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Thursday, July 7, 2011

EDITORIAL 07.07.11

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Editorial

Month july 07, edition 000878, 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. DECREPIT, BROKE STATE
  2. AN UNWARRANTED ORDER
  3. COLOMBO MUST ACT NOW - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. WHO'S IN CHARGE OF GOVERNMENT? - B RAMAN
  5. JUDICIARY FLOGS THE EXECUTIVE AGAIN - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  6. AMERICA HAS ERRED ON HIZBULLAH - BARRY RUBIN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. WORTH THE MONEY
  2. CANDOUR AT LAST
  3. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL - MICHELLE BACHELET
  4. CRUDITY CAN LEND REALISM
  5. THE SENSATION TRAP - BACHI KARKARIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TRESPASSERS NOT WELCOME
  2. EVERYBODY, HANDS UP!
  3. THERE'S NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS - NIKHIL RAYMOND PURI
  4. ROUGH CUT
  5. DEVIL IN OUR HEARTS - SAMAR HALARNKAR
  6. AN OPEN LETTER TO A BIGOT - VIVEK DIVAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. TOO JUDGMENTAL
  2. A STRAIGHT BAT
  3. FIRING FUEL
  4. METHOD OR MADNESS? - SEEMA CHISHTI
  5. HIS VISUALS TALKED - SHUBHRA GUPTA
  6. THE TREASURE OF TRIVANDRUM - MADHAV KHOSLA
  7. WHEN LIVE TV WORKS — AND WHEN IT DOES NOT - SHAILAJA BAJPAI  
  8. A TRAP FOR MODI - MANOJCG
  9. FRANCE, AMERICA AND DSK

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. ROUGH QUARTER, BETTER YEAR
  2. HOPE FLOATS
  3. MEASURING GOVERNMENT INACTION - MK VENU
  4. SHADES OF GREY - SHAILESH DOBHAL

THE HINDU

  1. MURDERMOST FOUL
  2. THE PROPERTY OF BLACK MONEY
  3. THAWING ARCTIC OPENS UP NEW SHIPPING ROUTES - TERRY MACALISTER
  4. THE SEARCH FOR A NEW SPACE PROGRAMME
  5. DANA BARTHOLOMEW
  6. FLYING ON A WING AND A PRAYER - M.P. BEZBARUAH
  7. AMERICA'S SECRET ROMANCE WITH ISLAMISM - PRAVEEN SWAMI
  8. CLIMATE SCIENTISTS ANGERED BY INDIFFERENCE - MICHAEL BROOKS

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. 'SALWA JUDUM' WAS A BLOT ON THE REPUBLIC
  2. GOOD MORNING, 'NAM - BHARAT KARNAD
  3. THE DETERMINED OUTSIDER 0 KHALID MOHAMED

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. POST-PANCHAYAT ELECTIONS
  2. BLUFF EXPOSED
  3. WHEN BLACK IS NOT BEAUTIFUL - BY S. V. VAIDYANATHAN
  4. REDRAFT ECOONOMIC POLICY - BY RAMESH KANITKAR
  5. CHILDREN OF CONFLICT  - BY VARAD VARENYA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. FAME, SHAME, ACTION
  2. TARGETING SUBSIDIES
  3. COMBATING MAOISM 
  4. TROUBLED TAMILS IN LANKA - BY G. PARTHASARATHY
  5. NEED SOUND SLEEP - BY RAVIA GUPTA
  6. CULTURAL WASTELANDS - VANDANA SHUKLA

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. CASH TO THE CONSUMER
  2. A NEW SILK ROUTE
  3. THE CHALLENGES OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY - SHYAM PONAPPA
  4. BACK TO THE FUTURE - KANIKA DATTA
  5. CHINA'S RAW DEAL - T S VISHWANATH
  6. THE YAWNING SKILL GAP - INDICUS ANALYTICS

BUSINESS LINE

  1. TEXTILES AND THE COUNTRYSIDE
  2. THE O IN PMO IS A LETTER, NOT A NUMBER - EKALAVYA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. MOVE ON TELANGANA
  2. FIX THE EDIFICE!
  3. JUDGE DREAD
  4. WAGE BOOM PROVES INCLUSIVE GROWTH  - SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR
  5. THE BUCCANEER YEARS OF INSURANCE BUSINESS  - AVINASH CELESTINE
  6. DOES FOOD INFLATION HURT THE POOR?  - RAGHAV GAIHA & NIDHI KAICKER

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. 'SALWA JUDUM' WAS A BLOT ON THE REPUBLIC
  2. GOOD MORNING, 'NAM
  3. THE DETERMINED OUTSIDER
  4. AN INJURY TO THE SPORT ?
  5. LIFE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

THE STATESMAN

  1. MANI MAKES SENSE
  2. CHARIOTS OFF TRACK
  3. CLIMATE OF VIOLENCE
  4. THE IDEA OF DEMOCRACY - BY ACHINTYA RAY
  5. MERE STORM IN A TEA CUP  -  KULDIP NAYAR
  6. KEEP IT DIRTY  -  SUDHA PALIT
  7. GOD OF SMALL THINGS  - SAUMITRA MOHAN

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. GUNS DOWN
  2. WARPED VISION
  3. THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
  4. TOWARDS A BLEAK FUTURE  -  NEHA SAHAY
  5. A HOME CALLED SCHOOL  - RUKMINI BANERJI
  6. HEAVY DUTY

HAARETZ

  1. DON'T TRAFFIC IN BODIES
  2. THE STRAUSS-KAHN SAGA  - BY ARI SHAVIT
  3. BETWEEN THE SKULLCAPS  - BY GIDEON LEVY
  4. THE FLOTILLA AND THE JEWISH STEREOTYPE  - BY AMIRA HASS
  5. CEMETERY POLITICS  - BY ALON IDAN

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. HOW TO ASSESS THE NEW TURKISH CABINET
  2. TIME FOR EU TO HAVE ITS OWN 'SPRING'
  3. IS SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY OUTSIDE THE LAW?
  4. MUSLIM FOR A MONTH - KADI KARAKUŞ
  5. ISRAELI ARMY DOING ITS HOMEWORK
  6. CHURCHES ACROSS AMERICA READ FROM THE QURAN - TAD STAHNKE
  7. YOUNG BLOOD TO STRENGTHEN TIES - AYBARS GÖRGÜLÜ & JACOB ZENN

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. FUMBLING TOWARD DEFAULT
  2. EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE CANCER DRUGS
  3. DEATH ON THE BATTLEFIELD
  4. THE WORLD IS WATCHING
  5. IN AN EARTHBOUND ERA, HEAVEN HAS TO WAIT - BY FRANK BRUNI
  6. TAXES AND BILLIONAIRES - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  7. ASSIMILATION'S FAILURE, TERRORISM'S RISE - BY KENAN MALIK

THE NEWS

  1. ABBOTTABAD PROBE
  2. AIRBASE CONFUSION
  3. KARACHI TURF WARS
  4. IMAGE OF THE UNIFORM  - IKRAM SEHGAL
  5. EXPLOITATIVE TRADE AS AID  - YUSUF H SHIRAZI
  6. END OF THE TETHER FOR QADDAFI  - NAZAR ABBAS
  7. IN THE GRIP OF TERROR  - S MUSHFIQ MURSHED
  8. PICTURES FROM A CERTAIN HELL  - KAMILA HYAT
  9. DEVELOPING A PROCESS  - DR QAISAR RASHID

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. INEVITABLE ROLE OF TALIBAN
  2. KARACHI SITTING ON KEG OF GUNPOWDER
  3. POLITICAL CONTOURS OF MOONIS ELAHI CASE
  4. AFGHAN WAR WILL SHIFT TO INDIA? - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  5. HOW COULD DSK GET OFF? - SAEED QURESHI
  6. MQM QUITS HOPEFULLY FOR GOOD - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  7. RISE OF THE SCO - SAMEER JAFRI
  8. US POLICY SIDELINES GAZA - RAMZY BAROUD

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. MODEST STEPS TO BETTER POLICY
  2. OUR FUTURE GROWTH IS TIED TO COAL - THAT'S THE REALITY
  3. FACE UP TO REAL ISSUE OF BURKAS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED AT HOME
  2. DONOR BAN DOES NOT NEED THE LAW
  3. PHONE-HACKING JOURNALISTS TAINT THE PROFESSION
  4. POLITICAL DEBATE DESCENDS INTO FARCE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. LABOUR PARTY: SHADOWS OF THE PAST
  2. PHONE-HACKING SCANDAL: MINISTERS AND MR MURDOCH
  3. IN PRAISE OF … JORDI SAVALL

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MATTERS OF CONCERN WITH CHINA
  2. MINISTER CHOKES ON HARD TACK
  3. YEMEN CONTINUES TO INSPIRE AMID GREAT ODDS - BY RAMZY BAROUD
  4. LEBANON: ANOTHER FRAME-UP - BY GWYNNE DYER
  5. RETHINKING JAPAN'S MYANMAR POLICY - BY NAING KO KO AND SIMON SCOTT

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. 'WHOLE WOMEN' IN TUNE WITH MEN, IN PEACE WITH OWN NATURE  - GIOVANNI COMPARINI
  2. INDONESIA MUST ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY, SHOW MERCY  - FRANS H. WINARTA AND COLIN MCDONALD QC
  3. FORKED TONGUES FORCED DOWN OUR THROATS - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. NEW DELHI AND ITS SENSITIVITIES TOWARDS T'NADU
  2. MARSHALLING PEACE
  3. REBUILDING LIVES LOST IN A WAR...
  4. DEAL TO GET GADDAFI
  5. THAKSHIN SHINAWATRA MAKES A COMEBACK IN THAILAND

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. LEBANON: ANOTHER WESTERN FRAME-UP?    - BY GWYNNE DYER 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DECREPIT, BROKE STATE

RESTORING BENGAL TO HEALTH A HERCULEAN TASK


There was never any doubt that Ms Mamata Banerjee would inherit a decrepit State with dysfunctional institutions of governance, both legacies of 34 years of Left Front rule. If West Bengal was in decline when Jyoti Basu came to power in 1977, his successor, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has left behind a destroyed State with an empty treasury, a huge debt and a crippled system which ceased to govern long ago. During these 34 years Marxist leaders and cadre may have prospered and feathered their nests, but the masses were pushed deeper into a mess whose contours are only now beginning to emerge. The tragic death of new-born infants at a Kolkata hospital which is supposed to specialise in providing healthcare to children serves to highlight the degeneration of public services and collapse of institutions that were once known for their excellence. So long as the CPI(M) was in power, people preferred silence over protest lest they invite the ire of goons and thugs who propped up the Left Front regime, but not so any more. The pent up fury of three-and-a-half decades is now bursting forth, which has only made the task of putting West Bengal back on track that much more difficult for Ms Banerjee and the Government she heads. People expect immediate change for the better and sweeping rectification of all that is wrong with the State, its administration and delivery system. The expectation is justifiable, but at the same time it is only fair that Ms Banerjee be given time to undo the damage inflicted by the Left — the decline has been so precipitous in most areas of governance that quick-fix solutions will not work; a long overhaul lies ahead and patience would help the new Government get on with its job.

While cleansing the system of entrenched vested interests and individuals loyal to the ousted regime, who would not hesitate to undermine and subvert the new Government's efforts, is the first logical step towards changing the grammar of governance in West Bengal, that's easier said than done. Service rules framed in a manner to protect the bureaucracy and its extended tentacles from punitive action stand between a Government keen to deliver and a system that has been corroded and corrupted from within. Ms Banerjee has shown exemplary courage by taking on the bureaucracy and issuing marching orders to some of those who would rather see West Bengal sink further — hopefully, others will get the message. Meanwhile, those in the administration who did not allow their conscience to be benumbed and their spirit to be overwhelmed by the criminal and callous indifference of the CPI(M) and its allies, should step forward and lend a hand to the revival and rebuilding of West Bengal. There's nothing partisan about that.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

AN UNWARRANTED ORDER

IT'S FOR GOVERNMENT TO DECIDE SECURITY MEASURES


By ordering the Chhattisgarh Government to disband its 4,000-member group of Special Police Officers, or SPOs, who are involved in counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists, the Supreme Court has erred on several counts. The order, which declares as "unconstitutional" the arming of tribal youth and their appointment as SPOs, will no doubt be a huge setback to security operations in Maoist-infested Chhattisgarh, as the State police have already pointed out. But this is not particularly surprising, given that the order came in response to a petition filed by activists like sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramachandra Guha and former bureaucrat EAS Sarma, whose ideological persuasion has a lot in common with the subversive ideology of Maoists. For a long time they have provided intellectual legitimacy to the murderous campaign of the Red terrorists. Clearly their petition against Salwa Judum and the appointment of SPOs was aimed at weakening the Chhattisgarh Government's successful campaign against the Maoist insurgency. It is a pity that the Supreme Court chose to overlook the vested interests of the petitioners while passing its judgement. While doing so, the Supreme Court has appropriated to itself a function that belongs entirely in the domain of the executive, in this instance the State Government as well as the Union Government. It is for them to decide how best to tackle armed resistance and a violent challenge to the authority of the state and the values that lie at the core of our Republic. Let there be no doubt that the Maoists are pursuing an agenda of violence and anarchy. In the guise of pretending to protect the rights of tribals, these home-grown terrorists with an imported ideology are waging a full scale war against the state to establish a Pol Pot like regime. Hence, the Maoists are, in no uncertain terms, enemies of the state and the Government of Chhattisgarh, as well as the Union Government, are entirely within their rights — indeed it is their primary duty — to undertake whatever measures they deem fit to exterminate Left-wing extremism. If those measure include appointing tribal youth as SPOs, then so be it. By ordering the disarming and sacking of SPOs, the judiciary has crossed the line that separates its responsibilities from those of the executive. This is unwarranted and undesirable.


Moreover, Tuesday's order, which effectively delegitimises SPOs, sets a dangerous precedent that can adversely affect security operations elsewhere in the country. Though the order was issued in connection with SPOs appointed and armed by the Chhattisgarh Government, it could be construed to have put a question mark on SPOs similarly employed and armed in other conflict zones, such as in Jammu region. There too villagers are appointed SPOs and their help is sought for counter-insurgency operations. Indeed, as in Chhattisgarh, so also in Jammu they provide crucial real time intelligence and guide regular security forces through alien territory. But for the assistance provided by SPOs in Chhattisgarh, a far greater number of our jawans would have lost their lives while negotiating mined roads and fields and locating Maoist hideouts. Sadly, these facts appear to have been overlooked by the Supreme Court while admitting the spurious demand of activists for whom neither the nation nor national security mean anything.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

COLOMBO MUST ACT NOW

G PARTHASARATHY


Two years after the elimination of the Tamil Tigers, President Rajapaksa is yet to fulfil his promise of meeting the aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils.


When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa paid her first visit to New Delhi after assuming office, she forcefully articulated her concerns on Sri Lanka. Two issues concerning Sri Lankan Tamils stir passions in Tamil Nadu. The first is the conviction that ever since the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009, Sri Lankan Tamils have remained displaced from their homes and been denied basic human rights. The second concern is the attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy on grounds of their encroaching into Sri Lankan territorial waters, beyond the 285 acre, uninhabited, Kachativu Island.

Records of the British India Government since 1876 have showed Kachativu as part of Ceylon. The Raja of Ramnad in the then Madras Presidency, however, laid claim to the island in the 1920s. Kachativu was recognised by India as Sri Lankan territory in agreements signed in 1974 and 1976. The demarcation of the maritime boundary, under which India acknowledged Sri Lankan sovereignty over Kachativu, was based on the internationally recognised principle of the median line and in consonance with Article 15 of the Law of the Seas.

After the LTTE took control of northern Sri Lanka, fishing in each other's territorial waters became contentious. The Sri Lankan Navy resorted to what can only be termed as excessive and indiscriminate use of force. But in 2008, New Delhi and Colombo agreed that excluding what Sri Lanka considers as "sensitive areas", there would be "practical arrangements" to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the international boundary line.


Sri Lanka would be well-advised to see that the spirit of this agreement is respected by its Navy. And those raising public passions in Tamil Nadu should remember that the objections to fishing in Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen come primarily from Sri Lankan Tamils. The exchange of letters accompanying the 1976 agreement makes it clear that fishermen of either country shall not engage in fishing in the other's "historic waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zones".

 

Inevitably, but sadly, triumphalism, rather than reconciliation, has characterised a section of public opinion in Sri Lanka ever since the bloody ethnic conflict ended in 2009. There is broad agreement and substantive evidence, which has been endorsed by a UN panel set up by the Secretary-General, of gross human rights violations by both the Sri Lankan Government and its armed forces on the one hand and the LTTE on the other, particularly as the ethnic conflict drew to a close. Both sides were found to have resorted to summary executions and disappearances.


The LTTE had adopted the policy of using civilians as human shields extensively during the IPKF's operations in 1987. There should, therefore, be no reason to doubt, as the UN panel acknowledges, that V Prabhakaran, a confirmed psychopath who brutally killed virtually all politically influential Tamil leaders, cynically did likewise when the Sri Lankan Army closed in on him in 2009.


The ethnic conflict has left over 300,000 Tamils, described as "Internally Displaced Persons", in refugee camps. India has committed Rs 1,000 crore ($ 220 million) for rehabilitating them, including provision of construction material like cement and GI sheets for rebuilding homes. Large-scale medical assistance has also been extended. A programme to reconstruct 50,000 houses was commenced in 2010 and Tamil farmers were assisted with seeds, tractors and agricultural implements. A similar approach has marked India's commitment to broaden

ties across the island nation.


India is Sri Lanka's largest trading partner, with the Indian private and public sectors widely having a significant presence there. India has extended Lines of Credit of around $960 million for the improvement of the tsunami-damaged Colombo-Matara rail link and for rolling stock and wagons for the northern railway line. In a longer term perspective, India would be well-advised to assist the Tamil population in Sri Lanka by setting up educational and vocational training institutes in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.


The 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, enacted pursuant to the Rajiv Gandhi-JR Jayawardene Accord of 1987, provided for the devolution of powers to the Provinces, including to the Tamil-dominated Northern and the multi-ethnic Eastern Provinces. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had averred that he would be prepared to go even beyond this framework to meet Tamil aspirations. Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister GL Peiris, while visiting India, agreed that "a devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating conditions for such reconciliation". But Mr Rajapaksa now seems to be having second thoughts on his past assurances. Doubts are being expressed about abiding by the provisions of the 13th Amendment on crucial issues like law and order and land. After having won a landslide electoral triumph for ending the ethnic conflict, Mr Rajapaksa may end up losing the prospect of lasting harmony and amity if political expediency prevails over statesmanship.


Following reports of human rights violations by Sri Lanka's armed forces, 17 countries, including France, Germany, Mexico and Britain, had moved a resolution in the UN Human Rights Commission in May 2009, calling for an investigation into the charges. India, together with countries like Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and others, had this move rejected.


These countries, instead, backed a resolution, which was passed by 29 votes for and 12 against, condemning the LTTE and calling on the Sri Lankan Government to proceed with efforts for national reconciliation and resettlement of the internally displaced persons. Given the contents of the recent report of the committee constituted by the UN Secretary-General, which alludes to large-scale violation of human rights by the Sri Lankan Government, the 2009 resolution will inevitably be revisited and reviewed internationally.

India has spared no effort to assist and cooperate with Sri Lanka to eliminate the LTTE and to deal with foreign pressures mounted on its neighbour at international forums. Sri Lanka, in turn, will hopefully realise the importance of abiding by the solemn assurances it has given to India of going beyond the 13th Amendment to meet the legitimate aspirations of its Tamil population.


While Tamil demands for the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces are untenable, objections to provisions of the 13th Amendment about the transfer of limited powers on law and order and on land were not countenanced by both former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. One hopes Mr Rajapaksa will do likewise.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WHO'S IN CHARGE OF GOVERNMENT?

B RAMAN


For a Government to deliver governance, the Prime Minister has to be in command and control of the Council of Ministers and the system of administration. Sadly, Manmohan Singh is neither in command nor in control. As much is evident from the functioning of the Prime Minister's Office and the Cabinet Secretariat. As a result, the executive looks anaemic and weak.

Institutions and states tend to decay when there is a weakening of the command-and-control structure at the top. Many institutions and states do pass through such spells due to the failure of the human element but they manage to correct themselves in time and prevent decay from setting in.

That is where the quality of the command-and-control structure comes in. It cannot be brilliant all the time. There will be lapses from time to time, but a good leadership exercising command and control notices and corrects them in time.

The citizens of our country — whatever be their political persuasion and whatever be their ideological leanings — have reasons to be concerned over the continuing signs of a lack of command and control in the Prime Minister's Office and the Cabinet Secretariat that have been coming in for nearly two years now.

Among such signs, one could draw attention to the following:

·  The failure to act in time in dealing with the cascading indicators of corruption in different Ministries of the Government and in the committee set up to organise the Commonwealth Games. The indicators were deafening and yet were ignored till the judiciary stepped in.

·  The failure to understand and appreciate the growing public concern over what was perceived as the studied inaction of the Government on these corruption indicators and to address those concerns to the satisfaction of the people.

·  The failure to take seriously the allegations of large amounts held by Indian nationals in foreign bank accounts and act to establish the truth and bring back black money, if the allegations were correct. In the face of the perceived unsatisfactory action of the Government, the judiciary has been forced to step in by bringing the investigation under its control.

·  The mishandling of public demands for setting up an independent and effective machinery for dealing with future complaints of corruption, which has resulted in the mushrooming of public agitations on this issue and in the emergence of a new breed of non-state actors who have managed to project themselves as the genuine upholders of public morality and as the genuine voice of the people despite their never having participated in the political processes of the country such as elections. The mishandling has created a new centre of unelected authority called 'civil society' in addition to the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

·  The mishandling of appointments to certain posts, such as that of the Central Vigilance Commissioner, which carry a certain moral authority and, hence, require incumbents with unimpeachable moral credentials.

·  A reluctance to communicate with the people on issues of concern to them, directly or through the media.

·  A failure to understand the immense potential and soft power of the media of today and benefit from its capabilities, strengths and reach to establish an equation with the people.

·  A penchant for letting sleeping dogs lie instead of boldly confronting issues.
One can go on and on and on. A disturbing instance of the shockingly casual manner in which the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat have been functioning was seen in the messy sequel to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent long-delayed interaction with a small and pampered group of senior editors. The exercise was meant to provide Mr Singh with an opportunity to convey a clear message to the people that he was in effective command and control of the Government.

Instead, the result achieved was quite the opposite. Mr Singh was apparently not briefed by his officials in the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat that the transcript of the discussions would be released to the public and, therefore, he should be careful while talking about state-to-state relations with other countries. As a result, some of his remarks have caused serious embarrassment.

Mr Singh apparently did not also get himself properly briefed about the corruption cases in various stages of investigation and prosecution. This has resulted in Mr Singh making statements in matters relating to the Commonwealth Games that are not factually correct.

The PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat are the nerve-centres of the Government of India. The PMO acts as the personal nerve-centre of the Prime Minister. The Cabinet Secretariat acts as the nerve-centre of the Council of Ministers. If the PMO functions unsatisfactorily, it reflects poorly on the leadership of the Prime Minister as the head of the executive. If the Cabinet Secretariat, which also comes under the Prime Minister, functions inadequately, it reflects poorly on the functioning of the Council of Ministers and the Government as a whole.

How effective is the command and control system in the Government can be seen from the effective manner in which the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat function. How effective are the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat is dependent on how effective is the assertion of executive authority by the Prime Minister.

Just by Mr Singh asserting before a small group of pampered editors that "I am in charge" doesn't necessarily prove that he is in charge. If he is effectively in charge, he does not have to proclaim it from the roof-top. The people will notice it from the way the Government functions.

Past Prime Ministers never had to proclaim from the roof-top that they were in charge. The people knew that they were in charge. It is unfortunate that Mr Singh finds himself constrained to say and prove in vain that he is 'in charge' because large sections of the people and opinion-makers of this country do not believe he is 'in charge'.It is time for the Prime Minister to do an introspection and shake up the way the Government has been functioning.

Mr Singh is held in esteem. The country ought to be proud of his contribution as an academic, as the number two in the South-South Commission, as a bureaucrat and as a Finance Minister. But his contribution as the Prime Minister of this country — particularly after the 2009 general election — has left much to be desired.

The writer, a former senior officer of R&AW, is a strategic affairs commentator.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

JUDICIARY FLOGS THE EXECUTIVE AGAIN

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


Given the lackadaisical approach of the Government towards the issue of black money, the Supreme Court had to step in and order the formation of a SIT. The judicial intervention became necessary for corruption and black money now pose a threat to national security


The Supreme Court has struck another blow for the cause of integrity in public life by appointing a Special Investigating Team to monitor and probe the accumulation of illegal money by Indian nationals and entities operating in this country and abroad. The committee, as constituted by the order issued by Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar, is adequately comprehensive in its composition. It includes all agencies that can possibly play a role in probing the accumulation of money abroad, their use and those culpable.

Equally comprehensive is its mandate, which includes "investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution" involving civil and criminal proceedings, arising not only from the case relating to that of Hasan Ali and Kasinath Tapuriah but also from any other investigation pending, already commenced or waiting to be commenced in respect of unaccounted for money in foreign banks. The investigation will also cover the "criminality or unlawfulness of activities that may have been the source of such money, the criminal or unlawful means used to take such money out of the country and the use attributed to such money in India and abroad."

The designation of two distinguished former judges of the Supreme Court, Justice BP Jeevan Reddy and Justice MB Shah, as chairman and vice-chairman respectively, is calculated to ensure that the powerful SIT does not go the way of the High Level Committee earlier probing the matter. Taking serious note of its lack of seriousness, the two learned judges observed, with specific reference to the possible use of such money in undermining national security, "The fact remains that with respect to factors that were within the powers of the Union of India, such as investigation of possible criminal nexus, threats to national security, etc, were not even attempted."

Everyone who values India's security and integrity and is apprehensive of the growing nexus among criminals, terrorists and sections of the police, administration and the political establishment, will welcome the Supreme Court's move and observations which were made in connection with a petition filed by the former Union Law Minister and leading advocate, Mr Ram Jethmalani, and others.


The SIT-led investigation it has ordered is especially important since punishment of those, particularly the over-mighty, guilty of flouting the law and indulging in activities prejudicial to national security, would send a powerful message down the line. While lauding the court's action, one also needs to remember that there are limits to what the already-overburdened judiciary can do in redressing the executive's prodigality and criminality and the ubiquitous and all-pervasive corruption in the country.


Mechanisms like the Right to Information Act have doubtless helped. The move to remove the Central Bureau of Investigation from its ambit and the gruesome murder of several activists using it to unearth and halt corruption, testify to its potency. But, as the murders indicate, conditions in which people can extract and use information as a weapon, are increasingly threatened. Here the guilt lies primarily with the State Governments that have undermined or deliberately subverted their administrative and criminal justice machineries to further the illegal financial and other activities of people controlling them.

The argument that mass movements should be launched to cleanse the system ignores several critical questions. Who will organise such movements and set up the massive organisational infrastructure needed for the purpose? Where will the funds and volunteers come from? Attending a single demonstration or even many of them serves a limited purpose. An organisation needs whole-timers to sustain its activities, literature and communications tools to spread its message and mobilise support, and a battery of lawyers to defend activists threatened, assaulted and/or arrested, halt illegal moves of the Government as well as projects, cleared through corruption, threatening the environment and the lives and livelihoods of people.


It is a Herculean task. Corruption has become so all-pervasive that it threatens national security. It facilitates the inflow of funds for terrorists and enables them to obtain passports and other identification documents with the utmost ease. After all, three of the hijackers of Indian Airlines (now Air India) Flight IC 814 to Kandahar, all Pakistani citizens, got Indian passports from Mumbai in a day. Corruption was a major cause of the defeat of the Kuomin tang Army at the hands of the Communists in China. Is anyone listening?

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AMERICA HAS ERRED ON HIZBULLAH

BARRY RUBIN


It often happens that great power remains ignorant of the fact that others are waging war against it and pretends it's not happening. The attitude of the Obama Administration towards the Hizbullah, which is now at war with the US in Iraq, demonstrates this point better.


Sometimes a big scoop is lying in plain sight and this often happens nowadays because either the mass media does not pick up a big story or the experts don't properly analyse it. So while what I am about to tell you has been in the public domain for more than three years, it is of tremendous policy importance yet has been totally neglected:

Hizbullah, the Shia group that now dominates Lebanon's new Government, is at war with the United States in Iraq.Consider that this fact — as we will see in a moment — has been known to high-ranking United States Government officials for years but has had zero impact on policy. The Obama Administration has accepted Hizbullah's political power as well as its Iranian and Syrian sponsorship, with no real opposition. It does not regard Hizbullah as an enemy and senior officials favour official contacts with that terrorist group.

Consider this information from the public record and the statements of United States officials that was published almost three years ago:"In his testimony before the Armed Services Committees of the Congress on April 8, 2008, General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, reported that the Iranian Qods Force, with the assistance of Lebanese Hizbullah's Department 2800, was training, arming and guiding the 'Special Groups' in Iraq. Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, head of the Communications Division for the multinational forces in Iraq, also noted a month previously that terror operatives arrested at the end of 2007 reported they had undergone training in Iran directed by Hizbullah activists. Two activists of Lebanese Hizbullah (one of them Abu Mousa Dukduk) operated in the framework of the 'Special Groups'.
United States Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said in August 2008 that the interrogations of Hizbullah activists within the secret cells of the Mahdi Army (Jaish al-Mahdi) demonstrated the deep involvement of Iran in terror attacks against coalition forces and attempts by Iran to "create a Lebanonisation or Hizbullahsation in parts of southern Iraq".


So here are no less than three senior American officials — one of whom, Gen Petraeus, has just become head of the CIA-saying that Hizbullah (my preferred transliteration) has been at war with the United States, killing and wounding Americans. Information to that effect also comes from Hizbullah itself, as noted above and in this clip from the official Hizbullah television station detailing three specific attacks on United States forces.

Why is this significant? Because it is a clear demonstration of the fact that Syria and Iran — about which there is a lot of additional information — and their client Hizbullah are at war with the United States by any definition of the word. Yet the Obama Administration neither factors that into its policy nor explains this to the American public. On the contrary, to this day the Obama Administration is the world's biggest defender of the Syrian dictatorship that is killing Americans despite this Government's 2.5 years effort to persuade that regime through being nice to change its behaviour.


If Hizbullah is at war with America — and one can add previous Hizbullah attacks such as that on the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 242 Americans — then a Hizbullah-dominated Government in Lebanon is a direct threat to United States lives and interests. And if this is so, the fact that the international commission has just found both Syria and Hizbullah to have been involved in the murder of Lebanese leaders shouldn't just be a matter of verbal concern but of a real attempt to inflict serious damage on these enemies.


This would also suggest that America's number-one security problem is not Al Qaeda but the alliance of Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Iraqi insurgents, supported by the Turkish regime.


Incidentally, the Muslim Brotherhood, though not directly involved in the fighting, has constantly supported the Sunni insurgents in Iraq and cheered the deaths of Americans there. Yet this, too, is not made clear to the American people nor has it affected the United States Government decision to open official contacts with the Brotherhood. We are constantly told that the Brotherhood has moderated and even that it opposes violence.


And how did the Brotherhood respond to this initiative? It did so by conditioning a dialogue on a change of United States policy to oppose Israel.


Consider this, how often does a great power simply ignore the fact that others are waging war against it and pretend that it isn't happening at all?


The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

WORTH THE MONEY

 

It's an ambitious project, but doable given political will. With a government-appointed task force submitting a template for phased introduction of direct cash transfers initially for LPG, kerosene and fertilisers, there's hope for a radical revamp of our subsidy edifice. Envisaging pilot projects in seven states to provide inputs for a final blueprint later this year, the plan makes good sense. Subsidies for the three items combined constituted over half the yearly subsidy expenditure in 2010-11. This indicates the magnitude of their share in subsidy outgo. And, as the task force report says, a subsidy denotes dual pricing for the same item. It can therefore encourage theft and diversion. On both counts, it's time we ensured subsidies are better targeted.


How will this be done? For starters, goods accessed at market rates by beneficiaries will reduce incentive for pilferage. Consider how subsidised kerosene gets waylaid en route to consumers, benefiting adulterators and smugglers more than the poor. Also, when fertiliser subsidy is routed via firms rather than given directly to needy farmers, the former gains more than the latter. Second, IT will help plug the holes in the supply chain. An automated core subsidy management system will store data on project execution and facilitate cash transfer. Creditably, oversight and auditing are hardwired into the scheme to check fraud and leakage. A transparency portal will meantime help track stocks, even while reducing scope for wrongful access to subsidy for, say, multiple LPG connections.


Third, transparency will be further promoted by linking subsidy delivery to the UID project, used to authenticate subsidy claimants. It's equally welcome that financial inclusion will eventually become the project's lynchpin. Obviously cash transfers can't go along with manual handouts and record keeping, which would aid corruption as we've seen with NREG wages. Banks, ATMs, business correspondents and mobile banking must necessarily be the routes. Besides gaining better guarantee of accessing subsidy, greater numbers of people will therefore get banking and other forms of financially inclusive cover.


However, food subsidy should be included in any roadmap for subsidy revamp, not least because a mammoth food security plan is in the pipeline. The waste, inefficiency and criminal leakage we want to curb also mar food distribution. The objections of some National Advisory Council members notwithstanding, cash transfers or mobile-linked smart cards can deter identity theft, eliminate use of ghost cards and help beat corruption. If anything, we must move boldly towards subsidy reform. It will help save enormous resources better used to build roads, schools and hospitals. And it will empower the needy. They'll see themselves as customers with the power of choice in a market system rather than supplicants before the dole-givers of a nanny state.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

CANDOUR AT LAST

 

US officials are to be commended for not pulling their punches this time. They have disclosed an intelligence finding that the ISI ordered the murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, following Shahzad's writings on the nexus between jihadis and the Pakistani military. It's common knowledge that Shahzad had been threatened by the ISI before. Yet Shahzad persisted and wrote a story detailing how terrorists had infiltrated the Pakistani navy. He was silenced, say US officials, because the ISI was afraid of what else he might uncover. His murder was also a message designed to cow civil society. Yet, the ISI cannot be permitted to succeed in its attempts to undermine civil society. Making it strong and vibrant is the only defence against the radicalisation and endemic violence plaguing Pakistan.


Bolstering civil society in Pakistan, however, requires US support. The US's plain-speaking on Shahzad's murder must become a precedent. In other words, the US's newfound realism in assessing and responding to Pakistan has to become the norm to have any effect. Adopting a more balanced posture towards Pakistan will be helped by its declining importance to the US in its war in Afghanistan. As recently as 2009, 90% of US surface cargo to Afghanistan was routed through Karachi. Today almost 40% of surface cargo arrives via a patchwork of roads and railways in Central Asia and plans are afoot to increase this to 75% by year-end. It is to be hoped that the plurality of supply routes to Afghanistan will permit the Obama administration to focus on the long-term future of Pakistan. Its safeguarding requires reeling in extremists within the Pakistani state. One way to do so is to make military aid contingent on ensuring that civil society is not threatened.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL

MICHELLE BACHELETMICHELLE BACHELET

 

Women across the world enjoy greater opportunities and freedoms than ever before. It is a peaceful revolution underpinned by an extraordinary transformation of legal rights. Almost every country has signed international conventions signalling their commitment to outlawing discrimination against women. Nearly 140 national constitutions specifically guarantee gender equality.

But promising equality, of course, is not the same as delivering it on the ground. Despite real advances, there sadly remains an immense gap between these welcome legal guarantees and everyday life for women. It is a justice deficit which can be found in rich and poor countries alike and in every aspect of our societies.

It is not, however, only women who suffer from this failure of justice. We all do, whatever our gender. Without a doubt, women's strength, industry and wisdom are humanity's greatest untapped resource. It is potential we simply can't afford to continue to waste.

It was this recognition that led to the formation of UN Women, which brings together all the UN gender equality agencies under my leadership. It was our recognition that addressing the justice gap was crucial to removing the barriers to equality which made it the subject of our first report - Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice.

It is comprehensive and sobering, cataloguing both the lack of legal protection women receive and the reasons behind this failure. In some cases, it can be the laws themselves which are unjust. Early pregnancy and childbirth remain the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 in the developing world. Yet, in no less than 50 countries, the age of marriage for girls still remains lower than for boys. In over 40 economies, too, women remain barred from certain jobs and industries.

But in many cases, women are denied a fair deal because of a failure, whether through lack of resources, will or cultural obstacles, to uphold the legal rights they have been granted. We discovered that women are three times less likely to report a sexual attack than a robbery. It is all too easy to understand why. A European study found on average only 14% of reported rapes ended in conviction. In other countries, the figure is even lower.

We found a similar failure, too, in the economic sphere. Despite 117 countries having equal pay laws, women in every sector and region continue to be paid between 10% to 30% less than men.

It is, however, not all bad news. For, as well as identifying where justice is failing women, the report also identifies where and how progress is being made. It shows, for example, how the law itself, through landmark cases, has helped drive change and alter attitudes. We see as well how vital an increase in women's representation in Parliament, the judiciary and enforcement agencies is in advancing women's rights.

I find it heartening that the number of countries where women make up over 30% of parliamentarians is now 28 and that they can be found from Tanzania to Costa Rica, Rwanda to Spain. It is still far too few, of course, but it is a sevenfold increase on the position in 1997. We are moving slowly in the right direction.

We found how practical and achievable measures can make a big difference. An increase in the number of women police officers helps overcome a reluctance to report sexual assaults. Convictions increase when the police are joined up with forensic, health and legal services in one-stop shops. In Sweden, improved paternity leave has reduced the gender pay gap. In Nepal, tax exemptions have incentivised families to transfer land to daughters, sisters and wives.

But there is a huge amount more to do. It is clear, for example, that we need determined action to protect and promote women's rights in conflict and post-conflict societies. The targeting of women for sexual violence has become an unacceptable fact of modern war. It is women, too, who have proved themselves vital in healing the wounds of societies and ensuring a lasting and just peace.

So our report is a call for action - setting challenges for national governments, civil societies and the international community. It outlines an agenda which, by ensuring laws and the legal system tackle bias against women, will accelerate the fulfilment of our ambitions for a better world. UN Women will work to support this agenda, with the benefits to be felt by everyone. We all win - men and women, girls and boys - if we win this battle for justice.
The writer, former president of Chile, is now executive director and under-secretary-general of UN Women.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

CRUDITY CAN LEND REALISM

 

The story goes that after watching The Producers, an irate lady told director Mel Brooks, "Sir, i have seen your film and it is vulgar!" To which the comedic filmmaker extraordinaire replied, "Madame, my film rises below vulgarity." It's a high standard to aspire to - or perhaps so low that it requires the dexterity of a limbo-dancer - but Bollywood filmmakers might finally be getting there. To judge by the acclaim Delhi Belly has been getting from both critics and audiences, they are supplying something that people have long wanted. And why not? We have rarely had the twisted, relatable humour that arises from very real situations gone horribly askew. And because life is messy and absurd and, yes, scatological, so too is the humour that is true to it.

As to the much-ballyhooed question about whether such fare is family-friendly or not, that's an issue for the censors and is easily answered by the 'adults only' rating that films like Delhi Belly routinely receive. Perhaps the first mainstream movie to be unashamedly realistic in its portrayal of the crudity of its criminal subjects was Satya. A spate of movies about the Mumbai underworld followed in the same vein. Now we have two distinct strands of filmmaking that don't pull their punches. One is the crime movie migrated from Mumbai to the badlands of north India - think Omkara or Ishqiya - and the other is the urban movie looking at the realities of a modern Indian city, warts and all.


Take away the earthiness of these movies - whether home-grown or anglicised - and you'll turn them into anodyne mockeries of their directors' intentions. Crudity need not be lowbrow; it can spice a plot with realism and make it hit home that much harder. If it was good enough for the Bard with ribald humour scattered throughout his plays, it's good enough for Bollywood.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                ERRATICA

THE SENSATION TRAP

BACHI KARKARIA BACHI KARKARIA

 

All this week, television has been judge, jury, prosecutor, defendant, pop psychologist, upholder of the law, denouncer of its mockery, self-appointed custodian of the nation's conscience and its self-anointed spokesperson. Above all, it has unabashedly chased police vans and TRPs alike ever since the court allowed Maria Susairaj to walk out of jail with her plastic bags, her tacky dress and her feigned look of injured innocence.

We have witnessed the utter 'Foxification' of our own news channels. Television has been guilty of a multitude of crimes in its response to the sensational Neeraj Grover murder case - from seriously undermining the court's verdict to overkill. Anchors have excelled themselves as circus ringmaster and Grand Inquisitor. Hyperventilation has seldom been higher or emotional manipulation more sinister.

This is hardly the first time that TV has been in the dock for targeting TRPs rather than injustice, corruption, criminal negligence or whatever they brandish as their current crusade. Some channels are openly ghoulish. My point is that even those whose hearts have so ostensibly bled for the bereft Neelam and Amarnath Grover have been no less guilty of exploiting their tragedy for prime-time power and glory.

The Baddies of TV are the soft target. They are the programmes which 'celebritised' Maria Susairaj. They endlessly replayed her passage from court to police van to prison to the SUV on which she sallied forth to freedom. They showed over and over again every smug expression, every tear wiped camera-consciously away as she knelt in the Mahim church. They breathlessly covered her barefaced press conference, and were accessory to her lawyer's callous display of the photograph of Neeraj's desecrated body to prove a disgustingly irrelevant point.

Yes, the Bad Guys are an open and shut case. But the jury is still out on the Good Guys, the anchors who showed a socially responsible sense of outrage, and even misty-eyed empathy. It's difficult not to name names, but i'll have to try because, one, they're my friends, and, two, it's an (admittedly) overstretched requirement of media etiquette.

Our topmost, serious English prime-time news shows went for the surefire cocktail: six-parts emotion and four-parts rage. They were riveting and goose bump-raising. On one of them, the verdict-shattered Grovers were visibly lifted on a wave of support, encouraging them to resume their fight. But it still filled me with a deep sense of disquiet; i found myself asking, 'Hey, aren't these very correct programmes also exploiting this tragedy of horrors to the hilt? They're doing so more subtly, more acceptably, but they are still cashing in on it, right? So, where does the media buck really stop?'

For the record, i greatly admire, even envy all these anchors. Not for a moment do i suggest that the lump in their throat, the quiver in their voice were as fake as Maria's demure act for the ravenous cameras. But even the most empathetic show is still a show; unfortunately bodies can become just one more rung on the ladder, just another prop on the cynical battlefield of TRPs.

It is, alas, the nature of the media beast. This is the story of the day, and we cannot say, 'We will not add to the blood lust by covering it, and instead fill prime time with a lyrical feature on the monsoon landscape.'

There's only one thing that can be said in extenuation. The media may be a ruthless, unrepentant ambulance (or police van) chaser, but, more than any other forum, it has the power to fling open the doors to reveal the mangled injustice inside. On occasion, it has even brought justice back to life. For this alone, forgive us our trespasses.

* * *
Alec Smart said: "A homophobic health minister? How queer is that!"

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

TRESPASSERS NOT WELCOME

The country's highest court has, on the face of it, taken upon itself the oversight of the government's efforts to cleanse the economy of black money. This incursion by the judiciary into the executive's preserve — whatever the provocation might be — is trespass. The courts have every right to rule on individual instances of regulatory failure, but the job of systemic overhaul is beyond their capabilities. The Supreme Court has often in the past refused to judge the merits of policy. There is little to recommend upturning this restraint over black money. After all, a gamut of statecraft, from foreign policy to law enforcement to economic management, is responsible for its generation. The court is correct in its diagnosis that unaccounted cash is an economy-wide phenomenon that calls for an economy-wide cure. However, it is in no position to administer that medicine.

The Supreme Court's question to the government on what it is doing about black money is actually three questions rolled into one. First, why should a black market exist? Second, what makes money go underground? And third, what are chances that a person plying his trade in the parallel economy will be caught? The answer to all three is governance, or the lack of it. The government's intervention in the national debate on black money may have been adequate had the issue not acquired the endemic proportions it has in India. Joining the global crusade against dark pools of money is not enough for a country that has, anecdotally at least, too much of it. As a beginning, the government needs to introspect on the shortages that create black markets in the first place, the regulatory mechanism that nudges resources underground, and the lack of policing that allows the parallel economy unfettered growth.

Judicial overreach may serve a purpose in all this by bringing the pertinent questions to the fore. It also shows the nation how its government's answers measure up. Courts are well within their jurisdiction to act as keepers of a society's conscience. But there is a very thin line between moral policing and the actual stuff. If our courts are sensitive to this distinction, they have the capacity to do much that is good for the conduct of public policy. Things can go horribly wrong, however, when judges misinterpret their jobs. For their part, governments can ignore the spectre of rising judicial activism to their peril. India's environmental sensitivities were shaped in no small measure by its men in black robes. Something good could emerge this time too once the limits of the judiciary are firmly kept in mind.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EVERYBODY, HANDS UP!

More interesting than the cluster of villages that is Bhatta-Parsaul is the town of Kasganj. Both in god's own Uttar Pradesh, the former has visitors dropping by for a meal of dal, chapatis and buttermilk to turn it into a 'Nandigram'. (Although, with farmers keen to sell their lands to the government but for a better price, the comparison with 'Singur' would be more apt than 'Nandigram' where farmers simply didn't want to part with their lands.) But in Kasganj, all signs are that it's already a mini-Ibiza, considering the news of the police busting a 'rave party' that also reportedly came with the surfacing of "sleazy videos of young men and women". Do we then believe that Kasganj is 'where it's at' and start packing our bags for a fun-filled weekend?

The police are keen to let the media know that "21 nude youngsters" who were dancing to "sensuous numbers" were arrested. We are keen to know what the "sensuous numbers" were, tired as we are trying to oomph up our own house parties with the same old 'Sheila ki jawani' and very 'unsensuous' 'DK Bose' number. The authorities also mentioned that their haul included "bottles of branded liquor", contraceptives, aphrodisiacs and "psychotropic substances". Interestingly, we get a breakdown of the rave party's demographics that any psephologist would have been proud to rattle off: 16 men out of whom 11 were 'locals' and "all five women hailing from New Delhi". Since we have been told that most of the men and women were married, we can only presume that marital status is an incredibly important part of the investigations.

A local social activist, perhaps ruing the lost opportunity of feeding more important visitors from Delhi with buttermilk a la Bhatta-Parsaul, stated that he could not believe "that this can happen in the town which is otherwise known for delicious mithai and ghee". The police officer in charge of the raid thinks that the Kasganj bust is "only the tip of the iceberg". We certainly hope so as semi-urban India finally gets its own taste of consensual fun between adults, till recently monopolised by the Beautiful People only in our fun-loving cities.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THERE'S NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS

NIKHIL RAYMOND PURI

 

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced earlier this month that her government would extend recognition to 10,000 madrasas in the state. As one would expect, political opponents, including the CPI(M) and the BJP, were quick to criticise her apparent exercise in 'appeasement'. The real opposition to her plan, however, lies beyond the realm of electoral competition. Banerjee's madrasa policy will fail because it is substantively ill-informed, motivationally insincere, and operationally impossible.

Before one takes Banerjee's statements too seriously, it is necessary to understand the meaning of the word 'recognition', as it is used in the context of madrasa reform. When a madrasa becomes 'recognised', it accepts financial support from the state, and in turn agrees to supplement its religious curriculum with mainstream subjects. When Banerjee says 'recognition', however, she has no such reform-oriented pact in mind. She simply means that 10,000 madrasas in West Bengal will be 'registered', their existence acknowledged, and identification number assigned. If carried out to its natural conclusion, this exercise could culminate in a state madrasa directory, a Yellow Pages of sorts. While one can't fault the chief minister for attempting to map Bengal's madrasas, her efforts should be mistaken neither for support nor for reform.  

Banerjee has conveyed her intention to provide a portion of these madrasas financial support. The only obstacle to the madrasas' acceptance of her largesse, she suggests, is the state's inability to mobilise sufficient funds. Here, she conveys the false impression that madrasas will accept any money she has on offer. The reality is that discerning individuals run West Bengal's madrasas. Most of these men are reluctant to accept financial support from the state, and would rather retain their autonomous ('khariji') status. While variable financial incentives have been available to madrasas since the 1970s, the large majority of khariji madrasas have abstained.

The problem is that Banerjee attributes herself power she doesn't possess. Presently, neither she nor any other political leader in Bengal wields influence over the majority of West Bengal's khariji madrasas. Most of these institutions remain unaffiliated with political entities, maintaining ties only with sectarian Muslim organisations, charities, and NGOs. Unlike madrasas in other parts of the country, notably Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal's madrasa landscape is insulated from the mobilising tendencies of political parties.

The most flagrant fault with Banerjee's madrasa plan is that her state does not contain the 10,000 madrasas she promises to 'recognise'. West Bengal houses approximately 600 'recognised' madrasas. Additionally, different masalaks (schools of thought) operate their own networks of independent khariji madrasas. The most extensive of these networks is that of the Deobandis, who run about 750 madrasas in the state. Even if one assumes that the remaining masalaks and sects — Ahl-e-Hadith, Barelawi, and Shia — operate 750 madrasas each (an exaggerated number), and that all of them cooperate (unthinkable), Banerjee still has less than 4,000 madrasas to work with.

That the chief minister will break her promise is certain. That she will fall far short is also clear. All opposition parties need to do is join everybody else in keeping score. How many madrasas will she fail to 'recognise'? She is currently at 6,000, and counting…

( Nikhil Raymond Puri is a D Phil candidate at the University of Oxford )

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ROUGH CUT

I think director Madhur Bhandarkar has been very unfair to Aishwarya by shelving a film starring her just because she is pregnant.

Let's face it, people go to see her films to see her face, not her acting. So who wants to see a podgy pageant queen?
But I don't see the same standards applied to male stars when they turn up blotto...

Yes, but then they do sober up the next day while the lady is not going to be herself for quite a while.

Madhur could have rewritten the script in true Hindi film style in which the ageing actress played by Aishwarya suffers from an eating disorder which
makes her fat.

I suppose you will then say that in the end she will realise that it's not cheeseburgers alone that are making her put on weight but the fact that she was pregnant and was eating for two.

I can think of many permutations and combinations in which both Aishwarya and Madhur could have come out smelling of roses.

You could be on to something here. Maybe, the film could show a portly Ash and in the end it could be revealed that actually all along it was Govinda in drag. Though I don't think Ghulam Nabi Azad would appreciate this.

Do say: She's got a real body of work.
Don't say: Mum's the word.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

DEVIL IN OUR HEARTS

SAMAR HALARNKAR

 

When you are used to winning, it comes as a shock when you realise you may not be good enough to keep winning.

That realisation came to Briton Dwain Chambers 10 years ago, when he found his best was not good enough to outrun his American competitors in the 100m sprint. On his little island, he was used to winning, ever since sprinting helped him outrace his disadvantaged childhood.

"At the time I was thinking, just what was it that the Americans had that the rest of the world didn't? Drive, determination, facilities, money? Who knows? I'd given heart and soul to my sport and hadn't come anywhere near a medal position. Something wasn't right," says Chambers in his 2009 confessional autobiography Race Against Me: My story.

To make it right, Chambers found tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, a performance-enhancing drug, for which he tested positive, served a two-year ban but is still ostracised from European athletics meetings. The taint to his character is permanent. It doesn't matter that he has been the fastest sprinter on the continent this season and has faced his inner conflict better than most.

Ashwini Akkunji, winner of the 2010 Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles and member of the champion 4x400m relay team, India's new poster girl of athletics, may be facing that conflict. Over the past nine days, Akkunji and seven other athletes have tested positive for banned drugs, mostly for a testosterone clone called methandienone, used to spur exceptional weight and strength. The tests were conducted in advance of a 37-member Indian team leaving for Kobe, Japan, for the Asian Athletics Championships, which begins today.

Temporarily suspended pending another test, all the athletes face two-year bans. There is no western conspiracy to frame these athletes, as we are wont to proclaim. The dope tests were conducted on June 27 by the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, and the athletes were suspended by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). The dope-testing facilities are state-of-the-art, so do not expect too many errors. Last year, 11 Indian athletes failed dope tests and tales of discarded syringes and vials are rife at sports facilities.

Like many Indians, I am not a little depressed. The national athletes accused of doping, like Chambers, are rousing stories of grit and rural determination, especially the women, who had the hardest journeys and grandest victories. Long of limb, strong of sinew and steadfast of purpose, Akkunji is a farmer's daughter from a remote village in coastal Karnataka's Udupi district (she is a Bunt, a community that also threw up actor Aishwarya Rai). Like suspended team-mate Mandeep Kaur, a sturdy Jat from a Punjab village, Akkunji overcame community disapproval of a woman with athletic dreams. Sini Jose, the third suspended member of the gold-medal quartet, is a Kerala farmer's daughter. The 400 m relay team, India's main athletic medal hope for the 2012 Olympics is now unlikely to make it to London.

Sport is no more than a mirror of human life. George Orwell called it "war minus the shooting". India's new athletes reflect the nation's rise — quick, confident but a long way from the top. As they learn to win, it appears Indian athletes must now grasp that winning cannot be the only thing; they must learn there is a fine line between the obsession with winning and the will to win, and that it is not all right to do anything it takes. Of course, this is easy to say.

The obsession with winning consumes modern sport. Vince Lombardi, a legendary US football coach in the 1960s, reflected the American approach when he once said, "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?" Though there are many who have returned to athletics after serving doping bans, the British sprinter Chambers is kept away from his shot at winning because his country's athletics federation is apparently trying to reclaim the goodness of sport; to go faster, higher and stronger — without drugs.

This, too, is the avowed aim of those who run Indian athletics. A reputation for drug-taking does not sit well with an emerging nation with pretensions of moral superiority over the rest of the world. However, we are still quick to blame the foreigner.

In the recent round of doping shame, Indian authorities on Tuesday sacked Ukrainian Yuri Ogorodonik, the national track and field coach, who trained six suspended athletes, all 400 m runners. The implicit message: He led us into this. "It's happened out of sheer ignorance on the part of the athletes, who are generally from rural areas, or not very highly educated," says India's sports minister Lalit Maken.

Please.

"My daughter told me she has nothing to fear since six of her teammates have also failed the dope test," says Akkunji's father Chidananda Shetty in rural Udupi. Akkunji insists she is innocent. "I will prove it," she told The Asian Age. "I won't let my years of blood and sweat be tainted."

These are smart, focused young women and men with considerable athletic experience. The emerging evidence points to a long-running conspiracy of silence between India's government-run sports establishment and athletes. To many athletes, taking drugs is now so natural that guilt is hard to accept.

"Perhaps at this time the devil was slowly sowing the seeds for my conversion to the dark side," writes Chambers in his sometimes florid book. "The dark side of athletics, a world of deceit and lying, a world where the athlete wriggles and squirms in an attempt to evade the testers, a world of double standards, of potions and pills and chemically manufactured substances… a world of drugs and a world of hell."

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

AN OPEN LETTER TO A BIGOT

VIVEK DIVAN

 

Dear Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad,

It appears you need a dose of enlightenment since your recent statements on homosexuality smack of either ignorance, misinformation or rank prejudice. I hope that this missive serves that purpose, although I am doubtful. On the other hand, I hope that it shames you. I know what shame is like, having lived most of my life in a world that never understood a core part of me — my sexuality. For your  irresponsibility you deserve no part in the governance of a nation that prides itself on tolerance and diversity. Your bosses should dismiss you immediately, but I have a feeling they won't.

It is hard to imagine that you are the health minister of India. I imagine that responsibility entails in its very essence promoting the well-being of all Indians. And not consigning some of them to the margins and fueling hatred and disgust against them.

What a travesty, especially since your humbug is directed against a community, which has, in its attempt to emancipate itself, done nothing but subscribe to the highest ideals that India's Constitution aspires to — by using democratic judicial processes to seek equality and understanding, protesting their plight through non-violent means founded in free speech and expression, and by working painstakingly within the community to alleviate the impact of serious health problems such as HIV and social issues like violence.

We haven't attempted to bribe or use inflammatory language and tactics. We have based our struggles on sound knowledge, on the unceasing appreciation that there is a humanity in all persons, which will eventually locate the truth. Not on the cronyism that must come 'naturally' to you.

And you call us 'diseased'. If anything, you are deficient — in your knowledge, your humanity and your responsibility as a servant of the people. Tell us Mr Azad — what have you done to serve us as health minister of India? What has been your commitment to ensure that India's response to HIV is at the cutting edge of science and entrenched in inclusiveness? Instead of using diversionary tactics by inciting pointless hatred, what have you done to improve public health in India so that states are coaxed to ensure that hospitals, primary health centres and medical practitioners aspire to the core values of this essential service?

While economic indicators bode well for the nation's progress, health indicators paint an entirely different picture to which you seem to be blind. What are you doing about maternal mortality, dear sir? Some 100,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year — more than anywhere else in the world. And what are you willing to do to rise above the votebank politics that you and your ilk engage in?

You have said that homosexuality has been imported from the West. Well, apart from the phenomenal ignorance that such a statement reeks of, you should also know that many other things are imported from the West including a vast amount of the resources used in the name of 'development' and parliamentary democracy of which you are a part of.

Homosexuality is as intrinsic to India as, say, the corruption your colleagues indulge in. In which case, why don't we consign your tainted colleagues to the scrapheap? The nation would be a far better place.

( Vivek Divan is a human rights lawyer and  social activist )

The views expressed by the author are personal

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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

TOO JUDGMENTAL

 

Striking down Salwa Judum, Chhattisgarh's state-armed tribal militia aimed at fighting Naxalism, as illegal, the Supreme Court blamed the state's "policy of privatisation" as the central problem, one that "actually and ideologically" stopped Chhattisgarh from "building the capacity to control the social unrest". It cites the example of imperialist-capitalist Europe in Heart of Darkness before getting to the Chhattisgarh situation. Whatever the substantive point of the judgment, its rhetoric is increasingly familiar, the court's one-note answer to all the bewildering problems that beset citizens. Recently, the Supreme Court resorted to the extraordinary measure of appointing a Special Investigation Team to find and repatriate black money — implying that the government on its own was unwilling or incapable of the task — and blamed the "neoliberal" drift for causing much of the trouble in our world. As it upheld the Allahabad High Court's order cancelling land acquisition projects in Greater Noida, the court had earlier protested "the development of one section of society only", conflated the very different situations of Noida and Nandigram, and again couched its observations in terms of ideological opposition to corporate rapacity and the state's abdication.

The troubling thing about these judgments is not what they finally resolve, but their tendency to draw straight connections between diverse, highly specific cases about Salwa Judum, corruption in telecom licence allocation or imperfect solutions to the land acquisition problem, to a cloudy abstraction called neoliberalism. Whatever the content of the decisions, they are often framed by obiter dicta and analogies that imply that everything is reducible to influence-peddling and crony capitalism. These may or may not be recurrent features — but keeping the causes of the black money problem and the land acquisition issue analytically distinct would be more useful, even in order to fully understand how powerful interests actually operate.

