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Monday, July 11, 2011

EDITORIAL 11.07.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

Month july 11, edition 000881, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. PADMANABHA'S WEALTH
  2. AND THE PARTY GOES ON!
  3. IT'S NOT TOUGH TO FIGHT GRAFT - JOGINDER SINGH
  4. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEDIA GOES ROGUE?
  5. THE TOFFS HIT BACK
  6. SPELL IS BROKEN FOR MEDIA SORCERER WITH TOUCH OF EVIL

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. LOOK (NEAR) EAST
  2. MORE DOPE ON SPORT
  3. NOT OUT AT NINETY - RANA MITTER
  4. 'INDIAN CINEMA IS DEFINITELY IN THE LIMELIGHT' - DEEP K DATTA-RAYDEEP K DATTA-RAY
  5. DANCING BABY BLUES - ANEESH AANEESH A

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. PUT THE RAGING FIRES OUT NOW
  2. FRUITS OF OUR LABOUR
  3. PEOPLE VS THE PEOPLE - RAMACHANDRA GUHA
  4. LITTLE COMFORT IN NUMBERS - PC SEN
  5. CHATTERING CLASSES  - IAN JACK

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. OFF THE TRACK
  2. PRO CHOICE
  3. JUBA'S JUBILATION
  4. TURN IN THE INDIA STORY - ILA PATNAIK
  5. TANGLES OF TELANGANA - AJAY GUDAVARTHY
  6. DO WE NEED A CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF? - V. P. MALIK
  7. CHANGE IN THE HEARTLAND - SUDHA PAI
  8. SOUTH AND NORTH SUDAN — SEPARATED, BUT STILL TIED TOGETHER - LOUISE ARBOUR  
  9. AFTER DSK - ROGER COHEN

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. STOP THE WHINING
  2. NEW DELHI MINING DISASTER
  3. ARE T-BILL FUTURES A GOOD IDEA? - MADAN SABNAVIS
  4. THE GLOBAL RUSH TO PRIVATISE - KRISHNAMURTHY SUBRAMANIAN

THE HINDU

  1. SPRUCE UPTHE DATA
  2. CLOSE OF A STORY, END OF AN ERA
  3. NEWS OF THE WORLDSTORY WILL GO ON - ROY GREENSLADE
  4. HOWNEWS OF THE WORLDSTAFF REACTED - BEN DOWELL
  5. WHEN THE NEIGHBOUR'S HOUSE CATCHES FIRE - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  6. OUR PRIORITY IS TO RESTART ECONOMIC GROWTH IN EUROPE: POLAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER - SMITA GUPTA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. MICROFINANCE: BILL TO BRING IN ORDER
  2. DOLLAR APOCALYPSE - INDRANIL BANERJIE

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. SOUTH ASIAN UNITY
  2. PERCEPTIONAL CHANGE?
  3. ESTABLISH INDEPENDENT CENTERS OF POWER - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  4. TOURISM IN JAMMU - BY RUCHIKA JAMWAL CHIB
  5. INDIA'S ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH IRAN - BY NITYA CHAKRABORTY

THE TRIBUNE

  1. WORKING TO A PLAN
  2. SPURT IN CHILD MARRIAGES
  3. FIRST THAI WOMAN PM
  4. INDIA-CHINA DEFENCE EXCHANGE - BY RUP NARAYAN DAS
  5. HUMOURLESS IN UNIFORM - BY MINA SURJIT SINGH
  6. WE ARE STILL GROWING TOO FAST - AMARJIT SINGH

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MANAGING THE MURDOCHS
  2. SOME COMMODITIES EASE
  3. GROWTH, STABILITY AND CORRUPTION – SANJAYA BARU
  4. HOW INDIA CAN HELP BOOST US-IRAN TIES - NITIN PAI
  5. PROVISIONING FOR CREDIBILITY - K P SHASHIDHARAN
  6. THE CONUNDRUMS OF PUBLIC SECTOR BOARDS - PRATIP KAR

BUSINESS LINE

  1. G-20 AND FOOD PRICES
  2. GLOBAL TRADE'S 'MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO' PROBLEM
  3. VISHWANATH KULKARNI -  CAMERA CAPERS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SOUND INTENT, BUT...
  2. DEMOCRACY UPHELD
  3. DEARLY CHEAP
  4. IF ONLY THE WORLD WERE FLAT
  5. THE TWO-SECOND ADVANTAGE IN BUSINESS  - ULLEKH N P
  6. CAPITALISM'S IDEOLOGICAL CRISIS  - JOSEPH E STIGLITZ

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. MURDOCH AND THE END OF NEWS

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. DOLLAR APOCALYPSE
  2. MICROFINANCE: BILL TO BRING IN ORDER
  3. A WORD IN DEFENCE OF TABLOID JOURNALISM
  4. HIDDEN TREASURE, ROYAL TEARS

THE STATESMAN

  1. NO HARD FEELINGS
  2. SINCERITY TEST
  3. CALAMITY CIRCLE
  4. THE TAXMAN COMETH~II - SHANTANU BASU

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. TALK TIME
  2. BITTER PILL
  3. DESIRABLE PARTNERS
  4. DAMAGE CONTROL  - GWYNNE DYER

 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. ERDOĞAN - NETANYAHU: WHERE TO STOP?
  2. HOPES HIGH FOR A CYPRUS DEAL
  3. NEW GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER TO MEET DAVUTOĞLU DURING LIBYA TALKS
  4. THE CRISIS OF 'POST-KEMALIST TURKEY'
  5. WHAT IF TURKEY INVADED SYRIA?
  6. FUTURE OF THE EURO
  7. 'THE CAUCASIAN WINTER - ZAUR SHIRIYEV

HAARETZ

  1. PURVEYORS OF HATRED  - BY AKIVA ELDAR  
  2. A LAW TO SUBVERT DEMOCRACY
  3. CAUTION, ARABS!  - BY OUDEH BASHARAT
  4. NO REASON TO CRAWL  - BY EHUD TOLEDANO
  5. LAWS FOR LIQUIDATION  - BY TALIA SASSON

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. DANGEROUS OMISSIONS
  2. DROPPING THE BALL ON HEALTH EXCHANGES
  3. AN AGGRESSIVE RULING ON CLEAN AIR
  4. JETER'S MOMENT
  5. NO, WE CAN'T? OR WON'T? - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  6. THE METHOD TO THEIR MADNESS - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  7. BAD BORDERS, GOOD NEIGHBORS - BY EPHRAIM SNEH

THE NEWS

  1. KURRAM OPERATION
  2. POPULATION DAY
  3. JUSTICE ONLY FOR ARABS  -  AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  4. WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO?  -  TALAT FAROOQ
  5. DEFENDERS OF PAKISTAN  -  DR A Q KHAN
  6. PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR CHALLENGES -  ASIF EZDI
  7. AT THE EDGE  -  CHRIS CORK
  8. OUR LORDS AND MASTERS  -  RAANA SHAH

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NORMALCY CAN RETURN TO KARACHI
  2. ANOTHER MAY 2 – LIKE OPERATION IN THE OFFING
  3. AFTER EAST TIMOR, NOW SOUTH SUDAN
  4. "KILLING FIELDS OF KARACHI" - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. PAKISTAN-INDIA STALEMATE - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. SKELETONS IN UPA'S CUPBOARD - SUNITA VAKIL
  7. MOUNTING US PRESSURE ON PAKISTAN - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  8. KEEP THE FIZZ GOING..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. A CAUTIOUS STEP TOWARDS A LOW CARBON FUTURE
  2. PURPOSE, NOT POLITICS, THE REAL TEST OF CARBON TAX
  3. A GOOD RESULT FROM THE BER

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. GILLARD'S STEALTH STRATEGY CHANGES THE CARBON GAME
  2. MORE FACTS AND LESS HOT AIR WILL BENEFIT CARBON TAX DEBATE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. HEALTH: THE MALADY LINGERS ON
  2. NEWS INTERNATIONAL: THE COVER-UP AND THE COPS
  3. IN PRAISE OF … DISTRICT JUDGE JONATHAN FINESTEIN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. MALAYSIA: RICH BUT NOT FREE
  2. A NEW KICK OFF FOR THE PSSI
  3. RI-NORWAY TALKS: TIME TO HARVEST - HAFID ABBAS
  4. INCREASING RI WORKERS' BARGAINING POWER A MUST - DONNY SYOFYAN, PADANG
  5. CLOSING ECONOMIC GAP: URGENT FOR PAPUA - MARCELLUS RANTETANA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. COUNTRY FIRST
  2. BIO-DEGRADABLE BAG........  - BIO-DEGRADABLE BAG
  3. ADDRESSING THE BASICS TO A POLITICAL SOLUTION
  4. PROBLEMS OF THE GRAIN SACK NEETA LAL
  5. THE WOMEN THEY LEFT BEHIND...  - BY NABEELA HUSSAIN
  6. ARSENIC, GODS AND SCIENCE: ANOTHER OPINION

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. US 'PEACE PROCESS' A ROAD TO NOWHERE    - BY DR JAMES J ZOGBY PRESIDENT
  2. MACDONALD ON MONDAY 

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. MURDOCH'S TROIKA - BY GWYNNE DYER
  2. THE SECESSION OF SOUTH SUDAN - BY AHMAD BAKHSHI 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

PADMANABHA'S WEALTH

IT BELONGS TO HIS TEMPLE, LEAVE IT ALONE


The recent revelation that the cellars at the famed Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Kerala's capital city, Thiruvanantha- puram, contain gold, precious stones and priceless ancient coins worth over Rs 100,000 crore has prompted certain individuals to make strange suggestions on what to do with that treasure. Self-proclaimed rationalists, who will go to any extent to denounce and denigrate Hinduism and Hindu faith, want it to be used for the welfare of the people — in other words, they want the riches diverted to the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats and contractors. 'Eminent' historians want the treasure to be kept in museums for the masses to gawk at. Then there are those who want the the temple's wealth to be 'nationalised', that is, dumped into the bottomless pit called Government spending. These and similar suggestions must be spurned with the contempt they deserve. The wealth that has been found in the cellars is no pirate's treasure chest; it has been around since the reign of King Marthanda Varma, known as the founder of modern Travancore state, began to keep it there. The temple's treasury grew in size over the centuries since the 1750s as devotees made generous offerings to Lord Padmanabha with whose blessings, the people believed, the rulers of Travancore made it the best governed and most prosperous state and to whom Marthanda Varma had dedicated his kingdom. The Travancore kings, who acted as mere trustees of the temple and its seemingly endless assets, never considered themselves to be the owners of the treasure. They never looted either their own subjects or those of neighbouring states to amass money, gold or grain. The golden ornaments, shrouds, utensils, lamps, staffs and other articles kept in the cellars were and continue to be taken out for rituals on during special occasions. In that sense, devotees have seen most of the treasure with their own eyes. Each piece in the temple's amazing collection has been properly documented and the scrolls have been handed down through generations of the erstwhile ruling family. They are now kept with Uthradam Thirunnal Marthanda Varma, who would have been king today had princely states still existed. Anything contrary to these simple facts of history is nothing but malicious propaganda.

On the basis of a motivated petition, the Kerala High Court had directed the State Government to take over the temple, bring it under a new trust and assess its property. The petitioner had mischievously claimed that since Travancore had ceased to exist as a kingdom, members of the erstwhile royal family no longer had the right to continue as the temple's trustees. The Varmas approached the Supreme Court which in an interim order has sought the preparation of an inventory of all assets of the temple. Meawnhile, bounty-hunters in the guise of 'civil society' activists, 'eminent' historians and 'progressive' politicians have begun to salivate at the thought of laying their hands on the temple's treasure. The Kerala Government, in a commendable move, has declared that the treasure belongs to the temple and everything associated with it is a matter of belief. It has rightly decided to provide strong security to the temple and its assets lest those with evil eyes seek to grab the gold and jewellery. Devotees of Sri Padmanabha Swamy are confident that in the end the temple shall get to retain what is legally and rightfully its treasure.

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

AND THE PARTY GOES ON!

THE LATEST DOPING SCANDAL MERITS NO SURPRISE


In one of his popular early ballads, Bob Dylan had sung, "But I would not feel so all alone, everybody must get stoned!" In the wake of the recent doping scandal that has taken down eight star athletes and three coaches, these words are no longer just Dylan's lyrical refrain. Indeed, the Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports in Patiala seems to be consolidating its fame as the mecca of professional stoners, with each passing day revealing the extent of the nexus between dope suppliers, doctors, coaches, trainers, sportspersons, dieticians, recovery experts, support staff, and of course the officers of the NIS and the Sports Authority of India. The prestigious NIS has been in the spotlight since 2001, when vials and strips of steroids and disposable syringes were found casually littered in its hostels. The inquiry commission instituted to look into the matter in 2003, as such commissions are known to do, is still on an extended trip of its own, and no one in the sports fraternity seems to mind. Meanwhile, drug stores close to the NIS in Patiala continue to merrily announce their stock of the latest goodies, replete with posters of body-builders and such-like. It took a Saina Nehwal to point the country towards what has been locker room gossip all along: Athletes, all over the world, take performance-boosting drugs. Like it or not, in the extremely competitive arena of endurance sports, athletes are compelled to do so. The only difference is that while players from advanced countries use state-of-the-art methods to avoid detection, in India, after a point, one simply couldn't care less. For, contrary to what they would have us believe, if the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Federation of India did really take themselves seriously, coaches and athletes would not have been hamstrung by the chronic shortage of adequate infrastructure, of doctors and dieticians, of healthy, non-spicy food and of diet supplements.


While it is being whispered that the current high, on which rode a wave of coaches inducted from Russia and eastern Europe, the entire sporting fraternity seems to be taking the world and national anti-doping agencies very seriously, in the breach. Instances such as the death of the Arjuna awardee discus-thrower Ajit Bhaduria in 2000, allegedly from the over-use of particular steroids, are but slight distractions in the perennial dope party of the sporting world. Even as a dazed and confused Ministry of Sports and an equally embarrassed SAI trip over themselves to set up another commission and probe panel, the systemic and structural rot cannot but continue to mushroom. With not just the nation, but also the Government establishment busy over-dosing on the glitz of entertainment sports like cricket, smaller parties like that of athletics, after all, must go on.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

IT'S NOT TOUGH TO FIGHT GRAFT

JOGINDER SINGH


If we look beyond the ongoing debate over the Lok Pal Bill, we will find fighting corruption is easy: Government should just do it!


A great advantage of democracy is that people perceive themselves to be the master of all subjects and believe that what they are proposing is the panacea for all evils. Two activists from different walks of life are now focussing on how to eliminate corruption from the country and how to bring back to India black money hoarded abroad.

Of course, any action or initiative which promises to lessen the misery of the common man, who is exposed to corruption all the time, is much welcome. But in the case of the Lok Pal Bill, attention has already been diverted from the battle against corruption to issues such as whether or not the Prime Minister should be under the Lok Pal's purview. To solve any problem, you have to know as to what caused the problem, what bottlenecks are coming in the way of its resolution, etc, and only then can you resolve the matter.


Take for example the menace of Inspector Raj: Today, birth certificate, driver's licence, ration card, passport, pan card, house or land purchase deed, etc, are all essential documents of record required almost on a regular basis for several purposes, either for admission or getting a job, or just to prove one's existence. Apart from the Government fee that has to be paid, these documents come at a price, which one can label as 'extortion' by the Government employees. Indeed, if any evidence was needed to prove that corruption exists on a massive scale, one does not have to go too far from one's doorstep to meet a municipal or health inspector or a police inspector waiting to wrest his pound of flesh.


Successive Governments, irrespective of the party in power, have talked about ending the 'Inspector Raj'. But each law that they have passed has only added one more inspector. When Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister he had said, "The 'Inspector Raj' harasses business enterprises. Compared to around five inspectors that a firm has to deal with even in a non-democratic country like China, businesses in India have to contend with anything from 30 to 40 (now 65) inspectors, at various stages of production, distribution and sale of goods."

Mr Vajpayee had also pointed out, "In our country, there are Central, State and local inspectors duplicating and triplicating the work in most areas to enforce State or Central laws. The burden of Inspector Raj is made worse by corruption. Rather than ensure good corporate governance, such inspectors often end up as fund collectors for politicians and officials in power. A bonfire of inspection rules is called for." More recently, on May 24 the present Education Minister said, "The Government is coming out with an Education Malpractices Act. We shall free higher education institutions of inspector raj." It only illustrates that with a few exceptions, all transactions with the Government come at a price.


A culture of bribery exists at every level of the Indian bureaucracy. The Government is large and diffuse, and disinterested in employing a heavy hand to eradicate corruption. Especially when formulating law to deal with corruption, the Government not only leaves sufficient loopholes, but also builds in protection for the corrupt and dishonest as is evident in the case of anti-corruption agencies which require Government sanction before registering a case of corruption.


Government officials charged with corruption can only be prosecuted after an approval by the Union or State Government. However, by simply sitting on the proposals of prosecuting agencies, the relevant Government can easily slow down the process or make sure that the offenders are never prosecuted. This law was introduced by the British so that they could provide protection to their employee. More than once the Supreme Court has said that corruption is not a part of any Government official's duty. But the observation of the apex court has had no effect and the law remains as it was during the British era.


Little wonder then that at the end of 2010, as many as 236 requests to prosecute public servants on corruption-related charges were pending with the Government of India. Between 2005 and 2009, only 6 per cent of the cases in which the CBI and the CVC found evidence of corruption were sanctioned for prosecution by the Government. Offenders in the remaining 94 per cent were let off with departmental penalties, some of them minor. The CBI, the Government's premier investigating agency, is carrying a 30 per cent backlog in every rank. It is not that CBI does not want to fill the vacancies but a lengthy and self-defeating procedure is often used as an excuse to ensure that the CBI does not go full steam.


The hullabaloo surrounding the demand that the Prime Minister as well as higher judiciary should also be brought under the purview of the Lok Pal is not going to end corruption. The Prime Minister has said that he himself is not averse to the idea. But the point is whether or not in a democracy you can have an institution that supercedes Parliament. More than that how can you, in absolute terms, vest super power in one man who like other human beings is liable to err.


What is req uired is not only a simplification of laws but also dealing with the corrupt with a heavy hand, which no Government has ever done. The preventive aspect in the fight against corruption, which would also include empowering the people, is completely missing. We live in a world of uncertainty and despite all the ex-post facto analysis with every political party paying lip service to eradicating corruption, the Government has left the door wide open for the bureaucracy to milk the masses dry, who must unfortunately deal with it all.

The primary reason behind this is the impossible standards of proof, as prescribed by our legislators, to prove any case in a court of law. Why should the investigating agencies alone bear the burden of proof? Why not change the law so that the accused has to prove that whatever he or his family possesses is honestly acquired? According to one report, India has 34,735 laws, which we are expected to comply with. Given these existing laws which are pro-accused and pro-criminal, the Lok Pal cannot end corruption. Instead of giving the benefit of doubt to the accused, why not offer it to society? The Ministry of Environment has proposed a fine of Rs 1 crore and a five-year-long jail term for showing cruelty to animals, which is much higher than what the corrupt get in this country.


However, eradicating corruption in the country is not an impossible task, as it is made out to be. What our leaders have to do, and the way they have to do it, is incredibly simple. Whether they are willing to do it or not is quite another matter. In the words of the Nike advertisement, the Government should get out there and "Just do it".

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEDIA GOES ROGUE?

