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Friday, July 8, 2011

EDITORIAL 08.07.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month july 08, edition 000879, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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












  1. I, THE BABU





















































With the exit of Mr Dayanidhi Maran from the Union Cabinet, another DMK MP close to the party patriarch stands shamed. If the CBI takes its inquiry into Mr Maran's role in the 2G Spectrum scam during the period when he was Telecom Minister — he is alleged to have forced an Indian telecom operator into selling his firm to a Malaysian company which was then favoured with 2G Spectrum and which, in turn, 'invested' heavily in Sun TV — then he could end up providing company to A Raja and Kanimozhi at Tihar Jail. For the moment, that must remain in the realm of conjecture, but there is little doubt that the DMK is desperate to get its tainted representatives out of the UPA regime to contain the damage to the party, although it could be argued that its battered and bruised image won't be dented any further by another leader going to jail on charges of corruption. Be that as it may, the fact remains that it was Mr M Karunanidhi who pushed for Mr Maran's resignation and removal from the Union Cabinet. The tainted Minister did not volunteer to resign; on the contrary, he was defiant till the last minute, insisting that he would not take the walk into wilderness. There is some irony in this, not the least because the marching orders should have come from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and not Mr Karunanidhi. It is obvious that Mr Singh did not have the gumption to summon Mr Maran and demand his letter of resignation, as he should have done a long time ago. Instead, he maintained his by now infamous silence, electing to ignore the need to assert his authority just as he had ignored the need to step in and prevent Mr Maran from indulging in gross impropriety through abuse of Ministerial power. On both occasions Mr Singh miserably failed to fulfil his responsibility to the nation; he was obliged to act decisively, but he chose not to do so. That failure has nothing to do with the so-called 'dharma' of coalition politics; it has everything to do with the adharma of inaction in the face of misdeed and worse.

Mr Karunakaran has sought the induction of other DMK nominees as substitutes for those who have had to make an ignominious exit from the Union Council of Ministers. Among the nominees is Mr TR Baalu, whose record as a Minister in the UPA1 regime was as bleak as that of the tainted DMK members in the UPA2 regime. Few would have forgotten the undue haste and uncalled for vigour with which he tried to push the Sethusamudram Project, ignoring both popular protests and cautionary warnings by maritime and environmental experts. Such was the intensity of his passion for seeing the project, which would have in no manner helped the Indian shipping industry, executed at break-neck speed that the Government found itself defending the indefensible and even calling into question Hindu faith while denigrating sacred icons, including Sri Ram. Mr Baalu did not want to set new standards in infrastructure building; as much was evident when he handled highways and roads projects. The reason why he wanted to see the Sethusamudram Project executed without dealing with the objections that were raised, it has been suggested, was not dissimilar to the reason why his party colleagues wanted 2G Spectrum distributed without bothering about rules and regulations. Will Mr Singh meekly welcome him into the Cabinet?







The decision of Kerala's UDF Government to reinstate tainted IPS officer Tomin J Thachankery, suspended from service over serious charges, including offering safe passage to terrorists holed up in Qatar to the State, proves the perfidious approach of the Congress towards matters concerning national security. That the State Government's decision follows a Central 'clean chit' to the tainted police officer also shows that some heavyweights in the UPA regime want him back in service when the Congress is in power in Kerala. Through this act, both the UPA and the UDF have defied last week's Kerala High Court instruction to keep criminal elements out of law enforcement agencies. The charges against Mr Thachankery, known for his proximity to the Congress as well as the pro-rich leadership of the CPI(M), are many: Amassing wealth illegally; smuggling electronic goods into the State; indulging in custodial torture; and, most dangerously, assisting terrorists holed up in Gulf countries. He was suspended from service in April 2010 by then Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, the no-nonsense leader of the CPI(M), for travelling to the Gulf without the Government's permission. Mr Thachankery, then Inspector-General of Police in Kannur from where the notorious LeT terrorist Thadiyantavide Nazeer hails, had visited four Arab countries after lying to his superiors that he was going to Sikkim. Before that, he had set off a storm in Kerala by visiting Bangalore without authorisation when Nazeer and his aide were taken there after their arrest in the North-East. Mr Achuthanandan had reacted sharply, but his Home Minister, Mr Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, aligned with the CPI(M)'s pro-rich faction, endorsed that trip. As per reports, Mr Thachankery went to Bangalore to tell Nazeer that he should not reveal certain names to his interrogators.

However, the biggest shock came in the form of a report from the Indian envoy in Doha that Mr Thachankery had held secret talks with certain associates of Nazeer in Qatar. The Union Home Ministry wanted the Kerala Government to take action against him on the basis of this report. The LDF regime extended his suspension and asked the Union Government to probe the matter, following which investigations were handed over to the NIA. Recently, the Home Ministry wrote to the Kerala Government, informing it that the NIA had not found any evidence against Mr Thachankery and that it had no objections to revoking his suspension. Last Wednesday's Kerala Cabinet decision has generated the justifiable suspicion that the probe was manipulated by the Government. The Thachankery affair shows that the NIA, constituted for investigating serious crimes against the nation, is now being misused by the Congress. Another institution stands subverted.









Murdoch's decision to shut down News of the World which hacked phones to produce sleaze won't douse raging anger and revulsion.

What began as a peccadillo of phone-hacking has ignited into a British political maelstrom. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in Kabul comforting his troops, read the runes and conveyed his shock and distress at the scale of the wrongdoing. It all began in the newsrooms of the News of the World, a steamy Sunday tabloid whose brand has been a sleaze of sex, murder, football, race, when necessary, and smears. Like a giant squid devouring the denizens of the deep, at the heart of the paper's culture was frenzied zeal for titillating, headline grabbing stories. Ends justify the means: Provide the stories and prosper; don't, and it is a short walk to the exit door and the bleak dole queue.

Stand and deliver. The editorial brass did just that by hiring a private investigator, one Glen Mulcaire, to hack into the phones of the nation's good and great in the exalted cause of swelling print-runs. He and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodwin went a bridge too far by eavesdropping into the private conversations of royalty and monitoring text messages. The errant pair were given jail terms in January 2007.

Members of Parliament and celebrities in popular entertainment et al began to complain of similar snooping by News of the World operatives; they demanded police investigation as the subject grew serious. The News of the World had previously shrugged this off as the work of a rogue reporter, an unsustainable fiction which led to the resignation of Mr Andy Coulson as Mr Cameron's director of communications, he having been the paper's editor at the time and in denial of these activities.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard had acquired 11,000 documents from Mr Mulcaire, detailing the names, addresses and telephone numbers of his quarries. These included the name, address and telephone number of Milly Dowler, a teenage schoolgirl who was kidnapped on her way home and then brutally murdered. Her phone was hacked because the paper wished to listen in to the conversations her distraught parents were having with family friends, also to acquire information about the state of the police investigation into Milly's death.

It now transpires that the bereaved of the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings in London were
subjected to the same surreptitious treatment. All hell has broken loose, with News of the World executives prepared to consign close colleagues to the flames in a bid to save their own skins, their old solidarity resembling a broken piecrust.

The House of Commons is debating the issue as I write and heads are certain to roll in the fullness of time. But before this could happen, in a surprise move News Corp said Sunday's edition of the News of the World would be its last. In a statement, News Corp said it accepted responsibility for the distress inflicted by the phone hacking allegations and the paper's breach of journalistic ethics. This was a desperate situation which called for a desperate remeby, but it is unlikely that this will assuage public opinion. The entire Murdoch empire is in trouble.

The Press Complaints Commission chairperson, Baroness Buscombe, apropos of the News of the World, had told the BBC: "We didn't have the evidence. I am the regulator but there is only so much we can do when people are lying to us." Members of Parliament no longer have that excuse. The facts stare down at them, revealing something truly rotten in the state of Denmark, that is Britain today.

The medium is the message, pronounced a media guru many moons ago. It tells of the fourth estate reduced (and traduced) to a fourth-rate estate as is the case with its ugly sibling across the pond in Barack Obama land.

Mr Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire straddles the English-speaking world, was born an Australian and grew up as one, before mutating to American citizenship. Like every incumbent of the White House, Mr Murdoch has global ambitions. America being where the action is, he is as devoted to America, the "Land of the free," as the true believing Catholic is to Rome, "the Eternal City".

Mr Murdoch started a Margaret Thatcher devotee, then switched to Mr Tony Blair and is now committed to Mr David Cameron — Conservative, Labour, and Conservative again, their lowest common denominator a self-abnegating cleaving to the United States and all its works, from the wars of the Balkans and Iraq to the conflict zones of Afghanistan-Pakistan and Libya, and the attendant debt burdens. There is clearly honour and satisfaction in ignoble penury for the righteous. Jihadis of the world unite!

When British Press barons Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook got above themselves in their mania to dictate the direction of political power in the country, Stanley Baldwin, leader of the Conservative Party in 1931 and Britain's Prime Minister (1935-37) spoke witheringly of them in lines famously penned by his cousin Rudyard Kipling: "Power without responsibility — the eternal prerogative of the harlot through the ages." The world's oldest profession is joined at the hip by its less pleasurable twin.

And so to matters of recent moments. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao came calling at 10 Downing Street, having left his footprints in Hungary and Greece, the former cash-strapped, the latter in financial meltdown, both grateful for the charity of the Middle Kingdom. "Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts" was the warning of the ancients recalling the Trojan horse, but Greeks taking gifts are a forewarning of the dire straits that await the stricken Eurozone, a rudderless European Union and an increasingly benumbed Nato.

Britain rolled out its crimson carpet for the visitor, as Mr Wen promised an exponential increase in his country's investments in the UK, assuring British companies greater access to the Chinese market. The visit commenced at Sratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace, where the Chinese guest was treated to a performance of Hamlet. The high Tory Daily Telegraph, in a cautionary editorial, advised a "constructive relationship" rather than self-defeating pursuit of China's vexed human rights record.

However, Mr Wen's opaque dissimulation at the Press conference with Mr Cameron spoilt the party. Its substance, relayed with telling wit by The Times Political Sketch writer Ann Treneman — the switch of interpreters for inconvenient questions, followed by halting, woodenly rendered answers — reminded us of the unpalatable Chinese reality.

"'twas caviary to the general," exclaimed Hamlet to an actor who had performed to an unintelligent audience bereft of understanding. Mr Wen said he had been "deeply impressed by the humanistic spirit that is demonstrated in all his (Shakespeare's) works."

Less "humanistic," by far, are the primordial voices emanating from the factional struggles within China's Communist Party advocating war as a political purifier of the country's politics. A call for the restoration of Mao Tse-tung Thought is abroad in the land. General Liu Yuan, son of Liu Shaoqi, once Chairman Mao's close comrade, then condemned as a backsliding 'revisionist' class enemy, has called for the strengthening of the military over the cultural in China.

Shades of pre-war Imperial Japan, wouldn't you say?







The police slap charges against teenagers and put them behind bars. Often the charges are those of throwing stones during protests. Many of these teenagers are subsequently granted bail, but they continue languish in jail. This is causing enormous damage to a generation of Kashmiri youth.

From laws that prohibit prepaid cell phone connections to ban on ownership of land, almost all democratic rights have ceased in Jammu & Kashmir. So much so that every other month, a couple of cases of police brutality make the headlines and the very next week they get swept under the carpet.

The ban on prepaid cell phones and land acquisition is fine, owing to the kind of turbulence Kashmir Valley was experiencing, but the biggest damage has been Kashmir's juvenile justice law, which is causing unprecedented ramifications for the future. Not only is this against Indian and international human rights conventions, but against the law of nature too.

There are innumerable examples. Take, for example, Fazin Rafiq Hakeem, aged less than 15, who was locked up on February 7, 2011 and held without charges and trial by the Jammu & Kashmir Police. He was picked up from outside his house on the charge of being part of a large crowd that threw stones at the police during a protest.

However, the police had no evidence to prove the charge. In spite of being granted bail on February 12 by the magistrate, the boy was not released. Eventually, after huge protests and intervention by various international human rights watchdogs, he was released on April 5.

In another case in May this year, Murtaza Manzoor, aged 17, was released from jail after the High Court intervened and found his imprisonment to be unlawful. He was locked up for more than three months in administrative detention before the High Court came to his rescue.

Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, aged14, was detained without evidence on April 9, 2010. He was granted bail after eight days, but was re-arrested in April 21, 2010. He was finally released on February 10, 2011. Similarly, Harris Rasheed Langoo, aged 15, was detained in November 2010 despite being granted bail twice. Omar Maqbool, aged13, who was detained on October 27, 2010 faced similar trauma.

Through 2010 and 2011, there have been reports of scores of teenagers being arrested and detained without any substantial charges. Some of them were arrested on the charge of throwing stones during protests. In 2010 alone, according to media reports, more than 320 people — many of them teenagers — were detained without trial under the Public Safety Act in Jammu & Kashmir. Some estimates put this figure to be closer to 20,000, taking into consideration all detentions over the last two decades.

The Public Safety Act is slapped every other day on teenagers in spite of India's national juvenile justice law being in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which prohibits such action. The UN Convention makes it clear that no one below 18 years can be arrested under any law not meant for minors. Even India's Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 states the same.

But according to the Jammu & Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act of 1997, only those below the age of 16 years are to be treated as juveniles. This has given the administration a leeway to arrest anyone aged between 16 and 18 and to hold them in police lock-ups than at juvenile homes.

In some cases, the administration has denied freedom to victims even after bail has been granted to them. The Public Safety Act allows a person to be detained all over again after being given a clean chit by the court. The callousness of the administration is reflected in the fact that one finds not a single juvenile detention centre in all of jammu & Kashmir.

Of course, there has been talk of relooking at this law, amending it and bringing it at par with the national law. But then, all this was said only after Amnesty International released a report on how the Public Safety Act has been misused over the last few years.

It is unfortunate that over the past two decades, we have lost a generation under the rule of the gun. Now the Kashmiri youth are being discriminated against and systematically targeted. Political differences are fine — these could be debated and shot down — but to target teenagers and youth is criminal.

It's not just the administration, but the political parties too who are equally responsible for this situation. Such has been the impact that there are reports which allege that almost 10 per cent of children in the Kashmir Valley would have a disturbed adulthood.

A study by the Institute of Jammu & Kashmir Affairs indicates that 57.3 per cent of 'children' have become fearful, 55.3 per cent suffer from depression; and 54.25 per cent cannot sleep properly in the Kashmir Valley. What's more, while before 1989 Kashmir Valley had only one orphanage run by a local NGO and two run by the Social Welfare Department, the Government has recently said the number of orphans has swelled to a staggering 26,355. Some agencies say that this figure is on the lower side — it is more than a hundred thousand.

All in all, what is building up in the region can be summed up in a statement made by a teenager who was framed under this law: "I won't pelt stones any more. Now I want to wear an explosives-laden jacket and blow myself up."

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the writer and not this newspaper. The writer is Editor, The Sunday Indian.







Gujarat shows an astounding growth rate in female literacy

Sometime back, the economic resurgence in Gujarat set a 'model for development'. Now the State is receiving accolades for bringing out impressive growth in the area of education, especially primary education. There is much applause for Chief Minister Narendra Modi who as a good statesman foresaw that the economic and industrial growth can only be sustained by a proper academic and professional education. Therefore, with a concrete thought in mind and constructive strategy in place, he launched a mass movement for education aiming at bringing down school drop-out rate and increasing enrollment: Two major concerns in the primary education.

While bringing out tremendous changes in primary education the Chief Minister has put extra emphasis on education for the girl child. He introduced a special scheme called Kanya Kelavani with a commitment to educate every girl child in the State. It is heartening to note that a special fund called Chief Minister's Kanya Kelavani Nidhi has been created wherein the amount raised through the auction of all gifts received by Mr Modi is deposited. Thus the State Government has devised a unique strategy to aid social schemes and to add to the State exchequer.

That apart, to ensure greater connectivity and participation of the masses, the Government has taken up an initiative to get in touch with masses through Kanya Kelavani Rath Yatra (girl child enrollment drive). The Kanya Kelavani Rath Yatra is a three day State-wide drive where the Chief Minister and his team travel to all the villages and urban areas and seek people's participation for the cause of education. The effort has contributed to a significant fall in the drop-out rate.

This year, Mr Modi along with his Council of Ministers has visited 32,772 primary schools in all the 18,000 villages, 151 municipalities and eight municipal corporations to celebrate the ninth annual State-wide Kanya Kelavani Yatra (Girls' Education) and Shala Praveshotsav Abhiyan (School Enrollment Movement). The twin movements, which have entered the seventh year, are paying rich dividends in the form of higher enrollment, greater spread of education among the girl child and qualitative improvement in educational standards.

Also, if we compare the figures of Census 2001 and 2011 reports, Gujarat flaunts an astounding growth rate in female literacy. The State has shown more than 13 per cent increase in female literacy in the last decade, one of the highest among Indian States, and decreased school drop-out ratio by 29.77 per cent.

Furthermore, to make sure that the vulnerable class is not left out in this mass movement, the Government has introduced the Vidyalaxmi Yojana in villages where female literacy rate is lower than 35 per cent and in urban areas for girls belonging to BPL families. Under the scheme, a bond of Rs 1,000 is provided to every girl child who enrolls in Std I and Std VIII in villages with a low female literacy rate. The girl receives the amount of the bond along with interest on completion of Std VII and X respectively. This has resulted in ensuring higher retention rate. Moreover, the Government provides Rs 1,000 as incentive to the families with only girl child if their daughters are enrolled in school.

Yet it's not so that while encouraging higher enrollment, the quality of education imparted by the Government-run primary schools has been overlooked, which is often the problem with Government-run schemes. The Government, therefore, has designed a quality check campaign — Gunotsav — where bureaucrats and officials visit all 33,376 schools of the State and collect data regarding the education quality imparted by them. It is worth mentioning here that the results of Gunotsav-2009 were assessed by the UNESCO which has recognised the gradation method adapted by the State Education Department as unique and innovative.

In the meantime, measures have also been undertaken to keep a proper check on infrastructure and health of the students. This is evident from the fact, that apart from hiring 1.2 lakh Teaching Assistants, the Government has provided facilities like drinking water, electricity; it has also constructed 75,748 classrooms and 50,914 washrooms in the entire State. Addition of nutrients to the mid-day meal and regular health checkup of students have also complemented to the efforts of the Government.

Moreover, last week the State Government launched a first of its kind 'School Dropout Tracking System' at Ranpur village in Satlasana taluka of Mehsana. The software-based tracking system is aimed at minimising rate of school dropouts.

Undoubtedly, all these initiatives taken by the Gujarat Government will not only set a record in the area of education but also herald a new path towards better development of human capital.







As Ministers resign on a large scale and a political crisis engulfs Andhra Pradesh, the UPA regime must take an immediate decision on Telangana. Or else, the Congress will lose ground in New Delhi and Hyderabad

Under the present circumstnaces, it seems like Andhra Pradesh is heading towards President's rule at least for the next six months as it will help soothe the frayed nerves of those agitating for a separate state of Telangana. Moreover, this will also give the Union Government more time to resolve the contentious issue that has only been made worse by an effective Chief Minister who looks to the Centre to guide his every move.

Most importantly, however, the establishment of President's rule seems like the only way to get out of the State's political and constitutional crisis. Already, both the State and the Union Government are having to deal with resignation of 99 MLAs and 11 MPs, which will only serve to reduce the strength of the Congress both in Hyderabad and New Delhi. To make matters worse, additional resignations are coming in on a daily basis. Recently, even TRS chief Chandrashekhara Rao put in his papers which was a big hit to the ruling party.

Therefore, the question is why are all these leaders in such a desperate position? There are two main reasons: First, there is tremendous public pressure on legislators from the region; so much so that they are unable to move out of their homes, and second, they want to prevent the Union Government from doling out the rumoured 'package' —which included provisions for a Deputy Chief Minister, the appointment of a fixed number of Ministers from the Telangana region, and generous financial assistance for the development of the region — instead of allowing for statehood.

As for the Union Government, it has very few options before it. The first is to announce a separate State of Telangana. But this is not an easy task as there will be strong opposition from the Andhra region, which wants a united State of Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, there is also the question of Hyderabad — who will get the capital city?

Telangana separatists naturally want Hyderabad to be their new capital while the rest of the State does not favour the idea because it has invested a lot of money in city. The Congress in the State remains divided on the issue. The second option for Union Government is to impose President's rule and keep the State Assembly in animated suspension so that the resignation of the MLAs is checked. In all probability, New Delhi will opt for President's rule.

The establishment of a second State Reorganisation Commission is possible third option. But after the Sri Krishna Commission report debacle, this may not be popularly accepted. The people of the region are fed up with these commissions and are not in a mood to wait any longer.

While earlier the Telangana crisis had been confined to Andhra Pradesh, it's repercussions are now being felt in New Delhi, where the ruling coalition has been shaken. Of course, Congress managers claim that the UPA has not been disturbed, but the fact remains that they now have to face resignations from their own party legislators. The Congress will try all the tricks in the book to make sure the resignations are rejected.

As far Andhra Pradesh is concerned, the resignation of 99 MLAs is certainly an evolving crisis. Adding to that is the Telangana Joint action committee's threats of more demonstrations and large-scale agitation.

The Congress may have bought some time for itself as the Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker and the the Lok Sabha Speaker take some time to decide on the resignations. While the former is expected to return from abroad this week, the latter is also not in a hurry to take a stand. But the time bomb is still ticking.

So, what is the solution to the Telangana tangle? The real solution lies with the Union Government which now faces the proverbial Hobson's choice nit nonetheless, must take a bold decision. Instead, New Delhi has been dilly dallying over the issue, causing unrest in the State.

Justice Sri Krishna had suggested six options for the region's autonomy as well as with regard to the status of Hyderabad. But instead of drawing on the report, the Union Government has done nothing to engage the stake-holders. This was expected, but New Delhi's wait and watch policy is turning out to be in a way a self-inflected wound, that will bleed itself dry.

To resolve the issue, the Union Government must act immediately, preferably putting forth a solution that includes devolving powers to the region. Otherwise, the agitation will have a disastrous impact on the Congress which is losing ground both at in New Delhi and Hyderabad.







In a desperate bid to create political space for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi is politicising incidents of rapes and land acquisition. While pointing finger at others, he has completely overlooked people's plight in Congress-ruled States

Ever since Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time in May 2007 after her party won a majority in the State, the Congress has been desperate to make its presence felt. The party's general secretary Rahul Gandhi has been orchestrating much brouhaha over the twin issues of rape and land acquisition by the State in an attempt to discredit the ruling BSP.

But contrary to his diatribe against the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, the National Crime Records Bureau's 'Crime in India 2009', the latest compilation of crime-related data shows that rapes in Uttar Pradesh are fewer than in most States. The rate is 0.90 victims per lakh population, as against, say, Delhi, where the rate is 2.64, or Assam, with 5.34 victims per lakh population. Both of the States are governed by the Congress for three consecutive terms.

The scion of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Mr Gandhi, is impatient that the Congress regain control of Uttar Pradesh, which it last governed over two decades ago, when Mr ND Tiwari was the Chief Minister from June 1988 to December 1989. Its fleeting brush with power when Mr Jagdambika Pal became the Chief Minister for almost three days, after Governor Romesh Bhandari dismissed the Kalyan Singh-headed BJP Government on February 21, 1998, rebounded to the party's discredit.

For, Allahabad High Court, ruling on his plea, reinstated Mr Kalyan Singh on February 23, terming the dismissal of his Government unconstitutional. Thereafter, Uttar Pradesh has been ruled by the BJP, BSP and Samajwadi Party, with the Congress being reduced to a fringe player. Even the induction of Ms Rita Bahuguna Joshi, daughter of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, Congress stalwart, turned rebel, as chief of the State unit in September 2007, has failed to bolster the party's image in Uttar Pradesh.

And this in spite of Ms Joshi's shrill and unceasing tirade against Chief Minister Mayawati on the issues of rape and land acquisition. In July 2009, she made news when she crudely tried to derive political mileage from some incidents of rape. Referring to the alleged payment of monetary compensation to a few rape victims, she advised them to throw the money at the Chief Minister's face and tell her, "you should also be raped and I will give you 10 million rupees".

The offensive remark landed her in Moradabad jail for 14 days' judicial custody. Then, in May this year, she was detained along with Mr Gandhi and family loyalist Digvijay Singh by the Meerut range police for supporting the protest staged by farmers from Bhatta-Parsaul village against the State Government's land acquisition policy. But, Ms Mayawati astutely proceeded to reformulate this policy by proposing that land-owners should have greater freedom to negotiate directly with prospective buyers in future deals.

Her hold over Uttar Pradesh continues to be firm despite all efforts by opponents to defame and dislodge her. Ms Joshi seems to be the Chief Minister-in-waiting, following the lead of Mr Gandhi as Prime Minister-in-waiting. Mr Gandhi's impatience to seize the State, once almost a family fiefdom, identified with Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Mrs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — that influence now confined to Rae Bareli, Lok Sabha constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and Amethi, his own constituency — is reflected in his frequent sojourns, when he misses no opportunity to curry favour with the historically downtrodden, formerly the party's most loyal support base, along with Muslims. But since the BSP's ascent over the past two decades, this numerically large vote-bank has been solidly with the BSP.

After having failed to play the Dalit card successfully, Mr Gandhi has been alternately politicising incidents of rape and land acquisition in Bhatta-Parsaul. Taking their cue from him, Ms Joshi and some others have been doing the same. Ms Mayawati has retaliated by slamming the Congress and the UPA allies such as Samajwadi Party for politicising "any incident in Uttar Pradesh". She points out that the Government at the Centre is silent when crimes occur in other States.

One recalls her riposte to Ms Gandhi in October 2008, after the latter came to Rae Bareli for a rally and lambasted the Uttar Pradesh Government's withdrawal of land for a rail coach factory. Ms Mayawati asked how many jobs "have been given to people of Rae Bareli in past 44 years of Congress rule in Uttar Pradesh and 48 years of rule at the Centre".

It is a good question that opposition parties have been collectively raising over the years. But the Congress refrain, an echo of Mr Gandhi's favourite theme, is that for the development of Uttar Pradesh, and especially Bundelkand, its rule is necessary. Never mind the maladministration in the decades prior to 1989, when the party governed Uttar Pradesh almost without a break.

Mr Charan Singh's Bharatiya Lok Dal had two brief stints in power : April 1967 to February 1968 and February to October 1970; Janata Party ruled between June 1977 and February 1980; and there was President's Rule from February 1968 to February 1969; and, again, from November 1975 to January 1976.

The Congress dominated the State, like the rest of the Hindi belt, from the time of independence until the rise of identity-based parties, which proved to be its nemesis. The irony is that some of these very parties, through their own compulsions, prop up its rule at the Centre by being part of an alliance. However, the BSP's withdrawal of support in June 2008, triggered by their conflicting ambitions in Uttar Pradesh, marked a definitive parting of ways.









When HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh says that the big names in Indian industry are now looking to increase their ratio of foreign to domestic investment - as much as a 50% split as far as turnover goes - he is supplying the second half of a puzzle that emerged over the past two years. The first half is the steep decline in foreign direct investment (FDI); as much as 28% in 2010-11 as compared to 2009-10, according to the department of industrial policy and promotion. This at a time when US and European investors are starting to look to emerging markets again, with other BRICS members such as China and Brazil reaping the benefits.

Capital flight cannot be dissociated from the current atmosphere of corruption and paralysed government, the latter of which Parekh has named as a prime causative factor. Skeletons continue to tumble out of the closet in slow motion, with textile minister Dayanidhi Maran's resignation being only the latest episode in this unravelling, seemingly unending saga. His exit was triggered by the CBI investigating his role in another multi-billion rupee telecom scandal. The charges against Maran are of a pattern with those against A Raja - who succeeded him as telecom minister and is currently in prison. They indicate an unfavourable business environment that privileges bribe-givers over productive entrepreneurs.

Corruption is a broad-spectrum problem, of course, and investigations will take a while even in the best of scenarios. But there are certain hurdles the government can take down in the meantime to restore investor confidence. There's no excuse, for example, to delay passing the Land Acquisition Bill, which has to be the most important bit of legislation still pending in Parliament. Problems with current land acquisition laws - of 1894 vintage - are evident in the strictures passed by the Supreme Court in cancelling the acquisition of a huge tract of agricultural land in Greater Noida.

On the environmental front, Jairam Ramesh must be commended for revitalising a regulatory framework that was in the habit of doing little more than issuing rubber stamps. But things have swung too far in the other direction, with projects being held up by Hamletian dithering on the part of the environment ministry. Investors are, understandably, losing confidence in a policy environment where the rules of the game can change without warning. It is surely not impossible to establish a framework that ensures due diligence in ascertaining the environmental viability of big-ticket projects but also adheres to standard, transparent procedures. On pain of that 50% ratio shifting further towards outward investment, the government needs to act now.







Its weight in precious metals and carats, estimated to be worth over Rs 1 lakh crore, alone makes the contents of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple vaults an extraordinary find. However, the treasure's intrinsic value lies elsewhere, with the historical and aesthetic significance of many of the artefacts. They suggest using the treasure as the nucleus of a grand museum, giving Thiruvananthapuram the equivalent of a Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London. Doing so takes care, among other things, of safeguarding the find. A secure museum is far better than having commandos crawling the lanes of Thiruvananthapuram. Moreover, if the museum matches the scale and significance of the find, it would complement and enhance one of Kerala's principal enterprises - tourism.

Patently there's quite a bit of the past to be uncovered given that the relics range from exotic places - Venice for one - and times - such as when Napoleon held sway in distant Europe. Hence a museum would not only enhance our understanding of ourselves but also peoples from all over the globe. After all, Kerala was a centre in international trading networks long before Vasco da Gama brought his baubles to town. The only way of doing justice to the cache is for temple authorities to work with the government. The former shouldn't object to a museum given the Travancore king's long history of thoughtful governance. Meanwhile, only the state can bring in the expertise required. That'll have to be international given the dearth of expertise in the country on how to run even average museums, let alone one that has the potential to rival the Louvre.








Three different sports, three differing contexts but one unifying strand connecting them all: a crying need for good governance and a failure to deal with problems arising from excessive commercialisation. London Olympics 2012, Fifa and the ICC all seem to be faced with a similar predicament in mid-2011.

With the Games just about 13 months away, the debate all over Britain is whether the Olympics are meant for the British. The ticket fiasco, as many have labelled it, has resulted in the harshest of indictments of the London organising committee and, if future ticketing plans are anything to go by, no respite is in sight for the ordinary spectator. Under the rules of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), one had to apply for tickets earlier this year and no limit was set on the number an individual could apply for. This was because an application even 24 months earlier did not necessarily guarantee a ticket.

Accordingly, many applied for the largest pool of tickets without realising that the organisers, based on their convenience, could issue tickets to an individual depending on the money available in his bank account. Interestingly, one had to provide bank account details at the time of applying and also agree to a clause whereby no prior notice was to be given by the organisers at the time of ticket issuance.

Such a bizarre policy has resulted in bizarre outcomes. One individual got lucky with all the tickets worth almost 30,000 pounds he'd applied for. But he ended up getting nothing because he did not have the money needed in his savings account at the time of ticket issuance. That is only natural, for he wasn't given any prior notice to get such a huge sum of money transferred to the account. According to LOCOG rules, it is all or nothing. If you did not have the necessary funds in your designated bank account when the organisers wished to check it, you wouldn't be issued a single ticket.

Also, in the second round of online sales beginning at 6 am on June 24, 1,50,000 tickets meant for Britons were snapped up by men and women from across Europe. The organisers were unable to protect local interests for fear of violating EU free trade rules. If we thought ticketing at the Commonwealth Games 2010 was an aberration, it is time to rethink!

Moving on to Fifa, the story becomes murkier. From the leaked report of the Fifa ethics committee, there seems to be evidence linking former vice-president Jack Warner to corruption and malpractice. But Fifa, to everyone's surprise, has declared that no further investigations into the Warner issue would be conducted because he has resigned from all his posts.

What this declaration leaves unsaid is that it assumes Warner was innocent and, accordingly, sanctions him a pension of 23,000 pounds for the next 28 years of his life. The total amount set aside for Warner, forced to quit on charges of corruption, is a staggering 644,000 pounds. What adds to the mystery of dropped charges is that the real reasons behind them will perhaps never be revealed to the public.

Cricket too is staring at a possible standoff between the BCCI, ICC and the UPA government over tax issues likely to gather steam in the weeks ahead. Sharad Pawar, who once headed both the ICC and BCCI, had agreed to a condition before the World Cup whereby BCCI agreed to pay any tax the government levied on the ICC for staging the competition. Pawar, a key member of the Union cabinet, may have overestimated his ability to seek a tax waiver from the government if the issue turned problematic. However, under the ambit of the new sports policy legislation being pushed through by the sports ministry, such a tax exemption appears unlikely and the BCCI might soon be faced with a Rs 100 crore-plus tax burden, one that the board will desperately seek to avoid.

While confronting Pawar for agreeing to such a clause in the first place, the BCCI and ICC are seeking refuge in the tested IOC policy demanding 'no state intervention in the functioning of an autonomous sports body'. Under its guise any form of government intervention can be deemed unacceptable, allowing the BCCI to stave off further attempts by the sports ministry to bring its functioning under the tax ambit.

Interestingly, all of these cases stem from the inability to deal with the ill effects of excessive commercialisation. None of the problems cited above will ever affect a sport or a mega event that continues to be unattractive to the market. While monetisation is central to the success of modern sport and large sporting spectacles, the need to strike a balance between the requirements of the market and that of 'pure sport' is at the root of good governance.

Unless the interests of the ordinary sports fan - currently the most neglected constituency across all commercially successful sport and mega events - is made a priority, problems such as the ones mentioned will only escalate. Extraordinary sporting performances too, it can be conjectured, will fail to stop such escalation for otherwise the Commonwealth Games 2010 would have been remembered for the 101 medals India won and not for all the corruption and malpractice surrounding the event. Not without reason is it being said in management circles that 'sport' as 'business' is the most difficult of all businesses to run.

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.








Tamil film director Vetri Maaran's film, Aadukalam, won six awards at this year's 58th National Awards, including best director. The film deals with the traditional sport of rooster fights. Maaran's fixation with the sport goes back to his boyhood days in Ranipet, a small town in Tamil Nadu. The director speaks to Meenakshi Sinha about his film and Tamil cinema:

Aadukalam won six National Awards, your thoughts on the win?

This time the jury decided to select a film that caters to the mainstream audience. That's what i felt most happy about. All these years, National Awards acknowledged art house cinema and ignored the films that cater to the masses. But this year's jury had decided that they'll take into consideration films for the masses seriously.

Do you see this as an encouragement for mainstream filmmakers?

Absolutely. I see it as an acknowledgement of the growth of Indian 'middle' cinema where you can make commercially viable films with some sense.

Tamil cinema has won 14 National Awards this year, which is quite a feat. What are your thoughts on Tamil cinema?

Tamil cinema right now is going through a transition. The younger generation of filmmakers is concerned about our roots, rather than making films with characters plucked out of the cloud or some English DVD. Actually since 2000, Tamil cinema is going through some positive changes.

New films, original and set in our roots and culture, are being made. I've always said that the more ethnic you become, the more international your film becomes. A film called Paruthiveeran, made by Tamil filmmaker Ameer Sultan, got a special mention at the Berlin International Film Festival 2008, which is a very big achievement. Last year Venice did a retrospective of Mani Ratnam's films. So the world has started looking at Tamil cinema. It is becoming the face of south India and is perceived to be elite. Even non-Tamil-speaking regions and Hindi cinema have started noticing it of late. Remakes like Ghajini are being sourced from Tamil cinema. Also the technicians and artistes of Tamil cinema are world-class. We are being respected for what we are and that's more important. I personally feel we are treading in the right path.

Could you explain the importance of going back to ethnic roots?

By ethnicity i mean where a community doesn't lose its identity. You talk about individuality but today, globalisation has eroded small indigenous qualities into dust. I think it's time to factor that in. We all have to consciously make efforts to identify our roots and nurture them.

What kind of cinema do you like and who do you look up to for inspiration/guidance?

My mentor is Balu Mahendra. He's got 22 awards and is still going strong. I'm also greatly influenced by Akira Kurosawa, Michael Haneke, Werner Herzog, Henri-Georges Clouzot and a few others - they have all been my inspirations. Of contemporary filmmakers, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's films have greatly influenced me. Oliver Stone too is an inspiration.

Do you regret the fact that Hindi cinema is perceived to be more popular compared to southern and regional Indian cinema?

There's no regret in accepting the fact that Hindi cinema is far more popular. Tamil Nadu is a small world with just eight crore people and another one crore of Tamil-speaking diaspora all over the world. We can't and shouldn't compete with Hindi or American film industry in terms of budget. But on originality of content and technical excellence through innovation, we are at par with the world's best.








"One sticks one's fingers into the soil to tell by the smell in what land one is. I stick my finger into existence - it smells of nothing," so wrote Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. I stick my finger into Indian existence. Alas, the smell, nay stink, of scams impinges on my olfactory senses!

Divide our population to yield three categories of people. Scamsters, commoners who are potential but hesitant scamsters - the sort of people willing to wound but afraid to strike - and innocents. The third category is what most commoners think they belong to. But no. Being innocent in the ways of the world, children are the 'innocents'. Nobody else is proof against corruption. Honesty, ostensibly, is an expensive commodity. Politicians and bureaucrats who have enough inducements to indulge in corruption have done so with a vengeance, but haven't monopolised it. As is their wont, commoners invariably raise their voice against corruption, but have no qualms about indulging in it themselves when it suits them.

So, if caught by the cop for not keeping on the right side of traffic rules, a motorist, more often than not, mulls greasing the palm of the law. He instinctively reaches for money, though the driving licence is what the cop demands to see. The difference between an erring motorist and a hardcore scamster is only in degree, not in kind. Still, equating them would be like putting an ant and an elephant on equal footing.

However much you hear of the unearthing of scams and super scams these days, you needn't be shy of being corrupt. You can take a bribe or bribe your way to achieving your goal. But beware of being ambushed as you travel the road to opulence. Until you are caught, you will be considered honest and your probity won't be suspect. An apt Malayalam saying is "You must save your shambalam (salary) and spend your kimbalam (ill-gotten money)." As if this were not enough, a character in a movie, upon learning about his young nephew landing a government job, asks the youngster to bear this saying in mind as he advances in his career.

The question of who is more culpable, bribe giver or bribe taker, is anybody's guess, like several other unresolved conundrums. But there is no bribe giver sans bribe taker and vice versa. They are complementary and have a symbiotic relationship, beneficial to both. We bribe because we want to get something out of turn in a hurry.

A bribe taker obviously feels obliged to the bribe giver. And most scams are spawned by obligations. But this would be untypical of U Po Kyin. He was a sub-divisional magistrate of Kayakutta in Upper Burma, a charismatic but villainous character in George Orwell's Burmese Days. He was corruption itself, but very distinct from our scamsters. He played safe games. He let himself be bribed by rivals - defendants and plaintiffs - but decided the case impartially on merit. I fancy him returning the excess bribe to such adversaries as had exceeded the other in payment in order to redress the balance. U Po Kyin let you bribe him but gave you little purchase over his verdicts!

If only the schemers of the 2G scam had read Orwell and made U Po Kyin their role model. They would then not have resorted to underpricing, causing huge losses to the exchequer. 'Take your cuts from all the bidders equally, and then award the contract to the most competitive one without fear or favour' would be the typical U Po Kyin counsel to the scheming scamsters. But doubtless they haven't heard of him. And the wages of ignorance are cooling one's heels in Tihar jail!








If we human beings are mortal, then how is it that we desire eternal existence, knowledge and bliss? Human beings devoid of the attributes of existence, knowledge and bliss, logically cannot express the desire to live in this world eternally, to attain complete knowledge and complete bliss.

Beyond the existence of the physical body, you can directly feel the existence of mind, intellect and perverted ego. As we are of a finite nature, our mental and intellectual capacities are also finite. The existence of perverted ego can be perceived by the presence of specific thoughts such as thinking that one belongs to this or that country; this or that religion; that one speaks this or that language or belongs to this or that group - whatever it may be. It may be questioned whether after death of the physical body there is the existence of any such nationalist, religious or language groups - in fact, it may be pertinent to ask whether everything is destroyed or if there is the existence of a subtle body consisting of mind, intelligence and perverted ego or even beyond that, the existence of an eternal entity.

Among living beings, human birth is best due to endowment of the special quality of power of discrimination between good and bad and eternal and non-eternal. Physical bodies are in the grip of numerous births and deaths, and are subject to many other drawbacks. This renders the physical body to being non-eternal. If this physical body is non-eternal then the body's sense organs must also be non-eternal and whatever is perceived by non-eternal sense organs must also be non-eternal. Therefore, if there should be any eternal entity, it must exist beyond the comprehension of human material non-eternal sense organs.

In the Mahabharata, Arjuna was blessed with divine eyes, so that he may witness the vishwarupa of Krishna, a dazzling sight. Thousands were present at Kurukshetra when Krishna revealed His Virat form, yet Arjuna was the only one to see Him like that. Why?

The Supreme God is infinite; everything about Him is infinite. He has created countless species to a plan. If one accepts that human beings can determine their own cause by means of material senses, mind or intellect, then that will be a mentally or intellectually concocted thing. That will not be Reality. If Reality is in fact Reality, then He must always exist. What is the Truth?

Why do we wish to be eternal? Why are we eager to learn and to experience bliss? We are a part of the Supreme - so we are like the Supreme in some respects. He is Sacchidananda and so are we. Sat in Sanskrit means eternal life, chit is eternal knowledge and ananda is eternal bliss. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to us that we are actually a soul. Soul is sacchidananda.

We were given this limited body to know our true identity. Our duty is not to hanker after temporary bliss, but to have eternal bliss. We have to find ways to realise our true identity to become servants of Sacchidananda. Since we are part of the Supreme Lord, it is our primary task to serve Him or to act in a way that pleases Him. Once we realise Him, we will also realise other eternal truths, and know that not only He, but His Associates, too, do not take birth, but descend.

The writer is joint secretary, All India Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math (Regd).








It would be stretching the point to say that textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran has made a virtue of necessity by submitting his resignation following the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) virtual indictment of his role in the 2G scam. There was nothing virtuous about the way he went when it became certain that he would be axed for his role in the transfer of a Chennai-based company Aircel to a Malaysian company Maxis when he was telecom minister. The rewards for forcing Aircel to sell out came in the form, it is alleged, of massive investment from the Malaysian firm for Sun TV owned by Kalanidhi Maran, his brother. With this, the roster of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) heavyweights who have bitten the dust in the 2G scam is growing.

The alliance between the DMK and the UPA will come under even greater strain now, though with its poor showing in the assembly elections, the former is no longer in any position to call the shots. The UPA has earned some brownie points with what is being seen as its impartiality in investigating those in its government and its allies. This could be seen as a bid to prop up its reputation that has taken a serious beating with all the scams which have surfaced. But, with the powerful Maran brothers humbled, one more hurdle in a future alliance between the UPA and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has fallen. True that the mercurial AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa is not exactly a model of probity in public life, but compared to the extent of corruption which seems to have surfaced in the DMK ranks, her alleged misdeeds seem a mere bagatelle. While many say that the CBI is but an arm of the government, the fact that it has pursued crucial allies will send out a signal that there is only so much arm-twisting regional parties can do in order to get their own way with the Centre. It will be clear now that being an alliance partner does not offer the protection it once did, especially on the issue of corruption which has become a political hot potato.

The spotlight will now turn to Kalanidhi Maran, the recipient of the investment, the more uncharitable could call it a bribe, made in return for his brother's largesse. While it is too early for a realignment of alliances, Ms Jayalalithaa will no doubt feel vindicated at Mr Maran's exit since this is what she had demanded as soon as she came to power this time. It is possible that she will interpret this as a sign that the UPA could be changing horses mid-stream. But the UPA still may not be sure that this is the horse it can bet on after its last experience in the race.




It is hard to believe that the Bard, that great seer into the lives of humans, had actually thought that there was nothing of consequence in a name. He obviously failed to observe that inapt and inexact nomenclature can end up hurting and harming not just the individual who bears that name but often an entire geographical space, like a province, affecting the fate of the millions who live there. Leaders who rule the state of West Bengal are, thankfully, not equally blinkered, and have realised that it is an alphabet — the 'W' in West — that has overseen its steady decline. They have woken up to the fact that in a world governed by the immutable law of alphabetical sequences, most fall asleep by the time the unfortunately-named West Bengal stands up for itself.

Of course, homegrown sceptics have often blamed the homegrown bard — Rabindranath Tagore — for inflicting Bengalis with a reduced sense of the self by mentioning Bengal at the end of the inventory of provinces mentioned in the nat-ional anthem. That apart, the latest move by the West Bengal government to elicit an alternative name must be giving sleepless nights to Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Tamil Nadu, consigned as they soon will be to the bottom of the heap, the laggards of the national name-game.

Strangely, the fascinating insight into the psychological implications of names does not seem to hold much water in the outside world. Countries like Afghanistan or Albania, Belarus or Burkina Faso, are barely able to make the most of the primacy afforded by their names. In any multinational fora, they, along with others, must hold their breath (dozing off only at their own peril) till it is the turn of the United States of America, placed at an awful disadvantage in the alphabetical sequence to rise to speak. The pecking order, it seems, is not just determined by the vanity of names.






Much ink has been spilt in recent days and months attempting to diagnose the extravagant failure of the UPA government to deliver the much-needed second-generation economic reforms since the alliance returned to power in 2009. Freed from the clutches of its Left Front allies who had stymied reforms from 2004, it was widely expected that it would forge ahead with the reforms programme after the ruling coalition had its hands untied. That, as we now know, did not happen.

Several hypotheses have been advanced to explain the UPA's inability to carry through on the unfinished reform agenda. I have suggested one such, which I have termed the 'original sin' of 1991: reforms were implemented as the result of a crisis and, with the corresponding logic of crisis management, with the intellectual foundations never laid out once the immediate threat to the economy had passed.

Without a firm commitment to a liberal economic principle, a reversion to populism and redistribution would be the natural knee-jerk reaction when political or other obstacles arise to pressing ahead with reforms.

All such theories, however, compelling as they may be, form what may be called in American argot, an 'inside the beltway' approach to thinking about economic policy. Such a mindset hinges on the behaviour of individual politicians and political parties, and, in particular, on whether they are driven ideologically or cravenly succumb to opportunistic political gains instead.

There is an entirely different lens through which this may be seen: to suggest instead that the Congress has been politically successful for doing what economists and political scientists have long argued is the recipe for electoral success in democratic polities, catering to the interests of the 'median voter'. Perched at the very midpoint of the income and wealth distribution pyramid, the median voter in India is poor by any standards. When you consider that one-third of the population lives in absolute poverty, and two-thirds live in relative deprivation, the voter in the 'middle' is not part of the middle classes, as he would be in a western democracy.

Scholars have developed the 'median voter theorem' around this insight; a fancy name, but the basic idea is very simple: to be electorally successful, political parties must tailor their policies to those preferred by the median voter. Tilt too far to the left or to the right and you are lost. Sociologist and former Mexican politician Jorge Castañeda puts the implications pithily thus: "The combination of inequality and democracy tends to cause a movement to the left everywhere." In other words, a politically successful party in a poor democracy such as India is going to pursue policies oriented around redistribution from the rich and middle classes to the poor, as these serve the interest of the median voter, who is poor. QED.

Of course, the reforms-minded economist would retort that growth-oriented economic reforms are, in fact, in the interest of the poor. If, for instance, labour laws are loosened and large-scale manufacturing takes off in India, this will be labour-intensive and will pull up many people from poverty into gainful employment. Why not, then, pursue such policies, and come up trumps, both economically and electorally?

The crux of the matter is that widely spread economic gains from reforms, which would be politically beneficial, come with a lag. New manufacturing industries do not spring up overnight, and it would be a matter of a few years or longer before large-scale employment increases follow. These are too long for the normal five-year electoral cycle of a government at the Centre. Given coalition compulsions, and the need to keep one eye cocked on important state elections, the politically relevant timeframe for economic policy to have tangible effects may be more like a year or two, at the most.

Seen in this light, tactics upstage strategy, and governments continue to focus on redistributive policies that put money in voters' pockets right away and bring short-term political advantage. Only a government that is sufficiently patient to look beyond the next election and willing to cultivate the long-run political gains that would accrue from better economic performance will have the courage to push for economic reforms that may cost it at the polls a few years hence. Our friend the median voter will be likely to ensure, however, that this is not going to happen anytime soon. He is looking forward to his next meal, not even to the next election, and will keep politicians of all ideological stripes on a short leash.

( Vivek H Dehejia is an economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and a Mumbai-based commentator on Indian economic and political affairs )

The views expressed by the author are personal





The entire debate on the lokpal bill has, unfortunately, become concentrated on the inclusion of the prime minister, members of Parliament and the higher judiciary in the ambit of the lokpal. These are vital issues, but not the only ones. Where does the common man go, for instance, when junior functionaries extort and do not deliver?

The lokpal, as per the government draft, will have jurisdiction only over Group A central government officers. How many times does a common man have to deal with Group A officers, whether in the income tax, excise or customs departments or in the railways? The common man deals with much junior officers in these departments. At the same time, the aam aadmi has to deal with several official departments like ration, water, electricity and licensing.

The contention of the government for keeping all government employees out of the lokpal's and lokayukta's ambit is that since there are 4 million central government employees, 2 million public sector employees and 8 million state employees, it cannot check their corruption. It would require a huge workforce. That isn't a valid excuse to give up and leave holes in delivery services.

Internationally, one anti-corruption staff is provided for every 200 government employees. Against this, there are just 15 anti-corruption officers to check 85,000 Delhi Police staff. The Central Bureau of Investigation has only 3,000 staff in its anti-corruption wing to check corruption of 4 million central government and 2 million public sector employees. The corrupt know that corruption is low risk with high gains.  

A question is being raised that if you put a large number of people in the anti-corruption set-up, how can you ensure their integrity? The integrity of an organisation does not depend upon the size of that organisation. It depends upon its internal systems. The Delhi Metro, with a staff size of 7,000 people, has delivered a world class metro only because the it has better systems, not because of its staff numbers.

Further, the government's lokpal bill has some strange proposals. As soon as a citizen makes a complaint to the lokpal against any public servant, the latter will have a right to file a cross-complaint against the citizen straight with the special court, without any preliminary enquiry by any agency, that the complaint is false or frivolous. The government will provide a free advocate to the public servant to file this case. The citizen will have to defend himself on his own in the special court.

While the government's lokpal bill will have jurisdiction over a miniscule number of officers, it will have jurisdiction over all community initiatives, NGOs and citizen groups in the country — whether funded by the government or not. Even unregistered groups of people in remote villages are covered under the ambit of the government's lokpal. So, in a remote village, if a group of youngsters, using the Right To Information, detects corruption in the panchayat, the lokpal will not have jurisdiction over the sarpanch or the block development officer but only over the complaining youngsters.

Also, there is stiffer punishment for the complainant than the corrupt government servant. If the special court concludes that the complaint is frivolous or false, the citizen faces a minimum of two years of punishment. But if the corruption charges against a government servant are proved, there is a minimum of six months of punishment for the corrupt government servant.

According to the government's lokpal bill, before filing an FIR and before prosecuting a corrupt officer, the lokpal will have to issue a show cause notice to him and present all evidence to the accused. Does the police issue a show cause notice to a burglar asking him why an FIR should not be filed against him?

( Arvind Kejriwal is a social activist. Kiran Bedi is a social activist and a former police officer. Both are Magsaysay Award winners and members of the joint drafting committee of the lokpal bill )

The views expressed by the authors are personal






Mani Kaul was an iconoclastic, uncompromising, individualistic film-maker

Mani Kaul to the end remained the iconoclastic, uncompromising, individualistic creator he had been from the start. It was variously said of him that he was deeply influenced by Bresson, Tarkovsky, Ritwik Ghatak.
Influences yes, to some extent, but what he created was a singular idiom which was neither imitative nor imitable. "Cinema for me is a plastic, not a performing art," he said. "It should be direct sculpting in time". These were notions of cinema that awed people but didn't bring in audiences. Audiences remained flummoxed, critics spoke of him with reverence.

The reaction to his first film Uski Roti in 1970 was one of shock. That shock remained unchanged to the end -even with Idiot, which had Shah Rukh Khan in his first film role. It was made as a fourpart series for Doordarshan and edited down to three hours for theatrical release, but was too far ahead of its time for audiences to be able to grasp. "A new thought -that is the purpose of my films," he said. "If the film is to show you something that is already known, not only by the filmmaker but also by the audience, where will it lead us?" Television for him was anathema. "The world we are exposed to on television is killing the capacity of wanting to understand. It feeds you... as if you have no capacity for chewing ... What food is to the stomach, thought is to the mind." What would he have to say about the world today and the information overload that leaves no time for boredom, boredom out of which imagination takes wing?

He won awards and accolades, he became an iconic figure nationally and internationally, but the possibility of making films remained restricted. The Film Finance Corporation, as it was then known, was the saviour for the graduates of the film institute -he was one of the first Film and Television Institute of India graduates -but with no chain of smaller theatres to exhibit the films they made, funds slowly began to dry up. He made some of the most memorable films in the history of Indian cinema -after Uski Roti came Ashad Ka Ek Din, Satteh Se Uthata Admi, Duvidha, Idiot, and much later, his last film, Naukar ki Kameez. In between came the documentaries -Dhrupad, Siddheshwari, Mati Manas.... He did not believe in structure, narrative, characterisation -even for feature films. For him each shot was treated as a whole, complete in itself.
The shelving of plot and drama took him into a highly original form of documentary. In his view, the line between fiction and documentary was non-existent. In Dhrupad, for instance, he shows the similarity between music and architecture in the organisation of volume and space.

With a wonderfully selfdeprecating sense of humour, he reveled in the good things of life, but could be -and was -extremely ascetic in the way he lived. Painter and musician in addition to filmmaker, he was happy singing his beloved `dhrupad', or painting his abstract canvases or teaching enraptured students about cinema, about life and -more and more in recent times -music. His most avid audience was of young people not yet corrupted by market forces. Many years ago he came to give a lecture at the Film Appreciation course we held in Delhi. Four hours later, he was still talking, still exchanging ideas, responding to his young audience's thirst for understanding the unique ideas being thrown at them by this charismatic figure.

But deep down he was a loner. Cinema demands collective effort, and all who worked with him became his chelas for life. But music and painting are solitary acts and the very fact that he found joy and fulfillment in both shows the essential quality of Mani Kaul the individual artist, immersed in the thoughts and images and sounds and that arose within him and for which he found the highest forms of artistic expression.

The irony is that now, 15 years after the making of Naukar ki Kameez, he was about to start shooting a feature an Indian-Italian co-production Under Her Spell, about Rossellini in India based on Dileep Padgaonkar's book. This was not the time for Mani Kaul to go.

Aruna Vasudev is founder of Cinemaya, the Asian film quarterly The views expressed by the author are personal




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

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

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

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






The draft Micro Finance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill, meant to provide a legal framework to an otherwise unregulated sector in the Indian financial system, is an attempt to over-regulate and micro-manage the microfinance sector. The draft can at best be termed a mimic of legislation on usurious practices and moneylenders that is in place in several states of the country. Buzzwords such as "systemically important" replace "exploitation", "expropriation" provides the modern setting to justify pervasive regulation. The draft bill adds a retrograde touch to the stalled process of financial sector reforms. The bill, if made law, will reduce competition in this industry as it hopes to regulate net margins. It will limit new entry into the industry. From the point of view of the customer, such regulation can push customers back to moneylenders who will now be outside these regulatory requirements.

