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Saturday, June 25, 2011

EDITORIAL 25.06.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month june 25, edition 000868, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. STEM THE ROT IN POLITICS
  2. WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
  3. MR WEN GOES TO EUROPE - ASHOK MALIK
  4. OBAMA'S ILLEGAL WAR ON LIBYA - IRFAN ENGINEER
  5. DIRTIER THAN IRAQ, BUT WHY NO PROTEST? - UDAYAN NAMBOODIRI
  6. LIBYA, REGIONAL MONSTER AND INTERNATIONAL TERROR OLFACTORY - ASHOK K SINGH

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. A BUG IN UPA'S SOUP
  2. CHANGE WITH THE TIMES
  3. BRING ON THE FUTURE
  4. NO MAGIC IN DIGITAL - PRABHAT BANERJEEPRABHAT BANERJEE

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. NOT A ROUT, A TACTICAL SHIFT
  2. ON THE WRONG TRACK - GULU EZEKIEL
  3. SCARED OF THE SPARK - RAJINDER SACHAR
  4. THE SOUND AND THE FURY  - KEN UENO

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. CLOSING THE DOOR
  2. DRAVID'S TEST
  3. LOOSE CANNONS?
  4. OUR SINGAPORE FANTASY - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  5. NEVER ON A SATURDAY - SHIVANI NAIK
  6. PEAK RATES — PERHAPS - SURJIT S BHALLA
  7. THINKING OF THE EAST - ASHOK PARTHASARATHI
  8. SLANGING MATCH - RUCHIKA TALWAR
  9. PLAYING THE POL - MICHAEL CIEPLY

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SEBI MOVES INTO HIGH GEAR
  2. REMOVE THE FIG LEAF
  3. AMERICA'S DANGEROUS DEBT CEILING DEBATE - MOHAMED A EL-ERIAN
  4. HAVE INFLATION & INTEREST RATES PEAKED? - SURJIT S BHALLA

THE HINDU

  1. INFLATION EXPECTATIONS
  2. LESSONS FROM JAPAN QUAKE
  3. BANGLADESH: RESTORING SECULAR CONSTITUTION -        HAROON HABIB
  4. THE NATIONALISTS HAVE WON — EUROPE'S DREAM IS OVER  - MARTIN KETTLE
  5. TURKEY-SYRIA STRAINED RELATIONS  - IAN BLACK
  6. GLOBAL OIL RESERVES TAPPED IN EFFORT TO CURB PRICES  - JOHN M. BRODER AND CLIFFORD KRAUSS

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. INDIA, PAK TRY TO FIX 'TRUST DEFICIT'
  2. HARD TIMES IN BRITAIN - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. A FUNFEST FOR URBAN GLAM GIRLS - ANTARA DEV SEN
  4. ROYAL ROMP TO BRAND BRITAIN - KISHWAR DESAI

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. SELF-RELIANCE IN AGRICULTURE
  2. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCE
  3. NO END TO AFGHAN CONFLICT - BY ML KOTRU
  4. NO SOLUTION IN SERMONS - BY ARUN NEHRU
  5. CABINET RESHUFFLE ON CARDS - BY KALYANI SHANKAR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. A STEP TOWARDS FOOD SECURITY
  2. THALASSAEMIC TRAVAILS 
  3. INSURING DOMESTIC WORKERS
  4. LOKPAL AND DEFENCE PROCUREMENTS - BY N.S. SISODIA
  5. SATYAGRAHA AT HOME - BY ASHOK KUMAR YADAV
  6. DIVORCE BY MUTUAL CONSENT  - VIRENDRA KUMAR

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. PM-IN-HIDING - T N NINAN
  2. WHOSE LAND IS IT ANYWAY? - SHUBHASHIS GANGOPADHYAY
  3. MARKING UP THE MARK SHEETS - SUNIL SETHI
  4. IS THE GOVERNMENT LISTENING? - K NATWAR SINGH
  5. BEYOND THE POVERTY TRAP  - V V
  6. A QUESTION OF ANSWERS - ADITI PHADNIS
  7. TO HATCH A BUSINESS IDEA  - JYOTI PANDE LAVAKARE

BUSINESS LINE

  1. THE WARP IN TEXTILE EXPORTS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. TIME TO FLY
  2. THE AFGHAN FUTURE
  3. RIGHT TO BE OR NOT TO BE
  4. POWER DISTANCE INDEX AND CORRUPTION
  5. 'POLICY INCONSISTENCY IS BIGGEST CHALLENGE' - SOMA BANERJEE
  6. CHALLENGES FACING THE CONGRESS  - CP BHAMBHRI

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. WHEN RBI SMUGGLED OUT THE GOLD

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. A FUNFEST FOR URBAN GLAM GIRLS

THE STATESMAN

  1. THE WAR IS OVER
  2. NON-DELIVERY
  3. MIRED IN STALEMATE
  4. ESSAY TOWARDS LOKPAL - BY BHARAT DOGRA
  5. 'LANKA IS NOT A MATTER FOR THE UN RIGHTS COUNCIL'
  6. ON RECORD
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. AN ILL-ADVISED MOVE
  2. DISCIPLINE AND DECORUM

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. AN UNFAIR BURDEN
  2. BULLYING IN N.J.; BARGAINING IN N.Y.
  3. DANGEROUS IMPORTS
  4. ON THE ART OF PUTTERING
  5. PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, IT'S WORK - BY GARRET KEIZER
  6. THEM THAT'S NOT SHALL LOSE - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVILS - BY JEFF LINDSAY
  8. THE GREAT CORN CON - BY STEVEN RATTNER

THE NEWS

  1. THE END BEGINS?
  2. DIFFERENT NOTES
  3. JOY AND FAILURE
  4. DRUG REGULATION AND BEYOND -  DR SANIA NISHTAR
  5. LAW IN THE TRIBAL LAND  - NASSER YOUSAF
  6. DRUG TRAFFICKING AND THE BLACK ECONOMY  -  HUZAIMA BUKHARI AND DR IKRAMUL HAQ
  7. 'CAN WE FIGHT AMERICA?'  -  ARSHAD ZAMAN
  8. CURSORY JUSTICE?  - BABAR SATTAR
  9. MEMO FROM USA  -  ANJUM NIAZ

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. WE WISH BAN KI-MOON WAS EFFECTIVE
  2. US-AFGHANISTAN — SANS PAKISTAN
  3. INTEGRATING FATA AND MORE
  4. MISSING PERSONS' CASE - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. REGIONAL APPROACH TO AFGHAN CONFLICT - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. UNDERSTANDING REAL LEADERSHIP IN PAK - SHAUKAT MASOOD ZAFAR
  7. FLUX THE NAME OF FREEDOM! - MAIMUNA ASHRAF
  8. PAK-US TIES: THE WAY FORWARD - MIKE HONDA

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. CLUES TO LABOR'S FUTURE LIE IN LESSONS OF THE PAST
  2. SORT IT OUT IN PRIVATE, GUYS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. GILLARD, HEAVILY ARMOURED, PLOUGHS ON
  2. CAN OUR LEADERS SAIL BACK FROM WHERE THEY STARTED?
  3. EXCUSE ME, I THINK YOU'RE IN MY PLACE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. CAMBODIA: BURYING THE PAST
  2. ED MILIBAND: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
  3. UNTHINKABLE? MINISTERS TO TAKE HISTORICAL ADVICE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. GREECE AT A CROSSROADS — AGAIN
  2. RESTART OF REACTORS IS PREMATURE
  3. ELECTION SEASON COMES EARLY IN THE KREMLIN - BY TINA BURRETT
  4. AFGHAN WAR REALITY CHECK - BY GWYNNE DYER
  5. AFGHAN WAR REALITY CHECK - BY GWYNNE DYER

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. JUST ANOTHER YEAR, FOKE!
  2. PLAN B, MR. PRESIDENT?
  3. DECLARING WAR ON CHEATING  - BAMBANG WISUDO
  4. CHEATING IS FAILURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM - DONNY SYOFYAN

DAILY MIRROR

  1. DRUGS POLICY: KEEP YOUR PROMISE, MR. MINISTER
  2. ANOTHER WAVE OF INDIAN PRESSURE; ANOTHER PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE  
  3. RENEWING E-WASTE
  4. SRI LANKAN SECURITY FORCES HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE: PROF. GUNARATNE

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD?    - BY PAUL BALLES

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. SAY NO TO ISRAEL'S NEW SOLICITATIONS - BY KHALID AMAYREH
  2. MOROCCO AND ITS NEW CONSTITUTION - BY SEYYED MOHIADDIN SAJEDI
  3. HOW THE EMPIRE DESTROYS ITS OWN PEOPLE - BY JAMES PETRAS

  

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

STEM THE ROT IN POLITICS

KEEP AWAY THOSE WHO ENDORSE HONOUR KILLINGS


The Centre must without hesitation implement the latest recommendation of the Law Commission of India to debar any member of a Khap panchayat who has endorsed or incited an 'honour killing' from contesting any election for a period of five years. For far too long these barbarians have gotten away with acts that are not just criminal but also shameful in a modern, pluralistic society. Many of these Khap panchayat members have political aspirations and the country can do without them becoming representatives of the people. That we already have a surfeit of dubious characters in the country's polity is bad enough. One hopes that those found guilty of endorsing 'honour killings' are permanently disqualified from polls but for now, being debarred for five years is still a good place to start. The Khap panchayats have no business to exist in the first place. They have no legal sanction as they are merely a group of self-appointed individuals who have taken on the role of moral police and mete out 'justice' which includes the death penalty for inter-religious, inter-caste and in some cases intra-caste alliances. The Supreme Court in a recent observation rightly labeled these so-called panchayats as "kangaroo courts". Additionally, the law panel's suggestion the Khap panchayat's role in an 'honour killing' be made a non-bailable offense is also a step in the right direction. A third recommendation to hold culpable even those members of a Khap panchayat who may not have been directly involved in an 'honour killings' but were part of the panchayat that endorsed it is also welcome. It will put the fear of the law in them and hopefully dissuade Khap panchayat members from being even remotely involved in such activities. After all, there is not enough that can be done to wipe out the malaise. However, while the courts have shown how to deal stringently with 'honour killings' — besides the apex court stating that 'honour killers' deserve death sentence, a court in Uttar Pradesh recently sentenced to death 10 persons for the crime — it is now up to the Union and State Governments to act firmly against Khap panchayats. They should be disbanded without delay. District administrations officials also need to play a greater role in this case. Often there response to a situation has been found wanting in taking prompt action. This could be because many Khap panchayat members are closely linked to influential local politicians. During elections Khap panchayat members play an important role, from from drumming up support for candidates to organising meetings etc. Consequently, politicians have also extended their support — even if laced with conditions — to these Khap panchayats especially after they attracted widespread outrage across the country. This political backing must stop if the Khaps have to become history.

However, strong legislation alone cannot stem the rot. There has to be a collective awakening among those living under the shadow of Khap panchayats, that the Khaps do not have the authority to decide what is good or right for them. Moreover, the Khaps draw their strength from the weaknesses of the people they lord over. If the people, assisted by a proactive administration and the police, raise their voice against the Khap panchayats, the latter will become redundant and disappear soon enough.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING

EVEN AS RULERS, MAOISTS RESORT TO VIOLENCE

 

After months of political deadlock, when, earlier this year, Nepal's Communist party joined hands with the Maoists to form the ruling coalition there was a certain amount of cautious optimism that the former insurgent group would turn a new leaf; there was hope that those who now hold the maximum number of seats in Parliament would value the trust bestowed upon them by their own people and consequently, renounce their old ways of violence and anarchy and commit themselves wholeheartedly to the task of nation-building. Sadly, recent reports point to quite the contrary. Here are some examples: A local development officer, affiliated to the Maoists, allowed private individuals to operate stone quarries in the Kathmandu valley in clear violation of rules set out by a parliamentary committee; later, he held a press conference to warn journalists against reporting on the environmental hazards of such irresponsible quarrying. In a similar instance, members of a militant youth organisation affiliated to the ruling CPN-UMl brutally assaulted a journalist and the group's chieftain has since refused to surrender the suspect to local authorities. The local news media is replete with reports of such incidents wherein activists belonging to the ruling coalition, almost all of them former insurgents, have resorted to the liberal use of brute force to assert their new found positions of power. Predictably, they have also exploited the anti-India sentiment — one of the oldest tricks in the Maoist's book of terror tactics — as the recent attack on the Upper Karnali hydro project which is being constructed by the Bangalore-based GMR Group stands proof. This is not entirely surprising but it still has dangerous consequences for a young democracy like Nepal.


To prevent the former Maoist cadre and other militant groups from becoming a long term threat to the country's law and order situation, it is imperative that top Maoists leaders set the right example. Unfortunately, such has not been the case as has been evident in the Minister of Home Affairs KB Mahra's recommendation to lift the life-term awarded to a Maoist colleague convicted of murder. Clearly, old habbits die hard and this is most worrying, not just for Nepal but also for India who does not need another politically unstable neighbour. Since they wrested power from King Gyanendra in 2006, Nepal's three main political parties have touted the abolition of the monarchy as their biggest political achievement. And while that maybe true to an extent, it is nonetheless high time that the 'Big Three' move onto to other things, bigger and better, such as drafting the Constitution (it was supposed to be finished last year) and establishing a strong, stable and peaceful democracy in Nepal.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

MR WEN GOES TO EUROPE

ASHOK MALIK


China has built a business relationship with Germany while exploiting the fears and anxieties of smaller EU states envious of the German economy.


Berlin: As Premier Wen Jiabao begins a week's visit to Europe and travels to Britain, Hungary and Germany, it is difficult to escape the feeling of Chinese triumphalism. As Europe struggles with its economic woes, it finds itself dependent more than ever on Chinese largesse and markets. China has now invested $750 billion (a fourth of its foreign exchange reserves) in bonds of individual European nations. Some of the smaller southern countries — such as beleaguered Spain, Portugal and Greece — are being kept afloat by Chinese money.

Even in Germany, Europe's most robust economy, engagement with China is non-negotiable. Germany's exports to China —largely machine tools and automobiles — have been galloping in the past year, in some sectors growing at 30 per cent rates. Without the Chinese market, Germany's export-driven model would not work. China is already the fifth largest export market for Germany. In about five years it is expected to be number one


There are similar implications for other European Union countries. China is the EU's fastest growing export market. In Italy — where small and medium enterprises often supply components to German machinery manufacturers — Chinese demand is more important than direct-trade statistics suggest. In France, the surge in wine prices — 20 per cent up in 2011 as compared to an anyway bullish 2010 — is being attributed to Chinese demand.

For Germany especially, this makes China a compelling partner. No wonder Mr Wen's visit, with a heavy-duty delegation of 15 Ministers is being treated with the sort of deference once reserved for only the American President.

Germany is Europe's economic hegemon. It is responsible for 27 per cent of EU exports. However, 45 per cent of EU trade with China originates in Germany. As one Berlin-based economist put it, till even the late 1990s for every $100 worth of goods Germany imported (from the rest of the world), China and India imported $40. Today the figure stands at $160. Much of the incremental growth in demand has been Chinese. This makes Asia's emerging powerhouses critical to German industry.


While the India story is for the future, the China story is unfolding here and now. As an official in the German Foreign Office said, "All these years there have been two pillars of German foreign policy: EU unity and integration; and the trans-Atlantic relationship. Now we have to add an Asian pillar." The Asian pillar is China and the Beijing-to-Berlin (B2B if you prefer) equation is already noticeable.


In the Group of 20, China and Germany are invariably on the same side. Both have huge current account surpluses, both export more than they import, both have found themselves facing American criticism about not consuming enough and going slow on "rebalancing".


Yet the German (or EU) and Chinese relationship is not a settled one. It is in a state of flux with Beijing constantly testing the old European powers to see how much they will bend. A German analyst was blunt: "Till even five years ago, when a Chinese delegation came here, it began by saying 'We have come to learn from our German friends'. Today they don't say that. After the financial crisis, they say the EU has to learn from the Chinese economic miracle, and claim they are saving capitalism."


The Chinese see benefits of European markets and in specific domains European technology.


They also have a certain admiration for Germany. In some senses, the German state is a successor to the Prussian Army organisational model — which also influenced modern management theory, and was the template for business corporations when they began to be set up in the 19th century.


An emphasis on technocratic efficiency, on discipline, rigour and process, appeals to the Chinese leadership. In contrast, it lays little store on abstract thinking. In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China sent an astounding 156 delegations to Germany to study how the 2006 soccer World Cup was being put together.


Even so, the Communist Government is resorting to a selective reading of the German narrative. Intellectual freedom and civil liberties — the so-called 'values' issues — are essential to the EU's self-image and world view. China is bored by such talk, even dismissive of it. As it happens, the intensity of its irritation has grown in proportion to its economic clout. For Europe this has come as a rude shock.


In the early 2000s, the EU began a strange and perhaps unrealistic romance with China. It was termed the policy of "unconditional engagement", a sort of European Gujral doctrine. Believing it understood Chinese civilisational sensitivities better than did the grasping Americans, the EU leadership took it upon itself to coach China and chaperone it as it acquired a global role. Beijing played along.


Five years ago, plans began to be drawn up for a massive 'Art of the Enlightenment' exposition in the Chinese capital, as part of an effort to introduce the local people to the high thinking Europe felt was essential to great power status. In April 2011, as the exhibition awaited inauguration, China suddenly refused a visa to a leading German Sinologist who had worked on the preparations and was part of the German Foreign Minister's delegation. The Sinologist had spoken against imprisoning of dissidents; Beijing chose to disparage him as "not a friend of the Chinese people".


China was making a point with the visa refusal. As the EU's self-appointed role as guidance counsellor ended in fiasco, Europe began to ponder difficulties of dealing with the Asian giant. For a start, economic muscle was being brazenly deployed to divide the EU. In 2007, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama. An angry Beijing snubbed her and immediately played host to a team of French businessmen lead by President Nicolas Sarkozy. The honeymoon lasted till Mr Sarkozy himself met the Tibetan monk a year later.


As a European Council on Foreign Relations policy paper summed up earlier this year, "Unless member states get much better at coordinating their China policy very quickly and learn how to use their leverage (for example China's need for advanced technology), there is a danger that they will be picked apart." An illustration would help. China has built a business relationship with Germany. Nevertheless, it simultaneously exploits the concerns of smaller EU countries that are both envious of Germany's booming economy and anxious about its possible diplomatic consequences.


This shouldn't surprise. It is exactly the strategy China has adopted for India and South Asia.


malikashok@gmail.com

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THE PIONEER

OPED

OBAMA'S ILLEGAL WAR ON LIBYA

IRFAN ENGINEER


The American President who promised "change" has come a cropper on upholding his own Constitution. Taking a leaf out of his predecessor's book, he has started bombing civilians in unfriendly Libya while the NATO powers nod "yes we can"


While the United States would like to export democracy to Arab countries with unfriendly governments, the question that is now predominating in America itself is: how much respect does the US executive have for its own democratic laws and Constitution?


The US President is much less accountable than an absolute monarch was in declaring and prosecuting wars. Take the instance of US participation in the war against Libya. Article I (Section 8) defines the powers of the US Congress. The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war. In 1973, it passed the War Powers Act which limited the President's power to send US troops overseas. The administration has argued the 1973 resolution — intended to curtail presidential power — does not apply in Libya because the US military is playing a supportive role, with no ground troops and little risk of casualties. President Obama's claim that targeted bombings, missile strikes and other military actions in Libya do not constitute "hostilities" under the War Powers Resolution will not convince any reasonable person.


This reasoning was rejected by top lawyers and Constitutional experts even from Pentagon and Justice Department. Jeh C Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in their opinions given to the White House believed that the United States military's activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to "hostilities." Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20. In reality, with 8,507 (out of total 12,909) US personnel, 153 (of 309) US aircraft, 2,000 (of 5,857) US sorties thrown and 228 (of 246) US cruise missiles fired until May 5, the US is not a mere supporter, but by far a major contributor to the Libyan war and in fact a leader of the NATO forces.


The 28-country NATO force is led by US and it is the other countries that support the US war in Libya. The man in charge of NATO military operations is US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, who commands 80,000 American troops across Europe. Stavridis pulls double duty as the supreme allied commander and the US European commander. About 26 per cent of NATO's military budget is funded by the United States and they want $200 million more to NATO for "security" purposes. In total, NATO draws nearly one-fourth of its $3.5 billion budget from US tax dollars.


Who is President Obama misleading? Ron Paul, US Republican Congressmen, spoke during a Congressional session, "Let us be clear about one thing: for the US to take action to establish a "no fly" zone over all or part of Libya would constitute an act of war against Libya. For the US to establish any kind of military presence on sovereign territory, waters, or over the airspace of Libya is to engage in a hostile action that requires Congressional authorisation. Whatever we may think about the Gaddafi regime, we must recognise that this is a coup d'etat in a foreign country. What moral right do we have to initiate military action against Libya? It has not attacked the United States. Neither the coup leaders nor the regime poses an imminent threat to the United States and therefore, as much as we abhor violence and loss of life, this is simply none of our business. We continue to act as the policemen of the world at our own peril, and as we continue we only accelerate our economic collapse."

With little respect for the US Constitution, President Obama is now giving lessons in democracy to the four unfriendly West Asian countries — Libya, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, even while supporting military dictatorships and/or corrupt monarchies in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan repressive regimes, and brutally repressive Israel.


According to former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark "(The) Five-year campaign plan (included)... a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan". The destabilisation of Syria and Lebanon as sovereign countries has been on the drawing board of the US-NATO-Israel military alliance for at least ten years. In Libya and Syria, the objective is clear. First, destabilise the existing 'hostile regimes' there through covert support of armed insurgency and then intervene under the pretext of humanitarian aid and "Responsibility to Protect." In Libya under the principle of "Responsibility to Protect", and to enforce a "No Fly Zone" the presidential compound was bombed. The son of President Moammar Gaddafi was targeted and killed and scores of civilian casualties have resulted.


Dennis Kucinich, another outspoken Congressman, said in his interview, "If NATO entered into this saying they were going to stop civilian casualties and as a result of accelerated bombings they create civilian casualties, then NATO has to take responsibility for the deaths of civilians. And there has to be accountability for NATO at the International Criminal Court and to the UN Security Council." The NATO airstrikes were not undertaken to protect civilians from the rogue ruler Gaddafi's forces, rather it was used as a pretext to destroy Gaddafi's air force and help the rebels fighting Gaddafi's army consolidate its hold on oil rich eastern region of Libya and help them advance against Gaddafi's army and bring about a regime change — all in the name of democracy. If the rebels do not achieve the US objective of regime change, then NATO would not hesitate to send even ground forces to occupy Libya after Gaddafi's forces are considerably neutralised or weakened and rendered incapable of inflicting any major casualties on the occupation forces. Stavridis, the NATO commander and US Admiral, was very careful in ruling out the possibility of sending ground troops "at present".


A regime change in Libya would then send signals to all other "hostile" regimes in West Asia, Syria to begin with and finally Iran and force them to accept Zionist Israel.


-The writer is Director, Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DIRTIER THAN IRAQ, BUT WHY NO PROTEST?

UDAYAN NAMBOODIRI


US President Barack Obama's legal team this week rubbished the suggestion that the nightly raids which the United States have been launching on Libya since March 21 constitutes "hostilities". Therefore, there is no need for the United States President to seek Congressional sanction for waging war on Libya
In 1941, President Roosevelt went through the motions of securing Capitol Hill's vote in favour of declaring war against the Axis powers in response to Pearl Harbor. Closer to our times, George W Bush, easily the closest an American President has come to Adolf Hitler, did likewise when he decided to go after Saddam Hussain's Iraq. Though that aggression was totally unjustified, based as it turned out on false representation of Hussain's nuclear ambitions, Bush at least made sure he had Congress on his side.


Barack Obama came to power promising "change". To the millions who wondered if an American President, any American President, could succeed in terminating the White House-big business axis, Obamaites lustily shot back "Yes we can". Yet, this same President is seen giving extra traction to America's global designs at a time when the average American is poorer, sicker and hungrier than ever before in the nation's history.

In a famous week for all those who have suffered the United States' pseudo concerns for terrorism, democracy, human rights and that vague Americanism called "freedom", President Obama declared the beginning of the end of a decade-long adventure in Afghanistan which is believed to have cost his taxpayers more than $ 425 billion — not counting the billions lost through corrupt deals. But the past seven days also saw the same pro-changer President cement his personal bonding with the American "system" by declaring, through handpicked, toady lawyers of course, that he was not bound by the American Constitution on waging his own unjust war — on Libya.


Since March 21, American bombs have rained on Libya, massacring innocent civilians, including children. By a most modest estimate, over $800 million have been spent already. The superpower which counts an American loss of life as a "tragedy", but a foreigner's as an "accident" or "collateral damage", has not bothered to apologise. This week, for instance, when nine civilians, including two small children, were killed in an air attack, the Nato spokesperson remarked as if such things are only natural. "A missile site was the intended target of the air strikes in Tripoli. However, it appears that one weapon did not strike the intended target and that there may have been a weapons system failure which may have caused a number of civilian casualties," was all that he had to say.


Obama's degeneration into the great white chief tradition set by his illustrious predecessor is not going unnoticed in America. A large number of American intellectuals, the very ones who had been so gush-gush about his "differentness" in 2008, are now wondering aloud whether they have been had. When Obama had entered the White House, the liberal elite had cautioned that he should not be burdened by the collective American expectation of deliverance from "new poverty", unemployment, hunger, illness and other disasters which had become passé since recession consumed the economy in the last year of the Bush era. They assured all that Obama had inherited a "poisoned chalice" and he should be given the latitude to formulate and implement the oh-so-noble strategies he doubtless hand in mind.


The earliest sign of betrayal was manifested in his attitude to whistleblowers in the American system. When he was campaigning for the high office, he wooed the liberal vote with promises to not only protect whistleblowers, but also encourage the post-9/11 trend of patriotic American bureaucrats going public whenever the government short-changed the public. But ordinary Americans got a nasty surprise when Obama went hammer and tongs at Bradley Manning, the young Army soldier whose conscience forced him to make public the "collateral murder" tape showing the shooting of a Iraqi journalist from a helicopter. Now Manning is awaiting a trial which could lead to him being awarded the death sentence. He is charged with "treason", something most Americans find unbelievable.


The bigger shock was the Thomas Drake case. This bureaucrat, who served the secretive National Security Agency, resented the waste of taxpayer dollars in technologies which were not working — and also the abuse of the ordinary Americans' right to privacy. But Obama took the position that Drake's act of leaking this information to a newspaper somehow put the lives of American soldiers on the line. Drake was supposed to go on trial on June 13 and faced 35 years' imprisonment, but thanks to an upright judge who refused to entertain the government side's request not to make public the "evidence" against Drake which they claimed were of strategic importance, the case against him collapsed. The charge against him was changed to "unauthorised use" of the office computer — which does not carry a sentence.


The irony in the Drake case was that the judge in Baltimore who showed rare pluck was an appointee of the Bush administration. Does this mean that conservatives, at the end of the day, can be counted upon to uphold the nobler aspects of their nationhood? Evidence from near history shows that Democratic Presidents (not counting the great Franklin Roosevelt as he belongs to the pre-War era) showed greater aggressiveness towards nimble people than Republican ones. They compromised everything that was decent about America and Americans in the name of upholding America's right to dominate.


Truman, for instance, secretly helped Nazi war criminals assume new lives so that they could enrich the American scientific and military thrust against the USSR. It was also he who encouraged the French colonialist government to reclaim Vietnam after World War II, totally at variance with America's professions about liberty and freedom. French troops would never have got to Vietnam from home bases if Truman had not put hundreds of American merchant ships at their disposal. John F Kennedy not only corrupted America's domestic politics but heightened Uncle Sam's big brotherism abroad. Lyndon B Johnson spun the original web of lies to send America to war in Vietnam. And the less said about Bill Clinton the better.


Apart from cheating his own people over Libya, Obama is putting the future of the entire South Asian region in jeopardy by announcing the end of an adventure in Afghanistan which America had no right to start in the first place. It is high time New Delhi united with Germany, Russia and China to forge a common plank against the Atlantic powers. Saturday Special demands a paradigm change in India's United States outlook.

-The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LIBYA, REGIONAL MONSTER AND INTERNATIONAL TERROR OLFACTORY

ASHOK K SINGH


The Libyan imbroglio is expected to be long drawn and could throw the country into civil war and penury. Far from projecting a united Libya for the future, the NATO powers are themselves fast degenerating into mutual squabbling

Months after the beginning of the conflict in Libya, a stalemate seems to have emerged between the Gaddafi regime operating from the West and Central regions on the one hand and the rebels backed by NATO in the East.

Behind the tug of war between the regime and the rebels, a handful of trends seem to have consolidated. The Gaddafi regime has, despite massive international condemnation and pressure, managed to retain the support of a large constituency in the Western region. In an audio message broadcast by Libyan state media, Gaddafi defiantly promised: "We will resist and the battle will continue to the beyond."


On the other hand, the rebels have a great deal of motivation but their capacities are limited by shortages of arms, ammunition and communication equipment. Most of all, they are constrained by the absence of a coherent organisation and leadership.


Moreover, cracks have begun to appear in the NATO coalition that has been supporting the rebel faction. Most recently, Italy has called for a cessation of the bombing raids by NATO. In Britain too, there have been reports that senior military commanders have cautioned the government of the possible ill-effects of a long drawn involvement in Libya.

 

The international community seems to be settling down to a mood of weariness with yet another conflict and, too all appearances, the stage seems set for the current stalemate to settle into a long drawn face-off followed by the consolidation of two rival governments — thus splitting the country into Eastern and Western parts.

This, however, would be the worst possible solution to the problem in Libya.


Historically, Libya was divided into three large provinces of Cyrenaica (almost the entire Eastern half of the country), Tripolitania (the upper portion of the Western half) and Fezzan (the lower portion of the Western half). In the early 20th century, Italy held large chunks of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania but, from 1943 to 1951, the British controlled these territories while the French controlled Fezzan. Today, the area corresponding to the old province of Cyrenaica hosts about a third of Libya's population but also contains the bulk of Libya's oil reserves. It is also this area that is the stronghold of the rebels.


So why would it be a problem if Eastern Libya were to emerge as a wealthy, stable and possibly democratic state? In itself, there is no problem — the problem would be what would happen to Western Libya?


One scenario can be seen in the history of this region itself. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, much of the North African region was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire but in actuality it comprised a handful of semi-independent political entities centred around Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. Collectively, this area was known to Europeans as the Barbary Coast and the predominant activity of these states was slave-trading and piracy. In fact, the very first foreign military action undertaken by the United States was in Libya in 1805 against the Barbary pirates who had long been holding the Mediterranean hostage.

In the course of his long rule, Gaddafi himself seems to have learnt from this history and fine-tuned the art of asymmetric conflict. That the Libyan regime calibrated its actions for is self-interest is clear from Gaddafi's threat to open the floodgates of migration from sub-Saharan Africa into Europe if the latter continued to oppose it.

For many years, the Libyan regime in its effort to consolidate its position against the West is reported to have systematically supported and aided a number of African dictators from Idi Amin of Uganda to Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the 'Central African Empire', Mengistu of Ethiopia and Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone. The long catalogue of the Libyan regime's involvement in terror and disorder seems to have been motivated solely by self-interest with no trace of principles. At the present point in time, if Eastern Libya goes out of Tripoli's control, the Western half of the country will be left with two-thirds of the country's population and no oil revenue. In such a predicament, any regime in Western Libya will become a failed state and will spawn disorder in the entire region. The piracy we are seeing on the Somali coast today will pale into insignificance when compared to what 'Western' Libya might collapse into.International efforts, therefore, need to focus urgently upon maintaining Libya as a unified country under a responsible, representative government. This does not mean a compromise with Gaddafi or his regime. That an alternate paradigm is possible is proved by Libya's own 1951 constitution which proclaimed Islam as the State religion but, at the same time, it enshrined equality before law and other civil and political rights "without distinction of religion, belief, race, language, wealth, kinship or political or social opinions".


-Ashok K Singh is a Senior Fellow with Observer Research Foundation.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

A BUG IN UPA'S SOUP

 

Has our Intelligence Bureau bitten off more than it can chew? Sixteen adhesive sticks were found in finance ministry offices sometime ago, which has set tongues wagging about Pranab-da being spied on. But IB-wallahs rubbished claims that these were remnants of bugging devices. The suspicious stick-ons, they insist, were just chewing gum! Now, it must have been very special chewing gum indeed. Not only did it travel all over North Block, it also got stuck in several spots ideal for eavesdropping. Chew on that.


BJP's Sushma Swaraj takes the IB's theory as just so much bubble gum. Not without reason. Haven't ex-IB men written tomes about their agency's expertise in helping politicos play Spy-Versus-Spy? Why, leaving his party fuming, Congressman Digvijay Singh even calls for a probe. Rightly so. Imagine all the info we could unearth in this age of sticky leaks. Chasing prime suspects, we could find out if North Block ever had Justin Bieber-lookalike tweenage visitors. Didn't we too as young rebels listen in on adult talk and stick yucky blobs all over symbols of institutional authority?


Equally, we could expose which minister has a stake in tuning in to FM. He, not taxpayers, must foot North Block's bill for buttressed security. Won't visitors need extra screening from now on for sticky chewing gum along with stick-'em-up stuff like guns and RDX? Ratan Tata may be happy with the promised law against illegal bugging of private citizens. But who'll protect cabinet ministers if not a gum disposal squad?

However, the probe may well disprove Janata Party prez Subramanian Swamy's allegations about home minister P Chidambaram's culpability. All it'll take is to prove 'home affairs' doesn't mean gathering intelligence on PC's in-house rivals. Big Business, some say, could've also planned the sticky business. Well, who wouldn't want to keep tabs on the FM, if only to know whether the dead reforms process will revive at all in this millennium?

Come to think of it, the UPA seems most in need of an adhesive, given its internal cracks. Consider the 'Kaun Banega Pradhan Mantri' contest that appears to have broken out, with all its divisive potential. It may be mere coincidence that 'PM' is short for
Pranab Mukherjee, to the possible chagrin of 'PC'. But is it pure chance that Diggy Raja's "Rahul as PM" pitch comes just when PM Manmohan Singh is in a sticky situation, with the UPA hit by accusations of graft and governance deficit? The question, of course, is whether Rahul baba wants to be glued to the hot seat at a time these charges are showing a propensity for sticking. Like chewing gum.

Netas may have a taste for espionage along with vaulting ambitions. But it's time they learnt that the strongest binding agent in politics has more to do with stooping than snooping to conquer. Political humility and good governance are the best adhesives: both make voters stick with those they elect to power. Chew on that, as well.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

CHANGE WITH THE TIMES

JEAN-PIERRE LEHMANNJEAN-PIERRE LEHMANN

 

In the course of the last decade the world has undergone the most profound transformation in all of its millenniums of history. Between 2000 and 2010, the share of global GDP of the three leading emerging economies - China, India and Brazil - doubled. The remarkable developments reflect not only changes occurring within these dynamic economies, but also between them.


China's share of global trade was 2% in 1990, less than 4% in 2000 and 11% now. Similarly, between 2000 and 2010, Brazil's exports to China increased some 20-fold; from having been a very distant speck on the Brazilian trade horizon, China is now Brazil's biggest trading partner, surpassing the US and the EU.


The dynamism and optimism in the emerging economies contrast sharply with the moroseness and pessimism in the EU, Japan and even the US. The greatest risk to the world economy is Eurozone's debt problems. Europe is in a state worse than the East Asian economies in the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis when loud western pontificating voices bemoaned Asian "crony capitalism". Europe's decline as an economic force seems irreversible, among other things, for demographic reasons: Europeans as a proportion of world population declined from 25% in 1900 to less than 10% of the world population today. According to IMF statistics, Europe's share of global GDP (at purchasing power parity) will decrease from 25% in 2000 to 18% in 2018.

Had the proverbial Martian visited Deauville, the resort and setting of the G8 summit in May, she would hardly have been aware of these profound changes or the state of Euro-decline. Not only was the G8 held in Europe, under a European president (Sarkozy), dominated by European countries (five, including
Russia, out of the eight), they also rallied round the European candidate (French finance minister Christine Lagarde) to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, another ex-French finance minister, as IMF head. The imperative of a European head arises, Europeans argue: one, from the tradition of having a European at the IMF and an American at the World Bank and, two, on the ground that 80% of IMF lending is now to Europe and there are the greatest risks in the Eurozone.

This is palpable nonsense. If you follow that logic, there should have been a Mexican head of the IMF at the time of the Mexican crisis, an Asian at the time of the East Asian crisis, etc. As to "tradition", traditions have to change and adapt to the times. Societies not capable of adapting their traditions or creating new ones degenerate. That was to a considerable extent China's history for some 200 years until the country "woke up" and embraced globalisation in the late-1970s - and it hasn't looked back since.


The survival and development of societies depend on two prominent factors: a propensity to change and adapt, and the quality of its governance. In early 21st century governance, these factors are conspicuous by their absence. While technologies and markets have changed exponentially, changes in global governance, with very few exceptions, have simply not happened, while entrenched positions have been jealously guarded.

The UN Security Council's composition reflects realities in 1945, yet the prospects of change are less than that of pigs flying. The WTO has been stagnant and unable to conclude its current round of negotiations (Doha), while the real world of trade is booming in all sorts of new directions.


The G6 was founded in 1975 (to later become G7 with Canada's addition). In 1975, the idea of the heads of the world's major economies getting together on a problem-solving and confidence-building informal forum made sense. Following 30 glorious post-war years of growth and near full-employment, the oil crisis of 1973-74 resulted in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. France, Italy, Germany, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan were the global economic powers at the time. China, India, Brazil and all other emerging economies as well as the communist states were not in the picture.


A good idea in 1975 became an obsolete idea by 2000. In 2008 when the global recession hit, there was an element of innovation in the convening of the first ever G20 summit in Washington in November that year. This was followed by one in London in April the following year. Both meetings did have an impact in mitigating the effects of the "great recession". Arguably, it could have been much worse without the G20. This is a good example of institutional innovation and adaptation.


Since then, the G20 has meandered aimlessly, rich on rhetoric and photo-ops, poor in substance, identity, credibility and legitimacy. The G20's existential problems are compounded by the persistence of the G8. The latter has reverted to seeking to project itself as the "real show", while the G20 with all these parvenus - including India, China, Korea, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Saudi Arabia - are the side show.


In this highly interconnected world, the misalignment between new realities and obsolete governance structures is a grave concern. The global economic edifice has rebounded in many (mostly emerging economy) parts of the world quite dynamically since the recession. But the governance foundations remain weak. It is likely there will be other shocks to the global economy in the years ahead. Business leaders should worry that global governance is weak, and take an active role in making it stronger. Since so much business is moving to the developing world, obtaining G8's abolition and strengthening G20 would be a step in the right direction. Ending the "tradition" of a European heading the IMF would be another.


The failure to adapt, modernise and strengthen global institutions and global governance could prove extremely costly. Better to act now.


The writer is professor of international political economy at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                TIMES VIEW

BRING ON THE FUTURE

 

Not even magic is future-proof. British author J K Rowling's decision to let her massively popular seven-book series be sold as e-books has imparted additional momentum to the growth of the digital publishing industry. And it further erodes the diminishing ranks of those who continue to hold out against the inevitable shift. That some do is regrettable but not particularly surprising. The advent of any new technology renders the old one defunct. And when a global industry worth unimaginable sums of money is built on that old technology, a great deal of pain - and therefore resistance - is inevitable. But none of that can change the facts: the future of publishing is digital, and that is as it should be.


It's important to remember that the shift from physical formats to digital in the entertainment industry started only in the past decade. That it has become irreversible in such a short period says something about it. In the music industry, chain stores that had prospered for decades have shut down all over the US, unable to compete with digital downloads. And the movie industry may well be going the same way with the latest quarterly reports showing DVD sales dropping and a corresponding growth for Netflix, the premier online movie streaming service. The book industry is not immune to this dynamic.


It isn't hard to see why. In their purest form, books, like music and movies, are data. And the advantages of liberating that data from a physical medium are immense. The Economic Times costs go down, supply constraints are removed entirely. Knowledge is democratised, for with the proper infrastructure, e-books have the potential to be far more accessible to a far greater number of people than physical books. A far greater number of authors can make their presence felt, for the digital format enables low-cost self-publishing in a way the existing industry does not. So, bring on the future.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

NO MAGIC IN DIGITAL

PRABHAT BANERJEEPRABHAT BANERJEE

 

That J K Rowling - a member of the small tribe of high-profile authors standing up for books as we know them by refusing to authorise digital versions of her best-selling Harry Potter series - has succumbed to the electronic onslaught is a pity. While e-books might be the latest fad, the writer who entranced the world with tales of magic of a boy wizard should have been more appreciative of the magic of paperbacks and hard bounds. For, a book has a special aura and cannot be reduced to mere data. It is a treasured material possession and, in many cases, a collector's item. The feel and sensuality of a book can hardly be replaced by the cold, detached screen of an e-book reader.


A book is much more than a medium for literary content. A reader not just reads a book but forms a relationship with it. Also, books are reservoirs of stories whereas e-books are just platforms for information. The inherent tactile nature of a book helps readers associate better with the content. Reading the Bhagavad Gita or the Bible in book form is an experience that cannot be replicated by their e-book versions. When books are digitised they no longer remain books but become interactive multimedia tools. It takes away from the sanctity of the book itself. This is precisely what the digital version of the Harry Potter books will do. 'Pottermore', the website that will host the e-books will be a mishmash of computer games, social networking and online store.


Just as the experience of watching a movie in a theatre cannot be reproduced by DVDs and movie websites, e-books cannot capture the joys of reading a book. Scrolling through an e-book is not the same as flipping through the pages of a book. The former, made interactive with multimedia inputs, diminishes the key ingredient that makes reading such a pleasure - imagination.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

NOT A ROUT, A TACTICAL SHIFT

 

There is an assumption that President Barack Obama has begun beating the retreat from America's longest overseas military conflict. Afghanistan, this argument goes, has once again proved itself the graveyard of empires. This point of view has more chance of being wrong than right. The nature of the U S war in Afghanistan has metamorphosed since the original invasion that followed 9/11. The ebb and flow of US troops is a lot less important than it once was. Mr Obama's withdrawal is far from a rout. Even by 2012 end, by which time he promises to withdraw 33,000 troops, the US will have double the military presence in Afghanistan it had when he entered office. And by then, of course, the US presidential elections will be over and this speech may well be forgotten. More important is that the US priority in the war has changed from merely defeating al-Qaeda. The jasmine revolutions and the death of Osama bin Laden have reduced the terror network to a Taliban plug-in. US officials say their military presence in Afghanistan is now crucial to a different theatre of the war on terror — Pakistan.

 

India has long argued the Pakistani military, its militant groups and the Taliban are branches of the same tree. The ene-my that the US, Afghanistan and India face is the same. That elements of this chimeric foe are also attacking Pakistan is relevant only in how little influence this is having on Rawalpindi's willingness to end the use of terrorism as an element of its Statecraft. The real change has been in Washington. David Headley, bin Laden's hidey-hole and what was unearthed in Abbottabad have made even the most blinkered Americans recognise that the root cause of Islamicist global terror is the sickness that afflicts the Pakistani state. Troop numbers are far less important to the future of the region than how Washington uses Afghanistan as a base to further its Pakistan policy. India was an invisible player in the first phase of the US war in Afghanistan but now needs to be far more proactive in what can be termed the second phase. The US wants to focus on changing the mindset of denial and delusion that increasingly afflicts the Pakistani system. Part of that policy will be carrots like aid, weapons and the like. India needs to work out how best it can influence, coordinate with or simply exploit any such US policy, especially given the limited levers it has regarding Pakistan.

 

The US is war-weary and its bank balance not in great shape. It will easily be afflicted by impatience or policy drift. Which is all the more reason that India should be giving thought to the 'AfPak question' in a way that goes beyond rewarming British Raj tomes or slipping into lethargy. Mr Obama's speech reminds us that Americans can cut themselves loose and return to a home thousands of miles away. Indians face an opposite fate — turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan will spread first and foremost into their own homes and hearths.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ON THE WRONG TRACK

GULU EZEKIEL

 

Is India in danger of being banned from the 2012 London Olympics? It would appear so judging from the noises emanating from the offices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). India has never boycotted an Olympic Games since the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) first sent an official delegation to Amsterdam in 1928. That is a rare blemishless record considering the spate of boycotts that bedeviled the Olympics movement from 1976 to 1988.

 

But a crisis has been looming for the last couple of years. The UPA government first under sports minister MS Gill and now under Ajay Maken have been aggressively pushing the National Sports Development Bill that is due to be tabled in Parliament's monsoon session. The Bill seeks to limit the tenure of office-bearers of national sports federations and also fix an age limit for them of 70 years.

 

It is public knowledge that sports federations in India have been run by a small group of officials, many of them over 70, for decades now. It is also well known that the vast majority of them happen to be politicians. And that India's abysmal record at the Olympics is a matter of shame for the world's second most populous nation.

 

So why are our politicians inexorably drawn to sports officialdom in the first place? It is not that too many of them have ever been active sportspersons. The reasons would appear to be threefold — holding senior positions in sports federations is an easy route to power, pelf and ego.

 

Never before in independent India has one witnessed the sight of politicians cutting across party lines and joining hands as they have done to protest the Bill, seeing as it threatens to curtail their reins.The aftermath of last year's Commonwealth Games has landed a number of senior IOA officials in jail on corruption charges. This, however, has not stopped those on the outside from expressing their outrage over the proposed Bill on the grounds of it infringing their autonomy, something they claim the IOC holds sacred. Or does it? India is also the world's largest democracy. And if the Bill is passed by Parliament, it would be a fine case of democracy in action.

 

That is more than can be said for nations across Africa, Asia and the Arab world where democracy is a distant dream. Totalitarian North Korea sees the president aka 'Dear Leader', invariably a member of the Kim family, automatically take over as head of the National Olympic Committee. It is not much different in China, host of the last Olympics in Beijing, where government control over the NOC is considered de rigueur. Yet it is India that is apparently under threat of banishment from the London Olympics on the grounds of governmental interference. In fact a perusal of the latest Olympic Charter in force since February 11, 2010, shows that autonomy is not one of the 'Fundamental Principles of Olympism' which are laid out prominently at the very top of the charter.

 

Principles 4 and 5 state that "the practice of sport is a human right" and that "any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement".It is on the issue of gender equality that the IOC finds itself on shaky ground.

 

For while the number of women at the Olympic Games has grown by leaps and bounds, there are still three nations that have never sent a sportswoman to the Olympics — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei. Many others, most prominently Iran, impose severe restrictions on their participation in the sporting arena. Yet the IOC has never threatened these nations with suspension.

 

A clear case then of double standards and hypocrisy.

 

( Gulu Ezekiel is a sports journalist and co-author of Great Indian Olympians )

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SCARED OF THE SPARK

RAJINDER SACHAR

 

As expected, the government and the team led by Anna Hazare have disagreed on vital points. The question of including the prime minister within the ambit of the lokpal is being falsely blown out of proportion by government apologists.   
    
Though the head of th e government, the prime minister is only the first among equals. In a democracy, a political vacuum does not arise if the PM finds himself under the lokpal's gaze as the Cabinet has a collective responsibility. Also our past experience does not show that all our PMs have been angels. The regret always was that in the absence of an independent mechanism like the lokpal to inquire into these allegations, the ruling party was able to successfully scuttle any honest independent inquiry.

Manmohan Singh has reportedly consented to be included within the jurisdiction, as had his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The supposed concern of the ministers is puerile, it being a case of being more loyal than the king. The reason cited by the ministers for excluding the PM from the lokpal's purview is so incongruous when it is noted that the standing committee on law and justice headed by Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan has said that the bill should cover the prime minister also. Our cynicism is increased when we find that Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh also supports the PM's inclusion.

The ministers argue that the exclusion is justified as the prime minister continues to be under the jurisdiction of the Prevention of Corruption Act. It's a matter of surprise that the ministers are comfortable about the PM being prosecuted at the behest of a report of a junior police official but not at the instance of a high-powered body such as the lokpal. Could this be based on the unspoken premise that under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will have to get sanction from the government itself? I certainly don't know which subordinate will dare to sanction the PM's prosecution.

Another laughable justification provided by the ministers is that the exemption won't be applicable after the PM has remitted office. This would be tantamount to locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Incidentally, even the discredited and toothless draft Lokpal Bill 2010, included the PM and members of Parliament in the lokpal's purview.

The inclusion of the higher judiciary comprising judges of the Supreme Court under the lokpal is undesirable. I am conscious of the shame that some in the higher judiciary have brought to the institution. I am only suggesting a separate National Judicial and Accountability Commission. Call it lokpal (judicial) with the same powers as the lokpal. This will serve the purpose and still keep the distance between the executive and the judiciary intact as mandated by the Constitution.

The rhetorical bluster of Kapil Sibal — to give an example: "Which PM in office anywhere has been prosecuted in the world?" — is possibly due to Sibal not being ably assisted by his public relations officer. Otherwise, he would have certainly been told about the present Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, being prosecuted before a magistrate on charges of corruption. Earlier, proceedings were started in France against the then president, Jacques Chirac, for misappropriation of public money.

The near contempt of the people protesting against corruption was shown by Sibal when he compared Hazare "to the Pied Piper of Hamelin". Interestingly, Sibal did not continue the metaphor as those in the story who followed the Pied
Piper were rats and children who were led to drown in the
sea. So much for the aam admi being the repository of the nation's hopes.

The charge against holding protest meetings to force the government to pass a worthwhile legislation has been that the agitation has been undemocratic. According to this theory, all that people have to do is to try and persuade legislators to pass a particular law; if they don't succeed, they should try their luck by standing for elections themselves. As a reminder let me simply point to the rejection of this idea by the Supreme Court in 1960 in the case against Ram Manohar Lohia, who had been arrested for asking farmers not to pay the increased rates for canal water to the Uttar Pradesh government.

Ordering the Lohia's release, the court had said, "We cannot accept the argument of the learned advocate general that instigation of a single individual not to pay tax or dues is a spark which may in the long run ignite a revolutionary movement destroying public order. We can only say that fundamental rights cannot be controlled on such hypothetical and imaginary considerations.

It is said that in a democratic set-up there is no scope for [an] agitational approach and that if a law is bad, the only course is to get it modified by [the] democratic process and that any instigation to break the law is in itself a disturbance of the public order. If this argument without obvious limitations be accepted, it would destroy the right to freedom of speech which is the very foundation of democratic way of life."

( Rajinder Sachar is a civil rights activist and the former Chief Justice of Delhi )

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE SOUND AND THE FURY

KEN UENO

 

How two great musicians drove a man to the music inside him

Afew years ago, when I was composing a concerto for myself as vocalist, I rediscovered some tapes I had made when I was six. Back then one of my favorite things was a portable Aiwa cassette recorder and I used it to make nonlinear musique concrète -that is a fancy way of saying I recorded weird sounds around the house, rubbing my toy cars against the microphone, alternately growling and counting off numbers in Japanese like some spastic MC.

I am a composer and a vocalist, but not in the classical sense. As a vocalist, I have learned how to make sounds inspired by different vocal traditions from around the world -sub-tone singing and screaming from heavy metal, throat singing from Tuva and Tibet -and have also invented techniques like singing multi-band multiphonics inspired by jazz saxophonists.

When I was 16, I was abandoned in a mountain cabin. I went there on a skiing trip with my brother and his friends, but when I awoke that morning, they were gone. They had ditched me to go fishing.
Stranded there all day, and not finding a television to keep me entertained, I snooped around the house. Eventually, I came across a turntable and a box of LPs.

I started going through the records, one by one. Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Led Zeppelin; Cream. After about a half-day survey of classic rock, I put on a record with the most earth-shattering, alien sounds I had ever heard. I was converted. For the rest of the day I kept replaying it -Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? I immediately knew I had to learn to play the guitar.

Hendrix's electric guitar is visceral. It is somatic in Whitman's sense -the song of itself -and emphatically American.
Hendrix's guitar is immediately recognisable in the way speaking voices of loved ones are immediately familiar. It taught me that a sound, in and of itself, can embody a feeling and that there is a meaning that can only be expressed with that sound, that voice, that guitar playing in that unique way.