Rather than a granular approach that restricts itself to interpreting cases in the light of particular laws and statutes, the courts have enlarged their self-image, as populist champion and scold. They view their role as a check on the inept executive — it is not judicial overreach as much as a corrective to the underreaching government. That is a part of the shape-shifting that protects individual rights in a democracy, with one institution stepping in to fill the space when another abdicates. But these clearly ideological strictures may be going too far.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A STRAIGHT BAT

 

Cricket's sounds are predictable: of the leather hitting the willow, the subtle touches that need a Snicko and that overworked interjection "Howzzat". The cricketer's voice is perhaps the least heard in the game. Often times a team sport demands the subordination of stray opinions to a collective view and will. But then there are indeed times when a sport demands its sportsperson to speak up. It was one such moment for cricket when Kumar Sangakkara broke the game's omerta code with his MCC Spirit of Cricket Colin Cowdrey Lecture.

The former Sri Lanka captain was loud and clear: not only in his eloquent narration of cricket's place in his country, of that day in 1996 when Arjuna Ranathunga's boys won the World Cup and the game became a "point of collective joy" in a divided nation, but also and especially in his scathing attack of the board, Sri Lanka Cricket. Sangakkara revealed the other side of the game in the island nation, one that many have hinted at but never spoken so forcefully on: the lobbying and violence that characterise the board's elections, its insidious power games that can divide the players, and the unseemly patronage of the sports ministry that has the final say on a team's constitution. Sangakkara's was a demand for something basic: clean up the act for the sake of the game.

Sangakkara, it is reported, has been called for an explanation by the country's sports minister. Instead of a censure, a searching would be appropriate. At a time when many cricketing nations have been reticent to comment on the merits of the ICC's recent suggestion to keep politicians out of the boards, Sangakkara has opened the debate. It is something that other nations could follow on. Sri Lankan cricket found a fabulous raconteur early this year in novelist Shehan Karunatilaka; now it has found someone who can play a straight bat in Sangakkara — both welcome voices for the game.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                                EDITORIAL

FIRING FUEL

 

It is absolutely clear by now that the current set-up for subsidising kerosene, LPG and fertilisers is unsustainable. It is financially unsustainable, of course, as the Centre struggles to contain ballooning fiscal expenditure. But its very implementation is also unsustainable, as it leaks hideously, meaning that it does not have the effect on improving the welfare of those targeted that was planned. And, as the recent murder of oil company executive Yashwant Sonawane demonstrates, its faulty implementation inevitably leads to law and order problems, and a loss of confidence in the state.

It is necessary, therefore, to work out precisely how to move beyond this byzantine, unworkable and unsustainable model. The larger cost of the plan is dependent on the degree of leakage; and the law and order consequences of black-marketing depend on the ease with which that leakage can occur. Thus the Nilekani report, from a task force led by the chairman of the UID authority, Nandan Nilekani, and which was commissioned with discovering methods to plug leakages in the subsidy framework. The 70-page interim report, submitted to the finance minister on Tuesday, lays out the only answer that anyone believes could possibly work in the long term: a shift to a system based on direct cash subsidies.

The choice of the head of the UID project to lead the team writing this report could not be a coincidence. Any direct-transfer regime will require a method to identify recipients of the transfer, and to monitor the transactions, and that will almost certainly have to be linked to a UID-like system. The report has, indeed, suggested the creation of a "core subsidy management system" that will maintain data on entitlements and subsidies for all beneficiaries. Transparency and openness all the way down the supply chain of subsidies have to be improved, the power of the eventual recipient has to be enhanced, and the identity of the eventual recipient has to be established. This is the only way out of the mess our subsidy regime has become, and this report is an important step forward.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

METHOD OR MADNESS?

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

In the winter of 2009, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader K.C. Rao was on a fast unto death, having failed to get more than 11 seats in the Andhra Pradesh assembly of 294 just six months earlier. The ploy worked. The Congress-led government at the Centre, in a scramble, bumble and, finally, a rush — in a pattern since perfected — decided to enable the "formation" of Telangana. The party saw it as a way of taking the sheen off the TRS agitation and also as a huge distraction from the problems festering within the state Congress party in the aftermath of the sudden death of Y.S.R. Reddy. However, the move provoked a reaction as other regions protested and the Congress's own MP from coastal Andhra, L. Rajagopal from Vijayawada, started his own fast, then dramatically disappeared from the hospital and eventually threatened to resign. The cascade of pressure tactics threw the Congress into a cautionary phase, and it bought time by announcing the Srikrishna committee to look into the Telangana demand.

The Telangana MLAs, state ministers and MPs who have resigned now say that they have done so to be able to pre-empt the kind of pressure that "XYZ's" (read L. Rajagopal's) resignation two years ago brought upon the leadership and made it "go back" on the publicly stated "commitment" on statehood in December 2009.

The switch in symbols this time around is interesting. To add some novelty, the TRS has decided to cook food on the streets of Andhra Pradesh as opposed to fasting, and the Congress's Telangana representatives (not its opponents) are the ones resigning.

It is interesting that just two months ago, the entire debate in the state after YSR's rebel son, Jaganmohan Reddy, and his mother, Vijayalakshmi, secured staggering margins in the by-elections, was on the internal dynamics of the Congress in the state — whether the party, despite having the support of 173 members in the House (after securing a merger with the two-year-old Praja Rajyam), was safe till 2014? But within weeks, almost pre-empting the resurrection of the TRS or the JAC (Joint Action Committee) on Telangana, it has now become the ruling party's own demand and so the Congress would have no problems responding to the "pressure". The pressure of not being left out has prompted a crisis within the TDP, which can only help the ruling party, as several of the TDP's Telangana representatives have quit the House. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that even if all Telangana MLAs were to resign, the Congress would retain a good enough majority in the assembly and be able to change the debate on problems arising from Jagan Reddy's revolt, his display of a "mass base" and hope to limit his influence in Andhra and Rayalaseema areas — in the expectation that he gets pushed into opposing the Telangana demand.

How this plays out remains to be seen. The Congress-led resignations could succeed in containing the agitation and ensure that the party appears proactive and "sincere" about Telangana and successful in securing concessions like genuine adherence to the spirit of the 1956 gentleman's agreement signed at the time of the formation of the Telugu-speaking state, the first linguistic state in the country.

By "leading" this round of agitation on the issue, the Congress could also gain by pipping the TRS and leading to chaos in the TDP, its main opposition in the state.

Interestingly, the revival of the issue changes the faultlines along which politics is currently being played out in the state. The rumblings within the Congress on the so-called Reddy dominance (sought to be broken by the induction last month of PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana, a man with a mind of his own, but further compounded by Jagan Reddy snapping at the heels of the Congress) could be temporarily hushed and the Telangana "solution" presented as the Congress's own idea.

However, the fact remains that over the years the Telangana demand has erupted periodically, and defied a long-term solution, whether in managing political sentiment or in addressing its economic underpinning. The gentleman's agreement and then the amendments made in the Constitution as Telangana was added as a backward region by introducing an amendment to the Constitution after 1969 have not been fulfilled in spirit. The rights of those who feel disadvantaged, even if there is a case to show as the committee headed by Justice Srikrishna did, that backwardness is not limited to the Telangana region, have been handled tentatively, with the leading party in the state not airing an opinion if it has one, let alone displaying fair and firm handling.

The debate over a possible settlement is older than the state of Andhra Pradesh itself. There is an excellent chapter in a monograph, published last year, called "A State in Periodic Crises: Andhra Pradesh", based on the travails of the state. Veteran civil servant B.P.R. Vithal documents the concept of the Telangana Regional Committee, a legislative-budgetary committee mandated to look at Telangana revenue generation and oversee its allocation in Telangana and the rest of the region. Vithal shows how successive agitations resulted in first strengthening this provision (the Telangana agitation of 1969) and later (the Andhra agitation of 1973) resulted in the abolition of the provision entirely — the same see-saw appears to be in operation even now as employment rules are tweaked and sentiments of the Telangana side are managed.

Curiously, the only person from the state of Andhra Pradesh to make it as PM was from Telangana, and it was the same P.V. Narasimha Rao who was deputed by Indira Gandhi in 1982 to write a report on the political situation of the state. The job eventually landed on Vithal's desk. He suggested a whole lot of things to deal with what he understood to be the "unprecedented political phase" that Andhra Pradesh was entering. But his recommendations were struck down and an entirely different set of fiscal steps was taken, and the bureaucrat preferred to take an assignment to Khartoum rather than stay on. That aside, not dealing with politics sensibly and not addressing concerns and murmurs then ensured that 1982 proved to be a turning point for politics in the state with the emergence of a new political force, NTR's Telugu Desam.

It is early days yet, but the past has enough examples to show how efforts at containing the "situation" can quickly spin in an entirely different direction.

seema.chishti@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HIS VISUALS TALKED

SHUBHRA GUPTA

 

With the passing of Mani Kaul on Wednesday, after a long battle with cancer, our cinema has lost one of the pioneers of what used to be called the Indian New Wave, a term that was decimated by the advancing wave of cut-paste filmmaking that took over just as he, and the new cinema, began flowering. When I mentioned his name at a recent gathering of people who call themselves cineastes, there was more bewilderment than comprehension. One of them asked, helpfully, oh you mean Mani Ratnam?

No, I didn't mean Mani Ratnam. I meant Mani Kaul, the man who gave us many of our most enduring film images. He worked his way in by letting his visuals do the talking, by not sullying the purity of the picture with unwanted words. He was a director who lived very strongly in his mind and yet found no difficulty in reaching out. And he's left us a series of films which did not, tragically, reach too many people and which are now preserved only in some memories. Such gems as Uski Roti, Duvidha, Ashadh Ka Ek Din, Satah Se Uthata Aadmi, Siddheshwari and Idiot will always be part of any discussion that focuses on the high points of Indian cinema, the art that was housed therein, and its practitioners.

It's been years since I have seen these films, but some of my most indelible cinema memories come from them: Mita Vashisht reaching out for the perfect sur in Siddheshwari. Shah Rukh Khan (yes, the same SRK who was at one point so delighted to work with Kaul that he couldn't stop talking him, and Idiot, up, and whose superstar trajectory began with this offbeat venture) peering out from behind a boulder, with an expression he has never used again in movies. The face of the wife as her husband walks away from the carefully prepared roti, captured by the terrific lens of K.K. Mahajan in Uski Roti, just as the film did the essence of Mohan Rakesh's superb short story. And if you have seen the sparse yet telling Duvidha, you would know why I laughed my head off when I saw Amol Palekar try a virulently coloured reboot of the same story in Paheli, with SRK playing the desirous bhoot in twirly moustaches and curly pagris.

Based on Vijaydan Detha's classic novella about a ghost and his relationship with his wife, Kaul's film was an unforgettable essay on eternal love. During one of our conversations, when I asked him about the availability of his films, he said he had no idea where most of the prints were. It is sad that Kaul won't be around to see the restored prints of Duvidha as well as Nazar. The NFDC, which is doing the restoration, was about to send him the prints for approval.

Kaul was one of the first Indian directors who stepped away from the style of linear, conventional storytelling that was in currency at the time he broke in (the only other Indian director whom you could call remotely akin was Kumar Shahani, who delighted in the abstruse; the rest of his compatriots who joined up and grew the parallel film movement like Shyam Benegal went a very different route with very different results). Kaul's source material was always treated with respect, but he took off in directions more suited to his way of looking at things. Never head on, but elliptical, off from a side, and always, always lyrical. He was a life-long student of dhrupad, and sang well, too. His documentary for the Films Division, Dhrupad, came out of his passion for this style of gayaki, and it is a film I never like to miss whenever it plays in one of those old-style cultural outposts of the capital, which have musty auditoriums but heart-felt programming.

A few years ago, he asked me to find a suitable house in Delhi. He was shifting because he was going to head Osian's Cinefan, the city's go-to destination for world cinema then. Eventually, he found a suitable abode, not too far from mine, but I did not get around to doing the one thing I wanted to: hear him sing his beloved dhrupad. His association with the festival lasted only a couple of years, till Osian's Cinefan wound down after the 2009 edition. But he was going back to filmmaking: he was mentoring a student who was making a Punjabi film, and he was about to direct a film co-produced by the NFDC.

If the films had been made, maybe the person who asked me that question would have said, oh you mean Mani Kaul, right?

shubhra.gupta@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE TREASURE OF TRIVANDRUM

MADHAV KHOSLA

 

Even if one tries, it cannot be made to sound more like an adventure. The brother of a dead king alleges that he is now the ruler, and argues that an old law gives him the power to control a powerful temple. The local court is unimpressed. It is concerned for the devotees, and asks the state to step in, create a trust, and manage the temple. The brother trots to the country's capital, and its highest court. The court blocks the lower court's decision, and decides that, first of all, the temple's treasures need to be assessed. An inventory is, needless to say, the need of the hour. A Supreme Court Special Investigation Team, or SIT, is constituted. They travel to the temple, and open a few vaults. They can't open them all. One vault has a very special lock; it will take a few more days. But they open the rest, and find wealth worth over Rs 1 lakh crore ($22 billion). The temple is now, almost certainly, the richest place of worship in the world.

Adventures aside, the legal issues here are rather complex. The dead king is the erstwhile ruler of Travancore, and the temple is the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum. The Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act 1950 (called the TC Act), enacted pursuant to the agreement of accession between the two princely states of Travancore and Cochin and the Government of India, vests the administration of the temple in the ruler of Travancore. In January this year, the Kerala high court responded to a claim by the last ruler's younger brother, that upon the demise of the last ruler, he should be recognised as the "ruler of Travancore" under the TC Act.

The court disagreed, citing the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the privileges of the erstwhile rulers of Indian states. It held that the title of "ruler" can no longer pass through succession, and that the state is now the ruler for the purposes of the TC Act. It further rejected the contention that the Sree Padmanabhaswamy was a family temple of the royal family of Travancore. The temple was, the argument ran, always recognised to be public in nature, and the ruler was simply a trustee who "retained the control of the temple for the benefit of the devotees, the state and the public at large." Since the ruler had now died, it was time for the state to get into the act and take care of the deity.

This represents a classic battle over the regulation of religious institutions. It doesn't involve, lest you get excited, the Treasure Trove Act 1878. That mysterious statute is sadly limited to "anything of value hidden in the soil, or in anything affixed thereto." And, of course, it will get tax officials animated. Idols are independent juridical personalities in India, and the deity Sree Padmanabhaswamy is about to become a very important taxpayer.

All this aside, though, the core issue is the state's regulatory role in religion. The Indian state is secular, but since independence, the state has taken an active interest in the management and administration of Hindu temples. A range of laws, like the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1951, have taken away power from local pandits and placed it in the hands of bureaucrats, — who regulate religious institutions, determine the norms for temple entry, and so forth.

The Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act 1950 is shaped in somewhat the same spirit as these laws. But its drafting is tricky, and the younger brother of the last ruler of Travancore has a genuinely interesting legal argument to offer. For it is not clear what the ruler is doing in the TC Act if he has no ownership claims over the temple. The Supreme Court stayed the Kerala high court's judgment to establish a state trust to manage the temple, and passed an interim order asking an SIT to document the temple's treasures. With the treasures that have surfaced, fresh energy has surely been fused into this battle and a litany of litigation is likely to follow. The ruler's younger brother now has something well worth fighting for, and he will be greatly compensated should be win.

But Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy isn't too worried. Despite public outcry, he is confident of the treasure's future and confirmed that it would rest in the temple. In God he trusts.

The author is at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHEN LIVE TV WORKS — AND WHEN IT DOES NOT

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

What is the purpose of a press conference or a press briefing if not to share information and opinions? Last week, however, two such occasions raised questions and eyebrows: if those two objectives are not fulfilled, should they be held?

First, there was the prime minister's briefing of editors from select media outlets. Then, last Saturday, there was Maria Susairaj's press conference for anyone who cared to attend. Both left viewers disappointed. In the case of the PM, the fact that he did not hold a live TV show meant that we had to glean what he said — and what he might have meant by what he said — from the editors who attended the briefing and then appeared on TV news channels to tell us what he said and indeed, what he meant.

A discussion on Times Now typified viewer confusion — first, anchor Arnab Goswami, waving a transcript of the briefing, interpreted the PM one way and then editor Kumar Ketkar, who had been present at the briefing, said no, it wasn't quite like that, the PM said such-and-such in response to such-and-such question and he didn't say it the way you said he said it.

It would perhaps be wiser for the PM to hold live TV press briefings so that we can hear for ourselves what he has to say, or to give exclusive interviews (and we mean exclusive) to different publications and news channels to avoid multiple interpretations of his statements.

Maria Susairaj went on air shortly after Maria Sharapova went to Wimbledon's centre court for the women's tennis final. Both Marias looked done in, one by the better tennis player on the day, Petra Kvitova, and the other by a media inquisition which became something of a media trial as friends of Neeraj Grover, whose murder Susairaj has been convicted of playing a role in, heckled her mercilessly. You wondered why she and her lawyer, Shaikh M. Sharif, had called the press conference: from the coverage of the trial's verdict, it was clear the media believed, at least partially, that there had been a miscarriage of justice and Susairaj had got off lightly.

What followed were a few moments when Susairaj was allowed to speak, which she spent explaining her faith in God and how her release was His doing or then refusing to answer questions about the murder, the trial or those involved. For the better part of an hour there was chaos: mediapersons shouted while friends of Grover interrupted whenever they could, and Maria helplessly fingered the microphone; only Sharif appeared to be basking in his moment of nation-wide glory. Such a pointless exercise.

But it did make you wonder: if the PM began to give regular media briefings as many demand, would he be heckled when he spoke?

Ghulam Nabi Azad can now vouch for the pitfalls of speaking in front of TV cameras. A common political ploy is to deny saying something after having said it by alleging a misquote. That worked in the good or bad old times when there was no TV coverage. But Azad's unfortunate comments on gay relationships were only too disastrously clear on TV. And then there is YouTube, which will never let him forget it.

Live TV broadcasts can be extremely tedious. Watched Prince Albert of Monaco marrying Charlene Wittstock (Fashion TV). Of course there was a red carpet and many people treading it, people we had never seen before or are likely to see again, wearing peculiar headgear (remember William weds Kate?), sometimes to thunderous applause.

Speaking of weddings, hope you remembered the Dhonis' first wedding anniversary on Monday? India TV and News 24 did and celebrated it like their own. Odd what we (mis)take for news.

Hope you watched a wonderful two-hour special, Atlantis (BBC Entertainment). It dramatised what research and evidence suggest was the famous island that disappeared after a terrific earthquake, volcanic eruptions and tsunami tidal waves. The special effects were superb — left you gasping for breath and grasping the edge of your seat for safety.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A TRAP FOR MODI

MANOJCG

 

A trap for Modi

According to the RSS, a plan has been hatched to implicate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in "a web of legal cases relating to the 2002 communal violence and some alleged encounter cases." A front-page article in its journal Organiser says the UPA is working overtime to implicate Modi "sometime between now and October this year."

"Hectic efforts are on to subvert every institution and influence every wing of the government to implement this nefarious design. Disgruntled officials of the Central services working in Gujarat have been used as pawns in this 'target Modi by hook or crook' operation," says the article by G.V.L. Narasimha Rao.

It alleges that IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt — who had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging that Modi instructed police officials to let Hindus vent their anger — was one such "conduit acting at the behest of the ruling Congress at the Centre." This, it says, has been established when "Bhatt and state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia tried to influence a junior police officer Karansinh Panth to depose against Modi."

"When Panth refused to yield, they threatened him saying that the state government would collapse in two months and the chief minister would be arrested. Gujarat Police have registered an FIR and are investigating the case. This episode clearly exposes the nefarious designs of the Congress party to destabilise a democratically elected government in Gujarat," the article says.

The pinko stain

An article in the Organiser slams the Centre's approach towards Maoism. It says that while Central forces shed blood in the killing fields of Dantewada and elsewhere, the government hobnobs with the friends of Naxalites in

New Delhi.

"The fact that the government has plans to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Maoist-infested areas for gathering intelligence and assisting the security forces demonstrates there are people in the highest echelons who recognise the gravity of the threat posed by Left-wing extremists... Their efficacy in tackling Red terror, however, cannot be taken for granted, for they are up against subversive elements that have got entrenched in the system in the last seven years," the article says. It argues that the appointment of Binayak Sen on a Planning Commission panel was symptomatic of this subversion.

"Our intellectuals, who have bid adieu to commonsense and reason, refuse to acknowledge the reality of Maoism. Their blindness was evident when they greeted Sen's conviction with a mix of demagoguery, outrage, and disinformation. This was not surprising because intellectuals, like Sen, always ignore or downplay the barbarity of Maoists," it says.

The article says that those who back UAVs against Maoists will face an uphill task. "They will face grim resistance from the entrenched subversives within the system and from the sundry intellectuals outside it. They will be accused of state terror, human rights abuses, and civil rights violations. They will be denounced and derided. Such are the wages of safeguarding the nation."

Cold water on China

Panchjanya has an article on China's reported plans to divert Brahmaputra waters for a hydel power project, saying it is difficult to believe China's assurances to the contrary. It urges the Manmohan Singh government to create a fresh water policy in view of these Chinese "conspiracies."

"The Indian government must act to guard its interests against possible water wars in the future because of challenges posed by climate change and the global shortage of water. In such a situation, China will definitely try to divert

waters from Brahmaputra, which will have serious consequences for Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The government must therefore, look at the Brahmaputra waters as an issue of strategic importance," the article says.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FRANCE, AMERICA AND DSK

America trapped in its puritanism! The political life of the world's leading power paralysed by a trifling private matter! This lack of understanding between two sides of the Atlantic did not prevent Le Monde from achieving one of its highest sales with the publication of the prosecutor Kenneth Starr's report on the most intimate aspects of Bill Clinton's private life.

Today the situation is reversed. Or almost. This time, it's a French politician who is involved. America, in the role of redresser of wrongs, turns French politics upside down by arresting, in the most spectacular way, the man predicted by all polls as the likely winner of the French presidential election in 2012, charging him with attempted rape, fomenting a global media frenzy, and then wreaking havoc with revelations about the lies of the accuser. Once again, a total lack of understanding.

This is not just another Franco-American quarrel — Washington and Paris have wisely kept out of the Strauss-Kahn affair, which is being handled by the New York State legal system. But the media and political treatment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the two countries does highlight profound differences in at least four areas: justice, gender relations, transparency and money.

Justice: Probably because of their history, Americans have a different attitude toward violence than Europeans. We've always had trouble understanding the American infatuation with firearms, as well as the use of the death penalty.

Similarly, the public display of a defendant handcuffed — the famous "perp walk" between two policemen on the way to arraignment — which so profoundly shocked the French in the case of DSK, is a common accessory in American justice. For the French, whose procedures are based on the presumption of innocence, the US legal system appears accusatory.

Similarly, the July 1 reversal, when the prosecutor himself acknowledged that the alleged victim lacks credibility, seems incredible to the French. That's how prosecution works in the United States — it accuses, then investigates, and if the case falls apart during the investigation, the prosecutor says so, rather than going to trial.

By contrast, the infamous Outreau case involving false accusations of child abuse in France went much farther than the Strauss-Kahn affair. The prosecution did not reverse itself even when the main accuser, Myriam Badaoui, retracted her testimony. The accused were convicted, and were only exonerated on appeal.

The male-female relationship: Here, the gap is vast. The first reaction in France to the release of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on parole was, what does this mean for the Socialist Party? In the United States, the main question was about the impact of the potential collapse of the case on the liberation of women's speech that had come about as a result of the arrest of DSK.

We no longer keep count of the American politicians forced to resign because of reprehensible conduct with women. American men are undeniably more sensitive than French men to the cause of gender equality and the fight against sexual harassment. On June 29, the headline on page one of the Wall Street Journal was, "Lagarde is first woman at IMF helm". No French newspaper considered this headline.

Transparency: The search for the truth at any cost is a constant in American public life. What got Bill Clinton in trouble was not his relationship with the intern, Monica Lewinsky, but that he lied when he insisted that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Perjury is a serious offence in the United States. Voters and the media claim the right to know everything. The private lives of public figures are a legitimate subject of information. Candidates must be transparent about their family, their background, their health. The United States has a Freedom of Information law that ensures the media broad access to public documents. In France, the law is highly protective of private life and limits the possibilities for media investigations on the political class. In effect, the French tradition is that the private life of politicians is no one else's business.

Money: The Democratic challenger to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry, was married to a rich heiress, Teresa Heinz, who greatly assisted in financing his campaign. In the United States, one can be on the political left and rich. Not in France, if we judge by the scandal over the picture of DSK and his wife getting into a pricey Porsche Panamera — not his — before the storm over his arrest and the New York townhouse he rented for $50,000 a month. The French and the Americans have a very different relationship to money, opulence and ostentation.

One thing, however, has been common to both countries in this affair, and it is certainly not the most glorious: the frenzy of the media.

Sylvie Kauffmann, the writer is editorial director of 'Le Monde'

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ROUGH QUARTER, BETTER YEAR

Given the fall in the HSBC manufacturing PMI, from 57.5 in May to 55 in June, you can safely expect a slew of bad earnings for the June quarter when the first results start trickling in next week. While Citigroup is projecting a stable growth in PAT of 11.8% for Sensex stocks (that's a fall of a modest 2% over the March quarter), its projections for the larger Citi universe are a fall of 12.9% for the June quarter—that's a stunning 41.9% fall over the March quarter. What could be different about the June quarter earnings, when compared with those for the March quarter, is that while moderating demand could see sales growth slowing down somewhat, operating margins could stay stable. In the March quarter, sales for a sample of 2,413 companies grew 22.6% while gross margins came off by about 30 bps. High inflation may just cause the increase in top lines to taper off slightly in the three months to June, but some relief in prices of commodities together with other cost-cutting measures should keep operating margins more or less steady. That's not to say raw material costs will be altogether absorbed; at Tata Motors, for instance, margins for the domestic business were already under pressure and, with volumes of medium and heavy commercial vehicles rising just 8% in the June quarter, they're likely to be dented further.

For the full year, with GDP likely to grow at a slower pace as well, the Street expects Sensex earnings to come in somewhere between R1,205 and R1,210, whittled down from R1,300 at one point. This implies a growth of 16% over the R1,040 reported for 2010-11 (growth of 23.6% for the year). The hope lies in inflation being expected to start coming off after September, about the same time when interest rates are expected to peak. As such, India Inc will have a rough time till then; demand for cement, for instance, has been subdued especially from the infrastructure segment. Also, while the March quarter saw some improvement in order inflows at engineering firms, it's possible the order books will look a lot healthier by December or so. By then, prices of commodities should have eased, leaving automobile and FMCG firms breathing easier; in the June quarter, gross margins at FMCG firms are likely to contract. Even without SBI letting down the pack, earnings for banks could be muted since the cost of funds would drive down net interest margins sequentially. Moreover, asset quality would be under pressure as banks migrate to the online method for classifying NPLs, and revised provisioning norms would require banks to set aside more on that count. Indeed, total provisions, including mark-to-market provisions for bond portfolios for PSU banks, could rise by over 100% y-o-y, say analysts, though for private sector banks they could fall. Clearly, nobody's expecting any fireworks.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HOPE FLOATS

So far, despite all the scepticism about a centralised database with the entire country's biometrics, Nandan Nilekani's obvious expertise ensured he had a smooth sail. He answered all critics head on and argued that the Aadhar biometric database he was creating could not be abused because it couldn't be queried—so, for instance, it wouldn't have any information on the caste or income of person X, but would just be able to say if a fingerprint belonged to X; it was only a means to establish identity, nothing else. The Task Force headed by him on the direct transfer of subsidies on kerosene, LPG and fertiliser, whose interim report is just out, is likely to be Nilekani's first real test in terms of how far the political system is willing to go.

Not surprisingly, the interim report suggests a variant of the same formula for all three subsidies it is currently tasked with—in the case of LPG, the Task Force has suggested a capping of the number of subsidised cylinders a family can buy in a year to begin with; after this, it recommends direct cash transfers to the bank accounts of the target group—and since each bank account is to be linked to an Aadhar unique ID, there is no question of any leakage. Given the kind of clarity Nilekani has brought to bear on so many issues, the two-step formula is disappointing—it may be a politically savvy thing to do, but Nilekani just has to see the longevity of the plethora of schemes which began as short-term fixes. Indeed, as his own report points out, the under-recovery on LPG was a mere R9.1 in 2002-03 and has ballooned to R219.9 in 2010-11. Nor is Nilekani's report the first one to recommend a cap-and-move-on strategy. In 2010, Kirit Parekh had a well-argued report on how the government could save on subsidy payments by capping benefits in real terms—so, if per capita incomes have risen 100% over a period of time, doubling LPG prices will leave consumers unaffected in real terms. Parekh, needless to say, was dumped unceremoniously. At the end of the day, since every politician knows the bulk of subsidies are stolen along the way, the real issue is not about whether the government wants to cut subsidies, it is about whether it wants to cut down on corruption. Will the political class allow a rank outsider like Nilekani to cut into this divine right?

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

MEASURING GOVERNMENT INACTION

MK VENU

These days a new term has permanently entered the lexicon of commentators on various business television channels. "Government inaction" is routinely cited as a component of the domestic headwinds the stock markets are facing. Persistently high inflation, investment slowdown and government inaction are regularly blamed for depressed sentiments.

The interesting thing to note is that policy paralysis is now being treated as a sticky problem, which will not go away any time soon. This prompted us at The Financial Express to construct a Policy Sensitive Index (PSI) comprising stocks from the mid- to large-cap segments that have traditionally attracted high investor interest; essentially, over 20 companies that have underperformed the Sensex by 23%.

Policy sensitive stocks figure largely in sectors such as infrastructure, mining, real estate, oil & gas, aviation etc where government policies have a deep impact on the companies' performance. For instance, after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) came out with its report on the spectrum allocation controversy last October, resulting in a series of cases launched by the CBI against various players, some telecom stocks, notably RCom, fell by over 60% in value. Telecom, as a sector, has entered a phase of stagnation, if one looks at the stock price movements. Even a company like Bharti Airtel, which is not directly being investigated, has seen its stock price stagnate over the past six months.

Similarly, the real estate sector too has stagnated partly because many well-run real estate companies are seen to have strong links with politicians. The other disadvantage of being linked to the political class is that these companies are naturally seen to have weak corporate governance. Then there are sectors such as sugar, where politicians play a big role in determining the fortune of companies by arbitrarily banning their exports—and opening them from time to time—to deal with food inflation. Sugar, in any case, is yet to be fully decontrolled. There are also listed companies in the media sector that are directly owned by political families. Sun TV is controlled by the Marans, part of the extended DMK family. It took a solid knock recently when Jayalalithaa came to power and threatened that the government would take over all cable TV networks.

More recently, the stock price of RIL has taken a few knocks because of the CAG draft report suggesting "inflated capital costs" of the company's prestigious gas exploration project at the KG basin.

Mind you, being politically well connected was not punished by the stock markets until mid-2007. It is interesting to note that policy sensitive stocks had outperformed the BSE index by the middle of May 2007. It is after the global meltdown in 2008 that the men got separated from the boys. Only companies with strong corporate governance and true resilience did well when the markets recovered after the global meltdown. During this period, companies that were seen as policy/politics sensitive somewhat stagnated. However, by end-2009 and mid-2010 they had also recovered partially from their lows seen in the aftermath of the global financial crises.

These stocks again started losing steam when scam season gripped our polity last year, with the Centre constantly firefighting on one front or the other. Through the latter half of 2010 and into 2011, the policy sensitive stocks started underperforming the index much more than before.

In fact, when UPA-2 came to power, the difference between the sensitive index and policy sensitive index was only marginal. The growing gap between the two indices actually tells you the story of how the UPA started losing the plot gradually in 2010.

The UPA government still has a chance to remedy the situation. The current political flux can be used by the UPA to take some big decisions that have a durable impact in terms of better governance and reform of the administrative system. The public procurement law is one such idea that must be implemented soon even if there is growing resistance from ministries like the railways and defence, which see such a law as impinging on their autonomy.

At a larger level, much of what is described as policy paralysis is nothing but the government's inability to administratively reinvent itself to meet the needs of a $2-trillion economy and the corresponding change in the people's aspirations. Civil society protests are but a manifestation of this.

An interesting book titled 30 years of China's Reform, brought out by a research arm of the Chinese government, candidly admits that even that country faces a big problem in terms of reinventing the government administration. "The reform of government itself and the transformation of its functions have lagged behind … with functions in social administration and public services being fairly weak."

The report says the road to industrialisation and social transformation makes the whole society restless and this causes more instability. "Members of society are particularly anxious to seek economic benefits which is likely to trigger a series of conflicts … The market economy nurtures in common people an entirely new awareness of fair competition and self improvement. This creates a conflict between unclean conduct of government and common people's awareness of justice".

Well, if a Communist government can figure this out so well, our elected politicians should do much better than that!

mk.venu@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SHADES OF GREY

SHAILESH DOBHAL

What do the barrage of real estate messages that clog your mobile's inbox each day signal? Well, apart from the obvious, and abysmal, failure of the do-not-call-registry, does it not tell you something about the warped demand-supply equation in the country's housing sector? Surely, inventories are piling up and there aren't enough buyers, or why else would developers, and some relatively decent names here, hound consumers day and night to hawk that "dream house"?

And wherever you choose to look, consumers are becoming cautious in their spends, if not penny pinching as yet. Car sales growth has moderated sharply to single digits in April-June after a heady 30% growth just three months ago. Sales growth has moderated across categories—from cars and property to consumer expendables, skin creams, electronics and apparel.

According to Residex, the National Housing Bank's residential housing price index, for the three months ending March, home prices have come down in seven of the 15 tracked cities, with IT city Bangalore correcting the most, down almost a fifth compared to October-December 2010. Others that have witnessed a fall are Kochi, Faridabad, Hyderabad, Surat, Bhopal and Jaipur. Only three cities—Pune, Lucknow and Delhi—have seen a marginal uptick, with price stabilising in the rest five.

According to market researcher IMRB International data, sales growth in consumer expendables like soaps and detergents for the first four months of 2011 moderated to 5%, from 8% for the corresponding period of last year, with growth much more tardy in personal care items like skin creams and shampoos, down to just a fifth (8%) compared to a high of 40% in 2010. And apparel makers have been reporting demand contraction, by almost a fifth, due to soaring cotton prices and duty hikes in the last two months.

Do all these numbers mean that high inflation and high interest rates have started impacting household consumption, a big contributor to economic growth? Is a demand slowdown already on us? After all, in the last 15 months, RBI has gone hammer-and-repo; after taming inflation—with policy rate up 2.75% since March 2010—moderation in growth was an expected, and intended, collateral damage. With growth in capital investments—the economy's growth engine for the past few years—already grinding to a halt, is private household consumption that makes for almost 57% of GDP too headed for a quarter or two of slow growth?

The opinion here, on consumer slowdown or not, seems to be sharply divided. The low growth numbers speak for themselves, say some. Surely, you can't read much from figures for a month or two, point out others. Let us examine these positions closely.

There are reports from umpteen analysts that say consumption growth will hold on, what with strong hiring sentiment, positive real wage growth, and near-normal monsoons. Ambit Capital Research maintains that inclusiveness and specific categories will keep the country's consumer market growth at around 14% for the next three years. Bike sales, though off from their highs, have maintained to grow at a respectable 14% in June. And growth seeking multinationals have only emerging markets like India to turn in order to drum up sales, and their focus in these markets will ensure continued supply-side push, say people who believe everything is hunky-dory and dismiss all talk of demand moderation.

Well then there are those like Nomura and Crisil that say high inflation and high interest rates are surely hurting household budgets, and changing purchasing patterns. A recent Nomura reports says that starting with car and homes, demand sluggishness has become more widespread, something that corroborates with sales numbers for the past two months. High inflation, averaging 8% every year since 2008-09, has burdened the 221 million-odd households in the country with an additional expenditure of R5.8 lakh crore in the last three years, R3.8 lakh crore in 2010-11 itself, according to recent report by Crisil.

Yet another report, Winning Indian Consumer in 2011, released last fortnight by the Boston Consulting Group, say consumers plan to cut spending and opt for cheaper alternatives. And discount schemes and freebies are back in full-view in auto and property sector. Surely, that is not good news for marketers, who saw their top line and bottom line erode during the not-too-happy slowdown years of 2008-09 due to downtrading and bargain-hunting consumers.

Then there are those who believe that FMCG stocks touching lifetime highs of late—a measure of their defensive nature as demand for everyday necessities like soap, tea and shampoo is relatively inelastic—is a sign of the coming slowdown. No, it portends high growth in the category after good monsoons and strong rural demand, concur others. Are stretched valuations in the number of consumer goods stocks, in some case 50 times earnings, a sign of irrational exuberance by few investors or a continued lure of the India growth story powered by domestic consumption?

So which way will the wind blow? I, for one, is of the belief that surely we are in for a lean season, thanks to high inflation and high interest rates that have started eating into household budgets. The early warning signals on slowing car sales, apparel, expendables, electronics and houses, are hard to miss. Equally, the sellers reaction to it (discount schemes and freebies) and also the buyers' (downtrading, postponing purchase and bargain-hunting). But all this is for the short-term, for the next three to six months. After all, with the lowest per capita consumption of just about everything in the world, from candies, cola, coolers to cars, in the mid- to long-term, there is only one way consumption will move in the country, up!

shailesh.dobhal@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MURDERMOST FOUL

What do you do with a 13-year-old who on a Sunday afternoon sneaks into your compound and plucks a fruit? Whatever else you may do, you don't shoot him dead. The brutal July 3 murder of Dilson inside the Old Fort Glacis Officers' Enclave near Island Grounds in Chennai has justly caused public outrage and nothing short of the early arrest of the killer will assuage the ruffled sentiments of the community, especially the family and neighbours of the victim. Dilson, son of a poor couple living nearby, and one of his friends reportedly trespassed into the residential enclave in search of badamnut. Details of the investigation available so far indicate that he was fired upon from inside the compound. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has voiced her severe condemnation and sternly demanded that the suspect be handed over to the State police for investigation. On record, the Army authorities have claimed that they are providing full assistance to the Crime Branch-CID of the State police, which has taken over the investigation, and that all those in the vicinity, including Army personnel and a civilian security guard on duty at that time in the compound, have been made available for investigation. However, one cannot but note with dismay that the defence authorities were reluctant to acknowledge the victim's family's version that the boy was shot — until the autopsy report confirmed that he died of a bullet wound on his head. This does carry the scent of an attempted cover-up.

If the killer turns out to be one from the military — and especially an officer of some seniority, as is suspected — it will be a blot on the Army's reputation. After all, Chennai is far from any zone of conflict, and the scene of the crime was hardly close to any sensitive installation to provide the slightest excuse for opening fire at the first sight of an intruder. Any attempt to justify the killing on the ground that the boy's presence posed any imminent security threat will be highly specious. Instead, it would be in the interest of justice as well as the Army's reputation if its top officers stepped in and helped nail the culprit. The investigation is no easy task as the Army maintains that there was no armed guard present in the vicinity. Expert reports based on forensic and ballistic examination may hold the key to cracking the case. While there is little reason to doubt that the CB-CID will ultimately zero in on the suspect with judicially acceptable evidence, one hopes that the delay in apprehending the killer does not prove costly by affording enough time for the weapon involved being disposed of without a trace.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE PROPERTY OF BLACK MONEY

Since the time of Dadabhai Naoroji, Indians have always been captivated by the idea that our national wealth is slowly being drained abroad. That is why the Supreme Court's decision to set up a Special Investigation Team to ensure the return of money stashed abroad will be widely welcomed. What happens to the ill-gotten gains stashed at home, however, is anybody's guess. Black money is generated by the desire to evade taxes and hide assets disproportionate to known sources of income but populist political discourse on the subject has paid scant attention to this dynamic. Understandably, the focus is on the more emotional — but hard to quantify — problem of illegal bank deposits abroad. Upset by the slow progress made by the government's High Level Committee on the return of black money, the Supreme Court has now justly decided that its work must be supervised. To the extent political considerations are undermining the fight against black money, the SIT could act as a welcome antidote. But the court may also wish to frame the problem more comprehensively. Black money, after all, refers to the sum total of unaccounted income, and not just the funds spirited away to Switzerland, Lichtenstein, or some other foreign safe haven. The SIT must identify the legal and diplomatic tools the government can use to pierce this veil of secrecy. But unless it comes to grips with the overall pathology of black money, the political economy of India is likely to remain vulnerable to corruption.

In proceeding against unaccounted money, the judiciary — which scores high in public esteem — must push for urgent and far-reaching reforms in the way the Indian property market functions. Corruption in government contracts and licensing may generate large individual chunks of black money but for sheer overall volume, the top culprit is property. Every day, property transactions up and down the country add to the national stock of unaccounted money. Simply put, buyers and sellers collude in under-reporting the true value of the transaction. Usually, more than half the true sale price is paid in cash, depriving the state of capital gains tax and stamp duty. The cash received is often recycled back into the property market, where the returns are extremely high. What this means is that the focus of public activism, political outrage, and judicial concern on black money ought to be as much inward as it is westward. Seizing the moment, the SIT can and must devise a way to bring our wealth back from abroad. But if it can also push for simple reforms in the property market to clean up transactions, it could make a huge contribution towards ending the problem of black money.

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THE HINDU

THAWING ARCTIC OPENS UP NEW SHIPPING ROUTES

TERRY MACALISTER

Cold is the new hot in shipping circles as melting sea ice opens up prospects for trade between China and the West to move across the roof of the world.

An increasing amount of seaborne traffic is beginning to move on the so-called Northern Sea Route, which traverses the Siberian coast. There are also hopes of opening up more of the North West Passage above Canada.

The attraction of the voyage is that it is a third of the distance of more traditional routes through the Suez Canal. This means lower CO{-2}emissions, less fuel — and fewer pirates.

Attacks on ships off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden have become so severe that some owners already use longer sea routes around South Africa to avoid conflict.

Christian Bonfils, the managing director of Nordic Barents operator Nordic Bulk Carriers, claims it will save him $180,000 in fuel costs. New Arctic voyages are starting all the time. A Russian oil company, Novatek, is currently carrying a trial shipment of 60,000 tonnes of oil products to China via northern Siberia on the vessel Perseverance.

Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, has just broken new ground by carrying ore from the Arctic port of Dudinka to Rotterdam in Holland. Two tankers owned by Murmansk Shipping, the Varzuga and Indiga, loaded with 27,000 tonnes of petroleum, recently moved through the ice-thinned passage from Murmansk to Chukotka in the Russian far east.

But it is not all plain sailing. Quite a lot of the Arctic routes are not properly mapped and surveyed while there is a serious dispute in Canada over whether the famous North West Passage is international water or sovereign territory.

Meanwhile the Russian authorities are still trying to decide what to do about dumped radioactive materials left along the route. The Tsivolka Inlet on Novaya Zemyla has been used as a burial ground for nuclear reactors such as the one from the first atomic-powered icebreaker, the Lenin.

The gathering interest in the Northern Sea Route is being generated by a political as well as a physical thaw. Global warming is reducing the thickness and immovability of the ice but Moscow is changing too. Russia under Dmitry Medvedev is an increasingly outward-looking country.

Last week in Murmansk, the Russian President signed a bilateral agreement with Norway after a 40-year row over sea boundaries. It started with arguments over fish but has become a negotiation largely driven by prospects for oil and gas in the Barents Sea and beyond.

Wider political changes are happening as the Arctic increasingly becomes a hunting ground for minerals rather than the seals of the past.

The ship owners believe that this route could gradually be open for transit up to four months per year as air and sea temperatures increase. But they also foresee a world ahead when vessels can take a direct east-west route across the north pole.

Canadian and American maritime experts say two per cent of global shipping could be diverted to the Arctic by 2030, rising to five per cent by 2050.

Already cruise ships are bringing tourists and income to countries such as Greenland. But they are also raising concerns about safety and pollution from oil spills. There is a widespread view that it is only a matter of time before there is an emergency: a passenger ship in trouble and potential evacuation into freezing seas. Even with the best of intentions, the wider shipping industry will have accidents. Collisions are more likely in areas of thick fog and where some navigational equipment might malfunction in extreme cold.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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 THE HINDU

OPED

THE SEARCH FOR A NEW SPACE PROGRAMME

DANA BARTHOLOMEW

Days before the last space shuttle launch on Friday, the head of NASA vowed the nation would pioneer a manned rocket into the solar system.

Even without a replacement spacecraft, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said America plans to fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and Mars. "The debate is notifwe will explore, buthowwe'll do it," Mr. Bolden told reporters last week during an address to the National Press Club. "Notifthere will be human spaceflight, but the right path to the next generation of systems."

More important for U.S. aerospace companies frustrated by months of NASA indecision, he said he would announce plans for a national heavy lift rocket "soon."

The demise of the 30-year-old shuttle is putting roughly 10,000 workers out of work, according to NASA.

It will also force the U.S. to depend on Russian spacecraft to lift astronauts to the International Space Station.

While President George W. Bush had announced plans for a replacement space programme to fly into low Earth orbit and beyond, President Barack Obama scuttled the Constellation system of rockets as too costly.

Instead, NASA has called for private companies to build spacecraft to go into low orbit. And it opted for one NASA vehicle to explore outer space.

For loftier flights designed to be 10 times safer than the shuttle, the agency has called for a "multi-purpose crew vehicle" to ferry four astronauts for 21 days, then return to the Pacific Ocean off California. It would be fired by a rocket powerful enough to send payloads up to 130 metric tonnes including telescopes and lunar or Martian landers into deep space.

"We're nearing a decision on the heavy lift rocket, the space launch system, or SLS, and will announce that soon," Mr. Bolden said. "Complemented by a host of technology developments, these two systems will open up the entire solar system to us."

To critics who have said the U.S. stands to lose its dominance in space, the new spacecraft may be vital.

Byron Wood, the former president of Rocketdyne who oversaw the engine for the Space Shuttle, said its last flight Friday may mean more than the end of the Space Shuttle programme. It could mean the end of America in space, he said, and the demise of America as a world leader.

"It'll be the saddest day of my life," Mr. Wood said. "To me, any time a civilization decides not to push the frontier, it's a mistake."

For the engineers at Rocketdyne who have been waiting more than 17 months for new rocket plans, a replacement rocket may be feasible if announced very soon.

One NASA concept called for the first stage to be propelled by five redesigned Space Shuttle main engines, known as the RS-25E.

An upper stage could be powered by a descendent of a Jupiter engine known as the J-2X, which was slated to be tested this week.

Many of Rocketdyne's roughly 1,800 jobs in Canoga Park and Chatsworth down 700 over the last few years depend on it, officials said. In addition, 300 more across the nation have been given notice pending the heavy lifter announcement.

"It's not a bad model, except right now, it's bare bones," said Jim Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies company. "What NASA needs to do is exercise some leadership.

"I'm concerned that NASA and the current administration don't understand what's at stake."

He said that means NASA must soon decide what will be the architecture for the SLS rocket. What will be its engineering timeline. What it's going to do. And where it's going to go.

"Without a new programme, we're going to have layoffs," Mr. Maser said. "Of critical skills, absolutely essential to the nation's space flight and national security."— New York Times News Service

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THE HINDU

FLYING ON A WING AND A PRAYER

M.P. BEZBARUAH

 

Lumbering giant:An Airbus A380 lands at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi in this May 2007 file photo. Each new generation of aircraft is at least 15 per cent more efficient than the previous one but such improvements are not contributing to profitability.— Photo: PTI

While the unending woes of Air India continue to dominate the Indian aviation sector, globally too the industry is facing uncertain weather. At the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) 67th annual general meeting in Singapore recently, 700-odd delegates representing 230 member-airlines that account for 93 per cent of global network carriers, were told to tighten their seat belts.

A diehard optimist could of course argue that IATA's 2011 projection of global profit was an improvement on the post-2000 period of general sluggishness and huge losses. But the profit projection has nosedived to $4 billion from the estimate of $8.6 billion made only in March 2011. The latest estimate is a quarter of the 2010 profit of $18 billion. And the profit margin of 0.7 per cent is too fragile for comfort.

Giovanni Bisignani, who as IATA Director General has piloted it through ups and downs, lamented that "sustainable profits" have remained an elusive goal for the industry. The average net margin over the past 40 years has been a dismally low 0.1 per cent.

In fact, global averages are misleading: they hide gloomier pictures in many regions. The Asia-Pacific region is posting over 50 per cent of the total profits. Even in this region, the robust growth of low-cost carriers implies that full-cost carriers are not in the pink of health.

Two sets of factors are generally blamed for the state of affairs — volatile oil prices; and the impact of calamities such as the tsunami, volcanic eruptions, the earthquake in Japan, as well as political disturbances in West Asia and North Africa. Japan's earthquake and its aftermath alone, for example, are estimated to have eroded $60 billion, or 10 per cent of aviation revenue.

Similarly, oil prices have risen by 15 per cent over 2010 levels. Jet fuel accounts for more than 30 per cent of the cost for airlines, the single largest item. In 2010 the industry spent $140 billion on jet fuel. It is roughly estimated that an increase in the price of a barrel of crude by a dollar leads to a staggering cost increase of $1.6 billion for the aviation business.

Unfortunately, both these sets of factors are outside the industry's control. It can only fly on a wing and a prayer. It can, however, take steps to mitigate the impact of natural catastrophes, and introduce cost-saving efficiency in its operations.

A year ago, at its Berlin meeting, IATA had piloted "Vision 2050." The document identified "four pillars" of survival: suitable ATM (Air Traffic Management) infrastructure to attain sustainable profit; technology-based solutions for security and environmental challenges(airframe design, engine efficiency); operational efficiency and processes to meet the long-term annual demand estimate of 16 billion customers and 400 million tonnes of cargo by 2050; economic instruments and government policies to provide an impetus.

In the recent past, some of these measures — ranging from e-ticketing to creating efficient value chains for service providers — have slashed costs by nine per cent, increased fuel efficiency by 24 per cent and labour productivity by 67 per cent. These have added up to $60 billion in savings in the past decade. It is calculated that each new generation of aircraft that rolls off the production line is at least 15 per cent more efficient than the previous one.

Curiously enough, in 2010, when both passenger demand and cargo demand were revised downwards, capacity growth overtook demand growth. Capacity grew by seven per cent but demand grew only 4.4 per cent. Perhaps this will be justified in the long run. For the moment it adds to concerns of profitability.

The frustrating part of the story is that with all the efficiency measures and savings, things do not seem to become better at all. It is like theAlice in Wonderland riddle of running faster to remain in the same place.

The future of aviation lies in the implementation of the measures outlined in Vision 2050 — a combination of technology, good management and support from governments. ATM modernisation, for example, is estimated to lead to 10 to 12 per cent fuel efficiency a year. Improvements in air traffic control systems can save a lot of fuel. Even a one-per-cent saving can translate to 50 million barrels of oil a year.

The future also depends on government policies on fuel, taxation, encouraging structural changes and more commercial freedom. Britain's Air Passenger Duty is the highest aviation tax in the world. Along with peers such as the departure taxes of Germany and Austria and India's service tax, it has implications running into billions of dollars and affects passenger demand.

And one proposal that has taken the industry by storm is the European Union's emissions trading system (ETS). From January 2012, all airlines flying to Europe will be given a baseline carbon emission credit. Carriers which emit more carbon than the fixed cap will be required to buy credits. IATA has estimated the cost to be $1.5 billion annually. That aside, the World Bank intends to ask G-20 governments to raise money to fight climate change by imposing a global levy on jet fuel.

The EU's commitment to the environment is not in doubt. The aviation industry is reportedly responsible for two per cent of the world's carbon dioxide (CO{-2}) emissions and it needs to act. However, Eurocentric action may give rise to regional and fragmented measures and upset comprehensive global action.

Climate-change populism can be risky. A few years back the tourism industry, a great engine of growth, had noted with alarm the German Chancellor's suggestion that to curtail CO{-2}emissions, long haul flights should be stopped. This would have ruined tourism prospects for many countries. In some of them, tourism revenues actually pay for poverty alleviation programmes!

(The author is honorary permanent representative of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. He retired from the IAS as Secretary to the Union Ministry of Tourism. He is at mpbezbaruah@yahoo.co.in )

The troubles that the aviation sector faces worldwide are not about to go away. Its future depends on measures that involve technology, good management and governmental support.

 

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THE HINDU

AMERICA'S SECRET ROMANCE WITH ISLAMISM

PRAVEEN SWAMI

Kamalshah, son of Pahlawanshah, son of Said Ahmad Faqir, a resident of Laqlick, stormed into the shari'a court of the remote Afghan district of Kunnar in February 1886, demanding justice.

His wife Qalandar Bibi, Kamalshah told theqadi, or religious judge, had eloped with another villager and was pregnant with his son. But, it turned out, that wasn't the problem he wanted dealt with.

"This woman has jewels belonging to me," he declared, "two necklaces, one bracelet, one hundred and ninety pins and one pair of golden earrings — the price of which amounts to sixty rupees."

"I want my things," Kamalshah complained, "but she refuses to give them up."

Eight years before Kamalshah appeared before theqadi of Kunnar, journalist Howard Hensman, embedded with British forces during the Afghan war of 1879, offered a somewhat different account of the culture of Afghan men.

The Afghan woman, he claimed — though he never met one — was "shut up and kept from mischief within the four walls of her master's harem."

The men were "particularly jealous of their women"; insults to their honour were certain to be "confronted by some buck Afghan with a knife in his hand and an oath in his mouth."

Kamalshah's subversion of our stereotypes of the Afghans offers a prism through which we may reflect upon the intellectual foundations of an extraordinary project that will be key to United States foreign policy in the first decades of this century: its effort to undo the seismic ruptures opened up by 9/11 by seeking a rapprochement with the global Islamist movement.

Envoys from Ennahda, the Tunisian Islamist party, met with key lawmakers and State Department officials in Washington DC in May. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also said she would welcome dialogue with those of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, long reviled as irredeemable fascists, "who wish to talk with us." In Afghanistan, President Barack Obama's administration is locked in a secret dialogue with the Taliban.

America's secret romance with the Islamists has a disturbing history — and its renewal ought be a real source of concern for those concerned with democracy.

America's Islamist project

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's appointment book for 1953 bears the record of a meeting with "the Honourable Saeed Ramadhan." Mr. Ramadan, as his name is commonly spelt today, had travelled to the U.S. as part of a delegation of three dozen religious scholars and political activists, who its government hoped to cultivate to promote its anti-communist agenda in newly independent Arab states.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analysts, declassified documents show, described Mr. Ramadan as a "Phalangist" and a "fascist." In the Cold War, these weren't necessarily disqualifications.

"By the end of the decade," journalist and historian Ian Johnson has recorded, "the CIA was overtly backing Ramadan. While it's too simple to call him a U.S. agent, in the 1950s and 1960s the United States supported him as he took over a mosque in Munich, kicking out local Muslims to build what would become one of the Brotherhood's most important centres."

British geostrategic doctrine likely had something to do with the making of this alliance. Francis Tucker, the last General Officer-Commanding of the British Indian Eastern Command, believed that the creation "of a new Muslim power supported by the science of Britain" would "place Islam between Russian Communism and Hindustan."

From Dennis Kux's book,Disenchanted Allies, we learn that John Foster Dulles — Eisenhower's Secretary of State and a key architect of the United States' wars against democracy in Iran, Guatemala and Indo-China — believed that the Gurkhas were Pakistani Muslims, and wanted men he believed were racially-superior fighters to be on the anti-communist side.

In the wake of the Soviet Union's intervention in Afghanistan, the U.S. would use those connections, funnelling arms and logistical support through Pakistan to the jihadists it is now locked in war with. President Ronald Reagan famouslydescribed the Afghan jihadists as "freedom fighters": he and others on the American religious right saw in them, not without reason, ideological soulmates.

Less well known are the U.S.' efforts to rebuild bridges with Islamist groups after the horrific events of 9/11. During President George W. Bush's second term in office, the U.S. reached out to Muslim Brotherhood-linked organisations in Europe. In 2006, for example, the State Department organised a conference in Brussels, bringing together western Islamists.

The objective was to play on the fissures within the Islamist movement: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor, was bitterly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, and its cadre were engaged in pitched battles with al-Qaeda-linked organisations in Palestine, Egypt and Iraq.

Mr. Obama was mocked when, in 2009, he began reaching out to what was called the "moderate" Taliban: David Rothkopf, writing inForeign Policy, imagined the CIA being tasked with seeking men who "advocate stoning unfaithful women to death with only small rocks and pebbles," and "offer Bin Laden refuge in his home only during inclement weather."

Now, though, Mr. Obama's Islamist efforts at Islamist outreach form the stuff of America's new consensus: there is, more than one commentator has said, no other way.

Part of the reason for this is tactical. The U.S. allied with reactionary regimes throughout West Asia — as it did in South America — in an effort to beat back nationalism. Egyptian rulers from Anwar Sadat onwards flirted with the Muslim Brotherhood, in an effort to legitimise their power — all the while cracking down ferociously on democratic opponents. In Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq pursued a similar trajectory.

Now, as popular dissent evicts American-allied despot after American-allied despot, the U.S. finds it has no credible secular-democratic partners to engage with.

There is also, however, an ideological foundation for America's new policies: the notion that Islamists, unlike secular democrats, are in some way authentic, organic representatives of their peoples and cultures. The idea is tied profoundly to the role of religion in America's own civic life. In his 2009 speech to what is often called "the Muslim world," Mr. Obama repeatedly invoked the common traditions of religion to legitimise his defence of democratic rights — not the secular traditions of the Enlightenment, from which they emerged.

Back in 1978, scholar Edward Said pointed to the pervasive influence essentialist ideas about faith and identity had on western thought. The notion of that Islam explained the workings of societies as diverse as Algeria and Indonesia suffused not just scholarship, but also popular culture: Charles Deveraux's novellaVenus in India, first published three years after Kamalshah approached theqadi of Kunnar, is replete with images culled from Hensman.

Intellectuals belonging to quite different traditions projected on Islamic societies their own fantasies. Deborah Baker's superb biography of Maryam Jameelah, an enormously influential American-born writer, shows she saw in the reactionary ideas of Islamist ideologues Sayyed Qutb and Abul Ala Maududi a means of resistance against modernist materialism. French philosopher Michel Foucault's uncritical support for Iranian Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson have shown, rested on similar propositions.

Even now, the ideas survive: historian William Dalrymple, no reactionary, described the Taliban as being "in many ways the authentic voice of rural Pashtun conservatism."

Claims like these have in fact at best problematic empirical foundations. In a nuanced 2010 essay, scholar Thomas Ruttig noted that three decades of conflict brought about dramatic changes in the structures of Pashtun society. Education, generational change and urbanisation also brought transformations — as did ideology. Even though Taliban leaders were rooted in tribal societies, Dr. Ruttig noted, "their self-identification, the balance between being Pashtun and being Muslim has changed, as in the case with many Afghans."

Little of this nuance, though, informs reportage or scholarly writing: a few minutes with an internet search engine will demonstrate that the word "fierce" and its variants preface references to ethnic Pashtuns with mind-numbing frequency. The word, needless to say, almost never presages discussions of European nations where killing has taken place on an industrial scale.