AP


Increasingly the media is resorting to corrupt practices in its quest for circulation-boosting and eyeball-grabbing 'scoops'. The disgraced Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World came to symbolise the rot. Can tough laws prevent media from turning rogue? Gregory Katz in London looks for answers

The media throughout the world like to portray themselves as the defender of the public good, a steadfast bulwark against Government excess, a fearless watchdog ready to root out criminality.But what happens when the Press goes rogue, when reporters and editors break the law, and violate common decency as well? When reporters hack into a dead girl's phone to hear her messages, pay off police when convenient, and conceal their identities and use hidden cameras to stage "gotcha" moments?

The British Press is in a shambles as never before, with the disgraced News of the World tabloid shutting down forever on Sunday after being accused of using these corrupt practices in its quest for circulation-boosting scoops.

Britain's randy, rambunctious tabloid Press is supposed to be kept in check by the industry-funded Press Complaints Commission, but its investigation into the phone hacking scandal had no teeth, leading Prime Minister David Cameron to call for a whole new system to force newspapers to live up to basic standards.

No one challenges Mr Cameron's assertion that the Press Commission has failed — it would be hard to defend it at a time when top journalists are being arrested, newsrooms searched and public anger rising — but there is no consensus on how it can be replaced with a regulatory system that really works.

Ms Peta Buscombe, head of the Press Complaints Commission, said it couldn't do its job properly in the phone hacking case, because executives from Mr Rupert Murdoch's News International lied to the commission about the extent of illegal activity at the News of the World — but critics say the fact that editors could deceive the commission with impunity shows how weak the industry self-monitoring system has become.

"The problem is a newspaper proprietor can get away with lying to the PCC, which is owned by newspaper companies," said Mr Ian Hargreaves, former journalism director at the University of Cardiff and now a digital economics professor there. "It doesn't command public confidence."

He said the PCC, which replaced an earlier, even weaker self-regulatory group called the Press Council, is fatally flawed because it has no real investigative powers. He said a new, stronger version of the PCC may emerge from the current inquiries if newspaper owners desperate to avoid Government-imposed regulations can convince the Government the new agency would actually be strong enough to prevent — and punish — future Press abuses.

A second option, he said, is the creation of a taxpayer-funded statutory agency with its mandate and powers defined by law, which would give it real power. That is the model used for the agency that successfully enforces advertising standards, he said, admitting that the ad world is easier to monitor than the unruly national newspapers. Or there could be a hybrid of the two systems.

The most unlikely scenario, he and other experts said, would be for the Government to directly impose its own regulatory rules on newspapers.That would be un-constitutional in the United States, where the First Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting legislation that would hamper the media, but there is no legal barrier in Britain, which does not have a written Constitution.

Still, experts say there is a strong tradition of an independent media that would make Parliament very reluctant to unilaterally dictate Press regulations and laws. British leaders have often criticised foreign leaders for taking this step, which is seen as muzzling a free Press.

"The trouble with a Government board is it takes us back to the 19th Century, with the licencing of newspapers," said media analyst and journalism professor Roy Greenslade, who has written extensively about the current media breakdown. "That would be a terrible problem, especially when so much news is now transmitted outside traditional newspapers. We'd all be using personal blogs to get stories out, and the bloggers would be outside the regulations."

Mr Cameron seemed to rule out the Government agency concept Friday when he said the new oversight agency must be independent of both the Government and the newspaper industry. He said the relationship between the two has been too cozy and must be reformed.

Britain has tried since World War II to come up with an effective way to keep the Press in line, but so far nothing has been consistently effective. The current system relies on the PCC enforcing an "editor's code of practice" that, for example, prohibits the use of concealed cameras and voice recorders, but says exceptions can be made if an editor can demonstrate it was in the public interest to use them.

Public interest is broadly defined in the code as including, but not limited to, stories that expose serious crime or wrongdoing; protect public health and safety, and prevent the public from being misled by an individual or organisation.

Mr Tony Pederson, a Southern Methodist University journalism professor who teaches students about the British media, said most regulatory systems fall short. But he said an informal, market-driven system seems to have worked in the News of the World case since the paper was shut down after losing the support of advertisers wanting to distance themselves from the paper.

"That's what's supposed to happen," he said. "I would argue the self-regulatory system worked. But in terms of Government regulation, the chances of getting it right are very slim. I can't imagine a scenario under which it might be productive."

He also said it is wrong to overlook the quality of some British tabloid journalism. When he brings American students to London each summer for journalism courses, they are usually impressed by some of the tabloids — once they get past the shock of the topless Page Three girls in The Sun, another Murdoch title.

"The UK tabloids are extremely aggressive, sexually charged in their approach, but there is also very good political reporting and the editorial pages are very well read, usually conservative and populist," he said. "It's aggressive celebrity sex journalism mixed with very solid reporting."

This editorial mix has helped make British tabloids huge sellers — the weekly News of the World was selling about 2.7 million copies each Sunday when its closure was announced — and gives them political influence that has made leading politicians reluctant to challenge them with regulations. When former Prime Minister Tony Blair ended 18 years of Conservative Party rule in 1997, for example, many analysts said his successful courtship of the Murdoch papers played an important role in his victory.

Media analyst Claire Enders said the print media is notoriously hard to regulate. But she said newspapers will now face tougher regulation, because so much wrongdoing has been exposed.

"There will probably come out of it a much stricter code of conduct and an explicit sanction against companies that breach the human rights or civil rights of victims or anybody who's in the frame," she said.

That could mean newspapers would have to adhere to codes set out in the stringent European Convention on Human Rights and face penalties when rights were violated."I don't think the specter of a different form of regulation is a welcome one for the Press as a whole," Ms Enders said. "It's very difficult to pursue investigations with alacrity while perusing a legal code to be sure you're minding your Ps and Qs."

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THE TOFFS HIT BACK

AN OLD SNOBBERY LURKS WITHIN THE CAMP PROTESTING AGAINST NEWS OF THE WORLD,SAYS BRENDAN O'NEILL


On Quest- ion Time last Friday night, Hugh Grant unwittingly reveal- ed the double standards that underpin the anti-Murdoch moral crusade. Hugh Grant, who despite his support for those medieval legal writs known as super injunctions has become a hero of the Twitterati and the liberal media for his criticisms of the Murdoch Empire, said: "I'm not for regulating the proper Press, the broadsheet Press. But it is insane that the tabloid Press is left unregulated."

And there you have it, in two sentences, the sentiment that is ultimately motoring liberal campaigners' agitation against low-rent newspapers: A belief that there should be one law for "them" and another law for "us". They must have a "regulatory body watching them", as Hugh Grant put it, whereas the "proper Press" can be trusted to keep its house in order without having the state's snout poking around. The authorities must interfere in and, if appropriate, punish the cocky upstarts of the lesser newspapers, but it should leave the good guys, the nice guys, the "proper press" free to do their own, decent thing.

Hatred of low-class newspapers – or, more pertinently, fear of the rabble that reads them — has been a mainstay of British snobbery for the past century. As John Carey noted in his book The Intellectuals and the Masses, stiff-necked early 20th-century snobs believed that the masses "vomit their bile and call it a newspaper".

How fitting that a posh actor best known for playing such snobs in Merchant Ivory productions should become the public voice of contemporary contempt for lower forms of journalism, even if he does do his best to dress it up as a dignified, one-man war against phone hacking. If the lesson learnt from this scandal is that there is only one good and decent and agreeable way to do journalism, what kind of chilling effect will that have on the British media and on Press freedom and diversity?

Courtesy: The Daily Telegraph

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SPELL IS BROKEN FOR MEDIA SORCERER WITH TOUCH OF EVIL


Rupert Murdoch's story is the most remarkable in the history of newspapers around the world but the end is in sight, writes Charles Moore

Until last week, it seemed that the rule of Rupert Murdoch would end only with his death. But today, I think, the end is in sight. He may live to a great age (Mr Murdoch is 80 and his mother is still with us, aged 102), but his power will never recover.

One day, some time in the mid-1990s, I was editing The Daily Telegraph and Mr Murdoch had just launched a new front in the price war designed to destroy us, by dropping the price of his paper, The Times, to 10 pence on Mondays. Conrad Black, our then owner, loves historical comparisons. "I feel like Talleyrand," he told me, "when he realised that Napoleon's only policy was one of conquest."

It was a just comparison, because it acknowledged both Mr Murdoch's greatness and his destructiveness.The greatness consists in his courage and ingenuity, and in his understanding of the media. It was Mr Murdoch who established Australia's first national newspaper, Mr Murdoch who saw that the Sun, an ailing, feeble, Left-wing newspaper which he bought in 1969, could be turned into the most popular publication in Britain, and Mr Murdoch, in the late-1980s, who realised how satellite broadcasting would revolutionise television. It was he who first grasped the importance of the Chinese media market, he who made the whole British newspaper industry profitable by smashing the print unions in the 1980s, and he who broke the stranglehold of the East Coast liberal TV networks in the United States.

His career has lasted for more than half-a-century. It has straddled every time-zone and every medium of communication. Mr Murdoch is an Australian who has a love/hate relationship with Britain, and became an American citizen to advance his ambitions there, so his story is part of the great imperial history of the Anglosphere. It is the most remarkable in the entire history of newspapers.

When you meet Mr Murdoch, it is impossible not to be impressed and charmed by all of this. He is unaffected and unpompous. Though he is enormously rich, he is not ostentatious or greedy. Unlike his son, James, who uses the wretched jargon of the business school, the old man speaks directly, wittily and even affectionately about his trade. Although he is probably the veteran of more corporate battles involving accountants and lawyers than any living human being, he loves the actual journalism, and pays attention to it. He has, as we used to say, "ink in his veins".

He also analyses political and social change well. The first time I met him, about 25 years ago, he explained British working-class aspiration. As the Second World War receded in the memory, he said, people got fed up with being preached at and told how to behave by their 'betters'. They did not want to be directed by the state. They wanted to have more fun and make their own choices. Why shouldn't they have foreign holidays and televisions and the chance to own their own homes? His dislike of the monarchy — of which, he recently told me, he has repented — was born of the same belief that ordinary people should not be held back by social systems. On the basis of this approach, he built a huge commercial and journalistic success.

But if the man is a genius, there is a touch of evil in that genius. This is expressed in power-mania, cynicism and — though it does not seem to be a personal characteristic of his — cruelty.

If you are an imperialist, you are never ultimately interested in the welfare of each bit that you conquer. Your concern is only to conquer more and more, and you will sacrifice any part for the interest of the whole. Last week, this happened spectacularly. Mr Murdoch closed the News of the World, the paper that got him started in Britain — a 168-year-old best-selling and profitable concern — because its continuing existence became, for wider reasons, inconvenient to him.

The cynicism is part of this. The good of any country in which Mr Murdoch operates concerns him much less than the might of his empire. And although his commitment to fearless journalism is undoubted, he is perfectly prepared to sacrifice truth-telling to whatever his commercial interest may be.

In 1998, The Daily Telegraph got a scoop when a brave publisher, white-faced with indignation, came to see me. He was the editor of Chris Patten's memoirs, to be published by the Murdoch-owned HarperCollins. He had just been told that HarperCollins would not publish the book after all. Mr Patten, the ex-governor of Hong Kong, was critical of China, and Mr Murdoch did not want to risk his growing Chinese interests. The publisher resigned in protest.

The cynicism also involves chasing readers downmarket. Think how excellent it would have been if Mr Murdoch's correct theory about rising popular expectations had also led his tabloid papers to give their readers helpful advice and information about saving, pensions, medical care, marriage, education and bringing up children. Instead, those papers have chosen subjects which are degraded and, in the case of the News of the World, methods which are criminal.

Once you run papers that way, it becomes almost logical to snoop on the voicemail of a murdered teenage girl. The power of the Murdoch empire has also made it hard for other newspapers to take a stand against such methods — hence the weakness of self-regulation and the self-censorship of journalists who recognise that they may one day want to take the Murdoch shilling.

Above all, the cynicism extends to politics. Mr Murdoch has genuine political beliefs — probably best described as radical, subversive conservatism — and he advances them fairly consistently. But his main interest is in using his existing power to get more of it. When he switched the Sun from Labour to Mrs Thatcher in good time for the 1979 general election, he could plausibly argue that her beliefs and his interests coincided. Both, for instance, required reform of Britain's appalling labour laws. But as the years passed, his main game became simply to work out who was likely to win, back him, and then threaten him if he did not grant the commercial concessions which he sought. It was on the basis of this Devil's bargain that Mr Tony Blair and Mr Gordon Brown constructed the strategy of New Labour.

The most remarkable thing Mr David Cameron did in his Press conference last week was to be the first leader to admit that the political parties, including his own, "turn a blind eye" to Press wrongdoing because they are desperate for electoral endorsement. By saying what he did, he has broken the spell.

It remains possible, of course, that the Murdoch organisation or individual Murdoch employees will do Mr Cameron terrible damage. No doubt Rebekah Brooks could tell some bad tales if she chose to. But to what end? If News International fails to get control of BSkyB, what sorcery can Mr Murdoch employ now? He finds himself in the position of Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. He has been exposed, and he is losing the battle for Middle Earth — or rather, Middle England.

Even if one rejoices — as one should — at the breaking of the spell, there is an element of tragedy here. This denouement has come about because Mr Murdoch wanted to get full control of BSkyB. His motive seems to have been to ensure a fine inheritance for his children. Who now believes that a great media dynasty will be established? The great conqueror has met his Waterloo.

Courtesy: The Daily Telegraph

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

LOOK (NEAR) EAST

 

New Delhi has done well to announce a flurry of high-profile visits to Dhaka, commencing from external affairs minister S M Krishna's trip last week which witnessed the signing of important investment and transport deals, and culminating in the prime minister's just-announced visit due to take place in early September. They address a gap in India's Look East policy, one of the truly innovative moves in foreign policy since the 1990s. While New Delhi now has a bevy of FTAs and military agreements from Singapore to the edge of East Asia, we tend to have overlooked our closest eastern neighbour.

That in part is due to our obsession with Pakistan and neglect of the East, but it's also because of crass stereotyping. That they still structure our thinking was revealed when the PM told a group of editors that 25% of Bangladeshis are anti-Indian, owe their allegiance to the Jamaat-e-Islami and are often in the clutches of the ISI. Not only is there a friendly government in Bangladesh now that realises the benefits of cooperation with India, the lessons of Pakistan descending into a spiral of jihadi violence - due to the high degree of tolerance it extends to extremist groups and radical paramilitaries - have not been lost in the region. The Indian economy is on a growth trajectory, as is Bangladesh. Both have reasons to fear religious extremism. There are enough common factors to build on.

If India were to help Bangladesh become a moderate and successful Muslim-majority republic like Turkey or Indonesia, that would transform South Asia to India's advantage. In addition, transit through Bangladesh would integrate the northeast more closely with the rest of India. That is the strategic big picture New Delhi must keep its eyes on. It can't afford to miss the bus given what's at stake. Dhaka's current willingness to engage us must be utilised to take ties onto a new plane, from where they will be irreversible even if the Awami League government is replaced by a new regime.

The $1 billion line of credit granted to Bangladesh during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed's visit to India last year is a generous move. But it can be supported by easing tariff and non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi exports to India, instead of insisting on strict reciprocity. India enjoys a sizeable trade advantage and can afford to make these concessions. In addition, it would help tremendously if agreements on some of the main outstanding issues - such as water sharing, boundary disputes and transit arrangements through Bangladesh - are firmed up before the PM's visit to Bangladesh.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            COMMENT

MORE DOPE ON SPORT

 

There is more to the doping scandal than meets the eye. Ashok Ahuja, Sports Authority of India's former head of sports medicine, has alleged doping cases aren't aberrations. He claims doping's been institutionalised with the blessings of authorities more concerned with chasing sporting records.

As evidence, he points to "structured systemic doping" at Patiala's National Institute of Sports. Disturbingly, this whistleblower's account follows badminton star Saina Nehwal's reported statement that she'd heard athletes admit to taking banned substances. Sports minister Ajay Maken himself puts Lalit Bhanot, Athletics Federation of India secretary for 15 years, in the dock for the controversy. There's considerable evidence that we are looking at a system where top administrators downwards are either aware of or complicit in rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Without a thorough probe and clean-up, Indian athletics can't live down the taint nor live up to the promise held out in the Commonwealth Games.

Stringent testing, counselling of athletes on doping's health risks, checking antecedents of doctors and coaches - all this is imperative. It's good the draft sports Bill seeks to bring all sports bodies under the National Anti-Doping Agency's ambit.

The government must also look at the International Cricket Council's decision to depoliticise national boards. Similar reform is urgent for various sports bodies in India.

These are now cash cows, little more than sinecures for politicians and bureaucrats. Tenures and ages of sports federation heads must be capped as proposed, notwithstanding protests about dented autonomy.

Given the funds sports federations get, rules can justifiably be changed to promote accountability. Ensuring a transparent election process enabling competent professionals and sportsmen to take charge is the way to stem the rot.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE

NOT OUT AT NINETY

RANA MITTER

 

Rana Mitter There has been strong speculation about former Chinese President Jiang Zemin's death at the age of 85. There's a certain irony that this should come at the time of the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), since just 20 years ago, it seemed quite likely that the CPC would die before the president. Jiang Zemin was the man put into place by former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to rescue the party after the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 came close to toppling the leadership. It is a sign of how much his project succeeded that the CPC is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its foundation with confidence, when there was a time when it was unclear whether it would make its 70th.

The party has indeed come a long way since its first, secretive meeting in 1921, when its founder members included a young library assistant named Mao Zedong. It now has close to 80 million members - the largest political party in the world - and presides over the world's fastest-growing economy. It has done this while defying what seemed an inevitability in the post-Cold War world, that economic liberalisation would inevitably come with democratisation.

At a time when the western world is struggling to recover from financial crisis, China has money to invest in its domestic infrastructure (such as its superb new high-speed rail network). The party can - and does - point to all this as evidence of its wisdom. It also boosts its image with propaganda blockbusters such as the recent movie, The Great Task of Founding the Party, the box-office receipts for which were boosted by a temporary ban on Hollywood films in Chinese cinemas.

Yet party leaders point to income inequality, growing environmental crises and labour unrest as problems that need urgent resolution. Above all, they know that corruption has corroded a significant amount of the population's trust. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has been particularly vocal on this subject, although there is little sign of any better behaviour by grassroots party cadres. The party is a strange mixture of confidence and nervousness, regularly using its ability to censor dissidence on the Web and in wider society to prevent the establishment of alternative political voices.

In the 2010s, the party faces its most crucial set of choices since 1989. Then, the fight was for survival. Now, the struggle is to see how much of the near future will be written in China's terms. The party knows that its hopes of endurance depend on its ability to deliver a high level of prosperity to its people while stamping on any alternative aspirants to power. To do this, it needs to make sure that its priorities are entwined with those of society as a whole.

So in many areas today, as in the past, party membership has been made the key to advancement. The difference is that in the past, progress in the CPC was tied to one's status as a worker or peasant. Now, it is the rising technological entrepreneur and financial executive who may reach a certain level of success, only to be told that it would be "helpful" to join the party. The one thing that almost never motivates any application to join is a belief in socialism, ideology, or that historical relic known as Maoism. Membership of the party has become almost entirely utilitarian. As long as the economy remains strong, this may be enough to prolong the party's grip on power.

