gratuitous but one which may have been brutally honest. It stuck in my mind. The protagonist is making love to his new girlfriend and says that at that moment he couldn't care if his children, the twins that his wife bore him, were floundering, drowning at the bottom of the Thames. Not nice, but an attempt at brutal honesty and the devil take the hindmost.
I know that if Dostoevsky had written some such thing, it would have passed as a fictional, testing truth. Intimacy, in the days after it was published, was the talk of literary London and the subject of very specific speculation that it was a no doubt intimate but vengeful portrait of Hanif's wife/partner, the mother of his children.
Biographies are even more tricky. I can point to a couple of famous ones published in the last few years which, despite being authorised and despite the subject co-operating with the biographer, don't meet with the subject's approval. It may be that a confession as one speaks it looks very different in cold prose or it may be that a biographer is bound to find information from sources other than the subject.
Is all of it good and necessary writing?
I should confess that months before her death I had commenced writing, in a narrative "novel" form, a book about my London years which inevitably involved Mala, who is, in the work in progress, named as such. For both of us those were political years with a small "p" because we were members of political formations and groups including Leicester's Indian Workers' Association, the South Asian London Marxist Study Circle (led by the CPI-M activist and later MP Biplab Das Gupta), the Black Panther Movement UK and Race Today. Very much of our time was given up to political work in the form of talk, talk, talk, reporting, agitating, pamphleteering, attending endless meetings, demonstrations, strikes and court-appearances — both inside and outside the defendant's box.
Our conversations, agreements and disagreements tended to be about the issues at stake and so the personal was in very many senses political.
Of course that was not all. We had jobs and friends and grabbed some leisure time to go away. There is a sense in which slogans reduce real, multi-faceted, multi-talented and highly individual people to categories of gender and class, a reduction which may on one level be true but subverts, obscures and reduces the real drama of people's lives.
THE ASIAN AGE
NUDIST CYCLISTS AND A FUNERAL
My biggest regret is the book that never got written! Husain saab and I had been discussing it for over a decade. In fact, it had become something of a joke between us — "Husain's Women". On June 6, just two days before he galloped off into the great beyond, astride one of his signature stallions, M.F. Husain turned to me as I was saying goodbye and declared, "Let's do it… I'm ready for the book".
It's 10 days since India's most iconic painter slipped away in an impersonal hospital room, more than 4,000 miles from where he was born. It was in the pilgrim town of Pandharpur, Maharashtra, that Maqbool Fida Husain first opened his eyes and saw the world he would later chronicle through his characteristic bold and unhesitant strokes. The same fearless strokes that made him the most controversial artist of his time, and eventually ostracised him from his own people. Husain saab died a lonely man, abandoned by nearly everyone except his family members.
When I met him at the Royal Brompton Hospital, barely 36 hours before he passed away, the only person by his side was his youngest son Owais, who had flown in from Dubai the same morning. His other five children were expected. Perhaps he had sensed the end was near. Perhaps not. I'd say "not". Because if there was one defining quality he possessed, it was his never-say-die spirit. Husain saab was very much a creature of the here-and-now. It was all about the moment this very moment. And, of course, it was about the many tomorrows… the unending miles he had to travel before he could finally sleep. In all the years I knew him, he never once talked about death. It was too dull and boring a subject. Even that late evening in London, as he gazed out of the large window at the golden light outside, his right eye rheumy, his chest heaving as he cleared the phlegm accumulating rapidly in his lungs, he put on a show… his vanity intact!
The minute I entered his room, his hands flew to his snowy white mane, and he ran his bony fingers through the scraggly strands and tried to neaten his appearance. His mind was as restless and fastidious as ever. Someone came in carrying a small parcel from Harrod's. It was an expensive cashmere pullover for Husain saab, since he was feeling cold. He took one look at it, felt the texture critically and promptly rejected the sweater, saying he was looking for something softer and finer! Ditto with the food on his tray. He stared disdainfully at the neatly arranged meal and turned away, demanding a falooda instead. It was really the taste of Mumbai he was craving for… and his son knew it. As we discussed ways of flying in a thermos of falooda for Husain saab, he himself had already moved on to something else… his hand tapping urgently, impatiently, on the bed…. his mind wandering to planned projects (his final work is a gigantic Ramayana series) that a lesser being would take another lifetime to accomplish. In his own mind, Husain saab was immortal. He only spoke about new beginnings, never the end.
But it had to come. And it did. Right after he had said "goodnight" to his daughter Raisa (who'd flown in from Mumbai), and told her there was no need for her to stay the night at the hospital, that he'd be fine and see her in the morning. Perhaps, it was better this way. He died without any fuss, and the only suffering he experienced was emotional, not physical. Ironically, he told me with great pride that the top doctors looking after him in hospital were Indians. He was also totally au courant with all the goings-on back home because, in a strange way, he had never really left it! We talked about the "Paanch Deviyaan" in politics, and I was sure he had already composed a fresh canvas featuring Mamata, Jayalalithaas, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi and Pratibha Patil. He'd watched and enjoyed Dabbang and was looking forward to Ready. He was aware of the Christie's auction (he passed away the same morning) and discussed his painting which would eventually go under the hammer and be acquired by an ardent Husain fan. I asked him what he thought of some of the other artists commanding whopping prices in international markets. People like Subhodh Gupta, for example. He paused ever so briefly and said, "I call them entertainers, not artists!" Touche.
It was this outspoken trait of his that had alienated Husain saab from the Indian artists' community of late. But much more than that, it was the undisguised jealousy displayed by his contemporaries that puzzled and hurt him deeply; the fact that the very same people he had helped (monetarily and otherwise) chose to remain silent when he was being persecuted. Or that some of them ran him down behind his back, unable to handle his stupendous success. As his close associates often pointed out, it was Husain who decided to enhance the prestige of contemporary Indian artists in world markets by pitching his own work at what was then considered an unheard of price. Once he'd established a benchmark, all the others benefited as well. But not once did they acknowledge the risk he took before anybody else dared to peg paintings at price levels that were internationally respectable — take it or leave it.
I looked around at the crowd gathered inside a modest mosque at Tooting, an hour away from London. There were a few familiar faces… but only a few. His son Owais led the prayers, as mourners paid their last respects. It was raining outside. Not the gentle London rain, but a full-on downpour, Mumbai monsoon style. Appropriate. The burial was still a few hours away, the plot carefully picked by the family at a leafy spot, just off the road from his favourite drive in the English countryside. A drive he enjoyed thoroughly, reclining like a raja in an imposing Rolls Royce Phantom. He'd set it up in such a way that he could paint watercolours on a fixed easel, as the car cruised along at a stately speed. He'd be listening to Vivaldi or Sufi songs, sometimes humming softly to himself. Perhaps it is just as well he lies in peace there, under a canopy of trees… undisturbed and free at last to create his own, unique images on his own terms.
His memorial service, held at the posh Dorchester Hotel, saw the desi elite of London, most of whom owned gigantic Husains, to better show off their wealth. Their presence would not have impressed Husain saab. Amused him, maybe. But just before the service began, a rally of nudist cyclists whizzed past the hotel… now that's what he'd have called a real tribute!
— Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com
THE ASIAN AGE
Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan's victory for a third term places him in a league of his own in the country's modern history. Through his Justice and Development Party (AKP), he transformed the modern state built by Kemal Ataturk by putting the all-powerful Army in its place, exchanged his country's previous privileged relationship with Israel for a new thrust to befriend Arab neighbours and took Turkey into a high trajectory of economic growth.
Mr Erdogan's critics and opponents will welcome the fact that his party received fewer seats than the last time, well short of the two-thirds majority he craved in a House of 550 seats, because he cannot now single-handedly change the Constitution. Everyone agrees that the Army-framed Constitution needs changing, but AKP's secular critics fear that given the Islamist roots of the party, the proposed changes may tilt the country to a more pronounced Islamist direction.
On the debit side of Prime Minister Erdogan's record, he did too little for the important Kurdish minority — estimated at between 10 and 20 per cent — in his second term, proved less tolerant of criticism and involved journalists and serving and retired Army officers now under detention in a murky coup plot in which no one has been charged so far. Indeed, many Turks are concerned over the authoritarian streak in Mr Erdogan's character and his inclination to reach for the stars. Apart from economy, the AKP's innovation has been in the field of foreign policy.
With his special adviser and now foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, Mr Erdogan has been pursuing a policy of "zero problems" with neighbours, transforming the traditional suspicions Turks have harboured of their Arab neighbours into something of a love fest with them. Realising that Turkey presents an attractive model to aspiring Muslim states with its blend of a largely religious-oriented population having made its peace with the modern world, Turkey is pursuing its new policy with a missionary-like zeal. Indeed, some have termed the new Turkish thrust "neo-Ottoman" in its orientation, harking back to the time of the Ottoman empire. The AKP leader does tend to be over-ambitious in his policies, ever ready to serve as a mediator in disputes. His apparent desire to change the Constitution to a presidential system feeds his critics' suspicion of his desire to centralise all authority.
By any standards, Mr Erdogan is entitled to take his bows. He has projected his country on the world stage and while continuing to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he has managed to place Ankara as a natural regional superpower willing to bear the burden of leadership. His strength is, of course, in Anatolia, particularly among the new industrial and entrepreneurial class resentful of the traditional rulers, the Army and the cosmopolitan urban elite. By their very nature, the newly rich and empowered people are more observant Muslims and appreciate the fact that both Mr Erdogan's and President Abdullah Gul's wives wear the Muslim headscarf.
After his victory, Mr Erdogan has promised to be consensual in seeking a new Constitution, but in immediate terms he has no choice. Short of a two-thirds majority, the alternative to seeking a consensus is to take the issue to a referendum, a lengthy and bruising process. Of greater immediate importance is the Kurdish problem; the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which fielded candidates as Independents to get around the high 10 per cent minimum bar for entry into Parliament, has done well and will press the government to give Kurds their due in terms of autonomy and greater room for the development of their language and culture. The leader of the banned PKK Kurdish Workers Party, Abdullah Ocalan, is still languishing in jail since his capture in the 1990s.
Mr Erdogan is already being compared to the founder of modern Turkey, Ataturk, in his dominance of the political landscape. In a sense, he stands on the cusp of a historic moment that can define his country's future. Ironically, while Ataturk left a country that he had pulled into modernity by its bootstraps, Erdogan began his eventful rule by largely demolishing the Army's pre-eminent role — the Army that had become the state after the founder's death. It was no mean achievement in itself. Turkey is still an aspirant to membership of the European Union although fewer and fewer Turks believe it will happen, but the process of fulfilling the criteria of membership has served the AKP well because it could whittle down the Army's prerogatives one by one under the guise of fulfilling the EU's guidelines.
The question now boils down to Erdogan's ability to muzzle his vaulting ambition for himself and his country. In a sense, Turkey is already a regional superpower — the other being Iran — but it would be hazardous to peg the country's ambitions too high in a restive region. Turkey is already directly feeling the effects of the Arab Spring by the thousands of Syrian refugees flooding the country to escape President Bashar Assad's onslaught. Ankara is still keeping the door to Israel open, as behoves an aspiring regional superpower, but its direction is distinctly towards its dominant Muslim neighbourhood. To an extent, the Arab world has moved beyond Turkey's ken under its own steam, but Ankara can have an important role in influencing regional events by providing the firm mooring most other regional countries lack.
In Davatoglu, Mr Erdogan has both a dreamer and strategist and his expansionist policies bear the imprint of his leader. The problem, of course, is in marrying Turkish ambitions to the changing contours of the Arab world. Erdogan has become sharper in criticising President Assad's policies; Ankara had introduced a visa-free regime between the two countries in line with its regional ambitions, facilitating the influx of refugees. Turkey has set up special camps for them, also with a view to preventing their longer sojourn. It will require all of Davatoglu's prowess to keep his country ahead of the curve of events as they overwhelm individual countries' leaders and the major outside powers nervously monitoring events.
LOKPAL BILL MUST BE SALVAGED
TIME TO END DISCORD AND MOVE FORWARD
The much-anticipated Lokpal Bill, which is being looked upon as a panacea for rampant corruption in the country, is at the crossroads, with government and civil society activists on the joint drafting panel trading charges and betraying woeful lack of mutual trust. With the final round of discussions of the panel slated for June 20 and 21, it is anybody's guess whether there would be a last-minute compromise or whether the two sides would drift further apart, jeopardizing the Bill itself. The atmospherics are certainly not inspiring. It is not conducive to an agreement when civil society spokesman Arvind Kejriwal avers publicly that what the government is now bringing is not a Lokpal Bill but a 'Jokepal' Bill. This when the government members' spokesman V. Moily is claiming that there has been agreement in principle on 34 of the 40 points of the draft Bill and that the discussions on June 20-21 will focus on the six contentious points on which there is discord.
In the crucial final round, both sides would need to move earnestly towards breaking the logjam. The civil society members' demand that the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary be brought within the purview of the Lokpal Bill which the government finds unacceptable are not intractable issues. Mr Moily's olive branch on 'revising' the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010 to provide more stringent steps to tackle corruption in the higher judiciary deserves to be examined. On the government's part, bringing the Prime Minister within the Lokpal Bill's purview is worth considering while knitting in some safeguards against misuse. The civil society demand for a structure outside the government to cover all government employees seems impractical because of the sheer size of numbers. Bringing the conduct of MPs in Parliament under the Lokpal is another contentious issue on which the civil society members will need to be realistic.
Some ground has surely been covered on a legislation that has been hanging fire for four decades and the Anna Hazare-led movement has certainly catalyzed this. It would be grave folly for either side to now jeopardize a positive outcome. A greater mutual spirit of accommodation would go a long way in satisfying people at large of the panel's good intentions in combating the monster of corruption.
RBI MOVES IN RIGHT DIRECTION
The RBI and the government have chosen to control rising prices even if it means lower growth. Thursday's rate hikes will make capital dearer. Growth requires cheap loans for industry and individuals. But high prices hurt the poor the most. Prices have risen due to high demand, insufficient production and easy money supply. In rescuing industry from recession the government gave a large financial bailout. Then came Central and state pay hikes. The job guarantee scheme and Bharat Nirmaan have lifted rural incomes. The result is a massive demand for food and consumer goods.
Since supplies cannot be increased in a short time due to industrial and agricultural production constraints, the RBI is trying to suppress demand by withdrawing excess money from the system. It is driving banks to raise interest rates. This affects industry as well as individuals taking loans to buy houses, cars etc. However, those with money in banks stand to gain. The RBI has raised the key rates ten times since March 2010 but with mixed results. Demand has slowed and hurt the realty and auto sectors. Car and home sales have plummeted. And this raises the spectre of loan defaults. In some sectors, however, there has been no impact and demand is so robust that loan disbursement is high, corporate results are encouraging and wholesale inflation is at an uncomfortable level. This keeps 8 per cent growth hopes alive. India grows as urban Indians spend and consume a lot.
Also driving up prices is oil. The government's rising oil bill and higher cost of servicing loans will take away money needed for education, health, infrastructure and welfare. Worse, industrial slowdown means lower tax revenue. Stock prices are declining as foreign money moves out to safer destinations. Experts expect two more rate hikes of the same size. High commodity prices are hurting almost all countries and central banks all over do what the RBI is doing to fight inflation: raising interest rates.
WOMEN ENCOUNTER THEM ALL THE TIME
Buoyed by the visible presence of some high profile women in key positions, India often forgets the ground reality with regard to the status of women. That exceptions are not the rule has been proved once again by a study conducted by the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. The study has brought to the fore the lack of women in managerial posts. So much so that in public sector banks only two women have reached the top positions. Earlier findings have revealed that women hold just 5.3 per cent of board positions on India's top 100 companies.
It isn't as if women have not been making headway. With the spread of education women have stormed every conceivable male bastion. Doors have been opened for them in the defence forces as well. Still, they have a permanent commission only in education, medical and legal wings. Even in the national polity where many of them occupy positions of power, often their roles are devoid of real power. A HPU study "Emerging trends in women leadership pattern: A case study of MC Shimla" found that women councillors don't have much say in decision making and face many obstacles vis-a-vis male councillors. It is ironical that stereotypes continue to cast their shadow over women's capabilities.
Women have time and again proved their mettle, be it in sports, finance or administration. Yet, as the study has revealed, women are often denied what is rightfully theirs on grounds that reek of gender biases. Taking into account their increasing role in different sectors of development, they must be given equal opportunites to make it all the way to the top. A nation that takes immense pride in individual victories of women cannot allow gendered glass ceiling and stop women's ascent on frivolous pretexts and blinkered perspectives.
DIALOGUE WITH PAKISTAN
NEED TO INVOLVE THE PEOPLE ALSO
BY KULDIP NAYAR
It's a welcome development that New Delhi has found time to hold talks with Pakistan in the midst of internal upheavals that the Manmohan Singh government faces. Foreign Secretaries of the two countries are meeting later this month at Islamabad. They talked to each other during the summit at Thimpu, Bhutan, in February but apparently found little time to pursue any topic.
No agenda has been announced so far. But from the talks Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has had with the visiting Pakistani journalists indicates that India would like to resume the dialogue. Her statement that the bilateral dialogue was meant to bring the 26/11 perpetrators to justice may create difficulties. This has been hanging fire for two and a half years. True, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir has been blunt enough to say that the 26/11 attacks were "an incident of the past" as if Islamabad has already put the tragedy behind it.
I sensed the same approach when some TV channels from Pakistan interviewed me a few days ago. They said that when it had been decided between the two countries to separate terrorism from the talks, India should not get stuck at the 26/11 happenings. What they do not understand — I told them so — that there is great anger over the use of Pakistani soil for an attack on Mumbai. Had some culprits got punished or had been near to it, people in India would have believed that Islamabad was serious about the speedy trial. Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, who helped plan and execute the attacks, goes on ranting and has no full stop in his jihadi threats against New Delhi.
David Headley's acquittal of involvement in the 26/11 attacks at the Chicago trial has come as a big disappointment to India. And the general suspicion is that the US did not want the ISI to be singled out. This seems far fetched when the US itself told us of the "involvement" of the ISI. Moreover, to suspect the US court and the jury for pronouncing anti-India judgment is not fair. Every country has its own legal system.
However, Headley has damaged the ISI enough by admitting in the open court that terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba got "assistance" from Pakistan's ISI for the Mumbai terror attack. It is difficult to buy the thesis that the ISI, feared at home, is at the back of terrorists because they have killed many army men. And there is no doubt that the ISI is manned and controlled by the army. It is possible that some rouge elements in the ISI might be helping the Taliban. It is also possible that some jihad-inclined men within the army might be harming the force. But it does not follow from this that the Taliban have the support of the ISI or the army.
The case of India is different in the sense that Pakistan considers it an enemy. The ISI must have been in the picture on the 26/11 attacks. If the question before us is to normalise relations with Pakistan, we cannot ask it to admit that the ISI is an instrument in the hands of the army or, for that matter, Pakistan. We have to live with it to go further. They too have doubts about RAW, although exaggerated.
Indeed, New Delhi went against public opinion in India when it began talks with Islamabad after a long suspension. For most, it is the punishment of the 26/11 perpetrators or nothing else. But now that the dialogue is taking place, it should be part of the agenda which can cover other subjects. No doubt, the Home, Water Resources, Commerce and Defence secretaries of the two countries have met in the last one year. But there does not seem to have been any progress. It is difficult to know which country is to blame because there is no transparency.
The two sides meet and disperse often without even any cliché-ridden statement. People do not know why the Sir Creek agreement, ready to be signed, has not been signed. Nor do they know why the Siachin Glacier pact, initialed by the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, has not gone through, continuing a loss of crores of rupees to both sides every day. Pakistan has given a non-paper on the subject. What does it say? People do not know what the paper contains because only its publication would enable them to make their own judgment.
The problem with the dialogue between India and Pakistan has been that the public is kept out of what takes place during the talks. Which country took what stand and why the dialogue does not move forward from what was discussed some 60 years ago? The army is being blamed but the elected representatives, neither Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nor Begum Benazir Bhutto, could end the impasse. Conceded that there is a trust deficit, but this is at the government level. People on both sides want to normalise relations but they have not been able to do so because the governments come in their way. They are not even allowed to meet because of the visa restrictions which are so strict.
The army in Pakistan is, in fact, on the defensive after Osama bin Laden's death. The arrests of some CIA informers indicate that the force is facing relentless criticism that it failed on Osama who was killed by the Americans in the Pakistani territory. For the first time the army has come out with a statement to point out that the attack on them was part of efforts to create division among important institutions.
This is an "unfortunate trend", the army says in a Press release, and needs to be stopped because it is "detrimental to national interest." So exasperated is the army that it has even said it doesn't need the US aid which should be diverted to economic developments. Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani has said that in the last 10 years the army has been given only $1.4 billion from some $8 billion aid received from the US.
Yet, the army has gone from strength to strength in defence as well as civil matters and stays crucial to any breakthrough with India. Somehow, it is not convinced that a rapprochement with New Delhi can help Islamabad to face, if not retrieve, the situation within Pakistan. History will repeat itself if no lesson is learnt from it. By now, both India and Pakistan should have realised that and become at least decent neighbours.n
A MATTER OF PERCEPTION
BY RAJ KADYAN
We were dining at a restaurant in Shimla. There was only one more family at the time. The man was at the bar stool, the wife at the dinner table with her two sons aged 7 and 9. The TV was showing repeats of IPL matches and the boys were in animated discussion. My daughter Roopali asked them a few questions and the boys proved an absolute encyclopedia on cricket. "Who is your favourite?" Roopali asked. "Rayadu" the elder one said. "No, it is Malinga", the younger asserted, and added a qualifier: "He has a fantastic hairstyle." The elder boy looked at his sibling with hostile eyes and I could see their mother discreetly putting away the knives.
I am only a channel-switch viewer of cricket with no claim to any in-depth knowledge of the game. "What about Ishant Sharma?" I asked, on the mention of the coiffure, but the idea was tut-tutted by both. Seeing their high level of sharpness, Roopali asked, "You must be brilliant in your studies." The elder looked at his mother for support but she only said, "Don't force me to open my mouth." The well-waisted father, alternating his vodka gulps with spoonfuls of fried nuts, sat detached and typically, wasn't in the loop of the kids' school scores. His sole contribution to the evening's proceedings was a dissuasive warning when the younger boy climbed the hotel sofas with his shoes on. "Hey", he had said in a stern fatherly voice, "Stop that or else I will cancel your paratha order." It worked.
The daughter prudently dragged the discussion back to cricket. "If you were to choose your own Eleven, who would they be?" Their faces lit up. Rayadu, Harbhajan, Malinga, Gayle, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina got taken in the first breath. "What about Dhoni?" she asked. "Yes, as a wicket keeper" said the duo. "But isn't he also good with the bat?" she asked. "Only against weak bowlers," the elder said decisively.
While they were mulling over and fiercely debating over the remaining names, I interjected, "How well do you know Harbhajan Singh?" They seemed to know everything: the number of steps he takes for the run-up, his bowling arm action, how many wickets he took, where and when, his spat with Symonds and much more.
Since the kids were so knowledgeable about cricket, I decided to check their level of general awareness. "Good you know so much about Harbhajan Singh," I said applauding them, "Can you also tell me something about Manmohan Singh?" They looked puzzled. They then looked at their mother for a possible hint. But she only raised a non-committal brow. After a few seconds of silence, the elder boy hazarded a guess. "I think he is a second-string player."
MANAGING GROWTH WITH FORESTS
A recent report "Forests in a Green Economy" by the UN Environment Programme examines the critical role of forests and provides policy recommendations for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Excerpts:
Economic progress and human well-being are dependent on healthy forests. Forests serve as carbon sinks and stabilise global climate, regulate water cycles and provide habitats for biodiversity while hosting a wide variety of genetic resources. Economic valuation studies conducted in different countries have demonstrated the important benefits form forests, in particular for climate regulation services and existence values.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Natons (FAQ) estimated that the forest industry contrirbuted approximately US$ 468 billion or 1 per cent of gobal gross value added to global GDP in 2006. Pulp and paper represented about 40 per cent of this contribution. A review of 54 case studies, over half of which were from Eastern and Southern Africa, estimated that the average annual income from forests
amounted to 22 per cent of
Forests also provide an essential source of cash, especially during poor harvests. The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) estimates that families living in and around forests derive an average of one-fifth to one-fourth of their income from forests-based resources.
In many countries, non-timber forest products (NTFPs) contribute prominently to local economies and livelihoods and are important exports. NTFPs include food, plants products, medicine, aromatic products and exudates such as tannin extract and raw lacquer. FAQ (2005) estimated that the value of NTFPs extracted from forests worldwide amounted to US$ 18.5 billion in 2005. It underscored these as lower bound values because of incomplete data.
Forests also provide employment. Although the figures range widely, studies show that more than a billion people depend on forests for incomes and employment. Much of this may be in the informal sector: a recent study by CIFOR on informal timber production in Cameroon estimates that 45,000 people earn their living from such production in the country.
Nutrition for the poor
Globally, forested watersheds, wetlands and mangrove ecosystems provide nutrition to poor households. In addition to sustaining freshwater and coastal fisheries, food sources including NTFPs such as fruits, nuts, honey, and mushrooms are an important source of nutrition. A 2008 review of bush meat affirmed that rural communities in Central Africa obtained a critical portion of their protein and fat from forests.
More than 2 billion people depend on wood energy for cooking, heating and food preservation. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2005, biomass energy accounted for an estimated 10 per cent of energy use. More than 83 per cent of this is used in less developed countries. In many developing countries biomass accounts for more than 50 per cent of total energy use. Halting tropical deforestation and planting new forests could represent the mitigation potential equivalent of doubling current global nuclear energy capacity or constructing two million new wind turbines. Unfortunately, the values and services that forests render are rarely captured in national accounting systems.
Despite the considerable value of forests, deforestation is rampant. The world's forested area is declining both in absolute terms (deforestation) and in net terms (taking account of forest planting and natural expansion), although at a slower rate than in previous decades. On average, 13 million hectares of tropical forests (an area the size of Greece) are disappearing annually. This is equivalent to approximately six billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, contributing up to one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
These global trends conceal important regional variations. Over the past decade, forest cover stabilized in North and Central America and expanded in Europe. Forest cover expanded in Asia, mainly due to large-scale afforestation in China, which offset continued deforestation in South-East Asia. Africa and South America experienced the largest net loss of forests during this period.
These figures also mask the loss of natural forests. The general global trend is that natural forests and modified natural forests are decreasing while the planted forest area is increasing. Forty million hectares of natural forests have been lost since 2000. The loss of natural forests implies important and critical losses in biodiversity and decreasing forest ecosystem resilience against climate change.
Today, investments in forests remain low and forest-related activities are predominantly extractive. Over the last two decades, agricultural expansion and timber extraction were the main proximate causes of tropical deforestation.
This pressure is likely to worsen with increasing population, rising incomes and a shift toward meat-based diets. Additionally, market failures increase the likelihood of exploitation without considering the full range of forests goods and services. The Eliasch Review (2008) estimates that the net present value of reduced climate change benefits associated with emission reductions from halving deforestation from 2010 to 2100 is US$ 3.7 trillion on average. It also finds that the average benefit from halving deforestation exceeds average costs by a factor of more than three.
The forest transition theory
A.S. Mather (1992) presents a 'forest transition theory' to explain the growth of planted forests. The study uses on Thunen's rent theory to explain different stages of forest development. It states that as countries develop, forest land is converted to other land uses, agriculture in particular. The process accelerates as infrastructure improvements open up frontier forest areas and make timber extraction and agriculture economically viable.
Over time, as timber becomes scarce, off-farm employment opportunities become available. As the economy develops, a series of policy adjustments are made in response to increased profitability of forest management and forest creation. Consequently, the area of forest cover starts to increase again.
Such a transition has been observed in many developed countries and some developing nations. The forest transition theory underscores the central role that informed policy can play in ensuring that forestry services are appropriately valued.
Intensively managed planted forests are highly productive plantations primarily intended to produce wood and fibre. There are around 25 million hectares of intensively managed planted forests worldwide, representing one-quarter of plantation forests and almost 0.2 per cent of the global land area. They generally comprise tropical 'fastwood' plantations of acacia and eucalyptus, as well as temperate conifers.
The New Generation Plantations Project led by WWF collects information and experience from tree plantations in a range of forest landscapes that are compatible with biodiversity conservation and human needs. This project is exploring how forest and plantation management can maintain and enhance ecosystem integrity and forest biodiversity.
New approaches to plantation management can also enhance biodiversity at the stand level. During the 1960s and 1970s, Brazil's Atlantic rainforest, Mata Atlantic, was deforested at an accelerated rate due to logging of valuable tree species for saw milling and subsequently cleared for cattle grazing.
Not for markets
Forests contribute substantially to local, national and global economies. They can contribute to a low-carbon, high-growth, socially inclusive and equitable, adaptive and low scarcity green economy through their multiple functions and improved management. Forests are also a source for low-carbon raw material and energy, and offer a full range of services for many sectors, human well-being, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
To realise contributions from forests in a green economy, specific enabling conditions are required. Informed policy-makers recognise that forest management cannot be left entirely to markets because these are often imperfect or absent. Consequently, to fully realise benefits of forests in a green economy, governments will need to take an active role.
Governments and the international community need to undertake policy reforms to create incentives to maintain and invest in forests and introduce disincentives to modify market signals and associated rent-seeking behaviour.
A GREEK LESSON
THIS IS A USEFUL REMINDER TO US IN INDIA THAT MACRO-ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT CAN HAVE CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES
T N NINAN
Some time last year, at one of Business Standard's regular Monday morning editorial conferences, a distinguished columnist suggested an editorial comment by the paper on Greece. There was stupefied silence in the room, followed by the sounds of suppressed amusement. Greece?! But the thought that a small European economy, with one-third of 1 per cent of the world's GDP, should worry this paper's readers is no longer outlandish. Nervous markets and news reports this past week have talked of the Greek crisis sparking another Lehman moment, a la 2008.
The world economy may not be teetering on the edge, as yet, since all of Europe is agreed that Greece should not be allowed to slip into a messy default that could have unpredictable repercussions. But the Greek government's 2010 austerity-cum-revival package has unravelled, short-circuiting the international bail-out programme. No one knows whether the Greek parliament will vote in the next few days in favour of a fresh austerity plan — required if Greece is to get a second bailout package. If what is considered economically unavoidable becomes politically impossible, as seems to be the case, something is going to give.
If you want to bet on eventual outcomes, consider what the Greeks are going through: GDP is shrinking for the third year in a row, household consumption in the latest quarter is down by 7.8 per cent, and investment by 19.2 per cent. Unemployment has soared to 15.9 per cent, the budget deficit is a stratospheric 10 per cent of GDP, and public debt is so high that two-year yields have touched 30 per cent. In such a situation, an austerity-cum-fresh taxation package that raises taxes, cuts the salaries and pensions of government employees, and reduces government spending, is guaranteed to cause riots — and adds to problems instead of solving them. But then, there is no alternative available, except the unthinkable one: that Greece (and other afflicted Southern European countries) should get out of the Eurozone.
Way back in 1996, American economist Rudiger Dornbusch had forecast the present crisis while damning the project for a common European currency. Writing in Foreign Affairs, he said, "If the European Monetary Union goes forward, a common currency will eliminate the adjustments now made by nominal exchange rates, and the central bank will control money with an iron fist. Labour markets will do the adjusting, a mechanism bound to fail, given those markets' inflexibility in Europe." Another American economist, Martin Feldstein, wrote on similar lines last month (in a column syndicated in Business Standard), arguing that Greece should take temporary leave of the Eurozone. No one in Greece is arguing this coldly rational viewpoint, as yet. The problem is that Europe and the International Monetary Fund cannot seem to agree on anything. And that is what has markets and analysts fearing another financial quake.
This is a useful reminder to us in India that macro-economic mismanagement can have catastrophic consequences. To be sure, the Indian economy's health readings are a world removed from what Greece has, but that does not mean no hard decisions are needed. Public debt (in relation to GDP) is about three times the average for emerging market economies. Bringing it down will mean ignoring the calls for massive new spending in areas favoured by civil society activists, cutting subsidies (read higher prices for everything from cooking gas to public transport), and introducing new taxes (perhaps along the lines Mr Chidambaram has suggested). Imagine how Anna Hazare, Prakash Karat, Medha Patkar and Nitin Gadkari will react to all that, and you get some answers about an edgy government's room for manoeuvre.
THE ?BEIJING CONSENSUS? COULD HAVE A SERIOUS DOWNSIDE
I was in China recently after two years and found that hubris had set in about the country's rise. At the Shanghai Forum I attended, it was argued that not only was China set to become the world's dominant economy within a decade, but a national assertiveness to challenge the US super-power was evident, so was a marked reversal in the gradual increase (since 1989) in personal liberty. The source of this hubris was China's successful navigation of the global financial crisis, which had undermined US hegemony, justifying China's distinctive economic policies of state capitalism, termed the "Beijing Consensus".
Joshua Cooper Ramo, a young analyst at the Foreign Policy Centre, has coined this term. He rightly claims that China's 30-year growth spurt has been based on an eclectic mix of institutional forms. He asserts that the dominant form has been state capitalism. This has been rigorously questioned by Yasheng Huang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, first in the book Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics and most recently in a paper titled "Rethinking the Beijing Consensus" ("Asia Policy 11").
Professor Huang differentiates between two periods of Chinese growth since its opening-up: the more liberal entrepreneurial capitalist model followed in the eighties and the more statist model since the nineties. He argues that many Western students studying China have been misled into not distinguishing between these two periods, having taken the first period in which growth was based on town and village enterprises (TVEs) as being led by collective firms. This is based on a statistical misunderstanding. The term used by official Chinese statisticians includes "both [collective] TVEs controlled by townships and villages and TVEs controlled by private entrepreneurs… [It] is a geographic concept referring to enterprises located in townships and villages…Western economists, on the other hand, understand the term from an ownership perspective as referring to an enterprise owned by townships and villages" ("Rethinking the Beijing Consensus"). Disaggregating this data by ownership type, Professor Huang found that "private TVEs absolutely dominated the total pool of TVEs".
This statistical misunderstanding has led many Western economists to describe the Chinese growth miracle as being based on a unique form of collective enterprise, when it clearly wasn't, at least in the early reform period. As usual, the "new dirigiste" is at hand to provide "elaborate theories – some backed up by formal mathematical proofs – ... to explain the performance of TVEs ... as an efficient substitute in a weak [institutional] environment". Dani Rodrik and Joseph Stiglitz have argued that "the rise of the TVEs challenges the standard claims of economics that private ownership rights motivate entrepreneurs to invest and take risks" (ibid, p16). Some more theoretical curiosa based on empirical sand!
Professor Huang then distinguishes between per capita gross domestic product (GDP) growth and per capita personal income (the income accruing to Chinese households). There was a large divergence between the two in the nineties. While real per capita income grew at 8.1 per cent between 1989 and 2002, per capita personal income grew by only 5.4 per cent a year. Given the ongoing financial repression, the difference was appropriated by the State. As it is, per capita consumption, which is the source of economic welfare, despite similar GDP growth rates in the two periods, "Chinese personal income grew fastest during the 1980s and then slowed dramatically during the 1990s, whereas GDP growth remained unaffected. These trends correlate closely with the different economic policies" (p 5). China followed the more market-oriented development in the first and the more statist one in the second.
The difference between GDP growth and personal income has provided the financing of a massive increase in public investment – not least on infrastructure in the recent stimulus during the global financial crisis – as well as a massive build-up of foreign exchange reserves. This investment, Yao Yang of Peking University has argued recently, has very low rates of return. The accumulated foreign exchange reserves of $3 trillion, held in large part in the US and Eurozone public debt instruments, are beginning to look more like the unprofitable deployment of Japanese surpluses by its private sector in the 1980s. For, with the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone and an incipient one in the US, these massive Chinese holdings are beginning to look like the sub-prime mortgages held by US banks before the Great Crash, with dire consequences for the returns on this deployment of the massive savings of the Chinese people by the State. Finally, the large monetary easing during the global financial crisis has led to a bubble in the property market, again echoing pre-bust Japan.
So, is the latest adherent to the "Asian" model likely to meet the same fate as its parent? I do not think so. This is because China, unlike Japan in the eighties, is still in the "catch-up" phase of economic growth. And with savings rates remaining high, until the "demographic dividend" ends in 2025, with an elastic labour supply in relatively free labour markets, and abundant industrialisation opportunities for expansion beyond the coast, China should be able to maintain high growth rates in the next decade.
The dangers are longer term, once the catch-up phase ends. Professor Huang argues that the State-led capitalist model that China has followed since the nineties is inferior to the Indian model (which is closer to the "Washington Consensus"), because of the stunted size of the Chinese indigenous private sector and the continuing reliance on financial repression.
There has been a marked decline in Chinese total factor productivity since the late nineties. India's private sector-led development model has fostered indigenous entrepreneurship, whereas China is still dominated by state monopolies. Thus, India has generated growth rates close to China's in the noughties with much lower investment. On the presumed failure of the Indian state to provide infrastructure to match China's, Professor Huang notes that in 1980 China started with an infrastructure disadvantage compared with India, and yet had spectacular growth rates. So like India today, "FDI and infrastructural investment played a minor role in China's initial economic take-off". He concludes that India has a better chance of maintaining high, sustainable growth rates than China. So much for the "Beijing Consensus" replacing the "Washington Consensus"!
SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT, PLEASE
IN INDIA, THE LAWS ARE GEARED TO THE SUPPRESSION OF BOTH ACCURATE INFORMATION AND UNWELCOME OPINION
Watching the lunar eclipse, I wondered about one of the gaps in India's ethos. It is possible to accurately predict sunrise, sunset, solstices, equinoxes and eclipses for centuries. Since time immemorial, India has had superb calendars and almanacs.
Celestial calculations are fiddly and require good number systems. India was among the first places to devise positional number systems and this invention may, in fact, have been driven by the socio-religious imperative to do celestial calculations.
Logically, a good calendar and good number systems form a basis for dating. Events can be cross-referenced with certainty. Knowing that a lunar eclipse occurred at 0052 IST on June 16, we also know Virat Kohli was run out, 22 hours later.
There wasn't a single decent dating system anywhere in ancient India. So, it is impossible to put accurate dates to most of ancient Indian history. The rare exceptions involved external contact. We know, for instance, that Alexander crossed the Indus and beat Porus in 326 BC.