Islamism is thus almost never understood as just one of several competing modernist movements — its influence a consequence not of its organic character, but of the geopolitical patronage.

Even though Islamists have moderated their positions in recent years, their politics remain disturbing. The Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Youssef al-Qaradawi, for example, says he appreciates music and supports the right of women to work — but also describes the Holocaust as divine punishment of Jews. He remains committed to "the spread of Islam until it conquers the entire world and includes both the East and West which marks the beginning of the return of the Islamic Caliphate."

In the decades to come, it is possible that the rigours of democratic politics will compel figures like al-Qaradawi to temper their positions: to engage in the kind of alliance-based politics that has allowed the American religious right to work within the democratic system.

The U.S. patronage of the Islamist cause, however, will legitimise and strengthen it — not allow the regeneration of genuine, competitive democracy. Its current course threatens to compound the tragic consequences America's anti-communist crusade had for the lives of millions across the world.

The United States' fresh outreach to

the religious right in Asia will inflict incalculable harm on the lives of millions, just as its anti-communist crusade did.

 

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THE HINDU

CLIMATE SCIENTISTS ANGERED BY INDIFFERENCE

MICHAEL BROOKS

 

Sinking icons:Greenpeace activists demonstrate by submerging models of world famous structures in Cancun, Mexico, on December 8, 2010, during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change there.— Photo: AFP

James Hansen never expected to become a radical activist at the age of 65. He is a grandfather who loves nothing more than exploring nature with his grandchildren. He holds down a respectable job as the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. But he is 70 now, and he has a police record.

Mr. Hansen gets himself arrested, testifies in court on behalf of others who have broken the law and issues public pronouncements that have made NASA try to gag him — all because he can't bear the thought that his grandchildren might hold him responsible for a burned-out planet.

Mr. Hansen is the climate scientist's climate scientist. He has testified about the issue in front of Congress, but has had enough of the standard government response — "greenwash", he calls it. Last month, Mr. Hansen issued an uncompromising plea for Americans to involve themselves with civil unrest over climate change. "We want you to consider doing something hard — coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested," he says in a letter on grist.org.

However many Americans turn up to get arrested in Washington, it's unlikely that Mr. Hansen will end up sharing a cell with other scientists. He cuts a lone figure on the barricades; almost all scientists run shy of such public misbehaviour.

In private, science has always been a brutal, gladiatorial arena. To be successful you have to challenge established thinking, force out the old guard and prove beyond question that you are right. That takes extraordinary tenacity, resourcefulness and courage.

The tragedy is that these laudable attributes are rarely channelled into tackling areas where science highlights something of global concern. Yes, scientists compile and contribute to reports on issues such as climate change. But those reports are made public only when the scientists have agreed on the most conservative of conclusions, satisfying the lowest common denominator among those whose names appear on the documents.

The U.N.'s climate monitor, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, issues reports that stand accused of underplaying sea level rises. According to a report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, levels may rise three times faster than IPCC estimates.

That is not to say that climate scientists don't privately agree about what is going on with our planet. In April 2010 a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that nearly 98 per cent of working climate scientists accept the evidence for human induced climate change. The voices of dissent reported "for balance" come almost exclusively from researchers who are not publishing in the field.

Unfortunately, this consensus over climate change is in danger of becoming the world's best-kept secret.

According to the World Bank's 2010 World Development Report, 17 per cent of U.S. citizens think that the properly scientific view is to be sceptical about climate change, while 43 per cent believe that scientists are "evenly divided". Who is to blame for this gulf between reality and perception? The media? The government? No. When they are being honest, the scientists blame themselves.

And that's why Mr. Hansen — and a handful of other scientists — are bypassing traditional outlets for scientific results.

Mr. Hansen's attitude echoes that of Sherwood Rowland, who won a Nobel prize for his research into the effects of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases on the ozone layer. "What's the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions," Mr. Rowland said, "if all we're willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?" Mr. Rowland's colleagues shunned him for his activism. Even the iconic environmentalist James Lovelock called for a "bit of British caution" in the face of what he saw as Mr. Rowland's "missionary" zeal for a ban on CFCs. In the end, it was only the terrifying discovery of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica that galvanised the politicians.

Academic science is a relatively new profession: it sprang up after the Second World War, when governments realised that whoever invested the most in science would win the next war. It quickly became a lucrative and safe career option. But there was a cost involved: science had to promise to behave itself.

The atomic bomb, the V2 rockets and the threat of nerve and mustard gases had all contributed to the view of science as something that had to be tightly controlled. "People hate scientists," biologist Jacob Bronowski observed in 1956. And so scientists developed an attitude of forelock-tugging subservience, "the monk of our age, timid, thwarted, anxious to be asked to help," as Mr. Bronowski put it.

While most scientists have learned keep their heads down, a few are beginning to argue that what a scientist knows must inform his or her personal opinions and values. That's why a group of young Australian climate scientists released an expletive-filled music video earlier this year. It was an angry rap aimed at those who question climate science while holding no qualifications in the field. Hearteningly, there may be more of this to come. Paul Nurse, the new president of the Royal Society, has said he would be happy to see scientists getting fully engaged with politics and involved with activism.

And scientists are no longer hated: they are, in fact, overwhelmingly popular, and much more trusted than politicians. A 2010 survey of European citizens revealed that 63 per cent of people think government or academic scientists are best qualified to explain the impact of scientific and technological developments on society (only 11 per cent think politicians should do the job). It's not just about explaining, either. A 2009 Pew survey revealed that three-quarters of the public would like to see scientists active in political debates about such issues as nuclear power or stem cell research.

Those who have hitherto fought within the ivory towers to establish the science of climate change now need to muster up enough courage to take their fighting spirit out of the laboratory and onto the streets. Activist scientists will soon find themselves wondering why they cowered in the shadows for all those years. After all, as Mr. Bronowski also said: "dissent is the native activity of the scientist".— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Scientists have been seen as meek, dispassionate souls. But faced with widespread indifference to global warming, a small band of science radicals is getting angry.

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THE ASIAN AGE

'SALWA JUDUM' WAS A BLOT ON THE REPUBLIC

The Supreme Court quite rightly declared illegal and unconstitutional the deployment of tribal youth to take on Maoists under the "salwa judum" programme in Chhattisgarh. Under this project, ongoing since 2005, some 6,000 poor young tribals have been made special police officers, or Koya Commandos, and given weapons to fight the

Maoists. In denouncing the idea, through a ruling on Tuesday, the country's highest court appears to have accorded centrality to the human rights of those roped in under the salwa judum initiative, correctly maintaining that these are young people — sometimes well below 18 — who have barely attended primary school and are simply not equipped to take on the responsibility of SPOs. The judges cited Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before the law and equal protection of the law) as well as Article 21 (no one can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law). In other words, tribal youth must be nourished through education and not sent up as cannon fodder. These are useful points to enumerate.
However, the court could also have emphasised another signal aspect of the Constitution in declaring that salwa judum was undesirable, unworthy and unconstitutional. Quite simply, setting up a vigilante force of citizens — which is what salwa judum has done — runs contrary to the understanding that the state alone in democratic societies must be empowered to use violence in the manner sanctioned by the duly constituted authority and within the bounds of law. If this were not so, armed gangs of one or another persuasion would roam the land, in some cases enjoy official patronage, and justify their goals and motives in terms of righteousness, morality, culture, nationalism and revolutionary impulses of one or another kind. What salwa judum does is to arm one set of citizens against another in a calculated and programmed manner in the belief that a national cause is being served, and criminals are being paid back in their own coin. However, our notion of democratic justice demands that those who envisage or commit serious crimes for personal or political reasons must be made to confront the full majesty of the law at the hands of duly constituted authority, and not sought to be subdued by state-sponsored vigilante groups. Next-door Pakistan (there are other examples) offers an objective lesson. Here the pernicious use of armed terrorists to secure official objectives has brought the society to its knees, and the state gives every appearance of degenerating into helplessness in the face of assault by such elements.
No Indian would want to go there, and yet the authorities in Chhattisgarh offer the limp explanation that their fight against Maoists would be enfeebled if salwa judum is off the table. In this view, the forces mobilised under salwa judum know the jungles well and can checkmate the Maoists. This is surprising in view of the fact that the state's fight against Maoists in Chhattisgarh has produced no better results than those elsewhere in the country where there is no salwa judum. It should be noted that the salwa judum idea differs in principle and in spirit from that of village defence units (comprising mostly retired Armymen) in Jammu and Kashmir some years ago to meet the onslaught by terrorists launched into Indian territory by Pakistan. The key difference is that VDUs, unlike salwa judum, were set up to challenge foreign mercenaries. It is to be hoped that after being disbanded, the salwa judum personnel would be removed to safety (as otherwise they would be sitting ducks for the Maoists), and given a start in another kind of life with the help of the Centre.

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THE ASIAN AGE

GOOD MORNING, 'NAM

BHARAT KARNAD

Nations establish moral ascendancy over other nations only by victory in war. Shrugging off the possibility of American nuclear attack, China crossed the Yalu river in October 1950 and almost brought the United States-led forces in Korea to their knees, rubbed India's nose in the dust in 1962 and in 1969 militarily stiff-armed the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river.

Elsewhere in Asia there is Vietnam, a much smaller but truly extraordinary military power with an unmatched record of serially beating intruders and interventionists. It bloodied China every time it ventured south in over 2,000 years of its history. In more recent times, Vietnam ended France's imperial pretensions at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, kicked the Americans out and in 1979, even as its regular divisions were held in reserve, its militia of hastily armed and trained villagers in the border provinces proved more than adequate to kill 25,000 and injure 75,000 of an invading force of 100,000 People's Liberation Army troops chairman Deng Xiaoping had ordered into action to teach Vietnam "a lesson", much as Mao Zedong had launched his "self-defence counter-attack" against India.
Except, it were the Chinese who were taught a brutal lesson in offensive guerrilla resistance and faced humiliation they cannot easily forget. The thrashing China received at the hands of the Vietnamese 32 years ago has resulted in the respect Beijing shows Hanoi that Delhi can only dream of. Thus, in the latest clash last month in the South China Sea over the disputed Spratly Islands chain, after Chinese ships cut the cables of a PetroVietnam oil exploration vessel, Vietnam responded with strong words backed by naval live-fire drills. Fearing the situation was sliding into loss of face, this time on sea, the Chinese quickly asked for talks.
But Vietnam is no brash belligerent ready to take on the next bully on the block. While prepared to fight any comer in defence of its territory and interests, it is mindful of its military weaknesses where China is concerned, one of which is its seaward flank fronting on Hainan Island complete with the Sanya nuclear submarine base, hosting the most versatile of China's three fleets, the South Sea Fleet. During the 1979 Chinese invasion, Vietnam faced possible Chinese naval attacks which Beijing was deterred from mounting because the Soviet Union, then at loggerheads with China, sent four warships into the South China Sea. Vietnam has ever since viewed a meaty presence of an out-of-area friendly naval power in waters offshore as an insurance to ward off the danger from the Chinese Navy. Russia today, much reduced, cannot perform that role, and the United States is unreliable. Hanoi's hopes, therefore, rest on the Indian government mustering the strategic will to fill the void. A Vietnamese military delegation headed by its Naval Chief, Vice-Admiral Ngyuyen Van Hien, visiting Delhi a fortnight ago, explored ways of developing mutual confidence and trust. For a start, they sought training for its crews the Russians had previously trained, obviously not to the Vietnam Navy's satisfaction, for the Kilo-class submarines Vietnam is acquiring from Moscow. Should China act up, a strong Vietnamese submarine arm will be a meaningful counter to Chinese warships mucking about offensively around the Spratly Islands.
The more significant thing was Vice-Adm. Hien's offer of the port of Nha Trang on the South China Sea for the Indian Navy's use. Nha Trang shares virtually the same longitude as the Sanya base on Hainan, but, latitude-wise, is located a few degrees south. An Indian naval flotilla voyaging frequently between the Andamans and Nha Trang, and sustained by a basing and provisioning arrangement on the central Vietnamese coast, will amount to a near permanent Indian presence in the South China Sea, signalling Indian intent and forward positioning that can mess up the Chinese naval and strategic calculus and push Beijing planners, for once, onto the back foot. At a minimum, it will be an analogue of the sizeable Chinese paramilitary (People's Armed Police) presence in the Gilgit and Baltistan regions of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. And, it will aggravate China's offshore situation, already roiled by the US Navy's continued loitering in this area contested, other than Vietnam and China, by Malaysia and Brunei.
As always, however, there's a glitch. Even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his national security adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon are reportedly for an Indian naval presence in the Vietnamese seas and want India to be a staunch strategic partner of Vietnam, the until recently defence secretary, Pradeep Kumar, was pressing the brakes. Fuelling the innate over-caution of his minister, A.K. Antony, he argued that such a stance would needlessly "provoke" the Chinese and, therefore, is avoidable. It is a remarkable characteristic of the dysfunctional Indian system that despite the Prime Minister's and the NSA's support for this initiative, a defence ministry bureaucrat can so easily gum up the works. Hopefully Mr Kumar will be succeeded by someone a bit more on the ball.
Tit-for-tat is something Beijing appreciates better than the apologetic do-nothing tone of statements on China usually emanating from the ministry of external affairs and the generalist defence ministry civil servants. The Indian government should long ago have responded to the nuclear missile-arming of Pakistan by China by equipping Vietnam with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, as I have been advocating the past 15 years. The fact that the Indian government has not done this and, indeed, not accorded top priority to militarily advantaging Vietnam in every possible way, indicates the essential infirmity in India's strategic thinking. China has used Pakistan to try and contain India to the subcontinent. It's time India returned the compliment and cooperated with Vietnam, which does not shrink from a fight, to contain China to its immediate waters. Acting on the basis that Vietnam constitutes India's first line of defence will ensure that, among other things, the bulked-up Chinese Navy is bottled up well east of the Malacca Strait.

The author is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

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THE ASIAN AGE

THE DETERMINED OUTSIDER

KHALID MOHAMED

He was the uncompromising outsider. He refused to genuflect to commercial diktats, sticking stubbornly to his individualistic — frequently non-linear — form of filmmaking. Down four decades, he was identified with what is variously termed as "art", "new wave" and "parallel" cinema.

To know Mani Kaul, who passed away at the age of 67 after battling a terminal illness in New Delhi on Wednesday, was to know a mercurial, larger-than-life man. As a film director, he discussed the status of women (Uski Roti, Duvidha), crafted visually seductive documentaries (Arrival, Before My Eyes, A Desert of a Thousand Lines) and went through a spell of interpreting Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterworks. The Russian writer's short story A Gentle Creature inspired Nazar, shot in low, chiaroscuro lighting.
Dostoevsky's classic novel Idiot was grafted to an Indian milieu with Ahmaq, which incidentally featured Shah Rukh Khan in a key role. Khan has recalled the experience of working with Kaul fondly, albeit with the rider that he could never understand what the film was all about.
As a knee-high child, Mani Kaul, nephew of prominent B-town director Mohan Kaul, saw the world through foggy eyes. His eyesight was weak but he thought that's the way landscapes and faces look: blurred. It was only when he was around 12 that he wore spectacles and saw life in focus. "After that, I refused to change my vision", he would laugh, bemused. Although his cinema was serious, groundbreaking and contemptuous of amassing profits, he did not take himself seriously. His booming laughter and a saturnine smile a la Jack Nicholson were his calling card.
In person, he would captivate an ever-enlarging group of admirers with his bagatelles, and impromptu Hindustani classical music soirees, at his home on Mumbai's swishy Altamount Road. The apartment belonged to his wife, Lalitha, who doted on him as if he was her third kid after Shambhavi and Ribu.
If his temper was provoked, there could be storm and thunder. Once, a Delhi ministry bureaucrat, over the phone, was bamboozling him to fly to an international festival in economy class. Kaul reasoned that he wasn't interested in going anyway. Yet the bureaucrat persisted. Crrrrrrash! The reluctant traveller pounded his fist into a glass-topped coffee table. End of phone call.
A graduate of the Pune film institute, circa 1969, he went on to become a cult figure in the campus. Students down the years have been intensely influenced by him. Others, obsessive about Bollywood cinema, have been dismissive about Kaul, saying, "But who sees his Uski Rotis?" The rest of the world did — practically every one of the 25 documentaries and features he made were showcased and saluted at Berlin, Venice and Locarno. Four Filmfare trophies for the Critics' Award went to him for Uski Roti, Ashad ka Ek Din, Duvidha and Idiot. In addition, he was feted at the National Awards regularly during a time when "intellectualism" hadn't been reduced to a pejorative term.
He painted abstract canvases and had acted in Basu Chatterjee's Saara Aakash.
Deeply influenced by Ritwik Ghatak, who helmed the Pune film institute during the mid '60s, Kaul had a healthy disrespect for middle-of-the-road cinema. Kumar Shahani, a fellow traveller in filmmaking, was one of his closest friends.
Despite an ideological argument over which they came to blows at a cafe, the bond between Shahani and Kaul persisted. Both had a tough time securing finance from the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), for which they had directed the most-treasured films in its repertory. As it turned out, it was a losing battle with the NFDC changing its priorities to market-friendly cinema.
Shahani moved to New Delhi to teach. Kaul set anchor in Amsterdam, where he remarried, had two more children, before returning to Mumbai. His last film was A Monkey's Raincoat and his last job was as the creative director of films at the Osean's.
The mercurial filmmaker shifted eventually to New Delhi. Once he had phoned to inquire if M.F. Husain would allow him to shoot a documentary on his art and life. That was not to be. Mani Kaul had become near-reclusive but his pair of spectacles were always in place. His vision never altered.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POST-PANCHAYAT ELECTIONS

 

Chief Minister has been euphoric first about initiating panchayat elections in the State after a gap of forty years and then about the post election scenario once the elections were completed almost peacefully. There were one or two incidents of violence more as a result of personal vendetta than any ideological controversy. In the aftermath of these elections, the Chief Minister has embarked on a whirlwind tour of a large number of constituencies to address large gatherings of panches and sarpanches after their election was formally announced. This is the basic requirement of a public leader that he reaches the people at grassroots level. During past two decades of militancy, elected leaders in the valley seldom mustered courage to call a mass rally in their respective constituencies and address the people. This created a gap in communication with very adverse results. But Omar Abdullah is now trying to fill that gap and addressing the large gatherings essentially in rural areas and bringing awareness to them on their role in the development of the State in all walks of life. This has to be taken as the turning of a new leaf in the contemporary history of the State.
An important aspect of panchayati raj to which the Chief Minister alluded during his recent panchayat rallies at Uri and Rafiabad in Kashmir, and might come up at amore rallies, is the role of women panches and sarpanches in the development of the state in future. The fact is that female segment of society has lagged behind in our democratic enterprise for six decades in the past. Social and political role of women in bringing about a change and a revolution of sorts has always been neglected or underestimated. Election of a good number of women candidates as panches or sarpanches shows that a useful fund of talent and integrity cannot be allowed to go waste. It has to be pressed into service if we want to ensure equitable development of the state in all walks of life. It is true that election of a large number of women panchayat members recently would open new vistas for the women's role in socio-economic development of the state, particularly in addressing the issues of gender nature. Commenting on the big exercise of panchayat elections just concluded, the Chief Minister rightly said in his rallies that "the establishment of this system is an answer to so many questions relating to development and social fronts," He told the sarpanches and the panches to be prepared to shoulder the responsibility to serve on various fronts. Chief Minister's seriousness about making the panchayti raj a success as reflected in his effort of addressing all corollaries emerging out of it. For example he has approached New Delhi to enlist his State for receiving financial support to the tune of 1500 crore rupees to make the panchayati raj functional in the Sate. The Union Government makes these allocations to all states that are pursing the system of panchayati raj. Furthermore the Chief Minister has ordered opening orientation courses for the panches and sarpanches so that they are able to discharge their duties efficiently and effectively. Orienting the panches to the job they are required to do is important because panchayats are expected to be invested with many powers crucial to the development and progress.
The Chief Minister is aware that the process of devolution of power to the panchayati structure is an indirect censure of the elected assembly and parliamentary members because of their inability to reach the people at grassroots level. Of course the panchayati structure is going to sharpen the competition between the MLAs and the panchayati structure for the development of the constituencies and areas. This has to be a healthy development with panchayati structure having an edge in the sense that a panchayats is expected to be free of controversies and political interests that dog the political parties and their candidates. Therefore there is much truth in the words of the Chief Minister that panchayti raj is a mechanism of transforming social, political and economic scenario in the state.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BLUFF EXPOSED

 

The statement of India Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, after she had concluded official talks with her Pakistani counterpart, that Pakistan's stand on terrorism had altered, raised many an eyebrow among Pak observers in the country. The cryptic statement has given rise to many speculations and interpretations, which the Indian official did not elucidate. The ground reality on Indo-Pak front runs counter to what has been said by the foreign secretary. Barely twenty-four hours after Rao's statement has The New York Times reported the interview of an American military commander highly knowledgeable on Pakistan's role in sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir. He asserted that there is anything between 14000 and 12000 trained and equipped jihadis waiting in different training camps on Pakistani soil to be deployed in Kashmir militancy whenever required. According to the unnamed military commander Pakistani Army is providing training and security to the recruits of a number of prominent jihadi organizations of Pakistan. The report says there is close cooperation between main jihadi organizations of Pakistan and the Army and intelligence establishment. "Pakistan has kept 12,000-14,000 fully trained Kashmiri insurgents in reserve and would use them, if needed, in a war with India, according to a former insurgent commander" reported the New York Times. "These fully trained Kashmiri insurgents, scattered throughout various camps in Pakistan and PoK, are held in reserve to be used if needed in a war against India," he was quoted as saying. The commander also said that terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harakatu'l-Mujahideen and Hizbu'l-Mujahideen are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection to them.

 

In the light of these revelations exposing the bluff of Pakistan, it would be desirable if the foreign ministry tells the nation how it feels that there is any sign of change in the thinking of Pakistan in regard to sponsoring and abetting terror in Kashmir and other parts of India. Moreover the decision of the State to rehabilitate Kashmiri militants returning to the valley also needs to be r e-examined in all aspects and in the light of the recent report of New York Times.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WHEN BLACK IS NOT BEAUTIFUL

BY S. V. VAIDYANATHAN

 

Rapping the Government for the laggardly pace of investigations into the issue of black money stashed abroad, the Supreme Court has appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate and monitor steps taken to bring the unaccounted money back home. Former apex court judge B. P. Jeevan Reddy will head the 13- member committee. Another former justice M. B. Shah will be its vice- chairman and the Director of Research and Analysis Wing will be its member.
A Bench comprising Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S. S. Nijjar, which is hearing a PIL filed by jurist Ram Jethmalani on the issue, pronounced the order saying monies generated and secreted away reveal the degree of softness of the state. The court directed the Central Government to disclose the names of people holding accounts in LGT bank in Liechtenstein - a principality in Europe bordering Switzerland and Austria - as disclosed to it by German authorities.However, the court made an exception saying that the names of people holding accounts but not involved in any wrong acts may not be made public.
The revelation of details of bank accounts of individuals, without establishment of prima facie grounds to accuse them of wrong doing, would be a violation of their rights to privacy, the Bench said. The Government was also ordered to put out the names of those against whom show cause notices had been issued.
The court observed: The amount of unaccounted monies, as alleged by the Government itself, is massive.
The show cause notices were issued a substantial length of time ago. The named individuals are present in the country. Yet, for unknown, and possibly unknowable, though easily surmisable, reasons the investigations into the matter proceeded at a laggardly pace, it said, while referring to Hassan Ali case in which progress was made only at its intervention.
The court rejected the opposition of the Government to the setting up of the SIT saying that it failed to provide any principled reasons as to why that would be undesirable, especially in the light of many lapses in its action in these matters spread over the past four years. In their PIL, Jethmalani and some former bureaucrats had sought the courts direction to the Government to bring black money stashed by Indian nationals in foreign banks, which is said to be to the tune of $1 trillion.
If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it, quipped Charles F. Kettering, the famous American engineer and inventor of the electric starter. Well, the government has done just that! It has appointed an eight-member committee to examine ways to tackle black money. Perhaps that is too cynical! After all, the flurry of activity (the committee is only one of a series of moves) comes after months, nay years, of inactivity by successive governments. So, can the ordinary citizen hope for concrete action and more importantly, results? Unfortunately, no! Not if past experience is any indication.
Read the two seminal works on the subject: the voluminous Wanchoo Committee Report of 1971 and the 1985 National Institute of Public Finance and Policy report (Aspects of the Black Economy in India) authored by Shankar Acharya and his team and the overwhelming sense is one of deja vu. If the Wanchoo Committee bemoaned the "discretionary power" of Government officials that gave rise to speed money first and then to hush money to hush up violations, the Shankar Acharya committee pointed to how the scope for making black money through "kickbacks, cuts and commissions on Government projects and purchases had grown dramatically" and political involvement in such transactions had grown enormously.
That was almost 30-years ago when we were nowhere near the one trillion-dollar economy we are today, the size of the government's budget was a fraction of what it is now and more importantly, the grip of black money in the economy was far less pervasive. Despite this, there has been no official study on the black economy after 1985. Arun Kumar's book (The Black Economy in India, 2002) goes a long way to bridge the gap, but officially there has been silence. Part of the reason is everyone within the Government, and many without, know what needs to be done.
The two reports quoted above and a host of other committees on related subjects have made a number of suggestions as there is hardly any aspect of the Indian economy that is untouched by the phenomenon of black money today. Many of these suggestions have also been implemented. Thus, the pervasive system of controls has been disbanded with the scrapping of industrial licensing, the peak personal income tax rate of little over 30 per cent is a far cry from the high of 97.5 per cent under Mrs. Indira Gandhi, foreign exchange is no longer a scarce commodity and while we are not exactly a land of plenty, many of the crippling shortages of the past are history. Despite this the share of the black economy has increased from the Wanchoo Committee's estimate of 7 per cent in the early 1970s to 21 per cent according to the Shankar Archarya Committee to almost 50 per cent, according to the latest Global Integrity Report and Arun Kumar's own estimates.
Why? The reason is even as some avenues like hawala, have become less lucrative, others like the Mauritius route have been opened. And despite the disbanding of industrial licensing, the Government still retains enormous discretionary power as evidenced in the 2G spectrum scam. Sporadic efforts like the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme have had little effect. As with the great poverty debate where more policy time and mind-space is spent attacking the accuracy of poverty estimates and less on tackling poverty, so too we seem to forget that the central point in our fight against black economy is not whether it is 50 per cent or 60 per cent but of tackling it before it destroys the economy and the social fabric.
There is no rocket science to this. All it needs is a modicum of political courage. It is here that the Government is wanting. If it really wants to convince people that this time it means business, it should not await submission of the reports before cracking the whip. There are a number of simple things it can do. To begin with, it can close or drastically tighten the Mauritius route for investments in India. As with Participatory Notes (PNs) where there was a hue and cry when the government first mooted tightening but scarcely a ripple when it finally suited action to words, fears of the fallout from outlawing the Mauritius route are overdone. Unfortunately, successive governments have dragged their feet on the matter, lending credence to the belief that the Mauritius route was deliberately created to facilitate round-tripping of funds.
In the interim, the Mauritian Government can be prevailed upon to provide more information. If the information sought by the CBI in the 2G spectrum allocation scam can be obtained from Mauritius, there is no reason why similar information cannot be obtained on other investments routed through that country. The same applies to investments through other tax havens. The next step is to identify sectors such as real estate, international trade, education and politics, especially political funding, where black money is rampant and put in place a proper system of reporting with stiff penalties for failure to do so.
The present practice of insistence by the judiciary on measures (intention to cheat) as a precondition to conviction even where search and seizure operations have unearthed black money must give way to a more realistic interpretation of the law. Remember, Al Capone, the notorious US gangster who was wanted in many murders was finally put behind bars on charges of tax evasion! When was the last time anyone in India went to jail on similar charges? (INAV)
(The writer is former Finance Secretary to Government of India)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

REDRAFT ECOONOMIC POLICY

BY RAMESH KANITKAR

In 20-years the Indian economy has been transformed: Few recall that the "Hindu rate of growth" was 3 per cent per annum for over two decades. Direct and indirect taxation have been rationalised and despite lower rates, tax revenues have boomed.
Economic growth and higher tax revenues allow much greater social welfare expenditures than at any time in India's history. Exports are showing a healthy trend. India's economy has raised its stature in the world. As the London Economist wrote in the early 1990s the Indian Tiger was let out of the cage of licensing and control raj and is now roaring. Many even dream of India as a superpower.
But many of those who manage our economy today were the same reformers who had executed policies of the command and control economy. Most of our higher bureaucracy and politicians were brought up to suspect the private sector, prefer ex-government servants for key positions and for advice on policy. Despite apparent change, these old mindsets remain. In addition is the fixation to match China's growth miracle.
High economic growth is the goal. Double digit inflation might hurt the poor, growing inequalities, corruption, black money, illegal holdings abroad, are undesirable, but will not be controlled because that will hurt growth. Getting volatile foreign institutional investment is easier than foreign direct investment, and loopholes are provided to encourage it.
Policy legacies include a predilection for Government ownership of key infrastructure and manufacturing sectors and a preference for disinvesting shares than privatisation and giving up control. Also an unwillingness to distance Government ministers and bureaucracies from management of government owned enterprises. Results are the loot of public enterprises (for example, Air India and formerly Indian Airlines), technological backwardness as in BHEL, Coal India, Indian Telephones, energy shortages because of unforeseen shortages of coal, etc.
Continued misguided policies like product reservations for small-scale sector and labour laws that discourage labour intensive industries to go for scale, adversely affect manufacturing competitiveness, and exports. Reluctance to give up Government control also has led to preference for foreign shareholdings (institutional investments, also used to launder illegal earnings, and volatile foreign fund inflows) over foreign direct investment.
The worst legacy is the power of the bureaucracy and its capture of most influential positions in government and independent regulatory bodies. High levels of corruption at every level of government and unwillingness to close the policy loopholes that enable it are a result, encouraged by vast and tempting Government expenditures.
The other important impediment is the time consuming and expensive procedures making India one of the most difficult countries to start a business in. Privatisation of state owned enterprises would add to non-tax revenues, eliminate Government support to inefficient undertakings, and improve the overall efficiencies in the economy. State electricity boards, BHEL, BSNL, and most other public enterprises could then benefit the economy.
A pitiful neglect is of agriculture, employing 60 per cent of population, adding less than 20 per cent to GDP, and a major cause for mass poverty. Declining productivity, backward technologies, inadequate storage and transportation facilities, exploitative Government pricing, export bans, are responsible but corrective action is absent because of vested interests.
China, despite absence of private land ownership, does far better and agricultural productivity is lower in India for almost all produce compared to most Asian countries. Absence of policies for farmer oriented procurement, fragmentation of land holdings, contract farming, conserving ground water, utilising and pricing irrigation waters, are some major areas demanding corrective policies.
After the Left withdrew support, the UPA Government targeted high levels of economic growth (10 per cent has been mentioned), almost ignoring any other problems. Inflation especially of food products, consequent raising of interest rates, large volatile foreign fund inflows and resultant large swings in share prices and the external value of the rupee, large illegal fund out flows, many other issues that affect the macroeconomic balance, were given far less importance.
India unlike China has been unable to focus on labour intensive industries since any sizeable employment is subject to stringent labour laws that make the industries uncompetitive. Nor has it, unlike China, encouraged foreign investment in assembly industries with small value-added, which in China ultimately became advanced technology oriented industries. This policy has made China the largest manufacturing country in the world and absorbed much rural labour.
Indian bureaucracy is not accountable and has captured all the key levers in Government including those of investigation and regulation. The result is massive waste in public expenditures, poor quality of work and non-inclusion of many deserving people in social benefits.
Schemes are so designed as to enable vast siphoning off of funds by different levels in the bureaucracy. Instead of appropriate targeting and letting beneficiaries pay and be reimbursed for benefits, we continue to procure and deliver them physically.
We need a transformation in mindsets of those in government. The young should replace the aged with their old mindsets. We must have strong institutional mechanisms for individual accountability, investigation, prosecution and more severe punishment for corruption. For this we need a younger and savvier political leadership. (INAV)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CHILDREN OF CONFLICT

BY VARAD VARENYA

 

Kashmir and conflict are synonymous for two decades now, since the arrival of insurgency and gun culture. Every Kashmiri family has suffered in one way or the other. Thousands of lives have been lost - many young children, hundreds disappeared and there are widows, orphans and 'half-widows' (the women whose husbands have gone missing). Children born and raised during the turmoil (post 1990) are the most affected in the valley.
Children there have grown in the environment of terror attacks, bomb blasts, shootouts, encounters, strikes etc. Almost every child's childhood was spent in and around gun. What will be the memorabilia of children of valley? Guns, bombs, shootouts, encounters, and what not!
During past 21 years, according to J&K State Government, 43460 people were killed in Kashmir in which 21323 are militants, 13226 civilians killed by militants, 3642 civilians killed by security forces, 5369 policemen killed by militants. According to the figures available with the Government, there are 27,000 widows and 22000 children orphaned during militancy. But figures of independent sources are higher than those Government figures. According to Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla, head of the department of sociology, University of Kashmir, there are 32,400 widows and 97000 to 100000 orphans in the valley. As per Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, more than 70000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989; around 8000 people have disappeared; at least 25,000 children have been orphaned.
Apart from terror attacks, strike calls by separatist elements in the valley have an effect on the life in Kashmir and especially the education of children. The separatist elements instigated the protest during summer of 2010 which claimed the lives of over 110 people and many a time security forces negligence was also to be blamed. Stones became the instrument of protest. And worst was the death of children in the anti-state protests. What does a 10-12 year old child know about so called Azaadi? These days we have more of strike calls, shutdown and less of terror activities. Fake encounters have also happened in the valley, which add to the problem and breeds more hatred against the state and security forces in particular.
Meanwhile, whenever there is mention of children who are affected by turmoil, we tend to forget children of an ethnic community of Kashmiri Pandits who are living in exile for more than two decades. Many children left the valley as toddlers due to the conflict in the valley and many were born in an unknown land away from their home - Kashmir. There is a 'disconnect' between the child and his/her motherland,
Who is accountable for the affliction of the children of Kashmir? Who is responsible for the deaths, killings of young innocent children? Who is accountable for the children who were forced to live away from their homeland? I would hold everyone responsible - terrorists, politicians, separatists, civil society, and the state administration. Terrorists for killing young innocents and also for the exodus of KP children, politicians for caring about their own interests only, civil society for not being effective in preventing such incidents and the state administration for not taking necessary and preventive measures.
And the saga of 'children of conflict' always brings conflict in our mind!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FAME, SHAME, ACTION

CRACKDOWN ON DOPING, AT LAST

 

Waking up after the country's reputation was in mud due to the doping scandal, the Union Sports Ministry has finally decided to "punish" Yuri Ogordnik, the Ukrainian coach in charge of training the tainted Indian athletes. The axe may fall on other foreign coaches also if they are found to be involved. "Found" is the key word, considering that doping has been a way of life for long but the authorities always looked the other way, basking in the glory of the medals won, the taint be damned. That is the reason why the widespread use was detected by the International Association of Athletic Federations and not our own watchdogs.

 

As has been pointed out by those in the know, it is not a few athletes or a few coaches to blame, but a systemic failure. The authorities either knew or should have known that some coaches, recovery experts, doctors and even masseurs followed the athletes everywhere with syringes loaded with injections, but no objections were raised. The experts also smuggled in Russian-made medicines, which were sold to local chemists. As has been brought out in the media, some chemist shops outside the main training centres in Patiala, Delhi and Bangalore have been selling banned drugs to athletes right under the nose of the authorities.

 

Milkha Singh, the 75-year-old sprinting legend, is bang on target when he says that no athlete can take drugs without the knowledge of coaches and officials. They first brought fame and then shame. If the country is to redeem its prestige, there is need for a thorough purge. The government should take back the cash awards given to the disgraced persons. These nefarious activities of a famous few have not only brought disgrace to the country but also ruined the careers of many young sprinters who gave up their careers half-way through, since they felt frustrated while competing against the doped athletes.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TARGETING SUBSIDIES

CASH TRANSFERS MAY CUT MISUSE

 

Direct cash transfers to the poor in lieu of subsidised kerosene, fertilisers and cooking gas are being introduced as an experiment in seven states, including Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan, on the recommendation of a task force headed by Nanadan Nilekani. The bold experiment will be under watch for six months, and if found successful, it would possibly be announced in the coming Union Budget for a countrywide rollout. A subsidy creates dual prices – the price the targeted beneficiaries pay and the open market price, which is higher. This leads to the diversion of subsidized items. Cheap kerosene, for instance is meant for the poor, but is widely used for adulteration of petrol or diesel. The highly subsidised domestic LPG cylinder is put to commercial use. The subsidy on fertilizers is meant for farmers but is paid to the manufacturing companies.

 

Under the new scheme the government will transfer cash direct in the bank accounts of kerosene, LPG and fertilizer users, who can buy these items from stores near them at the market rate. This arrangement will help the government eliminate middlemen and make foolproof payments direct to the needy. The undeserving like rich farmers can be denied the fertilizer subsidy. Companies will no longer have assured payments and will have to be efficient and price their products competitively. The government, which pays an annual subsidy of Rs 80,000 crore on kerosene, LPG and fertilizers, will make huge savings.

 

The move to switch over to direct cash transfers is fraught with risks. The vested interests may resist change. Identifying the poor is a daunting task. The well-connected often grab benefits meant for the poor, who may not have easy access to a bank or a post office. Pensions do land in wrong hands. Rich farmers in connivance with officials may open and operate bank accounts or smart UID cards in the names of illiterate, poor farmers. Challenges are there but these are not insurmountable. The key to the success of the ambitious project is good governance, especially at the state level.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

COMBATING MAOISM 

SC RULES AGAINST VIGILANTE GROUPS

 

Recruiting barely literate tribal youth , arming and deploying them as 'cannon fodder' in counter-insurgency operations was rightly declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India this week. " Tax breaks for the rich and guns for the youngsters among the poor so that they keep fighting among themselves seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security," observed the apex court while noting that the state seemed to have abdicated its own responsibility by raising armed vigilante groups. The case revealed that the Union of India has allowed as many as 70,000 such youth to be recruited as 'Special Police Officers' in 83 districts spread across nine states affected by Maoist violence. These armed youth are being paid a token honorarium ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 per month. The Chhattisgarh government acknowledged before the court that while preference was given to those who had passed class V, many of the SPOs had not studied even up to class V.

 

Both the central and state governments sought to justify the practice by claiming that since Maoists have raised local militias familiar with local terrain, language and the people, it was imperative for the state also to recruit local tribal youth to combat them. The SPOs, they claimed, were used for collecting intelligence and as guides and spotters. But they had no answer when the court asked them to explain the death of 171 SPOs in Chhattisgarh alone, indicating that they took part in combat and were vulnerable to Maoist attacks. Nor could the governments satisfactorily explain why the SPOs were not receiving equal training, pay and perks if they were so integral and important to the regular police force. The court also took a dim view of the claim that these barely literate youth were being trained to study the laws, human rights and forensic sciences. Above all, the two governments failed to convince the court that the lives of the SPOs were as well protected as those of regular policemen.

 

It is clear that the two governments erred in creating a structure that is unequal, cynical, casual and illegal. Absorbing the SPOs as regular policemen, therefore, seems to be the only option open to them.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

TROUBLED TAMILS IN LANKA

THE ROLES INDIA CAN PLAY

BY G. PARTHASARATHY

 

WHEN Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa paid her first visit to New Delhi after assuming office, she forcefully articulated her concerns on Sri Lanka. Two issues concerning Sri Lankan Tamils stir passions in Tamil Nadu. The first is the conviction that after the elimination of the LTTE in 2009, Sri Lankan Tamils have been displaced from their homes and denied basic human rights. The second concern is the attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy on grounds of their encroaching into Sri Lankan territorial waters, beyond the 285-acre uninhabited Kachativu Island. Records of the British India Government since 1876 have showed Kachativu as part of Ceylon. The Raja of Ramnad, in the then Madras Presidency, however, laid claim to the island in the 1920s.  

 

Kachativu was recognised by India as Sri Lankan territory in agreements signed in 1974 and 1976. The demarcation of the maritime boundary, under which India acknowledged Sri Lankan sovereignty over Kachativu, was based on the internationally recognized principle of the median line and in consonance with Article 15 of the Law of the Seas.  

 

After the LTTE took control of northern Sri Lanka, fishing in each other's territorial waters became contentious.  The Sri Lankan navy resorted to what can only be termed as excessive and indiscriminate use of force. But in 2008, India and Sri Lanka agreed that excluding what Sri Lanka considers as "sensitive areas," there would be "practical arrangements" to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Boundary Line. Sri Lanka would be well advised to see that the spirit of this agreement is respected by its navy. And those raising public passions in Tamil Nadu should remember that the objections to fishing in Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen come primarily from Sri Lankan Tamils.  The exchange of letters accompanying the 1976 agreement makes it clear that fishermen of either party shall not engage in fishing in the other's "historic waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zones".

 

Inevitably, but sadly, triumphalism rather than reconciliation has characterised the reaction of sections of public opinion in Sri Lanka since the bloody ethnic conflict ended in 2009.  There is broad agreement and substantive evidence, which has been endorsed by a UN panel, set up by the Secretary-General, on gross human rights violations by both the Sri Lankan government and the armed forces on the one hand and the LTTE on the other, particularly as the ethnic conflict drew to a close. Both sides were found to have resorted to summary executions and disappearances. The LTTE had adopted a policy of using civilians as human shields extensively during IPKF operations in 1987. There should, therefore, be no reason to doubt, as the UN panel acknowledges, that Prabhakaran, a confirmed psychopath who brutally killed virtually all politically influential Tamil leaders, cynically did likewise when the Sri Lankan army closed in on him in 2009.

 

The ethnic conflict left over 300,000 Tamils, described as "internally displaced persons" (IDPs), in refugee camps. India has committed Rs 1000 crore ($ 220 million) for rehabilitating the IDPs, including provision of materials like cement and GI sheets, for rebuilding homes. Large-scale medical assistance has also been extended. A programme to reconstruct 50000 houses was undertaken in 2010 and Tamil farmers were assisted with the supply of seeds, tractors and agricultural implements. A similar approach has marked India's commitment to broaden ties across the island-nation. India is Sri Lanka's largest trading partner, with the Indian private and public sectors widely having a significant presence there. India has extended lines of credit of around $ 960 million for improvement for the Tsunami-damaged Colombo-Matara rail link and for rolling stock and wagons for the northern railway line. 

 

In a longer-term perspective, India would be well advised to assist the Tamil population in Sri Lanka by setting up educational and vocational training institutes in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. Moreover, India has expressed its readiness to invest in the development of the power sector in Sri Lanka and there are moves for closer integration of the two economies through a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

 

The 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, in pursuant to the 1987 Rajiv Gandhi-Jayawardene Accord, provided for the devolution of powers to provinces, including to the Tamil-dominated northern and multi-ethnic eastern provinces. President Rajapakse had averred that he would be prepared to go even beyond this framework to meet Tamil aspirations. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, while visiting India, agreed that "a devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating conditions for such reconciliation". President Rajapakse seems to be having second thoughts on his past assurances.  Doubts are now being expressed about abiding by the provisions of the 13th Amendment on crucial issues like law and order and lands. After landslide electoral triumphs for ending the ethnic conflict, President Rajapakse may end up losing the prospect of lasting harmony and amity if political expediency prevails over statesmanship.

 

Following the reports of human rights violations by Sri Lanka's armed forces, 17 countries, including France, Germany, Mexico and the UK, moved a resolution in the Human Rights Commission in May 2009 which sought to investigate reported human rights violations by the Sri Lankan armed forces. India, together with countries like Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and others had this move rejected. These countries instead backed a resolution which was passed by 29 votes for and 12 against, which condemned the LTTE and called on the Sri Lanka government to proceed with efforts for national reconciliation and resettlement of IDPs. Given the contents of the recent report of the panel constituted by the UN Secretary-General, which alludes to large-scale violation of human rights by the Sri Lankan government, the 2009 resolution will  inevitably be revisited and reviewed internationally.

 

India has spared no effort to assist and cooperate with Sri Lanka, to eliminate the LTTE and to deal with international pressures mounted on its neighbour in international forums. Sri Lanka, in turn, will hopefully realise the importance of abiding by the solemn assurances it has given to India of going beyond the 13th Amendment to meet the legitimate aspirations of its Tamil population. While the Tamil demands for the merger of the northern and eastern provinces are untenable, objections to the provisions of the 13th Amendment about the transfer of limited powers on law and order and on lands were not countenanced by both former President Kumaratunga and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.  One hopes President Rajapakse will do likewise.

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NEED SOUND SLEEP

BY RAVIA GUPTA

 

SOUND sleep sounds great, but remember when you had it last time? Well, at least I don't remember having enjoyed it in the past many years. May be the last time I did, I was in my mother's lap, extremely protected and cushioned, no baggage of the day's aftermath, without any plans for the next day, without any guilt, without any nightmares. Wondering if there is a way to get it back.

 

How ever hard I try to get some 'sound sleep', each time, I fail miserably, and now I have quite given up on the idea. Even to get ordinary sleep, without any pills or liquor shots, is a blessing these days.

 

Recently, after a long day's work when I was trying hard to get some sleep, for once without solving my life's puzzle with my "eyes closed", I got a call from one of my friends, who recently got married and was struggling with her roles of being a 21st century career-oriented girl and oh-so 20th century home-maker.

 

At that odd hour, well past midnight, she wanted to know what husbands wanted from their wives these days. Why always girls had to adjust and change like they had no identity? Worse, what was easier, making a marriage work or breaking it up for a lone journey?

 

Being a good friend, I obviously nodded to all that she said and suggested to her to give some more time to her one-year-old marriage. But after she hung up without being much convinced, I started to think how everything had changed in India except for the plight of women.

 

Earlier, our moms made compromises with career and home and now even after ages we are also expected to do the same! We have only added to our woes. Despite adding more roles, we still have to don some more.

 

Finding no solution, just when I turned to see the sun rise I remembered to catch up with some sleep, I decided to close my eyes and the moment I did that my mind again started groping in the dark. I thought what I can do when networking, travel and late nights are needed to prove your worth at work and these things are just not acceptable at home.

 

Now, when we have left our home for career and in some cases let go of career for home, what more addition can be done to our roles? I guess instead of multiplying our roles it's high time we did some division now. After all, I guess, this will help us to get some "sound sleep". The only concern is if our male counterparts will support this division.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CULTURAL WASTELANDS

EITHER THE GOVERNMENT OF HARYANA BELIEVES THE STATE DOES NOT HAVE ANY TALENT FOR VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS, OR, IT IS NOT INTERESTED IN PROMOTING IT. WHY ELSE WOULD IT NOT THINK IT NECESSARY TO HAVE STATE CHAPTERS OF SANGEET NATAK AND LALIT KALA AKADEMI? BESIDES, IT HAS NOT EVEN DESIGNATED 

AN INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE, WHICH HAS BEEN CLUBBED WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS. 
VANDANA SHUKLA

 

LIKE sedimentary rocks, the history of Haryana is formed by several layers of mythological, historical and cultural materials, precipitated over hundreds of years. But, the state government does not need cultural bodies to take care of its cultural landscape spread across its twenty one districts. This makes Haryana a state of contradictions. While the Disneyland of Indian culture showcased at Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon, shrieks in coarse and gaudy distortions of the culture of this land, on the outer periphery of the same town, khaps claim a different route to culture in the name of protecting tradition. In the middle of it all is a government, which is clueless about how to spell culture in a state where it is used as a synonym for agriculture.

The genesis of the state's cultural identity- crisis lies in the historical and geographical similarities, shared with the cultural roots and off -shoots of the state from which it was bifurcated in 1966- Punjab. Like Punjab, the state had been close to the seat of power in Delhi, for centuries invaders had marched through its lands, destroying all that it nurtured. All the three major battles of Panipat  (1526, 1556, 1761) were fought here, apart from the mythological dharm yuddh of Kurukshetra.

 

The Babel effect

 

Almost the same could be said of Punjab. Yet, there are differences.

 

Right after the state's inception, the emphasis was laid on providing better infrastructure ( with peripheral towns of Delhi turning to industry). As a result, the bureaucracy provided one of the best infrastructures, especially a network of 44 bird-named tourist complexes dotting the five national highways, in a state which had almost nothing to boast of in terms of tourist attraction. Not that the best hands to nurture and promote culture belong to bureaucracy, it is perhaps the only state which does not have a separate department of culture, to identify and promote talent in the field of arts. Hence, there is no director for the department of culture in Haryana, which, in fact, is clubbed with the department of public relations. Understandably, the state has no cultural policy. Since there is no dearth of money in the state, impeccable infrastructure is created for the cultural bodies. Buildings and auditoriums with marbled floors and furnishings gape in awe of their own emptiness, as the occupants to suit their grandeur remain awaited.

 

The state boasts of four language academies, perhaps the only state to offer such respect to so many languages! Apart from Hindi, Sanskrit and Punjabi, it also has an Urdu Academy. A multi-storeyed impressive building is in place at Panchkula to house them with honour, but, do not ask the relevance of the work carried on in these academies?

 

Haryana Sahitya Academy, which is also responsible for taking care of Haryanvi literature initiated a novel project, of starting pathak manch( reader's club) in all the 21 districts of Haryana. The project did well for promotion of creative writing and reading in small towns, but, for reasons best known to the government, it was scrapped. Not that availability of funds was a problem, the budget was raised from Rs 70 lac to Rs 2 crore.

 

The academies do not have a plan to promote and propagate the languages by way of bringing in fresh talent. And, people of the state have a legitimate reason to demand, why is there no separate academy for Haryanvi in Haryana? Even though poets like Suresh Sharma and Ashok Chankradhar have popularised Haryanvi.

 

Lost in separation

 

Whereas Punjab could get a college of art, in lieu of the Mayo School of Art, it was forced to leave behind due to the partition of India in 1947, Haryana could not get any, when it bifurcated from Punjab. No wonder, it does not have any achievements in the field of fine arts. Art flourishes with institutions and patrons, the state has created none. Even though, most famed artists of the country like Subodh Gupta, Krishen Khanan, Raghu Rai etc live in Gurgaon, the state can claim no share in their greatness.Neither serious buyers nor promoters of art take the state under their radar.

 

Then, the state never thought of creating a state chapter of the national academies for art and culture; Sangeet Natak Akademi, and Lalit Kala Akademi. For years a few voices in the state, who would like to see the state come out of its cultural inertia, have been demanding establishment of the Akademies, but, to no avail. Last year, Pt Jasraj, the renowned vocalist of the Hindustani classical music, who hails from Pili Mandori village of district Fatehabad, requested the state chief minister to let Sangeet Natak Akademi be opened in Haryana to promote classical music, no concrete development has taken place on this front so far. A few universities and colleges have introduced courses in fine arts, but none has been able to produce artists of repute. For namesake, the state claims to have its own Haryana Kala Academy, whose scope remains confined to folk music and dance.

 

2000-year- old grazing fields

 

A state so rich with layered histories of different periods, from the time of Mahabharata to the last battle of Panipat, does not have a state museum of its own to showcase evidences of historical richness of the land. The state is littered with Buddhist sites of great historical relevance at Palwal, Srughna at Sugh, Kurukshetra, Agroha and Asthal Bohar. The Asandh stupa, said to be more than 2000-year-old is nation's biggest Buddhist Stupa at 25-metres of height and at least 75 metres in diameter. It is a grazing field for cattle, bricks used in the stupa are removed by villagers for domestic use. These precious sites are wastelands of our heritage, turned barren with neglect and callousness.

 

The story of the Sufi sites is no different.The sole Shri Krishna Museum that the government created in 1987 at Kurukshetra lacks imagination in both creating an ambience, and for the manner of showcasing artefacts in a structured and planned manner.

 

The state has immense untapped potential in the field of arts and literature which can be explored only by creative interventions, feels Desh Nirmohi, former director, Haryana Sahitya Academy. While Kamal Tiwari, chairperson, Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi, who had been associated with the Dept of Culture Haryana, says, "A well-defined cultural policy alone can monitor and promote cultural growth in a proper manner. In the absence of it, whims and fancies of the bureaucracy will continue to shape or distort it."

 

Small endeavours for a vast reach

 

These are tales of sincere endeavours taken up by resolute individuals. Late Swami Omanand Saraswati who established Jhajjar Museum, or the Archaeological Museum of Gurukul in 1959, collected artefacts for the largest museum in the state by personally travelling through the length and breadth of the country. His collection of antique coins, rare manuscripts, sculptures, idols and the famous 427 copper leaves, on which Satyartha Prakash - the great work of Swami Dayananda Saraswati had been written, were bought for a selfless cause, to be preserved for the land where Arya Samaj movement had made a great impact.

 

Karnal based HIFA ( Haryana Institute of Fine Arts), in its concerted effort achieved what the cash-rich government failed in doing; recognising and promoting unsung talent from the field of art, culture and heritage conservation. The organisation started working in 1994, by organising school level music classes and painting workshops. In the absence of support from the government and the corporate sector, it involved people for support- in raising funds as well as promoting cultural events in a well planned, organised and phased manner. Today, apart from preventing many dying traditions and arts of the state- like the been players, the sarangi players, terra cotta artisans, to facilitating art exhibitions of contemporary art from the state, and organising music festivals and kavya sammelans, the organisation is working towards preserving and protecting saang and ragini, in its true form, free of vulgarisation that has seeped in due to absence of patronage. They have also instituted 21 awards, in almost all fields of art and culture and have been honouring artists without fail, every year.

 

Sangeetlok of Ambala organises its annual festival of classical music on a regular basis despite grave financial constraints. Adi Manch, another city based NGO has been relentless in organising and promoting theatre festivals in the state. Dr Piyush Kumar of HIFA says, "If sports persons could be recognised and promoted with cash and kind, why not artists?" 

 

Country side music

 

Strangely, many villages in Haryana are named after the ragas from Hindustani and Karnatik music. In Dadri tehsil, several villages have names related to well known ragas like Nandyam, Sarangpur, Bilawala, Brindabana, Todi, Asaveri, Jaishri, Malakoshna, Hindola, Bhairavi, Gopi Kalyana etc. Similarly, in Jind district there are Jai Jai Vanti and Malavi villages.

 

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

EDITORIAL

CASH TO THE CONSUMER

TECHNOLOGY COMES TO THE AID OF GOVERNANCE

The interim report of the task force set up to work out a way to transfer cash subsidies directly to the consumers of cooking gas, kerosene and fertilisers marks a major step in using the management and information technology skills that Nandan Nilekani brings to bear on government systems, which need fixing. If technology and good management could deliver better governance then this could turn out to be an uplifting success story. The outcome will depend on the learnings from the various pilots that will test the interim road map. However, two aspects are clear. Direct payment of subsidy, provided it is carried out with necessary policy changes, can produce enormous gains by stemming leakages along the supply chain and raising the efficiency of the whole operation. By using Aadhaar (unique identification number)-linked accounts to route payments, impersonation and fictitious beneficiaries can be eliminated. But directing subsidies to only the deserving, a key preference of many policy makers and commentators, is beyond the ken of this exercise. Whether a person is poor or not, and above or below the poverty line, will have to be separately determined by a rough and ready income tax assessment system. Thus, issues such as the existence of far too many below-poverty-line ration card-owning households in a particular state than conceivable, or many poor people without ration cards, will continue to hang fire.

The road map adopts certain general principles. One, let goods transit through the entire supply chain at market prices so that there is no incentive to spirit away supply to the black market, depriving genuine beneficiaries. Two, give the beneficiary a choice on whether to receive the subsidy in cash or kind and from wherever she likes. These two principles will give the beneficiary maximum freedom and choice to get the best value for the subsidy and bring the supply of subsidised goods into the open market price system, thus forcing various players to get their act right. The third, and equally important, goal is to use technology to create a more efficient distribution and administration system which is amenable to better surveillance. Improving the distribution of subsidised cooking gas is perhaps the easiest thing to do since the system is relatively well organised and beneficiaries well recorded. The road map first calls on the government to cap the amount of subsidy by limiting the number of gas refills a consumer can get in a year. It also seeks to shift by stages the payment of subsidy to the retailer and finally to the consumer. In the case of kerosene, the plan is to first shift the payment of subsidy from the oil marketing companies to state governments, then to retailers and finally to consumers. In the case of fertilisers, shifting the payment by stages from manufacturers to retailers and then cultivators will bring in the much-needed reform in the incentive system for manufacturers so that they improve their operating efficiencies instead of gold-plating plants. But perhaps the greatest challenge will be to fix the entitlement of individual farmers whose land may or may not be irrigated or fertile and who cultivate an array of crops requiring different fertiliser inputs. Currently, as many as 23 fertilisers are subsidised! The road map cannot and does not address this issue.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

A NEW SILK ROUTE

INDIA'S SILK INDUSTRY DESERVES A BOOST

 

The rising demand for commodities in India is encouraging what economists have dubbed cross-country "land grabs" — long- term leasing of land to produce natural resources. Raw silk is the latest in the line of such contractually-produced commodities. The Union textile ministry is reportedly exploring opportunities in Africa to secure supply of silk. Several African countries are seeking overseas direct investment by Indian companies, some through joint ventures, to promote silk production and export. The move to diversify sources of silk is also aimed at reducing the Indian silk industry's excessive dependence on China. A bulk of the indigenous output of silk comprises multivoltine silk produced by silkworm species that reproduce several times a year. But this is poor-quality silk. Moreover, domestic demand for silk is far outstripping domestic supply. Though considerable research and development effort has gone into generating technology to improve local silk, even the best available multivoltine silk fails to match bivoltine silk in quality and is, therefore, unsuitable for making garments of international standards. Therefore, importing bivoltine silk from China, the world's leading producer and exporter, and from smaller countries like Vietnam, Thailand and even Bangladesh, has become necessary.

Given the global and domestic demand for India's distinct and traditional silk products, such imports are necessary, and so are other ways of augmenting supply. Overseas Indian investment, including in silk plantations, and measures to promote captive silk production and skill development in other countries are gaining momentum. However, a strong case exists for encouraging domestic production of silk and sustaining traditional silk crafts and skills. India retains tremendous unexploited potential for silk development. Unlike many other countries, where climate-related factors allow no more than a couple of cocoon crops a year, in India, even four to six crops are possible. Besides, sericulture (rearing of silkworms and the plants that feed them), and down-the-line processing to produce silk fabric, is a labour-intensive cottage industry that can generate the much-desired supplementary employment and income for tribals, landless people and small and marginal farmers. This can also contribute to women's empowerment since a bulk of the operations in the silk sector are carried out by them, right from tending silkworms to spinning or reeling silk yarn and weaving the fabric. Fortunately, technology is available for producing bivoltine silk with desired traits. What is lacking is new investment in new technologies. Silk producers need assistance in replacing their multivoltine silkworms with those that yield bivoltine silk sturdy enough to be used by power looms. This will require creating infrastructure and facilities for multiplication, supplying improved breeds of silkworms and inducting better processing technology. Finally, India's silk-based businesses have to move from home- and cottage-based production to large-scale manufacturing, as in China. The Chinese authorities have actively promoted silk development and are encouraging the production of Indian silk textiles, including traditional Indian silk textiles, in China. Before China-made Benarasi and Kanjivaram silk floods the Indian market, domestic manufacturers need to become more competitive.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE CHALLENGES OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY

INDIA MUST WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS OF VARIOUS APPROACHES TO DIRECT DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOP ONE OF ITS OWN

SHYAM PONAPPA

Direct democracy is alluring. The dangers to our society and economy from reckless governance as well as confrontational activists, however, are the undermining of institutions, and the unintended consequences.