The present draft represents the microfinance industry as "extended arms" of banks, allowing for bank-like regulatory architecture for microfinance firms. This could potentially stall any progress in the microfinance industry. Capital adequacy requirements work for banks and not for non-deposit-taking financial institutions. In allowing a regulator to set "capital adequacy based on risk weights for assets and deployment of funds", the draft bill fails to recognise that not all microfinance companies are deposit-taking, and even if so, the extent of deposit-taking, by virtue of the business model itself, is limited to and well below the maturity mismatch possible in its balance sheet. Prudential norms for banks lending to microfinance companies are already in place. Financial regulation is required to contain systemic risk and protect consumers. Systemically important microfinance institutions cannot be defined in terms of the number of clients they cover, but whether the failure of the institution could bring down the financial system altogether and, consequently, impact the underlying real economy. This is not an issue the microfinance industry poses today. The real issue is that of customer protection. An issue of consumer protection does not require micro-management of the business enterprise, but an effective arrangement to ensure that contracting parties are doing so knowing fully the consequences of non-adherence. The government may do well by looking into consumer protection more carefully than stifling microfinancial innovation.






The Union cabinet on Thursday gave the go-ahead to the third phase of FM radio expansion in India. There are many aspects to this that need to be celebrated. The first is that the maximum foreign-owned stake in a channel has been raised, if marginally, to 26 per cent. The government can be bolder in allowing foreign ownership. There's also the good news that licences in this stage will be assigned through an auction, as is best practice.

Most importantly, however, the third phase means that FM radio will be extended to 227 more towns. (Currently, 86 cities have FM stations.) This will create, according to the government, 839 new radio channels, mostly in small towns that have no current radio footprint. This is excellent news. Smaller communities deserve the chance to have a local radio station all their own. Such stations, even if their content is owned by a larger corporate entity, frequently create a competitive edge by embedding themselves firmly in the community they serve, becoming an on-air billboard for its concerns — those, at least, not directly political — and a vocal, virtual public square. That this should happen to glue new, growing communities together is particularly helpful.

In another aspect of the order, FM companies will be allowed to operate more than one station per city. This is also good news; the nature of marketing in this sector is that, while a single station might drift towards median tastes, the ability to diversify will encourage the development of niche stations. If too many FM stations sound the same, this restriction is the culprit — and one might look forward to that changing very soon. Things have come a long way since private FM radio started broadcasting in our largest cities almost two decades ago. This next jump might be the largest, and most influential yet.






The Supreme Court has cancelled Greater Noida projects, objecting to these as a demonstration of arbitrary state power. It reprimanded the Uttar Pradesh government for invoking the urgency clause just because it could, overriding the objections of farmers who owned the land rather than persuading them with an array of incentives. It also objected to the Greater Noida state authorities for allotting the land to commercial developers before land-use changes had been sanctioned.

However, despite the court's romantic notions about the farmers' deep and sustaining attachment to the soil, the trouble in Noida and all too many other places stems from friction over compensation and stakes. Given the pressure on land and the press of commercial interests, few farmers object to selling, so long as they do not feel exploited and entirely left out of the phenomenal gains from changing land-use, leaving them no choice but protest. This situation is played out across states, where different administrations have settled on various imperfect compromises in the absence of an updated land acquisition law. Haryana has an annuity model for farmers, UP has further enhanced compensations plans. However, we need a national land acquisition policy that takes these expectations into account instead of the state simply steamrollering their aspirations.

But we cannot move beyond the current default without political consensus. The land acquisition legislation, we know, had been stalled for an unconscionably long time because of the Trinamool Congress's refusal to budge on issues that it perceived as central to its self-image. It doesn't help that in many states opposition parties often play on these resentments for their own electoral ends, rather than seeking a comprehensive solution. The modified land bill is set to enter Parliament this session. All political parties, with any stakes in the states, are invested in bringing coherence to land acquisition policy. They must realise that the longer they wait to get the new Land Acquisition Act passed, the more likely they are to find themselves mired in these conflicts.








The setting of a date — the first week of September — for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka could not have come a day too soon. That the announcement had to be made amidst a controversy over Dr Singh's off-the-record remarks on Bangladesh was indeed unfortunate.

If there is no way of avoiding accidents in the conduct of diplomacy, the good news is that Dhaka has shown much maturity in not letting the remarks cloud Dr Singh's long overdue visit to Bangladesh.

Dhaka's calm demeanour in the last few days underlines a new sense of self-assurance in Bangladesh. It also brings into bold relief the courage of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has invested so much political capital in trying to transform the sensitive relationship with India.

Since she came to Delhi in January 2010 and unveiled a bold bilateral agenda, the return visit by Dr Singh has been eagerly anticipated in Bangladesh. Dhaka's sceptics were willing to concede that India had talked the talk of building a new relationship with Bangladesh by agreeing to resolve all the outstanding problems, including water-sharing, market access and boundary settlement to name a few.

The big question was whether Dr Singh would walk the walk. Few in Dhaka and fewer still in Delhi were willing to bet that the sweeping bilateral agenda of January 2010 can at all be implemented.

As negotiations dragged on over admittedly complex issues that had become intractable over decades of political neglect, there was much concern that Dr Singh might miss the boat with Bangladesh as he did with Pakistan.

It might be recalled that Dr Singh and then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf had agreed to tackle all bilateral disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir, at their meeting in Delhi in April 2005. Much progress was made in the negotiations with Pakistan during 2005-06.

But by the time Dr Singh decided to travel to Pakistan in March 2007, the political window for clinching major agreements had shut as Musharraf's power began to ebb rapidly.

In South Asia's diplomatic minefield, second chances are rare. Take, for example, the boundary-related issues with Bangladesh which are close to resolution today. The fact is that it has taken us nearly four decades to get there after a framework agreement on the boundary was signed in 1974 by Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

An interim agreement on sharing the waters of Teesta and Feni, reportedly ready to be signed now, comes 15 years after the accord on the Ganges waters was signed in 1996.

There was much concern in the last few months that the delay in the prime minister's trip to Dhaka might put the opportunities in Bangladesh beyond India's grasp as the tenure of Hasina, elected to power in December 2008, crossed the midway point this year.

Dr Singh's trip, then, comes virtually at the very last favourable moment in Dhaka's political calendar. Yet, it is better late than never.

Given South Asia's accident- prone diplomacy, one must hope that there is no development that undermines Delhi-Dhaka ties in the two months before Dr Singh's scheduled visit.

For now, though, the script looks good. The bureaucrats in Delhi and Dhaka have done a fine job of negotiating agreements on a range of difficult issues. Both the establishments have overcome their traditional resistance to change and have focused on producing outcomes that are mutually beneficial.

While some i's remain to be dotted and some t's must be crossed, high-level political visits from Delhi in the coming weeks should set the stage for a very productive and possibly a historic visit by Dr Singh to Dhaka.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to Dhaka this week will be followed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram's and Water Resources Minister Salman Khursheed's. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma have been actively monitoring the progress on bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who plans to attend an international conference in Dhaka later this month, could provide the personal touch of the Gandhi-Nehru family for a reordering of bilateral ties.

Even more important is the political blessing from the new chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon was in Kolkata last week briefing the chief minister on the agreements being worked out with Bangladesh.

Mamata's presence on the prime minister's delegation to Dhaka would lend much credibility to the visit. One hopes

Dr Singh will also take along some of the chief ministers from Assam and other northeastern states who have a huge stake in the improved relationship with Bangladesh.

Dr Singh's visit is about overcoming the bitter legacies of the Partition that tore a coherent economic and cultural space in the eastern subcontinent into bits that could not cooperate even in self-interest.

The new framework being developed by Dr Singh and Sheikh Hasina will have an effect beyond bilateral relations.

Transit arrangements being negotiated between Delhi and Dhaka also involve Nepal and Bhutan. Bilateral energy and electricity sharing agreements between India and Bangladesh could become models for comprehensive South Asian sub-regional cooperation.

The prime minister's visit should also be about celebrating Bangladesh's rapid development — a recent Citibank report lists Bangladesh as one of the 11 emerging economies that will contribute to global growth — and its potential to help reintegrate the eastern subcontinent and reconnect South Asia to East Asia.

Dhaka, then, is a natural partner for Delhi in the strategic re-imagination of our immediate and extended neighbourhood.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi,







The recent announcement from Pune that sugar might be decontrolled was interesting. That it was made by Sharad Pawar himself was encouraging. Sugarcane has been the pampered child of Indian agricultural policy, protected by tariffs, quantitative restrictions on international trade, large advances from the banking sector and restrictions on domestic movements and stocks. Are we to expect light at the end of the tunnel?

The last cane season saw a change in the right direction when we moved from the statutory minimum price (SMP) to a fair and minimum price (FMP), with an assertion that it was to "provide a reasonable margin to sugarcane farmers on account of 'risk' and 'profit', and was to be uniformly applicable across states". That blessed relic of the past, the Sugarcane Control Order, 1966, was amended for this and the FRP was fixed at Rs 139 a quintal for average recovery. But a wag told me that it was wolf in sheep's clothing. Many years ago, I had to tell a minister who was giving a rather vapid lecture on liberalisation, that in a sectoral economy where all prices and quantities were controlled, relaxing one control could make matters worse and that there was a theory of second-bests which proved it. He was not contrite but events were bad for him for he wasn't charged for violating the theory of second bests but for amending one rule to favour some businesses.

In a written statement on March 2011, the government took credit for reducing sugar prices by changing import orders, imposing stock holdings, controlling turnover limits and suspending futures markets. For good measure, the authorities, not to be accused of being free-marketwallahs, also brought khandsari sugar into trading and stocking limits. Sharad Pawar is an old hand at all this and what he does not know about sugar is not worth bothering about and so the hope is that after he made that statement in Pune, he will abolish all this, and that is what he means by decontrol. It is also hoped that international trade will be allowed both in raw and refined sugar without hindrance.

Now that the government has made an announcement, it is expected that all these nefarious restricting orders, many which are of World War II vintage and the latest ones dating to the droughts of 1966, will be sent to the waste basket. Then the fun will begin.

In fact, I had written a report on sugarcane and sugar in the early 1980s, wistfully saying that the only reason public intervention was needed in sugar prices was because it was an 18-month crop and there was a cobweb — as the farmer chased last year's prices, and when demand zigged, he zagged. I thought a well-modulated buffer policy, including gur and khandsari, was needed; and even that could be avoided if we have export, import and futures. Of course, they never read all that. Still, a buffer will be needed if trade is not able to take the slack on account of the cobweb.

Coalition governments will never take the pressure of wildly fluctuating prices, and if the farmer goes by last year's prices and this year's crop, the cycle will be wild if tariffs, trade and futures don't take the slack. When that happens, women and men of good intentions and the media and now the courts will pillory the reformers. So take care is all I say. Meanwhile, go ahead and decontrol. But please don't play around with words, for you will be found out.

Once the decontrol takes place we can get serious. For out there, not hindered by stock, import, export, turnover and zonal restrictions, is a world of sugar complexes coming up in Brazil, Mauritius and elsewhere. But let us take it one step at a time.

I should also not be criticised for wishing that for the really hungry some sugar should be given through the UID, for if Sonia Gandhi pushes through her food security and not grain security idea, that amount of sugar can be bought in the open market of an efficient industry.

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand,







The recent Supreme Court order on black money is really good news. It suggests that unrestrained and uncalled-for action by the SC in areas where it has little expertise has peaked. Let me explain.

Study time trends: from the Tulip Mania in 1637, to the 2008 subprime crisis and the 2010 crisis of governance in India, there is one common characteristic — an irrational exuberance on the part of the major players. And a major cause of this irrationality is hubris. The reason the UPA lost all control and authority from 2009 onwards was because it believed it could do no wrong, and that its ideas and mishaps of governance would not only be tolerated, but approved by the people who had given it a strong mandate in the 2009 election. The Congress thought that whatever it proposed was "right" and damned any objections to its irrationality. In graphical terms, hubris leads to a blow-out, or equivalently a collapse — an extreme turning point is reached.

In the vacuum created by the UPA's lack of leadership, in walked the Supreme Court. In one sense, this is as it should be — after all, that is what checks and balances are about. But this marching in can create problems if the balances transcend a reality check.

And this is what seems to have happened with the Supreme Court. Over the last six months or so, the SC has enjoyed popularity and support for making decisions per se; when the executive and/or Parliament is either impotent or makes the wrong decisions, the democratic polity will cheer anybody. Witness the outpouring of support for the motley crew of "actors" in the shape of civil society, media, babas and yoga practitioners. But this support is now waning, and that is happening for two reasons: first, the interlopers have been found wanting on many counts, and second, the traditional decision-makers have got the message — either act rationally and decisively or get shamed and, worse, booted out.

Hubris leads to excess. In its most recent pronouncement on black money, the SC has most likely over-exposed itself. This 50-page document is historic, make no mistake about it. But historic does not mean good — it just means an extra-important event and in my opinion, this order will mark the peaking of the Supreme Court's activism for activism's sake. The "black" order is questionable on several counts, and I will attempt to document the pitfalls.

It is imperative that the drawbacks and implied or implicit errors be thoroughly documented, for it is the Supreme Court one is talking about. It is curious that in its activism the Supreme Court has not thought it fit to eliminate its power to make "contempt of court" judgments — a heritage from the colonial past that is archaic at best. As present Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju states in his article, 'Contempt of Court: The Need for a Fresh Look': "Much of our contempt law is a hangover from British rule. But under British rule India was not free and democratic... How then can the law of those days be applicable today?" He goes on to say that the power of the court "is not to prevent the master (the people) from criticising their servant (the judges) if the latter do not function properly or commit misconduct." In other words, the Supreme Court must realise that it is composed of humans, albeit humans with the capacity and power to make laws. And humans, regardless of their stripes, are all too prone to make a mistake now and then. And when they do, it needs to be pointed out emphatically — for that is the only check and balance left against the judiciary.

Ostensibly, the black money order is about the Hasan Ali case. Ali has been accused of money laundering. In reality, the order is a diatribe against economic reforms, capitalism, neo-liberalism, etc. The et cetera, in my humble opinion, has been heavily influenced by a rudimentary knowledge of Marxism. There is also a lot of moralising, as documented below.

In paragraph 5, the order states: "First and foremost, such large monies stashed abroad, and unaccounted for by individuals and entities of a country, would suggest the necessity of suspecting that they have been generated in activities that have been deemed to be unlawful. In addition, such large amounts of unaccounted monies would also lead to a natural suspicion that they have been transferred out of the country in order to evade payment of taxes, thereby depleting the capacity of the nation to undertake many tasks that are in public interest."

Let us deconstruct this "first and foremost" statement. There is a clear implication that the money transferred abroad is unaccounted for — black money. "Unaccounted for" literally means money for which taxes are owed and have not been paid. On this count, the SC does not make an error. But the inference that all the money sent abroad is by definition black money is patently false.

As is well known, the government of India, via the Reserve Bank of India, restricts the transfer of money to $200,000 in any single year. If individuals want to transfer more money, they have to go through the illegal hawala route. But this wealth could be well-earned, and taxes on it paid. The simple point is that a fair amount of the money going through the illegal route is earned money for which taxes have been paid — it is not unaccounted for black money. Elementary, Doctor Watson.

There are several other "errors" of at least interpretation, if not fact, contained in the black order. The citizens of India, experts in various fields, are a human resource waiting to help the judiciary in its endeavour to deliver justice. The Supreme Court should exploit this goodwill by hearing out the experts, especially in areas in which it may have little ex-ante expertise.

Regarding inappropriate moral lectures, let me conclude with the following quote from the order: "In addition, it would also appear that in this miasmic cultural environment in which greed is extolled, conspicuous consumption viewed as both necessary and socially valuable, and the wealthy viewed as demi-gods, the agents of the state may have also succumbed to the notions of the neoliberal paradigm that the role of the state ought to only be an enabling one, and not exercise significant control." Simple query: is significant control by the state constitutional?

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







The Lokpal conundrum

Calling the all-party meeting on the Lokpal bill inconclusive, Rashtriya Sahara writes in its July 5 editorial, "The government has claimed that there was a consensus among all parties that a strong Lokpal bill should be presented before the coming session of Parliament. But the real question is about the draft of this 'strong bill'. The government did not present such a draft at the meeting. Therefore, what is the meaning of a strong Lokpal bill and a consensus?"

The daily Inquilab published from Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Bareilly, writes in its editorial on July 5: "The BJP's response is rather opportunistic. It is caught in a serious dilemma, at a time when Manmohan Singh, as prime minister, has himself expressed his readiness to come under the Lokpal's ambit. Perhaps it thinks that if it opposes the PM being under the Lokpal's scrutiny, there would be no difference between the Congress and the BJP. It would also imply that it is choosing a path different from that of Anna Hazare's campaign... But supporting this move is not possible either, because it aims to win power in 2014, meaning that the next prime minister could be from the BJP."

The PM's words

Jamaat-e-Islami's bi-weekly, Daawat comments on July 4 on the PM's meeting with senior editors, saying that the focus should be on solutions, rather than on exploring problems. "Wanting to present a better picture of the government, rather than concentrating on the problems at hand, sympathy in place of solutions, and making mere promises do not indicate good governance."

The paper notes the PM's statement that he is not against being under the ambit of Lokpal, with the rejoinder that the opinion of his cabinet, including many leaders of the ruling coalition, is different, and a decision would be taken only after a consensus among the coalition partners, opposition parties and the civil society. "In this context, what meaning can be attributed to the statement that he is is not a weak prime minister and his grip on the government is tight?" 

Delhi-based daily Jadeed Khabar writes in a piece of commentary on July 30: "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has broken the lock of silence and tried to clarify many issues. To what extent he has succeeded will be decided by the people and political analysts."

No options on Telangana

Siasat, in its July 4 editorial titled 'A new dawn of Telagana's struggle', writes: "The demand for a separate Telangana state is very intense. All kinds of efforts have been made by the Congress high command and the Centre to put this legitimate demand on the backburner. The Srikrishna Committee's recommendations have been part of this procrastination policy, and instead of clear solutions to the Telangana problem, it presented more complications. Worse, the committee tried to view the Telangana issue from a communal angle... The struggle for a separate state is reaching a decisive stage... This policy (of procrastination) would amount to political suicide by the Congress in the Telangana region because now the people there are not willing to accept anything short of their demand for a separate state."

In its July 6 editorial, the paper asserts that "a firm decision on Telangana is imperative." It warns that "Congress leaders of Telangana have dared to take the bold step of collective resignations. The Centre or Congress high command should realise that many incidents are waiting to happen on the political front. If the Centre repeats its old habit of pushing Telangana-related problems into the background, popular sentiment in the Telengana region could assume grave proportions."

Another leading daily from Hyderabad, Munsif, in its editorial on July 5, pleads for "immediate steps for a separate Telangana." It writes: "Now that the majority of elected representatives of the Telangana region have submitted their resignations, including even ministers of the ruling Congress, it is hoped that the Centre will initiate steps for the creation of Telangana as soon as possible."

Inquilab, in its editorial on July 6, writes that all political prescriptions for avoiding action on this issue have been used. "Now, if anything can be done, it must be a decision. The government does not have any options except a decision."






National automotive reputations can be a boon or a bane for car companies. GM is still losing sales because of the sins of the 1970s and '80s, while Japanese cars enjoy an aura of reliability that's not always in sync with the modern products. Toyota caught a lot of bad publicity over last year's mysterious throttle recalls, but mistakes like that are still viewed as anomalies.

Nearly every country's cars are freighted with reputations forged in decades past. According to conventional wisdom, German cars are overengineered and dour. American cars are loud, fast and shoddy. British cars are charming but have problematic electrical systems. Try to get through a review of an Italian car, any Italian car, without finding some expression of the theme "passionate yet temperamental." And yet, there are so many exceptions to these rules that you wonder why they persist at all — a 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, for example, is a charismatic supercharged rocketship with horrendous reliability ratings, the kind of car you might associate with America, or Italy, or possibly the Mad Max films. But certainly not the Germany of the collective imagination, a place where men in white lab coats meticulously monitor quality and ensure that no colours more spirited than charcoal find their way into the interior.

Stereotypes came from somewhere — the 1991-1998 Mercedes-Benz S-Class was as humourless a dreadnought as you'll find. And I know a fellow who owned the 1973 Alfa Romeo Spider, and he claims that the floorboards would get hot enough to literally melt the soles from your shoes. Meanwhile, it featured an AC that his mechanic described as "like a beautiful woman gently blowing over a bowl of ice cubes." Probably not the type of diagnostic poetry that you'd get from, say, a Lexus mechanic.

But that doesn't mean that a given stereotype is permanent. Modern Ferraris, for instance, are generally considered quite reliable, and the cars' technical ambition rivals anything to come out of Stuttgart or Munich. The basic Fiat 500 now on sale in the US carries a four year, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty — the same coverage that you get with a new BMW. Fiat, incidentally, now owns Chrysler. Volvo is owned by the Chinese. Rolls-Royce and Bentley are controlled by the Germans. Aston Martin — a British company owned by the Kuwaitis — has talked to Mercedes about collaborating on new models. I have to wonder if our cars will ever again exhibit any semblance of coherent national identities. Until March, the American-market Buick Regal was built in Germany, while a German-market BMW X6 is built in America.

Range Rover is perhaps the most extreme case. During the lifespan of just the current model, the company has belonged to BMW, Ford and Tata. Buy a new Range Rover, and you've got a car that was developed by Germans, updated by Americans and built by the British for an Indian corporation. If that lineage is too convoluted, perhaps you'd prefer a quintessentially American SUV like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as American as they come. Except for the suspension design, which hails from Mercedes- Benz. And the diesel engine. That's Italian — VM Motori. But if you ignore the German suspension and the Italian engine, the Jeep is Captain America. Except for the Fiat connection. Because Fiat owns Jeep now, too. And so the Grand Cherokee, a model that was once as American as Budweiser, is now as American as ... well, Budweiser, which is owned by the Belgians.

The truth is that there are now very few vehicles that exemplify a particular nation's approach to car-building. The consistent national quirks that spawned the old stereotypes are giving way to a global stew of cultural influences.

Fortunately, that doesn't mean that all new cars have been polished to a level of stultifying heterogeneity. The other day, I climbed into a Jaguar XF and tried to open the glove compartment, controlled by a touch sensor. Nothing happened. I touched it again. On the third try, the electrons awakened. I smiled at the 33 per cent success rate. Not bad for British electronics. Ezra Dyer






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 tonnes 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 US shuttle programme, 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. Money is tight. What budget NASA still has might be better used in other ways.

But as the centrepiece of our country's gaudily ambitious space adventures, the shuttle programme 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 programme'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. 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. Jon Huntsman, declaring his candidacy for the presidency, 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.

The country has certainly survived more devastating and sustained periods of economic distress than the present one. But Americans right now are profoundly doubtful. 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.

Just last week the Democratic pollster Mark J. Penn concluded that "the country is going through one of its longest sustained periods of unhappiness and pessimism ever." And 39 per cent of the respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll characterised that decline as permanent, at least in economic terms. 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. 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. Frank Bruni







The government has done well to get Dayanidhi Maran to resign once the CBI pointed to his role in forcing C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in Aircel by refusing to grant any new licences as long as Sivasankaran was the owner—it must have been more than a coincidence that a group firm of the new owner invested in Maran's brother's company a few months after it got licences from Maran. With Maran resigning the day after the CBI action, the government cannot be accused of being soft as it was in the case of A Raja. Maran's was a mixed tenure, the obvious lows being the Aircel episode, coming up with a new policy that allowed granting of new licences in 2007 at 2001 prices (Maran was the original Raja, though Raja bettered him later) and hounding the Tatas in their telecom business after a TataSky spat with his brother's Sun TV (after the TDSAT got tough, Maran's ministry backed down). The highs included raising FDI caps to 74% as a result of which Vodafone came in, and really opening up the long distance sector by slashing entry fees.

While attention has rightly focused on Maran and Raja, it's equally important to focus on the real culprits, the babus who, despite all the immunity the Constitution provides, facilitated this task. If the babus had put their foot down, make no mistake, it would have been really tough for a Maran or a Raja to pull off what they did. FE's lead story on Maran on Thursday highlighted how, when Maran tried to put all manner of roadblocks in Aircel's applications, the then telecom secretary Nripendra Misra acted like the classic babu and pushed the files from one place to another—never once did Misra record on file his objection to Maran's actions. One of his successors DS Mathur, similarly, didn't agree with Raja's plans but didn't put anything in writing, preferring instead to let a junior sign the file while he was on tour; Mathur says he kept both the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary in the loop (verbally, it would appear), but none of these worthies did anything either. Then finance secretary D Subbarao, who is now RBI Governor, protested initially at Raja's plans to sell licences in 2008 at 2001 prices, but when Raja was insistent, he backed off quietly—he later cited his preoccupation with budget-making to explain why he allowed a R1,76,000 crore scam to take place! What takes the cake, of course, is the government's affidavit in the PJ Thomas case—when it was alleged that, as telecom secretary, Thomas had helped Raja by telling the CAG it could not examine the 2G matter, the affidavit in the Supreme Court said Thomas was not to blame as he was merely "processing … a file in a normal routine manner". That "routine manner", of course, is precisely the problem.





It is only fitting that the RBI Governor has chosen to highlight the problems of the Indian statistical database at the 5th Annual Statistics Day Conference of RBI to honour the signal contribution of the late Professor PC Mahalanobis to the Indian statistical system. Raising serious concerns of the reliability of the official data needed for policy formulation, the Governor pointed out that apart from the apparent inconsistencies in employment and wage data, RBI was particularly hampered by discrepancies. He noted that sometime the trends were even counter-intuitive. For instance, the IIP data showed positive trends during the peak period of the global crisis from December 2008 to June 2009, whereas the reworked figures using the new 2004-05 base shows that the trends were negative during the period. The discrepancies in the IIP data are not restricted to monthly numbers but even extend to gross distortion of the annual trends. While the IIP numbers with the 1993-94 base year, which was in use till May this year, show that industrial growth, which slumped to 3.2% in 2008-09 after the global crisis, recovered to 10.8% in 2009-10 and once again slowed down to 7.8% in 2010-11. In sharp contrast, the new IIP with the 2004-05 base year shows that industrial growth has steadily recovered, albeit at a much slower pace during the period, picking up from 2.5% in 2008-09 to 5.3% in 2009-10, and further to 8.2% in 2010-11. And more glaring is the data on capital goods, an important proxy for investment sentiments in the economy. While the 1993-94 series numbers show that capital goods sector grew at 20.9% in 2009-10, the new 2004-05 series show that growth was just a marginal 1% during the year. Such sharp discrepancies not only destroy the credibility of the IIP numbers and distort monetary and other policies but also vitiate the sanctity of the GDP numbers, which rely on the IIP for making the initial estimates.

Apart from these drawbacks, the Indian statistical system has lagged substantially in updating the base year of important indices at regular five year intervals which is usually recommended. Then there are also issues of methodology. Though various Indian indicators continue using a fixed-weight approach with the weights generally updated at five-year intervals, more countries have now opted for a a chain-linked approach with annually updated weights. Similarly, while the statistical agencies across the globe have accepted the need for compilation and publication of the seasonally adjusted data, month-on-month changes and change from the same month one year earlier, the Indian statistical agencies continue to cling to the outdated practices.







The recent Supreme Court order on black money is really good news. It suggests that unrestrained and uncalled for action by the Court in areas where it has little expertise has peaked. Let me explain.

The study of time trends, from the Tulip Mania in 1637 to the 2008 sub-prime crisis, and the 2010 crisis of governance in India, etc, has one characteristic in common—irrational exuberance on the part of the major players. And a major cause of this irrationality is hubris. The reason the UPA lost all control and authority 2009 onwards was because it believed it could do no wrong, and that its ideas and mishaps of governance would not only be tolerated but approved by the people who had given it a strong mandate in the 2009 election. The Congress thought that whatever it proposed was "right" and damned any objections to its irrationality. In graphical terms, hubris leads to a blow-out or equivalently a collapse, i.e., an extreme turning point is reached.

In the vacuum created by the UPA's lack of leadership, in walked the Supreme Court. In one sense, this is as it should be—after all, that is what checks and balances are about. But this marching in can create problems if the balances transcend a reality check. And this is what seems to have happened with the Supreme Court. Over the last six months or so, the Supreme Court has enjoyed popularity and support for making decisions per se; when the Executive and/or Parliament is either impotent or makes the wrong decisions, the democratic polity will cheer anybody. Witness the outpouring of support for the motley crew of "actors" in the shape of civil society, media, babas and yoga practitioners. But this support is now waning, and that is happening for two reasons: first, the interlopers have been found wanting on many counts, and second, the traditional decision makers have got the message—either act rationally and decisively or get shamed, and worse, booted out.

Hubris leads to blindness. In its most recent pronouncement on black money, the Court has most likely over-exposed itself. This 50-page document is historic, make no mistake about it. But historic does not mean good—it just means an extra-important event and, in my opinion, this judgment will mark the peaking of Supreme Court's activism for activism's sake. The black judgment is questionable on several counts, and I will attempt to document the pitfalls.

It is imperative that the drawbacks and implied or implicit errors be thoroughly documented, for it is the Supreme Court one is talking about. It is curious that in its activism the Court has not thought it fit to eliminate its power to make "contempt of court" judgments—a heritage from the colonial past that is archaic at best. As present Supreme Court justice Markandey Katju states in his article, Contempt of Court: The Need for a Fresh Look, "Much of our contempt law is a hangover from British rule. But under British rule India was not free and democratic … How then can the law of those days be applicable today?" He goes on to say that the power of the court "is not to prevent the master (the people) from criticizing their servant (the Judges) if the latter do not function properly or commit misconduct". In other words, the Supreme Court must realise that it is composed of humans, albeit humans with the capacity and power to make laws. And humans, regardless of their stripes, are all too prone to make a mistake now and then. And when they do, it needs to be pointed out emphatically—for that is the only check and balance left against the judiciary.

The Black Judgment: Ostensibly, the judgment is about the Hasan Ali case. Ali has been accused of money laundering. In reality, the judgment is a diatribe against economic reforms, capitalism, neo-liberalism, etc. The etcetera, in my humble opinion, has been heavily influenced by a rudimentary knowledge of Marxism. The rest of the time there are more than shades of an (obsolete) eighth grade moral science lecture. That this is so is documented below and in the next article.

In paragraph 5, the judgment states: "First and foremost, such large monies stashed abroad, and unaccounted for by individuals and entities of a country, would suggest the necessity of suspecting that they have been generated in activities that have been deemed to be unlawful. In addition, such large amounts of unaccounted monies would also lead to a natural suspicion that they have been transferred out of the country in order to evade payment of taxes, thereby depleting the capacity of the nation to undertake many tasks that are in public interest."

Let us deconstruct this first and foremost statement. There is a clear implication that the money transferred abroad is unaccounted for, i.e., black money. Unaccounted for literally means money for which taxes are owed and not been paid. On this count, the Court does not make an error. But on the inference that all the money sent abroad is by definition black money is patently false.

As is well known, the government of India via the Reserve Bank restricts the transfer of money to $200,000 in any single year. If individuals want to transfer more money, they have to go through the illegal hawala route. But this wealth could be well earned and taxes on it paid. The simple point is that a fair amount of the money going through the illegal route is earned money for which taxes have been paid—it is not unaccounted for black money. Elementary, Mr Watson.

There are several other "errors" of at least interpretation, if not fact, contained in the black judgment. Some of these will be explored in the next article. The citizens of India, experts in various fields, are a human resource waiting to help the judiciary in its endeavor to deliver justice. The Supreme Court should exploit this goodwill by hearing the experts, especially in areas in which it may have little ex-ante expertise.

Regarding inappropriate moral lectures, and as appetite for the instalment tomorrow, let me conclude with the following quote from the judgment. "In addition, it would also appear that in this miasmic cultural environment in which greed is extolled, conspicuous consumption viewed as both necessary and socially valuable, and the wealthy viewed as demi-gods, the agents of the State may have also succumbed to the notions of the neoliberal paradigm that the role of the State ought to only be an enabling one, and not exercise significant control." Simple query: is significant control by the state constitutional?

The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm. Please visit for an archive of articles etc.

Comments welcome at






There is something rather odd about the stir on black money. The odd element is the Supreme Court order to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to track the generation of black money.

Since one assumes the order is not meant to take over the role of the tax department within the country, it leaves two areas for the SIT to track. Of these, one is to track Indians who have accounts in tax havens, the other is the demand to abrogate tax treaties that give advantage to investors who come in using the provisions of the treaties. Forget what the first involves. The second one is the more puzzling line of argument. It says the India Mauritius Double Taxation Agreement is a nice cache for tax avoidance, which means black money. So, the treaty needs to be abrogated or at least nullified as illegal. The problem is, in 2003, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court overturned a Delhi High Court judgment in the Union of India vs Azadi Bachao Andolan case to hold the treaty as valid. The Supreme Court held that it is not for the court to create laws but to apply it. The court was deciding if a Circular No 789 issued by the CBDT in April 2000 was valid. That circular had stated that a certificate issued by the Mauritius government would be a sufficient proof of a residency and beneficial ownership by any investor who wanted to make use of the treaty provisions. It is worth recounting some of the details of the case, but the court passed the order after discussing the subject of treaty shopping too. In the current debate, this term has cropped up repeatedly as the equivalent of tax abuse. So that, it would seem, closes the door on this line of discussions. The only way one can change it would be for a larger bench of the Court to overrule the judgment. An SIT will not be able to help here and, therefore, possibly diverts the issue.

The other possible option is for the government to terminate the agreement. There are two issues here. One is, of course, the Supreme Court's own order holding the treaty as valid. The second line of complexity is the rights of the Mauritius government. It will claim this is an unilateral undermining of a treaty between two sovereign parties and seek relief. Since India has never gone back on an international commitment as a responsible nation, this will be a huge embarrassment.

As an intermediate step, India can ask the island to jointly amend the act. That request has already been made and Mauritius has refused to do so. So, the only change that is possible is to alter the rules that govern the act. This is what India has been seeking and where Mauritius too has cooperated. The terms of seeking a residency certificate have been made tighter.

At this point, it is worth recounting how the 2003 judgment went. The background is the Delhi High Court order in the Shiva Kant Jha case, where it considered Treaty Shopping as the core point. As the court said the core issue is "what should be done when upon an investigation it is found that the assessee is a resident of a third country having only paper existence in Mauritius … to take advantage of the double taxation avoidance scheme". The Court said this was illegal and an abuse of the treaty.

The revenue department filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court to which a Mauritian company became a co-appellant. The company was incidentally represented by Arun Jaitley, while the government position was argued by Soli Sorabji, who was the Attorney General.

The division bench of the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the high court. The Court said, "There is elaborate discussion in Baker's treatise on the anti abuse provisions in the OECD model and the approach of different countries to the issue of treaty shopping. True that several countries like the USA, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom have taken suitable steps, either by way of incorporation of appropriate provisions in the international conventions as to double taxation avoidance, or by domestic legislation, to ensure that the benefits of a treaty/convention are not available to residents of a third State."

But finally it held the duty of the court is to only decide what the law is but not to make it. "It is to decide what the law is, and apply it; not to make it."






Economic data from across the globe strongly suggest that the world economy has been slowing down recently. Factory output has declined perceptibly. In the advanced economies, the financial markets have been sliding and there is a distinct loss of confidence among investors. Consumer spending in the developed world has not picked up to the extent expected. Crude oil prices have been rising on supply uncertainties and the trend is likely to continue. High petroleum prices result in a transfer of wealth from cash-strapped consumers to producers who generally sit on their windfall earnings and do not contribute to global economic recovery. The twin natural disasters in Japan not only caused its GDP to fall sharply but seriously disrupted supply chains across the world, halting assembly lines in many countries. In the emerging economies such as India, inflation has been high and, as the authorities hike interest rates, the growth in output has slowed from its heady pace. On the other hand, recovery in the advanced economies has been anaemic, ominously so at a time when there is a serious talk of their governments withdrawing the stimulus packages. Taken together, global economic growth is seen to be at its weakest since recovery began two years ago.

Yet while these are genuine concerns, there are good reasons to be optimistic. Previous fears of a "double dip" recession in the developed world did not materialise, and this time too, despite some hiccups, the world economy should recover in the latter part of the year. As the IMF's latest World Economic Outlook points out, the global economy has continued to grow at 4.3 per cent, the rate indicated in its earlier forecast for 2011-12. Although downside risks have increased significantly — notably from the greater than anticipated weakness in the U.S. economy and the European debt crisis — they have been compensated substantially by certain "off-setting" factors. If Japan's twin natural disasters were an unpleasant surprise, the strong performance of France and Germany has been hugely positive. As Japan's reconstruction gets under way, the rebound of its economy is forecast to offset any weaker growth in the U.S. Much will depend upon how the European debt crisis is resolved. The way the developed countries confront their major fiscal challenges will determine the course of recovery. Sadly, one of the fundamental tasks — repairing the financial sector — has so far not been fully addressed.






The resignation of Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran from the Union Cabinet on account of his actions as Telecom Minister between May 2004 and May 2007 has clearly been brought about by the pressure of circumstances rather than by any inclination on the part of the United Progressive Alliance government to do right. This belated exit has come a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation told the Supreme Court of India that there was "prima facie material to suggest that there was an element of coercion by the former Telecom Minister in Aircel selling its shares to a Malaysian telecom company." The CBI has also submitted that Mr. Maran sat on Aircel's licence application for months until the company came under the control of a new and favoured owner. That this exit from the Cabinet could be delayed until the country's premier investigative agency formally informed the Supreme Court that Mr. Maran was under investigation proves yet again that the UPA government has fallen into the habit of covering up allegations of corruption — asWikiLeaksEditor-in-Chief Julian Assange commented in an interview toThe Hindu. Controversy after controversy, scandal after scandal, scam after scam has demonstrated that the government maintains an amoral silence or sticks to convenient inaction or argument in the face of material or circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing for as long as it is legally possible and politically expedient.

The onus is now on the investigative agency to act speedily in uncovering the whole sequence of events relating to Aircel's purchase by the Maxis Group, including the rationale and timing of policy changes such as raising the FDI limit in the telecom sector to 74 per cent; Mr. Maran's insistence on spectrum pricing remaining with his Ministry rather than being brought under a Group of Ministers; and his allocation of mobile phone licences for a throwaway price to Aircel after its promoter C. Sivasankaran was coerced into selling it to the Maxis group. The agency is also reported to be investigating whether this involved a quid pro quo, as the same Malaysian group invested substantially in the direct-to-home and FM radio businesses of the Sun TV group owned by Mr. Maran's elder brother, Kalanithi Maran. All these aspects, and not just the role of Mr. Maran as Telecom Minister, must be thoroughly investigated. It is now clear that 2G spectrum allocation is India's biggest ever corruption scandal not only in terms of the mind-boggling sums involved — but also in the devious ways in which policy and personal interests coalesced. Elementary issues signalling a conflict of interest were deliberately ignored. Can there be the slightest doubt that this government, which is headed by a Prime Minister whose personal financial probity is undisputed but which has earned a reputation for unrivalled corruption, has much to answer for?






ALARMIST?The perception is that while the Arctic states may be talking cooperation, they are preparing for conflict. This 2007 Russian TV channel grab shows a manipulator of the Mir-1 mini-submarine placing a Russian flag on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean at a depth of 4,261 metres or 13,980 feet belowthe North Pole. —PHOTO: AFP

The seventh ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in May looked set to be a mundane affair, with its focus on signing a new search-and-rescue agreement and handover of the chairmanship to Sweden.

But the atmosphere in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, was electrified by the first visit to such a forum by the United States, courtesy of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and a host of other heavy-hitters.

The message was clear: the U.S. is putting itself at the centre of the debate about the future of the far north at a time when a new oil and mineral "cold rush" is under way as global warming makes extraction more easy. And being the U.S., the soft diplomacy was backed up with a bit of symbolic hardware. A few weeks earlier two nuclear-powered submarines were sent to patrol 240km north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Meanwhile Russia — also on the eight-nation council — was happy to push off the agenda any idea that countries such as China could gain observer status.

The U.S. Navy move comes as Russia is said to have increased missile testing in the region and Norway has moved its main military base to the far north.

Meanwhile China has started to woo countries such as Greenland, which are rich in rare earth minerals needed for mobile phones and other hi-tech equipment.

The competing commercial interests in the Arctic are complicated by the lack of a comprehensive agreement on who owns what. Many countries are in the process of submitting competing land claims to the UN as part of its law of the sea convention — a treaty as yet unsigned by the U.S.

Canada and others were also disturbed when Artur Chilingarov, a veteran Russian polar explorer, placed a flag on the Arctic seabed in 2007. He told reporters his mission was to show the Arctic was Russian, adding: "We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian landmass." Canada took exception to the Russian move, seeing it as provocative, but Moscow dismissed the furore, insisting it was a theatrical gesture by a scientist hired by private companies to make the descent. But it is telling that the following year Chilingarov was awarded a new title, Hero of the Russian Federation.

'Arms race'

Concerns about a new Cold War — if not just a cold rush — have led academics such as Rob Huebert, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary, to warn in a recent paper prepared for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute that "an arms race may be beginning."

Huebert says he has heard the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, talking of the need to establish a "zone of peace" in the Arctic but sees contrary actions as well. "The strategic value of the region is growing. As this value grows, each state will attach a greater value to their own national interests in the region. The Arctic states may be talking co-operation, but they are preparing for conflict." Meanwhile Admiral James Stavridis, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) supreme allied commander in Europe, in a foreword to a recent paper published by the Royal United Services Institute, argued: "For now, the disputes in the north have been dealt with peacefully, but climate change could alter the equilibrium over the coming years in the race of temptation for exploitation of more readily accessible natural resources." He added: "The cascading interests stemming from the effects of climate change should cause today's global leaders to take stock, and unify their efforts to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of co-operation — rather than proceed down the icy slope towards a zone of competition, or worse a zone of conflict." Huebert points out that as well as opening a new ultra-hi-tech operations centre inside a mountain at Reitan, in the far north of Norway, Oslo is also spending unprecedented money on new military hardware, not least five top-of-the-range frigates. The class of vessel is called Fridtjof Nansen, after the famous polar explorer, which perhaps indicates where the navy plans to deploy them.

Meanwhile Canada's then Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon, voiced confidence his nation would win the territory. "We will exercise sovereignty in the Arctic," he told his Russian counterpart in talks in Moscow.

But optimists say the fears are exaggerated and point to positive developments, not least Norway and Russia agreeing a mutually acceptable boundary line dividing up the Barents Sea.

One former Foreign Minister said: "We want to avoid complacency but all this alarmist talk of meltdown should be shunned.

The Arctic is quite pacific. It is not a place of turmoil but an area of low tension." However, Paul Berkman, director of the Arctic Ocean geopolitics programme at the Scott Polar Research Institute, believes potential problems cannot be dismissed. "There is no room for complacency and while tensions are low there is opportunity to address the risks of political, economic and cultural instabilities that are inherent consequences of the environmental state-change in the Arctic Ocean." Inuit leaders are already concerned that the talk of industrialisation and mineral wealth in the Arctic will increase tension.

Aqqaluk Lynge, former chairman of the indigenous peoples' forum, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, described himself as "nervous" about current developments. "There is a military build-up and an increase in megaphone diplomacy ... We do not want a return to the Cold War," he said. — ©Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

There are fears that the growing strategic value of the Arctic may be prompting a new arms race, or 'cold rush.'









HIGH ON THE LIST:Narcotics control was listed by several participants at a recent conference as Russia's biggest problem with Afghanistan. A 2002 photograph of Afghan workers cutting open poppy bulbs, the first stage of the harvesting process, at Jalalabad. —PHOTO: AFP

July 6, 2011: A group of senior non-official American and Russian policy analysts recently spent a long, intense day comparing notes on Afghanistan and Pakistan, part of a longer meeting on U.S.-Russia relations. Both countries' analysts started with some important common concerns. Primary among them was their hope that Afghanistan would emerge as a stable country, able to develop economically and to govern itself effectively. Containing Islamic radicalism and preventing it from radiating outward from Afghanistan and Pakistan was on both countries' radar screen; so too was the problem of narcotics trafficking through Central Asia.

But as the discussion grew more specific, the differences in the priorities as seen from Washington and Moscow became clearer. The first and most striking concerned the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Ironically, the Russians in the group were "alarmed" — a word several used — at the prospect of an early withdrawal of U.S. forces, and appeared surprised that most of their American colleagues considered U.S. military withdrawal by 2014 a near-certainty. From the Russians' point of view, the U.S. military presence helped reduce the flow of drugs, extremism and other undesirable "exports" into Central Asia and thence into Russia itself. A few commented that they saw history repeating itself, but their policy priorities gave remarkably little vent to snickering that the U.S. had fallen into the same morass that the Russians had experienced two decades ago.

Narcotics control

Narcotics control was described by most of the Russian participants as a high priority; several listed it as Russia's biggest problem with Afghanistan. One person referred to "some Russian people's" suspicions that the United States was turning a blind eye to drug trafficking in order to keep dissident tribes from making trouble.

Also high on the Russians' list was the problem of Islamic extremists moving into Central Asia and thence into Russia itself. The Russian scholars worried that the freedom of movement established in post-Soviet times made it easier for Muslims from Russia to visit Afghanistan and Pakistan and return radicalised ("returning as gunmen," in the words of one participant). In the new dispensation, the Russian authorities had much less information than they would like about the people involved or even how many might be involved. Movement of drugs and extremists contributed to repeated references to Russian "vulnerabilities" that would be exacerbated by U.S. withdrawal.

Continuing turmoil in Afghanistan complicated Russia's policy of economic and political "reintegration of the former Soviet space." China was also on the Russian group's mind. The discussion started with the implications of Chinese investment in natural resource industries in Afghanistan, but the real concern was expanding Chinese influence elsewhere in the region. "In twenty years, they will own Central Asia," one commented. The undertone of general suspicion about China was unmistakable.

Some of the Russian scholars worried about the weakness and illegitimacy of the Afghan government in terms very similar to discussions one hears these days in Washington. On the U.S. side, there were different views on this subject, with one expert on Afghanistan notably more optimistic and other participants sharing the dark view of their Russian counterparts.

On the American side, concerns about Pakistan weighed more heavily, including worries about the Pakistan economy and about the insurgency inside Pakistan. Several Russian participants commented on Pakistan's troubles, but it was clear that the problem of Pakistan as "Sick Man of South Asia," as it so frequently appears in Washington, was not on the Russians' minds to the same extent. Americans' concern about the export of Islamic extremism focused more on Western Europe and the United States.

India-Pakistan relations

Members of the American team were searching for implementable ideas on how to improve governance in states that were institutionally weak and in danger of failing. This general idea had relatively little resonance with the Russian group, but one person mused that if the goal was to "restructure Afghan society," this could not be done from a distance.

Everyone agreed that Pakistan's goals in Afghanistan were strongly influenced by its desire to eliminate Indian influence. Some of the Russian participants went a step further and argued that changing India-Pakistan relations was essential to stabilising Afghanistan. There was not, however, any discernible appetite for active Russian diplomacy on India-Pakistan issues. One of the Russian team cited India's lack of enthusiasm for an earlier proposal that Gorbachev serve as an envoy for India and Pakistan. The Russians showed little expectation of an India-Pakistan breakthrough, but also little concern about India-Pakistan hostilities in the near term.

Several ideas for U.S.-Russian cooperation on Afghanistan came up. Russia's involvement in creating alternative logistical routes for the United States was noted, and several American participants spoke of possibly buying supplies for U.S. troops in Afghanistan from Russia. Some cooperative efforts are in fact already in operation, e.g. on narcotics control. But in general, this part of the discussion seemed less realistic than the analytical part. Several Russians noted that Russia considered itself an aid donor. They expressed an interest in taking an active part in Afghanistan's reconstruction, but little interest in paying for that reconstruction.

The Russian participants did not appear to expect Russia to be a major player in South Asia. Every once in a while, echoes of the more expansive policies of bygone years came through, along with a palpable concern about being caught off guard by changing U.S. policies. But today's Russian policy elites have focused their most intense interest on issues closer to home and to the heartland. The aspects of Afghanistan and Pakistan that were on their minds are those that affect Russia's neighbourhood — narcotics and radicalisation — but these countries are at, or even beyond, the boundaries of the neighbourhood.

(Teresita and Howard Schaffer are former U.S. ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia. They are co-founders of Howard Schaffer teaches at Georgetown University; Teresita Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution.)

Russia's concerns about Afghanistan stem mainly from its impact on their neighbourhood through narcotics trafficking and the export of Islamic radicalism. China's growing economic footprint is also a worry. There seems little interest in

a major policy role.





As we close in on 20 years of Manmohanomics, it's worth remembering one chant the chattering classes uttered, first with pride, later to console themselves. "Whatever you say, we have the most honest man in Dr. Manmohan Singh. And no one can speak a word against him." It's less heard now — those affections having been transferred to other punters in the honesty sweepstakes. But growing numbers do say this daily: the honest Prime Minister presides over indisputably the most corrupt government in our history. And therein lie many lessons.

Dr. Singh's decision to meet weekly with editors tells us which lesson he has drawn from the mess. That his government's problem with corruption is a public relations one. This even though the media, while barking at politicians in the 2G scam, have steered clear of the corporate core of all such rackets. Dr. Singh sees the media acting too often as "accuser, prosecutor and judge." (He may have got that one right). Yet, he wants a weekly meeting with them. So is this a PR exercise? Or does he believe India's editors possess a wisdom unknown to others that will end corruption in all sectors (bar their own)? I hope the former.

Totting up his government's scams is like a Census operation. A large and complex count. There are scams done and buried, there are those alive and breathing. More are exhumed by the day. There are others in the pipeline, about to be pulled off. Still others where the media remain helpfully silent. And yet more in planning and process. We have a Union Cabinet that is possibly richer (at over Rs.500 crore) than most earlier Cabinets put together. And in spirit, reminiscent of the bungling mob in Jimmy Breslin's 1969 bookThe Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Only this mob rakes it in where Breslin's collapsed swiftly. And this crowd runs a large country, not a few blocks in New York.

There are of course many causes of corruption and everyone has his or her favourite story. But there are three sources which, if ignored, render analysis worthless. One: the structural inequalities of Indian society, including huge concentrations of wealth and power, class and caste, gender and other embedded discrimination. Two: the whole edifice of economic policy that has (more rapidly in the past 20 years) deepened, driven and legitimised those inequalities. That has, for instance, made corporations far more important than citizens, mocking the Constitution. And three: the culture of impunity and arbitrariness — with very little accountability. That allows the powerful to get away with almost anything. Where a judge in one State bans all protest rallies on weekdays because his car got stuck in a rally on the way to work. Where sundry godmen can break every tax law — so long as they don't challenge the ruling regime.

Tackling corruption without addressing its sources is like trying to mop the floor dry — with all taps open and running. The sources are old. Their (man-made) scope, size and damage are pretty new.

The past 20 years have seen unprecedented concentrations of wealth, often by awful means, mostly enabled by economic policy. The state stands reduced to a tool of corporate enrichment. It is there to facilitate private investment. Each budget is written for (and partly by) the corporate world. The last six budgets have gifted the corporates Rs.21 lakh crore in concessions on just direct corporate income tax, customs and excise duties. In the same period, food subsidies and agriculture have suffered cuts.

The neo-liberal economic framework assigns the state the role of wet nursing the corporate sector at public cost. This is why we live in the age of privatisation of just about everything. It is the state's mission to hand over scarce national resources of all kinds, land, water, spectrum, anything, to further bloat corporate profits. It is this process of peddling a nation's resources to private agents on preferential terms that is the main source of corruption in our time. The scams are the symptoms; a state that serves corporations, not citizens, is the disease.

Those who rightly worry about election spending also need to make other connections. There is a class of people which has much more to spend — and illicit funds to spend from. At levels unheard of since 1947. In many States, you cannot hope to contest an election without being acrorepati.

Take the case of 825 MLAs elected this May to the legislatures of four States, one Union Territory (and the bypoll in Kadapa.) Look at their declared assets. Thanks to the alert National Election Watch (NEW), a coalition of over 1200 NGOs spearheaded by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), we have data that are fun to analyse.

The ADR data tell us that the total self-declared value of these 825 MLAs is around Rs.2,128 crore. As many as 231 of these MLAs are into their second term. They increased their assets by 169 per cent on average, between 2006 and 2011. That is, they may well have collared more wealth in their first five-year terms than they had acquired in the rest of their lives.

Now think of 825 landless labour households. We cannot compare their 'assets' with those of the MLAs since the landless households have none and are drowning in debt. How long would it take, working on the MGNREGS for instance, for them to earn money equalling the wealth of the 825 MLAs?

The most they can make in the 100 days of work the MGNREGS grants them is — on national average — around Rs. 12,600 a year. The 825 landless households would require over 2,000 years to touch that Rs. 2,128-crore mark. And they'd need to abandon frivolous habits like eating. But let's make that 10,000 labour households. They would need close to 170 years to hit the jackpot. Even a million households would take well over a year to get close. (Recall that over a fourth of those MLAs acquired most of their assets in 60 months.)

Of course, given the profound inequalities, the labourer households will never have any assets, leave alone Rs.2,128-crore worth. They will remain indebted. And the interest they will pay off on those debts will likely add to the assets of the MLAs — some of whom are moneylenders. Yet the wealth of those MLAs is paltry compared to the huge state-led enrichment of the corporate world. It would take a million labourer households around 275 years on the MGNREGS to earn the Rs.3.5 lakh crore the government has doled out on annual average in the past six years to the corporate sector.

And then there's the impunity. Dr. Singh can juggle his Cabinet, but will it change much? An Agriculture Minister who spent more time on cricket — and helped transform that national passion into a tawdry, commercial swamp of sleaze. (At the time of writing, another wicket, that of the Textiles Minister, has fallen in this regime's precarious second innings.) Another, the Minister of Heavy Industries, shamed by the Supreme Court for helping moneylenders — then promptly promoted to Rural Development Minister. Even if dumped, their replacements, however youthful, won't alter that. For it isn't about lax governance or poor rules only. It's about corrupt policies.

Want to fight corruption in our time? Move to dismantle structural inequality, the disease of neo-liberal economic policy and the culture of arbitrariness without accountability. Do we need a Lokpal? Yes. Should it be a supra-government? Above constitutional structures and answerable to no one? You're begging for trouble. Can it tame the Trimurti of inequality, economic policy and arbitrariness? No. It's not geared towards that. That's a larger battle for people as a whole and their institutions. As the old saw goes, your rights are only as secure as the process by which you defend them.

At this moment battles rage across the country over displacement, forced land acquisition, the rape of resources, over forest and other rights. These may be 'local' battles but they challenge corruption on a large, even global, canvas. They are fighting inequality and discrimination. They resist impunity, greed and profit. They try to hold their rulers accountable. Some fight unjust laws (as in the case of Irom Sharmila). Others for the just application of laws (as with some forest rights struggles). Almost none, however, place themselves above the nation. Or declare that they will lay down laws which others must obey. Nor assert that they are answerable to no one. Yet, they fight for their rights and ours too and help make oppressive structures more accountable.