But it makes the party's future endurance dependent on its own success. Few would fight to defend a failing CPC, as the party has yet to provide a world view beyond economic growth and a strong though vaguely defined belief in China's greatness. This has led to a debate about "intra-party democracy" as a means of refreshing its potency. Certainly there is lively discussion within the party about ways in which it can modernise its rule. But it often seems that the party encourages talk about democracy within it to reduce the chance of liberalisation outside it. The crackdown on human rights lawyers and the arrest of the prominent artist Ai Weiwei in recent months do not suggest that the party has confidence in the idea of a more plural public sphere.

That internal nervousness in China will make the rivalry between India and China in the next decade an extremely interesting one. Both countries are wary about making explicit claims to regional leadership, yet their sheer size and economic significance give them weight within the world community.

In Beijing, the think tanks that stand central in policymaking for the party have not, up to now, spent a great deal of time analysing developments in India. But the 2010s will be the decade in which China seeks to extend and strengthen its global reach. As it does so, it will be less interested in the US and Western Europe as points of comparison, and look more to the countries that share its own growing pains. India stands central in that comparison. It would be a healthy, and welcome, development if more analysts from Beijing took up residence in New Delhi - and vice versa.

(The writer is professor of the history and politics of modern China at the University of Oxford.)

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                                        Q&A

'INDIAN CINEMA IS DEFINITELY IN THE LIMELIGHT'

DEEP K DATTA-RAYDEEP K DATTA-RAY

 

Rachel Dwyer, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, is a long-term student of Indian cinema. Along with Jerry Pinto, she has edited a volume titled Beyond the Boundaries of Bollywood: The Many Forms of Hindi Cinema. She spoke about studying and teaching Indian cinema with Deep K Datta-Ray:

Is a serious book about something regarded trite a contradiction in terms?
In Indian film studies, the most theoretical studies have been about the most popular films, whereas art cinema has received little academic study. Our book, though informed by theory, is not about theory. Although published by an academic press, we hope to reach non-academic audiences serious about cinema.

How's it even possible to research a vast industry enjoyed by hundreds of millions?
The study of Indian cinema is in its infancy. This book's just a small contribution, in no way definitive. Research seems impossible, as it's so hard to even collect material. For example, over a thousand films were made in India during the silent period but only fragments of 18 survive. As much of the industry is undocumented, oral history is vital to supplement autobiographies. There is no academy of cinema here as there is for theatre, music and literature, and the only archive is in Pune. While some of the earlier studios, such as the Prabhat Film Company and companies like Wadia Movietone, have kept materials, others haven't. It's not just film history which is the problem. There're few studies of audiences and we don't know what audiences are really watching.

Does anything significant lie beyond the boundaries of Bollywood?
'Bollywood' is the term by which Indian cinema became famous in the last 15 years, particular in the Anglo-Saxon world. It's been suggested the term be restricted to the high-profile, export-oriented Bombay film. This is about a branding of India rather than a presentation of India as an aesthetic form. That is, marketing, rather than a national film style. This means films made before 1995 and many made afterwards lie beyond the boundaries of Bollywood. We deal with Hindi cinema that predates Bollywood - the 1920s stunt film, Bombay Gothic and the coming of sound, as well as cinema post 'Bollywood', but not part of it. That includes VCD viewing, horror films and the culture which stretches beyond cinema, into the life of film songs. They exist in their own right, as independent music, television content, internet clips, antakshari performances and dance styles. We look only at Hindi cinema. My limited knowledge of other language cinemas suggests exciting developments in cinemas made in other languages, not least Tamil and Marathi.

As one of the few academics studying Bollywood, is its future Indian or international?
We are a growing number! Internationally reputed scholars are doing some of the most exciting work on Indian cinema in India. I don't know what the future of Bollywood is. The Indian film industry has every chance now to expand even further. I think it will by experimenting with other genres and is likely to fragment. The all-Indian film that would have international appeal is a mythical beast. Producers such as Yash Raj, UTV and Aamir Khan are great pace-setters but smaller makers may surprise. For instance, discovering hatke - 'different'; offbeat - cinema, my students insisted we put Dibakar Banerjee on the syllabus. With all eyes fixed on India as a rising global power and with Bollywood as a great Indian brand, Indian cinema is definitely in the limelight.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

DANCING BABY BLUES

ANEESH AANEESH A

 

If a decade ago, i had held a meeting with a cat, a panda and a chubby baby and told them that in a few years there would be millions of people spending thousands of valuable hours adoring them and their daily mundane activities, i would've been met with the most hostile of responses anyone could expect from this eclectic gathering.

The cat would have pawed its whiskers and said, "Meow off you meowing nut"; the panda would have created complete panda-monium; and the chubby baby would've just soiled his diapers because, you know, that's what babies do. However, today, if you log onto YouTube, you will see evidence that would've made the cat, panda and baby bow down before me and call me their prophet. God Almighty could upload a video on YouTube titled 'Shortcut to Heaven', but unless he tags it 'dancing kitty', 'funny baby' or 'silly panda', he is not going to get more than a dozen hits.

Granted, i don't have a predisposition towards birds and animals, although i do have a great rapport with chickens and lambs (especially when they're prepared Mughlai style). But it's unfathomable to me why a panda sneezing or a cat hissing or a baby giggling can receive such universal acclaim. First of all, who's walking around with a camera waiting for pandas to sneeze? I mean, how does it work? Do you stealthily approach the panda, put some pepper under his panda nose and roll the camera to get the big money shot? Or do you bribe the panda veterinarian's compounder and get the list of all the pandas that are having a cold that week and target them?

Cats, i would imagine, are easier to film but what in the world is so irresistible about the close-up shot of a cat purring? I bet that if a cat walked past you dressed in a tuxedo, smoking a cigar, humming a Justin Bieber song, you wouldn't give it a second look but the moment a cat is on camera, even if it's just licking its own paw, something seems to stir within the bosom of a human being and she (studies show that it's often a she) has to comment on the video and view it at least three hundred times repeatedly.

And then there are babies. If the world decided to be completely lawless and discard propriety for just an hour, i wouldn't loot, murder or plunder. I would just walk up to the nearest baby, look him square in the eye and tell him, "Listen up baby, you can't say anything, you can't do anything, you can't even stop chewing on your thumb. Still, the world showers heaps of undeserved love upon you even before getting to know you. How do you think that makes loveless grown-ups like me feel?" Sorry, a bit of my baby-rage seeped out. I admit, the video of a baby giggling can, perhaps, be amusing for about six seconds, but to watch it over and over again and that too different babies giggling and chuckling for no reason- that's just madness. When it comes to babies, the saying 'If you've seen one, you've seen them all' holds absolutely true.

On the other hand, the aforementioned observation could be of great use to an aspiring politician. While his opponents engage in heated debates and make tall claims about stopping corruption, all he has to do is come on TV and stay still. The break-dancing chipmunk in the background will make sure the votes come pouring in.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

PUT THE RAGING FIRES OUT NOW

The Supreme Court's judgement in the Salwa Judum case is not only a severe indictment of the central and Chhattisgarh governments but also irrefutably confirms what human rights activists have been saying for years: the raising of such a vigilante force is unconstitutional and the state had kept Salwa Judum (SJ) alive in the insurgency-ridden state, despite repeated warnings.

Pointing out that much of the state's deposition about the recruitment requirements and training provided to the SJ cadre lacks "credibility", the apex court has fittingly declared SJ illegal and has ordered the state to disarm the group. It has also asked the Centre to desist from funding such groups and asked the Chhattisgarh government to make arrangements for the security of the SJ's young, tribal special police officers (SPOs).

Using an apt metaphor, the court said a society is not a "forest where one could combat an accidental forest fire by starting a counter forest fire that is allegedly controlled". The order is also a clear warning to other insurgency-hit states like Orissa, Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur who have also raised such forces.

Over the years, the tribals in Chhattisgarh have bore the brunt of the vicious battle that is raging between the state and the Maoists. Caught in the crossfire, many have opted for 'fighting' for the state, obviously the lollypop being the paltry few thousand rupees as honorarium.

But once they entered the SJ camps, there was no return because they became the targets of the Maoists.

Most of the SPOs have studied only up to class 5 and lack proper training to take on the Maoists. In the process, as the Supreme Court rightly observed, they became "cannon fodder" in this war.

It is true that once they are disarmed, the young SPOs could become targets for the Maoist again. The state, therefore, must make provisions for their security and Chhattisgarh has promised to do that.

But providing security is one part of the solution, the other crucial part is rehabilitation.

This is the right time for the central government to step in and start rebuilding the trust between the government and the people. There are thousands of tribals who have fled from the state and are staying in Andhra Pradesh. All efforts must be made to bring them back. The country has enough schemes to ensure that these people are resettled in their own land.

The court has laid the ground for this start, it's now up to the government to bite the bullet.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

FRUITS OF OUR LABOUR

Rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan seems to be leaking information faster than the crippled Fukushima reactor. The latest bit of information from Khan that is glowing in the dark is of the transactions between North Korea and Pakistan on nuclear and missile technology.

Now for those of you who thought that this would be a highly secretive and complex manoeuvre involving secret accounts in the Cayman Islands and clandestine exchanges worthy of John le Carre, the truth is rather more mundane.

It simply involves sending over a box of cash hidden beneath some fruit and some emerald and diamond jewellery sets to the boys in the Pakistan army and the return gift will include the necessary components to rig up a nuke for a rainy day. Quite simple, no fuss at all.

But the fruits of such transactions could be bitter, even rotten. Let's not forget that Zia-ul-Haq, that foremost proponent of the bomb was killed when a crate of mangoes on his flight allegedly exploded, leading to a riveting book on that subject. But we feel it could be worse.

The North Koreans could have send the cash under a pile of the quotations of the beloved and dear leader, both of whom have made several pronouncements of such wisdom as to put Martin Luther King in a shade.

Or it could be hidden under replicas of the dear duo in different poses. And the Pakistani generals must thank the lord that the Koreans thought of throwing in a bit of jewellery to keep the begums happy. We can't quite see bottles of kimchi going down big in the swish circles of Rawalpindi.

Should India worry about all this? We think not. We could also play this game. We should start sending the Pakistani generals our own unique gifts.

Maybe we could send them a few versions of the Lokpal Bill along with a consignment of 'I love Anna' T-shirts. If nothing, this will confound the Pakistanis who are used to bills of a different kind.

Let us hope that this new version of track two diplomacy will bear fruit in the near future.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

PEOPLE VS THE PEOPLE

RAMACHANDRA GUHA

The Supreme Court order against the Salwa Judum's vigilantism in Chhattisgarh must be read by all, especially government officials.

The details of the civil war in the tribal districts of Chhattisgarh are largely unknown to most readers of this newspaper. For the region is remote and inaccessible, and easily ignored by the national media.  

This civil war pits, on the one side, Maoist extremists, and, on the other, a band of vigilantes funded and armed by the state government. These vigilantes, originally promoted by a Congress politician named Mahendra Karma, were then appointed 'Special Police Officers' (SPOs) by chief minister Raman Singh, who belongs to the BJP.

In a trip through Dantewada and Bastar districts in 2006, I saw the first, and very poisonous, fruits of this state-sponsored vigilantism. It had divided adivasi society down the line: pitting brother against brother, family against family, village against village, clan against clan.

An atmosphere of terror and fear pervaded the district in 2006; subsequently, matters have become far worse. Thousands of unaffiliated, innocent tribals have been killed in the war. Many others have had their homes burnt and their women violated. In response, several Public Interest Litigations (in one of which I was a co-petitioner) were filed in the Supreme Court (SC).

After many hearings spread over several years, the court has issued an order on the matter. This order is worth perusing by all concerned with the future of constitutional democracy in India.

The judges hearing the petitions, Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar, observed that the Chhattisgarh government appointed thousands of 'barely literate tribal youth as SPOs', and then asked them 'to undertake tasks that only members of the official and formal police ought to be undertaking'.

The regular police and the paramilitary were content to expose untrained tribals to the wrath of the Maoists. As a result, the SPOs suffered, in proportionate terms, far higher casualties than the CRPF or the police. Thus, through conscious State policies, 'the young tribals have literally become cannon fodder in the killing fields of Dantewada and other districts of Chhattisgarh'.

Over the past few decades, several million adivasis have lost their lands and homes to extractive industries such as logging, large dams and mining. The discontent this dispossession created was exploited by the Maoists to win adivasi recruits to their own murderous cause.

To reclaim the alienated tribals for constitutional democracy is unquestionably one of the country's greatest challenges. How can this challenge be met?

Perhaps in two ways: first, by making tribals equal partners in economic growth; second, by containing extremism through a well-trained, well-paid, and highly-focused police force.

As it happens, state governments across India have disregarded tribal complaints, and given more leases to rapacious mining companies. Meanwhile, the government of Chhattisgarh outsourced law and order to untrained tribal youth.

This resulted, as the apex court points out, in "a miasmic environment of dehumanisation of youngsters of the deprived sections of the population, in which guns are given to them rather than books, to stand as guards, for the rapine, plunder and loot in our forests". By arming poor and largely illiterate adivasis, the Chhattisgarh government had installed "a regime of gross violation of human rights in a manner, and by adopting the same modes, as [have] done Maoist/Naxalite extremists".

The SC held that the creation of SPOs violated "the promise of equality before the law" assured by Article 14 of the Constitution, since it treats unequals as equals, asking untrained adivasis to conduct tasks meant for trained policemen. It also violated "the dignity of life" promised by Article 21, since these adivasi young men are wilfully exposed to the risk of death.

While critical of government policies, the court also expressed its disappointment with its cavalier response to questions and queries.

Thus, in its replies to the court, the state and central governments repeatedly insisted "that the only option for the state was to rule with an iron fist, establish a social order in which every person is to be treated as suspect, and anyone speaking for human rights of citizens to be deemed as suspect, and a Maoist".

The judges were "aghast at the blindness to constitutional limitations of the state of Chhattisgarh, and some of its advocates, in claiming that anyone who questions the inhumanity that are rampant in many parts of that state ought necessarily to be treated as Maoists, or their sympathisers, and yet in the same breath also claim that it needs the… sanction, under our Constitution, to perpetrate its policies of ruthless violence."

The SC order observes that "lawless violence, in response to violence by the Maoist/Naxalite insurgency, has not, and will not, solve the problems, and instead it will only perpetuate the cycles of more violen[ce]". The state of affairs in Chhattisgarh today reminded the judges of the state of 19th century Africa, as described in Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness.

The actions of both parties to the conflict manifest "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 world-view that parades itself as pragmatic and inevitable".

The SC order should be read by all thinking Indians, and by the officials of the Chhattisgarh state government in particular. For, in following the cynical and amoral policies promoted by their political masters, these officials have done a disservice to the citizens they have pledged to serve, and to the constitutional ideals they have sworn to uphold.

To now continue with these policies would, as the Supreme Court notes, "lay the road to national destruction".

(Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. The views expressed by the author are personal) 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LITTLE COMFORT IN NUMBERS

PC SEN

The country was just about recovering from the drama of the lokpal bill when the National Advisory Council (NAC) announced the draft of the 'Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill'.

Justice JS Verma and Justice BN Srikrishna, two of India's finest jurists, have expressed strong reservations regarding the need to introduce this bill, arguing that adding to the plethora of laws was not the solution, which  lay in better implementation of existing laws.

Those in the NAC involved in the preparation of the draft cite Gujarat 2002 as the justification for such legislation. The question that arises is whether lack of powers available with the executive in Gujarat was what impeded their ability to prevent the carnage.

When the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) intervened in Gujarat in 2002, singly, effectively and with such incredible moral power, Justice Verma was its chairperson. I was serving at that time with him as secretary general of the NHRC, and accompanied him to Gujarat.

What was appalling was the total inaction of the civil services and the police (barring some superb exceptions) due to the indifference, pusillanimity or politicisation of its members.

Subsequently, after the issue of the orders and recommendations by the commission regarding action to be taken, we deliberated about what could be done to prevent the recurrence of such a situation. Samar Singh, whose tenure as district magistrate, Jabalpur, was legendary, suggested that the NHRC should prepare a compilation of laws, orders and guidelines that empower officers to take action to prevent and control riots.

The study of this document should form an essential part of training IAS and IPS officers, so that lack of knowledge could not be an excuse for inaction; it should also be circulated among legislators, members of the press, judiciary and civil society to provide a lever to pressure officers to act and ensure that discussions and debates on such issues would be informed ones.

Justice Verma, when approached, welcomed the initiative.

Three examples would make clear the need for such a compilation. Whenever the police, under the British, got a hint of impending trouble, they began by arresting owners of bicycles whose lamps were not functioning.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani did something similar while cracking down on crime in New York, adopting the 'Broken Windows' approach — catch those responsible for petty crimes to convey that order will be maintained. These were creative uses of provisions of various laws available, to warn troublemakers that the State was alert.

The second relates to the principles behind the use of force. The normal one advocates 'minimum force at the last opportunity', whereas in guidelines issued by the government in cases of communal riots, it was 'maximum force at the earliest opportunity'.

The last was regarding military aid to civil power. The press reported on Gujarat that the delay in calling in the army arose because the district authorities were awaiting clearances from the chief minister or home minister. This was both incredible and preposterous.

The position under law is that while normally officers obey the directions of superiors, as sub-divisional magistrate or district magistrate, they know no superior. This was the genius of classical district administration: in a crisis, decision-making was reduced to the discretion of one.

The compilation was prepared, despite the complete and continuous non-cooperation of the ministry of home affairs. The volume referred to and analysed not less than 15 enactments directly concerned with the maintenance of public order, bringing out that what was lacking in Gujarat was not power but the reluctance to use it.

The new draft bill proposes a whole new bureaucracy. Almost three quarters of a civil servant's time is spent in housekeeping matters of the department they serve in — postings, transfers, departmental inquiries, answering Parliament and parliamentary committees.

There is already a possibility that the lokpal will be a hydra-headed monster that will collapse under the weight of its own powers; do we want another similar body that is expected to 'prevent any communal violence, monitor the probe, the prosecution and the trial and distribution of relief and reparations to deal with communal riots'?

Additional laws are not the solution, but the will to act is. Whenever this is absent, officers should be compelled by the other arms of the State and civil society to use the powers that the State has invested them with.

(PC Sen is a former secretary general, National Human Rights Commission. The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CHATTERING CLASSES

IAN JACK

The great age of Britain's popular press is drawing squalidly to its close

Who will mourn the passing of the News of the World? The staff will, especially those not recruited by The Sun on Sunday. A pure-minded lover of Pakistani cricket might, thanking "the fake sheikh" for exposing the national team's easy corruption. This week everyone hates the News of the World, and yet only last Sunday around 2.6 million people liked it enough to buy a copy. They didn't mind what they were reading, so long as they didn't know how some of it came to be written. And they didn't mind that too much, either -if they knew about phone hacking, they overlooked it -until it came to the case of the abducted and then murdered girl, Milly Dowler.

We own what the Victorians knew as our baser selves. When the News of the World first appeared in 1843, Britain was embarking on a long age of public respectability in which salacious accounts of sex and violence were hard to find. The News of the World made this a specialism, mainly by reporting court cases no other paper would touch. The Education Acts of 1870 and 1880 spread literacy through every social class and hugely expanded the reading public. By 1914, the paper was selling a couple of million copies a week, all of them published on a day nominally devoted to worship and quiet reflection. In its peak year, 1949, the circulation averaged close to 8.5 million and required not a parcels van or two but a whole train to take Scottish copies north from the presses in Manchester. It was, by then, the world's biggestselling newspaper.