Other events can be similarly dated via an external agency. Ashoka sent emissaries to spread dhamma — we know when they arrived in neighbouring kingdoms. Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang wandered around, enabling us to place the reigns of various monarchs. From the medieval period onwards, various Muslim rulers and the Europeans kept calendars.
Why did ancient India lack a collective sense of history, one absent over millennia and across a huge region? Nobody wrote historical narratives complete with data and dates. None of the learned folks who calculated celestial cycles for thousands of years ever cross-referenced those to daily occurrences. Not one kept a diary.
It is an odd blind spot for an entire civilisation. One reason may be, in analogy with the Soviet Union, ancient India wanted a "reliable past". Any historical narrative had to fit with the whims of the ruler of the moment. Uncomfortable truths were, therefore, safer forgotten.
The blind spot persists. Nowadays, it is closer to being deliberate prohibition against writing "unreliable" history. We want black and white: Gandhi good; Jinnah bad; Akbar good; Aurangzeb bad.
The educational system is rigidly controlled and it would be difficult for a "politically unsound" historian to be taken seriously. The laws are also geared to the suppression of both accurate information and unwelcome opinion.
The official archives are an impenetrable mess. Successive governments have refused to declassify documents about the Naval Mutiny (1946), Netaji's death (1945?), the Indo-China War (1962), Shastri's death (1965) and so on, all on the absurd grounds of security concerns.
In addition to official disinclination to part with information, anybody can choose to be offended by anything at all for a wide variety of reasons and then go to court to suppress the offending work. It is not necessary to have actually read something before being offended by it.
If the legal process seems tedious, a short cut is to burn a few books and create a public disturbance, secure in the knowledge that the offending work will then be put on ice. This has happened in the past to various books that offered an objective analysis of Gandhiji's life and assassination, Netaji's flirtation with fascism, Shivaji, Sikhism, Dhirubhai Ambani's career and so on. Which is why there are few unvarnished written biographies despite a plethora of fascinating oral histories.
The truth may be inconvenient and dissenting opinions may be unpleasant. But a civilisation bent on sweeping things under the carpet repeats the same mistakes ad infinitum. India suffered successive historical waves of invasion and colonisation because local rulers never learnt from the unrecorded mistakes of their predecessors. Modern India's history of appalling mis-governance is no accident since it works very hard not to keep records of its errors and omissions.
THE KOEL JUST GOES ON AND ON
Ever since spring came, the leafy quiet around our house is broken morning and sundown by the insistent calls of a koel. Somebody must have told the creature that its sound is sweet and so it goes on and on. Other birds join in but soon give up. The koel brooks no competition. So at the appointed hours it sings and sings, sending a message that is loud and clear. Yes, nature is losing out in Bangalore but has not given up as yet. It will go on fighting until the last koel has no more trees to perch on.
The trees are also under attack. Grand-old sentinels along road after road are being felled to make way for widening. A couple of years ago, not one but two rain trees, at both ends of our side street, fell during a storm, the roots apparently weakened by construction and paving of side spaces to create even, un-muddy parking spaces. But the huge pine tree next to our verandah, taller than our two-storeyed house, still appears strong, home to the koel and a team of squirrels whose fun in life seems to be to jump from its branches on to our verandah and terrace and back.
We go to fetch our daughter coming home from Delhi and in the windy, cloudy cool environs of the airport she says she cannot believe it is mid-afternoon in mid-summer. The sides of the road connecting the airport to the highway are being elaborately landscaped and add to the good feeling. But once on the highway, chaos slowly takes over. Massive hoardings keep multiplying. In these windy months, which also see one or two storms, so many of them, with their visuals torn to shreds, have become scaffoldings from which a bedraggled city appears to hang out its torn persona.
Through the middle of the new multi-lane highway completed just the other day, an elevated highway is being built, to jump the traffic lights. So, on a highway where the main problem has been the temptation to over-speed, there are now a few traffic jams. Why not build a metro rail link instead of a carriageway and be done with it in one go, asks our son. Mumbai, where he lives, seems to have created in him a habit of thinking in terms of smart solutions. Maybe someday they will build a double-decker metro line on top of the roadway, I say somewhat facetiously. But you never know. A project like that, with a huge price tag and no land acquisition problems – only a few years of traffic jams during construction – can excite politicians and officials alike.
Traffic jams are a sign of progress that is made of concrete in the shape of a metro rail. By the time even the much-delayed first phase of the single-line systems gets going (imagine how much traffic will have gone up in the years it has been in the making), it will make no difference to the traffic. Maybe some time later, when everyone is much richer, another metro line will be built. Another big-ticket project, more trees cut down, more traffic jams — till it is time to have yet another metro line.
But there is no need to be unduly pessimistic. The public- spirited architects who have been lamenting that they did not get a chance to give character, shape and local identity to the metro rail and its stations the first time will get a chance the next time around, and the next time after that. In fact, a process can be standardised. With more traffic jams, the city will need more flyovers, which will create more traffic jams requiring even more flyovers. The architects can be roped in right from the beginning so that the city gets an imaginatively designed flyover which reflects its character, heritage and geography. Not a bad compromise!
Not all problems will be so easily solved. Every time I go for a morning walk to the lovely park nearby, I have to pass an informal, unofficial garbage dump with a neatly painted sign hanging above saying it is illegal to dump garbage there. The garbage is taken away by midday most days by the municipality's three-wheeler garbage van, unless of course the van misses a day. Then the streets around also sprout tied-up bag-full of garbage left before doorways because the morning collection did not take place. By the time the following morning comes, the street dogs will have torn the plastic bags apart, foraged for food and left the garbage strewn all over the street.
By late mornings this should also be cleaned up by the teams of women in green overalls who are contract sweepers for the municipality. But they don't come every day. Journalist friends tell me there is an organised racket. The women are employed by contractors who have to keep local corporators happy, don't get paid the full rate that they are officially supposed to and there is mostly not enough money for them to be deployed every day on every street.
It is a bit late in the morning and our daughter emerges from sleep a bit apologetic. It is cool, cloudy and quiet and she looks around and says: I know why I overslept, had no idea what time it was, you don't know what a change this is from Delhi. I say it was not entirely as quite a little while ago. The koel has just finished its morning session. It is like an Indian classical music singer who goes on and on.
IS PAKISTAN GOVERNABLE?
The recent killing of Osama bin Laden on the outskirts of Abbottabad on the North-West Frontier Province, the raid on the naval base near Karachi and the almost daily suicide bombings raise fresh questions about the nature and destiny of Pakistan. For some commentators it provides additional proof that Pakistan is a "failed state", too weak and too fragmented to know, let alone to control, what's going on within its borders. For some others, especially to us in India, it is indicative of how Islamic doctrines and jihadist philosophies have eaten away at the fabric of Pakistan. So, the question is whether Pakistan is governable any more. Ilhan Niaz, an assistant professor of history at Qaid-ed-Azam University, Islamabad, has come with The Culture of Power and Governance of Pakistan, 1947-2008 (Oxford University Press, Karachi, Rs 750), which is perhaps the first theoretical study on the nature of Pakistani state, unlike a spate of others that have been empirical accounts to describe the stranglehold of the military in every aspect of Pakistan's life and times.
Let it be said that as a theoretical study of the crisis of governance, the work is seriously flawed. But before that, a little on the book itself which attempts to explain Pakistan's crisis in historical and philosophical terms. It argues that South Asia's indigenous orientation towards the exercise of power has reasserted itself and produced a regression in the behaviour of the ruling elite. This has meant that in the 60 years of independence from the British rule the behaviour of ruling elite has become more arbitrary. This has resulted in the deterioration of the intellectual and moral quality of the state apparatus.
Having made these broad generalisations, Dr Niaz draws upon his reading of history — the pattern of governance under emperors in Europe and South Asia, for example, under the Mauryan and Mughal empires which he describes as "continental bureaucratic empires". In this system, the emperors considered the state their private property and depended upon the bureaucracy for administering a vast country. If the ruler weakened, the servants or the bureaucrats carved out personal estates for themselves, thus leading to anarchy. If the ruler was strong, smaller states were fused to form a larger state.
Dr Niaz's main thrust has been on personalities – rulers, bureaucrats, the military and financial managers – not on objective factors, or underlying forces that often dictate the decisions of policy makers.
Dr Niaz's monolithic model of strong rulers vs weak rulers is carried over to the post-Independence scene in Pakistan: the rulers while exercising power have "steadily regressed" to pre-British forms with no stable institutions of governance. Dr Naiz praises the British rule precisely because of the establishment of institutions and the introduction of modern systems of governance like regular pay, accountability, esprit de corps in the services and so on. These principles of governance steadily eroded to the extent that Lal Masjid challenged the writ of Islamabad in 2007, and in 2009 the Taliban militants consolidated their hold over a large part of the Khyber regions or Pakhtunkhwa.
But this erosion of state authority had been coming for a long time. Immediately after Independence in 1947, senior civil servants were "quietly working themselves to death" for restructuring the state. Between March 1953 and March 1969, when Pakistan was governed by civil servants and military officers, backed by the judiciary, "there was undeniable improvement in the efficiency of the administration as police had receded into the background".
But this triumvirate slowly collapsed because the chosen legislators were perceived to be interfering with the police and the military that led to lawlessness and corruption. Dr Niaz gives a blow-by-blow account of the erosion of judicial powers and the emasculation of civil authority beginning with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to he "authoritarian rule at its worst" that climaxed under Zia-ul-Haq. Dr Niaz emphasises that while Zia's rule ensured stability, the society became increasingly ungovernable as resources from home and abroad were poured into religious seminaries and arming, training and launching Islamic militants in Afghanistan.
What the military and political elite did was to destroy the institutions of governance, that is, the constituent assembly, the local governments, the higher judiciary and political parties. This created a power vacuum to be filled by whoever wielded the gun. Both military and military leadership failed to see the difference between a modern state and a medieval one in which the country was taken as the estate of the ruler. And when it came to finance, it highlighted the inability of the state to increase revenues. The "macro-economic stability was an illusion" since it was not backed by the ability of the state to "generate revenues from its domestic sources".
Dr Niaz is right up to a point. But there are two other crucial factors responsible for the misgovernance of Pakistan and both are something about which the state can do nothing. One, the overwhelming role of the army that has a finger in every pie — land, industry and now the service sector. And two, the Talibanisation of Pakistani society that can't see anything beyond a very rigid interpretation of Islam. So, no institutional reform will bring about any change.
THE EXTENT OF LAWLESSNESS DRESSED UP AS LAW IN THE COUNTRY IS UNIMAGINABLE
SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
The people I am writing about will never read this column. But anyone who does might consider the irony of kidnap and ransom camouflaged as law enforcement at home while civil-society stars rant about bringing back lakhs of crores of black money salted away in tax havens and whip themselves up into a frenzy over placing the prime minister under the Lok Pal's discipline. It's said the darkness is greatest under the lamp.
It was around 3.40 in the afternoon on a gusty Friday and South-Eastern Railway's Dhauli Express between Puri and Howrah was about to leave Bhadrak station in Orissa. An athletic young man who had got to Bhadrak from his village and paid Rs 82 for a ticket to Howrah ran up and down the train looking for a place to squeeze in. But the general compartments were tightly packed with the doors firmly locked from inside. Our young man hammered on doors and shouted through windows but to no avail.
But around 35 passengers were huddled on the floor of the vendors' van meant for luggage. There was no luggage and no guard and the doors were wide open to wind and rain. The train was about to leave Bhadrak, and the young man's job as a condominium durwan in Calcutta would have been in danger if he didn't get there that night. Moreover, the vendors' van crowd was welcoming, and with no other choice, he jumped in as the train began to move.
He jumped out again at Kharagpur in West Bengal at about 7.00 p m but the rain was lashing down hard and all the compartments were still locked. No one would let him in. So it was back to the vendors' until they reached Santragachi, 7 kilometres from Howrah, an hour later. That's where the drama began. Four or five men boarded the vendors' van, announced they were plainclothes policemen, pushed the passengers out and handed them to Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel who made them squat in an outside lock-up. Our man from Bhadrak tried to explain but they shut him up.
The RPF returned nearly three hours later to ask how much money each had. Some produced Rs 500, some a thousand: the money was seized and they were let off. The man from Bhadrak had only Rs 400, which they also took but it wasn't enough to buy his release; he and 13 others were ordered back into the lock-up where they were given chapatis and sabzi to eat and told they would be dealt with in the morning. It was quite late next day, around 11.30 a m, when they were taken in a local train to Howrah and locked up in a cell.
A magistrate in a black jacket, white shirt and tie appeared later in the day and fined each prisoner Rs 300. Having already paid Rs 400, the Bhadrak man asked for the balance but the court mohori retorted that, on the contrary, he would have to pay another Rs 250 to be released. "There are so many of us, and we've been working all night for you!" was the explanation.
A personal disclosure is called for: my flat is in the condominium where the durwan works. I know him to be of impeccable integrity. He called me several times from Santragachi and Howrah, but when I wanted to have a word with one of the RPF officers, I heard the refusal. They would confiscate the phone, they warned, if he didn't shut up. Since our durwan had no more money and they wouldn't release him unless he paid up, I sent my car and driver to Howrah with money. The receipt they brought back – High Court Form No. (A) 23 (Civil) / (A) 18 (Criminal) – was for Rs 300. He had paid Rs 650.
Such things happen all the time all over India. The difference between our police and Somali pirates can sometimes be a matter of scale. If Mamata Banerjee were suddenly to visit a railway station or hop on an unfashionable train, just as she drops in unannounced on hospitals and offices, she might see for herself the extent of lawlessness dressed up as law in her own backyard. Baburao Hazare, Ramdev and all their pious social activist friends should accompany her.
Incidentally, HAPPY JOURNEY is printed on both the Howrah-Bhadrak and Bhadrak-Howrah railway tickets. I hope it is so this time for my durwan for he is back in his Bhadrak village this weekend getting married.
THE RISKS OF COMING HOME
INDIA NEEDS TO MATCH WESTERN STANDARDS OF PUBLIC SERVICES AND INCOMES TO REVERSE THE BRAIN DRAIN
KALA SEETHARAM SRIDHAR & V SRIDHAR
The prime minister recently remarked that if a person does well in India, he can do well anywhere in the world. But is the reverse true as well? Brain drain – the issue that raised serious concerns in Indian economy a few years ago – is witnessing a reverse trend. Exciting career opportunities and an association with culture has made India the favourite destination of Indian professionals with advanced degrees working in all the sectors across the world. The last year, 2010, saw as many as 60,000 Indian professionals returning to India from the US. As one can imagine, reverse brain drain is important for India, given that it faces a talent crunch in most sectors.
What are the benefits and costs of living in India for expatriates? The quantifiable benefits are salaries and public services whereas costs are the payment of taxes. Fully understanding the risks of quantification, these aspects are the only ones that can be quantified (family ties and the joy of being in one's own country, unfortunately, cannot be quantified).
The news on the employment front, consistent with India's growth story, is that India will see robust hiring and there is an expected double-digit salary increase across all sectors — IT, manufacturing, finance, insurance and real estate. In India, this is another example of economic theory being wrong, or which needs to be revised! Conventional labour economic theory and the several papers that have estimated wage functions show that market wages are determined by age, education, work experience, social status and gender. In our own research using American data (from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics), we have found that educated individuals (those with higher grades of school completed and college degrees) have respectively 16 and 41 per cent higher earnings than their counterparts with lower education. We also found that every extra year of work experience increases the wage by about three per cent.
In India, wages are determined by the sector in which an earner is employed. For instance, in information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services sectors, a bachelor's degree is adequate to enable them to earn nearly the same as what an earner with an advanced degree with several years of experience would earn. In addition, companies dole out bonuses (of course, depending on the stage of the business cycle) and offer other perks to retain employees and prevent attrition. The main reason for this phenomenon is that the IT outsourcing companies in India, typically, have a pyramid model of human resources. The large base of the pyramid is filled in by fresh engineers with limited or even no experience. These engineers after three to six months of training are posted in IT service projects. This reduces the average compensation levels in the project as well as for the whole company, thus improving its profit margins.
Does this mean that India needs no more than employees with bachelor's degrees? Hence those with master's and/or PhD degrees might be over-qualified for returning to India, especially if they are in non-IT or non-emerging sectors! The limited number of positions, the budgetary constraints and the lengthy bureaucracy in most academic institutions in India do not offer much to those having advanced degrees.
Apart from earnings, the other benefit in the story is the provision of public services. Those in the US and Europe are aware of the public services, social security system and retirement benefits that one enjoys. Back in India, none of these exist. There should be, ideally, a quid pro quo relationship between the taxes one pays and the services one receives. Even here, there is a lot of inequity. We all, as citizens, pay taxes (more so for the salaried, since taxes are deducted at source). But what services do we get in return? In countries such as Finland, which rank very high on transparency and very low on corruption, citizens pay taxes but they are served by a public education system that is free (all children enjoy good-quality free primary, secondary and higher education), and a public health system of reasonable quality. Doctors in countries like Finland, for instance, do not refer patients to diagnostic tests unnecessarily (to optimise the costs of public health), as is the case in India (due to a probable nexus that exists between referring doctors and diagnostic labs). In India, we do have government schools, but they are of poor enough quality so that no reasonably educated parent wants to send his or her child to a government school. In India, there are also government hospitals but no family with reasonable affordability would like to be treated in a government hospital! So what do we pay taxes for? For the potholed roads flanked by garbage that take us to work everyday? Or the dirty water that is not potable?
In other words, the benefit-cost analysis can be quite unfair in India for the returning expatriate. What is the government in an emerging superpower – which has now become a net lender to the Indian Monetary Fund and other agencies – doing? At the minimum, it does not even share data essential for researchers to understand the state of the art with respect to various public services. The Right to Information has arrived, but that is now used as a tool to put consumers and the public at the other end of the table with the government.
Irrespective of the rate at which India grows, we are afraid that the government in India has a long way to go, and cannot merely leverage on the fact that the country is growing rapidly. The rapid growth is, no doubt, partly because of the policies unleashed by the government nearly two decades ago, but also a result of the demographic dividend, and a rising middle class with higher aspirations. Hence policies to nurture higher education, better public service delivery and better sharing of data with the public need to be promoted to encourage a reverse brain drain.
Kala Seetharam Sridhar is with Public Affairs Centre in Bangalore, and V Sridhar is with Sasken Communication Technologies. These views are personal
SPOOKING OURSELVES INTO A SLOWDOWN
Dear Corporate India, why is there so much overt panic about an impending "slowdown" and "policy paralysis" at the centre and unfriendly (to whom?) rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)? It seems to echo the days of the global meltdown when a puzzled foreign investor asked me how it was that all the companies he had met, collectively said things were in a bad way, but individually and privately said things weren't too bad. Maybe it's just the business media that doesn't seem to have a handle on things! Thursday's headlines in one paper was about such a collective view of bankers about bad times , but Friday's interview by the head of HDFC Bank – a balanced and mature high-performing organisation – by any yardstick was very calm. He said, "Bad debts come when you have a tremendous fall in growth rate that is unexpected. Half per cent reduction in growth is not anything to be so worried about. From 8.5 per cent to 8 per cent or 7.75 per cent in my view is no big deal." On the other hand, there are those who believe that the sheer momentum of the Indian economy will keep growth safe and ticking, and I tend to agree with that, not just because it is good news, but because it takes a broader view of the broader Indian economy. Corporate India, including the financial services sector, has been telling investors that the India story is strong, that we must distinguish between annoying squalls, and devastating "twisters" and that the economy is quite safe from the politics. What's changed now? Why are we spooking ourselves and depressing confidence so severely?
Perhaps the business plans, cast in the days of unbridled optimism of the 2010-11 are not being met and the master of the stock market is not going to be pleased? Perhaps business cycles and environmental pressures are things that we having to deal with more often, than in the past decade, and as a bigger economy, we are now beginning to feel the heat, and to ask for smooth sailing upward driving tail winds all the time is wishful, and greedy? Perhaps the business planning process needs to be revisited — is there sufficient attention to what the environment is really going to be like, and what the right target number should be? Or do we decide that we must, just must, do a certain growth rate on certain parameters and then blame it all on the environment when it doesn't happen? At the end of 2010-11, there was a general air of euphoria. Not being ravaged by the global meltdown and doing "ok, considering the situation" in 2009-10, and then being among the star-performer economies of the world in 2010-11 much to our own surprise, was reason to celebrate. Yes, 2010-11 was a year that had its worries, and CEOs said rising input costs, tighter or more expensive money, and inflation making consumers spend more on essentials, they worried about margins and about consumer demand weakening. Yet corporate India, including the banking sector did very well last year. They did pass on costs to consumers, the curate's egg "good in parts" nature of India turned in enough good news for good cheer, and the rural economy continued to do well, the rain-god helped and we have worries about storage of food produced rather than food production per se. The insurance sector and the mutual funds business would probably have felt better had there been more policy paralysis!
What about infrastructure projects getting delayed, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) not coming? Yes to both, the facts speak for themselves. Will it ever happen? Yes, it will. Perhaps the lesson here is to pay more attention to the business portfolio at the portfolio level, ensuring that there are enough diverse bets of varying degrees of commitment placed when developing strategy and business plans. In some wonderful writing on developing strategy in uncertainty, McKinsey says there are different kinds of uncertainty — many of the uncertainties in India seem to be in the genre of "we are certain that they will happen, but we are not sure when". So if a retail business has bet its future on FDI being permitted and hence expanded beyond what it is justified doing on the basis on business logic, then yes, policy paralysis is a problem. The retail sector has enough opportunities and more that does not need FDI to be pursued; it needs to work with Indian investors and lenders, teaching them how to evaluate the business. FDI in insurance is not going to change the strategic fortunes of the private insurance businesses. Developing the right product suite and moving from a transaction to a relationship mindset will help generate good quality growth. A lending institution that decides that it will bet heavy on infrastructure in India must do a reality check, beyond consultant reports, on estimating the pattern and speed of flows – and in any case infrastructure business is a long-term nurture sector and needs to be treated as such – with other sectors in the portfolio that take can deliver smaller, but more certain growth targets.
Perhaps corporate India should believe the story it tells outside investors – that this is a long haul market, slow – burn but steady burn, there is a pot of gold, bigger than almost anywhere else, at the end of a hot, dusty uncomfortable journey; the country has many people constituencies, and yes, choices between inflation and growth, between corporate business value and aam aadmi's ability to live comfortably will forever have to be made, and that doing business in such a complex multi-part country needs a great deal of complex yet sharp strategy.
The author is an independent market strategy consultant
FISCAL POLICY AND INFLATION
It's time the Centre took over the baton of reining in inflation from the RBI because it is better equipped to yank the economy out of the slowdown fears that have gripped it.
Monetary policy seems to have run its course as far as fighting inflation is concerned. The ten rate hikes since February 2010 have been unable to curb inflation even as they set up the environment for a slowdown in the economy. Manufacturing growth was 5.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010-11 against 15.2 per cent in the corresponding period in 2009-10. We now have the worst possible combination staring at us — that of stubbornly high prices, particularly of food, and the prospect of reduced incomes. While it is true that food inflation has been a problem of supply bottlenecks and other market imperfections quite beyond the scope of monetary policy, inflation has now spread beyond 'headline' to 'core' items.
New Delhi now needs to take the initiative; it is better equipped to yank the economy out of the slowdown fears that have gripped it. Intelligent fiscal policy is the need of the hour, one that pursues fiscal consolidation so that private sector is not 'crowded out', without, however, squeezing out the demand impetus that industry sorely seems to need at this stage. Let New Delhi not make the mistake of the US and EU of choking funds to the economy when a timely demand injection is what it perhaps needs. Intelligent fiscal consolidation means that less money be used to achieve the desired outcomes. For all its seeming lack of direction, the government has made a beginning in this area. The setting up of the Nilekani Committee to implement direct cash transfers in the case of LPG, kerosene and fertiliser subsidy is a step in the right direction. The need to "explore alternative models of subsidy delivery" to the PDS was made in a recent letter by 35 economists to the Chairman of the National Advisory Council, Ms Sonia Gandhi. Instead of distributing subsidised grain through PDS, where only 10 per cent of the subsidy according to studies reaches the "poor", direct cash transfer through a smart card network can ensure wider coverage at the same or lower cost.
While pruning the fisc and keeping a watchful eye on the Rs 1.5 lakh crore subsidy bill on account of fuel, food and fertiliser, it should be kept in mind that high food prices, or reduced access to food, are a recipe for social and political instability in a country where the average person spends half his income on food. The country is home to the largest number of malnourished people. Expenditure reform will have to be a calibrated, medium-term exercise, given the prevailing socio-economic realities. Whether one likes it or not, these changes do not happen in a hurry.
GRAFT AND SLUSH FUNDS
MOHAN R. LAVI
The OECD standard does not permit 'fishing expeditions' seeking information on the basis of conjectures, guess-work and false trails.
During the fasts of both Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, the focus of certain sections seemed to be more on the personalities fasting and their backgrounds/lifestyles than on the purpose — a Bill to tackle corruption and a call to import untaxed funds held abroad. Just like the sequence of the fasts, it appears that high-end corruption generates the slush funds which are then parked abroad.
With the Right to Information Act, all-encompassing tax deduction at source norms and furtive whistle-blowers, it would be almost impossible to bank slush funds in India. Hoarding large amounts of cash is passe. I
f high-end corruption is minimised, slush funds are minimized. Instead of asking for funds parked abroad to be brought into India, an alternative solution could be to minimise the funds being sent abroad.
The proposed lifting of the banking secrecy laws would be prospective and hence one would probably never get to know details of past transactions.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) United States had a brush with a Swiss Bank a couple of years back. The IRS has a concept called Qualified Intermediary (QI). Any foreign intermediary can enter into a QI agreement with the IRS.
The QI assumes primary withholding responsibility or primary reporting through a Form and backup withholding responsibility for a payment.
In case withholding taxes were not deducted, data had to be maintained in specified forms for US and non-US tax-payers.
The Swiss Bank used to solicit clients in the US and since withholding taxes were not deducted, they filed the forms for US tax-payers stating that they were non-US.
The bank reached a settlement with the US government in which it admitted having enabled clients to evade taxes, agreed to pay $780m in fines and turn over client names to the US.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been attempting to make exchange of information amongst tax jurisdictions legal.
The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is the multilateral framework within which work in the area of tax transparency and exchange of information is carried out by over 100 jurisdictions which participate in the work of the Global Forum on an equal footing. The standards provide for international exchange on request of foreseeably relevant information for the administration or enforcement of the domestic tax laws of a requesting party. All relevant information must be provided, including bank information and information held by fiduciaries, regardless of the existence of a domestic tax interest or the application of a dual criminality standard.
The OECD states that Switzerland's approach to exchange of information for tax purposes has changed significantly over the past two years. It has made rapid progress to implement its commitment to the internationally agreed standard.
However, the report notes that in a few areas it still falls short of the standard: bearer savings books are to be phased out but still exist. In addition, only a limited number of Switzerland's exchange of information agreements meets the standard.
The Isle of Man — a marquee tax haven — has agreed to exchange information. The OECD standard is unequivocal in stating that "fishing expeditions" would not be permitted. Fishing expeditions are efforts to seek information on the basis of conjectures, guess-work and false trails. Singapore has stated that it would not encourage and provide data only when the request for information is specific, detailed and relevant to the tax affairs of the tax payer in question.
Bribes and taxes
In 2009, the OECD issued a Bribery Awareness Handbook for tax examiners which serves as a dossier on the various forms of bribes and how they could escape the eye of the taxman. The Handbook states that a number of methods of concealment may be used to conceal bribes-transactions not in the usual course of business, transactions surrounded by secrecy, false entries in books of transferor or transferee, use of secret bank accounts for income, deposits into bank accounts under nominee names and conduct of business transactions in false names.
Most of these strategies are known to tax sleuths and can be unravelled during a follow-up based on information received. Obtaining reliable information is the hurdle which the OECD is attempting to cross.
(The author is a Bangalore-based chartered accountant.)
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TAX EVASION AS CRIMINAL OFFENCE
Tax gap is the difference between taxes legally owed and the amount collected. It will be next to impossible to find the tax gap in India.
The Government appears to be giving serious thought to the idea that tax evasion must be declared a criminal offence with all the attendant consequences.
Generally, it is assumed that in taxation, a specific intent to evade a tax which a taxpayer believes to be owing is an essential element of civil fraud. On the other hand, a crime is defined to be any act done in violation of those duties which an individual owes to the community. Many crimes have their origin in common law, but most have been created by statute. Jurisprudence classifies crimes as crimes which are mala in se and crimes mala prohibita. Some crimes involve moral turpitude and others do not. Crimes mala in se embrace acts immoral or wrong in themselves, such as burglary, larceny, arson, murder and breaches of peace. Crimes mala prohibita do not involve moral turpitude but involve things prohibited by statute. There is also a category called white-collar crime which includes violation of anti-trust laws bribery, computer crimes, drug violations etc. To which of these category will tax evasion belong?
The American Example
In the US, tax evasion is considered a criminal offence which can lead to penalty or imprisonment or both. Section 7201 of the IRS Code prescribes a fine of not more than $1,00,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years or both for tax evasion. Revenue must prove that there existed an unpaid tax responsibility and that the offender did some affirmative act to avoid or evade tax. It should also prove that there was a specific intention to evade. The annual tax evasion in the US is estimated at $100 billion.
Law recognises tax evasion as distinct from tax avoidance. A recent innovation is the concept of tax mitigation. The American court recognised the legal right of an individual to decrease the amount of what would otherwise be his taxes or altogether avoid them by means which the law permits (Gregory V.Helvering US S.C). Either tax mitigation or tax avoidance, if unsuccessful, can land in tax evasion.
The US taxes its citizens on world income. This ensures that the taxes cannot be avoided by transferring assets or moving abroad as we can do in India. A noteworthy feature of the American system is that the tax filer must report even illegal incomes such as those gained from gambling, theft, drug trafficking etc. The law requires that unlawful gains should also be declared as income (James vs. US). Those trying to report illegal income as coming from a legitimate legal source can be charged with money laundering.
The 1968 Nobel Laureate Garry Becker and his disciples constructed a tax evasion model which found a direct correlation between the level of punishment and the level of tax evasion. In the UK, tax avoidance became a big issue last year.
The Indian Context
Like the Indian State, tax administration in India is notoriously known to be slack. There is a lot of political interference. . It will be shocking to know that China can award even death penalty in extreme cases of tax evasion. While Switzerland considers tax evasion as a civil offence to be dealt with in Swiss tax courts, planned falsification of data is considered criminal. Two decades back, India set up Special Courts to try economic offences. The idea is laudable, but the results are nothing much to boast about.
The DTC has brought in elaborate General Anti-Avoidance Rules which will be in force from next year. Checks and balances have been built in to prevent abuse of the provisions by the tax authorities. But surprisingly, DTC has omitted the term 'concealment' from the Code. The American IRS undertook Taxpayer Compliance Measurement Program to find out the tax gap. Tax gap is the difference between taxes legally owed and the amount actually collected. It will be next to impossible to find the tax gap in India. The US has also been constantly updating the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The Indian Money Laundering Law is in a limbo; it does not include tax evasion in its definition and its application.
We need to take a serious view of tax evasion and declare it as a criminal offence. This will require rewriting the law and strengthening the tax administration. This is the opportune time since the public mood is now seriously against all forms of tax evasion.
(The author is a former Chief Commissioner of Income-Tax.)
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THE ECONOMIC TIMES
ABUSE DOES A DISSERVICE TO DEBATE, AND TO POLITICAL PARTIES AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Allegations of corruption, of being a clown or of being deceptive are being freely traded at present by the leaders of the Congress, the BJP and so-called civil society groups. This must stop immediately. A civilised discourse is a pre-requisite for democracy to function. Libellous accusations should lead on to legal proceedings, which, if disposed of expeditiously, would yield affirmation or, in its absence, retractions and apologies. In any case, the name-calling would come to an end and political discourse resume. A subterranean campaign of sorts is on, targeting the Congress leadership for corruption, by means of email and rumour. The Gadkari statement on the Congress president complements this covert campaign. For any party to accuse another party of corruption is laughable, given that all parties finance their political activity through corruption using black money, as BJP leader and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had the grace to admit. Politicians, their offspring and in-laws with no known sources of income waxing rich over the years is part of India's political reality. The way to change it is to institutionalise political funding, making it completely transparent and open to verification and challenge by watchdog groups, citizens and rival political parties. To pretend, instead, that corruption is the monopoly of one party or its leadership not only is disingenuous and malicious but also serves to subvert any real attempt to clean up Indian politics.
It is welcome that civil society activists have conceded that the judiciary cannot be held to account by the proposed Lokpal, but calls for another institution. Nor can the legislature be under the Lokpal. The government, on its part, should accept that the entirety of the executive, including the Prime Minister should come under the ombudsman. In any case, the government agrees that the Lokpal should be free to investigate other members of the Cabinet. If it does, and finds some of them guilty, that would diminish the PM's authority, too. So fear of curtailed prime ministerial authority is a specious objection to bringing the PM under the Lokpal.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
UNIFY TAX ADMINISTRATION TO TAP THE COMMON BASE OF DIRECT AND INDIRECT TAXES
Law minister M Veerappa Moily's suggestion to merge the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), the two wings responsible for tax collections by the central government, is sound. It will vastly improve the flow of information on taxpayers and enable a coordinated approach in tackling tax evasion. A merger is logical as the tax base direct and indirect tax collectors target is the same: companies pay central excise duty on manufactured goods; states charge value added tax (VAT) on the purchase of these goods and corporate tax is paid on the profits generated from the sale of these goods. A unified goods and services tax (GST) will further strengthen these linkages and also lead to a widening of the tax base. Robust IT infrastructure will ensure that audit trails of transactions are available without breaks. As taxpayers start filing invoice level returns, a common GST portal can analyse data for evasion and fraud. GST will enhance compliance in direct taxes as well. Taxpayer services would get a leg-up as a merger would mean extending the facility of a large tax payer unit to all taxpayers. A unified model is at work in the UK, following the merger of Inland Revenue with HM Customs and Revenue department. The single authority, that collects and administers direct and indirect taxes, makes creative use of information technology to track VAT defaulters. This example can be followed even ahead of implementing GST.
The two boards were separated in 1964, keeping in view the differences in the nature of direct and indirect taxes and the administration of a plethora of tax rates. Tax reforms resulted in pruning of the tax slabs and moderation in tax rates. There is no rationale to continue with the current dispensation that suffers from the ills of a fragmented approach to policy-making. However, unification alone is not the answer to tackling evasion. Real estate transactions, a widely used medium to hide unaccounted money, should be brought under GST. A clean and transparent tax system, simple tax laws and moderate tax rates will curb evasion.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
INDIA'S PASTA THE STAGE OF PREFERRING WESTERN TASTES OVER DESI ONES
Jingoists who had once bemoaned India's growing preference for pizza over p a r a t h a, chips over p a p a dand maybe even Sonia Gandhi over LK Advani, can give their vocal cords a rest. First, Floyd Cardoz' surprise victory on an iconic TV cookery show in the US with his take on the south Indian s o o ji snack has once again given India cause for one u p m a-nship on the international culinary front, coming as it does hard on the stiletto heels of Padma Lakshmi's rise as the d e s i diva of delish there. Now, an Oxfam report that surveyed the favourite food of 17 countries hearteningly reveals that we Indians still prefer our own cuisine best even as pasta is conquering world palates from Germany to Australia. The Ghanaians love their f u f u and the Spanish their p a ella. Our tastes remain soundly d e s i. We root resoundingly for 'Indian', with nary a whiff of chowmein and m a - s alamacaroni, though 'Chinese' and pizza' do rank 6th and 8th . India has lost some ground elsewhere, however, as the same report implies that chicken t i k k a m a s ala(CTM) is not the favourite dish of the British as steak, pasta and chicken are listed as the top three responses. Unless, of course, the report failed to gauge that British may actually prefer these ingredients to be whipped into spicy Indian preparations rather than bland pies, 'spag-bol' and roasts. Indeed, the position of 'curry' and 'Indian' in 4th and 10th place in that country's food list suggests d e s i food hasn't kicked the b alt iin Britain yet. And most hearteningly, as this survey was carried out mainly online (except in Pakistan, Tanzania and Ghana) and that too, in English in at least all Anglophone countries, it does seem that internet India's palate remains resoundingly d e s i. That should give culinary cassandras something to chew on.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
DELIVERING SUBSIDIES THROUGH DCT
CONDITIONAL DIRECT CASH TRANSFERS WILL BE THE BEST METHOD TO REDUCE THE VULNERABILITIES OF THE POOR
Three challenges — to bring about convergence among public programmes, identify and deliver cash to the "real" beneficiaries and meet general and specific goals of governments at different scales — confront the Nanadan Nilekani committee deliberating on delivering subsidies through direct cash transfers (DCT). The cash transfer programme is based on Sen's entitlement theory — that lack of access to food (goods and services), rather than failure in food supply leads to famines. An India-centric doctrine, in the sense used by Andreas Faludi, with DCT as the central core (e.g., paying . 500 to all the poor) surrounded by alterable conditionalities (e.g., additional . 300 for children regularly attending school), is useful to collapse all development programmes into an India-specific development doctrine.
The core of the doctrine consists of DCT surrounded by conditionalities to take care of specific objectives, such as — (1) reducing specific types of poverty and disadvantage; (2) dealing with different types of risk; (3) incentivising desirable types of consumption and promoting positive spending; (4) developing markets for products and services; (5) removing social, market, and administrative discrimination that prevent the poor to engage more fully in development processes; and (6) achieving goals emanating from wider public interests.
The advantages of a central core consisting of DCT are welldocumented. First, apprehensions about outflow of capital from productive activities to meet domestic shocks and stresses (e.g., serious health ailments) are reduced. Second, multiplier effects on agriculture and livelihoods are likely to increase demand for local goods and services. Moreover, the flexible and fungible nature of money facilitates engagement of the poor in productive enterprises. Third, DCT is less costly to administer, less prone to corruption, and potentially cost-efficient if appropriate contextual conditionalities are established. Fourth, DCT makes the life of the poor dignified — they no longer have to stand as supplicants before development administrators. Additionally, women and the aged are empowered if the cash transfer is made in their favour. Finally, cash transfer increases choices available to the poor and accounts for variations in preferences for goods and services from poor to poor (e.g. family decides how much to spend on food and education).