There's a little amnesia on this. A corrupt and effete government and the Congress party know that well. Barely 36 years ago, a man placed himself above all structures of the Constitution. A one-man supra-government. It's sad to recall how many PLUs, middle class people and even some intellectuals wound up cheering this man and his era. His name was Sanjay Gandhi and the period was called the Emergency. The rest is history.

The scams are the symptoms. A state

that serves corporations, not citizens, is

the disease.






FIRST STEPS:A recent picture released by the United Nations Mission in Sudan of soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army raising the flag of South Sudan during a military parade rehearsal. —PHOTO: AFP

Shakirah Namwanje may be something of a big shot.

Like tens of thousands of fellow Ugandans who have emigrated to this new land across the border, Ms. Namwanje has come to get rich. Outfitted with a sharp mind and a must-do personality, she earned eight times as much in three months as she would have back home. She helps run a successful import business here, and when her boss is out of town, Ms. Namwanje is in charge, barking out orders and making things happen — an emblem of an increasingly influential legion of foreigners.

"To get money," says Ms. Namwanje. "It's easy to make."

And she's only 17.

South Sudan's independence celebrations on Saturday (July 9) will not only usher in the world's newest country, they may also be a coronation of its southern neighbour, Uganda, as a cresting regional influence.

In the last two decades, Uganda has helped bring three surrounding governments to power — here, in Rwanda and in Congo. In Somalia, it has dispatched thousands of troops to preserve another. And for southern Sudan, Uganda has been nothing short of a life-support system.

Southern Sudan's former rebel leader, John Garang, attended the same university in Tanzania as President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and his guerrilla movement used Uganda as a base during its war with the north.

Since the end of the war, the two governments have maintained an intimate security relationship, with agreements on training and joint military operations.

Even now, with independence close at hand, South Sudan will be a nation in dependence. Countries from the United States to China are investing in the soon-to-be country, and the nearby East African Community says it is likely South Sudan will join the regional economic bloc. But Uganda, a developing country itself, holds a special place.

A vast portion of South Sudan's produce is imported, and Uganda exports more goods to South Sudan than any country in the world, with exports surging alongside the south's growing demand for them. A Ugandan diplomat in Juba said there were roughly 60,000 Ugandans living and working in southern Sudan, and entire neighbourhoods of the small but booming capital are populated by Ugandans.

Cross-border trade between Uganda and South Sudan recently surpassed $150 million, and the two governments have been reported to be working on a joint-venture to build a state-of-the-art market in Juba.

This is nothing new. Uganda has a history under President Museveni of supporting nearby rebel movements and later exporting large amounts of goods and people to the countries once those groups came to power.

The most famous example may be Rwanda, to Uganda's south. That country's President, Paul Kagame, grew up as a refugee in Uganda and helped bring President Museveni to power in 1986, later working in the upper echelons of the country's military. In 1990, Mr. Kagame and other Rwandans in Uganda started a rebel offensive in Rwanda, taking power in 1994 after stopping that country's genocide.

Rwanda and Uganda enjoyed close relations for years, and still do, though some political observers argue that relations have since cooled.

In the 1990s, Uganda also teamed up with Rwanda to prop up a little-known soldier in eastern Congo, Laurent Kabila, who soon toppled the long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Military ally of the U.S.

In the meantime, Uganda has become a close military ally of the United States. Its forces make up the vast majority of a peacekeeping force to help bolster the shaky government in nearby Somalia, a major foreign policy priority for the United States. President Museveni recently called for a one-year extension of Somalia's transitional government, threatening to pull out Ugandan troops otherwise.

"We contributed to Rwanda; we contributed to Congo; now we are talking about Sudan," said Tamale Mirundi, a spokesperson for the Ugandan government. "Our mission is clear."

Still, Mr. Mirundi said, "To be a superpower, that is not high on the agenda," and that economic interests played second-fiddle to "African solidarity."

After South Sudan, Rwanda and Congo rank among the top recipients of Ugandan exports. Rwanda recently switched its national language to English from French, and the country has hired many Ugandan teachers to work in its schools.

In Juba, people like Ms. Namwanje are pixels in a larger picture.

Working to save money for law school, Ms. Namwanje says she went against her parents' wishes in crossing the border. They feared Sudan's volatile security situation. Here, she said she had met many countrymen: motorcycle-taxi drivers, construction workers, traders like herself.

"Ugandans are the most here in Juba," said Ms. Namwanje, whose business in the city's largest market sells eggs for roughly four times the price they cost in Uganda. "We can get a profit, and much profit."

Agaba Livingstone, who hails from Hoima, Uganda, said he could not agree more.

"There is no money like here," said Mr. Livingstone, adding that he also disobeyed his parents' wishes to come to Sudan.

"They heard that this country is in war, that they are killing themselves," said Mr. Livingstone, who says he can make up to $100 each week collecting scrap metal and delivering vegetables to expensive hotels in town. "Now they are happy."

But he said his parents' prophecies proved true as well. South Sudan security forces have been implicated in widespread human-rights abuses, and Ugandans here say there has been a backlash against foreigners, who are often harassed and marginalised.

"There are many problems people have here," said Kasim Okwai, 25, a motorcycle-taxi driver in Juba, adding that he was robbed last month. He said he tried to complain to the police, but "they treat foreigners badly."

But money makes it all worthwhile. For Mr. Okwai, the defining moment came three years earlier, watching as a frustrated young adult in his parents' home in central Uganda as his older brother returned home from a trip to Sudan.

"I saw him coming back," said Mr. Okwai. "Buying clothes; he built a home; so I said, 'Why can't I be like that?'"— ©New York Times News Service

In the last two decades, Uganda has helped bring three surrounding governments

to power — in Sudan, Rwanda and Congo.






The resignation of textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran from the Union Cabinet on Thursday comes in a political context whose logic would suggest that Congress-DMK relations may have run their course. But aside from this, it would have been in the fitness of things if he had voluntarily put in his papers when the scandal which consumed

him broke a few weeks ago. He could have then continued to protest his innocence and sought legal recourse to clear himself. Instead, Mr Maran made a public defence of his case that is unlikely to have convinced many.
When a demand for a minister's resignation comes to be made for purely political reasons, and does not otherwise appear to have merit, ordinary people as well as the political class are quick to grasp the situation and usually turn away from the story. However, when there is smoke even when there is no fire in sight, ordinary voters are within their rights to expect that the minister in question should go, if political morality is not to be a casualty. And when the question is one of suspected corruption, then more than political propriety is at stake. In that event, it is the national exchequer that is the loser. For this reason, Mr Maran should have taken the honourable course and quit at the first opportunity. Even if his request to be relieved had been shot down by his party (DMK) chief M. Karunanidhi — in the coalition era, that is not unthinkable — he would have at least made a point about doing the right thing. The way it has turned out, in this political season of narrow-focusing on corruption, there appeared a certain inevitability about Mr Maran's departure, whether he was aware of it or not.
When, on Wednesday, the CBI observed in its status report to the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the 2G scam, that Mr Maran, during his tenure as communications minister in the
UPA-1 government, had forced the proprietor of the Aircel mobile telephony company to sell out to a Malaysian firm, from which his family had gained undue favours, the outgoing textiles minister had little room left for manoeuvre. It should be understood that Mr Maran's resignation was sought by the Prime Minister. His party did not withdraw him of its own accord. When the CBI report came on the record, Dr Manmohan Singh apprised DMK parliamentary party leader T.R. Baalu that Mr Maran's position had become untenable. The DMK took the hint and Mr Karunanidhi reportedly signalled that his grand-nephew should resign.
The DMK chafes at the Supreme Court proceedings in the 2G case, and the imprisonment of former communications minister A. Raja and Mr Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP, and holds its ally, the Congress, responsible for this state of affairs, not appreciating that the latter couldn't help the DMK even if it so wanted. At the political level, Mr Maran's resignation can build up into another grouse (although the young politician is not deemed a favourite of the DMK leadership). The party clearly fails to see that the era has passed when those in power could twist the courts and investigators to their advantage. The Congress would doubtless know that its best moments with the DMK are behind it. With difficulties for the Congress growing in Andhra Pradesh due to the Telangana issue, prudence may dictate a switch of allies in Tamil Nadu if the party is to maintain effective influence in the southern states. This could indeed become necessary in order to shore up the Centre if it is the DMK that decides to pull the plug. A moment of uncertainty in political dynamics has crept in.





The appointment last week of France's finance minister, Christine Lagarde, as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) brings an end to a race which, for all its illusions of drama and contest, was in fact entirely predictable.

The so-called Bretton Woods institutions — the World Bank and the IMF, set up in the New Hampshire town of that name by the Allied Powers of World War II in 1944 — have long rested on a cosy dealwithin the Western world, under which the former would always be headed by an American and the latter by a West European. The 10 managing directors of the IMF since then have all been Europeans (four from France, two from Sweden, and one each from Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Spain). All 11 presidents of the World Bank, needless to say, were American.

America's continued dominance may well reflect its status as a genuine economic superpower, but Europe's is a reflection of arrangements that have long been questionable. The fact is that Europeans have dominated the IMF's executive board, the body responsible for the organisation's day-to-day management. Despite accounting for barely 20 per cent of global GDP in purchasing power parity terms, the member states of the European Union collectively account for 31 per cent of the votes on the IMF board, and in practice cast up to 36 per cent of the votes (since there are only 24 directors, smaller countries entrust their voting rights to the bigger ones — thus Italy casts the votes of Greece, Albania, East Timor and Malta, and the Netherlands votes on behalf of a group that includes Israel, Armenia and the Ukraine). This 36 per cent vote share gives the EU countries an undue advantage in the race to get the 50.1 per cent needed to elect an IMF head.

The irony is that Europe is a borrower from the IMF. Instead of the insolvency of European countries like Greece, Spain or Ireland leading to a reduction in the EU's voting weight on the board, the problems of Europe have cynically been used to justify Ms Lagarde's appointment. It is precisely because of Europe's financial problems, Europeans argue, that a European is needed to head the IMF to deal effectively with them. (Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times explained that an IMF boss "will have to bang heads together in meetings of European finance ministers, and will have to converse effectively with some notoriously difficult heads of government and state.") Oddly, the same argument was never used when the "Asian flu" was being dealt with by a European IMF director, Michel Camdessus, who was clearly unfamiliar with the mores of the continent. Had Asia's economic troubles in the late 1990s led New Delhi to call for an Asian IMF head, we would have been laughed out of court. The acronym IMF, it used to be said by shame-faced Third Worlders, stands for "Insolvents Must Fawn". With a European in charge, this may have to be amended to "Insolvents May Flourish".
So once again a European has become the new chief of an institution supposedly controlled by 187 member nations, in a process which effectively discriminates against 93 per cent of the world's population. As the Venezuelan commentator Moises Naim trenchantly wrote, before the decision was taken: "In its daily work, the IMF demands that the governments that seek its financial assistance adopt market principles of efficiency, transparency and meritocracy in exchange for its help. Yet that same institution selects its leader through a process completely at odds with those values."

This is a system ripe for reform. Europe and the world could have benefited from having an IMF chief from a developing country with experience of successfully managing a serious economic crisis. Mexico's Augustin Carstens, for instance, had impressive, substantive credentials, and was arguably the most qualified candidate for the job amongst those in the fray. An Indian might have been a worthwhile contender, reflecting our country's increasing influence in the global economy. The Indian economist Arvind Subramanian, a former IMF staffer, argued that "the lack of a strong voice from India is unfortunate because the strength and legitimacy of multilateral institutions, which are in India's long-term interests, are at stake… The danger here is that if India, along with others, sits on the sidelines and the international debate is not strongly engaged, there will be decision making by default. This will only serve to perpetuate the status quo, of an important multilateral institution that remains basically non-universal in its legitimacy, deficient in wisdom and objectivity, and unduly politicised".

That is exactly what has now happened. The dominance of a handful of small industrialised Western countries in the international financial institutions looks increasingly anomalous in a world where economic dynamism has shifted irresistibly from the West to the East. We have clearly reached a point where there is need for a system redesign of global governance in the macro-economic arena, to ensure that all countries can participate in a manner commensurate with their capacity.

The Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009 set in motion a process for global redesign of the international financial and economic architecture, and has become a meaningful platform for north-south dialogue precisely because the south is not completely outweighed by the north in the composition of the G20. The Pittsburgh summit decided to reform the Bretton Woods institutions by shifting decision-making power (five per cent of the IMF quota share and three per cent of the World Bank's voting power) from the developed world to the developing and transition economies. Nations like India, Brazil, Russia and China, have called for higher figures — seven per cent of the IMF quota share and six per cent of the World Bank's voting powers — to be transferred, and their long-term objective is broad parity between the developed countries and the developing/transition economies in the international financial institutions.

It certainly seems uncontestable that the recent global financial crisis showed that the surveillance of risk by international institutions and early warning mechanisms are needed for all countries. In other words, it is important that, in the context of global governance, the developing countries should have a voice in overseeing the global financial performance of all nations, rather than it simply being a case of the rich supervising the economic delinquency of the poor. The Lagarde appointment, instead of being accepted as a defeat, should serve as a spur to bring about this much-needed change.

The author is a member of Parliament from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram constituency





Corruption in public offices is an ancient and chronic evil recognised as such by repeated legislative measures.
(1) The Indian Penal Code, enacted in 1860, had an entire chapter on bribery.

(2) The Special Police Force of 1943, set up under the War Department for the purpose of investigating offences of bribery and corruption, was continued as the Delhi Special Police Establishment, and thus the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) came into existence, to probe corruption cases.

(3)To stem the anticipated menace of corruption, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, was enacted, later replaced by the 1988 Act of the same name but with awesome provisions.

(4) In addition, the Central Vigilance Commission was established — initially through a Cabinet Resolution in 1964, and later by a Parliamentary enactment of 2003 — to exercise power of superintendence over the CBI and to inquire into or undertake investigation on a reference made by the Central government, about a public servant's conduct.

Investigating a crime, prosecuting the accused and punishing the guilty is what these laws aim at — they do not venture into preventing the crime; that is left to the policymakers. And as it stands, every person in the service or pay of the government — including the Prime Minister — is a public servant; but investigating their conduct and prosecuting them needs prior sanction from the bosses. At any given time, thousands of requests for sanction are pending, and investigations stalled.
The combined failure of all — the investigating agencies, the government and an archaic criminal justice system where the accused has only to create a doubt through hostile witnesses or tampered evidence and the like to get acquitted — has taken the country to a level we do not deserve. The exasperated Anna Hazare's fast hastened the process of making a new law.
Anna's Lokpal Bill, June 21 edition, appears trimmer as compared to the April version. It aims at replacing all the failed agencies with an 11-member Lokpal and through it to implement the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988; the bill seeks to make the Lokpal fully in charge of investigation, prosecution and adjudication. Anna's bill proposes to dispense with the need for prior sanction for investigating and prosecuting the Prime Minister, ministers, judges of the higher judiciary and members of Parliament. Clause 17 of the bill envisages a seven-member Lokpal Bench to permit such investigations or prosecutions.
In effect, if Anna's bill becomes law, the Lokayukta will be the sole authority to deal with complaints or even rumours of corruption against the lowest and the highest; only the President of India will be outside its ambit.
The joint meeting of all political parties, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in one voice, demanded a powerful Lokpal — good to hear that there is so much of support for fighting corruption. However, no one apparently was in support of Anna's bill — nor did they promise to support the ministers' bill. All political parties appear to have taken the view that the government should come out with a bill and Parliament, through the process of discussions and amendments, enact a law.
Anna's draft envisages a Lokpal with complete autonomy and the power to make its own budget. In other words, the Lokpal of Anna will be the most powerful body in India, subject only to the limited, after-the-event jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and high courts whose judges, however, are sought to be within the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. Anna would surely know that the cause of corruption is power; and that, as the saying goes, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In contrast, the ministers' bill restricts the jurisdiction of the Lokpal to "public servants" as defined in clause 17 of the draft. The Prime Minister and judges of the higher judiciary are outside the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. All ministers, both present and past, MPs, Group "A" officers in service and chairmen of public sector undertakings and the like fall within the Lokpal's purview and the bill has done away with the requirement of prior sanction for investigation and prosecutions as far as Lokpal proceedings are concerned.
Restricting Lokpal's jurisdiction to the higher class of public servants is a very sensible move; it will make the Lokpal more effective. Further clause 17 of Anna's bill, which provides for a pre-investigation hearing by the Lokpal itself in the case of the ministers, judges and MPs, may be prescribed as standard procedure in all cases.
Whether the Prime Minister should be within the Lokpal's jurisdiction or not cannot be answered on the basis of opinion polls. It is a matter of Constitutional principle, security concerns and practical perceptions. Two equally patriotic men of law and letters may disagree on this issue. In fact, the National Commission set up in 2000 to review the working of the Constitution, under the chairmanship of Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, considered this question and concluded: "The commission has carefully examined the point relating to the inclusion of the Prime Minister within the jurisdiction of Lokpal. In the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister occupies a unique position. He is the kingpin of the entire governmental structure. It is his personality, his image and his leadership that drives the government and, indeed, other major institutions of the state. Major threats of destabilisation and subversion of democratic governments cannot be ignored. In this context, the Prime Minister as the symbol of the stability and continuity of the regime, should not be exposed to the risks of well-orchestrated and well-planned attempts to malign his image and reputation on which the entire functioning of the government depends. The entire structure can be undermined by malicious character assassination. The commission recommends that the Constitution should provide for appointment of Lokpal. It also recommends that the Prime Minister should be kept out of the purview of the Lokpal".
For the time being let us adopt this view — if and when we are convinced that unless the Prime Minister is brought within the Lokpal's jurisdiction the whole Lokpal mission would collapse, the law can be changed.

The author is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional solicitor-general of India





There has been some heated discussion in the media about the latest decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to ban the supply of Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) equipment to India, despite the earlier Indo-US nuclear deal and the 2008 "clean waiver" accorded to India by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fortunately, the three main suppliers (the US, Russia and France) have issued statements declaring their intent to honour all bilateral agreements. Let's hope and pray that they honour their words with deeds and that India's leadership is not led up the garden path yet again.
While India does have some limited indigenous ENR capability, it requires modern ENR facilities to ensure optimum use of the imported uranium. Why is ENR necessary? The answer to this lies in the peculiar process which low-enriched uranium-235 (U-235), (though initially in a critical mass in the reactor fuel core) undergoes during fission in a power reactor, wherein byproducts (called "poisons") like iodine etc. are formed. These absorb neutrons, thereby making the reactor fuel core "sub critical" and incapable of generating power. The problem is overcome by initially adding "excess reactivity" with more enriched U-235, to ensure a few more years of operation before reactor fuel change. Reactor fuel change is a complex process that requires stringent safety measures, including storage facility for used fuel (in Fukushima two reactors with used fuel stored were also affected by the earthquake and tsunami), before transporting it for reprocessing where plutonium-239 (Pu-239) is removed for use in either fast breeder reactors or for making weapons — this latter use is the worry of IAEA-NSG, as they fear that Indian scientists may reverse-engineer the latest ENR technology to upgrade existing indigenous ENR equipment to enhance their capacity or to build new "indigenous" ENR plants, both of which would not be under IAEA safeguards. Also, some of the used U-235 can be isolated from the "poisons" and enriched for possible reuse, and this would need IAEA monitoring.
However, one cannot deny that India needs some nuclear power, despite Germany's latest decision, post-Fukushima nuclear disaster, to have zero nuclear power by 2022. But we need to proceed with great caution and the realisation that nuclear power in India can never contribute more than 10 per cent to the national power grid, for reasons of safety, availability of highly specialised operators and economics. Nuclear safety lessons from the American Three Mile Island, the Soviet Chernobyl and the Japanese Fukushima accidents must be kept in mind, as also our inept handling of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
There is no doubt that the March 11 nuclear disaster in earthquake-prone Japan was due to a combination of various factors, including faulty location of the reactors and the standby diesel generators for emergency reactor cooling, the flawed decision to delay use of sea water cooling. Japan's decision to decommission four of the six Fukushima reactors will not mean the end of nuclear emergency since these reactors, after being entombed in sand, lead and concrete, will require monitoring for a very long time because while some reactor "fission byproducts" like iodine have very short half-lives and decay quickly, others have very long half-lives, for example strontium-90 (29 years) and cesium-137 (30 years). The plutonium found in the soil in Fukushima has a half-life of 24,400 years.
I have always been a strong supporter of "limited" nuclear power (which would meet about 10 per cent of our energy needs), provided the nuclear plants are safely located (away from population centres and seismic zones), built as per the latest, stringent IAEA safety standards, are operated by skilled personnel and audited regularly for safety. In addition, I have always supported a strict Nuclear Liabilities Bill (NLB), an efficient National Disaster Management System (NDMS) with dedicated Nuclear Emergency Response Teams (NERT) and a three-minute automated Tsunami Warning System (TWS), unlike the present 30-minute Indian warning system which is reported to be non-operational due to pilferage of the buoys at sea by fishermen.
Despite the obvious lessons of the latest nuclear disaster in Japan, and the limitations of India's NLB, NDMS, NERT and TWS, I am amazed that India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has reportedly projected a requirement of 6,55,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2050. This would involve setting up about 655 additional imported reactors of 1000 MWe each, in "nuclear parks" of about six reactors per "park" each. Given mainland India's 6,000 km coastline, India could have 109 "nuclear parks", about 55 km apart, dotting its coastline, which would be a recipe for major disasters, given worries of tsunamis, earthquakes, or a terrorist strike. Given India's total projected power need of 1350,000 MWe by 2050, the DAE-reported proposal to meet 50 per cent of the country's energy needs by nuclear power, if indeed true, is sheer madness. It makes no sense, it is not safe and it is not affordable.
It's time for sanity to return. A transparent public audit needs to be done of India's nuclear safety standards, availability of skilled manpower, suitable non-seismic zone cum unpopulated site locations, as well as NDMS, NERT and TWS. If these audits are done properly, India may discover that it will be able to afford and set up about 40 reactors (of which half would be indigenous) by 2050.
The balance power requirements would require greater exploitation of renewable energy sources like solar, hydro and wind power, along with the traditional "heavyweights" like coal, which Australia is willing to export, unlike U-235. New technologies are available, though at present expensive, to deliver "clean energy" from coal.

The author, a vice-admiral, retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam









In a lethal attack on Sopore police station, externally sponsored and abetted armed terrorists wounded nine policemen, four of them critically. This is not the first incident of its kind in the town. From the very beginning of the rise of externally sponsored armed insurgency in Kashmir, the strategic town of Sopore in district Baramulla has been in focus. At one point of time insurgents' activities were so intense that it virtually amounted to the fall of Sopore town to the insurgents. One foreign insurgent commander, Akbar Bhai, had then become the household name in the town and he would freely and openly mix with the locals and go to the mosque for prayers to hilarious public response. It was only after a long tracking that security forces gunned him down. With that it came to be revealed that foreign terrorists had set up a deep and wide network in the entire vast hinterland of the town while making it the epicenter of their activities in North Kashmir. Sopore's strategic centrality lies in it being the terminus for Bandipore, Kupwara, Rafiabad, Baramulla and Sangrama-Pattan sectors of insurgent activities. In particular, destabilizing of administration and security in the town would mean bringing security arrangement in Tithwal to Gurez border area under great pressure. This sector has been one of the most porous sectors wherefrom infiltration and passage of arms and ammunition take place on a large scale. In comparison to other entry points along the LoC, this sector poses far less obstructions and hindrances to prospective infiltrators. Furthermore as there is a good motorable road along the Kishen Ganga (Neelam) bank right up to Sharda-Keran from the other side of the LoC, transportation of men and material right up to the LoC crossing point stands well facilitated. The topography of the area is conducive to cross border infiltration and the dense forests on the home side of the LoC help provide cover to the hiding infiltrators.

Concentration of foreign militants and their local chapters in and around the town of Sopore remains in place. Sopore has also the reputation of being a stronghold of Jamaat-e-Islami ideologues with far-reaching influence in the vast hinterland of Rafiabad, Hamal, Zainagir and Lolab areas. This provides temporary safe haven to the insurgents if and when they come under pressure from security forces. But once they find some relent in the pressure, they re-emerge and re-assemble in Sopore and its close peripheries. Then they carry out sporadic attacks on police posts, security forces on duty, and even on civilians to strike terror in the area. The cold blooded murder of two youthful sisters some months back is an indication that Sopore insurgency is more religious extremist oriented than pure "liberation movement".

Sopore battleground, as we see of now, is gradually assuming serious proportions. Insurgents have increased the frequency of attacks. They are making new hideouts and safe haves. Their intelligence moles have become active and their camaraderie with local malevolent elements has increased considerably. Keeping this scenario in mind, it becomes necessary for the security forces to change strategy of combating this menace. One could say that a vast and meticulous combing operation of entire Rafiabad and Kupwara areas needs to be planned and executed without loss of time. Security forces need to improve and make more effective their information gathering system so that the movement of insurgents up and down is kept under close watch. Local political leaders are also expected to play their role in containing proliferation of religious extremist orientation of the people. Insurgents need to be flushed out of Sopore and its peripheries and people provided respite from their trepidation.






38th series of popular environment programme 'Tree Talk' was organized in the Botanical Garden, Kashmir University. The event was organized to pay tribute to former HoD Botany Department and renowned Botanist late Prof P N Kachroo. "Tree Talk" programme meant to popularize environmental and ecological balance is becoming popular with the experts, academia and forest department functionaries who take part in the serious with increased enthusiasm. This is a healthy step and has the potential to be of much utility if the concept is expanded to encompass more aspect of ecological protection. But the programme has yet to make its mark in Jammu. Especially the winter capital city is faced with ecological degradation on account of haphazard expansion of the city. Jammu city is faced with influx of refugees, migrants, mobile labourers and state employees. New localities have come up without any plan by the urban development department. All available arable land has been sold out and colonies have come up on them in shabby and non-sanitary conditions. The Tree Talk series organizers should focus their attention on providing green cover to the city of Jammu. There is no movement on the side of relevant officials for plantation of trees in the city, for providing parks in congested areas, for planting shady trees along the highway and other streets, for a scientific collection and treatment of garbage and cleanliness of the canal running through the city. There was once dense plantation in close proximity of the city which is now nowhere in sight because of coming up of vast habitats. Trees have been felled and the birds that chirped so musically in the morning are no more to be seen or heard. This is blatant violation of ecological balance. Large shady trees would have provided much needed shade to the pedestrians and favourably affected the climatic conditions of the city.

There could be private agencies and organizations to take up a big programme of making Jammu green. We know that under Green Delhi programme most of Delhi is now having the benefit of large plantation of trees along main streets providing shade and cool. It has changed the picture of Delhi and there were international funding agencies that provided financial support. Likewise the state government should explore international funding sources to make Jammu green. It was possible for the state government to garner some support from international funding agencies for the cleaning of Dal Lake. A scheme by the name of Green Jammu could be launched if authorities are interested to make the Tree Talk a useful event in the history of the city of Jammu.







Those in power now seem to be suffering from another disease, in the form of reiterating the Rights already embodied in the Constitution, show casing them in the form, as if is doing a favour to the people with newer and unprecedented rights.

The latest attention-grabber is the Right To Justice Bill.

You cannot expect any improvement, because a law is passed, unless there is a will to improve the system and implement the law, lock stock and barrel. The Right to Justice, however, well intentioned it may be, is going to remain only a dream, as nobody is serious about ensuring the justice for the common man.

The President of India, observed on 31st May, 2010; "Government agencies being one of the biggest litigants must exercise restraint from routinely instituting litigation and clogging the system...We must take stock, of the challenges and structural weaknesses, which beset our legal system, impeding equitable access to prompt and quality justice. Judicial reforms occupy a salient place in government's agenda.

There cannot be better governance without better laws and there cannot be better laws if antiquated ones remain. Archaic laws and outdated administrative regulations must be scrutinized and if necessary scrapped or amended. Making the language of law simple can prevent unnecessary litigation ...

We must re-engineer and simplify court procedures, which otherwise tend to make litigation unduly slow and protracted. Frequent demands and liberal grant of adjournments, filing of multiple suits and similar tactics make judicial productivity sluggish. Timely pronouncement of judgements and quick execution of decrees would be beneficial.... Congestion of court cases has been compounded by shortage of judicial manpower and low judge to population ratio. We must explore betterment of this ratio by augmenting the strength of the judiciary without compromising on quality.

The Government has admitted, more than once at the Prime Minister and Law Minister's level, that the State is the biggest litigant. There are over three crore cases pending in Indian courts. 70 per cent of them involve, the government as either petitioners or respondents. Even in the words of the Prime Minister, 90% of those cases fail and should not have been filed in the first instance.

The present Law Minister in 2010 himself said that there were several instances of frivolous cases being pursued by the government causing huge losses to the exchequer and burdening the judicial system. Giving an example he stated that matters relating to individual grievances such as service related pleas, pensions and retirement benefits should not be appealed against.

"Such appeals should be avoided as litigation costs in them are much higher than the payoffs." All the efforts of the Government to become a fair, just and responsible litigants have failed.

As of April 1, 2011, there were 288 vacancies across all high courts which have a collective backlog of 41.8 lakh cases.. The apex court with functions with 29 out of the sanctioned 31 judges.

Three years ago, the then Chief Justice of India said that India needs 77,000 judges to clear its judicial backlog and called for increasing the population-judge ratio from the existing 9.5 to 10 lakh people to 50 per 10 lakh. Whereas we have only about 13000 judges in position.

The most populous state in the country, Uttar Pradesh, has the highest sanctioned high court judge strength of 160 and the maximum number of vacancies at 95. With a population (199 million) that's only one-third less than that of the United States of America—the third most populous country in the world—Uttar Pradesh has just 65 sitting judges.

The Allahabad high court, including its benches, is working with just 36% of the sanctioned judge strength. This high court also has the maximum number of pending cases at 9.6 lakh.

Maharashtra, India's second most populous state with 112 million people, has a sanctioned strength of 75 judges but a vacancy of 14. The Bombay high court and its benches have a collective backlog of 3.4 lakh cases.

Other high courts with a significant number of vacancies are of Punjab & Haryana (26 out of the sanctioned 68), Rajasthan (19 out of the sanction 40—almost 50%) and Calcutta (16 out of the sanctioned 58).

The Gujarat high court is working with exactly two-thirds of its sanctioned strength of 42 judges.

In Rajasthan with 14 of the 19 posts yet to be filled.

The Punjab & Haryana high court is short of 24 additional judges though its sanctioned strength is 29. Here is a classic observation, of the Supreme Court dated August, 2010, which speaks of the prevailing conditions in the country.

Taking Uttar Pradesh as a test case, solicitor general read out rather statistics reflecting poorly on the Allahabad High Court, which is administratively in charge of the subordinate judiciary.

According to him, 10,541 criminal trials were stayed by Allahabad HC. Of these, 9% were pending for more than 20 years and 21% for over a decade.

This means, stay of trial in 30% of heinous offences continued for more than 10 years. The Supreme Court observed that that "It's sad that administration of justice has come to such a pass.

The HCs stay the trial and forget all about it. This means, we are choking the administration of justice. No one should be denied a fair and speedy trial. But what about the victims? What about society which feels that a wrongdoer should be punished at the earliest. Through these stays, that is being denied."

When the SG said that chief justices of HCs should play an active role in clearing the mess arising out decade-old stay orders on criminal trials, the Bench said, "The CJs are helpless. They have a tenure ranging from one year to even two months. What can a CJ do in such a brief tenure? They cannot deal with this problem as their brief tenures do not allow them to even understand the dynamics of a particular HC."

Taking a dig at the government and law officers, it added that , "Six months back, you (SG) and your colleagues had pioneered a programme for expeditious justice in the face of crores of cases pending in trial courts.

But the entire system seems to have either crumbled or is crumbling.. What else can be said when 9% of cases have been stayed for more than 20 years."

Unless you take the basic steps to reform the criminal justice, how the Right to Justice is going to help any body. If there are no judges to decide, how will any case get disposed off. Government must remember, that You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.





One of the first axioms I learned when I became a journalist was: never believe a rumour till it is officially denied. It is an axiom I have tested often in the past thirty years and usually found it to be true. So when the Prime Minister informed those editors that he met last week that he was not a 'lame duck prime minister' it came, at least for me, as confirmation that he indeed was. In his first term in office he was not. He was assertive, decisive and so much his own man that whisperers in the corridors of power spread stories about how he was beginning to annoy his boss, Sonia Gandhi, because of his behaving too much like a prime minister who had made it to the top on his own steam. He even took on the Marxists on whose support his first government survived and his finest moment came when he risked his government falling over the nuclear deal with the United States. He knew that the deal was in India's national interest and that the Marxists and, oddly enough, the Bharatiya Janata Party were on the wrong side of history when they opposed it. So he stood his ground and looked not just prime ministerial but statesmanlike.

In the 2009 general election it was Dr. Manmohan Singh's personal image, and not just the vaunted charisma of the Gandhi dynasty, that gave the Congress Party more seats than they have won since the early nineties. I remember wandering about during the election campaign and meeting people in different parts of the country who said that they would be voting for Dr. Manmohan Singh because they thought he was a better prime minister than any that the Bharatiya Janata Party had on offer. And, they did not want a situation in which the BJP found itself in a position of being part of a coalition government but not in a position to name a prime minister. More often than I can recount I heard people say that they did not want 'another Deve Gowda' type experiment.

So please believe me when I tell you that Dr. Manmohan Singh's image was an important factor in the 2009 election. But, then almost immediately things started to go awry. Sycophants in the Congress Party started to make daily public statements about how they thought it was Rahul Gandhi's youthful image that had won against the aged image of Shri Lal Krishna Advani. They were backed by sycophants in the media who projected Rahul not just as India's future prime minister and shiny new hope but as 'our Obama'. Remember? This led to credible rumours that in 2012, when Rashtrapati Bhavan will have a vacancy, the good doctor would be kicked upstairs honourably and Rahul would be anointed prime minister by his Mummy. It is in her hands, and in her hands alone, to do this as we well know. Rahul was no backroom boy either. He was all over the place. Taking train rides in Mumbai, spending nights in Dalit homes, zipping around rural India and addressing students in universities.

While all this was happening the prime minister seemed to disappear altogether. We saw him only when he appeared at some public event or left on some foreign tour. So much did he seem to be in semi-retirement that some of his ministers took to openly defying him and behaving very much as if they owed him neither obedience nor allegiance. The Minister of Environment is an example of someone who openly defied the prime minister's injunctions on several occasions. Before foreign investors started to flee the Prime Minister warned against using environmental issues to usher in a license raj through the back door. Jairam Ramesh ignored this warning and ended up being described by the Wall Street Journal as India's 'green wrecking machine.'

He is not the only minister who has behaved as if he could not care less what the prime minister thought. Others have been equally cavalier and the prime minister has seemed unable to control any of them. During the agitations launched by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev it seemed as if India did not have a prime minister at all. Now, suddenly, in the past few weeks there has come evidence of a concerted effort to rebuild the prime minister's image. But, could it be too late?

The long awaited cabinet reshuffle may have happened by the time you read this. All week Delhi's political circles have buzzed with rumours of it but did it help the prime minister's image to be seen in constant consultations with Sonia Gandhi over the impending reshuffle? He may owe his job to Mrs. Gandhi but surely their discussions could have been conducted in private? As it is the institution of the prime minister has been diminished by having an anointed man in the job instead of an elected one so we can do without further diminishment. What has happened to the man who risked his government to stand up for the nuclear deal? What has happened to the man who changed the face of India by the economic reforms he initiated in 1991?

These are questions that are being asked not just by political analysts and media pundits but by ordinary people and it is time that the Prime Minister realized the seriousness of the loss of faith in his leadership. A cabinet reshuffle may provide a much needed boost of new energy to his government but it is unlikely to change his image as a 'lame duck prime minister'. For this to change he will need to assert himself more forcefully when ministers openly disobey his orders and he will need to stop repeating that he is prepared to hand his job over to Rahul Gandhi whenever he wants to take it. Most important of all he needs to remember that he is not a regent in one of our former princely states but prime minister of a country that has a system of parliamentary democracy. Until he stops being regent and goes back to being Prime Minister there is little chance that his image will recover from the battering it has taken over the past two years. The Prime Minister's job is to lead from the front. There can be no other way.






We have many issues on hand both globally and within the country and with a 24x7 alert media we have fresh issues every day and this is good as accountability standards will go up and you can see the difference as feudal values decline and meritocracy spreads its shadows over a 'rotten' and archaic system of governance. There is much to think about and on the political front we have the issue of Telengana and this is nothing new as it has erupted before but the effect will be different now as Indira Gandhi is no longer the PM and all the stalwarts of Andhra Pradesh have faded away and there is a crisis of credible leaders both at the Center and in the State. I remember an occasion when in the early 1980's the then CM Chenna Reddy had been asked to resign and replaced by T Anjiah and Andhra Pradesh was in turmoil. PM Indira Gandhi had asked me to speak to PV Narasimha Rao [I used to have a weekly coffee session] as he always had five or six alternatives for each situation but shied away from a firm option! PV Narasimha Rao was never at a loss of words and explained that as a member of the CCPA he was obliged to give options and it was for the PM to take a decision and he told me with some humor that the last time he took a decision he was sacked as CM AP! The decision was on Telengana and of the old brigade no one except Pranab Mukherjee would know the entire background and there are no simplistic solutions. The TRS will sweep the area with the exception of one seat in the Lok Sabha elections and in terms of numbers the Congress with 33 out of 42 seats in the State can lose 20-25 seats as they face serious challenges both in Rayalseema and Coastal Andhra from the TDP and the YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan Reddy.

We are looking at a chaotic situation on the law and order front and we could well be heading for a spell of Presidents rule and early Assembly elections. Andhra Pradesh is almost certainly heading for a Coalition structure and we could well see this before the Punjab and the UP elections.

We have a great deal of confusion on criminal issues and these have deep political implications. The high profile case with the former IMF MD Strauss Kahn dominates the media headlines and the entire justice system in the USA is called in question as the case collapses and I wonder if this is the case of someone being declared 'guilty', handcuffed and jailed and then found innocent on examination of the facts. We have seen a similar situation with Krutikka Biswas a eighteen year old arrested and handcuffed in school, denied diplomatic immunity and then released when the actual culprit is found and he is let off with a apology! We now see that the hotel maid concerned was not raped, was a prostitute and a habitual liar and may be deported as her entire life in the USA was based on a series of falsehoods! Amazing that no one including the immigration department had done any checks on her background and now after this incident everyone is wiser by hindsight and where does this leave the French Presidential candidate and the IMF MD who lost his job and perhaps his future due to a very oppressive system and clearly quite a few people should be sacked for this disaster and spare a thought for our own Krutikka Biswas who has filed a suit against New York State and we should finance her in the law courts to get justice. The French political fraternity along with the 24x7 media is full of a hundred different conspiracy theories and I sometimes wonder how the public opinion would react if the US Presidential candidate was accused of a similar offense, jailed and handcuffed on a unverified complaint and then declared innocent after the damage is done in a foreign country?

We have a Cabinet reshuffle on hand and having some experience of these political issues all I can say is that the first Cabinet appointed after formation of the government should in theory the 'best' formation and every other change is more of a 'correction' and if the PM is obliged to make drastic changes then it is never a positive and can well indicate a likely mid term poll or a government on its way out and neither of these possibilities can be ruled out in the current form. The Congress have suffered because of their allies and will in my opinion make a fatal error if they induct 'tainted' allies for survival. No one has suggested that PM Manmohan Singh or the Congress High Command is involved in the 2G scam or the CWG mess but the responsibility for a negative performance lies both with the government and the party. I personally believe that every party and individual must see the 'peaks and the valleys' and in particular for the younger generation [they get older every day!] it is a priceless experience.

We have a doping scandal and this is a shame but the news of the week would be the treasure vaults A and B in the Padmanabha temple and like the private vaults in the Sathya Sai Baba complex there is talk of gems, gold and silver going into hundreds and thousands of crores and I wonder what would be the cash and asset valuation of the top 100 Religious trusts in the country and I think in this day and age it is necessary to debate this issue and when we talk of the 300-400 million Aam Aadmi in the country all these Riches make very little sense. This is a emotive issue but there is a clear case of the Finance Ministry looking into the whole structure of tax exemptions. Every religious trust is not like Yoga Guru Baba Ram Dev and his associates [false passports, gun license] etc and some very good work is being done but there are complaints and these should not be ignored. The SC is looking into this as well as it is on the 2G affair and now the black money issue and I sometimes wonder that if the law courts have to monitor these issues then why do we need a Government?









Passing the buck is a favourite hobby of sarkari babus but one wishes they do not indulge in such a pastime when an issue as vital as honour killings is under consideration. The Centre has smugly told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that police and public order are state subjects under the Constitution and it is the state's responsibility to deal with the offences in question. That is a fact known even to school students. Can the Centre evade responsibility by taking this plea is the moot point. How serious the states are in curbing the menace can be gauged from the fact that Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where honour crimes are the most prevalent, have not even replied to the notice sent to them by the Supreme Court full one year ago.


However, the disingenuous argument of the Centre does not stop at that either. The affidavit goes on to say that the Centre does not interfere in the personal laws of any community unless the demand comes from within the community. One wonders how the personal law comes into the picture. Nobody has the right to kill or harass someone just because he or she has married in own gotra (clan). A crime is a crime. Even if by some stretch of imagination, what happens within a clan is passed off as a "personal matter", the fact remains that only 3 per cent of the documented cases of honour crimes involve couples married in their gotra. Most of the others relate to couples in inter-caste marriages.


The affidavit grandly says that the freedom of choice with respect to marriage has been specifically recognised and protected under our legal framework and under every personal law women have the same right to enter into a marriage with free and full consent. Ironically, this right has rarely been endowed on the young couples who dare to marry against the wishes of their families or even village elders. They are hounded, tortured and killed. Laws are very much there. Will someone kindly care to enforce them? 









It is hard to believe that a state government can act as a profiteering broker. In 2007 the UP government acquired 156 hectares of land from farmers near Greater Noida for "industrial purpose" and handed it over to house builders. The land was taken over at a rate of Rs 800 per square metre and sold to builders at Rs 12,000, making a profit of Rs 1,747 crore. Farmers were denied a hearing since the land takeover was under an emergency clause. First the state high court and now the Supreme Court has scrapped the obnoxious land deal. The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority, which carried out the dirty work, has been fined Rs 10 lakh. The authority even bypassed its own legal department.


The Supreme Court's dressing down of the UP government is understandable and justifiable. "Even the worst of criminals, habitual offenders and even drug peddlers get a hearing. But you take farmers' land without giving them an opportunity to be heard", observed the court. But why blame the Greater Noida authority or the UP government alone? There are governments in various states and their agencies that are acting as property dealers and raising cash to fund the extravagant ways of ruling politicians and bureaucrats. The Punjab government no longer builds affordable houses for people. It auctions prime lands, commercial and residential plots to raise resources since the depleted exchequer cannot finance politicians' profligacy.


Land is the only source of livelihood for many farming families. Acquiring land for a "public purpose" like building a road or a hospital, or laying a rail track is understandable. But buying land for building malls, spas and elite housing projects certainly does not constitute a "public purpose". The UP government has now framed a land policy, which assures some safety and a good deal to farmers. But still Nandigram-type protests break out, often over compensation. The Supreme Court is expected to put to notice all shady land acquisitions and housing projects, and check the politician-official-builder nexus proliferating in and outside UP. 











During his 2007 visit to the US, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted with howls and boos by the Columbia University students when he declared, "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." Back home, none other than the Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad devised a better way of self- denial of this kind when he declared men having sex with men (MSM) is not only a 'disease' but also 'unnatural'. Incidentally, if our health minister has made the diagnosis, our celebrated Yoga Guru, Baba Ramdev, never shy of quoting Spanish psychiatrist Enrique Rojas to support his stand, contends the 'disease' is curable. While the happy curative duo are busy eradicating the 'disease' a few anomalies have cropped up!


Amidst this over-amplified celebratory declaration of the disease and the cure, the patient, already on-the-defensive gay community of India, which has struggled to decriminalise homosexuality for years, is flabbergasted. This is despite the fact that the health minister is rather protective about his 'patients' because he also added," This disease has come to India from foreign shores," which, in a sense proves innocence of the Indian gay community, who got the contagion from other bad countries of the west. These statements were made by the minister on Monday last. Since the minister is a qualified doctor he should know that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of recognised mental disorders in 1973 and the World Health Organisation followed suit in 1992. So, biological or psychological, homosexuality is not a disease.


Sex is a means to an end, not an end in itself. In Darwinian terms it is used for evolutionary purpose. From this perspective, same-sex relationships should be selected out. But, they are not. Jerome Goldstein, director of the San Francisco Clinical Research Centre, concluded after a study that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, but is primarily neurobiological at birth. He also made evidences available of other animals from the animal kingdom like birds, bees, penguins and albatrosses who are found to have life-long same- sex relationships. The study concludes, homosexuality is not curable since it is not a disease. Our minister should know!









TO nobody's surprise Anil Kakodar, a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and a key negotiator of the Indo-US nuclear deal, is among those who have called the June 24 decision of the Vienna-based 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) to "strengthen" its guidelines on the export of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies an act of "betrayal". The description is apt. For, not only does the latest NSG decision undo its own 2008 "clean waiver" to India but also causes acute uncertainty about the bilateral agreements with the United States, France and Russia on "full civil nuclear cooperation".


The commitment to let India have unrestricted access to nuclear fuel, equipment and technologies, including ENR, is clearly enshrined in the India-US deal, alternately called 123 Agreement and the Hyde Act. At various levels the Obama Administration has claimed that the NSG's new decision — to deny ENR to countries that haven't signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) — is "not inconsistent" with the India-US bilateral agreement. But this is neither here nor there. There is no reaffirmation that the US (and thus other nuclear suppliers such as Russia and France) would stand by their commitment regardless of the additional restrictions now decided upon but not yet fully publicised by the nuclear cartel. The best we have heard from the departing US ambassador to this country, Timothy Roemer, is the pious hope that things "would move in the positive direction". 


Incidentally, the NSG always functions on the basis of consensus. So, it was easy for the US to prevent the confusion that has been created. However, throwing politeness to the winds, let me add that doubts about American intentions should have arisen even earlier. For, at successive meetings of the G-8, the US has been a party to repeated pronouncements of the rich nations' club that the export of ENR technologies must be prohibited.


Come to think of it, all through the eight years of Clinton presidency, the US made ceaseless efforts to "first cap, then reduce over time and finally eliminate" India's nuclear capability. The inevitable hyphenation with Pakistan did form part of this policy, but it was meaningless. For China's nuclear might was the main threat to India, and it was made much graver by China's brazen help to Pakistan to build the Bomb. America's role in this was of unabashed acquiescence. The Shakti series of nuclear tests in May 1998 and India's straightforward declaration that it was a nuclear weapons power invited a slew of sanctions. Clinton went to China where he and his hosts jointly ranted against nuclear India.


Whatever his countrymen might think or say about him, President George W. Bush was the one to realise, if during his second term, the need for befriending democratic India and the importance of this country having its due place in the security architecture of Asia. By July 2008 the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed and sealed, and thanks to Bush's indefatigable efforts, the NSG gave this country the "clean waiver".


 Ironically, it was at this very moment that a glitch appeared on the American scene. Washington is infested with nonproliferation ayatollahs, including important senators. Having failed to resist the nuclear deal with India, they raised strong objection to the inclusion of ENR technologies in it. The then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, assured them that the NSG would deal with this matter. Can anyone be blamed for suspecting that the NSG's current decision is the first step towards honouring Condi's assurance?



If so, this is indeed a betrayal or, as some others have put it, backstabbing. When the ENR issue was raised at the White House, Bush had responded by saying that in future ENR should be provided to only those countries that already had it and denied to all others. That would cause us no problem because this country has had facilities for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel for a long time. But what the NSG has proposed now is objectionable and indeed India-specific. This is so because the cartel wants to deny ENR to those countries that haven't signed and wouldn't sign the NPT. There are only three such countries, the other two being Pakistan and Israel. These two do not have any ENR capability at all. So, today's denial, if implemented, would affect India alone.  


There is another reason why America might be trying to take back by one hand what it had given by the other: despite all the rhetoric about "defining partnership" during President Barack Obama's visit to India in November 2010, the US is very unhappy about the nuclear liability law passed by Parliament because American suppliers anxious to sell their reactors to this country do not want to be held responsible for even those nuclear accidents that occur because of defective equipment. What has made the US even angrier is the exclusion from the short list of the two American firms that had bid for the whopping $10 billion contract for the purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMCA) needed by the Indian Air Force.


As against this, the broad position of Russia and France is encouraging. With Russia, India has a bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation. Although the text of this agreement, unlike that of the Indo-US deal, is not in the public domain, it is known that on ENR Moscow wants to sign a separate bilateral agreement. According to reports, one round of talks for this purpose has already taken place. For his part, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at one of G-20 summits that his country would not be bound by the decisions of G-8 and the NSG. These assurances need to be firmed up and fulfilled.


In this rather melancholy situation, there is one source of hope and optimism. Foreign Secretary Nirupma Rao's two-point statement in a TV interview has come as a breath of fresh air. First, the precise details of the NSG are not yet known. Secondly, and more importantly, India is not without leverage. It has a huge demand for nuclear reactors. After all, we are planning for the production of 60,000 Mwe of nuclear power by 2050, as against about 4,000 Mwe at present. Any country coy about selling us ENR must not get an order even for a single reactor.









If summer comes, can guests be far behind! Like the Siberian birds who flock to distant lands during summers, these guests keep looking for their victims who believe in "atithi devo bhava".


 As a student of literature I have read Charles Lamb who aptly coined pithy epigrams for these guests who are known by their knock and calls these poor relations "a Lazarus at your door, a lion in your path, a frog in your chamber, a fly in your ointment, pain in your neck and a preposterous shadow in the noontide of our prosperity". I had the first-hand experience of these guests when I was a student in Chandigarh.


The summer break had begun and we were waiting for the plus two results and simultaneously preparing for competitive entrance examinations for AIEE, IIT, and Law School and so on. We had drawn a perfect plan for the holidays by bifurcating the break in two halves for competitive examinations and a sojourn to Mussoorie and Dehradun.


Like Lamb's poor relations that are known by their knock, my mother could smell trouble when the door bell rang at dinner time.  Barged in a not very familiar family from Delhi. Before we could welcome them, they pulled the dining chairs proclaiming that every morsel has the prospective eater's name written on it. We almost sunk in when told that they would stay put for a fortnight. Our suggestions that a hill station would be a better option fell on deaf ears when they retorted that they could visit a nearby hill station for a day and come back in the evening. Our holiday plans went haywire.  Guests from Lucknow, Karnal and Ropar too poured in as if the city beautiful had suddenly become a hill station.


My mother had an even more harrowing experience of summer guests. She tells me that when posted in Dehradun, on a particular day, she had 24 guests, including a serving IAS couple of Haryana. All keen on admission of their wards in Dehradun's Doon and Welham schools had "obliged" us by staying put in our house. Little doubt there was complete chaos at home with my parents sleeping on the floor and allowing the luxury of beds to the summer guests. As usual the maid had escaped the trauma by taking a summer break, leaving my mom to take care of guests.


Now when summer comes, it is not the heat that scares us but the flow of dreaded intruders. I wonder why P.B. Shelley only wrote "if winter comes, can spring be far behind" and why not "if summer comes, can summer guests be far behind".








George Melson, a 31-year-old married man working as a marketing manager in a company was facing issues of infertility for the past one year when he planned to visit a clinic. As usual the couple was expecting some problem in his wife but after a series of tests on both it was found that George was infertile and not his wife. George was curious about the reason. On examining it was found that the reason of his infertility was unexplained. It could be environmental toxins or an unexplained factor or could be because of his excess usage of cell phone. Being a marketing person, it was natural to use cell phone more often than usual. Knowing this, it stressed him but he was not able to change his job. He was advised to lessen the usage of mobile, use landlines instead and text rather than talking over the phone and keep the phone switched off when not in use along with general health measures like avoiding alcohol and smoking etc


Have you been trying for quite some time now and still to your dismay, not been able to start a family? May be its time you get off the cell phone. It's been diagnosed by the Canada Queen's University experts recently that, men with poor sperm quality and less sperm count could have been spending too much time on cell phones. Researchers have found that while cell phone use appears to increase the level of testosterone circulating in the body, it may also lead to low sperm quality in terms of motility and concentration, thereby decreasing the chances of fertility.


It's been speculated that the electromagnetic waves (EMW) emitted by cell phones may have a dual action on male hormone levels and fertility. Where the electromagnetic waves may increase the number of cells in the testes that produce testosterone; the LH levels excreted by the pituitary gland takes a dip. The waves may also intrude with the conversion of basic circulating type of testosterone to the more active, powerful form of testosterone responsible for sperm production and fertility.


Though more in-depth research is needed to determine the exact ways in which EMW affects male fertility, the British government has already advised its citizens to prefer text messages and hand free over direct calls to avoid the possible negative effects. While the government also confirms no substantial results have been apprehended, it's also been estimated that not enough time has passed for such occurrence in heavy numbers.


In the research, it was found that frequent users of the cell phones who are always on the phone or in close proximity, had their sperm counts reduced by nearly 30 per cent. Many of the sperm that did survive showed abnormal movement thereby reducing fertility.


It is a known fact that the long-term use of cell phones lead to a higher risk of brain tumors, although this study is not conclusive. So, does the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones harm the body? In a recent study there may be a possible connection between frequent cell phone use and male fertility.


The researchers have also grown to believe that cell phones may cause damage while in stand-by mode. Although not in use, they make regular transmissions to maintain contact with the nearest radio masts. Hence simple ways to avoid the impairment of mobile phones is to avoid carrying phones in a belt holster or trouser, and rather carry them in a bag or a briefcase away from physical contact, with a definite NO to cell phones when not in use.


Direct association


There have been many studies that have analyzed the cell phone usage of men and the effect on the subsequent provided semen. One such study concludes that just carrying a cell phone affects human sperm; the study claims that the storage of cell phones close to the testes had a significant negative impact on sperm concentration and the percentage of motile sperm. These trends suggest that recent concerns over long-term exposure to the electromagnetic irradiation emitted by cell phones should be taken more seriously, given the growing trend for deterioration in the male germ line


A study done in 2008 titled "Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinic: an observational study' said that the use of cell phones by men is linked to a decrease in semen quality. The decrease in sperm count, motility, viability, and normal morphology is related to the duration of exposure to cell phones.


Researchers inferred from the results that there is an association between frequent cell phone use and the quality of sperm. However, there is no proof on the cause and effect relationship. To shed more light on the issue, there are currently many studies underway.


Over the recent years, with regard to the potential damaging effects on the male reproductive system, several researches have been carried out on animals as well. These studies revealed a wide spectrum of possible effects that range from an insignificant effect to variable degrees of testicular damage and reduction of different sperm parameters.


Radio frequency


In a 2005 Hungarian study titled 'Is there a relationship between cell phone use and semen quality', Dr Fejez analyzed the impact of cell phone use on the semen of 371 men. This study concluded that the more frequent and long the usage of cell phone on a daily basis, the larger the effect on the sperm quality. Longer exposure resulted in larger percentage of slower sperm, which may be caused by "electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones"


The studies that have been mentioned thus far, all indicate that cell phone use is a cause of infertility in man. The study that is mentioned below was performed on mice and looks into the impact cell phone radiation has on the DNA of sperm, and the subsequent impact on the conceived offspring.