In the late 19th century, social reformers and educationalists thought of reading in terms of selfimprovement and a more skilled workforce -a moral and economic good. A new breed of newspaper publishers, of which Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) was by far the most inventive, saw a less worthy side. He spread the message to his staff like a preacher: roughly, to subvert the words of Philip Larkin, readers were forever surprising a hunger in themselves to be more trivial.

Northcliffe divided news into two main divisions -reports of happenings and what he called "talking points", where his reporters would develop the topics people were discussing, or stimulate new ones. "What a great talking point," he told Clarke when he read that Paris had decided skirts should be long. "Every woman in the country will be excited about it. We must start an illustrated discussion on `THE BATTLE OF THE SKIRTS: LONG v SHORT.' Get different people's views. Cable to New York and Paris, get plenty of sketches by wellknown artists... print as many as you can ... plenty of legs."

Such enterprising devotion to the frivolous -and to women -had never before been heard in a newspaper office.
For the moment Rebekah Brooks stays, but all around her the great age of Britain's popular press is tumbling squalidly to its close.. The Guardian

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

OFF THE TRACK

 

There is a real danger that the frequency of train accidents in India might soon desensitise people as "yet another" instance of what has become thoughtlessly, mind-numbingly commonplace. That might be the cruel legacy of our serially populist railway ministers, most of all the last one. On Sunday, the Delhi-bound Kalka Mail derailed in Uttar Pradesh. Many lost their lives, many more were seriously injured. The railway ministry has been hostage to coalition politics, with one or another coalition partner assuming the ministry as its by right. With a cabinet reshuffle imminent and with the prime minister still in charge of the ministry after Mamata Banerjee's resignation, this practice should be ended immediately and the ministry given to a responsible individual. This requires some serious thought and a lot of political will. A decisive change is required in allocating ministries so that certain jobs do not go to certain allies automatically.

The Indian Railways (IR) need an overhaul. Banerjee and her predecessors were clearly not the right people for that. It is necessary to sink the belief of such allies, the Trinamool Congress in this case, that the ministry is theirs to keep under this Central dispensation. Banerjee too must realise that if she remote-controls IR from Kolkata, the state of affairs will boomerang on her politically. She has to let go of her grip on what is not her fiefdom, and let the PM pick his minister. Besides, the railways must have a full-fledged, devoted minister. Using IR to shower patronage on the minister's home state is akin to the DMK's assumption that certain "new economy" ministries are always its own.

IR must undergo crucial reforms. It is time to turn around the "socialist", statist behemoth by rationalising fares indexed to fuel costs and prioritising projects, to say nothing of yanking the railways off eco-parks, sports academies or museums. Above all, IR is a financial disaster. Its 2011 budget outlay of Rs 57,630 crore is tied up with a borrowing of Rs 20,594 crore; 10 of its 16 zones missed their operating ratio targets in the last fiscal, and little has been done to upgrade railway infrastructure to make journeys safer and faster. The next minister cannot milk IR for electoral points in her home state, and must set to work turning IR into a professionally managed, cost-effective but state-of-the-art, 21st century transportation system.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PRO CHOICE

 

Despite the wars that raged between Delhi University's faculty and student unions and its determined administration, the university is all set to migrate to a semester system. Last year, 13 science departments switched to semesters at the undergraduate level, while others were held up because of faculty resistance. The Supreme Court recently refused to entertain a petition for a stay order on the semester system. And now, the university is readying for a full-scale move, as syllabi have been readied and vetted by the academic council for some 50 subjects.

The semester system was strongly championed by the Knowledge Commission, as a way to bring in greater flexibility and inter-disciplinarity into DU, apart from the obvious benefit of breaking up the year's work into smaller, more manageable units for students. Course material will be chosen by individual instructors, who also evaluate student work — as opposed to an impersonal process with an annual centralised examination and a vast, fixed syllabus. These units can be creatively combined, and may allow students to move across academic fields. What's more, they can also transfer credits and move across institutions. They will also be able to choose a major later, after sampling and studying different courses — a major improvement on the narrow focus that DU previously demanded of undergraduates.

Teachers' unions, voicing reservations, have suggested that DU is an umbrella with varying standards of competence, and asked whether greater freedom to its colleges will formalise these differential standards. They have also pointed to the increased volumes of evaluation and administration required. Many of these questions deserve a full hearing. However, they are largely technical impediments, and should not detract from the larger project of university reform — one in which faculty, administration and students have much meeting ground. Maximising choice for students and greater decentralisation and autonomy for colleges are obvious positives. The context and operating conditions at DU are not the same as the American semester model, and the university will have to adapt the system to its own needs. Now that the system has been installed, the faculty and administration should direct their energies into making it work.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                                EDITORIAL

JUBA'S JUBILATION

 

On Saturday, the mood in Juba was euphoric. The city, the world's newest capital, was crammed with citizens of the hours-old Republic of South Sudan, dancing on the streets, waving the young country's flag.

Outside the mausoleum of John Garang, the leader of the region's military resistance for decades till his death in 2005, delegates from all over the world assembled to see the first government sworn in — including Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari. South Sudan's new president, Salva Kiir, was sworn in, as always wearing a broad-brimmed black cowboy hat; close at hand was Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes in The Hague, but present, swinging his trademark cane, to show that Khartoum had finally consented to the South's independence.

The challenges ahead are awe-inspiring. South Sudan has been wracked by rebellion for decades; the new country of eight million has seen little development, and the civil war claimed over two-and-a-half million deaths. By one development indicator after another — maternal mortality, school enrolment — this is one of the least developed places on earth. Its unity is hard-won, and might vanish once the common adversary, the Arabic-speaking North, is removed. South Sudan, close to the cradle of humanity's evolution, is one of the most diverse places on earth: 200 ethnic groups and dozens of languages.

What South Sudan has going for it is its resources. Specifically, oil. Oil-rich Abyei province continues to be disputed, but the rest of the country has productive wells, currently exploited by Canadian, Malaysian, French, Swedish and, of course, Chinese companies. The only way out for the oil, however, is pipelines through its northern neighbour, and Khartoum skims off half the profit. That will continue to be an irritant. Nevertheless, the oil revenue will need to be put to use carefully and quickly to work on the now peaceful country's development.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TURN IN THE INDIA STORY

ILA PATNAIK

 

the India Story is turning gloomier every day. Not long ago, we were exuberant that India would become a fast-growing economy with robust institutions and healthy markets. While economic reforms unleashed economic growth, is growth in peril due to the lack of legal, governance and institutional reforms that should have accompanied reforms?

In the immediate post-Independence period we believed we were on our way to becoming a prosperous country, but we soon collapsed to the Hindu rate of growth. Now, after 20 years of high optimism, it seems that once again low human resource and institutional capacity will constrain India's rise.

In advanced countries like the UK and the US, the state matured over very long time horizons. It took more that a hundred years for these countries to develop well-functioning institutions. In India, after 1947, at first there was a lot of confidence in the country's ability to reinvent itself and be competitive globally. Attempts at accelerating growth were superimposed on the existing economic structure. That period, instead, led to a derailment of growth through a sprawling scale of government interference in the economy where the state ended up running hotels, airlines, selling liquor and granting land and industrial licences.

The fallout was the Hindu rate of growth of 3.5 per cent. In this period, per capita GDP growth was 1.5 per cent. This would have given us a doubling of per capita GDP every 45 years. It would have taken many centuries to catch up with the West.

India learned from its mistakes, and from the late 1970s onwards policy reforms started falling into place, first focused on the domestic economy, and then increasingly breaking away from autarky. These yielded quick results in terms of higher growth.

For matching advanced economies in terms of per capita growth we would have to think of per capita GDP growing at least at 6 per cent. This gives us a doubling every 11 years. If this is kept up for 55 years, per capita income will go up 32 times, and India will be a developed country. There are just a handful of countries which have achieved prosperity in a very short time. In the years of fast growth in the 2000s, this seemed possible.

However, a large number of countries have seen a sharp rise in growth immediately after globalising, and later collapsed into stagnation. After 2002, when growth rates really rose, perhaps we started getting overconfident. An array of issues were swept under the carpet with the claim that the growth rate was 8 per cent or more. One repeatedly heard the argument that India does something better than, say, the US because India gets 8 per cent growth while the US grows at 2 per cent. Many irrational policies were justified and left unchanged on the grounds that we were achieving 8 per cent growth.

In the 1970s, we were at one extreme — of saying that it would take hundreds of years of fundamental transformation in order to become an advanced country. In the last few years, we started saying that within half-a-century India would become an advanced country, even though we were ignoring the human resource and institutional elements that make an advanced country.

Now, in 2011, we are at a more gloomy appraisal of the difficulty of getting high and sustained growth. For a while we were thinking that high growth was easy; now we are seeing that sustaining high growth is very hard. Sustained high growth requires a transformation of the human resource and institutional foundations of the country, something that has not been taking place in the last few years.

In economic reform, we never got beyond a few incremental changes where "reform by stealth" was done while leaving existing laws and institutions untouched. This has given an improbable juxtaposition of archaic rules riddled with special exceptions, and government agencies which lack clear purpose and accountability. There is little sign that Parliament will do enough to clean out this thicket of laws, and radically restructure government agencies so as to achieve good quality public administration — with clarity of purpose, strong accountability, and the internal processes through which improved performance can be achieved.

It is ironic that while India has avoided deeper changes of laws, government processes and institutions, high economic growth creates a sharp requirement for precisely this. For each doubling of GDP, the way government functions needs to be reformed. In the West, a doubling of GDP took place every 25 years and, roughly speaking, they have undertaken reorganisation of government in each generation. But in India, with GDP doubling every decade, we need an even more rapid transformation of the state. There is a particularly unfortunate juxtaposition of our inability to achieve institutional change and the high GDP growth that demands rapid institutional change. The result has been a sharp gap between our existing state structures and the needs of India.

Instead of strengthening the existing institutions by increasing transparency and accountability in the executive and the judiciary, short-cuts to better governance are being sought by turning to the Supreme Court or through interventions like the Lokpal bill. If the huge tax administration machinery does not focus on improving tax administration, how far can a special body created to address the issue improve the system? If instead of strengthening the capacity of the judiciary for better law enforcement an additional institution is created to do the job, the judiciary does not get better. Assuming, for a moment, that the solutions being offered are good and workable, even if these appear to be short-cuts to better governance, will they solve the long-term problem of giving India a well-functioning executive and judiciary?

With all these problems, we did manage to turn in an impressive growth performance for some years. When you start at the bottom, very modest changes can unleash substantial improvement. But will this continue? The question marks hovering over the Indian growth story are now mounting.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TANGLES OF TELANGANA

AJAY GUDAVARTHY

 

The sudden spate of developments in the Telangana issue reflect, more than a concern for the backwardness of Telangana, an attempt on the part of both the TDP and the Congress to make sure they do not stand to lose in either region if Telangana is granted statehood. The Congress, of course, has the additional burden of ensuring it continues to rule in both regions. Amid these calculations, the core demands and the likelihood of their fulfilment have been pushed into the background. We need to revisit these issues if Telangana is to be something more than merely another geographical entity.

Popular aspirations in Telangana have to be understood in the context of a growing agrarian crisis, due to a shortage of irrigation facilities and increasing investment costs from the consequent dependence on private bore-wells. Together with higher power prices, this has pushed farmers to the wall — in some cases, burning their own crops when market prices were not commensurate with input costs. Currently, 77 per cent of irrigation in Telangana is from bore-wells and open wells, while in coastal Andhra 58 per cent is through canals built through public investment.

Similarly, people of occupational or service castes — potters, blacksmiths and goldsmiths — have lost their traditional forms of livelihood, partly because of the impact of larger businesses. Today, many "joint action committees" have been created in each district by organisations belonging to various service castes. They, in a sense, are the "invisible" backbone of the movement, while students are the more visible leaders, apart from Dalits and Muslim organisations. These committees are only partially controlled by political parties, and to a large extent are a spontaneous response, managed through resources raised voluntarily and locally. They all strongly believe a new state is the only way to better living conditions.

While the democratic aspirations of the people need to be addressed, we also need to ask how these groups will be accommodated in the new state of Telangana. While OBCs, Dalits, Muslims and students are the driving force of the movement, there is unfortunately very little in the content of the movement to concretely fulfil their demands. For example, while there is hope that the division of water resources will be fairer, and the water from Krishna and Godavari rivers will be directed to the districts of Telangana, there is no commensurate demand for land reforms on any notable scale. Water without land is beneficial to a small section of the agrarian class and promises nothing for the large number of landless labourers who routinely migrate to other states. Among India's highest rates of out-migration is from the district of Mahbubnangar.

The BJP's support to Telangana has been strong; the bill cannot be passed in Parliament without its support. The party argues that, in principle, it supports smaller states, crediting itself with the formation of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. In fact, the BJP sees Telangana as its second stop in the south, after Karnataka. Most districts in Telangana have a sizeable Muslim population, between 10 and 14 per cent. Many continue to pride themselves on the fact that they were once the rulers of this region. The combination of a large population and a memory of a glorious past can be a potent combination for communal mobilisation and polarisation. Recall that the city of Hyderabad has been prone to communal riots, and there is very little reason as to why the BJP will not play this card again in the smaller state of Telangana with a more visible and concentrated Muslim population.

The next issue of concern is the plight of a large number of settlers from coastal Andhra — mostly in Hyderabad, but also in other districts. There is a good-sized population of "migrants", mostly small traders and semi-skilled workers. Credit must be given to the Telangana movement that there has been, so far, no popular sentiment against ordinary people from the Andhra region, which is largely directed at those considered "responsible" for deliberate mismanagement and exploitation, including political and business leaders.

However, as of now, there is little possibility of a large number of jobs being created in the new state of Telangana. People are not aspiring, for example, for a clear programme that creates labour-intensive industries. Nor is there any possibility of a great number of public-sector jobs except for those created with a small (maybe a few thousand) government employees being moved or transferred to the Andhra region. Continuing unemployment will have a definite impact on the students who have sustained the movement in expectation of moving up the social and economic ladder — which in turn might act against the "settlers" from the Andhra region.

These tangled issues need to raised today if there has to be a democratic Telangana, in whose name the struggle has gathered immense momentum, otherwise there will be none to blame tomorrow, not even the "capitalists" from the Andhra region.

The writer teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DO WE NEED A CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF?

V. P. MALIK

 

The recent decision to appoint a committee under Naresh Chandra to review defence reforms in India is a step in the right direction. While it would be premature to comment on the functioning of the committee, this announcement has been welcomed by the entire strategic community and has already triggered a useful debate. Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik's recent comments on the chief of defence staff (CDS) have also re-ignited this controversy. This post was recommended by a Group of Ministers in 2002, but was not created due to opposition from some political leaders and the Indian air force. However, the debate has been along such narrow lines that leading journalist Inder Malhotra has exasperatedly argued that either the CDS should be appointed or the post "should be firmly ruled out forever, with whatever consequences this would have." While the continued silence of the other service chiefs might reflect their desire to avoid a media controversy, but sooner rather than later, they will have to come up with a considered view. This, therefore, provides us a perfect opportunity to understand what is at stake and to usher in the next generation of defence reforms.

Air Chief Marshal Naik, while expressing his views (and the views of the air force, according to him), made three points on the CDS question. First, the air force is not opposed to the appointment of the CDS, but "does not want a CDS in its present form." In that case, the air chief needs to clarify what form of CDS he visualises. It is unfair to oppose without offering an alternative. His second point was a somewhat rhetorical question: "what role model of CDS do we want?" Again, this is a question that the air chief must take a first call on. It is inconceivable that over the last 10 years, the Indian air force has not studied, evaluated and thought of an acceptable model for the CDS. The final point was his assertion that we "don't need a CDS for the next five-ten years," again without any clarity about this duration. In other words, what would have to change during this time that would warrant the appointment of a CDS? These observations are not meant as a criticism of the air chief or the Indian air force, but it is important to engage in a substantive debate. To his credit, in the seminar on national security reforms, the air chief had urged for more informed debate on the question.

It is well known that the Indian air force, like most other air forces, has historically opposed the appointment of a CDS. Moreover, statements from some army officers have done little to assuage their legitimate fears that appointing a CDS might lead to an army-dominated arrangement. The army, as the largest service, must go out of its way to deal with such insecurities. For instance, if some form of the CDS is implemented, the first chairman could be from any of the other two services. After two or three CDS tenures have been completed, another committee could examine the system to suggest whether it should be continued with, and in which form. In fact, the process of defence reforms should be institutionalised by periodic and constant self-analysis. That is what professional organisations do.

In the months ahead, it should be the endeavour of all members of India's strategic community to rise to the debate, and do so objectively and respectfully. Among the models that must be debated is whether we need a CDS concept or a joint chiefs of staff (or one can call it permanent chairman, chiefs of staff committee) with integrated theatre commands. Most modern militaries have some form of theatre commands. It is well known that India's current arrangement of geographically separated command locations has led to suboptimal strategic and operational outcomes. Moreover, in the absence of a CDS, the functioning of the Integrated Defence Staff has been undermined. There are problems in inter-services prioritisation, defence planning and overall defence preparedness. As India continues to face considerable internal and external security challenges, inattention to these important issues can carry a high price.

Rarely, if ever, have efforts at integrating the three services in any country been uncontroversial, a fact that our political class must keep in mind. While consensus-based change is the preferred approach in a democratic society, in matters of organisational restructuring, there will be disagreements as service and civilian bureaucracies will lose some turf. Their disagreement, however, should be examined strictly on rational grounds. Ultimately, for the current attempt at defence reforms to succeed, the government has to overrule opposition from entrenched bureaucracies, both civilian and military, to be able to implement workable recommendations made by the committee. For this, the Naresh Chandra committee must ascertain the views, preferably in writing, of major political parties on defence reforms, and on the CDS in particular. It is time now for the major political parties to state clearly their position on an issue where India's future security is at stake.

General V.P. Malik is a former chief of army staff. Anit Mukherjee is a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CHANGE IN THE HEARTLAND

SUDHA PAI

 

In contrast to the 1990s, when age-old matters of identity drove electoral politics, it appears that development-related issues such as land acquisition and law and order will play a critical role in the contentious campaign for the UP elections due next year. While this can be attributed to the BSP's "sarvajan" agenda, it also signals the impact of the market economy and the need to attract private investment, which has been late in coming to the Hindi heartland states. The ruling BSP and the Congress are presently in sharp confrontation over these issues. The SP and BJP, following their poor performance in the 2007 assembly elections, have not been able to rebuild their organisation and base. For the Congress, improving its position in UP by building on its success in the 2009 national elections is imperative not only for the 2012 assembly election; but also for the national elections due in 2014.

Consequently, while both issues, particularly land acquisition, are important in many states, in UP they have become highly politicised. This is evident from Rahul Gandhi's May visit to to Bhatta-Parsaul, and subsequent statements denouncing the BSP government. These two villages in Greater Noida witnessed farmers' movements demanding higher compensation for land acquisition along the Yamuna Expressway. A second round of confrontation has now begun, and Gandhi hopes to win the farmers' support by organising padyatras and kisan mahapanchyats in the region and listening to their grievances. The BSP and other opposition parties have described the yatra as a stunt, with the former threatening to stall Parliament if the pending land acquisition bill is not enacted in the coming session.