Shifting the bedrock of all development programmes to DCT with conditional cash transfers as add-ons to address specific vulnerabilities of the poor is supported by empirical evidence. Some of the most intensively examined cash transfer programmes are — Oportunidades (Mexico), Social Protection Network (Nicaragua), Bolsa Escola and PETI (Brazil), Family Assignment Program (PRAF – Honduras), Chile Solidario (Chile), and Program of Advancement through Health and Education (Jamaica). The Mexican government started the Oportunidades in 1997 (then called Progresa) to replace traditional supply-side subventions with demand-side interventions through direct cash transfer to poorest families with conditionalities, such as enrolment of children in schools and participation in health check-ups. Evaluation of the Mexican programme has showed that most important reductions in poverty took place among the poorest households. Additionally, efficiency of conditionalities was assessed by Coady and Parker (2001), who compared subsidising education by bringing the poor to the educational system, through conditional cash transfer vs. bringing education to the poor through extensive expansion of the educational system. The cost-effectiveness ratio of extensive expansion of school system was nearly 7.3 times greater. Later, Coady and Harris (2004) found substantial general equilibrium welfare impacts by switching to a better targeted direct cash transfer scheme.
Brazil has a bunch of cash transfer programmes. The BPC is a continuous cash benefit programme that transfers cash, unconditionally, to the extremely poor with disabilities; the PETI transfers cash to eradicate child labour from hazardous and dangerous activities; the Bolsa Familia is the main conditional cash transfer programme targeting poor families with income less than $40; the Bolsa Escola targets children between 6 and 15 years of age; the Bolsa Alimentacao fights infant mortality; the Auxilo Gas compensated poor families after ending food subsidies in 2001; and the Cartao Alimentacaowas created to provide food security to the poor in 2003. A UNDP (2006) evaluation found favourable impacts of the BPC and Bolsa Familia on equality — the Gini inequality coefficient had fallen by 28% during 1995 and 2004.
The execution challenge — selection of the poor and delivery of cash — requires some out-ofthe-box solutions, again. Simple and transparent targeting is best achieved through a referendum at the gram or area sabha level, with a yes/no option against each beneficiary to determine their eligibility. We trust the local community and if they feel that a family requires help, perhaps that is the best decision. Moreover, beneficiary verification and cash transfer is possible through the ubiquitous mobile phone. Preloaded programmes on the mobiles backed by GPS and GPRS can be used to photograph beneficiary identities; additionally, deliver money through mobile banking — some useful models are Gcash (Philippines), M-PESA (Kenya), and Wizzit (South Africa).
In short, a development doctrine with DCT at the core and contextual conditionalities to meet varying needs of diverse communities and unique characteristics of local areas combined with the use of mobile phone for banking and reliability check on beneficiary identities holds much promise to reduce the vulnerability of the poor, increase choices available to them, and address a common complaint made against development programmes that they follow a one-size-fits-all approach.
(Views are personal)
SAMEER SHARMA CIVIL SERVANT
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
'NO QUESTION OF GOING BACK TO CONGRESS'
SREEKALA G & R SRIRAM
He hogged the political limelight after the death of his father and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. When his campaign to install himself as the chief minister fell on deaf ears with the Congress high command, he became an enfant terrible for the faction -ridden government in the state. Now YS Jaganmohan Reddy is at it again — trying to dethrone the Congress government in the state despite the fact that the numbers are not in his favour. What provides him fresh ammunition this time is his thumping victory in the Kadapa bypoll where he and his mother contested under their new political outfit, YSR Congress Party.
"We do not have the numbers to pull down the government. And there is no shame in accepting the fact that we do not have the numbers to table a no-confidence motion. So what? Ours is a new party,'' he says.
That's what prompted him to push the main opposition the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to table a no-confidence motion against the state government. The strategy, however, did not work as the special assembly session did not take up the motion. Besides, the 68-vote margin with which the Congress candidate was elected as the new Speaker once again underlined the fact that the government enjoys a majority in the house.
This should have come as a jolt to Jagan, who always claimed that the state government is surviving at his mercy. But he says whether this government falls or not is immaterial to him.
He also makes it clear that he is not supporting the TDP. "If the government at least comes forward to contribute for the welfare of the people it is good. In this process, if the government falls, the poor man will only be happy. If it doesn't come forward even then we will have made a sincere effort by moving the no-trust motion,'' he says.
Ruling out the possibility of rejoining the Congress fold, he says: "We have passed that stage. Ministries and all these things do not make any difference. Ultimately, it will come to you when it is destined. We are fighting against the Congress government here and there is no way we can tie up with them. In fact, we are the opposition,'' he says. The only party he is ready to partner with is the Left. "The Left has some presence in the state and ideologically there is some synergy,'' he says.
His entire poll plank in Kadapa was focused on projecting Jagan as the true successor of YSR, who had a huge support base in the state due to the welfare schemes rolled out by his government. Knowing well that the sympathy wave will not last longer, Jagan is gearing up for mid-term polls. "Mid-term poll is what any poor man in this country would want. Today every farmer in the state, every poor man in the state wants this government to go,'' he says.
But he is yet to make his stand clear on the Telangana issue, which has been simmering for quite sometime. "Separate statehood can have a major impact on any party that is going for polls in the state in the near future. We will ponder over that and come out with a statement on July 8 and 9 when we will have our plenary sessions. There are a lot of Telangana leaders in our party. We will take into consideration their suggestions and opinions and decide. It will be a collective decision,'' he says.
A businessman-turned politician, Jagan is one of the richest MPs in the country. A product of the faction and feud-ridden Rayalaseema region, he has a different take on his wealth amassment. "What's wrong with it? Is it a rule that the wealthy man should not be in politics? Is it a rule that if you are in politics you should not be wealthy? In fact, if you are wealthy it is good because you stay away from corruption. At least I have no reasons to be corrupt,'' he says. He points out that if he were not his father's son and had still achieved what he has, he would probably have been interviewed as the entrepreneur of the year.
Jagan, who owns Sandur Power Company and Jagati Publications, clarifies that investors selected his company because they could get good returns.
"These are not shell companies. Everybody is a renowned, recognised investor. Tomorrow if they were to make money in this venture will they give that money to me? Or will the government ensure that money comes back to me? It's all raised because somebody is your opponent,'' he says.
He says it was part of a vendetta that the government sent income taxnotices to him a month after he resigned from the Congress. "Had I compromised and accepted a ministerial post at the Centre, nothing would have happened. But I believe there is something more than that. I believe in character,'' he says.
Y S JAGANMOHAN REDDY
MP & YSR CONGRESS PARTY LEADER
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
SECURE, GOVERN AND DEVELOP
Last year, these days in April saw animated discussions in the media and the press on the right strategy to be followed to tackle the Naxal menace in the aftermath of the annihilation of a CRPF foot column of seventy two troopers. Which of the three — security, governance or development — should come first engaged the pundits' minds. The debates remained largely inconclusive, although most were inclined to put development first in the event that all three could not take place, simultaneously.
In a country as vast as India and given that huge swathes of land (approximately, 240 districts) are still in Naxal sphere of influence, it is wellnigh impossible for any government to muster adequate resources to achieve the ideal end-state in one simultaneous application of security, governance and development in all or most affected districts. So, the logic of the debate, as to which of the three should come first, remains cogent. In another scenario, this debate has been clinched in Afghanistan with an overwhelming vote for security to precede everything else. Although, there are no-onesize-fits- all strategies and insurgencies are each unique in their own environment, an article by Dr Mark Moyar, 'Development In Afghanistan Counter Insurgency: A New Guide' contains a few pearls of wisdom for our own counter insurgency efforts against the Naxals.
Alluding to a seminal conference of experts, researchers, analysts and those who have spent time on the ground in Afghanistan, held recently at Sussex Downs, England, the author's deductions are relevant to the Indian context, as well. Some of the lessons learnt are: one, for the population, whether to support the insurgent or not, the key driver is security, governance comes second and development third ; two, support for the government increases with improved security, less sharply with improved governance and very little when development increases; three, by doing a better job than the government in making the population feel more secure, the insurgent is able to control more territory; four, where security and governance are effective, development does help the government significantly; and five, development without security and governance made the government more disliked by the people.
In our context, we have known for long that there is an insurgent-bureaucrat-politician nexus which siphons off development money. This accounts for a key reason why the Naxal insurgency has flourished for as long as it has. Money so appropriated fills up the financial coffers of the insurgent which is then able to purchase arms and ammunition, rations and equipment and carry out recruitment. The corrupt officials who leech themselves on to such development money make the people turn away from the government and thus get sucked into the folds of the insurgent. Absent a credible security grid, both the contractors and officials executing development projects will remain at the mercy of the insurgent and the people will suffer. The key lesson, therefore, is that it is better to have no development where there is no security rather than to have development in the absence of security.
In the year gone by since Dantewada happened , India has, by and large, muddled along with no clear-eyed strategy. For one, the central government has identified Naxalaffected districts for special financial allocations. It is hoped that these funds will be used in step with increasing security in these areas, absent which, it will be another exercise in futility. For another, some kind of military presence has been effected in Chhattisgarh with the army acquiring a 'training profile' with an ongoing debate on 'rules of engagement'. There have been some statements by CRPF 'brainers' that they will act only on specific intelligence. At the operational/tactical level these are worthy 'battle' parameters. But it is hoped that this tactics will be adopted after a given area is flushed of Naxal presence. Allowing them to flourish in 'undisturbed sanctuaries' and yet maintaining an operational doctrine of actions on hard intelligence will only allow the Naxals to remain entrenched and undisturbed in their safe havens.
Be that as it may, looking forward, the government machinery will hopefully craft a meaningful strategy to reach a credible end-state against the Naxals. Security and governance will deliver development and prosperity. That will be the way to lift millions out of poverty. That will be the way to save our governments' billions falling into wrong hands. Maybe, just maybe, there are bad days ahead for the corrupt and the Naxals who thrive on the money meant for the people but which hardly reaches them. The way to make the Naxals moribund is clear. It is for the government and the people to make the choice. Security first and good governance second is the way ahead.
(The author is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)
SMALL STATES CREATING BIG FUSS
THE FISCAL MESS OF PERIPHERAL EUROPEAN NATIONS THREATENS TO UNLEASH ANOTHER GLOBAL RECESSION
The world waits with bated breath for the outcome of the trust vote in Greek Parliament, which will vote to approve further spending cuts proposed by the prime minister. This PM and his socialist party came to power defeating the conservatives in October 2009. Within months the new PM discovered that earlier governments had cheated the public about the true state of Greek's finances.
Greece does not have a statutory statistics commission responsible for authentic data on public finances. They also do not have a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and hence no 2G scam has been discovered yet! But even without a CAG the new government decided to come clean, and said that the correct fiscal deficit was not 3.7 per cent but, hold your breath, 15.4 per cent of GDP.
All hell broke loose, and all those who were holders of this debt (i.e. lenders financing the fiscal deficit) became very worried. Unlike India, whose fiscal deficit is owed only to Indians, the Greek debt is owed to all sorts of people – Germans, French banks for example. In these gloomy times, there is no way for Greece to recover enough tax revenues to pay for its deficit or mounting debt. (Deficit is the annual gap, and debt is the cumulative effect, which keeps mounting.) It's clear that Greece needs to be rescued from its own past profligacy. But most rescuers, such as the European Central Bank, or the International Monetary Fund will bring bailout funds with strings attached.
They will impose stiff conditionalities on Greece, which might seem like trampling on sovereign rights. They might insist that the government lay off 10 per cent of its employees, or reduce pension and health benefits, or cut school and college funding. As such Greek industrial production went down by 8 per cent during the last year, and construction activity was down by 70 per cent. But the Greek public is in no mood to listen. There have been continuing street protests against austerity measures, and hence the government is literally hanging by the skin of its teeth. The world's lenders watch anxiously.
But here's the hitch. If Greece says no to conditionality, the Germans and the IMF and the ECB will have to rescue it anyway. The European Union already poured 110 billion euros last year, and more is coming. This is because the alternative is more horrifying. If you refuse to help Greece, then it will simply default. Then the lenders are really in the soup, since they will have to suffer losses. Those losses will have to be reimbursed by insurance companies elsewhere (USA, UK), who in turn may go bankrupt. This will set off a domino effect, just like the Lehman crisis of 2008.
Hence to prevent another cataclysm, the IMF and European Union will swallow their pride, and help Greece. It is after all a tiny nation of 10 million people (half of Mumbai). The domestic politics has thus managed to externalize their misery.
This story is similar to another small country. Four years ago it was tiny Iceland which started an avalanche, which eventually led to the global financial crisis. Iceland's banks had given out reckless loans aggregating to more than ten times their national income. How anybody could have missed out such a big pile up is a mystery. It wasn't corrupt politicians, or lying statisticians, but maybe lax regulators (central bank), and plain old greed of bankers.
Eventually when it came to cleanup, the foreign depositors of those banks (mostly UK and Netherlands) suffered, since the domestic politics of Iceland refuse to inherit all the holy mess.
Greece, Ireland, Portugal maybe small. But their fiscal precariousness is rustling up a global storm. By contrast India's domestic problems of 1991 or even later never spilt overseas. And thankfully we have managed to keep global problems from submerging our economy. What's with the potency of these small European nations, that they can churn the global economy?
TACKLING INFLATION IS NOT RBI'S JOB ALONE
The bottom line of the Reserve Bank's mid-year policy review is that we have to live with soaring inflation and high interest rates to protect future growth. The price of diesel is expected to be hiked as soon as the government gathers enough political courage — this will spark off a fresh round of price hikes and further inflation. The RBI's quarter per cent hike in the repo rate (that at which banks borrow from the RBI) almost appeared to have been effected because it had to be seen doing something. There was obvious pressure from the government. But why is it that it's only the RBI's responsibility to tackle inflation. It looks like a losing battle as monetary measures have their limitations and it well knows that steps have to be taken on the fiscal side as well — which is the government's responsibility. Thursday was the 10th time that the RBI has hiked the repo rate in the past 14 months, in which time the rate has gone up by four per cent while inflation, at 9.1 per cent, burns a hole in the economy. Both the rich and the middle class have to bear the brunt of rising interest rates. The shadow boxing between inflation and growth continues — with growth falling (at least in some areas) and inflation rising. The silver lining in the RBI's statement is that growth is not as big a concern as inflation. While there has been a slowdown in some areas — interest-sensitive sectors like auto and real estate — the overall picture is still one of broad-based growth. Unlike the government, the RBI is not overwhelmed by low industrial production growth (6.3 per cent in April) or GDP fourth-quarter growth being down to 7.8 per cent, or investments being postponed or reduced to a trickle. Industry is said to be setting up projects abroad as it's easier to do business outside India given the government's indecision and the absence of a policy on the vexed question of land. The RBI is also looking to the rain gods for some help as a good monsoon will bail out the agricultural economy. But it's perhaps time for the Centre to look afresh at ways to tackle supply-side problems. Food and fuel are supply-side problems and reflect imported inflation. It's the same in the case of manufactured goods. There is no use blaming the Pay Commission largesse or that there is more buying power in the hands of people due to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or on the rise in minimum support price for foodgrains. All these are as necessary as the steps the Centre takes to subsidise industry and exports. They are also minuscule in comparison to the pay hikes and bonuses that company chairmen and directors award themselves and their executives. We have a Planning Commission which should tackle such issues: it should be questioned on what steps it proposes to take to ensure supply keeps up with demand. High inflation has been with us for almost two years now, but the Centre is yet to get a grip on tackling it. Even on the question of fuel, it has not been able to boost non-conventional energy supplies that could cut down dependence on imported fuel. Its lack of decision-making, for whatever reason, has also seen the new oil and gas exploration policy floundering, at great cost. The foreign partners of Indian firms have walked away as the waiting period proved too long for them. If the Centre cannot give its undivided attention to tackling inflation, the people can expect little respite.
PERSONAL VS POLITICAL
"Challenge your fate Toss a coin Heads means death Tails means death..." From Cool-dhan-sakh by Bachchoowalla In the Sixties and Seventies, the feminist movement coined a slogan: "The personal is the political!" I tried this out on my, now, 17-year-old daughter and though she studies English and politics, she didn't quite get the meaning of it. The era in which the slogan was naturally understood has passed. In the decade in which it was coined, I understood it instinctively — it was a self-evident truth. It meant that the moves and stratagems of one's personal relationships were in the end part of a larger battle for the equality of the sexes or even part of the eternal war between them. Those were the decades when the feminists were trying to put D.H. Lawrence behind them, but had, I suspect, read and absorbed everything he'd written and even appreciated his novels as a significant contribution to the records of gender embattlement and warfare. I always took Lawrence to mean that the "war" was on some spiritual plane though it was fought at a visceral level. Having tried the slogan out on Tir (the above-mentioned daughter), I got thinking about what I now thought of it myself. It meant less to me than it had. I had been reminded of the slogan through a peculiar circumstance: Two weeks ago in these very pages I wrote in this column about the death of Mala Sen, my childhood girlfriend and subsequently my wife for a period. I said I couldn't bring myself to write an obituary because there was too much to say. A friend of hers, having read the column asked me what I meant by it. I said I meant just that — my over-40-year up and down and round and about relationship and the assessments it generated wouldn't fit into an obituary. They would merit a "novel". "Don't you dare", was the response from this friend. "I might have to dare", I said. "It's what I do for a living." "Don't write any rubbish", was her response in a rather menacing tone. "The truth?" I asked. "Maybe not your truth", she said, "her politics were more important than your personal stuff". That was when I was reminded of the slogan and it occurred to me to brandish it. I didn't. I know I will write about that phase of my life and times — I have already set out to do it through commissions and compulsions. What shall I say about Mala? Will I use her name? Will anyone care what I say? One knows that words, books and articles can hurt, especially when they are critical, outspoken and dig up dirt. They can hurt the subject if he or she is alive and friends and relatives if the subject is dead. One of the earliest models of "Indian" writing that I had was Dom Moraes' youthful biography Gone Away. I was in college and fascinated by the fact that he had written about his mother's mental illness and made some rather intimate remarks about his aunt. His cousin later told me that the family, though very proud of Dom's emergence as a poet and writer, didn't appreciate that aspect of it. "The boy shouldn't have written that", was what was said by a senior family member. A roman-a-clef, a novel of the truth, can also wound. A few years ago Hanif Kureishi wrote Intimacy. Its stark, bright, plain yellow cover drew me in. The "novel" purported to be about the lostness of men who grew up in the Sixties, in the era of the personal (read sexual) being the political. The main character has a wife about whom he is extremely disparaging. The descriptions were, I imagined, cruelly accurate. The narrative was about falling out of love and into disgust. There was a passage which some reviewers found gratuitous but one which may have been brutally honest. It stuck in my mind. The protagonist is making love to his new girlfriend and says that at that moment he couldn't care if his children, the twins that his wife bore him, were floundering, drowning at the bottom of the Thames. Not nice, but an attempt at brutal honesty and the devil take the hindmost. I know that if Dostoevsky had written some such thing, it would have passed as a fictional, testing truth. Intimacy, in the days after it was published, was the talk of literary London and the subject of very specific speculation that it was a no doubt intimate but vengeful portrait of Hanif's wife/partner, the mother of his children. Biographies are even more tricky. I can point to a couple of famous ones published in the last few years which, despite being authorised and despite the subject co-operating with the biographer, don't meet with the subject's approval. It may be that a confession as one speaks it looks very different in cold prose or it may be that a biographer is bound to find information from sources other than the subject. Is all of it good and necessary writing? I should confess that months before her death I had commenced writing, in a narrative "novel" form, a book about my London years which inevitably involved Mala, who is, in the work in progress, named as such. For both of us those were political years with a small "p" because we were members of political formations and groups including Leicester's Indian Workers' Association, the South Asian London Marxist Study Circle (led by the CPI-M activist and later MP Biplab Das Gupta), the Black Panther Movement UK and Race Today. Very much of our time was given up to political work in the form of talk, talk, talk, reporting, agitating, pamphleteering, attending endless meetings, demonstrations, strikes and court-appearances — both inside and outside the defendant's box. Our conversations, agreements and disagreements tended to be about the issues at stake and so the personal was in very many senses political. Of course that was not all. We had jobs and friends and grabbed some leisure time to go away. There is a sense in which slogans reduce real, multi-faceted, multi-talented and highly individual people to categories of gender and class, a reduction which may on one level be true but subverts, obscures and reduces the real drama of people's lives.
SEX AND THE MEASURE OF A MANLY MAN
"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 behaviour 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 effeminised" 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 labelled 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 analyse 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?
THE GOOD EARTH
BANDOPADHYAY REPORT MUST BE FOLLOWED UP
THE committee, headed by Mr Debabrata Bandopadhyay, an acknowledged authority of land, land reforms and land revenue, has submitted a report that eminently deserves to be followed up. Like Mamata Banerjee in 2011, it bears recall that 30 years ago the services of the bureaucrat had been sought by Jyoti Basu and Benoy Chaudhuri to choreograph Operation Barga ~ a watershed achievement of the Left Front. It is quite another story though that over time it was denuded and the gains frittered away by the party cadres in rural Bengal. Mr Bandopadhyay has now advanced a blueprint that ought dramatically to revamp the use and sale of land. Quite the most critical feature of the report is that it has been crafted on the very fundamental premise that shelter has to be constructed on land. Hence the suggestion that the state must buy the land and provide it to the estimated one million homeless in Bengal. The committee has touched on an issue of public policy that is no less closer to the bone than agriculture and the income thereof. Such Government of India projects as Indira Abas Yojana and Amar Bari have not been particularly effective. The panel's concern for sharecroppers recalls the tenets of Operation Barga. To buy the land and construct their homes, it has urged the government to advance bank loans to the sharecroppers. Particularly crucial must be the role of banks; the entry of mahajans will spell disaster if the experience with the loan-waiver is anything to go by.
As regards industry, the Bandopadhyay committee's recommendation is similar to Amartya Sen's advice to the previous government. Precisely, that the investor must buy the land directly from farmers... with little or no role for the state. This is concordant with the tenets of the market economy. It is possible that if the state is excluded from the deal, the risk of the land sharks calling the shots is substantial. That will only exacerbate the chaos that has marked the land-industry construct for the past five years. Not that the previous administration wasn't aware of the risks of market economy. Hence the committee's critical suggestion that regulatory entities, such as the office of the registrar, must ensure that farmers are paid the proper price. Even the WBIDC, the facilitator at Singur, will have to rejig its functioning. The state may have to take a call on the suggestion to use arid ~ instead of arable ~ land for industry to the extent possible. It seems rational on the face of it, but problems are bound to arise in terms of infrastructure, connectivity, electricity and water. Purulia, a district that has been favoured, languishes on literally scorched earth. The effectiveness of the Bandopadhyay committee report will hinge hugely on the execution.
CIA AND ISI
'THE REAL WORLD WE LIVE IN'
"THIS is the real world we live in," was the terse comment of the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, to the reported arrest by the ISI of five Pakistanis, including an army major, for allegedly colluding with the CIA over Osama bin Laden's killing. And it is a measure of Islamabad's dubious diplomacy when Mr Gates laments that "most governments lie to each other, and sometimes spy on us". It is significant enough that the arrest comes in the aftermath of the CIA chief, Leon Panetta's visit to Islamabad in course of which he advanced evidence of the ISI operating in cahoots with pro-Afghan Taliban militants. These were substantiated with satellite video images that have been shown to the US Senate intelligence committee. Mr Panetta had verily stumped both General Kayani and the ISI chief, Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. And now by making these arrests, the ISI arguably wants to demonstrate that the CIA doesn't operate independently in Pakistan. The laboured denial of the detention of an army doctor may be intended to keep the garrison in the clear. The arrests underscore the ISI's attempt to stop what it calls "unauthorised CIA operations on its soil". The drone attack that killed Kashmiri, suspected to be the mastermind of the 26/11 outrage, was perhaps another provocation for the military to hit back... at least with a few arrests. The rift between the two espionage agencies is only too starkly apparent. The strained equation, that is bound to have an impact on the Af-Pak strategy, comes in the wake of the Pakistan military's unprecedented humiliation since the beginning of May ~ first the Bin Laden episode and then the militant attack on the naval base in Karachi, almost as a mark of retaliation. Its strategy in post-NATO Afghanistan is now under a cloud, as must be its political ambitions at home. The generals have come under increasing criticism, both from civil society activists and the Opposition. There is said to be resentment too in the army's middle ranks over the GHQ's convenient ignorance of the episode in the vicinity of the military academy. By effecting the arrests, the ISI has conveyed a message of sorts to the USA, as desperate as it is feeble. The figleaf can scarcely conceal the agency's involvement in extending its hospitality to Osama bin Laden.
MORE SHAME ON SHEILA'S GOVT
WANTON sinfulness perpetrated in the name of the Commonwealth Games resurfaces regularly to haunt Sheila Dikshit's government. The Central Bureau of Investigation has filed a string of criminal cases, the Shunglu panel has delivered indictments galore, the Enforcement Directorate has its own probes in hand. Now, the Central Information Commission has in a strongly-worded order condemned the Delhi government for uprooting the people living in as many as 10,000 jhuggis and citing technicalities to duck providing them alternate accommodation as mandated by a High Court directive. Taking extremely serious exception to the stance of a local government official, Information Commissioner S Gandhi has expressed "distress" at a "lawless state of affairs". His observations on the Delhi government stance that its rehabilitation policy did not cover dwelling that came "in the right of way" included terms like "shocking", and opined that orders of the High Court were being ignored though no stay on them had been obtained from the apex court. "Citizens", the Commissioner added, "would have scant respect for the law and orders if governments fail to respect these". The "slum clearance" ahead of the Games was ruthless, lacked even a trace of humane conduct. Along with the horrific conditions in construction workers' camps at CWG venues, it was one of the most sordid aspects of the event that, sadly, evoked only limited revulsion from what now chooses to call itself "civil society". Sheila Dikshit has tried to brazen out the administrative shortcomings listed by the Shunglu panel, and it would appear gives a damn for those whose lives have been permanently scarred by what she deemed an issue of prestige. Violent action does not necessarily mean policemen swinging lathis, what happened in proximity to the Thyagaraj and Nehru stadiums and Siri Fort was no less violent than Bhatta Parsaul. Yet Mrs Dikshit is not the sole culprit. The Lieutenant-Governor, union ministers for home, urban development, and sport of the day (and their battery of officials) cannot profess ignorance of the high-handedness that was unleashed ~ there were media reports and protests from NGOs. Even the PMO must have been aware that something was amiss. Such was (is?) the arrogance of the UPA that the sufferings of aam aadmi counted for little: trying to prove that India had "arrived" took precedence. But where did the country reach? The record haul of medals by our athletes has faded from the memory ~ the evils of the CWG just do not die down.
NORTH & THE SOUTH
A DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIO-CULTURAL DIVIDE
IN the discourse on caste and its stereotypes, the question of spatial variations had been ignored till the early 1980s. It was at that point in time that a distinct regional contrast in kinship, marriage, and female status between the north/north-western regions and the large southern peninsula came to the fore.
In this paradigm, India's 'north' is depicted as a region with pronounced patriarchal kinship, with such (unenviable) concomitants as exogamous marriages, lower female status/autonomy, hefty dowry, the general preference for a son and related anti-female discrimination. In contrast, the 'south' ~ roughly, the entire region lying south of the Satpura hills ~ is seen as less staunchly patriarchal, with greater toleration of endogamous marriages, higher levels of female status/autonomy, more balanced gender relations, and comparative absence of dowry.
This north-south socio-cultural divide corresponds to a distinct demographic divide marked by comparatively lower levels of fertility, infant and child mortality, and masculinity in the population of India's south as compared to that of the north.
In the reckoning of economists, the 'south' is the seat of wet-crop farming. There is greater scope for productive participation of women. This is in contrast to the dry-cropped north and north-west. The incongruity in women's status/autonomy between these two regions is largely a cultural manifestation of the divergence rooted in geo-physical factors. This has determined the economic value/worth of women.
However, our recent study has revealed a clue behind the differences in the scale and pattern of tribal infusion into the evolving Hindu mainstream. As the Aryan invasion pushed the indigenous (tribal) inhabitants southwards, the peninsular south should have witnessed a protracted infusion of the tribal socio-cultural imprints. For example, the major socio-cultural features in the south are shared by the majority of tribes across the subcontinent.
Many inherently egalitarian tribal communities occupy a low social position within the hierarchical caste-based society. From the standpoint of such values such as equality of rights, dignity, and social harmony, this departure from an egalitarian structure was retrograde by nature. Indeed, the infiltration of mainstream Hindu patriarchal ideology and practices has vitiated tribal societies in which a marriage traditionally had meant neither dowry payments nor the bride's lifelong subservience to a hierarchical household.
Indeed, the traditional system of marriage in tribal societies ~ consensual choice by the two partners ~ is broadly similar to what is in vogue across the entire western hemisphere and much of Africa for centuries. In this global backdrop, it is utterly ironic that Indian tribes are impelled to abandon the universally accepted mode of marriage to accept the typical Hindu system of marriage ~ strictly through negotiations between the parents of prospective spouses.
It is astonishing that the patriarchal hierarchy/domination, preference for son, and associated gender biases in contemporary India have hardly declined even amongst the materially and educationally better-off. Similarly, gender bias has over time become noticeable across the south. T. Scarlett Epstein, in her landmark research on South India, reveals how villagers in a bid to improve social ranking in the Seventies had started adopting Brahaminical names and rituals, including dowry in replacement of bride-wealth.
It is tragic that despite economic growth, the country bears witness to the inequities of the caste system. Even the rich are incapable of freeing themselves of caste considerations. The lower castes seem to be eager to follow Brahminical rituals and social practices. This makes a mockery of the concept of universal reason and enlightenment. Economic development and educational expansion have not done away with caste and social rankings.
Despite the constitutional pledge to abolish caste, the government plans to set up a new national network of specialist research centres to examine the reality of exclusion and discrimination of the lower castes and tribals.
By the early 1990s, south India was influenced by starker forms of patriarchy despite improvements in technology, communications, education, and urban growth. Hence there has been a steady erosion of the traditionally higher status for women in the south. The states, south of the Vindhyas (Tamil Nadu in particular), have been influenced by the north's historical imbalances and inequities in matters relating to gender. Sadly, it has not been the other way round. This is not a sociological process, but the manifestation of demographic and economic forces, indeed the outcome of overall development.
Going by conventional social wisdom, the groom ought to be older than the bride. Given the mortality levels, there emerged ~ by sheer demographic logic ~ a relative shortage of grooms vis-a-vis the number of marriageable brides with the customary age-gap. One way out has been a 'marriage squeeze' by narrowing the age-gap between spouses. With increasing prosperity, there began a quest for lucrative grooms and a competition of sorts among parents of prospective brides. The net result has been the dowry inflation, almost in the manner of an auction. The dowry is viewed as a safeguard against post-marital torture, violence, or even attempted murder.
The longing for sons and the compulsions of fertility control have made parents desperate for at least one son in a pre-planned small family. Unlike in the past, the trend is now manifest in South India.
The phenomenon is unique in the subcontinent. In Western countries, pronounced materialism and smaller families have not led to such social aberrations as dowry and the preference for a son. The matter transcends household economics. In India, as distinct from the West, it encompasses intrinsically different socio-cultural values, kinship, and social ideology.
For instance, rampant dowry transactions in pre-industrial Europe declined in parallel with industrialisation and modernisation since the late 18th century. Industrialisation in India has failed to cleanse the system of the dowry menace. Caste is more important than entrepreneurship and wealth in the determination of social status.
The social mores of the North are now evident in South India largely on account of urbanisation. The indicators are the dowry system and the use of the veil and vermilion. It is not the other way round. There has been a gradual weakening of the tribal socio-cultural features, practices, and ideology across South India. The dynamics of economic growth, increase in income and the increasing consumerism have levelled northern and southern India in materialistic parameters. This levelling, in terms of the socio-cultural divide has, ironically, been in the direction of the 'south' imitating what could be called the 'awful' matrimonial tradition of the north and north-western parts of the country. That tradition is marked by marriage practices, kinship patterns, gender bias, and related social ideology.
(The writer is Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune)
'WE CAN CHANGE AND PROVIDE A BETTER LF'
Left Front partners in West Bengal are introspecting on the Front's humiliating defeat in the Assembly poll. There are voices are loud and clear on what went wrong and blame is being apportioned. There is unanimity on one point ~ that the CPI-M as the largest partner must take most of the blame. The smaller partners, the RSP, the Forward Bloc and the CPI, are alleging that the Left under the CPI-M had deviated from its path. The RSP feedback from the districts was that the CPI-M was an opportunist party and the CPI said the CPI-M had failed to look after the minorities. The Forward Bloc threatened to "take its own course" if the CPI-M did not bring about "positive changes" in its leadership. In this interview to DEEPAK RAZDAN, Forward Bloc general secretary Mr Debabrata Biswas answers questions on the debate currently raging in the Left Front.
How do you want the West Bengal Left Front to reform and rebuild itself after the Assembly poll defeat?
Coming after 34 years of uninterrupted rule, the defeat points towards the need for change, a different style of functioning and reorientation of the Left Front and its constituents. The Left Front's historic victory in West Bengal in 1977 did not come about in a day. It was a long process and after a long struggle for democracy. The people rejected the Congress and voted in the Left Front. Similarly, the Left Front debacle in the Assembly poll too did not happen overnight or owing to an isolated reason. The erosion started long ago, only the rejection came in 2011.
How do you plan to recover now?
In West Bengal, the Left Front is a movement. We deviated from the path totally while being in power. It was not just a question of ruling a state, the Left has a different agenda. In West Bengal, our responsibility was not to give a model alternative government but also to develop the Left movement in the country. On that count, we failed. Now, we have to introspect, each constituent of the Left Front has to make an assessment, including my party.
The CPI-M is the largest party in the Front. What are your expectations from it?
We must have a process of collective decision-making and collective working. Being the leader doesn't mean one should dictate, command, or impose one's decisions on others. But in case of the Left Front government, it gradually became a government of the CPI-M; with us as mere associates. Top to bottom, all constituents felt as much.
The smaller partners of the Left Front are blaming the CPI-M for the defeat. But these partners also enjoyed power for 34 years.
Left solidarity doesn't have in any room for bigger or smaller parties ~ all are equal. All have their own politics, ideology and programmes. The CPI-M, as the bigger partner in the Left Front government, has to take the major responsibility. The style of functioning of the erstwhile West Bengal government suggested it was a single-party government ~ one party took the decisions and then put them before the Left Front for adoption. Why weren't all constituents involved in the process of rejection or acceptance? For example, the Forward Bloc was the only party which opposed Singur and Nandigram land acquisition policy and the erstwhile government's industrial policy. In the retail sector, my party opposed the entry of MNCs and big industrialists. The Forward Bloc has consistently opposed policies that went against Left ideology.
Were Singur and Nandigram alone responsible for the poll debacle?
These were the flashpoints. The industrial policy of the erstwhile Bengal government should be seen as a whole. You should not blame Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. It started after the country adopted neo-liberal economic policies. We had to decide our stand in a state in which we were in power. There was confusion in the Left Front and the Front never discussed these issues seriously.
Before 1985, the country followed a different economic policy altogether. The new economic and industrial policies did away with the permit raj and brought changes. How was the Left to cope with or confront this? On this issue there were serious contradictions ~ inter and inner ~ and we failed to resolve them. At the national level, the Left Front was fighting the neo-liberal and new economic policies and privatisation and globalisation but in the state we were compromising and implementing them. It confused the people, it confused the working class and it confused the farmers.
Some people say the withdrawal of outside support to the UPA-I government was an issue?
It had no impact on the Assembly poll.
Was not change in West Bengal inevitable after the continuous 34-year Left rule?
This change is not the result of a desire for an alternative policy, programme or ideology. The change came with the voters' negative approach (towards us), which we facilitated through our malfunctioning, our misgovernance, our policies, our politicking and our lack of organisation. All these were responsible for making the people angry.
Were the hints not there in the previous Assembly poll?
In the previous Assembly election, the anti-Left vote was 49 per cent but our Left Front and CPI-M leaders failed to heed the significance of this. Since we got 50 per cent vote and 236 seats (out of total 294 in the West Bengal Assembly), we thought we are much bigger than the Opposition. It was an arrogant approach and an arrogant stance adopted by our leaders, including the former chief minister. They did not understand that more than 49 per cent of the electorate had voted against us. The question is not of seats. In 2006, we got 236 seats but our percentage of votes was only 50 plus ~ the Opposition clocked 49 per cent.
In the just-concluded election, you had everybody against you, from the Right to the extreme Left…
In West Bengal politics, there is polarisation in every poll. It could be the BJP-Trinamul combine or the Congress-Trinamul combine ~ there are also other smaller anti-Left forces. Polarisation is always there. We have to look at things in a positive way, find out what wrongs we have committed.
But by keeping silent you were also responsible…
We never accepted anything silently. We opposed the policies we didn't like. We fought against them. But we failed to make the leadership understand that it was moving in the wrong direction. When one is adopting neo-liberal policies, when one is hobnobbing with corporate houses, one is changing one's culture, one's style of functioning. We have to identify our major political weaknesses, where we adopted double standards. The disease stems from the fact that we had deviated from the Left path, everything else is a symptom.
There appears to be a trust deficit among the Left partners. Will not your rivals take advantage of this?
We will assess our political and organisational weaknesses and go in for course correction. There is no trust deficit and in the long run, a new Left, pursuing a different programme, will resurface.
Reports indicate, though, the Front may break up, that you may walk out…
There is no such thing. There will be a reorientation in the Left Front, you will see a better Left Front with better leadership, better functioning, collective functioning. We can change and provide a better Left Front.
It doesn't matter whether the state industries department or land and land reforms department moves the (Singur) Bill. All we seek to do is dispense justice.
West Bengal chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee
We are not opposing the (Singur) Bill but cannot participate in this gimmick. Not even a day's notice has been given to us… we only got a copy of the Bill at the business advisory committee's meeting.
Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly Dr Suryakanta Mishra
The question of quitting does not arise as electoral results do not determine our leadership. No one in our party at any level has offered to quit after the poll results. No discussion has taken place on fixing the tenure of the party general-secretary at this Central Committee meeting.
CPI-M general-secretary Mr Prakash Karat after the conclusion of the party's Hyderabad conclave
We are slowly realising that the Trinamul Congress and the CPI-M are the two faces of the same coin and that the state government will not do anything for us. We have brought the Trinamul Congress to power but that does not mean we will sit idle if it doesn't deliver.