But at 16, I had already determined my life plan: go to West Point, become a general, serve my country, return to California, become a senator. Bound up in that plan was a search for identity. In my formative years, my family lived in Japan and Switzerland, and I was always insecure of my identity as an American. As a naïve 16-year-old, I thought that if I put on a uniform and was willing to fight for my country, then others would have to accept me as one of their own. Two years later, everything was on schedule. But then I suffered an injury during an exercise in gymnastics class, and had to leave. My life plan had to be revised.

During the period of my convalescence, all I did was go to physical therapy and play guitar for eight or more hours a day.

I started writing songs and playing in bands, and, eventually, I had enough courage to consider completing my college education in music instead. I found a school, Berklee College of Music in Boston, which accepted the electric guitar as a legitimate instrument in which to major.

There, I was introduced to the music of Bartók and Stravinsky. I experienced a second musical epiphany, and began studying to become a composer.

When I first heard Bartók's Fourth String Quartet at Berklee, I felt like my body understood it. It was visceral. It spoke to me on a plane similar to the Metallica and Black Sabbath I was playing with my friends. But in another sense, I felt there was an entirely separate cabalistic code embedded in the written score, one I did not yet understand. It was the desire to understand that code, to hopefully someday be able to compose notated music as beautifully complex as Bartók did that turned me into a composer.

Ken Ueno, a composer and vocalist, is an associate professor of music composition at the University of California at Berkeley The New York Times The views expressed by the author are personal Namita Bhandare's column Another Day will return next fortnight

 

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CLOSING THE DOOR

 

The decision to exclude the Central Bureau of Investigation from the Right to Information Act's ambit has been widely questioned — now, the Madras high court has asked for a clearer rationale for the decision, and opinion was visibly divided within the government and even among previous CBI chiefs.

The CBI has been bundled with the National Investigative Agency and the National Intelligence Grid to justify this exemption. However, it's not primarily concerned with "security and intelligence functions" that are explicitly left out of the RTI Act, but with cases of corruption and crime. Though the agency has cloudily argued that it "has investigated/ is investigating extremely sensitive and important cases having inter-state/ international ramifications", RTI requests would not have applied to ongoing investigations anyway. The CBI also cites a "mosaic theory" — that seemingly innocuous bits of information can be pieced together to draw large conclusions, and argues that its file-notings are too free-spoken and revealing to be given away. However, other sensitive and elevated offices have submitted to these processes, to no visible harm. The problem is, these arguments stem from a reflexive suspicion of the citizen, which undercuts the very premise of RTI and maximum disclosure. RTI exemptions must be narrowly defined, and ideally they should be case-specific, rather than an entire category being swept out of the public domain. The harm should be demonstrably greater than the public interest in disclosure, and restrictions that serve to shield the official agency from embarrassment or exposure have no place in these exemptions. The one argument that make sense is that the CBI is too understaffed to keep up with a flood of RTI requests — but that's a working glitch the government must, and can, fix, instead of using it to draw the curtains over the CBI's work.

And the CBI is in a particularly bad place to make these appeals to keep its affairs private. Despite the 1997 Supreme Court judgment that explicitly reminded it of its autonomy, the agency has often been accused of being the government's obliging little helper, its investigations twist and turn depending on which way the political wind is blowing, rendering its word dangerously suspect.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DRAVID'S TEST

 

The West Indies team today is not near as formidable as that of the 1970s when a Test at Kingston's Sabina Park would strike such terror amongst visitors. Yet, in helping India this week to their second win at the ground, Rahul Dravid harked back to what now appears to be a bygone era when batsmen would weather the bowling, the conditions and their own impatience to build partnerships and work up a challenging total. It's an ethic he cultivated when he debuted 15 summers ago at Lord's, to the week, and it's one he's kept to now, as the senior-most member of the team this week (in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar).

His second-innings 112, the only century of the Test, took him to a career aggregate of 12,215 runs and it hints at the longevity of an uncommon compact, one he explained to his current teammates: "You have to weather the storm. The intensity of a particular spell like that will last six to eight overs, and in Test cricket you need to fight your way through that, and things will become easier... So, I tell these guys to enjoy the contest."

The 15 years of Dravid's career have been the longest 15 years of Test cricket. In 1996, the Windies domination was just ending, and Australia's not yet established. In the time since, one-days have propelled the acceleration of scoring in Tests, Twenty20 has changed cricket's commerce and viewership patterns, and we have even begun to worry about the Test match's eventual demise. Splendid, then, to have one of Test cricket's greatest players roll out of a bad patch and enchant us all yet again with the way the game was once played.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                                EDITORIAL

LOOSE CANNONS?

 

A cultural change seems to have taken place at the top of the armed services. Instead of a soldierly silence on matters that could be deemed to be still under discussion by the civilian authorities, or that touch upon sensitive matters of internal security, the leaders of our military seem to be willing to discuss, at length and in public, decisions that most feel should probably be weighed with considerably more care than appears to be on display. Most recently, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik has unburdened himself of his view that the chief of defence staff is a position that is unnecessary and before its time. Meanwhile, the government has allowed uncertainty to persist over whether the army chief, General V.K. Singh's age may be amended, with obvious consequences for many senior armymen.

Taken together, these instances revive apprehensions that no one is in control at the ministry of defence to address what is now an open disconnect between the civilian and military leaderships. Whenever such a disconnect happened in the past, national security had been diminished. It is, for instance, far from clear whether Naik's opinion on the CDS is the opinion of the air force as a whole, of its current head, of the services in general, or of the defence ministry. That is, indeed, one of the central problems caused by undue loquaciousness among the heads of the services. The persuasiveness or not of his views apart, such half-considered statements are not best made in the public glare — these are, in any case, decisions that are made by the government. Earlier, the army and IAF chiefs had similarly weighed in on deploying the armed forces in areas affected by Naxal violence. More recently, General V.K. Singh told the public that India's armed forces had the "capability" to carry out an Abbottabad-like operation if they were so ordered to.

Ultimate responsibility for this must lie with the defence minister. There is a sense in which his ministry has been unable to engage, and also provide political cover for, India's top brass. There is the additional, and related, problem that the very capabilities that General Singh was talking about have been severely eroded by irresponsibility in the defence ministry. Decisions tend to be postponed about purchases — and indeed about consolidating command, of the sort that was recommended by the Arun Singh committee after Kargil, and which has gone unimplemented for so long that the IAF's head can attack it today, in 2011. The defence ministry needs to wake up, and the top brass should recover an earlier, becoming, restraint.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

OUR SINGAPORE FANTASY

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

The increasing upper crust impatience with our "messy" democracy and the rising new, post-Jantar Mantar clamour for quick-fixes for the most complex problems in governance, all conveniently blamed on our "rotten" politics, bring to my mind an exchange at a recent institutional investors' conference which I was addressing on contemporary Indian politics. Just a little bit disconcerted by how many questions were being asked on the "curse" of caste-based reservations, I did something wicked. This was a crowd of nearly 500 of the best paid, globalised Indian finance whiz-kids, in hundred-dollar Hermes ties, seven-figure (in dollars) bonuses and fancy cars. "We have here, fellow Indians with the finest jobs in the world, mostly with an IIT/ IIM education. Both institutions have also had caste-based reservations for ever. So how many of you here are tribal or Dalit?"

Not a single hand came up.

Sensing a QED moment, I turned the knife. "Okay, please tell me how many of you at least count a Dalit or a tribal among your friends or acquaintances? Or how many of you have even shaken hands with a tribal or a Dalit?"

Not a single hand came up again.

That's because the Dalits or tribals our class of PLU interacts with, are not equals, I said. They are only our domestic servants, drivers, people who wipe our windscreens at gas stations, iron our clothes, polish our shoes. Even when one of them drives you for a weekend's break at a hill station, he sits on a different table, or more likely in another dhaba, rather than eat with you. That's why you need legal, constitutional and, howsoever you may hate it, political intermediation to bridge that divide, I said. Or they will invade our gated communities, burn our cars, poison our pugs.

There was silence for a moment, but then protest. Why was I bringing "dirty" politics into what was, after all, a simple question of merit? After all it was just our politics, and the corruption it brought in its wake, that was responsible for these inequalities, no?

This week's argument, however, is not about merit or caste. It is about this growing upper crust disenchantment with the "soft" management and "messy" execution that democracy brings. There should, therefore, be a quick, managerial, and by implication extra-parliamentary, solution. And there should be preventive, even prophylactic, safeguards so things can't go too wrong. Read once again the statements that some of our latest TV stars, members of Team Anna, have been making to support the argument that the prime minister be brought under their Lokpal. Shanti Bhushan said it first: "What if Madhu Koda or A. Raja becomes prime minister?" Arvind Kejriwal elaborated, and asked what if indeed, because it was quite possible given "our coalition politics". And a prime minister in India, he said, knows so much on issues of national security. So what will the Lokpal do then, if he thinks that the man chosen prime minister does not look worthy of the job? Put fetters on him? Give him a bad ACR? Tell the cabinet secretary to keep secrets of the state from him? But most importantly, how would this Lokpal then determine that a really bad, unworthy guy has become prime minister, presuming that nobody actually charged with serious corruption can get there even in the current system? If he is a tribal (Koda) or a Dalit (Raja), it would be a dead giveaway, you'd suppose. You expect social and intellectual elites to be, what else, but elite. But this is now treading dangerous territory.

The upper crust in India is displaying an arrogant new authoritarian streak that has no patience for the "dirty unwashed", the "bhookha-nangas" or the "jahil-ganwars" who man our politics or vote to elect them, for the price of a sari, 100 rupees or a bottle of liquor, to quote Anna's immortal line. They do not particularly want a dictatorship, but a more controlled, less noisy, better managed and guided democracy. This is the new Indian elite's Singapore fixation. The government will be elected, of course, but only from amongst People Like Us, and then we will get a cabinet as academically accomplished as Singapore's. And yet, if they go astray, as people in power often do, there should be a senior minister, a minister-mentor or whatever you call him, a Lee Kuan Yew of our own to keep them in check.

The Indian elite's concept of its own Lee Kuan Yew is this civil society version of the all-powerful Lokpal, answerable to none and "selected" from amongst us PLUs, by who else, but PLUs. If you look at the Team Anna version, the Lokpal will be selected by all upper crust, well-educated people: predominantly IAS officers (former CECs and CAGs), Supreme Court judges, civil society representatives (nearly half of whom are also former civil servants), and the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to represent the elected classes as well as the corrupt, stupid voters. This Lokpal institution will be untouched and unsullied by politics. It will keep the politicians in check and, should a really bad-sounding guy get to the top, do something pro-actively to prevent him from doing any damage. This is never going to fly, because this is India with all its complexities, diversity, inequalities, problems and so on. This is not anodyne, disciplined Singapore (which I love to visit), because if it was, half of this government would have been locked up in jail already for chewing gum, and particularly for sticking it under the finance minister's desk.

This impatience with the noise of democracy, the tendency to blame everything on politics and the search for managerial, short-cut, extra-democratic solutions by executive fiat of some sort, or the kind of T20 approach to law-making exemplified by the candles-at-Jantar Mantar crowd, is an even greater irony given that this year marks the 20th year of reform. Today's chattering classes owe their new globalised stature to this reform, which came out of our politics. Today, every chief minister, every political party talks investments, infrastructure, aspiration. Yes, there are problems with our politics and governance and both need reform. That reform is challenging and messy, and needs imagination, patience and persistence. It needs better education for the voter, not contempt for the voting classes. It needs better, deeper, wider democracy, not less of it. What will never work are these quick, elitist and even escapist solutions imposed from "outside" the parliamentary tent by a privileged few who seem to believe the TV studio is the new Lok Sabha and you don't even have to be elected to get there.

sg@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

NEVER ON A SATURDAY

SHIVANI NAIK

 

It was a sluggish start for women's tennis in my world. My mother went into labour that first Sunday of July 1985, threatening to call my sibling Boris, should it be a boy. Perhaps it was just a ploy to distract four-year-old me, but it served as a momentous initiation into tennis — and all of sport. The Wimbledon men's singles final has never needed a hardsell since.

In the past decade, try as I might, the women's final — and women's tennis in general — has failed to set the pulse racing.

Even though Venus Williams chases her sixth title this year, and sister Serena has opened the early, teary floodgates with her emotional return to the sport after a life-threatening condition, aiming for her own hat-trick and overall fifth, there's an unmistakable feeling that the women's final at Wimbledon is drifting from one year to the next. The contests are just not memorable enough.

It's not that Wimbledon lacks formidable competitors, like the decade when Steffi Graf accumulated seven titles after Navratilova's nine. For, the Williamses can, between them, boast of nine of the last 11 championships (and the French Open across the channel has had eight different winners in 11 years); it's just that a Saturday at SW 19 has paled in comparison with some stunning Sundays when the gentlemen take to the court in the Midas-era of men's tennis. Serena's harangue over being pushed to court 2 draws a shrugging grimace, no more.

True, there have been moments, like when Jana Novotna first choked and then found royal shoulders to cry on after the 1993 final, and five years later slew those demons to win the title. But there's been fewer of those compelling tales as Conchita Martinez and Lindsay Davenport prevailed in slug-fests to usher in the bicep-babes era, and Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova barely followed up their stunning one-off successes at the Big W as 17-year-olds. As the unsettling trend of successive World No 1s with Grand Slam glory conspicuously missing seeped into WTA charts, women's tennis was predictably lacklustre.

Heading into yet another Wimbledon then, where Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray offer an exciting last-4 line-up, the women's draw inspires a ready-reckoner: Ladies-in-Slumberland.

In the absence of a clear, long-lasting No 1 — there have been 14 top-ranked women in the last decade — the women's battle has been a free-for-all. Strangely, in a sport teeming with teens, there's a resurgence of seasoned women nearing 30 defying the obscurity of the "journeyman" tag and launching rearguard assaults late in their careers like Chinese Li Na and Clijsters in her second avatar as a tennis-mom. While Li Na brings a refreshing back story and candour to the sport and Clijsters wears her grit-and-grin garbs effortlessly, posing court-side with little Jada, both have battled injuries and threatened to drop off the radar. Both promptly lost in the second rounds of the subsequent Slams after winning the previous ones. The breed of women's champs and favourites has never been this vulnerable.

Arguably, the most interesting Wimbledon match this time featured Venus Williams and 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm, when the most decorated contender at the Wimbledon struggled to put it past Date-Krumm — who had been away from the game for 12 years. Hitting 40, Kimiko displayed fluid volleying, a throwback to 20 years ago.

A memorable final may be hard to recollect, but Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli's bohemian game — double-fisted strokes, unorthodox serve and intense movements — had sparred gamely and beat Justine Henin's slice backhands and nimble movements in the three-set 2007 semi-final. She's seldom given credit for her all-court proficiency, but Amelie Mauresmo won the 2006 final against Henin without comfortable recourse to baseline slam-bang. However, such instances are rare and baselines are used for trench-warfare.

At the core of this craving for more interesting tennis is perhaps a plain, old nostalgia for the time of Steffi Graf. And as an extension, a return to the times when Seles, Sanchez and Sabatini who, with their charming styles and attitudes, challenged the German's might. In the baton-handover, Navratilova had ensured that Graf mirrored her power-game. And Graf, the likeable champion she always was, pulled off the hard-hitting game with aesthetic execution.

Women's tennis longs for a similar figure to establish herself at the top. For, post their 2008 master-class final, Federer, Nadal and company have shown no signs of letting up, making it tougher for the women to shine in comparison.

shivani.naik@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PEAK RATES — PERHAPS

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

There is justifiable concern about the level of inflation in India. And there is progress from the RBI. Not so long ago, the RBI used the overall wholesale price index, or WPI, as the indicator of inflation. They have now moved to core inflation which they define to be non-food manufacturing. It still is a mystery as to why they don't use the consumer price index and/or the GDP deflator to measure progress on inflation. The new (and old) CPI indices are considerably more accurate than the WPI; the GDP deflator is most accurate, and comprehensive, but comes with a two-month lag. Rather than ignore all this information, why doesn't the RBI combine the old and accurate GDP deflator information with the CPI information for the most recent two months?

Over the years, I have argued that at a minimum, the RBI should use seasonally-adjusted data, as is the practice in most parts of the world. It persists in using year-on-year data for determining short-term trends, when a three-month seasonally-adjusted change in inflation will be more representative.

First, some facts about Indian inflation, regardless of the indicator used. There have been three phases in Indian inflation since 1980. The first phase, 1980 to 1994, inflation averaged around 8 per cent. The second phase, of almost the same length in time, 1995 to 2007, inflation averaged 4.5 per cent. In the third, high-inflation, phase, 2008 to present, inflation has averaged around 7 per cent. The latest year-on-year inflation numbers for the three indicators, WPI, CPI and GDP deflator (GDPD) are all close to 9 per cent. It seems India does have an inflation problem.

But is the present inflation "problem" an ex-problem? There are several indicators suggesting that that is indeed the case. Since 1999, the single most important explanation for Indian inflation has not been the fiscal deficit, has not been money supply growth, and has not been credit growth. It has been the price of oil. And this price has declined some 20 per cent from its peak and is unlikely to go up soon. It may go up and the conventional wisdom of a month ago was that oil would sustain itself above $125 for months, if not years to come.

Interestingly, the oil price has not only "dictated" Indian overall inflation, but also the inflation in the FAO food index for the entire world. This index includes corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sugar, and anything else that is edible. Plus food prices are a function of drought, rainfall — and stupid and enlightened policies in more than 100 countries. That all of this is affected by the price of oil is a tribute to liquidity, hedge funds and outright speculation. (You can try and separate out the individual contributions but I am just reporting the total effect).

What about manufacturing inflation, RBI's present key variable for determining its policy? Since the first quarter of 2010 (or since exactly the time RBI began its campaign to bring down inflation) GDP manufacturing inflation deflator has shown the following year on year rates for the last five quarters — 5.0, 6.1, 5.3, 5.1, and 5.5 per cent. Even the RBI will admit (unless I am presuming a bit too much) that the GDP deflator is a more comprehensive and more accurate price index than the WPI for manufacturing. This index has shown no movement for the last year and a half, while the RBI has been zealously increasing policy rates. Agriculture GDP inflation, on the other hand, peaked at 23.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2010, registered 16.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, and will likely be below 10 per cent in the April-June quarter 2011. So perhaps contrary to all logic, RBI's inflation-fighting policy does not affect manufacturing inflation but does affect the probability of droughts — or equally as likely, improve governance of food policy at the centre.

The RBI should be concerned about economic growth, inflation, the determinants of inflation, and the effect its policy instruments have on both growth and inflation. There is precious little effect that repo rates can have on domestic or international food inflation. So persistence with the policy of increasing rates while looking at food prices inflating does not make much sense. Rising oil prices mean increasing policy rates cannot help the fight against inflation. But here is the asymmetry: steady to falling oil prices (a likely future possibility) means that persistence with high nominal repo rates is a recipe for a growth disaster. Hence, it is likely that, given rationality, the RBI is done with raising rates for the foreseeable future.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THINKING OF THE EAST

ASHOK PARTHASARATHI

 

Jaithirth Rao's article 'It happened in 1971' (IE, May 25) reflects a total lack of knowledge of the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the creation of Bangladesh.

The origins of both these events lie in the inability of the Pakistani generals Yahya Khan and Tikka Khan, and the Punjabi-dominated army, to accept the results of the March 1971 general election in undivided Pakistan — that Mujibur Rehman's Awami Party, hitherto with a base of popular support only in East Pakistan, was winning such support in the West as well. This made Mujib the political leader of both wings, and as such the leader of the post-election government as the prime minister of Pakistan.

The generals refused to accept a PM from the East, for the first time in Pakistan's history, on the basis of both ethnicity and arrogance. This led them to arrest Mujib and declare martial law throughout Pakistan, annulling the results of a free and fair election.

Predictably, the East went up in flames. Over the next three to four months unspeakable atrocities were committed by the army in the East. They led to a flow of refugees which by September had become a tidal wave and in October totalled five million — which the UN described as the largest refugee movement in history. Remarkably Rao says "West Pakistani persecution would have resulted in millions of refugees from the eastern half coming to India." But he does not say that there was also a large flow of enraged East Pakistan youth that rushed into West Bengal, begging for arms and training so that they could go back to fight "the army of Punjabis." They became the Mukti Bahini whom we did arm and train, less as a guerilla force to fight the Pakistan army and more to try and stop, and then reverse, the never ending flow of refugees.

Rao's "counterfactual possibility" that instead of vivisecting Pakistan we should have allowed it to remain whole, but activated Mukti Bahini cells in East Pakistan as retaliation to Pakistan sending LeT and Jaish terrorists into J&K, is just not feasible in terms of the ground realities — most importantly the five million refugees on our soil which he mentions not at all. Nor does he seem to know that "Amar Sonar Bangla" was an all-pervading slogan in the East, rejecting union with the West. Rao's comparison of the army-driven refugees from East Pakistan with the "economic refugees" of today is totally incorrect.

His remarks about China are laughable. Rao's contention that China had acquired a naval base in Chittagong (which is not the case) only because there is now a Bangladesh is absurd, because if an East Pakistan ruled from Islamabad had continued to exist, China would have got such a base far, far earlier. The actual position is the converse. It is because Bangladesh exists as an independent nation, friendly to us, that China has not got a base in Chittagong.

Moreover, Rao fails to take note of the numerous benefits which have accrued to us from the formation of Bangladesh, from the settling of the 30-year festering sore of the Farrakha waters dispute to the Bangladesh government having arrested and handed over to us almost the entire top leadership of the ULFA. We are also close to settling the maritime boundary with Bangladesh that has also been a long-standing problem. These would all have been unthinkable if Bangladesh had still been East Pakistan.

Finally, Rao's argument that it was because she became "arrogant" consequent to her victory in the war of 1971 that Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency four years later in 1975 is ridiculous. There was absolutely no connection between the two events.

All in all, Rao, who was possibly a young boy in 1971, should read the history of the war, and the many benefits we have gained from the formation of Bangladesh, before he tries to look at "counterfactual possibilities."

The writer is a former scientific adviser to Indira Gandhi and served as secretary of several scientific departments

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SLANGING MATCH

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

Slanging match

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif launched a fresh tirade against Pakistan president Asif Zardari on his party's financial misdemeanours. Dawn reported on June 20: "Nawaz Sharif said the current government had broken all records of corruption and that the country's national treasury was being looted ruthlessly... The PML-N leader further stated that the country does not belong to President Zardari or his associates but to the people of Pakistan." Zardari, at his late wife's birth anniversary function in the ancestral Bhutto village of Naudero, didn't miss the opportunity to shoot back at Sharif. The News reported on June 22: "The thinking of 'Maulvi' Nawaz Sharif is being defeated, said President Asif Ali Zardari while addressing a public meeting to mark Benazir Bhutto's birth anniversary... 'He is pitting us against the military, but we will not fight.' He asserted that he was kept in jail by Nawaz and Pervez Musharraf but he did not budge. 'On the contrary', Zardari said, 'Nawaz could not tolerate jail because he was scared of mosquitoes... Had Nawaz felt for the masses, he would not have gone into exile.'" Daily Times added: "Maulvi Nawaz Sharif's thought is the biggest threat to Pakistan's security. His earnest regret is that this time the army did not manoeuvre against the government of the day and refused to listen to his conspiracy theories."

Army and the people

That the Pakistan army's image among its own people has taken a beating after Osama bin Laden's killing and the PNS Mehran attack, was underlined by a report published by the Pew Research Centre, reported Daily Times on June 23. The government wasted no time in rubbishing the survey: "'Democratically held general elections and ballot boxes reflect the real public opinion for an elected government,' said a government spokesperson in a statement... Random surveys conducted on a sample size of less than 2000 people in a country of more than 180 million do not reflect the true picture of a rapidly evolving and dynamic country like Pakistan,' he added."

Meanwhile, news broke that a serving army brigadier was detained for alleged links with an outlawed militant group, at the orders of none less than Pakistan's army chief. The News reported on June 22: "The Pakistan army has arrested a serving brigadier for his alleged links with a banned organisation, Hizb-ut-Tehrir, official military sources said... Brigadier Ali Khan was detained on May 6, just four days after the US-led Abbottabad Operation... Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had personally given the order for Khan's arrest." Khan is the highest-ranking serving army officer arrested in a decade. It was also reported that four other army officers had been interrogated.

Foreign secretaries' meeting

The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met in Islamabad this week to take their discussions forward. Dawn reported on June 24: "The two sides, led by Salman Bashir and Nirupama Rao, tried to keep out negativity by feeding media with feel good phrases like 'substantive', 'cordial', 'forward looking', 'constructive'. But it was quite obvious that they struggled to move forward by manoeuvring within a limited political space available to them for negotiating."

Another journalist attacked

After Saleem Shahzad's brutal and mysterious murder, another journalist was reportedly attacked in Pakistan by a state actor. Daily Times reported on June 20: "Waqar Kayani, who works for local and international newspapers in Islamabad, said he was on his way home when policemen stopped him... The policemen, he said, tortured him before driving away in a police van. Kayani received injuries on his face and back and was shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences by rescue services." Interior Minister Rehman Malik has reportedly directed the Islamabad police to investigate the incident and submit a report to him. The preliminary investigation according to the local police doesn't agree that police personnel or vehicle were involved in the incident, as alleged by Kayani.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PLAYING THE POL

MICHAEL CIEPLY

Behind the wheel of a grey-green Land Rover, Rob Lowe was getting into the skin of his latest movie character, a political campaign consultant named Paul Turner. The cameras were rolling for a scene in the indie film Knife Fight, in which Turner crushes a hopelessly idealistic candidate with a litany of her failings, delivered while her moppet of a son listens from the back seat. "I'm in the business of winning," Lowe summed up, never glancing at the child as he judged his mother to be a loser.

And he plays the good guy.

Knife Fight joins two other high-profile Hollywood projects that look at the dark underbelly of politicians and their handlers. And in what may be a rare confluence for Hollywood and politics, the films are focused on Democrats who are wrestling with questions of conduct, character and pragmatic choices — things that have come into sharp relief with the resignation of Anthony D. Weiner and the indictment of John Edwards.

Sony Pictures is set to release The Ides of March. George Clooney, who both directed and helped write it, plays a Democratic presidential contender snared by the wiles of a primary opponent, the ambitions of his own staff and dilemmas that are likely to heighten the debate about public men and their private morals. Clooney's character, while fictional, is bound to recall Edwards, whose considerable charm and political future dissolved in a scandal that found an aide, Andrew Young, claiming paternity of Edwards' child by a mistress in a failed cover-up. In turn Young's own book, The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down is being adapted by Aaron Sorkin into a film that could be on screens before the 2012 presidential election.

"This is not an accident," said Bill Guttentag, the director of Knife Fight, who spoke on the set of his movie last week about the urge of filmmakers like himself to capture the energy of a coming campaign year. "We just want to be part of that mix," he said.

Politics has more often been the stuff of documentary than drama of late. Perhaps lacking heroes or an empathy factor, few narrative films poked at political innards. Among the handful Oliver Stone's W. looked at George W. Bush; earlier, Primary Colors and Wag the Dog to different degrees put a comic face on the connection among elections, sexual shenanigans and public policy among Clinton-era Democrats.

The current crop promises a harsher view of Democratic politics and its practitioners, even if the critique comes largely from inside the family. In Clooney's hands The Ides of March evolved from a tightly wound stage work about the interplay among operatives into a full-blown political thriller.

Guttentag, whose film should be ready in time to submit to festivals like next year's Sundance, said he first intended to make a documentary about candidates and their operatives. But the camera, he decided, would never be allowed to see the truth. In his words, "You never get into the room you need to be in." So Guttentag teamed up instead with Christopher Lehane, a Democratic consultant who had been a White House aide to Bill Clinton and to the Al Gore and John Kerry campaigns, to write a story whose lead character, played by Lowe, is openly based on Lehane. "He's a less attractive version of me," Lehane said last week on the set of a film whose plot stitches together stories about three campaigns — one for the Senate, two for governorships, all Democratic — that test the tension between means and ends.

Adherence to the reality underlying politics drew Lowe to the project. As Sam Seaborn, the deputy communications director in the West Wing-version of the White House, Lowe had worked through almost every political situation imaginable. But the show, created by Sorkin, had a slight element of fantasy, he said. "It was the way we wanted it to be," said Lowe.

As for the rough moments in Knife Fight, he noted, they only set up a loving view of the US and the sometimes sullied mechanisms that govern it. "Not only does it redeem my character," Lowe said, "it redeems the process."

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SEBI MOVES INTO HIGH GEAR

 

The imposition of orders of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) have begun to hurt where it should. This is great and is just what the securities market in India needed. The change of gear in the market regulator has taken time to happen; in fact, almost two decades from the time Sebi got punitive powers. Thursday's orders on two Sahara firms are a clear endorsement of this line of action at Sebi. The reason why Sebi is able to impose these orders is the amount of investigation and research skills it has built up over the past couple of years. The first indication of this became evident when a far higher percentage of its orders began to be upheld by the Securities Appellate Tribunal. The orders now pass two tests, that of clarity in the narration of offense (something that the few thousand page charge-sheets of agencies like CBI lack) and in marshalling of evidence to uphold the charges. This is the reason why Sebi has been able to move away from inflicting token punishments to damages that make the companies take corrective action.

An impressive use of the Sebi Act in this context is the use of the consent route. Since it does not put any bar on the amount or type of associated damages that can be imposed on an offending entity, UK Sinha's team has used it actively. In the case of Reliance Infra and Reliance Power, as well as the HDFC AMC front running, the regulator used this route. The Sahara order is, of course, a clear penal order. But here too Sebi creatively used the draft red herring prospectus filed by Sahara Prime City to go after two unlisted entities and bring them to book. The two companies had floated recurring deposit schemes for the public but clothed them as optional fully convertible debentures. So, every time a depositor paid, say a hundred rupees, to these companies, the company treated it as a debenture while the investor was given a passbook. Sebi held this is a parabanking activity for which the Sahara group had no permission. The Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures term used was just a disguise to pass regulatory tripwires. The order to refund the money to the investors with interest, therefore, follows from this analysis. The group has presumably learnt a hard lesson. What makes the order more significant is that it was passed in less than 45 days after the Supreme Court asked Sebi to clear the case expeditiously. The case will now travel to the Court, which will take cognisance of the order. For the investors, it leaves behind the comfort that the markets are safer—the desideratum of a good regulator.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

REMOVE THE FIG LEAF

What can be done indirectly, should as well be allowed to be done directly." That quote, from the industry ministry's latest discussion paper on sectoral caps for FDI, captures how far India's FDI policy has gone, albeit in an opaque manner, and the direction in which the government wishes to go. The discussion paper is the sixth (in a series of 8) of a welcome trend of discussing new policy options on FDI and inviting public comment—an earlier paper sought views on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail after giving its pros and cons. The sectoral caps-discussion paper points out that once the government made the distinction, in 2009, between 'ownership' and 'control', it pretty much made rubbish of all sectoral caps anyway. In 2009, the new rules said that as long as Indians had a 51% stake in a firm, any investments made by this firm in downstream companies would be considered to be Indian—in effect, depending upon the number of layers of holding companies, foreign investments could go to any level, never mind the sectoral cap.

The problem with the paper, however, lies in what it proposes as part of the conversion of the de facto to the de jure. The argument the paper makes is that what matters is "not the percentage of beneficial equity but the level of control in a company", and then it goes on to suggest various types of alternate sectoral regulations—such as insisting that top employees be Indians—that could be used. This is sophistry, and pretty meaningless at that. One, if a foreigner is investing more than 51% in a company through a series of holding companies, it does strain credulity to think all control rests with Indians—if an Indian firm doesn't mind acting as a front for a foreign firm, it's fair to assume an Indian CXO will also do exactly what the foreign investor wants. Two, is the industry ministry saying a telecom firm, for instance, with an Indian CEO is more likely to follow India's laws than a telecom firm with a foreigner CEO? Or take the suggestion that, in the case of pharma, a condition could be put on pricing or production before approving FDI—imagine the havoc this would create and the scope for discretion. The industry ministry would have done well to point this out—to argue the pharma case, when the largest Indian firm has a market share of just 6-7%, how does it getting bought over by a foreigner really matter? Plus, there are, in any case, a plethora of regulators whose sole job is to ensure firms, whether Indian or foreign, play fair. It's a pity the industry ministry's discussion paper isn't bold enough to point this out.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AMERICA'S DANGEROUS DEBT CEILING DEBATE
MOHAMED A EL-ERIAN

It has been raised more than 70 times in the last 50 years, mostly without commotion. It must be raised again this summer if the US government is to continue paying its bills on time. But now America's debt ceiling has become the subject of intense political posturing and touch-and-go negotiations behind closed doors. And, obviously, the outcome has implications that go well beyond the US.

As part of America's system of checks and balances, Congress gets to do more than just approve the annual federal budget. It also sets a limit on how much debt the US Treasury is allowed to issue. Beyond this ceiling, the government can spend only from current revenues.

US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner recently informed members of Congress that the government will be in this situation on or around August 2. Having already officially hit the ceiling, the Treasury is moving money around and tapping various pots of unused funds to pay its bills. In a few weeks, this "flexibility" will be used up. With the US government now borrowing around 40% of every dollar it spends, a truly binding debt ceiling would immediately force the government to reduce spending radically and in a disorderly fashion.

Politicians across the political spectrum know that such a situation would unsettle an already fragile US economy, severely weaken the dollar, and raise serious concerns about the country's ability to meet its debt-service obligations, including to the many foreign creditors that the US will need in the future. Yet, in today's polarised environment in Washington, Republicans and Democrats are unwilling to compromise—or at least to compromise "too early".

By holding out, Republicans wish to force President Barack Obama's administration into massive spending cuts. Democrats respond that such a one-sided approach would be economically harmful and socially unjust. In the meantime, both sides risk disrupting transfer payments (including to the elderly) and the provision of public services, as well as eroding further America's global credit standing.

The overwhelming—and sensible—expectation is that the two parties will compromise and raise the debt ceiling before inflicting serious economic and financial dislocations. The most recent precedent was the bipartisan agreement reached earlier this year on another fiscal issue that threatened to disrupt the normal functioning of government: the absence of a formally approved budget for this year.

A compromise would allow both parties to declare partial victory, for it would likely entail commitments to cut spending and some steps to make taxation more socially just. But, like many last-minute agreements, it would have little durable impact. In effect, the political system would again be kicking the can down the road, with real progress on necessary fiscal reforms expected only after the November 2012 presidential election.

Two scenarios for the timing of an interim compromise are possible, depending on whether it is a one- or two-step process. Most observers expect a one-step process for bipartisan agreement before August 2. But politicians may need two steps: an initial failure to agree, and then a quick deal in response to the resulting financial-market convulsions. In the meantime, the Treasury would temporarily re-prioritise and slow outgoing payments.

This two-step process would be similar to what happened in 2008, when Congress was confronted with another cliffhanger: the Bush administration's request for $700 billion to prevent a financial-market collapse and an economic depression. Congress initially rejected the measure, but a dramatic 770-point drop in the stock market focused politicians' minds, bringing them back to the table—and to agreement.

But the two-step scenario involves incremental risks to the US economy, and to its standing in the global system. And the longer America's politicians take to resolve the debt-ceiling issue, the greater the risk of an inadvertent accident.

This brings us to a third, and even more unsettling possibility: a longer and more protracted negotiation, resulting in greater disruptions to government entitlement payments, other contractual obligations, and public services. Creditors would then ask many more questions before adding to their already-considerable holdings of US government debt, generating still more headwinds in a US economy that already faces an unemployment crisis and uneven growth.

The next few weeks will provide plenty of political drama. The baseline expectation, albeit subject to risk, is that Democrats and Republicans will find a way to avoid disruptions that would damage the fragile US economy, but that the compromise will not meaningfully address the need for sensible medium-term fiscal reforms.

Such political paralysis on key economic issues is increasingly unsettling for the US private sector, and for other countries that rely on a strong US at the core of the global economy. This helps to explain why so many companies continue to hoard cash, rather than investing domestically, and why a growing number of countries want to diversify gradually away from dependence on the dollar as the reserve currency and on US financial markets for intermediation of their hard-earned savings.

The world economy is hard-wired to the assumption of a strong America, and Americans benefit from this.

But the more their politicians argue over the debt ceiling, the greater the risk that the wiring will become irreparably frayed.

The author is CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, and author of "When Markets Collide"

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011

www.project-syndicate.org

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HAVE INFLATION & INTEREST RATES PEAKED?
SURJIT S BHALLA

There is justifiable concern about the level of inflation in India. And there is progress from RBI. Not so long ago, RBI used the overall WPI as the indicator of inflation. It has now moved to core inflation which it defines to be non-food manufacturing. It still is a mystery as to why RBI doesn't use CPI and/or the GDP deflator to measure progress on inflation. The new (and old) CPI indices are considerably more accurate than WPI; the GDP deflator is most accurate, and comprehensive, but comes with a two month lag. Rather than ignore all this information, why doesn't RBI combine the old and accurate GDP deflator information with the CPI information for the most recent two months?

Over the years, I have argued that at a minimum, RBI should use seasonally adjusted data, as is the practice in most parts of the world. It persists in using year-on-year data for determining short-term trends, when a three-month seasonally-adjusted change in inflation will be more representative.

First, some facts about Indian inflation, regardless of the indicator used. There have been three phases in Indian inflation since 1980. In the first phase, 1980 to 1994, inflation averaged around 8%. In the second phase of almost the same length in time, 1995 to 2007, inflation averaged 4.5%. In the third high inflation phase, 2008 to present, inflation has averaged around 7%. The latest year-on-year inflation numbers for the three indicators, WPI, CPI and GDP deflator (GDPD) are all close to 9%. It seems India does have an inflation problem.

But is the current inflation "problem" an ex-problem? There are several indicators suggesting that this is indeed the case. Since 1999, the single most important explanation for Indian inflation has not been the fiscal deficit, has not been money supply growth, and has not been credit growth. It has been the price of oil. And this price has declined some 20% from its peak and is unlikely to go up soon. It may go up and the conventional wisdom of a month ago was that oil would sustain itself above $125 for months, if not years to come.

Interestingly, the oil price not only has "dictated" Indian overall inflation, but also the inflation in the FAO food index for the entire world. This index includes corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sugar and anything else that is edible. Plus, food prices are a function of drought, rainfall, and stupid and enlightened policies in more than 100 countries of the world. That all of this is affected by the price of oil is a tribute to liquidity, hedge funds and outright speculation. (You can try and separate out the individual contributions but I am just reporting the total effect).

What about manufacturing inflation, RBI's present key variable for determining its policy? Since the first quarter of 2010 (or since exactly the time RBI began its campaign to bring down inflation), GDP manufacturing inflation deflator has shown the following year-on-year rates for the last five quarters—5.0%, 6.1%, 5.3%, 5.1% and 5.5%. Even RBI will admit (unless I am presuming a bit too much) that the GDP deflator is a more comprehensive and more accurate price index than WPI for manufacturing. This index has shown no movement for the last year and a half that RBI has been zealously increasing policy rates. Agriculture GDP inflation, on the other hand, peaked at 23.4% in the second quarter of 2010, registered 16.8% in the first quarter of 2011, and will likely be below 10% in the April-June quarter 2011. So perhaps contrary to all logic, RBI's inflation fighting policy does not affect manufacturing inflation but does affect the probability of droughts or equally as likely, improve governance of food policy at the centre.

RBI should be concerned about economic growth, inflation, the determinants of inflation, and the effect its policy instruments have on both growth and inflation. There is precious little effect that repo rates can have on domestic or international food inflation. So, persistence with the policy of increasing rates while looking at food prices inflating does not make much sense. Rising oil prices mean increasing policy rates cannot help the fight against inflation. But here is the asymmetry—steady to falling oil prices (a likely future possibility) means that persistence with high nominal repo rates is a recipe for a growth disaster. Hence, it is likely that, given rationality, RBI is done with raising rates for the foreseeable future.

The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm. Please visit www.oxusinvestments.com for an archive of articles etc. surjit.bhalla@oxusinvestments.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

INFLATION EXPECTATIONS

Highlighting the crucial connection between the current high levels of inflation and the expectation among consumers that prices will continue to rise as sharply in the future, the Reserve Bank of India has pointed out that since headline and core inflation have overshot even the most pessimistic projections, there is a concern that inflation expectations might become unhinged. Indeed, anchoring inflation expectations at a low level has become one of the most daunting challenges of monetary policy. Reeling under high food inflation many households do not see any respite even in the year ahead. The same despair permeates the outlook on fuel prices as well, probably with an even greater justification. While global oil prices have been ascendant, they are not fully reflected in the domestic fuel prices. Both inflation and inflation expectations are conditioned by certain well known instruments of public policy. There should be a clearly stated inflation objective for macroeconomic policy and management, and also for monetary policy. Secondly, central banks must deploy a credible range of monetary instruments which they must be able to refine as and when necessary. Thirdly, conditions ought to be created for the proper transmission of the policy action. In India the RBI is responsible for controlling inflation, but the government has an important role in influencing supply-side factors.

Sound inflation management demands that the central bank and the government work in tandem even if, at a particular juncture, inflation is attributable to a factor over which only one of them has influence. Thus, even when on many a recent occasion inflation was being pumped up chiefly by food prices, the RBI expressed its resolve to back government action with monetary measures even if those were not clearly indicated. The major measures announced in the recent RBI monetary policy statements are noteworthy. For instance, the 0.75 percentage point increase in the repo rate over six weeks, making the repo rate the sole policy rate, and the creation of the new Marginal Standing Facility from which banks can borrow at one percentage point above the repo rate are all decisive steps in the context of inflation management. It is highly significant that even when the RBI lowered the growth estimates and increased those of inflation thereby differing sharply from the official position, the government has backed the central bank. More realistic growth and inflation estimates, and greater cohesion between the government and the RBI are all vital ingredients in a well thought out strategy of controlling inflation and anchoring inflation expectations.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LESSONS FROM JAPAN QUAKE

The 9 magnitude Tohoku-Oki earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, and triggered the deadly tsunami, was more powerful than expected. The magnitude of quakes in this region has been around 7-8 in recent centuries. Papers published recently in Nature and Science journals reveal why the quake off the Sendai coast turned out to be deadly. Though the fault north of Tokyo was assumed to be fairly simple and uniform in nature, the March 11 event showed how complicated it was. In the Japan Trench, the subduction (diving) of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate occurs at an average rate of 8-8.5 cm a year. The subduction, it now turns out, has not been smooth. The plates had apparently got stuck (locked) at certain portions along the fault. Since the plates are converging, any locking of the plate interface produces an enormous build up of strain. Seismologists had presumed that the relatively soft material of the seafloor near the Japan Trench could not support a large accumulation of strain. Hence any failure of the fault and the resulting strain release was expected to produce only large earthquakes, not a 9 magnitude killer quake. However, enormous energy was released on March 11 owing to the sudden slip of a compact area (400 km in length and 200 km in width) of the plate interface. The epicentre had moved seaward by as much as 24 metres and lifted upward by about 3 metres.

Only two of the five ruptured segments had experienced an extreme slip. But this increases the possibility of very high magnitude quakes striking the southern portion of the fault due to stress transfer. The consequences could be severe if this portion of the fault has also been locked. If predicting quakes with a high degree of confidence is not possible in the case of land-based faults, scientists are far worse off when it comes to subduction zones located in the deep ocean. The lack of sea-based instruments to measure strain build-up is a huge limitation. Though Japan had a handful of sonar transponders located on the seafloor near the Trench, measurements were not taken frequently, notes a paper published recently in Nature ("Hidden depths," by Andrew V. Newman). Vital information collected at regular intervals before the deadly quake could have minimised the loss of human life. Unfortunately, this was not done as collecting data from the sonar transponders is prohibitively expensive. The March 11 event should prompt the scientific community and governments to find cheaper and more efficient ways of obtaining critical information.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

BANGLADESH: RESTORING SECULAR CONSTITUTION

TWO SUPREME COURT VERDICTS DECLARING THE CONTROVERSIAL FIFTH AND EIGHTHS AMENDMENTS VOID HAVE BRIGHTENED THE SCOPE FOR A MEANINGFUL CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE.

HAROON HABIB

For the first time after 1975, Bangladesh has got the opportunity to correct calculated distortions to its original Constitution framed in 1972, following independence of former East Pakistan. The ruling grand alliance, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, holds a three-fourths majority in Parliament, more than the two-thirds required for bringing changes to the Constitution.

Understandably, the huge majority of the pro-liberation ruling coalition has become an irritant to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and their fundamentalist allies, which think that they may be weakened if the distortions are corrected and secular principles restored.

The two recent landmark verdicts delivered by the Supreme Court declaring the controversial fifth and eighth amendments — brought in by military rulers General Ziaur Rahman and General Hussain Muhammad Ershad — unconstitutional and void have brightened the scope for a meaningful change. Declaring military rule unconstitutional, the court restored the four basic principles — democracy, nationalism, socialism and secularism — which were the pillars of the state.

The Awami League-led alliance, bound by its promise to restore the lost state principles, formed a special parliamentary committee for recommending suitable amendments. The committee, after a year-long exercise, placed its recommendations before Parliament. These recommendations will be included in the upcoming Constitution bill, to be endorsed by Parliament.

Resistance to the changes in all conceivable ways, to deflect the ruling alliance from its avowed path, was expected from the political beneficiaries of the fifth and eighth amendments — the fundamentalists and pro-Islamists. Interestingly, the Sheik Hasina-led coalition has started facing opposition from among its own supporters who fear that the government, due to its "misconceived political readings," may fall into a trap.

These sections, the vanguard of the nation's secular ethos — freedom fighters, cultural and women activists, leading professional groups in the greater civil society spectrum — allege that while the government proposes to restore 'secularism,' it also intends retaining some provisions which are in sharp contradiction to secularism and the spirit of the Liberation War.

Indiscriminate amendments were made to the Constitution by the first military regime led by Gen Ziaur Rahman, founder of the BNP, following the assassination of Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 . The amendments not only changed the fundamental principles of the state but also destroyed its secular character, allowed politics based on religion, and provided political rights to the anti-Liberation War forces, even the war criminals. Besides, the secular 'Bengali nationalism,' on the basis of which the Bangladesh war was fought, was replaced with 'Bangladeshi nationalism'.

Grabbing state power in 1982, General Ershad made Islam the state religion. This gross deviation from the original Constitution radically altered the political landscape, helping in the rise of religion-based political parties, which had been banned on charges of war crimes.

"These changes were fundamental in nature and changed the very basis of our war for liberation and also defaced the Constitution altogether," the Supreme Court observed, adding they transformed a secular Bangladesh into a "theocratic state" and "betrayed one of the dominant causes for the war of liberation of Bangladesh."

The criticism from within the government's proven support groups became louder as the parliamentary committee recommended retention of Islam as the state religion, saying at the same time that the state would be neutral on the question of religion. On June 20, the Cabinet, chaired by Sheikh Hasina, approved a Constitution bill seeking the retention of "Islam as the state religion" and the phrase 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.' Two Ministers opposed the provisions as they sharply contradict the principle of secularism. However, the Prime Minister told her colleagues that she favoured the retention of the two provisions, taking into account the "ground reality."

The sympathisers-turned critics of the ruling coalition see this as an obvious contradiction. They blame the policymakers for striking an "unethical compromise" with religion-based politics, in the vain hope of pleasing the pro-Islamic electorate.

However, they have welcomed some fundamental changes the ruling alliance proposes to make to the Constitution. For the first time, Bangladesh is set to give constitutional recognition to Mujibur Rahman, and incorporate the historical facts of the "Declaration of Independence" on March 26, 1971 by Mujib, his March 7, 1971 public speech that led to the armed struggle, and the "Proclamation of Independence" by the elected representatives who formed the provisional government to lead the war in April 1971.

The pro-Islamists must be happy with the government's decision to retain the non-secular provisions. But whether they will vote for the party which, in their words, 'dismantled Pakistan,' remains uncertain.

The argument in favour of retaining the controversial principles is that the BNP and the Jamaat, backed by splinter Islamist groups, may mislead the electorate.

Nonetheless, there are apprehensions among the liberals that if the non-secular provisions, including the right to religion-based politics, are not removed, fanatics would become more desperate to turn Bangladesh into a state similar to Pakistan. This compromise may alienate a vast majority of young generation voters who, under a new ethical awakening, voted overwhelmingly for the Awami League in the crucial 2008 elections.

The Supreme Court has paved the way for preventing a military takeover in future and restored the secular spirit of the original Constitution. Islam, however, shall remain state religion as it was not covered by the judgment. The court vehemently denounced military rule and the suspension of the Constitution by a martial law proclamation.

The original Constitution, adopted on December, 16, 1972, endorsed nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism as basic state principles. Gen Rahman proclaimed himself President in 1977 and began the process of Islamisation by removing all secular principles. Apart from the 11th and 12th amendments, all amendments were made unilaterally. Those unilateral amendments produced bitterness, animosity and hostility.

'Bismillah,' an Arabic word, is not the issue; the issue is its political use. The military ruler of Bangladesh adopted the campaign rhetoric of Hitler, who stoked racial and ethnic sentiments in the 1930s Germany, and of the Catholic Church of Austria, which used religious sentiments to persecute the Jews. There is also a lesson to be learnt: religion, when politically manipulated, can bring about massive human destruction. The Bangladesh genocide and mass rape in 1971 by 'Islamist' Pakistan army and its collaborators are a gleaming example.

There are a few important amendments suggested by the special committee, which includes a new Article. It says any unconstitutional seizure of state power should be considered treason and persons involved tried on the charge of sedition. The committee has also recommended a new Article to ensure preservation of the heritage of the ethnic minorities and their development.

Two partners of the ruling coalition and members of the special committee gave a note of dissent on the recommendations for retaining the non-secular provisions. They, however, did not oppose the recommendation on the caretaker government, already declared unconstitutional by the court, as they thought an alternative could be found through talks, if the BNP came to the negotiating table. Despite repeated invitations, however, Khaleda Zia did not send her representatives to the committee.

According to the recommendations, war criminals, now undergoing trial, cannot contest the national election. Besides, the committee recommended women's empowerment, and protection of bio-diversity and environment.

While the pro-Islamists have remained mum on the government's declaration of retaining the 'pro-religious' Articles, pro-secular organisations have started expressing grave concern. They have demanded the constitutional recognition of all races and ethnic communities.

The secularists have also pointed out that the independence of Bangladesh means independence from the dreadful practices of categorisation by the professed faiths. They hope that Parliament will do its part to preserve the Constitution that represents the nation's heroic struggle for independence from a false statehood on the basis of religion.

(The writer is a senior Bangladesh journalist, political analyst and author. Email: hh1971@gmail.com.)

 

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 THE HINDU

OPED

THE NATIONALISTS HAVE WON — EUROPE'S DREAM IS OVER

FROM THE GREEK CRISIS TO THE COLLAPSE OF THE SCHENGEN TREATY TO NATO, THE BREAK-UP OF THE EUROPEAN UNION NOW SEEMS INEVITABLE.

MARTIN KETTLE

To hear such a bold assertion from one of the two men was striking. But to hear it coming from the other was the sign of a political earthquake. Last month (May), during a rip-roaring lecture at the Hay Festival, the historian Niall Ferguson observed, almost as an aside, that our generation is "of course" living through the collapse of the European Union. Designed to provoke? Of course. That's Ferguson. It's the sort of remark that you dwell on, all the same.

Especially when, just the other day, I heard Sir Stephen Wall say something so similar. Here's what Wall said, at a seminar run by the Policy Network thinktank in London: "We have seen the high point of the European Union. With a bit of luck it will last our lifetime [Wall is 64]. But it's on the way out. After all, very few institutions last forever." Ferguson is a Eurosceptic. His dismissive view of the EU is not a surprise. But Wall's view that the EU is on the way out marks the death of the old faith. For Wall was the most influential British pro-European diplomat of his time: our man in the negotiations of most of the EU treaties of the modern era; Tony Blair's long-time European policy adviser; and the author of a book on the EU that begins with the words: "I am convinced that wholehearted participation in the EU is strongly in Britain's national interest." First the Berlin Wall. Now Stephen Wall. European collapses don't come more dramatic.

Current policy

Yet the remarkable thing about Wall's pessimism is that it no longer seems so remarkable. On June 23, as EU leaders gathered in Brussels to grapple with the Greek crisis, the airwaves were awash with existential debates not just about Greece or the eurozone but about the very future of the EU itself. Though most EU-watchers still talk of muddling through as the most likely policy response to Greek bankruptcy, it is a muddling without momentum, direction or real agreement, let alone enthusiasm. David Marquand, lifelong pro-European social democrat, author of a new lament on Europe, parodies Lenin by characterising current policy as "one step forward, three steps back."