Our governments have a carry-over of feudal and colonial attitudes and do not communicate unless they must. Change is accepted only under duress, and is not initiated through leadership. Mismanagement is tolerated, resulting in various scams such as the 2G spectrum scam and associated problems.

The current anti-corruption drive by Anna Hazare et al and their well-intentioned cohorts uses tactics that echo a righteous, anti-authoritarian and non-collaborative pattern of "us" versus "them", combined with an insistence on their way alone. Yet, collaboration is essential for solutions that lead to an equilibrium, recognising the legitimacy of all stakeholders – the government and civil society – as well as the criticality of credible institutions and processes.

We in India are not alone in being drawn to direct democracy. Switzerland's success in citizen participation combined with its federal structure is the epitome of a workable system. But this model cannot simply be transplanted without regard to cultural contexts. Consider the sobering example of California.

 

CALIFORNIA'S PREDICAMENT

California has been in a state of financial crisis for several years. In 30 years, the Golden State's credit rating fell from among the best of the 50 states to the worst. Despite everything from Silicon Valley to agriculture, defence, aerospace, biotechnology and Hollywood, why can this state not manage itself? Why does The Economist quote labels like "dysfunctional", "ungovernable", even "failed" for this El Dorado (April 20)? To understand what happened in California, we must start with its direct democracy model imported from Switzerland.

THE SWISS MODEL

Since the 14th century, Switzerland has had a tradition of citizens participating in assemblies. Coordination among different sets of delegates, e.g. for building roads and bridges across different valleys, had to be approved by respective assemblies. On this canvas, Switzerland grafted America's Constitution in 1848. It worked and still works because of its design, and Switzerland's collaborative approach. Constitutional amendments require a referendum as well as a majority of votes by the cantons (states) in the legislature.

 

Thus, over half the cantons can overrule the popular majority in a referendum, because of the rule taken from America of two votes per state, even if they represent a minority of voters. After being approved in a referendum, the amendments go back to the legislature for redrafting. This enforces George Washington's principle of "cool" debate outlined at the time of drafting the US Constitution, and embodied in Senate deliberations for dispassionate lawmaking. Initiatives for new laws by direct democracy go through the same process, but the legislature has the option to draft a counter-proposal. This process of engagement and negotiation is designed to avoid extreme outcomes and promote dispassionate solutions. As with America's Constitution, this prevents two kinds of abuse: James Madison's1 concerns regarding minority factions and their "swing vote" capturing outcomes (as in India, where minority factions become king makers), or a tyranny by the majority.

THE CALIFORNIA VARIANT

About 100 years ago, the Progressives in California brought in direct democracy from Switzerland. As in India today, the purpose then was to attack corruption, specifically, "The Octopus" of the Southern Pacific Railroad with its tentacles everywhere. California's direct democracy was designed to achieve the opposite of the Swiss model. Switzerland emphasises compromise and consensus; California encourages confrontation, and the winners impose their will. Starting new initiatives ("propositions") is easy; calling referendums on existing laws is difficult. In effect, California's propositions are irreversible, because a retraction or reversal needs a two-thirds majority, which is virtually impossible because of minority factions and special interests.

For over half a century, there were no major problems. Then, in 1978, the anti-tax proponents initiated a property tax cap, Proposition 13. It limited state revenues (placing a ceiling on all property taxes at one per cent of the 1975 value, which could grow at no more than two per cent annually unless sold, thereby establishing a new value). There are contradictory views on the benefits of Proposition 13, with the defenders blaming opportunistic individuals, not the system, for problems. It is the old divide between tax-and-spend liberals versus cut taxes-and-services conservatives. The outcome, however, is that California went from being a liberal showcase with excellent infrastructure and services to a bankrupt state, cutting back on both.

 

WHAT INDIA CAN LEARN

India's polity (at central, state, and local levels), at least now, must start creating systems that harness participation through all means available, so that the voice of popular assemblies is heard within the framework of our representative democracy, and acted upon.

The government needs to move away from the paradigm of "The Administration" against "The People". Instead, the government must lead a process of collaborative stakeholder engagement for equitable resolution, like the one based on a lifeboat concept of shared interests and survival. As individuals, we need to move away from blaming routines (the government/everyone else is at fault, and I am a victim) to accepting the responsibility and discipline of institution building and processes.

WHAT INDIA REQUIRES

·      Discarding feudal/colonial notions of the durbar in political parties, among politicians and in government.

·      Channeling righteous public anger into the constitutional process with competence and discipline. Currently, there seems to be no effective way of demonstrating dissatisfaction except by taking to the streets.

We need institutionalised incentives and penalties to steer towards these effective means, and to abandon arbitrary and angry ways.

Technology allows this on an unprecedented scale, with perhaps 100 million Internet users in India already. To harness and channel this capacity, systems need to be developed on the lines of the Obama campaign2, vastly extended with the expertise and support staff to inform citizens and channel their participation constructively within an institutional framework. These systems will need to cover everything, from issue-based analysis and presentation to spelling out responsible choices with the foreseeable consequences, and collating individual inputs and preferences. If executed with vision, imagination and commitment, this could reduce the instances of people taking to the streets.

1 Member, US constitutional assembly; later, US President.
2 http://www.bluestatedigital.com/work/case-studies/barack-obama/

shyamponappa@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

BACK TO THE FUTURE

SOME SCHOLARS HAVE SPOTTED SIMILARITIES BETWEEN CURRENT GOVERNANCE SYSTEMS AND MANAGING AGENCIES OF BRITISH INDIA

KANIKA DATTA

Economic liberalisation is often viewed as a new beginning for the Indian economy, but in some ways it marks a circular path to the past. Indian middle class consumers of a certain age will recognise it in the return of a range of brands and services — Coca Cola, IBM, Hershey's, Shell, Ford, General Motors, private (and foreign) insurance companies, airlines and commodity producers and in the attempted re-privatisation of nationalised firms like Hindustan Copper.

Few, however, would recognise signs of the past in an activity that has "jus' growed" – to pinch a quote from Uncle Tom's Cabin – over the past decade: venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) funding. Given that the short-lived dotcom boom was driven by this mode of finance, and because it is associated with successful technology conglomerates like Dell, Intel and Apple, PE and VC funding is widely considered a trendy new-age form of finance for corporate India (the difference between the two is one of degree, so the terms are often used interchangeably). But long before India opened for business in 1991, today's VC/PE fund firms had a predecessor of sorts in the managing agency system.

The similarities arise because PE/VC firms have not limited themselves to small firms and start-ups — large Indian corporations also attract their money. Before they were banned in the 1969-70 tsunami of nationalisation, the managing agencies were considered useful and troublesome. They were certainly powerful. Firms like Jardine, Gillanders, Mackintosh Burn, Bird & Company, Williamson Magor were blue chips on the local stock exchange and the remnants of their former majesty can be seen in the architecture of Kolkata's central business district, BBD Bag, nee Dalhousie Square. If they have a slightly negative reputation in India today it is because they grew into predatory conglomerates associated with the country's colonial past and are viewed as vehicles for the drain of wealth by repatriating profits to British owners.

This notion was not misplaced. Managing agencies have their origins in eighteenth century British India, when investing in joint stock companies overseas was risky and finance from European banks wasn't forthcoming. So just like VC/PE funds today, the managing agencies were a useful mode of capital — but, uniquely, also of outsourced managerial talent. Given the limits on information and financial flows two centuries ago they must have taken far more risk on their books than today's PE/VC firms do and, indeed, some managing agencies did fail rather spectacularly. To balance the risks many diversified into manufacturing or trading activities of their own — the high-margin shipping, plantation and commodity businesses were particularly popular.

Still, the system was enough of a success to remain the dominant form of corporate governance in post-Independence India when financial markets were relatively undeveloped and global managerial talent all but absent.

Ultimately, the managing agencies came to be regarded as self-serving monopolies. Their senior management cadres were a semi-oligopolistic grouping, as a hugely useful online research paper* shows. In 1871, it pointed out, 31 managing agencies in Calcutta, "the hometown of the managing agency system", managed and controlled 90 corporations. This, in turn, resulted in interlocking directorships. An analysis of 77 corporations in the same year showed that 241 directorships were held by 148 people. J H Williamson, the partner of Williamson Magor (then a plantation and commodity conglomerate, now owned by the Khaitan family), held seven directorships.

Some scholars have spotted similarities between current governance systems and the managing agencies. Of course, the fundamental difference is that managing agencies acted as promoters and managers. Modern-day PE/VC fund managers do not run their own independent businesses or, indeed, the businesses in which they invest (they usually hold board positions and act as consultants). Their profits flow from capital gains. This, too, may change soon since many firms are now emerging to offer purely managerial services and the opportunities in the merger of finance and managerial talent can hardly have escaped such businessmen.

If no one has questioned this, it is because PE/VC funding and participation is welcomed in a country in which corporate activity still has enormous growth potential. It is no surprise that India is now among the biggest recipients of such funding. But as the economy matures, it would not be unreasonable to expect hostile leveraged buyouts and other boardroom battles that will make corporate India an exciting prospect in quite another way.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S RAW DEAL

THE COUNTRY'S EXPORT RESTRICTIONS ON RAW MATERIALS SIGNAL A CHANGE IN WORLD TRADE DYNAMICS

T S VISHWANATH

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is turning into an important platform to target export bans on raw materials by member countries. The current debate on the WTO dispute concerning China's ban on exporting several raw materials is important to follow because it can provide answers on how the Geneva-based multilateral trade body can help member countries access markets for exports and address issues surrounding the sourcing of raw materials from other member countries.

It is also important to watch this development because the US and the European Union (EU) have threatened to take India to dispute over the ban on cotton, stating that New Delhi's ban is hurting global prices of cotton.

Reports state that the WTO is expected to come down on Beijing's decision to limit the export of some of its major raw materials citing environmental reasons. The dispute started with China restricting the export of over 15 minerals of which it is among the largest producers in the world. Many large user industries of these minerals, like the steel industry, had petitioned governments in the EU and the US stating that the export restriction was hurting the production of final products like steel.

The dispute that began in 2009 is now likely to have other ramifications because there has been a large scale hue and cry among the high technology industry across the globe over China's restriction on export of rare earth — a critical component for several products. If found guilty, China may face similar dispute at the WTO on its rare earth ban as well.

China had citied environmental reasons for imposing the restriction on the export of minerals that had been rejected by the developed countries. The WTO ruling will mean that if China does not remove the restrictions then it could face trade sanctions from the EU, the US and Mexico.

China is among the world's largest producer of cadmium, gold, iron ore, lead, manganese and zinc. The debate of China versus some of the member states of the WTO has also taken a political twist because China is expanding its footprint across the globe to feed its hunger for raw materials. China has been reaching out to African, Asian and Latin American countries to fuel its raw material demands. Many countries see a dichotomy between China's export ban and its hunger for raw materials. They are of the view that the export restriction is primarily aimed at feeding the domestic industry and not to protect the environment.

The WTO dispute opens a larger debate on the changing dynamics of global trade in which developing countries, like China or India, are slowly looking at moving away from the model of exporting raw materials to the developed world to produce value-added products. They are also keen on moving up the value chain and are of the view that they would like to use the raw materials in the country to feed their value-added industry. However, for China this decision is complex because it had agreed to remove export bans when it joined the WTO in 2001 at the Doha Ministerial meeting.

With an increasing number of developing countries producing value-added goods for global markets, the fight for access to raw material imports from other countries will be as big as the fight for market access for these final products.

Disputes have risen in the recent past at the WTO with countries looking at various issues ranging from intellectual property rights (IPRs) violation to subsidies in products that hurt global trade. The slowdown in the economy has also triggered countries to look at how they could help domestic industry using the WTO agreements. Though analysts agree that disputes related to IPR or market access help world trade, there may be a need to take a closer look at issues such as import restrictions.

The debate over import restrictions may not, however, be a developing versus a developed country issue because many developing countries, too, look towards others for import of raw materials to fuel value-added exports.

It may be, therefore, important for the WTO to take stock of the emerging issues in world trade and debate on these so that it could feed into the on-going discussions of the Doha Round. It would be important for countries to look at the changing dynamics of global trade if the Doha Round agreement has to be of use to member countries. The Doha Round, which has been delayed considerably, should certainly reflect the needs of the coming years.

The author is Principal Adviser with APJ-SLG Law Offices

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE YAWNING SKILL GAP

A MAJORITY OF INDIAN YOUTH ENTER THE LABOUR FORCE WITHOUT FORMAL VOCATIONAL TRAINING

INDICUS ANALYTICS

The deplorable state of skills in the Indian labour force is well known. The National Sample Survey Office's latest estimates for 2009-10 are awaited, but according to its 2004-05 estimates, a mere two per cent of Indians in the age group of 15-29 years have received formal vocational training and around eight per cent report having received non-formal vocational training.

A majority of Indian youth enter the labour force without any formal vocational training. These estimates contrast sharply with countries like Korea where as much as 96 per cent of the workforce is skilled. The labour ministry's annual report for 2010-11 notes that around 50 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) were set up under the directorate general of employment and training in 1950 to meet the demand for skilled workers from the manufacturing sector. There was a spurt in the number of ITIs in the eighties when many private institutes opened up in the southern states, but these institutes ended up catering to the growing demand from Gulf countries. Growth has been high in the last two decades, with ITIs numbering 8,642 in 2010 – more than 60 per cent of which are in the private sector – providing 1,214,000 seats.

As of November 2010, the state with the highest number of ITIs is Karnataka, with 1,318 institutes, of which 88 per cent are private. Uttar Pradesh takes second place with 986 institutes, of which 30 per cent are private. The large gap between the two states is particularly striking because the number of people in the age group of 15-19 years in Uttar Pradesh is four times that of Karnataka, calling for many more vocational institutes in Uttar Pradesh. Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have more than 600 institutes, while Maharashtra stands out as the only state with a predominance of government vocational training institutes.

The states in which private institutes account for more than 90 per cent of all ITIs are Orissa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. At the other end, states where private institutes account for a third or less of all ITIs are Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Goa, Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir. In most north-eastern states and Union Territories, there are no private ITIs, the few that exist are government-run.
 

PRIVATE, LIMITED
Number of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) as of November 2010

 

Government

Private

 

Government

Private

India

2,189

6,498

Assam

30

4

Maharashtra

389

316

Orissa

26

562

Uttar Pradesh

301

685

Jharkhand

20

112

Madhya Pradesh

173

85

Delhi

16

57

Karnataka

154

1,164

Goa

10

4

Gujarat

153

371

Puducherry

8

9

Andhra Pradesh

134

508

Nagaland

8

0

Rajasthan

114

680

Tripura

8

0

Punjab

95

182

Manipur

7

0

Chattisgarh

90

46

Arunachal Pradesh

5

0

Haryana

82

89

Meghalaya

5

2

Himachal Pradesh

71

103

Sikkim

4

0

Tamil Nadu

60

637

Chandigarh

2

0

Uttrakhand

59

31

Daman And Diu

2

0

West Bengal

51

24

Lakshdweep

1

0

Jammu & Kashmir

37

1

Andaman & Nicobar 

1

0

Kerala

37

484

Mizoram

1

0

Bihar

34

342

Dadra & Nagar Haveli

1

0

Source: The Annual Report 2010-11 of the Ministry of Labour and Employment 

Maharashtra is also the state with the most number of seats in ITIs, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. Though smaller states do have less number of institutes, the pressure of population on the number of seats is the highest in Assam and West Bengal, where capacity is significantly lower than the population. North-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir also have less capacity, as expected, along with Madhya Pradesh among the larger states.

Creating an employable workforce calls for many measures that need to be implemented simultaneously — for example, increasing access and quality at ITIs, education reforms and so on. Given that the disparity in the access to training across different states has social consequences, these issues need to be addressed as a priority by state governments.

Indian States Development Scorecard is a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics that focuses on the progress in India and the states across various socio-economic parameters

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

TEXTILES AND THE COUNTRYSIDE

By moving away from cities, textile units will become competitive and rev up the economy of smaller centres.

There is growing evidence that the industrial economy is responding wonderfully to the pressures for change that emerge from global competition. What is particularly striking is the nimble-footed moves of the small and medium enterprises; one would have thought they would be more vulnerable to competitive threats and less capable of adjusting their strategies to stay afloat than the large ones with greater resources and staying power. From a news report in this paper, one may have to think differently.

Textile units in and near cities have been facing severe pressures from shortage of labour, rising wage bills and other overheads that could potentially dent market share of both exporters and suppliers to domestic markets. Since the overall growth in the economy is largely urban-centric and service sector-based activities such as construction and organised retail activities provide avenues for employment, the overall wage levels have been rising. Since real estate is another high-value input, many textile units near Bangalore are shifting base away from such expensive centres to small towns and rural areas with ready and cheaper labour. Since most textile units are labour-intensive, it makes eminent sense for them to move away from the urban centres. In doing so, the textile units are following the market trend worldwide, which is to produce at the cheapest costs. Thus, textile exports are increasingly being sourced in the US and Europe from countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh with cheap labour supplies. The textiles industry in these countries has grown so well that the US Department of Commerce recently noted that they had displaced India from its position among the top-five textiles exporters. Not that this was unknown or unexpected; a Ficci study last year pointed out that, since 2004, these countries were steadily grabbing US market share, inching their way into the top league of exporters. But Indian textile units are not just facing competition for market share from such countries; they are facing competition for labour from other fast growing industries; as one textile unit spokesperson put it, from "restaurants and malls".

One cannot but welcome this attitude of besieged textile units; not only do their operations derive the advantage of cheap labour, but rural areas or small towns also reap the benefits of employment. In other words, such a strategy will not only make textile units more competitive, but will also rev up the economy of the smaller centres that they move into. And that certainly is an outcome to be desired.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

THE O IN PMO IS A LETTER, NOT A NUMBER

EKALAVYA

The Congress president should be the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister should be the Congress president.

Many years ago, the captain of India's cricket team walked out of a selection meeting because the board refused to give him a couple of players he wanted.

"I can't win if you foist these non-performers on me," he said. "Never mind," said the selection committee. "Matches are not always won by our good performance. Much depends on their bad fielding also."

The captain should have quit because his authority had been severely undermined by the Board. But he didn't. And India lost the series.

In a few days from now, the Prime Minister is expected to do what he should have done long ago: Discard the deadwood from his council of ministers and induct the good wood into it. He is also expected to re-allocate the portfolios.

The exercise is supposed to be and, is usually, conducted from a position of prime ministerial strength, not merely to make a government more effective but also to punish the unfaithful and reward the loyal. But, above all, it is meant to show the party and, therefore the country, who the boss is.

Throughout his career, Dr Singh has always wanted to be boss and as a boss always made it be known he is the boss.

As Prime Minister, who is the ultimate boss, he has never claimed to be the boss; nor has his party allowed him to do so.

So when the aging minister, Mr Murli Deora, wants to resign from the government, he lets it be known that he has informed the party, not the prime minister.

A tragedy, Sirjee

But that is not the true measure of this farce; the problem is that it is a tragedy as well, and its true measure is the way in which the PM takes this insult: Quietly.

That makes it the true measure of the tragedy because it is not only Dr Singh's; it is India's as well because it is not the Prime Minister alone who stands devalued but his office as well. After all, the Prime Minister may see himself as belonging to the party but how can he forget that his office belongs to the country. Prime Ministers can be zeros but the O in the PMO is a letter, not a number.

His actions (or non-action, as many allege) are not wrong. On the contrary, they are perfectly rational. But they are so in one, and only one, context: Survival. In every other respect, they are completely wrong.

Action and non-action may have been dignified by Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the silly term 'coalition dharma' but dharma is about duty, not expediency. It is owed not just to the party but to the rest of us as well.

A constitutional office is not merely meant to be occupied but also has to be seen to be occupied.

But the really awful thing about India's current plight is that, much as it may like to feel superior to Pakistan, there really is no difference in this one most important of all aspects: Who really runs the show.

There, as here, it is not the Prime Minister, nor the President. It is someone else who has no place in the constitutional design of things.

No dual control, please

So what's the solution? A full and final surprise. The Congress president should be the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister should be the Congress president. In the 20th century, the Congress party never tolerated a bifurcation of political and administrative power.

Why should the 21st century be an exception?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MOVE ON TELANGANA

FORM COMMITTEE ON HYDERABAD: STASIS OR RETREAT ON THE ISSUE NOT VIABLE


Procrastination can lead to painful consequences, as the Congress party can testify after having first rushed to announce formation of a separate state of Telangana and then dragged its feet on acting on the promise. Now that legislators from the region have resigned en masse, including those from the Congress party, there is pressure on the party and the central government to act. At the same time, it is bad policy to concede a demand like formation of a separate state virtually at sword-point: that would be an invitation for a thousand separatist movements to brandish their swords around the country. So, is there a way out? Yes, there is, and that is to honestly confront the nub of the problem in creating a separate state of Telangana. That means resolving what to do with Hyderabad. The rest of Andhra Pradesh has huge stakes, in terms of physical, cultural and emotional investment in the city. They are loath to part with it in a hurry. At the same time, there is little point in forming Telanagana without Hyderabad as its capital. While it is not possible to reconcile both demands fully, it is possible for Andhra Pradesh ex-Telangana to disengage from Hyderabad over a period of time, during which an alternative capital city could be built in a suitable location. Hyderabad could serve as the shared capital of both states during this period. All that remains to be done is to define the terms of disengagement, the financial implications, how much of the cost, if any, would be borne by Telangana, how much by the Centre, etc. A committee with representatives of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and the Centre could be formed with this specific and time-bound mandate. All legislators could take back their resignations and allow this committee to work. Its report could be vetted and adopted, leading to formation of the new state.


This essentially calls for a few more months of patience on the part of the Telangana agitators. An appeal for such patience would need to carry credibility. And that would be achieved if the appeal for patience pending the working of this committee is made by someone like the Prime Minister or the Congress president.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FIX THE EDIFICE!

NILEKANI'S GOOD PLUMBING ALONE WILL NOT END THE LEAKAGE


The task force on Direct Transfer of Subsidies on Kerosene, LPG and Fertilisers headed by Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has done a commendable job of spelling out the mechanics of the transition from today's leaky subsidy regime to a system of direct cash subsidies. However, that does not really fix the problem. It must be noted that the mandate of the task force, and what it has delivered, is only the design of the plumbing. The success or otherwise of direct cash transfers depends on much more. It depends critically on proper identification of the beneficiaries; an issue that is beyond the jurisdiction of the task force and falls squarely in the government's domain. The operationalisation of Aadhar, the Unique Identification Number, will make it possible to link entitlements to targeted beneficiaries. But it will not ensure beneficiaries have been correctly identified. Thus the old problem of proper identification that bedevils the present system will continue. If this is to be addressed state governments must get serious about identifying the needy, even if it means taking on vested interests that have undeservedly enjoyed taxpayer-financed state largesse.


In the case of kerosene, the original purpose of subsidy was to facilitate essential lighting in households beyond the physical or economic reach of electricity. Once total rural electrification is achieved, there would be no rationale whatsoever for subsidising kerosene, which is largely used to adulterate diesel. Solar lanterns are a more efficient lighting subsidy, even before rural electrification becomes total. Cooking gas (LPG) is essentially consumed by middle and upper classes; very little by those below the poverty line. Hence, there is no justification for a tortuous three-stage process of de-subsidisation of the product. Why not hike the price, say, by . 50 every three months to bring LPG prices on par with the free market price? True, this will call for political will but no more than what is required to dismantle the present system that has rent-seekers feeding off the system.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUDGE DREAD

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A RETIRED JUDGE IS CAUGHT NAPPING!

 

All are equal before the law. That is the last thing retired Karnataka High Court Justice M F Saldanha would have expected to be told after a lifetime of pulling up India's law-breakers, especially land encroachers in the country's coffee-growing heartland. On the morning of Saturday, July 2, one of India's strictest judges, who is also associated with Transparency International's crusade against corruption, was caught cutting not red tape but flex-tape strung up by the cops between the iron barricades put up on Bangalore's Mahatma Gandhi Road so that he could drive home by taking an immediate right turn. Saturday's scissoring of the tape was not an impulsive one-off but a repeated act of the kind which, if perpetrated by anyone else, could have seen her or him being castigated as a serial offender by Justice Saldanha during his heydays on the Bench. Informed of the retired judge's periodic peccadillo, an alert B a n g alo r e M i r - r o rcorrespondent caught the entire act on candid camera.


The retired judge's response was that there was no traffic violation since there was no board saying "No Right Turn". However, this did not cut any ice with the authorities. "We cannot have different rules for the common man and for retired judges", Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Praveen Sood stated. Hopefully, the same resolve will be shown in the case of sitting judges who take the law, sorry tape, in their own hands and cross the line. Justice Saldanha could perhaps ponder over the proverbial maxims on law and justice. While it is a bit too late in the day for the retired judge to take heed of the maxim of "Judge not, lest ye be judged", he could perhaps reflect on the legal truism that "It is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done."

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

WAGE BOOM PROVES INCLUSIVE GROWTH

AGRICULTURAL WAGES HAVE SKYROCKETED; SO EVEN POOR WORKERS IN POOR STATES HAVE BENEFITED FROM GDP GROWTH

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR

 

There continues to be a long lament, mostly on the left but also among foreign journalists, that record economic growth in India has not been inclusive, and the poor have been left behind. Such assertions are never backed by the data that matter most: trends in the wages of casual workers in rural areas. The Labour Bureau, Shimla, does not put up such wage data on its website, a grievious omission.


But we have unearthed the Shimla data from the agriculture ministry, and this tells an electrifying tale. Actual agricultural wages — as distinct from legal minimum wages, which are widely flouted — are booming at the fastest rate ever. There can be no greater proof that fast economic growth has indeed been inclusive.
The accompanying table indicates wage trends from January 2008 to December 2010. In these 35 months, agricultural wages shot up by 106.5% in Andhra Pradesh, 84.4% in Punjab, 74.7% in Haryana and 73.6% in Tamil Nadu. Among the poor states, wages rose 58.3% in Bihar, 56.3% in Madhya Pradesh, 62.8% in Orissa and 62.3% in Uttar Pradesh. These are enormous improvements even allowing for inflation of 30-33% in this period. Clearly, the poorest labourers in the poorest states have been substantial gainers.
Puzzle: why did this wage boom not translate into a much bigger fall in poverty in 2009-10? The poverty decline has been estimated at 5.2 percentage points in the five years to 2009-10, a decent outcome but not as dramatic as record GDP growth. Probably the 2009 drought, one of the worst in the last decade, depressed employment and incomes of rural labour. In the 2009 monsoon, 23 of 36 India's meteorological subdivisions got deficient or scanty rainfall, and rainfall overall was just 77% of normal. The impact was worst in rainfed, nonirrigated areas with the highest poverty ratios. Indeed, the bad monsoon could also partially explain the sharp decline in workforce participation unearthed by the NSSO for that year (although it cannot explain the especially sharp drop in female workforce participation).
Kerala continues to have the highest wage rate in India: in December 2010 the agricultural wage rate was . 319.13 per day. Economic theory says that high wages should reflect high productivity. It is not obvious that Kerala tops in productivity. But it is the only state that gets bountiful rain from both the southwest and northeast monsoons, and this plus and other agroclimatic conditions enabled it to specialise in plantation crops (rubber, coconuts, cashew, arecanuts and tea) that yield much more than cereal crops. It is a failure in industry, but has benefited from massive remittances, which have gone up since 2004 with the high price of oil and a new burst of migration to the Gulf. Remittances reduce the incentive for recipient families to work, cause labour shortages and drive up wages.
Haryana comes second in the wage table, at . 195.02 per day. This reflects in part the expansion of metropolitan Delhi into Haryana. Next in the wage table come Punjab (. 176.21) Tamil Nadu (. 174.08) and Andhra Pradesh (. 176.29 per day). These all have buoyant agricultural sectors combined with labour shortages. Punjab and Haryana complain of a severe shortage of migrant workers from Bihar and Orissa.
    But the data contain puzzles, too. Gujarat boasts the most rapid agricultural growth in India, averaging almost 9% annually. Yet its wage rate is a lowly . 91.36 per day, and has risen only 24.1% in this 35-month period. It has a labour shortage, and is attracting migrants. Why then are its wage rates even lower than in the much poorer adjoining state of Rajasthan (. 145.69 per day)?
Madhya Pradesh is at the bottom of the wage list at . 84.43 per day. However, this represents an improvement of 56.3% over the 35-month period; so, things are looking up. Well above Madhya Pradesh in the wage table is Bihar (. 101.85), once viewed as having the largest surplus of poor workers. Wage rates are higher still in Uttar Pradesh, India's biggest state, at . 116.53 in December 2010.
It is not widely known that Karnataka has among the lowest wage rates in India, largely because of poor agricultural conditions in its northern half. Its wage rate in December 2010 was just . 111.76, lower than in UP.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that migration from Bihar and Orissa to other states has fallen in recent years. Less migration could have put downward pressure on wages, but this is not the case — they rose impressively in both states. The raw data suggest that Madhya Pradesh should replace Bihar and Orissa as the main supplier of migrant labour — that would lift wages at home and ease labour shortages in other states.
There may be questions of data quality and collection methodology in different states, and this may be one reason why Gujarat's wage rates look so implausibly low. So, comparisons across states should be made with caution. However, the trend of fast-rising wages is evident across the board, and this is a strong indicator that the wage boom has ensured inclusive growth. The questions remains: why have agricultural wages experienced such a boom? What are the driving forces? These questions are considered further in the accompanying article titled Four Reasons for Wage Boomon the opposite page.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

THE BUCCANEER YEARS OF INSURANCE BUSINESS

AVINASH CELESTINE


Till just about a decade ago, there were few industries with a more staid image than the insurance business in India. Dominated as it was (and still is) by vast, sprawling monoliths like the Life Insurance Corporation, it's hard to imagine that the LIC was born in an environment shrouded in scandal.
It's easy to assume that the nationalisation of life insurance in 1956 (general insurance would not be nationalised till the early 1970s), was a reflection of the socialist ethos of the era, but that was hardly the only reason. The prelude to the eventual formation of LIC goes back, in fact, to 1943 and to imposition of rationing and a sharp curtailing of consumer goods output, as resources were diverted to the war effort. It was also during the war that incomes of those engaged in the war effort jumped, leading to a condition of 'forced saving'. With little to actually spend your money on, you had no choice but to save, and a large chunk of those savings found their way into banks and life insurance companies. And this boom continued well into the post-war years. Between 1939, at the outbreak of war, and by 1951, the total sum assured by life insurance companies had jumped by over 202% to . 873 crore. This wasn't necessarily a healthy sign. The Indian insurance year book of 1946 said the increase 'does not in itself indicate that the country has become more insuranceminded', seeing it more or less a result of war-time prosperity of the middle class who took out insurance policies. Indeed, the problems were already visible by the end of the war. The huge jump in business, and their large investible funds, made insurance companies valuable commodities and their share prices soared. "The cornering of shares of insurance companies came into prominence during this year when certain big interests tried to gain control over insurance companies by buying shares in the open market as well as from private parties holding large blocks at fantastic prices," said the Times of Indiain 1945, citing the instance of one insurance company who share price had soared from . 263 to . 1400 in the space of a year. In 1950, following the report of an inquiry committee, the government clamped down on insurance promoters and the companies themselves. No one could own more than 5% in an insurer. Banks couldn't own more than 2.5%. Management expenses were capped. At around this time, the controller of insurance (in essence, a regulator for the sector) pointed out that large numbers of policies were lapsing. Much of the business done during the war and postwar years was of 'poor quality' and in some cases, even 'spurious', he concluded.
But the new measures were too late to prevent the high profile Jupiter Insurance scandal of 1951. The promoters of Jupiter general insurance had used the company's investible funds to buy shares of Empire Life, another company. To hide the transaction, they attempted to show that a business loan had been given out of the funds, which later turned out to be fictitious. The government, on grounds that the promoters had acted against the interests of policyholders, superseded the management, and appointed to an administrator to run the company. A number of other insurers were already being run by administrators.
It was under these circumstances that the government moved swiftly to nationalise insurance in 1956, kicking off the process through an ordinance which bought 154 companies under the ambit of the newly formed LIC, virtually overnight.
Explaining the government's move, finance minister C D Deskmukh subsequently told Parliament that a group of government officers had been secretly trained for over two months to move swiftly to take over management of insurance companies the minute the ordinance became public. The secrecy, he said, was necessary to ensure that unscrupulous promoters didn't strip the companies overnight and head for the hills. "Some insurers have confessed to me that it was a pity that they didn't have another 24 hours to 'put their accounts right'," he quipped.
But if the government hoped to curb the insurance industry's buccaneer spirit, its hopes were dashed barely a year later when LIC became embroiled in the infamous Mundhra scam. The funds of LIC's policyholders were used to prop up the shares of companies of Kolkata businessman Haridas Mundhra. It was probably the first taste the government had, of the bitter truth that nationalisation wasn't all that it was cranked up to be.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

DOES FOOD INFLATION HURT THE POOR?

RAGHAV GAIHA & NIDHI KAICKER

 

The UPA government's poverty discourse is schizophrenic. While there is a rising crescendo of universalising food subsidy on the grounds that food is a basic entitlement, there are emphatic pronouncements that the continuing food price surge with slight weakening in recent weeks is unavoidable given the global surge. Whether intended or not, the presumption that the poor are not likely to be hurt much or, if hurt, cannot be protected against rising food prices is specious, if not perverse.


A recent World Bank study (M Ivanic, W Martin and H. Zaman, 2011, 'Estimating the Short-Run Poverty Impacts of the 2010-11 Surge in Food Prices', Washington DC: Policy Research Working Paper 5633, April) throws valuable light on the nature of the food price surge, why it differs from the previous surge that peaked in 2008, and their poverty impacts. Of particular interest are the likely poverty impacts of price surge in India.
First, a brief review of the differences in the two food price crises is given. The more recent price surge (June-December 2010) is more broad-based across food groups. A confluence of weather shocks in large producing countries and export restrictions contributed to a 75% increase in wheat prices while maize prices rose about 73% due to downward revisions of crop forecasts and use of maize for biofuels. Rice prices, by contrast, rose moderately (21%). However, unlike the previous surge, other food commodities' prices also shot up — sugar (76%) and edible oil (soyabean oil and palm oil prices were up by 54%) — as a result of supply shortfalls.
Another important difference is the stronger links between crude oil prices (or, more generally, energy prices) and agricultural markets since 2005, with the passthrough elasticity rising from 0.22 for the pre-2005 period to 0.28 more recently. Of key importance is the emergence of biofuels as a commercially viable source of energy that raises the demand that agricultural resources and productivity must meet. While there has long been a partial link between energy prices and food prices through production costs, this demand-side link is worrying. In particular, energy prices have been more volatile in the past decade. A price link between energy and food implies that this volatility will spread to food prices in the future, as current evidence seems to indicate. This may impair prospects of higher agricultural investments.
What is crucial for understanding the impacts of global food price surge is transmission to domestic prices. Several factors determine this transmission. For food importing countries, the key factors are the exchange rate, trade policies and the speed of adjustment. For countries that are not so dependent on food imports, market conditions — local crop conditions, supply costs and policy measures — matter more. Available evidence suggests that international grain prices and domestic prices moved in tandem but over a very wide range.
Specifically, global wheat prices doubled (in the eight months to February, 2011) but the rise in domestic prices in Asia generally did not exceed 70%. India, China and Pakistan were the few exceptions where the domestic prices rose by 10-20%. The fact that food is assigned a high weight (46%) in consumer prices in India, however, implies that food price inflation drives general inflation and thus impacts poverty.
The poverty impacts are computed in the World Bank study using three poverty indices: the headcount ratio, poverty gap and squared poverty gap (that assigns highest weight to the poorest). These are based on the NSS data for 2004-05. Distinguishing between (net) food buyers and sellers, two assumptions are made: (i) consumers switch between consumption of different food items depending on their relative prices; and (ii) net food sellers do not adjust supply when prices rise. Assuming a 10% rise in various food commodities, and $1.25 per day as the poverty cut-off point, the net increase in the poverty headcount ratio is 0.77 percentage points. This is a result of much larger numbers entering poverty than those exiting. The changes in the poverty gap and squared poverty gap are 0.53 and 0.25 percentage points, respectively.
Although far from alarmist, these findings merit serious scrutiny.Arguably, if wage and supply adjustments were taken into account — not implausible in assessing short-run poverty impacts — the estimated poverty increases would have been lower. But the case for a more coherent policy response is compelling. Clamour for universalising food subsidy while glossing over huge leakages (a little under 50% at the all-India level and much higher in some of the poorest states) is escapist. Post-harvest losses are an equally serious concern that remains neglected. Whether the UPA government is capable of imaginative solutions time alone will tell.
(R Gaiha is at Harvard's Department of Global Health and Population and a Professor of Public Policy, Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi; and NKaicker is a Research Scholar at Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi)

 

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS?

THIS KATE ATKINSON NOVEL DEFIES THE TRADITIONAL WISDOM OF AVOIDING THE USE OF COINCIDENCE IN A STORY LINE

 

In the Kate Atkinson novel I'm reading at the moment, there's a lovely paragraph in which a man in hospital is thinking of his daughter when she was a baby: "When his daughter was first learning to talk her first word was 'cat'. She used it for everything – ducks, milk, buggy – anything of interest in her life, everything was 'cat'. A one-word world. It made life much simpler."

 

 But nothing in Atkinson is simple, or as simple as it looks. The man in hospital is a case in point. He was to catch a London train from Yorkshire, but took one going to Edinburgh instead by mistake. The train crashes, because an elderly woman who is a really bad driver loses control of her car which then hurtles down an embankment straight into the path of the train. This coincidence is only one of many in When Will There Be Good News?

 

Coincidences may happen in life, but we were always taught that using coincidence in a story line indicated faulty plotting. Yes, Hardy, but we made excuses for his view that the gods, if they existed played games with human life. And there's O. Henry for whom coincidence was a staple. By and large, however, traditional wisdom ruled that it was best avoided.

 

Atkinson seems to enjoy breaking the rules. She sees the world as a place of random, inexplicable, sometimes meaningless violence. The fates play strange tricks. Sometimes these tricks turn out well for the characters, sometimes they don't. There are several separate story lines concerning separate lives which interact in the most surprising ways. At times I found it difficult to keep track of who was who and where he or she was.
    All the characters have experienced violence of one sort or another. When Joanna was six, for instance, and walking through a field in Devon with her mother, older sister and baby brother, a complete stranger stabbed them to death. Joanna escaped only because she hid in the tall grass. In Edinburgh, Regina, or Reggie as she is called, whose mother died in a drowning accident in Spain works as a nanny for a Dr Joanna Hunter who is the Joanna whose mother and siblings were slaughtered. And so on.

 

 The writing is marvellous. Here is Joanna on the day after the slaughter: "The first thing she remembered afterwards was waking up one morning, alone in a strange bed, in a strange room, and being convinced that everyone in the world was dead…It was only when Martina entered the bedroom and pulled the curtains open and said 'Hello, darling, look it's snowed. Isn't it lovely?' that Joanna understood that everyone was alive except for the people she cared about the most. 'Why don't you come downstairs and have some breakfast with me?' Martina said smiling encouragingly at her. 'Some oatmeal? Or some eggs?' You like eggs, darling.'" And so Joanna climbed obediently out of bed and allowed the rest of her life to begin."

 

The characters are evoked in memorable ways. When Dr Joanna Hunter interviews Reggie, who is sixteen for the job of nanny, she asks her if she has had any experience with children. Reggie swears that she has had "loads and loads." But "Reggie had never actually had a close encounter with a one-year-old child before, or indeed any small children, but what was there to know? They were small, they were helpless, they were confused and Reggie could easily identify with all of that."

Finally, here is the man in the hospital (P I Jackson Brodie) telling the doctor about his near-death experience. "I died," he said to a new doctor. "Briefly," she said dismissively as if you had to be dead a lot longer to impress her."

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

'SALWA JUDUM' WAS A BLOT ON THE REPUBLIC

 

The Supreme Court quite rightly declared illegal and unconstitutional the deployment of tribal youth to take on Maoists under the "Salwa Judum" programme in Chhattisgarh. Under this project, ongoing since 2005, some 6,000 poor young tribals have been made special police officers, or Koya Commandos, and given weapons to fight the Maoists. In denouncing the idea, through a ruling on Tuesday, the country's highest court appears to have accorded centrality to the human rights of those roped in under the Salwa Judum initiative, correctly maintaining that these are young people — sometimes well below 18 — who have barely attended primary school and are simply not equipped to take on the responsibility of SPOs. The judges cited Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before the law and equal protection of the law) as well as Article 21 (no one can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law). In other words, tribal youth must be nourished through education and not sent up as cannon fodder. These are useful points to enumerate. However, the court could also have emphasised another signal aspect of the Constitution in declaring that Salwa Judum was undesirable, unworthy and unconstitutional. Quite simply, setting up a vigilante force of citizens — which is what Salwa Judum has done — runs contrary to the understanding that the state alone in democratic societies must be empowered to use violence in the manner sanctioned by the duly constituted authority and within the bounds of law. If this were not so, armed gangs of one or another persuasion would roam the land, in some cases enjoy official patronage, and justify their goals and motives in terms of righteousness, morality, culture, nationalism and revolutionary impulses of one or another kind. What Salwa Judum does is to arm one set of citizens against another in a calculated and programmed manner in the belief that a national cause is being served, and criminals are being paid back in their own coin. Next-door Pakistan (there are other examples) offers an objective lesson. Here the pernicious use of armed terrorists to secure official objectives has brought the society to its knees, and the state gives every appearance of degenerating into helplessness in the face of assault by such elements. No Indian would want to go there, and yet the authorities in Chhattisgarh offer the limp explanation that their fight against Maoists would be enfeebled if Salwa Judum is off the table. In this view, the forces mobilised under Salwa Judum know the jungles well and can checkmate the Maoists. This is surprising in view of the fact that the state's fight against Maoists in Chhattisgarh has produced no better results than those elsewhere in the country where there is no Salwa Judum. It should be noted that the Salwa Judum idea differs in principle and in spirit from that of village defence units (comprising mostly retired Armymen) in Jammu and Kashmir some years ago to meet the onslaught by terrorists launched into Indian territory by Pakistan. The key difference is that VDUs, unlike Salwa Judum, were set up to challenge foreign mercenaries. It is to be hoped that after being disbanded, the Salwa Judum personnel would be removed to safety (as otherwise they would be sitting ducks for the Maoists), and given a start in another kind of life with the help of the Centre.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GOOD MORNING, 'NAM

 

Nations establish moral ascendancy over other nations only by victory in war. Shrugging off the possibility of American nuclear attack, China crossed the Yalu river in October 1950 and almost brought the United States-led forces in Korea to their knees, rubbed India's nose in the dust in 1962 and in 1969 militarily stiff-armed the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river. Elsewhere in Asia there is Vietnam, a much smaller but truly extraordinary military power with an unmatched record of serially beating intruders and interventionists. It bloodied China every time it ventured south in over 2,000 years of its history. In more recent times, Vietnam ended France's imperial pretensions at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, kicked the Americans out and in 1979, even as its regular divisions were held in reserve, its militia of hastily armed and trained villagers in the border provinces proved more than adequate to kill 25,000 and injure 75,000 of an invading force of 100,000 People's Liberation Army troops chairman Deng Xiaoping had ordered into action to teach Vietnam "a lesson", much as Mao Zedong had launched his "self-defence counter-attack" against India. Except, it were the Chinese who were taught a brutal lesson in offensive guerrilla resistance and faced humiliation they cannot easily forget. The thrashing China received at the hands of the Vietnamese 32 years ago has resulted in the respect Beijing shows Hanoi that Delhi can only dream of. Thus, in the latest clash last month in the South China Sea over the disputed Spratly Islands chain, after Chinese ships cut the cables of a PetroVietnam oil exploration vessel, Vietnam responded with strong words backed by naval live-fire drills. Fearing the situation was sliding into loss of face, this time on sea, the Chinese quickly asked for talks. But Vietnam is no brash belligerent ready to take on the next bully on the block. While prepared to fight any comer in defence of its territory and interests, it is mindful of its military weaknesses where China is concerned, one of which is its seaward flank fronting on Hainan Island complete with the Sanya nuclear submarine base, hosting the most versatile of China's three fleets, the South Sea Fleet. During the 1979 Chinese invasion, Vietnam faced possible Chinese naval attacks which Beijing was deterred from mounting because the Soviet Union, then at loggerheads with China, sent four warships into the South China Sea. Vietnam has ever since viewed a meaty presence of an out-of-area friendly naval power in waters offshore as an insurance to ward off the danger from the Chinese Navy. Russia today, much reduced, cannot perform that role, and the United States is unreliable. Hanoi's hopes, therefore, rest on the Indian government mustering the strategic will to fill the void. A Vietnamese military delegation headed by its Naval Chief, Vice-Admiral Ngyuyen Van Hien, visiting Delhi a fortnight ago, explored ways of developing mutual confidence and trust. For a start, they sought training for its crews the Russians had previously trained, obviously not to the Vietnam Navy's satisfaction, for the Kilo-class submarines Vietnam is acquiring from Moscow. Should China act up, a strong Vietnamese submarine arm will be a meaningful counter to Chinese warships mucking about offensively around the Spratly Islands. The more significant thing was Vice-Adm. Hien's offer of the port of Nha Trang on the South China Sea for the Indian Navy's use. Nha Trang shares virtually the same longitude as the Sanya base on Hainan, but, latitude-wise, is located a few degrees south. An Indian naval flotilla voyaging frequently between the Andamans and Nha Trang, and sustained by a basing and provisioning arrangement on the central Vietnamese coast, will amount to a near permanent Indian presence in the South China Sea, signalling Indian intent and forward positioning that can mess up the Chinese naval and strategic calculus and push Beijing planners, for once, onto the back foot. At a minimum, it will be an analogue of the sizeable Chinese paramilitary (People's Armed Police) presence in the Gilgit and Baltistan regions of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. And, it will aggravate China's offshore situation, already roiled by the US Navy's continued loitering in this area contested, other than Vietnam and China, by Malaysia and Brunei. As always, however, there's a glitch. Even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his national security adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon are reportedly for an Indian naval presence in the Vietnamese seas and want India to be a staunch strategic partner of Vietnam, the until recently defence secretary, Pradeep Kumar, was pressing the brakes. Fuelling the innate over-caution of his minister, A.K. Antony, he argued that such a stance would needlessly "provoke" the Chinese and, therefore, is avoidable. It is a remarkable characteristic of the dysfunctional Indian system that despite the Prime Minister's and the NSA's support for this initiative, a defence ministry bureaucrat can so easily gum up the works. Hopefully Mr Kumar will be succeeded by someone a bit more on the ball. Tit-for-tat is something Beijing appreciates better than the apologetic do-nothing tone of statements on China usually emanating from the ministry of external affairs and the generalist defence ministry civil servants. The Indian government should long ago have responded to the nuclear missile-arming of Pakistan by China by equipping Vietnam with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, as I have been advocating the past 15 years. The fact that the Indian government has not done this and, indeed, not accorded top priority to militarily advantaging Vietnam in every possible way, indicates the essential infirmity in India's strategic thinking. China has used Pakistan to try and contain India to the subcontinent. It's time India returned the compliment and cooperated with Vietnam, which does not shrink from a fight, to contain China to its immediate waters. Acting on the basis that Vietnam constitutes India's first line of defence will ensure that, among other things, the bulked-up Chinese Navy is bottled up well east of the Malacca Strait. * The author is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE DETERMINED OUTSIDER

 

He was the uncompromising outsider. He refused to genuflect to commercial diktats, sticking stubbornly to his individualistic — frequently non-linear — form of filmmaking. Down four decades, he was identified with what is variously termed as "art", "new wave" and "parallel" cinema. To know Mani Kaul, who passed away at the age of 67 after battling a terminal illness in New Delhi on Wednesday, was to know a mercurial, larger-than-life man. As a film director, he discussed the status of women (Uski Roti, Duvidha), crafted visually seductive documentaries (Arrival, Before My Eyes, A Desert of a Thousand Lines) and went through a spell of interpreting Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterworks. The Russian writer's short story A Gentle Creature inspired Nazar, shot in low, chiaroscuro lighting. Dostoevsky's classic novel Idiot was grafted to an Indian milieu with Ahmaq, which incidentally featured Shah Rukh Khan in a key role. Khan has recalled the experience of working with Kaul fondly, albeit with the rider that he could never understand what the film was all about. As a knee-high child, Mani Kaul, nephew of prominent B-town director Mohan Kaul, saw the world through foggy eyes. His eyesight was weak but he thought that's the way landscapes and faces look: blurred. It was only when he was around 12 that he wore spectacles and saw life in focus. "After that, I refused to change my vision", he would laugh, bemused. Although his cinema was serious, groundbreaking and contemptuous of amassing profits, he did not take himself seriously. His booming laughter and a saturnine smile a la Jack Nicholson were his calling card. In person, he would captivate an ever-enlarging group of admirers with his bagatelles, and impromptu Hindustani classical music soirees, at his home on Mumbai's swishy Altamount Road. The apartment belonged to his wife, Lalitha, who doted on him as if he was her third kid after Shambhavi and Ribu. If his temper was provoked, there could be storm and thunder. Once, a Delhi ministry bureaucrat, over the phone, was bamboozling him to fly to an international festival in economy class. Kaul reasoned that he wasn't interested in going anyway. Yet the bureaucrat persisted. Crrrrrrash! The reluctant traveller pounded his fist into a glass-topped coffee table. End of phone call. A graduate of the Pune film institute, circa 1969, he went on to become a cult figure in the campus. Students down the years have been intensely influenced by him. Others, obsessive about Bollywood cinema, have been dismissive about Kaul, saying, "But who sees his Uski Rotis?" The rest of the world did — practically every one of the 25 documentaries and features he made were showcased and saluted at Berlin, Venice and Locarno. Four Filmfare trophies for the Critics' Award went to him for Uski Roti, Ashad ka Ek Din, Duvidha and Idiot. In addition, he was feted at the National Awards regularly during a time when "intellectualism" hadn't been reduced to a pejorative term. He painted abstract canvases and had acted in Basu Chatterjee's Saara Aakash. Deeply influenced by Ritwik Ghatak, who helmed the Pune film institute during the mid '60s, Kaul had a healthy disrespect for middle-of-the-road cinema. Kumar Shahani, a fellow traveller in filmmaking, was one of his closest friends. Despite an ideological argument over which they came to blows at a cafe, the bond between Shahani and Kaul persisted. Both had a tough time securing finance from the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), for which they had directed the most-treasured films in its repertory. As it turned out, it was a losing battle with the NFDC changing its priorities to market-friendly cinema. Shahani moved to New Delhi to teach. Kaul set anchor in Amsterdam, where he remarried, had two more children, before returning to Mumbai. His last film was A Monkey's Raincoat and his last job was as the creative director of films at the Osean's. The mercurial filmmaker shifted eventually to New Delhi. Once he had phoned to inquire if M.F. Husain would allow him to shoot a documentary on his art and life. That was not to be. Mani Kaul had become near-reclusive but his pair of spectacles were always in place. His vision never altered.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AN INJURY TO THE SPORT ?

 

Fitness first, game second? By Rameez Raja In an ideal world every batsman would stay 100 per cent fit, but that's not how it works in reality. With today's cricketing schedules, all batsmen carry a niggle or two. It's not prudent to drop them in the middle of an important series or a big tournament. Minor breakdowns can be round the corner. The runner is the perfect remedy. I'm not sure what made International Cricket Council (ICC) scrap the "runner rule". If it was because they thought the rule was not being used in the right spirit, they could have made modifications so that it's not used as a tactic by teams. I'm not denying that the rule has never been misused, but if you abolish one of the oldest rules in cricket, you are messing with the system. What does a batsmen do when he gets injured with his team needing a few runs to win, and there's no one else after him. Does he concede the game? If yes, then fielders who get injured should also not be substituted. Either they stay on the field, or walk back and render the team a fielder short. It makes sense to tweak a rule that may be misused, but it makes no sense to completely remove it from the books. Let's face it — for a batsman, the benefits of having a runner are exaggerated. No batsman would willingly want to put his fate in the hands of another batsman. The risks are far too great — if the runner gets lazy or misjudges a single, it's the batsman who goes back to the dressing room for no fault of his. And what if the batsman was a youngster who may or may not get another chance? Using a runner is a risky proposition. There have been so many instances where batsmen have got run out because of a mix-up on account of runners. I bet the device of a runner has helped the fielding teams a lot more than the batting ones. If it wasn't for the runner, the world may not have got to see Saeed Anwar hit 194 on one leg in a one-day international against India in 1997, or V.V.S. Laxman help India win the Mohali Test against Australia with a heavily strapped back and suffering a spasm. * Rameez Raja, former Pakistan cricket captain, famous batsman * * * It's a game of skill and endurance By Abdul Qadir Why the International Cricket Council (ICC) took so many years to abolish the use of a runner is something that only administrators can explain and defend. Of course, there have been many instances in cricketing history where an injured batsman actually needed to rely on someone else to do the running while he went about the job of saving his team. It made for great viewing. But I can recall so many more instances when the batsman used the runner as a deliberate ploy to extend his knock and harass the bowling team. Batting, at least in Test matches, is supposed to be a test not only of skill and patience, but also endurance. Do you think Sachin Tendulkar would have hit as many centuries as he has if he wasn't physically capable of long innings? After Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup, there was this batsman who had begun to think of himself as a star. He was supposed to play a domestic game before Pakistan's next international assignment. He made the captain of his domestic side field him at fine leg and did absolutely nothing. But by the time he came in to bat, he developed cramps all of a sudden. So he used a runner, hit a few shots, chatted with the square-leg umpire and came back to the dressing room to a standing ovation. It made me sick. This used to happen a lot in domestic games, but I am certain it happened in international cricket as well. I'm not against the use of runners if there were genuine instances of a batsman being in need of one. But, unfortunately, there is no way to know if someone's lying or not. You cannot have an MRI right in the middle of the pitch. The problem was worsened by the ICC itself for being ambiguous in their framing of rules. I'm still unsure whether the runner is awarded if a batsman is cramping or injured. I've witnessed matches where fielding captains have refused runners to cramping batsmen, while some captains are more forgiving. The ICC should be given a pat on the back for pulling the plug on the runner completely, and a rap on the knuckles for being tardy about it. * Abdul Qadir, former Pakistan leg spin bowler

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LIFE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

 

Mudras are a set of certain posture combinations that are practised in order to channelise a specific force to some specific area of the body. The body is not just the physical body; by way of certain permutation and combinations it has the effect of touching the physical as well as the etheric layers of the being, so the pranic movement, with the aid of consciousness, happens from the core to the outer layers. In a healthy body the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether) are in a state of equilibrium. Any imbalance in these causes disease in the body. The thumb represents the fire element, the index finger represents air, the middle finger space or ether, the ring finger water and the little finger represents earth. Thus, by sitting in a particular mudra and using your fingers you can control, guide and balance the flow of prana in your body. Any finger when touched with the tip of the thumb has the effect of increasing that element in the body and touching a fingertip with the base of the thumb has the effect of bringing that element down. Different mudras signify different aspects of elements. In dhyan, we connect to the subtlest aspect of an element. So not only is the proportion of the element altering, but the make-up of each element is also gradually changing, becoming more subtle. A mudra is a combination of different forces — it has the ability to change the composition of elements in your body. Never fall for the "interesting" but misleading pictures showing people in different postures and mudras. mudras are very potent and powerful tools and should only be practised under the guidance of your guru; otherwise they can create imbalance, especially if you and your body are not prepared for those kinds of practices. Sanatan Kriya tells us that initially a sadhak is supposed to sit with the palms lying open, symbolic of accepting whatever the guru thinks is required by the sadhak. No mudra is adopted. Whatever one is perceptive to will flow in and what is beyond one's present state will flow out. After initiation, sadhak will sit in the Bhairav or the Bhairavi mudra. In this mudra, the sadhak sits with palms overlapping each other. This completes the circuit of prana, which prevents prana from flowing out during dhyan. Men sit with their left palm over the right one and women sit with their right palm over the left. This is done in order to balance the forces of Shiva and Shakti in you. Next comes the panch maha prana or five vayus: Prana vayu is the upward rising force in the region between the diaphragm and the shoulders. Salutations are paid to this by touching the tips of the middle finger and the ring finger to the tip of your thumb. This is called Prana vayu mudra. Apana vayu is the downward moving force, from the navel towards the pelvis. Salutations are paid to this by touching the tips of the ring and little finger to the tip of your thumb. This is the Apana vayu mudra. Samaan vayu is the balancing force between Prana vayu and Apana Vayu. It is the outwards and sideways moving force in the region between the diaphragm and the navel. Salutations are paid to this by touching the tips of index and middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This is called the Samana vayu mudra. Udana vayu rises upwards from the pit of the throat. Salutations are paid to this by touching the tips of your index finger, middle finger and ring finger to the tip of your thumb. This is the Udana vayu mudra. Vayana vayu is the all-pervading force. Salutations are paid to this by touching the tips of all your fingers to the tip of your thumb. This is known as the Vayana vayu mudra. There exist various other mudras that can be practised after you reach a higher level of evolution and have the capacity to hold the intensity that force generates. One of them is the Gyan mudra, where you join the tip of your index finger to the tip of thumb; it stimulates the flow of gyan. The next is Dhyan mudra, where the tip of your middle finger touches the tip of your thumb. The Abhaya mudra is the same as the Gyan mudra, the difference is in the placement — you take your hands a little higher than your throat. This mudra helps you rid fear inside you. — The author, an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences, is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting. Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MANI MAKES SENSE

WHO GAVE KALMADI SUCH CLOUT?

 

HYPERBOLE and Mani Shankar Aiyar walk in tandem. Yet while some may choose to underplay the points he made in a recent interview, the copies of his communications with the Prime Minister (made available via the RTI route) testify to distinct disinclination of those in high authority to take corrective action when evidence was available of the Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games running riot, and are decidedly damning. They demand clarification. His contention that his tip-off that funds were being squandered originated in the PMO makes a sick joke of Dr Manmohan Singh's telling editors that the objections he (Aiyar) raised were essentially "ideological". The man has chosen not to directly join issue with the Prime Minister but has said enough to suggest that Dr Singh was economical with the truth and largely impotent, the Group of Ministers subsequently appointed were hamstrung, and his contention that he was overruled by the finance minister ~ Chidambaram's functioning is increasingly being questioned ~ is most damaging. The leadership of UPA-II has opted to brazen it out as far as Anna Hazare's campaign is concerned, can it do so on the CWG front too?