In 2005, a study titled 'Impact of radio frequency electromagnetic radiation on DNA integrity in the male germ line' was published in the 'International Journal of Andrology'. Andrology deals with male health, particularly relating to the problems of the male reproductive system and urological problems that are unique to men. This study on mice suggests that the microwave radiation emitted by cell phones causes significant damage to the cellular DNA of maturing sperm. Normally, DNA damage is repaired by the female reproductive system, between fertilisation and the first cell division.


Mistakes at this point have the potential to create mutations that could disrupt the normality of embryonic development and the health and well being of the offspring.


DNA damage to maturing sperm caused by cell phone radiation can results in damaged DNA in a newborn. This phenomenon is called 'male-mediated developmental toxicity', making the offspring more prone to genetic disease, birth defects and childhood cancer.


Negative impact


The microwave radiation exposure used in this study was much less than the radiation emitted by cell phones: As a consequence, the reproductive health risks associated with [microwave radiation] exposure may be even more serious than those reported in this study.


In conclusion, according to many studies cell phone use has a negative impact on sperm quality. The longer one uses a cell phone per day, the greater the impact on the sperm. Cell phone use can therefore be considered to be a cause of infertility in man.


I see about 30 couples with infertility every month, out of these male factor is approx 35 - 40 % cases. Most of the time reason for this is unknown. Several postulated reasons related to male infertility were environmental toxins.


Further research is required on cell phones being one of the factors because it is a very day to day activity for all of us and if this research is confirmed then implications can be quite alarming.


So, if you are trying to have that little bundle of joy in your life, perhaps limiting cell phone use to very important calls will help.


Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour is Director and Fertility consultant, ISIS IVF Centre, and visiting consultant Fortis La Femme, Delhi


Serious concerns


A Polish study titled 'Evaluation of the effect of using mobile phones on male fertility' was conducted from June 2004 until May 2006 and used 304 men. The analysis of the effect of cell phone equipment on the semen was noted that an increase in the percentage of sperm cells of abnormal morphology is associated with the duration of exposure to the waves emitted by the cell phone. It was also confirmed that a decrease in the percentage of sperm cells in vital progressing motility in the semen is correlated with the frequency of using cell phones


The final conclusion of the study showed that


z A decrease in the percentage of live sperm cells in a vital, progressive motility in semen is correlated with the frequency of usage of cell phones.


z An increase in the percentage of sperm cells with abnormal morphology is associated with the duration of exposure to the waves emitted by [cell phone] equipment. 



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The Union government's expenditure reforms programme is set to take an interesting turn. As reported in this newspaper, an official committee, headed by Dr C Rangarajan, set up to reclassify government expenditure for better accounting of outlays has suggested doing away with the distinction between what Budget documents term as "plan" and "non-plan" expenditure. The committee is of the view that this distinction is out of step with standard budgetary practice and its abolition will simplify both the management and classification of government expenditure. Until now, the government has been classifying its expenditure on major programmes and flagship schemes under the plan head, while the spending on interest payments, defence, subsidies, loans and grants to states would come under the non-plan category. If the finance ministry accepts these recommendations, the 2012-13 Union Budget will adopt the new format in classifying government expenditure.

The move will be significant with many ramifications for the government's expenditure management and the role of the Planning Commission. Of the government's total expenditure, almost 65 per cent is classified under the non-plan head, an area that has long remained the exclusive domain of the finance ministry. It is in the remaining 35 per cent of the government's expenditure where the Planning Commission and the finance ministry hold pre-Budget consultations to decide the Budget allocations for different programmes, schemes and central ministries. It is likely that once the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure is eliminated, the Planning Commission will have a larger say in the manner in which the finance ministry decides to allocate funds for a host of schemes and programmes like subsidies and grants to states. In a quasi-federal country, where the Planning Commission is expected to be the voice of the states at the Centre and play the role of the Union government's apex think tank, there is no reason Yojana Bhavan's role should be restricted to advising the finance ministry only on plan expenditure. The finance ministry, too, will benefit from such expert advice from the Commission, which has the prime minister as its chairperson.


 Another significant view expressed by the Rangarajan committee is that there is no need to reclassify revenue and capital expenditure. The finance ministry may be disappointed by this suggestion since it has been in favour of reclassifying a large chunk of its total revenue expenditure as capital expenditure, given that new assets are being created by such spending. The current year's Budget even estimated such expenditure at Rs 1.47 lakh crore (or almost 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product) and took this into account to claim that the government's effective revenue deficit was only 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product, compared to a revenue deficit of 3.4 per cent. The Rangarajan committee has correctly argued that the expenditure that creates assets in the books of state governments should continue to be defined as revenue expenditure since it does not create assets for the Centre. This is sensible advice, more so because it would put the necessary pressure on the Centre to make concerted efforts to achieve genuine reduction in revenue deficit, instead of achieving cosmetic contraction through mere bookkeeping








The recently published balance of payments (BoP) data finally set at rest the undue concern generated last year by alarmist forecasts on India's current account deficit (CAD). This was first triggered by concerns about reduced foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows and excessive outflow of hard currency and then the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) worrying projection of a CAD close to four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The data now show that the CAD, the difference between exports and imports, plus remittances and net invisibles, was $44.3 billion at the end of March 2011, that is 2.6 per cent of GDP, marginally lower than the 2.8 per cent logged in March 2010. What seems to have made the difference was the impressive growth in exports in 2010-11. However, the recent trend of exports growing faster than imports could easily get reversed, and remittances and earnings from software exports, which have held up remarkably so far, could also be subject to the vagaries of the global economy. Hence, adroit management of the external economy is necessary despite this good news.

The year-on-year increase of 17 per cent in total external debt from $261 billion to $306 billion is definitely a cause for concern, chiefly because it involves a sharp increase in external commercial borrowings, short-term trade credits and a mix of bilateral and multilateral borrowings. While India's comfortable foreign exchange reserves currently provide a cushion for this debt, it could put India in an awkward position if forex reserves were to decrease for some unforeseen reason, such as a sharp increase in imports. As it is, the reserve-to-debt ratio has fallen from 107 per cent in March 2010 to 100 per cent a year later. While aggressive borrowing is par for the course in a growing economy, the RBI needs to exercise some regulatory oversight to curtail excessive borrowing. The 10 per cent year-on-year increase in capital inflows ($59.4 billion in FY 2011 against $53 billion in FY 2010) was lower than the projections by the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, which expected inflows to be of the order of $65 billion. The shortfall was mainly owing to foreign investors' lower interest in the country as a result of a combination of the less-than-inspiring macroeconomic scenario and, more importantly, a perceived policy paralysis in the government, in carrying out much-needed economy-wide reforms.

India remains a very difficult place to do business in and the ready availability of alternative destinations for investment does little to help India's cause! FDI, if effectively harnessed, can be a game changer, not merely because of the capital it brings with it, but a whole gamut of advantages such as access of advanced technologies, channels to export markets and exposure to global best practices. Ironically, the same factors that daunt foreign investors inhibit domestic investors, and this is reflected loud and clear in falling domestic investment! The latest external sector numbers, thus, need to be carefully reviewed — they reveal a lot more than what is on the surface.







Indian markets have been very resilient over the past few months. After getting clobbered in January, they have held their ground, absorbing a huge amount of bad news but refusing to break below 5200 on the Nifty. We seem to be stuck stubbornly in a trading range of 5200 to 5700 on the Nifty and have stood broadly at these levels for almost 18 months now. What this range-trading type of behaviour disguises is the huge divergence in performance between sectors and stocks over this time period. While the broad market is close to where it was 18 months ago, many sectors and stocks are at an all-time high. However, many others are still down 80 per cent from their peaks. The market's breadth has been quite narrow this year with only about 60 stocks in the CNX 500 index up for the year.

The sectors that have done well are those that have anything to do with consumers, consumption and rural India and one or two other defensives like pharmaceuticals, and to a certain extent, technology. The sectors that have been in a continuous free fall are those related to capital investment and asset creation, whether they are capital goods, infrastructure developers, construction or real estate.

A second related theme is the triumph of quality. Companies with good long-term track records, low leverage, high return on capital and reputed management are being bid up to all-time highs, while companies that are leveraged or have a dubious track record seem to be untouchable at any price. Given the business environment and stock-specific pain already experienced, no one has any tolerance for corporate governance risks.

Rising interest rates and a shortage of equity capital have also raised the cost of capital dramatically for many firms. Thus, companies with negative cash flows or long-duration cash flows are being re-priced with significant haircuts in valuation multiples. A rising cost of capital has once again focused people's mind on rates of return on capital.

Thus, we have a whole bunch of stocks like Hindustan Unilever, Nestle and HDFC Bank hitting an all-time high, while the real estate and infrastructure names continue to languish 80 per cent below their 2007 peaks.

What are the implications of such a sectoral differential in market performance?

First of all, from an economy perspective it is a clear negative, since the sectors and companies that need to raise equity capital are simply unable to get it. Investors are chasing those companies that do not need to raise equity capital. Any announcement of fund raising immediately causes companies' stock prices to correct. If one talks to investment bankers, one will hear stories of huge deal pipelines, but an inability to execute the transactions. Investors do not want to write a cheque for a company that needs their money. Sectors like real estate and infrastructure are crying out for equity capital but lack access. How can we build infrastructure if no company in the space has access to new sources of equity capital? How much finance can private equity provide? At what cost? I wrote about the lack of equity capital in a previous article pointing out that our infrastructure developers lack the market capitalisation required to support the huge build-out needed, but things have only worsened. Business models that need equity capital to grow are being given the lowest valuations and have the least investor interest.

This state of affairs should worry a government relying on the private sector to fund nearly half of its trillion-dollar infrastructure capex over the coming five years.

The market is also making a clear statement that the transition in growth drivers for the economy from consumption to capital spend is just not happening. Investors prefer to hide in consumption plays despite their valuation multiples, since there is some sense of visibility and growth here. The market seems to have no faith in the possibility of an imminent revival in the investment environment. Markets are a discounting mechanism, and today they are discounting no investment revival for the foreseeable future.

For investors, this is a very difficult market in which to make money. First, mid-cap indices have significantly underperformed compared to their large-cap peers. Investors have to decide what is riskier — continuing to chase consumer stocks trading at 30 to 35 multiples, and where everyone is hiding, or starting to look at some of the bombed out sectors, hoping to find some specific higher-quality companies that have been beaten down with the sector.

The old mantra of investing in high-quality companies at a reasonable price is very difficult to implement today since quality has been really bid up. So investors have to either pay up for quality, move down the quality curve to get better valuations or increase concentration in existing stocks (unable to find anything new). All involve increasing risk, but in different ways.

This also explains why for many fundamental investors, India is still not cheap, despite the markets having not moved much in the past 18 months. Fundamental investors prefer to buy quality companies with strong, credible managements (especially in emerging markets) and these valuations have gone through the roof in India over the past year. The valuation gap between quality (defined in terms of leverage, return on equity, management etc) and other companies has rarely been higher. So, one hears constant complaints about how misleading the market PE statistics are. While the market may be trading at 15 times March 2012 earnings for the BSE-30, the best companies in India (of size) are at a 20-time plus. That is not the definition of a cheap market.

When the next bull market takes off, it is inconceivable that it will be led by the current market darlings of consumers, like pharmaceuticals. Their starting point in terms of valuation makes that highly unlikely. No matter how much we may hate moving there, but the real money in the next market move-up will come from the beneficiaries of capital investment. For, the hard truth is that for the long-term India story to play out, capital spending has to come back. We can only go so far as an economy if we continue to rely on government spending and consumption. Like it or not, investors will have to eventually position for this change in market behaviour and decide how to play it.

The author is fund manager and CEO of Amansa Capital








For Nick, Kurt and Dale, the only thing that would make the daily grind more tolerable would be to grind their intolerable bosses into dust. Quitting is not an option, so, with the benefit of a far too many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con, the three friends devise a seemingly foolproof plan to rid themselves of their respective bosses — permanently. There's only one problem: even the best-laid plans can go awry.

That's the storyline of Horrible Bosses, which releases in US theatres today. A brief look at the trailer on the website obviously suggests that the film has drifted from reality, since no matter how ugly things get, you are unlikely to plot to have your boss killed. The producers know that, which explains the over-use of the word "comedy" in the promos.

But a majority of office-goers all over the world would still sympathise with the basic premise of the over-the-top promo that says: "What can you do when your boss is a psycho, a man-eater or a total tool?"

For proof, consider a Gallup Organisation study of over 1,000,000 employees. The study found that if a company is losing good people, more than any other single reason, the cause is their immediate supervisor. Gallup also found that poorly-managed workgroups are, on average, 50 per cent less productive and 44 per cent less profitable than well-managed groups.

Whatever HR spin doctors tell you about many companies in India becoming "leadership temples", courtesy their elaborate training procedures, the fact is it's really time for corporate India to get serious about bad bosses who treat their employees as invisibles.

The bank chairman who suspended his Mumbai zonal manager a couple of months ago for keeping him waiting at the airport for over an hour because the car keys were accidentally locked in is just one example of a bad boss. The zonal manager couldn't please his boss despite arranging "two sets of dhotis and towels" and a duplicate key late at night, but he was lucky to have been reinstated (albeit on a transfer from Mumbai to Chennai) after the media picked up the case.

Others are not even half as lucky. HR consultants will give you umpteen unbelievable examples of bosses who think respecting your people is some fuzzy new-age management fad and they must be someone whose mood range from sour to apoplectic. For instance, one boss fired an employee for serving him a Coke that was flat and another sacked a lowly-placed subordinate because he (the subordinate) didn't recognise him!

There is yet another example of a junior manager who supervised five employees. His boss called him one day to say he was taking one of the people under him off his hands to give him more time to work on bigger projects. The junior manager was happy because it would (or so he thought) give him an opportunity to grow. A few days later, the company issued a circular deciding to take away the manager title – and bonuses – from anyone who managed less than five people. The junior manager may have been incompetent and the boss was well within his rights to remove him from the post. But by playing a game, he lost the confidence of his entire team.

Then there are the workaholic bosses who enjoy their job so much that they work and work and work. They find that appealing; but their subordinates mostly find that appalling. There are also stories about bosses who appear to have jellyfish spines — someone who would never stand up for you. There is also the obsessive micro-manager who would give assignments but then manage them to death. He trusts his people the way you would trust a five-year-old behind the wheel of a car.

There is also this legendary example of John Patterson, former head of National Cash Register Company (now known as NCR). Patterson, who was supremely efficient in his work, zoomed his way into the Forbes list of worst bosses because he liked to fire and then rehire executives just to break their self-esteem. However, at least one employee was bold enough to decline to be rehired. The employee, Thomas Watson, later started his own company called IBM.

No wonder, in a survey conducted by a global research firm, seven in 10 Americans said bosses and toddlers with too much power act alike.

One of the surest signs of being a disliked boss is when you never see people walk by. Employees would rather circumnavigate the entire office to get to the coffee machine or bathroom than take the shortcut past your door and risk being invited in.

If that's happening to you, it's time to seek help. Or, as an HR consultant quips, watch Horrible Bosses with your office staff. Laughing together can be a good cure. The film releases in India on July 22.








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 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.

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.

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.

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.


·      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.  







It is the absence of liberal policies and simple rules, efficiency and transparency that increases the opportunities for hanky-panky at the administrative level.

In March the Supreme Court had asked the Government to consider setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the black money stashed in off-shore secret accounts. It wanted the SIT to comprise officers from different departments, including the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI and the Income-Tax department. The Government ignored the suggestion. So, a few days ago, the Court itself set up the panel. It appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and asked former SC judges — Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy and Justice M. B. Shah — to be the chairman and vice-chairman. The team will include chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and will file the first status report in the third week of August. As a measure of concern, this is a welcome step. But will it amount to anything more than a gesture? As has been seen in other cases — such as, say "immoral trafficking in women" — if the root causes are not understood and tackled first, the offence goes even deeper underground. How quickly, deeply and efficiently depends on the marginal utility of the offence. As long as it is positive, no amount of effort to fight it will help. The real solution lies in reducing this marginal utility to zero by ensuring all-round efficiency, transparency and liberal policies, or making it negative, through extremely severe penalties, such as life imprisonment.

The trouble with the current approach to the problem is that it is focuses mainly on the latter aspect. That will help, but not much. It is on the former that attention must focus, namely, liberal policies and simple rules, and an all-out emphasis on increasing efficiency and transparency. The absence of these four things hugely increases the opportunities for hanky-panky at the administrative level. Relatively speaking, corruption at that level is high in volume terms, though low in value terms. Its impact on the public, therefore, is disproportionate to the sums involved because it affects everyone. Political corruption, on the other hand, is a high-value, low-volume business. That said, it is also largely need-based. The simple fact, however unpalatable it may be, is that democracies have not yet devised a cheap way of funding their political processes. What's worse, political corruption appears to vary in direct proportion to the size of the electorate.

Therefore, the Special Investigating Team ordered by the Supreme Court should, ideally, include in its remit an analysis of the factors mentioned above by identifying the drivers of corruption in India. The sources, after all, have been well documented. The Team would also benefit by talking to businessmen, upon whom the responsibility has been thrust to fund the political process. They will be able to provide valuable insights into the dynamics of corruption in India.






It takes a mature politician to explain why the offices of the Prime Minister and President need to be beyond suspicion, in a legal or Constitutional sense, till they demit office. The highest offices in our democracy are not demonstrably above the reach of corrupt practices. Indiscretions and errors of judgment have brought successive Prime Ministers under prosecution after they demitted office. Gubernatorial chambers have faced parentage suits. Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao faced corruption charges almost till his very end. But the consequences of tarnishing the sanctity of the offices held by these individuals can be considerable.


The nature of the Prime Ministerial or Presidential office needs to be clearly understood. Early vacancies in these offices can turn the history of a nation. They appoint the crème de la crème of the rest of the executive and until recently, most of judiciary. Their choices give rise to intense partisanship and frustration in interest groups. Their preferences steer regional and international geopolitics.

The transformation from a monarchy to a Parliamentary democracy with the Prime Minister as the head of the Executive who is accountable to Parliament, has been achieved through legal and Constitutional guarantees. If the Prime Minister is under constant exposure to examination by an institution lesser than the Parliament to whom he owes full accountability, there is a danger that the supreme status of the Prime Minister could come under duress.

If that seat of power (e.g. Lokpal) is influenced by a powerful, disgruntled domestic interest, or even worse, a powerful foreign economic interest, the policy of government could be influenced. It must not be lost sight of that the Lokpal or any other mechanism will never be as representative as Parliament howsoever problematic its functioning.


The trouble here is that the interest groups championing the JanLokpal have closed their minds to the relative consequences of abuse of the supreme offices, as compared with the office of the Lokpal. A degenerate Prime Ministerial office might just cause internal slowdown, while a degenerate Lokpal with the prime executive under its ambit might fully jeopardise democracy and convert it into a legal aristocracy.

We need to understand the relative danger of an inactive prime office which appoints the rest of the Executive and holds the central administrative system intact, as compared with the need to maintain accountability of that office bearer. Influence over him now rises from Parliament. Our experience is that the Prime Ministers have generally been accountable and have been even prosecuted under the law of the land for omissions and commissions.

Going beyond ordinary law and taking the armour off the prime executive office will expose the PM to street-smart busybodies. Pressure to take decisions one way or the other will mount. Lokpal members' whims and fancies could overtake and even replace that of the cabinet ministers. The country's fate would be handed over on a platter to interests which need not even be visible.

(The author is Vice-Chancellor of Kerala Veterinary Animal Sciences University. The views are personal.)






India should step up trade and investment in order to build a lasting relationship with Bangladesh.

India and Bangladesh have a long history of bilateral ties. However, since 2002, China's trade with Bangladesh has increased manifold, surpassing India's trade. This slowing down of economic relations between India and Bangladesh, coupled with strained and uncertain political relations, is cause for concern.

India's economic ties with Bangladesh are an important mechanism for stable and peaceful neighborhood relations. Therefore, the External Affairs Minister, Mr. S M Krishna, must focus on some of key issues that affect bilateral economic relations, during his visit to Bangladesh.

India's Trade

Chinese exports to Bangladesh have accelerated at a rapid pace, surpassing India's exports since 2002 For example, India's exports as a percentage of China's exports to Bangladesh were more than 150 per cent in 1991 but stood at 30 per cent by end of 2010.

Given the similarity in export baskets of China and India to Bangladesh, Chinese exports are seen to be replacing Indian exports. However, China imports less than India from Bangladesh, resulting in a higher trade balance in favour of China than India. India's concessions to Bangladesh under APTA, SAFTA and recently declared zero tariff on all products other than the sensitive list to all LDCs in SAFTA have not improved the trade relations between two countries.

China has captured Bangladesh's market in industries like textile and textiles articles, footwear and head wear, machinery & mechanical appliances industry where India also enjoys comparative advantage.

While Chinese products in these industries are highly price competitive, economic and non-economic factors are responsible for turning the tables in favour of China.

As claimed by Bangladesh traders and industry bodies, Bangladesh traders face non-tariff barriers such as delays, bureaucratic harassment, limited routes, customs harassment and visa problems while trading with India which increases the cost and creates mistrust among the Bangladesh traders. Non-tariff barriers are too high while trading with India, and exacerbated by corruption at the border, rigid bureaucracy, too much of security concern and lack of infrastructure. In fact, infrastructure connectivity through sea from China is more efficient and takes less time than importing from India.

China Factor

Unlike India, China is very aggressive in the Bangladesh market. Apart from price competitiveness of Chinese products, the welcoming attitude of Chinese traders and officials at the customs is encouraging to Bangladesh traders. Visa is never a problem in the case of China; China invites enterprises from Bangladesh to participate in exhibitions for better information on Chinese products. Chinese exporters are ready to redesign branded products on the request of Bangladeshi importers to cater to the price sensitive local market in Bangladesh. Further, Chinese business houses attend to logistics, trade difficulties, and consistently follow up on complaints. In most industries, China is ready for technology transfer, whereas Indian industries are not.

India is not just losing its grip over trade ties, but also has a negligible investment presence in Bangladesh.

Though Bangladesh has not discouraged Indian investments, there was mutual mistrust partly because of the Indian ban on Bangladesh investment in India till 2007. However, India lifted the ban and allowed Bangladesh FDI since 2007 in expectation of easing Indian investment in major deals, such as the Tata and Essar projects.

Though the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was signed between India and Bangladesh in February 2009, this has not translated into significant capital flows. As in the case of India, China's investment is low. But China is giving development assistance and project loans to create goodwill between the two countries. It has constructed six friendship bridges, besides the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in Bangladesh.

China is looking for natural gas reserves in Bangladesh and Dhaka has offered exploration rights to China at Barakpuria. It has also gained naval access to Bangladesh's Chittagong port, which India had been eyeing for several years.

The two countries are also cooperating on the Bangladesh-Myanmar-China road link through Kunming to further increase economic cooperation. On the contrary, India-Bangladesh collaboration in gas exploration in Bangladesh and in Myanmar has failed. Though Indian government regularly transfers assistance to Bangladesh in the form of grant, loans and transport assistance, it is substantially lower compared with China's assistance.

Steps Forward

Given the slowdown in exports to Bangladesh even in industries where India used to dominate markets, there is a pressing need to reduce non-tariff barriers. Another way is to invest, transfer technology, create long-term business and goodwill with Bangladesh through project financing and soft loans. Improved economic ties would certainly help in establishing lasting diplomatic and political relations.

(The author is Associate Professor, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. )









Dayanidhi Maran's resignation from the Union council of ministers is, indeed, a setback for the ruling UPA government. It will strengthen the Opposition's charge of corruption against this government, raise questions about the relations between the DMK and the Congress and dent the government's overall credibility. Mr Maran's continuance as a minister became untenable after the Central Bureau of Investigation's report to the Supreme Court indicting him for using the office of the minister of telecom, in 2004-05, to force, via withholding grant of licence, would-be telecom operator Aircel to sell its stake to Maxis, a Malaysian company. It tarnishes the DMK's image further and the party would be advised to choose its nominees, to replace M/s Raja and Maran in the council of ministers, with care, and avoid controversial names that would attract further opprobrium, if not legal action. Since the action against Mr Maran derives from the Supreme Court-monitored investigation into telecom scams, there is little reason for the DMK to blame the Congress for the development. It would be sensible on the DMK's part to make the best of its bad situation and continue with the UPA with fresh nominees.

The government, the UPA and its lead member, the Congress need to act to refurbish their credibility on the corruption front. And this cannot be achieved by reacting to events that flow from an agenda set by actors outside the ruling coalition. The Congress needs its own proactive agenda against corruption. This would sound ludicrous, considering that all political parties routinely fund themselves through corruption, with the Congress, as the largest party, leading from the front in this aspect as well. Such an anti-corruption move would be credible only as a paradigm shift in how politics in general is funded in the country. Indian democracy today cries out for such a change, away from loot of the exchequer, sale of patronage and extortion as the essential means of mobilising political funds. This calls for instituting transparency in political expenditure at all levels, including disaggregated, local levels, and the financing of that expenditure.






The draft Bill on regulation of microfinance institutions (MFIs) suffers from a fatal flaw: it allows hope to triumph over experience. It calls for registration of all MFIs with minimum net owned fund of . 5 lakh (the comparable limit for non-banking finance companies — NBFCs — is . 2 crore) without considering whether the proposed regulator, the RBI, has the necessary bandwidth to do justice to such oversight. Even allowing for the fact that the threshold must necessarily be lower for MFIs compared to NBFCs, . 5 lakh is way too low, raising the very real danger of spreading regulatory oversight too thin. True, the draft Bill seeks stricter scrutiny of only systemically important MFIs. However, RBI registration runs the risk of being likely to be misconstrued as a stamp of approval, and of being abused. Neither self-regulation nor regulation by Nabard, which is also a lender to MFIs, has been a viable alternative; which leaves the RBI holding the baby. Hence the provision arming the Bank with the powers to direct MFIs to 'cease and desist from continuing microfinance activities, if on inspection or perusal of annual accounts or any returns …the RBI is satisfied its activities are being conducted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of its clients or depositors or the MFI institution itself ' is wellintentioned. Except that what is 'prejudicial to the interests of its clients' is open to debate.

That brings us to the second aspect where the Bill errs. It empowers the RBI to stipulate the maximum annual rate of interest, the maximum margin, tenure of the loan, periodicity of repayment, etc. Given how notoriously difficult it has been in practice to ensure and monitor compliance with such stipulations — the RBI could not do it with commercial banks in the past — it is a moot point whether they make any sense. Far better, then, to encourage competition from as many alternative channels as possible — including banks and NBFCs — and educate consumers so that they do not fall prey to unscrupulous players, be they money-lenders or MFIs. Use of technology by banks is the key to such competition.








We call know about causality. Make your boss angry, for example, and you can rightfully be nervous about the next appraisal. Periodically pretend to listen to the girlfriend as she rambles on, and things will stay calm could be another illustration. Philosophers have pondered this question of what reaction an action can produce. India's own ancient n y a y a system of philosophy has dealt with the question assiduously. Aristotle too, with his logician's mind, categorised types of causes, viz the material cause; the formal cause; the efficient one and the final cause. But all that oriental and occidental wisdom is going awry if some recent surveys and results of 'research' are to be believed. One report says a bunch of US researchers have concluded that broader-faced men are more likely to cheat and lie than the smaller-faced variety. No such principle, we are told, applies to women. Presumably, they have their own tell-tale signs of lying, facial or otherwise — though vast numbers of men would give and arm or a leg to find out just what those signs are. Another recent 'survey' spoke of having 'discovered' a relationship between the length of the fourth, or ring, finger proportionate to the second finger in a man's hand and, well, the length of an organ more in the nether regions.

Hopefully, mass suspicion of wide-jawed males isn't in the offing. Nor feelings of inadequacy among chaps with the wronglyproportioned fingers. But this does beg the question: is this just 'research' out of curiosity or something more sinister? Who funds this stuff? Could it be a secret coalition of plastic surgery specialists? Or maybe a host of all those 'male enhancement' pills-and-devices companies? As if one didn't have enough things to worry about already….






Get them by their balls, hearts and minds will follow." That lucidly sinister thought, emblazoned on the outer wall of a police station in the Valley, was read by many after a photo was published some months ago in a local English newsmagazine in Kashmir. But it didn't really surprise anyone. The denizens of that blighted land are all too aware of how that piece of police-graffiti isn't a case of the local SHO displaying his familiarity with Yes Minister, but a rather graphically symbolic expression of what the actual situation is, what state policy itself seems to be.

Of course, that actual situation is at variance with talk of 'normalcy' and 'peace' having 'returned'. And even liberal India — aware of what exactly is wrong in Kashmir — is mostly content in pointing to lines during panchayat elections or the tourists currently thronging the Valley as 'proof' of that normalcy returning. The sleight of hand here isn't just pretending voters' lines or tourists mean peace and democracy are in order in the state. It is the deliberate denial of a deeper political reality. As if all the troubled history from 1947 has been wiped clean because there are (so far) no widespread protests this year, as if all the bloodshed and suppression of the last 22 years has been forgotten. As if the basic, underlying desire for justice, rights and the resolution of afestering issue has vanished. The official position continues to be that a political resolution is needed, that a dialogue must be envisaged. But on the ground, in Kashmir, what exists is an attempt at the suppression, nay, criminalisation of that political reality. An enforcement of the absurd formulation that no problem exists anymore, and that those who speak of one are either marginal, misguided, or just instigators of some sort. An enforcement of silence is labelled peace. A suppression of dissent is called democracy. The absence of manifest violence is called normalcy. As if the many vagaries of living under a police state don't govern the daily lives of ordinary Kashmiris. "Kashmir is like a cotton-bale fire — you can pour water over it, but it keeps smouldering inside," said a young government employee in Shopian, the town which witnessed a massive agitation over the alleged rape and murder of two young girls in 2009. ('Proceedings' on the case have resulted, incredible as it may sound, in cases against members of the local committee formed to protest the incident — the official position maintains the girls drowned in waters probably 6-12 inches deep). When this writer toured the town, among other places, a few months ago, it became clear what was happening, and what continues to happen: protestors, dissenters against official narratives, or just voices against the status quo, have been driven underground. People can't speak their minds openly, freely. Such is the level of surveillance and control, the perception (often not wrong) of 'informers' everywhere, that even street corner discussions often occur only between 'trusted' people.

After last year's intense protests, which clearly shook the state, the latter was clearly jittery about a repeat performance. By any means necessary, it wanted to stymie even the thought of that happening again — the Arab uprisings, as senior officials admitted, adding to the jitteriness. Thus, it was a winter of a brutal clampdown — which still continues. The police's own figures say 5,000 plus youngsters were arrested, with thousands more 'under watch', while a few hundred were slapped with the draconian PSA. FIRs continue to exist against a great many —to be invoked at the first sign of protests. Nocturnal raids, arrests, warnings, for even people using Facebook politically, pressure on families of youngsters who went underground — these were the tactics.

    Not that even youngsters part of last year's stonethrowing protests actually wanted a repeat. "Why would we want to die?" said some of them, meeting whom in Srinagar felt something like acloak-and-dagger process. But everywhere there is the refrain that while nothing is planned, one spark, one incident, can ignite things again. Under the surface, Kashmir continues to seethe. And it is such an intense anger that can again rupture the apparent normality on the surface. Yet, factually, no one actually wants an agitation again, at least this year.
Now, the larger attempt by the state is to create a class of people whose interests will dovetail with its own — through patronage, various inducements and sometimes plain coercion. Yet, that only posits the abnormal state of affairs. To counter things, for example, the police has initiated 'outreach projects', recruitment drives and the like. On many fronts, it seems as if the police have taken over functions of the government — an outreach meeting, for instance, may well include civilians bringing forth a municipal problem, say, a blocked drain, with a police official promising 'action'!

On another front, apart from the habitual invoking of 'a communal agenda is at work', an attempt is on to fracture the narrative on Kashmir, a post-modernism style 'problematising' of the narrative and the core issue — simply put, it consists of the 'many people want many different things' line. But vast sections of Kashmiris remain aware of what is going on, though part of the pervasive sense of powerlessness afflicting the population.
The 'bad guys' have eternally been recast in Kashmir. Now it is the protestors, and, it seems, all dissenters. That is part of the wider problem. A dialogue, serious and meaningful, is promised, yet never materialises. "A dialogue," said FW de Klerk, former South African President and partner-in-peace of the ANC, on a trip to India sometime ago, "means you don't decide who sits across the table." Unless that becomes the operating principle, the abnormal will be called peace in Kashmir. And the situation is such that the Valley will rage again, if not now, then later.






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 US shuttle programme, which now draws to an unsettling close.

Ending it, one supposes, 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 the US' gaudily ambitious space adventures, the shuttle programme 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 marshalled the requisite will. And there's no real sense of what big dreams, if any, lie beyond Atlantis. The programme's end carries the force of cruel metaphor, coming at a time when limits are all we talk about.

The current political debate and the nascent 2012 election season are utterly earthbound, with atone 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 Barack 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% of Americans considered it unlikely that children today would have better lives than their parents, while only 44% 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% of the respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll characterised that decline as permanent, at least in economic terms. That was a marked increase from 28% 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 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.

©2011 New York Times News Service







When shall the softer, saner politics, whereof we dream, have play in each proud land?", the 19th century British novelist Thomas Hardy asked somewhat pensively. If the author of novels set in the English countryside like Far from the Madding Crowd had been living in a residential block in 21st century urban India, his query would have been drowned in the prime-time cacophony of TV channels simultaneously blaring out the day's bad news of governmental sins of omission and commission and the opposition's vitriolic reaction in one apartment after the other, with the volume being pitched loud enough to overwhelmingly justify the expression of galloping mass hysteria!

Which could be why the ever-so-articulate Union home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram quipped the other day to the female editor of a late-night TV chat-show that if the entire media took leave for a week, there would be no breaking news of a raging controversy! Referring to the Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's comment that Rahul Gandhi had all the qualities required to become a prime minister, the TV journalist had just then asked the minister whether this meant the present PM would be stepping down. When the journalist quipped that Digvijay should also go on leave for a week, Chidambaram's repartee was that the newschannels were feeding on what was being stated in his characteristic style by the AICC general secretary who was, in turn, feeding on the presence of the TV cameras! Times have obviously changed since the fairy-tale days of Snow White whose evil stepmother still had the maturity to not blame her magic mirror for responding with the name of her stepdaughter when asked the key question of "Mirror, mirror, on the wall/Who's the fairest of them all?" The stepmother may have subsequently tried to eliminate the competition by giving Snow White a poisoned apple but at no stage did she blame the mirror or even throw something at it. Which is a point the home minister could ponder over the next time he reads a fairy tale to his little granddaughter! As James Cameron (the celebrated columnist and not the one who directed the unsinkable movie Titanic) observed in The Listener in 1979, "The press can only be a mirror — albeit a distorting mirror, according to its policies or the smallness of its purpose — but it rarely lies because it dare not." Cameron may have even been responding to the comment made in 1970 by the distinguished violinist Yehudi Menuhin (the one who played a jugalbandi with the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar) that "Whenever I see a newspaper, I think of the poor trees. As trees they provide beauty, shade and shelter, but as paper all they provide is rubbish."

Chidambaram is not the only senior Indian minister to have a dig at the media. More recently, during his interaction with five editors (the equivalent of the biblical three wise men), the Prime Minister reportedly talked about the media's tendency to play the triple role of accuser, prosecutor and judge. Manmohan was far more polite than the British Prime Minister Robert Cecil who, some 110 years ago, dismissed his country's first tabloid as "written by office-boys for office-boys". The poet W H Auden was even more forthright when, while lecturing at Oxford round about the time Manmohan was doing his PhD on India's export performance, prospects and policies, he observed that "What the mass media offer is not popular art but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten and replaced by a new dish." Getting back to today's India, would Manmohan have commented about the journalistic tendency to play multiple roles if the media had only said nice things about him? Constructive criticism is always helpful, irrespective of whether it is the media which is finding fault with the PM or vice versa!

In all democracies where freedom of expression is a fundamental right, the media has traditionally felt constrained to play an antiestablishment role. Any soft-pedalling of the inquisitorial approach could generate suspicions of being influenced by those in power. And it need not even be a material inducement. Mere access to the highest in the land could exert an insidious influence. Press-Club reputations are made of statements like "I told the PM what to do" even if such comments are delivered after the nth drink! Not just PYTs (Pretty Young Things) but present employers and future book-publishers can get impressed by comments like "I told the Man it was time to get tough with Obama." (Man, in this case, refers to the registered tenant at 7, Race Course Road and to Manmohan, both one and the same person!)









 The city's police are an unhappy lot. It's bad enough they've been forced to pirouette endlessly over the murder of the journalist Jyotirmoy Dey. To show that they're not completely left-footed, they've decided to teach the city how to dance and, in their usual subtle fashion, detain 31 kids at a Malad lounge bar for what they call 'dirty dancing'. This throws up all kinds of interesting possibilities. Perhaps we can look forward to some terpsichorean initiatives from the city's finest-arangetrams, perhaps, at the Police Gymkhana. Or the Malad mazurka, the Charni Road cha-cha-cha, the Salsette Salsa and the Titwala tango.


 In a parallel universe, our Home Minister proposes a fandango of another kind. In February this year, his Ministry sent off to the Department of Telecommunications a visionary master plan to boost our security. "Our" is of course very loosely used here and excludes every citizen. 14 different services had to be "intercepted", said the HM, and that includes Skype, video chats, cell phone messaging, email and more, all to be made available in "readable, printable and audible" formats. For reasons undisclosed, this leaves out all messages sent by smoke signals (why? Aren't they potentially as dangerous?), dog barks (see further: 101 Dalmatians by Disney, circa 1996), Mexican waves, fluttering eyelids and Reiki. For good measure, our HM – once a mighty Supreme Court lawyer and therefore presumably familiar with something called liberty – said that if interception wasn't possible, these services should be blocked. That this would bring the country, its business and all personal affairs to a grinding halt apparently occurred to none of his elves. Fortunately, DoT put a full stop to this nonsense.


We should not underestimate the sweep and depth of our government's maternal instincts. They must protect us, you see – most of all from ourselves. It is therefore in our interest that we have a law that prohibits women from working after 9:30 pm. And that when confronted with a bottle of Chateau Mallya we are, till the age of 24 years, 364 days and one minute short of midnight, thoroughly irresponsible, but through some unknown process, acquire – so to speak – spiritual enlightenment exactly one minute later.


All these actions are impositions. They come from the top down and they are uninformed by public opinion, popular demand or citizens' needs. They serve no purpose and they are largely indefensible in a court when challenged, not because they violate some arcane legal principle but simply because they defy common sense. In areas where governments should act there is unconcern of monumental proportions. Consider the state of our Regional Transport Offices, to which we are all compelled to go for driving licenses and everything relating to a vehicle. The offices are water-logged – evidently the monsoon is an annual surprise to the RTO (just as it is to the municipal corporation which constantly blames "unseasonal rains" for potholes). The RTOs lack even the most basic facilities: there is no seating, no water, no restroom. They do, however, have one great feature, and it is ingenious: their yards are rutted, muddied and cratered. If you can drive there, you can drive anywhere. And this is true of almost every public department. In July 2010, the Supreme Court noted the dismal conditions of district courts – dilapidated buildings, often taken on rent, broken down furniture, unstable power supply. The court referenced its own order of 1993 which directed upgradation of these facilities and said that till 2010, this had "remained a dream".


It is not a dream. It is a need, and the refusal to see the difference is perhaps the single biggest failure of governance. Funds required for these basic infrastructure facilities are simply not made available, and High Courts which oversee the functioning of courts below them must struggle for release of funds. Huge amounts are spent instead on splendid refurbishing of the offices and homes of ministers. Just as much as kickbacks, these misallocations are also forms of corruption, as are the appropriations of excessive privileges.

 "The trouble is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Despite our claims to democracy and voting power we are still a servile lot, used to being ruled, unaccustomed to being governed. We think nothing of public access points, parking places and concourses being blocked off for VIPs, roads being closed and traffic jammed because yet another intellectual pygmy from the north has taken it into his or her empty head to swan through the city, of money being spent on statues, of being denied basic needs. So far we have suffered all this with Cheshire Cat chagrin. But this is changing now. Recent public protests and movements should tell our governments something: read the writing on the wall. This is not the India an earlier generation envisioned in 1947. There was a dream then. And it will be realised, sooner rather than later. Public opinion is an unstoppable force. Governments are removable.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The resignation of textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran from the Union Cabinet on Thursday comes in a political context whose logic would suggest that Congress-DMK relations may have run their course. But aside from this, it would have been in the fitness of things if he had voluntarily put in his papers when the scandal which consumed him broke a few weeks ago. He could have then continued to protest his innocence and sought legal recourse to clear himself. Instead, Mr Maran made a public defence of his case that is unlikely to have convinced many. When a demand for a minister's resignation comes to be made for purely political reasons, and does not otherwise appear to have merit, ordinary people as well as the political class are quick to grasp the situation and usually turn away from the story. However, when there is smoke even when there is no fire in sight, ordinary voters are within their rights to expect that the minister in question should go, if political morality is not to be a casualty. And when the question is one of suspected corruption, then more than political propriety is at stake. In that event, it is the national exchequer that is the loser. For this reason, Mr Maran should have taken the honourable course and quit at the first opportunity. Even if his request to be relieved had been shot down by his party (DMK) chief M. Karunanidhi — in the coalition era, that is not unthinkable — he would have at least made a point about doing the right thing. The way it has turned out, in this political season of narrow-focusing on corruption, there appeared a certain inevitability about Mr Maran's departure, whether he was aware of it or not. When, on Wednesday, the CBI observed in its status report to the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the 2G scam, that Mr Maran, during his tenure as communications minister in the UPA-1 government, had forced the proprietor of the Aircel mobile telephony company to sell out to a Malaysian firm, from which his family had gained undue favours, the outgoing textiles minister had little room left for manoeuvre. It should be understood that Mr Maran's resignation was sought by the Prime Minister. His party did not withdraw him of its own accord. When the CBI report came on the record, Dr Manmohan Singh apprised DMK parliamentary party leader T.R. Baalu that Mr Maran's position had become untenable. The DMK took the hint and Mr Karunanidhi reportedly signalled that his grand-nephew should resign. The DMK chafes at the Supreme Court proceedings in the 2G case, and the imprisonment of former communications minister A. Raja and Mr Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP, and holds its ally, the Congress, responsible for this state of affairs, not appreciating that the latter couldn't help the DMK even if it so wanted. At the political level, Mr Maran's resignation can build up into another grouse (although the young politician is not deemed a favourite of the DMK leadership). The party clearly fails to see that the era has passed when those in power could twist the courts and investigators to their advantage. The Congress would doubtless know that its best moments with the DMK are behind it. With difficulties for the Congress growing in Andhra Pradesh due to the Telangana issue, prudence may dictate a switch of allies in Tamil Nadu if the party is to maintain effective influence in the southern states. This could indeed become necessary in order to shore up the Centre if it is the DMK that decides to pull the plug. A moment of uncertainty in political dynamics has crept in.






THERE is no role, in my view, for easy emotions such as nationalist zeal for a journalist, more so if any degree of nationalism is desired or ordained by a delinquent state or its chest-thumping cronies in the bureaucracy. But today a friend forwarded me a judgment delivered on Tuesday by India's Supreme Court over the Maoist crisis in Chhattisgarh. I want to just sit in front of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and Surinder Singh Nijjar in silent obeisance. On occasions like this I see hope for India, and a bit of a hidden citizen stirs in me. The judgment is a literary masterpiece inspired by Portia-like reasoning and evidence-based humanity. In my view, it has the makings of a landmark precedent to be emulated elsewhere. The judgment follows a clutch of private petitions against the use of vigilante groups — designated as Special Police officers (SPOs) — by the state of Chhattisgarh to combat Maoist rebels. This was precisely the strategy used by the federal government in Kashmir, where it set up bandits of the dreaded Kuka Parey to identify and target fellow Kashmiris opposed to Indian rule. Excerpts from the judgment: "We, the people as a nation, constituted ourselves as a sovereign democratic republic to conduct our affairs within the four corners of the Constitution, its goals and values… Consequently, we must also bear the discipline, and the rigour of constitutionalism, the essence of which is accountability of power, whereby the power of the people vested in any organ of the state, and its agents, can only be used for promotion of constitutional values and vision." "This case represents a yawning gap between the promise of principled exercise of power in a constitutional democracy, and the reality of the situation in Chhattisgarh, where the respondent, the state of Chhattisgarh, claims that it has a constitutional sanction to perpetrate, indefinitely, a regime of gross violation of human rights in a manner, and by adopting the same modes, as done by Maoist/Naxalite extremists." "The state of Chhattisgarh also claims that it has the powers to arm, with guns, thousands of mostly illiterate or barely literate young men of the tribal tracts, who are appointed as temporary police officers, with little or no training, and even lesser clarity about the chain of command to control the activities of such a force, to fight the battles against alleged Maoist extremists." "As we heard the instant matters before us, we could not but help be reminded of the novella, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, who perceived darkness at three levels: (1) the darkness of the forest, representing a struggle for life and the sublime; (ii) the darkness of colonial expansion for resources; and finally (iii) the darkness, represented by inhumanity and evil, to which individual human beings are capable of descending, when supreme and unaccounted force is vested, rationalised by a warped worldview that parades itself as pragmatic and inevitable, in each individual level of command." "Set against the backdrop of resource rich darkness of the African tropical forests, the brutal ivory trade sought to be expanded by the imperialist-capitalist expansionary policy of European powers, Joseph Conrad describes the grisly, and the macabre states of mind and justifications advanced by men, who secure and wield force without reason, sans humanity, and any sense of balance. The main perpetrator in the novella, Kurtz, breathes his last with the words: 'The horror! The horror!' Conrad characterised the actual circumstances in Congo between 1890 and 1910, based on his personal experiences there, as 'the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience…'" "…Through the course of these proceedings, as a hazy picture of events and circumstances in some districts of Chhattisgarh emerged, we could not but arrive at the conclusion that the respondents were seeking to put us on a course of constitutional actions whereby we would also have to exclaim, at the end of it all: 'the horror, the horror'". The court did not justify Maoist violence, but offered an explanation. "People do not take up arms, in an organised fashion, against the might of the state, or against fellow human beings without rhyme or reason. Guided by an instinct for survival, and according to Thomas Hobbes, a fear of lawlessness that is encoded in our collective conscience, we seek an order. However, when that order comes with the price of dehumanisation, of manifest injustices of all forms perpetrated against the weak, the poor and the deprived, people revolt…" The court offered a possible reason for the strife: "The problem rests in the amoral political economy that the state endorses, and the resultant revolutionary politics that it necessarily spawns." It's truly a red-letter day for India's often faltering but inevitably self-correcting judiciary.








Corruption in public offices is an ancient and chronic evil recognised as such by repeated legislative measures. *The Indian Penal Code, enacted in 1860, had an entire chapter on bribery. *The Special Police Force of 1943, set up under the War Department for the purpose of investigating offences of bribery and corruption, was continued as the Delhi Special Police Establishment, and thus the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) came into existence, to probe corruption cases. *To stem the anticipated menace of corruption, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, was enacted, later replaced by the 1988 Act of the same name but with awesome provisions. *In addition, the Central Vigilance Commission was established — initially through a Cabinet Resolution in 1964, and later by a Parliamentary enactment of 2003 — to exercise power of superintendence over the CBI and to inquire into or undertake investigation on a reference made by the Central government, about a public servant's conduct. Investigating a crime, prosecuting the accused and punishing the guilty is what these laws aim at — they do not venture into preventing the crime; that is left to the policymakers. And as it stands, every person in the service or pay of the government — including the Prime Minister — is a public servant; but investigating their conduct and prosecuting them needs prior sanction from the bosses. At any given time, thousands of requests for sanction are pending, and investigations stalled. The combined failure of all — the investigating agencies, the government and an archaic criminal justice system where the accused has only to create a doubt through hostile witnesses or tampered evidence and the like to get acquitted — has taken the country to a level we do not deserve. The exasperated Anna Hazare's fast hastened the process of making a new law. Anna's Lokpal Bill, June 21 edition, appears trimmer as compared to the April version. It aims at replacing all the failed agencies with an 11-member Lokpal and through it to implement the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988; the bill seeks to make the Lokpal fully in charge of investigation, prosecution and adjudication. Anna's bill proposes to dispense with the need for prior sanction for investigating and prosecuting the Prime Minister, ministers, judges of the higher judiciary and members of Parliament. Clause 17 of the bill envisages a seven-member Lokpal Bench to permit such investigations or prosecutions. In effect, if Anna's bill becomes law, the Lokayukta will be the sole authority to deal with complaints or even rumours of corruption against the lowest and the highest; only the President of India will be outside its ambit. The joint meeting of all political parties, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in one voice, demanded a powerful Lokpal — good to hear that there is so much of support for fighting corruption. However, no one apparently was in support of Anna's bill — nor did they promise to support the ministers' bill. All political parties appear to have taken the view that the government should come out with a bill and Parliament, through the process of discussions and amendments, enact a law. Anna's draft envisages a Lokpal with complete autonomy and the power to make its own budget. In other words, the Lokpal of Anna will be the most powerful body in India, subject only to the limited, after-the-event jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and high courts whose judges, however, are sought to be within the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. Anna would surely know that the cause of corruption is power; and that, as the saying goes, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. In contrast, the ministers' bill restricts the jurisdiction of the Lokpal to "public servants" as defined in clause 17 of the draft. The Prime Minister and judges of the higher judiciary are outside the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. All ministers, both present and past, MPs, Group "A" officers in service and chairmen of public sector undertakings and the like fall within the Lokpal's purview and the bill has done away with the requirement of prior sanction for investigation and prosecutions as far as Lokpal proceedings are concerned. Restricting Lokpal's jurisdiction to the higher class of public servants is a very sensible move; it will make the Lokpal more effective. Further clause 17 of Anna's bill, which provides for a pre-investigation hearing by the Lokpal itself in the case of the ministers, judges and MPs, may be prescribed as standard procedure in all cases. Whether the Prime Minister should be within the Lokpal's jurisdiction or not cannot be answered on the basis of opinion polls. It is a matter of Constitutional principle, security concerns and practical perceptions. Two equally patriotic men of law and letters may disagree on this issue. In fact, the National Commission set up in 2000 to review the working of the Constitution, under the chairmanship of Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, considered this question and concluded: "The commission has carefully examined the point relating to the inclusion of the Prime Minister within the jurisdiction of Lokpal. In the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister occupies a unique position. He is the kingpin of the entire governmental structure. It is his personality, his image and his leadership that drives the government and, indeed, other major institutions of the state." "Major threats of destabilisation and subversion of democratic governments cannot be ignored. In this context, the Prime Minister as the symbol of the stability and continuity of the regime, should not be exposed to the risks of well-orchestrated and well-planned attempts to malign his image and reputation on which the entire functioning of the government depends. The entire structure can be undermined by malicious character assassination. The commission recommends that the Constitution should provide for appointment of Lokpal. It also recommends that the Prime Minister should be kept out of the purview of the Lokpal". For the time being let us adopt this view — if and when we are convinced that unless the Prime Minister is brought within the Lokpal's jurisdiction the whole Lokpal mission would collapse, the law can be changed. The author is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional solicitor-general of India






You must have noticed that if you change queues, the one you have left will start moving faster than the one you are in now. Or the child who sings a nursery rhyme beautifully in front of his/her parents will be totally silent when s/he is asked to perform before visiting friends. Or when you dial a wrong number, the phone is never busy at the other end and you have to face the embarrassment of apologising to the receiver. When your computer goes out of order, you start fiddling with it but it never works. As soon as you call a computer engineer, his sheer presence makes the machine jump into action as if nothing had happened before. You fall flat on your face. Life is full of such mystifying incidents. When these things occur we feel so frustrated as if the whole existence is conspiring against us. Is there some logic behind it? There may not be an intellectual explanation for such happenings because they are beyond the scope of logic, but there is certainly a law called Fetridge's law. These unnerving incidents are governed by this strange law. There is an interesting story behind the name. This law was named after Claude Fetridge, a radio engineer for NBC, according to H. Allen Smith's A Short History of Fingers (1963). The occasion was Mr Fetridge's attempt in 1936 to broadcast the departure of the famous swallows from the Old Mission of San Juan Capistrano on their annual migration, which occurs every year on October 23. The NBC crew travelled to the chapel in Southern California. They had plenty of time to set up their sound equipment for the marvellous event. A nationwide audience waited to hear the whirring sound of the millions of wings. But nothing happened! The swallows, it turned out, had left a day ahead of time perhaps because it was a leap year. The expected event did not happen and Mr Fetridge earned a measure of immortality. Fetridge's Law has universal application. Important things that are supposed to happen do not happen, especially when people are looking for them. So do not ask why the telephone rings when you are in a shower or in a bathtub. You may be sitting near the instrument waiting for an important call, but it will remain silent, and the moment you are in a situation when you can't answer it, its shrill ring tone will echo all over your house. Looking at the frequency of these incidents we have to recognise the mystery, which is at the core of this universe. Scientists have noted that even the atoms change their behaviour when they are observed. There are innumerable mysterious forces at work in the vast existence. Man's small intellect has yet to fathom their ways and systems. It seems when we are anxiously trying for something the very anxiety becomes a barrier and we block the flow of energy. Do not expect anything, keep enjoying what you are doing and suddenly nature's bounty showers on you. Why things happen when you are not looking for them? Osho gives a deep reason: "When you are not looking for anything, a certain silence descends on you. And in that silence things start happening that were never happening before when you were looking for them. It is a very mysterious life. It does not follow your ordinary arithmetic. "When you are running too much after silence, peace, meditation and enlightenment you simply get tired, bored and exasperated. It is never found that way. You cannot find anything of value while you are running. And naturally, your mind says: Run a little faster, you are not running fast enough. And the faster you run, the more tense you are, the more your eyes are blurred, the more dust you gather. You don't know where you are running because you don't know which direction the truth is. "It is not in running after it, it is in sitting silently. And while you are perfectly a pool of peace, truth arises within you. You never reach truth; it is always truth that reaches you. And truth is not something that comes from outside, it arises out of the intensity of your silence. In fact, the intensity of your silence, a great silence crystallised, is truth". The author is in the management team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad.