A farmer residing in Patharghata (Rajarhat)
When Pakistan promises to fight terrorism, neither the people of that country nor the rest of world believe it. Similarly, when she (Mrs Sonia Gandhi) pledges to fight corruption, not even Congressmen believe her.
BJP president Mr Nitin Gadkari
To compare the noble sentiments of the Congress president and her resolve to fight corruption to Pakistan fighting terrorism shows the mindset of Gadkari who comes from an ideology which breeds hatred, division and murder that led to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and more recently, the poisoning and death of Swami Nigamanand.
Mrs Jayanthi Natarajan, national spokesperson for the Congress
I am confident that we are in a position to sustain high economic growth in the coming years and create a more inclusive outcome of our society.
Union finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee
We only want people with clean background in Parliament and Assemblies. And, we demand that Rs 4 lakh crore black money stashed abroad be brought back.
Yoga teacher Ramdev after being discharged from a hospital where he was treated for complications arising out of his nine-day fast
I don't think anywhere in the world, fasting is considered a way to draft a Bill.
Union home minister Mr P Chidambaram.
I have always had a view that it (Twenty20) is a great domestic product. Maybe you can look at the platform soccer works off, where they play mainly domestic soccer through the year and then they have a major tournament at a country level, maybe that's what Twenty20 can do.
World Cup-winning India team coach Mr Gary Kirsten
CHOICE BEFORE GENERAL KAYANI
According to the New York Times, Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani is struggling to preserve his post against growing opposition from within his army. According to the Washington Post, relations between America and Pakistan are the worst since 9/11. Resentment flared after Osama bin Laden was killed by the Americans in Abbottabad. This should cause little surprise. It was foregone. Readers might recall what I wrote immediately after Osama's death.
After the USA attack on Osama in the heart of Pakistan, I wrote: "The question that will be asked sooner rather than later is: did General Kayani collude with the Americans or was he totally in the dark? If he colluded it will be dubbed as gross betrayal of Pakistan by the hardcore elements inside and outside the army and could lead to serious confrontation. If he was in the dark it would expose unacceptable incompetence having damaging implications for nuclear Pakistan's future security."
Feeling the heat from within his ranks, General Kayani desperately approached the Chinese. Along with ISI chief General Shuja Pasha, he tried to persuade Afghanistan's President Karzai to dump America and totally embrace China. It was a gross blunder. The story leaked out. He lost the trust of the Americans without gaining the requisite support from China. The Beijing government in any event is now heavily focused on the economy and seeks acceptance from the West. General Kayani must have been banking on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) which had been bolstering the Pakistan army for decades.
It is likely that even in making that calculation, he may suffer a rude shock. The PLA generals are hard-headed strategists. The benefit they have derived thus far from covertly aiding the Islamist terrorists as cannon fodder for use in destabilising the West and India may be over. Now, the PLA has arrived at the stage of playing a global power game. It will seek strategic access through land and sea to protect its interests. It will enhance its cyber warfare skills. It will build a nuclear arsenal to balance America. A terrorist supporting Pakistan is passé.
The PLA would know that the world will not tolerate cash strapped, nuclear, terrorist-backing Pakistan for long. Pakistan is a failed state. It can either preserve its identity through membership of a new South Asian Union with soft borders, common market and joint defence with its neighbours. Or Pakistan could balkanise. What would the PLA prefer? A South Asian Union could pose a balancing force to contain Beijing in the long run. A balkanised Pakistan would result in an independent Baluchistan that could help Chinese access to Iran and facilitate land and sea trade links from Xingjian to the Indian Ocean through Gwadar port. An expanded Pashtun consolidated Afghanistan would ensure stability for Beijing's mining operations in the region as well as help stabilise its growing clout in Central Asia. The residual truncated Pakistan would be of little value to Beijing.
General Kayani faces his moment of truth. Either he can dare to risk confronting his opponents within the army, or he can surrender to them. He can choose to prevent the division of his army, or he can choose to prevent the division of his nation. Or, he can even pretend that the Pakistan army is the nation. In that event he will never be part of the solution. He will always be remembered as the core of the problem.
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist
PROMISES TO KEEP
Singur is more than a name of a small area in West Bengal. It is a name imbued with heavy political symbolism since it was the agitation there that put Mamata Banerjee on the comeback trail. She had no need to look back since then. But as chief minister, she cannot afford not to look back on Singur. She promised in the course of her election campaign that she would give back the land to the landowners who had been unwilling to part with their plots in Singur. She has, in one of her first acts as chief minister, honoured that promise. She has, through a bill passed in the legislative assembly, taken back all the land that the previous government had acquired and given to the Tatas for the small car project. From this, she has proposed to give back the land to those who had been forced to part with their land despite their unwillingness. This decision of Ms Banerjee is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, very few, if any, political leaders have actually honoured a promise made in the course of an election campaign. But for Ms Banerjee, the land in Singur has become a kind of pilgrimage where she had to return to express her gratitude. For this alone, her decision is commendable. Second, the proposal to actually give back land does not have too many precedents in contemporary Indian history.
What, however, is undeniable is that the government's decision is not without problems. One of these has become apparent in the process through which the bill was passed. The process revealed more haste than reflection. The initial step was to introduce an ordinance. Much to the embarrassment of the present dispensation, it had to be pointed out by the Opposition that an ordinance under the circumstances was unconstitutional. The governor of the state concurred and the ordinance had to be replaced by a bill presented to the assembly. Throughout the entire process, the government seemed to be in an unseemly haste. The desire to keep an election promise is laudable but the way of delivering on the promise should avoid embarrassment and also controversy. The government would have lost nothing if it had first opened a dialogue with the Tatas before it unilaterally decided to take away the land. This could have freed the decision of the taint of arbitrariness.
The last point is important because, in some crucial ways, Singur has not lost its power as a symbol. If Singur is the symbol for land and its political power, it is also the sign of industry in West Bengal and of political disaster. West Bengal, if it has to grow and develop, needs investment in industries. The eyes of every potential investor are all on this new government, its undisputed leader and the decision she takes. Any wrong signal is likely to scare the flock with the money. The faith that makes for investment is no less powerful than the emotion tied to land.
LITTLE OUTSIDE DELHI IS NEWS FOR THE 'NATIONAL MEDIA' POLITICS AND PLAY: RAMACHANDRA GUHA
A Tamil economist, the late S. Guhan, used to say that Delhi was a capital in search of a country. I was reminded of that remark during the fortnight of May 29 to June 11, 2011. In that fortnight, if one watched the 'national' channels or read the 'national' newspapers, one would think all of India was involved in one way or the other with the ideas and practices of a certain Baba Ramdev. Many news bulletins were entirely given over to what Ramdev said or did not say, to how his utterances — and silences —were interpreted by his followers and adversaries. To a foreigner or visitor from outer space, these reports would have conveyed the impression that the citizens of India, all twelve hundred million of them, considered Ramdev and his tamasha to be of all-consuming interest.
I spent part of that fortnight in Karnataka; the other part in Tamil Nadu. In both states, the overwhelming majority of the rural population was ignorant of Ramdev and his doings. They went about their work —farming, labouring, trading, studying, sleeping. Most city dwellers were also in the dark about Ramdev and his activities. Perhaps in Chennai and Bangalore, sections of the English-speaking middle class were drawn into the tamasha, accustomed as they are to watching the news in the hours after returning from work and before going to bed. However, the less privileged residents of Bangalore and Chennai were, like their rural brethren, ignorant of or indifferent towards Ramdev, his friends, and his critics.
Ramdev's eulogies to Hindu culture, his distaste for foreign ideas and foreign individuals, resonate with Hindutva ideology. The major leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party support his current campaign; many Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists are involved in it. Now Karnataka is a state ruled by the BJP, while Tamil Nadu is ruled by a party whose chief minister has shown pronounced Hindutva tendencies. And yet the vast majority of these states' residents lived, laboured, loved, and sometimes died during that fortnight of May 29-June 11 in complete ignorance of Ramdev's fast at the Ramlila Maidan.
One would expect the states of the east and Northeast to be disinterested in Ramdev and his doings. He has few followers in West Bengal, still fewer in Meghalaya or Nagaland. But as I found out that fortnight, his activities do not evoke much interest in Karnataka or Tamil Nadu either. This state of affairs, so evident on the ground, was apparently kept hidden from the anchors in the television studios in New Delhi.
The national media's parochial biases were manifest in their coverage of the fast, and of its aftermath. The police action on the night of June 4/5 was indefensible. The police knew beforehand that what was advertised as a yoga camp would become a combative discourse about political corruption. Ramdev had made this perfectly clear. The correct action, under the law, was to have withdrawn permission before the camp began, or else to have waited, and intervened only if the camp became seriously violative of public order.
The action of the police deserved, and received, widespread condemnation. What was less easy to understand was the response of the Delhi media, which endlessly ran shots of policemen with lathis at the Ramlila Maidan, and then, also endlessly, carried commentary on those events by foolish or self-interested parties, who compared what happened that night to the Emergency of 1975 and even to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
If the obsession with Ramdev's fast manifested the parochialism of the so-called national media, the discussion of its aftermath manifested its complete lack of political judgment. By the standards of police brutality, what happened that night at the Ramlila Maidan was a dinner party, a satsang even. Over the past five years, the police in Chhattisgarh have regularly burnt homes and crops and attacked villagers whose only crime is that they do not wholly endorse the state government's promotion of the armed vigilantes known as salwa judum. Yet no paper published out of Delhi has ever run an example of such police brutality on its front page, no channel operating out of Delhi has ever made it a main headline on a news bulletin.
I speak of police brutalities in Chhattisgarh because I have some knowledge of them myself. Other scholars and writers could speak, with greater authority, of police atrocities in the tribal belt of Orissa, or in Manipur. In the action at the Ramlila Maidan, one woman named Rajbala was grievously injured. That was sad, a tragedy even. It is as well that public attention is brought to bear on it. But surely equal attention must be paid to women injured or killed by callous or over-zealous policemen in other parts of India? There are hundreds of Rajbalas in the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and Manipur, not one of whom has ever been mentioned by name on a front page of a Delhi newspaper or in a headline of a television news bulletin.
My closest lady friend (that is to say, my wife) points out that in this respect Delhi is to the rest of India what the United States of America is to the rest of the world. Some 60,000 American servicemen died in the war waged by the US against the Vietnamese people — each one has his name engraved on a memorial in Washington. Perhaps one-and-a-half million Vietnamese died in that war; they remain nameless, at least in America. Even today, the death of one American soldier makes as much news in the New York Times as the death of several dozen Iraqi or Afghan civilians.
Some years ago, the Delhi media was preoccupied for weeks on end with the murder of a lady named Jessica Lal. Like the injury to Rajbala, that was a crime, whose perpetrators had to be held accountable before the law. But why is the same attention not devoted, by the press and the legal system alike, to the beating up and killing of women by the police in other states of the Union? Is it because the life of a citizen of Delhi is worth as much as the lives of five hundred or a thousand Indians who do not live in Delhi?
The media in the nation's capital is very largely disconnected from other parts of the country. Someone who knows this well is Baba Ramdev himself. Ramdev says he is fighting a battle against corruption. For this, at least one fast in Delhi made sense, for the current United Progressive Alliance government is arguably the most corrupt Central government in India's history. However, political corruption is ubiquitous in other parts of India as well. Without question the most corrupt state government is that of Karnataka, where mafia dons are ministers, having bought their way to power on the backs of millions of tonnes of iron ore illegally mined on forest land and illegally exported without paying taxes and by violating environmental and labour standards. The scale of their loot is best expressed in a remark made by the great civil rights lawyer, K.G. Kannabiran, who, shortly before he died, said that compared to the mining dons of Bellary, Nadir Shah was a mere pickpocket.
If Ramdev comes to Bangalore and starts a fast against political corruption I will be at his side. So will many other residents of Karnataka. But Ramdev will not come here, for three reasons. First, he speaks effectively only in Hindi, a language few in this state understand. Second, for all his protestations about being non-political, he is actually very close to the sangh parivar, and does not wish to embarrass a government run by the BJP. Third, he knows that a fast in Bangalore will not attract anything like the same interest from the 'national' media as a fast in Delhi, even if it be conducted for exactly the same purpose.
******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES
A BOOK AT THE BEACH
Beach season is upon us, which means that lists of summer beach reading have begun to appear. They include books that are fat and credential-building, books that are fat and breezy, and books that Bertie Wooster would be reading if he were going to the South of France. The lists lead to an important question. Can you actually read at the beach? Or do you merely hold a book before your face as a blind for better beach-watching?
We have trouble reading at the beach. The sun moves. The wind tugs at the page as though it has finished it sooner than we have. Condiments and ice cream drip on the cover. One dip in the ocean and seawater, from still wet hands and knees, seeps into the pages.
This is why we loved the old mass-market paperbacks. They were cheap, dispensable, and at the beach they swelled up like the pulp they were. When dried, they never regained their shape. They looked forever like beach reading.
And then there is the new challenge of beach reading on an electronic apparatus. There are few things worse for an iPad, Kindle, Nook or Kobo than sand, salt spray and suntan lotion. On the beach, some of these appliances work better as a rear-view mirror than a reading device.
Our approach is to leave them home and go looking through the attic for an old Mickey Spillane. And if there are seals or surfers, dogs with Frisbees, shorebirds or tide pools, even sailboats in the distance, even that gets set aside. It's enough if there are merely other people on the beach. We recline in the shade, hidden behind sunglasses, and watch America at ease on a soon to be summer day.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
With thousands of Syrians being slaughtered, jailed or forced to flee their country, President Obama and other leaders need to find better ways to punish and isolate President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies.
Foreign journalists are barred from Syria, but reports of Mr. Assad's savagery are mounting. In the last two weeks, he has sent tanks and troops into the north and east, forcing about 10,000 Syrians to seek refuge in Turkey. Over three months of protests, more than 1,400 people have been killed and 10,000 detained. Still, thousands of Syrians poured into the streets of Damascus and other cities on Friday in another courageous show of defiance.
In his Arab Spring speech, President Obama said Mr. Assad should lead a pro-democracy transition "or get out of the way." The Syrian leader has done neither and Mr. Obama has done too little to rally international pressure to force him to make that choice.
Mr. Obama should make clear that the Syrian strongman has lost all legitimacy. And he should say that while there will be no military action — Syria is a far more complex case than Libya — Washington is determined to work with the European Union, Turkey and the Arab League to force Mr. Assad and his cronies to pay a high price for their abuses.
Washington needs to mount an all-out campaign to pass a tough United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Syria and imposing sanctions. Russia and China have inexcusably blocked a vote for weeks.
American and European sanctions should be expanded to cover more Syrian officials as well as businesses allied with the regime. There is talk in Washington about pushing the top consumers of Syrian oil — Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands — to stop buying it. Experts say the exports are small enough that a suspension would have little effect on world oil prices but a big impact on Damascus.
One promising development is the Turkish government's recent turn against Mr. Assad. Turkey had been one of Syria's closest allies (along with Iran) and main trading partners. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with President Obama's encouragement, is now condemning the crackdown and has given Syrian refugees safe haven and allowed Syrian opposition forces to meet in Turkey.
We applaud Mr. Erdogan for doing the right thing and urge him and the entire international community to keep ratcheting up the pressure. The only way to end Syria's nightmare is for Bashar al-Assad to go.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE TREATY AND THE LAW
Humberto Leal García Jr., a Mexican citizen who faces execution in Texas next month, has petitioned Gov. Rick Perry for a six-month reprieve. He is asking for a stay under a vital international law, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which requires that foreign nationals who are arrested be told of their right to have their embassy notified of that arrest and to ask for help.
In recent years, the treaty has provided important protection for Americans who have been detained in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere. Mr. Leal was not notified after his arrest of his right to contact his embassy. But the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Texas did not need to comply with the treaty because there is no federal law requiring that states do so.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont on Tuesday introduced a bill that makes clear that federal law requires that states tell foreign nationals who have been arrested that they can contact their consulates for help.
For those who were convicted and sentenced without being told, the bill would let them ask a federal court to review their case and decide whether the outcome would have been different if they had had diplomatic help. After the bill was introduced, Mr. Leal petitioned Federal District Court for a stay to keep Texas from "rushing to execute" him before Congress has time to act.
Mr. Leal, convicted of murder during a sexual assault, had grossly incompetent legal representation. If he had been given access to a Mexican diplomat, he would have had a chance at better counsel and likely the opportunity to strike a plea deal, avoiding the death penalty.
For the sake of justice, the governor and court should grant the stays. For the protection of foreigners arrested here, and American citizens arrested abroad, Congress should pass Senator Leahy's bill.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
DEBT LIMIT ENDGAME
The White House has said not to expect any back-nine breakthroughs on the debt limit when President Obama and the House speaker, John Boehner, get together for a game of golf on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the White House isn't even pushing for the real breakthrough the economy and this debate need. The Republicans, as ever, are playing partisan brinkmanship with no apparent thought to the cost of a protracted standoff.
So what would be a real breakthrough? It would be an agreement to delink the need to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 from the hard, longer-term work needed to tame the budget deficit.
The limit must be raised so the government can borrow what it needs to meet its obligations; failure to do so would imperil the nation's creditworthiness, causing potentially profound disruptions in already volatile global financial markets. As for Republican demands for steep near-term cuts, that is precisely what the economy, which has been weakening all year, doesn't need.
Instead of explaining the need for new spending now and deficit reduction as the economy recovers — and developing a plan for both — the White House is negotiating what is essentially a big spending-cut package.
Within those parameters, there is no breakthrough to be had. There is only damage control.
That means getting a deal that does not worsen the economy and that does not lock in such deep spending cuts that Republicans feel no pressure to accept tax increases in a future budget deal.
So what is the minimum the White House must insist on? A deal will probably include caps on discretionary spending, with agreed-upon targets for debt and deficit levels in years to come. Any spending cuts must be phased in gradually, so they don't hit the economy just as federal stimulus is ending and as states are cutting back to balance their own budgets. Even a phased-in package has to exempt the most vulnerable Americans, like poor women and children who depend on federal aid for food and shelter. That will require careful tailoring of any discretionary spending cap to protect poverty programs. It will also require avoiding a cap that would imperil safety-net entitlements, like food stamps.
The White House must also demand real concessions from the Republican leadership. At the least, that would include extending federal unemployment benefits beyond their expiration at year-end. In addition, the deal must have an enforcement mechanism that keeps both sides honest. If agreed-upon debt and deficit targets are not met, both spending cuts and tax increases must kick in.
Republicans, clinging to their no-new-taxes-ever ideology, would prefer a trigger that causes only spending cuts. But last week, 33 Senate Republicans signaled that they might be open to new tax revenues when they voted to end a $6 billion annual ethanol subsidy. That's not much in a $3.5 trillion budget, but it suggests that at least some members of the party have figured out that there is no way to tackle the deficit without more revenue.
Finally, because Americans need their lawmakers to focus on bigger problems, like job creation, a deal should extend the debt limit for at least two more years, beyond the next election. Maybe by then, a serious budget summit — without posturing and brinkmanship — will take the place of a golf summit.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
ARAB SPRING, KURDISH SUMMER
BY SEBAHAT TUNCEL
TURKEY often presents itself to the world as a model Muslim democracy, but it is in fact denying basic democratic rights to almost 20 percent of its population. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was re-elected on Sunday by a large margin, and he now faces a major domestic challenge. Despite Turkey's impressive economic growth and increasing international profile during Mr. Erdogan's eight years in power, his government has ignored the country's most important and politically explosive issue: Turkey's oppressed Kurdish minority.
Kurds have been struggling for freedom and autonomy in Turkey for decades — often in the face of violent state repression. We will no longer accept the status quo. We are demanding democratic freedoms, the right to speak our own language in schools and mosques and greater political autonomy in Kurdish-majority regions.
Since Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P., came to power in the 2002 elections, Turkey has deepened its diplomatic and economic ties with governments across the Middle East, and Mr. Erdogan's public denunciations of Israel have made him a popular figure throughout the region. But while the prime minister frequently expresses his sorrow over the deaths of Palestinian children, he has not so much as mentioned the Kurdish children who have been killed by the army and the police in Turkey.
Last week, as Syrian refugees fled across the border into Turkey, Mr. Erdogan condemned the Syrian government's violent crackdown on protesters. He neglected to mention the Turkish government's use of tear gas, bullets and water cannons to disperse Kurdish protesters in April. Until Mr. Erdogan gets his own house in order, he is in no position to criticize his neighbors.
Indeed, it is impossible for pro-democracy movements in Egypt, Syria or Libya to trust the Turkish government when it neglects its own opposition, suppresses protests and denies the legitimate demands of the Kurdish people.
Mr. Erdogan's government can follow one of two paths. It can seriously consider these demands, include Kurdish lawmakers in the process of drafting Turkey's new Constitution, provide constitutional guarantees for the collective rights of the Kurdish people and accept our demand for autonomy that will allow for self-government and bring peace. Or it can insist on the policy of violent suppression that it has pursued to date. If the second path is taken, Turkey could enter a more intense period of conflict than ever before.
Unfortunately, Mr. Erdogan's recent comment that he would have hanged Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned Kurdish nationalist leader, had he been in power when Mr. Ocalan was arrested in 1999 gives the impression that he is leaning toward the second path.
It was not always so. In a 2005 speech in Diyarbakir, Mr. Erdogan declared, "The Kurdish problem is my problem." It seemed that he had accepted the failure of Ankara's heavy-handed security policy and was setting a new process in motion. This "Kurdish opening" seemed like a step in the right direction; it offered the possibility of greater language rights, more autonomy and amnesty for antigovernment Kurdish militants.
However, it soon became clear that Mr. Erdogan was not sincere. Despite the Turkish public's approval of the opening, the A.K.P. did not take serious steps toward resolving the Kurdish problem. On the contrary, it stepped up military operations, banned the leading Kurdish party, the D.T.P., and arrested Kurdish politicians, including me. (I was arrested in November 2006 and spent nine months behind bars, until I was elected to Parliament from prison and granted immunity in July 2007.)
Since then the government has largely ignored the Kurdish people's grievances. Under the guise of an opening, it has continued the traditional nationalist politics of denial. Rather than meeting the demands of the Kurdish people, it seems that the A.K.P. is now dragging Turkey toward a new confrontation. The election of 36 pro-Kurdish deputies to Parliament will be the most effective check on the A.K.P.'s destructive policy.
As Turkey's various political parties debate the drafting of a new Constitution, the resolution of the Kurdish issue will be of paramount importance — and this will require the active participation of Kurdish members of Parliament.
The unjustified arrests and military operations must come to an end and Turkey's Kurds, after decades of struggle, must be granted the right to learn and pray in our own language and exercise self-government in our cities and towns.
Sebahat Tuncel is a Kurdish member of Turkey's Parliament. This article was translated by Elif Kalaycioglu from the Turkish.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
REMEMBRANCES OF MY FATHER
BY CHARLES M. BLOW
Occasionally, without warning, the drunken wreckage of my father would wash up on our doorstep, late at night, stammering, laughing, reeking of booze.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Beating on the door, pleading to my mother to open it. "These my boys just like they is yours!"
He was on his way home from drinking, gambling, philandering, or some combination thereof, squandering money that we could have used and wasting time that we desperately needed. Sometimes he was a stone's throw from our house in rural northern Louisiana. As a parting gift, he would drop by to bless us with an incoherent 30 minutes of drunken drivel, crumbs that I hungrily lapped up, time that would be lost to him in the fog of a hangover by the time day broke. It was as close as I could get to him, so I took it.
It was the late-1970s. My parents were separated. My mother was now raising a gaggle of boys on her own. She was a newly minted schoolteacher. He was a juke-joint musician-turned-construction worker.
He spouted off about what he planned to do for us, buy for us. But the slightest thing we did or said drew the response, "you jus' blew it." In fact, he had no intention of doing anything. The one man who was supposed to be genetically programmed to love us, in fact, lacked the understanding of what it truly meant to love a child — or to hurt one.
To him, this was a harmless game that kept us excited and begging. In fact, it was a cruel, corrosive deception that subtly and unfairly shifted the onus of his lack of emotional and financial investment from him to us.
I lost faith in his words and in him. I stopped believing. Stopped begging. Stopped expecting. I wanted to stop caring, but I couldn't.
Maybe it was his own complicated relationship to his father and his father's family that rendered him cold. Maybe it was the pain and guilt associated with a life of misfortune. Who knows. Whatever it was, it stole him from us, and particularly from me.
While my brothers talked ad nauseam about breaking and fixing things, I spent many of my evenings reading and wondering. My favorite books were a set of encyclopedias — the greatest single gift of my life — given by my uncle. The volumes were bound in white leather with red writing on the covers. They allowed me to explore the world beyond my world, to travel without leaving, to dream dreams greater than my life would otherwise have supported. I'd pick a volume at random — G — and off I'd go: gemstones and Ghana, Galileo and gravity. It was fantastic.
But losing myself in my own mind also meant that I was completely lost to my father.
He could relate to my brothers' tactile approaches to the world but not to my cerebral one. He understood the very real sensation of touching things — the weight of a good wrench, the tension of a guitar string, the soft hairs on the nape of a harlot's neck — more than the ephemeral magic of literature and learning.
So, not understanding me, he simply ignored me — not just emotionally, but physically as well. Never once did he hug me, never once a pat on the back or a hand on the shoulder or a tousling of the hair. I was forced to experience him as a distant form in a heavy fog, forced to nurse a longing that he was neither equipped nor inclined to satisfy.
My best memories of him were from his episodic attempts at engagement.
During the longest of these episodes, once every month or two, he would come pick us up and drive us down the interstate to Trucker's Paradise, a seedy, smoke-filled, truck stop with gas pumps, a convenience store, a small dining area and a game room through a door in the back. It had a few video games, a couple of pinball machines and a pool table. Perfect.
My dad gave each of us a handful of quarters, and we played until they were gone. He sat up front in the dining area, drinking coffee and being particular about the restaurant's measly offerings.
I loved these days. To me, Trucker's Paradise was paradise. The quarters and the games were fun but easily forgotten. It was the presence of my father that was most treasured. But, of course, these trips were short-lived. My father soon sank back into his sewer of booze and women.
And so it was. Every so often he would make some sort of effort, but every time it wouldn't last.
It wasn't until I was much older that I would find something that I would be able to cling to as evidence of my father's love.
When the Commodore 64 personal computer debuted, I convinced myself that I had to have it even though its price was out of my mother's range. So I decided to earn the money myself. I mowed every yard I could find that summer for a few dollars each, yet it still wasn't enough. The grass just didn't grow fast enough. So my dad agreed to help me raise the rest of the money by driving me to one of the watermelon farms south of town, loading up his truck with wholesale melons and driving me around to sell them.
He came for me before daybreak. I climbed into the truck, which was littered with months-old coffee cups, dirty papers and rusty tools and reeked of cigar smoke and motor oil. We made small talk, but it didn't matter. The fact that he was talking to me was all that mattered. We arrived at the farm, negotiated a price and fussed over the ones we would take. We loaded them, each one seemingly heavier than the last, and we were off.
I was a teenager by then, but this was the first time that I had ever spent time alone with him. It felt great. We drove around a neighboring town all afternoon selling melons to his friends. I got to see a small slice of his life. People smiled when he drove up. They made jokes, some at his expense. He smiled and laughed and repeatedly introduced me as "my boy," a phrase he relayed with a palpable sense of pride. We didn't get back home until it was dark. It was one of the best days of my life. Small gestures are easily magnified when there is nothing against which to measure them.
ALTHOUGH he had never told me that he loved me, I would cling to that day as the greatest evidence of that fact.
He had never intended me any wrong. He just didn't know how to love me right. He wasn't a mean man. I had never once seen him angry. He had never been physically abusive in any way. His crime and his cruelty was the withholding of affection — not out of malice but out of indifference.
So I took these random episodes and clung to them like a thing most precious, squirreling them away for the long stretches of coldness when a warm memory would prove most useful.
It just goes to show that no matter how estranged the father, no matter how deep the damage, no matter how shattered the bond, there is still time, still space, still a need for even the smallest bit of evidence of a father's love.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
HOW TO END THE N.F.L. DEADLOCK
BY ARLEN SPECTER
IT will be bad for America if there is no N.F.L. football in the fall.
Cancellation of the 2011 National Football League season — a possibility that looms over the players' strike and the owners' lockout — would not only disappoint the sport's many fans and disrupt the social rituals (tailgating, Super Bowl parties) that surround the game; it would also have serious economic consequences. Edgeworth Economics, a consulting firm, studied the cost of a canceled 2011 season (at the request of the players association) and estimated it to be about $5 billion from lost jobs, decreased spending at local businesses and reduced tax revenue. In addition, billions of dollars in TV revenue and millions of dollars in ticket sales would vanish.
With this much at stake, the country should not sit back and wait for the players and owners to reach an agreement on their own. Congress can — and should — intervene to force a resolution of the dispute.
Congress has considerable leverage over the N.F.L. because it grants the league an antitrust exemption without which it could not operate as it currently does. The joint agreements among teams on matters like free agency and revenue sharing, as well as the league's single national TV deal, would otherwise run afoul of federal antitrust laws, which prohibit businesses (in this case, individual teams) from making deals that reduce competition.
To ensure an agreement between the owners and players in time for the 2011 season, Congress should place a special condition on the continuation of the N.F.L.'s antitrust exemption: the owners and players must abide by a settlement procedure known as last-best-offer arbitration. This procedure would require the two sides to negotiate; if an agreement is not reached, each side would make its last best offer and an arbitrator would chose between the two. This arrangement creates an incentive for each side to make the more reasonable offer, lest the arbitrator pick the other side's.
Skeptics will note that in the past, Congress has been unwilling to use its leverage to compel the N.F.L. to alter unpopular or controversial practices. When the Philadelphia Eagles threatened to move to Phoenix in the early 1980s, I introduced legislation that would have made the antitrust exemption conditional on the league's prohibiting such moves if the team was financially successful (as the Eagles were). That legislation, which was strongly opposed by N.F.L. lobbyists, did not pass.
Similarly, in the '90s, when several professional football and baseball teams threatened to move in order to pressure cities to pay for stadium construction costs, I introduced legislation that would have made the antitrust exemption conditional on having the N.F.L. and Major League Baseball (which has a similar exemption) pay three-quarters of such construction costs. Again, the legislation was opposed by lobbyists and did not pass.
But the political climate today is much more conducive to congressional action than past efforts to deal with local issues like franchise moves and stadium construction costs. The prospect of a lost N.F.L. season has upset fans across the country, not least because the league has never generated more revenue or been more popular than it was last year.
There is already a starting point for the legislation I am proposing. A bill introduced in March by Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, aims to strip the antitrust exemption from the N.F.L. because the league, according to the bill, "acted in bad faith" by negotiating broadcast contracts that guaranteed it would be paid even in the event of a lockout.
This is a good moment for Congress to act. Gridlock on other issues has left the House and the Senate with time to spare. And even the mere threat of such legislation might induce a settlement.
Arlen Specter, a senator from Pennsylvania from 1981 to 2011, is a lawyer.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE BANKING MIRACLE
BY JOE NOCERA
The president of the American Bankers Association was railing against excessive regulation in a speech at the Waldorf Astoria. The banking reform bill, he complained, "would destroy a substantial part of our bond-distributing machinery." He added, "Can anyone expect that a step of this kind will improve the quality of our long-term investments?"
Modern echoes, for sure. But I read about the speech in a Jan. 27, 1933, article culled from the wonderful archives of The American Banker, the bankers' bible now celebrating its 175th birthday. The speaker, one Francis H. Sisson, was complaining about an early version of the Glass-Steagall Act, the most famous of all Depression-era bank laws, and the one that, in retrospect, probably did the most good. Less than six months after Sisson's speech, President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law.
From my vantage point here in 2011, Glass-Steagall seems miraculous. It was amazingly radical, not just for its time, but for any time; it didn't so much reform banking as upend it. Most notably, it ordered banks to get out of the securities business. As Sisson complained: "The effect of the proposed banking reform is to renounce investment banking rather than regulate it." Because investment banking was then the chief activity of the big banks, this was a very big deal.
Glass-Steagall also created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insured customer deposits for the first time, and outlawed branch banking by national banks, among other things. It is impossible to imagine anything like it passing today; although the modern reform bill, Dodd-Frank, surely does some good, it's not even comparable.
I'd long wondered how Senator Carter Glass, the powerful Virginia Democrat, and his House counterpart, the Alabama congressman Henry Steagall, managed to get it passed. What were the politics like? What did they fight over? Why didn't people like Sisson have better luck pushing back against it, the way bank lobbyists do today? So I asked the editors at American Banker if they would send me some articles from the era that would shed some light on the question. Happily, they obliged.
The first thing I realized is that all the horse-trading over the bill's provision was done by Democrats. The Republicans, having been badly defeated in the 1932 election, had no ability to block it or even amend it. For instance, Republicans tended to view the creation of deposit insurance as "socialism." (Sound familiar?) But it didn't matter: Steagall cared deeply about deposit insurance. Many community bankers — as strong a force back then as today — also supported the idea because they believed it would renew customers' faith in the banks, and bring back deposits. (This turned out to be true.) Glass, though skeptical, went along so he could get things he cared about, mainly a stronger Federal Reserve with more power over the banks.
The second thing I realized was that, the Sisson speech notwithstanding, there was surprisingly little controversy over what we now think of as the law's primary achievement: splitting commercial and investment banking. The fights were all over issues that seem inconsequential by today's lights. It's as if the notion of breaking the banking business into two was always a foregone conclusion.
And, for the most part, it was. Partly, this was because, unlike today, bank failures in the 1930s were often ruinous to customers. So reform was more pressing. But it was also because, for the entire time the legislation was under consideration, the Pecora hearings were going on — in which Ferdinand Pecora, the flamboyant chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee, dragged one well-known banker after another before the committee and grilled them mercilessly, exposing how they had abused their investment banking roles, sometimes to the point of criminality. The Pecora hearings serve as a steady drumbeat in the American Banker articles.
Those hearings infuriated the country, and made it unthinkable that banks would continue to be allowed to sell securities. In fact, some banks, seeing which way the wind was blowing, applauded: "The spirit of speculation should be eradicated from the management of commercial banks," declared Winthrop Aldrich, the chairman of Chase National Bank, according to Michael Perino, Pecora's biographer. Ironically, Glass loathed the Pecora hearings, deriding them as "a circus, and the only thing lacking now are peanuts and colored lemonade." But the hearings made his bill — which had been filibustered by Huey Long just 18 months earlier — not just possible but inevitable.
How inevitable? Charles Geisst, a finance professor at Manhattan College and an expert on the law, says that the House and Senate didn't even bother with a roll-call vote for final passage. This seminal piece of legislation, which helped keep the banks out of trouble for the next 70-plus years, flew through on a voice vote. On Friday, June 16, 1933, when Roosevelt signed it into law, The American Banker gave the news all of three paragraphs. There was nothing left to say.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: NEW CONCEPT, NEW CONTENT AND NEW NAMES
Perhaps you have already noticed the renovation and reconstruction work going on throughout the pages of the Hürriyet Daily News for some time.
As your primary news source from and around Turkey in English for the last 50 years, Hürriyet Daily News has been updating itself for the last few weeks.
The update stems from the needs brought by the winds of change affecting the very geography that once cultivated civilization. From the Arab Spring transforming politics across the Middle East and North Africa, to the economic crisis shaking Greece and the European Union, to the fragile situations in the Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia, the dramas unfolding are likely to draw attention around the world for a good 10 years at least.
Hürriyet Daily News is transforming itself from being a quality paper in the English language giving fresh news, analyses and commentaries on Turkey and the near neighborhood, into a news source of a greater region around Turkey in English. That effort will force us to change our perspective and tools as well; we know that we have to be more interactive on the Internet and through social media.
In this effort, new names have been joining us for the last week.
In addition to our top brass; from Mehmet Ali Birand to David Judson and Yusuf Kanlı, from Semih İdiz to Mustafa Akyol and Burak Bekdil, Nuray Mert for example joined us last week. An outstanding and outspoken political observer, she will give us the political perspective of the week every Monday.
Meliha Altunışık is an internationally-renowned scholar on international relations and particularly on the Middle East, or rather the "greater Middle East" field.
Hala el Kholy, whose first piece is printed in today's paper, contributes from Cairo and reflects on a fresh look of what is really going on regarding the Arab Spring.
Güven Sak is one of the sharpest economists of Turkey. He is now working on development projects to boost trade in Turkey's neighborhood and will be sharing his experiences with us.
Emre Deliveli, who you already are familiar with, will focus more on regional economics from now on.
Nihat Ali Özcan is a well-known name in academic and security circles with his studies on terrorism and diplomatic issues.
We have three columns from within the HDN. Our special projects editor Barçın Yinanç will be focusing on diplomacy; Taylan Bilgiç, the managing editor, on the economy, and Ankara bureau chief Serkan Demirtaş on politics in general. Göksel Bozkurt will continue to provide us the "corridor whispers" and "backstage dust" of the capital politics.
We are not only talking about politics and economy of course.
World-known cartoonist Piyale Madra joined us with her "Adams and Eves" strip. You can find her universal quality humor everyday in the Hürriyet Daily News, on top of the "Remains of the Day" a brand new strip developed specifically for the HDN by seasoned cartoonist Turgay Karadağ.
HDN veteran Niki Gamm will continue to give us the fine details of regional culture with its historical details.
Melis Alphan is one of our brightest and sharpest new assets. You'll like her lifestyle features on all over the region, from fashion to social links connecting people.
And starring Wilco van Herpen … Turkish TV spectators have admired this world citizen of Dutch origin for years. Now with "Wilco on the Road" he will share with us his travels and adventures all around the region every Wednesday.
There is more to come, so please contribute to us with your responses. Have a very good weekend.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
AND THEN THERE IS THE 'SRI LANKA MODEL'
The aggressive marketing of the "Turkish model" as elixir for the "Arab Spring" in so many circles smacks of a certain intellectual laziness. I feel much the same about the new ball in play to import a U.S. or Russian "presidential model" to Turkey. Both discussions constrain original, critical thought.
But "models" have captivated the public discourse. So let's add the "Sri Lanka model."