It is not hard to see why this tone has now captured the European debate. The Greek crisis has vindicated those who said the country should never have been allowed to join monetary union. That may be blood under the bridge now; but the debt crisis exposes something that would have been exposed at some time anyway — the failure of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's generation of European leaders to back monetary union with the economic and political union without which the eurozone was always going to be vulnerable.

Any commentator who forecast victory for the AV referendum should not quote himself too proudly. Nevertheless, I wrote in 1997 that it was possible to imagine a Europe "in which the Treaty of Maastricht will come to be seen in some places (perhaps even in Germany itself) as the Treaty of Versailles came to be seen in inter-war Europe — as the source of the problem, not the answer to it. If the attempt to satisfy the convergence conditions, or the effort to keep within the single currency 'stability pact' is to cause, or even to appear to cause, the dismantling of the welfare and redistributive systems upon which millions of the poorest in Europe depend, then it could spark populist and nationalist backlashes in almost any state in the EU." This view wasn't rocket science. Yet today, that dynamic is not just imaginable but happening.

It is happening, moreover, not solely because of the sovereign debt crisis in Greece and the rest. The platonic Europe of which Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors dreamed, a Europe with unifying institutions of law and government, with a single demos and a single chair at the high counsels of the world, is retreating on several fronts.

The single currency is the most dramatic. But the collapse of the Schengen treaty on freedom of movement within the EU is almost as potent a sign, a response not just to the surges of migration triggered by the Arab spring, but also to national concerns about jobs and welfare in the recession. Meanwhile, Europe's failure to evolve an effective common security and foreign policy, highlighted in NATO over Libya as in the past in Afghanistan and Iraq, and excoriatingly exposed by the U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates earlier this month, underscores not just a failure to progress, but in practice a further retreat from a meaningful common approach.

Whenever two or more consenting Europe-watchers gather together to discuss these things, it is never long before someone says that the only alternative to muddling through is a bold regenerative leap — a single tax regime, a unified banking system and, above all, a single federal system of law and government for what remains of the eurozone, just as Delors wanted a generation ago.

There will be such talk at Brussels this week. But it's not going to happen. Or at least it's not going to work. Times have changed. Delors' generation has gone from the scene. The nationalist right and the global bond markets have won. The internationalist social and Christian democrats have lost. The Europhiles who speak of such leaps remind me of nothing so much as the crazy American evangelicals who think these are the end times of the Earth and that a liberating act of rapture will save us from ourselves and our sins.

I say this as someone who wanted and wants the European project to succeed, who still believes that our collective interests lie in a single, though smaller, probably northern European federal state with an overarching, directly elected government where appropriate; a single currency; shared tax and social solidarity systems; common defence and security policies; and occupying a single seat at the world's summits. That Europe would get my vote. But it is not going to happen, nor is anything like it, even in my children's lifetimes.

The question facing Europeans is therefore this. Not to forge an ever closer union in which, for all the EU's successes, the word forge seems unhappily to be increasingly appropriate. But how to manage the now foreseeable break-up of the EU in a responsible and restrained way, preserving and strengthening such forms of co—operation as we can. The goal would be to minimise the dangers of war between states, ethnic conflict within them, and immiseration of the most defenceless: all more real dangers in the next generation than the last. But that, ironically, was why the EU was created in the first place. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

TURKEY-SYRIA STRAINED RELATIONS

THE BILATERAL TIES THAT HAVE FLOURISHED POLITICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY IN RECENT YEARS ARE NOW BADLY, PERHAPS IRREPARABLY, DAMAGED, SAY EXPERTS.

IAN BLACK

Tension between Turkey and Syria is increasing as thousands of refugees from repression by President Bashar al-Assad flee across the border Officials in Ankara were watching closely on June 23 as Syrian forces deployed in a village close to the border, Khirbet al-Jouz, after Turkey had flatly rejected an appeal from Damascus to moderate its increasingly angry public comments about the crisis.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, has attacked the repression as "savagery" and urged Assad to sack its military mastermind, his brother Maher, and implement genuine reforms in the spirit of the "Arab spring."

But Erdogan has so far failed to demand that the Syrian President stand down — as he did with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Muammar Qadhafi. Still, officials, diplomats and analysts say that a bilateral relationship that has flourished politically and economically in recent years is now badly, perhaps irreparably, damaged.

"The rapprochement between Erdogan and Assad has pretty much broken down," said Fadi Hakura of the Chatham House thinktank in London. "Turkey is becoming ever more strident and direct, and this is causing deep unease in Damascus." On June 22, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, publicly urged Turkey to reconsider its hostile stand, but the Turkish ambassador immediately dismissed the call.

Timeline

"The relationship has become very frosty," said Hugh Pope, Istanbul director for the International Crisis Group. Erdogan had been urging Assad to make domestic changes since before the uprising began in March. Ahead of Assad's speech on Monday, Ersat Hurmuzlu, an adviser to President Abdullah Gul, said Assad had a week in which to act — but Turkish officials were left disappointed by Assad's lacklustre performance. "We had high expectations that the Syrian President would deliver," said a senior Turkish official. "But we were disappointed." The Turkish-Syrian honeymoon began when Erdogan came to power in 2003, and cooled Turkey's once close relations with Israel while making overtures to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Following his re-election this month he vowed to reach out to the Middle East and beyond to promote "justice, the rule of law ... freedom and democracy", distancing himself from the traditional friendships with Arab dictators. "When Turkey has to make a choice between regimes and people," the senior official said, "it will always be on the side of the people." British officials describe a "meeting of minds" when the U.K. premier David Cameron spoke to Erdogan last week. The U.S. and Britain say they hope a policy rethink in Ankara will also include a distancing from Iran and its alleged nuclear ambitions.

"The Turks are increasingly unhappy with what is happening in Syria," said a western diplomat. Another consequence has been a renewed warming of relations with Israel after the row over the Gaza aid flotilla last year, when a Turkish ship was boarded on the open seas by Israeli commandos and nine activists killed.

Syria was furious last month when Turkey hosted a high-profile conference of Syrian opposition activists in Antalya.

Turkish officials deny any plan to create a "security zone" on the border — a sensitive step given memories of Ottoman days (and the Turkish border province of Hatay, which Syria continues to claim as unjustly ceded in a plebiscite), and especially without an international mandate.

Turks recognise the change that has taken place. "Turkey's close rapport with the U.S. regarding ... Syrian politics shows Turkey has completely parted company with Assad," commented Nihat Ali Ozcan in the Hurriyet daily. "Erdogan doesn't want another diplomatic crisis in the context of Syria, like the one instigated by the nuclear issue with Iran. We can say that he is ideologically much closer to the Muslim Brotherhood than Assad." The U.S. has praised Turkey for its "big heart" in helping refugees. "But clearly, Turkish patience appears to be wearing thin, and we share all of their humanitarian and political concerns," said a U.S. State Department spokesman.

"Erdogan is in a very challenging position," Hakura added. "He is trying to react to facts on the ground in Syria, but at the same time he hasn't called on Assad to step down. The more violence escalates, the more difficult his position will be." ( Ian Black is Middle East editor of the Guardian.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

GLOBAL OIL RESERVES TAPPED IN EFFORT TO CURB PRICES

JOHN M. BRODER AND CLIFFORD KRAUSS

The United States and its allies will release 60 million barrels of emergency oil reserves to replace lost Libyan oil production and assure adequate supplies for the summer, officials announced on June 24.

The action accelerated the drop in oil prices that began in late April, taking them to levels not seen since Libyan oil exports were virtually halted by political turmoil four months ago.

Italy in particular was dependent on Libyan crude, taking nearly a third of the 1.3 million barrels a day that Libya was exporting before hostilities began. Other European nations like France, Germany and Spain were also large buyers of oil from Libya.

Of the total amount of oil to be released, about half would come from reserves in the United States, with the rest to be provided by the other 27 industrialised nations who belong to the International Energy Agency. Negotiations for the coordinated response have been going on in secret for weeks, American officials said. Similar unified action was taken in 1991 at the outbreak of the first Persian Gulf War.

"We are taking this action in response to the ongoing loss of crude oil due to supply disruptions in Libya and other countries and their impact on the global economic recovery," Steven Chu, the secretary of energy, said in a statement. "As we move forward, we will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to take additional steps if necessary."

Relatively trivial amount

The total amount of oil to be released — 60 million barrels over the next 30 days — is relatively trivial, representing about two-thirds of a single day's global oil consumption. But it sends a number of signals to markets and countries that are facing particular distress because of supply disruptions in Libya and Yemen and falling production in the North Sea.

The release will ease American demand for Nigerian and Algerian light sweet crude, which can go to the Europeans instead.

The move also allows President Obama to say that he is acting aggressively to deal with high gasoline prices as the summer driving season begins. Republicans have hammered him over high gas prices in recent months, charging that his policies limiting domestic oil drilling were at fault.

An Obama administration official maintained that the release was not about politics. "This is about addressing supply disruption and its potential impact on global economic growth, and that's the driving factor," the official said, speaking anonymously to describe global discussions.

He said the release represented less than five per cent of the nation's strategic oil reserve.

The action is also a response to market uncertainties after the June 8 meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which failed to reach an agreement on increasing production quotas. After the meeting, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states agreed to pump as many as 1.5 million more barrels of crude per day, but those countries cannot produce sufficient supplies of the high-quality crude that Libya normally exports.

News of the release sent oil prices sharply down. West Texas Intermediate, the United States benchmark crude, fell $4.39 a barrel to $91.02. The European benchmark, Brent crude, fell even more.

Even before Thursday's announcement, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline had fallen to $3.61, from $3.83 a month ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. A year ago, the price was $2.74 a gallon.

Critics react

Some in the oil industry said the move was unnecessary.

"Releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve today, when gasoline prices are falling and there is no supply shortage, makes no sense and weakens our economic and national security," said Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

The 727-million-barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve was established by the United States after the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo to provide presidents with an emergency response to similar disruptions in commercial supplies that threaten the economy and national security.

In addition to the 1991 release, in September 2005 President George W. Bush ordered a drawdown after Hurricane Katrina disrupted oil supplies from the Gulf Coast region. The 1991 release was about 17 million barrels; the 2005 hurricane release was 21 million barrels.

Quiet diplomacy

The coordinated move came after more than two months of quiet diplomacy involving major industrialised countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. American officials visited Saudi Arabia in May to consult about the anticipated action and to seek assurances that the Saudis would also increase production to help fill the gap left by the Libyan disruption. The White House said that President Obama spoke with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at least twice about the issue since the end of April.

David Goldwyn, a consultant who until January was the international energy policy coordinator at the State Department, said the current release was clearly timed to smooth any possible supply disruptions during the summer driving season, when oil and gasoline stocks typically tighten and prices go up.

He said the administration was probably hoping that the release of oil would provide a cushion until the fall, when the situation in Libya might have improved enough to resume exports.

In addition to helping to make up for the lost Libyan production, the move was intended to send a signal to market traders that governments would react when they believed there was excessive speculation in oil markets. Officials made clear they would review the effects of the release after 30 days and continue intervening if warranted.

The release of light sweet crude from the reserves will probably help Europe more than the United States, experts said. American refineries have more capacity to refine heavier crudes than European refineries because the United States imports so much heavy crude from Canada, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Across the Middle East and North Africa, oil supplies have been tightening. Aside from Libya, fighting and labour strikes in Yemen have taken about 2,50,000 barrels of sweet crude a day off world markets as global demand has been rising. China's demand alone is up nearly a million barrels a day from last year.

"Other than bringing the pump price down temporarily, it accomplishes almost nothing else," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, a director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, which is partly financed by the oil industry. ( John M. Broder reported from Washington and Clifford Krauss from Houston. Jackie Calmes contributed reporting from Washington, Christine Hauser from New York and Matthew Saltmarsh from Paris.) — © New York Times News Service

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THE ASIAN AGE

INDIA, PAK TRY TO FIX 'TRUST DEFICIT'

The two-day dialogue of the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, which ended in Islamabad on Friday, maintains the steady state which was sought to be brought into being by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Thimphu initiative about a year ago. The specific mandate provided by the Prime Minister was to reduce and eliminate the "trust deficit" that has marked relations between the two countries.

This objective appears to have been amply met at the foreign secretaries' dialogue, given the tenor of the talks. India on this occasion agreed to a Kashmir-specific dialogue session, a development that would have pleased the Pakistan side enormously, and may be seen to be the principal reason that Pakistan has had no difficulty characterising the just-ended conversation as "cordial", if "candid". These expressions, agreed to by both sides to describe the engagement, suggest that both covered the thorny ground in detail at the official level but preferred not to let acrimony mar the occasion. Over the years India has never shied away from discussing the 'K' word with Pakistan, but it has preferred to bring to the table the question of terrorism along with it as violent extremist actions have been at the centre of destroying peace in Kashmir and jolting India-Pakistan ties.
Abandoning this route did not throw up new ideas. The two senior officials indicated this when they told the media that the engagement on the Kashmir question was to continue. At this stage, it cannot be said that the Pervez Musharraf-era formula of finding a solution without disturbing the territorial status quo would remain on the table. Dr Singh had famously said then that the idea was to make borders "irrelevant". However, the so-called Musharraf formula has not found favour with the present Pakistan government, and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said so recently. Nevertheless, the two foreign secretaries agreed to step up the pace on cross-LoC confidence-building measures. The working group designated for this will convene shortly, before the meeting of the two foreign ministers in New Delhi next month. For now this means a less tight visa regime, opening up more trade points and days of trade between Kashmiri traders on the two sides of the divide, and possibly looking at bank facilities to eliminate barter, which is currently the mode of trade across the two Kashmirs. These are undoubtedly a positive outcome of the talks and should help provide relief to the people of Kashmir who are, in effect, divided by a historically violent boundary (the Line of Control).
Besides giving Pakistan greater room on Kashmir through exclusive focus on it, the Indian side clearly did not seize upon the recent David Headley disclosures at the Tahawwur Rana trial in Chicago to make its case more acutely in the matter of the punishment of those guilty of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Of course, at the joint press conference of foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, the senior Indian official did not fail to point out that 26/11 was "of critical importance to us". She noted that bringing the issue to a "satisfactory closure" would help the process of "normalisation" of relations, but gone was the earlier public insistence on trial and punishment of the guilty without delay. Mr Bashir, for his part, observed that while Pakistan noted India's concerns, it preferred to treat the issue in a more "generic" sense — as an instance of terrorism which, of course, needed to be eliminated. Speaking at the joint press conference, he had little hesitation clubbing the Mumbai outrage with other high-profile incidents of terrorism. When the current India-Pakistan "process" moves to the level of foreign ministers in July, the spirit of the present is likely to be sustained.

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THE ASIAN AGE

HARD TIMES IN BRITAIN

FARRUKH DHONDY

"In the beginning was the word And the word was Mum...
Then they added Dad..."

From The Book of Leftovers by Bachchoo
Readers of my generation gathered our notions of Britain from books and our ideas of America from films. There must have been a time when I imagined that British society had moved on from the miseries described by Charles Dickens to the frivolities plotted by P.G. Wodehouse.

The corrective to these images and perceptions came later. My aunts in Pune used to subscribe to a magazine called Woman and Home and leafing through it gave me a hint that the cities of the United Kingdom were no longer the gloomy Gothic constructs of earlier centuries or the spread of Victorian streets as in Dickens', but the frailer buildings of council estates and the rusty brick spread of suburbs.
The magazine, catering to the new reading classes, post the 1940s secondary education bill which made schooling compulsory for the whole population, attempted to make these buildings look cheerful. I fell for it.
The other strong corrective to the first impressions through novel-reading were the plays and prose of what has come to be known as the "kitchen-sink" school of writers. John Osborne, John Wain, Arnold Wesker and others of their generation introduced the readers (not "audience" as none of the plays were performed in India because, I suppose, theatrical cosmopolitans such as Alyque Padamsee staged plays in Mumbai which were usually more jolly or American) to working class lads and lasses who had been through university and could no longer relate to the culture of their working-class parents.
It is now easy to see that the post-war egalitarianism of the country led to the election of the Attlee Labour government and subsequently the expansion of university education, through Tory and Labour administrations, giving the working classes access to better paid jobs and social positions.
When stated as a generalisation it sounds as though many were called, but in fact few were chosen. From such beginnings and the promotion of working-class children through grammar schools to universities and into the professions was Britain transformed into a proper and competitive meritocracy. And still the question of access from all classes to the best universities remains.
The present coalition government has passed an act which will require, for example, my youngest daughter Tir, who applies later this year for a university place, which she takes up in 2012, to borrow from the government £9,000 (`700,000) for each of three years just to pay her fees. Her living expenses for each of those years could cost her £15,000 more. She'll be saddled with a debt of anything between £30,000 and £70,000 depending on what I can afford to pay towards her education. Her brother and sisters who all went to very good universities (Leeds, Sussex and Cambridge) didn't have to borrow and don't have to spend years of their earning lives paying back.
This new fee hike, against which students have vigorously protested, will certainly mean that fewer pupils from the working classes will consider a university education. It may be that the Tories whose philosophy stresses the virtues of pluck, competition, entrepreneurship, survival of the fittest, dog-gently-eat-dog and proposes that reduced welfare benefits support the hindmost, don't have the same idea of meritocracy as the Oxford dictionary.
The electoral parliamentary system requires that all politicians have to pose as generators, facilitators and reformers of the mechanisms of social mobility. They all have to tell the population that Arbeit Macht Rich, but in a world in which bankers, who gamble with other people's money and charge them bank charges for doing it, take millions of pounds in bonuses each year while workers face inflation and increases in tax on normal purchases and fuel, it's not very convincing.
It is very clear that by the end of this government's term the social stratum of Britain will be "less equal" than it was. This government even has a stated ideology which it has christened "The Big Society". No one, not even British Prime Minister David Cameron whose speech writers invented it, quite knows what it means. To some it means that volunteers will clean the streets replacing or supplementing waged dustmen. To me it seems to mean that the mechanisms of meritocracy will be impeded and the population will be invited to find ways, apart from the certification of superiority through educational qualifications, to get on and get rich.
It may be that Britain has reached a plateau in the climb of the degreewallahs. Which is in stark contrast to India where education and higher and higher quals are still the mechanisms of advance. The Indian Institutes of Technology, which began the year I was in my second year of college studying sciences, have bred thousands of techno-millionaires. One pays impossible premiums to bribe one's way into medical college. Every dinner party conversation seems to have some mummy grumbling that her 10-year-old son's mark in maths or cognitive psychology went down from 99 to 98 per cent and it's keeping her awake at night or some father boasting that his three-year-old son stood first in golf at his boarding school.
In my own day — the 1950s in school and the 1960s in college — the meritocratic race was in full swing. In the final two years of school, we were streamed into those who would do the Senior Cambridge certificate with exam papers set and marked in England and those who would do the Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) which was set and marked in India. It was at this stage that laggards and boys (many with full beards and moustaches) who had been compelled through failure to repeat various academic years several times were removed from school. It was rumoured that they were being privately tutored to sit the "Punjab Matric" which was a label for an exam that no one failed. I hasten to add that it was never proved that this exam was set or marked in Ludhiana or thereabouts, but certainly some very feeble competitors seemed to hold such a matriculation certificate, one which was, alas, not recognised by most Pune colleges as a qualification for admission.
Once at the college, the insulting epithet used for lecturers we didn't like was so-and-so: "degree by post!"

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THE ASIAN AGE

A FUNFEST FOR URBAN GLAM GIRLS

ANTARA DEV SEN

Go for it, girls. Go have fun at your Slut Walk or "Besharmi Morcha" in Delhi. You have every right to wear what you want without being harassed. And there is a certain joy in needling the prudes who seem to rule our lives. Go get their goat!
The Slut Walk could be good fun. But let's not lose perspective. It is not a movement to empower women in India.

It is like polishing a door knob when you don't have a door, or even a roof over your head. What works as a political statement in Canada and Europe may seem outrageously irrelevant in India. Me-too feminism plucked from countries where women's rights and gender equality is treasured doesn't work for India, where women lack basic human rights.
Last week, a Thomson Reuters Foundation global poll named India as the fourth most dangerous place for women in the world, after Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan. And that has nothing to do with what women wear. It is about women's lack of choices in general — where there is no escape from violence. Unlike Afghanistan, Congo or Somalia (fifth on the shame list), India is not war-torn. It is just systematically violent towards its women through deeply entrenched social and cultural conditions. Apart from rape, murders, dowry deaths, honour killings and various forms of domestic abuse, our failure to check female infanticide and foeticide, or trafficking of women, or to provide women adequate healthcare and education have clinched our place in the top rung of the shame list.
Unfair, you say? Why, Indian women have cracked the glass ceiling in the corporate world and politics, you point out. Our President is a woman, as are the uncrowned leader of our government, the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. We have four powerful women chief ministers in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Come on, every country has rapes and murders, why single us out?
Because it is not so much about stray incidents of crime as about the systematic violence against women that we sigh and accept. Girls and women are killed for dowry, for family honour, for not bearing a male child, for just being female in her mother's womb or in the birthing chamber. Or simply allowed to die. Twice as many girls as boys die of common, treatable diseases like diarrhoea. And 75 per cent of unexplained baby deaths happen to girls. The UN Population Fund reports that thanks to foeticide and infanticide, we have lost close to 50 million girls in the past century.
Take Delhi, our centre of power and urban, educated cosmopolitanism. The provisional data of Census 2011 shows a pathetic gender ratio — only 866 girls per 1,000 boys, far below the national average of 914 girls. It shows how we use the tools of empowerment to disempower women. Instead of rooting out prejudice, our education, wealth and technological progress have made us its slaves. Sex-selective abortions are most prevalent among the educated, including in the posh areas of Delhi. I haven't heard of any spirited march in Delhi against female foeticide and infanticide.
Anyway, I have a problem with branding Slut Walk Delhi as a march against sexual violence. Remember what the early feminists said? Rape is not about sex, it's about power. It doesn't matter what you wear, in the dark crevices of our savage patriarchal society, your body remains the conventional battleground for power politics. Elderly women are raped and killed for family feuds and property. Children, even infants, are raped in our perverse society. Dalit women are routinely raped by upper caste men. The dominance of a religious or caste group is often established by arbitrarily raping local women of the weaker sections. The inhuman violence on Muslim women during the Gujarat riots is just an example of this traditional power game.
And once violated, like our ancient foremothers, women often "choose" death over dishonour. Just this week, a 17-year-old girl killed herself after being raped in Baghpat, near Delhi. If a woman is raped, she is encouraged to die, or live largely as an outcast. As "soiled goods" she is routinely rejected by her "owners", usually her husband and in-laws, sometimes even her father and brothers.
Besides, honour rapes still prevail in our villages — where a boy's love affair with a higher caste girl is punished by the boy's sister or mother being raped by upper caste men. Similarly, village justice can demand that a rapist's wife or sister is raped by the victim's brother or husband. In short, the rape victim is insignificant in a society that looks at rape as a currency of power.
If we wish to holler against rape, we must accept it as a vicious power game. Rape has very little to do with sex, and nothing to do with dress codes. Focusing minutely on the urban empowered woman's right to sexy dressing trivialises the huge, old, bloodthirsty, hydra-headed monster that sexual violence in India actually is.
Which brings me to my other problem with Slut Walk Delhi as a political march: its attempt "to reclaim the word slut, to remove the shame, to replace it with pride!" Let's not go into whether we had ever claimed the word slut in the first place, or if we need to be proud of being a slut. I just find reducing woman to slut doesn't necessarily lend dignity to a movement that has for decades been crying itself hoarse about not making women into sex objects. And when at the ground level women are denied basic rights and looked upon as commodities in my country, do we have the luxury to flaunt ourselves as sexual objects just because we belong to a somewhat empowered crowd?
Besides, in a country where prostitutes have no rights or privileges, are usually not in it out of choice and are often victims of human trafficking networks who have been abducted or duped or just picked up as little girls, glamourising "slut" by dressing provocatively is like saying let them have cake. For example, a 2009 Central Bureau of Investigation report says that India has three million prostitutes, of whom about 40 per cent are children. That's a lot of children in the flesh trade — and I doubt that they have any education or a choice in reclaiming any word, with pride or not.
So let the Slut Walk be a funfest — everyone deserves fun. But branding it as an empowerment mission is silly. In the fourth most dangerous country for women, we can't really expect to protect ourselves with straps and thongs.

The author is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: sen@littlemag.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

ROYAL ROMP TO BRAND BRITAIN

KISHWAR DESAI

After Kate and William — the Wedding and Kate and William — the Honeymoon, we are on part three of the fascinating reality show. Kate and William — the Official Tour. After weeks of speculation whether the Duchess of Cambridge will take along her personal hair stylist (she will) and dresser (she won't) we now also know that the young couple have decided that they will have a "hands on" approach on their visit to Canada next week.

The
schedule appears to be more like an Obama-style itinerary than the usual wind-shield wiper royal airings we have experienced so far, when they graciously appear at various venues and wave to us. It has much more real engagement with the masses (for a quick reference take a look at Michelle Obama's tour to South Africa).
The only other royal who memorably broke through the fastidious formality, of course, was Prince William's mother, Princess Diana, who even famously danced with John Travolta. Now that would have required a special kind of courage, almost like playing at Wimbledon with Serena Williams! While Prince William is not going to the same lengths (so far) he seems to have inherited some of Princess Diana's fun-loving flamboyance and neither he nor his new bride seems to shy off from performing for a worldwide audience.
Perhaps calculating the enormous amount of expected publicity (remember the millions who watched the carefully choreographed wedding?) now the Royal household and TV crews the world over are preparing for another glorious spike of regal interest. And why not? This is a good-looking, well-dressed, young couple who seem to have a genuine desire to bombard us with gorgeous glimpses of their life together. And this official tour may just help us learn a little more about Princess Catherine, a 29-year-old who has an amazingly old-fashioned attitude towards being a royal consort. Even before her marriage she did nothing more than party at night clubs, wear demure high-street clothes, live with her prince charming and go for gym classes. In short, she demonstrated no other ambition than to be a royal arm candy. Her life after marriage does not seem to have changed very much, except that now she has to fit in all her other royal duties, as well. A perfect opportunity to place her in public comes with this tour, which is already being flagged up as being "different".
The pre-publicity machinery has been cranking up interest by hinting that the tour will be much more participative, with the Royal couple actually jumping on board to show off their different talents from flying aircraft to playing polo to flipping a mean pancake. For instance, when the Duke and Duchess are shown how to land a helicopter on water, off the Prince Edward Island, in a process called "waterbirding" — Prince William will steer a chopper, too. Similarly, in a dragon boat race at the same location, they will grab a paddle. They will also canoe and play a bit of street hockey and in a cookery demonstration at Quebec, they will bite the gauntlet and cook up a storm along with students from a culinary workshop. Perhaps the only arena where they will remain spectators is when they attend a rodeo called the Calgary stampede and is supposed to be the "greatest show on earth".
No doubt the planners of this tour are hoping that the cameras will be focusing on the royal couple and not just the rodeo that day. If Diana was a "people's princess", this couple is fast following suit. By ensuring they have an international celebrity cult and carefully packaging their presentation, their managers (as well as Catherine and William) know that they can create and maintain a huge fan following. This will also
ensure that Brand Britain will get a positive global makeover and knock out "Brand Backside" a la Pippa Middleton. Finally the sister who is the real royal will take centrestage once again.

Meanwhile, I have just come back from Finland, from the beautiful ski resort of Lahti, where I was attending a writer's reunion, discussing freedom of speech. It was a fascinating four days because one realises that the problems of "taboos" (those things that cannot be spoken of) exist the world over. And now back in the United Kingdom, I find it is the case of the 50-year-old fashion designer John Galliano that is attracting the same debate, though in quite a different sense. Galliano has just been fired from his £4 million a year job as the creative director of Dior, because he is accused of having allegedly hurled anti-Semitic and racist comments at some people at the Le Perle bar in Paris. These included an anonymous 47-year-old woman, Phillippe Virgitti, a receptionist who was called an "Asian Bastard" and Geraldine Bloch, a museum curator, who was insulted as a "dirty Jew".
Galliano, this week, has been taken to court over this incident and if found guilty for making anti-Semitic remarks, might face up to six months in jail or even be fined £20,000. To make matters worse, last autumn he was filmed making similar remarks to two young women who are believed to be Jewish. On tape he is heard saying, "People like you ought to be dead, your mothers, your forefathers would all be f*****g gassed. I love Hitler".
Celebrities like Natalie Portman, who is the face of the Miss Dior fragrance, and whose grandparents died in Auschwitz, have already distanced themselves from the (in) famous designer. But his argument is that he was on a cocktail of drugs due to high levels of stress to keep his couture business afloat, and at times, no longer knew what he was saying. He has now been to a rehab centre in the middle of the Arizona desert often used by other disgraced celebrities. While the judgment on his case is still to be heard the discussion about his case continues in media, and this weekend I, too, go to Belfast to participate in a BBC debate on "freedom of speech". But should freedom of speech include the right to be abusive and racist? That is the question!

The author can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SELF-RELIANCE IN AGRICULTURE

 

Nothing could be more heartening than to believe that the State can achieve self reliance in agro-productions in next three to four years if requisite infrastructure and technical input are made available. The Governor has sounded a note of optimism while launching the "Organic Agriculture Programme" at SKUAST in Srinagar. General opinion is that our state is deficient in agricultural production. Geography, topography and extreme weather conditions are mentioned as the causes of this deficiency. On the other hand, observers believe that even if these conditionalities cannot be overlooked still there is the lurking potential in the state to giv1e a big boost to the agricultural production. Agricultural pursuits in western countries, with usually cold climate, have gone through tremendous changes owing to new research, development and induction of new techniques of production. In contrast, we have remained glued to traditional ways and practices of agrarian pursuit, and cannot keep pace with the fast growing demand for agricultural products owing to rapid increase in population. Agricultural pursuits encompass a large number of activities and not just producing food grains. In order to make J&K a prosperous State in the next few years there is the need for optimally benefiting from varied climatic zones by taking area specific initiatives in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, apiculture, floriculture, mushroom cultivation, dairy farming, poultry, sheep husbandry, etc. by utilizing available scientific knowledge and adopting improved techniques, without much larger investments. In this context, the Agriculture Universities of the State have to play a crucial role in securing the desired results.
The State has two agricultural universities that serve the needs of state's agrarian sector. But more importantly, what is needed is high class research in various branches of agricultural production and industry and in practically implementing the researches. Kashmir valley has a climate almost akin to what is obtaining in most of the European countries. Research and development in grape production, development of vineyards and the consequent production of finest wine in the world is what France is famous for. Our vineyards though having enormous potential for transformation and higher yield are abandoned to tradition unscientific treatment. The result is that we don't have diversification of the vine nor can we develop the wine producing industry despite fair chance of boosting the raw material production. Likewise, our dairy farming remains sub-standard and grossly inadequate despite the fact that we have vast grasslands and pastures where cows of high yield milk production can be reared. We do not have the dairy plant according to modern norms and we do not have the supply and marketing system that would cater to the needs of the consumers. Likewise sheep breeding, poultry and honey collection offer vast scope for development and expansion. But unfortunately for want of incentives, research input, technological management and scientific marketing and supply system these areas remain highly circumspect.
While the Governor has given a very optimistic view of the potential of our agricultural pursuits the question is of providing adequate infrastructure and all related facilities. The fact is that the state agricultural pursuits need a revolutionary change from old and traditional system to modern and more scientific and technology-oriented system. The government should, in consultation with experts in agricultural science and technology, constitute an autonomous structure with financial and administrative powers to conduct experiments in developing agro-productions through all available means. This body should coordinate the researches conducted by the academics and technocrats and put these to test on the ground for adoption. The Governor has a vision and he can also suggest how this vision can be translated into practice. Our fruit industry, especially apple industry, stands in need of big transformation from plantation, protection, collection, and preservation to transportation and marketing if we mean to make it one among the mainstays of our economy. It has to be remembered that in next two years the valley will have uninterrupted rail connectivity with the rest of the country. This should become a catalyst to effecting radical change in our fruit and tourist industries.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCE

 

Shortage of power is endemic with our state. It is no better in other states of the country. Our woes are that despite owning water resources, our hydro electric power production cannot keep pace with our requirements. There are various factors that contribute to this sordid situation. Conscious of the limitations that are there in terms of logistics, funds, transmission etc. there is some thinking in sections of the Government that an alternative in thermal power production should be examined and even tested. Official sources say that the plan of building a thermal plant was to be a joint venture programme. In this connection, companies are being approached for assisting the Government in setting up a thermal power project. But that depends on the availability of coal of which we don't know of the deposits in the state as of today. However the State Government has approached the Mineral Exploration Corporation of India for its guidance and assistance in not only identifying coal reserves but also developing these sites into coal mines.
The State Industries and Commerce Minister claims that the government would develop a new coal mine in Kalakote envisaging about 6000 MT annual production to achieve self-sufficiency in coal. He has stated that the Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL) has also been approached for undertaking detailed exploration of the coal in and around Kalakote area.
"A team of MECL after spot survey has identified huge reserves of good quality coal in Moghla and Bergoa areas at Kalakote," official sources have said. About seven crore rupees are estimated to be incurred for undertaking detailed exploration in these two place.
While we feel happy that alternative source of energy will be tapped, we hope that the planners will keep in mind some experiences they have gained in the context of the closed down Kalakote thermal power station. What were the reasons that this unit had to be closed should help in making new decisions on the subject. Some people believe that there could be more sites in the state like Udhampur and Rajouri where existence of high quality coal could be presumed. Therefore the exploration of new coal mines in the state should be part of a comprehensive plan for adopting the alternate source of energy in thermal power. Any broad-based survey has to be undertaken as a part of the overall exploration of new source of energy and its usage for thermal power generation plants in the state.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NO END TO AFGHAN CONFLICT

MEN, MATTERS & MEMORIES

BY ML KOTRU

If words really mean what they are intended to convey Afghanistan may very soon be rid of its unending conflict. No less a person than Hamid Karzai, the President of the war-ravaged country is quoted telling us for the past one week and more that he is into serious negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, an olive branch in hand. More importantly the American administration is said to be very much interested in the Karzai mission; it may virtually mean back to square one after long years of war in the mountain country.
For, wasn't it the expulsion of the Taliban government from Kabul which the Americans had celebrated with great aplomb not many years ago.
The war that the country has witnessed for years now has had just one aim: to keep the Taliban away from retrieving the reins of power in Afghanistan. Wasn't Zardari's emergence as the democratically elected successor to the Taliban regime celebrated with great élan by the American, unkown to them that their closest ally in the war effort, Pakistan was in cahoots with the very same Taliban. Pakistan had really never given up on Afghanistan.
And it was Islamabad which discovered the existence of what are called the good Taliban, the ones guided by Pakistan's intelligence establishment, the ISI! So, you cannot really blame the Americans if they are more than taken in by the Afghan President's dream talks with the Taliban. One can't be too sure what Karzai, who was in Pakistan recently, made of his intention to talk to the Taliban, offering them peace with a share of power in Kabul. I am not sure also about what to make of the Afghan interpretation that Pakistani Taliban are no part of the Afghan Taliban-Karzai talks.
Karzai knows that the Taliban were born and nurtured in Pakistan. Mullah Omar, the one-eyed chief of the Afghan Taliban, is the product one of Karachi's best known seminaries and was for years living in Pakistani cities of Quetta and Chaman. His forays into Afghanistan to pep up the Taliban fighters are always made from Quetta which is home to the Taliban elite. The Americans know it all too well but are helpless.
Their tie-up with Pakistan has undergone a sea change from the day Osama bin Laden was killed by the US; several CIA and ISI informers have been dismissed by the Pakistanis and domestic compulsions won't allow Washington to do anything more than vent their displeasure even as the Pakistanis score very low in the US view in their commitment to countering terrorism. Over the past several weeks the Pakistani military has been distancing itself from the American intelligence and counter-terrorism operations against militant groups in Pakistan.
This may have angered many in Washington, but American officials say that Pakistani spies (ISI) have lately been unwilling to carry out surveillance for the CIA. Pak has also scaled down the number of CIA agents granted visas to follow the terror trail.
And then there is this hitherto lesser known fact that even before Osama's death, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the Taliban military chief and former Guatanamo inmate, has been working like a man possessed, visiting Taliban fighters at their bases and preparing them for the final push. Operation Badar, the name he has given to the new assault is seen by the Taliban as an answer to those who have believed that the elimination of Osama bin Laden has broken the back of the terrorists. He sees not one Afghan Taliban allowed to stay back in Pakistan when the time for the final push comes. The problem with Zakir, who is known for his foolhardy courage, and he sees himself as the man who could fight it out till the very end making it a make or break battle for his Taliban forces. It's time he is reported to have said for the Taliban to reclaim their supremacy in Afghanistan. According to reports, again, Zakir and his men are operating with impunity in the high desert landscape of southwestern area of the Pakistani province of Balochistan. The Pakistani military has declared the province off limits to the Americans drones. The Taliban have the freedom of moving anywhere in the province, their moves supervised and monitored by the ISI. Many old hands recall that the insurgents remind them of the 1980's Peshawar, where anti-Soviet Mujahideen operated openly with ISI's backing and blessings. Having visited the entire region from Peshawar to Torkhum, zigzagging the imaginary borderline between Pakistan and Afghanistan, I can well see how the Taliban's Number one "Maulvi Zakir must be moving freely from Quetta to Balochistan and across the border at will into his tribal home. As per one description Zakir is a tall dark 38-year-old, with intense black eyes and an air of authority crisscrossing the province non-stop, usually astride his Honda 125, trailed by half a dozen or so aides on their own motor cycles. He holds upto a dozen meetings a day, exhorting his clansmen, for the most part pushtoons, to prepare for the final assault.
So this is one aspect of the story one has to remember when one talks of Karzai's efforts to offer his hand of friendship to the Taliban. Men like Zakir would rather see him out of their way. He is well liked by Taliban ranks for his willingness to talk to individuals with as much ease as he does to larger groups. And, mind you, he has not forgotten the years in US detention. Until this fire of revenge is quenched the jihad will continue. And says he: we have plenty of "melon (Talibanese for IEDs) and fedayeen suicide bombers for this summer and fall. This will be the year of the bombs and fedayeen. In the given circumstances Karzai would appear to be following the wrong track when he speaks of roping in the Taliban on the side of peacemakers, giving the Afghan nation and its multiple tribes, clans and warlords a chance of allowing themselves to build up a strong unified nation. He shares with the overwhelming majority of the Taliban on either side of the border a common Pushtoon lineage which however is no guarantee of having peace in the region after nearly four decades of brutal strife. Pakistan has its own stake in letting the Taliban have a greater say, or, better still, total control, over the levers of powers in the neighbouring country. That's what it has been seeking ever since its birth.
Am not quite sure whether Karzai shares the Pakistani line distinguishing the good Taliban from the bad ones. The Kabul regime regardless of the friendly noises, the two countries Pakistan and Afghanistan, made at their recent top-level meeting. The Indian stakes in Afghanistan staying a friendly neighbour have been stated exhaustively and Karzai is fully aware of these. The Americans too have been informed about Indian concerns in Afghanistan which, though, does not mean that Washington would be overly concerned about Indian views if the moves to forge and alliance with the Taliban between the Taliban and Karzai succeeds. The US administration is keen to keep its deadline of a total pullout or NATO forces by 2014. The sacrifices made by India in men and material helping build up the Afghan infrastructure would easily be overlooked by the Americans when it comes to protecting its own national interest.
And the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates went on record the other day to say that while initial contracts with Taliban had been made by the US, the US administration was not particularly hopeful about the outcome.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NO SOLUTION IN SERMONS

BY ARUN NEHRU

 

Governance has been a major issue for the UPA2 and after the Congress getting 206 seats there was every expectation that the Coalition structure at the Center in 2009 would have greater cohesion and stability.
The Congress tally increased by over 50 seats over 2004 but sadly the lack of a credible opposition lulled both the government and the party into complacency. I cannot find any other explanation for this situation and sadly issues were pushed aside and expected to fade away as the 'TINA' factor prevailed. Little point in being repetitive but the UPA2 is wounded by the DMK and the 2G scam which festered for over two years and tested the patience of everyone except the government and a similar story with the CWG mess which continues to haunt us even today on a daily basis.
The BJP lost a golden opportunity as they yield political ground to civil activists and religious leaders but even then there is little consolation for the Congress and the UPA2 as corruption and extortion along with increased criminality makes daily existence difficult except for those in power. We see a spate of 'contract' killings as RTI activists, whistle blowers and journalists are killed and many are forced into silence as Mafia operations spread into the lucrative area of land deals, excise cheats on liquor production, fuel adulteration, mining operations etc. Politicians at the top are afraid to act for fear of involvement and this is a tragedy as we slip from one political accident to another. The solution does not lie in sermons but in firm and decisive action.
We have had a great deal of talk on the Dynasty issue but I think we fail to realize that the success or failure of the party is almost always dependant on the competence and ability of the incumbent and let us illustrate this factor by actual results in the past five years. J&K had a hard fought election and Farooq and Omar Abdullah along with Mufti Mohd and Mehbooba did well and both the 'successors' have talent and acceptability and the Dynasty will do well for the immediate future on both sides!
We see the Lalu Yadav clan along with wife Rabri Devi, her brothers and sundry relations decimated by ten years of misrule and lawlessness and Nitesh Kumar and the JD[U] along with the BJP had a stunning victory look how Bihar has been transformed in the space of two years and I see a very bleak future for Lalu Yadav and his extended family and sadly a similar situation exists in Uttar Pradesh where Mulayam Singh Yadav loses ground to the twin attacks by the BSP and the Congress and continues to shrink and his son and brothers are unable to stem the downturn and Assembly elections in 2012 may well see the SP in third position after the BSP and the Congress. A generous touch of Bollywood did not help and poor governance and excessive assets resulted in a sharp decline.
The DMK family rule with two wives, sons, daughter, nephews, etc has all gone up in smoke with the 2G scam and the Karunanidhi family firm is no match for J Jayalalitha and the AIDMK.
Dynasties come and go and as meritocracy comes into play the decline will be sharper.
Political succession is always a valid point for discussion and there is little doubt that Rahul Gandhi will always be in the limelight of the Congress and Narender Modi in the BJP and it would be nice to know the 2nd and the 3rd choices in the Regional parties most of whom are run by 'Supreme' leaders and are extremely vulnerable when levels of leadership are vague. We cannot think of the BSP without Mayawati, the JD[U] without Nitesh Kumar , the TMC without Mamata Banerjee, BJD without Naveen Patnaik , the AIDMK without J Jayalalitha and the reality of life is that nothing ever lasts forever and the 'succession' issue will always be a subject discussed within the party forums.
The classic example in YSR Reddy in Andhra Pradesh who pulled a spectacular victory in 2009 but died tragically in a helicopter crash and in the absence of a natural successor the Congress suffered a series of reverses and a tally of 33 out of 42 seats in 2009 is under severe pressure and change can come in a variety of circumstances and every party big or small should prepare for the future.
We have important developments taking place in the USA as President Barack Obama announces the plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan over the next three years and I suppose this has much to do with his re election efforts and less with the ground situation. Pakistan continues to bleed as does Iraq and most of the Middle East is in a mess and US policy and initiatives in the area have yielded little success. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made little impact and I think we should closely watch events as the US policy initiatives may well be dictated by internal electoral compulsions.
The President is under pressure and as we all know domestic economic considerations have greater relevance than external factors in election year.
The Middle East is in turmoil and while the media suffers from the 'fatigue' factor in reporting events from the region we have a civil war in Libya, death and destruction continues in Yemen and Syria and anarchy prevails in Tunisia and Egypt and the urge for people for greater democratic freedom in many countries in the area are quietly suppressed as super power interests and support for 'absolute regimes' and 'oil politics' prevail over human considerations.
We can expect little assistance from the USA in regard to hostile terror activities from across the border and while Diplomatic exchanges will continue in the usual manner we have to formulate our own responses in the war on terror.
The USA is winning few friends in India by targeting our envoys in the US and while the Diplomatic responses may be measured the public response will not be mild and the government will have limited options if this 'big bully' attitude persists in the immediate future.
The UPA2 may be making a serious error in excluding CBI from the RTI and I am quite amazed that the political implications of this have not been understood and hopefully better sense will prevail in the matter. We need transparency to isolate the 'few' who hold 'many' to ransom. Times change as do norms of governance and today there are no secrets and no government agency can be manipulated without the risk of exposure. We can be dismissive of the 'chewing gum' found in Pranab Mukherjee office but what does all this indicate? There are no secrets today and wise leaders accept reality and adapt to change.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CABINET RESHUFFLE ON CARDS

BY KALYANI SHANKAR

 

For the past few days, there is a lot of speculation about the impending cabinet reshuffle. Aspirants are sitting near the telephone waiting for that important phone call form the Prime Minister's residence while those in the council of ministers are nervous about their continuance as it has been said that the Prime Minister may axe those who had not performed well. This has provoked a tongue in cheek remark that it should begin from the top.
]Ironically the capital was full of rumours even about a possibility of change at the top when some Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh, Motilal Vohra and Birendra Singh had started talking about Rahul Gandhi talking over as PM. This was scotched immediately when apparently there were protests from 7, Race Course Road. Now that the uncertainty has ended after the Congress has affirmed the good work done by the Prime Minister pointing out there is no vacancy, it is time that Singh and Sonia Gandhi come out with the cabinet list.
Why is there a need for a cabinet reshuffle? First of all it is an opportunity to look at the performance of the cabinet and time to assess the UPA 2 cabinet, as it is over two years since it took over. The Government does not give an image of cohesiveness. Even within the Congress, instances like the rivalry between the Finance Minister and Home Minister have come out in the open. The bugging of Finance Minister's office has shocked the political class. If any mid- course correction is required it has to be done now. Secondly, the Prime Minister himself has announced some time ago that he will go for a big reshuffle before the next Parliament session. The next session may begin on August 1 and therefore there is some urgency to carry out a reshuffle.
Thirdly, the PM had undertaken earlier reshuffles without touching the allies but there is a necessity to consult the allies this time. The DMK- Congress relationship has soured after the arrest of the DMK M.P and former chief minister Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi and that of former minister A. Raja. There is also the Damocles' sword hanging over the head of another DMK minister Dayanidhi Maran on the 2 G scam and the CBI is already investigating it. It is a question mark whether the DMK will continue its ties with the Congress although it will swallow all humiliation for the time being for political compulsions. The first is to decide whether to drop Maran and the second is to get two new names from Karunanidhi. It is now said that the Congress would like to hold on to Telecom and may not offer the ministry to the DMK, Karunanidhi has shown his annoyance by not meeting the PM or Sonia Gandhi during his recent visits to Delhi.
The Trinamool Congress, another ally of the Congress also needs to do some thinking about its candidates for the cabinet. The Trinamool chief and the new West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has recently met Singh and had discussions about the names from her party. Her party has the second biggest contingent in the UPA and can even get four cabinet berths like the DMK but Mamata does not want any cabinet posts. It is to be seen whether she would seek elevation of her party minister. She is particular about holding on to the Railways, which she had headed earlier. So consultations with the TMC are on. As for NCP, and National Conference and Muslim League there will be no change as their quota is full.
Then comes the tricky issue of keeping or sacking the Congress ministers. The Prime Minister alone cannot decide this as it is a well known fact that the final say remains with the Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Quite often the new ministers get phone calls from 10 Janpath rather than 7, Race Course Road about their selection. There is talk in the corridors of power about Home Minister P. Chidambaram getting a new portfolio, Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil coming back to the cabinet, External Affairs minister S.M. Krishna going to Karnataka as its PCC chief. There is also talk about ministers like M.S. Gill being dropped. Inducting a minister in the cabinet is easy but dropping a minister is difficult as any Prime Minister or chief minister will vouch for. All these may or may not happen but if the PM wants to have a younger cabinet, he will have to look for younger talent. That is why the exercise is difficult.
Another problem is how to accommodate "migrant birds" like the new entrants to Congress from other parties. BJP leader from Maharashtra Gopinath Munde is one of them waiting to change over to the Congress. He is aspiring for a ministership. His entry and importance will depend on how much the Maharashtra Congress needs him. The AICC is looking for OBC faces and he is an important OBC leader. Moreover, the BJP would be affected by his exit.
Secondly, the Congress is focusing on U.P elections next year. Getting the support of the RLD is quite crucial for the party. There is speculation of giving a cabinet berth to the RLD chief Ajit Singh. These political considerations are also important.
Some ministers are holding temporary charge of big Ministries like Kapil Sibal. He is the Minister for Human Resources Development but also holds charge of communications, there are several other aspirants who are looking for employment. The Government work suffers because of this uncertainty. Unless the Prime Minister distributes portfolios and chooses the right man for the right job, the governance will suffer.
There is a need to make the pubic feel that there is stability in the Government and also the Government is performing. Facing one crisis after the other for the past few months, the governance deficit needs to be addressed first. Prime Minister should not miss this opportunity to show to the country that all is not lost and there is still hope. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A STEP TOWARDS FOOD SECURITY

SERIOUS CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR GOVERNMENT

 

THE National Advisory Council has cleared the draft of the Food Security Bill for follow-up action by the government. It offers 90 per cent of all rural households and 50 per cent of urban households a legal right to subsidised food. It is a major step towards banishing hunger but falls short of expectations of experts like development economist Jean Dreze, who quit the NAC, saying government constraints leave no scope for effectively addressing the problem of hunger and under-nutrition.

 

Providing food security to all is a national and global challenge but the government seems less than enthusiastic. Its intention became clear when it appointed a committee under C. Rangarajan to vet the NAC proposals, released earlier. Rangarajan suggested that 46 per cent of the rural population and 28 per cent of the urban population be covered under the Act, citing insufficient food availability as a reason. Procuring larger quantities of food grains, the committee argued, would "lead to lower availability of food grains for the open market, pushing up prices".

 

Some have questioned the proposal to provide subsidised food to APL (above poverty line) families. Rangarajan wants an inflation-linked price of food for the poor and an MSP (minimum support price)-linked price for APL families to cut the government's financial burden. Besides, he favours a direct transfer of the food subsidy to the poor through smart cards usable in any store. If food is to be distributed through food stamps or smart cards, then there is no problem of higher procurements or food shortages in the open market pushing up prices. Challenges are numerous but not insurmountable if there is political will. These include financial constraints, raising food productivity and ensuring fool-proof distribution. Large quantities of food go waste due to unscientific storage and poor handling and transportation. The NAC proposals may not be "more of the same" or a case of missed opportunity to radically transfer India's social policy — as Jean Dreze believes — they mark a step forward and the government has to make sincere efforts to fight hunger and malnutrition, which limit India's overall growth.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THALASSAEMIC TRAVAILS 

NEED TO SENSITISE PUBLIC, OFFICIALS

 

MANY Indians are carriers of thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder which leads to anaemia. If both parents are carriers of thalassaemia, then there is a possibility of some of their children being born as thalassaemic major. Sukhsohit Singh is one such person, and the Department of Personnel and Training has recently declared that he is unfit to join the Civil Services, in spite of his clearing all the requisite examinations. It is obvious that the rule of banning thalassaemic major patients from the Civil Services is based on the notion that they are not productive enough, given their affliction.

 

In any thalassaemic major patient, there is an excessive destruction of red blood cells, which leads to symptoms like fatigue, growth failure, shortness of breath, etc. Obviously, the medical board at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi took the decision without taking adequate cognisance of the advances made in the treatment of such cases. It is apparent that the candidate is a person of uncommon grit and focus, who has excelled in his studies, in spite of what could have been a debilitating disease.

 

Thalassaemia occurs in many parts of India, especially in the western region, and the only effective way of eliminating the disease is to screen potential marriage partners. As long as two thalassaemic minors do not have children, the disease can't spread. The Mediterranean region, especially Cyprus, where it was widely prevalent, has managed to curb the incidence of thalassaemia by making genetic screening of couples compulsory prior to the registration of their marriage. Cultural compulsions dictate enforcement of such a step legislatively, but the government must make every effort to raise public awareness about genetic disorders, and preventive steps must be taken against them. It is unusual that someone who is a thalassaemic major has done so well. For being accomplished in spite of such a disorder, Sukhsohit Singh should be cheered, not censored.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

INSURING DOMESTIC WORKERS

SANS SPADEWORK, NEW PLAN A MIRAGE

 

THE Union Cabinet, in its wisdom, has approved extension of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to all the registered domestic workers in the country. As per their estimate, approximately 47.50 lakh domestic workers will benefit from this smart card based cashless health insurance cover, upto Rs 30,000 a year, in any of the empanelled hospitals, anywhere in the country.