There has been some heated discussion in the media about the latest decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to ban the supply of Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) equipment to India, despite the earlier Indo-US nuclear deal and the 2008 "clean waiver" accorded to India by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Fortunately, the three main suppliers (the US, Russia and France) have issued statements declaring their intent to honour all bilateral agreements. Let's hope and pray that they honour their words with deeds and that India's leadership is not led up the garden path yet again. While India does have some limited indigenous ENR capability, it requires modern ENR facilities to ensure optimum use of the imported uranium. Why is ENR necessary? The answer to this lies in the peculiar process which low-enriched uranium-235 (U-235), (though initially in a critical mass in the reactor fuel core) undergoes during fission in a power reactor, wherein byproducts (called "poisons") like iodine etc. are formed. These absorb neutrons, thereby making the reactor fuel core "sub critical" and incapable of generating power. The problem is overcome by initially adding "excess reactivity" with more enriched U-235, to ensure a few more years of operation before reactor fuel change. Reactor fuel change is a complex process that requires stringent safety measures, including storage facility for used fuel (in Fukushima two reactors with used fuel stored were also affected by the earthquake and tsunami), before transporting it for reprocessing where plutonium-239 (Pu-239) is removed for use in either fast breeder reactors or for making weapons — this latter use is the worry of IAEA-NSG, as they fear that Indian scientists may reverse-engineer the latest ENR technology to upgrade existing indigenous ENR equipment to enhance their capacity or to build new "indigenous" ENR plants, both of which would not be under IAEA safeguards. Also, some of the used U-235 can be isolated from the "poisons" and enriched for possible reuse, and this would need IAEA monitoring. However, one cannot deny that India needs some nuclear power, despite Germany's latest decision, post-Fukushima nuclear disaster, to have zero nuclear power by 2022. But we need to proceed with great caution and the realisation that nuclear power in India can never contribute more than 10 per cent to the national power grid, for reasons of safety, availability of highly specialised operators and economics. Nuclear safety lessons from the American Three Mile Island, the Soviet Chernobyl and the Japanese Fukushima accidents must be kept in mind, as also our inept handling of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. There is no doubt that the March 11 nuclear disaster in earthquake-prone Japan was due to a combination of various factors, including faulty location of the reactors and the standby diesel generators for emergency reactor cooling, the flawed decision to delay use of sea water cooling. Japan's decision to decommission four of the six Fukushima reactors will not mean the end of nuclear emergency since these reactors, after being entombed in sand, lead and concrete, will require monitoring for a very long time because while some reactor "fission byproducts" like iodine have very short half-lives and decay quickly, others have very long half-lives, for example strontium-90 (29 years) and cesium-137 (30 years). The plutonium found in the soil in Fukushima has a half-life of 24,400 years. I have always been a strong supporter of "limited" nuclear power (which would meet about 10 per cent of our energy needs), provided the nuclear plants are safely located (away from population centres and seismic zones), built as per the latest, stringent IAEA safety standards, are operated by skilled personnel and audited regularly for safety. In addition, I have always supported a strict Nuclear Liabilities Bill (NLB), an efficient National Disaster Management System (NDMS) with dedicated Nuclear Emergency Response Teams (NERT) and a three-minute automated Tsunami Warning System (TWS), unlike the present 30-minute Indian warning system which is reported to be non-operational due to pilferage of the buoys at sea by fishermen. Despite the obvious lessons of the latest nuclear disaster in Japan, and the limitations of India's NLB, NDMS, NERT and TWS, I am amazed that India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has reportedly projected a requirement of 6,55,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2050. This would involve setting up about 655 additional imported reactors of 1000 MWe each, in "nuclear parks" of about six reactors per "park" each. Given mainland India's 6,000 km coastline, India could have 109 "nuclear parks", about 55 km apart, dotting its coastline, which would be a recipe for major disasters, given worries of tsunamis, earthquakes, or a terrorist strike. Given India's total projected power need of 1350,000 MWe by 2050, the DAE-reported proposal to meet 50 per cent of the country's energy needs by nuclear power, if indeed true, is sheer madness. It makes no sense, it is not safe and it is not affordable. It's time for sanity to return. A transparent public audit needs to be done of India's nuclear safety standards, availability of skilled manpower, suitable non-seismic zone cum unpopulated site locations, as well as NDMS, NERT and TWS. If these audits are done properly, India may discover that it will be able to afford and set up about 40 reactors (of which half would be indigenous) by 2050. The balance power requirements would require greater exploitation of renewable energy sources like solar, hydro and wind power, along with the traditional "heavyweights" like coal, which Australia is willing to export, unlike U-235. New technologies are available, though at present expensive, to deliver "clean energy" from coal. The author, a vice-admiral, retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam











AN aberration of the executive is set to end. The Salwa Judum, a creation of the Chhattisgarh government to countenance the Maoists, has been declared 'unconstitutional' by the Supreme Court (coram: Reddy and Nijjar, JJ). The move to field teenagers in the vanguard of the struggle against the Left radical was at once sinister and breathless ~ a lethal cocktail. Yet the withers of the administration in Raipur remained unwrung despite the increasing deaths of innocent civilians. In a very real sense, the Salwa Judum served to showcase the almost criminal cowardice of the law-enforcement authorities. The police remained in the background while youngsters were positioned as 'cannon fodder' ~ the judiciary's expression ~ who in the government's reckoning were fit to be dispensed with in the unsuccessful offensive against Maoists. By itself, the setting up of a private militia was a state-sponsored illegality; to rename the group as Special Police Officers was only a semantic change, a conscious exercise in self-deception. Indeed, Chhattisgarh's record in facing up to the Maoist insurgency has been decidedly the worst along the Red Corridor. Its police have failed and failed disastrously to protect the Central security forces (Dantewada, April 2010). Fallen jawans are conveyed in a garbage truck before sounding the Last Post (June 2011). In the interim, a paediatrician with allegedly Maoist connections is jailed for life on charges on 'sedition'... till bailed out by the Supreme Court. That judgment itself was a reflection on the state's magistracy. Not to put too fine a point on it, the ruling BJP has made a mortally disastrous exhibition of itself without being able to contain Maoism. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the fatality rate among activists of the Salwa Judum has been higher than those among security forces.

The state must now reflect on the judgment, a veritable stricture on its handling of the Maoist phenomenon. "It has armed the unskilled, illiterate and frustrated tribal youth to take on the vastly superior Maoists... the state has violated Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution that guarantee the right to equality and the right to life". It is a resounding indictment of the administration when the Bench observes: "Our Constitution is most certainly not a 'pact for national suicide'... Chhattisgarh has endorsed an amoral political economy and the resultant revolutionary politics that it spawns". To put it bluntly, as we must, Chhattisgarh is a failed state. This is the subtext of the Supreme Court ruling that has banned the Salwa Judum.




ADMITTEDLY the concept of the "pleasure of the President" has application to issues of greater significance than the one under focus. Yet Rashtrapati Bhawan's serious displeasure is manifest in its directing the Indian Ex-Services League to desist from describing the Head of State and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces as its "Grand Patron-in-Chief". The League may have "a case" in that previous Presidents have assumed that role, and that the little-appreciated campaign of veterans "returning" medals to protest dissatisfaction with pensions is the handiwork of the rival Indian Ex-Servicemen's Movement. That has not impressed the high office atop Raisina Hill. For the track record confirms that the League has ceased to be the premier, dignified veterans' organisation it was under the guidance of its architects like Cariappa and Tara Singh Bal. There were serious complaints of its elections being manipulated by members living in proximity to the Capital, its offices in prestigious Chanakyapuri being commercially misused etc. Perhaps it has redeemed itself somewhat, but it certainly has not regained its pride of place as the unified, respected representative of the veteran's community. So it is not a "mistaken identity" issue that resulted in the Presidential rebuff.

As for the rival (politically coloured?) outfit's medal-return campaign the less said the better: even its publicity value has waned. Nobody can deny that veterans have problems, also that the concept of "officer and gentlemen" is no longer relevant in a country where those privileged to wear the uniform consistently disgrace it. Yet medals have always been a source of pride and inspiration to the soldier, to use them as a bargaining chip is to dishonour age-old universal tradition. And a grave insult to the men and women who continue to strive to earn them. It would be only fitting if the ministry of defence initiates action to formally strip those who have returned medals of the decorations, prohibit them from appending them to their name, withdraw any allied benefits that may have accrued. For what they rejected (by the act of returning) was not just a piece of metal and ribbon but a "recognition": they can't have things both ways. Alas, for such action to be taken the service headquarters and ministry would have to show some "spine". Not likely in a scenario when they cannot make a determination on even a date of birth.




Having survived the NATO bombardment for the past three months, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is now under legal pressure. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants against him, his son and his lieutenants for what it calls the "mass murder of his opponents". In other words, the President of Libya ~ who has ruled the country for 41 years ~ has been charged with crimes against his people. Small wonder that the rebels in Benghazi ~ the nerve-centre of the uprising ~ have hailed the verdict as confirmation that Gaddafi is a "war criminal". Given that the ICC does not enjoy police powers to effect the arrest, the objective quite plainly is to ramp up the international pressure and reduce the dictator to a state of  unsplendid isolation. It is a difficult choice for Gaddafi ~ either to cling on to power amidst the increasing onslaught of the Western powers or go into voluntary exile and run the risk of prosecution. It will be difficult too for the dictator to negotiate and wriggle his way out of the crisis now that he has been indicted by The Hague court. Whether or not he and his lieutenants are arrested, the warrants reaffirm that he has lost his legitimacy. The time to leave the rusted throne is now after having defied relentless calls for his resignation since February, the start of the Arab Spring. The ICC order is the logical corollary of the process that had been initiated by the UN in March.
For all that, the ICC does suffer from certain inherent shortcomings. The execution of its orders cannot really inspire optimism. It bears recall that in 2002 both America and Israel had "unsigned" ratification of this treaty-based court. Gaddafi's loyalists are not particularly off the mark when they claim that the ICC is focused on Africa and is generally impervious to "crime committed by NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq". And even within the  Dark Continent, the court has been less than effective. Two arrest warrants have been issued against the President of Sudan on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Yet Omar al-Bashir remains a free man. Subsequent developments in Libya can only be speculated upon; suffice it to register that the ICC order is a moral victory for the people; it is a moral defeat for Muammar Gaddafi no less.








WHILE hearing a PIL petition recently, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the starvation deaths in India, ironically the world's third most powerful country. The judiciary has posed a very stark question ~ how can there be two Indias? ~ one hit by starvation and the other enjoying an excess of  luxuries.
The government has advanced varying figures on poverty. It thus becomes difficult to form an estimate of the approximate number of the poor. Poverty has been defined variously and this has further complicated the matter. In the absence of an appropriate definition, efforts to alleviate poverty cannot be meaningful. Various measures have been adopted by the government to tackle poverty.  Cheap grain, pulses and kerosene through the PDS, rural and urban employment programmes, free education and health facilities have been the key initiatives. The food security legislation is on the anvil. Its objective is to ensure that those below the poverty line can access food at affordable prices.

The Supreme Court has asked the Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, to clarify the basis on which the Planning Commission contends that people below the poverty line constitute only 36 per cent of the population. An expert group, constituted by the Planning Commission under the chairmanship of Prof. Suresh D. Tendulkar, had suggested a different index for the measurement of  poverty. The formula has been notified accordingly.

Before the expert group had advanced its report, the government had claimed in 2004-05 that only 28 per cent of the people were poor. This dropped to only 20 per cent in 2007. The expert group headed by Prof. Tendulkar, suggested a new definition of poverty; the expenditure on health and education has also been included while assessing the phenomenon. This suggestion has  been accepted by the government.

The Supreme Court has questioned what the government regards as an 'improved definition' of poverty. According to Prof. Tendulkar's guidelines, a person can be treated as poor, as on 2004-05, if his monthly income is less than Rs 446.68 in rural areas and Rs 578.80 in urban areas. Considering the data furnished by the Planning Commission, the court questioned the methodology. It has asked the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission how a person will be able to consume 2400 calories in rural areas and 2100 calories in urban areas with less than Rs 20 a day in urban areas and less than Rs 15 a day in rural areas.

It may be noted that as per the basic definition of poverty, intake of 2100 calories in rural areas and 2400 calories in urban areas has been the basis of drawing the poverty line. Going by this parameter, 56 per cent of the population was estimated to be living below the poverty line in 1973-74. Before 1973-74, the poverty line was properly defined. So was the estimation of poverty,  based on the requisite expenditure to attain the desired quantum of calories.

However, the estimation of poverty in 1993-94 and 1999-2000 was devoid of any sense of proportion. Statisticians of the Planning Commission were able to bring down the number of poor by numerical jugglery and a change in the definition of poverty. Critics believe that had the price data been properly used, poverty figures would have been 80 per cent in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas.

If we accept the data presented by the Planning Commission, we will notice that a person with a daily income of Rs 20 or more in urban areas and Rs 15 or more in rural areas will not be called poor. According to the internationally accepted definition of poverty, it is $1.25 a day. If we convert this amount to  rupees, it will work out to Rs 58 per day. This  is lower than what is required for subsistence; it would be useless to identify the poverty line with an amount that is nearly one-third of this figure.

This illustrates a degree of insensitivity on the part of the government towards the poor. No wonder it has not been able to provide for the minimum subsistence cost of living. 

Some time ago, the government constituted a committee for the unorganized sector under the chairmanship of Arjun Sengupta. It reported that more than 77 per cent of the populace make do with less than Rs 20 a day.  It is easy to understand why it is not possible to meet the minimum requirement of a person's food, shelter, health and clothing with so little at his/her disposal. In real terms,  more than 77 per cent of the people cannot even meet their basic needs, whereas poverty measured as per the mathematical method gives a figure of merely 36 per cent. Such varying figures of the poor make the scenario still more complicated. The task of poverty alleviation becomes difficult.

As per data provided by the UN, more than 22 crore are hungry in India. According to a  report of a UK-based research organisation, an estimated 3000 children die of malnutrition each day. This is in accord with the UN data on hunger. Over the past four years, food prices have more than doubled. This has pushed a large number of people below the poverty line.

The Tendulkar report has tried to redefine poverty by including the requisite expenditure on education and health. Even so, it has failed to address the reality. A 'poverty line' that is based on calories can at best be called a 'hunger line'. To make it comprehensive, the government needs to take a realistic view of poverty. If it earnestly intends to implement the right to food, it must correct its assessment of poverty and stop the statistical jugglery. It must call off the crude joke on the poor.

The writer is Associate Professor,PGDAV College, New Delhi






It is amazing how the UPA government is simply unable to get its act together on any issue that concerns the nation. Business dailies are carrying front-page reports of foreign investors preferring Pakistan to India and, more recently, of capital fleeing India for foreign shores once again. Telangana is burning. Kashmir remains unresolved. The North-east is simmering. And, the government and the ruling party are adrift. It now seems that the economic dream is getting rusty too and the unaddressed poverty problem is blunting, as expected, the impact of the  UPA's so-called reforms. Corruption and mafia of all variety call the shots, with mining, real estate, gas exploration all becoming sectors controlled by criminals.

The politician-mafia nexus is robbing the country of its natural resources. All that the government seems to be doing is wrestling with possible legislation instead of implementing the existing laws and taking appropriate action to arrest the guilty and stop the plunder. The government's lack of interest is scary ~ consider how even the 2G scam had been detected and finally acted upon after the media got into the act. It is clear from statements made by senior politicians that they had written to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to alert him to the scams but no action was taken. Instead, the Congress responded by initially hitting out at those accusing it of corruption, until the details became too murky even for the ruling party to put together a defense. Some of the main players are now in jail but many more still remain out of it. And it remains to be seen if the government will move against them.

Telangana is a ripe example of inept Congress handling. The usual reliance on papering over fissures has not worked with the conflagration this time ensuring the resignation of Congress legislators as well. The mass resignation may well come across as political blackmail but the point is that people's representatives in the legislature are under tremendous pressure from their constituents who want a separate state. The Congress is still dithering over Telangana with the Prime Minister and Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi meeting yet again for talks to find a way out. And, given the fact that Telangana is not a state on the border that can be conveniently ignored, the ruling party is being forced to act.

The usual procrastinatory approach is not going to work this time, and it does seem that in the absence of any political effort, the government will have little choice but to move towards dividing Andhra Pradesh into two. The demand clearly cuts across party lines with the high command of the BJP, or for that matter the Telugu Desam, unable to contain their leaders from the Telangana region. The government must realise the importance of Centre-state relations. It must pull out the Sarkaria Commission report and read it carefully to understand and accept the complexities of this relationship. It should also formulate a policy for border states to deal with the North-east and Jammu and Kashmir. It is imperative that the Congress recognises that border states have certain dynamics and sensibilities that need to be specially addressed and if this is not done, popular anger could result in total alienation as has happened in Kashmir and that popular demand for independence could only gather legitimacy.

Unfortunately, the Congress has never respected such sensibilities or has been appreciative of the sensitiveness of the matter in hand. No wonder, it had to stay out of power for so long at the Centre before making a comeback in 2004. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, always considered Congress bastions, have moved completely out of the party's domain with even Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh embracing the Opposition on more than one occasion. The North-east and Jammu and Kashmir are governed by highly authoritarian regimes other than the military and police. Democracy, as we know it in Delhi, does not exist for the people there, who deal with the brutal strength of the state at every turn.

The poor across the country have been victims of state-sponsored deviousness and violence. The Supreme Court, in a remarkable ruling, has declared the Centre and Chhattisgarh government's Salwa Judum initiative as "illegal". It has denounced the use of tribal youth by the state as special police officers (or Salwa Judum or Koya Commanders) declaring their recruitment as illegal and unconstitutional, and has ordered they be disarmed immediately. This ruling vindicates the long campaign by tribals and activists against the ruthless pitting of tribals against tribals, with the poor bearing the brunt of state-sponsored violence. The Supreme Court has also asked for a CBI probe into the violence in three Chhattisgarh villages observing that the state government's "affidavit appears to be nothing more than an attempt at self-justification".
In fact, the Supreme Court seems to be the last surviving institution, with the lower judiciary, the media and, of course, Parliament itself having succumbed to corruption in one form or the other.

Politicians and land mafia have been grabbing rich agricultural property of villagers across the country with many such "acquisitions" going unreported. The struggle of hapless farmers against a system to rob them of their very livelihood is contained through force and promises that are never honoured. The promise or even actual payment of adequate compensation does not persuade those ~ and there are many of them ~ who don't want to sell their land regardless of the quoted price. Sometimes land is wheedled out of unwilling owners by telling them that it is being acquired for a hospital only to be sold to builders at a premium.

The SC has described the Land Acquisition Act as an "engine of oppression" and lambasted the state, which it described as "totally anti-people", for misusing the Act and taking people for a ride. Fortunately, given the fact that courts have powers to haul up anyone for contempt of court, the executive has not been able to attack the judges as much as it would like to.

But no such restraint has been shown in case of another Constitutional body, the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) of India, who has been attacked by no less a person than the Prime Minister of India for allegedly exceeding its brief. Why? Because most of the scams to have brought disgrace to the country in the recent times have come to light through the efforts of the CAG. Its latest expose involves what promises to be a huge petroleum scam involving industrial houses close to the ruling elite. The Congress and the government has claimed that the CAG couldn't hold Press conferences, when in fact it has the authority to do so and has done so in the past. The CAG is being pressured immensely and it is imperative that the Opposition and the media take note of this and protect the institution that has been doing a commendable job despite its limitations.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman






Yingluck Shinawatra will soon emerge as Thailand's first female prime minister. Her election victory clearly indicates that the majority of Thais disapproved of politics à la Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva. The past 30 months under Abhisit's rule were marked by bloody protests and brutal crackdown on demonstrators. Yingluck surely wants to get her priorities right so as to avoid the mistakes made by the previous regime as well as her own brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yingluck's top priority will be to heal the rift in Thai society. She is expected to concentrate on the ongoing reconciliation process. But this focus must not overshadow other equally significant priorities, including the necessity to promote Thailand's role on the international stage. Yingluck will need to exercise her leadership both within and outside the country. It is now time for Thailand to reinvent itself and to regain a deserved global stature. In other words, she urgently needs a new kind of diplomacy.

When Thaksin served as Prime Minister from 2001-2006, Thai diplomacy underwent a series of overhauls. Some of these changes were cosmetic, while others were substantial. Thaksin launched a number of unambiguous foreign policy initiatives. He obviously wanted to conquer the world with his ambitious programmes, ranging from the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), the Ayeyawady-Mekong-Chao Phraya Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), and the conclusion of several free trade agreements.

Inside the walls of the foreign ministry, Thai Ambassadors were appointed as CEOs of their Embassies. They could still sip a glass of champagne under an opulent chandelier, but they also had to perform as the country's salesmen. The overwhelming power in the hands of Thai envoys along with the business-centric diplomacy reflected Thaksin's troubling view of governance. He was accused of exploiting diplomacy to enrich his family business. The soft loans offered to Burma exemplified how foreign policy could be used for accumulating personal wealth, and not national interests.

During the early days of the Abhisit administration, it seemed that the foreign ministry under the leadership of Kasit Piromya, an anti-Thaksin figure, was keen to steer away from the flawed Thaksin system. I was led to believe that the Abhisit regime would recognise the benefit of promoting principles, rather than just pure profit as far as Thai diplomacy was concerned. As it turned out, Thailand under the Abhisit-Kasit axis lost both principles and profits. Diplomacy was this time employed to undermine political opponents. The Preah Vihear issue (temple dispute with Cambodia) was testimony to how diplomacy was hijacked by the narrow interests of Thai power-holders.

This is an opportunity for Yingluck to repair the tainted image of Thai diplomacy. As Yingluck has no prior experience in the field of diplomacy, we are unlikely to see any grandiose foreign policy initiatives under the Pheu Thai government. But this fact does not necessarily prevent Thailand from acting as a responsible nation or a responsible member of regional society.

First, Yingluck could look into rejuvenating the Thai position in Asean. Asean used to serve as a cornerstone of Thai foreign policy. Yet, both the Thaksin and Abhisit regimes paid little attention to this regional organisation. During the Thai chairmanship of Asean (2008-2009), regional affairs were eclipsed by domestic violence in Thailand. The Abhisit government failed to stop the red-shirt protesters from interrupting the Asean summit in Pattaya in April 2009. That embarrassing incident showed the extent to which both sides of the Thai crisis expressed their disrespect for Asean.

Let's assume that the Yingluck administration will complete its full four-year term. She will then witness Asean achieving its community-building goal in 2015. Yingluck is therefore obliged to ensure that Thailand fulfil all the requirements necessary to meet that goal. To strengthen the political and security community, for example, Thailand under Yingluck may want to rebuild a meaningful dialogue with Cambodia on the conflict over Preah Vihear both through bilateral and regional mechanisms.

Yingluck must restore Thai faith in Asean, and in particular, its existing dispute-settlement mechanisms.


Abhisit's insistence on a bilateral approach was surreal. Thailand and Cambodia are not the only two nations in Southeast Asia. Conflict along the Thai-Cambodian border has impacted negatively on the whole region, particularly on regional peace and security.

Indeed, Thai-Cambodian relations have been erratic over the past few years. In 2008, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) politicised the Preah Vihear dispute so as to undermine the Samak Sundaravej government. The PAD stirred up a sense of nationalism to achieve its political objective, at the expense of worsening Thai ties with Cambodia. Kasit then launched a personal crusade to tarnish the dignity of Cambodian Prime Minister Mr Hun Sen. As a result, the Thai-Cambodian relationship has been left in a messy, and somewhat dangerous, state.

Yingluck must mend these ties, bearing in mind the fact that we can choose our friends but not our neighbours. The so-called elitist regime under Abhisit found it hard to be nice to its next door neighbour; perhaps this was a part of playing to the snobbish Thai elite. A responsible nation, however, will not jeopardise foreign relations to satisfy its domestic agenda. Yingluck has two choices here: either being another snobbish elite or a responsible nation that deserves respect from its Cambodian neighbour. the nation/annThe writer, a former diplomat,
is a fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 






The Telangana demand is stuck like a fishbone in the government's throat. It can't be swallowed and it can't be spat out. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is wholly responsible for this problem. It is not only haunting this government but if not addressed effectively, it will continue to haunt future governments.

On 29 November, 2010 it was pointed out in these columns: "After the death of Rajshekhar Reddy, the prevailing political dynastic culture expressed itself as was expected. The late CM's son, Jagan Mohan Reddy, was an elected MP. The sentiment in the Andhra Congress was overwhelmingly in favour of making him the successor. For no convincing reason Mrs Sonia Gandhi resisted that move. Perhaps a younger leader than Rahul Gandhi with the strong support base of one of India's larger states solidly behind him injected envy mixed with insecurity in 10 Janpath… Mrs Gandhi tried to defuse Jagan Mohan's strength by recklessly announcing a separate Telangana state without laying proper ground work for an all India policy change. As a result not only did she create a political mess by destabilising Andhra, the most important Congress bastion in the country, she also alienated the followers of Jagan Mohan Reddy… Events over the past months show that (Jagan Mohan Reddy) has acquired enough strength to create his own mass based party… MLAs will line up to join him… Sonia Gandhi has struck the last nail in the coffin of the Andhra Congress."

After protests mounted in Telangana, the government appointed the Justice Sri Krishna Commission to prepare a report on the feasibility of carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. The report was released last December. It offered six options and no solution. Worse, it contained a secret report within it that categorically opposed the creation of a separate Telangana and urged the government to mobilise the media to oppose a separate Telangana! That secret report too became public. Now the chickens have come home to roost. How can the government extricate itself, and the nation, from this intractable problem? There is only one way it can be done. The government should make an announcement containing the following provisions:
First, the government must state that any change in Andhra cannot be contemplated in isolation from the rest of the country. Decisions cannot be taken on an ad hoc basis as has been done in the past. The government therefore must announce the creation of a second States Reorganisation Commission to address demands for smaller states throughout the country. The commission would have to announce its decisions by the end of a year.

Secondly, the government, in the meantime, must categorically announce that at the end of one year by when the commission's report will be submitted, a separate Telangana state will be constituted. The government should be prepared to make this commitment through a resolution in Parliament.

Thirdly, The government must also allow the proposed commission to determine the future of all major metropolitan capitals including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Patna and the rest. It will in the light of the experience of Chandigarh and Delhi examine the feasibility of declaring all these capitals as city states hosting offices of the new states arising from the bifurcation of the existing states. That should not preclude small states constructing new capitals.

Fourthly, the creation of smaller states will be achieved only within the boundaries of existing states after discussion and consensus among the respective leaders of the states to be bifurcated.  

Doubtless there would be opposition to this proposal from elements in Andhra. But that opposition would be neutralised by the wide support for the proposal from other parts of the country. Apart from Andhra, there are demands for smaller states in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bengal, Gujarat and J&K. These demands are currently dormant and non-violent. Must the authorities respond only after agitations break out one after another causing unnecessary deaths along the way? A measured national policy to reorganise states is overdue. The major metropolitan capitals have acquired a character of their own to justify city states. Smaller states allow more devolution of power. Smaller states would also make the centre more powerful. If the government were to propose an all India approach, much of the resentment in Andhra for being singled out for bifurcation would subside.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonistZ`Z








Mamata Banerjee came to power in West Bengal with a massive mandate for changing things in the state. Her enthusiasm for change is, therefore, a welcome break from the culture of the status quo. It is also something that the state desperately needs in order to rejuvenate itself. But her proposal to change the name of the state is an ill-advised move that does little to help the image of either West Bengal or its new government. Ironically, this is the one move on which Ms Banerjee finds herself on the same wavelength as her bête noire, the state's Marxists. The previous Left Front government too had taken some steps to change the name of the state. The new regime at the Writers' Buildings wants the change for precisely the same reason that prompted the leftists to have a resolution passed in the state assembly for the purpose. The fact that the state's name starts with 'W', proponents of the change argue, puts it at a disadvantage at official meetings. The state's representatives are called upon last to present their cases because of the name. But the last speakers rarely get enough people in the audience or enough of their attention. It may well be something of a practical problem, but not a strong enough reason for seeking as crucial a change as a new name for West Bengal.

The big mistake in the move is that it seeks to unnecessarily tinker with history. The "West" in the state's name carries a burden of history that has been tragic for its people. It is a reminder of the time when it was a unified province. It also carries the historical memory of the painful process that resulted in the partition of the province into an "East" Bengal, the present-day Bangladesh, and a West Bengal. There are also cultural and even geographical distinctions between the two parts of Bengal that are conjured up in the name of West Bengal. Changing the state's name will interfere with all these political and cultural memories, and for no great reason. In fact, West Bengal had long been subjected to its leftist politicians' mindless enthusiasm for changing names of streets, places and even historical memorials. Ms Banerjee should be the last person to emulate the Marxists' example in this. Apart from the argument of history, changing the state's name will force on the government and the people legal and other changes for a whole set of things, big and small. It is a pointless change that Ms Banerjee and West Bengal can do without.






The Union health minister's recent denunciation of homosexuality as being a form of disease betrays a shockingly unhealthy attitude. Apart from being thoroughly unscientific, such a comment assumes a particularly nefarious edge, given that it was made at a national conference to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS. But Ghulam Nabi Azad did not stop there. He went on to bolster his argument by claiming that male homosexuality is foreign to Indian culture and a Western import to the country. Although, as a citizen of a liberal democracy, Mr Azad is entitled to his personal views, backward and ignorant as they may be, he has no right to air them on a public platform as the health minister of the nation. Mr Azad has not only seriously undermined the fight against HIV/AIDS in India but has also tainted the image of an aspiring superpower on the international stage. Going by Mr Azad's logic, the West must be a breeding ground for unnatural practices, and so, best avoided. In the 21st century, with a seat in the United Nations security council and as a major ally of the United States of America — where gay marriage is steadily gaining credence — India, and its citizens, will certainly not wish to be identified with such crassly xenophobic sentiments.

Mr Azad's indiscretion becomes graver still with his call to the nation to expose homosexuals. Such injunctions hark back to some of the darkest periods of human history, when religious, ethnic and sexual minorities were singled out for extermination. Although it is not clear what Mr Azad intends to do with homosexuals, the possibilities are quite terrifying in a country that is yet to decriminalize consensual homosexual relations. Exactly two years ago, the Delhi High Court had struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual sex "against the order of nature" between adults in private. The court found it violating Articles 21 (right to protection of life and personal liberty), Article 14 (right to equality before law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the Constitution. In 2008, the Union minister, Oscar Fernandez, as well as the former health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, had also called for the reading down of this archaic law. Given such progressive precedents, Mr Azad's views call into question his credibility as the health minister of the country.






If the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn collapses, as it now appears, the hapless former head of the International Monetary Fund will be entirely justified in expecting grovelling apologies from everyone — and not least the media — who presumed he was guilty of rape from the moment the charge was levelled against him. True, Strauss-Kahn will not emerge from the controversy looking like a latter-day Dreyfus. Even if he wasn't guilty of rape, there will be many who will view the paid-for-assignation-that-went-wrong as evidence of a moral laxity that makes him unworthy of becoming a future president of France. Strauss-Kahn may not be a rapist but he remains a disagreeable human being.

A month ago, however, it was neither Strauss-Kahn's moral laxity nor the sheer tastelessness of his sexual escapades that were points of contention. The hysteria which accompanied his arrest and first appearance in a New York courtroom was enough to force his resignation from a job that he wasn't bad at. More to the point, the lynch mood that was generated by a media that thrives on the misfortune of celebrities made it difficult for anyone to even strike a cautionary note. The former French minister of culture, Jack Lang, and the philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, were probably the only two public figures of consequence to argue against prejudging Strauss-Kahn. But few were willing to risk the wrath of the lynch mob by even urging restraint. If you were for decency and against beastliness, you just had to take a position against Strauss-Kahn.

Of course, the kangaroo court conviction of Strauss-Kahn isn't unique. Throughout history, the inclination to shout with the mob has proved very detrimental to democratic politics. For faceless private citizens whose views don't resonate beyond the family dining table and, in a contemporary setting, the pages of Facebook, it matters little to be habitually inconsistent or even hold zany conspiracy theories — the Netaji-is-alive brigade. People in public life rarely have that luxury. M.F. Husain got done by seriously underestimating the desire of a tiny minusculity to inject the Semitic notion of blasphemy into the Hindu consciousness. And Nirad Chaudhuri was literally hounded out of India by a vengeful Nehruvian establishment because he dared to suggest that the British Empire had also brought out the best in India.

It is not necessarily the case that those who hold contrarian views are always right or that their ideas smell of roses while the vox populi remain forever the great unwashed. In the 1980s, it was a risky and professionally hazardous business to be supportive of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the social world comprising the readers of Guardian and The New York Times. Yet, both these politicians were electorally near-invincible.

Like most things from history, there isn't a profound lesson from the Strauss-Kahn controversy except the anodyne suggestion that we could all be proven wrong by events. Yet, this is a point that needs to be pressed home periodically for the simple reason that day-to-day political life operates on the premise that truth is absolute and correctness is non-negotiable.

This is particularly true of countries with totalitarian forms of government. The 20th-century experiments with communism had the enthusiastic backing of large numbers of intellectuals anxious to realize the common good. Yet, in many ways, the theological underpinnings of the dictatorship of the proletariat resembled the abstruse religious dogmas that defined European public life (and issues of governance) from the Reformation to the Industrial Revolution. The sustained application of mind over the organization of a communist party was, for example, little different from the passionate concerns over localized and centralized forms of Christian worship among the Protestant sects in the 15th and 16th centuries. What is equally interesting is how both the theologians and the atheist communists believed that they alone had a monopoly of the truth. The spirit of modesty and tentativeness that is so essential for enlightenment and evolution was deliberately snuffed out by religious and secular totalitarianism.

It is disturbing to observe the extent to which intellectual regimentation has become a feature of public life in India. Short of his mummified corpse being given a decent burial, Lenin has little relevance left in the 21st century. What is curious, however, is the persistence of his idea of 'democratic centralism' on political culture.

Most political parties in India, for example, are not built on doctrinal commonality. Although the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party both claim adherence to distinctive ideologies, the claims cannot withstand intellectual scrutiny. How exactly is the Congress, which began life as the broad church for the national movement, going to define its ideology? The conservative, free market orientation of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and C. Rajagopalachari was an essential element of the Congress inheritance, as much as the wishy-washy British socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru and the vengeful centralism practised by Indira Gandhi. These in turn were different from the 'inclusive' growth hogwash of Sonia Gandhi. Do these tendencies taken together constitute a coherent and internally consistent body of beliefs? The Congress is a formidable electoral machine that has evolved over six decades of competitive politics. That is its strength and weakness too. Yet, it persists with the myth that there is something called the Congress ideology that has a drawing power of its own.

It's the same story with the BJP — a party that represents a delicate alliance of social conservatives, Hindu nationalists, free marketers and plain careerists. The BJP claims to be defined by the philosophy of integral humanism. Yet, it is doubtful whether any two BJP members will proffer the same explanation of what they mean by the concept.

The understandable reality that most political parties seem to shy away from acknowledging is that their political positions are not dictated by ideology or even idealism but events and circumstances. Of course, there is a loose mental orientation that shapes attitudes but at times even these are negotiable and dependent on the world-view of the leadership. The gut instincts of the party's foot soldiers are rarely factored in by either the high command or the 'core group' (or, for that matter, even the politburo). In Western democracies, a political party presents a set of policies to the electorate for approval. In India, voters choose either a leader or a party. Policies are left to the discretion and good sense of the party leader. The foot soldiers invariably fall in line, although voters tend to be pickier.

It is this over-dependence on leadership that could explain why inner-party democracy is at a serious discount in Indian political parties. Despite the existence of a rumbustious democracy involving an argumentative citizenry, the political parties end up following a Leninist model of instructions from the top guiding the bottom of the hierarchy. This implies that political workers are encouraged to parrot the 'party line' on all matters and eschew independent thinking. This is not only a departure from the traditions of the nationalist movement — when divergent approaches were the subject of intense public debates — but is also at variance with the pre-Indira Gandhi traditions of the Congress.

Prior to the establishment of Indira Gandhi's imperious style of governance, the Congress leadership was routinely challenged on key policy matters such as cooperative farming, corruption and foreign policy. Congress stalwarts often attacked Nehru mercilessly, and at times assumed the mantle of the parliamentary Opposition. Maybe the ferocity of competitive politics no longer affords that luxury but, as the Strauss-Kahn affair suggested in a very different context, going against the mob still makes for prudent politics.






Taking off on a cloudless and crisp morning from a clean, oxygenated, dignified and proud nation —Bhutan — we landed in the capital of the largest nation within the Saarc conglomerate — New Delhi — only to be enveloped in endless wrongdoings, corrupt practices, inept functionings, crude social behaviour, and intellectually limited comments on the socio-political and economic realities of India that have begun to shame the people. From the moment you step on to Indian soil, everything you encounter is wrong. One is compelled to groan both in deep anger and in profound helplessness.

Mal-administration chokes one's being. From the lazy traffic cop watching every possible 'wrong' happening right under his nose, people blowing their car horns for no apparent reason, men urinating along pavements, to cars breaking road rules with impunity — all leading to the television screens where the horrors of Indian governance inspire seething rage in the viewers. The news reports being published in the media are, more often than not, instances of idiotic and superficial, self-opinionated and lethargic journalism that discredits the profession. Personal frustration and a sense of uncontrollable hysteria dominate the discourse, clearly revealing the political positions of the speaker, and thereby overshadowing what should be transparent in true reportage. Speakers in the so-called 'shows' are shouted down if the anchor does not agree with their political positions. All this comes across the footlights into our living rooms as something rather juvenile and untrustworthy.

Running scared

This morning, the visuals of Rahul Gandhi walking through western Uttar Pradesh were refreshing. Here is a leader doing his job. The voiceover of some apolitical 'reporter' sitting in a comfortable studio in the capital jars as she pronounces that Rahul Gandhi is 'politicizing' the situation. It was laughable but sad because this young woman, along with most of the 'voiceover' types on the small screen, do not comprehend that if you are a professional politician, you have to play politics, not economics. The sad truth is that the political class of India has become one of 'commercial politicos' involved in making deals at almost all levels, in benami partnerships with corporates and their corporations, and has forgotten the real politics of service and transparent, good governance.

Rahul Gandhi has clearly decided to be a political leader. He is 'doing' his brand of politics, and thankfully, he is not playing to the galleries in Delhi or elsewhere. He is neither pontificating nor indulging in well-rehearsed, predictable rhetoric. He is not carrying forward the contagious Congress disease of playing one colleague against another, not indulging in the sinister game of personally motivated ticket distribution, and not instigating the traditional backbiting that has led to the isolation of top leaders from workers in the Congress.

Watching from afar, it is clear that the Congress members are running scared of this no-nonsense, intelligent, honest and committed 'politician' who is designing his own agenda. Are they silently plotting against his plan of action, the future results of which might topple their cart? The neo-elite, privileged Indians from the drawing rooms of Delhi, Mumbai and other urban centres who are familiar with the manipulative tactics and corrupt practices that have governed business and industry, do not want change to happen. They want to maintain the status quo. The selfish attitude of politicians and leaders who have abandoned 'politics' to become 'businessmen' is destroying the Indian polity and forcing it into a mess that could soon implode and damage freedom, liberty and democracy.








The final report of the UN committee investigating last year's flotilla to Gaza has not yet been published. But from portions of the draft reported by Barak Ravid in Haaretz on Wednesday, it is clear that the committee, headed by Geoffrey Palmer, is not dealing solely with the dry facts. The committee is trying to present an "effective" truth - one meant not to hang the guilty parties, whoever they may be, but to help Turkey and Israel restore their relationship.

Turkey and Israel reportedly received similar doses of blame and justification. Israel used excessive force, the draft says, while Turkey did not do enough to prevent the flotilla. Israel was entitled to intercept the flotilla far from its borders, but the report recommends that it express regret over the tragic result: the killing of nine Turkish nationals.

Those seeking to justify themselves, both in Israel and in Turkey, will presumably find everything they desire in the report. Its wording will very likely give considerable leeway to anyone who wants to interpret it as support for the justice of his position or legitimization of his actions. But the very attempt to seek justification, or to treat the report as an indictment, contains a dangerous potential for further deterioration in the two countries' relationship, which has recently put forth new shoots.

Israel and Turkey, it seems, have thoroughly grasped the extent of the damage the flotilla caused them both, and Israel would do well to apply the lessons learned from this incident in its handling of the peace activists now seeking to arrive by air. At the same time, the challenges facing both states in light of the upheavals in the region, the understanding that their cooperation has importance far beyond tourism ties or sales of military equipment, and the historic ties that have provided a solid foundation for their relationship are all far more important than the flotilla affair.

Thus with or without the report, it is vital for both sides to make another effort and stretch their creativity a little further to reach an agreement over the questions of an apology, responsibility and compensation. That is the only way to ensure that the report brings an end to the flotilla affair rather than causing its toxic resurrection.







I'm puzzled by the shocked and outraged reactions to the refusal of rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef to show up for interrogation, to the demonstrations in support of them, and to their fundamental claim that the law of the Torah is above the law of the state. Statements by politicians and writers along the lines of "no one is above the law" or "dina demalchuta dina" - a Talmudic acknowledgment of the civil government's authority - are completely fallacious.

The civil state of Israel, through its secular leaders and politicians, has, ever since the day it was founded, willingly ceded its sovereign authority over numerous matters to the religious establishment. Israel enacted laws granting the exclusive authority to rule on issues of marriage and divorce, conversion and religious education to the religious establishment. The state thus gave up its right to decide who can convert to Judaism and which rabbis can perform conversions, its right to enable a couple to marry or end a marriage, and in effect, its right to have control over its population registry, as well as its right to determine the curriculum its young people will study.

The state is indeed permitted to delegate authority and to decide that a certain agency should take charge of a given issue on its behalf. But the legislative and judicial status accorded to the religious establishment is not the same as that of civil agencies that have received such authority.

The army, for example, has a great deal of authority that was granted it by the state, but it is still obliged to follow the state's laws, even within the framework of its own internal laws. The religious establishment, in contrast, received permission to follow other laws - namely, halakha, or Jewish religious law. In other words, the state exempted the religious establishment from following the state's laws.

Moreover, the army is part of the executive branch and is subordinate to the government. The rabbinical courts, however, enjoy the status of any other court, and as part of the judicial branch, they remain independent, free to issue rulings that differ from the laws of the state.

From the moment the state established the principle that there are areas of life of which it has washed its hands, and over which it has transferred sovereignty to the rabbis, it was only natural that the latter would want to expand their control in accordance with their own principles. From the moment the option of rabbinical rule was inscribed in Israel's law books and exists in reality, there is nothing that prevents them from negotiating over additional areas of control. The desire to expand one's power is a well-known human male characteristic, especially at a time when this is the cultural and economic ideal.

Indeed, the rabbis have achieved a great deal in their negotiations: a sweeping exemption from service in the Israel Defense Forces, state funding of Torah study, and what amounts to exclusive control over Jewish burials and kashrut certification. The law that separated the various school systems did not merely deprive the state of its ability to determine the curriculum in religious schools, but also effectively laid the groundwork for the separation that exists today - whether by gender, as on the buses, or by ethnic origin, as in the schools in the settlement of Immanuel. Moreover, the mere authorization of religious sovereignty over civil matters automatically deprives both women and those defined as gentiles - citizens and enemies alike - of their basic rights.

The secular, civil system is far from perfect. There is discrimination against women and exclusion of Arabs and oppression of the other. But in the secular system, all this is against the law - which, at least in principle, espouses equality and strives to achieve it. In the secular, civil system, one can work to try to change the situation.

Religion, on the other hand, does not recognize equality, quite the contrary: For religion, distortions and discrimination against women and gentiles are part of the law. They are part of what defines the religion and its beliefs.

In principle, the Knesset is still sovereign. This means that it could, by ordinary majority vote - a special majority is not even needed - change these laws and restore its own authority to decide on all these matters. It could instantly change the nature of the battle over the character of the Jewish state such that it could also be democratic. All that is needed is a leader, a man or a woman with vision, who will actually do so.








Two central points were missed during the public debate about the Rabbi Dov Lior affair, which focused on the secondary question of whether it is appropriate to investigate a rabbi for remarks he made condoning "words of Torah." My response is no, it is not. If there is room for a criminal proceeding it must concentrate on the writers of the book Torat Hamelech. Nevertheless it is annoying that all those who are railing against the "crossing of lines" in the arrest of the rabbi, did not bother to protest at all, at least with the same fervor, the contents of those above mentioned "words of Torah." Ultimately we are referring to enthusiastic agreement with a book that draws a fine line between the value of the life of a Jew and the value of the life of a "gentile" - a book which expresses points of view according to which, during a war, it is possible to kill even babies in situations in which it is "clear that they will grow up to harm us."

The time has come when, in the religious community itself, there should be a central moral criterion for judging words of Torah. A person can be familiar with the casuistry of halakha (Jewish law ) more than anyone else, but if his conclusion leads to a racist position, and how much more so to halakhic instructions that permit the shedding of the blood of gentiles, his theory must be rejected out of hand. After all, when Muslim clerics base a call to kill Jews on their religion, and Christian clerics base a call to continue to humiliate the Jewish people on principles of Christianity, it would be inconceivable for a religious Jew to defend their "freedom of religion."

On the other hand, the wrath that secular public figures have displayed toward the religious Zionist movement's outspoken criticism of the state and its laws, from the days of the "Jewish underground" until the present, also misses a deep and central aspect of the issue. The relations between the religious Zionists and the secular elite of Israel are a complicated saga which apparently can be correctly described only by a writer who has psychological insight. This is a clear case of a love-hate relationship between father and son, or between teacher and pupil.

The labor movement had no admirers as loyal as those of the religious Zionist movement. They studied its history eagerly, sang its songs and even wore the same clothes. There is a minority group among the: the students of the Merkaz Harav yeshiva and their successors, which has imparted a significant addition: a dialectical continuation of the labor movement. The secular pioneers were good for the first stage of the redemption, but with the advent of the crisis of the Yom Kippur War it was "proven" that their might had faltered and that it was necessary to advance to the religious stage of the vision.

The tragedy is that the majority of the religious Zionists, even the majority of the religious settlers, were not moved to action by this concept of redemption. What motivated them were the national values they had absorbed in their studies of the labor movement. Moreover, since this nationalism was basically humanistic, they too had humanistic outlooks, and certainly not the kind that makes a moral distinction between murdering a gentile and murdering a Jew.

However, the all-embracing way in which the secular elite identified members of the religious Zionist movement with the messianic-redemptive minority created the tragedy of a self-fulfilling prophesy. When the knitted skullcap-wearers encountered hostility, for example, in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, or when they had to contend with widespread suspicions when they wanted to obtain senior positions in the establishment because they were identified with that minority in their sector, this began eroding their emotional readiness to confront their brethren. With time, and particularly with the next generation, they began gradually identifying more and more with the hated minority. So members of the secular minority can say: We told you that they were all dark extremists - without taking into account to what extent their own positions contributed toward this identification.







Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, and his philosophy along with him. Nobody has had so many presumed heirs: Who hasn't donned his mantle only to remove it at the first opportunity and toss it by the wayside? Who hasn't remained loyal to him only to betray that loyalty out of fear and self interest?

Murdered and buried, at least six feet under. Even a criminal gunned down in an underworld vendetta merits a more serious investigation. Although the gunman was tried and imprisoned, those who supported him are walking around free and self-satisfied among us, and are continuing to cause harm as they did in the past. Having replaced Rabin, they are being fruitful and multiplying and inheriting the land.

Now rabbis are being summoned for futile interrogations. Back then they were not interrogated properly. Nobody ever found out what was said in talks between them and the murderer - what they allowed the scoundrel to do in the name of the Torah.

And what was the lethal influence of politicians, who walked behind his casket when he was still alive; who heard the voice of the people in their enthusiasm, tearing him to shreds in the city square, in SS uniform. They all joined forces at the time to bring an end to the events of 1994-1995, to consign them to oblivion, and even the Shin Bet security services and the police poured dirt over the ground to cover his blood. Rabin is today the deadest of dead men - his memory forgotten.

In late 1998 the subcommittee on intelligence and security services received a report about "the rabbis' activity in connection with Rabin's murder." That is how it appeared on the agenda, at my request. The committee was told, among other things, that already in January, 1995 rabbis from the committee of rabbis of Judea, Samaria and Gaza wrote to 30 of the leading rabbis in Israel and the United States and asked them: Does the law of "rodef" and "moser" (a Jew who betrays and endangers other Jews ) apply to the prime minister? The Shin Bet stammered and couldn't say whether replies were received and what their contents were. No contact was made at the time with the questioners and the respondents, in order to deter them from this sick preoccupation with dangerous halakhic decisions calling for murderers.

Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir met with additional rabbis - times and names were placed on the committee's desk - but the files were actually empty and closed. No real investigations began before the murder, nor afterwards. The Shin Bet did not fail in its role - it betrayed it. To this day, more is hidden than known.

The time has come to investigate. Most of those involved have resumed their evil ways - if they ever abandoned them - and sin lies at their doorstep. If we had a spirit of national conciliation now, as in post-apartheid South Africa, it would have been possible to continue licking our wounds without opening them. But an ill wind is blowing, which must be eliminated before it sweeps up everything in its path and leaves behind a wasteland.

If the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin decided to investigate the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff after 40 years to settle past accounts, then the murder of Rabin must be investigated after only 16 years because of future accounts. And if the ship Altalena is now being dredged up from the depths, then the three- bullet pistol also has to be brought up from the depths. Can not only a cannon but a pistol become sacred?

Recently the remains of Chile's late elected President Salvador Allende were exhumed, in order to examine them: Did he commit suicide 38 years ago, as was officially claimed, or did Augusto Pinochet's soldiers murder him on the general's orders? The circumstances of the death of poet Pablo Neruda will also be investigated there once again: Was he poisoned or did he die of cancer? Chile wants to know. Does Israel?

We should open Rabin's grave, where the conspiracy woven against him by his internal enemies was buried. He didn't die in his bed from an illness, nor did he commit suicide. The country was very sick, and hasn't been able to recover since then - its fever is only rising, it is bleeding. And any attempt to make peace in its name is like an act of suicide.







Revolutions are taking place in our region, corrupt regimes are collapsing, people are fighting for freedom of choice and expression, and in Syria blood is still being spilled. And in Israel, Twitter and Facebook, which spurred millions to fight against corrupt regimes, have managed to slightly lower the price of cottage cheese. It all started with a young father named Yitzhak Elrov, a cantor from the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, who called on consumers to boycott cottage cheese until the price was lowered.

The public response is surprising because it was a declaration of war by the average citizen against several families that dominate the economy and dictate the taste and price of products. What the government didn't do - have you heard of the collusion between government and business? - the people are doing. They stopped buying the products until the wealthy businessmen, who saw their products spoiling on the shelves, surrendered. As Gen. Evelyn Barker, commander of the British forces in Mandatory Palestine, said: "We will be punishing the Jews ... by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt of them." He didn't imagine that a Jew could strike at another Jew's pocket, too.

Where are the people - who know how to rise up when it comes to their pockets and bellies - when it comes to the cottage cheese of our existence and future? Where are they when for the first time doubts are being heard around the world about the justice of our very existence as a Jewish state? What else has to happen to make Israelis, who were so determined in the battle over one food product, express their exasperation at stagnation without peace that is leading us to the UN General Assembly, which is preparing a surprise for us that we'll have a hard time swallowing?

Suddenly, after 62 years, more and more countries are wondering if there is justification for our existence here as a Jewish state. The people working against us include Jews, young Americans, full of criticism about our behavior. What was good during the days of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (not doing or initiating anything ) is now fatal stagnation.

A political observer described the Israeli mood as "the cafe syndrome," which has always typified us: If terror attacks are taking place in cafes, we won't initiate negotiations with terrorists. But if there are no terror attacks, why should we talk to terrorists?

The government is not giving us the feeling that there must be a peace initiative no matter what. It's not giving us the feeling that its decisions are being weighed thoroughly and intelligently. Take for example the government that "decides" to return the bodies of 84 terrorists to the Palestinian Authority, and two days later decides to cancel the gesture. Why did this happen? Because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled, claiming that there are bodies of Hamas terrorists there, or that it's not good for public relations as far as freeing captive soldier Gilad Shalit is concerned. If our judgment can be so unsophisticated in this case, what kind of judgment do we have when it comes to living people?

The time has come for us to ask ourselves a number of questions about our way of thinking. For example, do we really have to remain in the Jordan Valley? Should we post someone there to warn us when an Iranian nuclear missile is on its way? Or for example, are the 1967 borders, which we reject so angrily when proposed as the basis for an agreement, really "Auschwitz borders," as Abba Eban once said? Didn't we achieve our greatest military victory setting out from the 1967 borders? Is there really a demographic danger? If we say there isn't, would it be so terrible if we absorbed a few Palestinian refugees?

Is our demand to be recognized as the state of the Jewish people really so important? After all, the Jews became a nation in the 13th century BCE, when Moses brought them to the Land of Canaan. The First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the Second Temple in 70 CE. Had anyone heard the name Palestine at the time? Was a Palestinian state even mentioned in the 1947 UN partition plan? Our demand to be recognized as Jews is a joke.

The more time passes the more blatant is the distance and alienation between the Israeli public and its leaders, ministers and millionaires. Most people don't feel we have a collective responsible adult who is leading us to peace. The ultra-Orthodox and the extremists are the ones actually deciding on the policy of the State of Israel.

Where is the political cottage cheese revolution that will finally shelve the dream of Greater Israel?







With representatives of the Quartet scheduled to meet this coming Monday, and amid growing confusion over how the international community should respond to the Palestinian bid for United Nations recognition, it is high time to dispel some basic misconceptions about September.

First, the UN will not vote on recognition of a Palestinian state. The reason is simple: It can't. According to international law, only states can recognize other states. The UN, by contrast, is an international organization and is therefore not mandated to grant official recognition to states.

Second, the Palestinians are unlikely to declare their independence any time soon. The Palestinians have flatly, if not always loudly, stated they have no intention of declaring a state absent a final-status agreement. Here is what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Al Jazeera in January: "There is no option to declare a Palestinian state." Pressed to explain his position, Abbas added: "A Palestinian state will be established only with an agreement from Israel."

(The Palestinian reluctance to declare a state absent a comprehensive agreement with Israel is long established, and stems from the concern that, once such a state is established, all issues that remain unresolved would lose their moral and political urgency. )

Third, while it is possible for the Palestinians to seek full membership in the UN, it is hard to see how they could do so without first declaring, implicitly or explicitly, statehood (which, as noted, they are loathe to do ). This is because while states need not necessarily be members of the UN - classic examples are Taiwan today or Switzerland until 2002 - only states can become full members of the organization.

This point does not seem to be fully appreciated by the Palestinians themselves, who repeatedly affirm their intention to apply for membership even as they seek to avoid a full-fledged declaration of independence. Here again is Abbas in an op-ed he published in The New York Times in May: "[T]his September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request ... that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations."

It is hard to see how the Palestinians will reconcile these contradictory impulses, but even if they do, Palestine's admission as a full member of the UN is unlikely. This is because for the UN to admit a state, the Security Council would have to make such recommendation to the General Assembly, and the United States would most probably exercise its veto power to prevent the Security Council from doing that.

To recap: It's impossible for the UN to recognize Palestinian statehood; it's possible yet improbable that the Palestinians will declare their independence; it's impossible for the UN to admit Palestine as a full member without the Palestinians first declaring their independence; and it's possible yet improbable that Palestine will be admitted to the UN even if the Palestinians do declare a state.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that already, back in November 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization proclaimed "the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem." Yet the current campaign for UN recognition does not derive its legitimacy from that resolution, and the exact form the Palestinian UN initiative will take, or what it will be designed to achieve, therefore, remains far from obvious. This is, not surprisingly, the reason that a growing number of Palestinian figures, including Salam Fayyad, are beginning to voice their discomfort about the whole idea.

None of this is to suggest, however, that a UN resolution can't necessarily be significant, or that the international community should try to dissuade the Palestinians from taking their case to the UN. But the thinking must be constructive and forward-looking, not merely symbolic or declaratory.

Several possibilities have recently been floated, including a General Assembly resolution to revise resolution 181 (the historic partition plan of November 1947 that called for the establishment of two states - one Jewish, one Arab - in British Mandatory Palestine ), and a Security Council resolution to replace resolution 242 as the reference point for any future settlement with a detailed and concrete plan that reflects the progress that has been made in various peace-making efforts since 1967.