Turkey and Sri Lanka are more different than alike. An island of 20 million in the Indian Ocean is a comparative stretch. But there are some parallels: Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, held its first multiparty elections in 1947, about the same time as Turkey. Both are centralized, "unitary" states. Both have ongoing debates over secularism and religion, in the island's case involving the dominant Buddhist faith. Ethnic tensions reign. Here it is the unresolved "Kurdish question," there it is the matter of the roughly 15 percent Tamil minority, the most extreme of whom took up arms a quarter century ago. The terrorist "Tamil Tigers" were defeated militarily in 2009, but this has not resolved all problems. Sound familiar?
I also checked tea production. Sri Lanka ranks No. 4 worldwide, Turkey is No. 5. But my tabletop tour was not about tea or terrorism. It was about constitutional reform.
Sri Lanka has been debating constitutional reform for 17 years. As with Turkey, all agree the current charter is a disaster; consensus for a new one meanwhile is elusive. But it is there Turkey and Sri Lanka part political company. For while Turkey is about to embark upon debate of a "presidential system," the Sri Lankans' constitutional debate turns on the opposite: how to get rid of a strong presidency?
I was unable to reach Rohan Edrisinha, the country's leading constitutional scholar. I did, however, turn up a speech he gave last year. You can view this and more at www.groundviews.org. Meanwhile, a few excerpts:
"The experience in Sri Lanka has demonstrated that the minorities are empowered, but only at the time of the presidential election or during the campaign ... Thereafter it is extremely difficult, not only for the minorities, but for anyone for that matter, to exert influence or pressure or for public opinion to influence the President…
"…The President…has wide powers of appointment: of judges, persons to key institutions such as the armed forces and the police, commissions, election commissioners, secretaries to ministries and other public servants, governors of provinces…
"… the rival centers of political power, i.e. the legislature and judiciary, have very little countervailing power or control. Such a combination, therefore, is a recipe for the authoritarianism…
"…. The presidential system encourages a personalized style of politics and a kind of crude populism which is the very antithesis of constitutionalism….
"… Think of Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, Estrada in the Phillipines, Takshin Sinawatra in Thailand, Wahid of Indonesia and of course Rajapakse in Sri Lanka. It would probably have been difficult for a Gordon Brown, a John Major, a Manmohan Singh or a Kevin Rudd to have become President if their respective countries had presidential systems…"
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WOUND FOR CHANGE, WOUND FOR LIGHT
HALA ELKHOLY - HALAKH@HOTMAIL.COM
"The wound is the place where the light enters you." Rumi.
Egypt has been wounded indeed. This time for a worthy cause: For the taste of freedom.
"Selmeya! Selmeya! Selmeya!" millions chanted, and peaceful it indeed was. Peaceful had a price: 1,000 died and five-fold live with brutal injuries. The chants of millions called for the downfall of the regime. The price seemed reasonable to create unprecedented movements in the country, to rally a couple of million in the streets and to do all that against an armed ruthless cowardly and power hungry militia. The price is understandable and probably acceptable, in comparison to the world around us, when we just stop to consider the unreasonable daily global death toll.
The first 100 days of the Egyptian revolution of Jan. 25 brought to the fore-front the sound of freedom. Egyptians are delighted with their new found voices... their freedom to express. Cairo has never been a quiet city. This, however, was no longer the common sound of traffic or the noises of the bustling over-populated city. The air is currently jammed with sound bytes. From the roars and the chants, to the broadcasted songs in Tahrir Square every Friday, to the television and radio channels playing a myriad of old, new and freshly created songs, to the race of talk shows airing every night. To top it all, the avalanche of freedom slogans and political jokes that put smiles on the faces of even the most destitute. It all creates the unmistakable sound of new energy.
"The voice of freedom calls in every street in my country," is the punch line of one of the many songs created for the revolution, being repeatedly played and aired throughout this 100 day revolution of Egypt. The voice of freedom continues to be my ringtone.
I was born in '58, one of the millions who grew up as the revolution generation. My real revolution just erupted only 100 days ago. I was lucky. I still am. Half a century ago, another generation was waking up to a disturbing reality. The reality of what their glorious military coup was slowly but surely becoming. Some, I am certain, consider the current events a possible opportunity to revive that past where things were "better." There are also those in fear, "we are back in the 60s" they continue to warn. They are the ones who spent the last 50 years looking back and remembering life before 1952 when things were also "better." The current generation of brave and free Egyptians will prove both of them wrong. History, it is said, repeats itself. Hopefully not every half century. Egypt claims fame to one of the oldest civilizations and has enjoyed many glorious times in its history. Which part of our history will repeat itself?
Only time will tell.
On Jan. 25, the crowds were building up by the minute. You could watch it live on television too. Not on National State Television, though. That is another story. They announced and called for a nationwide peaceful demonstration and mobilized for it weeks before. They used the new social media so effectively that for the first time ever, the Internet and cell phones were barred, in a futile last attempt from the ruling gang, to stop the sound of freedom. The people brought the president and the government down, while the army stood on the sidelines briefly before deciding to support the reality on the ground. They backed the winner.
These unforgettable initial days of the Egyptian revolution will go down in history, as a landmark movement in the birth of the new world. History will repeat itself.
Like a dormant volcano… It erupted. The giant that slept for almost a thousand years just woke up. Volcanoes are old too, their layers form over time, they are huge constructs and like Egypt, they seem calm but only on the surface. Below, we know they heat up and heat up and heat up, until they erupt. We know that pressure delivers the burst. We expect them to erupt one day, yet we are so surprised when they do.
Egypt, a nation older than time, has finally delivered. On Jan 25, a seemingly dormant but boiling Egypt erupted and hot lava ensued in all directions. One thing, no one contested, it was burning hot.
The volcano continues to erupt sometimes severely, sometimes less intensely but for the time being, it is in active mode. The lava it is producing is quite diverse, reaching far and further, cooling off in places and creating havoc in others but all the while slowly and surely creating the new terrain of the new Egypt.
That is how I experience, in awe, the eruption of Egypt from below the seemingly calm surface. The Egypt I know has been boiling under that surface for many years.
But the old guard dies hard. We cannot trust what we know so we must begin to trust those we don't know; the Egyptians who have another 50 years to live. Let them live.
They are not afraid of the change or the price to pay.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WHICH TURKS HATE ISRAEL MOST
There was an interesting story in the Daily News last week, about the cancelling of a Yuval Ron concert in Istanbul. Mr. Ron, an award-wining Israeli musician, was supposed to play his tunes in a Sultanahmet hall, but the event was cancelled at the last minute due to protests, and, allegedly, some "threats." The organization holding the protest – but denied any threat – was the famous Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, that organized last year's controversial Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which was lethally raided by Israeli commandos.
The İHH, of course, is an Islamic-minded organization. Therefore, I received a few emails from Western friends complaining how Islam and its ascendant role in public life are making Turks fanatically anti-Semitic. If Turkey had been dominated by more-secular minded Turks, these friends added, it would have been a tolerant and loving, and particularly Israel-loving, society.
The missing piece
But there was an interesting detail in the Yuval Ron story that my Islamo-sceptic friends, and probably most others, were missing: The organization that helped organize the concert of the Israeli musician was quite Islamic-minded as well. It was the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, founded by none other than the followers of Fethullah Gülen, Turkey's most influential Muslim religious leader.
In fact, the Gülen Movement, as it is called, has probably been the most active force against anti-Semitism in Turkey in the past two decades. Until his departure from Turkey in 1998, one of Gülen's best friends was Turkey's chief rabbi and the two men routinely appeared in front cameras for joint "Abrahamic" prayers. To date, Gülen's followers have held dozens of interfaith meetings in Turkey and elsewhere, and their media outlets have persistently promoted understanding between Muslims and Jews.
Even on the flotilla incident, Gülen took a different line than that of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government he supports, and said it would have been better if the flotilla sought a deal with Israeli authorities to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Of course, there are also anti-Semitic strains in the Islamic camp. The daily Vakit, and the marginal Saadet Party, which got one percent of the votes in last weekend's elections, are unabashedly anti-Israel and use rhetoric that often turns outright anti-Jewish. But similar rhetoric exists also among Atatürk-venerating secular nationalists "ulusalcılar," who believe in crazy conspiracy theories about how Jews are supposedly buying Turkish land in the southeast to incorporate into "greater Israel." One of these lunatics even wrote a bestselling book in 2007, which argued that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a crypto-Jew who was "selling" Turkey to "Jewish capitalists."
The Turkish picture about Israel, in other words, is not black-and-white. We are not divided between Israel-hating Islamics and Israel-loving seculars.
Erdoğan's party, for that matter, is somewhere between the Saadet and the Gülen Movement, if we put these in a spectrum and closer to the latter rather than the former. Most Israelis, who really are not in a love affair with Erdoğan, might find that hard to believe, but they should recall that the AKP leader had pretty good relations with the Jewish State until the end of 2008, when "Operation Cast Lead" began killing hundreds of innocents in Gaza. Erdoğan and his team passionately care for their Muslim brethren in Palestine, just like many American Jews care for theirs in Israel. Besides, they can not just sleep over the killing of nine Turks in international waters by Israeli soldiers, which has become a matter of national pride. But they ultimately support a two-state solution, and can be quite helpful in building it.
So, here is a friendly advice to Israeli policy makers and their advisors: Stop dreaming about the days when Turkey will become hyper-secular again. Those days are gone and Turkey's Muslim identity is here to stay. But it might not be as bad as you fear, especially if you try to build bridges and reconsider some of your hawkish and intimidating policies.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
BDP AS THE MAIN OPPOSITION
Historically, there have been two main dynamics of change in Turkey: political Islam and Kurdish politics. Both of them are the voices of those masses who were banished from the public sphere and delegitimatized after having being labeled "bandits and backward reactionaries" by early republican ideology. Those non-Muslims whose voices have been silenced should also be included in this black list.
Since then, the pious masses that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been representing successfully and skillfully, have saved themselves. They have been "saved" so much so, that they are now located at the very center of politics. One of the determining consequences of June 12 elections is definitely the reappearance of a vast middle class in the center-right. The prediction for the AKP following the 2007 elections to "settle at center-right" has largely materialized at the end of last Sunday's elections. Now, the AKP is a central-right ruling party and it has two routes in front of it.
It can opt for consolidation, even restoration, by saying, "This much change is enough for Turkey," as the government has already been doing for some time, and as the prime minister frequently implied during the election campaign. Metaphors such as "advanced democracy" and "mastership" used to qualify respectively Turkey and the AKP are indeed referring to governance-like issues of mature democracies. In such case, AKP's essential function will be to live with the objections of society's other layers and, as much as possible, to make them abide by their power through economic welfare. What falls for the share of the Kurds is the economic carrot and the military stick! Redlines and resistance points of this policy will be determined predominantly by Kurdish politics next to social protests and environmentalist resistance.
The other route is AKP's continuation of democratic works. In order to expand the scope of democracy, it should, first of all, continue fighting with regime's exclusionist reflexes. In this case, the primary addressee is the Kurds and their political party which have suffered the most because of these reflexes. If we assume that the Republican People's Party, or CHP, settles after the elections as a "party of the State" representing the status quo, and if we presume the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, will resist any change, then the significant opposition will be represented by Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.
We seem to enter a chapter where the attitude vis-à-vis BDP, which has been treated generally as a marginal party up until today, will change and simultaneously the BDP will also transform (there are talks about a new party). The course passes through the preparatory planning for writing a new constitution and, directly connected to this, the resolution of the Kurdish conflict.
If that succeeds, it means the BDP would finally become a "national" party (Turkey-fication) through the recognition of its differentiation, consolidating, by the same token, the scope of democracy. However, if these processes come to life in politics, BDP, AKP and few liberals of CHP need to work together, while a change slowly takes hold in the popular perception that despises everything with a "Kurdish" element in it.
Perception of BDP politics
For these changes to take place, we need all relevant political and social actors to take responsibility and focus on a relentless pedagogy. The election victory loads gigantic responsibility onto the AKP. This is a political formation that usually likes to grant, but does not like being commanded. It failed when it tried to execute the so-called Kurdish initiative by itself, with its own know-how. This time the opportunity exists for both resolve the Kurdish conflict and do it by raising the democratic standards of the country. In order to terminate the military tutelage permanently and to extend the scope of democracy … As the normalization by way of legitimization of Kurdish politics would imply that social conflicts would no longer need military solutions to be resolved.
The message that the voter sent to the political arena is clear: Sit down, talk without excluding anyone, no one should impose on the other its own solution, let fairness be the code, make democracy everlasting.
I. THE NEWS
A comment is said to have come from COAS General Kayani in late May to the effect that Pakistan has mortgaged itself to the United States. He is reported to have said that we were unable to pay back the loan and that we were ëhelplessí debtors to an America determined to have payback. Reports in foreign newspapers and media outlets speak of General Kayani ëfighting for his positioní against a group of corps commanders who have become increasingly anti-American since the Bin Laden raid ñ and allegedly increasingly critical of their commander. The New York Times went as far as to say that a ëcolonelsí coupí internal to the army was unlikely ñ but was not completely out of the question. These reports have mostly emanated from foreign sources and there is very little by way of domestic corroboration, but it seems reasonable to conclude that there may be a grain of truth in them. ?
Notwithstanding foreign pot-stirring it may be time to turn down the heat under the bubbling pot of US-American relations. The two countries are perhaps never going to be ëbest friendsí but they do not need to be enemies either. The relationship is always going to be transactional but we are not without bargaining chips. Lines have become blurred in the last year, the rules of engagement indistinct, and the Bin Laden raid ñ while, at one level, was revealing of gaps in a range of our security agencies ñ has prompted a sharpening of focus and a redefining of the relationship with the Americans. Inevitably, this is not going to be a comfortable process for either side. Unfortunately international relationships are characterised as much by deceit as they are by honesty, and that is also true for that which exists between Pakistan and the US. Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates admitted this fact only the other day saying every country lied to the other. Dishonesty aside, they do have to work together and devising mechanisms to allow that is an essential part of the relationship. Thus there is reported to be a new ëjoint counterterrorism task forceí to oversee operations against terrorism. The new force is said to be designed to curb American unilateralism in its intelligence operations in Pakistan, likewise is the scaling back of American troops or trainers here. The Americans may replace the two Orion aircraft that were lost in the PNS Mehran raid, and they will keep supplying us with F-16s. We may not be able to fight the Americans, but we are not without collateral to pay the mortgage either.
I. THE NEWS
A HERO'S MURDER
The chapter on the history of violence in Quetta has added yet another name to its ill-fated list of characters: Olympian boxer Syed Abrar Hussain. The 50-year-old boxer, also the deputy director of the Pakistan Sports Board in Balochistan, was gunned down by unknown men near the Ayub Stadium on Thursday. Hussain represented Pakistan at the Olympics in 1984, 1988, and 1992, and won a gold medal at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. He also took part in many international competitions, including the second and fourth editions of the South Asian Games. The government had recognised his services to sports and awarded him the Sitara-i-Imtiaz and the Pride of Performance.
The banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the killing. The LeJ, as we well know, is notorious for directing many of its attacks against the Pakistani Shia community. The group was formally banned in 2001 as part of a new sweep against extremism; a policy that has proved ineffective since the ban has only driven groups underground, making it much harder to trace and curb their activities. The LeJ is now increasingly attacking ostensibly non-religious targets (earlier, it was processions and more overtly religious targets) and a deadly pattern is emerging: a murderous rampage against Pakistanís minority sects and a disturbing willingness to make the daily lives of the people of Quetta, and beyond, a pawn in the terroristsí armed agendas. The latest victim was a sports hero and the attack has once against highlighted questions surrounding the stateís ability to protect its people against terrorism. Not only does the attack have implications for the state of minorities in Pakistan, it is also a huge blow to sports. Sport has been one of the areas where Pakistan has engaged with the world on equal terms; it is one of the strongest weapons in Pakistanís soft power arsenal. Terroristsí targeting of sports heroes is tantamount to an attack on symbols of national unity. The government must put up the toughest, sincerest fight against this kind of violence and demonstrate that it will stand up for the minorities and heroes of this country.
I. THE NEWS
LOCAL ACCESS TO LOCAL ECONOMY
YUSUF H SHIRAZI
Pakistan has a viable economy. She has the sixth largest population of the world. Pakistan's human resource is one of the best. Moreover, Pakistani workers and managers are in demand all over the world. Entrepreneurs too don't lag behind. The result is that, in the last 62 years of its existence, Pakistan has had an average GDP growth of about five percent – not bad at all!
Pakistan's agriculture too is one of the best in the world. Before partition, the part now comprising Pakistan fed the entire Indian sub-continent. When the country was faced with one of the worst floods in its history, Pakistan was remarkably still exporting surplus wheat and rice. The demand for cotton was such that its prices increased by more than 100 percent, more than most other commodities. All this led to consumer demand. The result is overall improvement in the economy and the retail business, in particular, has prospered with the ever highest corporate results, as reported to stock exchanges.
Pakistan is blessed with mines – oil, gas, coal, copper, silver and gold. The mines have not been explored but the reserves are so large that not only can they meet the local requirements but also provide a surplus for export.
Presently, the county has one of the highest foreign exchange reserves – US$17.5 billion. The country has the ever highest remittances – on an average US$1 billion per month. The country has surplus current accounts. Exports are expected to be the highest ever, reaching about US$25 billion. Imports will rise to about US$35 billion which is a matter of concern, particularly since so much can and should be produced locally.
However, the reality is that Pakistan is somehow obsessed with liberalisation, deregularisation, and privatisation – the mantra of the developed world and US-influenced academics. There are closed markets, such as the European Union and Nafta, to name a few, which restrict free trade. The US itself becomes a closed market whenever there is an excess of imports through implementation of tariff protection, to say the least.
The world generally and Pakistan, in particular, is thus denied access to the US and European market, among others. Pakistani textile is made to wait entry to these markets, year after year.
On the other hand, there is a free flow of imports from all these markets the world over – USA, European Union, China, etc generally under-invoiced, if not smuggled, thus evading customs duty and sales tax. India, on the other hand, is a classic example for Pakistan to follow. Since the time of Nehru, the policy has been that whatever is produced in India cannot be imported through imposition of tariff or non-tariff barriers. It was only when India's economy became globally competitive and produced export champions that Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, started opening up the economy to the world. Malaysia has also relied on her own resources and thus refused to accept the IFI's support. It is another model country – independent of the world powers – for Pakistan to follow.
Immediately, after partition Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah found that Pakistan had no resource base, so he approached USA for a helping hand. The US agreed but conditioned it with regional cooperation – nay – regional camp follower so Pakistan's subservience shifted from the UK to USA.
Independence from India and influence of the British was replaced with American influence on Pakistan. The US continues to exploit Pakistan and leaves her high and dry as it deems fit in its own national interest. Abandonment of the region after the Soviet-Afghan conflict is a prime example. This conflict, with American influence, produced the mighty mujahideen who are now the terrorising Taliban – a US invention gone terribly wrong. The war on terrorism is fought at the cost of our men, sovereignty, and economic independence.
The aid, loans and credit that follow from IFIs under the influence of America, has been a misnomer. The recipients and more so Pakistan receive such aid, loans, and credit basically for commodities and not for much needed socio-physical infrastructure with the condition that the recipients will import their requirements of machineries, parts, and raw materials on donors' terms and conditions.
One such condition has been that the aid, loans, and credit are administered by consultants who take a lion's share as their fees. Actual receipts are much less than the repayments of the so-called aid, loans, and credit from the future earnings in foreign exchange. This has been further punctuated with free imports of whatsoever nature, at the cost of local investment, production, and export. This is globalisation.
According to Mr Dominique Strauss Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF, globalisation has led to a "lethal cocktail of high unemployment, strained social cohesion, and political instability, which, in turn, has affected macro-economic stability". In Pakistan, thus the 10 percent poorest in the country consume four percent of the national cake while the richest 10 percent gobble up 27 percent of it.
On the other hand, Pakistan has been a haven for those engaged in smuggling, under-invoicing, and evasion of taxes in the name of free economy. According to a recent report of the Federal Board of Revenue and World Bank, 57 percent of the economy is untaxed. The country's total revenue is about Rs1.5 trillion and if this 57 percent untaxed economy is taxed the total revenues will be about Rs 2.5 trillion. This would more than compensate the aids, loans, and credit – Rs0.38 trillion – our country has been plagued with since inception. The total debt of the country has reached a mind-boggling figure of Rs11 trillion now as against Rs4.7 trillion four years ago in 2007 due to non-payment of loans.
In fact, now even the donor countries have started saying that aid recipients such as Pakistan should rely, first, upon its own resources. Such constructive criticism of our tax machinery is a blessing in disguise for we must get our house in order to win back our sovereignty and become masters of our own destiny.
Thus Pakistan has to rethink her strategy from foreign policy to economic and social strategy. If all these resources are put together and prudently employed, Pakistan will be free from reliance on the donor countries and earn socio-politico economic freedom. This will encourage investment, production, and export, creating employment for the masses and make them self-reliant. Access to foreign countries through full utilisation of resources will lead to increased competitiveness and, as such, access to the world markets on its own merit. It is local access to the local economy and not access to US aid and IMF programmes which will lead to self-reliance.
Pakistan thus must be guided by her own national interests in following any policy emanating from external factors. The former World Bank President, Mr Wolfensohn supports this view; "searing images of desperation, hopelessness and decline of people who once had hope but will have it no more...We need local ownership and local participation. Gone are the days when development could be done behind closed doors in Washington or western capitals or any capital for that matter...".
It is thus 'Glocalisation' – local access to the local economy – not 'Globalisation' – "a lethal cocktail...of macro-economic stability" which will help the Pakistani economy. Local access to our economy will create employment, provide the bread, clothing, and shelter promised to the masses of people and not reliance on the donors – at whatever cost, for aid and loans undermine our nation's sovereignty.
The writer is the founder/chairman of the Atlas group of companies.
MAHMUD ALI DURRANI
The Military Intelligence Agency (MI) is the third important intelligence agency in Pakistan. I am not sure if the MI's reach today is greater than that of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), but it is a top intelligence player. Although it does not have a significant external presence, military attaches in selected embassies around the world are the eyes and ears of both the ISI and the MI. The MI, however, operates directly under the control of the Pakistani army. During Musharraf's rule, the MI had a central role in Balochistan and military operations there. Understandably, the role of the MI expands during the rule of a military government.
Naval and Air Intelligence are junior partners of Military Intelligence. All three service intelligence branches have linkages with the ISI. While the work of the three services basically focuses on counterintelligence, they do follow changes and developments in the capability and intentions of the external threat as it relates to their specific areas. They also carry out limited trans-border intelligence at the tactical and operational levels. This is true of defence service intelligence agencies throughout the world.
Each province has a Special Branch. Special Branch is the prime provincial intelligence agency with its focus on prevention of crime, and now fighting terrorism as well as. The special branch has a presence down to the tehsil level. It is headed by an additional inspector general at the provincial level and a superintendent at the district level. The Special Branch, being integral to the provincial police, has a close relationship with the police at almost all tiers of the government, the two share the task of crime prevention. It is this close relationship between the Special Branch and the police at the lowest level of government which can be a major asset in developing actionable intelligence against militancy at the grassroots level.
In the heyday of the IB, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau used to hold two annual conferences with the heads of the four Special Branches. This arrangement provided critical institutional linkage between the local police and the IB, which is almost nonexistent today. The fact that both the IB and the Special Branches drew their officer cadre from the Police Service of Pakistan greatly facilitated the required sharing of the provincial and federal intelligence assets.
The police are a provincial law-enforcement agency whose job is to prevent crime, maintain, and investigate breaches of, law and order. Not a long time ago it was believed that the officer in charge of each thana (police station), the thanedar, had his finger on the pulse of his area of jurisdiction. In other words, a police station had an excellent intelligence network at the grassroots level. This is no longer true, for a variety of reasons.
Besides the obvious decline in professionalism, rampant corruption and political interference in the operations of the police force are the other reasons. Today, a thanedar would be lucky to stay on his post even for six months. In the old days, police officers usually spent an average of three years on a single assignment. With enhanced professionalism, better working conditions and solid guidance the police, the Special Branch and the IB together made up an efficient force.
There are a number of law-enforcement and investigative agencies like the FIA, Railway Police, Pakistan Customs, the Anti-Narcotics Force, the Immigration Department and the CID, which all have small intelligence units to support their respective missions. Many times these units come across a wealth of information which could be very useful for the overall intelligence effort against militancy. For one, the Immigration service has a record of all foreigners entering and leaving Pakistan.
Recently I read about the possibility of the creation of a new ministry in Pakistan, like the Homeland Security Department of the US. I hope we understand that Homeland Security is mostly a collection of law-enforcement agencies.
The two most important issues to move our intelligence efforts to face the challenges of the future are:
• Reforming each major intelligence agency to fulfil its prescribed mission.
• Develop a mechanism to integrate the total intelligence effort to fight the primary national threat, without sacrificing their specific missions.
There are a number of models that are available around the world, we are fairly familiar with the British, the US and the Indian models, but we will eventually need to develop a model most suitable to our specific environment and needs.
For starters, we need to build up the IB, to bring it at par with the ISI. It should be given a mandate and an organisational structure of the pre-Musharraf era and a role possibly beyond that. For it to be effective at gathering intelligence at the grassroots level, there is a need for the development of a vertical link between the IB, the Special Branch and the police in all the provinces. The ISI already has a vertical link with the three service intelligence agencies. But there may be a need to review the ISI's mission and mandate.
However, it will be counterproductive and short-sighted to reduce the capability and capacity of the ISI to fight militancy and terrorism, as it will take years for the IB to develop its full potential.
The fundamental point that needs to be kept in mind is that the coordinating office for all intelligence agencies must report directly to the prime minister, and not be placed under any one ministry. The office should have the capability of evaluating raw and processed intelligence and place an integrated intelligence picture in front of the prime minister and his or her cabinet. The coordinator may have any title like Advisor on National Intelligence, Advisor on National Security, or Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. He should have the status of a federal minister to be able to play an effective role.
It is no secret that both ISI and the IB have been used to spy on political opponents of governments in power. In fact, intelligence agencies have in the past actively participated in the making and breaking of governments. This practice must end, once and for all. This should be done through an Act of Parliament forbidding the present and future governments to use intelligence and law-enforcement agencies for political advantage.
The writer is a former national security adviser.
I. THE NEWS
TAKING SOCIAL MEDIA BY STORM
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR
The American adage "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is equally applicable to Balochistan. No matter how many bullet-riddled dead bodies of missing persons are recovered in a single week or how many liberal professors are systematically assassinated, the news from Balochistan barely makes front page headlines in the mainstream national media. British journalist Declan Walsh rightly remarked in a recent article in the Guardian that people living elsewhere in Pakistan know as little about Balochistan as those living overseas.
A lot of media outlets are compelled to opt for a blackout of news from the conflict-stricken province because of pressure from the "higher authorities" who cite the "sensitivity" of the conflict vis-à-vis the national security paradigm as a serious concern. In a recent BBC report, many editors admitted not giving sufficient coverage to Balochistan because of reasons beyond their control.
Ironically, the Baloch no longer complain about this lack of representation in the national media. They don't even insist on more coverage of their grievances in the news channels and papers. Yet, the secessionist movement is gaining momentum. A conflict which was confined to only two tehsils only four years ago – when former governor Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed – has today spread across the length and breadth of the province. It seems Balochistan refuses to become another Bangladesh in terms of keeping the rest of the country in oblivion about the developments taking place there.
So what is really happening inside the mysterious and unexplored province?
While Balochistan has the lowest social indicators in the country, it has surprisingly become home to the most successful use of social media as a tool for advocating social and political aims. Perhaps nowhere else in South Asia is social media used as effectively as in Balochistan to garner support for the nationalist movement and expose atrocities.
When General Musharraf liberalised broadcast media in the country at the inception of the last decade, he was indeed mindful of the tensions brewing in Balochistan. Thus, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which is responsible for internet monitoring in the country, was alerted about a possible "misuse" of the internet by the Baloch nationalists. So, hundreds of Baloch websites were blocked by the PTA. Only proxies such as Vtunnel, could help in opening the banned sites which published nationalistic contents.
At that time, Facebook and Twitter were not so popular. So, the government temporarily heaved a sigh of relief, considering the ban on these sites an adequate means to crush the ongoing technological rebellion.
With the spread of the internet in every district of Balochistan and the popularity of social media (which was further facilitated by cell phones), the dynamics of the Baloch nationalist movement experienced an unprecedented change. Today, social networks play a greater role in Balochistan in galvanising support for the movement, as compared to the political parties.
Young Baloch political workers have formed scores of Facebook groups and pages on which they share pictures of the missing Baloch persons. Now, it barely takes one hour for the photos of the "killed and dumped" activists to be uploaded for a global audience on Facebook. Newspapers, on the other hand, still debate or refuse to publish pictures of slain activists buried with the flag of Independent Balochistan because they fear being reprimanded by the government authorities despite knowing that hundreds and thousands of people view these photos on Facebook within an hour of their reaching cyberspace.
Baloch activism on Facebook is increasing day by day. Educated, young college students spread videos and text showcasing developments in Balochistan by simultaneously "sharing" them with multiple groups and pages online. These students say they find "tagging" on Facebook the best way to "compel" people to view their pictures, videos, notes and announcements for scheduled political gatherings and protest rallies.
The Baloch Students Organisation, the Baloch Liberation Army and many other outfits use Youtube as the best source of sharing their message through amateur videos. These videos capture almost all angles of the separatist movement. For example, some videos are made at the Baloch training camps and the others are filmed soon after the recovery of the dead bodies of a missing person. Once the friends and families of the victims of torture see these videos, support for the nationalist movement skyrockets.
A few months ago, the Frontier Corps (FC) raided a plethora of video shops and confiscated CDs featuring radical music and songs. A couple of Balochi language poets, singers and video shop owners were punished for promoting anti-state material. Since then, the Baloch armed groups have started to post videos of their operations on Youtube. The BLA recently posted a six-part video on Youtube stating its objectives and footage of its operations while blowing up gas pipelines and attacking the convoys of security forces.
"Youtube is the best way to share videos with the people," a young student once told me in Quetta. "These videos have helped us in exposing the government's atrocities in spite of television channels' refusal to show such images," the student added.
Teenage Baloch activists love Youtube because it allows them to download videos featuring the speeches of nationalist demagogues and the funerals of the "martyrs" of the movement. In case someone does not have a particular video, these young men exchange files via Bluetooth. Sharing nationalistic digital contents has almost become the most popular hobby among the young Baloch.
Twitter is another platform where, soon after logging in, one would take only a few minutes to start noticing the stream of Baloch activism. Using screen names such as "freedom fighter" or "Azad Balochistan" these activists, who mainly come from middle-class educated Baloch families, instantly tweet everything that happens inside Balochistan. Most of these tweets have two themes: 1) updated information about human rights issues and the military operation in Balochistan and 2) the constant tagging of top international journalists and human rights activists to invite international attention to the situation in Balochistan.
After an official ban on a number of websites, the nationalists began to actively use blogs hosted on Wordpress and Blogspot to share lists of the missing persons, details of the military operation, and announcements concerning anti-government rallies.
Baloch online activism serves as the harbinger of more uncontrollable trouble for Islamabad in Balochistan. Recent developments in the Middle East show that firm political and military control over a country does not necessarily guarantee the stability of a government if and when social media begins favouring the folks on the other side of fence.
In the current situation, Baloch Facebookers and Tweeters have an advantage over the government: Curbing the exponentially increasing power of social media is tantamount to inviting more trouble, criticism, and international attention about the domestic mess. Interior Minister Rehman Malik now has every reason to hold "foreign elements," including Mark Zuckerberg and his network of geeks responsible for inciting a social media revolution in Balochistan!
The writer is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow and a visiting journalist at a Washington DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a project by the Center for Public Integrity. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I. THE NEWS
SQUANDERED HUMAN CAPITAL
Pakistan, the sixth-most crowded country in the world, has the distinction of having the largest number of young people in relation to its overall population: in 2007-08, there were 39.5 million Pakistanis in the 9-19 age group alone.
This high percentage of young people can serve as a vigorous workforce for Pakistan if the country can find ways of harnessing it. If we fail in the effort, though, there is disaster in the making we cannot even imagine at this stage. We have no plans in place, let alone long-term policies, to transform this raw youthful energy into human capital.
Our education system, to mention just one critical element, does not come close to the requirements of the development of this human capital. Here we are not even referring to the kind of education and training our young people should be receiving in the 21st century. So, since the overwhelming majority of our youth do not receive education or training in different trades, the gap is automatically filled by what the extremist forces provide in the name of education.
The suicide bomber is almost invariably a young person. In other words, our most precious human capital is literally blowing itself to pieces, while it spreads mayhem. With poverty rampant, particularly in the last few years, we see an increasing number of children working as scavengers in the streets – when they are not out begging, that is. There are ever larger numbers of young people in our jails.
Pakistani society is yet to wake up to the tragedy of children working in factories and workshops and as domestic help, and of child abuse. By and large these evils are still accepted as the darker aspects of life that are best ignored rather than confronted. It is wrongly believed that child abuse in various forms is more a phenomenon of the rural areas. But there are equally nasty instances of child abuse in the sprawling slums of our cities and towns. While our media has produced an awakening about a great number of evils of Pakistani society, the plight of our youth has still not become an area of focus for it.
Our policymakers are making a grave mistake in ignoring Pakistan's youth. They do not know that Pakistan is sitting on a human volcano if it fails to develop and utilise this human capital, our youth. It is unbelievable that they have excluded this most important age-group altogether in their policy considerations.
It is as if the policymakers have missed an important phase in their own educations. With countless Pakistani parliamentarians possessing fake degrees – and with our education minister once reported to have said that a fake degree is as good as a genuine one – this possibility is not as far-fetched as it might seem.
If they really are interested in developing this human capital, our policymakers first of all need to chart out the areas of vulnerabilities of this age-group and come up with a comprehensive, truly effective policy for the long term, one that encompasses both education and training in various trades. At the same time, the government, in consultation with civil society organisations, should draft a phased plan of action to address this critical issue within a specific period of time.
For doing this, however, an understanding of the dynamics and sensitivities of the age-group in question is inevitable. For example, we will fail to have the desired results if we do not sensitise the media to avoid negative portrayal of this age-group. Efforts must be made to educate adults to encourage young people, rather than emphasising their faults. Teachers' training should include inculcation of values of humanity and respect for cultural and other differences in their students.
To make most of this huge amount of human capital, which will decide Pakistan's future-indeed, its continued existence--we will have to shift our overall perceptions regarding our young people from negative to positive. We will have to become encouraging and nurturing towards our young people. While we do this, we should make sure that we direct our young people's energies towards creativity and healthy pursuits. It is time we considered psychological counselling for troubled youths.
Parents should be encouraged to involve themselves in young people's lives, without being domineering and invasive, however. Parents should communicate more effectively with their children. One effective use of the media would be to make parents aware of the need of non-judgmental listening when their children talk to them. This is the only way they can establish a relationship of trust with their children, to enable them to become better adjusted adults. One negative aspect of our culture is that it allows parents to break their word, and thus destroy their trust with their children time and again.
But these are our individual responsibilities towards our children. The government has the responsibility to draft and put into action an all-inclusive policy towards children and young people. In doing this, it should ensure the participation of all stakeholders, including civil society organisations and NGOs. Some of our renowned organisations are already working on the drafting of a policy on Pakistan's young people.
The writer is a youth activist.
I. THE NEWS
LAW AND THE ARMY
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.
With due respect to our worthy commanders who contributed to the ISPR release after the 139th Corps Commandersí Conference, criticism of the khakis isnít a consequence of ìperceptual biasesî of ìsome quarters...trying to deliberately run down the armed forces and army in particular.î Criticism of the army results from a sense of horror that the guardians of our security might not be fully able to secure themselves or the rest of us, the resentment that in performing internal security duties they continue to function beyond the realm of law, and the aggravating factor that anyone identifying either of these problems becomes a ìquarterî conspiring against ìnational interestî. Khaki censure of critics is in itself proof of the mindset being criticised.
That nobody likes criticism is understandable. But to respond with haughty arrogance to genuine public anxiety about a flawed national security doctrine, defective security policymaking mechanisms, recurrent security lapses, aversion to accountability and resort to extra-legal tactics in internal security operations as well as dealing with critical voices is simply indefensible. If the mood of the conference was aptly reflected by the ISPR release, we donít seem to be led by a military high command that feels the need to engage in introspection, identify weaknesses in our security policy and operations, hold individuals accountable for misfeasance and nonfeasance, institute behavioural, organisational and structural reform and offer itself for public accountability.
If security debacles as enormous as the OBL operation and the GHQ and Mehran attacks, and human tragedies as horrifying as the Kharotabad butchery, Sarfraz Shahís horrifying death in Karachi, and Saleem Shahzadís murder have failed to encourage our military high command to indulge in soul-searching instead of finger-pointing, what will? Let us first understand this ìcriticismî that our commanders misperceive as being aimed at driving ìa wedge between the army and the people of Pakistanî. One, its object is not the jawans and officers acting as Pakistanís first line of defence against enemies, but the top-tier generals who wield uninhibited authority to craft our national security policy, design military strategy and provide operational oversight - responsibilities that they seem to have bungled thoroughly. It is aimed at the khaki elite and not the institution.
Two, the critique is not meant to demoralise troops, but to highlight that the security of our citizens and state is so precarious that those exercising control over security policy can no longer hide behind sacrifices of military personnel and self-serving conceptions of national security, national interest, and patriotism to shirk responsibility for their acts and omissions. Three, it focuses on the need to render the khaki elite subservient to the law like the rest of the institutions and citizens of this country, as opposed to rubbing its nose in dirt out of pique or intrigue.
There are at least three reasons why the generals should suspend their imperiousness and take public criticism in stride. One, technological advancement and a shrinking world have made it exceedingly hard to censor information and dissenting views. Only a handful of rich totalitarian states are mildly successful in purchasing or coercing the media and controlling access to information. It is neither possible nor desirable for Pakistan to emulate such examples. Two, a diverse national media such as ours reflects the thoughts and aspirations of the people, who are worried sick about their security and their future. Attempts to intimidate the media into submission will only add fuel to fire.
And three, the flaws in our current security policy and mindset being identified by the media will become more and more obvious with time if left unaddressed. We are in the throes of an international war and a homebred insurgency (aided by bigotry and intolerance) without a coherent national security and counterterrorism strategy. The internal and external challenges to our security and rule of law will not melt away simply because journalists are browbeaten into not talking about them. Shooting the messenger or resorting to populism and anti-Americanism can only bring transient relief for top military leaders, but will neither stem the rot nor address the factors dissipating the spirit of troops and the nation alike.