 

The scheme is populist, as it appears, and has been announced in haste. To begin with, by the admission of its own Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Harish Rawat, no authentic data is available on the number of domestic workers in India. The white-collared middle class in India is estimated to be around 3 crores, and a middle class family without a maid is a rare phenomenon. By these estimates, their number is far greater than the estimated 4.5 million. Secondly, how many maids go through the process of registration is anybody's guess. Even in Delhi, where a public awareness campaign was launched to register domestic servants, in the wake of a rising crime rate, results were not encouraging. Most middle- class families do not feel obliged to part with information on their servants. The problem comes with live-in maids, the households keeping them continue to be a private space without any legislative intrusion, and rightly so. Then, what is the definition of a domestic servant, what about drivers, gardeners, ironing people, waterman, and the errand boy? What about the boys working at dhaba!

 

Unlike the schemes meant for the rural populace, where panchayats can be involved in dissemination of the information, how does the National Social Security Board (NSSB), which looks at unorganised workers for targeted welfare schemes, plan to inform the beneficiaries, without a mechanism to register and enumerate them! If the government is serious about implementing schemes such as these, for a sector that needs it the most, it should first put a system in place to collect the required data, register the domestic servants, gather a report on their requirements and then announce a scheme, which might then be of some use to them. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

LOKPAL AND DEFENCE PROCUREMENTS

NEED FOR REFORMS AT DIFFERENT LEVELS

BY N.S. SISODIA

 

IN recent weeks, the Lokpal Bill has dominated public discourse. There seems to be a naïve belief that a strong Lokpal will root out all corruption. However, a law to establish a Lokpal is unlikely to be more effective than the existing laws to prohibit dowry or untouchability. To make a significant dent on the all-pervasive malaise of corruption, reforms will be needed at different levels of governance and in different sectors, particularly those prone to corruption.

 

One sector needing special attention is defence. John Githongo, Kenya's former Permanent Secretary for governance, has called defence "the last refuge of grand corruption". Fortunately, over the past few years, the defence sector in India has remained untainted by any major scandal. But the world over defence is rated as the most corruption-prone of all international businesses. According to Transparency International's (T.I's) Bribery Payers' Index, defence has the dubious distinction of ranking among the top three most corrupt sectors, along with oil, construction and engineering.

 

A US Department of Commerce report asserts that the defence sector alone accounts for 50 per cent of all graft allegations. Experts estimate that bribes amount to nearly 15 percent of expenditure on arms acquisition. Hence, ministries of defence can never afford to be complacent. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in his recent address to the top brass of the Army and Air Force, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had cautioned them about "the danger of falling prey to corrupt practices perpetrated by vested interests in the garb of aggressive marketing" and urged them to "stand guard with resolve against any such overtures".

 

Corruption in defence hurts the nation's vitals. It makes defence more costly and diverts scarce resources from development. Corrupt practices dramatically impact operational effectiveness and in turn the credibility of the defence forces.  Corruption scandals erode public trust, create insecurity and demoralise the armed forces.

 

National security is treated as sacrosanct. Why is then defence so corruption prone? Transparency International offers some answers. First, defence contracts are large, technically complex and extremely difficult to comprehend fully. Understanding technical specifications of highly sophisticated equipment like a modern-day multi-role aircraft can be a daunting task. Technical specifications are more specific in defence than in other sectors and hence vulnerable to manipulation. Second, defence contracts involve huge  sums of money with all their attendant risks. All transactions are carried out under a cloak of secrecy, on the ground of national security. However, secrecy works more in favour of companies and officials rather than public interest. Third, the task of developing technology-intensive weapon systems requires huge investment in research and development over a number of years. The arms export market is highly restrictive in nature. The supply side of the market is controlled by government and multilateral export regimes. On the demand side is generally the government or a government agency. The nature of the market is such that the equilibrium of demand and supply is hardly ever achieved. Most sellers are desperate to recover their huge investments and profiteer, whenever an opportunity arises. This desperation leads to unscrupulous practices. Fourth, the use of agents and middlemen in defence business is widespread; they flourish despite all types of bans. Agents act as the conduits for bribes. Information about agents is, therefore, treated as commercially sensitive. Fifth, because of the very nature of defence business, there are only a handful of suppliers. This situation leads to lack of competition. An analysis of the available data shows that more than 50 per cent purchases in defence are from a single source, making price discovery a complex task.

 

Finally, offsets, which are additional investments made by suppliers over and above their sales, are a large and unregulated area, which pose a special challenge in terms of transparency. Economists see offsets as highly problematic and inefficient. The World Trade Orgranisation has banned offsets in other sectors, but the practice of offsets in defence transactions is common. In India too, offsets are now a mandatory requirement in large contracts. Assessing a fair value of offsets from the preferred supplier is never easy.

 

Can an effective Lokpal make defence corruption-free? The answer is obviously no. But such an institution can help the process of investigation and prosecution of the corrupt. This has to be done in a manner that it does not hamper decision-making for defence procurements, which is already painfully slow. What can then be done to deal with corruption in defence? One major area needing reform is the formulation of technical specifications or 'Qualitative Requirements'.  Either on account of inadequate technical knowledge and data or due to deliberate design, these are often worked out in such a manner that only a couple of vendors or sometimes just a single vendor can meet them. This practice virtually eliminates competition and renders price — negotiations an infructuous exercise.

 

Unless qualitative requirements are designed broadly, by specialists, with a view to consciously encouraging competition, defence transactions will remain vulnerable to corrupt practices. According to an International Monetary Fund paper on the subject, "The natural policy prescription to attack corruption in military spending/procurement should be to introduce competition and reduce patronage at the level of officials receiving bribes".  This calls for greater transparency regarding defence requirements. Sharing of information regarding future defence requirements, however sanitized, is essential for providing prospective vendors leads for the future.

 

Defence budgets are often approved by parliaments without detailed scrutiny. Disclosure of costs and expenditures associated with defence purchases and stricter parliamentary oversight can help promote greater transparency. In the process of reforming procurement procedures, defence suppliers should be fully engaged through a consultative process. While agents and middlemen are banned in India, if in actual practice they continue to operate, it is better to disclose their identities, payments and terms of their contracts. Offsets should be subjected to rigorous standards and supervision. They should also be fully disclosed to enhance transparency and facilitate monitoring.

 

No one should be under an illusion that the Lokpal law alone can effectively fight corruption. Equally vital will be the role of systemic reforms which prevent opportunities and incentives for corruption.

 

The writer is Director-General, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

SATYAGRAHA AT HOME

BY ASHOK KUMAR YADAV

 

While April was ushering in, atmospheric temperature was beginning to rise. Hot winds started lashing my home, roasting its cooler environs, to my utter discomfiture. There descended an uneasy calm, with seismic tremors jolting me even at the "noon" of night.

 

I could easily radar westerly disturbances, emanating from Maharashtra and Haridwar, invading my habitat. Taking a cue from Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, all my family members had started adopting tough postures to either take them to Niagara Falls during the summer vacation or fall from grace.

 

My wife, who otherwise is a well-known ambassador for consistency, had suddenly taken a U-turn, leaving me a loner, a complete alien in the family. Emboldened by unflinching support from my son, Pitamber and daughter, Archna, she declared an open war. Even our Pomeranian-pet, Micky, took no time to defect. 

 

No friend of mine would be entertained, came the fatwa. Other sanctions would follow, declared all in chorus. The stage was now getting set for a final show-down, which appeared almost inevitable.

 

My wife passed a unilateral decree to cough up sufficient funds for the overseas sojourn, or wait to be ostracized, being insensitive to familial expectations. I was mandated to make my bank statements public suo moto; otherwise the RTI Act would be invoked. How could one person subjugate the majority in a democracy, roared Shailja.

 

One day, my daughter asked me to bring three parcels of dinner while returning home. What about me, I asked sheepishly. My wife ruled, I was free to graze anywhere. Soon I came to know that even the maid had been laid off, to make me kneel.

 

Echoing Chauser's sentiments in "Prologue to the Canterbury", I too started cursing April, dubbing it as the "cruellest month" of the year.

 

One of my cronies advised me to keep novice Satyagrahis engaged in parleys till the tempers cooled down. As an efficient babu, I used all my expertise to trap them in red tapism, create a wedge among them and defer the inevitable, as long as I could. However, there appeared no respite in sight.

 

One late evening, to my dismay, a candle light march was organised at home. It infuriated me; I slapped Pitamber. While he offered his other cheek like a true Gandhian, Archna accused me of domestic violence, and behaving uncivil.

 

Next morning, I found them all packing off to my mother-in-law's place, to launch Satyagraha-II from there. Fearing loss of face among all my relatives residing in the vicinity, I despatched emissaries to Delhi railway station, to broker peace, before the episode spilled into public domain.

 

At last, there was a truce! Acting as Good Samaritan, my mother and mother-in-law agreed to donate and share for the trip, itinerary for which is now being drawn for July.

 

Although the atmosphere at home is now beginning to normalise, I still continue to live in perpetual fear of another backlash, nay Satyagraha, on some other issue, some other time. Save me, oh, God!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DIVORCE BY MUTUAL CONSENT 

THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO BE UNDERMINED BY THE WHIMS OF ONE OF THE ANNOYING SPOUSES. THE LAW ALLOWS DIVORCE BY MUTUAL CONSENT, BUT ITS INTENT IS NOT TO FACILITATE THE DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE. TO SAVE MARRIAGE AND NOT TO HASTEN ITS DISSOLUTION SHOULD BE THE CORE CONCERN OF COURTS
VIRENDRA KUMAR

 

"Marriages are made in heaven, or so it is said. But we are more often than not made to wonder what happens to them by the time they descend to earth. Though there is legal machinery in place to deal with such cases, these are perhaps the toughest for the courts to deal with. Such is the case presently before with us." (emphasis added)

 

This is how a Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of D.K. Jain and H.L. Dattu, JJ., prefaced its judgment in the case of Hitesh Bhatnagar v. Deepa Bhatnagar delivered on April 18, 2011.

 

Hitesh and Deepa got married in 1994. The following year they were blessed with a daughter. Sometime in 2000 due to "differences in their temperaments", they began to live separately from each other and have been living thus ever since. In 2001 they filed a petition under section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, seeking divorce by mutual consent. Subsequently, before the court could consider their case for a divorce decree, the wife withdrew her consent. This resulted in the dismissal of the petition by the district court.

 

The High Court through its "well considered order" dismissed the appeal of the husband against the decision of the trial court. On further appeal, the husband again failed to get the desired divorce decree from the Supreme Court.

 

Why it is tough

 

One reason that applies to the resolution of matrimonial disputes generally is of course the inherent complexity of human nature and behaviour defying the application of set standard formulas. The other reason is the persistent misconceptions or misgivings about the very nature, scope and ambit of the remedy of divorce by mutual consent itself.

 

The apex court in the Hitesh Bhatnagar case has not just decided the dispute but undertaken fairly an extensive survey of the law developed through judicial decision-making. A juridical analysis of this decision would, therefore, be instructive in unfolding the various nuances. The following misgivings often come into vogue.

 

A close reading of section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, shows that a divorce decree by mutual consent is not really a divorce decree by mere consent of parties. In effect, it is with the consent of the court. It becomes operational "with effect from the date of the decree" granted by the court and not from the date of filing of the petition "by both the parties to a marriage together." To this extent, the expression "divorce by mutual consent" seems to be a misnomer. Literally speaking, it seems to imply that as there is "marriage by mutual consent" by taking seven steps around the sacred fire, say, in clockwise direction, so is "divorce by mutual consent" as if taking seven steps in anti-clockwise direction!

 

Compared to the grant of divorce on grounds like adultery, cruelty, desertion, etc. under section 13 of the Act, the conditions for the grant of decree under section 13B are rather more stringent. Under the mutual consent provision, the parties intending to dissolve marriage are required to wait, not only for at least one year from the date of marriage, termed as the "trial period" under section 14 of the Act, but also obligated to show further that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more before the presentation of the petition, and during this period of separation "they have not been able to live together" as husband and wife. Besides, after filing the joint petition they must wait further for at least another six months, usually termed as the "cooling off period". In short, mere filing the joint petition does not by itself snap the marital ties.

 

After the lapse of six months, if the said petition is not withdrawn in the meanwhile either singly or jointly, both the parties may move the court by way of joint motion within the stipulated period of 18 months from the initial date of filing of the joint petition. The interregnum is obviously intended to give more time and opportunity to the parties "to reflect on their move", give a second thought or otherwise seek advice and counsel from relations and/or friends for maintaining their marriage.

 

Withdrawal of consent

 

For pursuing divorce by mutual consent, it is imperative that mutual consent should continue till the decree is granted by the court. In case, even if one of the parties to marriage withdraws his or her consent initially given, the court instantly loses the jurisdiction to proceed further and grant relief under section 13-B of the Act. In this respect, the Supreme Court in the Hitesh Bhatnagar case reaffirmed its earlier decision in Sureshta Devi v. Om Prakash (1991), which overruled the view of the High Courts of Bombay and Delhi that proceeded on the premise that the crucial time for giving mutual consent for divorce is the time of filing petition and not the time when they subsequently move for a divorce decree.

 

The statutory expression "they have not been able to live together" under section 13-B(1) of the Act, is to be construed not just as a trite statement of pure volition. It bears a deeper connotation. It indicates, as the apex court has expounded, "the concept of broken down marriage"' implying thereby that reconciliation between them is not possible. In this respect, the court is duty bound to satisfy itself "after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit" about the bona fides and the consent of the parties, and then and then alone the court shall consider the grant of divorce decree.

 

The purpose of the period of 18 months from the date of presentation of the joint petition under Section 13-B (2) of the Act is for re-think and reconciliation. If the consent is withdrawn by either party to marriage, the petition becomes instantly ineffective and is liable to be dismissed at the threshold on this very count.

 

In view of the long separation of more than a decade from his wife, the husband, as a last resort, urged the apex court to dissolve his marriage by exercising its special jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution. To buttress his claim he specifically cited a proximate decision of the Supreme Court itself – Anil Kumar Jain v. Maya Jain (2009) – wherein though the consent was withdrawn by the wife, yet the court found the marriage to have irretrievably broken down and granted a decree of divorce by exercising its special constitutional power.

 

Special power

 

However, in the instant case the apex court refused to invoke its special power in favour of the husband mainly for two reasons. One, the special power is to be used very sparingly in cases which cannot be effectively and appropriately tackled by the existing provisions of law or when the existing provisions cannot bring about complete justice between the parties.

 

Generally such a power is exercised neither in contravention of statutory provisions nor merely on grounds of sympathy. Two, the sanctity of the institution of marriage cannot allowed to be undermined merely at the whims of one of the annoying spouses, more specially in the situation and circumstances, as in the present case, wherein the wife has stated that she wants this marriage to continue "to secure the future of their minor daughter".

 

Invariably it is found that a petition for divorce on fault grounds under section 13 is replaced by the remedy of dissolution of marriage by mutual consent under section 13-B of the Act. This is advisedly done as if the purpose of the latter provision is to facilitate divorce by effecting compromise between the parties in respect of ancillary matters. This in our view is perhaps the most erroneous construction of the provisions of section 13-B of the Act. The purpose of the remedy of mutual consent, we repeat, is not to facilitate the dissolution of marriage, inasmuch as even the provisions of section 13-B are subject to the other provisions of the Act.

 

Thus, to save marriage and not to hasten its dissolution should be the core concern of the court. Spouses may think of dissolving their marriage if they so fancy provided the court is satisfied that any of the grounds for granting relief exists, and that in court's view it is not possible to make them reconciled!

 

The writer is the Director (Academics), Chandigarh Judicial Academy. 

 

What it is all about

 

* Section 13-B of the Hindu 
Marriage Act, 1955, deals with divorce by mutual consent

 

* Compared to the grant of divorce on grounds like adultery, cruelty, desertion, etc. under section 13 of the Act, the conditions for the grant of decree under section 13-B are rather more stringent

 

* A divorce decree by mutual consent is not really a divorce decree by mere consent of the parties. In effect, it is with the consent of the court

 

* The parties intending to dissolve marriage are required to wait for at least one year from the date of marriage

 

* They have to show that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more before the presentation of the petition for divorce and that during this period of separation they have not been able to live together as husband and wife

 

* After filing the joint petition they must wait further for at least six months

 

* It is imperative that mutual consent should continue till the decree of divorce is granted by the court

 

* If the consent is withdrawn by either party to marriage, the petition becomes instantly ineffective and is liable to be dismissed on this very count.

 

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******************************************************************************************BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

PM-IN-HIDING

IF HIS GOVT IS PARALYSED BY INACTION, AND TARRED WITH THE CORRUPTION BRUSH, IT IS BECAUSE DR SINGH HAS NOT BEEN TRUE TO HIS INSTINCTS, AND TOO TIMID

T N NINAN

 

Twenty years ago, Manmohan Singh was a man with a mission. After his first Budget as finance minister, he barged into a post-Budget press conference called by his officials, to personally explain what he was doing. He gave lengthy interviews; he spoke from virtually every available platform, to get across the need for change. Later, when Narasimha Rao announced a series of Independence Day handouts, Dr Singh gave an interview to say that the country could not spend its way to prosperity (Sonia Gandhi, please note). And towards the end of the Rao government's tenure, when the atmosphere became thick with deal-making, he spoke out courageously against crony capitalism.

 

The contrast with today could not be more striking, as the country seems to have a prime minister-in-hiding. You see him seated at meetings, looking a trifle lost, or mouthing homilies at government functions (the MAFA syndrome — mistaking articulation for action). Other than that, he is both invisible and silent. This is no way to lead.

If his government is paralysed by inaction, and tarred comprehensively with the corruption brush, it is because Dr Singh has not been true to his instincts, and too timid as the head of the government. Dayanidhi Maran as a stripling minister wrote to him in 2006, complaining that spectrum pricing should be left to him, not handed over to a group of ministers. Dr Singh meekly acquiesced. Mani Shankar Aiyar wrote to him two years before the Commonwealth Games, ie before the bloated and wasteful spending began, to complain about Mr Kalmadi's budget-inflating habits. Yet Mr Kalmadi was allowed to go his merry way till the damage was done.

When A Raja cocked a snook at him, what was the response? Dr Singh's private secretary made the telltale request that the prime minister's office be kept at arm's length. In other words, he knew that skullduggery was going on, but wanted to turn a blind eye. On the spectrum scandal, he himself has explained that once two of his ministerial colleagues were in agreement, he did not think he could intervene! And now it transpires that a former secretary in the finance ministry (E A S Sarma) wrote repeatedly to the prime minister, over two years, warning him of undue favours being done to private gas concessionaires like Reliance and Cairn, at the cost of the exchequer. He never got even a routine acknowledgement. Was Dr Singh too scared to ask Murli Deora?

So the prime minister cannot say that he did not know. In every case, he was informed, and he chose to do nothing. This is not because he was corrupt; even his worst critics will not say that. Perhaps he felt there was no choice in a coalition other than to turn a blind eye to some goings-on (he once said something like "I am not in the business of losing my government's majority"). But if an honest and public-spirited man allows scamsters around him to flourish, the stage comes when personal honesty is no longer a valid defence. And belated action under public and court pressure provides no absolution.

What about the government's policy paralysis? Speaking at a Business Standard awards function three months ago, Dr Singh said: "I sense a mood for renewal, as I did 20 years ago. We did not disappoint India in the summer of 1991. We will grasp the nettle once again, in the summer of 2011." Well, the summer is ending, the rainy season has come, and this now looks like yet another case of MAFA. If this does not change very quickly, the question will be asked: is the useful life of this government over?

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WHOSE LAND IS IT ANYWAY?

THE WEST BENGAL GOVT'S ROLE AS A NON-MARKET INTERMEDIARY IN AN ESSENTIALLY PRIVATE LAND TRANSACTION IS QUESTIONABLE

SHUBHASHIS GANGOPADHYAY

The West Bengal government has passed a new legislation that transfers the land back to those who refused to accept the compensation that they were offered during the acquisition of their lands for the Tata Nano factory. The Tata group has promptly gone to court claiming that this is an unconstitutional Act. Surely one will hear a lot more about this and, hopefully, this issue will be resolved sooner or later. The real question one needs to ask is how we got into this royal mess. Since we love foreign examples, let me give an interesting one.

Around 1981, General Motors decided to move its Cadillac plant away from the Detroit region and relocate it to a place in the south of the country. The cities of Detroit and Hamtramck collaborated in a grand plan to bring industry back to the "dying" city. If the US automobile establishment stayed back in Detroit, it would arrest the drop in employment and generate tax revenues for the city allowing it to mobilise resources for other developmental and public projects. General Motors and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young formulated a plan under which the city would give land to General Motors, which would then build a state-of-the-art plant. This would generate 6,000 factory jobs and an unspecified number of indirect jobs in ancillary production units. A total of 1,300 homes and 600 businesses had to relocate for the plan to go through. The earmarked land included a place called Poletown.

 

Since it was a "depressed" neighbourhood, many homeowners readily agreed since the government's offer price was much higher than the ruling "market" price. An additional amount up to a maximum of $15,000 was given if the new house bought by the household was more than the buyout price and a bonus of $3,500 was given to households if they moved within a stipulated time. However, like in Singur, some refused to give up their lands. The Poletown neighbourhood association and some other individuals filed a suit in the Wayne Circuit Court. The challenge was to the use of the power of eminent domain to acquire one's property to transfer it to another private entity to bolster the economy.

Barring some details, this is very similar to what happened in Singur. The most significant difference in detail is that laws in India do not allow us to challenge the acquisition of land by the government for "public purpose"; so, instead of going to court, the farmers took to the streets and a government was voted out.

But, perhaps, what was most interesting is that the court turned down the challenge and allowed the local government to carry out the land transfer. It was, however, not a unanimous decision by the bench and there was a dissenting judge. The points for dissent are extremely significant for what happened later.

The dissenting judge maintained that land acquisition by the government could be supported if there was "(a) public necessity of the extreme sort, (b) continuing accountability to the public, and (c) selection of land according to facts of independent public significance".

Private property is an essential concept in market-driven economies. Therefore, one must have a solid argument that demonstrates how the objectives of a market economy can be better served if private property rights are suspended. While there exist sound theoretical arguments to support the involuntary transfer of private ownership to public ownership in the construction of, say, public goods, there are no sound arguments for the government forcing a private party to give up land to another private entity. In other words, there is no reason for the government to act as a non-market intermediary in what is an essentially private transaction in the land market.

Even if employment creation is a public purpose goal, who is going to ensure that employment as promised is generated and maintained? If at some time in the future, General Motors has to shed labour as a market-driven decision, will the government hold it liable because it had promised 6,000 new jobs? If not, who satisfies the stated public purpose of increased employment? If yes, we are allowing the government to interfere in its market activity and this is against the basic tenet of a market economy based on free enterprise. In other words, the position is either one of zero accountability or one where the government continually intervenes in a private entity's profit motive. Indeed, the dissenting judge made a stronger statement: "[w]ith this case the Court has subordinated a constitutional right to private corporate interests."

The 1982 Poletown judgment opened the floodgates in the US. Local governments, using this judgment as a precedent, started using eminent domain to take over land from private parties in the name of development. It encouraged companies and developers to make wild claims of what would happen after the takeover. Indeed, the Poletown project itself did not live up to expectations. Many have claimed that it destroyed more jobs than it created.

In an unprecedented move, on July 30, 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed its Poletown decision. It said that for forceful acquisition by government, it is not enough to argue that an entity's profit maximisation contributed to the health of the general economy. The Poletown saga started in 1981 and ended in 2004. The Singur episode started in 2006 and is continuing now. We are hearing the same arguments against such land transfer by the government as was actually demonstrated after the Poletown judgment. It is now up to us to come up with a land acquisition policy that is consistent with a market economy and the principles originally enshrined in our Constitution.

The author is Research Director, India Development Foundation

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BUSINESS STANDARD

MARKING UP THE MARK SHEETS

SUNIL SETHI

A virtually unheard-of occurrence for college admissions in Delhi University made headlines and unleashed shock waves this summer: a leading college demanded a score of 96 to 100 per cent for entrance to an honours degree in commerce. Was this fantasy, a joke or a case of examination marks keeping pace with price inflation?

Actually, it suggests a malaise that gives a heads-up to rote learning over education, a triumph of deadbeat conservatism over innovation. An exceptionally high score (not to speak of a bull's eye hit) was once regarded as a reward for path-breaking originality and excellence, heralding the arrival of a prodigy perhaps; but when exceptions are increasingly the norm, then it's time to question how students are taught and judged — or how the goalposts for judging performance have changed.

 

Two other trends were visible during college admissions this year. Seduced by the numbers game, some colleges dispensed with the practice of holding personal interviews altogether while, at the other end, the media reported an inordinately high rush of school graduates from smaller towns seeking admission to Delhi colleges. The first indicates campus faculties in the grip of a number-crunching mania so intense that a personal interface with a student is considered a waste of time. And the second, a growing hiatus between perceived education standards in mainline centres and elsewhere that only reinforces a blind herd migration.

In a country where 63 per cent population is under 30 and which churns out two million graduates (including 600,000 engineers) from 400 universities each year, the pioneering spirit, of breaking free to take paths less trodden, is discouraged. India is said to have the largest pool of scientists and engineers in the world but a generation of conventional crammers and plodders in their twenties predominates. There are no Mark Zuckerbergs or Sabeer Bhatias on the horizon. The lack is obvious in other areas of public life. Rahul Gandhi, just past his 41st birthday and the preferred choice for the PM's job by many in the Congress party, will succeed like movie star Ranbir Kapoor — by virtue of being a fourth-generation successor to the family firm.

In her recent book Geek Nation, award-winning British Indian science journalist Angela Saini blames the "relentlessly hierarchical" nature of Indian education that makes it difficult for students to ask questions or challenge authority, resulting in a tough, but purely theoretical, exam system. "The problem is that the best scientists and engineers are not always the best at passing exams. Albert Einstein made his observations on relativity in his spare time while working as a lowly patent clerk."

Not long ago, Ms Saini, who holds a Masters in engineering from Oxford, spent some days at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, interacting with students and professors. Her report is an eye-opener. "I was an engineering student once," she writes, "but I've never seen an atmosphere like it. Hardly anyone plays sports, social mixers are unheard of and a lot of the boys still have trouble talking to girls... Between the lecture room and grey main hall are huddles of students, cramming for the exams in a week's time." She meets frustrated professors unable to get students to think creatively and stressed-out nerds fixated on high-paid jobs in MNCs, so they can earn salaries ten times of what their fathers did. Accustomed to the robot-like drilling of coaching centres to gain admission, "hardly any IIT students stay on to do research or further degrees ... only a tiny proportion are interested in careers in a laboratory". Later, when she visits top IT firms her impression is confirmed by low investments in new research or cutting-edge technology; thousands of engineering graduates ended up as drone-like programmers providing software services for Scottish pensioners and suchlike.

Is this a nation of geeks or drones? A little learning, it is said, is a dangerous thing. So is the wrong kind of learning. Marking up the mark sheets at 100 per cent for undergraduate admissions has disaster writ large on the blackboard.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

IS THE GOVERNMENT LISTENING?

K NATWAR SINGH

Much has been written about the Lok Pal Bill. I shall not add to the endless confusion. Both sides seem to be addicted to unedifying cachinnation. Amid all this, one fact does stand out. Anna Hazare has succeeded in highlighting the decay of personal and political values.

In the past few days, nearly a hundred people have taken the trouble to visit me. They came from Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh. Most were between the ages of 25 and 40. They wanted to let off steam and vent their anger and frustration. Their complaints, however, were not new: corruption, inflation and the harassment of the aam admi. Most of these fellow Bharatwasis were non-English speakers. In Hindi they were articulate and passionate. I listened without interruption. After all I could not possibly disagree with their indignation, rage and outrage.

 

I have been reflecting on what these not-so-well-off, well-meaning and public-spirited individuals had said to me. Without using any fancy terminology they delivered body blows to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II). UPA-II had disappointed and disregarded them. It appeared to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. The political doctors were confused and running for cover. Run they can. Hide they cannot. Next, UPA-II started to haemorrhage, which was not a pretty sight. It gave the impression, "Divided we stand; united we fall". Why resort to loud sneering and use impolite language? Can a gag order be imposed on certain spokespersons' use of invective? The prime minister could, and should, apply balm and bring the political temperature down. He has an excellent opportunity to stem the rot by effecting a courageous and meaningful Cabinet reshuffle.

Let's now move on to the issue of high cut-off marks. Recently, a well-known college in Delhi announced that a student needs to have scored 100 per cent in class 12 board exams to even try for the first cut-off list to gain admission. In that case, what can the parents of a child who has scored 98 or 99 per cent marks say? They cannot blame her for being an inferior student. Amazingly, the principal of the college in question brazenly defended the atrocious 100 per cent cut-off. The human resource development minister rightly expressed his disapproval. But he also said he could not interfere with the autonomous character of colleges, thus throwing the baby out with the academic bathwater. Autonomy should be exercised with good sense, prudence and imagination. A college or university should be producing well-rounded alumni — good at academics, sports and extra-curricular activities. The existing system of assessing performance should be reformed drastically. I secured a first division in History (honours), and stood first in the college and second in the university. I did not get 90 or 95 per cent marks. No one in history, English or philosophy can achieve this ridiculous score. Since the pressure to score bloated marks was absent, I did well in sports (university tennis champion) and extra-curricular activities (president of the union). I was not the only one. Many others did even better. If a student is aiming to score 100 per cent marks or is required to do that, she will have missed out a lot in terms of her college life.

In Cambridge I knew several students in my college who were awarded a first in their Tripos despite answering only one out of five questions. I doubt if Dr Manmohan Singh scored 90 or 100 per cent marks while pursuing his degree in economics at either Cambridge or Oxford.

In the past 64 years, India has made spectacular progress in many fields. But we have not done well in three vital fields: family planning, education including research and development, and judicial reforms. In family planning we are behind China, Vietnam and Indonesia (even in life expectancy we have not achieved what these countries have). In education, too, we could have done much better. Literacy rates in the above listed countries are much higher, over 90 per cent. The other day, Dr U R Rao bluntly said not a single Indian educational institution, including IITs, was world-class. Many students from IITs go in for the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Foreign Service. Several qualified doctors opted for civil services. This is unfortunate. The number of pending cases in high courts, even the highest court, runs into hundreds of thousands. Civil cases go on for decades. Why can't more judges be appointed?

TAILPIECE
The Instituto Cervantes has organised a month-long exhibition in New Delhi to mark the centenary of the discovery of the Peruvian wonder city, Machu Picchu. I nearly made it to this "sacred city". Prime Minister Indira Gandhi embarked on a three-week tour of several South American countries in October 1968. I had done much research on Machu Picchu. Like the prime minister, I was looking forward to set foot on this unique landmark. We had arrived at the Santiago airport to leave for Peru when our host, Chile's President Frei, informed Ms Gandhi that the government of Peru had been overthrown a few minutes ago. We were compelled to stay two extra days in Santiago before flying to Bogotá. Machu Picchu remained a dream.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

BEYOND THE POVERTY TRAP

V V

Is there an answer to the Biblical question why the poor will always be with us? Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both developmental economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have now come with their take on this perennial question in Poor Economics: A Radical Thinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (Random House, Rs 499). Their book, which is based on field studies and extensive interviews with the poor in the villages of India, Indonesia, Morocco, Kenya and other developing countries, has a single premise: "Leave the big questions aside and focus on the lives and choices of the poor people" to ask why interventions by governments or NGOs do or don't work. It includes microstudies on a vast canvas. "Small is beautiful" techniques are then presented to debunk the conventional wisdom that big problems need big solutions to get over them. But to them big solutions that have been tried time and again are expensive, cumbersome, top-down that never filter down, and ultimately fail to consider the one critical factor that matters: did it better the lives of people in any way?

Poverty exists, they say, because of poverty traps. It can be poor health that saps funds and prevents the individual from working at optimum capacity. Or poor education can limit the capacity to earn a decent living. It can be lack of access to formal financial services that makes it hard to weather income fluctuations to make investments for growth. Since it is just these three factors that engender poverty, straightforward government interventions would be enough to alleviate poverty in any group.

 

Is it as simple as that? Take health or undernourishment. It is rampant in India and other third-world countries. We may not starve but we do live on a subsistence diet that is enough to carry on from day to day but not enough to generate the energy for sustained physical labour, which is the only avenue open to the poor to earn a living. Given the poor health they tend to fall ill frequently but don't have the resources for medical care and medicine. Absenteeism is rife and work never gets completed in time. Money and access to financial help are real constraints but Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo don't accept them as a fait accompli.

"Some [health] technologies are so cheap that everyone, even the very poor can afford them. Breast feeding, for example, costs nothing at all. And yet fewer than 40 per cent of the world's infants are breast-fed exclusively for six months, as recommended by the WHO… Chlorine tablets are often distributed free that can reduce diarrhoea by 48 per cent… Yet only 10 per cent of the population actually uses bleach to treat their water. Demand for mosquito nets is similarly low."

This section gives a number of other health interventions to which could be added those in David Werner's Where There is no Doctor: a village health care handbook. It has been translated into a number of languages and given gratis to workers in primary health care centres (at least in India). A wide array of preventive measures that don't cost and are feasible to carry out has been discussed in the handbook. Yet the easily preventable childhood illnesses still persist, especially in the Hindi belt and the poorer parts of the country. It isn't just a question of reproductive choice and vaccinating children but a whole host of diseases that can be controlled with simple instructions.

And this brings us to the nub of the problem — primary education and educators' communication skills. To begin with, the poor often lack critical pieces of information and believe that things are not true, for example, on immunisation or benefits of education. This is particularly true in rural areas where traditional systems of medicine persist, especially where primary health centres have not been set up. It is understandable that in the absence of basic medical facilities villagers will fall back on what is immediately available — quack doctors who use local herbs and concoctions to provide immediate relief. If placebos help, why not, even if they are not a permanent cure?

The real problem with the poor is that they have to take on too much responsibility for their lives. This is easy to understand when there is no one to fall back on and even the nearest city hospital lacks basic medical facilities. The poor are not educated enough to ask questions and form the answers to find solutions to their problems.

But these ground realities don't fully cause or explain the persistence of poverty. Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo explore in depth studies and experiments that they and their peers have conducted on health, education, family size, financial access and other subjects. From these rich and varied sources they have offered solutions to the real problems, trade-offs and the decisions that the poor have to make to carry on in the best possible manner.

But there is one point that comes through: it isn't just a question of lack of financial resources but a clutch of factors that prevents any upward mobility. And to this could be added corruption, or the pilferage of resources that takes place all along the line. How much of the allocated budget is really used for development and welfare? Even the poor can have deep pockets.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

A QUESTION OF ANSWERS

BANERJEE GAVE BENGAL THE REVOLUTION IT WANTED BUT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO SEE RESULTS SOON

ADITI PHADNIS

It is now more than a month since Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress-Congress-I alliance government assumed power in West Bengal.

What has the government achieved and where is the state going?

 

No one said Bengal would have an easy time of it when she took over. Apart from her own – for the lack of a better word, foibles – the collective lack of administrative experience of her colleagues and the political compulsion of producing quick results, Banerjee has also had to contend with the highly politicised middle bureaucracy in the state and its proven aversion to work.

So she decided to rule by example, setting a scorching pace for herself — a 15- to 18-hour day, punctuated by surprise visits to state-run hospitals (where she had a run-in with one of the medical superintendents who made public his resentment at having to drop everything he was doing and address her questions), a fast turnover of administrative decisions (that turned out to be riddled with infirmities) and at least one "peace agreement" with the Gorkhas in Darjeeling (also judged unstable).

Then there's been the challenge of preventing Trinamool Congress workers from behaving in exactly the same way as their predecessors from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), rendering redundant the question of why a woman can't be more like a man (A Hymn to Him, My Fair Lady, 1964). Trinamool workers have been enforcing "fines" on CPI(M) functionaries and the CPI(M) has lost at least 18 people in the last one month as a result of political clashes. The police are reluctant to intervene for obvious reasons.

However, given that the former chief secretary of West Bengal is now a minister in the government, the biggest scandal has been the bumbling journey of the ordinance that wasn't.

The protests of peasants in Singur whose land was taken away, allegedly forcibly, by the Left Front government propelled the Trinamool Congress to victory. So at the very first meeting of the cabinet, the government resolved that the land of peasants in Singur would be returned to them.

But why issue an ordinance to this effect when the Assembly was in session? Wouldn't a resolution in the Assembly (where the government has a more than convincing majority) have been more binding? West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan asked some questions and was given to understand that there was no impropriety in issuing an ordinance when the House was in session. However, within hours, the governor realised he'd made a mistake, recalled the ordinance and cancelled it. That wasn't the end of the story. The government introduced the cabinet resolution as a Bill in the Assembly. It was passed after a routine two-hour debate. But the Bill was drafted in a hurry and the new law had so many legal loopholes that it has now been challenged in court — not just by industry but by groups of farmers as well. With all the resources at their command, corporate houses like the Tatas can afford to wait and fight for justice. But can the farmers of Singur? All because of the incompetence of a state government that is supposedly fighting on their behalf?

The issue of land continues to be a problem. Burdwan has seen two movements to resist land acquisition — one against the Health City project (which incidentally was started by the Left Front regime, proving once again that a woman can, in fact, also think like a man); and the other against the Eastern Coalfields Limited that is trying to set up new open cast coal mines in the district, on land acquired from 30,000 villagers. Ironically, the CPI(M) is leading the protests.

Banerjee is not just faced with the problem of peasants losing land. She also has to find land to give to peasants. In the footsteps of the CPI(M), which leveraged land reform with such success to stay in power for three decades, Banerjee announced in her manifesto that she would acquire land and redistribute it to the homeless. The price tag? Nobody knows. A committee headed by former IAS officer Debabrata Bandopadhyaya had recommended that Rs 1,500 crore be allotted to give land to 550,000 people (declared homeless as enumerated by the National Sample Survey Organisation) over the next five years. This hardly seems sufficient because the cost of the land the government will have to buy is much higher than the rates it has fixed for itself. And then, the basic question: What about the money? Where will it come from?

Banerjee reached an agreement with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) that promised to drop its agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state in the Darjeeling hills in return for certain assurances. Now the GJM's rivals have started a movement charging the GJM with having sold out.

Banerjee's initiative to attract investment to West Bengal was the creation of a single-window committee to address the problems of industry. Guess how many people the single window has? 25 to 28 secretaries.

The thing is, people like revolutions. But they also want, after a revolution, to see results. Banerjee has delivered a revolution. But the people are going to get very angry if they feel all they've got for their efforts is incompetence.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

TO HATCH A BUSINESS IDEA

INCUBATORS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN ACCELERATING THE GROWTH OF START-UPS AND THEIR PRESENCE IN INDIA IS GROWING

JYOTI PANDE LAVAKARE

In the past year that I've been away, I'd forgotten the brilliance of the Bay Area sunshine — and the energy and passion of its people, most of whom are, were, or going to be entrepreneurs. But the brief week that I've spent back here this month brings it all back with vivid clarity.

I hear it in the voice of Ken Novak, a cloud computing consultant and computer scientist from Yale who lives in the Bay Area (and is an entrepreneur several times over), as he talks about sustainable energy, smart grids and wireless and sensor networks — his triple passions. I see it reflected in Rekha Pai's face as she talks glowingly about her new job at Juniper as an "intrapreneur" and I can sense it when I speak to two other friends, recent recruits to the now gigantic and still-growing Google world. The entrepreneurial bug has even gotten one of our safest, most stable friends, who left his first job at Intel this year – finally, after 20 years – for a fuel cell technology company in its early growth stage.

 

These people may not be the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of the area, but they've been infected by the same entrepreneurial bug that infects much of the Valley.

True, you can no longer call Google or Juniper start-ups, but these companies and others like them are trying to retain their start-up culture in different ways — one of which is by encouraging intraprenuership (which basically means being entrepreneurial within a larger organisation). Intrapreneurship has been around even before the American Heritage Dictionary formally acknowledged intrapreneur to mean "a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation." And in fact, Rekha's job involves exactly that — she joined Juniper to manage its new businesses incubation, a unique opportunity entrepreneurial companies are creating internally as they super-size.

Keen not to lose their advantage as innovators and entrepreneurs, these companies encourage innovative thought and new business ideas to be hatched into products or services within the confines of their now-big businesses. But that's there. In India, we're still seeing first-time start-ups being hatched by business incubators externally — which brings me back to the overall theme of this piece.

My column last month began painting the landscape of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem by focusing on the gyaan or knowledge space, with the promise to focus next on the action or implementation space that straddles the commercialisation of their innovations: that is, once the idea and business plan are in place and our domestic start-up czars begin to apply their acquired knowledge in the real world, creating companies, launching products and testing the market.

This is where government-sponsored business incubation labs (like those at some of the Indian Institutes of Technology and management) and virtual incubators like the one set up privately by the Indian Angel Network fit in.

Incubation of start-ups in India has grown sharply over the years. This is one area in which the government's department of science and technology and its National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) has been leading the charge.

Business incubators – programmes designed to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies – can have many different missions and approaches. They can offer their services in exchange for equity, a fee or as grants-in-aid. But their common denominator is their dedication to identifying and building emerging companies to bring them quickly to self-sufficiency and profit.

Incubators facilitate faster growth through business support services and resources that could include access to physical office space and amenities, educational programmes, mentoring, and legal and professional services developed and orchestrated through incubator management and its network of contacts. Though most incubators offer their clients or partners office space and shared administrative services, the heart of a true business incubation programme is the services it provides to start-up companies. Most of this can be done virtually, like the Indian Angel Network Business Incubator does.

"We provide end-to-end support to the incubated companies in their journey from idea to enterprise and beyond," says IAN spokesperson Padmaja Ruparel.

An entrepreneur today has many more resources, which is why both serial entrepreneurs as well as incubators are multiplying so rapidly. The NSTEDB has catalysed several Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Parks (STEP), Entrepreneurship Development Cells and technology incubators. In fact, to coordinate and promote activities of rapidly multiplying incubators, the Indian STEP and Business Incubator Association (ISBA) came up in 2004 as a registered professional body. The ISBA website has everything an Indian entrepreneur needs to begin commercialising his innovation, including a detailed template of a business plan.

And to encourage rural grassroots entrepreneurship, the government has set up the National Innovation Foundation (NIF). The biggest institutional help it offers to rural innovators is getting their intellectual property (IP) patented, something even the savviest of Indian entrepreneurs sometimes overlook. Respect for IP is one critical difference between entrepreneurs in India and the West.

"In India, start-ups first create the business model and then look to protect their intellectual property," says Shaleen Raizada, CEO, SanShadow Consulting, whose company helps new businesses protect their IP. It is exactly the reverse in the Bay Area, where a start-up will begin by protecting the IP of its business before even creating its formal business model, she says. This is an integral part of early-stage implementation where financial, regulatory and IP advice and institutional support can be of critical importance.

Clearly, entrepreneurs and incubators must select each other carefully. Entrepreneurs need incubators that provide them real value without having to give up an unreasonable amount of equity. And incubators need start-ups that have great ideas and feasible business plans with highest growth potential. Both need to check each other's track record, graduation policy, and management and staff qualifications, so that when properly aligned, chances of success are magnified.

Feedback? Write to garagegigs@gmail.com

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

THE WARP IN TEXTILE EXPORTS

The effort to stay ahead of the competition through product innovation has been far less vigorous than the attempt to match others with low labour costs.

It was only a matter of time before India was edged out of its position as one of the major apparel exporters to the US, the biggest market. Official US data show that Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh have elbowed India off its perch among the top five exporters in the January-April period. Despite its strengthening yuan and overheating economy, China remains the numero uno supplier. What is significant is that both Vietnam and Indonesia have benefited from Chinese investments that have helped the two economies use cheaper labour to emerge as major exporters. The same advantage appears to have benefited Bangladesh, where friendly foreign investment policies too have boosted its apparel exports. What can India learn from this shift in export competence?

The loss of a leading slot is not new; a Ficci study last year showed South-East Asian countries and Bangladesh growing, along with China, at a faster clip than India in the US market since 2004. The general view in the post-September recessionary climate was that Indian textile and apparel exports had slipped on account of declining demand; in fact, as the Ficci study showed, the aforementioned countries were still recording healthy growth compared with India and China which were leading the pack. Then, in 2009, Vietnam surpassed India in market share. India has been somewhat complacent about its status as a major textile seller with exporters more keen to wrest sops out of the government, either on account of an appreciating currency or weakening markets. The effort to stay ahead of the competition through technological or product innovation has been far less vigorous than the attempt to match others with low labour costs. And that's the problem. Indian wages are bound to rise as the economy grows and the way to beat cheap-labour competition is by raising productivity and by moving up the value chain. With increasing consumer awareness, Indian exporters need to pay attention to polluting dyes and the use of child labour, while at the same time developing newer, ecologically friendly fabrics.

What the Indian textile industry needs to keep in mind is that not just exports but domestic markets could also be affected by cheap imports from the countries that are now grabbing market share in the US and the EU. Instead of crying for barriers to such imports, textile firms should insist on the adherence of suppliers from Bangladesh and Indonesia to the same ecological and social conditions that the western markets expect of us. The latest data by the US Department of Commerce confirm a trend visible for some years. Policy response brooks no delay.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIME TO FLY

LET THE GOVERNMENT MAKE COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT, NOT STEEL AND CYCLES


The Centre has reportedly chalked out technology policy for an indigenous, 80 to 100-seater civilian aircraft, which is to take off in the foreseeable future, and is scouting for private sector partners. The move should have commercial spillovers both in the specific field and well beyond, what with the domestic aviation market expected to be the third largest globally by 2020, with huge demand likely for short-haul carriers. Developing the expertise would make strategic sense but it would not be cheap; it underscores the need for the Centre to divest its holdings in sectors that are no longer considered priority areas for public sector investment, so as to better allocate resources and budgetary funds. The Centre clearly needs to exit the capital-intensive steel sector — where there are now several large private sector players — by disinvesting its stake in Sail, for instance. Reports say that the National Aerospace Laboratories, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Institute, has been tasked to carry out the aircraft project on a mission mode.


For the project to show solid results, what's surely required is a business-like approach that eschews bureaucratic delays and attendant uncertainties. According to the financial feasibility report for the aircraft project, the design phase, that is supposed to begin next January, would require an investment of . 4,400 crore, spread over a three to five year period. And for the subsequent production phase, which would begin within three years of the launch of the design phase, the cost is estimated at. 3,900 crore. A case can indeed be made for public support for R&D in areas where the payoffs may be substantial, and in the absence of which there is likely to be substantial under-investment in potentially path-breaking investment. After all, the nature of precommercial R&D is characterised by routine spillovers into the general knowledge base, and in such a scenario corporates are unlikely to rush into such capital-intensive, R&D intensive sectors on their own. Notice our lowly investment in R&D generally. But in foraying into aviation R&D, the Centre needs to consciously get out of industries like steel, scooters, cycles and so on. About time, too.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE AFGHAN FUTURE

INDIA MUST STAY THE COURSE, AND DEEPEN ENGAGEMENT WITH PASHTUN GROUPS

 

With admissions of being involved in talks with the Taliban coming from both the Afghanistan and United States governments, and with the latter now having announced a phased withdrawal of its troops, two important questions arise. Will Pakistan continue to face international pressure to abandon its policy of using terror groups for strategic objectives? And what shape or form will the Taliban take if it is represented in the future regime in Kabul? New Delhi is one of the major stakeholders on both counts, and it must try to ensure that its interests and investments in Afghanistan are not sidelined during the process of political resolution. That would require India to continue with its assistance projects, even as it deepens ties with the Afghan army, and strengthens relations with Pashtun political groups. It is a tragedy that ethnic and tribal divisions have prevented the formation of a larger Afghan national legacy, and power in that country is likely to remain a matter of juggling those deep divisions. But one aspect New Delhi must underline is that Pakistan's policy of conflating Pashtun interests with those of the Taliban has been part of the problem. And India must do what it can by way of helping governance and development in Pashtun areas, even as strong ties with the Northern Alliance are maintained. That said, New Delhi should also try to engage Pakistan on the notion that Afghanistan doesn't necessarily have to be a terrain of mutual hostility. A stable Afghanistan, though it may sound utopian at present, can be the gateway to Central Asia for both countries.


The core problem continues to be the sanctuary the Taliban find in Pakistan's border and tribal areas. As long as such havens remain, it will be impossible to achieve enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan and the wider region. On that count, despite the US' public stand, New Delhi should remember that US and Indian interests in Afghanistan converge only up to a point. So, while arguing for continuing international aid and presence in Afghanistan, India must also chart its own course. And one key component of that would be convincing Pashtun groups that India isn't inimical to their interests.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RIGHT TO BE OR NOT TO BE

CONTRADICTORY SIGNALS FROM REAL AND VIRTUAL WOMEN

 

Can social networking movements actually spawn successful social movements? A chance remark by a Toronto policeman about loose women apparently led to spontaneous 'slut walks' in no less than 14 cities and found a prompt echo on the networking page of a Delhi college girl. Her rechristened B e s h a r mi M o r c h anow has thousands declaring they would join in a 'protest' march in Delhi, whenever and wherever it happens. Mind, this portends to be a different exercise for the net-erati than merely dropping in at Anna Hazare's hunger fest, err fast, if it happens any time soon. And not merely because the humid weather and the city's roads are not conducive to walking, even for the demurely dressed and sensibly shod. For, the danger does not merely emanate from lascivious males who may join in the walk with precisely the opposite intention of the organisers' but because of the lax pre-monsoon work by the municipal authorities. As is all too often the case, the best intentions come a cropper due to the strangest reasons. The last instance of social network-spurred outrage was the Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, whose 5,000-strong Facebook army exhorted people to send pink underwear to the fundamentalist Sri Ram Sena on Valentine's Day two years ago after their activists attacked women drinking in a pub. It is unclear how many pink c h a d d i e s(virtual or actual) actually found their target, or indeed whether they altered the world view of the morality brigade, but it may have been the fastest, easiest revolution ever, as a repeat feat never happened. With contradictory signals being sent out on issues that concern them — from the right to drink and be b e s h a r m, to health and literacy — can you blame political parties for having reservations about women in legislatures?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

POWER DISTANCE INDEX AND CORRUPTION

UNLESS WE REDUCE THE POWER DISTANCE GAP AND REIN IN THE VIP CULTURE, EVEN LOKPAL WILL ACHIEVE LITTLE


Unseemly squabbling between the civil society and the government apart, corruption is not going to be fixed any time soon. No bill, irrespective of whose draft it is, is going to fix corruption unless we first begin to address other related issues among ourselves, as a people.

 

Not obvious, but related to corruption are two issues: power distance index and its corollary, the 'VIP' culture that permeates all aspects of our lives. Unless we challenge these two parameters which are innate to our culture, nothing much may change fundamentally. What is power distance index?
Power distance index (credited to G H Hofstede) measures the extent to which the less powerful members of the society accept or expect power to be distributed unequally. Higher the acceptance and the expectation of power inequality, higher the power-distance. Typically, though not exclusively, the developed nations have lower power distance indices. That is why the janitor in a New York skyscraper may think nothing of hailing the CEO on the top floor corner office as 'Hey, Bill!' or the security guard may frisk even a vice president of the country on an airport's security gate. In contrast, feudalistic countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Korea, India, Pakistan, several African countries, and many of the South American countries probably represent high power distance, since these countries are either more autocratic, feudalistic or paternalistic.
The idea of power distance may be assessed from the fact that in rural India in general, anybody in any uniform is easily accepted as one with great authority. In certain districts of Bihar, AP and UP, for example, it is not unusual to see a rural cyclist dismount and stand aside on the road as a jeep passes by, since a jeep to him represents a government official and hence power. Even in our cities for that matter, anybody attired in white khadi commands instant obedience in government offices and such. Such is the power distance equation in our country that virtually anyone donning whites, accompanied with two grey safari clad men, can jump any queue in the land. High power distance index is why a white Ambassador car full of terrorists with a red light on top could zoom through the Parliament's security. It is also why domestic staff is routinely referred to as servants (derived from serfs or slaves) and continue to be treated shabbily (and our diplomats regularly get sued abroad for mistreating their staff). It is also why those in power never get accustomed to being questioned, because we accept and expect that they will not like to be questioned. That is why the cops way down in the power-distance may not dare question a top corporate or political honcho (unless the Supreme Court steps in, of course).
The association between corruption and power distance is not imaginary. Ratings of power distance index and corruption index of countries show a high correlation (Corruption Conundrum, Penguin, 2010). Typically, the countries that have high power distance are also more corrupt and vice versa. So we do need to fight against the power distance index.