To this end, the Quartet should take the lead when it meets in Washington this Monday by beginning work on a UN resolution that would lay out the parameters for a permanent settlement of the conflict; set a time limit - say, of one year - to the conclusion of negotiations; outline a series of actions that the international community will take upon itself to support the process (including the formation of a multinational force that will be part of any peace deal, and the establishment of an international fund for compensating the Palestinian refugees ); and finally, spell out what the international community will be ready to do should the parties fail to reach an agreement within the specified period.

The international community should do its utmost to spare the Palestinians an awkward (and potentially explosive ) letdown at the UN this September. What October will have in store for us will largely be determined by the approach the Quartet begins developing next week.

Yonatan Touval is a foreign policy analyst based in Tel Aviv.







The process of Jewish property restitution in Lithuania has dragged on for a decade now. Late last month, however, the Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament, voted 82 to seven (with 16 abstentions ) to approve a bill for compensation for communal property stolen during the Holocaust. This is good news, to be sure, but in my opinion, it is also too little too late.

Why did it take 10 years for Lithuanians to agree on the terms of restitution, and why was the amount to be distributed so low - roughly $53 million to be paid out over the next decade - when the property in question was estimated three years ago to be worth $155 million?

The natural tendency, perhaps, might be to blame the goyim: in this case, those Lithuanian "anti-Semites." However, at least some of the responsibility must be placed at the door of the World Jewish Restitution Organization and its representative for negotiations with the Lithuanian government, Rabbi Andrew Baker, an official with the American Jewish Committee.

The WJRO was established in 1992 to work for the restitution of Jewish-owned property in Europe lost or looted in the Holocaust. But restitution WJRO-style doesn't always work. It didn't work in Poland, where the government recently announced it planned to discontinue attempts to pass a restitution bill, and it hasn't worked in Latvia, where an attempt to pass a similar bill failed. And now we have Lithuania, where the Jewish community is less than happy with the results.

In no way meaning to simplify a complex problem, the explanation is simple: It takes two to tango. And in Lithuania, the WJRO let successive governments dance alone - for 10 years - while never seriously engaging in a real process of dialogue. Former Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, for example, told me recently that "the attitude toward us was surprisingly and unexpectedly aggressive, hostile ... We were open for talks. But Rabbi Baker demanded that we present the [proposed] bill to the Seimas even though a lot of information was still missing."

In one case, in 2005, when the Lithuanians quite reasonably asked the WJRO to submit documentation proving that the 1,500 buildings that it was claiming in the name of the Jewish community indeed belonged to the pre-war Jewish religious communities, its request was not addressed for years. Instead, the WJRO criticized the government harshly for, in its words, not doing enough to expedite matters. Is it any surprise that, in the end, only 108 buildings were approved for compensation?

Instead of real negotiations, the WJRO and American representatives preferred to employ a method one could describe as "squeeze the lemon," wherein the "lemon" in this case was Lithuania, which the WJRO seemed to regard as a nation where anyone can be bribed or threatened into submission.

At another time, a former adviser to Kirkilas told me he and his colleagues were threatened that they would be denied entry to the United States if the Lithuanian government continued to avoid a settlement. Not surprisingly, the so-called negotiations broke down.

When World War II ended, some 20,000 Lithuanian Jews had survived, out of a prewar Jewish population of 220,000. Large numbers left the country during the 1970s and then again in the '90s; today there are only some 5,000 registered Jews in Lithuania. After the country regained independence, in 1991, all citizens, including Jews, had four years to apply for restitution of private property - a deadline that was later extended to 2001. Hence, the most recent round of negotiations has concerned only communal property.

The Goodwill Law of Compensation for Jewish Religious Property that finally passed on June 21 was the initiative of the coalition government of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, who was making good on a personal promise made while the Conservative party was in opposition. Kubilius followed through in spite of polls showing that 58 percent of the public was opposed to restitution, as well as the serious economic crisis faced by the country.

From beginning to end, there was a stubborn unwillingness on the part of both the WJRO and the AJC to turn to a local Jewish partner that was more representative of the diversity and strength of the Jewish community than the organization they worked with, the Associated Lithuanian Jewish Community, an umbrella group of five smaller organizations. Additionally, they insisted that the only body that could take receipt of compensation funds was the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage Foundation, an ad hoc body composed of six members from the WJRO, and six from the ALJC. This foundation was formed in secret, and its bylaws - in the opinion of the Lithuanian Department of Justice - were not sufficiently transparent. (The recently passed bill requires the creation of a new foundation. )

Strangely, the American Jewish organizations never even raised the possibility of reopening the subject of compensation for expropriated nonreligious communal and private property. The Jewish community in Lithuania before the war operated kindergartens, schools, hospitals, orphanages, clubs, theaters, political parties, youth organizations, etc. Nobody during these negotiations claimed even a dime for all this lost property. And, by some estimates, the value of private property belonging to individuals alone could easily have reached $400 million.

But the biggest mistake made by the American Jewish Committee and the WJRO was that, once the international economic crisis hit, they continued pressing for a quick end to the compensation process, instead of asking to postpone the process for two years. The government would have been open to such a suggestion, and the delay would have allowed for the possibility of discussing a larger and more reasonable level of compensation.

The question of restitution is about more than money. But in the case of the WJRO and Lithuania, the arrogant behavior of those representing world Jewry not only allowed the Lithuanian government to get off cheaply, but left those within the Jewish community feeling that justice had not been served.


Arkadijus Vinokur was until recently the public consultant to the Lithuanian prime minister responsible for Jewish property restitution issues. The opinions expressed herein are his alone.








The ecstatic followers who hoisted Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef on their shoulders upon their release from police questioning over possible incitement were not anarchists denying the rule of law, but a passionate group of citizens rejecting the legal culture of the state in favor of a different legal culture.

They may have been acting out their rage because their leaders, in their eyes, had been publicly humiliated, but their decision to march on the High Court - rather than, say, the Knesset, which passes the laws the police were attempting to enforce - expressed a more ominous message: that the supreme arbiters of state authority have no right to challenge the rabbis or their worldview. That Israel's judicial system is not mistaken, but evil. It is humiliating to be arrested by the police, but most citizens, unlike Rabbis Lior and Yosef, would not ignore a police summons for months, or claim that they do not have to answer to civil authorities. Unfortunately, other leading rabbis took offense at the detention and questioning of one of their own, and claimed that it "trampled" the Torah itself.

The notion that rabbis are the embodiment of Torah is difficult for those of us outside the Orthodox bubble to grasp. But we can get an idea of the cultural chasm symbolized by this perceived insult by recalling the trigger for the fracas: Rabbis Lior and Yosef's endorsements of an abhorrent tract, "The King's Torah."

Many of the same rabbinic colleagues who rallied to their side had already repudiated the book, and one might have expected at least the ones employed by the state to use the opportunity to renounce the offensive text again (which some did ), but also to publicly support the state's courts and its officers (which they did not ).

Brit Hoshech Legaresh - a coalition including Israeli Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular organizations - took a different tack, publishing ads in leading Israeli newspapers this week, exposing "The King's Torah"'s most objectionable passages. They wanted a broad readership, including the religious Zionist community, to understand the gravity of what some citizens might be contemplating.

These quotations describe circumstances in which killing of non-Jews is supposedly permitted by Jewish law: " ... every place the presence of a non-Jew endangers a Jewish life - it is permitted to kill him (even if he is one of the righteous among the gentiles and bears no guilt for the situation that had been created )." Most bizarrely, the book shares the opinion that when it is certain that children or infants are being raised with the objective of harming Jews, it would be doing them a favor to kill them to prevent them from growing up into evil adults.

It's only possible to imagine Jews engaging in this kind of theorizing when we were the powerless victims of violence by our non-Jewish neighbors, often with the sanction of state or church; in other words, when we were incapable of acting on such revenge fantasies. In our world - clearly not the same as the author's - in which we have both power and responsibility, attempting to make such determinations would be abhorrent even as a thought experiment.

Most of the religious Zionist world rejected "The King's Torah" as halakhically indefensible, morally repellent or both. Some rabbis sought to repress the book, fearing fools who would take it as a pretext for violent action. Since the author of "The King's Torah" refers readers to another book, one extolling Baruch Goldstein, we can assume Palestinians would be the likely target.

Despite his extreme anti-Arab pronouncements over the years, Rabbi Lior remains a widely respected leader within the religious Zionist community. He has not been charged with a crime and he did not write "The King's Torah." But his endorsement was not a publicity blurb, it was a heksher - the necessary seal of approval for a Torah commentary to be disseminated and taken seriously. We might debate the free speech aspects of the case, but it is clear why the police would want to investigate him for incitement.

But if Rabbi Lior and his followers' excesses might be dangerous, equally worrisome is how their targeting the judiciary and prosecutors' office dovetails with the agenda of our current government.

"We will continue to grow until the day that we will be the majority in the state," promised Knesset member Yaakov Katz, of the National Union, after the rally for the rabbis. "We will pass legislation to use to investigate everyone who transgressed in the name of the High Court and state prosecutor's clique." Like the rabbis' followers, Katz and company want to weaken the Supreme Court and the State Prosecutor's Office. The latter have become Israeli democracy's institutions of last resort to counter attempts to ride roughshod over Palestinian rights and land claims, and to occasionally block illegal settler activity. While the protesters see the court as evil because the law it upholds is not rooted in their interpretation of Torah, Katz promises to prosecute anyone who dares to challenge settlement building or settlers themselves. It is not hard to picture visions of show trials flitting through his mind.

But Katz is not alone. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also wants to weaken the Supreme Court, to eliminate legal encumbrances to settlement expansion, and to concentrate more power in his own office. This confluence between our government's short-term political agenda and the worldview of anti-democratic fanatics is the most threatening turn of this week's political wheel.


Don Futterman is program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation which supports Yod Bet B'Heshvan, a founding member of the Brit Hoshech Legaresh coalition against racism and political violence in Israel.







After meeting with new Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek on Thursday, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, spoke in a hopeful way to end the oath crisis blocking parliamentary politics since the June 12 elections.

He said Çiçek told him he would contribute to the solution of the problem of elected deputies who are under arrest by bringing the spokesmen of the political parties in Parliament together to find a formula. "I said it when President Abdullah Gül had asked, too," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "If it can be done, the process will be sped up."

The process he was talking about is the CHP taking the parliamentary oath to be able to take part in the legislative work, which they have been refraining from in protest of court rulings that are keeping eight elected deputies (two of them CHP members) in jail and thus unable to take the oath. Kılıçdaroğlu has asked Prime Minister Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, to change the laws that allow for arrest periods to be extended up to 10 years under a vague description of terrorism crimes.

The winds of escalated tension had dropped on Wednesday when Erdoğan had described one of his party spokesman Mustafa Elitaş's words giving the CHP a deadline for taking the oath by July 15 or face the possibility of being expelled from Parliament as "a slip of tongue."

Erdoğan told his deputies in a closed meeting on Thursday that the CHP should come to Parliament and work. In the first days of the crisis he had said that the Parliament could work without the CHP and it would not make any difference for him.

Çiçek said yesterday after his meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu that, he was sure that a solution will be found in the Parliament. Yesterday he also met with two deputies from the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, as well, who has five elected deputies in jail as arrested for nearly two years. He had addressed the Parliament in his first speech that writing a new and truly democratic constitution and the Kurdish problem should have priority.

The truth is that both Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu have seen that this game will have no winners; but a lot of losers, including themselves. So an honorable exit for the CHP is a face-saving exit for the AK Parti as well.

One must also say that Erdoğan made the right choice by letting Cemil Çiçek be elected as Parliament speaker. With his moderate and open to dialogue attitude Çiçek managed to cool down the crisis as his first task in his office.

It seems that upon Çiçek's initiative the oath crisis is likely to be solved by the beginning of the summer recess of the Parliament, probably on July 15 after the expected vote of confidence for Erdoğan's new Cabinet.







The tall, ever-angry, bald and bold man who just got his absolute ruler mandate reaffirmed by the nation declared in all confidence, "They will have to swallow what they said… or, they will have to face the consequences!" The message was clear, yet, the absolute ruler allowed one of his many deputy parliamentary group chairmen of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to deliver an even clearer message to the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and of course to the independents or Kurdish deputies, boycotting Parliament and instead meeting in Diyarbakır as if there was an alternate Parliament there…

"If they do not attend five consecutive parliamentary sessions, then Parliament may vote to terminate their parliamentarian status and decide for by-elections to fill the vacated seats," said Mustafa Elitaş. "They have until July 15 to deliver the oath and engage fully in works of Parliament, else…" As the stick was "adequately" shown, a while later the absolute ruler made a correction: "Elitaş made an unfortunate slip of the tongue…"

I was talking with two types of personalities: some of them have outstanding prominence in social democratic political circles irrespective of whether they are in the administration of a party or not while the others are newcomers in politics presently occupying key posts in Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's "new" CHP. When the CHP leadership decided to enter Parliament – but not to take the oath – there was some serious disagreement in the party over that "adventurist" approach "that contradicted with the traditions of the founding party of the Republic." Yet early in the morning as Parliament convened for the oath-taking session, a senior politician from the AKP let the cat out of the bag (he was unaware of the presence of a new CHP deputy) and told other AKP deputies there that not only Mustafa Balbay and Professor Mehmet Haberal – the two CHP deputies in prison in the Ergenekon thriller – would stay there; work was underway to send to prison three more CHP deputies after they deliver their parliamentary oath…

That was why the story of the "yellow cow" was remembered all of a sudden by the CHP deputies, with the fear that if they do not stand firm with the imprisoned two deputies like other cows that eventually fell prey to lions, they will be hunted by the politically manipulated judiciary… The "They will swallow what they said" or blackmail from the top AKP figures, which has been helping the AKP to further consolidate its parliamentary strength, indeed helped Kılıçdaroğlu to win the loyalty of the CHP deputies and the party organization. The "these are the times to have consolidated solidarity" feeling dashed the hopes of former leader Deniz Baykal and former kingmaker Önder Sav to cut Kılıçdaroğlu down to size through an extraordinary party convention in which they could send their supporters to the CHP party assembly. Baykal and Sav had to call off their effort to convene a party convention to examine the electoral failure. Thus, the entire CHP was "compelled" to unite around Kılıçdaroğlu and support the oath-boycott decision.

With the CHP continuing to defy calls to give up its oath boycott, the independents boycotting Parliament and the separatist gang threatening to turn Turkey into a fireplace unless the government takes some action on the Kurdish issue, the ruling AKP has reluctantly started hinting that there might indeed be a way out… What and how? Newly-elected Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek stepped in and met with representatives of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, of the "independents" and some senior social democrats and pledged to help find a resolution…

The meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu was a step in the right direction by Çiçek in both resolving the boycott crisis and also in cutting out for himself a much-needed and very honorable "crisis shooter" image.







There are various points of view when watching football, you know. There are different branches of football commentary… There are analytical geometricians who read formations and have an ultrasound scan of the game. The data collectors can play five on two with statistical figures. The bookies are the biggest score-lovers; they make love to the results. Those representing social sciences look to see the social phenomena of football. Folklorists and those who are doing

"Kârhanede Romantizm" (Romanticism in the House of Profit) fall into the aspects of football as if reading a story.

Now we have a detective novel in front of us. Well, you know, a good detective novel is good literature. "There is this feature of football also!"

It was not unknown to us that match fixing, manipulation, mafia-like ties and a mixed bag of crime fiction were also included in football. Even we, the naïve, were aware of those secrets that everybody knew. As for some, they almost believed it as if the essence of the trade was this. They have "fixed" a player, they have tied this match, they have arranged that referee… They speak of this as if it were precise data and consider the game on the field as a formality to these swindles. Today is a holiday for them. The football scene has been cordoned off by the CSI team's yellow tape.

But this entangled web cannot be solved by those who believe that every game was truly manipulated match and by those blunt conspiracy theorists. Because they reckon that all this is natural. They have this attitude of "It is very dangerous to play games with Fenerbahçe." Even those who are not Fener fans are similar. (They know very well, for example, that thanks to a dry season for the other "biggies," there were few incidents.) With the knowledge that nobody is in a position to throw the first stone, a "balance" is kept.

What the conspiracy-minded cannot see while looking from the inside may be better noticed by the folklorist-romantic view. It's just that these patriarchal forms of addresses, these "my presidents," the chat of the inhabitants at the protocol tribune say plenty to us. Not only spooky businesses, but everything, yes everything, is managed far away from transparency and within such shallow relations… If we look with these glasses, we can notice how the football world is protected by extraordinary privileges from legal, financial and other aspects. If it is really going to change, if it is really "never again," it can only happen with a change in the culture of power. How nice it would be if it helps the comprehension of this a bit.

This investigation unavoidably reminds one of Susurluk and Ergenekon. It nourishes the hope that the "dark" relations in the football world will be cracked down instead of being circumvented with a scary silence and that irregular power structures will be overthrown (or at least injured). Together with the concerns of the Susurluk and Ergenekon investigations… Will a concrete result be reached or will it be stretched? Will the exposition of concrete cases help the exposition of a mentality?

Also, let us not forget the connection of the network of manipulation in football directly with the power relationships whose types were seen in Susurluk and Ergenekon. There is an Ergenekon tie too, not metaphorically, but "directly." Exactly for this reason, to be able to settle accounts in "this business," it is necessary to fully come to terms with that ominous Switzerland match scandal in 2005. Our "Carthage must fall" is this.

In this country, to imagine, or even only to talk about the relegation of Fenerbahçe is more fantastic than the idea of connecting the General Staff to the Defense Ministry.

Apart from having a European cup champion from the Turkish league – and coming on the heels of a league champion from outside the oligarchic block – this could be the biggest event in the "modernization" of this land's football: The relegation of a big [team] or its sentencing to a "truly" heavy penalty. It's not to satisfy the Occidental fantasy transmitted in the admiration of the view that "These guys relegated Juventus," and not to inflate the pride of "Look, it is also happening here, to us;" as is said all the time, it is, simply put: "If there is a wrongdoing…" Then, only then, truly…

There is also an economic look at football, you know. From the first day, they started calculating how small the pieces of the "cake" would get. With anxious eyes, they are warning against the loss of the brand value. What brand value can an impure good have? Also, isn't there a need to take some of the air out of the over-inflated ball of football?






A misperception about the current Arab uprisings is that they emerged suddenly, without context. The truth is, like other countries, the Libyan regime has been under increasing duress for at least three decades. The state has been trying to cope with numerous internal and external challenges. Notwithstanding his image and discourse, Col. Gadhafi acted quite pragmatically in dealing with some of these challenges. But the regime failed to transform itself domestically. Libya is yet another example of an authoritarian state unable to gradually and peacefully reform itself.

Libya functioned under Western sanctions for many years. United States sanctions on Libya started as early as 1982, expanding in 1986 at which time Libya's assets were also frozen. After two Libyan agents were indicted for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, the United Nations Security Council imposed additional sanctions as well as a limited asset freeze.

The effects of international sanctions were magnified by the impact of declining oil prices in the 1980s as well as economic mismanagement and corruption at home. There was also no longer a Soviet Union to balance the power wielded by the U.S. The Gadhafi regime responded by shifting gears in both domestic and foreign policy. Domestically, it initiated an economic liberalization program, albeit in a controlled manner. In an attempt to decrease Western pressure, the Gadhafi administration agreed to hand the Lockerbie suspects over for trial in the Netherlands.

A wave of change came in the 2000s. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Bush administration's Middle East policy led to Libya's professed willingness to dismantle its nuclear and chemical weapons programs. In 2008, the U.S. and Libya established full diplomatic relations. Libya's relations with the EU countries also rapidly improved. In this way the Libyan regime successfully handled international pressures and eventually improved its relations with Western countries. Yet it failed to appease its domestic critics.

After their sanctions were lifted, Libya embarked on some economic reform policies in an effort to privatize the economy. But the main beneficiaries of the new policies and the subsequent boost in the oil and gas sector have been the Gadhafi family and key figures of the regime. Many Libyans were left wondering why, despite huge oil revenues and small population, their country still suffered under high levels of poverty.

In parallel to the economic improvements, promises for political reform abounded, and Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam emerged as the key figure in a new generation of leadership to spearhead change in Libya. But despite this rhetoric, the hope for political reform was never realized. On the contrary, security services oppressed any form of internal dissent. Gadhafi's suppression of opposition was decried as "radical Islamist" within the context of the U.S.'s "war on terrorism."

An important sign of Libyans' frustration came in February 2006. Violent protests in response to controversial Danish cartoons broke out in the eastern city of Benghazi. Soon the protestors began to shout anti-regime slogans. The eruption of such a demonstration underscored the regional divisions and the fact that the eastern province was particularly impoverished.

Knowing this recent history it is not shocking that uprisings that began on her neighbor's streets spread to Libya as well.





Transparency is a bit like religion - nobody dares to oppose it openly, but few do what it requires. This is especially true for companies and markets, which cleverly bypass even the most basic rules of transparency, exploiting the many holes of government regulation. In business journalism, one of the first things you learn is that if a publicly traded company is emphasizing "rising sales" or "operational profitability" in its earnings report, there's a good chance that company posted a net loss. That information is the very essence of an earnings report, but it is generally buried somewhere beneath this and that. Of course, on paper, the company has fulfilled its responsibility.

Practicing what one preaches about transparency is even more important when everybody seems to agree that the main reason for the global crisis was opaqueness. However, steps to enhance transparency have been visibly lacking as the precious momentum to regulate financial excess is lost.

A case in point is trading in agricommodities – an area that's been raising eyebrows, as speculative trading is seen as a huge contributor to the current boom in prices of products crucial for millions of livelihoods, such as corn, wheat, rice or cocoa. Some readers might remember that in July 2010, a position built up by hedge fund Armajora skyrocketed cocoa prices: The fund had placed orders to buy 250,000 tons of cocoa, betting with 650 million pounds that prices would go even higher. At the time, prices in London were the highest in more than three decades, having risen by 150 percent since 2008.

In a July 21, 2010 letter to the Financial Times, Chris Herman, head of operations at NYSE Liffe, the derivatives arm of NYSE Euronext, gave an encouraging promise that the bourse would "implement the publication of a report similar to that of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission" as of the third quarter of 2010. The CFTC's weekly report reveals positions taken by commodity traders, showing the public who has invested where, giving hints to the purposes of those positions – a good practice of transparency.

It's been a while since the promise was made, but we have yet to see action. "The third quarter came and went, and we are now rapidly heading toward the third quarter of 2011," Gary Mead, the editor of, teases in a June 29 article. "If we see NYSE Liffe come out with a CFTC-style report in the third quarter of 2012, we will be astonished!"

When I asked the reason to the delay, Ian Dudden, head of commodity products at NYSE Liffe, replied that the exchange is working to ensure it has "accurate and consistent position information" from which to generate subsequent reports. "Internal testing and validation is continuing with the aim of publishing the new CFTC-style reports in the third quarter of this year," Dudden said.

Let's hope that this report, which hopefully would be a real act of transparency instead of just talking about the virtues of it, comes out soon – and helps journalists and analysts better understand the dynamics behind the commodity price surge.






Sedat Ergin - s e r g i n 1 @ h u r r i y e t . c o m . t r

While trying to evaluate the structure of the new Cabinet announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the other day, let's start first of all with an aspect that has not surprised us at all.

 The situation we are not surprised at is that the practice of the male-dominated Cabinet in Turkey has once again not been modified. Let alone not being modified, the number of female ministers have been downsized from two to one. One cannot say that in this Cabinet Turkish women achieve the representation level they deserve. Unfortunately, the progress recorded in the number of female deputies in Parliament – though far from being adequate – is not reflected in Erdoğan's new Cabinet. We can easily say that the dominant conservative character of the Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, has taken firmer root with this Cabinet. The fact that no new name has been brought up to the showcase of the party who might have been capable of carrying a liberal breeze as accompaniment demonstrates this preference.

Two of the prime minister's decisions will especially be most debated. The first one of these is not re-assigning Minister of Education Nimet Çubukçu. This decision has generally created a surprise effect on the public. The second one, even though it was not a surprise that the Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül was not re-assigned, it is meaningful that his successor is a name outside the specific template. With the experience gained with holding positions such as General Director of Security and Governors for years, Gönül managed a low profile but problem-free relationship with the military in general. We can say that the most important consideration Erdoğan held while forming his Cabinet was the experience factor.

Noting that Bülent Arınç, with his political power and strong personality, always has a margin of acting independently, we can say that this Cabinet is the "purest" Erdoğan Cabinet ever formed up until today.

Trust factor first

When viewed from this point of view, it is notable that the number of individuals who worked with the prime minister since his days in office as the Istanbul metropolitan mayor has increased even further in this Cabinet. Professor Ömer Dinçer who was appointed as Minister of Education is one of these names. Dinçer served as advisor to Erdoğan during his term in office as Istanbul mayor. İdris Naim Şahin, who Erdoğan appointed as interior minister, used to be his deputy secretary-general at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Erdoğan then mounted Şahin as his party's secretary-general. The prime minister who entrusted his party's keep to Şahin for 10 years has now assigned him to the post of interior minister. We will now be seeing an interior minister very close to the prime minister.

Erdoğan Bayraktar, the minister of environment and urban planning, was the general manager of KİPTAŞ, a housing company subordinate to the municipality, during Erdoğan's term. Minister of Forestry and Waterworks Veysel Eroğlu was the general manager of the Istanbul Water and Sanitation Administration, or İSKİ, and Hayati Yazıcı, the minister of customs and trade, was Erdoğan's personal attorney in that period.

 This much is crystal clear: The prime minister enjoys very much working with names in whom he has absolute confidence, and who have remained at his side for a long time





It was fun to read the elaborate writing in these pages by a PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, Pinar Tremblay, or a "foreign policy geek" as the author defined herself (Zero problems a la Turca: Not just good, but good for you, Hurriyet Daily News, June 29, 2011).

Ms Tremblay wrote that she was inspired by an old Guinness ad: Not just good, but good for you! Ms Tremblay's fantastic claim that Foreign Minister Davutoğlu's masterpiece, "Strategic Depth," had anticipated the Arab Spring 10 years ago reminded me of an ouzo ad from Mytilini: Me Dhimino kathe mera einai giorti, or "With (ouzo) Dhimino everyday is a festival."

I don't want to remind of the "not-just-good-but-good-for-you-minister's" bewildered statements in the early days of the Libyan revolts in which the honorable minister looked all but unsurprised, or Turkey's staunchly pro-Gadhafi position only a few months earlier; nor do I wish to point to the gross recalibration of policy in favor of the Libyan opposition in later days. I do not wish either to reveal classified documents, but I would recommend Ms Tremblay to have a look at the Turkish embassy, Tripoli (not Benghazi) cables in the early days of the Libyan revolts as well as the instructions from Ankara in response. Perhaps Mr Davutoğlu had forgotten what he had anticipated in his own book in 2001? All the same, the all-knowing great prophet Mr Davutoğlu part aside, there was an interesting analytical point in Ms Tremblay's article. Tremblay wrote that Mr Davutoğlu had explained in his masterpiece that extended cooperation agreements between Turkey and the state of Israel of the late 1990s are to the detriment of Turkey because they help legitimize Arab nationalism and she wrote that Mr Davutoğlu, agrees that "when a predominantly Muslim but non-Arab country has close relations with the state of Israel, this produces further justification for the next wave of Arab nationalism." Thus Mr Davutoğlu emphasizes how risky it would be for Turkey if Arab nationalism gains further momentum.

Why should Arab nationalism gain momentum only because a predominantly Muslim but non-Arab country signed cooperation agreements with Israel? Would the Arabs have hated nationalism ceteris paribus but embrace it the moment, for instance, Indonesia signed cooperation agreements with Israel? And, why the description "predominantly Muslim but non-Arab?" Does that mean Arabs would shun nationalism if predominantly Muslim and Arab countries signed cooperation agreements with Israel? Why can Arab nations sign agreements with Israel but non-Arab Muslim countries should not? Would the Arabs resort to nationalism if a non-Arab but Muslim country cooperated with Christian, Shintoist or Buddhist countries? Never mind, minister, Arab nationalism has had many good reasons to exist, with or without a predominantly Muslim but non-Arab country cooperating with Israel. But keep in mind, minister, Hamas et al have not abandoned Arab nationalism because your government drew swords with Israel. See, for instance, International Relations 101 for the fact that Arab nationalism rose to its prominence with the collapse of the (predominantly Muslim but non-Arab) Ottoman Empire at a time when the state of Israel did not exist, not when the Ottoman Turks welcomed the exiled Jews from Spain in 1492. See, also, late 1960s and early 1970s when Turkey did not even have full diplomatic relations with Israel. A man of Mr Davutoglu's calibre can always find better justifications to advocate "not-so-good" relations with Israel. Among many others, I can think of, for instance, his dream to pray one day at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the "Palestinian capital Jerusalem."





Turks can empathize with the Greeks as they try to confront the worst economic crisis their country has seen since World War II. It is basically a "we have been there and survived it" situation. But the dire situation in Greece is more than a subject of empathy for Turks today. They are also losing money and business opportunities.

Take the Aegean town of Ayvalik. The situation there is emblematic of the whole coastline where there is a Greek island a stone's throw away. The tradesmen and women of Ayvalik say business from Greece has fallen by 100 percent in some cases due to the crisis in that country.

This is significant for the region, which saw an unprecedented upsurge in Greek shoppers in recent years, some of them coming across to Turkey once or twice a week for their weekly supplies. The reverse is also true.

Turks who are planning to visit Greek islands, much in vogue at the moment in Turkey, are having momentary doubts because of concerns about being stranded due to strikes and social disturbances. One cannot minimize the importance of such factors for businessmen and tradesmen on both sides of the Aegean.

Turkish trade figures for June, for example, indicated that exports to Greece increased by 58.6 percent in May alone - the highest figure with any country - with the overall trade for that month jumping from $118.1 million to $187.3 million. Many fear this trend might not continue because Greeks have to go for severe belt-tightening now.

On a larger scale Turkish investors are also seeing opportunities in Greece at risk now because of the austerity measures. Some big brand names have already started scaling down their concerns. But this does not mean Turkish investors are giving up on Greece.

They are in fact braver than some – and perhaps foolhardy from a European perspective – because they have taken serious risks in the past. Northern Iraq is a case in point. At a time when few Westerners would go there, the region was flooded with Turkish capital and those who visit cities like Arbil and Suleymaniyeh can see this for themselves.

Libya on the other hand, shows that things can go seriously and unexpectedly awry. No one can determine what the future of the estimated $30 billion in Turkish investments there will be. But it is a fact that Turkish contractors in particular have made billions over the past three decades in that country.

Judging by what is being written and said, Turkish businessmen are still looking at Greece as an important partner in the future. A Greece that is now under the tutelage and control of the EU and the IMF also represents a securer market once it starts getting back on its feet, and opportunities are already being eyed because of this.

Turkish tradesmen for their part realize the Turkish market still provides advantages for Greek shoppers. As for hoteliers and restaurateurs on the islands, they can rest assured Turks will continue to come, provided they don't face the risk of strikes and social unrest. The simple fact is that Turks like what they see in Greece, which they find culturally and socially familiar.

Recovery will undoubtedly come to Greece in the end. But a new Greece will emerge from all this. That Greece will not only have to consider the reasons why things were allowed to come to this point, but will also have to take its immediate neighborhood, and particularly economies like Turkey and Russia, much more seriously than it perhaps did in the past.

There is every reason therefore to end on a cheery note. I think we can be certain that Turkish-Greek relations will come out of this crisis even better than they are today. Turks and Greeks have understood after painful lessons that in today's unforgiving world it is indeed "all about the economy, stupid!"



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



Every fresh report of "progress" on the debt-ceiling talks produces new reasons to feel profoundly uneasy. The talks were misbegotten from the beginning, made necessary only by the irresponsible refusal of Republicans to pay the nation's bills unless they got everything their way on government spending and taxes.

President Obama had to deal with them to prevent an economic collapse, but he should have sought the most minimal way possible to get out of their headlock with the government's crucial functions intact.

Instead, he seems to have embraced this illegitimate process — rooted in the false and dangerous premise that the nation's budget problems are entirely a matter of overspending on the needy and not of undertaxing the rich. Now he is trying to expand it to reach a grand agreement to cut the deficit by as much as $4 trillion over 10 years, twice as much as discussed in the first round of talks.

As The Times reported on Thursday, the president is considering proposals to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security, along with huge cuts in discretionary programs, in exchange for a wholesale revision of the tax code to remove many deductions and change many rates. He apparently thinks he can impress independent voters by appearing to rise above partisanship with a brokered deal. But as much as he may not want to recognize it, Mr. Obama lives in a hyperpartisan time, in which his political opponents have long made it clear that they intend to give him no ground. Unless he can find a way to use the agreement to boost employment — a far more pressing problem than the short-term deficit — his arbitration is unlikely to do him much good at the polls.

These vast changes are being discussed behind closed doors — even rank-and-file members of Congress have little idea what is happening — and on a very tight deadline. After an hour or so of talks on Thursday, the president said he wants Congressional leaders back in the White House on Sunday with their bottom-line offers.

Three whole days to rethink the nation's fundamental entitlement programs and the labyrinthine tax code, with the winds of default beginning to howl outside the window? The circumstances could not be worse for developing a sensible long-term economic policy.

It is already clear that the Republicans have succeeded spectacularly in their insistence that the agreement be mostly about spending cuts rather than building back the money lost from the Bush tax cuts that was the principal cause of the deficit. Mr. Obama has said there will have to be some revenue increases, but Republicans are in an antitax straightjacket and have defined the term so narrowly that cuts are likely to outweigh increases by a factor of three or four to one.

Even that may not be enough for the hardest-line Republicans, many of whom have already vowed to vote against any such deal. Democrats, meanwhile, are starting to bridle at the impending cuts, and several have said they cannot support an unbalanced package that demands sacrifices from the poor and middle class but not the rich. A fragile agreement based on blinkered ideology and political ambition could easily fail, and the resulting default and credit-market chaos would probably create another recession.

Under those circumstances, Mr. Obama might want to consider the advice of several constitutional scholars who say Congress may not be able to put the government in default by refusing to raise the debt limit because the 14th Amendment says the public debt cannot be questioned.

We have long thought it was folly to have a debt limit controlled by Congress because it was dangerous, not on constitutional grounds. Such a declaration by the president would probably lead to litigation or even attempts at impeachment, and could create years of unanticipated legal and financial problems. It might require that bondholders be paid off before spending obligations are met. But if Republicans kill a deal because it raises a dime of revenue, or if Democrats will not support it because it leans too heavily on the less fortunate, then the constitutional option may look better than the recession option.






After the Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was murdered in May, suspicion fell on Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's powerful spy agency. Mr. Shahzad reported aggressively on the infiltration of militants into Pakistan's military and had received repeated threats from ISI. Other journalists said they, too, have been threatened, even tortured, by security forces.

Now the Obama administration has evidence implicating the ISI in this brutal killing. According to The Times's Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt, American officials say new intelligence indicates that senior ISI officials ordered the attack on Mr. Shahzad to silence him. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed on Thursday that Pakistan's government "sanctioned" the killing, but he did not tie it directly to ISI. The murder will make journalists and other critics of the regime even more reluctant to expose politically sensitive news. The ISI is also proving to be an increasingly dangerous counterterrorism partner for the United States.

After Mr. Shahzad's killing, ISI insisted it had no role, contending the death would be "used to target and malign" its reputation. The ISI and the army, which oversees the intelligence agency, were once considered Pakistan's most respected institutions. Now they are sharply criticized at home for malfeasance and incompetence.

There is evidence that they were complicit in hiding Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and that the ISI helped plan the Mumbai attack in 2008. They failed to prevent the recent attack on a naval base in Karachi. Mr. Shahzad disappeared two days after publishing an article suggesting the attack was retaliation for the navy's attempt to crack down on Al Qaeda militants in the armed forces.

It's not clear how high up the culpability for Mr. Shahzad's murder goes — or whether there are any officials left in the ISI or the army who have the power and desire to reform the spy agency. President Asif Ali Zardari and his government, while not implicated in these heinous acts, have been a disappointment, largely letting the military go its own way. They need to find Mr. Shahzad's murderers and hold them accountable. And they must find the courage to assert civilian control over security services that have too much power and are running amok.

Mr. Zardari needs to speak out firmly against abuses, insist on adherence to the rule of law and join his political rival, Nawaz Sharif, in pressing the security services to change. That can start by insisting on the retirement of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, and the appointment of a more credible successor.

The United States needs to use its influence to hasten Mr. Pasha's departure. It should tell Pakistan's security leadership that if Washington identifies anyone in ISI or the army as abetting terrorists, those individuals will face sanctions like travel bans or other measures. The ISI has become inimical to Pakistani and American interests.






Over the past 50 years, we've seen a number of gigantic policies produce disappointing results — policies to reduce poverty, homelessness, dropout rates, single-parenting and drug addiction. Many of these policies failed because they were based on an overly simplistic view of human nature. They assumed that people responded in straightforward ways to incentives. Often, they assumed that money could cure behavior problems.

Fortunately, today we are in the middle of a golden age of behavioral research. Thousands of researchers are studying the way actual behavior differs from the way we assume people behave. They are coming up with more accurate theories of who we are, and scores of real-world applications. Here's one simple example:

When you renew your driver's license, you have a chance to enroll in an organ donation program. In countries like Germany and the U.S., you have to check a box if you want to opt in. Roughly 14 percent of people do. But behavioral scientists have discovered that how you set the defaults is really important. So in other countries, like Poland or France, you have to check a box if you want to opt out. In these countries, more than 90 percent of people participate.

This is a gigantic behavior difference cued by one tiny and costless change in procedure.

Yet in the middle of this golden age of behavioral research, there is a bill working through Congress that would eliminate the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. This is exactly how budgets should not be balanced — by cutting cheap things that produce enormous future benefits.

Let's say you want to reduce poverty. We have two traditional understandings of poverty. The first presumes people are rational. They are pursuing their goals effectively and don't need much help in changing their behavior. The second presumes that the poor are afflicted by cultural or psychological dysfunctions that sometimes lead them to behave in shortsighted ways. Neither of these theories has produced much in the way of effective policies.

Eldar Shafir of Princeton and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard have recently, with federal help, been exploring a third theory, that scarcity produces its own cognitive traits.

A quick question: What is the starting taxi fare in your city? If you are like most upper-middle-class people, you don't know. If you are like many struggling people, you do know. Poorer people have to think hard about a million things that affluent people don't. They have to make complicated trade-offs when buying a carton of milk: If I buy milk, I can't afford orange juice. They have to decide which utility not to pay.

These questions impose enormous cognitive demands. The brain has limited capacities. If you increase demands on one sort of question, it performs less well on other sorts of questions.

Shafir and Mullainathan gave batteries of tests to Indian sugar farmers. After they sell their harvest, they live in relative prosperity. During this season, the farmers do well on the I.Q. and other tests. But before the harvest, they live amid scarcity and have to think hard about a thousand daily decisions. During these seasons, these same farmers do much worse on the tests. They appear to have lower I.Q.'s. They have more trouble controlling their attention. They are more shortsighted. Scarcity creates its own psychology.

Princeton students don't usually face extreme financial scarcity, but they do face time scarcity. In one game, they had to answer questions in a series of timed rounds, but they could borrow time from future rounds. When they were scrambling amid time scarcity, they were quick to borrow time, and they were nearly oblivious to the usurious interest rates the game organizers were charging. These brilliant Princeton kids were rushing to the equivalent of payday lenders, to their own long-term detriment.

Shafir and Mullainathan have a book coming out next year, exploring how scarcity — whether of time, money or calories (while dieting) — affects your psychology. They are also studying how poor people's self-perceptions shape behavior. Many people don't sign up for the welfare benefits because they are intimidated by the forms. Shafir and Mullainathan asked some people at a Trenton soup kitchen to relive a moment when they felt competent and others to recount a neutral experience. Nearly half of the self-affirming group picked up an available benefits package afterward. Only 16 percent of the neutral group did.

People are complicated. We each have multiple selves, which emerge or don't depending on context. If we're going to address problems, we need to understand the contexts and how these tendencies emerge or don't emerge. We need to design policies around that knowledge. Cutting off financing for this sort of research now is like cutting off navigation financing just as Christopher Columbus hit the shoreline of the New World.






Forget, for a moment, what you know about surfing: the professional sport, the multipurpose verb and online metaphor. Put aside the Beach Boys, the baggies, the huarache sandals, too. Surfing's all that. But those bushy bushy blond hairdos have dark brown roots.

Two new books and a documentary film, all out this year, are reclaiming the story of surfing as Hawaiians once knew it. They are telling the neglected tale of one little world, on eight little islands — surfing before outsiders took it to California and far beyond.

"Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions From the Past" is the most startling of the three. John Clark, a surfer who was once deputy chief of the Honolulu Fire Department, draws deeply from Hawaiian-language newspapers from the 1800s, after Europeans arrived but before the stark eclipse of Hawaii's population, tradition and culture, a loss that native descendants have been striving for generations to reverse.

Tracing every reference he can find to surfing, beaches and waves in the Hawaiian language, Mr. Clark shows surfing as a social sport played on a scale unimaginable anywhere today. In old Hawaii, everyone surfed, children to grandparents. They surfed with long boards and short boards and no boards. They surfed big winter waves and lazy shore breaks. They surfed the mouths of rivers. They surfed the beach, skimming on sheets of water left by receding foam. They surfed with banana stalks. After hotels came to Waikiki, they surfed with wet pillowcases: they'd fill them with air, run, flop and fly.

"When the surf was good, the whole village got up and moved to the beach and everybody jumped in the water," Mr. Clark said in a phone interview from Honolulu.

This amazed the Europeans, who watched children play in the zone that to them meant shipwrecks and broken necks. "None but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing," Mark Twain wrote in 1866, after wiping out.

Surfing required not just grace but strength, since the old boards were heavy, finless slabs of wood. You couldn't paddle out while lying on one; you'd have to swim behind, pushing like a tugboat. Rides were tricky.

But then, as now, they were exhilarating. In the old stories and news accounts, Mr. Clark finds frequent comparisons of surfers to ocean birds, and references to surfing as a sexual dance. Soon enough, though, the missionaries made everyone put on pants and muumuus. They discouraged idling and sensuous pastimes like surfing and hula. The young Princess Kaiulani kept surfing in Waikiki, a pointed act of rebellion. But surfing declined steeply in the early 20th century. Hawaiians kept at it, though, as surfing evolved into an individual sport, with athletes like Duke Kahanamoku, the Waikiki beach boy and Olympic star.

Kahanamoku and other legends, like Buffalo Keaulana and Wally Froiseth, appear in "A Deeper Shade of Blue," a documentary by Jack McCoy, which uses stunning footage to show that Hawaiians remain great innovators and keepers of the soul of surfing.

And in "Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawaii," Isaiah Helekunihi Walker, a history professor at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, takes the story to the present day. He argues that the surf zone is one place where native Hawaiians have successfully resisted the encroachments of outsiders. Hawaiians lost their kingdom in 1893, but surfers, he said, have been leaders in a struggle for environmental and cultural renewal. They may have been pushed off the land, but have not yet lost the waves.






On Thursday, President Obama met with Republicans to discuss a debt deal. We don't know exactly what was proposed, but news reports before the meeting suggested that Mr. Obama is offering huge spending cuts, possibly including cuts to Social Security and an end to Medicare's status as a program available in full to all Americans, regardless of income.

Obviously, the details matter a lot, but progressives, and Democrats in general, are understandably very worried. Should they be? In a word, yes.

Now, this might just be theater: Mr. Obama may be pulling an anti-Corleone, making Republicans an offer they can't accept. The reports say that the Obama plan also involves significant new revenues, a notion that remains anathema to the Republican base. So the goal may be to paint the G.O.P. into a corner, making Republicans look like intransigent extremists — which they are.

But let's be frank. It's getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama's motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right. In fact, if all you did was listen to his speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the G.O.P.'s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it. And maybe that's not a false impression; maybe it's the simple truth.

One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend's presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: "Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can't afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs."

That's three of the right's favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn't budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn't "put the economy on sounder footing." They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren't holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they're holding back because they don't have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.

In his brief remarks after Thursday's meeting, by the way, Mr. Obama seemed to reiterate the Herbert Hooveresque view that deficit reduction is what we need to "grow the economy."

People have asked me why the president's economic advisers aren't telling him not to believe in the confidence fairy — that is, not to believe the assertion, popular on the right but overwhelmingly refuted by the evidence, that slashing spending in the face of a depressed economy will magically create jobs. My answer is, what economic advisers? Almost all the high-profile economists who joined the Obama administration early on have either left or are leaving.

Nor have they been replaced. As The Wall Street Journal recently noted, there are a "stunning" number of vacancies in important economic posts. So who's defining the administration's economic views?

Some of what we're hearing is presumably coming from the political team, whose members seem to believe that a move toward Republican positions, reminiscent of former President Bill Clinton's "triangulation" in the 1990s, is the key to Mr. Obama's re-election. And Mr. Clinton did, indeed, rebound from a big defeat in the 1994 midterms to win big two years later. But some of us think that the rebound had less to do with his rhetorical move to the center than with the five million jobs the economy added over those two years — an achievement not likely to be repeated this time, especially not in the face of harsh spending cuts.

Anyway, I don't believe that it's all political calculation. Watching Mr. Obama and listening to his recent statements, it's hard not to get the impression that he is now turning for advice to people who really believe that the deficit, not unemployment, is the top issue facing America right now, and who also believe that the great bulk of deficit reduction should come from spending cuts. It's worth noting that even Republicans weren't suggesting cuts to Social Security; this is something Mr. Obama and those he listens to apparently want for its own sake.

Which raises the big question: If a debt deal does emerge, and it overwhelmingly reflects conservative priorities and ideology, should Democrats in Congress vote for it?

Mr. Obama's people will no doubt argue that their fellow party members should trust him, that whatever deal emerges was the best he could get. But it's hard to see why a president who has gone out of his way to echo Republican rhetoric and endorse false conservative views deserves that kind of trust.






Cambridge, Mass.

ON May 16, the United States hit its legal debt limit of $14.3 trillion. Unless that limit is raised, the Treasury will, on Aug. 2, be unable to pay its bills. It will then have to either stop spending money on government programs, or default on paying the nation's creditors.

The White House and Congressional Republicans agree in principle that the debt ceiling needs to be raised, but they are at an impasse on how to constrain the deficit's rapid growth. Meanwhile, some people have theorized that there's a way to get around the debt limit.

Several law professors and senators, and even Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, have suggested that section 4 of the 14th Amendment, known as the public debt clause, might provide a silver bullet. This provision states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law ... shall not be questioned." They argue that the public debt clause is sufficient to nullify the ceiling — or can be used to permit the president to borrow money without regard to the ceiling.

Both approaches provide the false hope of a legal answer that obviates the need for a real solution.

The Supreme Court has addressed the public debt clause only once, in 1935, in the case of Perry v. United States. The court observed only that the clause confirmed the "fundamental principle" that Congress may not "alter or destroy" debts already incurred.

Some have argued that this principle prohibits any government action that "jeopardizes" the validity of the public debt. By increasing the risk of default, they contend, any debt ceiling automatically violates the public debt clause.

This argument goes too far. It would mean that any budget deficit, tax cut or spending increase could be attacked on constitutional grounds, because each of those actions slightly increases the probability of default. Moreover, the argument is self-defeating. If it were correct, the absence of a debt ceiling could likewise be attacked as unconstitutional — after all, the greater the nation's debt, the greater the difficulty of repaying it, and the higher the probability of default.

Other proponents of a constitutional deus ex machina have offered a more modest interpretation of the public debt clause, under which only actual default (as opposed to any action that merely increases the risk of default) is impermissible. This interpretation makes more sense. But advocates of the constitutional solution err in their next step: arguing that, because default would be unconstitutional, President Obama may violate the statutory debt ceiling to prevent it.

The Constitution grants only Congress — not the president — the power "to borrow money on the credit of the United States." Nothing in the 14th Amendment or in any other constitutional provision suggests that the president may usurp legislative power to prevent a violation of the Constitution. Moreover, it is well established that the president's power drops to what Justice Robert H. Jackson called its "lowest ebb" when exercised against the express will of Congress.

Worse, the argument that the president may do whatever is necessary to avoid default has no logical stopping point. In theory, Congress could pay debts not only by borrowing more money, but also by exercising its powers to impose taxes, to coin money or to sell federal property. If the president could usurp the congressional power to borrow, what would stop him from taking over all these other powers, as well?

So the arguments for ignoring the debt ceiling are unpersuasive. But even if they were persuasive, they would not resolve the crisis. Once the debt ceiling is breached, a legal cloud would hang over any newly issued bonds, because of the risk that the government might refuse to honor those debts as legitimate. This risk, in turn, would result in a steep increase in interest rates because investors would lose confidence — a fiscal disaster that would cost the nation tens of billions of dollars.

Although an authoritative judicial declaration authorizing borrowing above the debt ceiling might alleviate investors' fears, obtaining such a declaration is no easy task. Only someone who has suffered a "particularized" harm — not one shared with the public at large — is entitled to sue. It would be difficult to conjure up a plaintiff who has suffered such specific harm from an issuance of debt beyond the ceiling. And even if such a plaintiff could be found, increased interest rates would have already inflicted terrible damage by the time the Supreme Court ruled on the matter.

A core function of the Constitution is to "force us into a conversation" about our future, Mr. Obama once wrote. Sometimes, it does this by establishing principles citizens can invoke when they believe the government has overreached. At other times, it does so by directing us back to the political drawing board.

It is this second message the Constitution is sending at this moment. As Justice John Marshall Harlan II presciently warned, "the Constitution is not a panacea for every blot upon the public welfare." Only political courage and compromise, coupled with adherence to traditions that call upon Congress to fulfill its unique constitutional duty, can avert an impending crisis.

Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, is the author, most recently, of "The Invisible Constitution."







Raleigh, N.C.

THE Yankees released me from my contract in 2005. Several years later, I texted Derek Jeter, who still had the same cellphone number, to ask whether he would inscribe a bat to my newborn son. (It arrived the next day; this is the Derek Jeter I know.) Now a few more years have gone by, and Jeter, 37; my son, 3; and my daughter, nearly 2, all find themselves very much tangled up in ... numbers.

Jeter, after a stint on the disabled list, returned this week to the Yankees lineup, where he had a date with his 3,000th career hit. The children are in the early stages of learning to count. My son can safely get to 20, though he always skips 15, and 15, as it happens, is exactly where my daughter tails off (for her, six is the number that apparently has cooties and gets skipped). My kids don't attach a lot to what these, or any, numbers mean.

Yet their father's life in baseball was very much about numbers. I was evaluated according to my batting average, my stolen-base percentage, my salary. Even retroactively, sabermetric terms measure previously unheard-of abilities, like my B.A.B.I.P. That's Batting Average on Balls in Play, which I certainly didn't take to arbitration when I was a player.

But it wasn't until I retired six years ago and had the luxury of reflection that I started to understand how all these numbers fit into the big picture, beyond how I performed for someone's fantasy team that week. And I've concluded that I owe it to my kids to teach them that numbers can tell a story, especially in the game that meant so much to their father.

Jeter's march to his 3,000th hit has brought this world of numbers into focus. There has been no skipping of steps for him. He couldn't go from 5 hits to 15, from 2,000 to 2,400, in a single day, let alone a single moment. Baseball doesn't grant you six points for reaching the end zone, or two points for a bucket. Getting hits in baseball is the ultimate stroll in the park: you go from point to point, at-bat to at-bat, and even when you succeed, you advance in increments of just one.

A hitter's accomplishments are therefore cumulative. Even if you're talented and lucky, you ooze your way to greatness. Along the way, you are never sure exactly where you fit into the landscape of other players' journeys — past, present or future. You spend much of your time just hoping to keep the ooze moving forward, worrying that it may swallow you whole the minute you let up.

I amassed 1,100 total hits at the major league level, over almost nine full seasons. Only once did I surpass the single-season magic number of 200 hits, something Jeter has already done seven times. To get 3,000 hits, you have to average 200 hits for 15 seasons — a phenomenal career. By the time Jeter turned 25, he was in his fifth year and working on his second 200-hit season. I didn't even arrive in the major leagues until I was 25.

And Jeter has done it all outside the taint of the steroid scandal. His name is absent from subpoenas, and the Mitchell report on illegal substances, and leaked lists of suspect players. Most major leaguers who play a long time experience a bell curve in the arc of their careers. You spend a few years figuring out how to be a peak performer, reach the top of your game for a little while, then fall into a slow, downhill drift to retirement. Your only braking mechanism is the resistance that comes with denial. Rarely do players voluntarily ride into the sunset. Instead, a seasoned manager will find a way to put your pink slip into words, or you might end up licking your wounds after having failed to catch on with a team in Mexico.

Jeter's career has been more like a plateau curve. He came on the scene at 20, made a near-instant impact, then stayed remarkably consistent and virtually injury-free year in and year out, cruising on a plane of excellence. In many respects, he spoiled us. When you progress on a flat line, outside observers are lulled into the tacit expectation that this is how it's supposed to be. Players like this produce so deceptively that we miss the escalating work ethic required to stave off age, the sheer dominating focus it takes to be so steady at such a high level.

Now we are watching him slow down, finding out that not even Jeter can avoid the human condition. The fact that the Yankees won 14 of 18 games during his recent time on the D.L. is a reminder that even great personal accomplishment stands on shaky ground when it comes to a humming team machine. So Jeter has two ways to go. He could take his foot off the pedal and ride gravity down the gradual curve to the bottom. Or, it could end much as it began for him and he'll go down as precipitously as he rose in the game, though his superhero status in the eyes of his supporters may grant him a parachute to soften the landing.

Meanwhile, we've enjoyed the counting, hit by hit. And once my kids start to learn about numbers in the thousands, I will tell them that the story of Derek Jeter's journey to 3,000 wasn't about numbers at all. It was really about the infinite nature of human possibility.

Doug Glanville, a baseball analyst for ESPN, is the author of "The Game From Where I Stand."







There is now a developing two-way conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is not a conflict that has the overt support of government on either side and is currently highly localised. Until last week, the raids had all been one-way - from Afghanistan into the Upper and Lower Dir regions, and Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies. These have been raids of both strength and depth and have taken considerable effort to repulse. Militants have destroyed government buildings and schools and held their positions, often with heavy losses, for days at a time. Those doing the raiding are said to be a mix of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and there does not appear to be any involvement of regular Afghan forces. The significant development in recent days is the mounting of a reciprocal raid into Afghanistan by the Pakistani Taliban. They crossed over on Tuesday into the Kamdesh district of Nuristan province. The Afghan Interior Ministry says that 'dozens' were killed, at least 12 of them Pakistanis.

Disentangling the threads of what is actually happening is difficult. The raids each way are a reality - but what are they for and about? Neither state has any current territorial claim on the other apart from the festering issue of the Durand Line which is a constant source of tension; but at a tribal level there are may be issues of territoriality and control. These issues straddle the border, are exacerbated by generations-old feuds and have proved notably resistant to resolution by external agencies. Groups finance their arsenals by criminal activity and have little difficulty in equipping themselves courtesy of the ever-leaky Nato convoys. This is not to say that there is no involvement of state actors on either side, who may for their own reasons be keen to create and sustain a degree of managed instability, though it is hard to see who would benefit from this. There is also confusion about the composition of the raiding groups, but consistent reports of the Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban being commingled suggest that differentiating between the two is an increasingly imprecise art. Prime Minister Gilani has telephoned President Karzai to express his concern, and requested that Karzai broker a meeting with Isaf in order to facilitate communication between commanders on both sides of the border. We do not need and cannot afford to be dragged into a low-intensity war on our western borders. Both governments, perhaps working with Isaf, need to cap this situation with the utmost urgency before it spills out of the border regions.