One, our khaki elite needs to reconcile with the letter and spirit of our Constitution, which holds unambiguously in Articles 243 and 245 that the federal government shall have control and command of the armed forces, who shall act ìunder the directions of the federal governmentî. Commanders who understand and accept the principle of civilian control of military would never issue a press release expressing the ìresolve to continue supporting the democratic system without any preference to any particular political party.î What business or legal authority does a subsidiary organ of the federal government have to promise equal treatment to all political parties?
Two, we need a federal law to authorise the military to undertake internal security duties and act ìin aid of civil powerî under Article 245 of the Constitution and another to provide legal mandate for the ISIís legitimate intelligence functions. A legislative framework for militaryís internal security functions is imperative to ensure that they fall within the four corners of our criminal justice system. Changing the law of evidence will not automatically result in convicting terrorists so long as the military continues to gather intelligence and perform internal security duties without explicit legal mandate. Rooting the ISIís de facto powers in law is essential for the additional reason that without effective internal and external checks enshrined in law, there will exist no means to prevent abuse of authority by individuals within our lead intelligence outfit.
And three, there is need to uproot the malaise of sycophancy within the military introduced by Ziaul Haq and prospering ever since. The militaryís recruitment, training and promotion system is considered meritorious and transparent, but only up to a certain level. When it comes to making a two- or three-star general, there is a sense that fortune shines not necessarily on the ablest but the most artful. More importantly, if any officer has been unjustly disciplined through a court martial, his only recourse is to appeal to the army chief. The jurisdiction of ordinary courts of law stands ousted in such matters. And if heaven forbid, the Caesar himself decides to discipline anyone, there is no remedy other than an appeal to Caesarís wife, as the adage goes.
The army chief being the lord and master of the entire force does three things: it denies military personnel just legal remedies in relation to service grievances; it makes the blessings and whims of the army chief more relevant than merit when it comes to the composition of top military leadership; and it scuttles legitimate difference of opinion at the top level by nurturing sycophancy. Other stable democracies have recognised the need to provide neutral mechanisms to curb arbitrary exercise of authority within the forces and redress service grievance. India, for example, established the Armed Forces Tribunal in 2007, which is an independent adjudication forum comprising judicial and administrative members drawn from superior court judges and military officers respectively. We need a similar law in Pakistan.
But who will introduce such wide-ranging reform? Our army chief lost his moral authority when he accepted a three-year extension against the norms of the institution he leads. His professional credibility has also taken a severe beating with Pakistanís security problems accentuating under his watch. It is probably time for him to allow the next ranking commander to start on a clean slate and initiate vital reforms. Given his baggage, walking into the sunset is probably the best thing General Kiyani can do for himself, his army and his country.
I. THE NEWS
MEMO FROM USA
Do our Pakistani officials touted as ìwell-informedî prefer to whisper stories of possible coups in the ears of foreign correspondents? Well, this is what weíre being told in a New York Times front-page story on June 16 titled ìPakistan chief of army fights to keep his job.î But, for an honest answer, wait for a future tranche of Wikileaks. It will tell you who said what to whom. Meanwhile, more work for our already overworked interior minister. His ministry and secret agencies, along with their military counterparts, are sweating away, busy silencing whistleblowers. Rehman Malikís predecessor decades ago, Aitezaz Ahsan, was alleged to have befriended the fetching Christiana Lamb, 21, cub reporter for Londonís Financial Times. When an admirer, a military high-up, allegedly confided to her of an aborted coup, the FT, next day, flashed its banner headline with the ìscoop.î Naturally, it was hotly denied by Pakistan. The FT had to retract and an enraged Aitezaz Ahsan asked Ms Lamb to scoot!
Listen, thereís no smoke without fire, as the wise say. Therefore, to pretend that sab theek hai (allís well) within the military belies the truth. Seriously, do foreign correspondents know something that the Pakistani pundits donít? Probably. Why else would the CNN, two nights ago, flash ìbreaking newsî from Islamabad? We sat up, stopped eating dinner and waited to hear Gen Kayaniís fate. Was a coup underway? No. Actually, the brouhaha was the New York Times story to be published next day. It had already been posted online and the CNN thought it would grab a scoop and steal the Timesí thunder by being the first to tell the tale.
Remind me again: what was the tale?
ìA colonelsí coup, while unlikely, was not out of the questionî was the punch line of the NY Times. And who was its knowledgeable source? An unnamed but ìwell-informed Pakistani who has seen the general in recent weeks, as well as an American military official involved with Pakistan for many years.î Umm...who can it be? Chief sleuth Gen Pasha must know. Isnít the ISI a snoop? Or is there a wild card among the 11 corps commanders, who tells the NY Times what goes on behind the Masonic walls of the GHQ? Let me try another route...the American Embassy in Islamabad. Perhaps the ìwell-informed Pakistaniî is a frequent visitor at the compound there. Incognito, he drives up in a black-tinted car with a fake number plate. He is either a whistleblower (to the Americans) or a trusted courier, a mailman between our military and the American ambassador? He kind of ferries messages back and forth seamlessly. Some tidbits of the official conversations exchanged are then passed on to the Islamabad-based American correspondents that eventually find their way into ìbreaking newsî in America.
Am I letting my imagination run wild? No.
Rarely a day passes without Pakistan being in the news here. At the first debate among seven Republican presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire this week, serial adulterer Newt Gingrich said he would not hire a Pakistani in his administration if he became president. The reason? Guys like Faisal Shehzad swear allegiance to the American flag but hate the US, and therefore all Pakistani-Americans can be terrorists! Crazy Gingrich.
The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: anjumniaz@ rocketmail.com
BUILDING OF A MONSTER OUT OF AL-ZAWAHIRI
AS it did with Osama bin Laden, the Western propaganda machinery has started churning out material to build yet another monster out of Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri, who presents threats to American, Western and Israeli interests and therefore, there is enough justification to continue the so-called war against terrorism.
A Western news agency has quoted a message supposedly posted by Al-Qaeda that it has nominated Zawahiri as the successor to slain leader OBL and vowed that under his leadership it would relentlessly pursue its 'Jihad' against arch foes, the United States and Israel. This has been the proven modus operandi of the United States to raise alarm bells about real or imaginary threats before launching operation and mounting attacks against sovereign countries. It did so in the case of Iraq on the pretext of locating and destroying weapons of mass destruction that were allegedly manufactured by Saddam Hussain but after total destruction of the country the world came to know that this was a mere propaganda ploy and nothing else. We have also been hearing off and on release of audio and video tapes both by OBL and Zawahiri renewing their resolve to continue fighting the United States and harming its interests. The Western agencies have also been leaking information about plans of Al-Qaeda to hit Western cities and other assets with sole objective of misleading their public opinion and the world. Now, the United States itself acknowledges that back of Al-Qaeda has been broken especially after killing of OBL in Abbottabad operation but a specter of Zawahiri is being raised to justify killing of innocent people in aerial bombing and missile and drone attacks. We believe that instead of creating justifications for continuation of aggression, it is time that the United States and its allies wind up their operations so as to allow peace and normalcy to restore in different parts of the world. Peace and security as well as economy of various countries especially smaller ones have suffered badly due to American policies and international community must act to stem the rot.
ATTACK ON BAJAUR, WE EVEN DON'T PROTEST
IN yet another incursion from the other side of the Durand Line, over 300 militants armed with sophisticated weapons, attacked villages in Bajaur Agency on Thursday, killing five people, three women and two children, while eight others sustained injuries. In the pre-dawn attack, the group of militants crossed over the Pak-Afghan border along the Kunar province of Afghanistan and attacked Pakistani villages Manu Jangal and tukha, adjacent to the border at tehsil Mamoond.
This was the first incident of the kind in Bajaur but in a similar attack in Upper Dir, 27 personnel of law enforcing agencies and five civilians were killed recently. The latest infiltration is all the more tragic and provoking as it comes following visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Pakistan where he had held out an assurance to take action to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future. It is quite obvious that these attacks have full backing and support of the NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan and these are part of the pressure tactics to force Pakistan to do more. While game plan of the US and NATO is quite clear, the response and reaction of our agencies and relevant organization is also worrisome for people of Pakistan. Now that such incursions are becoming a routine, it is duty of our armed forces and other agencies to exercise greater vigilance and retaliate with full forces to protect life of our citizens but so far their response is totally lacking. What over one hundred thousand troops are doing on the Western border if they are unable to detect such incursions and act to thwart attempt s by the enemy to terrorize our people? It seems their mandate is to stop infiltration from this side of the border and act as a silent spectator to attacks from the other side! It is also mysterious that our authorities are also not raising this issue in right earnest with Afghan Government or the US and NATO forces. Such provocative acts and lack of response from our leadership conveys an impression of Pakistan being an orphan state, which is really shameful.
VIDEOS SHOW RAPE OF LIBYAN WOMEN
AS the United States, France and Britain have miserably failed to impose their will on Libyan people despite brutal bombing of cities in clear violation of the mandate maneuvered from the United Nations, they have now embarked upon a shameful exercise of using sex and rape as weapon of war in the unfortunate country. An American television channel is boasting to be in possession of video captured on a cell phone showing rape of a Libyan woman allegedly by men loyal to Colonel Qaddafi.
It is simply beyond imagination that the Libyan ruler or his supporters would indulge in such an appalling act against their own people and that too at a time when they need support and unity of the nation. Obviously, the Western powers are using such tactics to increase pressure as they did before launching of military operation in Swat where some bearded men were shown lashing out at a woman and it is now known to all that the video was fake and prepared by a pro-Western NGO just to malign Taliban. Humiliating Libyan women is a crime unpardonable but it is the US alone that indulges in such heinous acts and goes scot free, not only scot free but also has the audacity to give lectures on morality to others. Everyone knows what these champions of human and woman rights did at Abu Ghuraib jail in Iraq. Beginning in 2004, human rights violations in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, rape, sodomy, and homicide of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (also known as Baghdad Correctional Facility) came to public attention and these were committed none else than military police personnel of the United States Army together with additional US governmental agencies. Then it were again American troops who indulged in extreme torture and cruelties, inhuman and degrading treatment of inmates of the Guantanamo Bay torture camp maintained by the US Army. Americans have also been shamelessly bombing marriage parties and Jirgas in Afghanistan and they have so far showed no repentance over these crimes against humanity. It is regrettable that we are living in the 21st century but behaving like savages by trampling sanctity and honour of poor Libyan women and that too just for the sake of psychological warfare.
RAMPANT CORRUPTION IN PAKISTAN
NEWS & VIEWS
Like other developing countries, corruption is not new for Pakistan. It started in an organized manner when some 'smart' migrants or refugees from India at the time of partition filed fake claims and got property allotted in their names in collusion with some members of bureaucracy. Having that said, nobody could raise a finger of accusation towards any of the seven Prime ministers – Liaquat Ali Khan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Muhammad Ali Bogra, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Hussain Shahid Suharwardy and Feroz Khan Noon – so far as corruption is concerned. Of course, they were criticized for entering into defence pacts with the US and the West.
Looking in hindsight, one could observe the meaninglessness of those pacts, as the allies did not help during 1965 and 1971 wars. Coming back to the subject, former President Ayub Khan and members of his cabinet were clean. The eighth prime minister of Pakistan Z.A. Bhutto, who was honest, kept an eye on members of his cabinet to control corruption. Incidence of corruption, however, enormously increased during Zia era when American dollars flooded the market in the name of Afghan jihad. It is a matter of grave concern that corruption has deeply permeated in every strata of our society. Anyhow, magnitude of corruption by the PPP and PML-N governments in 1990s had no parallel in the history of Pakistan, and it paled before the corruption by some members of civil and military bureaucracy. No wonder that the period was described as a 'lost decade', and it was in this backdrop that in 1996 Transparency International had declared Pakistan as the second-most corrupt country in the world. There is a perception that politicians invest in the election process to get elected to the assemblies and to enter into corridors of power. The major reason behind this widespread corruption by the politicians and bureaucracy is that it is difficult to control white collar crimes. And therefore, they invariably get away with it and safely come out of the scandals without any punishment. Hardly, there is any political eminence who got punishment for his frauds or scandals during the last 63 years. If there is a will, it is not difficult to unearth the cases of corruption and the assets held by members of the ruling elite. And the easiest way is to compare their income tax returns to see the manifold increase in their assets. But Federal Board of Revenue or Income tax department cannot take any action against these leaders because they are powerful.
After overthrowing Nawaz government on 12th October 1999, the then chief executive Pervez Musharraf had unveiled his seven-point agenda which inter alia included across the board accountability of the corrupt elements. People had expected that ill-gotten wealth would be recovered from all those who had looted and plundered the country and exemplary punishments would be awarded to them so that nobody would dare use his position to rob the wealth of the country in future. But that was not to be. Though National Accountability Bureau did recover a part of the looted money, yet because of its collusion and lackadaisicalness in providing the evidence to the courts or expediency of the government the cases remained pending for over a decade. Pakistan's history is replete with instances of corruption, mismanagement and bad governance of the ruling elite. There is no denying that corruption, lawlessness and other social evils exist all over the world, but in Pakistan this malaise has assumed appalling proportions. Of course, corruption in India is not in any case less than in Pakistan; and therefore one would not buy into the logic or accept cliché that there is less corruption in democracy.
Various governments in the past took some half-hearted measures in a bid to reduce the incidence of corruption. During Ayub era, a number of, what was said, corruption-tainted politicians were barred from participating in the elections under EBDO but they were never tried in the court of law and convicted. During Yahya Khan's martial law, 303 civil servants and government functionaries were summarily dismissed but were not prosecuted. During the Bhutto era, services of around 1100 government employees were terminated without holding any trial, with the result that those involved in serious cases of corruption were let off the hook. There was a package for the corrupt offered by then Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf on 30th April 2000, when Central Board of Revenue had announced Tax Amnesty Scheme to legalize all the hidden assets and black money by charging 10 per cent of the undisclosed income earned on or before 30th June 1999. In other words, no government in the past tried to set an example by punishing the corrupt politicians and members of bureaucracy to deter others from pursuing corrupt practices. It has to be said that bureaucracy had guided and aided and abetted the civil or military governments in this regard.
In this connection, bureaucracy had misguided the Musharraf government not to act tough because otherwise it would result in flight of capital and the economy will collapse. Secondly, he cobbled together a political party namely PML-Q to get legitimacy. The problem is that in sham democracies of developing countries, people can only cast their votes, as even person from upper middle class cannot afford to take part in elections. Mostly those who have amassed wealth through illegal means can afford the luxury of participating in elections. Such elements first invest to reach the corridors of power with a view to increasing their wealth, and then they want to be re-elected to protect that ill-gotten wealth. But there is need to take measures to stop unethical and corrupt practices, and to block the corrupt elements' entry to the corridors of power. But who can bell the cat, when a great majority of the robber barons are sitting in the assemblies? They did not pay taxes due, and opposed every move to impose income tax on income from agriculture. Yet they lead luxurious lives on the indirect taxes paid by the broad section of the people.
The controversial NRO was promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf when late Benazir Bhutto insisted on 'sterling guarantees' to come back to Pakistan to participate in elections, as she did not like to be prosecuted and unseated later. The spirit behind the NRO was indeed national reconciliation and the pretext was that the PPP and the PML-N had instituted cases against each other as a tool of political victimization and vendetta, and the cases were not decided by the courts for more than a decade. After signing the Charter of Democracy with late Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif had said that the cases instituted during their two stints were framed. Corruption has indeed destroyed the moral fabric of the society, and is also responsible for having brought the country to the brink of economic disaster. The tiny elite, comprising jagirdars, industrial robber barons, bureaucracy and rapacious politicians have kept the complete control over the state, its resources and all levers of power. It should be borne in mind that the semi-feudal, semi-colonial system can neither be endured nor can it be salvaged by cosmetic measures, but only through radical reconstruction programme.
—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.
PAK NUKES ARE SECURE AND SAFE
Since the militants' attack on Pakistan Navy's airbase in wake of continued wave of terror-events in the country, US-led some western countries including India and Israel have intensified their campaign against the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In this regard, on June 9, American CIA Chief Leon Panetta expressed fears that there is a danger that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into wrong hands. On May 24, the head of NATO in Afghanistan, Anders Fogh Rasmussen also stated, "He was confident that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe, but admitted that security had become a matter of concern, the day after the worst assault on a Pakistani military base."
On May 25, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said that India is concerned about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal after a group of terrorists laid siege to a heavily guarded naval air base also revealing, "our services are taking all precautions and are ready round-the-clock." Some reliable sources suggest that there is solid evidence that Indian intelligence agency, RAW conducted terror-attack at Karachi naval base with the tactical support of American CIA and Israeli spy agency, Mossad. For that purpose, these agencies got the services of a group of Al Qaeda which is also collectively being used by the anti-Pakistan lobbies of the US, India and Israel which are determined to 'denuclearise' Pakistan as the latter is the only Islamic country, possessing atomic weapons.In fact, CIA-led RAW and Mossad which are already behind suicide attacks, bomb blasts and targeted killings in Pakistan have continuously been manipulating the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a US military raid in Pakistan on May 2. These elements are distorting the image of Islamabad in the comity of nations by indicating that other leaders of Al Qaeda have also taken shelter in Pakistan. Meanwhile, America has also increased drone attacks on Pakistan, which could also include Balochistan and other major cities of the country. At the same time, by setting aside the joint session of Pakistan's Parliament, protesting the violation of the country's sovereignty in relation to Abbottabad raid, US Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, during his trip to Afghanistan, had clearly stated on May 15 that the US will consider "all options" including high-value targets in Pakistan, if it has intelligence that the elusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar is hiding in Pakistan." On May 22, the US President Obama also expressed similar thoughts in a BBC interview.
It is mentionable that while in the last few years, US-led NATO countries have continuously been insisting upon Pakistan to 'do more' against the militancy in the tribal regions in order to stop cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan, on June 1, more than 500 heavily armed and well-trained militants who entered Pakistan's Upper Dir area from Afghanistan, killed more than 30 police and paramilitary soldiers, targetted a chekpost and also destroyed two schools.
In this connection, on June 7, Ambassador of Pakistan to Belgium, European Union and Luxembourg, Jalil Abbas Jilani met Assistant Secretary General (Operations) of the NATO Headquarters in Brussels to convey the country's concern over the recent cross-border incursion from Afghanistan—emphasised timely NATO/ISAF action to prevent such incursions as well as sharing of information about hideouts of such elements in Afghanistan and their support mechanism. However, this was a diplomatic protest, In fact, neither the US-led NATO forces stopped the Taliban-related insurgents when they entered Pakistani territory nor they attacked them, while fighting with Pak security forces continued for three days. As a matter of fact, especially America had itself encouraged and supported this cross-border terrorism in Pakistan. In this respect, CIA, RAW and Mossad have well-established their network in Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan. It is notable that without bothering for any internal backlash inside our country through drone attacks and threats of high-value targets, Washington can further accelerate its pressure on Islamabad by insisting upon its old maximum to 'do more' against the Al Qaeda-related militants. While by creating unrest in Pakistan through various subversive acts, Washington wants to show to western countries that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are insecure and the same can fall into the hands of Al Qaeda-related miscreants who can use these fatal arms inside Europe and American homeland.
The US has already got the sympathies of its western allies against Pakistan, so after creating coming drastic scenario, it will ask Islamabad to rollback its nuclear programe and to hand over its all nuclear assets to Washington. In case of refusal, US can conduct full-fledged aerial strikes on Pakistan—its nuclear and military installations and religious institutes (Madrassas) so as to further weaken the country. But there is another option for the United States. With the help of western powers, the US can impose economic sanctions on Pakistan or can declare the latter as defaulter in connection with the payments of debts. It is of particular attention that in 2009 when the heavily-armed Taliban entered Swat, Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas, US high officials and their media had exaggerated the Talibinisation of whole Pakistan, while showing concerns about Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In that context, on April 22, 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said that Taliban "advances pose "an existential threat" to Pakistan, while on April 23, she had warned that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. When Pakistan's armed forces ejected the Taliban insurgents out of Swat, Dir and Buner by breaking their backbone—capturing many militants, then American high officials had admired the capabilities of Pak Army. Nevertheless, at present strained relations exists between Islamabad and Washington, so they have again revived their old blame game against Islamabad regarding the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
It is noteworthy that while taking cognisance of the ongoing anti-Pakistan developments, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad disclosed on June 7 that there was "accurate information…Americans are to sabotage Pakistan's nuclear facilities to find dominance over the country." While also indicating Zionist regime behind the conspiracy, he elaborated that for this purpose, the US can also use "the United Nations Security Council and some other international organisations as tools to exercise pressure on Pakistan and weaken its national integrity." It is worth-mentioning that before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a deliberate disinformation campaign was launched by the CIA all over the world that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destructions (WMDs). For that sinister aim, CIA also funded and used some American and western media. In that context, a self-fabricated report was prepared by CIA about Iraq. Afterwards, Iraq was attacked and occupied by the Anglo-American forces, but no WMDs were found. As a matter of fact, under the cover, main aim of the United States was to occupy the oil resouces of that country. Similarly at present, under the pretext of Talibanisation of Pakistan and lawlessness in the country, which has been planted by CIA, RAW and Mossad, US is preparing ground to 'denculearise' Pakistan by propagating in the world that Pakistan's atomic assets are not safe. We should remember that a well-coordinated campaign was also launched by the US-led western countries regarding the atomic arsenal of the former Soviet Union when violent protests had taken place in various states and republics of that country. But nuclear weapons of the former Russia remained in safe custody.
Most alarming point in this context is that very soon, US is likely to release those videos and cassettes which its forces got from Osama's compound of Abbottabad. With the help of CIA and technical experts, America can change this material so as to involve Pakistan, its army and intelligence agency, ISI or can prepare any self-concocted story to malign Islamabad. Nonetheless, Pakistan Army and ISI must be well-aware of the real intentions of the US-led foreign enemies.
—The writer is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.
ISLAMIC WELFARE STATE IS PEOPLE'S DREAM
ASIF HAROON RAJA
Till 9/11, Pakistan was a fairly stable and prosperous country but its complexion changed once Gen Musharraf opted to align Pakistan with USA and become its coalition partner. War on terror initiated by USA was designed to destabilize Pakistan and not to root out terrorism. The war forced upon Pakistan led to creation of Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan who later formed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They made their mark by promoting virtue and fighting vices and dispensing speedy justice to the aggrieved. They espoused Shariah saying that Islamic system was the sole remedy to the malaise afflicting Pakistan 's society. Their demand for Shariah was neither irrational nor unreasonable since well over 90% people in Pakistan wish that they should follow their lives in accordance with precincts of Islam. They seek Islamic system since the British imposed legal system and Westminster parliamentary form of governance have kept the people deprived of justice and equitable means of social upward progression.
The legal system is complicated; time consuming, expensive and pro-rich. Voice of the poor is never heard and it is always the privileged who wins court battles. The unprivileged lacking the means to contest legal battles get punished. The law courts take 15-20 years to decide land and property disputes mainly because of tedious legal lacunas. Ordinary people are in the stranglehold of perverse Thana culture and Patwari system as well as under the sway of Maliks, Sardars, Waderas, Chaudhris, fake Saints and Pirs. 70% people in Pakistan can barely make two ends meet and 35% out of them live below poverty line. They are desperate for a healthy change and would heed towards any one promising a change.
As far as elections are concerned which are the cornerstone of democracy, Pakistan has never had fair and free polls. The system is so faulty that only the dirty rich can participate. Elections have always been rigged in way or the other. In 2008 elections, out of 84400000 voters list, 37200000 (44%) were found bogus. Those getting elected sell their souls to enter the hallowed corridors of power and once in power it gives them a certificate to indulge in loot and plunder. It was under such pathetic conditions that the tribesmen of FATA suffering from acute poverty and backwardness looked towards the TTP with high hopes. TTP's manifesto appealed to their senses since the leaders of this outfit led a Spartan life and their demands were for Islamic laws and not for material gains. They pleaded the cause of the poor and denounced anti-Islamic practices adopted by the wealthy class. Their preaching resembled that of Afghan Taliban, who during their rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 had to a large extent eliminated vices like feudal lordism, drug business, obscenity and vulgarity, lawlessness, injustice, ethnic and sectarian conflicts and ostentation.
The people got carried away that Pakistani Taliban promoting virtue and combating vices would also bring a similar change in Pakistan and their sympathies started veering towards them. Deprived classes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other parts of Pakistan also got afflicted with this sympathy and as a consequence the TTP recruited sizeable number of youth from settled parts of KP, Southern Punjab and other parts of Pakistan . TTP also got aligned with Maulana Fazlullah led TNSM in Swat.
Seeing the rising power of this outfit which was banned by the government, several other militant outfits geared towards Kashmir Jihad and banned by Gen Musharraf in 2001/02 joined hands with TTP. The latter provided safe havens and training facilities to urban based militant groups who in return agreed to facilitate terrorist acts within cities. Jihadi outfits agreed to confront security forces since all considered that Gen Musharraf led Pak Army was fighting American war for dollars and hence was as bad as US-NATO occupation Army. This perception persisted even when democratic government took over, and particularly when military operations against the militants were intensified from June 2008 onwards.
Perception of the people got muddled up when the militants led by Maulana Fazlullah in Swat region began a reign of terror under the name of Islam. Kidnapping for ransom, slaughter of kidnapped persons, targeting of mosques, shrines and funerals, display of beheaded bodies at Khooni Chowk in Mangora, mass destruction of schools, bank robberies, extortion of money, forceful recruitment of youth and turning them into suicide bombers, forcefully marrying young girls to the Taliban fighters, flogging of women and forcing the women to stay indoors were actions which ran contrary to Islamic principles. The people also saw the Taliban becoming affluent in short time and the prosperous paradise of earth Swat turning into a prison house. It made the people think as to which brand of Islam the Taliban wanted to impose in Pakistan which had no scope for education of their children and kept 52% women home based.
The people of Swat in particular and public in general who were in two minds turned against the Taliban when Maulana Sufi intoxicated with power dishonored peace treaty inked in February 2009 in which it was agreed that militants would surrender their arms in return for application of Nizam-e-Adal, and recommenced militancy in Swat, Lower Dir and Buner. When a joint resolution was passed by the parliament and the Army was directed to cleanse the restive area of the scourge of terrorism with full force, the people stood behind the Army.
When the Army achieved impressive successes at a heavy price, it was profusely eulogized by the Swatis. They saw the Army as their savior, not only freeing them from the cruel clutches of militants but also helping them in their resettling phase and keeping the militants at bay. Mutual trust and respect between the people of Swat and Army has developed to an unprecedented level. However, the people of that area who had seen good days under Wali of Swat when justice was speedy and cheap have still not been given Nizam-e-Adal. Existing judicial system has failed in convicting even a single terrorist out over 1000 arrested by security forces during Operation Rah-e-Rast.
People got wary of Taliban when suicide attacks against soft targets and group attacks against hardened targets in urban centers intensified from 2009 onwards. Their aversion for the militants grew when they learnt that the preachers of virtue and Islamic system were secretly aligned with foreign agencies and working on their agenda. Their worries multiplied when they heard of the presence of notorious Blackwater and later of under cover CIA operatives. They have thus got sandwiched between militants of various hues, Blackwater and foreign spies including US Special Forces, all spilling their blood. On top of it are the leechlike rulers who least care for them and are so engrossed in increasing their bank balances abroad that they accept each and every wish of USA. Joint resolutions are unanimously passed but never implemented to reduce perverse influence of USA . Instead of giving hope, rulers are spreading hopelessness by sticking to their corrupt and anti-people practices. It is only Army and ISI which is standing up to US pressures. The people are caught in a nutcracker situation. On one side are the parasitical rulers refusing to give them any relief from unbearable economic hardships and forcing them to commit suicide, or join the ranks of militants to become suicide bombers. On the other are ruthless militants killing them? The media instead of galvanizing their spirits is further spreading despondency by creating an impression that armed forces and ISI are incapable of defending security interests of Pakistan . Sooner than later a big change will come when a leader like Quaid-e-Azam will emerge who will remove the blanket of despair and usher in true democracy to make Pakistan a truly Islamic welfare State.
—The writer is a defence analyst and author of several books.
KASHMIR IS KEY TO PEACE IN SA
COL M HANIF (RETD)
Kashmir dispute is recognized by the United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 91 of 21 April 1948 which gave the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir to decide whether Kashmir should become part of India or Pakistan. Subsequently India failed all efforts of the UN and Pakistan for holding the plebiscite. As a consequence three wars have also been fought between India and Pakistan. Then, in the aftermath of those wars many rounds of bilateral parleys to resolve Kashmir and other issues also failed as India never allowed Kashmir dispute to be discussed on the table. After waiting for a long time for the plebiscite, because of India's intransigence on the issue, the people of Kashmir started their freedom struggle in 1987 which is still continuing. And in the process they have suffered large scale atrocities at the hands of India's security forces for the last 23 years.
Now, under the changing world and regional scenarios and evolving future politico-strategic and economic dynamics in this part of the world, it is perceived that it will not be politically and economically feasible for India to maintain status quo in Kashmir. Gradually, within next about four to five years the situation in Afghanistan is likely to stabilize which will ultimately pave the way for Afghanistan and Pakistan acting as transit route for trade from Russia, China and Central Asian States (CARS) to South Asia and other parts of the world. This is very important as the CARs would also like to reconnect that landlocked region to the global economy to attain sustainable economic progress. Their opening towards South Asia is also necessary to ensure diversification of trade links to avoid political and economic pressures from a single source. The need for CARS to open their trade routes to other regions requires construction of infrastructure which will create investment opportunities for the regional countries like India and Pakistan. In this context to meet their energy shortages and growing needs Pakistan and India will like to get much cheaper gas and electricity from CARs. Both countries can also draw large benefits out of trade with those states.
But India cannot draw optimum benefit out of trade with CARs without sustained India- Pakistan trade relations and transit regime. And it is politically not possible for Pakistan to develop this relationship without satisfactory resolution of Kashmir dispute. Hence it is logical to conclude that to realize huge trade benefits with Pakistan and CARs it is necessary that India resolves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of Kashmiri people. On the other hand it can be said that maintenance of status quo in Kashmir will cause huge losses to India as because of lack of trade with Central Asia and without an access to their much cheaper energy resources India will be hit by slowing down of its economic growth and prosperity, delaying of the process of becoming a major world power and attainment of a permanent seat in the UNSC as it will not be possible till India changes world perception that by not resolving Kashmir dispute as per wishes of people of Kashmir it remains a major violator of UNSC resolutions.
Therefore it is strategically important for India to make use of recently resumed bilateral dialogue with Pakistan to resolve Kashmir dispute in accordance with the will of people of Kashmir and other disputes with Pakistan with pragmatism to attain permanent peace with Pakistan and draw huge benefits connected with the transit trade with Russia, China, CARs and Pakistan and importing energy resources of CARs using land route through Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is more important for India because due to its good relations with the US and because of long drawn tensions between the US/Western countries and Iran over the nuclear issue and related sanctions on Iran, India may not be able to use the transit trade route through Iran for its trade with Central Asia for a long time.
On the contrary if India does not get serious on resolving disputes with Pakistan it not only risks colossal economic losses in terms of losing trade and energy resources of CARs it will also continue to expose itself to the threats of freedom struggle of Kashmiri people and war with Pakistan thus retarding its current attractive growth rate of 9% and its dreams of becoming a major world power.
After resolution of disputes, India and Pakistan will also be able to cooperate in addressing terrorism and their other internal security issues rather than using their precious resources against each other. Also, where as peaceful scenario and friendship between India and Pakistan will encourage foreign investment in both these countries and Kashmir, other South Asian counties will also benefit economically as SAARC will become an economic promotion forum and foreign investment will also be attracted in these countries. Also Kashmiri people will be able to exploit trade and investment benefits connected with both India and Pakistan, other South Asian countries and world at large. Thus, it can be concluded that in today's world where means of communication and transportation have contracted distances between various countries and continents, end of India-Pakistan hostile relationship by resolving Kashmir and other disputes will bring permanent peace and numerous economic benefits to the people of India, Pakistan, Kashmir and other South Asian countries enhancing their prosperity and wellbeing.
—The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).
INTELLIGENCE TEST FOR THE US
Among American spies there's more than a little nostalgia for the bad old days. You know, back before dictators started toppling in the Middle East; back when suspected bad guys could be snatched off a street somewhere and delivered to the not-so-tender mercies of interrogators in their home countries; back when thuggish tyrants, however ugly, were at least predictable. It's not a philosophical thing, just a practical one. Confronted by the cold realities of this year's Arab Spring, many intelligence and counterterrorism professionals now see major dangers looming near at hand, while the good news — a freer, fairer, more equitable and stable Arab world — remains somewhere over the horizon.
Members of the Obama administration leaked a story to The New York Times last week saying the US actually has stepped up operations against Al Qaeda-related groups in the midst of Yemen's chaos, "exploiting a growing power vacuum in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets." But some think the claim sounds suspiciously like an administration that's in the dark, whistling. "I think it's more signaling than fact," says Princeton University's Barbara Bodine, a former US ambassador to Yemen. And in the meantime the chances of killing the wrong targets in such raids go up astronomically. "With the loss of intelligence cooperation with Yemen, we are trying to cut back the jihadis as much as possible," says terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University. "But where it used to be surgical, it's now much blunter."
Over the long term, in fact, the key to defending Americans and US interests from attacks by jihadists is either to insert spies into their organisations or to persuade people who are already inside to talk. Aerial surveillance and communications intercepts are useful, but solid information from human sources is vital, whether you're targeting specific terrorist leaders or trying to disrupt operations in other ways. The Americans have spent long years building liaison relationships with key figures in the military and intelligence apparatuses of countries across the Middle East who might deliver that kind of detailed information. But now, says Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "the Libyans, the Tunisians, the Egyptians, the Yemenis — they are either gone or going." And a particularly cruel irony, as a former CIA station chief in the Middle East points out, is that these relationships were so focused on catching a handful of terrorists that they missed the oncoming tidal wave of popular revolt.
The thought is underscored by Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs who now teaches at Hamilton College in New York state. "We became far too over-reliant on those networks," he says. In the process America becomes blind to what the regime will not see. A quick tour of the counterterrorism horizon suggests just how unprepared the CIA, the Defence Department, and other US government entities are for the post–Arab Spring world, and how hard it will be for them to rehabilitate their old techniques for fighting terrorism. For almost 30 years, US intelligence relied on Hosni Mubarak's Egypt as a key ally, and the pivotal figure in that relationship was Gen. Omar Suleiman, director of the country's General Intelligence Services, commonly called the Mukhabarat.
In the Clinton years the CIA used its global reach to track down members of the organisation, then sent them to Egypt for interrogation that often extended to torture and in some cases execution. From Egyptian jihadists picked up in Albania and elsewhere, the Mukhabarat and the CIA gleaned important information about the inner workings of Al Qaeda. But the United States compromised its moral standing by accepting "with a blink and a nod" Egyptian assurances that no torture would be employed, says Walker, who was the US ambassador to Cairo at the time. In any event, the intelligence gathered wasn't enough to stop Al Qaeda's 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. The "rendition" programme continued in close cooperation with Suleiman after 9/11, but the Bush administration evidently pushed hard for the kind of intelligence it wanted rather than the kind it needed. One captured Qaeda operative, Ibn Al-Shaykh Al-Libi, was tortured by the Egyptians until he confessed there were operational links between his organisation and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, although in fact there were no such links. "They were killing me," Al-Libi was quoted as telling the FBI later. "I had to tell them something."
When the popular revolt against Mubarak hit Egypt this January, it caught everyone off guard, not only the octogenarian dictator himself but the CIA and even the Mukhabarat. It's not entirely the CIA's fault that it failed to see the approaching storm: for all the supposed cooperation, the Egyptians had always tried to prevent the Americans from investigating popular dissent inside Egypt.
The disruption is even greater in Libya. British and American intelligence forged close ties in the 1990s with Tripoli's veteran spymaster, Moussa Koussa. The relationship became tighter still after 9/11 and played a vital part in Muammar Gaddafi's "rehabilitation" in Western eyes. Counterterrorism made strange bedfellows: Gaddafi was obsessed with stopping Libyan jihadists who had tried for decades to murder him and overthrow his regime. The US was focused on the same group because Libya was the home country of many recruits to Al Qaeda's ranks in Afghanistan and Iraq. The situation is no less precarious in Yemen. In recent years America has deployed advisers there, working to build up the elite counter-terrorism unit of the country's Central Security Organisation, commanded by a nephew of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Americans have once again turned to Riyadh as their discreet and indispensable ally. In Yemen particularly, the Saudis have their own operatives on the ground and many tribal leaders on their payroll. The kingdom's main objective — to stabilise Yemen while eliminating Al Qaeda — is much the same as Washington's. But can Saudi Arabia really resist the region's seismic change? —The Newsweek
PARABLE FOR MODERN AUSTRALIA
FOR better or worse, Darling Downs stalwart Glen Beutel's battle against the New Hope Mine, which has bought out almost the entire town of Acland where his family has lived for decades, is a parable of our two-speed economy.
Mining is Australia's economic lifeblood, and the development of our coal, iron ore, natural gas and uranium resources will secure our national prosperity. Yet the conflict in Acland, where Mr Beutel has become a hero across the farmlands and towns of the Darling Downs, illustrates the tensions that arise when the demands of the resource industry clash with people who are inconvenienced by the boom and reap few, if any, of its benefits.
Paying attention to the needs of these Australians is an important challenge in the once-in-a-century mining boom, and one that too often is not addressed. State and federal governments, corporations and our wider society will ignore it at our cost. The fact that Mr Beutel, popularly known as the Last Man Standing, has picked up such widespread support so rapidly is a warning sign that Australia could easily experience a repeat of the damaging upheavals that occurred last time large numbers of working people and farmers in rural, regional and outer suburban Australia felt marginalised in the wake of economic reforms.
The free trade drive and competition policy of the 1980s and early 90s positioned Australia well for decades of prosperity and full employment. But they also added to the disaffection of many voters, helping precipitate the rise of One Nation, which won 11 seats from the Nationals and Labor and more than 20 per cent of the vote at the 1998 Queensland election. One Nation was devoid of policy solutions and damaged Australia's standing in the world.