What emerges from Aiyar's revelations about Suresh Kalmadi's humiliation of then sports minister Sunil Dutt and a string of officials, and the ignoring of his letters to the PMO is that Kalmadi had powerful friends. Or "has" them even now: surely the bending of all rules for his comfort in Tihar Jail would not have gone unnoticed by the ever-snooping intelligence agencies.


The upshot of this angle to the CWG loot adds a new dimension to the findings of the CBI and the Shunglu panel. Kalmadi could not have acted without a godfather ~ or, if we do not want to be gender-specific, a protector ~ as all norms of procedure and financial accountability were cast asunder as he bullied all around. Who is that powerful entity? Will identities be revealed only if Kalmadi "sings" should the investigations lead to the logical end of conviction? Given the ineptitude of the investigating agencies in probes that have political implications, something really special is required to uncover the CWG truth. Its sole plus-point ~ a rich haul of medals ~ has been negated by doping allegations. What drug was used by the looters to "dope" the higher-ups into somnambulism? Or did they conveniently turn a blind eye? If so, why? Surely not because Kalmadi is such a jolly good fellow!

 

CHARIOTS OFF TRACK

UNPRECEDENTED RATHYATRA LATHICHARGE

THE armed police in Orissa went for an overkill on Monday with the lathicharge during rituals at Puri's Gundicha temple, an unprecedented incident in the history of the Rathyatra festival. The unauthorised offensive ~ more about it in a moment ~ illustrates the failure of crowd management on an occasion that traditionally has drawn hundreds of thousands of people from across the country. If an altercation between sevayats and the police can provoke a lathicharge, it points to the virtual collapse of the command structure.
  The Chief Minister has called the incident 'unfortunate'; the reaction is much too mild considering the severity of the police action that has left 30 people, including sevayats and devotees, grievously injured, many on the head. Naveen Patnaik has stopped short of clearing the air, specifically on who ordered the lathicharge that continued for as long as 15 minutes. Reports suggest that despite the tension that was building up, there wasn't a single senior police officer present along the route of the three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram and Goddess Subhadra. Were they much too preoccupied with the VVIPs of the ruling Biju Janata Dal? Was the lathicharge a unilateral action resorted to by the other ranks? This is the primary question that the inquiry being conducted by the district administration must answer. The other term of the inquiry's reference must relate to the provocation. Did the sevayats ignore the police appeal to restrict the number of devotees offering puja close to the chariots? After all, this is the season for the pandas, who control the Puri temples, to earn additional income from the devotees. Another version has it that the sevayats objected to the armed police ascending the chariots with shoes on.


It is possible that both sides overstepped the mark. The armed police battalion has doubtless reacted with far greater indignation than it was entitled to, let alone orders from on high. This is clear from the suspension of four jawans. As unprecendented as the lathicharge is the fact that the rituals were held up for six hours and the carrying of the deities to Gundicha temple stalled for 24 hours. The offensive is an indelible blot on the Rathyatra festival in Puri, an expression of vigorous faith and devotion.

 

CLIMATE OF VIOLENCE

GARO OUTFIT NEEDS WATCHING

MEGHALAYA'S Garo National Liberation Army would not have attracted much attention but for the fact that it is headed by a former deputy superintendent of police, Champion R Sangma. Claiming to fight for a "sovereign" Garoland, of late its cadres have been indulging in dacoities, extortion, abduction and murder. Last month they ambushed a team of policemen and killed three of them. This was followed by a raid on a police outpost ~ reportedly conducted by a police constable who had deserted the ranks. Sangma is said to have warned that these were the first of the series of attacks in an all-out war against the Meghalaya police. He accused the police of corruption and said that they "deserved to die." Sangma is also trying to woo his former colleagues to join him, promising a more renumerative service and welfare measures.


The public may or may not notice Sangma's seemingly intemperate outburst against the police, but it should not be dismissed out of hand because, being a former policeman himself, he should know what goes in the police force. People in Meghalaya perhaps know that even when Sangma was in service he was allegedly running the GNLA clandestinely for almost a year. For some strange reasons, then home minister Mukul Sangma (now chief minister) did not act. The officer was dismissed from service only after the GNLA took to disruptive activities.


The mere fact that the GNLA has links with others in Assam strengthens the case for toning up the police administration by providing them with better and adequate fire power, mobility, amenities and incentives. But the government would do well to devote equal attention to the problem of corruption; popular perception can so easily make heroes out of brigands.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

THE IDEA OF DEMOCRACY

ONLY AN AUTOCRAT WOULD DISMISS IT AS 'WESTERN'

BY ACHINTYA RAY


MOST of the western governments, including  the ex-colonial powers, are now actively championing democracy. They do not fight  shy of using their economic, diplomatic and military powers to promote democratic causes around the world. Some of them were the same nations that blatantly violated other nations' rights of self-determination by colonising them. This process continued for centuries. Their actions often went far beyond that when they plundered, and subjected the colonised people to brutal torture. Every cannon of human rights and decency was violated.
To many, the current actions by these ex-colonial, western powers might seem arrogant, self-serving nonsense. There are legitimate reasons for this reaction. It is not entirely harmful to have negative thoughts about the propaganda in defence of democracy in parallel with military action. Every avenue must be provided to the people so that they can vent their concerns.
There are certain sections of the global populace that almost instinctively believes that anything that emanates from the West must be suspect. Hence, the democratic activism is a West-sponsored illness that must be ignored. Those who harbour such sentiments must be provided with the right to express their feelings.  It is the freedom of speech and it must be protected.
However, the fact that strident calls for democracy are emanating from some of  the ex-colonial powers is no ground to dismiss the substantive reasons to ensure democracy. The champions and aspirants of democracy must also be provided with the same rights to voice their support. That too is part of the freedom of speech and hence, must be protected.
Unfortunately, many autocratic rulers cite a simple but ironic reason to denigrate democracy and suppress democratic movements. They argue that since the West colonised and plundered us, whatever the West advocates must be self-serving hypocritical garbage. This is because they had given short shrift to human rights when they ruled over us. Hence, the call for democracy by the West must be a ploy to effect de facto colonisation ~ with its attendant plunder ~ once again.
Therefore, it stands to reason that people give up their democratic aspirations because it is a Western idea and a Western plot to take away   freedom.
This simple, powerful yet patently false reasoning sounds almost romantically attractive to some. They might think that it is a bright idea to defeat the Western propaganda of democracy and maintain a national identity by aggregating powers in the hands of the very same autocrats who detest democracy. After all, it sounds almost patriotic.
It takes a curious mind to sift through the rhetoric of nationalism and ascertain the true picture. A country, whether ruled by an external colonial power or a domestic autocrat, suffers the same plight. The two systems are almost indistinguishable in that ordinary people under both remain disenfranchised. Unless people decide that democracy is in conflict with their national identity it is laughable to argue that democracy and nationalism are antagonistic.
It takes a proud nation to preserve its own freedom. Freedom is costly and it cannot be maintained without paying a heavy price for it. But that national pride, which is in essence the core force behind nationalism and national identity, cannot be forceful enough unless it is shaped by pluralistic inclusiveness. Every section of the population must get an opportunity to participate in the action to define and fulfil the parameters of their common purpose and common good.
That is precisely the fundamental objective of democracy. And that precisely makes democracy a great human concept. The greatness of democracy is inherent in the premise on which it stands. The ideas of equality and freedom are the core human aspirations; they do not need advocates to make them profound. Who exactly is actively championing democracy is an entirely irrelevant issue. Therefore, the argument that it is a Western idea and hence must be abandoned does not stand to reason.
A truly democratic nation is inherently strong. Such a nation that values each and every citizen, passionately protects its citizens' freedom of speech, vigorously defends their rights, and does not falter in the implementation of its core obligation ~ the upholding of  the rule of law. It is also a proud nation because its citizens are proud to be members of such an enlightened society. A proud nation is a strong nation because its citizenry actively pursues avenues to keep it strong so that they can function as members of a vibrant group. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to colonise such a proud and strong nation.
The converse is not necessarily true. India was not a democracy when it was colonised by the British. Communism in the Soviet Union withered away and the once mighty superpower was splintered into sovereign nation-states because the Communist rulers  undermined peoples' rights and voices and arrogantly became apathetic to the suffering of their own people.
Both Germany and Japan were ruled by autocrats when they were defeated in the Second World War. The holocaust, in which millions of Jews perished, was not perpetrated by a colonial power, but by somebody from within almost as familiar as the next-door neighbour. The uprising in the Arab world is an expression against the ruthlessness and corruption in those countries. In Saudi Arabia, women are  demanding simple rights such as the right to drive a car. This mirrors the extent of disenfranchisement of people living under autocratic regimes.
The domestic autocrats are capable of inflicting physical pain and suffering on their own people. And this far surpasses the oppression of the external coloniser. These autocrats need to be removed; that is precisely the right thing to do. Ranting against democracy is a pathetic ploy of merciless autocrats to chain their own people, deny them their rights, silence the media, and plunder the resources of the nation for themselves, their friends and families. The sooner people realise this, the better. The sooner people are capable of delineating Western-ism and democracy, the better it will be for the world.

The writer is Associate Professor of Economics, Tennessee State University, USA

 

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THE STATESMAN

MERE STORM IN A TEA CUP

BETWEEN THE LINES ~ KULDIP NAYAR

I have often wondered whether there is a clique at work in the PMO which is trying to discredit
Dr Singh on purpose 

"We must reckon that at least 25 per cent of the population of Bangladesh swears by the Jamaat-e-Islami and they are very anti-Indian and they are in the clutches… of the ISI." These words by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh are part of the record of his informal talks with five editors that his office released a few days ago. Why a seasoned politician person like him should be so indiscreet is beyond me and why the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has included these remarks in the official transcript uploaded on to the Prime Minister's website leaves me confounded.


One, Jamaat-e-Islami does not command the following of even one quarter of the Bangladeshi population. In the last general election, the party was routed. Two, how did the Prime Minister arrive at the conclusion that all members of the Jamaat-e-Islami harboured anti-India views? They are fundamentalists, no doubt, but every fundamentalist is not anti-India. The Jamaat has justifiably protested against the remark.
I have always held that the chiefs of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who brief every Prime Minister daily are seldom accurate in their assessment. I cannot imagine that Dr Singh would have spoken about the Jamaat the way he did without their inputs. Their sources are dubious. I have had an unhappy experience with RAW and IB when I was India's High Commissioner to England.
The blame comes to the PMO which released the recorded talks without listening to them beforehand or reading the transcript first. The office is supposed to edit out words of the Prime Minister that he may have spoken on the spur of the moment. He could not have meant what he said about Bangladeshis the way it is being taken in Bangladesh. This is the reason why he rang up Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina so promptly and that's why the ministry of external affairs has offered the Bangladesh government an apology.


In fact, the five editors who talked to him for an hour a few days ago have been more discreet while sharing with the media their discussions with the PM. Even their writings pertaining to the meeting with the PM didn't contain anything controversial. They were sensitive to what their words might convey because no official briefing had been done. Probably, they were conscious to avoid any criticism of the Prime Minister. By the time the PMO realised its mistake, it was too late. After uploading the transcript of the talks on to the website, which remained Online for 30 hours, it withdrew the portion referring to Bangladeshis. But the damage was done because Bangladeshi media had gone to town on the Prime Minister's remark.


The Prime Minister, tense as he is these days, is obviously under pressure. He is fighting against the Opposition, the dissidents in his own party and carping coalition partners, some of whom are flirting with the Opposition. His gaffe should not indicate that he is helplessly dependent on a few in his office. His problem is that he does not pursue his own instincts as the 2G spectrum scam has shown. There is a welcome report about possible wholesale transfers in the PMO. In fact, the PMO does need to be pruned. Indira Gandhi expanded it unnecessarily because of the type of government she ran.


Naturally, the diplomatic circles are shocked because they do not expect such remarks from Prime Dr Singh who is a mature politician and an international figure. India has a standing in the world and every word it's government utters and every action it seeks is taken seriously, particularly by neighbouring countries.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is doing everything in her power to strengthen ties with India. Dr Singh has himself acknowledged that the "Bangladesh government has gone out of its way to help us in apprehending anti-Indian insurgent groups which were operating from Bangladesh for a long time". Sheikh Hasina has given the much-needed transit facilities to India so that North-eastern states could be reached faster than it used to be because vehicles carrying goods to the states had to make a lot of detour earlier in order to circumvent Bangladesh. She has also taken a number of steps to improve economic relations between the two countries. Indeed, the Prime Minister's remark must have come as a shock to her.


Yet, Dhaka was very mature in its response. It summoned India's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Dhaka to know about New Delhi's version of the goof-up. He reportedly assured it that India's relations ran far deeper than to be affected by a remark here or an indiscretion there. Nonetheless, Dr Singh's words have come in handy for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other Opposition elements which were only waiting for an excuse to take to the streets. They want to put a spanner in Sheikh Hasina's efforts to straighten things internally and with foreign countries, including India. Not everything that she does may be right but that is her domestic problem, not ours.


I have often wondered whether there is a clique at work in the PMO which is trying to discredit Dr Singh on purpose. Even the manner in which five editors were called for an informal talk with the PM was ill-conceived and ill-executed. It was a subjective selection by the PM's Press adviser who did not think in detail about how to meet the public demand for a more communicative PM ~ such a demand is a natural corollary to the Prime Minister's own promise that his government would be transparent. Like so many other things in this government, this blunder by the PMO will too go unaccounted. No one will be held responsible because the PM has the reputation of being a soft person. He has seldom taken any action against people making mistakes. Even in the matter of corruption, he waited till he was forced to sack telecommunications minister Mr A Raja and former CWG Organising Committee chairman Mr Suresh Kalmadi.


Yet, a lot of explaining needs to be done to the people of Bangladesh because they are far from pacified by New Delhi's apology or the announcement that the Prime Minister will visit Bangladesh during 7-8 September. Bangladeshis are not an anti-India lot and they nostalgically recall the time when the Indian Army fought by the side of Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh War.


The Opposition leaders in Bangladesh, as it happens all over the world, react to situations to reap political dividends. But to dub them or a segment of them as anti-India is neither fair not correct. But then, such are the inscrutable ways of the PMO which claims to be the custodian of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's reputation.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator

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THE STATESMAN

KEEP IT DIRTY

NOW & AGAIN

~ SUDHA PALIT

A few years ago, at a social gathering in Kolkata, I met a lady from a Western country. This was her first visit to India, and like all visitors from the Western world, the poverty in some sections of the community struck her acutely.
The woman happened to be a dietician, and what puzzled her was that even though some of the people she saw on the streets appeared destitute, they did not seem malnourished and were able to do heavy work with comparative ease. She wanted to know how these poor people managed to maintain their health. What exactly comprised their diet? I told her that that the poorest in India eat what many of us throw away. Because they can ill-afford to, they do not discard the skins and stalks of the vegetables they cook. As such, no vitamin or nutrient is lost. Potatoes are eaten with their skins intact. Cucumbers and carrots are treated likewise. The stalks and leaves of cauliflowers are cooked and eaten along with the main vegetable. The outer leaves of cabbages, even if damaged, are not thrown away. As for vitamin D, it is showered in abundance by the sun which shines brightly in India year-round.


I told her that the masses in India do not eat polished rice, and neither do they eat refined flour. The chapattis they eat are made of whole wheat flour, including the bran, and their diet is mainly vegetarian, which is considered a healthy diet by doctors around the world. In fact, cancer of the colon is rare in India because of the fibre and roughage contained in the average Indian meal. Meat is eaten only on festive occasions, as it is too expensive to be included in the daily diet.


The woman then asked how the poorer sections of our society managed to remain relatively free of infections. I told her there was a good reason for that too. Most Indians grow up in not-too-sanitary conditions and are exposed to various bacteria from an early age. Because of this, they develop a natural immunity to many ailments. Doctors these days, too, insist that children should not be brought up in a very sterile environment. A little bit of dirt, they say, will not harm the child. But the disinfectant lobby thinks otherwise and young mothers are bombarded with advertisements depicting the ills of letting one's infant gambol in an environment that is not sterilised with this decontaminator or that. The multinationals tell us that drinking water, too, must be completely sterile. The firms manufacturing water purifiers and bottled water too must make a fortune from our insecurity.


But children grow up to be adults. Work and life take them away from the protected environment carefully built up by their over-protective parents. What happens then if the child's immunity has not grown as robustly as he has? What do elderly parents, taken in by misleading advertisements when they were young, do then? Withdraw to a sterilised world of denial, perhaps.

 

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THE STATESMAN

GOD OF SMALL THINGS

SAUMITRA MOHAN

Human society has come a long way in its march towards material progress, much ahead of the times when man used to live in the Hobbesian state of nature with his life being "nasty, brutish, poor and short". Man's insatiable desire to make his life more comfortable has seen rapid inventions and discoveries of newer things. But notwithstanding the progress we have made, have we really learnt to live a life of comfort and dignity as human beings? Human endeavours fuelled by unrestrained curiosities and desires have been successful in conquering the elements of nature. With man scaling newer heights of progress and dreaming to colonise celestial bodies and some like Stephen Hawking envisaging man's journey to the future, are we really satisfied with what we have? One is reminded of Jean Jacques Rousseau's ruminations and commentaries on human life in this regard.
In the Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of Inequality, Rousseau described as to how "man was living in a past golden age, prompted by conscience, not yet led astray by the harlotries of reason, uncorrupted by that perennial propagator of evil…that great deformer of man which calls itself society". He says how man's self-love creates imaginary and utterly insatiable needs which are so incompatible with man's instincts of sympathy. Today, we might have made our lives much more comfortable, but with every new discovery and newer invention, our life is no longer what it should be. While all these discoveries and inventions are aimed to make men more happy, the fact remains that we have actually become more wretched and unhappy than we ever were. It is this phenomenon that Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse and Louis Althusser have theorised as "alienation". They have talked of man having become lost in his self-created developmental maze. Today, man has got so alienated that real happiness has begun eluding him.
Hindu philosophy has long deliberated on the theory of karma, as enunciated in The Gita which urges one to keep on doing one's karma without any expectation. But what we have been doing is exactly the opposite. Man's thirst for more and more material comfort has so dehumanised and alienated him that he has almost lost the qualities that set him apart from "lesser forms of lives". Human beings have created societies, states, boundaries, communities, castes, religions, education systems, languages, monetary systems, hierarchies, multiple cultures and what not. And today, man is busy managing the multiple contradictions and paradoxes emanating as a result thereof. We live each day of our life vying for more ~ more acquisitions, more money, more power and more status. We lose our happiness and comfort in our relentless pursuit of such possessions ~ which have been described as nothing else but maya in Hindu mythology.
Rousseau assailed the society for artificially creating so many fetters (what Sigmund Freud called "Superego") for human freedom but he forgot that but for those reasonable restraints, human life would have continued to remain "nasty, brutish, poor and short" as Thomas Hobbes referred to life in the state of nature. It is, however, also true that human beings have increasingly been making their life more complex. While the human craving to make his life more comfortable by way of newer scientific inventions and newer discoveries is very much in sync with his instincts to realise the real evolutionary potential vested in nature, there are still many things which have become anachronistic and should br discarded as soon as possible. One does get a feeling that emphases have wrongly been placed on arrogant acquisitions and misplaced pleasures which believe more in taking than giving. We have given too much importance to status and ersatz divisions among humans beings leading to constant strife and hatred in society. The result has been the evaporation of feelings of shared happiness. The delights of empathetic philanthropy and compassion don't inform our sensibilities anymore.
So many cultures, languages, religions, mores, rituals and societies have evolved because they developed in isolation from each other across different geographical locations. Because of this segregated development of different human communities, we developed different languages, different religions and culture and different systems of governance. But then, variety is the spice, as they say, of life and makes it refreshing. But how can we justify the insular feelings stemming from these parochial institutions? Why can't we just enjoy our life without being encumbered by restrictions or simulated notions of communalism or nationalism as long as we don't impinge or hurt the sovereignty of another man?
While answering the mythical Yaksha's question about the "greatest irony of life", Yuthisthir, in Mahabharata, had famously said that notwithstanding the fact that every human being knows that he is going to die one day, he lives as if his end would never come. Man would not baulk at hurting others, snatching from others or conspiring against others in his bid to get ahead in life without thinking for a moment as to what he is losing in the bargain.
Almost all of us develop a life style and habits that please our senses, and most of the time we are content without any concern for anyone. In fact, some also believe that too much concern for less fortunate fellow human beings could threaten our wellbeing. But by not doing our duties towards a fellow man, we are actually breaching the trust reposed in us by nature. The only thing that makes our ephemeral lives worthwhile is the good deeds that we perform ~ for others. By doing good to others, we actually do good to ourselves. Life is short, let's make it worthwhile.

The writer is District Magistrate and Collector of Birbhum district, West Bengal

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

GUNS DOWN

Three tribal villages were reportedly set ablaze in Chhattisgarh in March. That little was heard of the aftermath until the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into the incident as late as July 5 exposes the level at which violence is accepted as routine in the state. It is no surprise that the court responded in strong terms during the hearing of a petition accusing the Maoists and the Salwa Judum, the Chhattisgarh government-sponsored armed militia composed of young tribal men, of rights violations. The court has now forbidden the government to use members of the Salwa Judum, called special police officers, in counter-insurgency operations, and to withdraw all arms from them. Arming and using tribal people against Maoists is unconstitutional, the court has said, including in its rebuke the Centre, because the Centre pays the state Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 for each recruit.

The state has broken its own law, according to the Supreme Court. The state law allows SPOs to help people in natural or man-made disasters and support other agencies in the implementation of relief measures, but that is all. The two-month training given to semi-literate, unskilled, young tribal people merely turns them into "cannon fodder" for the highly trained and technically advanced Maoists. This point is particularly important: the constitutional rights of tribal people being armed by the state are the court's first concern. Implicit here is the court's criticism of the government's attitude towards its tribal subjects. The court also criticized the perpetuation of the cycle of violence and the violation of the human rights of those caught between the Maoists and the Salwa Judum. There may be something to be said in favour of the principle behind training and arming members of the public for self-defence in situations of extraordinary crisis, but its practical application in Chhattisgarh has resulted in tragedy and bloodshed. The irony is that such a militia, raised cheaply on the promise of a livelihood of at most Rs 3,000 a month, can come only from among the underprivileged and can be given only a sketchy training. Going by the court's argument, arming them not just for self-defence but also for informal wars, as Chhattisgarh has done, would always endanger them and others, and therefore, always be unconstitutional. States must think of other ways to fight insurgency.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WARPED VISION

Plans to reduce pollution in Calcutta usually take their own sweet time to materialize. While most of India switched to liquid petroleum gas in a matter of months, the city administration took ages to replace three-stroke autorickshaws with LPG-driven 'green' vehicles. The fight against sound pollution seems, increasingly, like a lost cause. But now, more than a decade after it was initiated, the move to reduce 'visual pollution' seems to be gaining some momentum in the city. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to rid the Esplanade-Dalhousie Square 'heritage' area of billboards. Although commendable, such a decision smacks of a much-familiar 'too late, too little' syndrome. The more pertinent question to ask in this context would have been why the city needs billboards at all. If Calcutta aspires to be a world-class city — and the new chief minister of West Bengal has spelled out such a vision for the state capital — it should aim at emulating the examples of leading global cities. In most cities in the West, the practice of installing billboards has been either abolished or is restricted to specially designated areas, which are marked out as part of an integrated urban development plan. There is no reason why such practices cannot be followed by the CMC.

If billboards on commercial buildings are justifiable, putting them up on residential blocks is beyond any reason. The CMC earns a paltry revenue from billboards put up on various premises. If the charges for using public space to put up billboards are raised — say, by double the existing rates — such a strategy may deter every second company from putting up advertisements wherever it pleases. The building tax on commercial establishments housing billboards could also be raised many times over. The idea should be to attack the menace from all possible angles in order to make the billboard a commercially non-viable mode of advertising. It should not remain a lucrative option for companies big and small. There is also a peculiar myopia in the CMC's vision of a billboard-free Calcutta. Why has the CMC chosen to clean up only a tiny section of a sprawling city whose every nook and corner is cluttered with billboards? Certainly, beautifying one part of the city at the cost of another is not going to win the CMC the approval of the people, let alone help it reduce visual pollution in a meaningful way.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

 INTERNATIONAL TUTELAGE AND THE MAKING OF LIBERAL STATES KRISHNAN SRINIVASAN

The attitude of Western states, led by the United States of America, to recent events in Syria is eerily reminiscent of the build-up to the second Iraq War of 2003 and the US-led invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The media frenzy about deaths, demonstrations and refugees, and the remarkable 'discovery' of a Syrian nuclear facility dating back to 2007, call to mind the then US secretary of state Colin Powell's power-point presentation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction at the United Nations security council that turned out subsequently to be a pack of lies. The present state secretary, Hillary Clinton, now weighs in against Syria with accusations and threats, and Iran, the West's major bogey-man, is pictured as playing a role in sustaining the despised Damascus government.

Taken by surprise with the various popular movements in the Arab world this year, Washington hopes that a transition to democracy will bring certain countries into the Western orbit. This accounts for the regime change-directed no-fly zone in Libya, which has stalled for the moment, the robust propaganda against Syria, and the transparently hypocritical silence about Yemen and Bahrain, where similar demonstrations against the pro-West regimes have been suppressed with the utmost brutality. Basing their anti-Syrian invective on social networking sites, some of which now have been unveiled as perpetrated by Americans nowhere near Syria, President Bashar al-Assad's promises to liberalize his polity have been brushed aside by the US and European Union as inadequate and non-specific.

The Syrian demonstrations began in the periphery of that country over two months after the Arab Spring started in Tunisia. It is well-established that arms have been inducted into Syria from Jordan and Lebanon, obviously not for the official security forces but for insurgents. Also well documented is that the US finances Syrian dissidents abroad, including circles linked to the Muslim Brotherhood like the London-based so-called Movement for Justice and Development, which are not aspiring to democracy but for an Islamist caliphate. All this begs the fact that the Assad regime, despite its many failings, is not unpopular and is regarded by many, if not most, Syrians as being the nation's best hope to lead a reform programme. Assad himself has freed the internet, repealed the emergency, announced amnesties, liberated detainees and promised dialogue. But on the debit side, Assad is too cautious and surrounded by sycophants, and the Syrians have managed their public relations very badly. Assad's initial hard-line approach was most ill-advised, and he has a reputation of non-performing on previous promises to open the political system. It was also a huge mistake not to keep Turkey closely onside. Turkey, being a moderate, secular Muslim nation, is aware of the Islamist threat, and with the Kurdish problem across both borders, Ankara was in the best position to help with good counsel. To counter the videos circulated by demonstrators, why are there no videos taken by pro-Assad people of armed attacks on Syrian security and property? Assad needs to come clean about the Islamist threat to Syria; he can no longer run with the extremist hares and hunt with the secular hounds, and speaking vaguely about "saboteurs" will not enthuse his supporters. The Assad regime may still survive, but eminent historians of revolutions all concur that an authoritarian regime is most vulnerable when it makes the first compromises. Louis XVI and Tsar Nicholas II found, at the cost of their dynasties and their lives, that their drip-by-drip concessions only emboldened the revolutionaries. As Thomas Jefferson pointedly said, "A chief magistrate, once in power, rarely leaves it willingly."

But there is a larger issue to be discussed about the West's attitude to the Arab uprisings. Western-led intervention in various countries during the early post-Cold War era was ostensibly for peace-building, but in essence equated to the construction of a liberal state. By 1995, the tragic happenings in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia had led to a change in the Western attitude to peacekeeping. The British prime minister, Tony Blair, and the US president, Bill Clinton, were convinced by, and underwrote, openly interventionist policies, while Western media, its aid industry and its NGOs joined zestfully in similar activism. Interventions took place in Kosovo, Eastern Slavonia, East Timor, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq, where there was substantial international civilian and military presence, a foreign proconsul-type person with important responsibilities, and governance tasks performed by foreigners with only a peripheral role for local officials. Such intervention was ostensibly multilateral, with UN consent — sometimes nunc pro tunc — yet invariably under Western leadership with transformative goals as its motivation. Washington regarded these as projects of political and economic transformation that would result in market economy and a democratic political system, but fundamentally, these exercises were in the nature of establishing protectorates in the style seen between the two world wars of the 20th century. In other words, this overarching peace agenda as a political construct became the language of tutelage, and culminated in the nebulous UN 'Responsibility to Protect' doctrine of 2005, in which state sovereignty's primacy, a basic principle of the UN charter, was left open to question. This was exactly the sentiment behind the making of the new protectorates, barely a generation after the end of classical colonialism.

While there was ample evidence of the deployment of Western military power, the West, led by the US, lacked any grand strategy to make sense of the changed international situation — a lack of the "vision thing" propagated by Bush the Elder. The philosophical basis of intervention was robust humanitarianism and the underplaying of state sovereignty, and the first Iraq war led to false assumptions that US-led and UN-brokered collective security arrangements were able to regulate global strife. This conclusion was naïve and short-lived, and was swiftly eroded with the resurgence of nationalist, ethnic and religious identities, terrorist networks, refugee flows and secessionist claims. President Clinton sought to introduce the concept of "democratic enlargement", open economies and liberal states, but this policy too went nowhere, and globalization was a process that did not in itself provide any kind of road map for liberal societies.

Now that more than a decade has passed since the neo-protectorates came into being, some stocktaking is possible. None of the new protectorates could have been established without the projection of US power or underwriting, but the US had no overall vision for management of the world order, and Moscow has turned the tables on the Responsibility to Protect doctrine by prising South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia. By 2011, there is Western fatigue with such engagements and a downgrading of reformist agendas in favour of an exclusively security-related focus. The West found protectorate experiments costly and long-term and lacking in full legitimacy: even partial successes like the mini-states of Kosovo and East Timor are not exemplary, and Iraq and Afghanistan are in no way closer to being modern and cohesive liberal democracies. The new protectorates will turn out to be transient moments in the history of these societies and also of Western hegemony, belonging to the category of quixotic dreams of human improvement, with only heuristic value for understanding the period in which they came briefly into public prominence.

Acceptance in practice by the international community of such post-Cold War attempts at nation-building has not meant acceptance in theory. There is no normative consensus, and states such as China and Russia oppose the new interventionism, as does India, which is presently in the UN security council. This opposition is more pronounced as Western influence is declining, and Barack Obama himself has lately pronounced that US nation-building must start at home. The primacy of state sovereignty is re-emerging and the permissiveness of the 1990s towards the US's democratization mission is ebbing. The zeitgeist that peace-loving democracy and market economy would come into place naturally, which was always a naïve and ahistorical concept, has come to an end. The liberal state is not a finished product that can be delivered wholesale to Delhi, Baghdad or Kabul, let alone to Tripoli or Damascus.

The author is former foreign secretary of India

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS A BLEAK FUTURE

CHINA DIARY - NEHA SAHAY

There's an angry mood sweeping across the country, and it's not linked with the word, jasmine. Across classes and ages, people are expressing their discontent in private conversations. The Communist Party has just celebrated with pomp its 90th anniversary, but the people whom it's supposed to represent are hardly in a mood to celebrate.

On the contrary, those who can are making plans to emigrate — even if it's in the vague future. At an exclusive company dinner, the discussion turned towards children's careers. The finance head, a party member, fretted about her 15 year old's reluctance to join the military academy next year. She wanted him to join the army "to develop good habits''. Her boss wondered why she wasn't sending him to an American university. That, according to him, was the best option, because later, the parents could join their child. His own daughter being barely six, everyone laughed. But he remained serious. "Life in the US is safe,'' he pronounced. Surely less safe than in China? "Life in China won't be the same after ten years,'' he replied. "Already, there's too much difference between the rich and the poor. That's not good for stability.'' The party member's polite nods changed to wide-eyed alarm as her boss spoke about what he had read on the internet — the army had been called out to control mobs in two cities located at two ends of the country, unusual for China.

'Stability' is the government's favourite word, and life in the cities here has seemed fairly stable, despite the occasional self-immolation to protest demolition of homes. But when loyal supporters of the Communist Party start abusing it, it makes you wonder if the executive isn't right.

Silent voices

A textile designer, out of work for 10 years due to the closure of his factory, didn't lose faith despite the hardships he had to face. Any criticism of the Communist Party by his fiercely spiritual wife would be met with a standard response: "Had it not been for the Party, we wouldn't have had a home, or a university education.'' Today, he talks disbelievingly of the corruption of party leaders. A senior official in his city was found to have embezzled millions, but, said he, "This leader must be a good man. Party officials in other cities have looted much more.'' As his wife spoke wistfully of migrating to Canada, he remained silent. Earlier, he would have flared up, denouncing her lack of patriotism.

"I've advised my daughter not to work for the government," said an English teacher. "You either have to join government officials in their corrupt ways, or look the other way. My daughter's very idealistic. Why should she have to make this choice?" Just a year ago, the same woman was speaking proudly about the girl's plans to join the foreign service after her postgraduation. What about the youngster's desire to work in different countries, her interest in foreign affairs? "She can work for international agencies; she can even try for the UN."

This was a woman who unfailingly praised the central government, blaming greedy provincial leaders for their conspicuous consumption. But recent reports about the insensitivity of officials towards not just the poor, but even the fairly well-off businessmen, and on the flight of 18,000 officials belonging to the party, the government and the police out of the country over the last 15 years had left her disillusioned.

All through last week, the party's top leadership sang paeans to the CCP. One pronouncement, by the party chief of Guangdong, scene of a series of workers' eruptions last year, was front-paged by a Guangdong weekly: "We must not allow fresh flowers and applause to drown the opinions of the people.''

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A HOME CALLED SCHOOL

GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS WILL CONTINUE TO DISAPPOINT UNLESS GUARDIANS AND TEACHERS LOOK UPON THEM AS THEIR OWN, WRITES RUKMINI BANERJI

I sat with a group of village women under a tree in the compound of a government primary school in Madiyahu block, Jaunpur district, Uttar Pradesh. Most of the women had children who were enrolled in this school. Many of these mothers had never been to school themselves. But they were interested in talking about children's education in general and their children's education in particular. We discussed many issues. What kind of education were the children getting? Was it good enough? Why was it not better? How had the school been in the past and what was it like now?

At a particular stage in the conversation, I asked, "Yeh kiska school hai? (Whose school is this?)." "Yeh sarkari school hai (This is a government school)," they answered instantly. One of them went on to explain that because the school was a government school, it was not good. "You see", she said "the sarkar should come and see what is happening here — then they will know that their money is getting wasted. Anyway, since it is free, we don't expect much from government schools." All the women agreed.

"Where do you think the money for running the school comes from? Who pays the teachers? Who pays for the books, for the building, for the midday meal?" I asked. "Sarkar se aata hai (It comes from the government)." "Where does the sarkar get money from?" I persisted. One woman looked disparagingly at me, as if I was asking a really silly question. "Sarkar ke paas paisa hota hai (The government has money)," she stated firmly. Those who rule have money, she elaborated.

I tried to counter the woman's statement: "Sarkar ke paas apne aap se paisa nahi hota hai. Janta sarkar ko paisa deti hai (The government does not have money of itself. People give the government money)." My own words rang hollow. I could see that this logic made no sense to the women. They looked incredulous at the idea that people give the government money. I kept going, "Aap aur hum jaise logon se paisa jata hai sarkar ko (It is from people like you and me that money goes to the government)." Now I had the full attention of the entire group of village women. The woman who had spoken earlier stood her ground. "I don't give any money to the government." She looked around at everyone and almost challenged them. "Hum kyon de sarkar ko hamara paisa? (Why should I give my money to the government?)", she emphatically challenged me in answer.

For the next half an hour, I worked hard to persuade the women that their money funded the school. But I made very little headway. Being agricultural people, they did not pay any income tax. They did not buy any branded product. They did not travel much by train or by bus and often, when they did, they did not buy tickets. I found it impossible to convince anyone that any amount of their money ever went to the government, let alone reach the school. I finally tried to explain using cell phones as an example. "Do you know that when you pay for cell phone usage, some portion of that money goes to the government and the government spends it on schools?" I asked. The women looked back at me. From the look in their eyes, I could see that no one was buying this argument.

This encounter in Jaunpur happened a few years ago. It bothered me enormously. Since then I have had similar conversations with parents of school children in many other villages in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The script is almost identical each time. Always with the same ending. In every discussion, people conclude that the school belongs to the "sarkar". The money running the school comes from the government. Government has its own money and is neglectful of how it spends its money. So there is waste. And so the teacher does not teach and the children do not learn. The village or individuals in the village do not contribute any money to the running of the school. But their children are entitled to schooling. At some level, the entire conversation ends with the concept of people being beneficiaries who receive or should receive entitlements. The delivery of the entitlements is weak and faulty. Monitoring is weak; people's complaints are not heard or acted upon. The government either does not know how to do it or it does not care. The process of government and the nature of politics in many parts of India have left profound legacies for the people. We believe that we are the receivers and the government is the giver — like the sarkar, the feudal lord.

I was in Hapjan block, Tinsukia district, Assam. I happened to go to a rural school — a government-run lower primary school or "LP", as they call it in Assam. The village was not far from the border between Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. The school was established in 1903 and has stood solidly by the side of the road since then. Two long corridors with flanking classrooms run at right angles to each other. The teachers proudly show me around the school. There are pictures painted on the walls and charts hanging too. The children are busy working on different lessons in different classes. They seem to know what they are doing. The classrooms have ceilings of cane and bamboo; high above the ceiling is the actual roof.

An elderly member of the school management committee tells me the history of the school. A few years before 1900, his grandfather donated the land on which the school building stands. His father studied in this school, so did he: his children and now his grandchildren study there too. Well maintained and well painted, there is not a crack in the wall. The building has survived earthquakes and other calamities. Over time, the panchayat has contributed to the construction of new classrooms, as has the local member of parliament. The headmistress proudly says that she does not allow any outsider, whether from the government or from elsewhere, to do any construction in the school. Anything that has to be built is funded and supervised by members of the community.

The school has an enrollment of over 250 children — very high for a typical LP school in Assam. In the headmistress's office, there is a board on the wall. On one side, it lists names of the headmasters or head mistresses since 1903. On the other side, it names the children who have been awarded scholarships in the district- level Standard IV scholarship examination. On both sides, there are many names. Illustrious headteachers and talented children. This school is reputed to provide a good standard of learning.

A small boy in Standard II is learning to write. He sounds out the words and then starts to write. A teacher looks on fondly. I watch the child struggle and succeed. "He is doing a great job," I tell the teacher who is looking on. The teacher looks bashful for a minute and then says, "I did not know he could write!" Then in a low voice full of pride he continues, "He is my son. My children study in my school."

This is the biggest challenge that we face in our schools. How to convert the "sarkari" school into "my school", into "our school". We, the citizens, are not beneficiaries. We are the funders and the owners of the schools. And we must behave as such. It is as if only when something belongs to me, do I care. Only when it is mine, do I engage. If I realize that it is my money that funds the school, I will watch carefully to see how it is being spent and what my children are getting out of it. Ownership is the key to engagement; holding others responsible or accountable comes later. It is only when this sense develops that we will be able to give our children the education they deserve.

The author is with Pratham, an NGO that works on elementary education

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

HEAVY DUTY

INDIA MUST DEVELOP AN INDIGENOUS AIRCRAFT AND REDUCE ITS MILITARY DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN POWERS

Exactly four decades ago, the president of the United States of America, Richard Nixon, had been critical of Indira Gandhi signing the Indo-USSR treaty. When she became the premier in January, 1980, Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's dictator, got his F-16s from the US much to India's chagrin. Indo-US relations hit rock-bottom soon. India's chances of acquiring advanced American technology were minimized. It could not stop such technology from being exported to Pakistan as well.

However, times have changed. India has approved the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft worth $4.1 billion from Boeing. Originally a product of the erstwhile McDonnell Douglas Corporation, C-17 — a "long range and intra-theatre heavy cargo transport" — was selected by the US air force in 1981. The present C-17A Globemaster III, which has an enviable record, is in use in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. What distinguishes the C-17 Globemaster from other heavy transport aircraft is its payload of 78 tonnes and its impressive range thereof, with the minimum being 2,500 miles.

In fact, the heavy airlift military transport market today is virtually Boeing's monopoly because no one else has the capability to match the Globemaster. There existed, once upon a time, the Soviet-made 'flying wonders' called Antonov-124 and Antonov-225, which were long-range, heavy-lift freight transport aircraft. The 'Ruslan' An-124 made its debut in the 1985 Paris Air Show and lifted a payload of 171.219 tonnes to 10,750 metres, "exceeding by 53 per cent American Lockheed's C-5A Galaxy's record". In January 1986, the An-124 transported "units of US/Canadian Euclid 154 tonne dumper truck for Yakut diamond miners". Again, during the Gulf crisis, an An-124 set a world record when it flew "heaviest commercial air cargo of three 43 tonne transformers and ancillary equipment, totalling 143 tonnes, from Barcelona, Spain, to Nouméa, New Caledonia".

Perhaps the greatest Soviet achievement was the design, development and deployment of the six-engine An-225 Mriya (Dream) on December 21, 1988. It was the "first aircraft built to fly at gross weight exceeding one million pounds". Unfortunately, this unprecedented success came too late. Moscow failed to sustain its aviation momentum. The demise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics virtually ended Moscow's aviation enterprise.

The Americans filled the vacant space. They have always possessed technological superiority owing to vast defence research and development projects and a seemingly inexhaustive pool of talented scientists and engineers. Interestingly, though the US is selective in its offering of the C-17 Boeing Globemaster III, it could not resist the temptation of making money through their sale to India.

The question is how did India come under the radar of Boeing after having used Russian-made aircraft for over five decades? A worried US air force was nudged to urge the government for funds "to keep the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III production line open". However, problems arose with the announcement of the defence secretary to put an end to the production line during the 2010 budget. The tug-of-war inside the US establishment continues as the air force would need "to increase its existing cap of strategic transport aircraft to accommodate a projected increase in ground forces".

An interesting aspect is that out of a total of 20 aircraft, Qatar's air force has two C-17s. The nation has a population of 8.5 lakh. None can possibly complain about 1.2 billion Indians possessing 10 C-17 Globemaster III. However, the mere purchase and possession of sophisticated weapons from foreign powers do not make a country invincible. India needs to appreciate that no nation can command respect without producing an indigenous strategic weapon system. C-17 is a good platform, but it is expensive. There has to be an indigenous craft for India's strategic airlift command.

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

DON'T TRAFFIC IN BODIES

A CIVILIZED COUNTRY DOESN'T TRAFFIC IN BODIES, NOT EVEN THE BODIES OF TERRORISTS. A SOCIETY THAT ASCRIBES SPECIAL IMPORTANCE TO THE DIGNITY OF THE DEAD SHOULD NOT ADOPT THE PRACTICES OF TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS WHEN IT COMES TO ENEMY BODIES.

As if the growing tension between Israel and the Palestinians over the expected UN vote to recognize a Palestinian state and the failed attempts to breathe life into the dying diplomatic process weren't enough, the government has added fuel to the fire over the issue of transferring 84 bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority.

A humanitarian gesture in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan turned into another argument with our neighbors. Once again, short-term populist considerations and a primitive desire for revenge trumped long-term interests and any spark of compassion. An effort to restore at least a little of the shattered trust with our only partner for resolving the bloody conflict ended up deepening the rift between the sides.

Hamas will surely not miss the opportunity to assail the PA leadership, which after 18 years of a sterile peace process cannot even get Israel to give up a few dozen bodies. Moreover, five years after Gilad Shalit's abduction, it's clear that even hundreds of live prisoners still behind bars haven't softened Hamas' position in the negotiations to obtain his release. Thus a few dozen rotting bodies could hardly be considered "bargaining chips."

We can sympathize with the bereaved families whose loved ones were murdered by some of the terrorists whose bodies are at issue, and who are upset that these murderers will presumably be given heroes' funerals. Still, it's time to decide that Israel will no longer hold the bodies of terrorists. There is no purpose or logic to it.

A civilized country doesn't traffic in bodies, not even the bodies of terrorists. A society that ascribes special importance to the dignity of the dead should not adopt the practices of terrorist organizations when it comes to enemy bodies. Unfortunately, a series of mishaps and contradictory announcements during this miserable incident provided yet more evidence of poor judgment and worrisome flaws in the decision-making process at the highest levels of government.

We can only hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come to his senses and put an end to this necrophilic farce, which makes Israel look delusional. He must announce immediately that the 84 bodies are being transferred to the Palestinian Authority. And in honor of the holiday, as a humanitarian gesture, it would also be worth including sick or elderly prisoners in the handover, as has been the custom in the past.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE STRAUSS-KAHN SAGA

THE POWERFUL HAVE TOO MUCH POWER IN THE 21ST CENTURY. BUT THE WAY TO DEAL WITH THIS EXCESSIVE POWER IS NOT TO PERSECUTE PERSONALITIES IN THEIR BEDROOMS, RATHER TO TRANSFORM SOCIALISTS INTO THE SHAPERS OF A PROPER SOCIAL ORDER.

BY ARI SHAVIT

Proper disclosure one: I know Dominique Strauss-Kahn's wife, Anne Sinclair. I think highly of her and like her. Proper disclosure two: I think it would be right for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to become the president of France. The mix of socialism and financial expertise with leadership and organizational skills seems to me the right combination for France and Europe. That's why I was distressed by the hotel-housekeeper story and did not write about it. Even though Strauss-Kahn's weakness for women was known, it seemed to me there was a big difference between loving women and raping women.

Yet the American process of ensuring justice was decisive. It was hard to imagine that the Americans were acting so brutally without having any unquestionable proof. From the start, the whole story seemed fantastic, yet the cruel process had to run its course. Even those who found it inconceivable that Strauss-Kahn had raped the housekeeper from the Bronx had to be patient and keep quiet.

This week, after the dramatic turnaround, it seems the Strauss-Kahn saga will have far-reaching ramifications. It will not only affect the personal life of the man who became a victim of a Homerian tragedy. It will not only affect French and European politics. It will change the way we see the criminal process - the way we see sex scandals and the trendy persecution of the powerful, well-to-do and famous.

The criminal process. In a contest of the two systems, French and American, the French system has proved itself. Today it's crystal clear that the French system, which does not disclose the name of the accused in the early stages of an interrogation, is preferable to the American one. The public has a right to know. But the public does not have the right to destroy a person before a trial. In real time, the photos of Strauss-Kahn handcuffed and in the NYPD's cellars were horrific photos. And in retrospect, the photos are chilling photos of a lynching. The Americans tossed live prey to the media. There was neither democracy nor due process, only an unequivocal collective rape of an individual. Now there will be no alternative but to follow the French and protect detainees and those suspected of such despicable acts.

Sex scandals. Over the last 20 years, a very important revolution has occurred in protecting women against sexual assault and harassment. The revolution was needed, justified and crucial. Yet, like other revolutions, it went too far. It created a situation where every woman can send any man to jail by filing a complaint at the nearest police station. The Strauss-Kahn case reveals a counter-need to protect men from women's false accusations and improper use of the law. It's impossible to consider every man against whom a complaint is filed a rapist until proven otherwise. There is no choice but to revert to applying the rule of innocent until proven guilty, even to suspects in sex-related crimes.

Pursuing the powerful. Fundamentally, human rights were intended to protect every person: rich or poor, black or white, holy or despised. And yet, a view has prevailed recently whereby the blood of the powerful, the wealthy and the famous can be shed. The universal concept of human rights has been gradually replaced by the populist inclination to favor the weak as they are and to see the powerful as guilty, simply because they are powerful. If you hold a position of power, that means you are corrupt. If you are comfortable, that mean you are a thief. If you are famous, that means your reputation is expendable.

The fact that one of the world's most powerful people became the unquestioned victim of a weak woman very much proves the extent to which this populist tendency is unfair and dangerous. The powerful have too much power in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the way to deal with this excessive power is not to persecute personalities such as Strauss-Kahn in their bedrooms. The way is to transform socialists like Strauss-Kahn into the shapers of a proper social order.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BETWEEN THE SKULLCAPS

THERE IS A CHANGE IN THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF ISRAEL'S RIGHT, OF WHICH THE RELIGIOUS ARE THE MOST ACTIVE MEMBERS - A DEPRESSING AND DANGEROUS CHANGE.

BY GIDEON LEVY

The joint photograph of the two rabbis of nationalism, Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef, being carried on their disciples' shoulders should have cried out like a thousand words: hand in hand, the knitted skullcaps and the black ones, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim, all looking like a united tribe of zealots. That marks a change in the political landscape of Israel's right, of which the religious are the most active members - a depressing and dangerous change.

Israel's left and center, which loath the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox ), played a role in this. For years they pushed the Haredim into a corner, denouncing and hounding them, so now, the ultra-Orthodox have found a warm, loving refuge among the knitted skullcap wearers of the national religious camp, who are far more dangerous. For years, Jews of Middle Eastern descent faced discrimination, so now they, too, have found living space among the religious nationalists, and are drowning their social frustrations in hatred of a common enemy that has even less status, and faces even worse discrimination, than they do: the Arabs.

The left hounded the Haredim as it never hounded the national religious camp. Settlers who invaded Palestinian neighborhoods in the territories and Arab neighborhoods in Israel never experienced ugly persecution and denunciations of the kind endured by Haredim who "invaded" Ramat Aviv. Settlers who shot children in the territories were never condemned the way Haredim who open Chabad kindergartens in Tel Aviv are. Those who torched Palestinian fields and burned down mosques were treated more forgivingly than Haredi men who urged residents of secular neighborhoods to pray.

Those who extorted government funding for yeshivas were described in almost anti-Semitic terms, while those who extorted far more lavish and scandalous budgets for the settlements were met with indifference, acceptance and sometimes even respect and admiration. Money given to yeshiva students actually smelled worse to the left than money given to land thieves. Yeshiva students' failure to do army service was denounced far more vociferously by the left than the sometimes problematic service performed by settlers in the occupying forces.

It was hard to be a Haredi or a Shas member: Anyone who wore the typical ultra-Orthodox garb was considered a "parasite," whereas a settler was considered to have "values." And the result is now before our eyes: There is a unified religious bloc, a nationalist, racist, violent and inflammatory one.

Granted, few Haredim were present at the demonstrations for the rebellious rabbis; granted, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef mumbled something about his son's stupidity. Nevertheless, the path to a single, unified religious-nationalist bloc has already been paved. The end has come for religious moderates and ultra-Orthodox doves, and also for traditional Sephardim who longed for peace with the Arabs. Everyone now wears a single skullcap, the skullcap of racism.

It wasn't always this way. Nor does it have to remain this way. Once upon a time, there was a moderate National Religious Party; its ministers were the only cabinet members who hesitated about going to war in 1967. Then Gush Emunim, the settlement movement, swallowed up the mother party, which transmogrified into something unrecognizable before finally disappearing.

The Haredi parties also never took part in the racist, nationalist tango. They were content to fight for government funding for their yeshiva students and their other interests. And for this, they were ostracized.

Eventually, Haredim also started to settle in the territories, overcoming the hesitation of some of their rabbis, but they did so only because of the (scandalous ) economic incentives the state offered them to settle in a country that wasn't theirs. Unlike the knitted skullcap wearers of the national religious camp, most Haredim didn't paint their settlements in messianic hues.

Shas, too, was initially considered to be a moderate party. It didn't obstruct the left's efforts to forge an agreement with the Palestinians; during the fateful vote on the Oslo accord - though it's hard to believe nowadays - Shas Knesset members refrained from voting against. Where are those bygone days now, and where are we, and they?

Yet when Ehud Olmert resigned as prime minister and Shas sought to raise child allowances, Tzipi Livni refused; she preferred new elections. The left hailed her as a "woman of principle," and the results are well-known: Shas turned into the right flank of the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Two years later, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was already walking hand in hand with Lior, the most dangerous rabbi in the territories. And all because of child allowances.

This wheel can and must be turned back. We must not let all the religious be painted in the same color, even if the price is state allocations and allowances. This is a fateful issue, as they are on the verge of becoming a majority. It is therefore time to go backward and walk between the skullcaps once again.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE FLOTILLA AND THE JEWISH STEREOTYPE

OUTSOURCING, AGGRESSIVE AND VOCAL DIPLOMACY AND RIDICULOUS LIES THWARTED THE FLOTILLA, BUT THEY HAVE NOT TAKEN GAZA OFF THE INTERNATIONAL AGENDA.

BY AMIRA HASS

CRETE - Like an anti-Semitic caricature, Israel has extended its long tentacles around the globe in an effort to stop 10 decades-old ships from sailing to Gaza. Many Israelis interpreted this as a great victory.

The story could be read as follows: The Greek government wanted to save people whom it surely views as eccentrics and professional trouble-makers, even if naive, from a traumatic and perhaps even fatal experience. The Greek foreign minister rejected claims that Israeli pressure led his government to ban the flotilla's departure. He explained that Greece wanted to prevent a "humanitarian disaster" in the event of a clash between the Israel Defense Forces and the protesters.

Indeed, a Greek police officer - one of those who tried (in vain ) to discover from passengers on the Tahrir who was piloting their ship - did not beat around the bush. We wanted to save you from the Israeli army, he told one of them. The Jew of the blood libel, of whom one must be wary, has been replaced by an Israeli navy commando.

In anti-Semitic caricatures, the cunning Jew is doomed to lose and his control over the world is fated to come to an end. But Israel's government is revising the caricature and sketching a glorious victory. A war of attrition, in the form of mysterious breakdowns and unprecedented red tape by the Greek authorities, thwarted the flotilla's original plan to anchor off the Gaza coast. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly thanked the Greek government, he knew full well what he was thanking it for.

We must now await future media leaks to know what exactly Greece received in exchange, other than closer military ties. Perhaps money, to complete the caricature?

This is a convenient time to be using pressure tactics. Greece's socialist government is in a fragile situation, as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are forcing the country to adopt an austerity plan that most of its people oppose. True, the fact that Greece has become a subcontractor of the Israeli army did not bring the masses into the streets, but there is no doubt about it: The sympathy of the Greek soldiers who arrested the Tahrir's passengers and of the bureaucrats who delayed them was with the flotilla and with Gaza, not with their government's orders. That's all we need: another country whose government gets along well with Israel in complete opposition to popular sentiment.

The flotilla's organizers added a term from the world of business and globalization to their description of Israel's domination of the Palestinians. Israel, they said, was outsourcing the industry of the blockade on Gaza. In exchange for reward, a foreign government - Greece - took on an active role and adopted a deliberate policy of keeping the Gaza Strip one huge prison.

Logic dictates that a government whose policy validates anti-Semitic stereotypes ought to worry Israelis and Jews worldwide. But the Israeli government is doing what its voters want and believe in. For there is one stereotype that has not been recycled here: that of the wise Jew.

Outsourcing, aggressive and vocal diplomacy and ridiculous lies thwarted the flotilla, but they have not taken Gaza off the international agenda. If Israel - which knew full well that there was not one gram of explosives aboard the ships - had let them sail to Gaza, the flotilla would not have preoccupied the international media as it did.

Blocking the flotilla did not discourage the organizers, who are graduates of the anti-apartheid and anti-white supremacy struggles. Rather, it provided ample proof of how white Israel is. As a result, blocking the flotilla only increased their motivation to keep placing the Palestinians' demand for freedom at the forefront of the international agenda.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

CEMETERY POLITICS

IT'S INTERESTING THAT WHAT EMBARRASSED PEOPLE ABOUT THE STORY OF THE TRANSFER OF TERRORISTS' BODIES TO THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY WAS THE GOVERNMENT'S ZIG-ZAGGING, AND NOT THE TREATMENT OF THE DEAD THEMSELVES.

BY ALON IDAN

It's interesting that what embarrassed people about the story of the transfer of terrorists' bodies to the Palestinian Authority was the government's zig-zagging - that is, the tactical, political and diplomatic issues. The defense minister painted the prime minister into a corner, the national security adviser was summoned to intervene, members of the "septet" of seven key ministers objected and the Palestinian minister for civilian affairs leaked the story.

The treatment of the dead themselves - sorting the bodies by date, classifying the dead for negotiating purposes, freezing the talks because of a pathologist's identification error - seemed to bother no one.

This necrophilic discourse should be seen for what it is: dealing with death in the terminology of life. Cemetery politics.

Imad Awadallah, for example, was a "senior member of Hamas' military wing." Then he died and was buried in a cemetery for terrorists in the Jordan Valley. This is a neglected cemetery; it looks like a big field of sand surrounded by brambles - "difficult terrain conditions," they call it. The cemetery is nearly overflowing; the death business is flourishing in this area.

The fact that he died and was buried and that his body is rotting makes no difference: As far as we're concerned, he doesn't make the list to be transferred. It's a matter of principle. And the principle is that death is a continuation of life, just in a different form. In other words, he is still alive, this dead guy, so there is no chance that we'll return him to the PA. Who knows, he might come back and carry out more attacks.

That returning bodies is considered a "gesture" indicates that we have adopted the primitive ideas prevalent in this region, ideas that embrace violence and debase the dead. When Hezbollah demands the release of hundreds of terrorists' bodies in exchange for the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, we instinctively learn that political deals involving human bodies are likely to achieve very valuable results. We internalize this fact and subsequently make use of it.

The experience of war covers up the humanitarian worldview; our consciences evaporate in the face of our feelings of revenge. We cannot disconnect ourselves from the offensive customs of our enemies and avoid playing this contemptible game. From this perspective, Israel has managed to integrate into the Middle East very well.

You have to listen to Interior Minister Eli Yishai's objection to understand the source of the darkness that envelopes us. "Why would anyone think of making this kind of sweeping gesture when Gilad Shalit hasn't merited any sort of gesture?" he asked. "It's better for us to retain anything that might be able to shorten Gilad's captivity by even one minute."

"A sweeping gesture," that is, moving rotting bodies a few hundred meters eastward. "Anything," that is, bodies, but what about a finger, foot, eye or nose? And of course "Gilad Shalit," the national insurance policy that now launders all sorts of immoral behavior.

This conduct is an accurate metaphor for the tombstone we once called "the peace process." The conflict's permanent mantle of death has now been wrapped around the ultimate issue: bodies. The concept of "freezing" is being used in a macabre context (Ehud Barak: "I froze the talks on the issue" ); the worn cliches, like "terrorists with blood on their hands," are now being imposed on people who aren't here anymore; and the "right of return" has suddenly acquired a new, almost parodic, meaning.

This parody could almost be a satire. When members of the cabinet and the septet expressed their anger over the decision to transfer the bodies, Barak was forced to defend himself, saying, "During the talks with the Palestinians, we discussed transferring bodies that are in an improvised cemetery. These bodies are disappearing and soon there won't be anything to transfer."

Hanoch Levin couldn't have phrased it better.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HOW TO ASSESS THE NEW TURKISH CABINET

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has announced his new Cabinet, formed after the June 12 elections. The Cabinet reflects his power consolidation brought by a clear 50 percent vote support.

There are no big surprises in terms of the names of ministers, perhaps except the Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, who worked for many years as a bureaucrat in various ministries up until his retirement and then joined the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti. Most of the names of the former Cabinet kept their seats, though some of them were moved to different chairs.