The other face of power distance index is our blatant, in your face, 'VIP' culture. As a people, we do not seem to be sufficiently embarrassed that in a so-called democracy, we regularly accept and expect two distinct treatments meted out to two sets of people — the 'VIPs' and the lesser mortals.
    Take a look at an average airport — there will be 'VIP' security treatment (translating to there being no security check); 'VIP' lounges; 'VIP' emigration, 'VIP' immigration, 'VIP' parking, and what have you. Go to a police station and your FIR will not be filed if your complaint is against a 'VIP'; or if you are not a 'VIP'. None of the queues that one sees in day-to-day life either in front of the passport office, RTO office, land registration office or any other system where a queue is required for ordinary mortals, apply to VIPs. VIPs will wait less for receiving justice. VIPs will spend less time behind the slammer for the same crime. We will wait hours and hours for an inordinately late 'VIP' for a function. Even a private marriage reception has a 'VIP' bypassing the queue. A 'VIP' may obstruct road traffic. A 'VIP' may order a pilot about, jeopardising the lives of other passengers. A 'VIP' may jump red lights (this is about the only area where the lesser mortals are more or less at par with the 'VIPs'). A VIP, even a millionaire, gets free security from the state. A 'VIP' almost never has to pay for public events like cricket matches, or other major events… One could go on.
Perhaps 'VIPs' do get treated differently in every society; but nowhere is the 'VIP' culture as blatant as in ours. The practice is usually a lot more subtle. Nowhere in the civilised world does a country make its own people appear second-class citizens before fellow human beings. Whatever happened to constitutional equality? Nowhere in the civilised society does one see signages saying 'for VIPs'. It should be possible to rein in the 'VIP' culture in the society in order to reduce the power distance index. If the 'VIPs' find a system inconvenient, they are in the best position to change it, rather than expecting the masses to follow it, and granting themselves immunity.


Clearly then, unless each one of us stops accepting and expecting power-distance gap, and starts bridging this gap; unless each of one of us starts believing that there cannot be a first-class treatment for some and a third-class treatment for others, Lokpal Bill alone will achieve very little.

 

V RAGHUNATHAN

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

'POLICY INCONSISTENCY IS BIGGEST CHALLENGE'

SOMA BANERJEE


He faced one of the most challenging times during the last few months of his tenure as the chairman cum managing director of ONGC. R S Sharma, former boss of the country's largest government-owned oil company, had to balance between political pressures and commercial interests of the company. But he never felt rattled, having faced challenges ever since he took up the top job. It may be recalled that Sharma was named CMD after a series of curious political twists, with the proposal for his appointment going back and forth between the Prime Minister's Office and the petroleum ministry. Sharma completed his fiveyear term in January this year. Ironically, ONGC is in a similar turmoil after his exit as well as the government dithers over appointing a new chairman.


Spotting potholes in the oil sector comes easily to Sharma who has spent over two decades in the oil sector. Just nudge him on what plagues investments in India's oil sector and the answer is on his finger tips.
"The lack of transparency, policy inconsistency and disregard for global practices are some of the biggest challenges for investors in India's oil sector today," Sharma says.


According to him, the investor climate in the oil sector has never been so negative. "The recent draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has only added to it sending out negative signals that raises several questions. It is almost like a witch-hunt where the investors' actions are under continuous probe. This is the reason why 80% of our sedimentary basins remain unexplored," he said. The recent statement by petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy where he hinted at contracts being opened up for review has raised questions on sanctity of contractual agreements. And this is not restricted to the energy sector alone.


Public sector companies are worse off. Pointing towards instances of time and cost over-run, he said that while a PSU will have to wait for another tender (that may take months) to get the equipment in place, a private company is more concerned about completing the project on time. "The fear of a CVC or CAG is always hanging over the functioning of PSUs," Sharma explained. Referring to the alleged allegations of gold-plating by RIL in the CAG draft report, Sharma says: "I am going by newspaper reports. I am no one to judge on gold-platting, but exploration costs had gone up exponentially during that time with costs doubling in many of ONGC's exploration projects." The cost of exploration in an energy deficit country like India needs to be seen in totality, he says. "India cannot afford what Venezuela can and that needs to be kept in mind at all levels," Sharma quips. Citing an example of how there was a squeeze in the oil market during 2005 to 2008, he said the government itself had to allow a rig moratorium for Indian companies as committed drilling work came to a halt with no availability of rigs worldwide.


Asked to comment on the Cairn-Vedanta deal, that had been under focus in the last few months during his tenure as CMD, Sharma said, "It is no longer just about a transaction between two companies. It is today all about politics."


Instances of former chiefs of PSUs revealing their experiences after demitting office are not new. In most cases, chiefs of government companies have to toe the government line, while in office. Sharma's observations on the Cairn-Vedanta deal are a case in point. While he still maintains that ONGC has got a raw deal on the royalty provisions, he is against the government's reported plans of giving a conditional approval. "This goes completely against global practices," Sharma says.


Referring to the current business climate and political credibility that has come in for a severe jolt after the scams, he says that restoring investor confidence will take time. "The energy sector has its own peculiarities and the skewed pricing regime needs to be altered immediately." FDI has seen a dip, but it is the institutional investments that are now at stake. "I have been addressing some of the investor meets in the US and Asian markets. Scepticism over policy consistency is a concern area for the energy sector, whether it be tax policies or the terms of the production sharing contracts."


Sharma had spearheaded the debate on behalf of government exploration companies who have to share the subsidies in an ad-hoc manner. "Policy makers and political leaders need to wake up to global realities and ensure a transparent pricing regime in the oil sector," he said. The former ONGC CMD has always been known for his financial acumen and who better than him to speak on why the investments in new oilfields are dwindling in India's energy sector.

 

R S SHARMA

FORMER CMD

ONGC

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

CHALLENGES FACING THE CONGRESS

CP BHAMBHRI

 

The challenge faced by the Congress party is that while it cannot form a government at the Centre on the basis of its own strength in the Lok Sabha, its coalition partners are also its political competitors, even opponents, in different regions of India. This will translate into a difficult situation in the near future when the Lok Sabha elections are held in 2014.


The central issue is the kind of choices the Congress can make while keeping in mind the fragmented and multi-polar political and electoral map of India. The big issue for the Congress lies in states where it has formed coalitions with other parties both for the Lok Sabha and the state assembly elections. The Congress has not evolved any innovative strategies while dealing with its allies in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra because the DMK, Trinamool Congress and Nationalist Congress party have always dictated terms and conditions to the Congress in return for their participation in a coalition.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party supremo Sonia remained on the receiving end during the whole process of cabinet-making because the three allies not only decided about their nominees in the Union council of ministers, they also arrogated to themselves the power to decide the ministerial portfolios to be allocated to their nominees. A multi-polar political and party system like that of India requires a 'pole' which can bind and knit together coalitional partners and currently India has the Congress and BJP as the 'two poles' of politics. The Vajpayee-led coalition at the centre (1998-2004) could work smoothly because its regional coalition partners were committed and aggressive anti-Congress political formations. Also, many groups or leaders, including self-proclaimed secularists like George Fernandes or Ram Vilas Paswan or Sharad Pawar or Nitish Kumar have not considered the communal-fascist BJP as being politically untouchable. The Vajpayee government did not face any challenge from its alliance partners even when Gujarat was burning during the post-Godhra riots in 2002 and none of the alliance partners asked for Narendra Modi's head.
If the BJP can win 180 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections, the country will witness a repeat performance of 'local dynastic bosses' doing business with the BJP without any pangs of conscience. The real challenge is faced by the Congress in the era of coalition governments because unlike the BJP it does not have a definite number of political supporters at the regional and sub-regional levels because all major regional parties are involved in political competition with the Congress. This is the real explanation for the tightrope act the Congress has to do while dealing with its coalition partners. The Congress looks shaky and vulnerable while dealing with its collation partners because its major allies have been always negotiating with it from a position of strength as a large number of political groups are completely 'de-ideologised' and none of the regional formations are committed to the politics of 'secularism versus communalism'.


The Congress can expand its political support base if it sets its own house in order. First, the Congress has to confront BJP both organisationally and politically in states where politics is polarised between these two main contenders for power. The Congress cannot blame its coalition partners in states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand where it has been ejected by the BJP because even after being defeated the Congress has failed to project its local authentic leaders as alternatives to BJP CMs who have repeatedly won the elections.


Maharashtra Congress is in a bad shape and the party had to replace its own CMs in less than three years. Will Maharashtra go the Karnataka way because the Congress failed to rise to the occasion? Does the Gujarat Congress have a leader who can match a demagogue like Narendra Modi? Second, Sonia Gandhi has to seriously look inward and rethink about her assets and weaknesses as the supreme leader of the Congress. If she is the leader of the party, she has to behave like a leader and perform surgical organisational restructuring of her defunct grassroots party structures. Sonia has failed to discipline coalition partners of the UPA. On top of that, her party's PM is known to be a nominee and has not been given any authority to act independently on his own. So, even as one aspect of the problem is that its coalition partners have an 'upper hand' at the Centre and the states, the Congress has also failed to evolve an effective collective leadership to properly guide the party. The ground is slipping away from beneath the Grand Old party, and its fortunes cannot be resurrected and revitalised with the present style of politics.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

WHEN RBI SMUGGLED OUT THE GOLD

THIS IS THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THAT WEEK WHEN THE CENTRAL BANK HAD TO SNEAK OUT 47 TONNES OF GOLD TO ENGLAND


    Elections for the tenth Lok Sabha were to be held beginning May 20, 1991. But after the first phase was over, the very next day, on the campaign trail in Sriperembudur, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Hence elections had to be rescheduled and completed by June 15.


    Gandhi had been PM for five years from 1984 to 1989, but his government could not get re-elected. The next Lok Sabha unfortunately lasted only for 16 months, instead of full five years, and was marked by instability, and worsening economic situation. Inflation was running at above 15 per cent, industrial growth was negative, and foreign exchange reserves had fallen below one billion dollars, barely enough to pay for three week's worth of imports.


    The situation was so bad that even Indian Oil Corporation was unable to import crude oil, since no foreign supplier could trust its creditworthiness. They all wanted a bank guarantee from IOC. But the total stock of dollars in the country was near zero, so it wasn't easy for IOC to show those requisite dollars. Dollars continued to decline since even the non-resident desis (the NRI's) pulled out more than 1 billion dollars in a few months.
    Meanwhile, crude oil prices were rising, because Iraq was about to invade Kuwait, and Americans would surely retaliate. In this precarious situation, there was no choice for India but to sell some gold. The government initially decided to sell 20 tonnes. This was done somewhat surreptitiously using State Bank of India as an intermediary (i.e. gold was first transferred to SBI from RBI and then sold). But that wasn't enough. We needed an emergency loan. Who's the money-lender to distressed economies? That "money lender" was the International Monetary Fund. But IMF loan came with lots of strings and conditions.


    It wanted the fiscal deficit reduced. (Greece today is in similar distress, but IMF cannot act tough with Greece, and hence cannot impose any conditions. Greek default will hurt Europe much more than itself. In case of India in 1991, IMF had the stronger hand.) It also wanted the rupee to be drastically devalued. But this too had to be done without any advance warning to the markets, else there would be all round panic and huge political backlash.


    The newly elected minority government of Narasimha Rao was really in a fix. They decided that there was no choice but to pledge additional gold from their lockers. But foreign lenders were so skeptical, that they would not lend to India without physical possession of the gold. Which meant that the 47 tonnes of gold had to be airlifted from Mumbai to be stored in the vaults of Bank of London. Hence on the evening of July 3, 1991 the first consignment was loaded on to a truck by the Reserve Bank of India to be taken to the airport. Unfortunately the truck had a flat tyre. It was as if the gold didn't want to go out of India. The RBI must have really sweated its maiden attempt at gold "smuggling" (for all this was done very quietly)!
    The next day the RBI also announced its second installment of a massive devaluation. In three weeks, on July 24, the finance minister presented his first budget in the evening at 5 pm. The devaluation, the emergency gold loan and the landmark budget speech which dismantled the Licence Raj and brought eventual glory to India.
    That same FM, could proudly announce to Parliament in November that year, that all the loan against gold was repaid, and even the earlier gold sold was repurchased! Twenty years later India has become a net lender to IMF, and also recently injected 7 billion dollars into IMF by buying their gold!

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A FUNFEST FOR URBAN GLAM GIRLS

Go for it, girls. Go have fun at your Slut Walk or "Besharmi Morcha" in Delhi.

You have every right to wear what you want without being harassed. And there is a certain joy in needling the prudes. Go get their goat! The Slut Walk could be good fun. But let's not lose perspective. It is not a movement to empower women in India.

It is like polishing a door knob when you don't have a door, or even a roof over your head. Me-too feminism plucked from countries where women's rights and gender equality is treasured doesn't work for India, where women lack basic human rights.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation global poll named India as the fourth most dangerous place for women in the world, after Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan. And that has nothing to do with what women wear. It is about women's lack of choices in general. Unlike Afghanistan, Congo or Somalia (fifth on the shame list), India is not war-torn.

It is just violent towards its women through deeply entrenched social and cultural conditions. Apart from rape, murders, dowry deaths, honour killings and various forms of domestic abuse, our failure to check female infanticide and foeticide, or trafficking of women, or to provide women adequate healthcare and education have clinched our place in the top rung of the shame list.

It is not so much about stray incidents of crime as about the systematic violence against women that we sigh and accept. Girls and women are killed for dowry, for family honour, for not bearing a male child, for just being female in her mother's womb or in the birthing chamber.

I haven't heard of any spirited march in Delhi against female foeticide.
Anyway, I have a problem with branding Slut Walk Delhi as a march against sexual violence.

Remember what the early feminists said? Rape is not about sex, it's about power. It doesn't matter what you wear, in the dark crevices of our savage patriarchal society, your body remains the conventional battleground for power politics.

Elderly women are raped and killed for family feuds and property. Dalit women are routinely raped by upper caste men. The dominance of a religious or caste group is often established by arbitrarily raping local women of the weaker sections.

And once violated, like our ancient foremothers, women often "choose" death over dishonour. Just this week, a 17-year-old girl killed herself after being raped in Baghpat, near Delhi. Besides, honour rapes still prevail in villages — where a boy's affair with a higher caste girl is punished by the boy's sister/mother being raped by upper caste men.

If we wish to holler against rape, we must accept it as a vicious power game. Rape has very little to do with sex, and nothing to do with dress codes. Focusing minutely on the urban empowered woman's right to sexy dressing trivialises the huge, old, bloodthirsty, hydra-headed monster that sexual violence in India is.

So let the Slut Walk be a funfest — everyone deserves fun. But branding it as an empowerment mission is silly.

In the fourth most dangerous country for women, we can't really expect to protect ourselves with straps and thongs.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE WAR IS OVER

MILITARY SOLUTION'S SELL-BY DATE

 

THE 'coloniser' has signalled the curtains on a tumultuous phase in contemporary history. Barack Obama's decision to pull out 30,000 troops from Afghanistan is a watershed development, pregnant with symbolism, and one that ought to prompt other NATO powers to mull over an outward march. A decade after George Bush mobilised his forces to 'smoke out' an elusive Osama bin Laden, America has come to the realisation that the war has led nowhere, and that Afghanistan is perhaps best left to its own devices. At another remove, the continuing involvement in Kabul and Baghdad have entailed a severe strain on the USA's flagging economy, exacerbated by the meltdown in 2008.  Afghanistan today is still more fractious than it was in October 2001, when American forces moved in a month after 9/11. And it may be just a coincidence that the US President's dramatic announcement comes within a week after Hamid Karzai's critique of the NATO forces as "colonisers'. Mr Obama can be said to have closed a chapter in post-Cold War US interventionism that had reached its peak with the invasion of Iraq (March 2003).


The targets in both countries have been elusive, a testament to the faultlines in America's geo-political strategies and also, of course, a belated realisation of the futility of international policing in this day and age. In Iraq, it was a quest for the WMD that wasn't; in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan the hunt for Bin Laden was a blind man's buff. Americans ~ not least the Democratic Party ~ are said to be fed up with foreign wars. Ahead of the 2012 election, the message of the troop pullout is addressed no less to the domestic constituency. The USA, as indeed NATO, can't be unaware that in the net, the Taliban has entrenched its network further still, now almost reducing the Af-Pak strategy to irrelevance. Arguably, President Obama might now wish to take a call on the intervention in Libya that thus far has led nowhere.


Unsurprisingly, the USA's change of strategy comes less than two months after the killing of Bin Laden, a nemesis that fulfilled the Pentagon's primary objective in Afghanistan. As much was implicit in President Obama's immediate response that the Al Qaida is crippled. Further, over the past two months NATO has been acutely aware that stability in Afghanistan hinges on a political settlement and not relentless military operations; crucially, an essay towards reconciliation between the authorities in Kabul and the Taliban. As much as the USA, President Karzai has realised that there can be no military solution to the conflict. Awfully belatedly has the White House come to the conclusion that the real enemy is not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. The impact of the US decision on the internal affairs of Afghanistan will be keenly watched by the comity of nations, most importantly the moves of the Taliban and the warlords who had backed America. It's time to move on.

 

NON-DELIVERY
THE BANE OF WELFARE SCHEMES

HACKNEYED, rendered irrelevant through overuse is the argument that "if this could happen in the Capital imagine conditions elsewhere…" Yet it does sometimes serve as an effective indicator. Perhaps most articulately, in the context of it being officially stated that as many as 775 children registered under the much-hyped Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme died last year; as did eight expectant mothers. True the numbers boggle: 727,000 covered in a relatively small geographical area, which ought to facilitate the provision of health care despite the population-concentration creating other complications. But what reveals a reality even more disturbing than the statistics is the reaction of a local government official that those figures (obtained via the RTI route) were actually a one percentage point improvement on the year previous. In fact that "decline" was sought to be projected as a positive sign. Truly, it requires use of the imagination to assess what the nationwide situation must be. As long as the government machinery retains such insensitive attitudes, welfare schemes will fall flat. The ICDS is not a lone black spot. Almost every "audit" of every programme comes up with evidence of non-delivery, of funds being under-utilised or misused. Social welfare issues seldom get much parliamentary attention, and then the standard alibi is that the Centre provides the funds, the states are accused of non-implementation: the "force" of the ministerial accusation directly linked to the party in power in the state under focus. Even in matters pertaining to the deaths of little children does politics have its pernicious influence. And that can be extended across the board to crime against women, dowry deaths, honour killings and what have you.


Clearly the monitoring by the Centre is ineffective and certainly unrealistic in relation to what obtains on the ground. It also speaks volumes of the indifference of most central ministers, and their utter failure to carry their counterparts in the states along with them. Maybe that is only to be expected when ministerial appointments are dictated by "coalition compulsions", not aptitude for the assignment. It all boils down to the commitment to aam aadmi's welfare evaporating the moment he has pressed a button on the electronic voting machine.

 

MIRED IN STALEMATE

POSCO RUNS AGROUND AGAIN

THE general satisfaction over the withdrawal of the children's human shield around the Posco site in Orissa is neutralised by the fact that the South Korean steel giant has hit the bumps once again. From Singur in Bengal to Jagatsinghpur in Orissa, the land question remains virtually intractable despite the moves of the executive (the Union environment ministry's clearance), the legislature (the Singur Bill in Bengal), and the occasional intervention of the judiciary. In Orissa, the setbacks that Posco has had to contend with are almost relentless. Close to six years after the state signed the MoU with the South Korean investor, the prospect of a steel plant becomes ever more uncertain. The current bout of disruption is particularly unfortunate; though the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti has withdrawn children from the frontline, it has stepped up the agitation in its bastions of Dhinkia and Gobindpur. This has provoked the government to suspend the land acquisition that had been cleared by the Union ministry of environment and forests. The project is virtually mired in a stalemate as the protests have been relentless despite the Government of India's clearance.


For the administration in Bhubaneswar ~ which admittedly had bungled initially ~ the latest movement is another loss of face vis-a-vis Posco and the terms of engagement. The project has been hobbled, if not jinxed, from the start. It was only in January this year that the state government initiated the first major attempt to acquire land after meeting its obligations in terms of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). That attempt was called off after the Union ministry of environment and forests issued a stop-work order. Now that the order has been withdrawn and clearance granted, the movement has been stepped up again. Central to the dispute must be the implementation of the FRA, which stipulates a minimum of 75 years' residence to be entitled to compensation. A large segment of the forest dwellers do not possess the documents to prove their bona fides. Unsurprisingly, all political parties are exploiting the tiresome charade to make the waters murkier. The disruptive rigmarole must be anathema to the South Korean investor.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

ESSAY TOWARDS LOKPAL

CONTROVERSIES MILITATE AGAINST A FOCUSED APPROACH

BY BHARAT DOGRA


THE commitment to a strong and effective Lokpal will be strengthened if unnecessary controversies can be kept aside. We need to stick to the essence of what we seek to achieve from the institution of Lokpal.
Essentially, Lokpal (or Lokayukta at the state level) should be perceived as an institution supported and recognised by the government. It functions independently of the government to probe and investigate any complaint of high-level corruption.


Thus without entering into seemingly interminable debates over who/what is included and not included, we should simply go ahead and set up the Lokpal with a well-equipped investigating arm. Whosoever is probed by the Lokpal (including the private sector) will be obliged to extend all cooperation to the institution and its investigating officers.


However, the Lokpal will be expected to exercise its powers with due care and consultation and not in an arbitrary or arrogant manner.


In view of national security and the supremacy of the elected representatives in a democracy, there can be a provision that the President (acting on the advice of the cabinet) can stop an investigation by the Lokpal. But  this provision will be used only in very rare circumstances.


As most people in the country have been shocked by the disclosures of massive scams worth billions of  rupees, they rightly suspect that many other scams remain to be unearthed. It is reasonable to believe that when people demand a strong Lokpal Bill, the majority is visualising a law which will prove effective in curbing, if not ending, corruption at the rarefied level of the most powerful at the Centre and in the states.


Thus far, the big players have by and large managed to evade effective action against them because of several legal hurdles. Even when action has been taken against those allegedly involved in the Commonwealth Games and Spectrum scams, this action has come too late and only after billions had been plundered. An independent and impartial Lokpal (Lokayukta at the state level) is expected to overcome these hurdles, punish the guilty and check high-level corruption to a significant extent.


By common consent, it will be a great achievement if the Lokpal can fulfil this admirable and much-needed role. But there is another section which seeks to provide a much wider role for the Lokpal. This group has argued that many other issues, including redressal of citizens' grievances, the conduct rules for various departments, the citizens' charter and so on should also be included in the Lokpal Bill.


The controversy is not over the importance of  these issues, but whether such matters can be included in a single piece of legislation. It will be a gross mistake if we attempt to draft a comprehensively encompassing law without reflecting on whether or not it will work. The question of efficacy is crucial. Otherwise applications will be piling high in a country of the size of India, and the much-awaited law will fail to provide the expected relief.


The debate, therefore, is on whether we should try to create a monolithic law to include a variety of issues or constructively try to create a raft of legislative measures to tackle different even if related issues. For example, a separate law on a highly decentralised system ~ bottom to top ~ of grievance redressal can be worked out. We already have a pending legislation on protecting whistleblowers. These important pieces of legislation need to be finetuned instead of including the issues that they cover in the Lokpal Bill.


There can be different answers to these questions, but the broad conclusion is likely to be a basket of important laws instead of putting in place an all-encompassing piece of legislation.


The Lokpal is likely to prove more effective in its main role of tackling high-level corruption if it doesn't attempt too many other things at the same time. If the institution focuses primarily on tackling high-level corruption, it will be possible to monitor its  accountability and integrity. But if an unwieldy and huge Lokpal is created to take care of corruption from the top to the bottom, then the vigilance officers at the lower-end will accumulate enormous powers. It will not be possible to monitor their accountability and integrity. We may end up with a group of very arrogant officials with wide-ranging powers, but little accountability ~ a recipe for increasing corruption instead of controlling it.


Therefore, the demand for a 'strong' Lokpal should be more specifically directed towards fighting high-level corruption and major scams.


There are some other important aspects of this debate such as those relating to the selection of Lokpals/Lokayuktas. In the suggestions advanced on the selection of the panel, elected representatives have been given a minor rating. Is it tenable in a democracy to select persons who will be vested with wide-ranging powers vis-a-vis the elected representatives?


These questions are particularly pertinent. And yet it cannot be denied that the Lokpal needs adequate powers to be able to check corruption. The solutions to such situations have been evolved by other countries; we too can arrive at these solutions provided there is the political will to set up a strong Lokpal. As the country hopefully gears up to enact the legislation on the Lokpal, there is need for extensive consultations with ordinary citizens as well as experts.

The writer is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

 

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THE STATESMAN

'LANKA IS NOT A MATTER FOR THE UN RIGHTS COUNCIL'

Mr Prasad Kariyawasam is Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to India. He has also served in New York and Geneva as Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He joined the Lankan foreign service in 1981 and has held diplomatic assignments in Geneva, Riyadh, Washington and New Delhi. He has served as the Deputy High Commissioner in India holding the rank of an Ambassador, the Consul-General of Sri Lanka in Switzerland and the personal representative of the Head of State of Sri Lanka at the G-15. In an interview to SIMRAN SODHI, he spoke on Indo-Sri Lankan relations.

What has been the outcome of the Indian troika's (foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar) recent visit to Sri Lanka?
This kind of high-level interaction between India and Sri Lanka is very regular and routine. Our external affairs minister, Prof GL Peiris, also visited India recently on an official visit. The troika trip was very successful from our perspective because it gave us an opportunity to review all the issues in our bilateral relationship. Almost everything in our modern and current relationship that includes defence cooperation, India's assistance to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Northern Province, our commercial and business ties and as well as maritime security were discussed. We were also able to exchange views on how the reconciliation process is moving forward.

The Sri Lankan media reported after the troika visit that India and Sri Lanka were on a collision course…
I don't know on what basis they made such assumptions. There are some, in both India and Sri Lanka, who are always into conspiracy theories, who want to re-open settled issues, but that is not how the two countries relate to one another. We are going forward, we are not going back. The visit did not give rise to any such adverse result. India and Sri Lanka relationship is not push and pull; it is a cooperative, consultative process.
 What is the Sri Lankan government's position on the 13th Amendment of the country's charter, particularly on land and powers enjoyed by police?

 

The 13th Amendment remains a point of departure, a basis for us to build on. The 13th amendment is a provision that we have incorporated into our Constitution under certain circumstances that prevailed at a particular time almost 25 years ago. It was seen as the means to address some key issues in Sri Lanka at the time. What Sri Lanka has gone through during the last 25 years, including the experience in implementing the various provisions of the 13th Amendment, has made us realise that the 13th Amendment is not the perfect panacea to our problems. So we have not ended our quest and we are working on it. Our aim is to find a political arrangement that will have the support of all parties in Sri Lanka, primarily all those who are represented in our Parliament. Such a solution will undoubtedly be welcomed by India as well. For long-term reconciliation, for the long-term progress of Sri Lanka, we need to adjust the amendment in such a manner that is acceptable to all communities in this country. Its success depends on acceptance of all communities.
 
Why was there so much of criticism in Sri Lanka after the joint statement issued at the end of Sri Lanka's foreign minister's visit to India last month?
Just like in India, there are individuals and parties holding different views and opinions regarding the direction in which India and Sri Lanka should conduct a discourse and its content. Therefore, some parties in our country may not be happy when certain views are expressed. They have their perceptions and expectations as to what should be the limits of public discourse between the two countries and they are entitled to their views.
 
What is your expectation at the September session of the United Nations Human Rights Council?
We think Sri Lanka is not a matter for the UN Human Rights Council. We regularly brief the UNHRC on the efforts we are making in our own country in terms of respecting human rights. But any intrusive examination of our situation is uncalled for since we are capable of handling the situation ourselves. For this purpose, we have several national mechanisms that are ongoing that can handle all those concerns expressed by the international community. We are a democratic country and we have set up sound local mechanisms to address all these concerns.
 
What is your reaction to the video recently aired on an international television channel showing the Sri Lankan army committing gross human rights violations?
The video lacks authenticity and it is a collection of footage aired earlier on LTTE websites. We do not know the exact sources of the footage yet. The information could have been forwarded to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission so that it could be investigated. The public airing of the video smacks of a conspiracy to bring disgrace to Sri Lanka. We have challenged the authenticity of this tape and are very surprised that its backers have the money to go to New York, to Geneva, to air this video. We also don't have a strong local lobbying power in the Western world while the remaining fragments of the LTTE still have resources and a strong lobby there. Also, this video does not help the ongoing reconciliation process; instead of assisting the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation processes, people are trying to undermine these efforts by lacerating wounds that are in the process of healing.
 
What is your reaction to the fact that Tamil Nadu now has a new chief minister and that the TN Assembly passed a resolution against Sri Lanka?
It is unfortunate that such a resolution was passed and such comments were made against Sri Lanka because we only have goodwill for the people of Tamil Nadu and for the leadership of Tamil Nadu. In fact, we look forward to working with chief minister Ms Jayalalithaa. We feel she has been ill informed, she has been a victim of a misinformation campaign against Sri Lanka by some parties who are inimical to my country. We hope that a team of senior politicians from Tamil Nadu will visit Sri Lanka soon and see for themselves the reality on the ground, the reconciliation process and the development work that is going on and then realise that the situation is very different from what is being perceived.
 
The killing of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy has resulted in strained ties. How do you intend to deal with this?
Both countries are concerned about this and we have jointly said that whatever violations are committed by the fishermen on both sides, the use of force is not acceptable. Many incidents happened during the conflict period over which we had no control but now we must ensure that even the fishermen who violate the law of the sea are not harassed but are subjected only to the normal laws. Meanwhile, it is essential for fishermen of both countries to refrain from crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

 

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THE STATESMAN

ON RECORD

 

I am grateful to the Planning Commission for the generous allocation. This will help in the industrial and social development of my state. Since a new five-year Plan starts next year, I hope we are able to get a proper share in the coming years.


West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee after meeting deputy chairman of Planning Commission Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia


The Opposition parties are levelling unfounded allegations to malign me. The state is going to polls next year. All these campaigns are aimed at getting political mileage.


Uttar Pradesh chief minister Miss Mayawati on the Opposition's description of her administration as jungle raj

We wanted his advice on steps to be taken for comprehensive development of the state. He has some suggestions. He said he will speak to the chief minister and share his views.


West Bengal industries minister Mr Partha Chatterjee after meeting expelled CPI-M leader and former West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation chairman Mr Somnath Chatterjee

 

If a special audit is instituted, I will welcome it. The exercise will clearly reveal the difficulty in managing state finances without help from the Centre.


Former West Bengal finance minister Mr Asim Dasgupta


Our investors are showing a lot of interest in Bengal. We already have a significant presence in Bengal and the eastern part of the country.


US Consul-General in Kolkata Ms Beth A Payne


By bringing voluntary organisations under the Lokpal's purview, the government is trying to target people's movements. Such organisations have done much more than any government has.


Social activist Mr Anna Hazare


The (West Bengal) government has not only failed to maintain law and order but also promoted lawlessness by evicting Tata's employees and guards with the help of police.


Advocate Mr Samaraditya Pal while moving a petition on behalf of Tata Motors before Calcutta High Court


We have demanded an all-party panel with technical experts to determine ways to fight waterlogging.
Leader of the Opposition in Kolkata Municipal Corporation Ms Rupa Bagchi


That our batsmen haven't been able to seize moments has been happening for 10 years. May be the best thing for us is to bring back Gary Sobers, Viv Richards, Clyde Walcott, all of them.


West Indies skipper Darren Sammy after his side lost the first Test to I Ndia

 

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THE STATESMAN

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE BENGAL GOVERNMENT AND THE WATERWAYS


The recent correspondence between the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and the Bengal Government, while it is satisfactory in some respects, clearly indicates that the Government do not realise how far their administration of the waterways falls short of the reasonable expectations of the mercantile classes of Calcutta, to say nothing of the fostering care and skilled attention which European Governments bestow upon the waterways of their countries. The part of the correspondence upon which the Government deserve such congratulation as is due for doing what is obviously right is the letter in which they announce their assent to the enlargement of the Standing Advisory Committee on Waterways. In 1906 a Committee was appointed consisting of the Chief Engineer and Secretary to the Bengal Government in the Irrigation Department, the Superintending Engineers for Bengal and Eastern Bengal, and a representative of the inland steamer companies. This Committee has, we believe, been of some use in securing river improvements, but the Bengal Chamber of Commerce naturally feel that the representation of commercial interests is inadequate and that not only the river steamer companies but the commercial communities of the two Provinces are entitled to make their views known regarding the development of river traffic. It was also urged by the Chamber of Commerce that, for obvious reasons, the Advisory Committee should include a representative of the Calcutta Port Trust. The Government of Bengal have consented to the addition to the Standing Committee of one representative of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and the Eastern Bengal Government have agreed that a representative of the commerce of that Province should be added. But the request of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce that a representative of the Port Trust should be included has been refused without a word of explanation. The Lieutenant-Governor in Council "as at present advised, does not consider it necessary to include a representative of the Port Commissioners." There is no person acquainted with the problems presented by the waterways who does not realise how essential it is that the Port Commissioners should cooperate in their solution. The case is admirably put in the letter of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, in which they point out that the great object of the improvement of the rivers is to facilitate traffic between the rivers and the port of Calcutta. The knowledge and experience of the Vice-Chairman of the Port Trust, who has been suggested as its representative, would be invaluable to the Standing Committee, for the Committee could have no better model for the treatment of the rivers of Bengal as a whole than the conservancy of the Hooghly. Yet these considerations are dismissed with an absurd bureaucratic formula which advances no argument or reason whatsoever, presumably because there is none to give. A reply of this kind is hardly respectful to a body of the standing of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and it is certainly unworthy of a Government who profess to commend their policy by argument and reason.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

AN ILL-ADVISED MOVE

A new government has to create some new institutions and also abolish some others in order to usher in meaningful changes. If such a government replaces a 34-year-long regime, as the one led by Mamata Banerjee has done, its anxiety to undo old ways and start new things is perfectly understandable. But her government's proposal to revive the legislative council in West Bengal is both ill-advised and unnecessary. Ms Banerjee had promised to resurrect the council, abolished in 1969, in the election manifesto of her party, the Trinamul Congress. But it was not quite explained in the manifesto how Bengal and its people would benefit from such a move. Ms Banerjee's political rivals and other critics would suggest that she could use the council to accommodate persons of her choice from different fields. But this attempt to attribute motives to the plan betrays petty partisan approaches to an issue that merits a serious debate.

The real objection to the idea of an unelected council is linked directly to the theory and practice of representative democracy. Only those directly elected by the people can rightfully claim to represent the latter. And only such elected people have the right to make laws. In India, the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies are the only institutions which represent the principles of electoral democracy. An upper chamber of the legislature is indefensible on two counts. First, it does not comprise elected people. In fact, it is difficult to see whom the members of this chamber represent. Second and more important, an upper house of the legislature undermines the importance of the lower house, which alone represents the people and should have the exclusive right to make laws. Whether at the federal or at the state level, the upper house is thus both redundant and undemocratic. In the case of the Rajya Sabha, there could have been an argument in its favour if it meant, as in the Senate in the United States of America, an equal number of seats for each state. But this is not the case in India, where a state's share of seats in the Rajya Sabha is decided, as in the case of the Lok Sabha, on the basis of its population. This reduces the Rajya Sabha to a mere replica of the Lok Sabha.

It is sometimes argued that an upper house can accommodate experts from various fields or eminent personalities who generally keep away from the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics. But a government can make use of the expertise of such people in many ways. They can advise the government as members of different committees or in some other capacity. It is not necessary to make them members of an upper house of the legislature in order to draw on their expertise. Ms Banerjee has taken a number of commendable steps to make use of the services of some eminent men, especially in higher education. But she would do well to drop the idea of reviving the legislative council.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

DISCIPLINE AND DECORUM

A CLUB IS A HOME WHOSE OWNERS SET THE RULES SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

For the first time in nearly 45 years as a member, I found the Calcutta Club gates closed. The durwan mumbled something about processions and I wondered momentarily if Trinamul had collapsed and the Left Front was back. The online editions of two London dailies, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph — I missed reports in local newspapers — cleared the mystery a few days later. Apparently, the club had refused to entertain one of Mamata Banerjee's cheerleaders as a member's guest because his attire "was outside the regulations".

Inconsequential in itself, the protest exposed the fantasy of her promise to turn Calcutta into London. It was a reminder that London is not the London Eye which Burkina Faso can buy and install in Ouagadougou. Nor is London only the men, women and children who reside there for economic reasons but live in West Bengal and who starred in a local TV channel the other day. Sartorial and behavioural dissonances are not unknown in London's clubland but a street demonstration with placards and petitions is unthinkable.

I remember two instances when discipline and decorum calmed ruffled feathers. The first was in a club in Whitehall more than 40 years ago when the smoking room's post-prandial slumber was suddenly shattered by the loud voices of a group of Nigerians in brilliant robes and caps. An elderly English member who had been dozing by the fireplace when the cacophony erupted summoned the secretary, a suave young man who should have been a diplomat. "I am terribly sorry that you feel disturbed but your committee has in its wisdom entered into reciprocal arrangements with certain clubs overseas," he said. "If you have any views on the matter you can certainly communicate them to the committee. But I am afraid I can't place any restrictions on visiting members of those clubs so long as the reciprocal arrangements continue."

The second time was more recent and in the morning room of a club in Pall Mall where I, the only occupant, was immersed in a newspaper. To be wished "Good morning!" was surprising enough, for silence usually reigned there at that time of day. I was even more surprised to see the grey slacks and suede windcheater of the pleasantly smiling young man who had accosted me in a faint American accent. His smart casual clothes definitely didn't belong in an ambience where my own tweed jacket just about passed muster in the morning.

Suede Windcheater was pouring himself a coffee at the table that is always laid out with pot, milk, sugar and cups when Rene, a steward of French extraction I knew well, strolled over with a caustic "Making ourselves at home, are we?" He looked nonplussed and Rene explained the facilities were for members.

"I'm staying here," was the slightly defensive reply.

"Which room?"

Suede Windcheater mentioned a number to which Rene retorted disbelievingly, "That's Mr Blank's!"

"I'm staying with him," was the almost apologetic explanation.

I watched Rene look him up and down, head to toe, and up again, before sauntering away with a "Never seen a member dressed so casually!" But he didn't snatch away the coffee Suede Windcheater had poured and drive him off the premises or even order him back to the bedroom booked in Mr Blank's name to return in a suit. That's because Rene is a man of knowledge and influence to whom my son and I were deeply indebted once when he found us a room at the Athenaeum at the height of the holiday season when all London clubs were full. He knew that Suede Windcheater's host, the member, is responsible for his conduct, as for his bills. Complaints had to be addressed to Mr Blank.

Similarly, it would have been unacceptable for that agreeable young American to object to Rene's criticism. A club guest has no rights and few responsibilities, no locus standi, so to speak. He could make no demands. If he wished to object, he could do so only to Mr Blank who might or might not take it up with the club secretary or committee.

Finesse is not confined to London. When a group of men in Calcutta's oldest gentlemen's club spread out their balance sheets in the lounge to hold what amounted to a business conference and loudly dictated figures to parties in other cities on their cell phones, the bearer went up quietly, picked up the brass sign forbidding the use of cell phones, and put it down with a sharp rap on the glass coffee table. He repeated the reprimand three times to no avail. Those brass signs have now gone. As the sartorial protest also confirmed, many of us are more at home in puja pandals than in gentlemen's clubs.

Eric Newby, the English travel writer, might have disagreed, but he died in 2006. When Newby and his wife sought accommodation at the Kanpur Club during their 1,200-mile journey down the Ganga, the secretary, Indian naturally, said there was none to be had. "Can we apply for temporary membership?" Newby asked. But he didn't know a member who could propose him. Newby's trump card was "a letter of introduction from Mr Nehru." Jawaharlal Nehru had, indeed, given him a letter that was expected to open all doors, but it cut no ice. "The Prime Minister is not a member of the Kanpur Club," the secretary said.

Newby didn't throw a tantrum. He didn't rant and rave about "racism", "feudalism" and "colonialism" or rope in those public-spirited men and women who are forever fighting for a cause, be it flowered elastic drawers for monkeys or a woman's fundamental right to be called 'Mister'. Having been brought up in a world of clubs, Newby knew they are private institutions that make their own rules and regulations and can't be dictated to by those who don't belong. "We crept out of the building, boarded the waiting ricksha (sic) and were pedalled away," he wrote in one of his delightful travel books.

The British newspaper reports I mentioned dredged up the old but uncorroborated story of the Bengal Club refusing to serve Lord Minto's dinner guest, Sir Rajendranath Mookerjee. I would have thought both the Viceroy and Mookerjee were sufficiently aware of club rules not to risk the snub. Perhaps the story is also fictitious like the Daily Telegraph claim that "Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, declined an invitation (to the Calcutta Club) because he was not allowed to wear a baggy-shirt kurta." Gopal Gandhi did refuse to go but because the club didn't then admit women members in their own right. It had nothing to do with attire.

References to his grandfather are equally misleading. Soothing Nellie Sen-Gupta when other Congress folk were attacking her husband, Deshapriya Jatin Sen-Gupta, for socializing at the Calcutta Club, Mahatma Gandhi came up with the surprising confession, "I wish I was a member of the Calcutta Club whose members, I know, are all decent people." Disregarding racial slights and barriers, Gandhi allowed himself to be smuggled into a Bengal Club bedroom by a correspondent of the same Daily Telegraph. The Mahatma didn't mind not being allowed into the whites-only public rooms. His dignity wasn't so easily shattered.

He was probably aware that a club is a home whose owners decide who to invite and how guests should comport themselves. There's a democratic mechanism for them to change rules they consider obsolete. Most clubs also obligingly keep a stock of jackets and ties for just such emergencies. But it's not for guests to question house rules unless there is some flagrant violation of the law or public morality. As for the London dream, a chief minister is well advised to avoid impetuous utterances and hasty decisions without thinking through the consequences or making adequate follow-up arrangements.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

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

EDITORIAL

AN UNFAIR BURDEN

For all of the economic hardship of the last several years, there was reason to hope that the nation could avoid a crushing increase in the number of Americans living in poverty. That hope is fading fast.

In 2008, amid a deepening recession, a Census Bureau measure showed that the number of poor Americans rose by 1.7 million to nearly 47.5 million. In 2009, thanks in large part to the Obama stimulus, the rise in poverty was halted — a significant accomplishment at a time of worsening unemployment. When data for 2010 are released in the fall, poverty is expected to have stayed in check because the stimulus, including aid to states and bolstered unemployment benefits, was still in effect last year.

This year and next are a different story. The stimulus is waning and Republicans are targeting poverty-fighting programs for deep cuts. Obama officials have said that low-income programs will not be automatically cut to fit a preconceived target from the debt-limit talks, but there is no guarantee they will stick to that position.

Exempting low-income programs has been a major feature of deficit deals going back to 1985. Both sides should publicly commit to that now, and take steps to strengthen the safety net. The alternative is unconscionable harm:

MEDICAID Federal stimulus funds for Medicaid — an additional $102 billion to the states over the past three years — run out at the end of June. Long-term deficit reduction will require controlling health care costs. But with the economy weak, there is no excuse for immediate cuts to the joint federal and state health program that is a lifeline for 68 million low-income Americans.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS In 2010, Congress allocated $56.5 billion to renew expiring federal jobless benefits through 2011 but dropped a $25-a-week supplement that had been added under the stimulus. That reduction could push an estimated 175,000 people into poverty this year.

Another threat is that jobless benefits won't be renewed — or will be watered down — when they expire at the end of 2011. A recent bill from some House Republicans would let states use federal jobless money for other purposes, denying unemployed workers the cash they need to get by.

FOOD AID Some 44.6 million Americans use food stamps at a cost, this year, of $71.5 billion. House Republicans want to turn the program into a block grant, which would end the guarantee of food aid to all who qualify. The federal Women, Infants and Children assistance program, which helps some nine million low-income people, is also being targeted. Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled House voted to cut $733 million from the $6.7 billion program. That would force WIC to turn away an estimated 300,000 to 450,000 eligible applicants next year.

TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES This $16.6 billion block grant, known as TANF, helps states provide cash to two million poor families, as well as child care and other services. This year, an estimated 700,000 recipients will face reduced benefits, in part because a TANF contingency fund for use during downturns has not been replenished. A $5 billion infusion from the stimulus — used, in large part, to subsidize jobs for TANF recipients — also ended in 2010. Congress did not extend it, cutting off funds for 250,000 jobs.

Much of the real money for deficit reduction will inevitably have to come from popular programs, like reducing payments to Medicare providers, and reining in defense spending. And it must come from tax increases, no matter how much Republicans may wish it otherwise.

Making the poor carry a heavy part of the deficit burden is intolerable.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BULLYING IN N.J.; BARGAINING IN N.Y.

New York and New Jersey, like so many other states, are struggling with big budget gaps and high health care expenses for union employees. The Cuomo administration in New York sat at the bargaining table and worked out a fair arrangement for bigger contributions by workers. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, by contrast, bullied and postured and got the Legislature to strip unions of collective-bargaining rights on health insurance.

The New Jersey way may produce short-term financial benefits, but it is not a path toward long-term labor peace or effective state management.

Mr. Christie is one of several Republican governors this year to blame the rights of unions — as opposed to the benefits of unions — for their states' financial woes. By stripping away those rights rather than bargaining, these governors really hope to reduce the political power of unions, which is usually wielded on behalf of Democrats.

He and his allies (including some conservative Democrats) pushed through the Legislature a plan to require substantially higher health insurance contributions from state workers. The plan will allow the state to supersede labor negotiations on those benefits, giving power to a state board to dictate terms over the next four years. For many union workers, health care negotiations were the only leverage they had in preserving basic rights because they do not have guaranteed bargaining on wages and other benefits.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York took a different approach. He told the unions how much money he needed to save and allowed the negotiators for both sides to determine the shape of the cuts, using the threat of layoffs to make sure an agreement was reached. The unions didn't like it but appreciated the ability to help determine how the cuts would be apportioned between wages and benefits. They can also sleep more soundly knowing that their bargaining has preserved their job security — a reassurance not shared by their counterparts in New Jersey.

New York's example stands as a rebuke to the bulldozer tactics of Mr. Christie and the other Republican governors.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DANGEROUS IMPORTS

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed sensible steps to cope with the dangers posed by a flood of imported food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices. The trouble is, Congressional Republicans are determined to cut the agency's budget when it ought to be getting an increase to deal with this worsening risk.

Nearly two-thirds of the fruits and vegetables and 80 percent of the seafood eaten in the United States now come from abroad. Half of the medical devices and 80 percent of the active ingredients in medications sold here are also made elsewhere, often in countries whose regulatory systems and manufacturing standards are weak.

American companies and American regulators screen only a tiny sample of the imports. In recent years, a contaminated blood-thinning drug was linked to 81 deaths in the United States, contaminated pet food killed or sickened thousands of cats and dogs and counterfeit test strips to monitor blood sugar levels posed a risk to diabetics. Those products were made in China, which often resists American efforts to investigate contamination or counterfeiting cases on its soil.

The F.D.A. now wants to move beyond intercepting harmful products that have reached American ports or markets to beefing up its nascent efforts to prevent those goods from ever reaching this country. The agency proposed this week to create global coalitions of regulators and a global database to better identify problems at manufacturing plants and to save resources by consolidating inspection efforts.

That's all to the good. But the agency needs to clean up its own act in this country as well. Its antiquated computer systems can't talk to each other, making it difficult for inspectors to determine which imports need close scrutiny. An inspector general's audit found that the agency has often been slow to recall imported foods contaminated with salmonella or other dangerous microbes.

A new food safety law requires the F.D.A. to inspect 600 foreign food facilities within a year and greater numbers each year thereafter. That will require increased financing. Yet House Republicans have voted to reduce the agency's budget, and some Senate Republicans are resisting offers by food producers to pay fees to underwrite inspections abroad and in this country because they consider that a tax. Some Republicans would rather adhere to their antitax ideology or insist on steep budget cuts than protect consumers from a clear and rising danger.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ON THE ART OF PUTTERING

We are a driven people, New Yorkers. Too much to do, not enough time. We keep lists; we crowd our schedules; we look for more efficient ways to organize ourselves — we get things done when we're not too busy planning to get things done. Even our leisure time is focused, and there is something proactive about our procrastination. We don't merely put things off. We put things off by piling other things on top of them. As Robert Benchley once noted, "anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."

But every now and then there comes a day for puttering. You can't put it in your book ahead of time because who knows when it will come? No one intends to putter. You simply discover, in a brief moment of self-awareness, that you have been puttering, or, as the English would say, pottering. It often begins with a lost object. Not the infuriating kind that causes you to turn the house upside down while looking at your watch, but the speculative kind. "I wonder where that is," you think.

You begin to look. Your attention is diverted almost immediately and then diverted again. You move through the morning with a calm, oblivious focus, taking on tasks — incidental ones — in the order they present themselves, which is to say no order at all. Puttering is small-scale, stream-of-consciousness problem-solving. It is setting sail on a sea of random course changes. The day passes, and you have long since forgotten what you were looking for — or that you were looking for anything at all. You feel as though you've accomplished a lot, though you have no idea what. It has been a holiday from purpose.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, IT'S WORK

BY GARRET KEIZER

Sutton, Vt.

AS New Jersey throws its weight behind Wisconsin and Ohio in rolling back the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees, we are once again going to hear the  argument that public sector unions ought not to be confused with their private sector counterparts. They're two different animals entirely.

Private sector workers, so the argument goes, have historically organized to win better working conditions and a bigger piece of the pie from profit-making entities like railroads and coal mines. But public sector employees work for "us," the ultimate nonprofit, and therefore are not entitled to the same protections.

This is a fond notion at best. Yes, public school teachers were never gunned down by Pinkerton guards; municipal firefighters were never housed in company-owned shanties by the side of the tracks. But none of this cancels their rights as organized workers. No ancestor of mine voted to ratify the Constitution, either, but I have the same claim on the Bill of Rights as any Daughter of the American Revolution. Collective bargaining is an inheritance and we are all named in the will.

The two-labors fallacy rests on an even shakier proposition: that profits exist only where there is an accountant to tally them. This is economics reduced to the code of a shoplifter — whatever the security guard doesn't see the store won't miss. If my wife and I have young children but are still able to enjoy the double-income advantages of a childless couple, isn't that partly because our children are being watched at school? If I needn't invest some of my household's savings in elaborate surveillance systems, isn't that partly because I have a patrol car circling the block? The so-called "public sector" is a profit-making entity; it profits me.

Denying this profitability has an obvious appeal to conservatives. It allows a union-busting agenda to hide behind nice distinctions. "We're not anti-union, we're just against certain kinds of unions." But the denial isn't exclusive to conservatives; in fact, it informs the delusional innocence of many liberals. I mean the idea that exploitation is the exclusive province of oil tycoons and other wicked types. If you own a yoga center or direct an M.F.A. program, you can't possibly be implicated in the more scandalous aspects of capitalism — just as you can't possibly be to blame for racism if you've never grown cotton or owned a slave.

The fact is that our entire economic system rests on the principle of paying someone less than his or her labor is worth. The principle applies in the public sector no less than the private. The purpose of most labor unions has never been to eliminate the profit margin (the tragedy of the American labor movement) but rather to keep it within reasonable bounds.

But what about those school superintendents and police chiefs with their fabulous pensions, with salaries and benefits far beyond the average worker's dreams?

Tell me about it. This past school year, I worked as a public high school teacher in northeastern Vermont. At 58 years of age, with a master's degree and 16 years of teaching experience, I earned less than $50,000. By the standards of the Ohio school superintendent or the Wisconsin police chief, my pension can only be described as pitiful, though the dairy farmer who lives down the road from me would be happy to have it.