While political parties should reach out to farmers to ensure fairplay in land acquisition, unfortunately no government or party has given attention to the larger question involved, of the manner in which the land available in Greater Noida should be used — without which the problems faced by farmers cannot be resolved. Greater Noida was meant to be an industrial corridor close to the NCR, which, since the early 1990s when the Greater Noida Industrial Authority was established, has attracted industries and SEZs. On paper, Greater Noida also has progressive land acquisition and compensation laws based on negotiations with the farmers in the late 1990s. Moreover, after the resistance along the Yamuna Expressway in 2010 the state government announced more compensation benefits and more recently, introduced changes to uphold farmers' interests. However, implementation by the same authority has been highly questionable. As the Supreme Court judgments on April 15 and July 6 this year, regarding land acquisition in villages Mayora and Shahberi point out, land acquired for industrial purposes was handed over to builders under relaxed conditions, low compensation paid to farmers and the urgency clause misused, which has affected both middle-class buyers of flats and farmers. This indicates a nexus between builders, political leaders and the authority. Based on the experience in Greater Noida and elsewhere, there is urgent need for the Congress as a national ruling party to build consensus on issues of land use, process of acquisition and compensation and enact a suitable land acquisition law.

The issue of law and order has become equally contentious with opposition parties demanding Mayawati's resignation for what they describe as the collapse of law and order. An important reason is that BSP-led governments in the 1990s/2000s claimed to have substantially brought down crime and removed the criminal mafia. Moreover, during the campaign for the 2007 assembly election, law and order (particularly the Nithari killings) was one of the issues on which the BSP defeated the SP. While rapes and murders take place in many states, even in the national capital, what has agitated opposition parties is that over six cases of rapes and murders of minor girls took place within a span of 10 days in late June, and in many cases the victims were Dalits. In Lakhimpur a 14-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree in a police-station compound; in Kanauj a minor girl was stabbed in the eyes allegedly by two youths when she resisted a rape attempt, and another teenager was sexually assaulted at gunpoint in Basti. The deputy CMO of the state, himself accused of murder and appropriating funds, was found dead within jail premises. Equally disturbing are reports that in many cases, the police tried to evade registering a formal complaint.

While there is little doubt that the BSP government needs to improve the law and order situation and protect its citizens, at the same time, two issues need to be kept in mind. The installation of a government headed by a Dalit chief minister cannot assure protection to Dalits as long as traditional, caste-based, exploitative relationships remain strong, particularly at the village level. UP is a conservative society and assertion by Dalits has, in many instances, brought swift retribution leading to a rising graph of crimes against Dalits. Second, while Mayawati has taken swift action against policemen and administrators guilty of not performing their duty, police reforms are urgently required in all states, including UP, to remove political interference, improve efficiency, and sensitise them towards disadvantaged groups that require greater protection. Neither state governments nor political parties, quick to condemn acts of violence when they happen and make political capital, have taken any steps to initiate such reforms.

The political events of the last few months indicate that after a long period, development and governance issues have come to occupy a central position in UP politics. While this could be attributed to the impact of liberalisation, it does not mean that politics based on caste and communal identity has lost salience. It is too early to say whether this shift will de-politicise identity politics. But new political patterns are discernible in UP which are markedly different from those of the 1990s and will possibly shape politics in the state in the future.

The writer is professor at the Centre for Political Studies, and rector, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SOUTH AND NORTH SUDAN — SEPARATED, BUT STILL TIED TOGETHER

LOUISE ARBOUR

South Sudan's independence on Saturday will in some sense mark the welcome end of one of the most devastating conflicts of recent times. When decades of hostilities between North and South concluded with the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, several million people had already died as a result of the civil war, and millions more had lost their homes. As a culmination of that peace deal, independence would seem to be the last chapter of the story.

It is, however, anything but.

Saturday's formal separation may have been an inevitable and even necessary step, but these two states will be tied together for many years to come. Trying to work through outstanding disagreements, many of them already violent, will require difficult negotiations, political savvy, and carefully considered international engagement to ensure both North and South develop into peaceful and stable states.

At this point, the signs do not look particularly good. Both sides have violated the 2005 agreement, and escalating tensions have sparked conflict in critical border areas. In May, Khartoum's forces launched an attack on the contested town of Abyei.

Even more worrisome, there is wide-scale fighting between Northern and Southern forces in the border state of Southern Kordofan. Reportedly some 360,000 people have been displaced over the past six months, more than half in the last month.

The North is moving boldly both to assert control over Northern territory and to improve its negotiating position vis-à-vis the South on the post-independence arrangements. Of these, probably the most important to the North concerns oil revenue sharing, since Khartoum will lose a majority share of its primary income source, the petroleum being found predominantly in the South.

In any case, revenue sharing, border demarcation, the status of Southern military units from Northern regions, as well as future arrangements on citizenship and natural resource management will likely remain points of contention for years to come, and could trigger large-scale violence.

While both North and South will have to work closely together on these issues to avoid renewed war, each also faces extremely difficult internal challenges. In Khartoum, the ruling party's rank and file are increasingly discontent. The government is confronting a serious budget deficit and spiralling inflation, and it is not able to pay all salaries. Unless the opposition forces present a much more unified front, it is quite likely that the ruling party will continue to stymie attempts to bring about badly needed government reforms.

Southern leaders meanwhile have to switch gears from the solidarity of the liberation struggle to the more mundane, though more divisive, tasks of running a democratic country. The signs are not encouraging. The new draft transitional constitution includes several red flags, including an amendment giving the president power to dismiss democratically elected governors as he pleases. The leading party in the South, the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, or SPLM, has to open up political space to lay the foundations for a more inclusive multi-party landscape.

Southern independence will also mean that the international community must recalibrate its relationship with the SPLM, and avoid the tendency to overlook its abuses and constrictions of political space.

If there is a single message for all parties it is surely "inclusion." The leaders of North and South need to understand the broad spectrum of peoples and interests in their new polities and work hard to bring them in under their respective new roofs. And the international community must sustain its involvement and support to ensure that both North and South develop into peaceful and viable states.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

AFTER DSK

ROGER COHEN

For almost two months now, the chattering classes have struggled to talk about anything but DSK. The old animalistic elements have exerted their magnetism: power, sex, violence and race. The 20 minutes from 12:06 to 12:26 in suite 2806 of the Sofitel New York have become the object of a thousand theories and a French-American bust-up. Race was long a sub-theme in much of the breathless speculation on the encounter of a powerful white man with an African refugee woman from a country where 70 per cent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. But of late it has merited some French philosophising. Bernard-Henri Lévy has suggested his friend Strauss-Kahn was the victim of "lynching, in sympathy with minorities, by their supposed friends."

The gist of Lévy's theory is this: New York's travesty of justice cast Strauss-Kahn as the guilty guy because he was rich in post-crash New York, while the maid had right on her side because she was poor and black. Sorry, cher ami, I don't buy it. Facts, not race or prejudice, have dictated events.

In those 20 minutes, Strauss-Kahn's semen ended up on the clothing of a bruised maid. She was in extreme distress, convincing to several Sofitel employees. New York prosecutors and police needed probable cause to arrest Strauss-Kahn before he left the country for France. They had probable cause.

Then came the infamous "perp walk." But as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted, "We have been walking prisoners out of the front doors of station houses for 150 years in this Police Department," adding, "There is no back door."

So began the cultural wars that, as usual, ended up reconfirming each nation in its preconceptions. To the French, Americans were brutal, uncivilised, brash savages subjecting an international public servant to humiliation that amounted to guilt by association. To Americans, the French don't get what democracy means: everyone — Strauss-Kahn, Madoff, some Bronx kid — is equal before the law and a Manhattan district attorney does not hesitate to believe a maid over a managing director.

So the DSK affair turned into a Rorschach test revealing old stereotypes. American "freedom," to the scoffing French, was once again the law of the jungle. French "égalité," to outraged Americans, was the usual baloney, a cover for inequality before the law and entrenched male privilege.

Let's get back to the 20 minutes and the facts. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, found that the maid had lied about her past (exaggerating or inventing incidents to make her case for getting into the US more persuasive), kept dubious company and had dubious cash deposits. Her word against Strauss-Kahn's began to look like a tough case to make.

Guilt and the provability of guilt do not always coincide. That's how the presumption of innocence and trial by jury work. I don't see, given the facts as they now stand, how there can be any outcome other than a dismissal of the case. But the story doesn't end there. Tristane Banon, a goddaughter of Strauss-Kahn's second wife, filed a criminal complaint in Paris accusing Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her eight years ago. Her mother says he once confided: "I don't know what came over me. I lost my mind." Questions about DSK and women go well beyond 20 New York minutes.

Dominique Moïsi, a distinguished French political scientist, told me: "On the subject of men and women in France, there will be a before DSK and an after DSK. Some behaviour once deemed acceptable will no longer be. We may be seeing the last of the 'promotion canapé' — promotions through the couch." As my colleague Katrin Bennhold has noted, "France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum's 2010 gender equality report, trailing the United States, most of Europe, but also Kazakhstan and Jamaica."

Vance may be stymied in New York, but he's hit home across the Atlantic. Strauss-Kahn cannot realistically run for president — and won't. The French think it's enough already, but they're not going to elect him.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STOP THE WHINING

When the poverty data finally comes out later this year, an article by Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia points out, poverty levels are likely to be around 32.2% for 2009-10—that's based on the Tendulkar method which, thanks to a vastly higher poverty threshold, raised the proportion of poor in the country in 2004-05 from 27.5% to 37.2%. A 5-percentage point decline is the highest India has ever seen, and keep in mind 2009-10 was a drought year, with the worst agriculture GDP growth since 2002-03. While poverty fell by 1 percentage point each year between 2004-05 and 2009-10, it fell by 0.81 percentage points per year between 1993-94 and 2004-05. For some states, the fall was nearly double the national average—9.9% for Andhra Pradesh, 10.6% for Tamil Nadu and 11.7% for Andhra Pradesh. Whether this decline in poverty satisfies the India Whining (as opposed to the NDA's India Shining) brigade remains to be seen, but it would do well to keep in mind some of the big numbers from the latest NSSO survey round.

This is the first time in two decades that unemployment numbers have fallen. While there were 34.3 million unemployed in 2003-04, this was 28 million in 2009-10 according to the NSSO. In terms of the proportion of the workforce that is unemployed, as compared to 8.2% in 2003-04, the figure for 2009-10 is 6.6%. Given the fall in unemployment, not surprisingly, wage levels have also gone up dramatically. The biggest gain has been made by the female workforce, which has seen participation rates decelerate or even decline. Wage numbers for regular or salaried workers show that average earnings of female workers doubled in the five years between 2004-05 and 2009-10, from R86 to R156 in the rural sector and from R153 to R308 in the urban sector—annual growth of daily earnings of female workers has shot up from 1.7% between 1999-2000 and 2004-05 to an astounding 12.8% between 2004-05 and 2009-10 in rural areas and from 2% to 15% in urban areas. The gains were marginally lower for the male salaried or regular workers—between 2004-05 and 2009-10 the wages of regular or salaried male workers went up from R145 to R249 in the rural sector and from R203 to R378 in the urban sector—where the annual growth in wages picked up from 2.6% to 11.4% in rural areas and from 3.7% to 13.2% in urban areas. For a smaller sub-set, of agricultural workers, wages have gone up even more. Between January 2008 and December 2010, Labour Bureau data show, wages rose 106% in Andhra Pradesh, 62.3% in UP, 58% in Bihar, and so on. Perhaps the UPA will now finally adopt the India Shining election slogan?

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NEW DELHI MINING DISASTER

Ten ministerial years (ten ministers for one year) were spent by the government to finalise a plan to help alleviate the problem caused by mining by awarding compensation to the local communities. The draft mining Bill, cleared by the Group of Ministers last week, has a plan to get mining firms to give around R9,000 crore to local communities in areas where they mine. Coal mining companies, basically Coal India, is to shell out 26% of its aggregate profit or about R2,500 crore; the others who are not mining coal will pay local communities the equivalent of whatever they pay the government as royalty right now. While the havoc the Bill will create for the mining industry is obvious, the benefits look elusive.

The biggest hit, ironically, will be taken by the government. Coal India has a price/earnings ratio of around 23, so the R2,500 crore hit on the bottom line means its market capitalisation will fall by R57,500 crore. Given that 90% of Coal India belongs to the government, its wealth will fall by around R52,000 crore! The government would probably have been better off giving out R2,500 crore from its Budget each year. Retail investors in Coal India will obviously take a huge hit, and may even consider approaching the courts for this breach of faith. The problems for other miners will be lesser only because they are smaller than Coal India, but the principle is the same and raises the larger issue of the viability of mining.

If all the money reached local communities, you could argue it might still be worth the effort. The problems here are manifold. For one, as mining firms have pointed out, they are in the business of mining, not of finding beneficiaries—if their job is restricted to handing over the money to a designated person (in the state or central government) that's one thing. Right now, it seems the onus of finding the beneficiaries lies with the companies. There is then the problem of various Bills that need to be passed, a treacherous task, given the daggers drawn attitude of Opposition parties. Apart from the mining Bill itself, there is no provision in the law to allow companies to distribute their profit to non-shareholders. So the Companies Act needs to be changed to allow this. Presumably, the Income Tax Act has to recognise the amount distributed as an expense, else the companies will get doubly hit. Also, since mining and minerals are under the concurrent list, this will require an approval from the state governments as well. The entire exercise has created a huge level of uncertainty among the mining companies, both public and private, pushed back investment plans and has still left unresolved how the coal miners are supposed to develop each coal mine as a separate profit entity and then work out the percentages that need to be shared—oh yes, there will now be a host of allegations of under-reporting of profits!

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ARE T-BILL FUTURES A GOOD IDEA?

MADAN SABNAVIS

 

Futures on 91-days' T-bill is an interesting development, considering that there is scepticism attached to money market derivatives, given the lacklustre response to the IRFs twice over. But, this one can be different because it does address, to a large extent, the concerns that thwarted the growth of the IRF market.

If we look at the structure of the market, the primary market has issues every week of, say, R8,000-10,000 crore depending on the RBI's calendar. The buyers are banks, mutual funds, corporates and other institutions and some state governments. The secondary market does not inspire too much of trading and at best registers around R2,000 crore a day, which obviously has to change. This may be contrasted with, say, trading of around R20,000 crore a day in the cash segment of the stock market. Overall outstanding on such paper would be around R80,000-90,000 crore, though there is considerable churning of such bills as they expire every 91 days, which, in turn, are replaced by fresh issuances. This makes it an interesting underlying product as there is a virtual rollover of paper on a regular basis. How then will the derivative product on this underlying work?

For any market to work for a derivative product, we need to have large number of players—hedgers and speculators besides the arbitragers. The actual holders would be interested in such an instrument as hedgers. In FY12 so far there has been a movement of a little over 100 bps in the primary yield on 91-days T-bills, which means that the prices of these bills have been coming down. Intuitively, in such an environment of rising interest rates, this is a big risk that is being carried in the books of the holder and there is need to hedge it. This is where the investors or speculators could come in and take an opposing view on movement in interest rates. Hence, holders of such instruments would be shorting their futures, so as to buy back at a lower rate and provide cover for their loss on portfolio. At times, when the volatility in interest rate has been high and uncertain, given that one is still not too sure of RBI's view on interest rates, this is a very useful option for interest rate hedging. As a corollary, it makes a sensible investment option.

T-bill futures have the potential to actually set benchmarks for short-term instruments such as commercial paper, certificates of deposits and other treasury bills. 91-days T-bills futures will hence help enable them to take positions based on their holdings of pother instruments. Corporates who are dealing with floating rate bonds would find this attractive as they are able to benchmark and hedge or trade based on interest rate perceptions. In fact, even within the T-bills market there have been major shifts in yields on other maturities which are above 50 bps for 14-days and around 75 bps for 182- and 362-days bills in the last three months. A major improvement over the IRFs is that there is no delivery and all transactions are cash settled, meaning thereby that one does not have to go running around for the right security to deliver. The absence of securities transactions tax will also help in further lowering costs along with lower margins, which provide greater leverage to investors.

In fact, this instrument should also attract attention from the retail end as one can actually take advantage of interest rate movements, especially in an era of rising interest rates. Deposit holders normally get into the instrument and have their interest rate locked for a fixed tenure. In an increasing rate environment, one can actually start playing on T-bill futures to derive the benefit of hedging or making a profit. The advantage for this derivative segment is that one can directly trade on the NSE platform just like one does for, say, shares.

A vibrant futures market in the IRF segment including T-bills has the potential to make the financial markets more buoyant. Futures typically trade a multiple times that in the physical or cash markets. In stock markets, for example, we have trades of around 6-7 times the cash segment, which, on its own, could mean comparable numbers for this segment. Commodity futures generate business volumes of around R60,000-70,000 crore a day while currency derivatives clock R30,000 crore a day. Quite clearly, the money market, which has a large underlying of GSec paper, corporate bonds, T-bills, CPs and CDs, should be able to match the same once they set acceptable benchmarks for other instruments, given that there is a large mass of GSecs which banks hold on to that always run the risk of MTM losses in a regime of rising interest rates. The IRFs were to address this issue, but the contract structures were a deterrent. Hopefully, we have gotten the product right this time as the initial trading volumes look more respectable than it were when the initial IRFs were launched.

The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. These are his personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE GLOBAL RUSH TO PRIVATISE

KRISHNAMURTHY SUBRAMANIAN

 

In October last year, the central government sold its stake in Coal India in the largest IPO ever in India. Rather than being the exception in executing the largest privatisation transaction (at least going by the proceeds of the IPO), this year, India happens to be part of a larger trend in the year 2010. 2010 was unlike any other in financial history, and particularly in the history of privatisation, in that it saw the largest share offering ever—indeed the largest security offering of any type—as well as the largest IPOs across the world. Apart from this being a landmark year with respect to the size and number of privatisation transactions, there are some new trends emerging, particularly with respect to privatisation of infrastructure companies.

The year 2010 set the record for the most active quarter ever for IPOs (and the second highest annual total) and for the largest annual value of privatisation sales ($213.6 bn) since the phenomenon of state divestments began over four decades ago. To top off this amazing year, the US reprised its surprising role as the world's largest privatiser for the second year running, while China, Brazil, France, Turkey, Poland and India accounted for ranks two through seven. The Brazilian government entered the record books with the largest ever stock sale in September 2010, when Petrobras executed a seasoned equity offering that raised approximately $70 bn. This deal included both capital-raising public issues of voting and non-voting shares—the privatisation parts of the offering—and a $42.5 bn grant of Petrobras stock to the Brazilian government in exchange for rights to 5 bn barrels worth of recently discovered oil. The two largest IPOs of state-owned enterprises happened this year—the $22.1 bn Agricultural Bank of China IPO in July and November's $20.1 bn sale of shares in GM. The Malaysian government also executed the nation's largest ever share offerings, with the IPOs of Petronas Chemicals ($4.1 bn).

As has been true for the past several years, the 27 nations of the EU accounted for a small minority of the aggregate global number and value of privatisation deals during 2010. There were 99 EU privatisations that raised $44.2 bn, but this represents only 20.6% of the worldwide total, far below the long-run average EU share of 47.1%. As usual, France raised more privatisation revenues than any other EU country, but Poland's ranking as the second most active privatiser was far more surprising, and reflected the country's much more robust rate of economic growth and greater financial dynamism. As usual, privatisation proceeds raised by EU governments through private sales in 2010 ($29.2 bn) were roughly double those raised through public offerings ($15.1 bn), and the $22.6 bn of utilities sales once more accounted for over half (51.1%) of all EU privatisations.