Four ministers are heading toward a record, since they are the only indispensible names from the beginning of the AK Parti government in 2002. Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, in charge of the coordination of economy, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım and Health Minister Recep Akdağ kept their posts. Beşir Atalay, the former interior minister, is promoted as one of four deputy prime ministers in charge of security affairs, plus the Kurdish problem.

Speaking of the economy, Erdoğan displayed faith in his economy team who contributed a lot to the 50 percent vote in elections. Zafer Çağlayan, the former foreign trade minister, was named as the economy minister in the new Cabinet. Nihat Ergün, the former industry minister, was renamed as science, industry and technology minister. Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız and Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker kept their seats.

Egemen Bağış, Turkey's chief negotiator in the European Union talks, has been appointed as Turkey's first EU minister.

Powerful AK Parti brand names like Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin will continue their work in the new Erdoğan Cabinet.

Another close aide of Erdoğan in the field of law joined the government and from a higher rank. Bekir Bozdağ, the former Parliamentary group spokesman, entered the Cabinet as deputy prime minister. Together with the senior Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, Ergin and Atalay, they are expected to team up to work on two important issues: writing a new Constitution and dealing with the Kurdish issue.

It is really not the names - the system of the Cabinet has changed. As it can be observed, there are four deputy prime ministers, each of them to act as coordinator for three to five ministries. Erdoğan also wants to introduce political deputy ministers besides undersecretaries of the ministries. That is going to be something new and unusual for the parliamentary system. Besides worries that it might bring conflicts of authority within government offices, it is a source of criticism as it raises question marks in minds regarding the presidential system, preferred by Erdoğan.

But the 50 percent support in the elections has been a real game changer for Erdoğan – not only in international but also in domestic politics - and he is determined to try this system. It is another reason why this Cabinet could be seen as a proof of his increasing political power.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

TIME FOR EU TO HAVE ITS OWN 'SPRING'

Isn't it ironic that Croatia was cleared for membership in the European Union in 2013 and most Croats just shrugged. Nice, but no big deal. Iceland, meanwhile, finally got around to moving on its two-year old bid to join the EU, but a majority of the population is opposed. Give us the bailout but don't mess with our fish, they say.

In Turkey it's not so much that "we've seen the film before," as the saying goes. Rather we are waiting for the movie and all we get is trailer after trailer. Preview tedium, on Cyprus and just about everything else.

So how about an idea we can get enthusiastic about?

Let me confess that I am, in general, enthusiastic about the EU as an idea. It was, once upon a time, a Big Idea. The post-war greats of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman were just that, idealists. They envisioned a complex political union predicated on grand concepts of shared sovereignty, creation of a continental identity and the kind of policies that would later come to be known as "soft power." Much of what they envisioned came to pass and the idea of Turkish participation caught on across the political spectrum here - for a while.

But now the Big Ideas are sputtering in the face of so many small ideas. Not that the maturity rates on Greek bonds underwritten by the European Central Bank are unimportant. Not that differential drug pricing policies among member states is a matter that can be forever ignored. But whatever happened to the once-upon-a-time goal of being the "world's most competitive bloc" by 2010? The goal was simply shelved, quietly of course, in 2009, when it was clear it wasn't going to happen.

And so we drift with last year's buffed up "Lisbon Treaty" that subbed for a constitution and yielded a new EU presidency occupied by a Belgian with the charisma of an insurance claims adjuster and a foreign policy czardom headed by a baroness barren of a single profound thought.

The EU has become a parody of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, the giant tied down by all the tiny folk in the Land of the Lilliputians. So many little ideas, France's "Mediterranean Union" for example, has tied down anything approaching a Big Idea.

How about an industrial policy incorporating Turkish spirit and Irish brains to compete head-on with China? How about a consistent and moral stand on human rights that goes beyond another Brussels policy paper? How about a continental energy policy that breaks free of Germany playing pipeline politics with Russia or phasing out nuclear power by just importing it from France? How about a European education initiative to stop the brains draining from Heidelberg and Oxford to Harvard or Stanford?

OK, OK, the Europeans finally got around to launching the long-discussed European Research Council in 2007. I love its motto, (cribbed from General Electric), "Bringing Great Ideas to Life." Except that it hasn't. The council has barely even updated its website since it announced the "milestone" of a "call for proposals for ERC starting grants." To travel back to the era before the I-phone journey to the app-less http://erc.europa.eu

Let's not stop with the "Arab Spring." Let's have an "Idea Spring." EU, you go first.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IS SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY OUTSIDE THE LAW?

As an avid Fenerbahçe Sports Club fan, I watch the latest inquiries into our most recent championship with sublime sadness. For a few days I told myself that it could not be true. I could not believe that Fenerbahçe boss Aziz Yıldırım would cheat to get the cup. However, yesterday, as the recordings of telephone conversations began to be released, I had to face the truth. I now think that it is very big probability that he committed a crime.

After the initial heartbreak is somewhat over, I began to think about another issue that we as Turkish people consider normal. The reason why I changed my mind about Yıldırım was quotations from his private conversations that he had on his private cell phone. At first I didn't realize it because the news was so big, yet I shouldn't have had the opportunity to read about his private conversations in the first place. It now seems very weird that together with millions of other Turkish people, I am reading evidence of an ongoing investigation from every major news outlet in the country – from TV stations to national and local newspapers, as well as websites.

When I thought about it, I could remember more than a dozen big cases in which the nation was provided with top-secret surveillance feeds many days before the case closed.

In Turkey it is very easy for someone to tap into your private conversations legally or illegally. Surveillance equipment from Russia and Eastern European countries is being sold at open markets to anyone. You could get a James Bond style "camera pen" for as little as 20 Turkish Liras. This abundance makes life very easy for conspirators. We have witnessed what cheap equipment can do in the Deniz Baykal and Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, cases. A stream of blurry images lasting no longer than one minute have ended political lives. We already know that our esteemed police force hasn't done much about catching these illegal enterprises. We can complain, but cannot do much about it.

However, when the police force itself begin to act like an outlawed enterprise, it is totally unacceptable. We as Turkish people have been forced to accept that evidence in a case is something to be shared with the public instead of something to be protected if it is acquired via surveillance technology. Furthermore, we are persuaded that this technology provides us with all the evidence necessary to doom people's lives.

It is already very easy to tap into anyone's private life legally as very frequently pointed out by the Turkish Bar Association. Why the police leak these private conversations is beyond my understanding. The case of Yıldırım concerns personal freedoms.

Surveillance technology has strong ties to national security as well. Almost all nations with a centralized intelligence agency use them extensively. Turkey is no different. We use them very frequently. Turkish authorities tap into cell phone conversations, listen to rooms with lasers, use drones and satellites to get audio-visual records. It is all done to serve and protect. But unfortunately the authorities are not very careful about basic human rights.

As a geek I love this technology, I agree with the fact that when they are used right they provide security and ensure a safer society, but I also believe in what Benjamin Franklin said: He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

MUSLIM FOR A MONTH

 Gandhi, born a Hindu, once said, "I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew." Most people will never achieve such enlightenment, or spout such pious tripe, if you are of a less reverent turn of mind. But such thinking certainly creates an opening for innovative programs like "Muslim for a Month."

 No, really. There is an organization that invites people of other religions or none to come to Istanbul and live as Muslims for a month. Well, not a month, exactly: The 9-day "Explorations" program costs $900 and the 21-day "Ruminations" program costs $1,890.

 "We like to think that 'Muslim for a Month' facilitates more understanding of a religion, which gets a lot of bad press," explained Ben Bowler, who lives in Thailand and runs similar "religious immersion tours" in Buddhism for the same organization. "There's a huge difference in the public perception of Buddhism, for example, and Islam, Islam is thorny, while Buddhism is warm and fuzzy."

 People who think Buddhism is warm and fuzzy would probably benefit from Bowler's "Monk for a Month" program in Thailand. People who think Islam is a religion of hatred and terrorism would likewise benefit from the "Muslim for a Month" program. Indeed, if all that's going on here is a simple download of information and perspective, you could argue that every religion should be doing it.

 Much of the human race lives in places where two or more major religions co-exist – Buddhists and Muslims in Thailand; Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs in India; Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews in South Africa. Not to mention countries where up to half the population are non-believers, like Britain and Korea. A crash course in your neighbors' religious beliefs ought to be part of the school curriculum. In some places, it already is.

 But there is still something disturbing about the very idea of religious tourism. Immersing yourself in the prayers and rituals of a religion even though you think its God is false smacks of condescension at best, blasphemy at worst. And although a sense of politeness prevents most people from saying it loudly in public, religious people generally believe that the gods of all religions but their own are indeed false.

 Non-believers go even further. As Richard Dawkins, the world's leading advocate of atheism once put it: "We are all atheists about most of the gods that people have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." Fine. That's a perfectly respectable position to hold. But if that's what you think, then pretending to pray to Allah as a "cultural experience" is downright disrespectful.

 The people who are organizing "Muslim for a Month" have the best of intentions. The Blood Foundation is a Thailand-based enterprise whose goal is "to promote the ideal of the sister/brotherhood of all humanity. We operate cultural exchange programs that build bridges of understanding between diverse peoples through the means of shared, authentic experience."

 According to the Blood Foundation, the "Muslim for a Month" program aims "to foster a spirit of good will and increased mutual understanding between Muslims and the west. It is not the purpose of the program to bring converts to the Islamic faith but rather to strive towards a greater sense of unity among people."

 I believe that is truly their goal. I also very much like the Sufi tradition of Islam, one of the most attractive forms of religious expression I have ever encountered and it is the Sufis who are providing the facilities and the teachers for the "Muslim for a Month" program in Turkey. But it still doesn't feel right.

 Here's the thing. Almost all of the "modern" religions that have arisen in the past 2,500 years (and Judaism, which is much older) have sacred texts that are held by the believers to be divinely revealed truth. They are not negotiable or mutually compatible, like the old pagan beliefs were. To believe in any of the modern gods requires the faithful to reject all the others as false.

 If Muslim beliefs are right, then Christian beliefs are wrong, and vice versa. If the Sikhs are right, then the Baha'i are wrong, and vice versa. If the Buddhists are right, then the Jews are wrong, and so on ad nauseam.

 Why stop there? If the Mormons are right, then all the other Christians are horribly, catastrophically wrong. If any of the other Christian sects (or any of the non-Christian faiths) is right, then Mormon beliefs are downright ridiculous. If the Shia are right, then the Sunnis are wrong, and vice versa. So in a world where something like 90 percent of the population is still religious (though much less in the developed countries), what is one to do?

 We minimize conflict by simply not talking about the huge, irreconcilable differences in our religious convictions. (The non-religious play the same game; they rarely challenge the beliefs of the believers either.) It's not an attractive behavior and it doesn't always avert conflict, but most of the time it works. On most of the planet, we are no longer at each other's throats about religion.

 The world does not need "Muslim (or Sikh, or Christian) for a Month." Let sleeping dogs lie.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

KADI KARAKUŞ

ÖZDEMIR İNCE

A construction worker drops a brick and causes a passerby on the street below to lose an eye. The passerby goes to Kadı Karakuş [an Ottoman judge], and sues him, saying, "This worker caused me to lose one eye. I want retaliation."

Karakuş interrogates the worker. He admits, "Yes, I dropped the brick, but just at that time a very beautiful woman was passing on the street. Because my attention was diverted by her, this accident happened. The real offender is not me, it is that woman."

Karakuş summons the woman and asks, "Did you pass that street with this beautiful figure of yours?"

The woman says, "Yes, I did pass that street."

Kadı Karakuş thus tells her that as the true criminal, she will be subject to the retaliation, meaning that her eye would be poked out.

But the woman objects. "I am actually not such a beautiful woman. My tailor makes exceptionally good dresses. What makes me beautiful is this dress. The real offender is my tailor," she says.

Karakuş accepts this objection and summons the tailor and asks: "Did you sew a beautiful dress for this woman?"

The tailor answers, "Yes, I did."

Then, Kadı Karakuş says, "In that case, you are the real offender, your eye will go."

The tailor responds, "Yes, you are right, but this eye is essential for me. I do my job by means of this eye. I have a neighbor who is a hunter. He does his job by closing one eye. If you poke out one of his eyes, he would not lose anything."

Kadı Karakuş considers this response appropriate and summons the hunter and has his eye taken out.

(Diren Çakmak, "Osmanlı İktisat Düşüncesinin Evrimi" (Evolution of the Ottoman Economic Thinking), Libra Publishing, p. 27-28.)

An expected scandal

The same calculation! The Republican People's Party, or CHP, nominates two and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, nominates one detained candidate for the June 12 elections. Six detainees, supported by the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, are nominated as independent candidates. Because the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, did not see any obstacle for them to run for office, it endorsed their participation in the elections. Because these citizens won the elections and gained deputy status, they received their mandates from the YSK. But the judiciary made a controversial decision and did not release the deputies. This is unexpected chaos and an expected scandal.

In such a case, should not the AKP, who has received 49.80 percent of the votes, extend a hand to the opposition (CHP+MHP+BDP independents + other parties) totaling 50.20 percent? The AKP must be thinking that it is not necessary because it puts on a stance as, "Did you ask me when you nominated them? Could you not find another person to nominate?" It does not care about the scandal or the chaos. The only thing it has in mind is to find a suitable opportunity and make its own constitution as soon as possible. Then come the sweet times. It does not care about anti-democratic laws, the political parties' law, the election law, the 10 percent threshold, the freedom of expression or human rights.

CHP's eyes should be taken out

Let us count and let us have them count the components of democracy: Secularism, freedom, equality and fraternity. Fraternity, equality, freedom and secularism. When it is democracy in question, the deadlocked dilemma of "which came first, the chicken or the egg" is no longer valid. Democracy is an abstract concept. Whereas fraternity, equality, freedom and secularism are tangible; they appeal to the five senses of the person.

The government and the opposition can only settle on the democracy platform. But the government's attitude is Kadı Karakuş's attitude. With its self-opinioned stance, the government blinds one eye of democracy and is applauded by its partisan crew: Smack the CHP! How can a democracy that does not actually exist become an advanced democracy? In a country where democracy does not exist concretely (concrete democracy), no democratic election is possible and the people's will will not be manifested.

The court's verdict: Both eyes of the CHP should be poked out!

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ISRAELI ARMY DOING ITS HOMEWORK

Statistics show the number of inter-state conflicts after the end of the Cold War has considerably decreased. Nevertheless, the role of soldiers in security issues has not diminished. It changed character, diversified and got more sophisticated. Politicians and the public want the army to both respond to symmetric threats and deal with terrorism, insurgency, civil wars and peace-building. Generals are not able to quickly adapt to the demands of such hybrid missions, which subsequently leads to an uneasy transition.

In this context, two events that were experienced by the Israeli army offer important lessons. First was the war with Hezbollah in 2006. Back then, Israel faced unexpected resistance in Lebanon. The war had dramatic effects on the Israeli army, nation and media. The other is the Mavi Marmara flotilla case that produced a political crisis.

These two events show Israel is doing its homework by seeking different ways of responding to similar future events. Both events can be analyzed from highly different perspectives, such as that of international law, internal/foreign affairs or from a moral viewpoint. In this brief article, I'd like to focus on the manner in which Israel responded to these developments.

Expert opinion concurs that, in terms of intelligence, civil-military relations, public opinion management and the lack of clear political objectives, Israel's war with Hezbollah was a complete debacle. The number of casualties suffered by the Israeli army was way beyond what was expected and was received by the public as a total shock. In order to avoid a similar fiasco, Israel transformed the Gaza Strip into a "laboratory" of operation techniques. With maximum technology, sensitive intelligence and minimum casualties, the army invaded and bombed Gaza for days. What was unexpected was that this very same laboratory also produced the crisis with Turkey while the real objective was to get ready for a new war with Hezbollah.

In the Mavi Marmara case, the biggest mistake of the Israeli army was to make a wrong assessment on the passengers. It seems Israeli intelligence confused the passengers and organizers on the flotilla with the definitions of "civil society," "democracy," "liberty" and "humanitarian aid" found in Western textbooks. They thought this was something like Greenpeace. They should have known concepts carry different meanings and ideologies in different cultures. The motivation of the flotilla passengers was not accurately analyzed. This was another Hezbollah fiasco. Israel thought the passengers would act like Greenpeace activists trying to save whales. Consequently, the operation produced complicated outcomes.

Despite all the setbacks, Israel is still doing its homework. I'm sure when the time is right we will see how the "discoveries" made in the Gaza laboratory can be applied in action. New flotillas could not start their journey due to "malfunctions" caused by an "invisible hand." Some organizers declared that they will opt for "softer initiatives." It seems, then, that everybody is doing their homework.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHURCHES ACROSS AMERICA READ FROM THE QURAN

TAD STAHNKE

Washington, DC - Although negative stories of Islamophobia in the United States abound in news media, most Americans respect religious diversity. That's why on Sunday, June 26, thousands of people across America joined together at dozens of churches and other houses of worship across the country. Congregants united to do far more than read Christian scriptures; from Alabama to Alaska, from California to New York, worshippers also heard the words of Jewish and Muslim sacred texts as rabbis and imams joined pastors in leading an event called Faith Shared.

A joint project of Human Rights First and the Interfaith Alliance, Faith Shared brought Americans together to counter the anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past few years and led to misconceptions, distrust and, in some cases, even violence.

If I were living in a Muslim-majority country, I might think the United States is filled with people burning the Quran, demonizing Islamic beliefs and tarring all Muslims as supporters of radicalism and terrorism. To the casual observer, the anti-Islam fervor of late would seem to bear that out, but the truth is far more complicated.

It is true that in recent years the United States has seen a disturbing trend of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and rhetoric, as well as a general lack of understanding about Islam. We've seen Quran burnings, individuals attacked only because they are Muslim, a pipe bomb explosion at an Islamic community center in Florida and a surge in reported cases of discrimination against Muslims in workplaces and schools throughout the country.

But those incidents – all of which have grabbed headlines – don't represent the views of so many Americans who respect religious freedom and the diversity of faiths that freedom brings. In fact, a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that Muslims are an important part of the American religious community, with strong agreement across political and religious lines. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a report showing that much of the hatred directed toward Muslims has been stirred up by a small but influential group of activists and media.

Discussions about the role of Islam and Muslims in American life have all too often degenerated into stereotypes and hatred. If not challenged, these can undermine respect for the religious freedom of all Americans and weaken our resilience as a nation.

And the concerns go beyond our country. What happens in the United States with respect to the treatment of Muslims, rightly or wrongly, has a huge impact overseas on the perception of the country in general, and on U.S. efforts to promote human rights abroad.

It's imperative for the international community to support efforts to create responsive governments – those that give equal rights to members of all minorities, protect religious freedoms and allow for the freedoms of expression and assembly. The United States can and should play a key role in supporting those efforts.

For that reason, it's vital to recognize that what happens in the United States – how Americans protect human rights and religious freedoms and how they deal with security issues in relation to the Muslim community – influences how the international community perceives the American people's commitment to promoting democracy. A message of respect among religious groups in the United States, one that says anti-Muslim fervor is only a small part of the American story, will strengthen that commitment in the eyes of many.

As we continue in this effort, my colleagues and I are not naive about the challenges that can divide America along religious lines. Muslims are not alone among Americans in terms of bearing the brunt of stereotypes and hatred. Indeed, with the Faith Shared services, we sent and will continue to send a clear message: Despite the challenges, the way forward must begin with respect.

We cannot solve these problems in a day but on June 26, Americans across the country showed that we respect religious differences and reject the demonization of any religion. Americans are a nation not of the few who burn Qurans and incite hatred, but of the many who fully embrace religious freedom, tolerance and pluralism.

* Tad Stahnke is the Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First. This originally published by the Common Ground News Service, or CGNews.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

YOUNG BLOOD TO STRENGTHEN TIES

AYBARS GÖRGÜLÜ & JACOB ZENN

From May 27 to June 11, 2011, eight Turks and eight Americans who work in politics, journalism, academia, and think tanks toured Turkey as part of a professional exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State called "Young Turkey/Young America." At the Grand Assembly in Ankara, they stood not far from where President Barack Obama addressed the Parliament in 2009 and said: "Because of the strength of our alliance and the endurance of our friendship, both America and Turkey are stronger and the world is more secure."

 While Turkey's Arab neighbors are embroiled in revolts against their dictatorial regimes, Turkey's parliamentary elections on June 12 stood out as a bright spot in a time of tremendous upheaval in the Middle East. A strong showing from the main opposition parties prevented the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, from obtaining a super-majority, which would have meant that Erdoğan's party could change the Constitution unilaterally.

Scholars and journalists have focused mostly on Erdoğan's authoritarian tendencies, while much less has been written on what can be done to translate the vision of a stronger alliance – as articulated by President Obama – into reality among citizens of both countries. This is a need that concerns not just our governments, but the non-profit sector as well as the business communities – all of whom would benefit from a more robust bilateral relationship.

On a government-to-government level, there is recognition that cooperation between our two countries is vital. Turkey and the United States are allies in numerous areas where their foreign policy objectives converge, such as Ankara's participation in Afghanistan, the NATO campaign in Libya and more than 10 U.N. peacekeeping operations. Despite the U.S.' low favorability rating in Turkey, there are no signs of closing down İncirlik Air Base in Adana – where 5,000 U.S. Air Force servicemen are located – or downgrading the strategic alliance.

Indeed, most Turks who visit the U.S. or get to know Americans personally have a positive image of the country. In interviews conducted during the Turkey leg of the project, U.S. participants had the chance to speak to local people in Adana who nostalgically recounted the days when they used to play basketball with U.S. Air Force servicemen. That was when U.S. military families in Adana lived in the same apartment complexes with Turks, but now they all live on base, which has been unfortunate from a U.S. public diplomacy perspective.

According to Foreign Policy Perceptions in Turkey, a survey conducted by Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, or TESEV, in December 2010; 33 percent of the Turkish respondents saw the U.S. as the second most unfriendly country to Turkey. Seventy-six percent of respondents described Turkey's attitude toward the United States as friendly, which means that Turks feel their behavior towards the U.S. is not reciprocated.

 Our countries should be doing more to build bridges between young Turks and young Americans. Too often people-to-people ties have been regarded more as afterthoughts to security issues more than as driving forces for cultivating a deeper, more sustainable relationship that extends beyond Ankara and Washington D.C. This is why creating more programs like "Young Turkey/Young America" is a meaningful way for our two countries to foster new areas of cooperation that extend beyond military and strategic goals and that tap the creativity of young emerging leaders in both countries.

We firmly believe in the high investment value of programs, such as ours, in bridging the halls of the Grand Assembly of the Turkish Republic and Capitol Hill. We encourage our government leaders, the non-profit sector and the business community to support these exchanges as building blocks toward a more comprehensive Turkey-U.S. relationship.

*Aybars Görgülü is a Ph.D. candidate at the Political Science Department at Sabancı University and works as an assistant program officer at the TESEV Foreign Policy Program. Jacob Zenn graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2011 and is fluent in Turkish, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin.

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

EDITORIAL

FUMBLING TOWARD DEFAULT

An outright default by Greece on nearly a half-trillion dollars of outstanding debt obligations would be a catastrophe for Greece, for its European creditor banks and for financial institutions everywhere as credit-default swaps on Greek debt worked their way through the derivatives markets. It does not need to happen, but barring an unexpected show of European political and economic leadership, that outcome is becoming increasingly likely.

The latest chapter in the sorry saga was written over the past week. At the insistence of European political leaders, Greece's governing Socialists voted to apply another dose of growth-killing austerity to the country's nearly inert economy. Austerity measures in the past have done more harm than good, but threatened with a cutoff of needed European loans, the Socialists saw no other responsible course. (Opposition conservatives ignored European pressures and voted no.)

In return, Europe was supposed to release the next installment of bailout money and come up with a new long-term assistance plan designed to permit Greece to recover and repay. Predictably, the short-term money, urgently needed to keep French and German banks solvent, was easily approved. Long-term relief, urgently needed to keep Greek hopes for recovery alive, was put off until after Europe's August holiday.

Waiting accomplishes nothing. In two months, there is every likelihood that Greece's debts will be larger, private investors more skittish, and interest rates higher. And the re-election contests that dominate the thinking of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France will be that much closer.

Greece's debts will keep rising as interest rates remain very high and its economic growth very slow. Greece now pays more than 20 percent for private lending and more than 5 percent for European bailout money. Its economy has been shrinking for a third straight year.

Lower interest rates and higher growth rates are the key to avoiding default. One quick way to reduce interest rates would be to issue new European bonds to refinance much of Greece's existing debt. The European Union, which has a good credit rating, can raise funds at between 3 percent and 4 percent interest. Other options exist, but all involve refinancing by existing Europe-wide financial institutions, like the European Central Bank, or new ones.

Given enough time, and enough fiscal room to restart growth, Greece could pay back the refinanced debt in full. Relaxing Europe's demands for fiscal contraction, together with tax reforms, privatization of publicly owned services and utilities, and continued efforts to reopen the Greek labor market, could help generate sufficient growth for Greece to begin paying down its debts.

Mrs. Merkel, Mr. Sarkozy and other European leaders, however, are not even talking about this kind of approach. They focus instead on complex and dubious plans to disguise the losses of their banks. They insist against logic and evidence that private lenders will voluntarily participate in refinancing Greek debt. They still pretend that Greece is not slowly moving toward default. Such blinkered views do not help Greece, and will not prevent default or mitigate its consequences.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE CANCER DRUGS

Many patients with advanced cancer must feel great relief after last week's decisions by Medicare to pay for two drugs that provide limited medical benefits. For these patients, even a few more months of life is beyond price.

The unaddressed issue, however, is whether public and private insurance should continue to pay the staggeringly high cost — reaching $88,000 and $93,000 in some cases — for drugs that offer modest help to the typical patient. A prime driver of our escalating health care costs is the advance of medical technology and the understandable desire of patients and doctors to adopt the latest treatment. Sooner or later, as the nation struggles to contain health care spending, we may need to devise measures to determine whether very high-priced drugs provide enough medical benefit to warrant paying the bill.

Neither the Food and Drug Administration, which decides which drugs can be marketed, nor Medicare, which decides which treatments to cover, considers costs.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decided that Medicare would pay for the use of Provenge, made by Dendreon, for men whose prostate cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland, is no longer responding to hormone therapy, and is causing few or no symptoms. The drug, tailor-made for each patient to spur his immune system to attack the tumor, costs $93,000 for a course of treatment, far more than most patients can pay. In the critical clinical trial, it extended median survival time by only four months compared with a placebo.

In a second case, Medicare said it would pay for an expensive drug that provides almost no benefit for the typical woman with advanced breast cancer. The drug, Genentech's Avastin, costs $88,000 a year. In clinical trials, when combined with other drugs, it delayed the median time at which tumors started to grow worse from one to 5.5 months. But it failed to extend the lives of patients or improve their quality of life, and in some patients it caused severe side effects, like gastrointestinal perforations and hemorrhaging.

Based on these results, an advisory committee to the F.D.A. recommended rescinding approval for use of Avastin in breast cancer. The final decision will be made by the F.D.A. commissioner. Whatever the F.D.A. decides, Medicare will keep paying for Avastin for those with advanced breast cancer, and some private insurers may do so as well. Some women believe the drug has prolonged their lives even if it has failed to do so for the typical patient. Whether the drug is worth its high price is a question our health care system is currently unprepared to answer.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEATH ON THE BATTLEFIELD

In an enlightened reversal of the ways of war, President Obama has decided to begin sending letters of condolence to the families of combat troops who commit suicide. Until now, White House policy across several administrations extended the president's personal sympathy to the kin of troops killed in combat, but denied the honor for those who committed suicide in war zones.

The change is heartening for grieving families and for the nation, too. The policy amounted to official stigmatizing and showed a lack of gratitude for some who faced combat fire.

The military's concern had been that drawing attention to those who struggled with mental health problems and took their own lives might encourage more suicides. But after an 18-month study, the administration came to the obvious conclusion that condolences could be a positive factor. Mr. Obama will be signing letters in the future "to destigmatize the mental health costs of war" and help prevent more tragic deaths, the administration said.

Suicide in the military and among veterans is a pressing problem the government is struggling to understand. There were more than 295 suicides last year among active-duty personnel, a majority outside combat zones.

The honor for families of those who killed themselves in battle zones will not be retroactive. But in changing the policy, the White House called to extend comfort to Gregg Keesling, the father of a soldier who committed suicide in 2009 on his second tour in Iraq. Mr. Keesling was in the forefront of growing protests about the cruel neglect of these grieving families. "He was a good soldier," Mr. Keesling told CBS News, "and that's the part that I want to know — that the country appreciates that he fought."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE WORLD IS WATCHING

On Thursday, Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. is scheduled to be executed in Texas at 6 p.m. Mr. Leal, a Mexican citizen, has petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay of execution, while a bill is pending in Congress that would give him the right to a hearing about the violation of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The justices should grant the stay to allow Congress to pass the law. It would ensure that states are in compliance with the treaty, which requires that foreign nationals be told of their right to have their embassy notified of their arrest.

On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons turned down Mr. Leal's request for a 180-day stay of execution following a denial by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The state court ducked blame by saying that Gov. Rick Perry had the power to grant a one-time 30-day stay so Texas could "honor its duty under the Supremacy Clause to honor the treaty obligations of the United States."

The Supreme Court is Mr. Leal's last hope. The court ruled in 2008 that Texas did not have to comply with the treaty because there was no federal law requiring states to do so. But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. indicated that once Congress took up the treaty issue, it would be unjust not to allow a foreign citizen to have his case reviewed.

The solicitor general filed a brief supporting a stay because that would "serve compelling national interests." The Mexican government told the court a stay was "absolutely critical." Congress is in the process of fixing the gap in the federal law. It would be a miscarriage of justice if the Supreme Court allowed Mr. Leal's execution before Congress could complete that remedy.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

IN AN EARTHBOUND ERA, HEAVEN HAS TO WAIT

BY FRANK BRUNI

Friday morning, barring thunder or blunder, the space shuttle Atlantis will cough smoke, spit fire and, in a spectacle no less dazzling for its familiarity, bust free of its earthly trappings, some 2,250 tons somehow rising above the clouds.

And that will be that. Roll the credits. Its scheduled takeoff — and slated return 12 days later — are the last in the U.S. shuttle program, which now draws to an unsettling close.

Ending it, I suppose, makes good sense. Its benefits grew increasingly debatable, at least in relation to its cost: around $200 billion over four decades (including the planning years). Money is tight. What budget NASA still has might be better used in other ways.

But as the centerpiece of our country's gaudily ambitious space adventures, the shuttle program was a pre-eminent symbol of our belief that there were literally no limits to where we could go and no boundaries to what we could accomplish, so long as we hitched our ingenuity to our imagination and marshaled the requisite will. And there's no real sense of what big dreams, if any, lie beyond Atlantis. The program's end carries the force of cruel metaphor, coming at a time when limits are all we talk about. When we have no stars in our eyes.

The current political debate and the nascent 2012 election season are utterly earthbound, with a tone so gloomy it's often shocking. Instead of the defiant trumpet blast that it's morning in America — Ronald Reagan's retort to the so-called malaise of the Jimmy Carter years — we have anxious promises to hold back the night.

"Let's stop this American downward spiral," Rick Perry, the Texas governor, told a conservative convention last month, as he rehearsed lugubrious lines he might use in a presidential bid.

Jon Huntsman, declaring his candidacy for the presidency a few days later, observed, "For the first time in history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got." Hard decisions had to be made, he added, in order "to avert disaster."

To some degree, such dire language reflects predictable political gamesmanship. By lamenting the status quo, candidates disparage its designated steward — in this case, President Obama.

And the country has certainly survived more devastating and sustained periods of economic distress than the present one, finding renewed prosperity on the far side.

But Americans right now are profoundly doubtful. Shaken. For many, the fear isn't just that there's no imminent end to high unemployment and tepid economic growth, but that we've turned a fundamental corner and our best days really are behind us.

A Gallup/USA Today poll conducted in late April found that 55 percent of Americans considered it unlikely that children today would have better lives than their parents, while only 44 percent considered it likely. Those responses were the most negative, by far, over the last quarter-century, and they undercut a central tenet of American optimism.

Just last week the Democratic pollster Mark J. Penn, writing in Time magazine, concluded that "the country is going through one of its longest sustained periods of unhappiness and pessimism ever." He cited a recent survey suggesting that "more than two-thirds of the country sees the past decade as a period of decline."

And 39 percent of the respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll characterized that decline as permanent, at least in economic terms. That was a marked increase from 28 percent who said so last fall.

It's in this context that many Democrats and Republicans alike nurse a new isolationism, convinced that we can no longer afford broad engagement in the world. It's in this context that immigrants, wanting pieces of a pie deemed more finite, are vilified.

And it's in this context that hard-line conservatives cling to the notion of American exceptionalism. They can't shut out what's in their peripheral vision — economies in China, India and Brazil that are expanding much faster than ours — and doth protest too much.

In Washington and in state capitals, the squabbling is epic, and it's focused not on what we might dare to build but on what we might manage to preserve, not on degrees of progress but on gradations of regress: how many parks, schools, libraries need be closed.

Despite the president's exhortation that we chart the frontiers of innovation, there's no grand mission that represents the kind of storehouse for our confidence and emblem of our can-do spirit that space exploration once did.

What has happened to our sense of discovery? I'm not sure, but I know what will happen to the spaceship Discovery, one of four remaining shuttles in the fleet. It's bound for the Smithsonian, where we stockpile the glories of yesteryear.

Gail Collins is on book leave.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

TAXES AND BILLIONAIRES

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

The House speaker, John Boehner, suggests that the Republican threat of letting the United States default on its debts is driven by concern for jobs for ordinary Americans.

"We cannot miss this opportunity," he told Fox News. "If we want jobs to come to America, we've got to give American businesspeople the confidence to invest in our economy."

So take a look at one of the tax loopholes that Congressional Republicans are refusing to close — even if the cost is that America's credit rating blows up. This loophole has nothing to do with creating jobs and everything to do with protecting some of America's wealthiest financiers.

If there were an award for Most Unconscionable Tax Loophole, this one would win grand prize.

Wait, wake up! I know that "tax policy" makes one's eyes glaze over, but that's how financiers have gotten away with paying a lower tax rate than their chauffeurs or personal trainers. Tycoons have bet for years that the public is too stupid or distracted to note that in many cases they're paying just a 15 percent tax rate.

What's at stake is the "carried interest" loophole, and President Obama is pushing to close it. The White House estimates that this would raise $20 billion over a decade. But Congressional Republicans walked out of budget talks rather than discuss raising revenues from measures such as this one.

The biggest threat to the United States this summer probably doesn't come from Iran or Libya but from the home-grown risk that the nation will default on its debts. We don't know the economic consequences for America or the world, and some of the hand-wringing may be overblown — or maybe not — but it's reckless of Republicans even to toy with such a threat.

This carried interest loophole benefits managers of financial partnerships such as hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds and real estate funds — who are among the highest-paid people in the world. John Paulson, a hedge fund manager in New York City, made $4.9 billion last year, top of the chart for hedge fund managers, according to AR Magazine, which follows hedge funds. That's equivalent to the average per capita income of 184,000 Americans, according to my back-of-envelope calculations based on Census Bureau figures.

Mr. Paulson declined to comment on this tax break, but here's how it works. These fund managers are compensated mostly with a performance bonus of 20 percent or more of the profits they make. Under this carried interest loophole, that 20 percent is eligible to be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate (if the fund's underlying assets are held long enough) of just 15 percent rather than the regular personal income rate of 35 percent.

This tax loophole is also intellectually vacuous. The performance fee is a return on the manager's labor, not his or her capital, so there's no reason to give it preferential capital gains treatment.

"The carried interest loophole represents everyone's worst fear about the tax system — that the rich and powerful get away with murder," says Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has written about the issue.  "Closing the loophole won't fix the budget by itself, but it gets us one step closer to justice."

At a time when the richest 1 percent of Americans have a greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, there are other ways we could raise money while also making tax policy more equitable. The White House is backing some of them in its negotiations with Congress, but others aren't even in play.

One important proposal has to do with founder's stock, the shares people own in companies they found. Professor Fleischer has written an interesting paper persuasively arguing that founder's stock is hugely undertaxed. It, too, is essentially a return on labor, not capital, and shouldn't benefit from the low capital gains rate.

Likewise, Europe is moving toward a financial transactions tax on trades made in financial markets. That is something long championed by some economists — especially James Tobin, who won a Nobel Prize for his work — and it would also raise tens of billions of dollars at a time when it is desperately needed. It makes sense.

The larger question is this: Do we try to balance budget deficits just by cutting antipoverty initiatives, college scholarships and other investments in young people and our future? Or do we also seek tax increases from those best able to afford them?

And when Congressional Republicans claim that the reason for their recalcitrance in budget negotiations is concern for the welfare of ordinary Americans, look more closely. Do we really want to close down the American government and risk another global financial crisis to protect the tax bills of billionaires?

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ASSIMILATION'S FAILURE, TERRORISM'S RISE

BY KENAN MALIK

London

SIX years ago today, on July 7, 2005, Islamist suicide bombers attacked London's transit system. They blew up three subway trains and a bus, killing 52 people and leaving a nation groping for answers.

In one sense the meaning of 7/7 is as clear to Britons as that of 9/11 is to Americans. It was a savage, brutal attack intended to sow mayhem and terror. Yet whereas 9/11 was the work of a foreign terrorist group, 7/7 was the work of British citizens. The question that haunts London, but that Washington has so far barely had to face, is why four men born and brought up in Britain were gripped by such fanatic zeal for a murderous, medieval dogma.

British authorities have expended much effort in seeking to understand how the 7/7 terrorists acquired their perverted ideas and became "radicalized." In the immediate wake of the attacks, much ink was spilled over the role of extremist preachers and radical mosques. More recently, the focus has shifted to universities as recruitment centers for terrorists.

But this obsession with radicalization misses the point. The real question is not how people like Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, came to be radicalized, but why so many young men, who by all accounts are intelligent, articulate and integrated, come to find this violent, reactionary ideology so attractive. To answer it, we need to look not at extremist preachers or university lecturers but also at public policy, and in particular the failed policy of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism has become a fraught issue throughout Europe in recent years. A rancorous chorus of populist politicians, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Jimmie Akesson in Sweden, have made major electoral gains by stoking fears about multiculturalism. Mainstream politicians have joined in, too. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have recently made deeply critical speeches, and the Dutch government decided last month to dump a decades-old policy of multiculturalism.

The real target of much of this criticism, however, is not multiculturalism but immigration and immigrants — especially Muslims. Mr. Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, the third largest in the Dutch Parliament, has campaigned for an end to all non-Western immigration, a ban on mosque building and the outlawing of the Koran. Mr. Akesson, whose far-right Sweden Democrats shocked the nation by winning 20 seats in last year's parliamentary elections, denounces immigration as the biggest threat facing Sweden since World War II. Centrists have responded not by challenging such prejudice but by appropriating the right's arguments in an effort to hold on to votes.

Part of the difficulty in thinking about multiculturalism is that it has come to have two meanings that are rarely distinguished. On one hand, it refers to a society made diverse by mass immigration, and on the other to the policies governments employ to manage such diversity. The failure to distinguish between these meanings has made it easier to use attacks on multiculturalism as a means of blaming minorities for the failure of government policy.

Mass immigration has been a boon to Western Europe. It has brought great economic benefits and helped create societies that are less insular, more vibrant and more cosmopolitan. But the policies designed to manage immigration have been largely a disaster. To see why, one needs only to look at the experience of Britain and Germany. Both have adopted multicultural policies, though they have taken different paths. The consequences, however, have been similar.

Thirty years ago, Britain was a very different place than it is now. Racism was vicious, visceral and often fatal. "Paki bashing," the pastime of hunting down and beating up Britons with brown skin, became a national sport in certain circles. I remember organizing patrols on the streets of East London during the 1980s to protect South Asian families from rampaging racist thugs. Workplace discrimination was endemic and police brutality frighteningly common. Anger at such treatment came to an explosive climax in the riots that rocked London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and other cities during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was in response to this rage that Britain's multicultural policies emerged.

The British government developed a new political framework for engaging with minority groups. Britain was now in effect divided into a number of ethnic boxes — Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, African, Caribbean and so on. The claims of minorities upon society were defined less by the social and political needs of individuals than by the box to which they belonged. Political power and financial resources were distributed by ethnicity.

The new policy did not empower individuals; instead, it enhanced the authority of so-called community leaders, often the most conservative voices, who owed their positions and influence largely to their relationship with the state. In 1997, the Islamist groups that had led the campaign against Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" during the 1980s helped set up the Muslim Council of Britain. Its first general secretary, Iqbal Sacranie, had once declared death "too easy" for Mr. Rushdie. Polls showed that fewer than 10 percent of British Muslims believed that the council represented their views, yet for more than a decade the British government treated it as their official representative.

Politicians effectively abandoned their responsibility to engage directly with minorities, subcontracting it out to often reactionary "leaders."

If the prime minister wanted to get a message to the "Muslim community," he called in the council or visited a mosque. Rather than appealing to Muslims as British citizens, politicians preferred to see them as people whose primary loyalty was to their faith and who could be politically engaged only by other Muslims. As a result religious — and Islamist — figures gained new legitimacy in their own neighborhoods and came to be seen by the wider society as the authentic voice of British Muslims.

More progressive movements became sidelined. Today "radical" in an Islamic context means someone who is a religious fundamentalist. Thirty years ago it meant the opposite: a secularist who challenged both racism in the streets and the power of the mosques. Secularism was once strong within Muslim communities, but it has been squeezed out by the new relationship between the state and religious leaders.

Many second-generation British Muslims now find themselves detached from both the religious traditions of their parents, which they often reject, and the wider secular society that insists on viewing them simply as Muslims. A few are drawn inevitably to extremist Islamist groups where they discover a sense of identity and of belonging. It is this that has made them open to radicalization.

A similar process has taken place in Germany. Postwar immigrants, primarily from Turkey, came not as potential citizens, but as "gastarbeiter," or guest workers, who were expected to eventually return to their native countries. Over time, immigrants became transformed from a temporary necessity to a permanent presence, partly because Germany continued relying on their labor, and partly because they — and especially their children — came to see Germany as home.

The German state, however, continued to view them as outsiders and to refuse them citizenship. Unlike the practices in Britain, France or the United States, German citizenship is based on blood, not soil: it is granted automatically only to children born of German parents. Germany has nearly four million people of Turkish origin today, many of them born there, but fewer than 25 percent have managed to become citizens. Instead, multiculturalism became the German answer to the "Turkish problem."

In place of citizenship and a genuine status in society, the state "allowed" immigrants to keep their own culture, language and lifestyles. One consequence was the creation of parallel communities. Without any incentive to participate in the national community, many Turks became dangerously inward-looking. Today, almost a third of Turkish adults in Germany regularly attend mosque, a higher rate than elsewhere in Western Europe and higher than in many parts of Turkey. The increasing isolation of second-generation German Turks has made some more open to radical Islamism. The uncovering last year of German jihadis fighting in Afghanistan should therefore have come as no surprise.

In Britain, the promotion of multicultural policies led to the de facto treatment of individuals from minority groups not as citizens but simply as members of particular ethnic units. In Germany, the formal denial of citizenship to immigrants led to the policy of multiculturalism. In both cases this has resulted in the creation of fragmented societies, the scapegoating of immigrants and the rise of both populist and Islamist rhetoric.

IN neither Britain nor Germany did multiculturalism create militant Islam, but in both it helped clear a space for it among Muslims. The challenge facing Europe today, therefore, is how to reject multiculturalism as a political policy while embracing the diversity that immigration brings. No country has yet succeeded in doing so.

In principle, the French assimilationist resolve to treat everyone as a citizen, not simply as an inhabitant of a particular ethnic box, is welcome. Yet as evidenced by police brutality against North African youth and the state ban on burqas, France continues to tolerate, and even encourage, policies that polarize society in the name of colorblindness. And although the relationship between Muslims and the state is healthier in America than in most European countries, the furor over a proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York reveals that the same fears and problems that haunt Europe exist in the United States.

There is no off-the-shelf solution. But the anniversary of 7/7 should remind us of how much is at stake in finding one.

Kenan Malik, a British writer and broadcaster, is the author of "From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy."

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ABBOTTABAD PROBE

 

The inquiry commission on the Abbottabad incident has held its first meeting in Islamabad and made it quite clear that it intends to get to the bottom of matters. The commission, headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, has said that it may need to call on military, civilian, and political leaders to appear before it. It has also indicated that it may need to interview Bin Laden's family and so they should not be repatriated at the moment. A complete and impartial probe, with sessions held in-camera if required, has been promised, with a decision taken also to invite individuals who know anything about the incident to appear before it. This is all very reassuring. People have a great many questions and concerns about what happened and it would be excellent news if the high-powered body could come up with some answers. But the fact also is that, in the past, we have seen all kinds of commissions set up and detailed reports prepared but these have not always been made public nor have the facts always been shared with the people.

In a democracy, people must not be denied their right to know. This, after all, is one of the most fundamental principles underlying the system. Covering up events of national significance only adds to the doubts, rumours, misinformation and conjectures that fly around, clouding reality, and also leading to all kinds of conspiracy theories being expounded with a highly negative impact. The events which took place at Abbottabad over two months ago shook the nation. It is important that the truth be known. The commission has expressed a determination to work towards this. It is hoped that the body will be fully facilitated in this, so that the mysteries surrounding the shocking US raid in the heart of Pakistani territory can be solved.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

AIRBASE CONFUSION

 

For a facility that was the subject of stout denial for years, the Shamsi Airbase is getting considerable publicity. It appears that the airstrip was first built by and for rich princelings of the Gulf states to facilitate their predilection for hunting the Houbara Bustard. At some point, it became leased to the Americans to fly drone operations from. Matters were muddied by the sharp deterioration in Pakistan's relations with the US. Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said that the government had told the Americans to leave the base forthwith and remove their troops. This is not the first time public officials have claimed they had asked the Americans to go, having told them to leave at a point before the May 2 raid which saw the death of Osama bin Laden. After the raid, they apparently, again, told the Americans to go.

It is now two months since May 2 and one has to wonder just how long it takes to remove American personnel from Shamsi and for all American operations there to be wound up. Three months? Six? A year? Never? Some clarity may be derived from a statement given by three unnamed American officials to a foreign news agency on Monday. They said America had no plans to vacate the base and the CIA would continue to fly drones from it. The base is staffed by Americans and Pakistanis which suggests that Pakistan is in close collaboration with US intelligence services and that the Pakistani government is well aware of both the presence and the function of Americans at Shamsi. In the event of use of Shamsi being denied, the Americans say that they have "adequate infrastructure outside Pakistan" to continue drone operations, armed and unarmed, against targets in Pakistan. If the statement to the news agency by the three US officials is correct, then it flies in the face of statements from several prominent members of the government. The defence minister said that Pakistan had "stopped" the US drone operations from the base — but Washington says that it has received no request that the base be vacated. The pot of confusion was stirred further by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Awan who said that the story about the Americans being asked to leave was concocted by the media. It is impossible to reconcile conflicting statements by government officials who are not reading from the same song-sheet. The government looks maladroit, its officers inept. Shamsi Airbase is still there, so are the Americans apparently with the blessing of this government and they seem unlikely to leave any time soon.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KARACHI TURF WARS

 

In a spate of targeted violence chiefly centred in the 'disputed' territory of Qasba Colony, at least nine people have been killed, including at least two activists of the ANP, this Tuesday. As the violence has escalated, a total of 25 people have been reported killed so far across the city. On the same day, the Sindh chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released statistics showing that a total of 1138 people were killed in the city during the first half of 2011, 490 of them falling prey to targeted killings. An important aspect of the total number of killings is the number of killings that occur on a political basis: 77 target killing victims belonged to the MQM, 26 to the PPP, and 29 to the ANP. Political violence of the kind certainly has a political explanation, and it is increasingly clear that the turf war between the MQM and the ANP has reached new heights. This is evidenced by the centre of gravity of Tuesday's violence: neighbourhoods such as Qasba and Orangi, which have sizable pockets of Pakhtuns, where the ANP desires electoral gains but where it is being ferociously opposed by "others" who make similar claims on the area.

As the battles intensify, this much is clear: whatever their complaints, enmities and fears, political parties that have influence in the restive areas must be openly told to control the violence and act to reduce rather than aggravate tensions. Already, MQM leader Altaf Hussain has used Tuesday's violence to warn the government that the MQM will give a strike call, effective till the government falls. He has also asked ANP President Asfandyar Wali to warn "his people to stop armed attacks" on houses in Qasba Colony, Orangi Town, and around Kati Pahari. Threats will achieve nothing. Karachi has sizable populations of both Pakhtuns and Mohajirs and tensions have heightened during the tenure of the current coalition government in Sindh, especially after the dissolution of the local governments. It is time for the ANP and the MQM to sit together to sort out their problems and come up with an enduring strategy to avoid tit-for-tat violence. And while the two parties need to rise above partisan considerations, the PPP needs to play its role in mediating between them and urging them to give precedence to national interests over insular political ones. The people of Karachi have had enough. Stakeholders in Karachi's politics need to be honest about their intentions.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

IMAGE OF THE UNIFORM

IKRAM SEHGAL

 

Some critics of the uniform within Pakistan rightly believe that nationhood stems from constitutional rule. The real venom emanates from a despicable few, mostly in line with vested external forces hostile to the country. Unfortunately, the intense negative propaganda is joined by many who act in good faith but do not seem to understand the crass ulterior motives of our foreign detractors making multi-dimensional attacks on the armed forces (and the ISI). This has one objective, and one objective alone, to denude us of our nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Our nuclear reality is the one strong deterrent that augments the armed forces in guarding our freedom. The ISI is our first line of defence against external enemies.

The aspirations of the present military hierarchy to stay out of the political process notwithstanding, soldiers are also citizens of the country. Their conscience must be treading the safe line between tolerance and frustration. Does the present mode and method of governance qualify in being honest and aboveboard as required by the Constitution? While their fundamental duty is to act according to their oaths, they also have to guard against any evil "even to the peril of their lives." Populism based on personal motivation must be distrusted as it makes democracy vulnerable. What compounds bad governance if that the Supreme Court is being treated with utter contempt by the government.

The armed forces took a massive pounding because of the May 2 Abbottabad incident, but recent polls conducted by foreign agencies must be painful for the army's detractors. The people of Pakistan (79 percent) still retain immense faith in them. When two P3C Orion surveillance aircrafts were destroyed at the Mehran Naval Aviation Base in Karachi on May 22, the Navy's confirming "insider" help for the militants did not help. Former COAS of the army, Gen Aslam Beg says "the Americans did not blame their armed forces for the 9/11 episode or the intelligence agencies for their failure to protect the country from the catastrophe. Similarly, after the attack in Mumbai in 2009, the Indians did not blame their armed forces or the intelligence agencies. Rather, they pointed their finger directly at Pakistan, while the Americans put the entire blame on Osama and Al-Qaeda."

Although there is some truth in the Western drumbeat about individual Taliban sympathisers within the Pakistani armed forces or intelligence agencies, can the US certify that its armed forces are free of individuals with extreme rightwing views? Or can India certify that RSS sympathisers or Naxalites are not wearing Indian army uniform? To suggest Pakistan is providing institutional support is ludicrous. There is method to the madness behind the propaganda machinery framing this psychological warfare, relentless pressure being exerted through constant leaks to the media. The immediate objective being to discredit the uniform, the ultimate aim is to separate Pakistan from its nukes.

The civil and military media units have failed miserably in protecting the army's image, both at home and abroad. With a 19th-century mindset, the 20th-century ISPR shows no comprehension of 21st-century media outreach potential. A well-coordinated media strategy that must project institutions, and not individuals, must be crafted by professionals to incorporate the new realities. Simultaneously, the military must be made more transparent and proactive.

On taking over as COAS Kayani stopped the army-officered intelligence services from interfering in the February 2007 elections, and simultaneously all army officers defacing governance in bureaucracy were recalled. However, while distancing the army from politics and governance, he shows no inclination of distancing the uniform from the negative perception of corruption. Connected individuals are making billions by plot manipulations in real-estate transactions or procurement contracts. The NAB has prosecuted many bureaucrats for "living beyond their means." Why are those in uniform (and retired) breaking the same covenant and not being held accountable? Allotting residential plots to officers must be discarded. Instead, one apartment or house must be given to every individual commensurate to his rank upon retirement.

Corruption in military purchases is not Pakistan-specific. It is rampant all over the world. The law requires that agents (or lobbyists) be registered by their principals, their commission being included and declared in the prices quoted. Any money received beyond that, and if received abroad, constitutes illegality. In the "Tehelka" scam video recordings of Indian military officials taking bribes were shown. Unfortunately not a single agent has been successfully prosecuted in Pakistan, despite the availability of a wealth of evidence (and flagrantly displayed affluence). Influential agents openly boast about crafting GHQ's General Staff Requirements (GSRs) and keeping the siphoning off of millions of US dollars in commissions hidden. Was everyone in the F-16s and the French submarines deals brought to justice?

Image-building must be the realm of specialists, not those who have never heard a shot being fired in anger despite displaying rows of medals. A young and dynamic self-made advertising entrepreneur with amazing domestic and international experience, spelt out the most effective means of neutralising negativity against the uniform: (1) counter misunderstandings through change; (2) create positive news towards the agenda of Pakistan. In countering misunderstandings one has to: (1) do damage control on a day to day basis (2) announce a process of change and candidly explain situations, challenges and plans for progress within military (3) facelift all existing touchpoints including TV ads, songs, online touchpoints and others around this process of change (4) remind the public of past and present achievements and (5) emphasise young military faces for greater connection with the audience. In creating positive news, the "dream merchant's" gameplan envisages: (1) a vision for betterment of Pakistan through human development; (2) realisation of vision through tangible initiatives with outreach audience. This can be done by: (1) leadership (2) innovation; and (3) uplift. Among the initiatives: (1) creating ambassadors on the ground and (2) opportunity for them to engage the youth of Pakistan through their opinions and voluntary support; and (3) creating a perception change on the armed forces.

Democracy being the cementing factor for Pakistan's unity is good in theory. for all practical purposes it is the armed forces that hold the country together. Nevertheless, their being the prime guarantors of our sovereignty does not mean that they should consider themselves masters of the realm and not subject to accountability. A small minority in uniform believed it did, and a tiny percentage benefited enormously by this. For the actions of a few misguided individuals, the institution has nothing to be ashamed of.

The penchant to rule has made the army vulnerable to the propaganda of external forces. One of the finest fighting machines in the world, the Pakistani army is capable of warding off adventure from any quarter. No only is the army crucial to Pakistan's existence, the very nature of this country's demography and geography makes the army the champion of the state, in all senses of the word.

The army must get its image in sync with the tremendous sacrifice of its young men in the bloody killing fields of Swat and Waziristan.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@ pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

EXPLOITATIVE TRADE AS AID

YUSUF H SHIRAZI

 

Pakistan came into being without a resource base. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah thus approached the USA to extend a helping hand. The USA responded positively, but that conditional upon its extending cooperation to the US in the regional. Pakistan has been a US camp follower since then. However, Pakistan inherited a strong framework of Central Superior Services - recruited, educated and trained on the British pattern of the Indian Civil Services. This included stalwarts like Ghulam Mohammad and Chsudhry Mohammad Ali from the Audit and Accounts Services. Among them was also Ghulam Faruque, an all Indian railway service officer. While Ghulam Mohammad and Chaudhry Mohammad Ali laid out a broad economic base, Ghulam Faruque set up an industrial base called the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC).

Entrepreneurs poured into Pakistan from all over the world with capital and talent. The policymakers set up the necessary framework of serving units such as the Planning Commission, the Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan and the Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation (PICIC). While Pakistan's private sector relied upon aid, loans and credits from International Finance and Investment Services (IFIs) under the influence of the US, the PIDC set up several industries throughout the country – from oil to refineries, textile mills, sugar mills, and what not. These units were then offered to the entrepreneurs on easy terms to buy. On the other hand, the aid, loans and credits flowing in to support the private sector was not utilised to develop the much needed socio-physical infrastructure. The aid, loans and credit have actually been a misnomer and a curse on the recipients. The recipients have to buy against such inflows machines, parts and raw materials at exorbitant rates while a substantial part of the aid, loans and credits is consumed by the consultants who administer them. Thus, the actual receipts are less than the sum offered. The payment of these aid, loans and credits is, however, payable entirely in foreign exchange by the recipients from their own earnings. Aid, loans and credits are thus a trade mechanism to boost the donors' trade revenue, which continues to this day. The Kerry-Lugar Bill, the Coalition Support Fund and such other programmes are euphemisms for aid, loans and credit.

The remedy lies in taxing the untaxed, undocumented economy constituting 57 percent according to World Bank and the report, and now estimated to be 79 percent by the present chairman of the FBR himself of our economy. Such reforms will be more than the current revenue and will give Pakistan access to our own economy, including creation of much-needed socio-physical infrastructure, inter alia, through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Such an economic doctrine will make Pakistan self-sufficient and allow us to become masters of our destiny enabling us, for once and for all, to avoid and reject aid, loans and credits.

Some of the economic development took place between 1947 and 1958. the industrial development accomplished between 1958 and 1968 was so good that the export of Pakistani-manufactured goods during that period was higher than goods from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The GDP growth on average was 6.8 percent. The economy was so vibrant that when India devalued its currency, Pakistan did not.

It was during the Ayub reign that the seeds were sown of the separation of East Pakistan and nationalisation. Dr Maboobul Haq, chief economist to the government at that time, came out with a study suggesting that there was a gross concentration of wealth in the hands of the so-called "22 families." Interestingly, their wealth, cumulatively, was less than that of an Indian conglomerate then. However, in the name of social equality and balanced distribution of wealth, 31 key industrial units, 13 banks, over a dozen insurance companies and even cotton-ginning factories and rice husking mills were nationalised, as were two petroleum companies. The average GDP growth came down to 4.8 percent from 6.8 percent. Nationalisation of industries hurt industrial growth and the framework of the respected services were destroyed during the Ayub and Bhutto regimes. Many officers were removed for little reason, weakening the steel framework of the civil services inherited from the British. As a result, government service, once seen as a cerebral and prestigious institution, became second choice for the best and brightest young minds.

Thus the public sector imposed itself on the private sector and set up industrial units and running as public sector, per se. The socio-physical infrastructure remained unattended both through the advent of aid, loans and credits and also since the public sector itself was more focused more on putting up industries than setting up units to produce water, gas, oil and electricity, let alone roads, buildings and communication. Later, during the reign of Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf denationalisation gathered steam, but even during this period, setting up socio-physical infrastructure did not attract much attention. It is in this background that economics of public-private partnership has come out. Indeed it is desirable.

The idea of Public-Private Partnerships was pioneered by the United Kingdom through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). PFI projects now represent 10 to 13 percent of all UK investment in public infrastructure. PFI in the UK has mostly consisted of Design, Build, Operate, Finance (DBOF) contracts, which typically lasted 20-30 years. The PPPs have been bringing forward the delivery of major projects. The model was designed to achieve value for money, reducing procurement costs, and delivering more projects on time and within budget than traditional methods. Present market conditions do not close the door on PPPs but do provide an opportunity for both government and industry to develop a more refined model that is appropriate for the new environment.