He should have it, at the least, and he could. If fiscal conservatives truly want to "bring salaries into line" they should commit to a model similar to the one proposed by George Orwell 70 years ago, with the nation's highest income exceeding the lowest by no more than a factor of 10. They should establish that model in the public sector and enforce it with equal rigor and truly progressive taxation in the private.

Right now C.E.O.'s of multinational corporations earn salaries as much as a thousand times those of their lowest-paid employees. In such a context complaining about "lavish" public sector salaries is like shushing the foul language of children playing near the set of a snuff film. Whom are we kidding? More to the point, who's getting snuffed?

Garret Keizer is the author, most recently, of "The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THEM THAT'S NOT SHALL LOSE

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

"Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor."

James Baldwin penned that line more than 50 years ago, but it seems particularly prescient today, if in a different manner than its original intent.

Baldwin was referring to the poor being consistently overcharged for inferior goods. But I've always considered that sentence in the context of the extreme psychological toll of poverty, for it is in that way that I, too, know well how expensive it is to be poor.

I know the feel of thick calluses on the bottom of shoeless feet. I know the bite of the cold breeze that slithers through a drafty house. I know the weight of constant worry over not having enough to fill a belly or fight an illness.

It is in that context that I am forced to assume that if Washington politicians ever knew the sting of poverty then they have long since vanquished the memory. How else to qualify their positions? In fact, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires, and between 2008 and 2009, when most Americans were feeling the brunt of the recession, the personal wealth of members of Congress collectively increased by more than 16 percent. Must be nice.

Poverty is brutal, consuming and unforgiving. It strikes at the soul.

You defend yourself with hope, hard work and, for some, a helping hand. But these weapons grow dull in an economy on the verge of atrophy, in a job market tilting ever more toward the top and in a political environment that would sacrifice the weak to the wealthy.

On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a poll that showed how disillusioned low-income people have become. Those making less than $30,000 were the most likely to expect to be laid off or be asked to take a pay cut. Furthermore, they were the most likely to say that they had trouble getting or paying for medical care and paying the rent or mortgage.

But at least those numbers include people with incomes. A vast subset is chronically unemployed and desperately searching for work. According to the Consumer Reports Employment Index, "In 23 of the past 24 months, lower-income Americans have lost more jobs than they have gained." It continues, "Meanwhile, more affluent Americans seem to be gaining more jobs than they are losing."

And the current election-cycle obsession to balance the books with a pound of flesh, which is being pushed by pitiless Republicans and accommodated by pitiful Democrats, will only multiply the pain.

Until more politicians understand — or remember — what it means to be poor in this country, we are destined to fail the least among us, and all of us will pay a heavy price for that failure.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVILS

BY JEFF LINDSAY

Miami

I MAKE my living writing about a serial killer. It's a pretty good living, and quite frankly, that surprises me. When I wrote my first book, "Darkly Dreaming Dexter," the story of a sympathetic killer, I thought I was writing something creepy, repellent, perhaps a little wicked. To balance that, I also made him vulnerable and funny, I gave him a fondness for children, and I wrote in the first person — all elements intended to bridge the gap between a homicidal psychopath and readers, who I assumed would, nevertheless, be appalled.

They weren't; they liked him. Before publication, a nice-looking yenta from marketing took me aside and confessed, "I maybe shouldn't say? But I have such a crush on Dexter." So did other readers. The book took off like a dark little rocket. One of the early reviews even said it "breathes new life into the genre," which meant there was a serial killer genre.

I found that amazing: I had done the darkest, least lovable thing I could think of, and a whole genre was there ahead of me.

People, I realized, like to read about serial killers. And as I found myself on the telephone with Hollywood, arranging for Dexter's translation into a series for Showtime, I began to think that was pretty funny. "Lovable serial killer." Ha ha ha.

And then bodies turn up in real life and it isn't funny anymore.

This time, it's along a beach on Long Island. Our shock blooms as phrases pop out from the news coverage: "at least eight bodies" and "three or even four killers." We read more — we can't help it. We're sickened and disgusted, but we need to know. And the more we know about the scene, the more we really are horrified. The ghastly image of this beach as a dumping ground for bodies is bad enough. But then four of the bodies, wrapped in burlap, are thought to be the work of one person: a serial killer.

There's a special sense of dread that comes with that phrase, "serial killer." It represents an inhuman psychology that is beyond us, and because of that, we can't look away.

We can all conceive of killing someone in self-defense, or in combat. But to kill repeatedly, because we want to, because we like to — that's so far outside ordinary human understanding that we can't possibly have an empathetic response. The word "evil" seems a bit quaint and biblical — but what else can we call it?

I was brought up to believe that death and money are private, and I was taught to have only contempt for people who slowed down to gawk at an accident. I can't help feeling that this is similar — but I watch, too. Have I become what my mother called a rubbernecker and what my father, more bluntly, called an idiot?

Maybe so, but I have lots of company. Not just Americans, either; the Dexter series has been translated into 38 languages, and sensational news of serial killers regularly floods in from Russia, China, all over the world. People everywhere are willing voyeurs to mayhem. And when we learn of serial murders like the recent case at Gilgo Beach, our "dark watcher," that small part of us that just can't turn away, perks up and pays attention.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. We don't become evil because we dwell on it. In fact, one reason we gawk is to reassure ourselves that we could never do such a thing. When we stare at carnage we feel fear and revulsion, and that tells us with certainty that creating this kind of horror is beyond us.

And it is. Serial killers are psychopaths, and current research in brain mapping indicates that psychopaths are born, not made. There is an actual, physical, difference in their brains; you can't become a serial killer by reading about one, any more than you can get magical powers from reading "Harry Potter." You can watch "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" 20 times and it will not inspire you to butcher the neighbors. We can no more move from watcher to killer than we can breathe water.

But a homicidal psychopath — a serial killer — delights in killing. He often taunts the rest of us in some way as part of his fun. The evil creature that has been dumping bodies on Gilgo Beach has used his victim's cellphone to call her sister.

It's inhuman cruelty, but the research I read to write my "Dexter" books predicts that, when they catch him, he will probably look just like us. He will be known as a charming and thoughtful co-worker, a nice man who helps his ailing neighbor carry her groceries, and no one will have suspected what he really is.

This is the theater of paranoia, and it grips us, too, because we need a way to see the clues that must be there. Who among your friends and colleagues might be staring at your back and sharpening a knife?

You can't know; but by watching, you know it could never be you. I think that's good. We can't deny that evil exists — but it's not who we are. And the existence of evil implies its opposite: there is good, too.

As ordinary human beings, we live somewhere in the middle, jerked back and forth by circumstance, never quite reaching either extreme. And if you never understand someone who lives at the evil pole, no matter how much you rubberneck, that's good.

It means you're only human.

Jeff Lindsay is the author, most recently, of "Dexter Is Delicious."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE GREAT CORN CON

BY STEVEN RATTNER

FEELING the need for an example of government policy run amok? Look no further than the box of cornflakes on your kitchen shelf. In its myriad corn-related interventions, Washington has managed simultaneously to help drive up food prices and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit, while arguably increasing energy use and harming the environment.

Even in a crowd of rising food and commodity costs, corn stands out, its price having doubled in less than a year to a record $7.87 per bushel in early June. Booming global demand has overtaken stagnant supply.

But rather than ameliorate the problem, the government has exacerbated it, reducing food supply to a hungry world. Thanks to Washington, 4 of every 10 ears of corn grown in America — the source of 40 percent of the world's production — are shunted into ethanol, a gasoline substitute that imperceptibly nicks our energy problem. Larded onto that are $11 billion a year of government subsidies to the corn complex.

Corn is hardly some minor agricultural product for breakfast cereal. It's America's largest crop, dwarfing wheat and soybeans. A small portion of production goes for human consumption; about 40 percent feeds cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens. Diverting 40 percent to ethanol has disagreeable consequences for food. In just a year, the price of bacon has soared by 24 percent.

To some, the contours of the ethanol story may be familiar. Almost since Iowa — our biggest corn-producing state — grabbed the lead position in the presidential sweepstakes four decades ago, support for the biofuel has been nearly a prerequisite for politicians seeking the presidency.

Those hopefuls have seen no need for a foolish consistency. John McCain and John Kerry were against ethanol subsidies, then as candidates were for them. Having lost the presidency, Mr. McCain is now against them again. Al Gore was for ethanol before he was against it. This time, one hopeful is experimenting with counter-programming: as governor of corn-producing Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty pushed for subsidies before he embraced a "straight talk" strategy.

Eating up just a tenth of the corn crop as recently as 2004, ethanol was turbocharged by legislation in 2005 and 2007 that set specific requirements for its use in gasoline, mandating steep rises from year to year. Yet another government bureaucracy was born to enforce the quotas.

To ease the pain, Congress threw in a 45-cents-a-gallon subsidy ($6 billion a year); to add another layer of protection, it imposed a tariff on imported ethanol of 54 cents a gallon. That successfully shut off cheap imports, produced more efficiently from sugar cane, principally from Brazil

Here is perhaps the most incredible part: Because of the subsidy, ethanol became cheaper than gasoline, and so we sent 397 million gallons of ethanol overseas last year. America is simultaneously importing costly foreign oil and subsidizing the export of its equivalent.

That's not all. Ethanol packs less punch than gasoline and uses considerable energy in its production process. All told, each gallon of gasoline that is displaced costs the Treasury $1.78 in subsidies and lost tax revenue.

Nor does ethanol live up to its environmental promises. The Congressional Budget Office found that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by using ethanol costs at least $750 per ton of carbon dioxide, wildly more than other methods. What is more, making corn ethanol consumes vast quantities of water and increases smog.

Then there's energy efficiency. Studies reach widely varying conclusions on that issue. While some show a small saving in fossil fuels, others calculate that ethanol consumes more energy than it produces.

Corn growers and other farmers have long exercised outsize influence, thanks in part to the Senate's structural tilt toward rural states. The ethanol giveaway represents a 21st-century add-on to a dizzying patchwork of programs for farmers. Under one, corn growers receive "direct payments" — $1.75 billion in 2010 — whether they grow corn or not. Washington also subsidizes crop insurance, at a cost of another $1.75 billion last year. That may have made sense when low corn prices made farming a marginal business, but no longer.

At long last, the enormity of the nation's budget deficit has added momentum to the forces of reason. While only a symbolic move, the Senate recently voted 73 to 27 to end ethanol subsidies. That alone helped push corn prices down to $7 per bushel. Incredibly, the White House criticized the action — could key farm states have been on the minds of the president's advisers?

Even farm advocates like former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman agree that the situation must be fixed. Reports filtering out of the budget talks currently under way suggest that agriculture subsidies sit prominently on the chopping block. The time is ripe.

Steven Rattner has spent nearly 30 years on Wall Street as an investor and investment banker and is a contributing writer to Op-Ed. 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE END BEGINS?

 

In what he has called "the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war," President Barack Obama has announced the withdrawal of 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012. He has rejected the advice of his top generals in choosing a quicker pace to end the Afghan war and drawn criticism from both sides of the political aisle on Capitol Hill. Most experts are concerned that the recent security gains are tenuous and reversible, and had recommended that troop numbers be kept high until 2013, giving the Americans another full fighting season to attack militant strongholds and their leaders. But it seems Obama has set a withdrawal date based purely on political considerations. Having to choose between satisfying the Pentagon that demands he leave enough boots on the ground to finish the job, and placating Congress and the American public who want an end to the longest war in the country's history, Obama has chosen the latter. For most Americans, the war makes even less sense now that Osama bin Laden is dead. The enormous cost of deployment and human lives has attracted criticism from Congressional leaders as well as the public. As a president running for re-election, Obama needed to reassure the American public that the end of the war was near. And that's what he has done.

But outside of politics, doubts have emerged over the point of such a withdrawal, especially given the tense and deteriorating security situation in northern Afghanistan. Though President Karzai has welcomed Obama's announcement, Afghan security insiders are well aware that the Afghan National Army is a long way from being up to the security challenge. A swift withdrawal could also sabotage the counterinsurgency plan Obama adopted in 2009, which requires the US and allied forces to hold areas in southern Afghanistan that have been cleared of the Taliban and to sweep the eastern provinces that have not yet been reached by the counterinsurgency campaign. Most importantly, troop withdrawal is likely to be accompanied by cuts in billions of dollars of civilian aid, bringing a steep shift of control which many fear could tip Afghanistan into further corruption and chaos. In sum, Obama's plan appears to be driven purely by political calculus rather than military strategy. But winning the public's approval will not end the war, or the chaos left in the wake of US soldiers marching home.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DIFFERENT NOTES

 

Much as is the case of a concert, we hear some distinctly inharmonious notes emanating from Washington. Within hours of each other, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Barack Obama have issued statements that appear to strike a somewhat discordant note. Answering questions asked by US Senators, Clinton suggested that aid to Pakistan could be slowed down and stressed that the country would be made to stick with the 'specific commitments' it had made. There was no specific mention as to what these commitments were, but it is not very hard to guess – the US has been seeking action in North Waziristan and against other key targets. President Obama, who had spoken with President Zardari over the telephone, discussed in an interview with the Voice of America, the possibility of more assaults inside Pakistan, but unlike Clinton, softened the blow by also saying that Pakistan was itself the primary victim of terror, that the US was keen to work with it, and that the country would not be abandoned as had happened in the past. This reference to 1989, when the war against the former Soviets ended in Afghanistan was also evident in a talk addressing law-makers given by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who said past mistakes should not be repeated, but that the US was capable of defeating militants without Pakistan.

We can assume that what sounds like a discordant cacophony is in reality part of a planned strategy. Washington seems to have opted to keep the pressure on Pakistan turned up high – partially in response to Senate demands following the Osama raid – but also to leave space open for discussion and cooperation. The question for Pakistan is, how it can use this space. We do not know precisely what promises were made in talks that followed the Abbottabad fiasco, but Ms Cinton has made it clear that she and her team are determined to ensure that these are honoured. The evidence of some improvement in relations is encouraging. Pakistan needs to use this to its advantage, and devise a game plan of its own. Islamabad, rather than Washington, should be determining what the strategy to defeat militants should be, involving its own people in this process and then seeking US technical or financial help. The inaction we see from it can only add to the frustrations in Washington – an echo of which rang out as Clinton spoke – and make things more difficult in the future as stouter sticks are wielded and patience dries up more rapidly.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JOY AND FAILURE

 

As a nation, most of us are glad the four Pakistanis, among 22 men who were taken hostage in August last year aboard the Egyptian vessel the MV Suez, are finally home after a ten-month ordeal. But we must at the same time ask ourselves why such elaborate state celebrations featuring a reception at the Sindh Governor's House have been rustled up. The rejoicing of families can of course be understood and the efforts made by 11-year-old Laila, the daughter of Captain Wasi Hasan to launch a media campaign to press for the hostages' return, are truly moving. But the harsh fact is that, in terms of the bigger picture, the Somalian pirates have won. The crew was rescued but after 10 months and the payment of a $2.1 million ransom. Of this $0.11 million was raised in Pakistan – mainly through private donations. In many ways, this makes other ships plying the waters around Somalia – a geographically significant stretch of sea in terms of maritime activity, all the more vulnerable.

What Pakistan should be focusing on, as part of a six-nation Combined Task Force equipped with 14 vessels and other equipment, is a way to make the Somalian waters safer. Paying out ransom serves no useful purpose other than to save the lives that were in immediate jeopardy. The issue needs to be dealt with through diplomacy and also force. The manner in which South Korean commandoes, as part of the Task Force, stormed and saved a vessel from pirates early this year, is an example of the kind of action needed. Pakistan, even as head of the Force till April this year, has failed to engage in similar action. Rather than conducting meaningless celebrations, the government needs to consider why this has been the case.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

DRUG REGULATION AND BEYOND

 DR SANIA NISHTAR

 

The establishment of a drug regulatory authority is once again on the policy agenda, this time round as part of implementation of the 18th Amendment-relevant devolution of health. In principle this is a step in the right direction. Whilst the service delivery functions of health need to be devolved, it is equally important to recognise that national health functions need to be served federally, as is the case in most federations around the world.

In a recent analysis (http://www.heartfile.org/pdf/HEALTH_18AM_FINAL.pdf) four subjects have been described as falling within the purview of health's 'national roles' – information, regulation, international commitments, and several elements of policy. The policy rationale for retaining drug regulation at the national/federal level is robust in keeping with internationally prevailing trends. In addition, independent regulatory institutions are now a prerequisite in the post-WTO scenario since none of the flexibilities under the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement in terms of the rights of member countries can be availed unless there is an independent regulatory authority.


Work in this direction is not starting de novo. The draft "ordinance to provide for the establishment of [the] Drug Regulatory Agency of Pakistan" (DRAP), a framework the Ministry of Health is supporting, is already on file. However, the situation has changed subsequent to the 18th Amendment and the MoH will have to review its draft law. There is an additional complexity related to the regulatory mandate in this area, which I have discussed in these columns on April 30, in "Mandate to regulate". The parliament has the powers to make regulatory agencies under Entry 6 of the Federal Legislative List, but the subject 'medicines and drugs' stands devolved. This raises the need for provinces to grant regulatory powers to the federation under Article 144 and 147 of the constitution. Additionally, although all laws have been saved under 270, the question of the prerogative – parliament vis-à-vis provincial assembly – to amend the drug law loom.


Provinces, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) taking a lead, have been reviewing the situation and have developed a position on this. In principle, three provinces are clearly supportive of retaining drug regulation nationally, but have some observations. One, that MoH's draft law is federal-centric and does not provide for adequate representation of provinces in DRAP's governance. Two, since the Drug Act 1976 appears as its schedule, it will not be within the purview of provincial assemblies. Three, that DRAP does not provide for a resource sharing formula where some revenue can be retained provincially, which is where manufacturing units reside.


KP has proposed an alternative federal/national structure, where a board with appropriate representation from provinces, overseen by a council, performs the functions of licensing, pricing and registration. Their alternative draft law also takes into account other concerns mentioned above.


The near-consensus to retain drug regulation nationally is positive and the next step should be for all stakeholders to develop a point of convergence. Since the DRAP Ordinance was developed in the pre-18th Amendment era, it is only logical that MoH should review it. With the right leadership a solution can be developed.

However, there are issues beyond DRAP which merit consideration. As work gets underway, there is the risk that attention will disproportionately focus on institutional attributes, which are seen as an end in themselves. It is important to recognise that creation of structures, appointment of members and definition of perks and privileges is not the ultimate desired outcome, just the means to an end. The idea is not just to find a way of mandating a federal agency with the responsibility of regulating drugs, but to achieve certain substantive objectives beyond that. Improvements in quality and elimination of malpractices in the medicines and related products chain is one, so that progress is possible towards the goal of making quality, efficacious and safe drugs affordable and accessible. The other objective is to foster competitiveness and create a level playing field for the industry so that the sector's contributions towards the economy can be harnessed better.


The DRAP can be an institutional vehicle to make headway in these desired directions. But in order for that to happen many things need to be done alongside the creation of DRAP. Three points are being outlined in this respect.

First, the notion of separating policymaking, from regulation/implementation and entrusting regulation to an independent agency is central to the concept of creating regulatory authorities. There are two questions here. The MoH envisages that health's federal role will be served if a DRAP is created. This cannot be the case, as DRAP should have a regulatory but not a policymaking mandate. The latter will still need to be crafted in the federal purview. Where would such an entity sit when ideas to abolish the Ministry of Health are being mooted? The other question relates to the agency's independence. Even if the DRAP is established as a statutory autonomous agency, is it likely to be independent? Past experiences with regulatory agencies do not inspire confidence. Members are handpicked and have defined allegiances, controls vest with government and in most cases independent regulatory agencies are just another level of cumbersome hierarchy in the decision-making chain. It is critical to address these concerns.


Secondly, the question of policy norms related to the three levels of regulation – quality, price and intellectual property rights (IPR) regulation – is deeply related to the functioning of DRAP. Currently, the Drug Policy 1997 and Drug Act 1976 are in force, but many weaknesses exist. The drug rules are exploitable, particularly in relation to warranty of drug sale. 'Nutritional' and traditional medicines, prescribed by 130,000 practitioners of traditional medicine and devices and related healthcare technologies are outside of the drug act's purview. Policy norms lag behind in relation to trends in technology, advertising and WTO agreements. There is need for a predictable and transparent pricing policy related to branded and generic medicines. These considerations call for updating norms and eliminating room for manoeuvring.


Thirdly, the value tagged to DRAP can be open to question if certain institutional constraints are not addressed. Elaborate regulatory arrangements exist even today at the federal and provincial levels. The real issue is at the level of capacity and transparency. Inspectors are poorly paid resulting in 'subsistence corruption'. The numbers are paltry -250 for a population of 170 million. Drug-testing laboratories are few. Less than 2000 out of the 50,000 retail outlets employ qualified pharmacists while all the universities put together train less than 2000 pharmacists per year. Sale and resale of second-hand machinery is free, raw materials are traded in the open market, tariff collusion is rampant, hospitality-based incentive-intense marketing practices are endemic and back street manufacturing and spurious drugs continue to burgeon.


In order to mitigate these structural issues, a number of considerations will merit careful attention beyond the creation of DRAP. The onus of responsibility lies with the MoH who will have to provide the leadership for the needed transformation. There is no room for vested interest and incompetence here.


The writer is the founding president of the NGO think tank, Heartfile. Email: sania@heartfile.org

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

LAW IN THE TRIBAL LAND

NASSER YOUSAF

 

The present relentless wave of unrest in the tribal areas has the analysts and commentators scrambling for parallels in the scrap heaps of history. Books about the tribesmen and their land, mostly authored by the British soldiers, that had long been forgotten have suddenly resurfaced in glossy jackets with tempting slogans.

Research scholars also seem to be working overtime to resurrect some prominent characters of the past century possessed with the so-called mythical powers. They seem to be attempting to prove that the Pakhtun tribesmen are in fact controlled by the fanatical mullahs.

The most favoured skeleton that keeps popping out of the closet with every knock is that of Mirza Ali popularly known as the Faqir of Ipi who led a local insurgency against the British in the North Waziristan Agency in the second quarter of the 20th century. It is simply not possible to read an account of the numerous skirmishes motivated by religious fervour involving Pakhtun tribesmen without any reference to the Faqir of Ipi.

The scholars' and analysts' bias in all such works is palpable. The aim appears to be to cull only those pieces from the archives that best suit the present description. For instance, these accounts do not show how a few thousand militants whose origins are suspect at best could force a vast majority of the tribesmen, universally known for their intransigence and pugnacity, to flee their homes and be rendered IDPs. One also fails to find any mention of the sense of fraternity that once prevailed in the tribal areas where Hindus and Sikhs once lived side by side with the Muslims in amity and peace.

M B Wazir, a distinguished civil servant of the Wazir tribe, vividly remembers and also quotes his parents' accounts of how Hindus once literally controlled the entire business scene in the North Waziristan Agency, which is presently seething with unrest of an unimaginable proportion. Similarly the scenic Tirah valley falling both in the Orakzai and Khyber Agencies was until recently a byname for the Sikhs living there peacefully with their Sunni and Shia neighbours. The militants' forays in the valley have totally changed the demography of the area.

One has to accept that a credible anthropological study of the tribesmen has not been attempted in the recent days and reliance is almost invariably laid on past accounts chronicled by the British soldiers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although one recently witnessed mass movement of the tribesmen from the tribal areas, the gradual migration of the tribesmen from their ancestral quarters to the urban areas of KPK and even beyond that to Karachi and Lahore has been going on for over a century.

A scientific study if ever carried out would reveal that the Mohmand tribesmen followed by Afridis, Shinwaris, Bajauris and Wazirs make up a substantial proportion of the total population of Peshawar. Such permanent migrations have helped transform the lifestyles of the tribesmen to a fault. A good number of the tribal households in the settled areas are more civil and urbane than even the native urbanites. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the tribesmen have benefitted a great deal from their liberal quotas in education and jobs paving the way for scores of them to reach coveted positions in the civil and military bureaucracy.

It is not an understatement that the present predicament of the tribesmen still holding on to their ancestral habitats is due to some gross misperceptions. All Pakistani tribesmen irrespective of their present habitations have, unlike the Aboriginals of Australia and African tribesmen, features identical to the common Pakistanis. They have the same characteristics, the same failings, and the same strengths as the rest of their countrymen. If anything is out of place in this definition, it is that the tribal land is tangled in incomprehensible ironies. The lawless nature of the land has become a nemesis for the people refusing to change it.

The tribal areas are administered by political agents, a dubious legacy of the British era. An 'agent' according to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary is a person whose job is to act for or manage the affairs of other people in business, politics etc. This definition was okay while the British were around, but does it make sense now that the former are no more around?

The tribesmen are not other people; they are sitting in our parliament and voting on legislation. It is time the political agent becomes a public administrator in the true spirit of the word. In accordance with his title, he should count each and every living soul in his domain. Unknowingly, he is already doing so by certifying the credentials of a tribesman for service in Pakistan. He must spot the strangers and oust them.

The call for a province made up of the tribal areas is gaining momentum, notably in the educated high profile tribal circles. What better opportunity could there be than this to repeal the lawless status of the tribal land and in fact shed the decayed title of 'tribalism?' But with the law will come the police and the judiciary – the two institutions that the tribesmen abhor to no end despite the fact that numerous tribesmen are presently policing the settlers and sitting on the benches in the conventional courts.

The unravelling must start forthwith. The anthropologist would prove that it would not be possible to rouse the present tribesmen to cleanse their house. Too much has since changed. Those policing others with success must present themselves to be policed. Peshawar, in particular, has suffered greatly due to its suffocating geography. If law is any further late in coming to the tribal land, Peshawarites would be justified in demanding a wall to protect themselves against the raiders gone berserk.



Email: nasseryousaf@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DRUG TRAFFICKING AND THE BLACK ECONOMY

 HUZAIMA BUKHARI AND DR IKRAMUL HAQ

  

June 26 is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. It is being marked since the United Nations General Assembly decided upon it in 1987 to raise awareness global about the dangers of drug abuse, to prevent its spread and to encourage efforts to combat the menace at international level.

Successive governments in Pakistan have been providing money-laundering schemes, termed as economic measures, to bring black money into the mainstream. These schemes have proved highly beneficial to tax evaders, drug barons, extortionists and corrupt businessmen-turned-politicians. Even today, if anybody brings any amount of money (earned from drug trade, tax evasion or any other criminal activity) in a bank account through remittance, the tax authorities cannot question its source.

The criminals just go to a money exchanger, give him money in Pakistani rupees, and he arranges "remittance" (sic) by charging a small premium. All the criminal needs is a fake CNIC (Computerised National Identity Card); we have 30 million such cards, as has been admitted before Supreme Court. In this way, millions of rupees are recycled as white money.

Section 111(4) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, actually facilitates money launderers to remit their ill-gotten money through banking channels and surrender the foreign currency to the State Bank and receive Pakistani rupees in return. In this way they can escape not only taxation but also any query from the FBR. This scheme presumably aimed at bringing huge foreign currency to Pakistan has succeeded immensely as foreign remittances coming close to $11 billion this year. Although this scheme has greatly increased inflow of foreign currency (which is just recycled untaxed money) but our tax-to-GDP ratio has nosedived. The criminals say that in the presence of this lucrative scheme – where one can whiten money by just paying 2 percent premium – only a "stupid" person would pay income tax. Section 111(4) of the Income Tax Ordinance has been widely abused by tax dodgers, drug syndicates and other criminals,including terrorists.

Due to such schemes having complete State patronage, the parallel economy is growing at an alarming rate of 22.93 percent per annum. It is estimated that every fifth rupee transacted in Pakistan is "black." The volume of black money generated in 2009-10 was estimated at Rs3 trillion. A conservative estimate is that between Rs2 to 3 trillion is generated every year by the parallel economy, the share of illicit drug and arms trade in it is not less than Rs400 to Rs500 billion.

At the economic level, Pakistan, in addition, to rehabilitating drug addicts, also needs to spend more on anti-narcotic drives and monitoring. In 1998, the Drug Abuse Control Master Plan (1998-2003) was launched with the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at an expenditure of Rs2.8 billion, out of which Rs1,920 million were for law enforcement and Rs912 million for drug demand reduction. However, out of the total estimated budget, only Rs185.837 million were actually spent. As usual, the plan was only partially implemented and the objectives too could not be fully realised. A revised Drug Abuse Control Master Plan (2007-2011) is now underway with the assistance of the UNODC. The master plan has two components: law enforcement and drug demand reduction.

In 2010, Pakistan had 4.6 million drug addicts. Drug dealers and addicts are also involved in smuggling and prostitution. Black economy has resulted in organised crime, which is different from normal criminal activities. How much drug money is channelled through and kept in Pakistani banks is a question which has yet not drawn the attention of law-enforcement agencies, especially the military-controlled Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF). Drug money has clear linkage with terrorists, but so far no effort has been made by any intelligence apparatus to unearth such connections. In the United States and many Western countries, comprehensive studies have been made to determine the quantum of laundered money and stringent laws have been enforced by governments to check this menace.

John Reed of Citigroup, said in his testimony before the Senate: "I am John Reed, chairman and co-chief executive officer of Citigroup. I appear today with Todd Thomson, who became the head of our Private Bank about ten days ago, and Mark Musi, the head of the Private Bank's Compliance and Control Department. Unfortunately, Shaukat Aziz, who ran the Private Bank for the last two years and under whose leadership many of the improvements in our Private Bank's anti-money laundering programmes took place, cannot participate in these hearings. Mr Aziz would really have been the most appropriate witness today, given his experience and knowledge, but as you know, he was called home to serve his country, Pakistan, as minister of finance. He left the bank on Oct 29. He asked me to submit his statement for the record, and it is attached to my own all financial institutions...whether banks, securities firms, or other types of financial intermediaries are potentially vulnerable to money-laundering.

"Private banks are just one subset of the potentially vulnerable institutions. Our Private Bank, for example, is a very small part of Citigroup, accounting for about 2.5 percent of Citigroup's business. Private banks in general are no more and no less vulnerable to abuse by the unscrupulous and the dishonest than the much larger parts of most financial institutions."

Most of the offshore banks are laundering billions of black money. All the big banks specialising in international fund transfer are called money centre banks, some of the biggest process up to $1 trillion in wire transfers a day. The most recent estimates (2010) are that 60 offshore jurisdictions around the world licensed about 4,000 offshore banks that control approximately $65 trillion in assets.

Money laundering and drugs-for-arms trades are ground realities. We daily hear from the official quarters in the US and elsewhere tall claims about war against drugs and terrorism. This is all eyewash. In reality all the financial institutions and state structures are subservient to these billionaires, the ruthless drug barons and arms suppliers, who know how to move money from one part of the world to another, buy government functionaries, control politicians, law-enforcement officials and get the profits they want from the drug trade – deals of death for many innocent people around the world.



The writers specialise in studying global heroin economy and authors of Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin and Pakistan: Drug-trap to Debt-trap.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

'CAN WE FIGHT AMERICA?'

 ARSHAD ZAMAN

 

This has been denied by an army spokesman, but according to – (June 15), Gen Parvez Ashfaq Kayani is said to have commented in a recent talk to his officers that "we are helpless" against the United States and "Can we fight America?"


Whether he actually made the comment or not, this is the wrong question to ask, because no one wants to fight America. The more appropriate question is: "Can we defend Pakistan better?"


The idea that to defend Pakistan is to fight America is akin to acceptance of George W Bush's false dichotomy in his address to Congress on Sept 20, 2001: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."


This offer of two extreme choices to those who disagree with you seeks to weaken their will to resist you, by obscuring the existence of moderate, more effective responses, such as those available to Pakistan in its dealings with the United States.


In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, while there was an unprecedented wave of sympathy across the world for the American people, eyebrows were raised even in Western countries at the American government's rhetoric of religious bigotry and lawless vengeance.


On Sept 16, Bush referred to "this crusade, this war on terrorism..." Four days later, he resorted to the language of lynch mobs when he threatened to "bring justice to our enemies."


Sensible opinion across the world recoiled at this readiness of American neo-fascists in government (who call themselves neo-conservatives) to betray the principles on which America was founded and embrace mediaeval Christian values that led to centuries of European wars. In the Muslim world, Iran was the first to reject this absurd ultimatum.


Lawless regimes, however, welcomed the new American attitude. In Pakistan, two years earlier, the generals had deposed an elected prime minister, suspended the Constitution, browbeaten the judiciary and brought Pakistan under their control.


The coup d'etat was justified not by denial of the authority of the prime minister to dismiss the army chief but by the charge that the government had failed to fulfil the protocol to which he was entitled!


The Americans purposely made too many demands on Musharraf, expecting him to negotiate their terms. They were surprised when he accepted everything, and eagerly offered more. It was in this context that the false doctrine was born, that to defend Pakistan is to fight America.


While he justified his surrender by repeating the two-choice scenario to the nation, Musharraf could not have been blind to the secondary gains of accepting American slavery. Lt-Gen Niazi was taken prisoner when he surrendered his 93,000 men in December 1971, but he did so after a fight. Gen Musharraf lives off American largesse and under American protection, having served the Americans without an iota of resistance.

But the past is behind us. While new challenges have emerged, so have new opportunities. The military must change the mindset that because "we can't fight America" we must give them a free hand to occupy parts of our territory and airspace, kill our citizens in broad daylight and walk away free, and conduct covert operations through a network of spies, mercenaries, and terrorists within Pakistan, to attack military facilities and foment domestic strife.


The sky will not fall if we offer a bit more resistance against these unlawful American activities in the country. The example of the Turks, who successfully resisted American demands that Turkey assist in the invasion of Iraq, merits study and emulation.


The people of Pakistan do not expect the military to invade America, but they do expect it to defend Pakistan, not just against India but against all invaders.

 

The writer is a retired economist. Blog: afpakwar.com. Email: afpakwar@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CURSORY JUSTICE?

BABAR SATTAR

 

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

Can erratic judicial remedies be an effective means to attack injustice? In these dark times one is loath to critique the work of the Supreme Court - the only national institution doing some good around here. But when it comes to scrutinising the performance of vital state institutions with the object of constructive reform, the standard of such scrutiny ought not be guided by one s affinity with the institution in question. Can one look away when the honourable Supreme Court produces judicial outcomes not backed by principle? There are at least three glaring problems with the Supreme Court s current approach to administering justice.

One, the do-good zeal and desire to hold the bad boys accountable and produce outcomes that satisfy the lordships basic sense of justice is resulting in confused jurisprudence not backed by established legal principles. Two, the manner of exercise of suo moto jurisdiction that transforms our highest judicial forum into the court of first instance and the fervour to dispense instant justice seems to be compromising the due process of law and the quality of justice delivered. And three, by continuing to preside over a top-heavy judicial system and paying scant attention to the capacity and capability of lower courts (which remain the interface of justice with the ordinary Joe), for the majority that rose up to fight for constitutionalism in 2007 access to justice remains as forlorn a dream today. The Chief Justice is making the right pitch to address this issue which should be acknowledged.

On May 18 the Supreme Court dismissed the remaining PCO judges still on the bench, who were already confirmed judges on March 3, 2007 and consequently could not be removed through the Sindh High Court Bar Association ruling (the Judges Case). There can be no love lost for a judge who violates his oath to protect and defend the Constitution and swears a new one to keep his job. So this Judges Case II that sends packing the remaining PCO judges should be welcome, right? Wrong. A desirable justice system is one wherein judges act as neutral arbiters of the law without bias or considerations of fear or favour. The Judges Case II is a torturous read because it contradicts explicit constitutional text and the Sindh High Court Bar Association ruling.

This ruling is disappointing most of all because it blows up the very foundation upon which the rule of law movement was founded. When Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was rendered non-functional on March 9, 2007, the unanimous legal opinion was that the Constitution does not vest in anyone the authority to prevent a judge from discharging his constitutional duties. Post-November 3, 2007, the legal fraternity reiterated its view that Article 209 unambiguously prohibits the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court or high court except upon the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, and any dilution of this foundational principle would subvert security of tenure and independence of the judiciary.

How can a court that exists today by virtue of the infallibility of Article 209 disregard the principle it enshrines? Can any judge (no matter how evil), whose office is constitutionally protected, be removed without following the mandatory process of Article 209? Can a six-member bench override the order of a 14-member bench that held in Sindh High Court Bar Association case (PLD 2009 SC 879 @ 960) that PCO judges in question had become liable to be proceeded against under Article 209 and Secretary Law ought to initiate Supreme Judicial Council proceedings? Further, if the PCO judges had breached the Constitution on November 3, 2007, how can the apex court hold that they stopped being judges not from that day but from the day that the 18th Amendment was passed and parliament refused to protect their unconstitutional action?

An action is either legal or illegal. How can an illegal action under law take effect as of such date when a coordinate institution of the state refuses to retrospectively protect such illegality? Can a court hold that the wrongful conduct of a person is so egregious that he doesn t merit the protection of due process? And if the conduct of the PCO judges was so perverse that they didn t even deserve the benefit of Article 209 of the Constitution and due process, how can the Supreme Court simultaneously hold that they still remain eligible for service and pension benefits? The PCO judges might have experienced poetic justice , but verdicts that seem to be settling scores may prove damaging for rule of law.

Moving on to suo moto and the apex court s instant justice fervour, while declaring that the grant of leasehold rights to McDonalds in F-9 Park Islamabad was irregular and consequently illegal, the court went on to personally indict the then chairman CDA, Kamran Lashari. The human rights petition being heard had not imputed any allegation of mala fide or graft to the person of Lashari nor was any evidence adduced before the court establishing the same. Kamran Lashari, who had since moved to serve as secretary to a federal ministry was summoned by the court during case proceedings to explain the reasons and the manner in which the CDA board leased land to McDonalds.

Without charging Lashari with any offence, informing him that he was being tried for misconduct, undertaking a factual inquiry into his personal conduct or giving him an opportunity to defend himself, the Supreme Court simply sealed his fate by declaring that, a perusal of the documents made available to the court abundantly makes it clear that Mr Kamran Lashari, in violation of the Constitution, CDA Ordinance, as well as other rules and regulations granted lease of 33 years of government land at very nominal money to M/S Siza Food, in a non-transparent manner, undoubtedly with the connivance of the other officials of the CDA; therefore they all deserve to be dealt with strictly for misconduct, departmentally, as well as by instituting both civil and criminal action against them so that it may serve as a deterrent for likeminded persons...

Kamran Lashari sought a review of this ruling to explain his position. He was denied the right to seek legal representation on the ground that as he chose not to be represented by counsel during the main case (where he wasn t a party and was summoned on court notice), and had consequently lost this right. During the review, where he was his own attorney, he was told in open court that he ought to be ashamed of himself for trying to defend his actions. He wisely withdrew his petition not to prejudice his interests anymore. Isn t it a fundamental principle of justice that no man ought to be condemned unheard? Isn t the right to fair trial and due process an inalienable constitutional right? Doesn t our Constitution offer protection against self-incrimination? Doesn t Kamran Lashari deserve the right to be granted a fair inquiry under the E&P Rules before being found guilty of misconduct and connivance?


And this is no isolated case. The IGP Sindh and DG Rangers were recently removed on the orders of the Supreme Court in the aftermath of that atrocious murder in Karachi. Can the savagery of a crime be allowed to dilute the safety of the justice system? The IGP and DG Rangers could have resigned by accepting moral responsibility for a ghastly incident that transpired under their command. The government could have removed them as a matter of policy. But could a court remove them as a legal matter without first affixing their responsibility through a fair inquiry?


The right to due process constitutes the heart and soul of a system of justice. It is about time our lordships reevaluate the quality of justice they are meting out and its frustratingly limited scope.


Email:
sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MEMO FROM USA

 ANJUM NIAZ

 

No, this never will happen in Pakistan. The civilian government can't overrule the army. When our parliamentarians got an in-camera briefing by our faujis on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad domicile, our fainthearted legislators lost their tongues. They lacked the gall to ask leading questions of their uniformed interlocutors. But in genuine democracies the man calling the shots is the civilian president and not the army chief. Obama made that clear three nights ago when he announced a drawdown of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by October next.

General Petraeus, the genius behind the 'counter-insurgency' strategy wanted the 33,000 strong sent to Afghanistan for the 'surge' (another Petraeus coinage) to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. But the general lost to Vice President Biden, who consistently opposed the 'surge'. Obama threw his hat with Biden.

Ask any American if the US should continue spending $2 billion a week in maintaining 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, you will hear an emphatic 'No'. Almost all Democratic lawmakers, like Joe Biden, have lost faith in counter-insurgency designed to win the hearts of the Afghan people, rather than simply killing the 20,000 plus Taliban/Al-Qaeda militants fighting the Americans for a decade. "We are war weary and nobody is particularly interested in nation building in Afghanistan where even 10 million soldiers can't handle a mere 20,000 militants" was the chorus post Obama speech in Washington.

Now here's a caveat. With Petraeus having lost the first round, he will try retaking his 'American idol' image by turning his guns on Pakistan as he readies to become the CIA chief come September. He believes in drone bombardment over Pakistan. America already has Zardari's and Kayani's nod as the WikiLeaks Pakistan Papers will have us believe. Petraeus hearings for his new job have begun on the Hill. He will be grilled why he wants American soldiers to continue fighting in Afghanistan. We shall soon get his answers. They will be Pakistan-centric, I bet.

The New York Times is already pointing in Islamabad's direction. It's the fear of Pakistan "harbouring of terrorist groups" which is "more than an urgent problem", says the newspaper. And since Pakistan won't allow American boots on the ground, Obama wants to ensure that 25,000 troops remain permanently on 'Af-Pak' border to go after the terrorists crossing over to Pakistan.

"The US will never tolerate a safe haven for those who would destroy us," warned Obama in the same breath while mentioning Pakistan in his speech. He conveyed this message to Zardari in a phone call before he addressed the American nation. What do you think Zardari said in response? Here's my guess: "I agree with you Mr President. I will convey your message to my army chief." Obama had known the answer all along!

The ISI has newly okayed 67 CIA operatives to enter Pakistan. What are these guys going to be doing? General Pasha of ISI says he knows what their job description is and he's quite comfortable with them coming over. What about the contractors hired by the US government that roam around free in Pakistan? Guys like Raymond Davis. By the way, has anyone heard about Davis' fate? Didn't Senator Kerry promise us that Davis would face the US law on his release from Pakistan? Here's a hot tip for the snoopy US media to follow – go find out what's cookin in your backyard on Davis instead of poking holes in the Pakistan Army and its intelligence outfits.

Let's keep our eye on the ball – will Petraeus succeed in driving a wedge between the Zardari-Kayani-Pasha partnership as CIA chief? Look out people. Something has to crack because the newfound civil-military comradeship is cosmetic.



The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: anjumniaz@rocketmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WE WISH BAN KI-MOON WAS EFFECTIVE

 

AT the beginning of his second term as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon has expressed pious intentions about resolution of a dispute that is the agenda of the world body for over sixty years. In an interaction with media-persons, Moon declared that he would be discussing the long-standing Kashmir dispute with the leaders of India and Pakistan to help resolve it peacefully through dialogue.


It is indeed the duty and responsibility of the UN Chief to help build bridges of understanding between warring states or parties or on issues that directly impact upon regional and global peace and security. The organization he heads was established for the very purposes but regrettably so far the world body has not been able to discharge its obligations in a satisfactory manner and there is substance in complaints that the UN has become synonymous to US, as it blindly follows the dictates of and lines drawn by Washington. This became vividly clear when Americans bypassed the UN in carrying out aggression against Iraq on the false premise of destroying weapons of mass destruction and maneuvered questionable mandate for Afghanistan and lately with regard to Libya, the two countries which are being bombed to stone-age just for the sake of strategic interests and control over natural resources. Special responsibility devolved on the UN Secretary-General to make genuine efforts to restore badly dented image of the organization but we are sorry to point out that he has been totally lackluster in his first term. It is strange that he overlooked the Kashmir issue during his entire term despite the fact that no sustainable peace was conceivable in South Asia without its resolution as per UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Ban Ki-Moon should have asserted and played a dynamic role in facilitating final but just settlement of the dispute but he preferred to remain silent spectator to gross human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir and denial of fundamental right of self-determination to Kashmiri people. Now again, he is talking in vague term — to speak to both Pakistan and India on the issue — knowing fully well that all attempts to resolve it bilaterally have been thwarted by India. We would, therefore, urge the UN Secretary-General to play a meaningful role, use his good offices with India and take steps for implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

US-AFGHANISTAN — SANS PAKISTAN

 

IN the face of growing domestic public opinion that had started questioning the rationale of fighting war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has announced a troops' draw down plan that envisages pulling out ten thousand troops from Afghanistan this year, followed by twenty-three thousand more by the last quarter of 2012. But the plan has not gone well both in Pentagon that wanted slower withdrawal and Taliban who have termed it mere symbolic devoid of any substantial impact.


The long-drawn war in Afghanistan is becoming a serious strain not only for the US economy but the entire globe besides posing grave threats to regional and world peace and stability. It is because of this that the US public opinion is getting weary of the jingoistic designs of Pentagon and many of the allies too are demanding a face-saving mechanism to pull out of the Afghan quagmire. Direct and indirect contacts with Taliban are understandably aimed at that and all sides are apparently supporting the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process. The countries involved need to put their act together to ensure an orderly end to the war but it seems that the United States itself is undermining this lofty objective because of confused policies and approaches. On the one hand, President Obama is all praise for Pakistani contribution acknowledging that the US was able to nab over half of Al-Qaeda operatives just because of active cooperation from Pakistan but in the same breath he is hurling threat on the country on the issue of so-called safe havens. And his Defence Secretary is making tall claims that success was possible in the war in Afghanistan sans Pakistan's help. In a related development, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the US is not prepared to continue the same levels of military aid to Pakistan unless it sees some changes in the relationship, making it absolutely clear that the recent moves in the US Congress to reduce aid by about three-fourth had full backing of the Administration. These double standards and knee-jerk reactions to a highly complicated issue would not serve the cause of peace and security and could even compound the situation further. Pakistan is making no demands but it is within its right to ensure safeguarding of its national interests in post-withdrawal period and sooner the world especially the United States understand it the better.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INTEGRATING FATA AND MORE

 

ARMY has actively been pursuing the development path with a view to bringing back the trouble areas of the country to the national mainstream. Earlier, it inducted thousands of Baloch youth in the army, provided valuable support in creating economic opportunities in different areas especially in far-flung ones and bowed before decision of the civilian democratic government to return to barracks from some of the hot spots leaving responsibility to maintain law and order and security to local authorities.


In FATA as well, the Army is following the same approach as a result of which it is succeeding in winning the battle of hearts and minds in the insurgency hit areas. Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, who is spearheading this campaign, visited FATA on Thursday where he inaugurated the Wana Cadet College and performed groundbreaking ceremony of Wana-Angoor Adda Road. This road has great economic values as its construction would help boost trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Addressing separate jirgas of Ahmadzai Wazir and Mehsud tribes in Wana and Chegmalai areas of South Waziristan, the COAS held out an assurance that the army would withdraw from FATA as soon as people of the area were able to take up their responsibilities. This is a wise approach as involvement of the local people is key to success in restoring normalcy in FATA. We believe that had efforts been made right from Ayub Khan era to integrate FATA with the rest of the country in a gradual manner without disturbing local traditions, values and norms, the situation today would have been quite different. Anyhow, they say it is never too late to mend and the Government, in consultation with all stakeholders, should draw up a comprehensive strategy to do so in months and years to come. The best way would be to launch an all-encompassing developmental plan to help ameliorate lot of the poverty-stricken people of the area and for this purpose the US should be persuaded to give practical shape to the lollipop of ROZs.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

MISSING PERSONS' CASE

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

A two-member bench of Supreme Court headed by Justice Javed Iqbal expressed dissatisfaction over the role of NGOs in missing persons' case. Taking notice of press conferences by NGOs in Balochistan, Justice Javed Iqbal observed that it has become a trend that NGOs exaggerate figures of missing persons but fail to provide details about them. He remarked that these NGOs were just spreading sensationalism and conducting press conferences without obtaining facts on the missing persons. He asked the NGO representatives to provide complete details of persons whom they claim are missing. The court, however, directed the additional secretaries of ministries of interior and foreign affairs to file replies on Pakistanis languishing in foreign prisons. The officials of both the ministries told the court that 103 Pakistanis were languishing in the jails abroad, out of which 8 have been brought home. The court also directed the Sindh and Punjab inspector generals of police to submit comprehensive reports about the missing persons in their respective provinces.


According to website 'lifethelove.wordpress.com', some 8000 people were still missing in Pakistan. Baloch leaders also insist that thousands of Baloch activists and nationalists have disappeared. However, Defence of Human Rights Pakistan Chairperson Amna Janjua told the court that the number of missing persons was rising every passing day. Though in the past, she insisted that there were thousands of missing persons, but in the court she said that "248 persons were missing by January 2011, of them 130 are in Punjab, 79 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 18 in Balochistan, 16 in Sindh, 5 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 6 in Tribal Areas". Balochistan is veritably in a spot for quite some time for missing persons and also in the vile lap of target killings. Its problem is complex and intricate, not readily explicable, and not amenable to easy solution and populist remedies. There have been target killings of innocent civilians, teachers, professors and cops and security personnel in Balochistan. The question can be asked whether the lives of non-Balochis are less valuable than the lives of Baloch nationalists?


Nobody in his right sense would condone extra-judicial killings. But in case anybody challenges writ of the state or is responsible for creating rebellion-like situation on whatever pretext, he should be prosecuted and punished. After every murder of a dissident in Quetta and elsewhere, some pseudo-intellectuals and media men accuse intelligence agencies and military for murders and disappearance of persons. While there could be some suspects arrested by the police or intelligence agencies, but one should not rule out the possibility that a number of missing persons could be in Afghanistan and India. According to a news report carried by national English daily last year, more than 100 Pakistani Baloch dissidents were sent to India by the Indian consulate located in Kandahar (Afghanistan) for six-month training. Governor and chief minister of Balochistan have more than once said that there is credible evidence of India's support to insurgents in Balochistan.



Of course, there should be high-powered judicial enquiry for missing persons, which should not only locate missing persons held on various charges but also trace them from Ferrari Camps/Detention Centres being run by Baloch Sardars and insurgents. Investigation should also be made to find out how many people have gone underground or gone to Afghanistan for training. In a new WikiLeaks cable released in June 2011, a US diplomat said that the Supreme Court's order to locate missing persons in October 2006 was the first official acknowledgement that the government had crossed a red line. In a cable filed by US diplomat Peter Bodde had stated that 41 missing persons are believed to have been arrested by government authorities and subsequently held incommunicado. "Without cooperation from Pakistan's powerful intelligence and security agencies, however, there is little chance of accounting for up to 600 others who are still missing", he added.

The fact remains that common Balochis have suffered at the tyrannical and coercive hands of their sardars and their armed militias to become even the gun fodder of their bloody feuds, fracas and revolts. These 'wretched of the earth' suffered when some arrogant sardars were at the helm in provincial government in Balochistan. And again these poor Blochis suffered when some sardars rebel against the centre and take to mountains. In other words, sardars enjoy all the benefits and receive huge amounts in the form of royalties while the common citizenry stays invariably deprived. In any case, arrogant sardars prosper more; they grow richer; and they become more powerful socially as well as politically. On the other hand, people of Balochistan are getting only poorer, impoverished, and helplessly disempowered. Former Senator and Secretary General of Balochistan Nation Party Habib Jalib was assassinated on 13th July 2010, and a defa musallah group of Balochistan had claimed the responsibility. He was a voice of reason and believed in parliamentary democracy. Murders of some progressive and moderate Balochis are done to create scare and bring the government into disrepute. However, no one in his right senses would support state terrorism or condone the killing of Pakistanis whether sardar or a common Baloch, but one has to look into the circumstances in which a person is killed. Sardar Akbar Bugti was killed when he had challenged the writ of the state. After his murder, his supporters were involved in abduction, kidnapping of local civilians for ransom and also security personnel for acceptance of their illegitimate demands including release of their 'comrade in arms'. During January and February 2010, Brahamdagh Bugti discussed with his front man Mlahar about release of kidnapped security officials. After the tragic death of Akbar Bugti, Baloch leader Sardar Khair Buksh Marri in an interview had described the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti as a target killing, and was concerned over the danger to the life of his own son Balach Marri, who was later killed in Afghanistan. They should wean off the politics of confrontation and armed struggle to save their scions and the people at large.