Several large infrastructure privatisations were executed by EU and non-EU governments alike during 2010. European deals included (1) the British government's November auction of a 30-year concession to operate the High-Speed Rail One trains from London to the Channel Tunnel—which was expected to raise about £1.5 bn ($2.4 bn), but instead brought in £2.1 bn ($3.4 bn); and (2) the German government's auctions of 4G mobile broadband spectrum, which raised $5.5 bn in May. Non-EU infrastructure privatisations were even larger, which included: (1) Turkey's sales of the Istanbul electric grid, the Ankara Gas Works, and three other utilities, which collectively raised $12.3 bn; (2) two massive sales by Australia's Queensland regional government in November—the IPO of a 60% stake in QR National that raised A$4.0 bn ($5.1 bn) and the auction of rights to operate the Port of Brisbane for 99 years, which was won by a consortium including the sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Global Infrastructure Partners, operators of London's Gatwick Airport.

The US once again topped the rankings of global privatisers, with total proceeds of $49 bn. Over half ($28.1 bn) of this total was raised through a series of small sales of government-held shares in Citigroup over the course of the year, followed by the single largest ever accelerated seasoned offering in history, the $10.5 bn sale of Citi shares in December, which was completed in less than two hours. The November IPO of GM, which cut the federal government's stake to 33%, was the largest stock offering of any kind ever sold on US markets. If the Treasury follows through on its expressed plan to sell shares in Ally Financial (formerly GMAC, GM's financial arm) during 2011, the US might well rank high in the privatisation league tables for a third straight year.

Despite many successes, 2010 also witnessed a number of failed and cancelled privatisations. None was larger or more embarrassing than the third attempt at selling a controlling stake in Nigerian Telecom (Nitel), which collapsed in March 2011 after an almost farcical series of mis-steps throughout 2010. The consortium that won the first Nitel auction in October 2010 offered a $2.5 bn bid, more than twice the expected sale price, but listed as a member of the consortium a company (China Unicom) that soon thereafter announced it was not involved. The reserve bidder, which had offered $1 billion, failed to come up with the required 30% cash down payment in March 2011, after which the Nitel sale was cancelled. Other failed deals of 2010 include: (1) the completed but ultimately cancelled (due to anti-trust concerns) $2.6 bn sale of 84% of Poland's Energa electricity company, (2) the unconsummated auction of the Polish electricity company Enea—first to the country's richest man, Jan Kulczyk, and then to Electricité de France, and (3) the Korean government's fumbled sale of 59% of Woori Financial Group, which failed because no qualified buyers (financial institutions and local private equity funds) chose to bid and because non-financial (Chaebol) firms and foreign private equity groups are barred from acquiring more than a 10% stake in Korean banks.

The message over the last four decades has been that privatisation is overwhelmingly highly correlated with improvements in the financial and operating performance of divested state-owned enterprises. The global trend towards increased privatisation this year should motivate the central government to renew its commitment to privatising our inefficient public sector enterprises.

The author is a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago and is currently faculty in finance at the Indian School of Business

http://www.financialexpress.com/columnists_landing_page.php?pg=1&username=krishnamurthyvsubramanian

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SPRUCE UPTHE DATA

Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao's recent critical observations on the authenticity and quality of key economic data will be widely endorsed by those who rely on the data for myriad purposes both official and non-official. Coming from the head of an institution, which is the most significant user of such data for policymaking, the observations are particularly noteworthy. No doubt the quality and timeliness of economic statistics have been improving of late, thanks to the good work by the National Statistical Commission. Official efforts to comply with the International Monetary Fund's Special Data Dissemination Standards have also contributed to the improvement. Yet they are no where near the standards required for a modern, fast-growing economy. And this, 10 years after a committee headed by C. Rangarajan had given a blueprint on what needs to be done. India's GDP statistics are widely watched across the globe. It is understandable that the data will need to be adjusted along the way at different stages. But the extent of revisions seen recently calls into question the dependability of the data. For instance, the advanced estimate made in February 2010 pegged GDP growth for 2009-10 at 6.8 per cent. Three months later, it was revised to 7.7 per cent and again, in February 2011, to 9.1 per cent, a staggering 40 per cent variation in what is the most important number on the economy.

Policymaking based on such inaccurate, provisional data can lead to "sub-optimal results". Another key indicator, the index of industrial production (IIP), which tracks the manufacturing sector, was extremely volatile last year. The RBI says it was misled by such ephemeral statistics, for instance, into underestimating its inflation projections. The RBI's initial forecast made at the end of March 2011 placed inflation at 5.5 per cent, which proved to be wide off the mark, and the figure had to be marked up by two to three percentage points. The data on inflation have suffered from certain well-known limitations. The Wholesale Price Index, which is now being released every month, is more like a producer price index. It is persisted with as a reference for policymaking only because attempts to evolve a harmonious and representative consumer price index have not succeeded. Interestingly, both the IIP and the WPI have undergone major makeovers recently. The base year for calculating them has been brought forward and their coverage widened to make them more representative. But in the case of the IIP the new base year itself is six years behind, and the index might be already obsolete.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CLOSE OF A STORY, END OF AN ERA

Looking at pictures of Emma Watson at the London premiere ofHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, in a pixie haircut and a tiered Oscar de la Renta dress, it was hard to believe this was Hermione Granger, the girl who 10 years ago looked like she could fit into your back pocket.Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stonewas released in 1997 and its massive success ensured a film version in 2001, when Daniel Radcliffe was just a moon-faced child. Since then, six novels have followed, engendering a Potter-mania to rival Beatle-mania, along with a film franchise that has become the highest grossing of all time (not adjusted for inflation). If there's a bigger story, it's the rags-to-riches journey of the author, J.K. Rowling, who was living on benefits while she dreamed up, on a train from Manchester to London, the saga of a boy wizard. She has since become the first author to earn over a billion dollars through her writing. And now, anticipating the last on-screen adventure, millions of moviegoers around the world might emulate Emma Watson on the red carpet and dissolve into tears that it has all finally come to an end.

What made the series so successful that you heard of people buying multiple copies of the books so that they could read alongside their children? It was the escape into a richly imagined fantasy, no doubt, but there was something more. The series eschewed the moral, philosophical, and religious undercurrents of C.S. Lewis'The Chronicles of Narniabooks, and the densely mystical allegories of Tolkien'sLord of the Ringsnovels. It also made no pretence of aspiring to the literary greatness of these books. Rowling borrowed from both Tolkien and Lewis but she chose to address the here and the now. The death of loved ones. Rowdy friendships. Gamesmanship. The terror of stigmatisation. And a prospect far more intriguing to the adolescent: dating. Rowling may have filled her novels with flying broomsticks and magical spells, but readers responded because these fantastical elements were woven into a life that could just as easily unfold in a non-magical world. As the series progressed, Rowling became more ambitious. The novels became bigger, with more political subplots like the one about the liberation of enslaved house elves. The films responded by employing the services of renowned directors such as Alfonso Cuarón — not just to transfer plot to screen but also to impart a vision. The last of these visions is less than a week away, but in Rowling's universe there is always hope. She said recently: "It is my baby and if I want to bring it out to play again, I will." Fans everywhere are hoping it's an Unbreakable Vow.

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THE HINDU

NEWS OF THE WORLDSTORY WILL GO ON

ROY GREENSLADE

The demise of theNews of the Worldneed not, and should not, spell the end of Sunday red-top tabloid journalism. It has a fine tradition, stretching back into the 19th century, and reached its zenith in the 1950s. Even though it became warped from the 1990s onwards, that does not mean it has no place in modern Britain. It's also fair to say that amid the muck that has passed for journalism in the contemporaryNews of the World, there have been occasional stories of genuine public interest.

One obvious example was the revelation that members of Pakistan's test match cricket team were involved in a betting fraud, a story that won the paper the 2010 scoop of the year award. It was mentioned by David Wooding, the paper's associate editor, during his passionate defence of the currentNews of the Worldstaff in various TV interviews within hours of News International's announcement that it was closing the title. It's a great campaigning paper, he said several times over. Like others who have spoken up for the paper in recent days, he affected to overlook the kiss'n'tell vulgarity, acres of female flesh and celebrity tittle—tattle that have formed the bulk of the paper's content by pointing instead to the odd moment of genuine journalistic initiative.

In reality, theNoW— in company, it should be said, with other tabloids — lost the plot. There may yet be a way to rebuild a worthwhile form of tabloid journalism that serves the public interest rather than merely playing to the lowest common denominator.

But it's going to be a very difficult exercise in current circumstances, requiring a skilful editor and a committed owner who both understand where things went wrong and why. In order to move forwards, to explore the possibilities of a red-top renaissance, it is necessary to go backwards by taking a trip into a glorious tabloid past.

The classic mission statement in defence of the sensationalist popular paper approach as "a necessary and valuable public service" was made in 1949 by the thenDaily Mirroreditor, Sylvester Bolam.

It "does not mean distorting the truth," he wrote. "It means the vivid and dramatic presentation of events so as to give them a forceful impact on the mind of the reader. It means big headlines, vigorous writing, simplification into familiar everyday language." By the time Bolam spelled out that formula, which was so successfully employed by theMirrorin the following two decades, it was already the watchword of a campaigning Sunday title, the People.

Though theNoWof that period was far and away the biggest-selling national paper with more than 8 million buyers an issue, it was theSunday Peoplethat pioneered a form of investigative and campaigning journalism that was to influence its rival.

Both papers were broadsheet-shaped in those days, but it would be fair to say that thePeopleadopted what we would recognise today as a tabloid style under the editorship of a colourful character called Sam Campbell.

He oversaw a prolonged period of groundbreaking investigative endeavour and enterprise that was to influence the following generations. He transformed reporters into quasi-detectives who set out to expose black marketeers, evil landlords and petrol thieves.

One of Campbell's reporters, the flamboyant and eccentric Duncan Webb, became the most famous popular journalist of the period, dubbed byTimemagazine in 1955 as "the greatest crime reporter of our time". In a series of increasingly hysterical front-page stories, he exposed the brothers behind a prostitution racket in London's Soho.

By the end of the 1950s, circulation of thePeople— with its brash slogan "Frank, fearless and free" — had risen beyond 5m, while its once dominant rival theNoW— slogan: "All human life is there" — saw its sales start to slip away. Sensationalist campaigning was winning readers by the week.

By common consent, the man who best grasped Campbell's theory and practice was Laurie Manifold, who had joined the paper out of an unashamed admiration for Duncan Webb.

It is no exaggeration to describe Manifold as the father of modern popular paper investigative journalism. He trained a legion of journalists in a range of investigatory techniques, which they went on to practise in theNoW(notably, Trevor Kempson, Mike Gabbert and the "fake sheikh" himself, Mazher Mahmood).

Manifold initiated the use of subterfuge, covert tape recording and even the setting up of fake companies. But he was scrupulous. He drew up sets of rules for reporters on how they should behave. Though he was not above breaking the law on special occasions, he refused to take short-cuts and demanded complete honesty from his reporters. His former staff still venerate him. A former editor of thePeople, Bob Edwards, called him "a remarkable figure ... who would have made an inspired and incorruptible police chief."

Manifold was responsible for a series of successes. In 1964, thePeopleexposed a high-profile football betting scandal that ended with players being jailed. Far and away, the most remarkable scoop was the revelation of widespread corruption within the Metropolitan police that resulted in the conviction of 13 officers and the suspension and early retirement of 90 other policemen. One of his best remembered investigations, in 1975, revealed cruelty at a vivisection laboratory in which dogs were hooked up to machines that forced them to inhale cigarettes. The "smoking beagles" image is one of the most memorable ever published by a newspaper.

By that time thePeoplehad switched to tabloid format and in the ensuing years, its public interest investigations gave way to series about sex and celebrity stories. Sales have fallen away ever since.

Well before that, many of Manifold's techniques had been carried across to theNews of the Worldby defectingPeoplestaff. During the newspaper feeding frenzy surrounding the scandal that led to the resignation of war minister John Profumo in 1963, theNoWbegan to use subterfuge on a regular basis.

The paper's stock-in-trade became the exposure of the sexual peccadilloes of various pillars of supposed moral authority — vicars, scout leaders, politicians and peers. Running in parallel were kiss'n'tell stories about TV and movie celebrities. Initially, they were not so hard-edged as they became from the late 1980s onwards. But there was no genuine public interest reason for many of them.

Most importantly, however, there was a sense of proportion in the paper's overall content, what was then known in the tabloid trade as "balance." And this is the key to understanding where theNews of the Worldwent wrong and, therefore, where it might just be possible to put popular journalism right.

The editors of tabloids in their heyday sought to maintain a subtle balance between serious and sexy content, between significant public interest stories and sensational ones that interested the public.

When theLondon Evening Standardreported theNoW's closure last week, it illustrated its story with a picture of a subeditor checking the front page proof of a November 1953 issue of the paper with the splash headline "Five weeks change the face of Sudan." That was the serious face of a paper with plenty of court reports inside to titillate its vast audience of readers. Balance.

At about the same time, aDaily Mirroreditor famously shouted to his picture editor "Have you got any tits to go with the rail strike?" Balance.

TheNoW, and in this sense the paper is little different from several other red-tops, gradually eschewed any attempt at providing anything other than celebrity-based material.

Worse than that. In order to fulfil the remit, its reporters were encouraged to use any means necessary to obtain it. That led to an increasing use of suspect methods. For example, instead of using subterfuge sparingly, it became a matter of routine. Similarly, it has now become clear that the interception of voicemail messages was also a matter of habit.

There would be no point in producing a new red-top that purveys only salacious content relying on intruding into the privacy of the rich and famous. The kiss'n'tell game is up.

But there remains a need for a paper that can balance the heavy and the light, that can both entertain and inform and, most importantly, does investigate and campaign on matters of genuine public interest.

It is a tough call. TheNoW's main rivals, theSunday Mirrorand thePeople, have seen their sales slip away despite being altogether less aggressive in their methods and somewhat more balanced in their journalistic output. But they have also been notably less successful as campaigning papers.

And that brings us to an uncomfortable truth that needs to be understood by those who scorn modern tabloids and what they represent. The changes in newspapers have, to an extent, mirrored changes in society.

TheNews of the World, which laid claim to 7 million readers with its 2.6m regular sale, published increasingly sordid stories about sexual shenanigans, replete with intimate details, because people clearly wished to read them. Though its sales did slide, they did so roughly in line with the overall decline of print. In other words, there was a viable market for its style of journalism.

Despite that, in creating a new tabloid, it would, paradoxically, be a breath of fresh air to see a reborn paper return to the virtues of the past.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

TheNews of the Worldlost the plot but

that shouldn't stop a red-top press revival,

says Roy Greenslade.

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 THE HINDU

HOWNEWS OF THE WORLDSTAFF REACTED

BEN DOWELL

 

Rebekah Brooks, chief executiveof News International is driven away from offices of News International in London, on Thursday.— Photo: AP

It didn't take long for theNews of the Worldstaff to get the gist of Rebekah Brooks' address to staff on Thursday afternoon. Flanked by two security guards, she marched briskly into editor Colin Myler's office, and told them: "What I'm about to tell you is the most devastating news, it is going to affect each and every one of you." She wasn't wrong. When the news of the paper's closure came, there was a collective gasp and shouts of "no" before relative silence descended and Ms Brooks continued. "TheGuardiannewspaper were out to get us, and they got us," she said in what was, in the context of what observers described as a somewhat halting and stumbling speech, a rare oratorical flourish.

The News International chief executive was clearly affected by the emotion of the occasion — but there were no tears spotted by those staff members who talked to MediaGuardian. Ms Brooks then left quickly when Mr. Myler rebuffed her offer to answer questions. "No Rebekah, I think it's best if you leave the floor," Mr. Myler is understood to have said. "An entire newspaper has been sacrificed to save one person." One eyewitness said: "Colin was shaking. He was shocked, he was in bits but he said he needed to find out what was going on as he'd only been told 20 minutes before." Mr. Myler told staff that he would do everything to secure the most generous leaving terms possible, once he found out what was going to happen. "He said he didn't know anything at all about a seven-day Sun, but as many of us as possible would be found new jobs within the company," said one staff member.

People who were not in the office raced in. Hardened veteran journalists were seen in tears. Staff were forced to wait a further two hours before filing up to a boardroom on the 12th floor of the building at around 6.45pm, for a Q&A with Mr. Myler — who blamed the closure on the "suits" in New York who were worried about News Corp's tumbling share price. "People kept on asking him 'why do you think Rebekah is still in her job, why are they still keeping this woman on? Why hadn't she fought for us?'," said one source.

At the pub on Thursday night, the shock was written on the faces of virtually all those who had gathered, including reporters from theDaily Mailand theDaily Mirrorwho had come to commiserate with friends and colleagues. Some journalists expressed their deep anger at the "injustice of it all" but others shared rueful jokes as they considered their futures, and the praise they had been receiving from Ms Brooks, Mr. Myler and even fellow journalists. "It was ironic, as for most of the week all we have heard is how terrible we are … " said one.

Come Friday, the atmosphere in the newsroom was said to be surprisingly bright — with staff relieved of the pressure to generate exclusives for what promised to be a souvenir issue of the paper. That mood soured, however, when the newsroom's internet access was shut down in an apparent attempt to control a further announcement from Ms Brooks that afternoon.

When Ms Brooks addressed staff at 4 pm on Friday in the paper's offices, the atmosphere was markedly different from Thursday's speech. Numbers had swelled to around 150 or so — including one reporter who was recording the meeting, and posted a snippet online soon afterwards.

Ms Brooks, dressed in a smart black business outfit, seemed calmer, according to one staff member. She said every effort would be made to find them employment. Managing editor Richard Caseby lurked at the back. Staff expressed concern that they would be tainted by theNoWbrand, and Ms Brooks said that it was made clear in the company's statement that the current staff were innocent of any wrongdoing.

"Despite this the atmosphere was calmer than the day before," said one source. "People had got over the shock and they were told there would be more money for the payoffs." According to one eyewitness, Ms Brooks said while she was the subject of staff anger she was herself angry at the "people who had caused this."

"I was surprised at the lack of anger among staff," said one person at the meeting." In some ways it was quite a technical meeting where people were working out likely payoffs. That surprised me." After that, there seemed only one place for many people to go. The pub. The owners of The Cape on Thomas More Square had a very busy two days.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

WHEN THE NEIGHBOUR'S HOUSE CATCHES FIRE

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

Two things that happened in the subcontinent last Wednesday promise to be a game changer in regional politics. That they happened simultaneously in India and Pakistan and manifested an unspoken harmony of spirit — although by no means coordinated — make them meaningful. First, seldom, if ever, would soft-spoken Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram feel the need to raise his voice and firmly contradict a newspaper story — as he did on Wednesday in the Indian capital. But then, theNew York Timesstory was, as Mr. Chidambaram said, "highly exaggerated."

It was based on the musings of an erstwhile "unidentified" Pakistani militant commander who apparently fell out of favour with his mentors in the security establishment in Islamabad for unknown reasons, to the effect that the Pakistani military establishment is keeping in reserve an army of trained Kashmiri militants numbering 14,000 to be unleashed on India at a future date. The import of the narrative is all too apparent: succinctly put, India is barking up the wrong tree by trying to sustain a dialogue with Pakistan. From a slightly different angle, the message is also that India and the United States are sailing in the same boat and that the commonality of interests demands that they act in concert to squeeze Pakistan — a sort of variant of the "hammer-and-anvil" proposition that U.S. commander in Afghanistan David Petraeus used to propose to the Pakistani army chief, Parvez Kayani, in happier times with the intent to squeeze the Pashtun tribes on the Durand Line.