But its rhetoric reflected the disaffection of many with changes that had disrupted their lives, forced local services to close and cost some livelihoods. Tony Abbott's populist instincts have allowed him to retain the support of disaffected conservative and former Labor voters, although Bob Katter is trying to tap into a deep vein of community dissatisfaction with his economically irrational Australian Party. His protectionist policies, like those of One Nation, would harm those he claims to represent.
Mr Beutel's refusal to sell out to a mining company has touched a real nerve because it is about much more than profit or compensation. It is about belonging, about the demise of a close-knit community. It is about a place where koalas feed in eucalypt trees planted by Mr Beutel's parents, where he still mows the gardens that helped Acland win tidy town prizes and where a cherished war memorial honouring local diggers who served their country will be removed. Nor is it surprising that Mr Beutel and many Darling Downs residents lament the potential destruction of prime farmland that has been one of the nation's most important food bowls for generations.
Mr Beutel is unlikely to save his beloved Acland, and the mining company has offered to relocate him. But, in making a stand, with the help of broadcaster Alan Jones, who grew up on a farm outside the town, Mr Beutel has drawn attention to a downside of the mining boom that has to be addressed. Individuals and communities matter. In these situations, compromises are not always possible any more than when local protesters want major dams or freeways stopped. Disenfranchised citizens, however, deserve to be heard.
POLITICAL TRUST IS EARNED SLOWLY AND SPENT QUICKLY
VOTERS TEND TO RESPECT POLITICAL LEADERS WHO ARE TRUSTWORTHY, AUTHENTIC AND COMMITTED.
Just as they do in their daily lives, voters prefer people who are reliable. They expect politicians to stand for something, otherwise they can be there only to indulge their personal ambitions. Even when they don't agree with them, voters can have a grudging admiration for people as diverse as Paul Keating, John Howard and Bob Brown, because they have consistently stood up for certain values. If Keating became a monarchist, Howard joined a trade union and Brown bought a coalmine, their reputations would be ruined -- not for what these decisions would say about the issues, but for what they would say about the men making them.
It comes down to a matter of trust. The public knows that politics is full of the sort of negotiation and compromise that will sometimes see policies change and undertakings abandoned. So voters joke about politicians bending the truth. But they do expect their representatives to be true to their basic values, to stand up for what they believe in, and to show durable commitment to their cause.
In the coming week there will be much examination of what has gone wrong for Labor federally. There will be extensive debate about personalities and policies, about vendettas and recriminations, and about polling and leadership options. The Weekend Australian will conscientiously contribute to this detailed discussion. However, we should also consider what is at the core of this debate; just why a popular government lost its way so hopelessly, not just once, but under two prime ministers.
Fundamentally, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and their advisers have fatally under-estimated their compact of trust with the electorate. Mr Rudd should have known that by abandoning his CPRS he was telling the public he was no longer facing up to the "greatest moral challenge of our time". But he was given no opportunity to recognise his error, learn from his mistake and rebuild that trust. When Labor acted expeditiously to replace him, it further weakened its trust with the electorate because it removed the prime minister elected by the voters, who seemed to have more respect for the office than did the MPs themselves.
Ms Gillard has followed a similar path in reverse, first ruling out a carbon tax and then proceeding with the opposite approach. All of this has told the electorate very little about the future of the planet, but a great deal about the lack of core beliefs at the highest levels of the government.
One of the underlying problems is the way the ALP has outsourced itself to a class of young and inexperienced political practitioners, who approach politics as a complex marketing exercise rather than a manifestation of human relationships and an exchange of trust. When spin doctors think they can fudge the truth or pollsters recommend giving the people what they really want, or parties switch to a more popular leader, they tend to be either forgetting the voters or underestimating their intelligence. Either way, the result is politically disastrous.
Politicians such as Lindsay Tanner, Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard have driven themselves into the ground seeking to fill the demands of what they like to call the 24-hour news cycle. But the voters don't demand this, and nor does the media. The MPs themselves must make the decision to focus on substantial policy and enact it with conviction, instead of chasing headlines.
Most voters don't follow the day-to-day minutia of national political debate. Rather, they form their views based on a broad sweep of impressions. Governments that constantly change position on an issue like climate change -- from emissions trading scheme to people's forum, from ruling out a tax to imposing one -- will only succeed in demonstrating that they don't know what they stand for. But, worse, they insult the voters. If one argument is right, the other must be wrong. And, if Labor has sought to convince people of the merits of both, it must think the people are gullible.
The Weekend Australian believes Australians, on the whole, are not so easily manipulated. They know governments will come across some tough dilemmas and difficult times, but they expect their leaders to forge a way through. Keating and Howard are the prime recent examples of leaders who endured serious difficulties and emerged with reputations enhanced.
By ditching its CPRS, then its leader, Labor and its young activist apparatchiks suggested they had the wherewithal to muster the public like so many sheep. The public's current, palpable dissatisfaction with the political process reflects a dearth of grown-up political leadership among a sea of pollsters, spin merchants and schemers. It is reasonable to expect some plain-talking leadership that can hold a policy position from one week to the next might be well received. As Labor endures another week of soul-searching, it needs to understand that no advertising campaign, social media gimmick or clever line will fix its malaise. And it need look no further than NSW to see that rotating the leadership is also pointless.
If Labor is to have any hope, its leaders need to switch off their televisions and iPhones, send the pollsters and twentysomething spin doctors out of the room, and decide exactly what it is the party stands for. Oh, and then stick with it for a while. It is called leadership.
PURITY OR POLITICAL CLOUT?
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 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
PM HEADING FOR AN UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY
A YEAR ago next Friday, Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister, declaring that the federal Labor government elected in 2007 had lost its way and she would lead it back again. The Age/Nielsen poll we report today indicates that Australians do not believe she has done so. The ALP's primary vote has shrunk to 27 per cent, the lowest recorded by a major party in the 39-year history of the Nielsen poll. The Coalition's share of the two-party-preferred vote, 59 per cent compared with 41 per cent for Labor, would deliver it a landslide victory if an election were held today. The next federal election is not due until 2013, of course, and political fortunes can change rapidly in the span of two years. In April 2001, then prime minister John Howard had an approval rating of only 35 per cent, lower than the unencouraging 37 per cent for Ms Gillard now, yet later that year he led the Coalition to an emphatic victory. So the poll, even with its historic low, does not necessarily herald the doom of Labor or Ms Gillard. It does, however, confirm that the ALP is in deep trouble, and that in the eyes of voters much of it is due to her.
Those who like facile slogans may seek to explain the slide by invoking the ''Ju-liar'' tag: Ms Gillard promised during the election campaign that there would be no carbon tax, but now her government is intent on introducing one. Apart from evading the fact that as Prime Minister she cannot turn away from what her predecessor rightly described as the greatest moral challenge of our time, this also ignores one of the few rays of hope for the government in today's poll, though it is a faint one: the respondents who support a carbon price are still a minority, 38 per cent, but their numbers have risen by 4 per cent since April. Although 56 per cent of respondents remain opposed, the shift gives some weight to Ms Gillard's contention that simplistic fear campaigns can be opposed, and that when a carbon price with compensation is in place Australians will cease to see it as a bogy and wonder what all the fuss was about. But the carbon tax is not the sole, or even the chief, source of disaffection with the Prime Minister.
The problem lies deeper, in the origins of her prime ministership. It is not only that many people have never forgiven the ousting of a man who was still in his first term as prime minister, and whose poll results, alleged to be dire at the time, compare favourably with Ms Gillard's dismal showing today. Nor is it that Mr Rudd's barely concealed rancour at his treatment does nothing to help heal Labor's self-inflicted wound - 60 per cent of the poll respondents would prefer him as Labor's leader. Ultimately, Ms Gillard's difficulties are of her own making. She attained office vowing to fix the problems perceived to be draining support from Labor - boat arrivals, the mining tax, the shelving of the emissions-trading scheme - yet the ''fixes'' for the first two have failed to satisfy the contending interest groups, and tackling the third has been made harder than it needs to be by a promise rashly made in the heat of an election campaign. If Labor had indeed lost its way in June 2010 - and not all within its ranks agree that it had - it did not need a fixer touting negotiated deals. It needed a leader who could revive the idealism of November 2007. Thus far, Ms Gillard has not been able to demonstrate that she is such a leader. She must hope that she is not running out of time in which to do so.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
A BUMPY FLIGHT WITH AIR GILLARD
THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is in the position of a pilot whose plane is in a steep descent. With the altimeter winding back towards zero, warning lights flashing in the cockpit and sirens sounding, she must pull out of the dive. As well, she must speak reassuringly to those in the cabin behind her - jittery Labor MPs who are looking out the windows at the skewed horizon and listening to the howl of the engines powering their machine towards the earth.
Almost a year after her rise to power, her government is struggling. The poll we publish today is abysmal for her party. Federal Labor is plumbing the same murky depths that NSW Labor reached before the state election in March. And it is easy to see why. On issue after issue, the Gillard government gives the impression of fumbling - promising the world but delivering chaos. On asylum seekers, the mining tax and the carbon tax Gillard's government has tried and failed to reach finality. All were active controversies when Gillard came to power. She announced various fixes for each one in time for the election: a deal with East Timor on asylum seekers, a deal with the mining industry (or rather, big mining companies) over the resources rent tax, and a promise not to institute a carbon tax. All have come unstuck - some several times - and weigh the government down as it struggles to regain control of the political agenda.
The government struggles continually because it lacks a majority in Parliament. That has produced a frenzy of overt deal-making. Australians are not particularly interested in politics: they expect their leaders, once elected, to go away and get on with the job quietly, not to bother them with a lot of noisy distractions. Instead, the politicking ever since the election has been incessant. Tony Abbott, as accomplished at manipulating public opinion as the government is inept, has ensured a continual din of criticism is directed the government's way. Lobby groups, industry players and media organisations hoping to be in at the kill, as well as the government's own allies, have kept the political noise level deafening.
The government has not helped its cause. In its haste to publish good news it tends to bungle important issues. The ban on cattle exports was rushed out in response to public outrage, and was badly managed as a result. The government announced an agreement with Malaysia on asylum seekers before the agreement was sealed - giving Kuala Lumpur the whip hand as the deal was finalised. Now it has outraged the Greens and independents by announcing a publicity campaign on the carbon tax before the tax has been agreed on. One such slip might be unfortunate; a string of them looks like downright stupidity.
Yet beneath the surface chaos, the reality is somewhat different. MPs may be nervous, but the government has not fallen apart, or shown itself incompetent in much except presentation. Gillard has not shown any sign of alarm or doubt. Her government has managed to get almost all its legislation through unamended. The opposition, despite its bluster, has not frustrated the government's program. In two weeks the new Senate will be sworn in, giving the Greens the balance of power, and the government the chance to get its carbon and mining taxes through. If Gillard is to pull Labor out of its death dive, it must implement that legislation and show the electorate there is nothing to fear from it and much to be gained.
Back on board the Gillard flight, unlike a real pilot, the Prime Minister must also handle those in her cockpit who might try to take over the controls mid-crisis. Chief among them is Kevin Rudd, ousted a year ago and now hoping to return. Rudd, though, is in a poor position to mount a challenge, having lost the prime ministership after sending Labor into a dive as steep as Gillard's.
Rudd professes his loyalty and says all he wants to be is one of Australia's better foreign ministers. He enjoys the job. No doubt he does. He also confesses to three failings as prime minister, implicitly suggesting to colleagues that he has learnt his lesson and would do better next time. He has used this strategy before: supporting the leader while maintaining as high a profile as he can to win over the public to his cause, in order to convince sceptical colleagues whose factional support he lacks. Who could criticise him?
He is, after all, a politician. That is what good politicians do.
Nonetheless, Labor would be more than unwise to think of changing leaders. Its position is now very dangerous, and it may well lose the next election. A change of leader, though, would seal its fate.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
ARE YOU DEAF? I SAID F.A.B.
TO GET readers in the mood, we should cue some sound effects from the 1960s Thunderbirds television series. Two minutes of a shed door opening would do nicely. Let us begin.
The news that Lady Penelope is for sale is a shocking indictment of today's materialist values. (Sound effects: gigantic hydraulic lift noises for three whole minutes followed by a rubbery clump as something locks into place.) Lady Penelope, readers will recall, is a puppet from the Gerry Anderson television series Thunderbirds, who was driven around the place in a pink six-wheeled Rolls-Royce and helped other cast members solve mysteries, thwart criminals and rescue innocent victims from disasters. She, or perhaps it, is to be auctioned off. (Sound effects: Door closes, well-tuned motor starts, and accelerates to a high-speed hum.)
In the series, it never mattered that the puppets' characters were - like their movements - entirely wooden, because plot and character ranked second to long displays of fanciful and noisy technology. (Sound effects: a few jet engines start up nearby, turbine blades singing a deafening, rising note. Perhaps a siren in here, too. Readers should imagine the next bit is shouted.) Nevertheless, that this cultural icon could be put on the market and sold for mere money is profoundly … (but the rest is inaudible.)
PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS: TALKING NOT SHOUTING
There are two obvious reasons why public sector pensions have suddenly erupted to the top of the government agenda
There are two obvious overarching reasons why public sector pensions have suddenly erupted to the top of the government agenda, culminating in yesterday's speech by the Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander. The first is that this is such an inherently major social policy issue, an epochal challenge not just for the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, but also for the last Labour government, which agonised long and often about pensions, and moreover for any future government too. Nor are pensions purely an issue for this country or for the public sector alone; all advanced societies have to work out how to provide decent affordable pensions for people who are living longer in greater numbers than ever before, whether they are employed in the public or the private sectors. The issue is live, resonant and divisive across the whole of Europe. These would be – and already were – large and difficult issues irrespective of the financial crisis or the recession, though these hard times have obviously dramatised the current context.
The second reason is that the politics of British public sector pension reform are beginning to get more difficult to manage, with government and unions each beginning to accuse one another of bad faith as a series of public sector strikes loom at the end of the month. Both sides must bear some of the blame for this. It is true that some unions are trying to jump the gun and increase the pressure by striking against the government while talks are still continuing and the final package of changes remains under discussion. Yet it is also true that the coalition has taken its eye off the ball since the former Labour cabinet minister Lord Hutton published the generally sensible report in March on which much of the government's approach is based. Given the importance of the pensions question, David Cameron and George Osborne should have taken more public responsibility for the political handling of what was always bound to be a difficult issue over the spring months. That carelessness has now come back to bite them. That is why Mr Alexander's speech was not so much the declaration of war that some on both the right and the left pretend; it was an attempt to reassert some lost political grip.
It would not be without precedent if some in the coalition, preferring to embarrass Labour than to govern in the national interest, fancied a run-in with the public sector unions, and especially some of their leaders. But it would be quite the wrong course. Mr Alexander's speech was well pitched in this regard. It was rooted in the frank and fair approach of Lord Hutton. It insisted, in defiance of some of the morning reporting, that the government was still in the negotiating business. It was a speech of consensus not confrontation. And, as was evident from Mr Alexander's later comments to Brian Strutton of the GMB – one of the unions which, like the TUC itself, has approached the talks constructively – there is plenty of substance still to discuss, including transitional arrangements and the local government implications.
No one should pretend, though, that these are not difficult issues. But Britain cannot stand aside from the historic need to recast the transition between work and retirement. The holy grail is to avoid, or at least to mitigate as much as possible, the triple whammy of asking workers to pay more, work longer and get less. There is no cost-free answer, but there are better and worse ways of producing a balanced package. In the long term, working a bit longer is crucial, as Lord Hutton and the government both believe. But so is protecting the lowest-paid, as Mr Alexander rightly stressed yesterday. And so is the need to avoid dumping the costs on the next generation. Raging against these conflicting imperatives is understandable but pointless. As so often, this is an argument in which jaw-jaw is better than war-war. Both sides need to remain at the table, avoid a shouting match, and accept their responsibilities.
TRAVEL WRITING: LOST ART IN SEARCH OF A LOST WORLD
Few authors have been able to equal Patrick Leigh Fermor's ability to dissolve into the places described in his books
"I hate the French cookery, and abominate garlick," Tobias Smollett told his readers 245 years ago, with a snooty disregard for foreigners that runs through too much travel writing today. Describing distant places fairly, curiously and entertainingly has never been easy. Few authors, in any century, have been able to equal Patrick Leigh Fermor's liquid ability to dissolve into the places described in his books, so that he seemed to be less reporting on than living in them. His death this month, at 96, with the third of his great trilogy of prewar European exploration still unpublished, is a moment to ask what travel writing can still achieve.
Leigh Fermor was lucky, in that he walked through an archaic and aristocratic eastern Europe soon to be obliterated by the second world war. His two greatest books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, take readers into a time and place that can never exist again, and that, as much as his pitch-perfect writing, is why they are among those few books worth reading many times.
Few of today's writers have this advantage. They must describe a world in which it is easier to communicate, and travel, than ever before. No teenager setting off from Tower Bridge now would find themselves amid ballgowns, hunting parties and lonely mountaintop shepherds. Facebook and text messaging have brought Bucharest and Birmingham closer. Describing difference has been made harder.
Leigh Fermor was one of the last of the great travel writers whose experience spanned the previous century. A varied assortment, mostly men, wrote books that still stand as classics today: among them Eric Newby, Norman Lewis and Wilfred Thesiger. Jan Morris, still writing, deserves to be among them. Two decades ago, a fresh crop of authors revived the art but then fell victim to their own celebrity, Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux included.
Where does travel writing stand now? There are fewer famous authors and fewer sales. Some of the best books involve almost no travel at all: Roger Deakin's account of wild swimming in Britain, Waterlog, or Neil Ansell's lovely Deep Country, about the birds and landscape of mid-Wales. William Dalrymple remains an explorer in the classical sense: in From the Holy Mountain he shows Byzantium is not quite destroyed. William Blacker's Along the Enchanted Way, about eight years living in rural Romania, is the closest modern writing has come to Leigh-Fermor, and not only because the Gypsy and Saxon life he shares is almost gone.
Always, the attraction is the slow pace. There is no need for hurry, no requirement for horror, just immersion in a place and time that is different, even when it is not far from our own.
UNTHINKABLE? NO SECOND SERVE
Imagine if the neophobes at the Lawn Tennis Association were to pioneer a ban on second serves
Wimbledon starts on Monday. For the miserablists who dismiss tennis as a tiresome game for the privileged middle class, it is a fortnight of shrieks and grunts and the uninhibited rearrangement of underwear. But for the rest of us, it is a series of titanic struggles, starring feats of unimaginable athleticism salted with a mix of personal antagonism. Not counting south London's unpredictable weather, there is only one gloomy thought ahead, and that is the relentless procession of high-velocity serves that, if they are in, are effectively unreturnable. They dominate the early rounds and, while big servers can be tiresome on other surfaces, on grass they can hammer the excitement out of the game. And nowadays, 130mph is more or less standard. The record for the fastest serve, 156mph, is held by the Croatian Ivo Karlovic, a 32-year-old currently ranked somewhere outside the top 100. Pitting him against the 20-year-old, up-and-coming Canadian-Montenegrin Milos Raonic – currently top of the ATP's list of ace-hitters and in the top three (like Karlovic) of winners of first serves – would be a recipe for the dullest match in top-class tennis. They would just take it in turns to blast the ball at each other and the winner would be the one who was most accurate. But imagine if the neophobes at the Lawn Tennis Association were to pioneer a ban on second serves. It would transform the first week of the championship. Versatility and strategy would replace brute velocity. We spectators would be the winners.
THE JAPAN TIMES
CO² EMISSIONS ON THE RISE
The International Energy Agency's latest report, released at the end of May, underlines the uphill struggle the international community faces in its efforts to limit global warming. Although carbon-dioxide emissions dipped in 2009 due to the financial crisis, in 2010 they smashed the 29.3 gigaton record set in 2008, reaching 30.6 gt — an increase of 5 percent.
Just last December world leaders agreed to a target limiting global temperature increase to 2 Celsius by 2020 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Key to this goal was limiting global energy-related emissions to 32 gt by 2020. But achieving this target means emissions must rise less in total over the next 10 years than they did between 2009 and 2010. As IEA chief economist Dr. Fatih Birol states, the estimated increase in CO² emissions in 2010 "represents a serious setback."
According to the IEA, in 2010 OECD countries were responsible for 40 percent of global emissions, but these countries accounted for just 25 percent of emission growth compared with 2009. Emissions emitted by non-OECD countries — led by India and China — increased sharply as their economic growth picked up. Forty-four percent of the estimated CO² emissions came from coal, 36 percent from oil and 20 percent from natural gas.
Dr. Birol says that "unless bold and decisive decisions are made soon, it will be extremely challenging" to meet the Cancun target. But just what those decisions should be remains unclear. Countries must strike a balance between limiting CO² emissions while improving economic conditions and living standards — a delicate tightrope act in the best of times, and far more difficult during downturns.
Japan had planned to limit its CO² emissions by using nuclear power to produce 50 percent of its electricity by 2030. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, however, has thrown this plan awry. Renewable energy sources will play a greater role in the future, but it will be years before they make a significant contribution to the nation's power supply. In the short term, it may be best to focus on the development of technologies to curb emissions and on power conservation.
THE JAPAN TIMES
STEPPING UP THE WAR ON AIDS
Thirty years have now passed since HIV/AIDS began making headlines, and the deadly pandemic continues to reap a grim toll. What began as a mysterious illness afflicting the U.S. gay community in the summer of 1981 eventually snowballed into a pandemic that has infected more than 60 million people and killed nearly half that number. Despite years of efforts to combat the disease, even now more than 7,000 people are infected every day, including 1,000 children.
Last week in New York, the United Nations held its high-level meeting on AIDS with leaders, HIV/AIDS organizations and activists from more than 30 countries in attendance. The three-day meeting concluded on June 10 with a declaration that set a number of bold targets to be achieved by 2015, including doubling the number of people on antiretroviral drugs to 15 million; reducing by half the number of new cases involving the transmission of HIV through sexual activity or injection of drugs; ending the transmission of HIV from mother to child; halving tuberculosis deaths among people living with HIV; and increasing preventative measures for the "most vulnerable populations," including gay men, drug users and sex workers.
The boldest goal of all was announced by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who called for an international commitment to eliminate AIDS by 2020. "That is our goal — zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths. Toward this end, U.N. member states also pledged to increase AIDS-related spending in low- and middle-income countries to between $22-$24 billion by 2015, Mr. Ban declared.
Although the availability of more than 30 licensed drugs has made AIDS a chronic illness rather than an automatic death sentence for many patients — at least for those with access to such treatments — the disease remains incurable and prevention is by far the best approach to combat this scourge.
Although the total number of HIV/AIDS cases in Japan remains low compared to other countries, very worrisome trends exist. Media coverage of the disease is declining and public complacency is rising — factors that have no doubt contributed to a doubling in the number of newly HIV-infected people in the past 10 years. In 1990, 97 people were found to be newly infected with HIV. Since 2004, however, the number of new HIV cases diagnosed annually has exceeded 1,000. In 2010, 1,503 people were found to have been infected with HIV, and a record high 453 people were diagnosed with AIDS. The vast majority of infections were sexually transmitted.
And this could be merely the tip of the iceberg, because the decline in AIDS awareness in Japan has resulted in fewer people taking HIV tests. In 2009, 122,493 people underwent HIV testing, but in 2010 this figure plunged to 103,007. Last year, roughly 30 percent of the people newly diagnosed with HIV only found out they were infected after they developed AIDS symptoms. Early detection of HIV infection is critical both because the disease is much easier to manage, and because carriers can take precautions to avoid spreading the deadly virus.
Mr. Ban's goal to eliminate AIDS by 2020 is exceptionally ambitious — but only by setting our sights extremely high can we hope to end this deadly scourge. Given the surge in the number of HIV/AIDS cases here, Japan should adopt the same target. The health ministry must step up its efforts to make people aware that this disease still poses a very real threat, and that most public health centers across the nation offer free, anonymous HIV tests. Information on centers offering such tests can be found on the health ministry's HIV Kensa Sodan Map website (www.hivkensa.com).
THE JAKARTA POST
THE JAKARTA FAIR MAGNET
The huge turn-out at the Jakarta Fair in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, is good news for everyone in the city.
Many consider the annual event, held to mark the city's anniversary, well worth visiting. Statistics show between 100,000 and 200,000 people have thronged to the fair grounds every day since this year's Jakarta Fair was opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week.
Since its inception in 1968, the Jakarta Fair has become a pleasant destination for people from all walks of life, ranging from those who drop by for window shopping to people who want to do business. For the business community, it is undeniably a great opportunity to market their products and commodities; likewise for consumers, the event offers as many choices as possible.
Indeed, the fair is a perfect blend of business and entertainment. Apart from inviting multinational companies to display their latest products, the fair's organizers provide opportunities for small and medium-scale enterprises to exhibit handicrafts and other leading merchandise.
The fair also showcases a well-knit mix between modernity and tradition. Modern shows featuring top celebrities entertain visitors, as do traditional performances by various groups from across the city and beyond. Traditional culinary lovers will never miss indigenous Jakarta foods such as kerak telor (baked rice and egg cake) at the Jakarta Fair.
A colossal event such as the Jakarta Fair is undoubtedly a lucrative business. The organizers have set the turn-out at four million people during 32 day event, up by 500,000 from last year's mark. The total amount of transactions is expected to reach Rp 3.5 trillion (US$338 million), compared to
Rp 3.1 trillion last year.
Therefore, apart from expecting profits from this event, the organizers need to address existing problems facing both tenants and visitors. Sanitary facilities that do not work well and a lack of them have always topped the list of complaints.
Access to the fair ground is another headache, particularly for those who rely on public transportation. The organizers should provide the public with more convenient mass transportation. In the long run, both the Jakarta administration and the central government may consider connecting the fair ground to the planned Mass Rapid Transit project, as other countries have done.
With four weeks remaining, it is not too late for the organizers to fix the existing problems and make the Jakarta Fair a friendly event for all.
THE JAKARTA POST
THE SCHOOL OF CORRUPTION
The recent shocking revelation of widespread "teacher-sponsored" cheating in the national examinations and the way authorities have handled the reports illustrate how, where and why the corrupt mentality has been nurtured.
The reported massive cheating has also cast big shadows of doubt over the exceptionally high passing rates nationally, which the government planned to use to measure the success of its national education program that saps 20 percent of the state budget.
The national exam system was designed to improve the standard of education nationwide, from ill-equipped schools in the impoverished Papua hinterland to affluent and well equipped schools in Jakarta. But widespread cheating suspected to have occurred throughout the country every year means the government must now return to the drawing board to rethink its well-intentioned, albeit controversial, policy.
In Surabaya, housewife Siami became an "icon of honesty" after courageously sounding the alarm with Mayor Tri Rismaharini and subsequently had her whole family evicted by irate parents who accused her of tainting the school's reputation. Siami's sin was apparently retelling the mayor her son Alif's story that a teacher had asked him, as the smartest child in the sixth grade, to pass around the answers to the tests that a teacher had prepared for the whole class.
In Jakarta, cheating graced media headlines when a Pesanggrahan 6 state primary school pupil's parents filed a case with the National Commission for Children Protection after the school management refused to look into it.
Particularly flabbergasting is the schools' and government bureaucrats' tendency to try to cover up their dishonest practices after the scams went public, simply to try to make things look good. The underlying message is that students learn that goals justify means at school.
Pundits have linked the dishonesty instilled in our innocent children with the well-known corrupt mentality of our leaders, from top politicians to clerics, government bureaucrats and educators.
The silence of the public about this cheating also adds credence to perceptions that corrupt practices have become an "acceptable" norm here. While the loathed corrupt, authoritarian New Order regime under Soeharto is now 13 years behind us, corruption has only become more widespread.
Worse, law enforcement against corrupt people often defies a sense of justice, and thus fails to serve as a deterrent. Many corruption convicts, particularly those who are politically wired, breathe fresh air after short spells in prison thanks to the government's generosity in granting them remissions or conditional release for "humanitarian" reasons. Not to mention special privileges that allow them to travel while serving detention, as in the case of former tax official Gayus H. Tambunan.
That's why corruption convicts are unashamed about flashing their big smiles in public, rather than showing remorse.
If dishonesty is being taught at our schools, hope for the ongoing crusade against corruption is remote.
THE JAKARTA POST
EARTH AND THE 'ECOLOGICAL' CREDIT CARD
We have witnessed several tragedies in banking sector in Indonesia lately. Irzen Octa, the holder of credit card issued by a multinational banking company, died while discussing his credit card bill with debt collectors.
Separately, Malinda Dee, a former Citibank employee, allegedly embezzled from her customers.
At the same time, our society has also been suffering from massive ecological calamities. Flash floods resulting from deforestation have become a never-ending story.
Ecosystem catastrophes as a result of poor mining practices are commonplace. People in Sidoarjo just marked five years of misery caused by the Lapindo mud tragedy.
There are clear signs that the balance of our natural ecosystem is in peril. The latest caterpillar population boom is also part of that indication. These are signs of significant disruptions to the natural processes.
Are these occurrences interconnected? There may not be a direct correlation. However, if we think about it, we will notice a similar paradigm supports both the banking sector tragedies and the ecosystem calamities.
The death of Octa reflected two things. First, when a person owes money they must pay for their current needs with future income. If the income is generated in the future, the debt can be paid. But if they fail to generate income, the result will be bad.
Second, we must beware of over consumption. Without strict regulations, and competition among banks to attract more customers, credit cards provide a perfect way to fuel a desire for consumption.
Uncontrolled spending could be the consequence. The tale of Malinda Dee may supports this hypothesis. She allegedly embezzled to pay for a luxurious lifestyle that she allegedly could not afford on her salary.
Nature operates under a similar principle. Consuming natural resources means spending our savings. The best way to spend should follow the use of a debit card: we spend what we have.
Unfortunately, the utilization of our precious natural resources in reality looks like the use of a credit card. With no long term perspective, utilization of natural wealth turns into over exploitation. We have to realize that all future savings that we currently consume must be covered by future profits.
Needless to say, the Earth is not an infinite resource. Natural resources will not last forever. When natural resources grow scarce it means that environmental carrying capacity is in danger.
Consequently, our capacity to pay back our debt to nature is also diminishing. In the end, we all may suffer misfortune like a bankrupt credit card customer. When over exploitation has become the main philosophy of natural resource utilization, the natural system will no longer be sustainable.
Ecosystem tragedies, such as massive flash flooding, mining tragedies and population explosions, are a sign of mismanagement of the environment.
The caterpillar population out-burst, for example, may not be due to a single factor, but it is a clear sign of a disruption in the ecosystem balance.
The loss of the natural predators of caterpillars, monoculture agriculture and the migration of moths due to forest destruction show that there are some problems in ecosystem management.
If this is the case, we may say that there was past exploitation of the environment which produced debts that have to be paid now. If we do not pay these natural debts, ecosystem balance is at risk. With more changes in the ecosystem and climate, environmental tragedies may occur more frequently.
This series of ecological tragedies should become a wake-up call. We must be aware that environment's carrying capacity has been exceeded.
The absent of orientation to sustainably manage the ecosystem will result in an inability to pay back our future loans to nature.
The World Environment Day 2011 highlights the fact that nature has provided us with uncounted great services. We can continue utilizing those services if we spend them wisely and in an appropriate manner.
The natural savings must be prepared so we will have some money in the "nature bank" to be spent in future. Just like an old man who plants a tree; it is not for himself, but to benefit another generation
David Suzuki said that the ecosystem crisis would have a significant impact on humanity's well-being. The law of nature is much more powerful than economic interests. One thing is important, he added, we have to be united as a species to respond to current ecological problems.
The change has to begin with an individual with a full of imagination and belief to the generosity of nature.
The writer is an ecologist at the University of Bengkulu and an Australian Leadership Awards fellow.
THE JAKARTA POST
FLAG-RAISING CEREMONY AND NATIONAL PRIDE
Al Irshad Al Islamiyyah Junior High School and Al Bani Primary School, two Islamic schools in Karanganyar, Central Java, have been in the spotlight over the past few days for their refusal to hold the mandatory flag-raising ceremony. Sutardi, the principal of Al Irshad, has insisted that saluting the flag was against his Islamic beliefs. According to him, saluting the flag was akin to shirking one's duties to God.
Not long after this, seven teachers at state schools in the district were also found to have flouted a ministerial decree that requires students to salute the flag and sing the national anthem. Karanganyar district chief Rina Iriani threatened to close down both establishments and dismiss the teachers from the civil service.
The incident adds to a number of recent attacks on Indonesia's struggle to maintain the current poor level of patriotism among the population. A lack of pride at being Indonesian has become and remains rife. Now, an assault on nationalism comes from within instead of from external elements, and is clearly visible in the following issues.
First, our citizens seem to now have less respect for the state symbols, such as the national flag, anthem and state ideology (Pancasila). This behavior stems from multifaceted backgrounds. Seen from the background factor of their schools, they have a close relation to and are influenced by firebrand cleric Ja'far Umar Thalib. This figure is notorious for his radical and intolerant Islamic views.
A strict interpretation of such Islamic campaigns stipulates that saluting the national flag is not simply a tradition of infidels who exaggerate respect toward their leaders, but also the glorification of an inanimate object.
For sure, this interpretation is bolstered by a parochial and textual understanding of Islamic teachings. In the discourse of national insight, reverence for the national flag cannot be equated to the worship of God. This issue should thus be resolved through sustained dialogue.
Poor leadership and politicians also contribute to putting the country's state symbols into a corner. People no longer respect the Pancasila as the state ideology, for example, since they see so-called leaders as only implementing the Pancasila in books, writing and speeches, but then betray it in their daily lives.
In a nutshell, while radical religiousness accounts for their tolerance, the living examples set by Indonesia's poor politicians make the community allergic to and lose trust in the state symbols.
Second, historical amnesia has been growing among our citizens. Indonesian heroes' sacrifices were paid in blood in their struggles to raise the red and white flag for the country's independence in 1945. Our heroes and founding fathers viewed the flag as a symbol representing the spirit, hopes and ideals of a nation.
The flag is a peaceful sign of these heroes' wish for a united and unitary state of Indonesia. They were patriotic and loved their country, and it is to their struggle we pay our respects when it comes to saluting the flag.
There is also huge possibility that this denial of the importance of state symbols is inseparably linked to a lack of learning about Indonesia's history, which in turn leads people to fail to understand the human story behind Indonesia. Political instability and economic pressure during and after the reform era have raised one generation after another in this country of young Indonesians who are, by and large, historically illiterate.
Hence, the best way to fix this problem is to bring conversations about Indonesian history back to the dinner table, take children and youngsters to historical landmarks and give them books, and require teachers to have an education in history, not just degrees. Historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it decreases a sense of belonging to the nation, but also lays the groundwork for social tension among our fellow citizens.
Third, the declining intellect of leaders leads to public disorientation. Frankly speaking, people are getting bored of politicians who have turned their backs on moral integrity. Antonio Gramsci names them "politicians without ideology." Such politicians never get involved in social transformation to serve public interests. Indeed, they succeeded in obtaining scholars' degrees from various universities, but they reach their seemingly intellectual status through corruption, public lies and poor accountability.
Our founding fathers were capable of instilling in the Indonesian people a strong sense of nationalism because of their own sincere commitment, honest idealism and intellectual integrity. These factors served as their capital, making them figures of reflection and action, which left no yawning gaps between saying and doing.
They were intellectual leaders whose dialectical thinking was oriented toward people's interests rather than glorifying themselves in a self-admiring ways. Their intellectual traces benefit people and last longer. Tan Malaka's political thoughts in Madilog, the thoughts of Mohammad Hatta on democracy and cooperative, or Sutan Sjahrir's grand design of Indonesian socialism, remain relevant and irreplaceable.
In a short, they have left some sort of legacy – commitment, thoughts, action, and of course a nation – with a view to developing and preserving loyalty to this country. Now, it is saddening to learn that their legacy has been transformed into pieces in Indonesia's recent democratic period.
The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang.
THE JAKARTA POST
MANAGING COMMODITY FLOWS AROUND JAKARTA
The extended policy to ban or limit operation of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) on intra-urban toll networks has created pros and cons. This policy was imposed by the Jakarta provincial government and has been supported by the Jakarta police.
Various government agencies at different levels have issued conflicting opinions in the media and have sent a negative message to the public and business communities on how public policies are formulated and implemented.
A chaotic policy making process with poor assessment strategies has led to political debates on how we should manage the flow of goods and commodities around the capital city.
The transportation network is limited and will always be limited. Provision of urban green and public spaces is important to maintain urban quality of life and attract new investment for sustainable growth. Therefore, increasing road length in urban areas should be our last resort.
Instead, the government should focus on managing the use of road space and the existing network, improving the use public transport and creating better land use to reduce trip rates and distances.
The belief that supplying urban space with more roads in response to the increasing demand for
motorized mobility have been proven wrong in many cities across the world.
Our cities should not follow this principle. Managing transport demand is believed to work more effectively, both in developed and developing cities. Managing urban road space is one implementation strategy.
The ban of intra-urban toll roads for HGV has been said to be successful by the Jakarta government. The policy has increased the speed in the intra-urban toll roads by 19.24 kilometers per hour (kph) with the major benefit enjoyed by toll road users.
Toll operators also gain from increased revenues, although they never announce it publicly. Revenue is expected to increase by 20-30 percent because of this policy. Even after the Coordinating Minister for the Economy issued a follow-up policy to limit the ban only for the Cawang–Tomang section, the greatest benefit goes to toll users and operators.
So who are the losers? Road users in the regency road network are the main losers in this policy. Not only has the congestion increased dramatically in sub-urban areas, but the risk of traffic accidents is also climbing. The use of public transportation is expected to drop significantly because of the absence of separate infrastructure such as the TransJakarta.
In the public finance context, the local governments in the south, west part and northeast areas of Greater Jakarta will be the main victims of such policy. With the delayed completion of W2 Section and E2 Section of Jakarta Outer Ring Road (JORR), the HGVs are forced to use regency roads.
This has not only created more congestion in regency road networks, but we also believe that the quality of roads will deteriorate – and very soon. It is forecast that the lifetime of regency roads will decrease rapidly, and we will witness an increase in demand of public sector financing for regency road rehabilitation next year if the policy continues.
Commodities now need to be transported over longer distances. HGV operators will face reduced profitability and will thus compromise the availability of this sector to contribute to economic development. As the price of commodities is relatively stable, the only way HGV operators can survive is to accept reduced profitability or to reduce the sub-contract value to the HGV drivers.