Pashtun political parties and groups had strongly opposed the target killings in Quetta and demanded of the Baloch nationalists to openly condemn these killings and disassociate themselves with the elements responsible for such heinous crimes otherwise they would demand that Pushtun areas be amalgamated with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In fact, rivaling international forces, including world powers and regional countries are eyeing Balochistan avariciously to push it into their own orbits of influence and domination. According to political and defence analysts, the US, Russia, India and even Iran are either directly or indirectly widening the ethnic and sectarian schisms in Balochistan and FATA with a view to advancing their agendas to destabilize Pakistan. There are reports that the US and UK are also supporting the centrifugal forces and insurgents in Balochistan. Iran should understand that it has a large Baloch population on its side of border with Pakistan and the Indian desire of weakening Pakistan by creating independent Balochistan could cost Iran heavily, as greater Balochistan plan includes Sistan province of Iran.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

REGIONAL APPROACH TO AFGHAN CONFLICT

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

President Obama has announced the draw down schedule of American troops from Afghanistan. Eighteen months ago, he was mis-led by his generals into a massive troop surge that he personally didn't fully support. He has now re-shuffled his war and diplomatic teams to lead the path of de-escalation. However, America and its ISAF/NATO paraphernalia appear as bewildered and clueless about the end objectives as they were ten years and billions of dollars earlier. Neighbouring countries of Afghanistan are fearful of negative fallouts from Afghanistan similar to post Soviet withdrawal era. Though there are nearly a dozen functional initiatives at the international level focused on the Afghan conflict, unfortunately all of them are missing the very basic ingredient, the role of the six countries which have common borders with Afghanistan.


The UN Security Council has voted (resolutions 1988 &1989) to split joint sanctions' blacklist for Al Qaeda and the Taliban (mandated under resolution 1267). This distinction has long been argued for by independent analysts. It is indeed a long way from Holbrooke's rhetoric that 'only good Taliban are dead Taliban'. Bifurcation of these two entities is yet another major American retreat since Secretary Hillary Clinton's speech to the Asia Society last February in which longstanding American preconditions to talks with the Afghan Taliban were reconfigured as end objectives. Strategic failure for America is not that its military component in Afghanistan has failed; this has been a foregone conclusion by all serious security analysts since 2002, when America pushed the Afghan militants to the countries bordering Afghanistan. Real fiasco is that structures and institutions essential for incrementally squeezing the space for insurgency have failed to evolve. Even where there have been nominal military successes, a quandary haunts as to the viability of sustainable security, sans overwhelming American firepower and manpower. The Afghan government simply doesn't have the capacity or ability to hold a fragile country at its own. Ultimately Americans are poised to handover Afghanistan to almost same forces from whom they snatched it a decade ago, and in an almost same status.


Last week President Karzai acknowledged for the first time that Afghanistan and the United States are engaged in peace talks with the Taliban. Though substantive negotiations are going on for over a year and are at a fairly advanced stage, America has underplayed it by saying that contacts are at the initial evaluation stage. Under these circumstances, credit goes to the visionary approach of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov who foresaw the importance of regional dynamics towards peace and stability in Afghanistan way back in 1997, to mitigate the ill effects of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which were, by then, beginning to threaten the stability of the entire region. At that time, collapse of Soviet Union had triggered a number of conflicts in Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, and instability in Afghanistan was reinforcing the conflicts throughout Central Asia and beyond.


To provide structural and institutional support, "6+2" initiative was launched by Uzbekistan in 1999 involving six bordering counties of Afghanistan plus the US and Russia. Other five immediate neighbors of Afghanistan viz Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan enthusiastically supported the initiative. In 1999 and 2000 two rounds of peace talks were held in Tashkent, under the patronage of the UN, between representatives of Taliban Government and Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. The six neighboring countries of Afghanistan along with the US and Russia opted to become the guarantors of the peace process between rival factions of Afghanistan. This process was well on its way to conclude a comprehensive agreement, however unfortunately it was interrupted by post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan by foreign troops.


Moving forth, President Karimov proposed a variant of his previous concept to resolve the current impasse on Afghanistan during the Bucharest NATO summit in April 2008; "Since we are speaking about establishing the stability in Afghanistan, along with providing living needs of the Afghan people by using the possibilities of international assistance, it was expedient to resume the negotiation process on achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan in the framework of contact group '6+2', which effectively operated during 1997-2001 with the support of the United Nations". President Karimov proposed to transform the 6+2 contact group into 6+3 including NATO; he also spoke about the proposal at the United Nations General Assembly's 65th meeting in 2010.

We need to evaluate this proposal in the context of success story of 'Shanghai Cooperation Organization'. The SCO started off as a humble entity, created by China to enlist neighbouring states' cooperation in maintaining stability in its turbulent Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan agreed to work with Beijing to prevent the cross-border population of ethnic Uighurs from mobilizing to challenge Chinese rule. In turn, they gained China's cooperation in opposing their own separatist movements. Over the years, the SCO has developed an interesting infrastructure for security cooperation.

The SCO's military and law-enforcement related military drills have become a regular event. Cooperation is not confined to terrorism alone; a number of organizational agreements require member states to target separatists and extremists as well. SCO states are under treaty obligation to honour each other's blacklists of individuals and organizations accused of terrorism, separatism or extremism. A Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent operates a sophisticated shared intelligence database accessible to all member states. SCO member states have agreed to extradite, and prevent the granting of refugee status to, individuals who are flagged by any member state as a terrorist, separatist or extremist threat.


Uzbekistan's "6+3" initiative needs to be transposed on SCO's practical experience to evolve appropriate structures and institutions to suit Afghanistan's local conditions. There is absolute consensus on the composition of "6"; however "+3" factor needs careful scrutiny. Due to dubious strategy and ambiguous objectives, America has lost its credibility as an honest underwriter of peace in Afghanistan as well as in Asia. Russia's recent military intervention in Afghanistan on the pretext of anti-narcotics operation drew a rage from Afghans who considered it as a litmus test by Russia on behest of America to explore the possibility of filling of post- America void in Afghanistan. Moreover, NATO is perceived as extension of America's military power, hence its membership will only enhance the American clout in the "6+3" setup. Furthermore, Afghanistan needs to be associated with the process. Russia and America may be invited to join the initiative as observers.

It would be worthwhile to revise the "+3" component to comprise of Afghanistan, the United Nations and the OIC. Key groups of Taliban may be invited as observers. America may be asked to expedite its withdrawal and the security void may be filled by a UN peace mission composed of contingents drawn from the OIC member states, excluding the "6" and other neighbouring countries of Afghanistan. The "6+3" should find out the causes that have lead to frequent foreign interventions in Afghanistan and recommend measures to avoid recurrence, such measures should be implemented through UNSC resolution under chapter VII of the UN charter.

—The writer is an analyst of international security and current affairs. He is a former Assistant Chief of Air Staff of Pakistan Air Force.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

UNDERSTANDING REAL LEADERSHIP IN PAK

SHAUKAT MASOOD ZAFAR

 

Foresight is a talent and foresight with vision forms leadership. Nations are built by proactive visionary intellectuals and leaders, not by anti literacy feudal and neo-colonial politicians pursuing personal agendas. Leaders fall short of prophecy, yet exercise this exquisite art of observing, feeling, knowing and doing about the needs of people surrounding them. Only adding humility to a visionary leadership can produce real legends. Major problem faced by Pakistan today is the lack of visionary, sincere and patriot leadership. Pakistan needs a visionary leader at the helm to take the country out of its endless turmoil of blood and steel.

The Pakistani state is showing a clear distance from the people, enlarging the dictatorship, the political and economical differentiation and is headed toward the moving back of the society. Political parties everywhere generate new leaderships and infuse new blood into the system but here in Pakistan parties are kept restricted and stagnant. Democracy and feudalism cannot go together. Asif Zardari is actually a dictator wearing cloaks of democracy to fool the nation. Just like we claim that democracy and military uniform can't go together, we need to admit that neither can democracy and feudalism. The power of landlords was broken in India by the successive Indian governments. As a result, it is now recognized as the largest democracy in the world while Pakistan, even today, is defined as a rogue state.

Except for sucking all the blood out of Pakistan's veins and leaving it crippled, all the PPP regimes really did not accomplish anything during the previous tenure of their leadership. It is a regime of violence and injustice. To keep the power of violence and injustice, the dictators attack first of all the brain of the society, the intellectuals, which is happening in Pakistan with full force. Now crime and corruption is dominating Pakistan. It is the organized crime of the gangs united with the current regime. The political manipulation of 'divide & rule" has been successfully devised by Mr. Zardari, the political monarch of PPP, for his personal gains by controlling the destiny of 180 million people of Pakistan. His scheme of political abuse has surely brought enormous prosperity, but only in his own family, not the masses. Since the method of his governance was based on his self-interest, the impact of his ruthlessness has reached its maximum and has started to reflect on every segment of lives of Pakistanis.

Leadership in the political framework requires a focus on the long-term good of a country, above and ahead of any personal short-term gains. Good political leadership requires a combination of charisma and integrity, as well as the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be best for the greatest number of people, which is for sure missing in the present regime. Most of all, leadership in a political framework requires 'statesmanship' – as opposed to just being a 'politician' – this means having the integrity and willingness to stand up for what is right, even if it means resigning a position in government or losing an election – but the same is absolutely non existent in PPP top leadership. Present regime has ignored the will of the people far too long by catering to Washington's whims and exercising oppression and suppression of the people. It is time for all leaders of Pakistan to know that serving the so called "War on Terror" should not, and cannot, be a guarantee for peace and stability in the country. It can serve only the sitting regime to prolong their rule and rely on Washington's support to evade accountability and transparency at home. Pakistan desperately needs spotless and visionary leadership at every level, as well as a competent government replacing the corrupt and illegitimate Zardari regime, a new proactive educated and intelligent leadership aiming at restoration of the domestic political harmony and social normalcy, ceasing the confrontational strategy in North Waziristan and demanding immediate withdrawal of the American and British troops from Afghanistan. Only then the country will be out of trouble

In present Pakistani politics it is only Nawaz Sharif who looks different from the rest and it is no doubt that whole country is looking towards PML (N). The people of Pakistan are somewhat disappointed due to his constantly providing a shield to the same people who had been described by him as political dirt, a corrupt bunch and scum of the earth. Although with clean hands Nawaz Sharif is more blamed because he has failed to stop Zardari from plundering the people of Pakistan as well as state institutions. On the other hand he has failed to assure the nation and the world that Pakistani politics and politicians are capable of handling incompetence, corruption, criminal neglect and utter lack of moral, political and economic vision. Simply keeping a corrupt regime in power in the name of "democracy" is no big achievement. It is also a hard fact that because of his support to Zardari, his support and popularity has been badly eroded. Loss of his support would surely benefit Zardari during next election. Mian Nawaz Sharif has also made no inroads in any other province, so if the present scenario prevails PML (N) is likely to get a lesser number of seats than it has now.

Mian Nawaz Sharif should analyze the public sentiments and quit the support of Zardari. He should support Pakistan and its poor people. He should also form alliances with other like minded parties/ politicians otherwise PML (N) would not be able to stay in power even in Punjab. His constant and unconditional support to Zardari based on fear of another military intervention, has actually brought the feared military intervention closer than he thinks. But the losses caused to the country and its institutions by Zardari due to his constant support during the last three years would not be recovered in coming so many decades. After long march and resultant restoration of judiciary the PML-N stood at the crest of a high wave. Had it used even ordinary political sense, the party could have enjoyed status of popular national force countrywide. But it let this rare opportunity pass and continued to support Zardari who was then at the bottom of his popularity graph. Many other opportunities beckoned the party to add to its standing and popularity by owning and championing the cause of the aggrieved people of Pakistan, because of the failures of the Zardari led PPP Government, governance, corruption and law and order issues but PML (N) lost these opportunities too. The party needs to be reorganized at village and union council level and the workers should be focused and taken forward so that foundation for a political and popular change could be laid down in the country. Workers are the assets of the party who deserve honor and respect. I hope with little efforts it can be transformed into a revolutionary and popular party. It is need of the day to develop talented human resources of Pakistan to the full, supported with the moral and professional values and competence of the highest level so as to refer to his success as the success of the organization he is working and consider himself as only a part of the big picture. Every worker should be a dynamic personality, who on the one hand should take up the reigns of his organization and take it to the peak of brilliance and on the other hand should be a tycoon contributing to the economy of Pakistan. To achieve this goal the PML (N) should form think tanks within the party in different sectors as a permanent source of policy formulation so that party should enter into power with full preparation.

PML (N) should welcome all constructive suggestions to improve governance. Majority of the people who love the country are eager to work with PML (N) towards building a just and prosperous Pakistan... I hope that PML (N) will now reverse its decision to support the present corrupt Government, and will onward support only and only State of Pakistan and its poor people.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

FLUX THE NAME OF FREEDOM!

MAIMUNA ASHRAF

 

It is an established and valid fact that three characters are very important for our society. These are teacher, lawyer and journalist. Teacher teaches the children to produce an educated nation, lawyer manages justice for the poor and journalist makes public opinion. In civilized and civic societies all these characters are performing their duties very well and these societies have reached the pinnacle of glory. In our country these characters are born accidently. Those who can't become doctors, engineers, or can't join armed forces switch over to social sciences or law and when they loose every opportunity in life, they join these three professions and start playing with the fate of the nation and take revenge of their deprivation and set of complexes by making corruption and all sorts of evils. Today country is confronted with the plethora of problems due to several reasons but some factors are boosting these problems as our infantile media and anchors.

It goes without saying that media is forth estate of any country. But in our country it is proving itself otherwise. The mushroom growth of media channels has brought tremendous chaos and frustration to our nation. If we recall in past most of the people hailed the explosion of media channels in Musharraf's era but it proved a short sighted decision. The long-term repercussions of allowing dozens of news channels were not kept in mind. No media policies and strategies were setup and this started a competition among channels for gaining maximum viewership, so a trend of playing tricks to amuse and entertain the people took place. The media is an important tool of generating opinion. The current era of technology is converting the world into global village. Pakistan has a vibrant media landscape; the media enjoys independence to a large extent. After having been liberalized in 2002, the television sector experienced a media boom, but most of the shows are lacking responsibility with regards to the national integrity, security and Pakistan interests. In the fierce competitive environment that followed commercial interests became paramount and quality journalism turned into sensationalism. In the name of freedom of expression, our media today is flying like an over speeding vehicle on the highway of disaster.

The contribution of our media is declaring Pakistan as an unstable terrorist state in the eyes of the world. It will not b wrong to say that Pakistan is fighting a war on all fronts including the media warfare. It is very much responsible for creating a state of confusion in the mind of people of Pakistan. They are leaving no stone unturned to expose and demoralize the nation on various fronts. It's an undeniable fact that people world over prefer to watch entertainment programmes or channels. But this sensationalism has changed the psyche of the nation and made them stick to TV screens morning to evening and watch the sensationalized and demoralizing programmes. Does freedom of speech mean that you can say anything you like, anyway you want? Isn't it true that Freedoms and Rights should be practiced with sense of responsibility? Do we know the importance of propaganda and media warfare?

A senior security personal told BBC that due to the live coverage of PNS Mehran base operation against militants, forces were reluctant to change their strategy as the movement of forces was being shown on the television screens which resulted in the movement of the militants accordingly. It should be realized that live coverage of such critical operations brings no good to public nevertheless it disclose the seclusion and strategies of such operations. Whether we talk about live coverage, the brutal murder of two brothers in Sialkot, or the killings of five foreigners in Akhroatabad, or the atrocious killing of a youngster in Karachi by the bristly bullets of men from rangers, nothing appears a blot from blue. Such scenes have become a part of daily routine. If we evaluate that what this broadcasting has done good for the nation, we will stumble on, that watching such scenes 24/7 on our television screens have made the people desensitize. Psychologist states that watching such scenes repeatedly can plunge whole society in anxiety and extremism. In other words, we are not only making our youngsters pitiless but also raising a stone-hearted generation.

News like notice has been taken, notice should be taken, investigation will be held, and probe committee will be set up, have become a daily practice of our media. Liquor was found in Atiqa Odho's luggage became the headline and most sizzling news for several days, Supreme Court took the notice. However liquor in someone luggage at airport is not an exceptional case, we are not living at a wine-free land but yes media has the power that a renowned personality can become legendary or notorious. Sensationalism and Breaking news phobia is badly affecting the quality and purpose of news channels. Its legitimacy has already been challenged by many analysts as it has been proclaimed at many platforms that Pakistani media is mostly controlled by business men and politicians who use it to promote their own interests and if the investors or owners belong to some foreign state, that also effects the credibility as mostly in such case media people want to earn the place in good books of owner and hence effect the national interest and their professional responsibilities. There is no doubt that when commercial interests are involved, truth will always be compromised.

Those who are crying over the irresponsible and uncontrolled media of Pakistan are right. This is not the question of freedom but it is matter of being wise and unwise. In the name of freedom one can't be given permission to cut the same branch on which he is sitting. Who find justification for showing the video of brutal killing of Sarfaraz Shah repeatedly on screens, the issue should be highlighted, and voice should be raised for condemning such incidents, for serious imprisonment of slaughterer and for doing all this, route should be fallowed. Assassins and belligerents should be blamed, not the institution itself. As the criticism on whole institutions for few bad apples bring unnecessary divisions in society. These divisions serve to weaken a vital line of defense for the Pakistani state. As after PNS Mehran base incident we started blaming the Armed forces institutions, on Saleem Shehzad murder we blamed our intelligence agency, and for Sarfaraz Shah brutal killing we are condemning Rangers. Media should understand the difference between criticizing the culprits and criticizing the institution.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAK-US TIES: THE WAY FORWARD

MIKE HONDA

 

In the wake of Osama Bin Laden's death, suspicion pervades US-Pakistan relations. While Washington considers pulling aid packages, increases drone strikes in the tribal areas and moves American troops in Afghanistan eastward to the mountainous border with Pakistan, Islamabad arrests CIA informants this week allegedly responsible for aiding and abetting the US spy agency in the weeks leading up to Osama's death. Since 9/11, the US-Pakistan relationship has always been a prickly one, but the level of current distrust has risen to an all-time high. This is dangerous, not least because it portends the possibility of a substantial ramp-up in US military intervention. In the last 10 years, US involvement has been relatively masked from the Pakistani public eye. While most Pakistanis are well aware of the military aid to Pakistan in the tens of billions, the hundreds of devastating drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and the undercover CIA and intelligence and defense contractors roaming their country, the veneer of Pakistan sovereignty has, for the most part, been supported by the US. The recent incidents involving CIA covert operative Raymond Davis and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, however, illuminate well the increasing tension over sovereignty issues.

What is disconcerting, however, is that the US is considering doing more of what's not working to stem violence and less of what is working. Members of Congress are keen to kill previous commitments to development aid, while the Pentagon ponders a ramp-up in covert and overt operations. In sum, they are telling Pakistanis to expect more guns, less butter and fewer books. If we want to prevent extremism, the fix will not be found in more drone strikes, CIA operatives or military aid (most of which, incidentally, remains unaccounted for). Simply look at who is being recruited. Recruits are found among the unemployed, illiterate and disenfranchised in the poorer provinces of Pakistan, from Balochistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. If we do not want these vulnerable populations joining extremist movements, then we have to offer viable alternatives, something we haven't helped Pakistan do effectively.

IN order to change this tide, first we must focus on building healthy political systems in Pakistan. Of the nearly $20 billion in US aid to Pakistan since President Pervez Musharraf's military coup in 2001, most has been military aid, leaving very little spent on establishing the necessary institutions – election commissions, ballot machines, monitoring systems, legal observers – for democratic elections. Stifling democratic potential further, we turned a blind eye to the previous president's handpicking of the election commission chair and the judiciary and his suspension of the constitution. This precluded the opportunity for free and fair elections long before Pakistan's populace ever proceeded to the voting booth. Second, we must focus on building a robust civil society. For much of the past decade, investments in Pakistan's educational system have been negligible. Annually, only 2 percent of Pakistan's GDP is spent on education, resulting in some of the developing world's worst enrollment rates: Roughly one-third of eligible youth are enrolled in secondary school and 5 percent in tertiary institutions. Despite the fact that nearly 50 percent of the adult population are illiterate, we have hardly helped past presidents in Pakistan reduce that number. Pakistan's commitment to the social sector is so weak that in the UN's 2010 Human Development Index, the country ranked 125th. Previous arrests of educators, human rights activists, and lawyers, again under our watch, attest to past precedent in undermining civil society.

Third, we must ensure economic prosperity in Pakistan's provinces abutting Afghanistan, including the Federal Administrated Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan's presidents have failed to commit dollars to improve the impoverished realities of many living here. Left vulnerable to Taleban and Al-Qaeda recruitment, many of the frontier tribesmen and women are left with few viable alternatives, or incentives, to say no to extremism, including a job, an education and political opportunity. Conservative madrasahs, or religious schools, often fill that vacuum, providing food, education and sometimes housing. US nonmilitary aid commitments of late have attempted to address these needs, but most fail in the implementation phase due to lack of local credibility, reliance on American contractors, and failure to focus on long-term sustainability. There are, of course, exceptions. Humpty Dumpty Institute, for example, is planning a project with a local nongovernmental organization that will improve the educational opportunities and nutritional needs of 20,000 Pakistani children over a period of three years — the timing of which improves the likelihood of sustainability given most aid projects span six months. HDI's goals in Pakistan are to ultimately witness greater enrollment and attendance in school, healthier children and families, improved literacy and educational achievement, and increased community capacity.

We need more of this. We must avoid the temptation of a heavy-handed US military approach in Pakistan, which will only further alienate sovereign-minded Pakistanis. Drone strikes may kill a key insurgent, but they inevitably kill scores of civilians, simultaneously enraging the entire surrounding community. Democracy will only flourish in Pakistan if the necessary social, economic and political structures are steadfastly in place — and for the last decade, the US has largely neglected these frontiers. The time to reverse past precedent is now. Let's turn a prickly relationship into a positive one. —The CG News

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

CLUES TO LABOR'S FUTURE LIE IN LESSONS OF THE PAST

The trouble for Ms Gillard and her party is that, while they have paid lip service to the legacy of those Hawke-Keating years, they don't seem to have grasped the essence of that success. Nor have they proposed anything to emulate those achievements. Rather, we can now see that in an historic setback for the Labor cause and the nation, the Rudd-Gillard years have been a repudiation of the Hawke-Keating model.

The Labor giants of the 1980s and 90s modernised the economy by tackling overdue reforms such as reducing tariffs, floating the dollar, opening up the banking sector, introducing compulsory superannuation, privatising government assets and pursuing productivity through enterprise bargaining. The Labor governments during that period worked

co-operatively with the union movement through seven national "Accord" agreements to control wages, boost productivity and limit inflation. This corporate model of government was far from perfect, but it delivered a clear message and benefits to working families -- it was a compact that promised high levels of employment and some real wages growth in return for inflicting the discomforts of reform and restraint.

Hawke and Keating understood the aspirations of the mainstream, and rather than lecture voters about what was good for them they flattered the public and involved them in the process. Throughout that period Labor accepted and adopted a market economics approach that saw value in encouraging growth in the economy in order to provide greater opportunities for the least fortunate. Despite the public's high expectations being dashed in the painful recession of the early 90s, Labor's model not only succeeded for over a decade, but also entrenched reforms that benefit the nation to this day. The Coalition under John Howard supported those reforms and then sought to build on them for another decade, particularly through tax reform, prudent finance industry oversight and industrial deregulation. In this sense, Australia benefited from more than two decades of economic policy continuum, through boom and bust, and under Labor and Liberal.

In 2007, Kevin Rudd came to power promising economic conservatism, but he abandoned it in a flash when confronted with the global financial crisis. His infamous essay of January 2009 declared "the great neo-liberal experiment of the last 30 years has failed" and "it falls to social democracy to prevent liberal capitalism from cannibalising itself". When Ms Gillard deposed him, she became not only the nation's first female prime minister, but also the first from Labor's left faction. So, for the first time in the post-war period, we have a Labor government that is not controlled by the pragmatism of the NSW Right. The result is a government that appeals less to the mainstream than it does to the progressive activism of GetUp! and the Greens, and that has allowed its economic management to drift towards the outmoded central planning of big government, which not so long ago was proudly described as socialism.

The policy implications of the Rudd-Gillard era have been profound, and not altogether for the good. Labor has re-regulated the labour market so that it is more rigid than during the Hawke-Keating years. Decades after Labor started the process of privatising government enterprises, Gillard Labor is building a government telecommunications monopoly and actually buying back some of the privatised assets. We have seen massive amounts of public money wasted on unproductive infrastructure in schools and subsidising home insulation.

With no true reform agenda to speak of, Ms Gillard promotes two major new taxes, on mining and carbon emissions, as reform. Properly implemented, through consultation with the states and the industry, a profits-based tax on mining could help to share the benefits of the resources boom. But the issue has been poorly handled and remains unresolved. While this newspaper supports a market mechanism to reduce carbon emissions, Ms Gillard's tax breaks a core election promise. And, crucially, the Prime Minister has failed to convince the electorate that Australia is not moving ahead of our main trading partners, in particular the US and China, thereby penalising ourselves economically for no tangible global emissions gain.

The Weekend Australian worries that for inspiration the Gillard government looks more to the interventionist economies of northern Europe than the practical politics of Hawke and Keating. A year after the new Prime Minister said the government had lost its way, it is becoming clear that, in historical terms, the Labor movement has lost its way. What is needed is a reconnection to the aspirations of the mainstream and a productivity-based economic reform agenda -- so that voters can be taken into the government's confidence and promised some future reward for reforms delivered.

On that first day, Prime Minister Gillard said: "There will be some days I delight you, there may be some days I disappoint you." Sadly for Labor and the nation there have been too few of the former and too many of the latter.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

SORT IT OUT IN PRIVATE, GUYS

UNDER Tony Abbott, front-of-house for the Coalition looks determined, driven and disciplined.

Polling suggests the electorate gets the Leader of the Opposition and knows what he stands for. So it's bewildering to find back-of-house squabbling over the sort of internal issues that ought never to be on the front page. The unseemly fight between Peter Reith and Alan Stockdale for the unpaid position of Liberal Party president is the sort of scrap Labor manages to keep behind closed doors. But today, with 100 delegates in Canberra for the party's federal council, the chill factor is high -- and on public display.

We make no comment on the relative merits of the two candidates, other than to note that Mr Reith has a national profile, a good rapport with the business personalities so crucial to Coalition fundraising and a tough hide from some of the biggest battles of the Howard governments in which he served. None of these necessarily make him the superior choice, but he is an attractive alternative to those who see the past three years under Mr Stockdale, a former Victorian treasurer, as an underwhelming chapter in Liberal history. Four of them, including former foreign minister Alexander Downer, felt strongly enough to write an open letter to Mr Stockdale on Thursday, outlining their concerns about party governance and federal structures, finances and "failures in decision-making in that crucial area".

In Mr Stockdale's corner is retiring senator Nick Minchin, who wrote his own letter warning that Mr Reith -- the hard man of industrial relations under John Howard -- would be a gift for Labor as president. The argument against Mr Reith is that having been a large public figure in the past, he will not know when to shut up and leave it to the elected representatives. Yet, as contributing editor Peter van Onselen writes in our pages today, Mr Reith's conviction could "provide valuable ideological ballast for the parliamentary leader". Given that Mr Abbott reportedly encouraged Mr Reith's candidature, it would seem the two men would work together well in terms of setting the tone of the party, raising money and ensuring there is a smooth and professional operation supporting the parliamentary wing.

The party of Robert Menzies is in dire need of strong organisational leadership -- something that Mr Abbott seems to appreciate. Indeed, the organisation's weaknesses were obvious during the last federal election, when the lack of an effective marginal-seats campaign to counter Labor arguably robbed Mr Abbott of victory. For decades, the Liberals have eschewed the ruthless machine politics of Labor for a looser culture that at times looked more like a gentlemen's club. Unlike Labor, with its drip-feed of funds from its union base, the Liberal Party has struggled to win the funding needed to sustain the organisation between elections. The plus has been that those with ideas, policy and beliefs have defined the party, rather than, as in Labor's case, the apparatchiks of Sussex Street. The negative has been a lack of the highly professional support essential in modern politics.

Our major parties are at different points in the cycle. As we note above, Labor must reconnect with voters, not waste time with internal changes and navel-gazing. In contrast, the Liberals must create an organisation that does not fail its front-of-house members. That's the real challenge for the delegates meeting in Canberra today.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

GILLARD, HEAVILY ARMOURED, PLOUGHS ON

JULIA GILLARD could open the batting for Australia - metaphorically, anyway. On the anniversary of her takeover of the leadership of the Labor Party yesterday she faced a torrid series of bouncers and yorkers in the form of questions about her achievements since then, her poor standing in the polls, her broken promises. She weaved and parried, impervious to the most furious attacks, avoiding the question where she could and, where she couldn't, playing the delivery with the deadest of bats, and steering each challenge to each of her vulnerabilities carefully away, neutralising its danger. The attacks were entirely foreseen, her responses well prepared. Gillard, one year on in the top job, remains the consummate professional politician.

Yet the articulate, confident, impregnable defence of her record will probably not convince many to change their view. At least, not immediately. Twelve months after taking the Labor leadership from Kevin Rudd and the prime ministership with it, she is at a record low in the polls - below the figures for Rudd which persuaded her party to dump him. One reason for the public's reluctance to embrace her may be the same professionalism which she displays daily. In a peculiar way, it may be a source of a kind of weakness.

The Prime Minister in her resilience and unwavering dedication to her task is the complete political animal. That is not unusual. Politicians, particularly leaders, mostly are. But political leaders who are women are still unusual in Australia and - unfairly - the public judges them by a different standard. Gillard knows she must avoid showing the steely side of her character, the side which calculates and counts the numbers. As Rudd's deputy, she had more freedom to be herself for long periods, and, when required, play at being personable - which she does well, but which may not be a role she finds especially congenial. She was popular as a result. As leader, her chief concern appears to be to put on a mask and make sure it stays on. Gillard finds it difficult, and it shows.

Part of leading, part of being Prime Minister, is reflecting and elucidating the national mood. It is most obvious at times of emergency or disaster - floods, fires, death in war. Gillard can play the part of empathiser-in-chief convincingly at times, but at others - during the Queensland floods, for example, when her performance was compared unfavourably with Anna Bligh's - her talent leaves her. Moreover, it is not part of Gillard's standard approach to political issues. That may explain why her government is finding it so difficult to convince Australians of what everyone thought they already knew: that climate change must be addressed, and Australia's contribution to the global solution should involve some sort of price on carbon. The opposition has obviously played its part: its energetic and effective fear campaign has sown doubt where previously none existed, and has used Gillard's manoeuvres and calculations - her pre-election promise never to introduce a carbon tax - effectively against her. A leader who empathised with voters' understandable misgivings might simply say: ''I've had to change my mind. I apologise for doing so and disappointing the electorate, but it was essential.'' Gillard, for some reason, cannot.

Instead her strategy is to play the long game. Calculating (rightly, we believe) that Labor cannot change its leader again before the next election, calculating that voters will realise that Tony Abbott's unvarying negativism sounds too bleak and empty to be attractive, calculating that chopping and changing to match voters' whims will not work, Gillard is counting on a strategy of staying the course and implementing Labor's promises to win voters' respect. That she lacks an obvious alternative is not the only reason to think it is the right strategy. On climate change at least, it is the policy Australia needs.

Voter disaffection is Gillard's immediate problem. There is another, however, that should concern her as much. The serious rifts within Labor were brought to light this week in the valedictory speech of Steve Hutchins, a former member of the NSW Right, to the Senate. Hutchins spoke with some bitterness of the Electrical Trades Union's betrayal of the state parliamentary leadership during the attempt to sell NSW power assets. ''The party machine betrayed and undermined its own elected government to further the interests of the ETU and its patrons,'' he said, in a speech in which he spoke scathingly of the efforts of John Robertson, now Labor leader, and Eric Roozendaal, former treasurer.

Internecine conflict poses a threat to her party greater even than the public's disaffection with it. Labor needs reform, as the party's elders keep telling it. On the first anniversary of her rise to power, though, Gillard has her hands too full trying to hold on to be able to do much about it.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CAN OUR LEADERS SAIL BACK FROM WHERE THEY STARTED?

'YOU never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." These words from Atticus Finch, the Alabama lawyer who defended a black American falsely accused of rape in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mocking-bird, could just as easily have been uttered by the makers of SBS's three-part documentary Go Back To Where You Came From. Taking its title from a taunt favoured by the segment of the Australian population hostile to the very idea of non-Caucasian immigration — and, more recently, to the view that Australia should fulfil its responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations Refugees Convention — the series follows six ordinary Australians on a 25-day journey that traced in reverse the journeys refugees have taken to reach Australia.

Only one of the six was sympathetic to asylum seekers at the start. Among the others, one, a 21-year-old unemployed woman from western Sydney, openly declared herself a racist and was especially hostile to Africans; four of her companions had similarly antagonistic attitudes. They were forced to confront their views, to walk in the skin of refugees whom they met in Australia, by travelling in an ostensibly leaky boat to Malaysia, where they shared desperately poor lives and observed the despair of people fleeing oppression, and then by visiting the refugee camps and the homelands those they'd met in Australia had fled.

Neither the participants nor the more than 600,00 viewers — a record for SBS — could come away from this experience unmoved. Not everyone will have been persuaded of the need to be more generous in providing sanctuary to victims of war and repression, but surely glib slogans such as "Stop the boats" will have less resonance with them. Perhaps our politicians would make more considered decisions, rather than tapping into mass hysteria for electoral gain, if they too could know from personal experience the reality of the lives of the people who get on these boats.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

EXCUSE ME, I THINK YOU'RE IN MY PLACE

 

THE Anglo-Saxons invaded England. So did the Danes and the Normans. The Visigoths invaded Spain, and so did the Moors. And every man and his dog invaded other parts of the Roman empire. They came in uninvited, settled down and wouldn't leave. But that was a long time ago, and even though the invasions were no doubt the worst of bad manners at the time, the passing centuries have made them all seem bold and romantic rather than rude. Not so in Sydney, where feelings are still raw. The city council is divided over whether it is rude to say the British invaded Australia. For non-indigenous Australians it probably does seem rude: people don't like to think of themselves or their immediate forebears as invaders. In all other respects they were quite possibly law-abiding, kind, respectable family men and women, but invade is what they did - came in unasked, settled down and wouldn't leave. Still won't, in fact. It may take a few centuries for the rudeness involved to be forgotten, but unless non-indigenous Australians are just visiting and intend to go home eventually, we are all going to have to get used to the idea at some point. We may as well start trying out the right word for it

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

CAMBODIA: BURYING THE PAST

It has been 12 years since Hun Sen feted two Khmer Rouge leaders who had given themselves up

It has been 12 years since Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, feted at his residence two Khmer Rouge leaders who had given themselves up and said famously that it was time to bury the past. One conviction of a relatively junior figure and $150m later, Hun Sen remains largely true to his word. He is allowing the trial to go ahead on Monday of the two ageing leaders he attempted to amnesty in 1998, "Brother Number Two", Nuon Chea, and Khieu Samphan, along with Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, but has ruled out the prosecution of five others, among whom are believed to be the air force commander Sou Met and navy commander Meas Muth.

These are the decisions of Hun Sen himself, because there is now no doubt that the Cambodian prosecutors and judges of the extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia, a war crimes tribunal that combines international and local staff, follow his instructions. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, has made no secret of his disdain for the court, telling Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, in what was reported to be a shouting match, that further indictments would "not be allowed". As the Open Society Justice Initiative makes clear, the five other cases were shut down without any examination of the evidence.

Suspects were not formally notified that they were under investigation, witnesses were not interviewed, crime sites were not examined. Some of the evidence gathered in the case that opens on Monday was not transferred to the files of these other five cases. The ruling has always been that these people are not senior enough to warrant prosecution, even though Comrade Duch, the chief of Phnom Penh's S-21 torture centre, who received a reduced sentence last year, was junior to most of them.

Hun Sen has a motive for shutting down the court – to stop it digging up evidence that could implicate serving members of the ruling elite. But the UN and the US state department have no such motive, and yet they too have pulled the plug on the work of the court. In an appalling statement, the UN defended the decisions of the judges who closed down the cases, although it refused to comment on the investigation because it remains the subject of judicial consideration.

The UN is hanging the international staff of its own tribunal out to dry. There is one honorable role being played in this sad tale of impunity. That is by the international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley, who made the first public recognition of glaring deficiencies in the investigation of the dropped cases. He is prepared to fight for the relatives of the 1.7 million victims of the Khmer Rouge. But his stand is a lonely one.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ED MILIBAND: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

After its terrible drubbing last year, Labour found itself simultaneously lost and broken down

After its terrible drubbing last year, Labour found itself simultaneously lost and broken down. Most of its MPs had never known opposition, and – accustomed to being powered along by the momentum of office – have since been fretting about how to start moving again, and the direction of travel. In these circumstances, there is no choice between repairing the engine and studying the map: the opposition will not have any hope of driving back to power without doing both. As the national policy forum assembles this weekend in Wrexham, there is a need both to overhaul juddering institutions and to reset the intellectual route.

In speaking to the Guardian, Ed Miliband sounds more convincing on the first of these tasks. Ending the shadow cabinet elections, by which Labour MPs traditionally choose the opposition top team, may lend his leadership more command. Assuming he can get the measure past his colleagues on Monday, he will enjoy new power to clear out former ministers who have not come round to the fact that the party's top Miliband is now called Ed, rather than David. He will likewise gain flexibility to promote fresh faces, and – no small matter – maximise discretion in handling the potential return of his brother to the frontbench, if and when that occurs. But power over hiring and firing is of course already enjoyed by every prime minister, and it is no guarantor of success. Indeed, Australian experience points the other way. The Labor parliamentary caucus there had a historic right to choose not merely the opposition team but also the cabinet proper. When Kevin Rudd overrode this by picking his own ministers in 2007, his efforts to transcend the factionalism which was previously grappled with through a ballot only contributed to the isolation that did for him in the end.

Mr Miliband's wider party reforms draw on a review undertaken by Peter Hain. Its recommendations are as worthy as they are prosaic. The public neither knows nor cares about the arcane fit between Labour's general, executive and campaign committees in the constituencies, but unless the party gets the procedure right, the public will never hear its message – and the caricature of members as ageing, raincoated and procedurally obsessed will persist. In opposition, David Cameron made a virtue of opening up, for example through candidate primaries, and picked up able MPs such as Dr Sarah Wollaston on the way. By letting outsiders speak at its conference and building networks of sympathisers who do not want to join, Labour might shake things up for the good.

Patently, however, party reform alone is not enough. Yes, Labour retains a thin lead in the polls, and, yes, Mr Miliband has notched up three strong byelection results to date. But even if Inverclyde next week brings a fourth, and that cannot be assumed given the SNP's ascendancy, Labour's showing in council polls last month was mediocre, and it has barely started the task of devising a programme that can endure the slings and arrows of an election campaign. The 19-part policy review is too bitty to give any real direction, while Ed Balls's recent call for an emergency VAT cut looks too opportunistic, clouding Mr Miliband's previous suggestion that he would rather see the deficit being closed through more taxes as opposed to expenditure cuts. Meanwhile, the party's recent lapse into populist pandering over crime redoubles confusion about what – if anything – is different about life after New Labour.

Mr Miliband has not disguised the fields he would like to move into – speaking frequently though vaguely about encouraging fairer wages, fostering small firms and developing an active industrial policy. These are noble aims, but to convince anyone that he can deliver them, he will soon have to reveal at least a flick of the detail. Even a roadworthy vehicle will not get anywhere until its driver has settled on where he is heading.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? MINISTERS TO TAKE HISTORICAL ADVICE

Westminster classes have a serious lack of historical knowledge and, like the shortfall on the current account, it doesn't matter most of the time – until it really does

We are familiar with economic deficits, in trade or public finances. But Britain suffers from a political deficit, one that goes unnoticed most of the time but which every now and then becomes glaringly apparent. The Westminster classes have a serious lack of historical knowledge and, like the shortfall on the current account, it doesn't matter most of the time – until it really does. Before Andrew Lansley launched into his top-to-bottom reform of the NHS, he should have read an account of Mrs Thatcher's attempt to overhaul the health service. It would have taught him that major attempts to shake up hospitals are less successful than more modest proposals. If George Osborne knew a little more about the Great Depression, he would have learned the lesson of 1937 – that shutting down economic stimulus too soon leads to a massive relapse. And if that student of philosophy, politics and economics David Cameron had boned up on European history, he would have learned the truth of Sir Humphrey's observation in Yes Minister: "Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years – to create a disunited Europe." Only by engaging with Europe will Britain get what it wants. Politics is now a young person's profession: its players no longer come with historical knowledge. Which means that it needs to be formally implanted in Whitehall. The government has economists and scientists: why not appoint a chief historical adviser?

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GREECE AT A CROSSROADS — AGAIN

Greece teeters on the brink of a crisis as its government navigates between demands for austerity by European bankers and politicians and popular outrage prompted by the social costs of those same austerity measures. Although Prime Minister George Papandreou has survived in a vote of confidence, a difficult time for him has not disappeared. Some worry that the future of the euro is at stake as well.

Few elections were as bittersweet as Mr. Papandreou's 2009 win. In retrospect, he appears to have accepted a poisoned chalice when he took office in October 2009, discovering that his country was bankrupt, run into the ground because of profligate politicians and an elite that was allergic to paying taxes.

Staring into an ocean of red ink that was one and a half times the size of the country's gross domestic product, the government in Athens was forced to seek out a 110 billion bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The price of that support was a wrenching austerity package that included sharp tax increases — and a promise to collect those revenues — privatization measures, and spending cuts. The result has been record unemployment that exceeds 16 percent (and is likely to increase) and a three-year recession.

Unfortunately, it has not lifted Greece out of its hole. As the release approaches of the next tranche of €12 billion in aid that the country needs to pay back debt that matures later this summer, the EU and the IMF contemplate demanding a new five-year austerity plan. This new plan aims to raise €50 billion through more privatization, and will cut public sector jobs by 20 percent — adding another 150,000 people to the jobless rolls over four years.

With a 155-seat majority in the 300-member Parliament, the prime minister should have been able to muscle the plan through the legislature when it votes later this month. But mass protests against the latest package has emboldened hardliners in the Socialist government who feel the mass privatization is a betrayal of their party's fundamental principles. (They also worry that it undercuts the unions that provide the backbone of party electoral support.) Three politicians have resigned in protest (but have been replaced by party members; the razor-thin majority holds).

There were hopes that Mr. Papandreou might be able to forge a national unity government, but those talks collapsed last week. A Cabinet shuffle resulted in the replacement of Mr. George Papaconstantinou, the finance minister who is the architect of the reform proposals, by Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, defense minister and powerful party insider; Mr. Papaconstantinou was moved to the environment portfolio. A vote of confidence for Mr. Papandreou was held Tuesday and he survived with a 155 to 143 vote with two abstentions.

Greece is likely to get the bailout package, no matter what happens domestically. There are mounting fears that failure to support Athens would trigger a default, which would spread throughout the eurozone. The cost of issuing Greek bonds has been rising as the market factors in the risk of default. Ominously, the cost of issuing Spanish bonds is reaching new heights, and the same costs for Irish, Portuguese and Italian bonds are also moving upward as markets in those countries tumble.

Those governments are not the only entities feeling the pain, however. The biggest holders of European government bonds are private banks in France and Germany.

Indeed, it is their exposure that has stiffened the spines of the governments in Paris and Berlin to demand full repayment rather than restructuring of the debt. Restructuring would take a toll on those institutions. To prove the point, the credit rating agency Moody's announced last week that it was reviewing three major French banks for a possible downgrade and warned that other banks are likely to come under scrutiny.

Ironically, the prospect of contagion is an indication of the success of the eurozone. The regional economies are so intertwined that serious trouble in one country cannot be isolated. (Some conspiracy theorists even suggest that the European Central Bank is taking a hard line against restructuring to force still tighter integration among the euro economies.)

A more likely explanation is that European hardliners, Germany and the Netherlands in particular, are not willing to finance irresponsible behavior on the back of their own financial discipline. The Berlin government continues to demand complete agreement on all elements of the new Greek plan before it agrees to a new refinancing package although its position softened late last week.

Rather than forcing banks to extend their holdings of Greek debt, those banks will be encouraged to roll over bonds as they mature. This "voluntary" formula is based on a deal struck with banks holding Eastern European debt in 2009.

A new package will likely be approved since the potential consequences of a default could be catastrophic. Restructuring looks increasingly likely and makes a certain sense. As it stands, governments will pay either by aiding debtor governments directly or by propping up their own overextended banks.

In addition, euro governments will have to increase the size of the current bailout fund; there are calls to double it to 1.5 trillion. The most important thing is signaling to the market that there will be no failures, nor collapses. It is a confidence game more than anything else at this point. Sadly, confidence is in short supply.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RESTART OF REACTORS IS PREMATURE

Trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda on June 18 declared that the nation's 11 companies operating nuclear power facilities had taken adequate measures to handle severe accidents and called for restarting the power plants.

What occupies his mind is the fear of power shortages during the summer and of unstable power supplies hampering economic activities that may compel Japanese manufacturing firms to move their factories overseas.

Of Japan's 54 commercial reactors, 35 are out of operation because of either regular checks or damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

In view of the circumstances in which Mr. Kaieda's declaration and call were made, people will not yet be convinced that Japan's nuclear power plants are adequately safe.

People will not fully support his fear of power shortages, either, unless he and the power companies enumerate all available nonnuclear power plants, and disclose their total capacity and expected demand.

The accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have deepened people's suspicion about the safety of nuclear power generation. More than three months after the March 11 quake and tsunami hit the facility, Tepco has been unable to bring the accidents under control. Three reactors suffered meltdowns.

As Tepco injects water into the reactors to cool them, water contaminated with radioactive substances is leaking from the plant, raising fears of further contamination of the environment. There is also a suspicion that Tepco has withheld vital information from the public. Under the circumstances, people will not take Mr. Kaieda's declaration at face value. As a procedure, utilities must gain consent from local governments concerned before they restart reactors. Most governors of the 13 prefectures where nuclear power plants are located are skeptical about Mr. Kaieda's declaration.

Gov. Yuichiro Ito of Kagoshima Prefecture, where two reactors are located, said that he understood Mr. Kaieda's statement as an official responsible for the stable supply of electricity.

But Gov. Issei Nishikawa of Fukui Prefecture, where 13 commercial reactors and the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju are located, said priority should be given to the safety of prefectural residents and Japanese people and that Mr. Kaieda's talk about power shortages' impact on economic activities does not correctly respond to what he (the governor) is thinking.

Gov. Nishikawa also pointed out that it is unclear how not only the tsunami but also the quake and the aging of the reactors contributed to the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 facility. This is an important point. All six reactors at the power plant are more than 30 years.

In Fukui Prefecture, eight reactors are more than 30 years old. A high-ranking official of the Fukui prefectural government said that if Mr. Kaieda thinks that the measures recently taken at the reactors have greatly improved their safety, his thinking is hard to understand.

Many governors also wonder on what grounds the central government, which ordered the suspension of Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka nuclear power plant, believes that other nuclear power plants are safe.

On March 30, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of Mr. Kaieda's ministry instructed the reactor operators to take short-term steps to cope with the loss of outside power supplies, the loss of functions to cool reactors with sea water and the loss of cooling functions of spent nuclear fuel storage pools — all in the event of tsunami. The measures included deployment of power generation vehicles, fire engines to supply cooling water and fire hoses. In early May, NISA approved the measures taken by the operators. It is clear that NISA's thinking excludes the possibility of a quake damaging reactors.

On June 7, NISA instructed the reactor operators to take additional short-term measures to deal with severe accidents, including the securing of power supplies to the central control room when power is lost, steps to prevent a hydrogen explosion, preparation of alternative means of communication in the event of an emergency, deployment of heavy construction machines to remove debris and the deployment of gear to protect workers against radiation exposure. NISA inspected the reactors on June 15 and 16 and approved the measures taken, after receiving notification on June 14 from the utilities.

If local government officials and people take a careful look at these measures, they will not consider them adequate to bring serious accidents under control.

On June 19, Prime Minister Naoto Kan endorsed Mr. Kaieda's move. It is hard to understand how his endorsement is congruous with his earlier call for increasing the percentage of electricity from renewable sources to 20 percent of Japan's power supply by the early 2020s.

Mr. Kan should quickly announce a long-term road map to reduce Japan's dependence on nuclear power and ways to offset the phasing out of nuclear energy.

Without such a plan, Japan under the force of inertia will continue to depend on nuclear power for a large part of its energy needs.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ELECTION SEASON COMES EARLY IN THE KREMLIN

BY TINA BURRETT

In the highly controlled environment of Russian domestic politics, there are few surprises. Russia is a managed democracy in which political changes and election outcomes are carefully orchestrated by the Kremlin.

Within this context, the surprise announcement that Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's third richest man, is taking the reins of liberal political party Right Cause is no surprise at all. Prokhorov's political debut signals that the Kremlin's preparations for parliamentary elections, due in December, are already under way.

In the 1990s, Russian oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky commanded vast economic and media empires, giving them political independence and influence. But the era of the oligarchs ended with the jailing of Yukos billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003. Khodorkovsky's fate sent the clear message that oligarchs who valued their wealth and freedom should stay out of politics.

By adhering to the terms of Putin's unwritten contract with the oligarchs, Prokhorov made his fortune. A shrewd operator, well versed in the realities of Russian power politics, Prokhorov would not have agreed to lead Right Cause without the sanction of the Kremlin. But since May 2008, when Putin bequeathed the presidency to his protege Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin no longer serves a single master.

Medvedev's succession created two centers of power. Although for most of the past three years Putin and Medvedev have carefully choreographed their dual leadership, recent events suggest the two are no longer in step. In January, Medvedev criticized his mentor for erroneously implying that the perpetrators of the Domodedovo Airport bombing had been identified by the authorities. In March, Putin's description of coalition air strikes against Libya as "a crusade," earned a further rebuke from Medvedev. Tensions over air strikes point to wider differences between the two leaders regarding Moscow's "reset" in relations with Washington. While Medvedev appears convinced that detente with the U.S. is vital to Russia's modernization, Putin's pronouncements suggest he is more sceptical.

In light of the cracks that have begun to appear in the Putin-Medvedev tandem, some analysts see Right Cause as a vehicle for Medvedev to retain the presidency beyond the March 2012 presidential election. Adding credence to this view, Prokhorov's installation as party leader came just days after Putin announced that he was forming a new political movement of his own, the All-Russian Popular Front. One popular theory is that Putin and Medvedev will face off in a pseudo-competition for the presidency that will enhance excitement, improve turnout and give the result an air of legitimacy.

More realistically, the ruling elite will not risk turning a fake competition into a real one by fielding two candidates rather than one. It is too soon to tell whether this single candidate will be Putin, Medvedev or a third as yet undisclosed individual.

This is not to say that there are no real divisions within the elite over the direction of Russia's political and economic development.

In a report published earlier this month, Agency for Political and Economic Communications Director Dmitry Orlov argues that the decision over who will be president in 2012 will be taken by "the most influential 25-30 Russian politicians and businessmen."

Despite appearances to the contrary, Russia has long been governed by collective leadership. For the past decade, Putin's power has resided in his position as arbiter and final adjudicator of the often virulent disputes that have erupted between the various clans that comprise the Kremlin.

But recently elements within the Kremlin have begun to question the future utility of Putin's vertical power structure. The elite's willingness to acquiesce to Putin's dominance has been granted on the condition of his delivering certain economic and political goods. An impressive four percent growth in GDP last year masks the deep structural problems with the Russian economy. Rampant corruption, an increasing deficit, double figure inflation and the continuing dependence on oil and gas exports has led some to conclude that the Putin paradigm has outlived its usefulness. The Russian elite must adapt to survive. Many within the Kremlin have begun to realize that if they continue down the Putin path, capital inflows will evaporate, public protests will escalate and the system on which their power depends will face collapse.

Whether he likes it or not, Medvedev is being cast as the leader of opposition to the status quo. By making modernization, innovation and a war on corruption central themes of his rhetoric, Medvedev has become a magnet for members of the elite who are discontent with Putin. But it is unlikely that the pupil will move against his master. Although Medvedev appeals to the Russian intelligentsia and business class, Putin retains the support of ordinary voters and the powerful military and security services.