The World Bank estimates that about 70 percent of infrastructure investment comes from the public sector, 8 percent from official development assistance and 22 percent from the private sector.

The PPP is thus the more preferred option, globally, as well as from Pakistan's perspective. Presently the investment commitments to private infrastructure projects in low- and middle-income countries has grown much higher, to 30 percent.

While the bureaucratic management model has its strengths, what it can take from corporate culture is the business acumen: business management – a refined science in its own right – in an age of specialisation of finance, management, supply chain, human resource and marketing. There is now an increased understanding at the highest governmental level that the private sector is able to introduce efficiency, skill, innovation, technology, finance and most importantly the project risks. The private sector, on the other hand, can rely on enlightened entrepreneurialism through the participation of enlightened bureaucracy. It is the specialist bureaucracy and generalist policymaking – by politicians also – among others, which can deliver the goods in changing circumstances, more so in the setting up of socio-physical infrastructure and managing private- and public- sector units jointly as it is the need now and nothing else.

The writer is the founder/chairmanof the Atlas group of companies.

Email: yhs@atlas.com.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

END OF THE TETHER FOR QADDAFI

NAZAR ABBAS

 

The social and political unrest, euphemistically called the 'Arab Spring' seems to have lost its steam. The protests sparked by the self immolation of Mohammed Bou Azizi in Tunis spread swiftly in a number of Arab countries. But the hopes that this will lead to political freedom and participatory democracy in the Arab world are fading fast. Presidents of Tunis and Egypt have been ousted but even in these two countries the advent of true democracy is not assured. Low intensity unrest continues in some other countries. But the visitation of the 'Arab Spring' in Libya soon turned into the worst nightmare for its citizens. Caught in a vice between the ruthless Qaddafi regime ready to pulverise its opponents, and daily air strikes by Nato forces, the hapless Libyans find no escape from death and destruction.

There is a wide spread view that France, Britain and other Nato members, with the full backing of the US have far exceeded the UN mandate and that their real aim is to control Libyan oil. That may be true but the greatest threat to the life, limb and liberty of the populace emanates from their ruler 'Qaddafi'. It is essential to know his mindset to understand why Qaddafi is at war with his own countrymen. Let's peep into his mind by recalling what he has been saying and doing for these forty-two years.

Qaddafi did what he liked to his country; called it what he liked; used its wealth and power the way he liked. He has been in such complete control of his country that he has used it as a plaything. From taking a she-camel with him on a foreign tour for fresh milk, to having young girls as his security guards, to crowning himself as the emperor of Africa, his antics matched those of Idi Amin of Uganda.

There is no written constitution of the country. It is taken for granted that Col Qaddafi's word is law. The 760 member General Peoples Congress, equivalent of a parliament, is elected by the local peoples' committees but the candidates are nominated by the secret agencies. No political parties are allowed. Qaddafi said that "execution is the fate of anyone who forms a political party". The regime often executed dissidents publicly.

Qaddafi passed orders on whims. He sent Air Chief Col Farjani to prison for a few weeks to punish him for an aircraft step ladder found missing at Uqba Bin Nafa base. He then allowed him back to his post. Similarly he sent the Naval Chief Major Abdul Lateef Shakshuki to prison because he had not sought prior permission to marry a foreigner, even though the rule was passed several years after his marriage. Shakshuki too went back to his post after serving a prison term.

Qaddafi would appoint some one as his prime minister and after sometime would relegate him to the position of a secretary, a junior minster or any other insignificant position and the appointee would dare not refuse or object. No one was allowed to question "The Leader's" decisions. A popular joke goes of a Libyan who travelled all the way to Britain for the extraction of an aching tooth. The British doctor asked the patient if there were no dentists in his country. The Libyan replied, "There are many, but we are not allowed to open our mouths."

Qaddafi has a bloated image of his own stature. The absolute power that he has exercised for over four decades has truly gone to his head. In his own estimation Qaddafi is a genius, a world statesman and a thinker par excellence. He propounded the 'Third International Theory' considered by him as a superior alternative to capitalism and communism. After offering ultimate solutions to mankind's political, social and economic problems, Qaddafi directed his attention to the religious field. On July 3, 1978 he summoned the religious leaders and told them not to rely on Hadith (the Holy Prophet's tradition) because it was not reliable. He also remarked that it was wrong to compare the Green Book with the Holy Quran, an oblique reference to his 'sublimity'.

The general populace, unable to break the shackles of a tightly controlled police state were resigned to their fate. Qaddafi had enough oil wealth to provide for his own expensive indulgences and for comfortable living of the ordinary citizens. The common Libyan lead a life of ease and leisure. As a rule the Libyan officials, assured of their regular income would be inefficient and lethargic. All the hard work was done by foreigners.

Another joke circulating among the expatriate community was that Libya was programmed to work on IBM system. Here IBM stood for inshallah (God willing), bukra (tomorrow) and malish (never mind). The state officials would routinely resort to this system for postponing or ignoring their duties.

The initial success of the protestors in neighbouring Tunisia gave heart to the Libyans and they gathered in Tripoli's Green Square to protest against the repressive rule of Qaddafi. The protestors were reportedly mercilessly mowed down. Qaddafi is loathed to entertain any idea of letting any other mortal take his place or even share authority with him. The International Criminal Court has now charged him with brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters. In response the Libyan ruler has threatened to carry out attacks in Europe against "homes, offices, families".

Thousands of people have died in violent clashes between the opponents and supporters of Qaddafi. Some 750,000 have been forced to flee. The UN secretary general has said that the humanitarian situation is getting worse.

It would be naïve to expect or demand that the US and its Nato allies use their money and military hardware to bring peace and democracy in Libya and then go home. Why would they not try to secure their own national interests? The vocabulary now being used by the opponents of Qaddafi, at home and abroad, is a clear sign that he will have to go, by violent means if necessary. But the west does not seem to be in a hurry. Perhaps they will let Qaddafi cause more destruction to the country's infrastructure so that after his departure American and European companies can get lucrative contracts for reconstruction.

In the meantime they would identify, cultivate and prepare the provisional government comprising moderates of some standing, to take over. It would not be surprising if some old associates of Qaddafi, who has now defected to the opposition, among them the former RCC member and Army Chief Maj. General Abu Bakr Younis Jaber and Oil Minister and former Prime Minister Dr Shukri Ghanem, would be part of the new dispensation.

What a tragedy it would be if the obduracy of Qaddafi, the helplessness of the Arab League and insensitivity of the OIC will deliver another oil rich Muslim country to the adversarial west. Looking at the one and a half billion strong ummah's representative, the OIC, some voice from high above must still be repeating what Allama Iqbal said in 'Jawab-e-Shikwa', "hath peh hath dharay muntaziray farda ho' (you are doing nothing except waiting passively for a (better) tomorrow).

The writer is a former ambassador

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

IN THE GRIP OF TERROR

S MUSHFIQ MURSHED

 

In his recent address, President Obama stated: "Our efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region."

After suffering for nearly a decade of violent terrorist attacks which have taken the lives of thousands of Pakistanis, one would assume that the government would have already developed and implemented a counter-radicalisation strategy and not have to be told by another country how to put its house in order. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Both the civilian government and the armed forces are to be blamed for this callous neglect.

In the meanwhile, Pakistani society is being radicalised at an alarming pace. This, however, has less to do with some obscurantist religious doctrines espoused by a handful of extremists lurking in the lunatic fringe of society and more so with the blatant socio-economic inequality prevalent in the country and the accompanying despair.

A staggering 8.5 million Pakistanis are being pushed into the poverty bracket every year. Additionally, 72 million Pakistanis are living below the poverty line and earn as little as Rs100 per day. Food inflation has soared by 57 percent over the past three years. More than 100 Pakistanis commit suicide every year due to economic reasons while others have resorted to selling their children and infanticide.

Furthermore, 80 to 90 million Pakistanis are under the age of 20 and by 2030 the number of people seeking jobs will soar to 175 million. To absorb this number into the labour force, the country requires a GDP growth rate of approximately nine percent. The present growth rate hovers around the two percent mark.

No counter-radicalisation strategy can work when a significant portion of the population lives below the poverty line. The statistics mentioned above are far more threatening than any amount of negative indoctrination by clerics and weigh more in a jihadi mindset than the desire to establish an Islamic emirate. Projects on a national level pertaining to low-income housing, health care, educational and vocational training and employment opportunities need to be implemented by the government. Only then can the radicalisation trend in the country be reversed.

In addition to the socio-economic aspect, a sound national security strategy is an equally essential component of any nation's counter-extremism efforts. The military establishment, however, does not seem to be up to the task. Recent events, i.e. the OBL debacle followed by the PNS Mehran base attack, suggest that the military ranks have been infiltrated and the dual game that they have been accused of playing has backfired. This precarious state needs to be resolved and merely setting up commissions is no remedy.

While the elected representatives of this country maintain an ostrich like approach to these concerns, citizens such as the late Saleem Shahzad attempt to find answers that may provide some sense to an otherwise dismal state of security in the nation. His efforts ruffled the feathers of some individuals perched in high places accustomed to acting as judge, jury, and executioner through some sort of perverse ideology that they have adopted. These persons have also, most probably, formulated conclusions that meet their agendas for the commissions that have been set up by the state to address these issues. Yet again, the truth will be sacrificed to the dictates of expediency.

Can we rely on our elected leaders to jump start a process that will tackle both the economic disparity prevalent in the country and the military intrusion into the affairs of the state in order to develop a viable counter-radicalisation strategy? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Time and again, our political leaders have shown that their skills are primarily limited to delivering emotional speeches that excite the masses; much like gorillas pounding their chests. Empty rhetoric achieves nothing and cannot replace reasoned policy formulation. Because of this excessive resorting to meaningless emotional outbursts, an opportunity was missed to rein in the military establishment in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution during the May 13 joint sitting of parliament.

Despair is rampant. Poverty and terrorism are at an all-time high and claim lives with equal brutality. Yet, the government does not keep its promises and the opposition is mild. As a consequence, the establishment is swift and ruthless in crushing any quest for legitimate answers to a simple question: Why is Pakistan in such a mess?

The writer is editor-in-chief of Criterion Quarterly. Email: mushfiq.murshed@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PICTURES FROM A CERTAIN HELL

KAMILA HYAT

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

The mainstream media for one has refused to document the state of affairs in Balochistan, putting across to viewers, readers, and listeners, only the most incomplete picture of what is happening.

For the most part, in that complex agenda that determines what makes news, only mass killings in Balochistan and occasional reports about the discovery of dead bodies make the headlines. The backdrop against which all this is happening remains missing, leaving many unable to put together the individual jigsaw pieces placed before them to create a complete picture.

The gravity of the situation too goes unrealised. Some of the realities that exist have been carefully mapped out in a new report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which after a detailed fact-finding mission to the province in May this year states that 140 dead bodies have been found in less than one year – from July 2010 to May 2011 – while another 71 remain missing.

Many of the bodies that have turned up, on pavements, at street corners or in empty stretches of land, bear marks of torture. The victims include nationalists, human rights activists, and others who speak out against state oppression in various forms.

The HRCP believes security agencies, notably the Frontier Corps, is involved in the 'picking up' of people from their homes or while on the road, and presumably responsible for their subsequent fate.

Since the fact-finding mission visited the province, there have been other tragedies. Professor Saba Dashtiyari, a Lyari-born teacher of Islamic Studies at the Balochistan University, was shot dead in early June. A much loved poet and scholar, he had a huge following among students and had used his own funds to set up a library in his hometown promoting the Balochi language and culture.

Dashtiyari also spoke openly for Baloch rights – and it is feared the bullets pumped into his head and chest may have been fired by the guns of agency men.

Some two weeks later, Abrar Hussain, a former boxer who had represented his country at the Olympics three times and won a gold medal for Pakistan at the Asian Games was killed.

The only reason for his murder, the responsibility for which was claimed by the rabidly sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, appears to have been that he was a member of the Shia Hazara community.

The pictures emerging from Balochistan are chillingly familiar. The patterns resemble those seen in Chile, from 1973 to 1990 under the regime of the late dictator General Augusto Pinochet which undertook an active effort to wipe out all kinds of dissent resulting in thousands of 'disappearances' and all kinds of other atrocities leaving behind a shattered society.

But in Chile as in other places that have seen brutal rule of a similar kind many have chosen to speak out against it, sometimes putting their own lives at risk. We see this happening in Balochistan itself. Yet, elsewhere in the country, even so-called 'liberals' are determined to look away or even make an effort to ensure that the voices of the Baloch are not heard.

The latest case of this involves the extraordinary suspension of the Twitter account of Laibah Ahmed Marri who had been emerging as a strong spokesperson for the rights of the Baloch, the Hazara, the Ahmadis, the Shias, and other marginalised groups. She had quickly built up a significant following on Twitter, until a group of political activists, journalists and others worked to block her account and prevent her outspoken views from being heard.

Differences in opinion are apparently not tolerable in the state of Pakistan today. Other Baloch nationalists are now engaged in a struggle to defend Laibah against allegations that she is a RAW agent or is attempting to attack the ideology of the nation, and to restore her right to voice her own views.

The matter has generated a furious email and SMS controversy, involving many whom one would expect to defend the right to free speech arguing instead in favour of the silencing of Laibah.

The same arguments have been heard from the central government. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a man openly despised by many who back the Baloch cause, has on more than one occasion accused RAW of creating unrest in the province.

He and his fellow ministers ignore the fact that even if there is some outside involvement in Balochistan it builds upon the deep feelings of resentment and anger already running through the province and seem to be expanding rapidly as a result of inaction and the virtual absence of any kind of governance in the province.

Just as dangerous as this lack of governance, is the isolation of Balochistan. No one seems especially bothered by the anarchy prevailing there, or the rapid worsening of violence of all kinds, directed against non-Baloch ethnic groups, religious minorities, nationalists who seek autonomy, and other groups.

The marginalisation of the province, the labelling of people who speak out for the Baloch as 'traitors', and the failure to understand the full gravity of matters can only aggravate affairs. Most mainstream political parties have failed to put forward a clear-cut policy on Balochistan, while only a tiny percentage of the package of rights put forward by the PPP for Balochistan in 2009 has been enforced.

It is important to understand that those seeking greater autonomy for Balochistan are not enemies of Pakistan, but groups that need to be engaged in a detailed discourse about decision-making for their own future.

For this to happen, it is vital that the dangerous role of security forces be curtailed, and the problems in the province be looked at as ones that need political solutions. While law and order is non-existent in Balochistan, its absence is symptomatic of a wider problem.

What we need to do is to hear the voices of the Baloch – even if we disagree with what they have to say – rather than attempting to muffle them and thereby adding to the frustrations that fuel dissent in the province.

Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DEVELOPING A PROCESS

DEVOLUTION AT LAST

DR QAISAR RASHID

 

Federalism is a concept in which authority is divided between the centre and the constituent units. The existence of a federation is recognition of the fact that the state concerned is constituted of diverse units. A federation is a political attempt to bring the units together in the formation of the state.

The first phase of the federal history of Pakistan, from 1947 to 1970, was encumbered with efforts to introduce a unitary form of system of government. Both the bureaucracy and military played their roles to deny representative democracy to the people of East and West Pakistan.

These attempts were contrary to the pre-Partition pledges and expectations that the political structure of Pakistan would be federal.

The second phase of the federal history of Pakistan, from 1971 to 2007, was full of a sort of conflict between civilian politicians and the military over who would hold the reins of power. In this phase, the bureaucracy played second fiddle to whoever ruled in Islamabad.

The main contenders for power remained civilians and the military. Civilians asserted their supremacy by enacting the Constitution in 1973 and thereby denied any role to the military in national affairs. The martial law of Gen Ziaul Haq in July 1977 was an aggressive reaction to that attempt by the civilians. As well as the civilians, Pakistan paid the price for that attempt.

From civilian ranks, primarily the religious parties propped up the military to let it perpetuate its rule. The consequent mullah-military alliance deferred the obligation of the abolition of the Concurrent Legislative List (CLL) of the Constitution in the 1980s.

Instead, a solution was sought through projection of Islam as a unifying force (and the theory of pan-Islamism as an alternative global order). In short, the slogan of Islam was considered a surrogate for a constitutional obligation.

Moreover, it was assumed that Islam would overwhelm the heterogeneity of society rooted in various identities ranging from language, ethnicity to clan and caste.

Gen Zia had to rely on the 8th Constitutional Amendment to reconfigure the Constitution by incorporating Islamic provisions in it, besides including Article 58 (2) (b) to empower the president vis-a-vis the prime minister.

In the era after Ziaul Haq's death in 1988, the politicians did not pay attention to the need for provincial autonomy. They squandered their energies on chipping away at the powers of incumbent governments.

The political system suffered another setback in the takeover by Gen Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.

In May 2006, the heads of the PPP and the PML-N signed the Charter of Democracy (CoD) in London. Clause 5 of the charter was on the abolition of the CLL. It was a long-standing provincial demand, in the formula of a weak centre and empowered provinces.

The third phase of the federal history of Pakistan, starting in 2008, is marked by devolution, the obverse side of which is provincial autonomy. While the 7th NFC Award signed by the chief ministers of four provinces in December 2009 empowered provinces financially, the enactment of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in April 2010 empowered the provinces politically.

The CLL was finally abolished through the amendment. Subsequently, the process of devolution was completed on June 30, 2011, and all 17 federal ministries identified earlier for devolution were made provincial subjects.

On July 1, the federation of Pakistan entered the post-devolution phase. Devolution has enhanced the stakes of the provinces in the political system. It is hoped that the provinces will be able to improve the quality of governance and will it difficult for the military intervene on the pretext of "saving the country."

Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INEVITABLE ROLE OF TALIBAN

 

AT long last, it appears, the West has started understanding ground realities in Afghanistan and the factors that could genuinely influence the peace process there in a positive manner. The latest indication in this regard has come from British Prime Minister David Cameron who said at a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Taliban could have a future in the mainstream politics of Afghanistan.

This is the right approach and could lead to restoration of peace and security in the war torn country if pursued in letter and spirit. Unfortunately, through excessive and sustained propaganda campaign an impression has been created that almost all Taliban are militants, extremists or terrorists, which is absolutely not the case. Taliban are Pushtuns who make up 62% of the Afghan population and it is unimaginable to think that peace would return to Afghanistan without responding to the aspirations of the majority or by sidelining them and promoting ethnic minorities called Northern Alliance. A report prepared by Carnegie Endowment in October 2009 gave an eye opening account of what Taliban are and what they stand for but unfortunately the West is still having a jaundiced view of the realities. It pointed out that fighters do not join Taliban for money as is being propagated, rather they join them because the Afghan government is unjust, corrupt, or simply not there and also because the Americans have bombed their houses or shown disrespect for their values. The report says " the way they fight shows that they're serious about driving foreign troops out of Afghanistan. The Pushtuns made their point with the Soviets, and they are making it again with us. They do not surrender. They fight very, very courageously." It is absolutely clear that no peace in Afghanistan was possible without mainstreaming of Taliban and holding of serious and substantive talks with them to address their concerns. History tells us that artificial arrangements worked out in cozy drawing rooms do not produce positive and lasting results and therefore, ground realities must be taken into consideration. It is good that there are reports about both direct and indirect contacts and dialogue with Taliban but these would yield the desired results only if Taliban or Pushtuns are given their due and legitimate role in Afghan affairs.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

KARACHI SITTING ON KEG OF GUNPOWDER

 

THE killing spree goes on in Karachi unabated as gangs of criminals, arms smugglers, different types of mafias, political and sectarian-armed groups have established their writ in all localities and made the city hostage to their whims. The past twenty-four hours witnessed over two dozen deaths in incidents of firing and tortured killing after kidnapping.

Though political and sectarian rivalries could be a reason for the murder of opponents yet it appears that all localities have become dens of anti social elements. Karachiites are now openly saying that police and rangers are clue less and have failed in ensuring peace and security to the people. Mere statements to deal sternly with the criminals and daily reports of arrest of militants and miscreants have made no impact and the situation is worsening day by day. It has gone to such an extent that armed gangs openly exchange firing for hours and law enforcement agencies deliberately reach at the scene when the situation calms down. On Tuesday armed gangs fought for hours at Hassan Square and Rainbow Center area of Saddar which triggered panic and angry mob pelted stones at busses and vehicles. The question arises why the situation continues to aggravate and the police and rangers are unable to bring it under control? One reason is poorly equipped law enforcement agencies. The government has long ignored requests by the paramilitary force and police for equipment including provision of helicopters, vehicles, bulletproof vests and arms as well as required funding to combat target killings and several mafias operating in the city. In addition, law-enforcers have also complained about political expediencies playing havoc with efforts to control the city's law and order situation. We believe that if the present situation continues, Karachi which is sitting on keg of gunpowder may explode one day and then it would go out of control. That would be suicidal for the country because Karachi is lifeline of Pakistan's economy and industrial hub. Therefore we would suggest that the Government should set aside the political considerations, call a round table conference of all the political parties inside and outside Parliament and devise a consensus strategy which may include a massive clean up operation by giving sweeping powers to the police and rangers to rid the city of gangs and mafias who have made life of the people miserable.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

POLITICAL CONTOURS OF MOONIS ELAHI CASE

 

WITH the passage of time, political dimensions of Ch Moonis Elahi are coming to surface and the statement made by PML (Q) stalwart Ch Shujaat Hussain on Tuesday has highlighted this aspect. The PML (Q) leader has accused the PML-N of falsely implicating his nephew in the alleged land purchase scam of the state-run NICL. He also alleged that his family was being politically victimized as was done in the past.

It is regrettable that the case is being politicized despite the fact that the court is seized with the issue and truth will ultimately come to surface. The credit goes to Moonis Elahi for deciding to face the charges and appearing before the court of law and it is now up to the court to arrive at a conclusion based on merits of the case. There are reasons to believe that some government functionaries in Punjab are giving twists to the case just to gain favours for them. Chaudharys of Gujarat have genuine concerns as Moonis Elahi is emerging as a leader of Punjab and attempts to malign him could affect his political career. It is unfortunate that the culture of victimization and political vendetta is not dying down despite the fact that almost all parties suffered due to this short-sighted approach in politics. BB and Zardari suffered at the hands of Ehtesab Bureau of Saifur Rehman and Mian Nawaz Sharif was meted out similar treatment by General Musharraf. The slogan of accountability was misused right from days of General Ayub to gag the voice of opposition and prolong the rule. There should be no place for politics of trivialism in the 21st century when other countries of the world are concentrating on economy, IT and science and technology.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

AFGHAN WAR WILL SHIFT TO INDIA?

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

 

In the post-Osama scenario, taking cognizance of the recent major terror-events such as militants' assault on Pakistan's naval base, cross-border attack of 500 heavily armed militants who entered Pakistan's Upper Dir from Afghanistan on May 22, and again targetted the Bajaur Agency on June 16 including similar infiltration on July 4 in wake of intensity of subversive acts and drone strikes in the country, our political experts agree that before leaving Afghanistan, US will shift Afghan war to Pakistan.

Notably, on June 22, Obama confirmed that troops withdrawal from Afghanistan will commence from this July and will be completed in 2014. While referring to Islamabad, Obama elaborated, "we will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism…no country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists." While ignoring the sovereignty of Pakistan and resolution of the parliament in this respect, Obama repeatedly made it clear, "he was ready to order more assaults against any safe havens" of terrorists in Pakistan. In fact, under the pretext of Talibanisation of Pakistan and unrest in the country, which has collevtively been created by the American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad, as shown by a perennial wave of suicide attacks, bomblasts, targetted killings, assaults on the checkposts of the security forces including support to Baloh separtists, US with the help of its arch anti-Pakistan allies like India and Israel has been destabilising Pakistan, while preparing ground to 'denculearise' the latter by propagating in the world that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not safe.

While observing the ongoing anti-Pakistan developments, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad disclosed on June 7 that there was "accurate information…Americans are to sabotage Pakistan's nuclear facilities to find dominance over the country." While also indicating Zionist regime behind the conspiracy, he elaborated that for this purpose, the US can also use "the United Nations Security Council as tool to exercise pressure on Pakistan and weaken its national integrity." In this connection, without bothering for the public backlash in our country, US high officials continue their pressure on Islamabad by emphasising to "do more" against the militants and also take military action against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Taking note of the present critical situation, on June 9, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Kayani remarked regarding military operation in North Waziristan, "a well thought out campaign is under no pressure to carry out operations at a particular time…future operations, as and when undertaken, will be with political consensus." By stressing upon national unity, Kayani especially explained, "any effort to create divisions between important institutions of the country is not in national interest…the people of Pakistan whose support the army has always considered vital for its operations against terrorists."

Now, strained relations between Washington and Islamabad could be observed from the fact that in the recent past, Pakistan's civil and military leadership has flatly refused to act upon American undue demands. Knowing the double game of America and its intentions of transferring Afghan war to Pakistan, Islamabad sent home 120 US military trainers. The fact of the matter is that if Afghan war shifts to Pakistan, it will also envelops India with whom the US signed an agreement of civil nuclear technology in 2008 and wants to counterbalance China by making India super power of Asia. Besides, US and some western countries also have tilt towards New Delhi because they consider it their larger commercial market at the cost of Pakistan which is taken as an obstacle in the way of their nefarious strategic designs. It is notable that the former Soviet Union which had subjugated the minorities and ethnic groups in various provinces and regions through its military, disintegrated in 1991. Even its atomic weapons could not stop its collapse. Another major cause of its disintegration was that its greater defence expenditure exceeded to the maximum, resulting in economic crises inside the country. In this regard, about a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the former President Gorbachev had declared it as the "bleeding wound." However, militarisation of the Soviet Union failed in controlling the movements of liberation, launched by various ethnic nationalities. On the other hand, learning no lesson from its previous close friend, India has been acting upon the similar policies in one way or the other.

It is worth-mentioning that under the mask of democracy and secularism, Indian subsequent regimes dominated by politicians from the Hindi heartland—Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) use brutal force ruthlessly against any move to free Assam, Khalistan, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Tripura where wars of liberation continue in one or the other form. In the recent past, Maoists intensified their struggle, attacking official installments. In this context, Indian media admitted that Maoists have now entered the cities and states like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, expanding their activities against the Indian union.

In case of the Indian-held Kashmir, Indian forces have failed in crushing the freedom movement by employing all the possible tactics of military terrorism such as curfews, crackdowns, sieges, massacre, targeted killings etc. to maintain their alien rule. Post-Napoleonic era in Europe proves that it is not possible to suppress the wars of liberation through military terrorism. In that respect, Prince Metternich, emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire did what he could to subjugate the alien peoples by employing every possible technique of state terrorism. In this regard, Indian historian, Mahajin writes, "Matternich had to admit that he was fighting for a useless cause, and the empire disintegrated, resulting in the independence of Italy, Bulgaria and other states whose secret societies had been waging wars of liberation." In the recent past, despite the employment of unlimited atrocities by the President Milosevic, collapse of the former Yugoslavia could not be stopped.

It is mentionable that every entity of South Asia is well-aware that even under the rule of Congress which claims to be a secular party, fundamentalist parties like BJP, RSS, VHP, Shev Sina and Bajrang Dal have missed no opportunity to communalise national politics of India. Although violence against the other communities has been used by Hindu fundamentalists as a normal practice since partition, yet anti-Christian and anti-Muslim bloodshed in the last decade coupled with the dissemination of Hindutva has increased. Besides previous genocide of Muslims and destruction of the Babri Mosque, more than 2500 Muslims were massacred in 2002 in the BJP-ruled Indian state of Gujarat. On September 13, 2008, the communal riots in Uttar Pradesh killed more than 200 Muslims. In one of the most tragic incident in Assam, Hindu extremists burnt alive six members of a Muslim family. Similarly, assaults on Christians and their property have continued by the Hindu mobs in Orissa, Assam, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, killing a number of innocent Christians. Other minorities of India are also target of Hindu terrorism.

Besides, provincial and regional disparities have been widening in India day by day as majority of Indian people is living below the poverty level, lacking basic facilities like fresh food and clean water. In these terms, while weakening Pakistan as part of their unfinished agenda, US-led New Delhi should realise the fact that non-state actors, popularly called militants have connections with each other from Afghanistan to India and the Indian occupied Kashmir to Central Asian Republics.

History proves that turmoil in any area affects other countries of that particular region. Past and present history of Balkan gives ample evidence that insurgency and movement of separatism in one country have drastic impact on other neighbouring States. For example, World War 1 was initially a local issue between the two tiny states of the region, but very soon it enveloped the major European states including the US, Japan and Turkey. Similarly civil war and unrest either in Somalia or Sudan has been affecting all the states of Darfur region, while recent violent uprising in Tunis, Egypt, Syria, Libya etc. radicalised a number of the Middle East countries. Consequently, America must know that if after departing from Afghanistan, it entangles Pakistan in an all-out war with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-related fighters, ultimately, Afghan war will shift to India, jeopardizing American regional and global interests. So a stable Pakistan is in the interest India, America and Europe.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

HOW COULD DSK GET OFF?

SAEED QURESHI

 

No one can get rid of the American justice system so soon as the former IMF boss, Dominique Strauss-Kahn did. He is indeed one rare lucky among the millions that can claim to be exceptionally fortunate. His getting off the hook in United States, from a heinous crime as rape in barely two months' span of time is stated to be due more to the dubious and murky background of the female accuser than his own credentials as a clean person.

I have the preponderant feeling to believe somehow that he did commit some kind of sexual mischief on May 14, with the Guinea woman in his suite number 2806 at Sofitel New York Hotel. He has been earlier involved in similar cases of unbridled sexual perversion. His past lecherous deeds and sexual exploits are widely known. It is for the jurists to determine if the case of rape could be dropped against a hardened sexual predator. But what looks logical is that the rape case has its own merit and it could be detached from the questionable credibility of the accuser or the female fabricator. After all a female all the more a Muslim claims to have been forcibly overpowered for a sexual act that cannot have any other definition except rape. The American court system is uncompromisingly rigid in matters relating to sexual offences. There are countless instances in which the sexual predators have been indicted and given heavy punishments. The non-consensual sex is treated to be a highly serious breach of law and entails condign sentences for the offenders. There are cases that people were falsely accused of rape and served several years in jail till DNA established that they were innocent.In those cases the element of doubt was always there because in most cases, the victim would be not be able to correctly know the identity of the perpetrator.

In those doubtful or gray area cases, it would be up to the prosecution to prove a person guilty, followed by the jury to endorse or reject that. if endorsed the offender would get a few decades in jail. In the case of DSK vs. the 32 old maid from Guinea, the case is crystal clear. The victim fully and unambiguously knows the identity of the culprit and narrates the sequence of events, as to how the sordid incident started and how it finished.

The correlation of events is not that much crucial whether she went to the side room after the assault and then came back to suite number 2806 and that she reported the matter to the supervisor thereafter. The cardinal point is: if she was attacked by the alleged person. Let us also conjecture that if the maid had falsified or jumbled up the correct sequence of events, would it be logically and legally permissible to drop the case of rape against DSK altogether. The falsification on other cases should not be taken as conclusive pretext that in this case she was also lying. This case should be dealt on its strength.

The lies that are attributed to her inter alia are that her husband had died by torture at the hands of police officers and soldiers in Guinea, that she had been gang-raped in Guinea, that she got asylum on made-up grounds, that she falsely got a big break on her taxes by claiming a friend's child as her own. She was also alleged to have contacts with notorious drug dealer now in jail. It appears that the prosecution was somehow persuaded to withdraw the cases for some reasons that should be exclusively known to the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Kenneth Thompson the victims' attorney is crying hoarse for the continuation of the hearing for him to prove the case. But by the prevailing indications it appears that the interest of the prosecution seems to have waned. One reason could be that the female victim is a devout Muslim and for the attorneys to pursue the case for a Muslim would open a leeway for others to come forward and seek justice for such immoral sexual crimes that abound in America.

Or else there should be pressure from the Jewish lobby because Strauss is a Jew and the Jewish high-ups would not like a VIP from among them to be penalized to the extent of 3o years in jail besides the enormous humiliation and disgrace that would have been heaped on Strauss for all time to come. There seem to be some overriding and irresistible pulls and pressures loaded on the prosecution team to recoil from this case that pitted a high profile Jew celebrity against a Muslim woman, all the more an asylum seeker, that otherwise has no political or social leverage. Otherwise there is no way and it is unthinkable that a sexual predator with a chronic notoriety and sleazy reputation of unwarranted and wild sexual escapades could be let off the legal hook so soon and so easily in the United States. If per se, it is being found out, that the Sofitel Hotel maid has invented a case against a filthily wealthy individual as Kahn is and that she was a habitual liar, then in the same vein, it could also be argued that keeping in view DST's loathsome backlog of sexual lewdness, the case should not be dropped and the legal proceedings should be continued until the truth is found.

—The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MQM QUITS HOPEFULLY FOR GOOD

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

After suffering numerous jolts at the hands of Zardari government, MQM seems to have finally decided to quit the government and sit on the opposition benches. This is a good omen for MQM's credibility. It has finally left a corrupt and inefficient government which has damaged the country beyond repair in its three years rule. Altaf Hussain who had regrettably joined hands with the government in the hope that it might deliver on its promises to improve the living conditions of the common man, not only miserably failed in this mission but made thing much worse. Economy is going downhill, terrorism and religious frenzy is at its peak, the US aid which has become essential for the country's survival is also in doldrums due to the pressures of religious parties and a section of the powerful media. The increasing cost of living has pushed the poor on the verge of starvation, while the rich are thriving through corruption and large scale theft of taxes. The government is also not willing to cut down its expenses much against the advice of IMF, the World Bank and other donor agencies and governments.

Being a part of the government for the last three years MQM was also a part of all these crimes directly or indirectly. It tried to leave the government several times but backed out each time. This time however it seems final. Someone has challenged in the AJK High Court the postponement of elections in two constituencies of Kashmiri refugees in Pakistan and pleaded for stopping the indirect elections to eight special seats of the legislative assembly. In fact the government has rigged AJK elections to win majority seats for PPP candidates. God knows what will happen in the forthcoming general elections.

MQM decision to withdraw from the government has bolstered the position of PML (Q) which was General Musharraf's party till recently and was heaping abuse on the PPP government calling it a corrupt and inefficient gang of worthless people, made a sudden volt-face and joined the same government shamelessly. One reason probably was the arrest of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi's son in a big corruption scam which now seems to have been settled. President Zardari too, welcomed the entry of Pervaiz Elahi in his government with open arms cleanly forgetting that late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had named Pervaiz Elahi as a suspect in her murder plot. Such are our politicians with no dignity and self respect when it comes to acquisition of power. One wonders how the Chaudhry group will face the PPP gang across the table in a cabinet meeting, and how this government will function.

The forthcoming choice of ministries will also be an uphill task but people with no self respect can compromise on anything. There is no doubt; however that PML (Q) will be the biggest beneficiary of MQM's exit from the government. At the same time, the sons of Karachi would be able to look after their city which over the years has become a den of senseless crime. Every day newspapers are full of revolting stories of gruesome murders on city streets, daredevil robberies and car snatchings.

The merchants of death roam around the city spraying bullets on unarmed people while the government turns its face the other way. The most regrettable aspect of the prevailing carnage is that people are dying on the streets in random firing almost every day but neither the provincial and federal governments nor the major political parties take any notice of this situation. Once in a while if a mass murder takes place, they issue the usual statements or condolence messages through their PR officers and that's about it. Allah in his Holy Book calls such people as those "whose hearts have been sealed and their eyes and ears been covered ". Reverting to the current political situation, the withdrawal of MQM from the government and PML Q's joining it has opened the doors of political bargaining quite open. Mian Nawaz Sharif, who is in wilderness these days, has called upon MQM chief Altaf Hussain to join his party in a grand political alliance to topple the government in mid-term elections. But the MQM chief has politely turned down his invitation. His spokesman said in a statement, "we recognize the mandate of PML-N and will definitely cooperate with the party on opposition benches in parliament, but we do not believe in toppling the governments to achieve certain political objectives.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has also said time for mid-term elections has passed and opposition parties should wait till the time of general elections. Meanwhile the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has gone to London for talks with Altaf Hussain. It must be said that Altaf Hussain is lucky to lead a much disciplined and well organized party of middle class professional people who earn their living through their own hard work rather than the earnings of their peasants or their "mureeds". They are neither Jagirdars nor Peers. They are just ordinary working class people and survive on their own hard earned money. They pay their taxes and are happy to live in their middle class homes. They don't take huge loans from the banks and have them written off. In short they are what the rulers and land lords call "common people".

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

RISE OF THE SCO

SAMEER JAFRI

 

Formed in 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) presently accounts for 60% of the landmass of Eurasia and a quarter of the world's population. Including observer states, which are potential members, its affiliates represent half of the humanity. The SCO was formed as a mutual-security organization by Russia, China and four Central Asian states (except Turkmenistan) with an aim to promote peace, security and stability in the region. It has been mainly centered on its members' Central Asia related security concerns of terrorism, separatism, extremism and drug trafficking. Operating within that limited framework, the SCO has modest achievements to its credit. So far, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) has been its most successful component. Central Asia has been a part of the 'Great Game' of nations ever since the fall of the Soviet Union. USA, the undisputed superpower hitherto, has tried to expand its sphere of influence in this region by filling the vacuum created by Soviet Russia.

Now that the US itself is trapped in a hapless war in Afghanistan and is trying to find out a face-saving exit strategy, owing to the lack of economic resources at its end to sustain a huge military expenditure there, the role of the SCO in post-exit scenario is bound to become more assertive. Moreover, these rising regional powers comprising the SCO have enough cash in their coffers to contribute to the stability and development of the region. Further, there is a strategic convergence among the regional players on the issue of peace and stability in the region since doing so will not only integrate Central Asia with South Asia, at the same time it would mean good for the development of half of the mankind, which resides in this region.

Apart from that, relative increase in the significance of the SCO vis-à-vis the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) can be attributed to other geopolitical factors as well. Major among them is the of late improvement in Russia-EU ties. It is well-known that Europe is largely dependent on Russian gas. Russia-Ukraine gas dispute two years ago exposed the vulnerability of Europe to any such interruption in supply of gas. Moreover, Moscow's cooperation with the two major European powers- France and Germany has strengthened in other spheres as well. While Germany and Russia are jointly developing the Nord Stream Gas pipeline which would deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany; Kremlin is in the process of acquiring Mistral class amphibious assault ships from France for the Russian Navy. It is the first major arms deal between Russia and Europe since the Second World War. Germany and France have also been opposed to the idea of eastward expansion of the NATO. It was due to their stance that the plans for extending NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia were put off. Individual national interests of countries like France, Germany and Poland have already started casting shadow over coordination within the NATO. The US is opposed to the Mistral deal. Also, there seems no consensus building up on Washington's plans to establish Anti-Missile Defence in Eastern Europe and setup military bases in the former Soviet states.

While Russia has energy leverage, China, on the other hand, is an economic superpower to reckon with. With Europe reeling under the biggest ever financial crunch and Eurozone on the verge of collapse, China has extended a 'helping hand' and indicated that it is going to buy European bonds which will help Euro economies stay afloat. On visit to Europe recently, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said, "China has actually increased the purchase of government bonds of some European countries, and we haven't cut back on our Euro holdings." "In the future, as we have done in the past, we will support Europe and the Euro," Wen added. Thanks to this economic might of China, nowadays European leaders can be seen eulogizing China, rather than crying foul over its 'Human Rights' record. The message is clear. With the rise of Asia, the world has become more integrated and inter-dependent. Europe needs both China as well as Russia. Europe's role in the NATO will be determined by the individual relations of its member countries with the outside world. Even within the NATO, the problem of coordination is apparent. Many NATO members were opposed to military action in Libya, which was aggressively advocated by America, Britain and France. Most of the NATO members are still in favour of a political settlement in Libya. Germany, a major NATO player, even abstained from voting in the UNSC on establishing "no-fly zone" over Libya.

While the power of the NATO is apparently waning, the SCO on the other hand, is becoming stronger by the day with its member states developing economically and technically, at a tremendous pace. The SCO has provided the Asian powers an opportunity to work towards establishing a multi-polar world by taking in their hands, the peace process in the region. The future of the SCO will depend on the members' inter se ties and cooperation in other spheres as well. Going by their impressive show of their camaraderie on such platforms as BRICS, BASIC etc., the rise of the SCO seems imminent.

—The writer is India-based political analyst and writes on global and geopolitical issues.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

US POLICY SIDELINES GAZA

RAMZY BAROUD

 

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a series of stern and fiery statements recently, giving the impression that war is somehow upon us once again. Oddly, Clinton's sudden reappearance into the Middle East diplomacy scene was triggered by the brave attempts of peace activists to break the siege on Gaza. In recent months, as Arab nations settled old scores with their insufferable dictators, US foreign policy started taking a backseat. Attempts at swaying Arab revolts teetered between bashful diplomatic efforts to sustain US interests — as was the case with Yemen — and military intervention, as in Libya, which is still being marketed to the US public as a humanitarian intervention, as opposed to the war it actually is. The indecisiveness and double standards on display are hardly new.

It took Tunisians 28 days to overthrow their leader, and Egyptians 18 days to outset Mubarak. During these periods, US foreign policy in the two countries — and the Middle East as a whole — seemed impossible to delineate in any concrete statements. Hillary Clinton was an emblematic figure in this diplomatic discrepancy. Now Clinton is speaking in a lucid language that leaves no room for misinterpretation. When it comes to the security and interests of Israel — as opposed to those of the entire Middle East region and all its nations — Clinton, like other top US officials, leaves no room for error: Israel will always come first.

Clinton's forceful language was triggered by the decision of humanitarian activists from over 20 countries to travel to Gaza in a symbolic gesture to challenge the Israeli blockade of one of the poorest regions on earth. The 500 peace activists on board 10 boats will include musicians, writers, Nobel laureates, Holocaust survivors and members of Parliament. "We think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves," Clinton told reporters on June 23.

Responding to Clinton's comments, Irish Member of the European Parliament Paul Murphy told the Irish Examiner on June 24: "It is not true that we will be entering Israeli waters. We will be sailing through Gaza waters. ... Ms. Clinton's comments are disgraceful. She has essentially given the green light to Israeli Defence Forces to use violence against participants in the flotilla."Indeed, Israeli diplomats will be utilising Clinton's advanced verbal and political support for the Israeli action in every platform available to them. According to Clinton, the entire business with the flotillas is unnecessary. "We don't think it's useful or helpful or productive to the people of Gaza," she told reporters in Washington, adding that "a far better approach is to support the work that's being done through the United Nations." The United Nations had already declared the Gaza siege illegal. Various top UN officials have stated this fact repeatedly, and the international body had called on Israel to end the siege.

Notable among the many statements was a 34-page report by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay. Published Aug. 14, 2009, the report "accused Israel of violating the rules of warfare with its blockade stopping people and goods from moving in or out of the Gaza Strip," according to the Associated Press. The Gaza blockade," Pillay stated, "amounts to collective punishment of civilians, which is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare and occupation." Before the 34 pages could be thoroughly examined, both the US and Israel dismissed the findings. Now Clinton is suddenly urging all interested parties to work through the same institution that her department has repeatedly undermined. Pillay's report was issued nearly two years ago. Since then, little has been done to remedy the situation and to bring to an end the protracted Palestinian tragedy in Gaza.

The UN report, released June 14, claimed that unemployment in the first half of 2011 had increased by 3 percent. Monthly wages were also shown to have declined significantly. It seems the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not only bad, it is progressively worsening. This time, Clinton is speaking from a power position. As diplomatic pressure from Israel finally dissuaded Turkey from allowing the Humanitarian Relief Foundation from joining the flotilla, it seems the Mavi Marmara won't be setting sail to Gaza anytime soon. As if to confirm that the decision was motivated by political pressure, Clinton "spoke to her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu to express her happiness at the announcement" (according to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, June 21). With political victory in mind, the State Department travel warning of June 22 read like a legal disclaimer issued by the Israeli foreign ministry. It warned US citizens to avoid any attempt to reach Gaza by sea. Those who participate in a flotilla risk arrest, prosecution, deportation and a possible 10-year travel ban by Israel.

In a region that is rife with opportunities for political stances — or at least a measurable shift in policy — the US State Department and its chief diplomat have offered nothing but inconsistency and contradiction. Now, thanks to a group of peaceful civil society activists, including many pacifists and elders, the State Department is getting its decisive voice back. And the voice is as atrocious and unprincipled as ever.

— Courtesy: The Japan Times

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MODEST STEPS TO BETTER POLICY

POLITICIANS are justifiably criticised for succumbing to the lure of short-term political advantage and the temptations of the 24-hour news cycle rather than the harder slog of detailed debate, policy development and the implementation of necessary reforms.

So it is pleasing to see useful developments on the more cerebral element of politics on both sides of the ideological divide.

Given the difficulties Labor faces in most states, where it is either out of government or on the slide, and federally where it is in serious strife, the need is most pressing for the ALP. The machine power and ideological grunt that once emanated from the NSW Right, and drove the party nationally, has dissipated in a cesspool of patronage, headkicking and spin. So it is encouraging that former NSW premier Bob Carr is one of the prime movers behind efforts to rebuild the faction. With NSW state secretary Sam Dastyari, Mr Carr will launch a new publication, Voices, aimed at fostering debate about policy issues. As a literary man whose own reform agenda was frustrated by factional game-playing and union recalcitrance, Mr Carr will recognise that the Labor Right will not achieve redemption by stacking branches but by discussing its ideas and redefining its core beliefs. The ALP Left is also launching a new journal, Challenge, although, in an ominous portent, its first edition is primarily introspective. Nonetheless, where Labor has too often shunned debate in favour of news grabs, it is encouraging to see it focus on contesting ideas.

On the conservative side, a group of 50 Liberals has gathered to revive the Society of Modest Members, a selection of MPs focused on market economics. At a time when government has been expanding, it is important that economic rationalists continue to debate their ideas and argue their case. This newspaper strongly supports market-based economic reforms, so long as governments always have an eye to the public good and the national interest. With productivity growth lagging, we need politicians to focus on policies to improve our efficiency and share the benefits of the resources boom around the economy. So the Modest Members have a crucial role to play in encouraging a rationalist approach to economic policy. Lifting productivity and reducing the taxation-welfare churn remain critical policy reform areas that neither side of politics seems capable, so far, of addressing.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

OUR FUTURE GROWTH IS TIED TO COAL - THAT'S THE REALITY

AUSTRALIAN Coal Association boss Ralph Hillman was on the money when he told the National Press Club yesterday that carbon was an "accident-prone" area of policy.

Just days ahead of the release of the tax details, the coalminers believe they have lost the argument against taxing fugitive emissions, the coincidental carbon gas that escapes at the mine site as coal is extracted. The leakage is difficult to contain -- especially in open-cut mining -- but represents 5-6 per cent of carbon emissions in Australia. That's about half the level of methane emissions that come from our cattle.

Fugitive emissions are so hard to measure and difficult to abate that they are exempted from overseas efforts to manage carbon. They are not included in the European Union's cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme, which is often held up by the Gillard government as an example to be followed. The Australian coal industry says taxing fugitive emissions could help force 18 mines to the wall, even with compensation, and could lead to the loss of 4700 jobs in the next 10 years. There may be room to question the detail of this modelling but Mr Hillman argues, correctly, that "growth is precious" and that Australia must not pass up the opportunity to benefit from the historic wave of industrialisation sweeping the developing world.

In any case, reducing exports to China and India by pricing Australian coal out of the market would harm our economy, but will have no impact on demand from the developing world. It would lock Australian workers out of jobs and wealth that will simply be redirected to workers in other coal-exporting countries where lower-grade coal produces higher emissions. We suffer and the planet suffers, which makes sense only to those who see redemption in self-flagellation. Salvation may yet be contained in Labor's compensation package, but it would be a disaster if we moved so far ahead of the world with our carbon tax that we simply succeeded in threatening our 300 million tonnes of annual coal exports.

None of this matters much in the abstract world of the Greens, where coal is the bete noir of global warming and the only clean coal is coal left in the ground. They want the industry closed down. Yet the characterisation of coal companies and power generators as Neanderthal brutes, untouched by the realities of the climate change debate, is unfair. The sector has recognised the need to reduce carbon and accepts the inevitability of phasing out dirty, low-value brown coal over time in favour of black coal.

Coal companies invest their hopes in technology, such as carbon capture and storage, while power generators have lower-emission options such as gas, if they can be made competitive. There is certainly a long way to go before CCS can be integrated efficiently into the operations of coal companies, but it would be foolish to rule it out, in the same way that effort must be put into the development of alternative renewable sources of energy.

The Australian has long recognised the need to take action on carbon but, like the coal industry, we are anxious about any policy that would position us so far ahead of our competitors that the result is not a reduction in emissions but a reduction in jobs, household wealth and national growth.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

FACE UP TO REAL ISSUE OF BURKAS

DESPITE the heated debate stemming from the Carnita Matthews case and the proposed changes to NSW law it has prompted, burkas are not on trial.

At question here is the right of police to identify people for security purposes or in order to investigate alleged breaches of the law. This right has always been implicit in our law enforcement practices and we would have it no other way. If police are to have any authority or effectiveness, then they must have the ability to check and verify the identity of the people with whom they speak. The community values the work of police and while The Australian is alway alert to threats to personal liberty, we do not believe it is onerous for anyone, upon request, to identify themselves to police.

The case of the NSW traffic-offender, Ms Matthews, brought the burka into the spotlight. Convicted of making a false complaint that a police officer had attempted to remove her face-covering, she had her conviction overturned on appeal because it could not be proved that the burka-clad woman who laid the complaint was her.

Following a police request, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has acted promptly and wisely to enshrine in law the right of officers to require a suspect to reveal his or her face. As Mr O'Farrell noted, this applies equally to people wearing a motorcycle helmet, a burka, a balaclava, a mask or a nikab. There is one law, one requirement and one responsibility for all citizens, a principle we support. It should go without saying that these police rights should be exercised wisely, with appropriate restraint, and respect cultural sensibilities insofar as they do not infringe the rule of law. The officer who was subjected to the original false complaint was shown, on video evidence, to have acted with good sense and control despite significant provocation from Ms Matthews.

Representatives of the NSW Muslim community have reacted sensibly to the proposed new laws, showing a good deal more maturity on this matter than a number of so-called human rights lawyers and one or two activists. It is clear that mainstream Muslim leaders understand the requirement to verify identity and have represented their communities well by publicly endorsing the changes. This is not an argument about the right of Australian women to wear a burka or a nikab, nor should it be turned into that debate.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED AT HOME

IT IS easy to understand the concerns of Indonesian officials about hosting another high-profile trial of an arrested terrorist, Umar Patek, one of the organisers of the 2002 Bali bombings. Indonesian authorities are understandably nervous about the potential for such a prosecution - coming so soon after the arrest and conviction of the Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir - to fuel a backlash from violent jihadis.

Detaining Patek in Jakarta during trial poses a particular risk, given the corruption and lax security rife in Indonesian jails which could create an opportunity for him to build a new network during his incarceration. This would be in no one's interests - not the Indonesians' nor the international community's, which is struggling to agree on a way forward in the Patek case.

Indonesians can be rightly proud of their record to date in tracking, arresting and bringing to justice the terrorists responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings and other incidences of domestic terrorism, including the bombings of Indonesian churches on Christmas Day 2000. It is heartening, not only for victims of these attacks but all international citizens concerned about the terrorist threat, to see the men responsible for these abhorrent acts pursued and brought to justice.

Which makes it all the more important that Indonesia stays strong in its efforts to pursue and convict terrorists. As the former Dutch colony increasingly pursues a role as a major world player - both economically and in the fight against terrorism - it is even more important that Indonesia continues to accept the responsibilities that come with that role.

As an Indonesian citizen, Patek should be tried on Indonesian soil. From an Australian perspective, it would be virtually unprecedented for this country to take on responsibility for the trial and sentencing of a criminal from a foreign country. It is a cornerstone of diplomacy that nations accept responsibility for prosecuting and sentencing their own criminals. This is even more relevant when the crime in question took place in that home nation.

Indonesia is building a good track record as a nation that abhors acts of terrorism. But it must continue to prove this with its actions. It must demonstrate openly that it will not be cowed by terrorists and that would-be offenders will be prosecuted quickly, efficiently and to the full extent of Indonesian law. It has done this before. It must do so again with Patek.

 



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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

DONOR BAN DOES NOT NEED THE LAW

BARRY O'FARRELL'S explanation for dragging the chain on his promise to ban corporate donations to political parties is plausible enough. The Premier says his government has not met its self-imposed deadline to amend the Election Funding Act within its first 100 days because it is reviewing NSW electoral laws overall and wants to ensure legislative consistency. He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, but with substantial qualification.

Indeed, government success with the rest of its ''100-day Action Plan'' - which expires on Tuesday - has underscored the void on corporate donations reform. The government enjoys the relative luxury of being challenged in part because its other promises on priority legislation have been kept.

That is the upside. Governments can do more than steer legislation, however. Adding to suspicion that this government's delay on banning corporate donations might be motivated by more is that the Liberal Party fund-raiser, the Millennium Forum, is making hay while the sun shines.

The forum promotes itself as a facilitator for business leaders to mix with senior Liberal politicians. Since the March 26 election, it has hosted five fund-raisers so that business men and women can pay for the privilege of mingling with government ministers and the former premier Nick Greiner, who has since been appointed O'Farrell's ''infrastructure tsar'', with responsibility for testing and prioritising billions of dollars worth of public works to be completed by private contractors.

If corporate donations already were banned, and political donations limited to individuals, much of the Millennium Forum's potency as a fund-raiser would be blunted. As it is, the aftermath of an election landslide that ended a long Labor reign is particularly fertile for Coalition fund-raisers, and the Liberals have two more in store before Parliament's resumption next month.

''The Liberal Party adheres to all laws relating to the acceptance of political donations,'' said the party's acting state director, Richard Shields, this week. Well, of course it does. The question, however, is whether the law is as it should be, given the prominence of O'Farrell's election commitment to showing corporate donors the door.

If taking corporate donations is wrong enough for O'Farrell to commit so unequivocally to their banning, it follows that the party O'Farrell leads should honour the spirit of his commitment and voluntarily decline the cash. If that is not apparent to the party machine, the Premier can easily tell it so. And if that does not do the trick, he can instruct his ministers to avoid such fund-raisers - thereby denying these functions their appeal.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PHONE-HACKING JOURNALISTS TAINT THE PROFESSION

A public backlash may threaten media freedom.

NEWS media depend on respect for free speech, which includes not only freedom to comment on issues of the day but also freedom to obtain and publish information. If the media were not free to operate in these ways, democracy would be impossible: one cannot act as a citizen without reliable information. For that reason, newspapers in Australia and other liberal democracies have always argued vigorously against proposals for external regulation of our industry. We believe that the best defence against unethical behaviour by journalists is the industry's self-regulation, through vigilant adherence to codes of conduct that - among other things - prohibit unjustified intrusions on the privacy of individuals. It is therefore a matter of grave concern when a news organisation routinely engages in intrusions on privacy that cannot credibly be held to serve the public interest.

Such behaviour inevitably increases the clamour for increased regulation, and in Britain the weekly tabloid News of the World, owned by the UK subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has provoked such calls by egregious intrusions of privacy over a long period. In 2006 it was revealed that the paper's reporters had hired private investigators to hack into the voicemail accounts of people of interest to the paper: entertainers and celebrities of various kinds, members of the royal family, police officers, journalists working for other newspapers, and politicians.

None of this enhanced the reputation of News of the World, and very few of the resulting stories offered readers more than titillation. Within the paper, the scandal was dealt with by allowing individuals to take the blame. But the issue has erupted again, with The Guardian reporting this week that in 2002 a private investigator working for News of the World, Glenn Mulcaire, hacked into the voicemail of a missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. The paper's journalists used messages left by the girl's anguished family to write stories, and when the voicemail box was full they deleted some messages, encouraging Milly's family, who believed she was clearing them, to leave more.

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This was conduct beyond any bounds of decency, made worse by the fact that some who should take responsibility for the actions of the News of the World journalists have declined to do so. Rebekah Brooks, editor of the paper at the time and now head of News International, the UK arm of News Corporation, has said that she is ''appalled and shocked'' by The Guardian's report, but refuses to resign and denies knowledge of any misconduct. But if Brooks did not know how information was gathered for a newspaper she edited, or if she has not subsequently found out, she is at least culpable for that. And it seems that the abuse of Milly Dowler's family may have been matched, over the past decade, by equally appalling intrusions into privacy: Scotland Yard detectives have told families of victims of the 2005 London terrorist bombings that their voicemail accounts may also have been hacked.

News Corporation has tried to quarantine the scandal within News of the World, but the hacking revelations have inevitably raised questions about the culture of the organisation itself - questions that, given the corporation's global reach, will be asked not only in Britain. The House of Commons is debating calls for a public inquiry, and News's takeover of the pay television service BSkyB is no longer the done deal it had seemed to be.

So great is the public outrage that the Cameron government may feel more confident about challenging News Corporation than most governments around the world have been. If there is an inquiry resulting in more restrictive media legislation, however, it will not only be journalists who are the losers. News of the World's inability to distinguish what is in the public interest from what is not will have undermined a central pillar of liberal democracy.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

POLITICAL DEBATE DESCENDS INTO FARCE

GIVEN its mission is to advance Australia internationally, it is hardly surprising the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a rather sunny view of our Parliament. Its website proclaims: ''Questions can be asked without notice, and there is a strict alternation between government and opposition during the time allotted to asking questions (called 'Question Time') … This has helped to establish Australia's reputation for robust public debate, and serves as an informal check on executive power.''

Such accolades may apply to the Senate, which, as the house of review, scrutinises the activities, policies and legislation of the government and often makes valuable contributions to debate. But anyone who has seen even a short grab of question time on the evening news will know that if debate in the lower house was ever robust, it was in some halcyon past. The House of Representatives has increasingly become the place for political theatre of a type most appropriately described as farce. Question time, in particular, lays bare the shallowness of debate as ''Dorothy Dixers'' and censure motions dominate proceedings, and genuine debate is replaced by point-scoring and ridicule. Our representatives seem willing to do whatever it takes to avoid what should be intelligent scrutiny of legislation.

Tony Abbott has criticised Julia Gillard for bypassing the people's house to announce the details of her government's carbon tax legislation on Sunday, during Parliament's winter recess. We would have more sympathy with this view if both sides of the House had regularly shown that they were capable of more than sparring. Sadly, however, that is increasingly not the case.

Politicians may think the electorate enjoys this spectacle and will accept knee-jerk reactions to issues based on what their spin doctors think the community is likely to vote for, but the declining interest in politics and minimal membership of political parties tells a different story.

In his book Sideshow. Dumbing Down Democracy, former finance minister Lindsay Tanner observes: ''Winning today's micro-argument is all important, and tomorrow can look after itself … Policy initiatives are measured by their media impact, not by their effect.'' The public is ill-served and politicians and the media are demeaned by this deterioration in the way public discourse is conducted. To deserve our alleged reputation for robust debate of policy, cultural change is needed. Politicians could begin by taking a less cynical approach to their responsibilities.