Equally, on Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani made a significant speech in Mingora in the Swat valley — not far from Jammu and Kashmir. From all accounts, the speech had two halves — one full of unease over the U.S.' recent attempts to destabilise Pakistan and the other an overture to India. Mr. Gilani said: "Pakistan views India as the most important neighbour and desires sustained, substantive and result-oriented process of dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We sincerely hope that [the] ongoing process of comprehensive engagement will be fruitful. However, India will have to play a more positive and accommodating role and respond to Pakistan's legitimate security concerns." Mr. Gilani travelled to Swat with General Kayani and they shared the podium from where the Prime Minister made his speech. Clearly, there is a larger backdrop.

It all goes back to the detention of the U.S. intelligence operative and former army man, Raymond Davis, in Lahore in January in circumstances that are not still quite clear. At any rate, ever since Mr. Davis' detention in January, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been in disarray. Mr. Davis was kept under detention for two months and subjected to intense grilling. It stands to reason that the Pakistani authorities got to know all that they wanted to know and were afraid to ask their American allies for quite some time about the gamut of their covert activities in Pakistan — vis-à-vis insurgent groups and the Pakistani military and security establishment. The chilling truth is that U.S. President Barack Obama personally intervened to get Mr. Davis released but Pakistan held on to him for yet another month in an extraordinary display of defiance. Suffice to say, the alchemy of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has since changed almost unrecognisably — from both ends.

Pakistan promptly began acting on Mr. Davis' revelations and drew the famous "red lines" — asking the U.S. (and the British) military personnel to leave; demanding that the U.S. cease its covert operations on Pakistani soil; insisting that future cooperation in intelligence should be based on explicit ground rules. In short, Pakistan understood that the U.S. had gone about establishing direct talks with the Taliban, keeping it out of the loop. A fundamental contradiction has arisen. Pakistan's cooperation in the U.S.-led war — starting from the seminal understanding reached between the two countries following the crucial visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell to Islamabad on October 16, 2001 — has been predicated on the American pledge that Islamabad would be a key player in any Afghanistan settlement and Washington would accommodate Pakistan's legitimate security interests.

But then, the war has transformed, the regional environment has changed and U.S.' priorities have changed. What began as a Texan-style revenge act against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington is today imbued with the hidden agenda of the U.S.' regional strategies. It has become imperative for the U.S. to deal directly with the Taliban and not through intermediaries. Admittedly, the U.S. is looking for an end to the war and is willing to accommodate the Taliban, provided the latter acquiesces to its military bases in Afghanistan.

However, Washington has factored in that after the Davis affair, there is no way Pakistan would cooperate with a U.S. strategy to establish a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. Put simply, Pakistan can never trust the U.S.' intentions and Washington is aware of that. Thus was born the U.S. counterstrategy to turn the table on Pakistan. The sudden pullout of U.S. troops from Pech valley in the province of Kunar in eastern Afghanistan began on February 15 while Mr. Davis was under detention, and it was completed in two months' time. What followed since then was entirely predictable — various insurgent groups ranging from the Afghani and Pakistani Taliban, Hizb-i-Islami, al-Qaeda affiliates and the Lashkar-e-Taiba have consolidated their safe haven in Kunar. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. intelligence has already made contacts with some of them. Therefore, what began happening since May along the Durand Line can be aptly described as a "low-intensity war" against Pakistan.

Cross-border attacks, shelling, terrorist strikes and wanton destruction have become a daily occurrence. Armed groups come down from Kunar and neighbouring provinces to attack Pakistani forces, which retaliate with artillery fire; insurgent groups fight against each other; the conflict zone has expanded beyond FATA to Chitral mountains in the Northern Areas in the upper reaches of Kashmir. The implications are devastating for Pakistan. The Durand Line question has been ripped open. Some obscure snake charmer has summoned the serpent of Pashtun nationalism to raise its hood. Pakistan faces an existential challenge. For the snake charmer, this may seem the use of "smart power" to entrap the Pakistani military in a quagmire of Pashtun nationalism so that it has no energy left to dabble in Afghan affairs. And, this may also be "smart power" at its best. For, the tensions on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border also threaten to spoil the new atmospherics in Kabul-Islamabad ties — built around Pakistan's support for an 'Afghan-led' and 'Afghan-owned' peace process led by President Hamid Karzai.

Mr. Karzai is obliged to react to the violation of territorial integrity of his country, cross-border terrorism and Pashtun sub-nationalism. But he is also conscious of the criticality of sustaining cordial links with Islamabad since Pakistan is his key interlocutor for both building up a durable settlement and checkmating sustained American conspiracies to marginalise him. Mr. Karzai's predicament is vaguely similar to India's. The difference, of course, is that India's cooperation can actually be a "force multiplier" in the U.S.' strategy to isolate Pakistan.

But the Indian policymakers seem to continue to patiently plough the furrow of dialogue with Pakistan by taking a differentiated view of regional developments through the prism of India's long-term interests in a stable relationship with Pakistan. The tone of India-Pakistan statements has changed lately. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's acknowledgment of the incipient signs of Pakistan moving toward a rethink on terrorism has been carefully noted in Pakistan. Thus, Mr. Gilani's statement in Swat probably intends at reinforcing a salient in the India-Pakistan dialogue that is struggling to be born. That he made the statement in the presence of Gen. Kayani needs to be noted.

Indeed, this is not the time for India to display triumphalism that Pakistan faces a challenge to its integrity from the menace of the cross-border terrorism which, in many ways, it unleashed in the region. The fire in India's neighbourhood is spreading and it has reached the upper reaches of the Kashmir Valley. Statesmanship lies in evolving a joint India-Pakistan strategy to fight terrorism and to evolve a regional initiative on the Afghan problem. A critical mass is gradually accruing — to the effect that India and Pakistan's legitimate interests in the stabilisation of the Afghan situation are reconcilable. Afghanistan figured in Ms Rao's consultations in Tehran. The qualitative difference from the late 1990s is that neither Delhi nor Tehran is locked in a zero-sum game with Islamabad. The time is ripe for India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan to draw closer together as the regional stakeholders with the highest stakes in ending the war and stabilising Afghanistan.

Pakistan intends to host a trilateral summit with Iran and Afghanistan by the year-end, which could be an appropriate occasion for an enlarged regional initiative. However, for all this to gain traction, Pakistan must conclusively turn away from the use of force to settle differences with India.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

India should evolve a joint strategy

with Pakistan to fight terror and build

a regional initiative on Afghanistan.

      ***************************************


THE HINDU

OUR PRIORITY IS TO RESTART ECONOMIC GROWTH IN EUROPE: POLAND'S FOREIGN MINISTER

SMITA GUPTA

 

Radoslaw Sikorski:'I think the business of journalism and politics is somewhat similar.'— Photo: By Special Arrangement

As a student leader in Poland, Radosław Sikorski was forced to flee to the U.K. and seek political asylum there in 1982. He went on to do Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, after which he became a war correspondent in Afghanistan and Angola for British newspapers. He returned to Poland — and politics — in the 1990s, after the fall of Communism in that country. In 1987, at the age of 23, Mr Sikorski trekked through war-torn Afghanistan with the mujahedeen fighters, a Kalashnikov under his arm, to witness the war as a journalist.

Next week, days after Poland took over the presidency of the European Union on July 1, he returns to the region to visit India in a very different avatar — as Foreign Minister of Poland. He is also vice chairman of the party he represents in the Polish sejm (Parliament), the Civic Platform, and has been Defence Minister in a previous government.

On June 29, Mr. Sikorski spoke at length to Smita Gupta at his office in Warsaw about his impending visit to India, starting July 11.

What will be on your agenda when you visit India?

I will be going there in coordination with Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the entire EU for foreign policy. It will be during our presidency of the EU, so I'll be presenting not just Poland's agenda, but Europe's agenda in relation with the EU. That will be trade issues but also political issues, which are well known. The agenda will also concern resolving the continuing instability due to radical politics in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What can Pakistan do?

We'd like Pakistan to overcome its internal problems. We lost a citizen two years ago who was kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban and brutally executed, and we know how important Pakistan is to preventing the spread of radicalism into Afghanistan.

You've been to Afghanistan as a journalist and I understand you even won an award for a photograph you took there.

Oh, yes. I have been going to Afghanistan regularly for the last 25 years. In 1986, I spent six weeks in Tora Bora, when it was a mujahideen base against the Soviets. And I brought out the first pictures of Stinger missiles in the battlefield. In 1987, Herat, for instance, was a hard place to get to because it was the furthest point away from the Pakistan border. It took me six weeks at that time to get to Herat.

Afghanistan is economically doing extremely well but, of course, the politics is still tricky. We decided last year in Kabul to accede to President Karzai's request and to be gone by 2014. So we need to prepare Afghanistan for standing on its own feet as regards security. We will continue to be involved on the development side but I believe that the neighbouring countries have the biggest stake in stabilising Afghanistan and so, after 2014, they will take over the responsibility.

Does Poland support India's ambition for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council?

The U.N. Security Council should reflect the co-relation of the forces in the world and India, the most populous democracy in the world, is a natural member of the Security Council. But we also feel that Western Europe is overrepresented and central and Eastern Europe is underrepresented. So we have our own proposals that envisage a seat for the European Union and strengthening the role of central and Eastern Europe in the Security Council.

How does Poland view its role in Europe and in the wider world during its EU presidency?

After [the] Lisbon [Treaty], in foreign affairs, I play a supportive role of Cathy Ashton, but our sectoral ministers will actually chair the various councils, agricultural, finance, science and environment, health. And so there is some scope to move along the European agenda there. Our first priority is to restart economic growth in Europe because that affects confidence, generosity, the capacity for solidarity with our neighbours, our candidate countries and with other partners. And to that end, we want to complete the single market in services and internet trade.

We also care about Europe remaining open, primarily to its neighbours, strengthen the management of Europe's external border. We want to encourage democratic transformations in North Africa and eastern places such as Belarus; we want students and businessmen to be able to travel more freely. We also want to create a European Endowment for democracy that will promote democracy in those countries.

We also believe in strengthening Europe's security in three areas, energy [food and defence]. We have had a gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine, interruptions in supplies of oil and gas from Libya. So it's very important to diversify and to liberalise Europe's energy markets. But [there is] also food security, [with] food safety issues and speculation in food prices. Poland would also like to strengthen Europe's defence identity. You sometimes need to back up diplomacy with force and Europe should be able to act in the Balkans or in North Africa even when our major allies, such as the United States, make the judgment that they are involved in Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps don't want a third war on their hands.

How have you coped with your difficult history with Germany and Russia in rebuilding relations with those two countries?

With Germany, we are a treaty ally in NATO and members of the same European family. We [recently] had a joint session of the governments of Poland and Germany here in Warsaw and we signed a political declaration on the 20th anniversary of the Polish-German treaty with a work plan of almost a hundred initiatives, closely modelled on the German-French work plan. So relations with Germany are excellent, the best in history because of a commonality of interests and models of development. We are both now northern style industrial economies with our levels of indebtedness under control and balanced finances. We have had a true reconciliation and buried the problems of the past. The best expression of that is that under the Schengen system we have removed border controls. If it wasn't for the river you wouldn't know that you are crossing from one country to the next, which is miraculous given how many millions of people died over a thousand years in wars over where that border should lie.

With Russia it's different. Russia is not a member of NATO; it's not a member of the EU. We have a brittle but pragmatic relationship. We are at the stage of resolving difficult issues of the past, improving our trade relations which is very important as Russia is our second trading partner and we are working to facilitate travel between the two countries, including local border traffic agreement for Kaliningrad Oblast, and investments in trade are growing very rapidly.

And the energy sector, as far as Russia is concerned?

God gave Russia gas and oil, and we have the funds to buy them, we are a major customer. We have signed a new gas agreement with Russia that complies with EU regulations. We would like to be a major transit country for Russia but, at the same time, we want energy to be a business issue, not a tool of politics.

You've said somewhere that you see Poland as a loyal ally of the U.S., not a vassal state. How do you see the relationship?

For most countries, including [those in] Europe, an alliance with the United States is a very important relationship. The Indian-American relationship has also strengthened in the last few years. So Poland does what other European countries do. We are at the same time a good ally of the United States and loyal Europeans.

You've been educated at Oxford, you've been a journalist for several British papers, and your wife is an American journalist. How has that shaped your perspective as Foreign Minister of Poland?

I think the business of journalism and politics is somewhat similar. You need to rapidly synthesise huge amounts of information and then give them succinct expression whether in diplomatic fora or while explaining the policy to the public. I think a background in journalism actually helps in politics but as many journalists who enter politics have found, to their cost, fellow journalists don't like you crossing to the other side of the barricade.

Has that been a problem?

Not any more. I have been in government cumulatively for over a decade now but originally, one day you are a colleague of journalists and the next day they are supposed to call you Minister and not everybody likes that (laughs).

'Resolving the continuing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the agenda.'

 

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******************************************************************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

MICROFINANCE: BILL TO BRING IN ORDER

The government's proposed bill to bring the `22,000-crore microfinance industry under the regulation of a single entity — the Reserve Bank of India — has been widely welcomed, both by the industry and the public at large. In

fact, the biggest listed name in the industry welcomed the move and saw its shares jump by 20 per cent on the day the proposed bill was announced. The government has invited comments on the bill from the public and will finalise it after taking these into account. Bringing the industry under one regulator was a long-felt need because if each state has its own rules and regulations, the situation can be pretty chaotic. Reserve Bank deputy governor K.C. Chakrabarty had said a few days earlier: "If we don't act under a common set of regulations (for the microfinance industry), it won't be practical to work. Five states having five different laws on the same subject will have practical difficulties for the industry." Till a Central law is in place, the Andhra-type situation can arise again, and this will nullify whatever the Reserve Bank is trying to do to bring some order, he pointed out. Andhra Pradesh is a classic example: the state government had passed an ordinance that contained stringent regulations for the industry to follow. Not surprisingly, it was up in arms as it was unable to collect crores of rupees from borrowers. The Andhra government, however, was not wrong to enact such an ordinance — its move had followed complaints about the use of muscle power against those who had failed to pay back loans, and subsequent suicides by borrowers who could not pay up. There was also a considerable amount of misuse of funds as borrowers in some cases had used the loans to pay back others from whom they had borrowed money, something called "evergreening" in banking terminology. This was far removed from the original concept of microfinance — as developed by its pioneer, Bangladesh's Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank founder Muhammed Yunus, popularly known as the father of microfinance. The industry was accused of borrowing cheap from the banks and lending at exorbitant rates — of between 30 to even 60 per cent. It was not even sure if the borrowers, who were predominantly women, were really made financially independent or were able to have a sustainable business such as vegetable vending, which was the principal objective of microfinancing.
It is to be hoped that the new bill will also provide for the independent monitoring of end users of loans — as it is absolutely vital for the borrowers to be made financially stable. Microfinance is in a way the device which can make possible "inclusive growth" — the mantra of both the Reserve Bank and the UPA government. The argument that the microfinance industry had tried to make was that it was being targeted by politically powerful moneylenders, who had a thriving business until the microfinance companies came along. There may or may not be any truth in this, and it is for the government to act against usurious moneylenders. But this certainly cannot be used to justify the way some of the microfinance companies have behaved. This bill will hopefully go a long way in regularising the industry and in laying down guidelines so that the industry is able to fulfil its true objective — of helping the urban and rural poor as well as the disadvantaged. It gives the RBI the power to register microfinance companies and set benchmark and performance standards for the entire industry to follow. It will also have powers to impose penalties on companies which violate these norms.

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THE ASIAN AGE

DOLLAR APOCALYPSE

INDRANIL BANERJIE

A group of US financial analysts have been predicting a dollar apocalypse that will devastate economies and lives all over the globe. The problem, according to them, is the wayward dollar. The world's reserve currency that has oiled international trade since the demise of the Gold Standard has been rapidly losing value as a profligate United States prints more and more dollars to cover its growing spending gap.

Since 1971 when the then US President Richard Nixon declared that the US dollar would no longer be backed by gold, the global financial community has relied on the prudence of America's central bank, the Federal Reserve Bureau (better known as the Fed), to maintain the dollar's credibility. For most of the years since then, the Fed could print more dollar notes than the US economy needed without increasing its reserves of gold or stoking domestic inflation. The system worked because in the decades since 1971, world trade burgeoned like never before and the demand for dollars to finance that trade remained high.
While every country had to sell something to get dollars, for the US government dollars were free, they could just be printed and used to buy things. There was, of course, a limit to the amount of dollars that the Fed would print. For, as every economist knows no responsible government can allow money supply to grow beyond some level considered prudent.
Financial experts, central bankers around the world and even governments closely watched the US Fed's figure for money-supply growth, what economists call the M3 — the total of cash, bank deposits and so on. Then suddenly in 2006, the Fed stopped publishing M3 figures and left it to the financial community to guess just how much dollar liquidity was growing. At about the same time, it was clear that US trade deficit with China and other countries had gone through the roof and the Fed was having to raise more and more debt to finance that and a growing budget deficit. American spending had breached its earning envelope and was in free rise. The US federal budget deficit continues to surge and will hit $1.4 trillion this year.
US national debt is capped at the level of $14.3 trillion and US President Barack Obama needs to legislate if the government is to borrow beyond this limit. But if this is not done by August 2, then the US Treasury could actually default on loan repayment, an event that is certain to trigger a tsunami in global financial markets.
One way to avoid that would be to print even more dollars — literally print one's way out of debt. Some financial analysts claim that the monetisation of the US debt has been going on for the past two years through the expansion of deposit currency. This could lead to dollar-hyper inflation and eventually, perhaps, the end of the dollar as the world's reserve currency.
Already, the value of the dollar has been falling. Every strong currency has gained against the dollar; some exceptions include the South Asian countries, sanctions-hit Iran and troubled economies like Syria and Laos. In Europe, every single country has gained over the dollar except Turkey, Ukraine and Belarus. In Australia, for the first time in history, the local dollar is worth more than a US dollar! Even the battered Euro has risen 11 per cent against the dollar.
The impact of the inflationary dollar on world trade has been devastating, especially for countries with high levels of inelastic import demand. Since most globally traded goods are priced in dollars, as the value of the dollar falls, their dollar price tends to rise. This is one reason for the sharp increases in global commodity prices, including that of oil. In many parts of the world, investors, including central bankers, are gradually but surely divesting their dollar assets and buying gold and silver. The dollar is rapidly losing credibility. India is groaning under the weight of rising commodity prices, especially oil. India's high dependence on energy imports has led to skyrocketing energy import bills, huge trade deficits and a consequent pressure on the rupee.
As energy imports get more expensive, India will find itself increasingly in trouble with the Indian rupee unable to compensate for the falling value of the US dollar. Unlike other strong currencies, the real value of the rupee will continue to plummet. At one level, India's dilemma reflects a global issue: the lack of a credible alternative to the dollar. Despite periodic statements by world leaders that the global financial system needs reworking, nobody has been able to come up with a working solution that would do away with the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Everybody is hoping that the US government will mend its ways, get its finances in shape and avert the inevitable crisis.
Problem is that all countries are resistant to change, especially when it threatens to affect their way of life. In Washington, too, there is no consensus on how to reduce expenditures: Democrats are looking at the whole problem as a social-spending issue; Republicans are resisting proposals to increase taxes on the rich; and President Obama, who clearly recognises the need to bring some budgetary order, is hamstrung by concerns about his re-election next year. To many American lawmakers, the global currency crisis might look chimerical, an unreal threat dreamed up by crazy financial experts. Problem is if it does break, it will not just bring down large parts of the global financial system but the power of the United States as well.