While others attempt to style themselves as leaders of opposing camps, Putin and Medvedev remain united. This week, Medvedev said he finds it "hard to imagine" that he and Putin would run against each other for the presidency. Retaining power for the current ruling class and preventing a return to the destabilizing clan wars of the 1990s are priorities for both men.

It will be with these priorities in mind that the configuration of the Russian government beyond 2012 will be decided.

The Kremlin elite will likely wait until the eve of presidential elections to finalize its strategy. Medvedev did not emerge as Putin's chosen successor until just three months before the 2008 presidential election. Certainly no definitive decision about the presidency will be made until after parliamentary elections in December. The Russian ruling elite are setting up the party political infrastructure to allow various scenarios to play out.

One thing is for certain: the Kremlin elite, and not the voters, will choose Russia's next president.

Tina Burrett is an assistant professor of international relations at Temple University, Japan. She is author of the book "Television and Presidential Power in Putin's Russia."

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN WAR REALITY CHECK

BY GWYNNE DYER

LONDON — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' telling The New York Times what he learned under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama goes beyond satire: "I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice."

Gosh, Bob, does that mean you wouldn't invade Iraq next time?

Afghanistan, by contrast, was a "war of necessity" in Gates' terms: official Washington believed that further bad things like 9/11 might happen to the United States if U.S. troops didn't go to Afghanistan to root out the al-Qaida terrorists (mostly Arabs) who had been given bases there by the country's Taliban leadership. It wasn't a very subtle strategy, but it was certainly driven by perceived U.S. national interest.

Which was the point being made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the man whom the U.S. put in power after the 2001 invasion: "[The Americans] are here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they're using our soil for that."

Well, of course. The only other possible explanation for their presence would be that Washington had sent half a million young Americans to Afghanistan over the past ten years in some quixotic quest to raise the Afghan standard of living and the status of Afghan women. That's ridiculous. Obviously, the motive was perceived U.S. national interest.

So how to explain the furiously emotional response of Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan? Speaking at Herat University, he raged: "When Americans ... hear themselves described as occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest ... they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here."

"Mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms and legs — they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one's sacrifice. When I hear some of your leaders call us occupiers, I cannot look these mourning parents, spouses and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply."

Karl, they won't be very comforted if you tell them that their loved ones died for Afghanistan. Tell them that they died defending America. Except, of course, that it may not have been a very useful way of defending America.

All the al-Qaida camps were quickly smashed after 9/11, and by the end of 2001 Osama bin Laden had escaped across the border into Pakistan, where he remained until his death last month. Most of the surviving al-Qaida cadres also fled to Pakistan, and U.S. intelligence says that there are only a couple of hundred left in Afghanistan.

So why have American troops been in Afghanistan for almost 10 years? To keep the Taliban from power, they say, but it's unlikely that the Taliban leadership ever knew about al-Qaida's plans for 9/11. Why would they support an action that was bound to provoke a U.S. invasion and drive them from power? Why would bin Laden risk letting them know about the attack in advance? The U.S. has probably been barking up the wrong tree for a long time.

Now the Taliban are back in force, and the war is all but lost. The U.S. may think it is about "terrorism" and al-Qaida, but for Afghans it is just a continuation of the civil war that had been raging for almost a decade before the U.S. invasion. The Taliban, almost entirely drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group, captured Kabul in 1996, but they never managed to conquer the other, smaller ethnic groups in northern Afghanistan.

The U.S. stumbled into this civil war under the delusion that it was fighting Islamist terrorists, but in fact it has simply ended up on the side of the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. That's who mans the "Afghan National Army" that the Western powers have been trying to build up with so little success: only three percent of its soldiers are Pashtun, although Pashtun account for 42 percent of the population.

So long as the U.S. forces remain, the Taliban can plausibly claim that they are fighting a jihad against the infidels, but once the Americans leave the war will probably return to its basic ethnic character. That means that the Pashtun are just as unlikely to conquer the north after the U.S. departure as they were before the invasion.

In the end, some deal that shares out the spoils among the various ethnic groups will be done: that is the Afghan political style. The Taliban will get a big share, but they won't sweep the board. The American interlude will gradually fade from Afghan consciousness, and the Afghan experience will vanish from American memory a good deal faster.

But in the meantime, President Barack Obama has promised to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan next month, and that will be very tricky. Few Americans know much about Afghan realities, and they have been fed a steady diet of patriotic misinformation about the place for a decade.

If the U.S. ambassador to Kabul can get so emotional about a plain statement of fact, imagine how the folks at home will respond when U.S. troops leave Afghanistan without a "victory." Obama will be lucky to pull this off without a serious backlash.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN WAR REALITY CHECK

BY GWYNNE DYER

LONDON — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' telling The New York Times what he learned under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama goes beyond satire: "I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice."

Gosh, Bob, does that mean you wouldn't invade Iraq next time?

Afghanistan, by contrast, was a "war of necessity" in Gates' terms: official Washington believed that further bad things like 9/11 might happen to the United States if U.S. troops didn't go to Afghanistan to root out the al-Qaida terrorists (mostly Arabs) who had been given bases there by the country's Taliban leadership. It wasn't a very subtle strategy, but it was certainly driven by perceived U.S. national interest.

Which was the point being made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the man whom the U.S. put in power after the 2001 invasion: "[The Americans] are here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they're using our soil for that."

Well, of course. The only other possible explanation for their presence would be that Washington had sent half a million young Americans to Afghanistan over the past ten years in some quixotic quest to raise the Afghan standard of living and the status of Afghan women. That's ridiculous. Obviously, the motive was perceived U.S. national interest.

So how to explain the furiously emotional response of Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan? Speaking at Herat University, he raged: "When Americans ... hear themselves described as occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest ... they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here."

"Mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms and legs — they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one's sacrifice. When I hear some of your leaders call us occupiers, I cannot look these mourning parents, spouses and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply."

Karl, they won't be very comforted if you tell them that their loved ones died for Afghanistan. Tell them that they died defending America. Except, of course, that it may not have been a very useful way of defending America.

All the al-Qaida camps were quickly smashed after 9/11, and by the end of 2001 Osama bin Laden had escaped across the border into Pakistan, where he remained until his death last month. Most of the surviving al-Qaida cadres also fled to Pakistan, and U.S. intelligence says that there are only a couple of hundred left in Afghanistan.

So why have American troops been in Afghanistan for almost 10 years? To keep the Taliban from power, they say, but it's unlikely that the Taliban leadership ever knew about al-Qaida's plans for 9/11. Why would they support an action that was bound to provoke a U.S. invasion and drive them from power? Why would bin Laden risk letting them know about the attack in advance? The U.S. has probably been barking up the wrong tree for a long time.

Now the Taliban are back in force, and the war is all but lost. The U.S. may think it is about "terrorism" and al-Qaida, but for Afghans it is just a continuation of the civil war that had been raging for almost a decade before the U.S. invasion. The Taliban, almost entirely drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group, captured Kabul in 1996, but they never managed to conquer the other, smaller ethnic groups in northern Afghanistan.

The U.S. stumbled into this civil war under the delusion that it was fighting Islamist terrorists, but in fact it has simply ended up on the side of the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. That's who mans the "Afghan National Army" that the Western powers have been trying to build up with so little success: only three percent of its soldiers are Pashtun, although Pashtun account for 42 percent of the population.

So long as the U.S. forces remain, the Taliban can plausibly claim that they are fighting a jihad against the infidels, but once the Americans leave the war will probably return to its basic ethnic character. That means that the Pashtun are just as unlikely to conquer the north after the U.S. departure as they were before the invasion.

In the end, some deal that shares out the spoils among the various ethnic groups will be done: that is the Afghan political style. The Taliban will get a big share, but they won't sweep the board. The American interlude will gradually fade from Afghan consciousness, and the Afghan experience will vanish from American memory a good deal faster.

But in the meantime, President Barack Obama has promised to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan next month, and that will be very tricky. Few Americans know much about Afghan realities, and they have been fed a steady diet of patriotic misinformation about the place for a decade.

If the U.S. ambassador to Kabul can get so emotional about a plain statement of fact, imagine how the folks at home will respond when U.S. troops leave Afghanistan without a "victory." Obama will be lucky to pull this off without a serious backlash.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

JUST ANOTHER YEAR, FOKE!

Traffic gives everyone in the city a headache, including Governor Fauzi Bowo. Foke, as he is popularly known, is facing mounting pressure from the public, particularly road users, who are frequently trapped on the city's congested roads during peak hours in the morning and evening.

The results of a survey revealed Tuesday confirmed people's frustration, as 76.61 percent of respondents thought Foke and his deputy Prijanto have done a terrible job reducing Jakarta's traffic, while 73.2 percent thought the pair was doing a poor job handling problems related to annual flooding.

But, we do not need a survey to know people's opinion of the city's traffic. Thousands of road users – frustrated by daily gridlock – obviously give the pair, whose term will end next year, a thumbs-down.

Yes, Governor Fauzi only has one more year to prove he is capable of solving Jakarta's various problems, particularly the traffic chaos. It is undeniable that the traffic is the capital city's main problem, as it does not only frustrate road users but also worsens air pollution and causes economic inefficiency.

The governor and the city administration have taken some measures to solve this problem, i.e. preparing for the construction of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) that will serve the Lebak Bulus bus terminal in South Jakarta to the Hotel Indonesia Traffic Circle in Central Jakarta, attempting to clear a number of roads of on-street parking and going ahead with and expanding the Transjakarta Busway.

Unfortunately, what is being done by the city is just business as usual, which is unlikely to end the already acute traffic problems in the city. Jakarta needs an extraordinary effort to solve this extraordinary problem. And, should the governor come up with a brilliant idea to solve the traffic gridlock, it will be a significant legacy to be remembered by all Jakartans.

But of course we cannot pin all the blame on Governor Fauzi and his administration. Other institutions, particularly the central government, have to support him. It is good that the central government announced Thursday its initiative to design a transportation master plan for Jakarta and its satellite cities, which will be followed by the establishment of the Greater Jakarta Transportation Authority (OTJ).

We welcome the initiative although it is already too late, considering that the city has suffered from this traffic issue for a very long time. We hope that the initiative will be translated and developed by the city administration as guidance for a long-term program of the city's traffic and transportation system.

But, road users cannot wait too long. Therefore, the city needs to provide a concrete solution to end the long misery of road users.

Hopefully, the central government will come up with a more concrete proposal to solve the problem. And for Governor Fauzi, you still have a year to come up with a solid solution to the problem before you have to deal with people's critical evaluations if you intend to run for a second term next year.

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THE JAKARTA POST

PLAN B, MR. PRESIDENT?

The temporary suspension of Indonesian labor export to Saudi Arabia to begin in August reflects the outrage many feel at Saturday's beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi, an Indonesian domestic helper who was sentenced to death for the murder of her Saudi employer.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he had sent a note of protest and stressed that the ban would be lifted once Riyadh agrees to provide better protection for Indonesian workers.

However, a blanket ban covering all types of workers will cut the incomes of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians who look to Saudi Arabia as their only means of improving their economic wellbeing. Yudhoyono had better have a Plan B to accommodate those who will not be able to go because of this decision, or those who are returning after their contracts end. Such people will add to Indonesia's growing number of unemployed and underemployed.

The government should have limited its ban to domestic workers only. Such workers are mostly unskilled young women who, because of their poor education, are most vulnerable to abuse. Working in other people's households, they are completely at the mercy of their employers. Ruyati had confessed to the murder, but as with similar cases in the past, she may have done it after being a victim of endless abuse.

Other workers with higher skills and a better education are not as vulnerable. They can take care of themselves and should understand the laws of the country they work in. If they commit crimes, by all means the local Indonesian embassy should extend assistance and make sure they are accompanied by lawyers in court.

The total ban on labor export to Saudi Arabia is only compounding the government's poor management of this sector. Indonesia will not only deprive itself of lucrative foreign exchange revenues from the income repatriation, it will also deny its own people of the right to search for better lives abroad. The government must come up with a better strategy to manage the labor export industry, which should include a plan to completely phase out the export of domestic workers and a clear deadline.

There is no job more degrading than working as a domestic worker, who is nothing more than a modern-day slave. Indonesia would do well to phase-out not only the export, but also the profession. The government must improve the education of young women, while creating better job opportunities for them at home and abroad.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

DECLARING WAR ON CHEATING

BAMBANG WISUDO

Cheating has become an epidemic in our education system. The case of Alif, a public elementary school student in Surabaya who revealed group cheating in the national exams was perhaps just the tip of the iceberg.

National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh's call for honesty in the recent national exams apparently fell on deaf ears. There was a lot of information both from teachers and education activists across the country indicating that cheating occurred, if not prevailed.

The difference is that now the practice is not openly and systematically encouraged by local education officials as it was in the past. This year, cheating happened before the exams began by increasing students' marks from the previous semester so they matched their passing grades.

Worse, cheating not only happened during the tests but also become a daily practice in our education system from as early as the first year at school. Parents, teachers, schools and education officials turn a blind eyes to the widespread cheating and plagiarism, running counter to the nation's struggle to combat corruption.

Instead of serving as an agent of transformation toward a corruption-resistant society, school itself has become a corrupt institution that legitimates and preserves a culture of corruption by spreading seeds of dishonesty among students.

Honesty and integrity are fundamental values of education. Seeking the truth is the essence of knowledge, but it is impossible to achieve without honesty and integrity. Competence is meaningless if honesty and integrity are absent.

The future of this nation is in danger if its prospective leaders and intellectuals prefer to take shortcuts and justify all means to achieve their goals. The absence of honesty and integrity, or a lack of them, in education will lead students to pragmatism at the expense of idealism and the courage to defend the weak or marginalized.

In reputable schools and universities across the world, the fight against cheating is obvious. Academic rules explicitly categorize cheating as a serious offense that may show offenders the door. Some schools warn students against cheating in the form of posters that are installed in strategic places.

Cheating has also become a cause for concern in the US. Prominent daily newspaper USA Today recently ran a series of reports about the practice there. One of the reports tells of a teacher who whispered test answers to her students in order to help them pass a high-stake exam so as to give a boost to the teachers' and the schools' image.

Both parents and teachers tolerate cheating here because they were products of an educational process that was also marred by cheating. Uniformity of testing, as seen in the multiple-choice format, also enhances cheating. Evaluations based on portfolios, students' works and oral tests are avoided, perhaps for the sake of practicality.

Cheating is pervasive in an educational system that discourages diveristy and creativity and takes freedoms away from both teachers and students. Cheating is more likely to occur if the capabilities of students in reading and writing are ignored and children undergo drills to answer test sheets in order to achieve good marks.

In the mark-oriented education system, evaluations are conducted to judge school children and categorize them according to their academic achievement and to label them as slow or fast learners, rather than be used as a tool for teachers to appraise their teaching.

It is difficut to differentiate students who earn 6.5 and 6.6 in basic subjects like math or English, but the 0.1 margin is very important in our education system as it can apparently distinguish "smart" students from "dumb" ones.

In the wake of this widespread cheating, it is time for us to declare war on the practice. Severe punishments are needed to deter students from cheating, but addressing the root cause of the country's centralistic and uniformed education system is a more pressing need. As John Gatto, a US education reformer, puts it "there isn't a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints".

The fight against cheating should top our education agenda as it will instill anticorruption culture and integrity among young people. This will be more meaningful than a dogmatic character-building education that will be introduced soon by the National Education Ministry or "honesty foodstalls" in schools introduced by the Corruption Eradication Commission.

The writer is the executive director of Sekolah Tanpa Batas, an NGO working to develop alternative education and critical creative teaching.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

CHEATING IS FAILURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

DONNY SYOFYAN

A massive cheating scandal has rocked our schools. One vivid example was the case uncovered at Gadel 2 State Elementary School in Surabaya, East Java.

A mother, Siami, reported to the local education office that her son, Alifah Ahmad Maulana, a sixth-grader at the school, had been forced to share his national examination answers with his classmates.

As a result of her report, angered parents allegedly intimidated Siami and her family, and the family was hounded out of their home.

The cheating scandal, together with various concealed cheating cases in this country, suggests honesty is waning. The spirit of honesty has been abandoned and deemed the common enemy by the public. Immoral behaviors involving kleptomania, greed, manipulation and deceit are thriving in the public domain.

The massive cheating constitutes an irony of our education system. Teachers, who are supposed to safeguard and instill a sense of honesty in students, instead instructed them to cheat. Apart from the widespread moral degradation, cheating raises a deep question about teachers' and students' doubts about facing the national examinations. Deceit in examinations is a means of saving time or effort required for students to pass.

Rampant cheating in our school system may be a result of a shortage of motivational programs for students in the face of the difficult national exams. For years, teachers and students have focused solely on exercises before exams. Meanwhile, efforts to improve the learning atmosphere and character building measures have been unseen.

Honesty and accountability therefore must be developed to bring about the necessary huge improvements in terms of the national exams. However, the issue is currently stuck in the "all talk and not much action" cycle. For the nation's sake, students need to be reminded of momentous honest and accountable characters, in place of negative ones.

As a matter of fact, cheating in a test is also found in higher education, especially in entrance exams. Media headlines have been jammed with stories about students who cheat on entrance exams for prestigious universities. But such cheating hardly makes news in college newspapers, much less warrants a full-scale police investigation. Anyone bucking the system risks becoming a pariah, though for many, perhaps, this student may seem more like an anti-hero.

Whatever one's personal stance, this story reveals the need for change in the university entrance exam system. At the university level, entrance exams are huge moneymakers, making students perform rather than learn think deeply or critically. The current exam system reinforces an excessive focus on outcome, which is one lesson the students seemed to have understood, perhaps too well.

Universities, whether public or private, are not run on the basis of transparency. The process of creating exams is tightly guarded. The results of some exams are released later on request, but individual test-takers are never allowed to view their own results. Social status and political power often rely on secrecy. Universities are no exception.

Though the solution is not a piece of cake, universities must reassess their process of selection for admissions. Increasing the number of proctors, refusing toilet breaks and searching students for cell phones, for instance, is not going to solve this problem. The pressures are too great and the belief that getting into a good school will lead to certain success is too deeply founded.

Several universities have been and are showing consideration for high school grades, recommendations, outside activities, interviews and essays as alternatives to the paper-based, multiple-choice exams. One cannot text for help during an in-person interview.

A major key to overcoming widespread cheating in our educational system lies in changing the mindset of teachers and students. It would be better-off admitting to an objective reality than applying false makeup.

If students do not pass the exams, tell and show them why and what went wrong. They may learn from their mistakes. Students who pass their exams by cheating will think this is an acceptable way to get ahead. They will therefore repeat this in their adult lives, in the process damaging the nation's competitiveness.

The incident in Surabaya has shed new light on just how rotten the system is. It should prompt authorities to replace rote learning with a curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking. The national exams at elementary and secondary schools and the entrance exams at higher education facilities have really come under criticism because they place too much emphasis on exams to determine students' level of achievement and aptitude. Such pressure forces many to cheat.

The time has come to change our approach to educating our youth. Finding better ways to select students would help the entire educational system to focus on what should be the real task at hand — learning thoroughly, critically and, dare it be mentioned, pleasurably. We must not let this country be systematically ruined by means of education.

The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

DRUGS POLICY: KEEP YOUR PROMISE, MR. MINISTER

With the annual dengue epidemic this year reaching its deadliest proportions, and other mysterious diseases like the viral flu or rat fever hitting hundreds of people, the government is taking urgent curative and preventive measures. Raids by health ministry officials on mosquito breeding sites are not enough. The people need to realise the immense danger involved and cooperate fully and willingly in tackling these diseases.

The Rajapaksa regime and the health ministry while effectively implementing the immediate remedial measures, also need to act on some vital, structural adjustments needed to restore a healthcare service where the well-being of the patients is given top priority both in the public and private sectors. The structural adjustments include implementation of a comprehensive National Health Policy whereby the prominence given to allopathy or Western medicine will be balanced by the inclusion of other forms of medical treatment like Ayruveda, Homeopathy, and Acupuncture at a national level.

Sri Lanka also needs a National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) based on the essential medicines concept of the revered Professor Senaka Bibile. This policy was formulated by Prof. Bibile more than 40 years ago and was accepted and acclaimed by the World Health Organisation. The theme for the WHO this year is the rational use of drugs and this essential medicines concept is being worked out effectively in more than hundred countries. Prof. Bibile's essential medicines concept was accepted and implemented by the United Front Government of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1970. In terms of this, the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation was set up with Professor Bibile himself as chairman to import cost effective essential drugs mainly under their generic names. The State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation was also set up to locally produce more than 50 varieties of quality drugs. Thereby Sri Lanka was able to save millions of dollars in foreign exchange annually by stopping the import of hundreds of non essential drugs under highly expensive brand names. Moreover because of the limited number being imported or produced locally, the government was able to maintain quality control of drugs and post marketing surveillance. The United States government itself reportedly intervened on behalf of some vested interests and in 1976 the Sri Lanka government was virtually forced to scrap the Senaka Bibile policy. A disheartened Professor Bibile quit and left for Guyana where he served the United Nations till he died mysteriously at a relatively early age. What happened after that was a calamity if not a catastrophe.

Even countries like Britain, which were in the forefront of the open market economy kept healthcare under state regulation and monitoring because they were aware that if health was put in the market the poor would die. The Jayewardene government and others that followed it left health in the market and today thousands of non essential though highly expensive drugs are being imported, prescribed and sold. No one is sure how many varieties of drugs have been registered while some pharmacologists put the figure as high as 9,000 which would be a dubious world record for Sri Lanka.

Whatever may have happened or not happened during the past three decades Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena has repeatedly assured he would introduce legislation for an NMDP next month. We hope that Minister Sirisena with the full backing of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and several other parties in the UPFA will introduce this legislation next month.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER WAVE OF INDIAN PRESSURE; ANOTHER PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE

After he was elected in 2005 President Mahinda Rajapaksa convened an All Party Conference (APC) in 2006 to find a political solution to the ethnic problem in the country. Five years later, his government is to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) for the same purpose.

 What happened to the APC? One may ask. The APC appointed a committee called All Party Representative Committee (APRC) which met more than hundred times for more than two years before it prepared its report. The report was handed over to President Mahinda Rajapaksa by the Committee Chairman Professor Tissa Vitharana, but only to be unheard of thereafter.

Minister Vitarana, a conventional Leftist who toiled hard to bridge the gap between various views of political parties that remained in his Committee till the end too has not been pressing for the implementations of his Committee's recommendations. Going by the behavior of many smaller political parties in the country when dealing with the two main parties, the reason for his meek submission is obvious.

Governments since mid eighties have appointed various forums to find a political solution to the ethnic problem, but only to be faced with the same fate as that of the APRC. This trend has created a situation where appointment of such new forums is not being received even by the majority Sinhalese with due seriousness and also the very idea is taken by many with scorn. Thus, even those who vehemently oppose the idea of political solution to the ethnic problem turned a deaf ear when the Government leaders said that they would appoint a PSC for that purpose.

The first forum for the purpose of finding a political solution was the Round Table Conference convened by President JR Jayewardene in 1984 which for the first time discussed the concept of devolution of power without using that term.

 The Round Table Conference was vanished in a few months as the very move by the government seemed to be halfhearted or deceptive. And fresh in their armed struggle for a separate State, the Tamil side too contributed to the failure of the Conference with their overwhelming adamancy.

This conference was followed by the famous Thimpu talks in 1985 in which the Tamil armed groups collectively and officially put forward their "Tamil Nation" theory. The talks broke down with violence back home orchestrated both by the security forces and the Tamil armed groups escalating.

With the Indian pressure another Conference was convened by President Jayewardene in 1986. Under the guidance of the Indian diplomats Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy and Romesh Bandari the Conference called "Political Party Conference" (PPC) developed the concept of devolution of power in the present form, with tentative powers to be devolved and the provinces as units for devolution.

The list of forums and pacts on the ethnic problem and devolution of power include the Indo-Lanka peace Accord of 1987, Premadasa - LTTE peace talks in 1989/90, All Party Conference (APC) in 1989, the Parliamentary select Committee headed by Mangala Moonasinghe in 1991, Chandrika-LTTE peace talks in 1994/95, the Parliamentary Select Committee chaired by Professor GL Peiris in 1995/97, Ranil Wickremesinghe-LTTE peace talks in 2002/03 and Mahinda Rajapaksa-LTTE talks in 2006.

The APC convened by President Premadasa in 1989 was unique as the representatives of the LTTE headed by Yogaratnam Yogi too participated in it. However, soon the outfit found an excuse in the participation of the EPRLF in the Conference to leave it. And the above list shows that the country had seen two PSCs on the issue which were total flops that wasted colossal sums of money and invaluable time.

Interestingly, none of these platforms could move the problem ahead of the point where it was in 1986, when the concept of Provincial Councils was developed. The only forward steps were the bringing about the Constitutional changes, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the related Provincial Councils Act of 1987 and the two Constitutional Amendments in 1986 and 1988 in order to recognize the Tamils' language rights.

It is against this backdrop the Government is to appoint another PSC. Needless to say that the idea was floated following the agitations in Tamil Nadu which resulted in the Indian Central Government's pressure on Sri Lanka to find a political solution to the ethnic problem.

While floating the idea of a PSC, Government leaders are also attempting to convince the public that they will go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in finding a political solution. Ironically those parties in the ruling coalition that are dead against the concept of devolution of power were not agitated by the pronouncement on going beyond 13th Amendment, as if nothing would happen. Most probably nothing would happen this time as well. 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

RENEWING E-WASTE

The e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, have the potential to turn a growing problem into a development opportunity. With almost a year to go before the rules take effect, there is enough time to create the necessary infrastructure for collection, dismantling, and recycling of electronic waste. The focus must be on sincere and efficient implementation. Only decisive action can eliminate the scandalous pollution and health costs associated with India's hazardous waste recycling industry. If India can achieve a transformation, it will be creating a whole new employment sector that provides good wages and working conditions for tens of thousands. The legacy response of the States to even the basic law on urban waste, the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, has been one of indifference; many cities continue to simply burn the garbage or dump it in lakes. With the emphasis now on segregation of waste at source and recovery of materials, it should be feasible to implement both sets of rules efficiently. A welcome feature of the new e-waste rules is the emphasis on extended producer responsibility. In other words, producers must take responsibility for the disposal of end-of-life products. For this provision to work, they must ensure that consumers who sell scrap get some form of financial incentive.

The e-waste rules, which derive from those pertaining to hazardous waste, are scheduled to come into force on May 1, 2012. Sound as they are, the task of scientifically disposing of a few hundred thousand tonnes of trash electronics annually depends heavily on a system of oversight by State Pollution Control Boards. Unfortunately, most PCBs remain unaccountable and often lack the resources for active enforcement. It must be pointed out that, although agencies handling e-waste must obtain environmental clearances and be authorised and registered by the PCBs even under the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008, there has been little practical impact. Over 95 per cent of electronic waste is collected and recycled by the informal sector. The way forward is for the PCBs to be made accountable for enforcement of the e-waste rules, and the levy of penalties under environmental laws. Clearly, the first order priority is to create a system that will absorb the 80,000-strong workforce in the informal sector into the proposed scheme for scientific recycling. Facilities must be created to upgrade the skills of these workers through training and their occupational health must be ensured.

The Hindu

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SRI LANKAN SECURITY FORCES HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE: PROF. GUNARATNE

International terrorism expert and Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University Prof. Rohan Gunaratne speaks to Hard Talk about the recent allegations against the government and security forces.

Stressing that terrorists are the worst human rights violators he emphasizes that the LTTE assigned a significant portion of their budget to lobby human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and International Crisis Group. Citing such action as being behind the Channel 4 fiasco, he maintains that the LTTE even had a dedicated budget for "Geneva Travel" to lobby NGO advocacy groups. 'Terrorists are the worst human rights violators and the conduct of the LTTE was the best example of it. The LTTE will continue to trick human rights groups and media organizations and some will fall into the LTTE trap,' he warns.

The militaries, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services worldwide have hailed Sri Lankas defeat of the LTTE. As the recent Army seminar in Colombo, pre-eminent experts on counter terrorism, including from the West, praised Sri Lankas strategy. The only failure they highlighted was the inability of the Sri Lankan government especially its political leaders to understand and develop an effective information strategy to counter these allegations.

These allegations are directed and inspired by the LTTE that has now transformed from a ruthless terrorist group to a sophisticated propaganda organization. Unfortunately, a handful of Western politicians are trying to play cheap politics at Sri Lankas expense. Driven by the marginal diaspora Tamil vote manipulated by the LTTE, these unethical politicians, primarily from the UK, are parroting LTTE slogans under the guise of advocating human rights. Shamelessly, the same politicians advocated the US/UK invasion destroying the lives of nearly a million Iraqi civilians based on disinformation!

A few of these European and North American political leaders have accepted not only LTTE votes but LTTE funds. They are not genuinely interested in improving the quality of life of Sri Lankans but in their own political survival. Like a Wikileak exposed David Miliband's primary motivation to focus on Sri Lanka was Tamil votes, Western governments should investigate LTTE links to these politicians.

 According to a British government officer, the LTTE exercises electoral pressure on the British politicians greedy for votes, the politicians put pressure on government bureaucrats, and that affects British policy on Sri Lanka.

Q:Yet the victory has been seen to be devalued in the face of charges of war crimes on the forces by certain individuals, how do you see this situation?

Wars are no longer won only in the battlefield
Sri Lanka won the war on the ground but lost it in the information space. The Sri Lankan political leadership did not understand the importance of countering the LTTE directed and LTTE inspired propaganda. The Ministry of External Affairs and its missions overseas and the Ministry of Information miserably failed to rise to this challenge. Until the Sri Lankan government builds a robust information operations capability, the disinformation and misinformation campaign of the LTTE will damage Sri Lankas image and reputation. 

The LTTE developed the war crimes canard because the remnant leaders of the defeated LTTE want to remain relevant. Today, the LTTE is a militarily spent force but it has emerged as a propaganda organization. With the LTTE dismantled, the Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese are living happily.  Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of the Tamils living overseas travel to Sri Lanka. They are the biggest investors in Sri Lanka and government needs to engage them by creating a dedicated diaspora affairs department.

The Sri Lankan government must be undeterred by such baseless criticism. However, it must not fall into the trap of non-response. Sri Lanka must respond to every single allegation and share the unprecedented steps taken by the government to rehabilitate former LTTE cadres, rapidly resettle IDPS, rebuild the north and the east and reconcile the communities. Additionally, government must create an international centre for human rights to investigate human rights violations committed by the terrorists and highlight the stories of the victims of terrorism.

Q: How concerned are you with the criticism over the quoted misconceptions on the security forces' role during the humanitarian debacle over the last stages of the war?

Throughout the Sri Lankan war, even when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed in Sri Lanka, LTTE produced its version of events.

 The LTTE often accused its opponents of the crimes the LTTE committed on the civilians. For instance, the LTTE spoke of genocide when it engaged in ethnocide by expelling Muslims and Sinhalese from the north and east. Through propaganda, the LTTE was able to convince a segment of the Sri Lankan Tamils and a narrow segment of the international community of its lies.

Having failed to engineer a humanitarian catastrophe to draw western intervention, the strategy of the LTTE remnants is lobby Western media; NGOs, especially rights advocacy NGOs; and western politicians susceptible to Tamil electoral pressure and campaign funds who can pressurize international organizations such as the UN. Sri Lankan government must publicize how it freed nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians held hostage and eventually shot at by the LTTE. To counter LTTE directed and inspired misinformation and disinformation campaign, the government must engage in an image and a perception management exercise. But I do not see the Sri Lankan government taking this challenge seriously.   

Sri Lankan security forces have nothing to hide except current operations to maintain current and future security. It is paramount for the Sri Lankan government to investigate every single allegations levelled against its security forces. The Sri Lankan rmy Commander General Jagath Jayasuriya publicly stated that the army will investigate any specific incident that has been brought to its attention.

Throughout the war, the LTTE assigned a significant portion of their budget to lobby human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and International Crisis Group. Recovery of LTTE documents show that the LTTE even had a dedicated budget for "Geneva Travel" to lobby NGO advocacy groups. Terrorists are the worst human rights violators and the conduct of the LTTE was the best example of it. The LTTE will continue to trick human rights groups and media organizations and some will fall into the LTTE trap.

Q: The allegations made by Channel 4 are doing serious damage to the country and the forces. As an international expert on terrorism how would you decipher the allegations and weigh the consequences?

 Channel 4 is the latest victim of LTTE disinformation and misinformation.

For example, Channel 4 portrays Thamilvany Kumar as a civilian.  On the contrary, Thamilvany Kumar is a LTTE weapons trained activist from the UK that worked for Castro, who was in charge of LTTE international network including propaganda. Furthermore, Channel 4 portrays Issipriya as a journalist but she is a weapons trained LTTE cadre who received the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the LTTE. While Issipriya contributed to the radicalization and militarization of an entire generation, her husband Sri Ram killed security forces personnel both in land and maritime attacks.

Sri Lanka's Ministry of Information must produce a film a month to portray the unprecedented development in the north and the east of Sri Lanka. The government should give access to film makers to make films on nation building. Rather than funding anti-government journalists to write stories attacking the government, foreign missions in Colombo should be encouraged to provide assistance to independent film producers to produce films on terrorist rehabilitation, IDP resettlement, reconstruction in the north and the east and reconciliation between the communities.

Q: The government recently announced plans to strengthen the legal framework in seizing LTTE assests by amending the Financial Transactions Act, Prevention of Terrorism Financing Act etc. What key areas would you suggest the government concentrate on to better meet the related demands?

Terrorism as a threat will persist in Sri Lanka in the immediate, mid and in the long term.

 As such PTA and Emergency regulations must not be repealed. The LTTE remnants are funding some TNA MPS who are still engaged in Tiger activity. While developing a mainstream Tamil political leadership in the north and the east, the Government must target the terrorist financial infrastructure and prosecute anyone financially connected with the LTTE factions overseas even if they are TNA MPs. In addition to dispensing severe punishment, the government must enact laws to seize their assets.Sri Lankan courts do not have extra-territorial jurisdiction, to try persons such as LTTE operatives who have committed offences overseas, and not engaged in any illegal activities on Sri Lankan soil. It would be important for Sri Lankan authorities to pay due regard to this weakness of the Sri Lankan criminal justice system and adopt legislative reform so as to vest extra-territorial jurisdiction in Sri Lankan criminal courts and to amend the substantive criminal law of Sri Lanka to recognize as punishable offences LTTE activism overseas. As two years have passed, Sri Lanka must now move forward to criminalize advocacy, support and participation in separatist activities an offense.

Q: The Indian interest in resolving the Sri Lankan 'issue' is seen by a majority as an interference that must not be tolerated. Do you see room  for such concerns in view of the undeniable political realities that are shared between?

Sri Lanka must not follow the Indian model of devolution.

 Every country is unique. Sri Lanka must develop its own methods to manage its challenges. A wise Indian familiar with recent Indo-Lankan history will not dictate terms to or impose its will on Sri Lanka!India is partially responsible for creating the LTTE. Today, it is no secret that the Indian government armed, trained, financed and directed over 20,000 LTTE and other cadres from Indian soil from 1983-1987. Having assisted the LTTE first, by non interference in the final phase of the operation against the LTTE in 2008-2009, India is also partially responsible for destroying the LTTE. Sri Lanka must remain grateful to India for its non role in the final phase.

India supported the LTTE and other groups because New Delhi perceived that Sri Lanka had stepped out of the non aligned orbit and was flirting with the US, Israel, China, and Pakistan. Now the Americans and the Israelis have become the best friends of Indians. Although India's relations with China and Pakistan are improving there is deep mistrust between these nations.  As such, Sri Lanka must maintain cordial relations with New Delhi and with Chennai. Otherwise, India will punish Sri Lanka once again. To prevent the LTTE from regrouping in Tamil Nadu and re-emerging as a threat both Indian and Sri Lankan law enforcement and intelligence services must build a special relationship.

 Although most Tamil Nadu politicians are crooks and corrupt, Sri Lanka must build a formidable relationship with Tamil Nadu politicians and officials. They must invite the Chief Minister and all her top officials to visit Sri Lanka's north east and show case the unprecedented development and invite their participation.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD?  

BY PAUL BALLES

AS a student of literature I learnt that any work of art, including stories, poems and plays, could mean different things to different people.

Later, as a teacher of literature, I encouraged my students to offer as many interpretations as they could of the characters and their actions. They always offered many.

Once they understood that much of life was also subject to different interpretations, they realised why we humans have so many problems understanding each other.

How many perspectives can the same event engender? One wit posed the question: Why did the chicken cross the road? The imagined responses are brilliant:

Machiavelli: The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares why? The ends of crossing the road justify whatever motive there was.

Thomas de Torquemada: Give me 10 minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.

Fox Mulder: It was a government conspiracy.

Freud: The fact that you thought that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Darwin: Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically predisposed to cross roads.

Richard Nixon: The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did not cross the road.

Oliver Stone: The question is not "why did the chicken cross the road?", but rather: "Who was crossing the road at the same time who we overlooked in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?"

Jerry Seinfeld: Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to ask: "What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place anyway?"

Martin Luther King Jr: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

Bill Gates: I have just released the new Chicken 2000, which will both cross roads and balance your cheque book, though when it divides three by two it gets 1.4999999999.

M C Escher: That depends on which plane of reality the chicken was on at the time.

George Orwell: Because the government had fooled him into thinking that he was crossing the road of his own free will, when he was really only serving their interests.

Colonel Sanders (KFC): I missed one?

Plato: For the greater good.

Aristotle: To actualise its potential.

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

B F Skinner: Because the external influences, which had pervaded its sensorium from birth, had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

The Sphinx: You tell me.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken nature.

Emily Dickenson: Because it could not stop for death.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Saddam Hussein: It is the mother of all chickens.

Joseph Stalin: I don't care. Catch it. I need its eggs to make my omelette.

Dr Seuss: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes the chicken crossed the road, but why he crossed I've not been told!

O J Simpson: It didn't. I was playing golf with it at the time.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAY NO TO ISRAEL'S NEW SOLICITATIONS

BY KHALID AMAYREH

 

Seeking to restore erstwhile good relations with Turkey, Israeli prime Minister Benymain Netanyahu has asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to forget the past and turn over a new leaf in Israeli-Turkish relations.

Last year, Netanyahu ordered the Israeli navy to massacre Turkish activists en route to the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with the estimated 1.6 million blockaded Gazans for daring to try to free themselves from Jewish-Zionist oppression and subjugation.

At least nine Turks were murdered in cold blood in the gruesome massacre for which Israel is yet to apologize. Some Orthodox rabbinic authorities don't recognize non-Jews as fully human and see their lives as having no sanctity, especially in comparison to Jews.

There is no doubt that Israel seriously miscalculated Turkish reactions both to brazen Israeli interference in Turkey's internal affairs and also the Nazi-like treatment Israel was (and still is ) meting out to Israel's subjects and neighbors, especially in the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon.

In Turkey, Israel attempted to undercut Erdogan's Justice and Development party by instructing the pro-Zionist Masonic arm to destabilize the government. It also tried to incite the historically-secular military establishment against new Islamic rulers. In several instances, Israeli agents asked some high ranking Turkish officers to disobey and overrule their government.

Turkey made some strenuous efforts to mediate between Israel and some of her neighbors.

However, instead of walking in the path of peace, Israel sought relentlessly to exterminate Lebanese and Palestinians in the thousands. This genocidal approach toward the very people with whom Israel claims to want to make peace reached a high point in 2008-09 when the Israeli army, navy and air force carried out a blitzkrieg against the Gaza Strip, killing, incinerating and maiming thousands and destroying tens of thousands of homes throughout the coastal enclave.

Less than two years earlier, Israel dropped between 2-3 million cluster bomb-lets over southern Lebanon, causing incalculable damage.

One doesn't have to be a great mathematician to calculate that 2-3 million bombs can kill or maim 2-3 million children. This is at least half-a holocaust by the Israeli Jewish standards.

Now, all the murder and destruction the Israeli war machine was inflicting on basically innocent, helpless and unprotected civilians were being watched on TV screens around the world.

Among the viewers who had ""a wonderful time"" watching the very people who boast about being ""the light upon the nations"" have a free season on Palestinian and Lebanese children, were 75 million Turks.

They watched with seething anger their coreligionists in Gaza and southern Lebanon being slaughtered like sheep while the emulators of the Third Reich were shouting terror! Hamas! Auschwitz and anti-Semitism.

Israeli barbarianism is not a thing of the past. Israel continues to commit real crimes against the Palestinian people every minute, every hour, and every day. Criminality is Israel's modus operandi and dishonesty is her ultimate policy.

My grandfather was an officer in the Ottoman army. He viewed the Ottoman state as our state, the Ottoman Sultan as our Sultan. His loyalty to the Ottoman state was an inextricable part of his loyalty to Islam.

In 1953, the newly established Israeli army killed my three uncles Hussein, Mahmoud and Yousuf in a single day. And until this moment, the Israeli state never said sorry. It seems ""mea culpa"" doesn't exist in Hebrew.

When will Israel express real regret let alone apologize for her crimes? Perhaps when kosher pigs fly!

Today, Israel spares no chance to decapitate any conceivable chances for peace. In the West Bank, Israel allows the Nazi-like thugs, also known as settlers, to harass, brutalize and murder unarmed Palestinian villagers and peasants in order to force them to leave their ancestral homeland.

Moreover, these murderous thugs from Russia, North America and Eastern Europe routinely attack and torch mosques, thinking that by so doing they will please the Almighty.

More to the point, Netanyahu is still maintaining Israel's nefarious siege on the Gaza Strip and preventing building materials from getting into the coastal enclave.

This shows that Israel is not only destroying people's homes; it is also preventing them from rebuilding them.

Israel doesn't want to restore relations with Turkey so that the latter would have certain leverage or help in peace efforts which Israel never wasted a chance to scuttle and kill.

The truth of the matter is that Israel simply would like to use relations with Turkey to counter balance the new political realities in the Arab world, especially Egypt.

More to the point, Israel hopes that next time Israel commits genocide in Gaza or elsewhere, Turkey will show minimal public indignation.

I know I have no right to interfere in the affairs of a sovereign state. However, Turkey is not just another state, and the Palestinians are not just another people.

Hence, I would like to remind my brother Recep Teyyip Erodogan not to be tricked by the this pathological liar in occupied Jerusalem who thinks that lying is the best policy especially in dealing with ""sheepish"" Gentiles whom the Almighty created solely to serve the master race!

Sir, don't be cajoled or deceived by this liar, who practices mendacity as often as he breathes the oxygen of life, and his ministers who really deeply hate Turkey in their hearts, especially a Turkey that values truth, freedom and justice.

(Source: Palestine Information Center

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MOROCCO AND ITS NEW CONSTITUTION

BY SEYYED MOHIADDIN SAJEDI

 

The governments of Spain and France have welcomed the Moroccan king's decision to hold a nationwide referendum on the constitution.

The referendum will be held on the first of July and the king himself has announced that he will vote in favor of it. The February 20 Movement has also announced that it is against constitutional reforms because the people had no part in amending it. According to the opposition, the king's powers are so great under the new constitution keeping the country far from becoming a constitutional monarchy.

Based on the draft of the new constitution that has been announced by the king --and amended by a special committee chosen by the king himself- more power has been given to the prime minister and the parliament.

For example, the king will have to seek the prime minister's approval to dismantle the parliament and vice versa. Also, the king would have to select the prime minister from the party that has won a majority in parliament through popular elections. In the new constitution a large number of incentives are given to the people who speak the Amazigh language.

Despite the fact that Islam is the official religion of Morocco, the king has called himself the 'commander of the faithful' and nobody is allowed to oppose it. The king is allowed to interfere in selecting ministers, military commanders, and other national figures. Under the current constitution the king has 'spiritual' position.

Based on the draft of the new resolution the king will share some of his power with the parliament and the cabinet but he will still be able to enjoy unchallenged power in other areas.

This is a source of disagreement between him and the Moroccan youth in the February 20 Movement who are calling for an independent counsel to carry out the reform. They want to be able to choose the members of the counsel themselves in a free election. The opposition believes the people currently have no say in reforming the constitution.

Government media has already started their campaign to encourage people to come to the polls and vote in favor of the reforms. One can only wait and see what the Moroccan people will vote for. Unlike the current constitution, which gives the king absolute power, the new constitution opens a new door to the inclusion of people in the governance of their country through electoral processes.

Aside from the constitution and the demand for a constitutional monarchy, where the king plays a ceremonial role, financial corruption and political favoritism is another reason why the Arab Spring reached Moroccan soil.

The method of implementing and guaranteeing the execution of the constitution is more important than the constitution itself. There are concerns that Morocco's king would try to bring his intended prime minister to power.

Before announcing the draft constitution, people's protests in Morocco did not face the government's harsh reaction like in Syria or Libya. It is not clear what reaction the king will show if people vote against the constitution in the upcoming referendum, or if the opposition will accept if the results are positive?

Whatever result the referendum produces, it will be important for the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, which in its last meeting invited two other monarchies, Jordan and Morocco, to join the organization. The establishment of a Monarchy Association in the Arab world was interpreted as an attempt by these countries to safeguard themselves against the storm of changes.

Jordan adjoins Saudi Arabia and can be connected to the (P)GCC by using political interests as an excuse, but Morocco is on the other side of the Arab world, and its new constitution will increase its distance from Persian Gulf's autocratic states.

The King of Jordan Abdullah II is also under pressure from people to change the country's political establishment and hold free elections so that governments are no longer the puppets of monarchy.

Changes in Jordan and Morocco would be welcomed by the US and Europe, and according to media reports American diplomats often visit the palaces to encourage Jordanian and Moroccan kings to make changes.

Jordan's geographical position, which shares a border with Israel and the future state of Palestine, increased the White House's sensitivity towards the issue.

Governmental reforms and guided democracy in Jordan rather than popular movements and regime change are necessary for the US.

Differences in views and interests between the US and Saudi Arabia regarding political changes in the Arab World are evident. Although in his Middle East address, US President Barack Obama intentionally did not mention Persian Gulf emirates and only referred to Bahrain, probably these states will be pressured by the US to begin voluntary reforms.

It will not be long before Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud regrets inviting the Jordanian and Moroccan kings. Any kind of change in Jordan and Morocco is not desirable for the PGCC which houses autocratic monarchies.

(Source: Press TV

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW THE EMPIRE DESTROYS ITS OWN PEOPLE

BY JAMES PETRAS

 

On May 29, 2011, President Obama visited Joplin, Missouri, the site of a devastating tornado that killed 140 and pronounced it a terrible "tragedy". But were the deaths the inevitable result of 'natural events' beyond the human intervention?

Coincidentally the same week Afghan President Karzai condemned the killing of a family of 14 by a NATO fighter bomber, running the total to several hundred civilians killed so far this year and thousands over the decade.

The relation between the civilian deaths in Joplin and Afghanistan raises fundamental questions about the priorities, character and direction of the US Empire and the future of the American republic.

Information about the nature of killer tornadoes is plentiful. Nevertheless deaths mount from year to year. Fear and insecurity stalks the region's most susceptible to the violent whirlwinds, even as the Congress and White House have increased personnel and funding for 'Homeland Security' twenty fold over the decade .The current budget is over $180 billion. If we add the deaths caused by other 'natural' disasters like the flooding of New Orleans, the numbers of deaths are staggering. What explains this perverse relation between huge public funding for 'homeland security' and the increased insecurity of vulnerable Americans in clearly identified danger zones?

The reason is clear: 'Homeland Security' (HS) is an Orwellian misnomer. The agency is not concerned with domestic, civilian, American security. HS is part of a military-police response to imagined overseas threats, which have not materialized or at least have not produced deaths comparable to tornadoes and floods in the last 11 years.

HS spends billions and employs thousands to investigate, spy and harass citizens engaged in legal-constitutional activities. HS and the Pentagon spend tens of billions on overseas infrastructures – buildings, bases, camps -and over 900 billion in arms. HS and the Defense Department forcefully intervene militarily throughout the world via overt and clandestine operations.

To be precise, HS intervenes offensively overseas, attacking civilian targets, while it fails to engage domestically to protect American civilians who are left defenseless in the face of predictable natural disasters.

HS and the Pentagon's sustained violent overseas operations are rejected and regarded as a hostile imperial intervention by the civilians in those countries adversely affected. In contrast, defenseless citizens in the US would welcome large-scale intervention in the form of community shelters, which would provide survival, security, life-saving protection and financial aid for rebuilding their lives. Moreover, Pentagon and HS spending on overseas infrastructure, bases and bombs results in deficits, whereas investments in tornado and flood shelters would stimulate jobs, growth and investment in the US .

The current activity of HS destroys lives abroad and neglects survival at home: It has nothing to do with our "homeland" and even less with our "security". Five percent of HS budget would have prevented many of Joplin 's 'tragedy' (and saved us from Obama's gaseous oratory!) and the other 400 deaths from this year's crop of tornadoes.

Systemic Bases of Perpetual Domestic Neglect

Death from 'natural' events raises a fundamental POLITICAL question: Why is the budget of Homeland Security and the Pentagon directed overseas, toward destructive, offensive, military activity rather than to domestic, constructive, defensive activity to protect American lives and productive economic activity?

The problem is systemic not due to some personal flaw or political idiosyncrasy of the moment. The structures of the US economy and military institutions are oriented 'outwardly' to conquering foreign financial markets and building a military empire. The ideology which informs strategic policymakers is imperial-centered not republican: They do not speak of developing and deepening the economy and security of 'middle America '. Every member of the political and corporate elite talks of 'world' or 'global' leadership – a thinly veiled euphemism for the drive to sustain world dominance. Within the imperial framework the entire 'security' budget is directed toward maintaining offensive military supremacy. No wonder there is a steep decline in all spheres of domestic security – natural, social, personal, health and employment –a phenomenon that proceeds with little public debate. The only exception is when threats to security impinge most directly and forcefully on a significant sector of the population. For example, witness the storm of protest from those directly affected when the politicians moved to privatize social security and Medicare.

Nevertheless, the entire political spectrum, the two parties, the Congress and the White House over the past 30 years, have created an artificial consensus in which overseas wars, foreign aid to patrons (Israel) and clients (Pakistan and Egypt) absorbs the greatest percentage of budgetary spending. No political or economic leadership has stepped forward to articulate the obvious connection between global expansion and domestic decay; to forcefully state that the deterioration of the republic is a direct product of the vast resources channeled into military and economic empire building. Who on New York City 's Wall Street or Washington 's Pentagon is going to even look at or consider a 'security plan' with regard to the geography of catastrophes – tornado alley covering a dozen states and the floods and deaths that overwhelm the lowlands from Montana to Louisiana ?

Small towns and trailer parks do not count! You have your 2nd amendment (the 'right to bear arms'), you have your 'small government', and you have your flags: 'Wav 'em and weep' as tornadoes blow down your houses and your sons and daughters return wrapped in flags to the Battle Hymn of the Empire!

Conclusion

One might argue that community storm shelters won't break the Treasury or reverse the empire. More to the point, their absence, from the federal, state and local political agenda, is emblematic of the total subordination of domestic America to imperial Washington. The 'cost' of building community shelters at the strip malls and trailer parks in Joplin, Missouri is less than a regional training outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is not a question of money.

Conquering Afghanistan villages enhances the prestige of the Generals, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and NATO officials. Can saving 145 lives in Joplin, Missouri match that in terms of world politics or the politics of imperial leadership? For Afghanistan, Washington builds a thousand military shelters and bomb proof bunkers .For the Americans living in tornado alley and the flood plains of the Mississippi people must make do.

When you hear the tornado warning, it's up to you. As a proud, free American you can find a rock to crawl under and say your prayer: the Federal government and Homeland Security have the Endless, World-wide War against Terror to fight and cannot be bothered by a Joplin, Missouri nursing home in the path of a tornado.

We exaggerate: Obama will jet in and speak before the cameras in solemn terms of the 'tragedy' and 'courage' of the people of Joplin ... But will any local politician stand up and speak truth to power? Most of these deaths and (many more to come) are avoidable; under a democratic American republic, the government 'intervenes' to provide protection, health and employment for its people.

In the meantime, as the empire continues to grow it destroys its own people, just like the sow that devours its offspring.

(Source: Global Research

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