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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

LABOUR PARTY: SHADOWS OF THE PAST

It is hard not have mixed feelings over the scrapping of Labour's shadow cabinet elections

Ed Miliband is sometimes described as a weak Labour leader. This week, though, he succeeded in doing something that none of his more control-minded predecessors ever managed. The election by MPs of Labour's shadow cabinet is a tradition which stretches back to 1923. Until well within living memory, the elections were one of the climactic moments and untouchable rituals of the Labour year. Less than a year ago, Labour MPs voted to maintain the system, while agreeing the elections would occur every two years rather than every one. Yet on Tuesday, at Mr Miliband's urging and as part of a wider reconceiving of the party, the same group of MPs voted decisively to scrap them altogether. So last October's contest is likely to have been the last one ever. From now on, the shadow cabinet will be appointed.

It is hard not to have mixed feelings. When Labour was in opposition – which it was for a majority of the years from 1923 until 1997 – the annual contests absorbed immense amounts of competitive energy. They also undoubtedly mattered for the contestants. Doing well in the shadow cabinet elections conferred genuine weight in the party. Failure was a push towards the margins. For journalists, they were wonderful copy. Much self-admiring rubbish was spoken about Labour MPs being the most sophisticated – in other words, the most deceitful – electorate in the world. Yet the elections reflected the reality of Labour as a divided party. And fed the image of division too.

All that inward-focused energy could undoubtedly have been better directed to other, more outward-facing, political tasks. The elections were often destructive, fuelling rivalry, mistrust and factionalism. They also rewarded mainstream jobsworths and men, rather than minorities, talent and women. They were less a festival of democracy than a time-consuming exercise in micro-campaigning, vote-trading and fixing, as one blogger put it this week. None of the other parties at Westminster choose their frontbenchers in this way. It is hardly surprising that Mr Miliband also wanted to appoint the best team rather than the one that was most popular in the Westminster corridors.

Yet there is an undoubted loss here too, to weigh against the gain. The end of shadow cabinet elections is another victory for technocracy in modern politics at the expense of democracy. The old system should not be romanticised. It encapsulated Labour's continuing tendency to reflect old priorities rather than new ones. But it was also authentic, for good and ill. Like other parties, Labour rightly prizes professionalism and excellence. But it needs to prize engagement and democracy as well. Mr Miliband's reforms surely need to embrace both.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PHONE-HACKING SCANDAL: MINISTERS AND MR MURDOCH

It is obvious that it would be extremely undesirable to let Mr Murdoch have complete control over BSkyB

For two or more years the normal checks and balances that should operate in a functioning democracy did not work very well in relation to the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World which is now being stripped bare. The police were – in Alan Johnson's words – "dishonest, evasive or lethargic". The press regulator was feeble. Parliament was, with one or two honourable exceptions, ineffective, if not positively intimidated. And the ultimate bastion of our freedoms, the fourth estate, turned a partially blind eye. For a long time it looked as though an awful lot of people just wanted the story to go away.

Wednesday's action in the House of Commons has finally ensured that the discreet burial of the affair won't happen. In response to effective questioning from the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, the prime minister conceded the need for at least one public inquiry to look at the behaviour of the police as well as the media. That announcement, together with belated but more focused police and PCC investigations, as well as numerous civil actions, means that the truth of a squalid period in British public life will finally emerge.

The outlines of the story are familiar enough: it involves a giant media organisation presided over by one of the last great press tycoons, who has ruthlessly played at the boundaries of politics and business. As he grew larger, bolder and more successful, the less people in public life wanted to take him on. This reticence was well-founded, since it now transpires that his company retained criminals on the payroll to dig the dirt on anyone and everyone.

It is this power and dominance that ties the phone-hacking (and worse) with the imminent decision of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, over whether to allow Mr Murdoch to become still more powerful and dominant. It is obvious to most people who have followed the sordid twists and turns of the phone-hacking saga that it would be extremely undesirable to let Mr Murdoch – who already owns nearly 40% of the national press – to have complete control over a vast broadcasting operation as well. Mr Hunt (and, yesterday, Mr Cameron) repeat that this is a "quasi-judicial" decision and that they must simply follow due process. But, as both the former minister Gerald Kaufman and the former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell argued in the Commons, there is in fact plenty of room for ministerial judgment.

Senior members ofthe government – including Mr Hunt and the attorney general, Dominic Grieve – have drawn attention to Ofcom's powers to use a "fit and proper person" test in judging the suitability of a particular company or individual to be a media owner. But Ofcom cannot presently trigger such a test: it would require criminal charges against senior executives before the regulator could act.

The police operation has already led to several arrests and there is a distinct possibility of such charges. Indeed, some lawyers have even mentioned the possibility of charges against company directors under section 79 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act which can be levelled if it can be shown that directors have been guilty of "neglect, consent or connivance". Knowing of these possible outcomes, it would be extraordinary for Mr Hunt to wave through the merger now.

We have suggested that Mr Hunt should pause for a period while the police find out who did what, and who knew what, when – and at what level in the company. That suggestion met with broad all-party support in the Commonson Wednesday. In the intervening 24 hours we have learned of NoW journalists bribing police officers; that News International's chief executive was warned by police in 2002 about the behaviour of private investigators; and that her paper hacked the phones of the relatives of 7/7 victims. How much worse does it have to get before Mr Hunt listens?

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … JORDI SAVALL

The viol player testifies to a common cultural inheritance of infinite variety

"Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?" asks Shakespeare's Benedick, ravished by the strings of a viol. Strange it may be, but for Jordi Savall the haling comes quite naturally. After its 200 years of relative silence he has made the viola da gamba sing again. His wife, Montserrat Figueras, and his children sing and play guitars and harps in what must be the world's most picturesque family business. Even if they cannot hale the soul from your body, they can bring you to your feet with an Irish jig or a Mexican fandango. Savall just released an album of Rameau suites to applause, but what really mark him out are his wanderings beyond the temple of high culture. An omnivorous troubadour, he roves from Manchester libraries to Colombian villages to salvage musical traditions – with recordings that move from Berber beats to the raptures of a raga, from the thrilling stillness of an Armenian lament to the sprightliness of an Elizabethan galliard. Alex Ross describes a concert in which Savall "pointed out that the music of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures often features similar or even identical melodic shapes" and "a sentimental vision of global unity acquired heartbreaking force". Fittingly, multifaith Jerusalem provided Savall's most ecumenical stage. Some say globalisation is now spinning into reverse, yet the fate of the world's people is more closely bound than ever. Jordi Savall testifies to a common cultural inheritance of infinite variety. He is a man for our time.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MATTERS OF CONCERN WITH CHINA

Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing on Monday. The meeting took place at a time when China is causing friction with neighboring countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines because of its activities in the South China Sea.

In the East China Sea, there were three cases in March and April in which Chinese aircraft came very close to Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ships on a patrol. In March, a Japanese Air-Self Defense Force jet fighter scrambled because a Chinese reconnaissance plane approached the Senkaku Islands.

In June, a Chinese flotilla, coming from the East China Sea, passed between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island, entered the Pacific Ocean for training and then returned to the East China Sea, again passing between the two islands. The same month, a Chinese survey ship entered Japan's exclusive economic zone off Miyagi Prefecture.

In meeting with Mr. Yang, Mr. Matsumoto expressed Japan's apprehension over China's stepped-up activities in the seas around China. But Mr. Yang said the problems should be solved through talks between China and the particular country concerned. Thus no agreement was reached.

Japan's new Defense Program Outline adopted in December 2010 describes China's growing military budget, rapid military modernization, active naval actions in the seas around Japan and lack of transparency in military matters as a "matter of concern for the region and the international community."

The June 21 Japan-U.S. joint statement on security matters particularly mentioned China's anti-access and area denial capabilities on the open ocean, which are apparently aimed at preventing the United States from militarily interfering with Taiwan.

Tensions are likely to rise in the seas around Japan. To prevent a situation that could lead to miscalculation by either party, Japan should deepen defense dialogue with China in earnest while closely cooperating with the U.S.

An immediate solution is unlikely. But Japan and the U.S. must devise a way to encourage China to act as a responsible player in the international community. Beijing on its part should realize that its increased military activities could isolate China.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MINISTER CHOKES ON HARD TACK

Reconstruction minister Ryu Matsumoto resigned Tuesday — his ninth day as minister in charge of rebuilding of the Tohoku region hit by the March 11 quake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis — over his remarks that offended many Tohoku people.

Clearly he failed to carefully consider how to behave. But his resignation also shows that Prime Minister Naoto Kan is not exercising proper control over Cabinet members.

Mr. Tatsuo Hirano, senior vice reconstruction minister, took over Mr. Matsumoto's job. But what transpired could delay the reconstruction work. More importantly, voters as well as lawmakers, including those within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, will regard the Kan administration as malfunctioning, thus creating further confusion in the political scene.

In meeting with Gov. Takuya Tasso of Iwate Prefecture in Morioka on Sunday, Mr. Matsumoto made a callous statement: "Since I am from Kyushu, I don't know which cities are in which Tohoku prefectures."

What angered the people of Tohoku was his high-handed manner of speaking to Gov. Tasso and Gov. Yoshihiro Murai of Miyagi Prefecture, whom he met with on Sunday in Sendai. His statements also gave the impression that he had little sympathy toward the hardship the people in Tohoku are experiencing.

For example, he told Gov. Tasso, "(The central government) will help those (municipalities) which rack their brains but will desert those which do not." In meeting with Gov. Murai, he said, "(As to the issue of integration of fishing ports,) get consensus within the prefecture. Otherwise we will not do anything."

He also became upset because he had to wait a few minutes for Gov. Murai to appear in the conference room. He angrily said, "When a guest comes, you must be present to greet him." He also threatened the press by saying, "This is off the record. If a (newspaper) company writes about this, its life will end."

The opposition will mount an attack on Mr. Kan over his appointment of Mr. Matsumoto as reconstruction minister. Thus the enactment of high-priority bills will be further delayed. Mr. Kan must realize that the time has come for him to announce the date of his resignation to save Japan from political paralysis.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

YEMEN CONTINUES TO INSPIRE AMID GREAT ODDS

BY RAMZY BAROUD

SEATTLE — The Yemeni people are unrelenting in their demands for democracy. Millions continue to stage rallies across their country in a display of will that is proving the most robust out of all the Arab revolutions. The Yemenis face great challenges, including the political vacillation of their country's opposition, and the United States' military and strategic interests in Yemen.

Al Jazeera described Abdul Hameed Abu Hatem as a mere "protester." However, the man's demands show a purity and genuineness that is consistent with the chants of millions of Yemenis from all over the country. "We are calling for freedom, justice, order and a civil government. We demand that the public income is used by the public and that people have equal job opportunities," said Abu Hatem, during a prodemocracy rally in Sanaa attended by an estimated 250,000 Yemenis.

For such thoughtful demands to be met, a transparent political transition needs to take place. Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president of 33 years, is evidently unable to lead the country. He is currently suffering from physical injuries, and it seems that even if he were to recover, very few Yemenis currently trust in his ability to spearhead meaningful reforms.

Saleh's leadership is now propped up by some tribal connections, his own security forces and the powerful Republican Guards commanded by his family members. Whole army units have already defected. Most notable among them are the troops of Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, which provide security to the protesting youth from attacks by regime forces. Many Yemenis have been killed and injured in such attacks.

In Saleh's absence, the country's affairs were entrusted to the vice president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi. However, all the signs point to the president's son, Ahmad, as effectively being the one in command. The leader's nephews, Tariq and Ammar, run President Saleh's private guard and state security service respectively.

While such figures represent a tiny segment of the country's population, their iron fist methods and brutal crackdowns continue to stand between the Yemeni people and their coveted democracy.

Another major obstacle is the indecisiveness of the country's opposition, which coexisted with the ruling party in Yemen for years, and which seems incapable of operating in any way other than government co-option.

The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) coalition had shifted positions repeatedly since the early days of the Yemeni revolution. At times it has opted to act independently from popular demands, agreeing to power-sharing arrangements with Saleh's party. This has only served to prolong the status-quo rejected by most Yemenis.

The JMP are now threatening to unilaterally prepare a transitional ruling council without the General People's Congress and the acting president, according to Xinhua news agency (July 1). This position may shift yet again, in light of the overlapping interests of many parties from both inside and outside Yemen.

The JMP's unilateral undertaking aimed at forming a transitional ruling council would include "representatives from the protesters, separatist Southern Movement and Houthi-led Shiite rebels," according to a Yemeni official, speaking in Xinhua. Such a political combination could be dangerous to the interests of influential outside parties led by the U.S.

Yemen is one of the most important countries for the U.S.' ongoing wars. Its strategic location in the Arabian Peninsula, geographic immediacy to major waterways, and close proximity to Somalia (which has been under U.S. military radar for years) makes it impossible to ignore for U.S. military planners.

Even during the time of peaceful protests throughout Yemen, the U.S. carried out repeated strikes at suspected al-Qaida positions in the country. This reality is what had undermined the authority of Saleh in the eyes of his people in the first place. Furthermore, Saleh used the geostrategic weight of his country to gain U.S.-western political and military backing.

A recent Brown University Study of the human and financial costs of U.S. wars cited Yemen as fourth, following Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as reported by AFP on July 1. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, however, upgraded Yemen's position into a country that is "rapidly becoming al-Qaida's center of gravity," according to a National Defense Magazine online report on June 30. Mullen was speaking at a press conference announcing this year's so-called Failed States Index. Considering the corruption and oppression at home, and the determined foreign intervention, Yemen was ranked the 13th least stable country.

"While (al-Qaida) leadership still resides on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan ... the federate group that is in Yemen is an incredibly dangerous group that has taken full advantage of the chaos," he said.

By "chaos," he must have meant the pro-democracy revolution, and the government's remorseless crackdown on protesters. This chaos has also forced many tribes to provide their own security, as they clash with government forces and random militants. It is difficult to estimate the nature of al-Qaida's power in Yemen, especially as the lines between al-Qaida militants, al-Qaida-inspired militants, and any militant at all (operating outside the central government's command) is becoming so blurred.

Mullen suggested the maintenance of "military-to-military relations with such countries (as) key to creating stability," according to the National Defense Magazine. However, the Yemeni military is divided, and the president's security forces are still committed to fighting anti-U.S. militants. They are also resolutely on the opposite side of the prodemocracy revolution. It is no wonder that the U.S. is still backing the old order in Yemen.

The already impoverished country is now facing a possible economic meltdown — with continuous electricity disruptions for up to 20 hours a day in the capital, according to the Associated Press, (as cited in the Washington Post online on June 27.

The Yemeni people, however, continue to rally for freedom, democracy and civil rights. They wait for each Friday to descend upon city centers by the hundreds of thousands, conveying an extraordinarily clear message aimed at peace, stability and basic human rights.

"Hand in hand to achieve our goal," chanted the very large crowd in Sanaa, all in one voice.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London), on www.Amazon.com.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEBANON: ANOTHER FRAME-UP

BY GWYNNE DYER

LONDON — Here we go again. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a United Nations-backed body investigating the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, has accused four people of his murder. They all belong to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite movement that Israel and the United States define as terrorist. But they are probably not guilty.

Special tribunals of this sort have no intelligence agents of their own. In practice, they rely heavily on information supplied to them by national intelligence services that they trust. But they are judges, lawyers and other unworldly types, and they don't seem to understand that there is no such thing as a trustworthy intelligence service.

Immediately after the explosion that killed Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people in Beirut in 2005, Western and Israeli intelligence services said that the Syrian government was behind it, and that the Iranians were behind them. Well, of course. The main aim of the U.S. and Israel at that time was to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon, where they had been stationed since shortly after the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.

Four Lebanese generals accused of working for Syria were arrested. The non-violent "Cedar Revolution" broke out, demanding an end to Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. And in the end the Syrians left and a pro-Western government took power: mission accomplished.

But there was actually no evidence against the four Lebanese generals, and as one of its first acts the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, created in 2009, ordered their release.

So who had organized the killing of Hariri, then? Well, accusing the Syrians had worked pretty well for the Western intelligence agencies. So maybe they decided to blame Hezbollah now, and see if that worked too.

Hezbollah came into existence in response to the long Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon (1982-2000). It has the support of most of Lebanon's Shiites, who dominate the south. And it gets arms and money not only from Syria but also from Syria's ally, Iran.

During the last Israeli attack on Lebanon, in 2006, Hezbollah fought the Israeli Army to a stand-still in southern Lebanon. But its leadership has always been intelligent and subtle, and the notion that it would let itself become a tool for some ham-fisted Syrian operation to kill the Lebanese prime minister seems simply unbelievable to most Lebanese.

The judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon were persuaded by evidence that Western intelligence services pointed them toward, particularly about mobile phone calls allegedly made by Hezbollah officials. So arrest warrants have now been issued for Mustafa Badreddin, Hezbollah's chief operations officer, and three other Hezbollah officials.

They probably had nothing to do with Hariri's assassination. It's more likely that they are being framed by Western intelligence agencies because Hezbollah is seen as a serious threat to Israel. If this sounds paranoid, consider the case of the Lockerbie bombing.

The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 killed 270 people, most of them American. At first U.S. intelligence blamed Iran, claiming that it used an Arab terrorist group based in Syria to carry out the operation. So Syria was under pressure too — but then in 1990 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, and Washington needed the Syrians as allies in the war to liberate it. Suddenly the whole Iran-Syria case was abandoned, and the new suspect was Libya.

Libya under Moammar Gadhafi was an enemy of the West, so new evidence was found linking Libyan intelligence agents to the attack. Gadhafi was brought to heel, and one Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was tried by an international court and sentenced to life in prison. Alas, the new "evidence" was then gradually discredited as key "witnesses" turned out to be incredible.

One man, a Maltese shopkeeper called Tony Gauci whose testimony apparently linked al-Megrahi to the suitcase that contained the bomb, was later found living in Australia on several million dollars that the U.S. had paid him for his testimony. Another, Ulrich Lumpert, admitted that he had lied to the tribunal about supplying Libya with timers for the bomb. And so on.

In 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission announced that it would refer al-Megrahi's case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh (the Libyan was being held in a Scottish prison) because he "may have suffered a miscarriage of justice."

To avoid all this coming out into the open in a new trial, al-Megrahi was released in 2009 and sent home on the grounds that he was a dying man who wouldn't last three months. (He's still alive.)

If Western intelligence agencies played this kind of game over the Lockerbie bombing, what's to stop them from doing the same over the murder of Hariri? And why would they want to do that? Because Hezbollah and its Christian and Druze allies now dominate the Lebanese government, and are seen as a threat to Israeli and American interests.

The Middle East runs almost entirely on conspiracy theories, most of them ridiculously implausible. But some of them are real.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RETHINKING JAPAN'S MYANMAR POLICY

BY NAING KO KO AND SIMON SCOTT

An historic meeting June 29 between parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Makiko Kikuta and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon highlights Japan's increasing willingness to look beyond its self-interest and promote democracy in the region.

Kikuta is the first high-level Japanese envoy to meet with Suu Kyi since 2002, and although the meeting only lasted an hour, it carried added symbolic weight as it was followed by Suu Kyi's announcement that she will defy the generals and go on a controversial tour of the country.

Earlier in the week, Kikuta visited the capital Naypyidaw, where talks were held with regime leaders, including Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin.

After the military regime took power in 1962 under the rule of strongman Ne Win, Japanese diplomacy with Burma (Myanmar) largely involved working with the country's notorious generals without giving much thought to the will or interests of the people of Burma. In fact, during the period of Ne Win's rule, almost 40 percent of all Burma's imports came from Japan. This foreign policy toward Burma mainly consisted of Japan giving massive amounts of official development assistance as a way to bolster its trade interests there.

From 1976 to 1990, more than 66 percent of the bilateral ODA Burma received came from Japan. Yet it is unclear how much, if any, of this aid actually moved outside regime circles and made it into the impoverished hands of the Burmese people.

Aung San, the architect of modern, independent Burma and the father of Suu Kyi; Ne Win; and many other Burmese military leaders were educated and trained by Japanese army officers in World War II. But after the bloodshed of the 1988 uprisings and ensuing military coup, control of the country shifted from the old-school, socialist, military dictatorship of Ne Win to the new, and arguably even more repressive, State Law and Order Restoration Council. At this point Japan's relationship with Burma changed markedly.

Alongside major Western donors, Japan suspended foreign aid to Burma in response to the horrific events of '88, and it was only resumed at a significantly reduced level. Annual average aid from Japan to Burma was just under $155 million per year between 1978 and 1988, but during the period from 1996 to 2005 that figure was down to an annual average of just over $36 million. Yet as Japan has gradually pulled back from Burma, China's influence has deepened and now Beijing is almost single-handedly bankrolling Burma's military thugs. Last year, Burma-China bilateral trade was worth a whopping $4.44 billion — a 53.2 percent increase on 2009 figures — and 2011 figures are expected to show the same level of growth. Thus, the junta and its cronies are no longer reliant on Japanese aid or trade for their survival. Burma has become a shantytown of China and the generals of Burma routinely pilgrimage to the politburo in Beijing while forgetting the role of Japan in the Asia-Pacific.

So, has Japanese foreign policy toward Burma failed?

The answer is no, but Japan's foreign policymakers urgently need to formulate a new winning strategy toward Burma that offers real financial gains for taking "real" steps toward democracy. Japan still remains the world's third largest economic power, with a growing soft power base, especially in Southeast Asia, where its pop culture is widely enjoyed. Millions of Burmese consumers still prefer high-quality Japanese cars and electronics over cheaper Chinese products. In short, Japan still has a significant unilateral and multilateral role to play Burmese and regional politics.

Japanese foreign policy can underpin the democratization and development of Burma by aligning itself with the desires of the Burmese people. History shows that the correlation of human capital and democracy underpins economic growth and development in many modern Asian states. Why not in Burma? Why not invest in the human capital of the Burma's democratization movement and allocate optimum resources to the vulnerable people of Burma? More than any other nation, Japan has the potential to play a hands-on role in facilitating Burma's national reconciliation.

As evidenced by Kikuta's recent visit, Japan seems able to strike a balance that the Western democracies have been so far unable to do: avoid alienating Burma's military junta, yet still recognize and affirm the people's desire for democracy. Japan should step up, exercise its growing soft power as an advocate for Asian democracy,and play a unilateral role in the negotiation process. It should appoint a liaison officer who can gear up the dialogue between the military regime and the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy, and thus work toward ending the suffering of the Burmese people.

Japan has the diplomatic strength to play a leading role in bringing about an end to human rights violations in Burma. It is still a great power player in Asia and can counterbalance China's dominance in the region's power structure by becoming a voice and symbol for Asian democracy and thus transcend its lagging economic growth. If Japan is willing to embrace this noble and important role, the first priority would be to endorse the International Commission of Inquiry, which was proposed by the United Nation's Human Rights rapporteur of Burma in 2010.

Former U.N. human rights special rapporteurs professor Paulo Pinheiro and Dr. Yozo Yokota have also supported the call of an International Commission of Inquiry into Burma. Moreover, Japan has the unilateral diplomatic power to persuade the economies of Asia to promote democracy, human rights and engage with Burma's democratic civil society. Since the DPJ took power in 2009, the people of Burma have expected Japan's foreign policy toward their isolated nation to change and align itself with Burma's grass-roots democratic movement.

Vice Foreign Minister Kikuta's decision to visit Suu Kyi is a step in the right direction and hopefully signifies Japan growing role as a beacon of Asian democracy.

Naing Ko Ko is a leader of the NZ Burma campaign, a recipient of the 2010 Amnesty International New Zealand Human Rights Defender Award and a former Burmese political prisoner. Simon Scott is a Tokyo-based journalist who writes on Japan- and Burma-related issues.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

'WHOLE WOMEN' IN TUNE WITH MEN, IN PEACE WITH OWN NATURE

GIOVANNI COMPARINI

Nowadays it is usual to read articles written by women that strive for better conditions and equal rights.

In developing countries they demand a more secure and fair life, while in Western and more developed countries they aspire to a major role in working activities and politics, considered at the base of social well-being and power.

Mostly these articles blame the male chauvinist, despotic character still standing out in our society worldwide.

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, celebrated for the 100th time on March 8, 2011, The Jakarta Post of March 4 inserted a supplement of the Hong Kong journal China Daily. Miss Claire Chiang, former member of Singaporean Parliament, drew my attention by the statement that her wish for women is "…to find a way to peace and to be a whole woman. But how we do it, and how we define 'being whole' is the critical question".

These remarks prompt me to introduce some personal points of view on the matter. Because, if it's true that men and women are complementary, that is to say needing each other to be fulfilled and whole, this means that they have to cooperate and help each other, and not to compete or take unilateral positions. Therefore, inputs from the other sex could help women to find the right way on the path to be "whole women".

I start by our attitude of men in the face of women's claims, which seems mostly passive and without a real interest on the matter. That is probably due to a hotchpotch of factors, such as men don't want interfere with what they consider as women's internal affairs; a kind of respect for the fair sex; men erroneously consider the matter with no impact on the practical life and therefore without importance. My attitude started to change when I realized the strong impact of the women's struggle on the life quality of Western societies.

A mirror of this uneasiness is the condition of children and old people. It is a very complex matter, especially concerning children, and cannot be analyzed in this context. Basically both suffer from a lack of time or unwillingness to take care of them from their loved ones that, due to their busy life, delegate public utilities to take responsibility for customary family duties.

Such utilities, however, often don't provide the expected services. Moreover, they are usually rejected by old people, because they lack something: Call this attention, warmth, friendship, love or something else. For this reason, often it's necessary to turn to full time care-takers for old persons, with unpredictable results.

A study published in 2009 by the Department of Applied Psychology of Padua University (Italy) shows that in Western countries the big gap between social-biological nature and fast changing cultures results in psychological violence, especially for women, torn between their natural, biological needs and the boost and desire to pursue social approval.

The first are the strong forces of instinct, result of accumulations and adaptations of thousands years' experiences and cannot be removed within few years.

The second pushes to satisfy the need of social integration, with its changing values, trends and fashions, or to fulfil dreams cherished since little girls. These contrasting forces can lead to anxiety, stress and other psychological disorders affecting women, in spite of their victories.

A classic example can be met on the occasion of motherhood, when women dispense full attention and unconditional love to their babies. This way they satisfy their strong need to give love and their natural role of being mother. However, when children become bigger and more independent, the need of social approval begins to appear.

Then characters and values that permeate our social life and have been mostly prerogative of men can influence them, such as competition, aggressiveness, capability of taking risks and quick decisions. Therefore, to be appreciated and win the social approval in its different forms, women sometimes behave in accordance with values and characters typical of men.

This seems not the right path to become 'whole women'. For the Javanese lady Febri Hapsari Dipokusumo, interviewed in The Jakarta Post of May 3, 2011, women's lib should not be seen "…as a mean to beat or challenge the opposite sex"; moreover, the battle for women's education of national heroine Kartini was aimed at enhancing their qualities, so that "…they would be able to bring up well-balanced children".

In my opinion, same rights and equal dignity should be pursued between women and men. An important step would be to acknowledge and appreciate diversities, complementary values and roles implied by the existence of two sexes. Differences, if well understood and managed, could become a great wealth and an advantage for both sexes, to complete each other and to fulfill better their social roles.

To achieve these objectives women and men need to fight together, from families up to the highest political level. On the most developed and progressive countries, an important step could be the right of women to choose between the possibilities of staying at home, with a state salary for this worthy engagement, or working outside.

This would give back at least part of the lost dignity to the house work, which is now almost at the bottom in the scale of social consideration. It could be also a way to curb unemployment and to allow women that work only from necessity to make a less stressful life and be more available for their family.

Many Asian countries, where the mentioned contradictions and malfunctions have not exploded yet, would do better to start learning from others' mistakes, which is not an easy thing.

An important lesson learned could be that women in peace with their own nature and fulfilling dreams and aspirations of a modern society, need to be 'in tune' with men. This could start from families, which are the more hit by unilateral and individualistic trends of our societies.

The writer, an architect and urban planner, conducted studies in several developing countries and is now living in Bali.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

INDONESIA MUST ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY, SHOW MERCY

FRANS H. WINARTA AND COLIN MCDONALD QC

Indonesians were shocked and appalled by the beheading of fellow citizen Ruyati binti Satubi in Saudi Arabia on June 18, 2011. The execution again highlighted the use and efficiency of the death penalty as criminal punishment.

The facts surrounding Ruyati's execution beg for a principled and measured response, beyond diplomatic protests.

Ruyati was a poor, hard-working 54-year-old housemaid who went to Saudi Arabia to save money for her family. As a domestic worker employed overseas she was vulnerable. According to reports, she killed the wife of her Saudi employer in circumstances of self defense.

Other reports suggested Ruyati was often abused by her employer. Her case passed through the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia. It appears the death penalty was sought and justified by Qishas (on the principle of "an eye for an eye").

The Saudi decision has come in for trenchant criticism by Indonesian legal experts, who point out that Qishas only applies when the act of killing is accompanied by an "ill intention". Qishas does not apply in circumstances of self defense. There was strong criticism of the Saudi courts, which experts said should have taken the motive into account as required by Sharia law.

The justification of criminal punishment is the protection of society. How did the execution of Ruyati better protect Saudi Arabia? Is the world a better place for the execution of Ruyati? Why were the reported circumstances of self-defense and motive not considered and accorded due weight?

Leaving aside the issues of curial and legal error, the circumstances of Ruyati's case called out for clemency — but none was given. Worse, it emerged that neither Ruyati's family nor the Indonesian government was accorded the usual and important advance consular notice. The tragic result is that the family did not have notice to seek clemency, nor did the Indonesian government have the opportunity to seek clemency or make appropriate political representations.

With more than 900,000 Indonesian citizens working in Saudi Arabia, there is a lot at stake for Indonesia. The stakes are even higher given the fact that more than 26 Indonesian citizens are currently on death row there and with more than 216 Indonesian citizens face execution in other countries.

Indonesia has an excellent and highly professional Foreign Ministry, which is one of the best in the world. Had proper notice been given, ministry officials could and would have done all their utmost to protect a fellow citizen. In a democracy, the most important office is the citizen.

The tragedy of Ruyati's execution and the apparent failure to accord Indonesia the usual diplomatic privileges calls for a principled and measured response. The protection of Indonesian citizens begs such a measured and mature response by a new democracy.

If the foreign minister's claim that Indonesia was not given prior warning of Ruyati's execution is true, Indonesia has an option to file the case with the International Court of Justice to have the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations upheld. In taking such action, Indonesia can lawfully, respectfully but determinedly make a statement to the world that Indonesia has an abiding concern to protect the lives of its citizens.

The taking of legal proceedings is both reasonable and appropriate under such circumstances.

There is ample legal precedent that nations must respect their consular obligations where there are foreign citizens facing the death penalty within their jurisdiction.

The execution of Ruyati once again highlights the problems for countries that retain the death penalty, including Indonesia. The world trend is clearly toward the abolition of capital punishment.

A decisive majority of countries has abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

On Dec. 18, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a moratorium in respect for the use of death penalty. Had there been a worldwide moratorium, Ruyati and the lives of other Indonesian citizens on death row could have been saved.

The time has come for Indonesia to ask itself whether it is really worth keeping the death penalty as a criminal punishment.

There is a range of factors that suggest it is now in Indonesia's interests to abolish or at least have a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Experience and statistics from around the world indicate that the death penalty is no a greater deterrent then lengthy prison terms.

The retention of the death penalty hinders the Indonesian National Police in its efforts to combat serious transnational crimes. We saw this when Dutch police were prevented from assisting the Indonesian police in the death of human rights activist Munir, because successful prosecution could have led to the death penalty in Indonesia.

Diplomatic relations are predictably and unnecessarily strained when a citizen from a state that has abolished the death penalty receives the death penalty. With the majority of the world's countries being abolitionist, Indonesia's diplomatic and economic interests are at stake.

The Indonesian Constitutional Court on Oct. 30, 2007 recommended that the death penalty be used sparingly and that condemned prisoners have the chance to have their sentences commuted to prison terms for proven good behavior over 10 years.

The recommendations of one of Indonesia's two apex courts are sound and are brought into poignant perspective by the execution of Ruyati.

One way of testing where the practical best interests of Indonesia lie is to have a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and implement in legislation the recommendations of the Constitutional Court.

This would signal a commitment not only to Indonesian citizens
and be respectful the deeply held values of neighboring states, but also would implement the jurisprudence of the Indonesian Constitutional Court.

The horrible death of Ruyati and the grief of her family should not be entirely in vain. Let there be action and principled leadership.

Moreover, Indonesia follows the Pancasila, one of whose principles is just and civilized humanity, so death penalties based on retaliation are no longer appropriate.

If it is to be an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" this will soon be a blind and toothless world.

Frans H. Winarta is a lawyer. Colin McDonald QC is a counsel and adviser to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and Indonesian citizens in Australia for more than 20 years.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

FORKED TONGUES FORCED DOWN OUR THROATS

JULIA SURYAKUSUMA

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) may have been a groovy guy in his time, but I'm not sure I agree with his remark that "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".

Sure, people should have the freedom to change their minds, especially if their opinions are bigoted or rattlebrained.

But making false promises and not walking your own talk is simply hypocrisy. It is speaking with a forked tongue, as "Injuns" used to say in cowboy movies.

Sadly, we Indonesians have had a steady diet of forked tongues forced down our throats recently. I offer three examples, all relating to the plight of our female migrant workers (TKW), who grabbed attention again after the beheading in Saudi Arabia of Ruyati, 54. She was a found guilty of killing her boss, Khariyah Hamid, 64 (see http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/06/20/ruyati-beheading-a-blow-sby's-claims.html).

My first forked tongue relates to women. The state refers to them as tiang negara (pillars of the nation), while in Islam they say sorga di bawah telapak kaki ibu (heaven is under the sole of mothers' feet). So how come Indonesia ranks 87th among 134 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index (see https://members.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/rankings2010.pdf)?

This "raise-me-up-so-you-can-throw-me-down" attitude clearly applies to the women domestic helpers who constitute 85 percent of our migrant workers.

They are hailed as pahlawan devisa (heroes of foreign exchange) for the massive revenue they generate. Last year, their remittances totaled US$7,134 billion, our second-biggest source of revenue after oil and gas, and the World Bank ranked Indonesia among the top 10 remittance-receiving countries in the world. Despite this, exploitation, extortion and abuse of migrant workers has been endemic since the national "body business" got going in the '70s.

As of May 2011, there were 6 million Indonesian migrant workers employed overseas; 1.5 million of them in Saudi Arabia. Saudi's GNP per capita may be six times ours, but it is also an extremely puritanical, intolerant and ultra-conservative country that came in at 129th on the Global Gender Gap Index. Slavery was only abolished there in 1962 and almost half of all Saudi children are abused.

Of the rest of our migrant workers, 2.2 million go to Malaysia, and there has been no shortage of ugly abuse scandals there either.

This means the crises overseas involving migrant workers are inevitable. Each time a new crisis emerges, our national ego is wounded and the government reacts with inflamed rhetoric and occasionally suspends labor exports for a bit. None of this achieves very much, but the government rarely does much else.

True, in 2004 it did sign the Convention on Migrant Workers after almost 35 years of shirking. But signing merely acknowledges the existence of the Convention. It is not incorporated it into our national laws until it is ratified. The government promised ratification in 2009, but nothing happened.

Perhaps that's not surprising, given that the government is also unable to pass a law to protect the 10 million domestic workers in Indonesia. The National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (JALA PRT - http://www.jala-prt.org/) has been pushing for this for years, to no avail.

It's simple really: If Indonesia doesn't want to be regarded as a "coolie among nations", as Sukarno put it, we have to stop treating our domestic workers — both domestically (sic!) and abroad — as if they are members of a "nation of coolies".

My second forked tongue relates to capital punishment and migrant workers: If Indonesians were enraged about Ruyati's death, why do we still execute people ourselves?

The Indonesian Supreme Court recently rejected a final appeal by Australian Andrew Chan, one of two members of the Bali Nine still facing execution for attempting to smuggle 8 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia in 2005.

There are 150 others lining up for execution at the moment. Good luck to them all!

They'll need it, given that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is famously unwilling to exercise his power of clemency, and recently emphasized that he wouldn't soften his stance for foreigners facing execution. Despite this, he somehow expects the Saudi government to spare Indonesians facing the death penalty there.

How can the Indonesian government protest against the punish-ment of one of their citizens in accordance with the laws in Saudi Arabia, if they are equally insistent on carrying out their own executions here?

My third forked tongue relates to sharia: We don't like sharia laws in Saudi Arabia and rush to condemn beheading as barbaric.

But the Indonesian government seems untroubled by the passing of Qanun in Aceh that introduced flogging.

And last year, the Aceh legislature went so far as to pass a Qanun that would allow offenders to be stoned to death.

Mercifully, Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf refused to sign it into law, but who knows how long that will last?

SBY's government is strong on the "human rights" rhetoric, but seems untroubled by developments in Aceh.

Then again, it has been steadily looking the other way for some time, as Islamist hardliners introduce brutal and discriminatory Sharia regulations at a local level across the archipelago, and violently attack anyone who disagrees with them.

Emerson criticized "foolish consistency". Maybe he should have said "foolish inconsistencies", of which our government seems guilty in many different ways when it comes to migrant workers. With so many forked tongues wagging, it is no wonder no one's listening to Yudhoyono and his team much anymore.

Maybe we should export the lot of them to Saudi Arabia, and see how they like it!!

The writer (www.juliasuryakusuma.com) is the author of State Ibuism.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

NEW DELHI AND ITS SENSITIVITIES TOWARDS T'NADU

India is a political reality that we as its neighbour can not ignore. As difficult as it has been to remain cordial under some of the most diplomatically trying times, this fact had always remained strong in how we dealt with India. Our politically sour past apart, the very policies adopted by her with direct impact on our stability, still remain relevant. Two years after defeating the biggest scourge the country was being denied all the successes on its path from, Indian political games sadly seem far from over.

Fed diligently by its own insecurities with regard to alignments that are the desired of all her neighbours, Indias recent economic successes seem far from having offered her any real confidence. She is denied contributing to the peaceful atmosphere that Sri Lanka has finally being offered due to these fears. These fears come in the form of a Chinese presence on Sri Lankan soil or any Pakistani assistance. 

Fears, she uses to manipulate any route for stability that the Sri Lankan government would adopt. When its Foreign Secretary Ms. Rao claims that India needs to remain 'sensitive' to the Southern concerns with regard to Sri Lanka, she is in fact using one of the easiest tricks available to New Delhi, to ally its fears. For someone who expresses such concern for the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka, her government's silence on the growing discord that its citizens in its South feel is certainly deafening.

It is indeed to make a mockery of the situation when Delhi sheds tears for the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka, when her own in Tamil Nadu scream political grievances in her hands. The disputes over water rights for Tamil Nadu farmers from three neighboring States with an alleged ethnic connotation in its treatment by the Center, is a case in point. Emotions run deep when they believe such situations to have followed an anti-Tamil posturing by Delhi. The grievances alluded to by the Tamil speaking people of India have long and steady history- one that Delhi can ill afford to deny.

Politically too Delhis 'concerns' are valid. In the backdrop of a strong military message being delivered the LTTE and the Eelam dreams of any proportion by the Rajapaksa regime, the threat New Delhi faces with emotions growing high in the Indian South is significant. Delhi can not ignore the impact the Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) can have on its own soil now denied in Sri Lanka. New Delhi is of course attuned to the reality that given the emotional and historical link enjoyed by Sri Lankan Tamils to Tamil Nadu, this threat is quite significant.

The more successful she is therefore, in raising issues of human rights, resettlement and/or a political solution in Sri Lanka, the secure she is in removing the threat of the TGTE finding a safe haven in her South.  The longer she can move the emotions growing in her South- across the seas, the stronger her chances of political stability.

Ms. Rao is right and being 'honest' of course. 'As far as the Indian government is concerned, Tamil Nadu is an integral part of India. I am being frank and honest on this and we are in touch with the Tamil Nadu government to tell it about what we are doing in Sri Lanka, and about the discussions with the Sri Lankan government, about helping the war-affected people.' She says.

What she is not being frank and honest about is the fact that her government is only being 'sensitive' to Tamil Nadu and its concerns because New Delhi is sensitive to the impacts a destabilized Tamil Nadu can do to Indias future. And if history is any indicator, both a politically and economically stable Sri Lanka would be the first she would sacrifice to this end.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

MARSHALLING PEACE

President Obama has announced his decision to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and 23,000 in 2012.

 For the US president, the elimination of Osama bin Laden and two-thirds of Al Qaeda's leaders, the untenable cost of the conflict ($118 billion this year alone), and the relative success of recent operations mark a turning point in the war that began in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

Motivated mainly by considerations of domestic politics, the decision seems to have little connection to the logic of the counterinsurgency strategy prevailing since 2009. This strategy, coupled with a marked increase in Special Forces operations and drone strikes in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, has undoubtedly contributed to a weakening of the insurgents.The Taleban have been forced to reduce their hold on the south. The reconstruction effort – notably of the Afghan security forces, along with the justice system and local governance – has improved, albeit insufficiently. Moreover, the Americans have recognised the need for making preliminary contacts with the Taleban that may lead to peace negotiations.

The insurgents have not thrown in the towel, but they've adapted their tactics – counterattacking in the eastern border region of Pakistan and intensifying urban suicide operations, which generate major media coverage.

The United States and its allies cannot relax their efforts. Progress remains fragile and must be consolidated while the Americans accelerate the political process needed to bring about a resolution.

What can France do to help? First, we must ensure a strict adherence to our commitments. We intervened early on in Afghanistan, in support of the United States. We acted to defend our security interests, which were threatened by a state that had become a haven for international terrorism, and also to promote the humanistic values at the heart of our foreign policy.

Now, as France begins a phased pullback of the 4,000 soldiers it has contributed to the allied effort, the nature of our intervention should evolve. Military action, under US command, should give way to the training of Afghan security forces. The reconstruction effort should continue in areas where we have a presence – education, health, agriculture, justice and rule of law.

This will certainly necessitate the maintenance of a reduced civil and military contingent. Too rapid a departure would be out of the question, given that our presence in the eyes of our allies, especially the Americans and the British, demonstrates our enewed commitment to the Atlantic alliance and our status as a pillar of a European defense system still under development. Had it not been for this, military cooperation agreements would never have been signed with Britain in November 2010.

What contribution can France and the Europeans make to a political settlement in Afghanistan?

Even at this early stage, peace negotiations cannot stay solely in the hands of the United States and Pakistan, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The Europeans should be as closely associated to the peace as they have been to the war. France should take the initiative in conjunction with the British and the Germans, tying in the European Union. This arrangement, honed in negotiations with Iran, would give us the flexibility to pursue our interests and views.

Similarly, we cannot be entirely detached from the regional dimension. Any lasting stabilisation of Afghanistan requires a solution to the crisis in Pakistan. The long relationship between Pakistan and the US is of central importance, but it has been polluted by a history (of reciprocal mistrust and misunderstanding.

Only a broadening of the dialogue, bringing together neighbouring countries, regional actors and the major powers to deal with all the issues – including regional security, cross-border cooperation, trade, technological cooperation, economic development, and energy issues, including civil nuclear power – can lead to a successful conclusion.

Pakistans military officials should be involved in these negotiations. This is a prerequisite for its success. Talks should also include countries that play an active role in Afghan politics (Iran, India and Pakistan) and in Pakistan (China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey).

(Jean d'Amecourt was Frances

ambassador to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2011 and before that under Secretary

of Defence)

France and Europe must take the lead, but without harbouring any illusions concerning the difficulties involved and the time required in undertaking such a project. After all, the effort is not dissimilar to the Helsinki process of the early 1970s, which eventually led to the thawing of East-West relations.

(Jean d'Amecourt was Frances ambassador to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2011 and before that under Secretary of Defence)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

REBUILDING LIVES LOST IN A WAR...

Since the end of the war two years ago the government began the resettlement process that has reportedly just ended. However, various claims of people in the North being displaced even after the war seem to be coming to light with the government vehemently denying such reports.

Tamil politicians allege that even though the resettlement process was taking place there was much more to be done by the government; from providing people with proper housing to job opportunities which are few in the area. What is not so surprising are the mixed reports that are being received; some by the government others by those who call the Northern Province their home, of both resettlement and displacement. Reports of resettlement with land owners thanking god for a dream come true as well as reports of more land being occupied by the Army displacing people are many.

The military presence which many say was expected to decrease with the end of the war is another concern. Local politicians accept the government never promised to reduce military presence in the areas but they are hoping that the police will now be upholding the law in the areas.  

While some high security zones have been released by the military allowing the residents to resettle, there are lands that will not be released by the military, leaving behind adamant residents who refuse to accept anything less and an equally adamant government who refuse to release these lands.

Strengthening the security of the North.

Director General of the Media Centre for national Security (MCNS), Lakshman Hulgalle refuted claims that people were being displaced due to the Army taking over land, instead he explains that the government has all but completed the resettlement of the 350,000 who were displaced in the North except for a mere 9,000.  

"The resettlement process has been successful and instead of an increase in military presence there is in fact a decrease, but this does not mean that we can completely remove the military from the North," he said. Hulugalle explained that due to reasons of national security the military will remain in the former war affected areas.

Hulugalle said that even though most of the top leaders of the LTTE were present during the last phase of the war, they did not want to leave any future threat for the LTTE to re-group. "It is not like the army massacred the LTTE, we know but there may be a more cadres and we cannot allow them to regroup and arm themselves, which is why military presence in the North is essential even after the end of the war," he stated.

Jaffna Peninsula 

The Additional Government Agent for Jaffna Rubini Varthalingam explained that the land mass in the peninsula that needed to be cleared of land mines was constantly fluctuating. "The land that is released for resettlement is automatically cordoned off and the demining process has begun there," she said.

Close to 60 per cent of the land has been cleared for mines and the resettlement process is being conducted. Ms. Varthalingam stated that a further 17,673 families have to be resettled in the areas adding that she could not confirm when the process would be completed.  "Some of these lands are high security zones under the military and the people can only be resettled when it is released and we do not know when that will be," she said. Ms. Varthalingam also said that the authorurities had no proper knowledge of the land under the military until it was released.

Speaking about the vacant property in the town and other surrounding areas she stated that while some had settled back in them others could not afford to do so. "Some of these people have settled down in other areas and some are slowly rebuilding their houses and some others just can't afford to settle back in their land," Ms. Varthalingam said. She explained that the authorities were unable to clear these lands as they were private property.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hulugalle denied the existence of high security zones in the Northern Province. "I can say with complete responsibility that there are no more HSZ's in the North as they were removed under the orders of the Defence Secretary eight months ago," he said. Mr. Hulugalle explains that citizens are allowed to travel freely anywhere they want to, except for a few restricted areas.

"They are confusing these restricted areas for HSZ's, we have areas everywhere that people are not allowed to go to like some of the areas surrounding the airports and it is these places that they are mistaking for high security zones," Mr. Hulugalle explained.

The less fortunate

Some Tamil parties have however alleged that even though people have been resettled in the North many of them are left with nothing. "There are people, especially in the villages who have been resettled who used to get dry rations but they don't receive that anymore," said Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) political leader, M. K Sivajilingam.

Sivajilingam further added that many people were in a hopeless situation as they had no occupation as well. "These people come and they talk to us and complain about their situation but nothing can be done," he said.

Minister for Resettlement, Gunaratne Weerakoon rejected that the government was not taking any action to reduce the hardships of the people. "We have done everything that we can, many of the people have no jobs because they have no qualifications and there is no way to offer them jobs," he said. 

"Many of these people used to get dry rations and that was provided by the UN, there is only a limited period of time that we too can provide for them," he said. Minister Weerakoon explained that the Ministry of Resettlement is now conducting a project in collaboration with the Ministry of Construction and Engineering Service to provide low interest loans for people who have resettled and are rebuilding their homes.

"With these facilities a person can take loans up to three or four lakhs and there were some who have taken loans up to eight lakhs," he said. Minister Weerakoon said that they had scheduled to resettle displaced persons by the end of the year under the directive of the President.   

The Minister claimed that there were many who stayed in a/c rooms in Colombo giving advice or spoke ill of what the government was doing for the people who were recently resettle, but not one person would come forward to do anything about it.

Resettlement or Displacement

With the government's maintaining that all displaced people have been resettled, few Tamil politicians have charged that there are more being displaced rather than being resettled. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Spokesman MP Suresh Premachnadran says that even though they accept the government is resettling people displaced by the war this out numbers those who are being displaced.

"There are people in the North who have nowhere to go because they still can't go to their lands after the war," the Parliamentarian said. He complained that there were an increasing number of families left destitute with many of them pushed out on to the streets with nowhere to go and no job to support them.

MP Premachandran said that there were a 100 or so families in Kilinochchi alone who are out on the streets because of this. "I met an old man there who said that even though he had the deeds to his house he was not allowed in to his own land, he has nowhere to go and no job to support his family," he said.

Land in Mandathivu, the Parliamentarian said had been taken over by the Navy in order to build a camp leaving villagers with nowhere to go.  "The government says that they have resettled everyone but how can this be when there are more people who are being displaced because of their activities," MP Premachandran said.

 "The government is giving these people land but they are not sufficient for the people do not have a livelihood," he said.

Coming home after 21 years

Caught in the cross fire between the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE, Thamabiah Sathgunasingham fled avoiding the bombs that were being fired over his house taking nothing but his family and the clothes that they wore.

"We were displaced twice, the first time after we left our homes we returned after a few days, the house was then taken over by the military and we saw that they had taken very good care of it when they gave it back to us," Mr. Sathgunasingham said. It was after the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) took over that they had left the area for good and hadn't returned till last month. This time when they returned they found nothing of their old home except the walls that were a faint reminder of rooms and the memories it once held.

Recalling the bombs and the deafness and bleeding from the finger tips that followed, Mr. Sathgunasingham explained that they had been displaced and went to Kokuvil where his family and he had been living for the past few years. "Our line of houses was the military's border, it is from where they fought the LTTE," he said pointing at the larger bunkers that had been dug inside the houses and the points higher up in the walls that had been made as bunkers as well surrounded by bullet holes.

"I am an engineer by profession and I work at the cement factory close by, they brought us under security a few years back to see our houses and all we saw were forests," he said sadly. According to Sathgunasingham they had not even been allowed by the military to visit their homes as it was a high security zone.

Siva Subramanian, a farmer who has been allowed to return to his home that he too left 21 years ago and explains that the return of their homes was god given. "I left along with the others who live down these roads, none of us ever thought that we will be able to return to our homes," he said.

Mr. Subramanian explains that even though rebuilding the house to what it once was would be expensive and they no longer have the funds they used to, it was the feeling of finally coming home when they had lost hope of ever doing so was what brought tears to their eyes and gave them the strength to build from scratch 21 years later.

"The government did say that they will pay some of the expenses but we will have to bear the burden of a large part of it," he said. Mr. Subramanian said now that they had returned home they were looking forward to getting back to live their lives.  

Mr. Sathgunasingham and Mr. Subramanian along with many of his neighbours return to their former homes everyday clearing up what they could in the hopes of rebuilding the empty walls that now stand alone and come back to the homes they left behind 21 years ago.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

DEAL TO GET GADDAFI

Ice is melting in Tripoli. Muammar Gaddafi's reported nod to step down is no small development, and is a good omen for peace and security of the North African country.

 The word from the brainstorming session in Russias resort of Sochi, where NATO and Russian officials met, is that the Libyan dictator could call it a day, if enough of guarantees come his way. Though no details are available to support the contention, the news gets credence from the fact that NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has personally discussed the point with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. This is the time for the world community to get deeply involved with the affairs in Libya, and try to find out an amicable solution as soon as possible.

We have been here. The crisis in Libya cannot be addressed without getting Gaddafi. The uprising in the east of country and the international acknowledgment of rebels has simply compounded its geopolitical realities. Still the issue could have been handled gracefully had the NATO not jumped in the gun, attempting to intimidate Gaddafi with air sorties. The loss of lives and truncation of the country would have been averted had reason prevailed over jingoism. This berserk attitude on the part of France and Britain derailed to a great extent the peace and reconciliation measures of the African Union. South African President Jacob Zuma's efforts to convince Gaddafi to step down would have worked way back and Libyans could have been saved from the biggest exodus of its history.

Moscow stands a chance to bring back Libya from the brink and avert a war in the making. It is, however, a great gesture on the part of Paris to further the process of reconciliation with the estranged leadership in Tripoli. But there are a couple of questions that could plunge the honest brokers into a dilemma, such as what part of illegally stashed accounts would be unfreezed, and why should the West guarantee that Gaddafi and his like would not be dealt with in the international court of law? This tricky plane is in need of being tackled articulately so that concerns on the human rights count and rebuilding Libyas polity are taken care of. Gaddafi would be better advised to stand down without doling out a wish list of ifs and buts.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

THAKSHIN SHINAWATRA MAKES A COMEBACK IN THAILAND

Last Sunday was general elections in Thailand and the results were a tribute to the Thai people, their political resilience and their commitment to a democratic, constitutional monarchy. The Thai elections one hopes would not only usher in a more representative government in Thailand but also be a beacon for more participatory political processes and governance in certain countries of the ASEAN region.

The opposition won
The first lesson from the Thai election was that the opposition won by a landslide. During the campaign as the polls indicated support for the opposition, political analysts were suggesting a hung parliament. However, the electorate delivered to the opposition Phew Thai party, two hundred and sixty five seats in the five hundred seat legislature. With allies from other smaller parties, the new ruling alliance has two hundred and ninety nine seats. The scale of the victory is apparent when one considers that the formerly governing party garnered only one hundred and sixty seats. Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did the decent thing and resigned as leader of the Democratic Party. 

The Shinawatras' are back

The winner of the election was political newcomer and businesswoman Yingluck Shinawatra. At forty four years, Ms.Shinawatra is set to make history not only as Thailand's first female prime minister but also its youngest. With a master's degree in political science from Kentucky State University in the United States, she was president of AIS, Thailand's largest mobile phone company which was founded by her brother, former Prime Minister Thakshin Shinawatra, who has affectionately referred to his younger sister as his political clone. Never having run for political office before, the younger Shinawatra is largely seen as a front for her politician brother, who from exile in Dubai has been largely and effectively controlling as well as bank rolling the affairs of their Phew Thai Party.   

The military coup was repudiated by the people

Five years ago, in 2006, when then Prime Minster Thakshin Shinawatra was in New York to address the UN General Assembly, the Thai military, staged a coup d' etat, deposed him and banned him from returning to the country. After briefly running the country directly, the military engineered the defection of several parliamentarians of Mr.Thakshin's party, arrested a few more and enabled the establishment favoured Democratic Party to cobble together a working majority in Parliament, to run a coalition government, which had not received a popular mandate, though having a working majority in Parliament. Last Sunday's general election was the first real popular and democratic test for the civilian face of the military backed regime and it was routed at the polls. The Democratic Party, an established, traditional and liberal political entity, certainly seriously tarnished its democratic credentials by being a party to and legitimizing a military coup and the subsequent military machinations in civil government. Its rout at the polls and consignment to the political wilderness by the Thai people will enable the Democratic Party to reexamine where they went wrong and how they might more democratically contribute to Thai political reconciliation and nation building.

One hopes, purely for the sake of democratic values, constitutional government and the rule of law that the Thai military would respect the voice and the democratically expressed will of the Thai people. The current leadership of the Army, are all senior officers that were involved in the 2006 coup as well as being responsible for the bloody crackdown on the pro democracy 'red shirt" protests last year that witnessed at least ninety demonstrators killed and scores more arrested and incarcerated under emergency rule. It is clear that the scale of the opposition victory and the complete repudiation of the military backed regime by the people has caught the generals by surprise and created the recognition that deposing democratic government by military might, necessitates governance through significant coercion and force, which are the very antithesis of what is required for economic growth through foreign investment, exports and tourism, the cornerstones of the Thai economy.

There are legitimate political issues and varied views on them within Thai society as well as between its ruling elites and populist politicians like the Shinawatras. Such issues however should be addressed through open debate and dialogued between the parties and decided by democratic means and not through the barrel of a gun or an Army tank. That is the lesson of last Sunday's Thai election.

(The writer served as Presidential Spokesman from 2001-2005)

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

LEBANON: ANOTHER WESTERN FRAME-UP?  

BY GWYNNE DYER

Here we go again. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a UN-backed body investigating the killing of Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri in 2005, has accused four people of his murder. They belong to Hizbollah, the militant Lebanese Shi'ite movement, but may not be guilty.

Special tribunals of this sort have no intelligence agents. In practice, they rely heavily on information supplied to them by national intelligence services they trust.

Immediately after the explosion that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut, Western and Israeli intelligence services said the Syrian government was behind it - and the Iranians were behind them.

The main aim of the US and Israel at that time was to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon, where they had been stationed since shortly after the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.

Four Lebanese generals accused of working for Syria were arrested. The non-violent "Cedar Revolution" broke out, demanding an end to Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics and the withdrawal of its troops. In the end, the Syrians left and a pro-Western government took power: mission accomplished.

But there was no evidence against the four Lebanese generals and the tribunal created in 2009 ordered their release.

So who killed Hariri?

During the last Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006, Hizbollah fought the Israeli army to a standstill in Southern Lebanon.

But its leadership has always been intelligent and subtle, and the notion that it would let itself become a tool for some ham-fisted Syrian operation to kill the premier seems unbelievable.

Tribunal judges were persuaded by evidence that Western intelligence services pointed them towards, particularly about mobile phone calls allegedly made by Hizbollah officials.

Arrest warrants have now been issued for Hizbollah's chief operations officer Mustafa Badreddin, and three other officials - but some argue they are being framed by Western intelligence agencies because Hizbollah is a threat to Israel.

If this sounds paranoid, consider the case of the Lockerbie bombing. The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 killed 270 people, mostly American.

At first, US intelligence blamed Iran, claiming it used an Arab terrorist group based in Syria to carry out the operation.

So Syria was under pressure too, but then in 1990 Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait and Washington needed the Syrians as allies. Suddenly, the Iran-Syria case was abandoned and the new suspect was Libya.

Libya, under Muammar Gadaffi, was an enemy of the West, so new evidence was found linking Libyan intelligence agents to the attack.

Gadaffi was brought to heel and Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was tried by an international court and sentenced to life in prison.

Alas, the new "evidence" was then gradually discredited as key "witnesses" turned out to be incredible.

In 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said it would refer Al Megrahi's case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh (the Libyan was being held in a Scottish prison) because he "may have suffered a miscarriage of justice".

To avoid all this coming out into the open in a new trial, Al Megrahi was released in 2009 and sent home on the grounds that he was a dying man and wouldn't last three months (he's still alive).

If Western intelligence agencies played this kind of game over the Lockerbie bombing, what's to stop them from doing the same over Hariri's murder?

Hizbollah and its Christian and Druze allies now dominate the Lebanese government and are seen as a threat to Israeli and US interests.

The Middle East is a hotbed of conspiracy theories, mostly implausible, but maybe this one is real.

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