Many of Indonesian HGV operations are based on sub-letting agreements with drivers and therefore the drivers are the price determinant.
When the tariffs are relatively constant, the losses are transferred to the drivers, creating vulnerability in industrial operation from the threat of a drivers' strike.
Commodity merchants lose because goods cannot be delivered on-time. State seaport operator
PT Pelindo has said there are many off-loaded containers in Tanjung Priok seaport that cannot be transported to their destinations.
On the other hand, very few containers are up-loaded on the ships, creating frustration among commodity merchants. What can we do?
Regulating the use of road space and networks can be undertaken based on routes, time of use and price of use. The route-based and time-based use of road space and network are the earliest method to increase the capacity of existing road networks.
In fact, what was implemented in Jakarta is a combination of both. In many developed cities, they have moved from route-based and time-based to price-based use of roads.
In our recent visit to Japan, it is apparent that a price-based principle works much better in regulating road use for HGV. As HGV operation is price sensitive, the policy to incorporate costs of road use into toll charges can help operators and drivers of HGV's make better decisions on the routes they use.
The current regulation on toll charges does not consider congestion and road damage effects caused by HGVs in both toll roads and local roads. Future regulation on toll charges and a policy on the use of HGV will have to consider price-based mechanisms to make the system more effective.
The policy on banning the HGV in using intra-urban toll roads has been responded to by HGV operators overloading their cargoes and the conversion from HGV to LGV use. Overloading does not only damage roads, but it also decreases travel speed. The large size of HGVs makes it even worse.
Overloaded HGVs can not drive through roads with gradients of more than 3 to 5 percent using required minimum speed on toll roads. Stricter implementation of maximum loads for HGV would be a complimentary strategy to make sure traffic flows smoothly.
We also learned an important lesson during the HGV policy debate. It is important to continuously assess the impact of transport policies on various community groups.
A certain transport policy can benefit one community group, but might increase the costs for other groups. Ensuring a smooth and seamless flow of commodities is important, but reducing road congestion in suburbs is also equally important.
Certain policies imposed by local government agencies might contradict national policies. The case of the Jakarta HGV policy has taught us that the process of incorporating the voice of relevant stakeholders is extremely critical to listen and to plan together with business communities, commodity suppliers, transporters and road users.
The writer is a professor of transportation at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta and the chairperson of the Indonesia Transportation Society.
THE JAKARTA POST
NEW CORPORATE FARMING IN QUESTION
The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry recently announced a new strategy for national food security and food self sufficiency called the Food Production Movement under Corporations System (GPPK).
Farming systems under a new corporation system of food production are likely to adopt the principles of corporate farming. The term is generally used to describe an agricultural operation that involves the production of food and food-related products on an exceptionally large scale.
In practice, the equipment used in the cultivation, nurture, harvest and processing of the food is considered part of farming efforts.
In the Indonesian case, even though the main goal of the program is national food self sufficiency, commonly the concern of the Agriculture Ministry, the proposed program was arranged seperately by the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, which will request the involvement of related state-owned enterprises under its control.
The proposed program is different from the previously hotly debated food estate program that will be implemented on state-owned lands. The principle of the former is to lease individual farmland and manage those plots under a profitable corporate farming management system.
Targeted areas of corporate farming are fertile irrigated farmland in several provinces such as Aceh, East Java, West Java and South Sulawesi. The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry expects this program to involve 570,000 hectares of farmland for rice cultivation, 2650,000 hectares for corn cultivation and 50,000 hectares for soybeans.
The core state-owned enterprises that will be directly involved in the implementation of the program are PT Pertani, PT Sang Hyang Seri, PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja, Perum Jasa Tirta I dan II, Perum Perhutani, PT Inhutani, PT Perkebunan Nusantara and PT Berdikari. PT Pertani and PT Sang Hyang Seri will be in charge of providing modern seeds, PT Pupuk Sriwijaya will support fertilizers and Perum Jasa Tirta I dan II will manage irrigation systems.
The others state-owned enterprises such as Perum Perhutani, PT Inhutani and PT Perkebunan Nusantara will provide farmland. PT Berdikari will operate corn production and feed production for livestock, while state logistics company Bulog was assigned to manage produced farmed crops.
With the implementation of corporate farming, the government expects to produce an additional 3.7 million tons of dried unhusked rice, or about 5 percent of the national rice production, targeted at 70.6 million tons in 2011.
The program will cost an estimated Rp 4.1 trillion (US$479.7 million) for three and a half years of implementation until the end of 2014.
Many have expressed worries about the implementation of corporate farming for food production and its impact on the stability of household farming incomes. Another main concern is the potential impact on social and cultural relationships, including working relationships, among farming households.
The government claims the program will involve farmers in the acquisition of leased farmland. Farming households will receive appropriate rental fees and will be recruited as farming laborers. They will also receive a share of the surplus.
In the case of farmland owners, the scenario of three potential income sources is possible. However, we should also consider that millions of farming households in the country, including those in targeted areas for corporate farming, are landless people, manage share tenancy systems and work as wage laborers. They have no formal access or ownership rights to farmland.
While the general principle of corporate farming is economy of scale, recruiting all the previously involved farmers into a new system is likely unrealistic.
There will be a labor surplus, therefore there is a big possibility that a large proportion of farmers should move out from direct operations of corporate farming.
The implementation of corporate farming without providing new job alternatives for the labor surplus from farming will be problematic and possibly create new problems and conflicts in the farming community. However, the development of rural industries either related to off-farm or non-farm areas will be crucial and strategic.
From the perspective of the political economy of the peasant, leasing out all of farmlands to other parties, including state agencies, may weaken the sovereignty of farming households.
Transferring the rights to farmland even temporarily means those peasants will lose the right to manage and to have bigger potential benefits from their land.
By renting out farmland, for sure, farming households will be delineated from their very worthy property or production tools as a basis of their life and relationships with community members.
Without strong guarantees of income stability such as in the case of failed harvest due to pests or disasters, farming households may face serious uncertainties in the future.
As peasant communities have been practicing particular socio-economic and cultural relationships that overlap with their daily farming practices for a long time, the implementation of a new culture of corporate farming will interrupt the stability. Immediate changes will create social and cultural shocks and instability.
Among strategies for empowering farming households is giving and facilitating appropriate chances for farming households to create collective decision and actions in expanding their assets and capabilities to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives.
In relation to farming practices and management, collective farming will likely give peasants greater room to improve their welfare without sacrificing their social and cultural life. Collective farming is a type of collective decision to realize independent farm businesses based on community rules, competitiveness, sustainability, effectiveness and efficiency through farm management under principles of economy, collectivity and participatory.
Central and local governments could introduce efficiency and high productivity principles of corporate farming to facilitate viable collective farming using various mechanisms that are related to farming inputs, financing, information and technology, marketing and processing and group management.
The writer is a lecturer at the school of agriculture at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and earned his doctorate from the University of Tokyo.
BY ILICA MALKANTHI KARUNARATNE
The hundredth birth anniversary of this great statesman falls on the 19th of June this year. We should look beyond politics to honour him as a National figure of significance. It is indeed a pity, than in our country, political barriers prevent honour beng given to those who deserve it. A respected political writer, during Dudleys lifetime wrote 'how many know the qualities he possessed of head and heart which were rarer than one in a million.' The late Dudley Senanayake, as a statesman and as a man, was not made of common stuff.
We live today in a land of paradox – dirt of one sort or another, dust and crystal clarity. Noise, tumult, violence side by side; with the Buddha's message of peace and tranquility. As one watches from the sidelines, one sometimes feels as if it is part of an ancient ritual, of which one has no knowledge and can never comprehend.
As we look back in retrospect at the life of Dudley Senanayake, those of us who were privileged to know him; are aware that the things which mattered most to him, as a statesman were ethnic amity, his unwavering belief in an agricultural economy and law and order. He strove hard and long through the curves and junctions of his life on all three counts. He believed in telling people the truth rather than in false promises which are inevitably, a surefire passport to popularity .I'm glad that the present UNP Leader is following Dudley in this and in his high standards of integrity.
The word 'politics' is derived from the Latin 'politicus' and the Greek 'politikos'; both of which mean; belonging to the people. Dudley Senanayake was a man who truly belonged to the people. Although a reluctant politician, he sensed the true gait of politics, and never strayed from the straight path. Although the ordeal of war is long over, the experience of suffering to millions, death and loss of loved ones to others, are like the aftershock of an earthquake. Reconciliation and unity are still a dream; celebrations go on with unprecedented grandeur, but the root of the problem lies unsolved. Dudley Senanayake did not believe in grandeur in any form whatsoever. He enjoyed the finer things of life but lived a simple life. Even as Prime Minister, he would be seen driving his little Triumph Herald around. Politicians of all hues, in much less important positions travel in luxurious vehicles today, causing chaos on the roads with their security vehicles. Photography, music and reading were his hobbies and he was happy with them and his little dog, Pixie. Although educated at Cambridge and a reluctant politician, he was able to travel the rough road of politics with distinction. If we had continued with his agricultural economy, we would have been self sufficient in rice by now. He wanted to free people from poverty, which is a kind of enclosure; and lead them to unity, economic independence and freedom. He did not indulge in revenge, imprisoning opponents behind bars. He didn't believe in inflicting pain on the innocent, or even on those who did wrong; and was totally against bloodshed and mayhem. His gentle, amiable manner and sharp inquisitive mind, shied away from the endless charades of politics, practised by those jockeying for power and positions before their time. To him, the taking of a human life, under any circumstances whatsoever, was an act of murder which he would not condone.
Law and order were priorities to Dudley Senanayake. He thought of it as the cement that held everything together; and the only thing we could cling to when we reach the final line. He would hate to see the lack of law and order prevalent today in every nook and corner of the country that he loved so much. He was an excellent speaker in Parliament, on political and other platforms; and could hold his own among the shining array of stars that were his peers in Parliament at that time. That was undoubtedly the creme a la crème of Sri Lankan Parliaments. Dr N.M. Perera, Dr Colvin.R. de Silva, Philip and Robert Goonewardene, Dr S.A. Wickremesinghe, Pieter Keuneman; all of them educated at British Universities. Deeply instilled in them were qualities of justice and fairplay. Arguments, there were in abundance; but all in good spirit and they were the best of friends both in and out of Parliament. Dudleys hearty laugh, wit, humour and powerful voice are legendary in Sri Lankas parliamentary history. He would be devastated to see the low standards of behaviour, in this most august assembly; sunk to the lowest levels ever, now.
A beacon of light, throughout his political life was his loyalty to his party. Even when he resigned, caused by enemy orchestration resulting in circumstances beyond his control, he refused to join or support another party. This was in spite of being offered the choice of any office that he chose. Whether in or out of the party, or as a backbencher, he never hurled abuse or attacked those who had succeeded him as Leaders of the UNP. These are good lessons for those who do so today, causing disunity and chaos. This and his integrity are to me his outstanding qualities; which I think any Leader should possess. In today's context of people crossing the floor, and accepting office for perks and privileges; his is an example that any young aspiring young politician should attempt to follow. This is the only way one can command respect in life and after it. Just before his death, he was heartbroken by sections being formed within the party which caused discord and strife.
My father, who was at St Thomas's at the same time, my paternal uncle Harry, who was his classmate, my maternal uncle, the late Bishop Lakdasa de Mel and my late husband, to whom he was a role model and political mentor, all admired and respected the late Dudley, like they did no other. He was to them an exemplary Statesman; perhaps too fine a gentleman for politics and one who commanded great respect, nationally and internationally. I got to know him well, after my marriage, but I count it as the greatest privilege of my life to have had this opportunity as any conversation with him was an education. There were absolutely no allegations of dishonesty thrown at him; be it commissions, missing state treasures or any hint of fraud or amassing wealth. He was never self seeking and power obsessed, always full of innate kindness and a love for humanity. His funeral was a testament to these qualities.
Never in the Nation's history, had such a vast mass of humanity, gathered together on a single day, for a single purpose. They came from all over the country, irrespective of political affiliations, weeping openly, no crackers were lit at his death. The people seemed aware that they had lost a rare national treasure; there would never be another quite like him. This is why he still remains a political icon today, unsurpassed in Honour and Integrity; words which have unfortunately, lost their meaning today. Our country is now a Paradise lost through greed, limitless ambition and false pride. Will we ever regain it? That is the question; it appears to me, to be a conundrum without a solution
BY B. RAMAN
My attention has been drawn to a disturbing documentary titled "Sri Lankas Killing Fields" produced by Mr. Jon Snow of the Channel4 TV channel of the UK.
The documentary highlights the results of a forensic investigation into the bloody culmination phase of the counter-insurgency operations of the Sri Lankan Security Forces against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in April-May, 2009. It alleges that the culmination phase, which physically wiped out the leadership of the LTTE for which no right-thinking person opposed to terrorism need shed tears, was also marked by executions, shelling of civilians by the Security Forces.
In the culmination phase, the Sri Lankan Security Forces did face a cruel dilemma because the ruthless leadership of the LTTE headed by Prabakaran was making a last-ditch effort to save itself from capture or killing by taking shelter in the midst of civilian refugees. It was not an opportunistic tactic in the face of the mounting pressure from the Security Forces.
It was a consciously-planned tactic of Prabakaran to force the international community to intervene by creating a situation in which hundreds of civilians were used as cannon fodder in a futile attempt to save the LTTE leadership from extinction.
After the operation ended with the elimination of the LTTE leadership and the collapse of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, there was a spate of allegations from well-reputed international human rights organisations, humanitarian workers, representatives of Western Governments and UN officials – many of whom often levelled the allegations – that the Sri Lankan Security Forces could not escape their share of the blame for the large-scale violations of the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians living in the operational area under the control of the LTTE.
Two kinds of violations were alleged. Firstly, that the leaders of the LTTE, including Prabakaran, wanted to surrender but were not given an opportunity to do so, but instead were physically eliminated. Secondly, that the Security Forces consciously used disproportionate force with light, medium and heavy weapons knowing fully well that such use could kill many civilians. Protecting the civilians caught was not on the agenda of either the LTTE or the Security Forces.
These allegations have been accompanied by demands for an independent international enquiry under the auspices of the UN to determine the truth and for action against the officers of the Security Forces and others found responsible for the violations – in a manner satisfactory to the international community. It has been alleged that some of the atrocities amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Sri Lankan Government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has strongly and consistently denied these allegations. While it admits the possibility that there might have been some violations to determine which it has been holding its own enquiry, it has indignantly refuted the allegations that the violations were of such a serious nature as to call for international intervention and action.
Unfortunately, human rights violations are rarely avoided in counter-insurgency situations however much the Security Forces try to do so. Terrorist and insurgent organisations train themselves well in creating situations where human rights violations do occur in order to seek the intervention of the international community.
Yet, evidence available till now do not bear out the stand of those who accuse the Rajapaksa Government of violations amounting to crimes against humanity or war crimes.
In our anxiety and sympathy for the legitimate rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils, we should not exaggerate or over-state our arguments in support of or against an international enquiry. The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora which has been active in demanding an international enquiry has stepped up its pressure on Governments and non-Governmental personalities, including reputed journalists of India and other countries, to take cognisance of the forensic evidence collected by the documentary and support the demand for an international enquiry.
The objective should be to ensure that justice is done to the relatives of the victims and that the honour of the victims is respected even if it be posthumously. It should not be to use the documentary as a stick to beat the SL Government with.
The Rajapaksa Government will facilitate a more meaningful Indian role in calming the feelings of indignation and concern of the Sri Lankan Tamils if it handles the documentary with the seriousness it deserves. Action should be within acceptable limits of our bilateral relations with Sri Lanka and should not be overdone.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi)
As if from a deep slumber Sri Lankan authorities after 21 years have woken up to Commemorate the more than six hundred police personnel who were brutally killed by the LTTE on June 11, 1990 after they surrendered to the outfit on the orders of the "higher ups." The police Department held special religious rites in a special commemoration ceremony last Saturday.
These hapless police personnel serving in the Eastern Province, especially in the Ampara District were never before considered to be reckoned with, leave alone someone commemorating them. In fact their killing was hidden from the public eye by the state for some time until the government of President Ranasinghe Premadasa on whose orders they were said to have surrendered to the LTTE used the incident to counter international allegation of human rights violations.
The Present Government too seems to be attempting to use this unprecedented horrific massacre by the Tamil Tigers to ward off the allegations by the Western countries and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Hence, perhaps, the sudden awakening.
However, it is interesting to note that an investigation into the incident was not at least considered so far by any of the governments that had boasted to be patriotic. Also, since the day the incident was revealed to the world, human rights groups, local and international, have been treating it as an un-serious or less serious issue and they never have called for a probe into it.
After the peace talks between the Premadasa government and the LTTE which collapsed in mid 1990 the outfit surrounded the police stations in the Eastern Province on June 10, 1990 and demanded the surrender of the police. Interestingly, the excuse for the encirclement was a trivial incident where a tailor who served them was taken into custody by the police over an illicit affair with a woman, according to a news item in the now defunct "Dinapathi" newspaper. The police did not budge and fought until the evening of June 11 when they got the orders from the higher ups to surrender.
The LTTE deceived not only the police but also the leadership of the country into believing that the surrendered policemen would be taken out of their respective police stations and released later. When they were butchered cold-bloodedly in the Kanjikudichchaaru jungles the gravity of the incident forced the government of the day to conceal it from the masses who voted it into power.
It was in a letter sent by the then presidential advisor on international affairs Bradman Weerakoon in December, 1990 to the Amnesty International that accused the Premadasa government of breaching human rights in its fight against the LTTE that the brutal massacre of the surrendered policemen first came to light. In spite of the allegations by the then UNP rebels led by Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake against President Premadasa of arming the LTTE, this horrific massacre ironically was swept under the carpet.
Deputy Minster of Resettlement, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman might be unhappy over the issue being revisited by the authorities now as he was the special commander of the LTTE for Ampara and Batticaloa Districts when the barbaric incident took place. He was targeted even by the very LTTE for this massacre when he escaped to Britain after his defection from the outfit in 2004. However, the Tigers gave up the campaign against him soon and abruptly as they seemingly realized that the salvo might boomerang on them internationally.
Minister Muralitharan had said that he was unaware of the incident as it was executed by the LTTE's intelligence wing leader Shanmugaligam Sivashanker, better known as Pottu Amman. No one believed it; neither had anyone contested it, for obvious reasons.
If the idea behind the sudden revisiting of the fate of these policemen by the authorities was to counter the allegations of human rights violations against the government it is somewhat valid, as those who did not take action against such heinous crimes committed by one party have no moral right to question another party in respect of similar charges. However, morality has a meager validity in international politics as in the case of local politics.
Hence, those who turned a blind eye when around 9,000 surrendered Iraqi soldiers were buried alive in their trenches as plow-equipped tanks dumped tons of earth and sand onto them during the first Gulf war and those who justify the Israelis when they systematically bulldozed thousands of houses of Palestinians dare to speak about human right violations in Sri Lanka, Iran, Libya or Cuba.
Questioning the morality of the accusers might have some effect, but questioning of the substantiality of the accusations would be much more effective.
The ongoing clashes in Sudan between the northern Sudanese forces' and the pro-south supporters have now escalated to an extent that the US President Barack Obama has called on both sides to show restraint.
Urging both the north and the south to "live up to their responsibilities" in order (to avoid another civil war, President Obama may have been hoping to defuse tension. However, too much is at stake for mere external calls for peace.
Even as Southern Sudans fate were sealed by the referendum — granting it almost 100 per cent consensus to become independent — that Khartoum grudgingly accepted, every day that draws closer to the independence date in July is proving increasingly unnerving. The two sides are now engaged in fighting to wrest control from the other, in one contentious part or the other.
The oil rich region of South Kordofan is witness to the bitter fighting that has been unleashed. Bordering the areas that will secede as South Sudan in July, it hosts precious oil reserves and more importantly groups that are supportive of the South. Allegedly, Khartoum has unleashed a campaign of intimidation against the pro-south groups and is indulging in ethnic killings, aerial bombardments and forced displacements.
With South Kordofan now in the line of fire, one fears a reversal of the recent truce that was reached between the two sides after violent clashes in Abyei whose own quest for independence was sidelined for the present as the independence for southern Sudan topped the agenda. Abyei itself is a disputed part of Sudan that is claimed by both the North and the South. Ironically, most of Sudans oil reserves fall to the share of the South. Besides, sharing of oil revenues, borders and the shift of people from one side to another are issues that require more than talks. A strong commitment, impartiality and concerted efforts are needed to reach amicable solutions without relapsing into violence and instability. But given the propensity to unleash force at every pretext it is a bigger challenge than envisaged. Still there is hope considering how Sudan managed to break the violent stranglehold of civil war that mercifully ended with the 2005 UN brokered agreement.
The division of Sudan even though long anticipated was not going to be easy. Therefore the preparedness to meet any hurdles should have been in place, especially in areas that were high risk in terms of violence. It is hoped that the Sudanese leadership does not fall into the trap of delusion and wreck the fragile stability in the country. What has been decided by the Sudanese people must be honoured in spirit and letter with the least amount of violence.
In the aftermath of a bloody and horrifying three-decade war, a new Sri Lanka needs to be built with a new vision of a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural community of deep unity in diversity. Our journey towards this vision of a new Lanka will involve two vital goals – devolution or sharing of power and poverty eradication through a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth and resources. Both need to take place at the same time but in view of the international pressure or crisis facing Sri Lanka over allegations of war crimes or genocide, priority should be given to reconciliation by addressing the deep-rooted grievances and aspirations of the Tamil-speaking community. For more than half a century talks have been held between the government and minority communities. In 1958 a pact was reached between the then Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the then Federal Party leader S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. But extremists in the South undermined or sabotaged it. This led to the 1958 riots, the assassination of Premier Bandaranaike by a Buddhist monk and the devastating events that followed. Premier Dudley Senanayake's 1965 national government included the Federal Party and a Dudley-Chelvanayakam pact for the setting up of district councils was reached but this was also sabotaged by extremists. The 1972 Republican Constitution drove the moderate Tamil parties out of the mainstream and led to the Vaddukkodai declaration calling for a separate state of Eelam. When JR Jayawardena introduced an executive presidency in 1978 several Tamil armed militant groups were being formed though Tamil United Liberation Front leader Appapillai Amirthalingam was the leader of the opposition in parliament. Then came talks in various places from Thimpu to Oslo, with India and Norway as facilitators but the discussions were futile. Now with the extermination of the LTTE and Tamil extremism, the Rajapaksa regime is planning to appoint another Parliamentary Select Committee to formulate proposals for power sharing. The Janatha Vimkukthi Peramuna (JVP) a one time ally of the Rajapaksa regime and the United People's Freedom Alliance government has asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has virtually absolute executive powers to come up with a just and fair solution instead of giving the responsibility to a PSC, which might mean another long drawn and dead-end process like what happened in the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) led by Minister Tissa Vitharana.
Many observers believe it might be a case of now or never for the President who enjoys immense and unprecedented national popularity though the international community is highly critical of Sri Lanka. Like S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, President Rajapaksa needs to take some bold steps even if they mean losing the support of extremist groups in the majority community. The President needs to rise to the highest levels of statesmanship and work for the well being of the next generation instead of transient victory at the next election.
As for long term and sustainable poverty eradication through the principle of distributive justice, the example needs to be set at the top with our political and other leaders committing themselves to a simple and humble lifestyle or Alpechchathavaya.
The vice of busting up tens if not hundreds of millions of rupees on showpiece projects, luxuries and vulgar extravagances must stop and stop now. If the leaders set the example, the rich and middle classes will also be inspired to follow the hallowed middle path of being content with basic needs instead of desiring various luxuries. When more is saved there will be more to share and it will be a vital step towards sharing the resources of the country and restoring the human dignity of millions of people who are strapped and struggling below the poverty line.
GULF DAILY NEWS
BY PAUL BALLES
Live in fragments no longer. Only connect!
- E M Forster
WE're living in fragments. It's a smaller world with people further apart than ever.
We travel to different cultures; we fight other cultures. We want to control cultures we don't understand.
Different cultures think differently. If you believe that doesn't matter, try crossing a road in England or Australia if you come from the US or the Middle East.
You'll be looking left when you should be looking right as you begin to cross. If you automatically look in the wrong direction, you'll be lucky not to get run over.
If you speak English, you may look at and refer to a red house. If you speak Arabic, you'll refer to the same house as "al beit hamar" (the house red).
The linguistic differences reveal different perceptions: the English speaker perceives the colour first and then the house. The Arabic speaker sees the house first and then its colour.
An excellent example of the challenges of different cultures can be found in E M Forster's famous novel A Passage to India.
We seek to impose our values and beliefs on others; and we fear the potential for others to impose their beliefs on us.
The youth look West and want to wrest control from their elders. In these situations, two cultures function within a larger culture.
It's a worldwide phenomenon. In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler sees a world with "too much change in too short a period of time".
In his view, change overwhelms people, leaving them disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation" - or future-shocked.
The majority of social problems were symptoms of future shock, according to Toffler. He also says we suffer from "information overload".
Marshall McLuhan, author of The Global Village, devoted most of his career to the task of understanding the effects of technology related to popular culture and how this, in turn, affected humans and their relations with one another in communities.
"Media" and "global village" are both terms McLuhan coined. He did this in the 1960s when television was still in its infancy and the personal computer was almost 20 years into the future.
If McLuhan was right in saying "the medium is the message", we are entering a period of immense culture shock.
Generations over 40 will find communicating with those under 25 almost impossible. For those between 25 and 40, it will depend how much they have kept up with developments and have changed themselves.
Almost nobody under 25 is reading the kind of material that was the bulwark of their fathers. The young generation, whose reading is influenced by the new age of Twitter and Facebook, hasn't the time for books their parents enjoyed.
They won't read long articles that older generations read.
They will avoid reading anything they can find in shorter versions.
Just as the car extends our feet, its invention amputates muscles and clean air. The extension of social media amputates the ability to read and absorb much information.
With the radio and television we have simultaneous access to events on the entire planet. However, television culture diminishes, or amputates many of the close ties of family life based on oral communication.
To avoid immense culture shock, think of social media and mobile phone technology and ask yourselves these questions:
What does the media and technology extend? What does it make obsolete? What is retrieved from the past, or what is gained? And what happens if the technology is over-extended?
ERDOGAN'S STAR CONTINUES TO RISE
BY SIAMAK KAKAEI
The charismatic Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is known for his political acumen and successful record.
Prior to the establishment of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan was a member of the Islamic Fazilat Party. He was also the mayor of Istanbul for a period of time, during which he was the embodiment of a new generation of educated Muslim politicians in Turkey. When the Fazilat Party was banned, this new generation emerged in the form of two new parties, namely the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi).
The Felicity Party decided to stay with the traditional line of the previous Islamist parties, but the AKP adopted a new approach in Turkish politics that was mostly oriented toward reform. Many AKP members were technocrats, and they won the majority of seats in the 2002 parliamentary election, which was regarded as a new beginning in the history of Turkish politics.
The victory was mostly due to the unique personality of Erdogan, who displayed good managerial skills and an acceptable political approach. Thus, Erdogan's cult of personality is one of the undeniable factors in the AKP's political success. Erdogan's stature has also raised Turkey's profile in the Middle East and at the international level.
There are four important factors that have led to the AKP's success in Turkey: its political activities, the party's performance in running the government, Erdogan's stature, and his political record.
The AKP has also made some other major breakthroughs in its short history that can be summarized as follows:
----------The domestic arena
(1) Economic achievements: When the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was facing a major economic crisis that led to the collapse of the previous coalition government. However, by implementing a clear economic plan, the AKP curbed inflation and increased the value of the national currency. The country experienced economic growth for several consecutive years, and now Turkey is the world's seventeenth largest economy. The ability to attract a greater amount of foreign investment, especially by Arab countries, was another key factor that led to the astounding economic growth.
(2) The Kurds: Better social and cultural interaction with the minority Kurds was another important achievement for the AKP in the domestic arena. The democratic development plan somewhat appeased the Kurds of Turkey through its objectives of promoting economic and cultural development and increasing the civil liberties of the Kurdish minority.
(3) Political reform: Amending the constitution was another objective of the AKP and its leaders. From the very beginning, Erdogan and other party officials were at odds with the military men of the deep state, and thus they have tried to make some changes to the law, which caused some political instability in Turkey.
-------- The international arena
Its successful foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is another positive achievement of the AKP. In fact, the new Turkish diplomacy has helped the country realize its potential at the international level. Erdogan's government adopted an assertive and interactive strategy, which resulted in a greater regional role for Turkey.
This new approach was used in dealing with issues such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq and also issues related to member states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council. With the exception of the cautious approach adopted in the case of Libya, the AKP has always tried to increase Turkey's influence in regional and international issues. The policy of zero tension with neighbors, introduced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, has led to greater cooperation between Turkey and other regional countries. The government of Turkey has more ambitious plans for the future, which can increase confidence in the country in the international community, resulting in greater foreign investment, especially from Arab states.
In the recent parliamentary election, in which the AKP won the majority of seats, the party again insisted that it would stick with the same line of policies in the future. Although Erdogan has been accused of adopting an adventuristic foreign policy, it appears that he and his colleagues will continue to implement their successful plans, which aim to elevate Turkey's role in the region and pave the way for a smooth accession to the European Union.
Siamak Kakaie is an expert in Turkish politics based in Tehran.
DID EGYPT REALLY OPEN RAFAH CROSSING?
BY RAMZY BAROUD
For most Palestinians, leaving Gaza through Egypt is as exasperating a process as entering it. Governed by political and cultural sensitivities, most Palestinian officials and public figures refrain from criticizing the way Palestinians are treated at the Rafah border. However, there is really no diplomatic language to describe the relationship between desperate Palestinians -- some literally fighting for their lives -- and Egyptian officials at the crossing which separates Gaza from Egypt.
"Gazans are treated like animals at the border," a friend of mine told me. She was afraid that her fiancé would not be allowed to leave Gaza, despite the fact that his papers were in order. Having crossed the border myself just a few days ago, I could not disagree with her statement.
The New York Times reported on June 8: "After days of acrimony between Hamas and Egypt over limitations on who could pass through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Hamas said Egypt had agreed to allow 550 people a day to leave Gaza and to lengthen the operating hours of the crossing."
And so the saga continues.
A few weeks after an official Egyptian announcement to 'permanently' open the border -- thus extending a lifeline for trapped Palestinians under siege in Gaza -- the Rafah border was opened for two days of conditional operation in late May, and then closed again for four days. Now it has once more 'reopened'.
All the announcements are proving to be no more than rhetoric. The latest 'permanent' reopening has come with its own conditions and limitations, involving such factors as gender, age, purpose of visit, and so on.
"Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country," states Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This universal principle, however, continues to evade most Palestinians in Gaza.
I was one of the very first Palestinians who stood at Rafah following the announcement of a 'permanent' opening. Our bus waited at the gate for a long time. I watched a father repeatedly try to reassure his crying six-year-old child, who displayed obvious signs of a terrible bone disease.
"Get the children out or they will die," shouted an older passenger as he gasped for air. The heat in the bus, combined with the smell of trapped sweat was unbearable.
Passengers took it upon themselves to leave the bus and stand outside, enduring disapproving looks from the Egyptian officials. Our next task was finding clean water and a shady spot in the arid zone separating the Egypt and Palestinian sides. There were no restrooms.
A tangible feeling of despair and humiliation could be read on the faces of the Gaza passengers.
No one seemed to be in the mood to speak of the Egyptian revolution, a favorite topic of conversation among most Palestinians. This zone is governed by an odd relationship, one that goes back many years – well before Egypt, under Hosni Mubarak, decided to shut down the border in 2006 in order to aid in the political demise of Hamas.
The issue actually has nothing to do with gender, age or logistics. All Palestinians are treated very poorly at the Rafah crossing, and they continue to endure even after the toppling of Mubarak, his family and the dismissal of the corrupt security apparatus. The Egyptian revolution is yet to reach Gaza.
When the bus was finally allowed to enter about five hours later, Palestinians dashed into the gate, desperately hoping to be among the lucky ones allowed to go in. The anxiety of the travelers usually makes them vulnerable to workers at the border who promise them help in exchange for negotiated amounts of money. All of this is actually a con, as the decision is made by a single man, referred to as al-Mukhabarat, the 'intelligence'.
Some are sent back while others are allowed entry. Everyone is forced to wait for many hours -- sometimes even days -- with no clear explanation as to what they are waiting for, or why they are being sent back.
The very ill six-year-old held on his dad's jacket as they walked about, frantically trying to fulfill all the requirements. Both seemed like they were about to collapse.
The Mukhabarat determined that three Gaza students on their way to their universities in Russia were to be sent back. They had jumped through many hoops already to make it so far. Their hearts sank when they heard the verdict. I protested on their behalf, and the decision was as arbitrarily reversed as it was originally made.
Those who are sent back to Gaza are escorted by unsympathetic officers to the same open spot, to wait for the same haggard bus. Some of those who are allowed entry are escorted by security personnel across the Sinai desert, all the way to Cairo International Airport to be 'deported' to their final destinations. They are all treated like common criminals.
"I can't watch my son die in front of my eyes," screamed the father of 11-year-old Mohammed Ali Saleh, according to Mohammed Omer for IPS (June 10). He was addressing Egyptian troops days after the border was supposedly 'permanently' reopened -- for the second time in less than a week.
Such compelling needs as medical treatment, education and freedom keep bringing Palestinians back. The Israeli siege has chocked Gaza to the point of near complete strangulation. Egypt is Gaza's only hope.
"I beg you to open the crossing…You brothers of Egypt have humiliated us for so long. Isn't it time we had our dignity back?" said Naziha Al-Sebakhi, 63, one of the many distressed faces at the Rafah border, according to Mohammed Omer.
As they crossed into Egypt, some of the passengers seemed euphoric. The three Russian students and I shared a taxi to Cairo. A tape of Umm Kulthum's 'Amal Hyati' -- Hope of my Life -- played over and over again. Despite everything, the young men seemed to hold no resentment whatsoever towards Egypt.
"I just love Egypt…I don't know why," said Majid pensively, before falling asleep from sheer exhaustion.
I thought of the six-year-old boy and his dad. I wonder if they made it to the hospital on time.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com.
Photo: A Palestinian boy stands at the gates of the Rafah border crossing during a rally in the southern Gaza Strip on June 16, 2011, demanding it to be open permanently and without restrictions or conditions on the passengers. (Getty Images)
BY GWYNNE DYER
"We are getting into very risky territory," said Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, last week. But she acknowledged that we may have to go there anyway.
She was talking about geo-engineering, the manipulation of the world's climate to avoid catastrophic warming. Nobody actually wants to do that, because we don't understand the climate system well enough to foresee all the possible side-effects. But a large number of people think that in the end we'll have to do it anyway, because we're not going to get the warming under control in time without it.
Geo-engineering might involve putting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere (to reflect some incoming sunlight), spraying fine droplets of seawater into low-lying marine clouds to thicken them up (and reflect more sunlight), or painting the world's roads and roofs white. There are also proposed techniques for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for slowing the acidification of the oceans. In fact, there are dozens of proposals in all.
The topic is now on the table because sixty scientific experts are meeting in Peru on 20 June to begin an exploration of geo-engineering options that will probably end up in the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014. This has caused outrage in some sections of the environmental movement, and 125 organizations wrote an open letter to the IPCC head, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, condemning the whole concept.
"The IPCC...must take great care not to squander its credibility on geo-engineering, a topic that is gathering steam precisely when there is no real progress on mitigation and adaptation," said the letter. "International peasant organizations, indigenous peoples, and social movements have all expressed outright opposition to such measures as a false solution to the climate crisis."
Then came a sly suggestion that scientists in this field are a bunch of greedy frauds: "Asking a group of geo-engineering scientists if more research should be done on the topic is like asking a group of hungry bears if they would like honey." This is clearly a subject that inspires passionate opposition on the left, although the geo-engineers themselves spread right across the political spectrum.
The overwhelming majority of the open letter's signatories are organizations you have never heard of -- Terra-1530 Moldova, the Dogwood Alliance of North Carolina, and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, for example -- but they include a few well-known organizations like Friends of the Earth International. Their goal is not just to ban large-scale geo-engineering. It is to ban even small-scale experiments in geo-engineering. Why so angry?
Part of the problem is that there has indeed been " no real progress on mitigation and adaptation" in recent years, and the enemies of geo-engineering are afraid that efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions will be abandoned in favor of just trying to hold the temperature down artificially. I have never met a geo-engineer who thought that would work, but there is profound suspicion of them among the Greens.
There has been a remarkable reversal of roles in environmental issues over the past century. The old left loved industry, modernity, man "conquering" nature, whereas the old right believed in tradition, conservation and preserving nature. The new left, or large parts of it, hugs trees and romanticizes peasants, while the new right, at least in the United States, denies climate change outright.
They are both wrong, and it is not an ideological issue at all. The problem the scientists see, and many other people too, is that an industrializing world of seven billion people poses a grave threat to the very environment it depends on, notably in terms of changing the climate.
Ending greenhouse-gas emissions, reducing population, and adopting sustainable patterns of consumption are the necessary long-term responses to the threat of runaway warming, but they are not happening fast enough to avoid catastrophic changes and mass death. At the moment, in fact, they are not happening at all. So we had better come up with some stopgap measures that give us more time to make the long-term changes.
That is what geo-engineering is about: holding the global average temperature down below the tipping point at 2 degrees C (3.5 degrees F) higher after which we get runaway heating, while we work frantically to get our emissions down and restore the self-regulating, comfortable climate that we have already destabilized. We have not yet begun to work on that agenda seriously, let alone frantically.
On our current course, according a study released by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research eighteen months ago, the average global temperature will be 4 degrees C (7 degrees F) higher by 2060. If that happens, billions will probably die. If it stays below 2 degrees C hotter, on the other hand, most of them will probably live.
So do the research on geo-engineering now: what works, what doesn't; what are the side-effects? Do it on a small scale, in local areas, as safely as possible. Because when we are passing through plus two degrees C and the famines are spreading, there will be overwhelming demands to DO SOMETHING NOW to halt the warming.
At that point, we had better already know the answers to those questions, because the technologies will then be deployed, ready or not. _______________________________
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. An updated version of Gwynne Dyer's book "Climate Wars" is distributed worldwide by Oneworld.
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