Concluding a three-day national seminar on de-radicalisation organised by the Pakistan Army at Swat University, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reiterated that "there is no military solution to terrorism" and that military responses only provide an enabling environment for successful counterterrorism. While the army chief was right when he said that terrorism needed to be tackled within the domain of national security, he didn't go far enough to emphasise that the very contours of national security need to be altered in Pakistan. The lens of national security colours virtually every decision of government and state. The prioritisation of national security and defence, however, is not in and of itself problematic. Governments from Washington to London to New Delhi also prioritise national security, which is a fundamental responsibility of the state. However, our leaders differentiate themselves in both the extent by which national security dominates the gamut of state policy and in the degree by which the military component dominates the spectrum of national security. What we thus need is a fundamental shift and move towards a more holistic, comprehensive view that encompasses not just the security of the state but also views things from the human prism.

The army chief very rightly noted that the support of the people is vital for military operations against terrorists. Indeed, while the armed forces are but a single, albeit necessary, component in the jigsaw of national security, the pursuit of sustainable security requires a sincere focus on human security: the fundamental freedoms, from want and from fear, that define human dignity. Ensuring improved access to physical assets, education, vocational skills, training and other education services that enhance human capital and enable the poor to generate better income through gainful employment opportunities must therefore be an essential part of any de-radicalisation strategy. National security and human security should be mutually reinforcing and the leaders' job is to help manage the threats and challenges that affect people everyday.








Exceptions apart, as a general rule in politics it doesn't pay to raise too many temples to emotional instability: lurching from one position to another. For instance, making a fetish of going out of one's way to attack the MQM, often totally unnecessarily; then, when the weather slightly turns, lunging in the other direction, desperate to get into bed with the same nemesis. Dramatic behaviour such as this leaves ordinary mortals slightly bewildered.

And it doesn't help to bandy about that trite phrase, 'there is no last word in politics'. How many phases of the moon does this piece of wisdom cover?

The MQM consists, on the whole, of some of the sharpest political operators in the country. I say this in a good sense. They've made mistakes in the past but, generally, they have turned their Karachi and Hyderabad urban fiefdoms to huge political advantage. Time was when they imbibed their lessons, and took their cues, from our ideological guardians bunkered in what passes for our Langley, Virginia – Aabpara, Islamabad. But having come of age, and experienced many highs and lows, they are now very much on their own. And there is not much that anyone can teach one of the world's most successful remote-control politicos, Pir Altaf Hussain, who has turned the long-distance telephonic address into a virtual art form.

There is a bitter and bloody turf war on in Karachi, being fought not by resolutions and statements but live bullets and what we call target-killings. Not the Kashmir elections, which are a sideshow and an excuse for other things, but the urgency of this battle for survival and dominance lies at the heart of the MQM's grouse against the Zardari dispensation. By using the ANP, now entrenched in large swathes of Karachi territory, El Presidente is playing games with the MQM and the MQM doesn't like it. Hence its growing anger.

But this is still very much suppressed rage as the MQM tries to strengthen its bargaining position and weighs the pros and cons of burning its boats and taking a direct confrontationist stance against the government. While the benefits of such a stance are tenuous and vague, the risks are obvious. Unrest in Karachi costs the PPP govt in psychological terms. But there is little in a physical sense that it loses. And manning the trenches are the new urban warriors of the Pakhtoonkhwa-derived ANP. The PPP can sit this conflict out. The MQM risks sustaining physical and political losses. And if, as a spin-off of this conflict, the PPP and ANP enter the next elections together, the MQM will have a contest (of sorts) on its hands.

In guerrilla warfare – and what we are seeing in Karachi is a form of guerrilla warfare – holding on to territory is more difficult than weaving in and out and sniping from the sidelines.

So the formation of a PNA-like opposition alliance – the alliance which gifted Pakistan Zia's benign dictatorship – is still very much an idea residing in the realm of the imagination. The PML-N, always a victim of impatience, would of course like an immediate assault on the bastion of Zardari power, so as to force what it increasingly seeks, and with growing desperation – early elections – but the MQM is playing a tantalizing game and will not commit itself until President Zardari shows it the red flag...which he is not likely to do, this not being his style. It's hard to concede this but if there is a master of cool, as his detractors even are now grudgingly coming to admit, it is Zardari.

Let's not forget that Pakistan has a long history of both holy and unholy alliances, the unholy outnumbering those which had any good in them. For alliances forged against seemingly-democratic governments – against Bhutto's in 1977, Nawaz Sharif's in 1999, just prior to the Musharraf takeover, two conditions have been essential: a Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan and the blessings of Aabpara.

The late Nawabzada had a gift for getting the most unlikely bedfellows together, only to see a fresh posse of generals take over when the situation was ripe – the Nawabzada in the immortal role of teaser (ask stable-owners what this means) and GHQ in the role of stallion. There is no Nawabzada around and GHQ and Aabpara are fed up of the political class, especially when they see former patriots (and pupils) changing stripes and biting the hands that fed them (once upon a time).

So what do the masters of impatience get out of this yet-to-be-sewn deal? Advantage tenuous but plenty of questions requiring some answers.

The first mantra, or first commandment, of the new morality of which the nation had an earful after the 2008 elections came in the form of the loud declaration that there could be no truck with the leftovers or remnants of the Musharraf order. Which meant that the Chaudries of Gujarat – Gujarat surely deserves better than to be known by them – and the Q-League were forever beyond the pale. In Punjab there was a minor variation on this theme in that the Forward or Unification Bloc was accepted as part of the Punjab government. That was out of political necessity, their numbers being essential to shore up the fortunes of the PML-N. But in the National Assembly this commandment held and even though most of the Q-League was of a mind to join the PML-N, the high tide of morality, and some misplaced confidence, barred the way.

How the situation has changed, and all because of effective manoeuvring and coalition-building at the centre. Which has made the unlikely come to pass: the mountains not coming to the saints, the saints have had to march to the mountains. If the Chaudries were Musharraf loyalists, the MQM was in the vanguard of Musharraf support, ultra-loyalists to his cause. And the PML-N, finding the moral high ground a waterless summit – who can remain on the moral high ground forever? – is trying to make common cause with an entity that only a short while ago in its lexicon stood for the devil.

A bit like the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, which was the prelude to the opening of the Second World War (although one must hasten to proffer one's apologies to the ghosts of Hitler and Stalin for comparing them to our political heroes). But ours is still not a pact, not by a long shot. So even if it produces some stirring music, although I have my doubts even of that, it will not be the prelude to any grand opera. Not unless the sages of Aabpara also move into the act, but they have too much on their plate, too many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to contend with.

Political interventionism they will not try, not because of any moral aversion – perish the thought – but because they know it will stick in their throats. So they are content to see the political class make further asses of themselves.

The PML-N leadership constitutes the luckiest political family in Pakistan's history, everything coming to it easily and quickly, a bit too easily and quickly. Other leaders have come and gone, many with little to show for themselves even if claimants to greater capacity. The PML-N leadership has thriven and prospered, emerging from deep ends in which others would have drowned. This has bred a sense of entitlement and a style of leadership at once impatient and impulsive, 12 Oct, 99 being one of the fruits of such impulsiveness.

Zardari is an altogether different customer, one who has played a long and cool hand. Who would have given him so much time at the top? But he has managed to survive, against the odds. Those out to destroy him should be careful with their methods. Or, fearful thought, there will be more to moan about than just one Zardari term in that ugly box on the hill.









Most Pakistani politicians suffer from verbal diarrhoea: words fall from their mouths without any control. As a result of this widespread disease, one can never believe in what they say. They issue ultimatums and deadlines, they form and break alliances, they accuse each other of various crimes, but one can never know if any of this is true. None of this can be considered politics, no matter how one defines politics. It is, in fact, moral decay which has permeated to such an extent that it has become a norm, an acceptable mode of behaviour which carries no consequences or so they think.

Pakistani politicians have no vision for the country; they are not trained in any school to run a state; they are poorly educated and their corrupt lives have made them walking disasters for the nation. There are a few exceptions to the corrupt herd, but even those do not stand out when it comes to what falls from their mouths. Imran Khan, for instance, has never been blamed for corruption, but all he has to offer to this unfortunate nation is froth and foam. He issues deadlines which mean nothing; he announces long marches which never start; he repeats himself ad nauseam; he has shown no strategic planning. One wonders why he is stuck in a cul-de-sac. Why he shows no leadership for a decisive match? What ails him?

Suppose the general elections are called in the near future. What would be his response to the urgent need of finding candidates who can actually stand out from the herd? Who will be with him? There is hardly any plan visible in his politics; it is an unending array of angry statements. Elections cannot be won by empty rhetoric; thus, one wonders if he has condemned himself to remain a failure.

The next general elections are inevitable; the only question is the date on which they will be held, but there is not a single political party which has started to plan for a corruption-free election which will restore some degree of faith in the choice offered by the ballot box. This includes the so-called most organised political party of Pakistan, the Jamat-e Islami. What prevents them, for instance, to go to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and lodge a reference against the existing voters' list, which according to Imran Khan contains millions of bogus votes? What are they waiting for?

One cannot hope for any good from the ruling party; its only interest will be to return to power. It has proven its inefficiency, not to talk about corruption. It has been able to defeat the opposition on every single issue so far, but at the expense of the country's future. The presidency is occupied by a man who is partial, not to mention his other "qualifications"; he is the de facto head of a political party on which he has family monopoly. This is in violation of the constitution, but no politician is able to challenge this effectively. Only once in a while, they are able to foam about it with their mouthfuls. The ruling party has also made a joke of all other demands so far put forward by the opposition; it follows the letter of the judiciary's decision, but beats them through ill-intent which kills the spirit of the decision and renders it ineffectual.

There is not a ray of hope in Pakistan's barren political landscape. It is a wasteland, resounding with empty diarrhoeic bombast. What these men and a few women say means absolutely nothing. And the masses know this; they have been cheated so many times that they now have no faith in politicians but since they do not have any choice and they are fond of fun and drama packed with emotions, they continue to play the game. But that game is at the expense of the country.

In the absence of good management and honest leadership, the country is rapidly sliding into an abyss; every single day increases its problems: the entire infra-structure is under tremendous pressure. From hospitals to educational institutions, and from roads to water management, there is no area of national life free from chaos and mismanagement. If nothing changes, the country will implode with this weight.

Change can only come through two means: a military coup and a change through elections; both options appear bleak. For fair elections, a transparent pre-election process needs to be put in place; however there is no indication that this will happen any time soon. Thus, those who are demanding mid-term elections are simply emptying their mouths into a vacuous hole. If they are serious, they must first insist on the establishment of an impartial body which will conduct the next general elections. They must do their homework and examine the voters' list. They cannot just state a number and claim that so many million bogus voters exist, as Imran Khan did the other day. They must produce dependable and defensible evidence and bring the issue to the judiciary so that a credible process of genuine representation can begin.

Realism dictates that we must come to terms with the fact that Pakistan has no political culture which can produce credible, honest, dependable politicians. Those who now hold political power will never tolerate a genuine political leadership and hence there seems to be no way out of the present bleak scenario. Imran Khan made an exceptional entry into this wasteland, but made nothing out of it. This is a nightmarish scenario for anyone imagining Pakistan's future. The accumulated weight of a failed political leadership will eventually invite a military dictator who would claim to be the promised messiah, only to deceive and be deceived by his own falseness.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:








When you get sideswiped by a VIP cavalcade, and see it almost push an ambulance off the road, with the goons in escort vehicles angrily gesturing at the ambulance. When on a dark night with no streetlights, you almost ram into the black rear of a water tanker with no tail lights, no bumper and no number plate, with the policemen on duty giving it a friendly wave, all you can do is feel is helpless indignation.

As if all the above were not enough, there are oil tankers transporting inflammable material lumbering all day through crowded residential and commercial areas, high-voltage electric cables, with their carcinogenic magnetic fields, strung above. In no other city in the region is the traffic of oil tankers as heavy, and continuous, through residential and commercial areas, as in Karachi.

The city can also lay claim to having what must surely be the world's largest parking area for oil tankers, located plumb in the middle of a prime residential area in Clifton. Clifton once used to be an upscale residential location along the sea. The oil tankers are parked in defiance of an order of the Sindh High Court. For the residents of the highrise apartments there, the view below must be a surreal contrast: a vast sea of oil tankers meeting the Arabian Sea, the beaches and coast of which are now as polluted as the once-lovely areas along it are increasingly uglified.

Pakistan's largest city, its commercial hub and its main port has the misfortune of being prime tanker country. There are more water and oil tankers plying and parked here than anywhere in Pakistan. The water carriers have successfully foiled all schemes for piped water supply. It seems no one can defy the tanker mafia, which is made up of powerful figures in the police, the city administration and other departments who either own a fleet of such tankers or have a stake in their continued operation – in short, almost anyone with strong political connections. Then there are the noisy smoke-emitting, creaking vehicles plied by the mafia – even scrap dealers would be reluctant to buy them – which, from the way they are rashly driven, are a grave threat to other road users.

Meanwhile, the residents of Karachi are engaged in a daily, and costly, struggle for water. The over fifteen million population of the city is held hostage to the tanker mafia for water supply. Water tankers must be such a lucrative racket that the National Logistics Cell (NLC) has joined it. The Public Accounts Committee has called for action against three retired lieutenant generals for a huge money scandal in the NLC. The Rangers, never to be left out of a lucrative deal, run their own water tanker service.

Karachi's Defence Housing Authority has held back arrangements for laying pipes for water supply in Phase 8. Needless to say, at the mafia's behest, as the reports say. It supplies a scant – and erratic – 2,000 gallons per week to residents in its own small tankers, leaving the residents to buy the bulk of the water from the tanker mafia. The much-heralded DHA water desalination plant was supposed to rid Defence residents of water and power shortages. One reason it doesn't start functioning is the tanker mafia's hard pressure on the Defence Housing Authority to continue to drag its feet on bringing the plant on stream.

The abominable tanker situation in Karachi would be an affront, and challenge, for any self-respecting local, provincial or federal government. Sadly, the kind of political situation in which we find ourselves, we are at a stage where we no longer feel affronted.

The writer is a former corporate executive. Email:







The Osama bin Laden incident has greatly tarnished the image of Pakistan as a reliable ally in the war on terror. Some US lawmakers are furious at Pakistan because they say it hosted Bin Laden in Abbottabad for several years. They are raising new questions about the billions in foreign aid the US has spent on assisting Pakistan, which they consider an unreliable ally. The US has reportedly delayed the release of war-on-terror funds to Pakistan. Two US commanders responsible for operations in Afghanistan have testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pakistan knows the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and that the IEDs being used against Coalition forces come from Pakistan.

President Barack Obama's speech on his exit strategy and his interview with the Voice of America were focused on Pakistan. He accuses Pakistan of failing to recognise the threat to its sovereignty that arises from the presence of extremists on its territory. According to him, this is the main reason that the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot work cooperatively and have failed to converge their respective security interests.

He told the VOA on June 23 that "Pakistan either has always seen terrorism as a problem for somebody else, or has seen elements of the Taliban as a hedge in terms of their influence within Afghanistan. Terrorism threatens Pakistan more than just about any other country. It strains its relations with its neighbours and with friends like the United States. The Taliban should need not to be seen as a hedge against Afghanistan. Instead, they should see the Afghan government as a partner they can work with. Pakistan will be pressed to expand its participation in war on terror. Pakistan still has terrorist safe havens and the US will make efforts to address this issue. The US will insist that Pakistan keeps its commitment."

Obama wants his exit strategy to succeed at all costs. He is under pressure from Congress members who insist that the real problem lies in Pakistan, which they see as the main hurdle in the success of the war on terror. Osama bin Laden's death, and the fact that he was living in Abbottabad, has greatly tarnished the image of Pakistan as a trusted ally in the war on terror.

Obama is only partly right when he says that Pakistanis do not recognise that the extremists are a real threat to their country's sovereignty. Most Pakistanis, including some political parties, rightwing elements and a section of the media, still think that the greatest threat to Pakistan is the US, the CIA and drones, and not the terrorists. No one has ever protested against the illegal foreign militants, who are using our soil for terrorist activities in other countries. They perceive the presence of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan as the root cause of the problem. They do not realise the fact that the Afghan Taliban had waged a war against Muslim Afghans for seven years. Buthanudin Rabbani, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, and Ahmed Shah Masood were not American. The Taliban will not lay down their arms on the withdrawal of the US forces, and their fight will continue until they regain power. The TTP has already announced that it will not stop terrorism on after US exit from Afghanistan but will fight on until their brand of Sharia is imposed in Pakistan.

Pakistan has genuine security concerns about its Western border. Afghanistan was the only country that opposed the entry of Pakistan in the United Nations. Certain Afghan governments have been raising the issue of Pakhtunistan. They do not recognise the Durand Line Treaty signed by Amir Abdul Rehman in 1893, which was validated by his successors, King Amanullah and Nadir Shah, in 1919, 1921, and 1930. There had been incidents of aggression by Afghan forces, including their crossing of the border to attack Chaman in 1953 and Bajaur in 1961.

Obama states that Pakistan has safe havens for terrorists, and that Pakistan will be pressed to expand its cooperation on the war on terror. He says the US will insist that Pakistan keeps its commitment. He is probably referring to the operation in North Waziristan and apprehensions regarding the top leaders of Al-Qaeda. North Waziristan is different from other agencies in many aspects. The Utmanzai Wazirs are residing on both sides of the border. They have always played a role in the internal politics of Afghanistan. King Nadir Shah, the father of Zahir Shah, inherited the throne from Bacha Saqao, with the help of a Wazir Lashkar in 1929. The Faqir of Ipi fought the British for twelve years and against Pakistan for many years.

Wazirs from North Waziristan have been serving in the Afghan army even after the creation of Pakistan, and one of them rose to the rank of corps commander. North Waziristan is not under the total control of the terrorists. They are not occupying areas there in the same way as Fazlullah did in Swat, Baitullah Mehsood in South Waziristan, Faqir Mohammad in Bajaur and Tariq Afridi in Darra. The terrorists are using compounds and hideouts in different parts of the Agency. About 30,000 Army troops are already present in the area.

The political administration should convene a jirga comprising of known and respected notables of Wazirs, Dawars, Kharseen, and Saidgi tribes. The army should not get involved in jirgas. In case the jirga fails to evict the terrorists from their area, then targeted operations, based on reliable intelligence and with the support of locals, should be conducted.

Before the initiation of the operation, Orakzai and central Kurram have to be secured. Otherwise, most of the terrorists are likely to move to these areas. The Haqqani group is likely to flee to Afghanistan before initiation of operations as the group has bases in about nine provinces of Afghanistan. The securing of North Waziristan is not likely to resolve the issue of terrorism in Afghanistan. The suicide bombers who entered the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul, certainly did not go from North Waziristan, but charges such as these expose the exaggeration of the Coalition forces about magnitude of incursion from that area.

The Taliban never recognised the Durand Line, and in fact laid claims to parts of Mohmand Agency, Binshahi in Dir and Angoor Ada in South Waziristan. Pakistan, for internal security reasons, should not insist on a Taliban government in power in Afghanistan, because they export Talibanisation to Pakistan. Efforts should be made for a broad-based, friendly government in Afghanistan on the withdrawal of US forces.

Pakistan's army is under unprecedented pressure from both inside and outside the country. The Pakistani urban middle class and media who are largely anti- US are furious at the US carrying out the operation in Abbottabad which killed Osama bin Laden, and at our armed forces' failure to react appropriately. Internationally, the situation is not in favour of Pakistan. Most of the world perceives Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists. In case we do not act to eliminate these sanctuaries, action by foreign forces will remain a threat.

The writer is a retired brigadier.








The arrogance that comes with success is a dangerous thing. This government has done well to survive difficult times for the last three years. Now it is beginning to believe in its own invincibility and taking chances that could bring the whole shebang crashing down.

Among the many calculations it has made, the most important is that the army is no longer in a position to overtly or covertly bring the government down. It thus feels that enough space has been created to take on the Supreme Court.

Its suspension of Zafar Qureshi, the courageous cop investigating the National Insurance scandal, is a direct challenge to the court's authority. This practically negates the court's earlier order that this officer should be brought back to take up the case again.

The Supreme Court was forced to do this because the prosecution of the NICL case had been severely compromised by politics. It was always obvious that the Chaudrys had joined the government to save Moonis Elahi, who was in imminent danger of being convicted.

The case against him of pocketing more than 500 million in the NICL deal was so overwhelming that the only way out was for the prosecution to give up prosecuting. This was managed after removing Qureshi. One by one, the witnesses started to backtrack and the FIA, the agency that had brought the charges, baldly stated that there was no evidence against Moonis.

The Supreme Court, like the rest of the country, was aghast because it was virtually an open and shut case. The cash trail could not be denied and the beneficiaries stood exposed. The fact that a powerful family could use its political bargaining power to escape from a hideous crime was too much to bear and the court correctly responded.

It is true that after the departure of the MQM, the government cannot afford to lose the Chaudrys. They, in turn, have taken what is for them the bitter pill of joining the PPP only to save Moonis. If the government cannot deliver on this, the deal is dead. And that could mean the end of its majority, although I suspect that the government can wean away enough members from the Q party to survive.

While these permutations have troublesome implications, the government's open defiance of the Supreme Court could have deadly consequences. If the court keeps passing orders and the government keep defying them, if not in letter than in spirit, it brings constitutional order to an end.

The classic definition of a constitutional deadlock is when two institutions working under it refuse to concede to each other what the Constitution has mandated. For example, it is the prerogative of the government to take executive decisions but it is the job of the court to determine the legality of such orders.

And once this determination is made, it is a command that the executive has no discretion but to obey. If it refuses to do so, it is a constitutional deadlock. Unfortunately, there is no clear mechanism in the 1973 Constitution to break it, except the extreme step of the court asking any agency of the state to help implement its orders under Article 190.

Are we moving in that direction? The court has occasionally transgressed its strict confines to pass orders that seemed more executive than judicial. Its use of suo moto powers too has at times been excessive, as was demonstrated in the Atiqa Odho case. The court must carefully choose what it should take up and what is should steer clear of.

Having said that, it is also obvious that the government has consistently and deliberately defied court orders for the last three years. It has sought to undermine the apex court's authority. If this was a spat between two individuals, it would be of no concern to us, but this is a clash between two premier institutions of the state. How long can this deadlock last?

This is where the danger lies, because as it is, we are in deep trouble. What we cannot afford is a clash of institutions that leads to more paralysis than there already is. Our fingers have gone numb writing again and again that public finances are in a shambles and governance is in a crisis. The saddest part is that no one in the ruling party gives a damn. They are too busy gathering in the loot or protecting each other's backs.

What greater example of this can be than the curious case of Amin Fahim? He is soft-spoken and has cordial relations with everybody, but what this geniality hides is mysterious transfers of cash into his and his family's bank accounts. And what a dervish he is? Forty million rupees were put into his account and he says I am not aware of these minor things. My manager handles all this.

And then this large-hearted manager, again apparently without the dervish knowing about it, sends to the government a cheque for the amount that had burrowed its way slyly into his account. Why do these snake loads of cash not find other targets?

This story is replicated in a hundred other ways in this government. People high and low are involved in one scam after another. Lift any stone and crawling under it are huge worms of corruption. The public patience is now beginning to wear thin and to many the Supreme Court seems the only saviour.

The army chief has correctly said that his institution is answerable to the people and its public representatives, but what if the clash between the government and the court becomes truly nasty? What if a reference is received from the court with a direction to implement its orders? What will the army do then?

These are difficult questions, and the only hope should be that things don't reach such a sorry pass. The military has enough on its plate and can least afford being dragged into civilian affairs. The only way out of this potential crisis is for the government and the court to strictly follow the constitutional path.

The court must deliberate carefully before issuing orders. But once this has been done, the government should, without prevarication, implement them. This could lead to political problems, but it has to recognise that more important than saving a majority in the parliament is saving the integrity of the democratic system. If that becomes a joke and the people lose faith in it, nothing will be left.

Civil society groups are considered to be guardians of democracy. In this case, their active advocacy is required to push the government to implement Supreme Court decisions. If they remain passive, they should not blame anyone if the system is derailed.









Americans and Pakistanis are fearfully similar, almost like identical twins. What they possess and is unmatched with the rest of the world include a near-complete absence of a sense of timing, limited understanding of the political reality, and subsequently the inappropriateness of action. If things go wrong, which in many cases do, they have an immense desire to beat the trumpet that there is both an inherent logic and a higher moral value attached to whatever they have done. In most civilised countries, governments try to look after the interests of their populace. They have another policy towards outsiders though and play out a different politics in the international arena.

But the Americans and Pakistani establishments lie to their own people no less than they lie to the rest of the world. They create self-fulfilling prophecies. Their capacity to believe in self-created myths about the world is such that it can only be compared to the hunter-gatherers and early farmers of the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages. They are both self-righteous to the hilt. One recent example is finding the WMDs in Iraq. The world is yet to see one such weapon that they have found after ransacking that country.

Americans elected Bush twice who stayed in power until January 2008 and, you bet, he would have seriously challenged the democratic candidate if a third term were allowed for the president's office. However, one must reiterate the difference between the two identically twin establishments. Pakistan is intellectually, technologically and economically weak with its ruling elite dependent on the other twin. Both are exposed from time to time but the Americans succeed in getting away with that because they are strong.

What one finds most interesting is not that the Gay Pride Day involving lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gendered was celebrated at the US Embassy in Islamabad. Richard Hoagland, the Charge d'Affaires, acknowledged the struggle for LGBT rights and is quoted as saying, "I want to be clear: the US Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way". The news of the event immediately provided the much needed cannon fodder to the starving right-wing forces in Pakistan who took to the streets and rallied support to forcefully reject anything modern, western, American, secular and rational in the same stride. But the most interesting bit was yet to come from the office of the secretary of the state, Hillary Clinton. It concludes that the secretary herself and her department is committed to rights for all without any discrimination and would continue to support such initiatives across the world. I invite Hillary Clinton to hold a similar event in Saudi Arabia, her closest ally, and issue a press release thereafter.

This is not to say that LGBT are not discriminated against in Pakistan or their rights should not be realised. Even the otherwise conservative superior court has ruled out clearly in support of the trans-gendered, the most marginalised and exploited in the country, both socially and economically. Besides, Pakistani gays have to undergo incomparable social and psychological stress in making personal decisions and leading a normal life. But if Americans at the highest diplomatic level start championing their rights, the struggle would be adversely affected. The representatives of the right wing, who are also not immune from the vices projected on others, will get a renewed ideological strength in the hypocritical political order of Pakistan. Americans need to sort out the issue of convergence of interests with their allies in the war on terror first.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.khalique@









AT long last, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had to take up the issue of repeated raids from across the Durand Line into Pakistani territories of Dir, Bajaur and Mohmand with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan telling him in absolutely clear terms that the situation had reached to a stage where it needed to be defused quickly. He rightly pointed out that Pakistan Army was exercising utmost restraint in the face of provocations from across the border and that a meeting of the regional commanders be convened to avoid further killing of innocent people.

Gilani's telephone call to President Hamid Karzai came amid reports of several hundred militants crossing the border and attacking a village in Upper Dir, killing an anti-Taliban elder and setting fire to three schools. It was the latest in a series of cross-border incidents that have fanned diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Though Afghan President also expressed concerns over the situation and called for joint strategy to frustrate designs of militants and Prime Minister Gilani urged him to bring Pakistan's concerns home to ISAF and NATO forces, who bear major security related responsibilities in Afghanistan but there is hardly any possibility of improvement in the situation as all this seems to be deliberate and part of the calculated campaign to pressurise Pakistan into following American dictates blindly in the war on terror irrespective of its own national interests. It is absolutely impossible that such dare-devil attack could take place without knowledge or support of the occupation forces in Afghanistan who claim to be scanning every inch of the troubled region through latest technology. The revelation of Interior Minister Rehman Malik that Pakistani militants, who fled from Swat and Malakand, are being treated in government hospitals in Afghanistan, clearly shows that militancy and insurgency in Pakistan is funded and abetted by some foreign forces with a view to destabilising the country. It is also regrettable that there is no break in cross border attacks despite the fact that the point was hammered during last visit of President Karzai to Islamabad and he had given an assurance during a news conference that he would look into the problem seriously. The situation calls for greater unity and harmony at home and complete backing to Pakistan Army that is engaged in efforts to counter all sorts of conspiracies by internal and external forces against the homeland.






THE inconvenience caused by VVIP movements to the general public are known to everyone and there is great resentment to this jaundiced VIP culture but the agonies of the people are highlighted by issues of core humanitarian concern. Two women gave birth to babies on way to hospital due to the worst traffic jam of the history in Swat caused by the visit of Prime Minister Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to attend a seminar. The authorities had imposed curfew on the Saidu sharif road during the visit and no one was allowed to step outside the home.

This is not the first time that it happened due to VVIP movement, as in Quetta in February 2010 a woman gave birth to a baby in rickshaw that could not make it to hospital due to visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to the provincial capital. The incident was highlighted by media and it was expected that at least authorities concerned would give clear instructions to police and military police to relax restrictions in such cases but unfortunately those expectations remain unfulfilled because of callous attitude of our leaders towards plight of the people. This is only one aspect and no one can fully grasp the magnitude of the harm done to citizens due to blocking of roads and diversion of traffic during movement of VVIPs in different cities. Students miss examination, job seekers miss opportunity to appear in test or interviews, emergency patients do not reach hospitals in time and sometime breath their last, employees and other travellers reach their destinations after deadlines and vehicles burn precious fuel superfluously. Ironically, during visits of the President and the Prime Minister to their camp offices in other cities, roads and streets are permanently blocked for days. But birth of babies on roads is a shame and a degrading thing for the family concerned and no one can compensate for that. VVIPs do move elsewhere in the world as well but nowhere such extraordinary restrictions are placed on movement of the ordinary people but here law-enforcing agencies adopt the easiest and laziest way to ensure security of the VIP concerned. This type of attitude is not tolerated in any civilised society and therefore, we would urge the authorities concerned to come out with some alternative mechanism that could minimise woes of the people.






SOME people leave success story wherever they go because of their professionalism, honesty, dedication and hard work. Distinguished civil servant Dr Shoaib Suddle is one such example, who is currently serving as Federal Tax Ombudsman and previously served with difference in different capacities.

It is a matter of pride for every Pakistani that the Federal Tax Ombudsman Office has been rated as the cleanest and the most efficient public sector organisation in the country. A study conducted by a Lahore-based independent research firm, Islamic Countries society of Statistical Sciences, declares the FTO office as a role model for all public sector organisations. This is unique in a country where public dealing organisations are known for their corrupt practices and palm-greasing on this or that pretext, making life of the citizens miserable. This clearly proves that the leadership does matter and person of clean reputation brings marked improvement in the working of the institution he heads. Dr Shoaib Suddle performed miracles during his career in police service of Pakistan, which is otherwise in the bottom of departments with tainted reputation. And after his appointment as FTO, he brought about significant improvement in the working of this important body and transformed it into customer and taxpayer friendly. It was because of his matchless efforts that tax-related grievances of thousands of people were addressed and that too in a transparent and highly satisfactory manner. We believe that the lofty ideal of good governance can be achieved easily if those at the helm of affairs shun the tendency of appointing their cronies to lucrative jobs and instead meritocracy is promoted.








Although Pakistan and India were once a common people, the difference in trajectory of the two states since 1947 has resulted in the creation of two very different societies across both sides of the border. For example, even though they speak the same language, the Punjabis of Pakistan are very different from Punjabis in India. Across the world, there is a wide and growing difference between the Indian and the Pakistani Diaspora, and this is not caused only by differences in perception about Kashmir. Of course, there exist wide variations within both countries, in view of the size of both and the ethnic diversity found within national borders. However, the chemistry of 21st century society in India is very different from that of Pakistan's. A primary driver of this has been the vast difference in the role of the military.

An example of the difference in trajectories can be provided by an examination of the ISI as compared to an organisation that many regard as the equivalent of that powerful force, the Research & Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, otherwise known as RAW. But what is the factual position? The ISI nests within the bosom of the Pakistan army, the most powerful of the wings of the state, far stronger than the executive, judiciary or the legislature. It is homogenous in composition, being sourced from within the armed forces, with almost no civilian content. Aware that there exists no substantive difference between "internal" and "external" security, the ISI inserts itself into domestic issues whenever it sees a link between them and national security. There is little doubt that Pakistan is under siege, although the perception that this is entirely because of India is not accurate. There are other large countries in the vicinity that may have an interest in a weakened Pakistan. Because Islamabad is a military ally of the US and is close to Saudi Arabia, certain nearby capitals will regard it with less than complete trust, no matter how many soothing words get expressed in public. Finding out exactly which country is creating a particular problem inside another is usually as difficult as finding out who the father of the unborn baby is in the case of a woman who has been repeatedly subjected to sexual assault by a multitude of men.

RAW was the creation of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who saw for herself the failure of the Intelligence Bureau in predicting the 1950 takeover of Tibet by the PLA, the 1959 arrival of the Dalai Lama in India, the 1962 and 1965 wars with China and Pakistan, and the surprise decision of the Mizo National Front to declare independence in 1966. The IB could not be blamed for such lapses, because it was created by the British in order to keep an eye on internal dissent. The mindset of those manning the organisation was more political than strategic, a situation that continues to the present. There was a clear need to separate internal dissent from external threats, which is why the RAW was created in 1968 under a trusted family confidante, R N Kao.

The organisation proved its value early on. In 1970,links were established with those in the then East Pakistan. Once it became clear that General Yahya Khan would not make Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the Prime Minister even though he had got a majority in the National Assembly, the fiery leader declared the independence of East Pakistan. Thereafter, a campaign of non-conventional warfare against the Pakistan army was begun, that ended with the creation of Bangladesh following a brief war with India in 1971. That RAW was in close contact with those in East Pakistan who were hostile to the Pakistani state was no secret. That assistance was provided to them is a fact that is hard to deny. Had any of her successors been PM instead of Indira Gandhi (with the possible exception of Rajiv Gandhi), there is no doubt that they would not have had the nerve to fight a war or provide the assistance that Indira Gandhi ensured to Mujib's men. Other Prime Ministers would have listened to Washington and other capitals and prevented the immense help to the Mukti Bahini that was provided by RAW during 1970-71.

While this may have cost Bangla Desh its freedom that year, such an outcome may have actually been better for Indian interests of the time. The Pakistan army would have been forced to fight for years a debilitating guerilla war in East Pakistan that would have drained it to exhaustion. Sometimes, to win a war is much worse for a country than to avoid a war, and this seems to have been the case with India in Bangladesh, exactly as it has been for the US in Iraq. By its "defeat", West Pakistan was freed of the disaffected east, and quickly consolidated under General Zia to encourage first the Khalistan and then the Kashmir insurgencies against India. Had General Zia been forced to deal with a continuing rebellion in the east, his army would have been too weak to undertake the operations that it did during his period in office, in Afghanistan and India. As Rajiv Gandhi learned to his cost in Sri Lanka during 1987-89, getting into a combat situation is easy, but unless the political and diplomatic side got equal prominence, mere military action would not succeed in ensuring victory.

Under Rajiv Gandhi, RAW was given the same importance that it had under Indira Gandhi. The PM used to meet with RAW officers regularly, and even used to visit the organisation's office. Both S G Joshi and A K Verma (whose designation "Secretary R" indicated that they headed RAW) ensured that the organisation developed numerous contacts in target countries. The negative effects of the 1977-79 Morarji Desai period, when RAW was almost disbanded, were overcome. In those days, a comparison between RAW and ISI would not have been as inaccurate as it became afterwards, beginning with the period when P V Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister in 1991. Under his Principal Secretary, Amar Nath Verma, RAW lost its earlier importance, and began to report to him rather than to the PM.

This was also the period when the Indian Police Service established its supremacy over RAW, edging out the Research & Analysis Service inductees. The RAS had been conceptualised as intelligence professionals by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and given parity with the Indian Foreign Service (IFS),the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS),the successors to the British administrative wings, and which were closely modelled on them, because of Jawaharlal Nehru's immense faith in the colonial administrative structure and his belief that these could serve a free India as well as they had their British masters for nearly a century. Amar Nath Verma soon put an end to this, placing the RAS far below the IFS and the IAS. Indeed, he ensured that RAW would henceforward be dominated by the police, just as the Intelligence Bureau was. This merging of both via a common police link was to have major consequences. There is a huge difference between the military mind - which is strategic and in most cases free of politics - and the police mind, which focuses on the tactical and on the political. The Indian Police Service is a first-rate group of officers, but to have taken them away from police functions to managing the arcane world of the intelligence specialist was akin to playing cricket with a hockey stick. Worse, many of the police officers serving in RAW returned to their parent cadres regularly, thereby losing their link with specialised intelligence gathering and plunging once again into the hurly-burly of law and order issues. In India, neither the Defense Ministry nor the National Security setup has a dedicated and permanent cadre of officials trained in the field. This is unlike the Finance Ministry, which has greater specialisation than most other ministries, although such expertise does not reach the level of the External Affairs Ministry, which is 100% specialised in diplomacy. In the US, the CIA may be led by a boss without an intelligence training, but each echelon of that organisation is staffed with intelligence specialists, unlike the FBI, which is more into policing. In India, because of the colonial heritage that regarded the British as a master race capable of undertaking any task, the dominance of the generalist has continued, including the police generalists in RAW.

After Rajiv Gandhi, no Prime Minister has bothered to exercise personal oversight of RAW. In the Vajpayee era, control was exercised by the National Security Advisor to the PM, Brajesh Mishra. Since Manmohan Singh took charge of the government in 2004, RAW has been under the effective superintendence of not only the NSA, but often the Principal Secretary to the PM, the Cabinet Secretary and on occasion even the Home Secretary.

The separation of RAW from the fountainhead of authority has cost it salience and effectiveness. As for expertise, while there are dozens of experts on India in the various national security agencies of China, in India, their counterparts have much fewer experts on the country that is of such overpowering importance in India's security calculus, the Peoples Republic of China. If the "world's biggest democracy" nevertheless ambles along, the credit goes not to those managing its affairs but to the Almighty. To compare RAW with the ISI is to compare a horse with a tiger.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.







Armed Forces and intelligence agencies render exceptional services to protect national interests. They have offered tremendous sacrifices for the sake of their country and nation. Unfortunately some hostile elements are running a malicious campaign to discredit and defame the Armed Forces of Pakistan especially the Army and Pakistan's premier intelligence agency ISI.

The aim of such negative propaganda is to weaken people's faith in the professional capabilities and competence of Army and ISI to defend national interests. These segments of society are trying to undermine the Armed Forces also because they fear their capability of defending Pakistan against the nefarious machinations of its detractors. One of the principles of subversion is that the enemy tries to sow seeds of doubts in the minds of the people of the target country regarding the capability of its armed forces to defend it. If its propaganda war is successful then the next step is physical subversion and ultimately a takeover becomes easy. Another effect of the propaganda against the armed forces is that it weakens their morale and they may lose confidence in their leadership. In Pakistan, where such an assault has become common practice, indifferent analysis and negative commentaries through print and electronic media are blowing up information which is creating misperceptions about the Armed Forces and "ISI". Thus general masses are showing signs of collective repulsion and frustration with deep signatures of injured feelings, incorrect impression about the efficacy of Army and ISI and speculative conditions of paranoia. Thus the "New York Times" story of the Army Chief "struggling for his survival" or the possibility of a "Colonels' coup", which were then repeated in our own media without verifying the speculative report. The case of Brigadier Ali and his probable links with Hizb-ul-Tahreer could have been better handled by the media managers of the armed forces. When the case had surfaced initially, a small press note could have been released that some members of the armed forces are being investigated for their links with banned organizations, without naming any one.

Later on when the news broke, the media managers would not be faulted for suppressing the story since they had already made it public. In this day and age, it is difficult to suppress information; instead, effort should be made that instead of hiding information, it should be managed so that damage is minimized. There is a need to develop an understanding that our country is confronted with numerous extraordinary challenges. It is very important to comprehend these issues in their true perspective rather than toeing the line of propagandists. However, if the media managers create the sympathy of our countrymen, they would not fall prey to the propaganda warfare. Pakistan's capability to tackle the issues and potential of Armed Forces to safeguard its frontiers, besides other positive social factors, remains its strength as a nation. Domestic media must be taken on board by confiding into its responsible managers so that it plays its role to dispel the present state of despondency, conspiracy theories and misperceptions. It is of prime importance that the national spirit is kept high and undesirable state of mind be set right through proper and positive media coverage using realistic and imaginative approach, as state of despondency is directly related to state of mind. Media has a role to correct perceptions and strengthen people's faith in the professional competence of our Armed Forces. While awareness is positive, the conspiracy theories weaken our convictions by spreading divisive themes and elusive schemes. The nation must maintain cohesive posture in the face of hostile propaganda. Media can suggest to the people to remain firm and resist falling prey to conspiracy theories.

Pakistan is passing through a critical phase as the nation is confronted with extraordinary challenges at internal and external levels. These challenges also offer us the opportunity to face the challenges boldly and make Pakistan a strong and viable country. Defeatism and getting paralyzed is no option. All segments of society including media must put up a collective front to internal and external threats rather than criticizing the Armed Forces, which does not comprise angels but fallible humans but criticism should be objective. Simultaneously, there should be no confusion in our minds that our Armed Forces/intelligence agencies are capable of defending the vital national assets/interests. Unfortunately certain elements are creating speculations and casting aspersions on the capability and competence of our Armed Forces thus enabling the enemy to exploit these conjectures to their best advantage. Politicians, intellectuals and media have a responsibility to protect Pakistan/Armed Forces, defaulters and law breakers not withstanding.

Social media including internet/SMS, Twitter have become a major source of exchanging information these days. Various blogs are operating and being used for opinion making. Own media managers must effectively use this media for projecting their view point. In this regard patriotic people must participate in discussion forums through Internet blogs, and make good efforts to project Pakistan's view point. Exchanging derogatory SMS against own Armed Forces is self defeating and self staggering. People must learn to behave maturely and conduct themselves with dignity. The Arab Spring has amply demonstrated the use of social media in mobilizing the masses for rebellion. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The same medium can be used to build a positive image of the custodians of the frontiers of Pakistan as well as exposing the nefarious designs of its enemies, especially those who are bent upon painting Pakistan in the worst light, speak of doom and gloom and propagate worst case scenarios.








Jihad is regularly misconstrued as war, with all its connotations of violence and bloodshed. However, in the Islamic context, and in literal sense, the word jihad simply means a struggle - doing one's utmost to further a worthy cause. The actual Arabic equivalent of war, is qital, and even this is meant in a defensive sense. According to Islamic teachings, jihad is of two kinds. One is with the self (jihad bin nafs), that is, making the maximum effort to keep control over negative feelings in one's self, for instance, arrogance, jealousy, greed, revenge, anger, etc. The psychological efforts to lead such a life of restraint is what jihad bin nafs is about. In social life, it happens time and again that all sorts of base, negative feelings well up within a man, causing him to lead his life succumbing to desires and temptations. The internal effort made in such a situation to overcome the temptations of the self and to continue to lead a life guided by principles is the truly Islamic jihad bin nafs.

According to the Hadith, a believer is one who wages jihad with himself in the path of obedience to God. That is, at moments when the self (nafs), lured by some temptation, desires to deviate from the path of God, he keeps control over it and remains unswervingly on the divine path. The other form of jihad is that which is engaged into propagate the constructive message of Islam. All those who embark upon such a course must first of all study the Qur'an and Sunnah in a dispassionate and objective manner. No kind of conditioning should be allowed to come in the way of such study. Only after passing through this intellectual jihad will the would-be proponent of Islam be in a position to make a true representation of his religion.

Two conditions have been laid down in the Holy Qur'an for the communication of the teachings of Islam to others — naasih, well-wishing and amin, trustworthiness. The former appertains to God and the latter to man. What is meant by naasih (well-wishing) is an earnest desire on the part of the preacher of truth for the well-being not just of his immediate interlocutor, but the whole of humanity. This well-wishing should be so steadfast that it remains undiluted even in the face of injustice and oppression. Overlooking people's negative behaviour towards him, the preacher should continue to remain their well-wisher. The element of trustworthiness (amin) is important in that it ensures that the religion God has sent to the world will be presented to the people without deletion, addition or distortion. For instance, if the Islam sent by God is akhirah (Hereafter) oriented, it should not become world oriented, if it is spiritually based, it should not become politics based; if it confines jihad to peaceful struggle, it should not become violence based. Islam asks us to perform jihad by means of the Qur'an, calling this 'greater' jihad (25:52). But it never asks its believers to do the 'greater' jihad by means of the gun. Jihad through the Qur'an means striving to the utmost to present the teachings of the Qur'an before the people. That is presenting the concept of One God as opposed to the concept of many Gods; presenting akhirah-oriented life; a humanitarian-oriented life and duty-oriented life as a categorical imperative taking moral precedence over a rights-oriented life. Jihad, according to Islam, is not something about which is any mystery. If a simply a natural requirement of daily living. It is vital both as concept and as a practice because, while leading his life in this world, man is reportedly confronted by such circumstances as are likely to derail him from the humanitarian path of the highest order.

These factors sometimes appear within man in the form of negative feelings. This is something to which everyone must remain intellectually alert, so that if for any reason there is some danger of negative mindset gaining upper hand, he may consciously and deliberately turn himself to positive thinking. Even if circumstances repeatedly place him in situations which are depressing and demoralising, he must never on such occasions lose courage or lose sight of noble goals. The re-assertion of his ethical sense is the realjihad which he has to wage. From the Islamic standpoint, intention is all-important. Any undertaking carried out with good intentions will win God's approval, while anything done with bad intentions is bound to be disapproved of and rejected by God. In actual fact, intentions are the sole criteria of good or bad actions in the divine scheme of things.

This truth relates jihad to man's entire life and to all of his activities. Whatever man does in this world, be it at home, or in his professional capacity, in family or in social life, his prime imperative must be to carry it out with good intentions and not the reverse. This, however, is no simple matter. In all one's dealings, adhering strictly to the right path requires a continuous struggle. This is a great and unremitting lifelong struggle. And this is what is called jihad. Even if one is engaged in good works, such as the establishment and running of institutions which cater for social welfare or academic needs, or if one is personally engaged in social work of performing some service in the political field, in all such works the element of personal glory has a way of creeping in. Therefore, in all such instances, it is essential that in the individuals concerned there should be strong tendency to introspection, so that they may keep before them at all times the goal, not of personal glory but the greater glory of God. It is one's intense inner struggle to make all activities God-oriented which is truly Islamic Jehad.







Hydatidosis, which is also known as hydatid disease or cystic echinococcosis, is caused by a dog tape worm Echinococcus. It has two important species i.e. Echinococcus granulosus and Echinococcus multilocularis. The first species is found all over the world including Pakistan while the second is found only in Northern hemisphere of the world. The adult worm mainly affects the dogs but it may be present in foxes and dingoes. The foxes due to their feeding habits and the fact that they carry a few worms in its intestine, do not pose as serious a threat to human or livestock. E granulosus tapeworm consists of only 3-4 segments and its size is about 6mm when it becomes a mature parasite. Due to its small size thousands of worms can be present in the intestine of a dog without causing any ill effects. It is very difficult to see them in the intestinal contents because they resemble the intestinal villi. A dog or a fox only becomes infected with these tapeworms by eating a hydatid cyst containing tapeworm heads called protoscolices. The protoscolices are also known as hydatid sands because of their gritty feeling when the cyst is sliced open.

When the tapeworm heads are swallowed by a dog, they embed in the lining of dog's intestine and begin to grow. In six weeks they become mature and the last segment of the worm contains thousands of eggs. This mature segment sheds after every 14 days and comes out with the dog faeces while a new segment is developed in place of the broken segment. After passing out in faeces, the segment ruptures and eggs are scattered in the environment and can move about by wind and water. They are highly resistant to the environment and can remain viable for many months. Contamination of the dog's kennel area, play grounds, pastures and dog's coat can easily occur. These eggs can be ingested by sheep, goats, camels, cattle, buffaloes, deer and accidentally humans. After being swallowed, it hatches to release a small, hooked embryo which penetrates the intestinal wall, enters the blood stream and is transported to liver, lungs, heart, spleen, kidneys and less frequently to other organs like brain and tissues. There it develops into a hydatid cyst which is a fluid filled sac like a bladder. The cyst is composed of outer laminated and inner germinal layer from which brood capsules develop within which the next generation of tape worm heads called "protoscolices" develop.

Each capsule may contain up to 40 heads and each capsule when enlarges, become detached from the layer and floats free with in the fluid and are known as daughter cysts. These brood capsules release the tape worm heads or protoscolices. If a cyst ruptures with in a host, these brood capsules form a new cyst called as daughter cyst or secondary cyst. The speed of the cyst development varies with the strain of parasite, location of the cyst and species of the host. For example in sheep it takes about three months to grow to 4-5 mm diameter and in next three months it may reach up to 20 mm in diameter. A mature fertile cyst may contain up to 100,000 brood capsules and each capsule may have up to 40 protoscolices i.e. a total of 4 million tape worm heads may be present in a fertile cyst but not all the cyst are fertile. As the animal becomes older, some of the cysts become dead or calcified but the outer layer remains as such. Most of the cysts developed in accidental hosts like humans are not fertile and are not involved in maintaining the life cycle of the parasite.

Various strains of echinococcus have been found and the variation has been seen in fertility of cysts, rates of development in the dogs and size of rosteller hooks. Children are at greatest risk of hydatid infection because of their close association with dogs. Any dog that has had access to fresh offal including liver could be infected with this worm. It may take several years to develop a cyst up to the size that can produce symptoms in intermediate hosts. Hydatidosis in human is a serious disease and signs and symptoms depend on the affected organs. There may be jaundice, abdominal pain, cough, and chest pain, shortness of breath, seizers, paralysis, anaphylactic shock and death of the patient. Diagnosis in human is done through CT scan, MRI, Ultrasound, X-rays, Radiology, PCR, ELISA and other tests. Treatment is mainly through surgery. Some drugs like albendazole and Mebendazole are also effective. In animals there are no apparent signs are present so it is difficult to diagnose the disease in live animals. The disease can only be diagnosed after the slaughtering of animals. The disease in animals causes considerable economic losses in the form of condemnation of the affected organs like liver, lungs, heart, spleen, kidneys and other tissues and also by reducing the productivity of the animal.

Fertility rate of hydatid cysts was observed in both species and found as 38.33 % in sheep and 36.96 % in goats which is an indication that this disease has a considerable potential to be transmitted to the humans and the dogs to continue its existence in the country. Killing of stray dogs and proper slaughtering measures may help control of the disease.

Prevention and control of hydatid disease involves that: (i) Access of dogs in and near abattoirs should be banned. (ii) Proper disposal of infected viscera of slaughtered animals. (iii) Regular de-worming of pet dogs. (iv) Avoiding unnecessary handling of dogs. (v) Not feeding dogs with uncooked meat / beef or offal. (vi) People should not be allowed the slaughtering in houses especially at the time of religious festival like Eid-ul-Adha. (vii) Proper cleansing of uncooked food. (viii) Education on proper hygiene. (ix) Treatment of the dogs which may have the infection.








What sort of agenda will David Petraeus pursue as director of the CIA, after he leaves Afghanistan this month? He laid out a basic road map in his June 23 confirmation hearing. After spending a week with Petraeus's entourage in Kabul, perhaps I can add a few guideposts. Petraeus knows the agency needs a strong leader who can motivate and also discipline a sometimes stubborn secret bureaucracy. He knows, too, that the CIA culture is insular — good at co-opting the outsiders it likes and at undercutting those it doesn't. But he has coped with similarly strong cultures within the military and doesn't seem worried about the poison darts that may come his way.

Petraeus also senses that to succeed at the agency, he will have to lift his game — operating more like the CEO of a flat global business than as commander of a hierarchical military organisation. In the military, you can give orders and expect that they'll be carried out, but a CIA director needs a subtler kind of communication. The best thing, from the CIA's standpoint, is that Petraeus really wants the job. When he talked about his future with Defence Secretary Bob Gates last November, he said he wasn't captivated by book offers and business proposals, however lucrative. He wanted to stay in the public arena, and the CIA job seemed a huge challenge — one that he could enjoy for a long while, assuming President Obama is re-elected.

The CIA post, among other things, would allow Petraeus to stay with the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are likely to shift to paramilitary-intelligence missions, once the uniformed troops leave. When Petraeus talked about the new job during his hearing, the voice was somewhat different from the one that's familiar from his previous testimony about Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was the super-intense commander in a ribbon-bedecked uniform. Petraeus is likely to be a bit looser in style and more wide-ranging intellectually in the new job. The laser pointer may stay in the briefcase, along with the PowerPoint images that reduce a complex problem to a single screen. The agenda for a CIA director isn't executing a set campaign plan but helping conceptualise one. Many of the issues are blank slates: the political evolution of Iran and Saudi Arabia; the trajectory of the Arab Spring; the rise of other popular revolts; and, most of all, the puzzle of China. For an intellectual omnivore such as Petraeus, this is a rich feast. Petraeus understands that the CIA workforce is, as one senator put it, "nervous" about the agency being run by a military "superstar." This is a bruised organisation, wounded by so many years of public criticism, and it needs a leader, not a martinet.

Petraeus reassured the committee that he would be open to the workforce, including the agency's dissenters and grumblers. He plans to continue answering his own e-mail (subject to advice from agency lawyers) and told the senators that he'd like to eat in the cafeteria some days. (In the military, he hasn't been known for such casual encounters.) The challenge for an intelligence chief is to develop sufficient intellectual distance from military plans and policy papers so that he can give the president independent assessments. Petraeus gets that, in principle; he assured the senators he could step back and "grade my own work" in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this intellectual disengagement won't come easy for one of the most focused military commanders in modern American history. The best CIA directors I've encountered, such as Richard Helms and (in his early years) William Casey, had an ability to shrug their shoulders when internal debates got too thorny and say, as Helms liked to, "Let's get on with it."

They didn't try to noodle every problem. Petraeus will need that shrug. Petraeus has some sympathy with the notion that at the CIA, smaller may be better — in the sense that the agency shouldn't try to be all things to all intelligence consumers. He'll be lucky, in that respect, to have the discipline of a flat budget and a shrinking contractor workforce. He may find that a smaller, more elite agency does a better job. The best CIA directors have cut through the mediocrity that can develop inside a closed bureaucracy and demanded excellence. I hope Petraeus can do that, too. America needs a great intelligence service, and it will soon have a director whose ambition matches the agency's mission.—The Washington Post







BRITISH politicians and journalists have vied to use the strongest possible adjectives to condemn the behaviour of phone-hackers paid by the News of the World.

This newspaper shares their revulsion at practices at the Sunday tabloid owned by News International, a British subsidiary of News Corporation, which publishes The Australian.

Allegations that the mobile phones of a murdered child or the loved ones of terrorist victims were tapped are, quite frankly, sickening. We welcome the Cameron government's move to commission a public inquiry. The claims, which News Corporation's chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, has stated are "deplorable and unacceptable", follow earlier admissions by the paper that the phones of high-profile people, including the actress Sienna Miller, were also tapped.

This time, ordinary people are involved. Some who had their privacy violated were experiencing extreme trauma at the time, which made them highly vulnerable. In one case, the hackers allegedly intervened in the mobile memory bank, removing messages to influence the "story".

It is true that some of News's rivals have leapt upon the allegations in an effort to block its proposed takeover of BSkyB. It is also the case that in the highly competitive tabloid market in London, cheque-book journalism, the use of illegally obtained phone conversations and other corrupt practices are not unusual. None of this reduces the culpability of those who performed or sanctioned activities that, if proven, would be not just unethical and illegal but also lacking in common decency. The desire for a journalistic scoop may go some way to explain, but can never excuse, such rogue acts.

The Times, also published by News International, this week described the case as a watershed moment for British journalism. We agree, and would go further: the reputation of all journalists is damaged by such behaviour if it goes unchallenged. For the most part, Australian journalists have shown greater respect for the division between private and public lives than their European counterparts. Newspapers here have long eschewed corrupt news-gathering techniques, such as paying police for information. But there is no room for complacency. The fourth estate plays a vital role in civic society but as with every other institution in a democracy, its legitimacy requires public trust.





THE partial resumption of live cattle shipments to Indonesia is necessary to put the $320 million a year industry on the road to recovery.

The damage has been considerable since the ban was imposed on June 8, but vital questions remain unanswered, underlining the government's mishandling of the issue.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has allowed the trade to resume on condition that exporters comply with a new system that ensures individual cattle are tracked and slaughtered under international standards. Exporters will be responsible for ensuring that the animals they send are treated humanely. But the damage to Australia's relationship with Indonesia and heavy losses in the Top End cattle industry might have been avoided if the government had taken this approach in the first place.

Decisive action was essential after the exposure of unconscionable brutality at Indonesian abattoirs, but we now know the government had been aware for some time of allegations of inhumane slaughtering. There was no need to respond to public outrage in a kneejerk fashion with a blanket ban. The government could have continued issuing permits to exporters using the minority of Indonesian abattoirs that complied with international standards. By failing to consult her Foreign Minister or the Indonesians, Julia Gillard allowed her government's dysfunctional method of operation to be exposed. Curiously, it has now reversed the suspension on the eve of today's talks between Kevin Rudd and four senior Indonesian ministers, leaving Mr Rudd to smooth out the friction in one of our most important bilateral relationships.

In attempting to resolve the issue, Senator Ludwig faced conjoint challenges -- stopping the inhumane treatment of Australian cattle while protecting a lucrative export industry. Lifting the blanket ban under strict conditions is a step in the right direction, but it is far short of a long-term solution. If, as Western Australian Agriculture Minister Terry Redman calculates, only 10 to 15 per cent of live exports will have resumed by the end of the year, the cost to the industry and prosperity in northern Australia will be significant. Nor are animal protection groups, including the RSPCA, satisfied that adequate safeguards are in place to prevent cruel slaughtering practices.

It is encouraging that Indonesian embassy spokesman Eko Junor told The Australian yesterday that the ban had led to a review of practices in many local abattoirs to make them more humane and efficient. However, although Indonesian abattoirs run by Elders and the Wellard group have not encountered objections to their use of electric stun guns, the reluctance among Indonesians to use the guns more widely remains a concern for animal welfare advocates. While trade remains far short of business as usual, it is in Australia's interests to work constructively with the Indonesians to improve abattoir standards.

As the cost of the ban mounts, the Gillard government ought to have learned a lesson about avoiding piecemeal reactions to assuage media pressure. Whatever the internal sensitivities between senior ministers, when difficult predicaments arise, all relevant players should be drawn in to produce comprehensive responses. That is what good government entails.






THE carbon tax has been a long haul for Labor so we are not surprised that the government is anxious to manage the perceptions as it heads to Sunday's official announcement.

All prime ministers turn to their spin doctors at such times -- even when the public is relatively happy with the policy being released. The carbon tax is so contentious and confusing that Julia Gillard is right to feel nervous.

However, she does not inspire confidence by calling a 5pm cabinet meeting on Saturday to sign off on the tax and then waiting until Sunday morning to brief the back bench. Especially given two senior Greens already know the details through the multi-party climate change committee. The Prime Minister's precarious grip on power dictated that negotiations with the crossbenchers would take precedence over including Labor MPs, or even ministers, in the loop. But as formulation of the tax enters the home stretch, she looks hostage to spin as well as to Bob Brown. So worried is she about losing control through unauthorised leaks that she has left the finalisation with her own side to the 11th hour. A Saturday evening cabinet meeting fools no one: it can be nothing more than a rubber-stamping exercise.Who knows what and when is a matter for Ms Gillard. If she can manage anger in caucus and among some of her own frontbenchers, as well as keep the crossbenchers happy, she may believe it is worth it. Processes are important to good governance but in the end, it's the policy that counts. The circumstances were different, but former prime minister John Howard pursued a similar strategy of managing the partyroom when he introduced the GST.

But the unorthodox process around the development of the carbon tax is an uncomfortable reminder of Ms Gillard's predecessor and his failure to draw on the wisdom of cabinet and caucus. Kevin Rudd's reliance on his inner circle -- the so-called "Gang of Four" -- and the neophyte advisers in his own office ultimately proved dysfunctional to his administration.

At the start of her leadership, Ms Gillard promised an improvement in the operation of cabinet and a commitment to draw on the experience of the broader parliamentary party as well as cabinet. It is unfortunate that in her approach to the carbon tax, she seems to have forgotten that advice.






THE federal government's decision to lift the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia will satisfy no one. Not the cattle breeders, whose businesses have been disrupted; not the Indonesian importers, who have been punished for unsatisfactory slaughter practices, then apparently forgiven without having greatly changed them; not the animal welfare lobby, whose main demand - that all cattle be stunned before slaughter - has been ignored; and not the public, which has watched its elected representatives stagger from one backlash to another on the issue.

The Four Corners program revealing inhumane slaughter practices in Indonesian abattoirs was certainly confronting, and the outcry loud. The government clearly knew then that a full ban on the trade would be difficult, because it banned exports to only 12 Indonesian abattoirs. That was its idea of a measured, reasonable response. Had it held that line it might have tried to fix the most obvious problems without disrupting the trade too much. But it had miscalculated the depth of feeling and had to give way before the continuing outcry. Banning all live exports to Indonesia, though, produced another outcry from the cattle industry.

Slaughter practices overseas are a basic difficulty of the live cattle export trade. Once the animals leave Australia their fate is in the hands of others. Australia can express its wish for humane treatment and no doubt will be listened to politely, but nothing can be guaranteed. Should the trade be ended, then? Perhaps - but not by an overnight government diktat imposed after one television program.

Many livelihoods depend on the industry. If it were to end, the closure would have to be properly managed. But before that, the industry here and in Indonesia should be given a chance to do better. Past attempts to ensure cattle are slaughtered humanely have had mixed success. The industry will have to do a lot to allay the public's legitimate concerns over animal welfare.

The government, too, has to do better. The ban and the subsequent backdown are emblematic of a government which is too quick to react to difficulties as they arise, but lacks the clout either inside Parliament or outside it to manage matters effectively. Here, the need to deal with a foreign government with which relations are always sensitive tied the government's hands still more firmly: it could promise all it liked, but never deliver. The whole episode gives the impression - not for the first time - that the government is quick to react but slow to learn.






A CHILD who attacks a teacher at school commits a serious offence and will be punished by being suspended from classes for a day or more. Some will learn quickly from the experience; others may need to repeat it before the message gets through. But the expectation is that the child will learn, settle down and behave better when back in class.

But what if the child is disabled - suffering a condition in which normal inhibitory processes are missing - so that violence, towards teachers, other pupils and even themselves, is normal behaviour when under pressure?

At present in NSW it is expected that many such children will be accepted into mainstream schools, and any inappropriate behaviour dealt with in the same way as for normal children.

The intended result, though, never eventuates. Punishment only increases the pressure on the child and produces more outbursts. Good behaviour is not learnt, because it cannot be. Suspension follows suspension, lengthening successively to days, then weeks. Parents, already under great pressure, must take time they cannot afford off work to manage their children at home.

As we have reported, many parents in this desperate situation have only one recourse: to accuse the school of discrimination, and get it to reverse its suspension. They have the backing of anti-discrimination legislation and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to help their case, along with a High Court decision which in 2003 found against a school which six years earlier had expelled a pupil diagnosed with behavioural problems after he had been suspended five times in a year.

Anti-discrimination law and the theory behind it are complex things, intended to ensure the disabled are not excluded unfairly from normal life. Bringing disabled children into mainstream schooling is one aspect of that fairness. But the law is a clumsy guide to daily life. Commonsense suggests other factors should be in play here. Factor one: suspension from school is not an adequate way to manage the expected, well-documented symptoms of disability. Factor two: teachers ought to be able to expect they will not be physically attacked in schools. Factor three: parents should not have to go to court or appeal to the human rights tribunal to ensure schools look after their disabled children.

The solution would seem to be more resources - a segregated learning area, and specialist teachers - for all schools with disabled pupils. They already exist, but as our reports show, more are needed. The situation is one small part of our society's much larger neglect of mental illness of all types. As ever, it needs urgent attention.





IT WAS never likely, still less desirable, that a $320 million trade comprising nearly 60 per cent of Australia's live cattle exports would be shut down permanently. So when Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announced, a month ago, the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia ''for up to six months'', the question was how soon, and under what conditions, it would begin again. This week the minister answered that question by announcing that Australian companies could again apply for export permits provided they were able to demonstrate that the cattle would be treated humanely. He did not explain how strictly conditions imposed on exporters could be enforced once the cattle are outside Australian jurisdiction, but Senator Ludwig's statement that the stunning of animals before slaughter would only be ''encouraged'' presumably gives an indication of what government believes is possible.

The minister's announcement has predictably outraged animal rights activists, many of whom had hoped for a permanent ban, just as the suspension caused anger across northern Australia, where the beef cattle industry is a major employer. Both decisions, unfortunately, are mostly notable for their reactive quality. First, the Gillard government suspended the trade in response to popular outrage at the shocking scenes of mistreatment of animals in Indonesian abattoirs shown on the ABC's Four Corner's program. Now, having apparently realised that it would have to deal with the consequences for Australians threatened with loss of their livelihoods - and for poorer Indonesians deprived of their chief supply of cheap protein - there has been an almost as sudden about-turn. The industry will sustain damage, because it takes longer to resume the trade than to stop it, but it is not obvious that much more will be done to prevent the resumption of cruelty to animals. Australian inspectors have been denied access to Indonesia's abattoirs, and Senator Ludwig concedes that he does not know how many of the 600 abattoirs operate to acceptable standards. So what has been achieved from this exercise?

Had those charged with oversight of the live cattle trade - including, ultimately, Senator Ludwig - earlier devoted more attention to what was happening inside Indonesia's abattoirs, it might have been possible to foster humane slaughtering practices without antagonising abattoir operators or jeopardising the trade. As it is, the government's knee-jerk policymaking has done both.






Ouyang Cheng.

Beijing sends a message on the economy.

THE title of the speech seemed innocuous enough. Jointly Compose a New Chapter for Economic Co-operation Between China and Australia gave little indication of the bombshells it contained. Yet by the time Chinese diplomat Ouyang Cheng had finished his address this week, Beijing's intent was patently obvious. Mr Ouyang delivered several blunt messages to Australia, in what was a scathing assessment of weaknesses in the nation's ''dual speed and patchwork economy'', an economy said to rely too heavily on China's demand for minerals. He also took a swipe at the country's ''infrastructure bottleneck'' and shortage of skilled labour, proposing that Chinese workers could be sent to Australia. China was also concerned about the mining tax, and constraints on China's investment in Australia. Mr Ouyang is from the Chinese embassy in Canberra, but it was clear that this was more than a second-rung diplomat offering a personal view of the Australian-Sino relationship. It was a premeditated and pointed intervention by a regional power upon which Australia depends for its economic future. As Mr Ouyang noted, Australia has become China's seventh largest trading partner, while China is now Australia's largest trading partner.

There is uneasiness in being lectured to by a foreign power. It is an understandable reaction, but it is worth reflecting on Australia's own preparedness to lecture China, particularly on the vexed issue of human rights. China's frank public views on other nations are often delivered through its official media, so the impact of the message was more deeply felt because it was on Australian soil. The timing is important, coming after a fractious period in relations between Canberra and Beijing. This has included tension over Australia's 2009 Defence white paper that emphasised China's military build-up, concern over China's investment ambitions and the jailing of businessman Stern Hu. But there is also a message to Australia that the economic relationship cannot simply be based on Australia selling rocks to China. In many ways, it was a shot across the bows by China at a critical time in the economic relationship.

Given the potential to feel affronted, it would be easy to dismiss China's concerns as ill-informed meddling in our domestic affairs. Nevertheless, there is substance to some of the concerns raised in the speech. The emergence of the dual-speed economy should be of real concern. In essence, Australia's economic future is based on a mining boom delivering prosperity, while other parts of the economy contract to prevent over-heating. Much of this contraction seems to be in the manufacturing-based eastern states of Victoria and NSW. Yet this is occurring without a significant national debate about the kind of economy we want and the role manufacturing should play in it.

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Concern about the nation's infrastructure failings has been reflected in comments in a report this week by Infrastructure Australia chairman Sir Rod Eddington, who argued that government reforms to infrastructure planning and delivery had been ''frustratingly slow'', dragging Australia's productivity below the average level for the developed world. Meanwhile, Mr Ouyang's complaints about frustrations to Chinese investment plans go to a threshold policy issue of foreign ownership of Australian assets, including the contentious area of agricultural land. The nation needs to clarify urgently the level of foreign ownership with which it feels comfortable. These issues raised by Mr Ouyang deserve important consideration, even if China's obvious motivation is self-interest rather than benevolent if gratuitous advice from a concerned neighbour. Leaving aside the hurt to national pride, Mr Ouyang's lecture is a clear indication that the economic relationship with China cannot be taken for granted.







Murdoch's statement praises the "loyal staff". But the blunt conclusion is: they go, Rebekah Brooks stays

That Rupert Murdoch is ruthless is a universally acknowledged truth. But his action in killing off the 168-year-old News of the World – the first paper he bought in Britain 42 years ago – was one of the most clinical moves in his long, tumultuous career as a newspaper publisher. Some would go further and say that it was one of his most cynical.

The statement released by his son, James, in the afternoon is remarkable, both for what it contains and for its omissions. Much of it says very eloquently precisely what we have been saying since the day – almost exactly two years ago – we revealed that he had signed a secret £1m deal to buy the silence of one of the multiple victims of his journalists' sordid and illegal acts. He now concedes that payment was wrong. He acknowledges that the paper has been sullied by repeated "inhuman" editorial behaviour which was "without conscience or legitimate purpose"; that the company failed to investigate itself properly; that executives had misled the police, misled parliament and misled the public.

That is a devastating admission of criminality, incompetence, misjudgment and deception. In any other company this would be a statement of resignation. But – apart from Mr Murdoch's limited admission of error in respect of the 2009 payout – there is no clue as to who is to blame for a catalogue of calamity so grave that a newspaper itself must be sacrificed in atonement. Who on earth was responsible for these catastrophic editorial and management failures? The answer is "wrongdoers" – unnamed people who apparently "turned a good newsroom bad".

None of this currently makes much sense except as a desperate exercise in saving executive skins, including his own. It is certainly true that the newspaper's reputation has been appallingly tarnished by the drip-feed of revelations which began in this paper and which have this week swelled to a torrent. It may be that the board of News Corp, which belatedly inserted independent investigators into the company, is aware of further revelations which – coupled with an already burgeoning commercial boycott – could have proved terminal to the paper's already damaged credibility and finances. Some suspect there is a simpler commercial explanation involving already well-advanced plans to merge the Sunday and weekday editorial staffs into a seven-day operation.

But numerous questions are still left hanging. There are two important ones: who are these "wrongdoers" whose actions caused the death of one of the most famous newspapers in the world? And how on earth can the executives responsible for this mess possibly convince themselves, let alone a sceptical outside world, that they are the right team to clean it up now? If Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, was not herself one of the "wrongdoers" then she was guilty of such editorial blindness and managerial ineptitude that she should resign. Mr Murdoch's statement praises the "loyal staff … whose good work is a credit to journalism". But the blunt conclusion is: they go, she stays.

When we published the 2009 story about Mr Murdoch's payoff to the Professional Footballers' Association's Gordon Taylor, NI responded by telling MPs that we had deliberately misled the public. If, instead of giving in to its worst instincts – blustering denial and attack – the company had taken the allegations seriously, it is unlikely that it would now be taking the desperate step of closing a title. Now it will be for the police, the courts and a judicial inquiry to get to the bottom of the systematic "wrongdoing" within NI – and how its baleful influence corrupted and infected wider public life, including the police. And if Ms Brooks and Mr Murdoch Jr insist on staying in post, parliament should now require them to give evidence before MPs. This time, please, the truth.





The problem is not just assessing the size of the current crisis, but also that droughts are an almost annual occurrence

Every day 1,000 Somalis stream across the Kenyan border to Dadaab, which is full to bursting with 367,000 people and already constitutes the largest refugee settlement in the world. They arrive malnourished and dehydrated but – after a walk lasting weeks – grateful that they have made it to a point where they will get food and water. The exodus is not the only indicator that a major food crisis is brewing in the Horn of Africa after the driest year for 60 years.

In Somalia the price of the cereal red sorghum has risen by 240% in the last year, and a 90kg bag of maize is bartered for five goats now instead of one. The malnutrition rates of refugees arriving in Ethiopia are 23% – six times the rate that constitutes an emergency. Figures like these caused aid agencies to launch multimillion-pound appeals this week to address a humanitarian emergency in east Africa affecting up to 10 million people. Britain announced that it would give £38m in food aid to Ethiopia, which is generous. Would that other donors gave as much, even if that sum may only fund the World Food Programme operation in the country until September.

But the problem is not just assessing the size of the current crisis, which is sure to grow. It is also the fact that the droughts in this region have become an almost annual occurrence. There have been five in the last seven years and, in terms of numbers affected, this may not be the largest. The biggest crisis peaked in 2009 when 22 million people were affected.

Should everyone shrug their shoulders and put serial drought down to climate change? No, these are some of the least developed areas in Africa. Of course, Somalia is shattered by decades of intervention and insurgency, and the drought has got so bad in the areas controlled by the militant Islamist al-Shabab that it has lifted its ban on getting food aid from UN agencies. But the largest number affected are in north-eastern Kenya, where the lack of roads, the soaring cost of transport, the lack of access to markets makes pastoralists and their livestock vulnerable from one month to the next. As the NGO Care says, simple measures can strengthen their resilience – building water pans, leaving pastures spare, setting boreholes and maintaining them, and training health workers to diagnose diseases and provide treatment to livestock. There are larger structural problems such as migration routes blocked by land bought by agribusiness and tourism.

As it is, aid agencies race from one drought to another. And the fact that the shortfall in WFP funding is 42% in Somalia, and 67% in Ethiopia and Kenya, speaks volumes about the mentality of donors who are only moved to act when it is too late.





Armies throughout history have contained gay men, and in 2000, when Britain lifted the ban, the sky did not fall in

Uncomfortable though it is to recall now, in the second world war the American military segregated servicemen by race. A combined force, claimed commanders, would disrupt discipline and weaken the fighting spirit of the troops. That prejudice was smashed many years ago and, in President Obama, America now has a black commander in chief. But identical fallacies were used until recently to discriminate against gay men and lesbians who wanted to serve their country. Soldiers, said generals, would not feel comfortable fighting alongside people of different sexuality – who in turn might be too effeminate to fight, or open to blackmail by foreign powers, as a British military report concluded as recently as 1996. It was absurd: armies throughout history have contained gay men, and in 2000, when Britain lifted the ban, the sky did not fall in. Openly gay British sailors and soldiers have served in Afghanistan, and joined gay pride marches in uniform. Now, at last, the United States is following suit. President Clinton aimed to lift the ban but retreated instead to a notorious "don't ask, don't tell" policy. President Obama has gone further; on Wednesday the US court of appeals backed full military equality and the Pentagon is now rewriting its rules. In the week that the body of Andrew Wilfahrt, the first openly gay American to die in combat, was brought home, it is right to remember that in a democracy the armed forces should represent all parts of the nations whose freedoms they are expected to defend.






The Atomic Energy Society of Japan, an academic society made up of experts on nuclear power engineering, nuclear reactor physics and radiology, on Monday issued a statement criticizing the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other related institutions for delays and insufficiency in their disclosure of information concerning the accidents at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which began March 11.

People will give an approving nod to each of the points raised by the society because these points accurately show what they have been feeling about the behavior of the government and Tepco in connection with the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The society says that the delay in the data disclosure is extremely regrettable and that the information has been insufficient.

Since the Atomic Energy Society of Japan is regarded as close to Japan's nuclear power establishment, the criticism bears importance all the more.

The government, Tepco and other related institutions should closely examine their past behavior as to information disclosure and quickly change their attitude.

The society says that people's worries about the nuclear accidents and the spread of radioactive substances have increased because the process of information disclosure is cloudy and the information that has been provided is conflicting.

The following point is especially important. The society notes that there is the possibility that the damage to people's health from radiation exposure has increased because the government, Tepco and other related institutions did not properly disclose information on the status of the nuclear accidents and the environmental contamination by radioactive substances.

It says that although they had information that must be disclosed, they have not done so.

An example that surfaced recently is the education and science ministry's failure to immediately disclose the name of a radiation hot spot in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

Tokyo Shimbun's Wednesday report says that although the ministry started monitoring the radiation level in the Akougi mountainous area in Namie on March 17 on the basis of a prediction by SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information) and detected a high radiation level of 150 microsieverts per hour or more at an early date, its website did not disclose the area's name until April 11. It only mentioned "(32) about 30 km northwest."

The radiation data were not used to evacuate local residents until the government decided on evacuation on April 22.

The society also takes the parties concerned to task over cases in which announcements have been made in Japan only after the data had been disclosed in reports intended for consumption abroad, and cases in which no announcements have been made in Japan although the information is provided abroad.

One example mentioned by the society concerns the reports on the meltdowns in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Fukushima No. 1. On June 6, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency announced that a simulation pointed to the possibility that meltdowns had occurred in each of the three reactors and that molten nuclear fuel had pooled at the bottom of the pressure vessel of each reactor. The next day, the government admitted that a more serious situation may have developed in the three reactors.

In its report for a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the government pointed to the possibility that molten nuclear fuel had drained out of the pressure vessels and dropped to the bottom of the containment vessels.

Understandably the society strongly criticizes the government for disclosing this serious development as late as almost three months after the crisis started and for disclosing the information only through a report intended for an international meeting.

The society also cited the handling of information on the arrangement of spent nuclear fuel rods in a cooling pool for the No. 4 reactor at Fukushima No. 1. It says that the U.S. Energy Department disclosed on May 26 a detailed diagram showing the arrangement of the spent nuclear rods as well as the results of its analysis on the situation.

The society points out that the data on the arrangement of the spent nuclear rods came from Tepco and that the information has not yet been disclosed in Japan even though it would be useful in determining the cause of the destruction of the reactor's outer building.

The cases clearly show that the information disclosure process is flawed. (The society also gave other examples.) The society notes that such vital information as the temperature of the lower section of the pressure vessels, the volume and temperature of the coolant water in the lower part of the pressure vessels, and the temperature of the molten nuclear fuel have yet to be released.

The government, Tepco and other related institutions should take a serious view of society's criticism that the problems in information disclosure have hampered experts' efforts to analyze the Fukushima nuclear accidents and offer advice on how to regain control of the situation.






Special to The Japan Times

On May 8, 2011, leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued a joint statement to reaffirm their commitment toward the development of a common position on global issues.

The statement reflects an endeavor to reshape the traditional principles of the ASEAN way by enhancing the significance of binding strictures.

Certainly, the need for a stronger ASEAN comes from the increasing uncertainty of regional and global political landscapes that have become ever more complex and multifaceted.

In East Asia, what started as a single regional entity known as ASEAN has evolved into numerous processes such as APEC, ARF, ASEM, ASEAN plus Three (APT) and the East Asia Summit (EAS). These frameworks are further compounded by the existence of other arrangements such as the Group of Two, Group of 20, Shangri-la Dialogue and the Six-Party Talks.

Yet, it would be misleading to assume that the complexities arising from such developments are to be given a priori. They are in fact the result of regional states' policy choices brought about by the combination of internal and external circumstances.

Hence, if the purpose of regionalism is to create a cohesive regional architecture with the European Union as a point in reference, East Asian regionalism has definitely been moving in a different direction — the continuous development of various political processes with overlapping memberships and modalities.

The question then becomes: Is having more institutional processes in East Asia a better alternative than trying to achieve a single community?

The popular argument has been to view the existence of multiple frameworks as a temporary measure that will eventually collapse into a single regional architecture. The counterargument, which is more persuasive, is to question that possibility by highlighting the lack of coordination and the competitive nature among the frameworks.

The notion of a regional community unfortunately remains contested in East Asia. One key reason is that the conceptual understanding of a community has been motivated more by national interests than by shared concerns.

Granted, the APT process arose out of a common concern following the 1997 Asian financial crisis and there had been a concerted effort by the Asian leaders in region building.

However, as the crisis wanes and the political landscape changes, so did the momentum of the APT. The formation of the EAS and the attempt to establish new forms of communities as evident from former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's and former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's proposals exemplifies the lack of unity in community building despite the official rhetoric that may suggest otherwise. By prioritizing national over regional interests, the meaning of "community" becomes none other than an evolving process whereby its level of development is dependent on its capability to serve as an avenue for the pursuit of foreign policy goals.

There can therefore be several communities understood as functional processes. Taken as such, East Asian regionalism would have a different trajectory compared to the regional integration model of the EU. Perhaps, the latter is undesirable if the region intends to remain open.

Essentially however, it is the lack of trust among the member states that are preventing any meaningful deepening of cooperation. This raises the issue of the effectiveness of the ASEAN way in socializing and creating a shared identity among the participants.

The confidence-building measures instituted through the various processes, particularly the APT, have been helpful but insufficient in fully dissolving the existence of threat perception.

Despite being the driver of regionalism, ASEAN has had little success in unifying Sino-Japanese relations. Arguably, most of the problems that confront Beijing and Tokyo are beyond ASEAN's control.

It is precisely because of the lack of command over the trajectories of regional development beyond the shores of Southeast Asia that ASEAN finds it necessary to keep emphasizing its centrality in regional forums. This means that while a strengthened ASEAN would bode well for the future of Southeast Asia, its spillover effects on Northeast Asian politics is limited.

Consequently, the creation of a Community in East Asia is highly dependent on the health of Sino-Japan relations. As long as the two neighbors remain locked in distrust, regionalism will continue to remain an unending process. The inability to embrace each other is not only due to existing historical and territorial conflicts that naturally require solutions but more importantly the fear of the unknown.

Japan is particularly worried by the opaqueness of China's military expenditure and national defense policy. China has also been flexing its muscles on the South China Sea issue and on Japan's recent arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain near the Senkaku islets.

Observably, the dynamism of China's economic rise has given it a newfound confidence in its foreign policy approach. With historical animosity unresolved and China's economic might surpassing Japan, it is only natural to expect Tokyo to demand clarity so as to accurately predict and decipher Beijing's assertive behavior. Failing to do so would mean falling back on the United States for security.

During the 2010 ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) meeting, the U.S. proactively expressed its concern with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Its inclusion as a full-fledged member (together with Russia) at the upcoming EAS meeting will likely embolden Japan and several ASEAN countries to hedge their risk against China.

From a regionalist perspective, risk hedging and even soft balancing would be counterproductive to the creation of a single community.

Observers may be right to argue that they are necessary to provide relief against China's geopolitical influence, but their presence in intra-regional (and external) relationship would only further frustrate efforts in overcoming Sino-Japanese rivalry.

Without a sustainable vision for the region, East Asia will continue to see a plethora of competitive processes and frameworks at the expense of regional governance.

Benny Teh Cheng Guan is a senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, and a visiting research fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, Tokyo.

The Japan Times: Friday, July 8, 2011

(C) All rights reserved






Special to The Japan Times

NEW YORK — In recent years both the United States and Japan have seen leadership changes at the highest levels of government. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama was elected U.S. president, followed in 2009 by the ascendance of the Democrat Party of Japan, ending the nearly unbroken postwar dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party.

After both changes of power, relationship managers on both sides of the Pacific scrambled to find out as much as they could about these new ruling parties and their new national leaders.

While a change of power is by no means assured, the 2012 U.S. presidential election holds the potential to bring a Republican back to the White House.

Although it is an open secret that the Japanese political elite have always been more comfortable with the pro-military, pro-free trade Republicans, a look at the current field of candidates leaves no guarantee that a Republican administration would strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Three of the candidates seem particularly negative. Michele Bachmann, a House member from Minnesota, called the Japanese health care system an example of "gangster government" in 2009 when she claimed that the threat of not receiving health care silenced open criticism of the system.

Ron Paul, a House member from Texas, is strongly in favor of free trade but he is strongly opposed to overseas U.S. military bases.

Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, voted for a bill in the Senate in 1995 that tried to limit sales of Japanese automobiles in the U.S. on purely protectionist grounds.

For Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and former Ambassador to China, China seems to be a more important focus for America's attention.

According to sources close to the campaign, Huntsman's pro-China stance and cultural affinity for China (he was a Mormon missionary there and speaks fluent Mandarin) might translate to a negative perception of Japan, in general, and the U.S. military's presence there in particular.

Three of the candidates do seem quite positive. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, has been in favor of a strong Japan-U.S. alliance, and traveled to Japan on a speaking tour in 2009.

Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, traveled to Japan for a trade mission in 2010.

Finally, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, sent a congratulatory letter in 2010 to the consul-general of Japan in Houston on the Emperor's birthday.

Unfortunately, though, most of the candidates have simply been silent. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee; Herman Cain, businessman and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, have all said very little about Japan, focusing instead on the domestic economy.

It is Huntsman in particular who stands out for the impact he could have on the field. The "Huntsman Effect" may be felt regardless of whether he reaches the White House. Huntsman possesses far and away the most substantial foreign policy resume among the current field, making him a strong candidate for secretary of state should another Republican be elected president. Even outside the White House or the State Department, Huntsman might have an effect on the Asia experts appointed within a Republican administration's foreign policy team.

Prominent Japan hands on the Republican side, like Richard Armitage or Michael Green, may be looked over in favor of more China-focused foreign policy professionals for appointed positions on the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department.

At this early stage it looks like the 2012 presidential campaign will be won or lost on economics, as the condition of the U.S. economy is the most important issue to voters right now.

As the economic recovery continues, any Republican president can be expected to put first priority on that, and reduce the number of overseas trips, meetings with foreign leaders and foreign policy-focused speeches compared with President Obama's first term.

What this could mean for Japan is that the Japanese prime minister may not be the first foreign leader to meet the president or be able to meet him soon after his inauguration.

In this and other ways it may seem as though the new president lacks an appreciation of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Domestic priorities taking the fore should not automatically be mistaken for a lack of commitment, but there is also no guarantee that a Republican administration would show warmer support than the present American leadership.

Humza Ahmad is a nonresident fellow at the Washington D.C.-based research center Asia Policy Point. C.D. Alexander Evans is an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the City University of New York Baruch College.








The thunderous results of Thailand's general election on July 3 will seem familiar to anyone attuned to the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

Entrenched incumbent regimes everywhere are under severe stress from advances in information technology, shifts in demographics, rising expectations, and the obsolescence of Cold War exigencies. In the absence of a willingness and ability to use violent repression, regime survival can be achieved only through concessions, accommodation, and periodic reinvention.

With 47 million voters and turnout at 75 percent, Thailand's latest election results pose a decisive challenge to the country's long-established regime. The Pheu Thai party, led by Yingluck Shinawatra, the youngest sister of exiled fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, secured a resounding triumph, winning 265 seats in the 500-member assembly, while the ruling Democrat Party mustered just 159.

The return to power of Pheu Thai is extraordinary — and not only because Yingluck will be Thailand's first female prime minister. The establishment-aligned courts dissolved the party's two previous governments, and banned scores of its leading politicians from office for five years.

Pheu Thai's victory thus suggests that a previously marginalized electorate has been permanently awakened. A similar majority of the Thai electorate voted for Thaksin's parties and their pro-poor populist platforms in January 2001, February 2005, April 2006, and December 2007, defying a military coup, a coup-induced constitution, judicial interventions, and army coercion and repression.

The recent election marked a profound break from the past. In the second half of the 20th century, Thai elections seemed to alternate with military coups. Voters were bought and sold like commodities.

After elections, voters hardly ever saw or heard from their MPs, who typically went on to engage in corruption and graft in Bangkok — eventually losing legitimacy and paving the way for military coups. A new constitution and elections invariably ensued. This vicious cycle of coups, constitutions, and elections defined Thai politics for decades.

That pattern reflected Cold War imperatives. The pillars of the Thai state — nation, religion, and the king — struck a unifying, collective chord, and the resulting stability enabled economic development. While growth was so concentrated that popular resentment simmered, communism was kept at bay. Challenges to the established order, with the military-monarchy-bureaucracy triumvirate as its anchor, were repeatedly put down.

Back then, Thai schoolchildren sang martial songs each morning, and Thais knew their place in the rigidly elitist pecking order, which was reinforced by socialization and indoctrination in classrooms and living rooms, where only state-controlled media could enter. Thais were more like obedient subjects than informed citizens. Dissenting views found little traction.

The rise of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party in 2001 changed all that. The party pursued a scientific approach to elections, relied on expensive polling by foreign experts, and offered a clear agenda and strong leadership. It was the first post-Cold War party to capture Thais' collective imagination. The voices of neglected swaths of the electorate, particularly in the rural north and northeast of the country, began to count. Vote-buying became increasingly insufficient. A bond between party and voters — a bond based on policy — took root.

By 2001, the Cold War was long over. Political leaders who dissented from the status quo could no longer easily be jailed on communism-related charges. The advent of the Internet had made it harder for the authorities to shape Thai minds, as media sources multiplied and the resulting diffusion of information undermined the effectiveness of state propaganda.

Moreover, new international norms had come to the fore: external powers that previously turned a blind eye to coups, military dictatorships, and repression now rallied around democracy and human rights.

Thailand's demographics also changed. The Cold War curriculum of induced unity and stability has no relevance for today's schoolchildren; indeed, most university students nowadays were born after the Cold War ended.

These factors fostered a new political environment, and Thaksin, who was a telecommunications tycoon at the time, was well positioned to seize the opportunity. He overhauled the bureaucracy, delivered on his promises to the poor, mapped out an industrial strategy, and re-designed an overstretched foreign policy agenda, among other innovative measures.

Of course, Thaksin's rule had a dark underside: corruption, legislated conflicts of interest, cronyism, human rights violations, and abuse of power, among other evidence of misrule.

Such is Thaksin's mixed legacy. The opportunities, hopes, and dreams delivered to the downtrodden and the vision and plans for Thailand's future were enmeshed with his own venality. But, while Thaksin committed many infractions, his gravest "sin" was to have changed the way Thais think and behave. Some see this change as usurpation; others view it as Thailand's deliverance into the 21st century.

Thaksin's adversaries in Thailand's entrenched regime were unwilling to accede to his policy innovations and populism.

For them, doing so would be tantamount to admitting that most people in this hospitable, well-endowed kingdom had been kept poor by design all along.

For his part, Thaksin has sought to portray the recent election results as being all about him. But he is best viewed as a self-serving, unwitting agent of political modernization. It is these 21st-century dynamics and changes, underpinned by an increasingly assertive citizenry, with which the Thai establishment must come to terms if the country is to move forward.

The writer is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University.

— JP






President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told CNN recently that Indonesia was committed to achieving a 26 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 while concurrently maintaining its rapid economic growth.

This is certainly a laudable goal considering Indonesia is now the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world. The question now is how do we achieve this goal of emissions reduction without compromising economic growth?

Indonesia has lost 0.5 million hectares of forest every year for the last 10 years due to agricultural expansion, shifting cultivation, illegal logging and forest fires. As a result, three-quarters of our total CO2 emissions come from land use. Achieving the President's goal will require the enacting of a balanced policy that curtails total emissions from land use, promotes job creation and encourages sustainable forestry.

Indonesia has three contradictory laws pertaining to forest management — the 2004 Law on Regional Governance, the 2004 Law on Fiscal Balance and the 1999 Law on Forestry — which makes this difficult.

These laws result in conflicting legal interpretations by forest communities, regional governments and the central government, which destroys the incentive to practice sustainable forest management and promotes illegal logging.

Meanwhile, Presidential Instruction No. 4/2005, which calls on all relevant government agencies to more firmly enforce existing laws, has not been effective in bringing clarity.

The international community could benefit from Indonesia keeping its forest carbon stocks undisturbed. In fact, Indonesia has leverage to negotiate fair compensation in return for reducing logging and land clearing for oil palm plantations. Indonesia recently signed a letter of intent with Norway to begin a two-year moratorium on new logging, in which Indonesia will be compensated up to US$1 billion.

And programs such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) are working with forest-rich countries like Indonesia to help provide financial incentives in return for maintaining our forests.

The effectiveness of an agreement to keep our forests intact depends on how the compensation is distributed among all stakeholders. During the New Order era, forest management was controlled by the central government, but under the current regional autonomy scenario numerous actors are involved in the forestry sector.

A massive vertical and horizontal integration of coordination across central government, regional governments and forest communities is necessary to develop a fair compensation plan for each, and to find a way to keep forests standing. Leaving even one party behind will undermine the integrity of such an international agreement and negate the incentives, through policies such as REDD, to slow down the deforestation process.

Beyond this, one must consider the capability of the Indonesian government to negotiate fair compensation comparable to the cost of slowing down deforestation. Harvesting our forests and related products contributes roughly 7 percent to our GDP and roughly 9 percent of our trade. Slamming the brakes on deforestation without compensation would likely slow down economic growth and job creation.

Some international compensation, either through bilateral agreements or REDD, can be used to reforest degraded land, adopt sustainable agriculture practices, train local labor forces, create more jobs and offset economic growth.

Part of this innovative policy should include a strategy to eliminate the most important driver of deforestation: poverty. Roughly 35 million Indonesians live below the poverty line, with many living in close proximity to forests. Many poverty-stricken communities clear land and plant crops without even bothering with the sale of cleared mixed tropical hardwood.

If forests were to remain intact, these individuals could develop new oil palm plantations utilizing already degraded non-forest land instead of clearing existing forests. Oil palm looks good from an economic standpoint, generating more employment and income than low-intensity cultivation or logging. Oil palm also absorbs carbon dioxide and releases water vapor as it grows. It also stores more carbon than the degraded land.

Rather than destroying more rainforest for shifting cultivation, local traditional farmers could go into the oil palm business and benefit from its higher returns. Certainly, we need a huge investment for infrastructure, initial capital, and the training of thousands of local subsistence farmers to embrace the new ways to manage palm oil plantations sustainably.

Yet, this strategy would enable Indonesia to substantially reduce poverty and increase the sale of sustainably produced palm oil to European and American corporations, which are increasingly concerned about buying palm oil that has been harvested as a result of forest destruction. Indonesia can sustain rapid economic growth while reducing emissions, but requires an intelligent, holistic shift in its pursuit of economic progress.

We need to craft an innovative economic strategy that integrates environmental concerns from the highest (macroeconomic) to the lowest (microeconomic) levels and seek new opportunities that can be translated into implementation. While some think this is a mammoth challenge, in reality this is an opportunity to improve our standard of living while keeping our forests intact.

The writer is an economist focused on energy and the environment at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University, the US.






Women across the world enjoy greater opportunities and freedoms than ever before. It is a peaceful revolution under-pinned by an extraordinary transformation of legal rights. Almost every country has signed international conventions signaling their commitment to outlaw 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 poorer 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 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 remains 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 percent 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 percent 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 is an increase in women's representation in Parliament, the judiciary and enforcement agencies in advancing women's rights.

I find it heartening that the number of countries where women make up over 30 percent 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 seven-fold 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 help overcome a reluctance to report sexual assaults.

But there is a huge amount more to do. It is clear, for example, we need determined action to protect and promote women's rights in conflict and post-conflict societies. 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 will accelerate the progress towards 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 is the first Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of UN Women.






During a recent international summit, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono emphasized that his government was committed to the green economy concept. In Indonesia, he said, this concept could be applied to achieve economic growth of at least 7 percent, and reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

This ambitious target is based on a G-20 commitment to sustainable development and poverty eradication around the world. G-20 state leaders believe that a green economy can be an alternative paradigm, in which improving wealth does necessarily lead to an increase in environmental risks, ecological scarcities and social disparities (UNEP, 2011).

The importance of realizing a green economy in Indonesia is associated with problems of fiscal policy. As soon as Indonesia became a net importer of oil, its fiscal policy has consistently depended on fluctuations in world crude oil prices. This has made the state budget undergo revisions every mid-year and has generated multiplier effects on a wide range of areas. Official data reveals that over the last 11 years, fuel subsidies have averaged at Rp 104.84 trillion (US$12 billion) a year, equal to 17.8 percent of the state budget.

A green economy is expected to reduce fossil fuels consumption, both for motorized vehicles, industry and electricity. At the same time, a green economy will push for the production and use of renewable energy resources.

To realize this goal, we could adopt the Threshold 21 world model recently introduced by the UNEP. This model assumes that every country allocates 2 percent of its GDP toward a green investment, particularly for renewable energy. Based on calculations and referring to the model, the green investment would reach Rp 26,186 trillion by 2050, increasing the portion of renewable energy to 90 percent of the total energy use. This composition will reduce fuel subsidies to 1 percent of the state budget.

Becoming a green economy by 2050 would affect the macro economy and alleviate social problems. With economic growth estimated to be 7 percent per annum, Indonesia's GDP will reach Rp 96,170 trillion by 2050, while carbon emissions can be reduced to about 17.5 percent and poverty would decline to around 6 percent.

However, these results could only be achieved under ideal conditions, while in reality there are many factors that will affect the targets. The decision-making process in a democracy like Indonesia will have to involve both the government and the House of Representatives. Therefore, strategy formulation to enable a green economy approach to work cannot dismiss political aspects.

Implementing the green economy model in Indonesia will take time. The UNEP has introduced guidelines to apply this model, i.e. (i) prioritize investment and spending to stimulate environment-friendly economic sectors; (ii) impose taxes and market-based instruments as tools to promote green investment and innovation; (iii) stop government spending in areas that sacrifice environmental assets; (iv) create a well-designed regulatory framework that offers incentives to drive green economic activities; (v) invest in capacity building and education to support a transition to a green economy; and (vi) strengthen international governance to assist governments in promoting a green economy.

Under this framework, the Indonesian government must be positioned as an effective regulator. The huge investment needed to bring about a green economy must be borne by the private sector under an ordinary business mechanism. According to our calculations, to implement a green economy, Indonesia needs green investment amounting to Rp 122 trillion by 2015, Rp 240 trillion by 2020, Rp 472 trillion by 2030 and Rp 1,827 trillion by 2050.

Major investment and finance institutions, such as private equity, venture capital, investment banks, banks and insurance companies — both local and global — will play major roles in adopting this green model. In the future, Indonesia is expected to become one of the largest green markets in the world, both from supply and demand sides, prompting investors and finance institutions to allocate money here (World Bank, 2011).

Currently, green direct investment in Indonesia, especially in renewable energy, has grown at an average rate of 15 percent per annum, which should convince investors of sustainable profit in Indonesia.

We also expect that in the coming years the Internal Rate of Return in green direct investment in Indonesia will increase gradually. Green policies, especially green incentives and green taxes, could gradually reduce fixed costs in exploration and build renewable energy, thus cutting production costs.

Data shows that total assets under management, bank deposits and other funds across the world exceeded $100 trillion by the end 2010. Worldwide green investment throughout 2011 will reach approximately $500 billion, which will allow for the allocation of green investment, particularly in Indonesia. Therefore, this year should be the right time for the Indonesian government to promote a green economy.

The writer is the vice president of research at Asia Strategic Advisory








Sri Lanka's former cricket captain and star batsman Kumar Sangakkara is no stranger to making forthright statements. Few if any Sri Lankan national cricketers have made such bold comments about cricket administration though not surprising because analysts and columnists have spoken of it in the past few months and years.

Speaking at the prestigious Colin Cowdrey Lecture on the Spirit of Cricket at the MCC in Lord's on Monday Kumar Sangakkara castigated Sri Lanka Cricket administrators for a corrupt system, which along with unprecedented political interference was ruining the future and progress of the game and driving fans away from it.

While Kumar Sangakkara is right, the question that has to be asked is whether he will pursue his action to clean up a rotten system or whether he was merely trying to impress the elite English audience with his articulate way of speaking. If he is genuine in his intentions, then the questions that need to be asked are why he refused to captain the team in the recent third Test against England in Southampton in the absence of an injured Tillekaratne Dilshan and why he skipped two crucial warm-up games before the Test series to continue playing in the money-making Indian Premier League.

Is Kumar Sangakkara then justified in passing judgment on the cricket administration when he himself can be questioned on his conduct? Sri Lanka and cricket fans have had enough talk sans role models.

Another question that has to be asked is why Kumar Sangakkara had to wait until he went to Lord's to accuse Sri Lankan administrators of corruption and cronyism. Surely he could have been a real hero had he rallied his team-mates and then taken on the establishment at its very doorstep in Colombo.

In strictly legal terms, Sri Lankan cricket establishment may have a right to take Kumar Sangakkara to task on disciplinary grounds for what it might see as a breach of contract, because Sri Lankan players are not allowed to speak publicly without the permission of the manager or the Interim Committee. But this should not be a cover-up for the caretakers of the sport to side-step the issue and continue with their daily plundering and raping of the sport. We can only hope that Kumar Sangakkara would go down in history as a top ranking and widely respected national cricketer who boldly called for a clean-up of a rotten system which perhaps may have passed the point of no return with more upheavals to follow.

The new Sri Lanka Cricket interim committee Chief Upali Dharmadasa is also well aware of the rotten setup and it is known how he successfully executed a plan that ousted the gentleman-administrator Ana Punchihewa just two weeks after Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996. Will Mr. Dharmadasa also join the list of those who entered cricket administration only to enrich themselves with its riches that are aplenty?





With the Palestinian unity deal tottering, with the Gaza aid flotilla campaign becoming a non-event and with Israel launching a diplomatic offensive to win friends, the Palestinian statehood prospects appear to be many dreams away.

Only months ago, the prospects looked bright with country after country in Latin America and elsewhere extending de jure recognition to the State of Palestine. Adding to the Palestinian euphoria was the April unity deal which the Fatah and Hamas signed aimed at strengthening their bargaining power vis-à-vis Israel.

The Palestinian Authority's plan to take its case before the United Nations General Assembly in September seemed certain to succeed despite opposition from Israel and its diehard protector, the United States.

But now things seem to be going in the reverse for the Palestinians. The unity deal signed in April has still not produced the unity government because of a row over who should lead it. The Fatah led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists that Salam Fayyad who heads the administration in the West Bank should lead the government by technocrats, but Hamas, which runs a separate administration in the Gaza Strip, wants another candidate. The impasse threatens to scuttle Abbas's UN plans. Hamas, however, is dismissive of Abbas's move because it believes that the US would not let it succeed.

Abbas wants to go before the UN as the leader of a united Palestine. He says Hamas has to understand the tough task ahead at the UN and stop bickering about who should lead the government.

Although some reports over the weekend said Hamas might compromise, the stalemate continues to the disadvantage of the Palestinian people while the combined diplomatic might of the US and Israel works hard to kill the Palestinian move at the UN in September.

The Barack Obama administration has well and truly proved that it is no different from the previous administrations in giving false promises to the Palestinian people. It was only in September last year that President Obama addressing the United Nations said: "When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."

But this very same  Obama is now determined to use his country's veto power in the United Nations Security Council, an undemocratic institution serving the interests of five self-seeking global powers, to kill the Palestinian aspirations for a state. This may happen on July 26 when the Security Council will meet to discuss the possibility of Palestine becoming a UN member state. The United States is also using its diplomatic channels to dissuade the Palestinians from taking the UN route.

Next Monday, the Middle East quartet comprising the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union will meet in Washington to resurrect the Middle East talks which, the Palestinians say, have only helped Israel to grab more of their land and build more illegal settlements.

The Palestinians withdrew from the talks following Israel's refusal to stop settlement building activities in the occupied territory. If the quartet or the US browbeats Abbas to return to talks using their aid as a stick, it may not only defer the Palestinians' bid to seek UN recognition in September but also be construed as tacit approval for illegal settlement building activities.

However, Abbas appears to be determined to go to the UN General Assembly where he believe more than 150 countries will support his move even though the Palestinian Authority depends heavily on aid from the EU and the US to run its public services.

Israel meanwhile has intensified its diplomatic campaign to win back the support of the countries which have endorsed the Palestinian state. Israel's hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a tour of Eastern Europe and feels confident his mission is bearing fruit.

Israel also scored another victory this week when Greece, which is on the brink of bankruptcy, bowed to the Jewish lobby's global financial power and prvented international activists who have gathered at a port near Athens from sailing to Gaza with aid.

Canada has already declared that it would not take any action that threatens Israel's security while Britain this week arrested a highly-respected Palestinian preacher on charges of anti-Semitism, a euphemism for criticism of Israel.

These diplomatic moves and countermoves do not necessarily mean a Palestinian state will be a reality come September when the Arab League presents a General Assembly resolution seeking UN membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

This is because the final authority to grant membership is not with the General Assembly but with the Security Council. Article 4 of the UN Charter states that the admission of any state to membership in the UN will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

According to the UN legal division, the normal procedure is as follows:

The State seeking recognition submits an application to the Secretary-General and a formal declaration stating that it accepts the obligations under the UN Charter. The application is considered first by the Security Council. Any recommendation for admission must receive the affirmative votes of nine of the 15 members of the Council, provided that none of its five permanent members — China, France, Russia, Britain and the US — has voted against the application. If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary for admission of a new State, and membership becomes effective on the date the resolution for admission is adopted. Since the Palestinian resolution is certain to be shot down by a US veto at the Security Council, the General Assembly move will only give a moral and diplomatic victory to the Palestinians and some momentum to their drive to free themselves from the humiliation of occupation.





Damascus might soon find itself in the International Criminal Court's (ICC) dock. That seems to be a wide possibility taking into account the pressure that Amnesty International has asserted to try the regime for human rights excesses.

The point is whether that happens or not, it is a foregone conclusion that President Bashar Al Assad is treading a losing track and his unwise measures to crackdown hard are continually failing . The way the polity is marginalised and hundreds of lives lost in less than 100 days is indicative that all is not well in the republic. Assad troops have hit the brink and any further movement from here will be a journey of destruction, casting disintegration fears for the Middle Eastern country.

What the Amnesty has documented is in need of being evaluated objectively. There is no point in brushing aside it as a propaganda tool. Assad's marching forces have brutally trampled valleys and villages, and the death of more than 1,500 people is a case in point. Cases of torture, deaths in custody and arbitrary detention are quite disturbing, and unfortunately are on the rise. This is why Amnesty appeal to the world community to refer Syria to the ICC  at The Hague is likely to gather credence. The call has come as the Syrian authorities continue their mindless crackdown in the central city of Homs, and face a rebellion even in its own rank and file. The defections in the security apparatus, and the manner in which people are galvanising their synergies to fight the Baathist army could well be a precursor for a greater trouble in the region. The mass exodus is rapidly becoming a source of concern and irritation for neighbouring countries which fear that it may prove challenging in dealing with the ethno-communal sensitivities of the region.

Irrespective of what human rights bodies like Amnesty or Red Cross International have to say, it has been witnessed that real-politics wins the day when it comes to compromises and bargains. This is almost evident in the case of Syria. The news from the corridors of the US State Department that Washington would not mind bailing out Assad for reasons geopolitics is a telling tale of looking the other way round! If that is the case, then Moscow, which has saved Damascus skin to this day, would find a willing ally to say the least. Who will then keep a count of the excesses?

Khaleej Times








TENZING Gyatso, popularly known as the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, celebrated his 76th birthday on Wednesday.

Tibetans around the world, including those in exile and banned from his celebrations under Chinese rule, took a commemorative pause.

I attended one such event widely known as World Tibet Day, held by Friends of Tibet in Mumbai, an organisation that supports independence for the mountainous country.

Believed to be the legendary Shangri-la or paradise, Tibet has been ruled as a theocratic state for centuries by the Dalai Lamas, believed to be reincarnations of the Buddha of Compassion by the Tibetans.

Tibet was free until China under Mao Tse-tung invaded it in 1950 and claimed it to be part of China.

Though Tibet had been briefly conquered by the Manchu rulers from the Manchuria province of north-eastern China, it had always been independent.

After the invasion and consolidation of their country, most Tibetans resented the imposition of Chinese language and communist ideology.

The continued repression of their culture and the Tibetan Buddhist traditions forced the 14th Dalai Lama and some 80,000 Tibetans to exile in India.

Banished from their homeland, the refugees formed a government-in-exile in Dharamsala in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, home to a large Tibetan community.

The government, together with supporters, actively campaigns to return to the homeland someday.

The Dalai Lama, who until recently was also the political head of the Tibetan people, has chosen a more Buddhist approach to the issue of Tibet's sovereignty.

Adopting his religion's principle of seeking a middle ground in extreme situations, the Dalai Lama's stance has been one of interdependence with Beijing while seeking autonomy for Tibet.

Popularly known as the Middle Way and only grudgingly accepted by the younger generation of Tibetans, the Dalai Lama's proposals have been rejected by China which is deeply suspicious of his intentions.

Though the cause of the Tibetan people has struck a chord with people around the world, they worry that their struggle for freedom will die with the aging Dalai Lama as there is no-one charismatic enough to win popular Western support.

Newly elected Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard educated academic who assumes office on August 8, might have the expertise but Tibetans fear he may not garner the following attached to reverence to the Dalai Lama.

At the Mumbai celebrations, attended by Tibetan Buddhist monks who distributed sweets, there was an air of uncertainty if this would be the Dalai Lama's last birthday.

Already, China seeks to play a role in choosing the next Dalai Lama by passing any possible reincarnations of the spiritual leader through its controls.

The Dalai Lama, however, has made it clear that his successor will be born in exile to carry on his work.

Meanwhile, life at Tibetan refugee camps is becoming more difficult.

Recently pressure from Beijing has forced India and Nepal, which have long offered refuge to Tibetan exiles, to cow to its demands.

Nepal, which has a vibrant Tibetan community that helps tourism through local handicrafts such as the Tibetan carpets and jewellery, has also come under scrutiny.

Kathmandu's growing closeness to Beijing has apparently been the reason for the Nepal's hard stance on previous celebrations of the Dalai Lama's birthdays.

The earlier Nepalese generosity is increasingly clouded by official policies that seek to curb any outward expression of Tibetan nationalism that could possibly upset Beijing.

The same is true for India.

Though it is home to the Tibetan government-in-exile, visits by top Chinese officials prompt a surveillance of Tibetans campaigning for independence who are often kept forcibly away from the vicinity of the diplomatic meetings.

Before the birthday celebrations ended at the YMCA, Mumbai, some people remarked at the Tibetans' humility and kindness and a former journalist who had interviewed the Dalai Lama recounted that there was no rancour or bitterness in the holy man against the Chinese.

As the mantle will soon pass on to a new generation of Tibetans, born in exile, their struggle and hope for a free homeland seems far from over.

l Ms Gnana is a former Bahrain resident now studying in Mumbai.


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