The author is an independent security and political risk consultant

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SOUTH ASIAN UNITY

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's inaugural address to the 5th Conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians in New Delhi reflects the high watermark of statesmanship and futuristic vision of the crucial region called South Asia. The appeal and advice to SAARC member states of forging unity among themselves and speaking on crucial international political and economic issues with one voice is passionate and timely. Couched in simple and forthright idiom, the PM has tried to make the member countries conscious of the potential they possess in terms of natural and human resources, common history, cultural links and geographical connectivity. South Asia has the largest youth population and hence the largest manpower which needs to be canalized properly for creative activity. The warning is timely that they need to learn how to solve their problems without depending on external support or advice. And unless that is done, full realization of the potential cannot become a reality.

The fact is that South Asia is one of the prominent regions in the world where there is lot of interference from foreign powers who want a foothold somehow somewhere suiting their strategic interests. It is true that we are living in a world of inter-dependence and no country can live in isolation. But that is quite different from existing as a client state. South Asian countries would do well to understand that cooperation on regional level in many important and crucial spheres would bring them much more strength and independence of action than what they think dependence would provide. PM also referred to forming a united front against terror as many of the South Asian countries today were faced with terrorist threats in one way or the other. "The scourge of terrorism has taken a huge toll on all our societies. It is a cancer that if not checked, will consume us all," the PM said.

Noting that South Asia has perhaps the most youthful population in the world, Singh said the youth deserve a better future.

"We can reap a rich demographic dividend if we can equip our youth with the right skills, and channel their energies to productive ends." These are prophetic words and carry the truth about the essence of the secret of development of South Asian region. "We share common borders. What happens in one country necessarily affects the other. Our destinies are bound by history as well as by geography. If we act with wisdom and sagacity, we all stand to benefit," Prime Minister said inaugurating the 5th Conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians.

SAARC has been in place for a long time but dogged by mutual suspicions and controversies. As such concrete results of its regular and formal deliberations are not still visible on the ground. Mutual rivalry and acrimony has marred the progress of the organization though the entire world has been looking at it as a critical instrument to open huge vistas of progress and prosperity on SAARC countries. The time has come when the old mindset and thinking pattern among the South Asian leadership should change and change for better. The timely advice and warning from the Indian Prime Minister reflects malice towards none but goodwill towards all. History, geography and culture bind thee countries together and none of these can really make substantial progress without cooperation from the neighbouring countries. The South Asian countries could at least constitute a powerful group that would render its good offices for the resolution of some of the old questions haunting the people of the region. Instead of rushing to the international platform for finding some comfort to their bilateral quarrels within the fold, the South Asian member states would do well to entrust that job to the high-level group. This is one of the ways how they can solve their problems without depending on outside support, and it is this option towards which the Indian Prime Minister alluded in his inaugural speech. We hope that the message will be conveyed to all peace loving people

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PERCEPTIONAL CHANGE?

 

In a short statement after her meeting with the Pakistani counterpart a few days ago, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said that she could feel a perceptional change in Pakistan's handling of terrorism. This was no ordinary a statement and from no ordinary a diplomat. Known for her astute diplomatic skills, Rao would not, in normal course of things, make such a meaningful statement. There is no gainsaying that in recent years terrorism has taken big toll of innocent lives in Pakistan. But Pakistan never changed its stance or perception about terrorism as an instrument of state policy to wrest Kashmir from Indian control. This holds good for current foreign policy of Pakistan policy- planners, and surely, it will hold good for some more time. Therefore on historical count, there seems little substance in the statement that there is any perceptional change. But, of course, there are rumblings in relationship between Pakistan Army (including ISI) and the elected civilian government. The Abbotabad episode has left the Army mauled and humiliated. Even Pentagon, usually the safety valve for Pakistan in her relations with the US, has been cornered by Congressional groups on Pakistan Army's bluff of innocence about the whereabouts of Osama. Army chief Kiyani made a whirlwind tour of many military installations, called the meeting of corps commanders, faced their rage and tantrum for unholy alliance with the Americans, and met with important American officials in order to retrieve Army's and his own position. The latest was the terrorist attack on Mehran air base. If under these pressures Pakistan Army has withdrawn to its shell and left the civilian government to be pro-active in chalking the future course of Pakistan's foreign policy, particularly policy towards India, this could be the perceptional change to which foreign secretary Rao referred, and to which Congress leader Prof. Soz also alluded after attending the recent Pugwash meeting in Berlin. Any change of this nature is welcome to India because it has always been New Delhi's thinking that any dialogue with Pakistan would be meaningful and viable if it was conducted with an elected government that could govern independent of traditional pulls and pressers for extraneous forces especially the Army and its notorious ISI, and, unlike Pak Army, was accountable to its parliament. In the wider context of regional strategy involving Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia this kind of shift in Pakistan's domestic policy would be welcome firstly for Pakistan itself and then for the region as a whole.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ESTABLISH INDEPENDENT CENTERS OF POWER

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

Fundamental issue is who will appoint the Lokpal? Anna Hazare's demand is that Lokpal must be appointed by the judges, citizens and constitutional authorities; and not by the Government. I do not think this will help much. Who of these persons will be appointed to the Selection Committee will be, ultimately, decided by the Government. If the Government so wants, it may appoint corrupt among these to the Committee. Some judges are corrupt. Many citizens are corrupt. Corrupt persons are routinely appointed to Constitutional Offices. Corruption would have long been stamped out if these Constitutional Office-holders had been honest. Fact is that heads of the major political parties are corrupt and they appoint corrupt persons to these high offices in order to protect their own corruption. Plenty evidence for this was available in the Bofors and Hawala cases but this was not acted upon because the Judiciary and Constitutional Authorities did not want to confront corruption among the political parties. Thus it is highly unlikely that a truly honest and independent person will be appointed as Lokpal through the process demanded by Anna. The thief will only appoint another thief as Lokpal no matter how transparent the process. Indeed the Government has at various times appointed individuals like Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde to Constitutional Offices. This must be seen as exception, however. We should not build an alternate system on the basis of such exceptions.

We will have to create a way of controlling the Government from the outside, that is, without depending upon the Government to implement this process of control. Such system can be made at two levels-in- and outside the Parliament.

Present parliamentary system is actually party-cracy, not democracy. The MPs are always shivering under the sword of the whip. They cannot vote as per their own thinking or directives of the constituents. They have to dance to the tune of the party leaders in order to obtain party ticket in the next election. A friend told me that he obtained signature of about 20 MPs on a statement relating to grant of minimum free amount as demogrant to each voter of the country to enable him meet his basic needs without having to run after the authorities. The MPs were hauled up and bitterly scolded by the leaders for having taken a view on this suggestion without first consulting the leaders. Thus MPs are really rubber stamps for the party leaders. Governance cannot be reformed in this circumstance through the existing MPs. More so because an unwritten agreement has been reached between the top leaders of main parties not to expose or attack the black money or corruption of each other. No Party is today genuinely interested in unraveling black money because all are swimming in it. The initiative taken by the Government to establish a Lokpal is like the pickpocket' helping the traveler lift his bags. We have to find a way that controls corruption without depending upon the Government in any way.

One possibility is for such honest persons to contest the elections as Independent candidates. Target should be to get 100 Independents into the Lok Sabha. These candidates must commit not to join any Party or government; and to cast their votes as per their own understanding. Effort must be to force the ruling government-of whatever party-into a minority that is ever dependent upon support of these independents to get a bill passed in the Lok Sabha. It is likely that the vote cast by these Independent MPs will reflect will of the people rather than that of party leaderships.

Problem is that performance of Independent candidates during that last 60 years has been rather dismal. We should not get disheartened by this. Most MPs fight elections as Independents only because there is some malfunction within the Party. The few truly Independent candidates have no strategy as to what they will do as lone MPs in the parliament. In contrast, the proposed Independent candidates will contest elections on the platform of 'controlling the Government.' Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and Kiran Bedi should contest the elections with the avowed objective of controlling the Government and not being part of the Government.

A second level of control system may also be made. A network of spiritual, social and self-employed persons may be made. Thousands of individuals are working for social good in their own small ways. One lawyer is helping the poor fight false cases hoisted upon him; another is helping the affected families face the wrath of land acquisition; third is sincerely guiding research scholars; and fourth is running a school in the slum. I know of an employee who has filed cases against corruption in his University in the High Court. He travels to the Court with his own money and argues the cases himself. Another social activist is ever present whenever hydropower companies organize fake public hearings and forcibly acquire lands of the poor. A senior police officer has taken VRS and is busy writing booklets and giving lectures on good governance. The important point is that these persons have not built NGOs, they do not seek funding, they are not answerable to donors, they are not overweighed with the responsibility of arranging for salaries of their huge staff, etc. They neither seek, not get, any financial benefits or even publicity for their works. They work for their own self-satisfaction. Such well-meaning individuals are the true Constructive Workers that were envisaged by Gandhiji.

Such independent, unorganized, self-motivated, self-financed and honest individuals should form a lose network. Large numbers of heads of various religious denominations come to the Kumbh Mela. They are not members of an organization. They meet and discuss and go their separate ways. Yet, the Mela tells them that many other like them are also plodding in the same direction. It gives them energy. A similar Mela of such individuals can be arranged at a regular frequency. They can educate the people and control the tyranny of the politicians. Those of such individuals who are spiritually oriented, who are socially involved and who are not employed by another should be specially invited and welcomed in such gathering.

Knowledgeable sources tell that heads of all major political parties have stashed away black money in foreign countries. Such individuals alone can speak honestly and educate the people that all political parties are only making superficial noises about bringing back black money while actually they are all together in preventing precisely such an effort.

Governance of the country will be improved by such a two-pronged strategy to invigorate independent politicians and thinkers. In absence of such independent force, the Lokpal will meet the same fate as that of the judiciary, CVC and CBI.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TOURISM IN JAMMU

BY RUCHIKA JAMWAL CHIB

Tourism has been traditionally viewed as a great force in promoting understanding among nations and within the national boundaries facilitating Emotional integration. Tourism is the movement of people from their normal place of residence and work, for a period of not less than twenty four hours and not exceeding a year. Tourism is the most important industry in our economy without chimneys. Over the past three decades tourism has emerged as the world's largest industry. Tourism is one of the most important items of export. It is well said by Husker and Kraft, "Tourism is the sum of the phenomenon and relationships arising from the travel and residents in so far as it does lead to permanent residence and is connected to any earning activity. Today, we all know about the tourism but before the independence, in India tourism industry was not promoted by the Britishers, but soon after independence, the importance of tourism was felt vigorously by the Indian government. They set up a committee under the chairmanship of sir John Sergeant. This committee submitted its report in 1946. It was thought at that time, it was beneficial for India to encourage and develop the tourist traffic by all means. A small tourist section was set up in the ministry of transport in 1948. A separate department was set up early in 1958 which is called as the department of Tourism. Tourism at that time was a new activity for India. Its importance was not realized by the people and government. This was so because the scope of tourism was low. There was not proper Infrastructure such as the number of hotels was very less. There were no proper means of accommodation of the tourists; same was the case of transport also. But now-a-days people have realized the value of Tourism and the economic benefits of the tourism. In India now tourism industry is developing a lot and this has increased the nation's income also.

Now let us talk about tourism in Jammu region as we know Jammu is popular in all over India as "City of temples". The city is located on the bank of river Tawi. This land is Known as 'Duggar' and the people here are known as Dogras. We are aware that natural beauty of the vale of Jammu has deservedly won high praise from travellers. In a kind of historical spectrum in tourism, we have quoted enough in substance from accounts of travellers on the bewitching valley to show how the lovers of beauty not only adored the bounties that nature lavished on Jammu but found these a theme of literature. Now , I will throw light upon some famous tourist places of Jammu region. In jammu region , the most famous Historical place is Bahu Fort complex, originally built by Bahu lochan, the ruler of bahu city on a hillock on the eastern bank of river tawi. It was rebuilt by Maharaja Gulab Singh and served as a garrison for Dogra Army.

The famous temple of Bawey wali mata is inside the fort, where on every Tuesday and Sunday pilgrim went to worship the Goddess Kali. A little farther away, on a hill top, opposite the Bahu fort, is a lovely spot overlooking the river Tawi, where a temple dedicated to Mahamaya has been constructed but people of Jammu know less about this temple. Now, there is one more attractive spot which is called as Amar Mahal. It is the most valuable monument of Jammu. Once the residential palace of Raja Amar Singh, it possess a 120 kg golden throne. Amar Mahal commands an excellent view of the city and its surroundings now houses, a rare collection of Pahari paintings, a family portrait gallery and a rich library. It is the tallest structure of the city. Then there is also a popular site which is called as Mansar Lake. It is about 62 kms away from Jammu city. A beautiful lake covered by forest and hills. Boating facilities are available on the spot. Every year around Baisakhi- a food craft festival is organised here by J&K Tourism Department. Then comes Behr Devta, who owes its origin to the great service rendered by him to the people of Jammu town and saved them from snake bites and Scorpio during the reign of raja Jas Dev (1020 A.D-1053 A.D). No wonder that tourism in Jammu because of the natural beauty has become an important industry, vital for the economy of the state.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

INDIA'S ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH IRAN

BY NITYA CHAKRABORTY

India and Iran have so far failed to sort out two vital economic issues which are closely linked to the economies of both the countries -- mode of payment for oil supply by Iran to India and participation by India in the US$ 7.6 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. Both the issues are of primary importance for the growth of Indian economy and it is in the best interests of both countries that a solution is worked out for these complex issues.

The oil payment issue needs immediate solution as Iran has given a warning that it can not go on supplying scheduled oil supplies to the Indian refineries without getting payment and the mode of payment has to be sorted out by August this year. Though officially, no formal communication has been sent to the refineries, Iran's position has been made known to the Indian officials during the bilateral talks in New Delhi in the last week of May this year.

India and Iran have been negotiating for more than six months on ways to resolve the Payment deadlock on a long term basis and salvage the Indo-Iranian trade which is worth US$12 billion annually. The problem arose in December last year when the Reserve Bank of India stopped payment to Iran through the Asian Clearing Union due to US pressure. India told Iran that it will find out an alternative mode of payment but so far, no such route has been identified through discussions.

Indian sources say that Iran is not comfortable with any other currency except euro, US dollar and Japanese yen. India started paying through a German bank for some time in March this year but this was stopped soon after as the German government was under US pressure and the German bank refused to channelise the payments further. India tried Japan but the Japanese government fully supported the US position and the Japanese banks refused to touch Indian payments to Iran. As a result, the situation has taken a serious dimension and Iran is getting restless.

Iran is still working for a solution on the mode of payment and it has continued the supplies of oil but this situation can not continue for a longer period and Indian officials also know it. The US is spoiling all Indian efforts to find an alternative route. India has to assert and work out a solution for this. The oil supplies from Iran is of crucial importance to Indian economy at this time of global oil crisis and all efforts have to be made now to find out an alternative route even that means annoying the US.

Similar is the situation with India's dillydallying on the issue of participation in the ambitious Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. At the last meeting of the senior Iranian officials in New Delhi last month, India got a clear hint from Mr. Ali Bagheri of Iran's Supreme National Security Council that Iran will not wait for an indefinite period for India to effectively participate for implementing this ambitious project and Iran and Pakistan will welcome China as one of the participants. In fact, Pakistan is very much interested in getting China in the project and Pakistan has told Iran that China, with its huge financial resources and the muscle power to face the US pressure, will be the most suitable partner in speedily implementing the project which is not progressing faster due to India's vacillations on taking a firm position.

Iranian leader is supposed to have told the senior Indian officials that China is ready to join the pipeline project once India dissociates from the project. Iran has said that it is going ahead with the pipeline project to supply its gas to Pakistan if India is not interested but it should be in India's interests to remain a participant in this IPI project and take effective measures for its implementation.

Energy experts feel that India should be taking a positive stance towards discussing the issues like security, pricing and transportation vis a vis IPI gas pipeline project for evolving a solution, but there is reservation still from the Prime Minister's Office and Dr. Manmohan Singh is personally against taking any steps which will antagonize the US administration at this stage. As a result, though there is no official declaration that India is not going to participate in the IPI gas pipeline project, India is not responding to the Iranian proposals in a manner which will facilitate a solution.

But this anti-IPI attitude of the Prime Minister's Office is being challenged now as the possibility of ambitious nuclear power generation plans in India have got a setback following Japanese nuclear plant disaster and also the latest decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group which has cast doubts on India's getting sensitive nuclear technology from the USA. The energy experts are saying that it makes sense now to go the wholehog for the IPI pipeline since this will bar China from entering this vital oil and gas area at the cost of India and also it will help India in bolstering its gas supply in a situation when India is importing 84 per cent of its total petroleum demand in the country. In five years, India will become the fourth largest consumer of energy and the demand for gas is increasing .At this time, it is in the interests of India's energy security to pep up the gas supply from all possible sources including both TAPI and IPI.

The energy experts are mentioning that the security concerns expressed about IPI pipeline are no different from those related to TAPI gas project. It is also true that TAPI has the US backing whereas the US is opposed to India, Pakistan or any other country supplying the gas through the IPI gas pipeline. But India has to look after its national interests and if Pakistan can take the risk of participating in the IPI pipeline project defying US whip, there is no reason India should cold shoulder the IPI project due to US pressure. They feel that the latest setback to the nuclear power generation programme and China pitching for a major role in the oil rich Asia at the cost of India, make it imperative that India should explore all avenues for participating in IPI project. (IPA)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WORKING TO A PLAN

RAHUL GANDHI IS BANKING ON UP

 

There is indeed more to Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's four-day trek in hot and sultry weather conditions in the heartland of the country, Uttar Pradesh, than mere gimmickry. His detractors would be caught on the wrong foot if they were to dismiss his 'padyatra' (foot march) as of no consequence. When Rahul stumbled into politics he seemed clueless about how to go about it. But today he has a clearer agenda, a sense of purpose and a specific goal to claw his way to the top via elections in the country's most populous state. But with the ruling party in UP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, on the decline in the face of deteriorating law and order and rampant corruption, the BJP in complete disarray and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party lacking direction, the time is propitious for the Congress party to become a rallying point for unhappy farmers, disgruntled lower castes and the youth in general who need an anchor at a time of widespread unemployment. Rahul and his band of advisers righly see this as an opportunity not to be missed.

 

Young Rahul has had a mixed bag of successes and failures. He failed to make an impact on the voters in the crucial states of Bihar and recently Tamil Nadu in assembly elections, but in the 2009 parliamentary elections in UP the Congress more than doubled its tally from 9 in the polls five years earlier to 21 seats, of a total of 80. Rahul's strategy is to make substantial inroads in the UP assembly elections first and then top it up with a stunning performance in the Hindi heartland in the parliamentary polls. Whether he would be able to achieve this is steeped in speculation, but he is working hard to re-build the sleepy old party at the grassroots.

 

Yet, UP cannot be Rahul Gandhi's be-all and end-all if he is to don the mantle of the country's Prime Minister. He must gain acceptability among the middle class by articulating his stand on various national and international issues with clarity, coherence and an informed mind. His interventions in parliamentary debates will need to be more frequent and substantial. His must be a voice of maturity and temperance. That he is committed to 'inclusive growth,' is pro-reform but insists that economic growth must provide opportunities for the poor are clear positives. But there is still much ground for him to cover. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SPURT IN CHILD MARRIAGES

ONE MORE HARSH REALITY FOR HARYANA GIRLS

 

The women of Haryana have an uncanny way of making it to the news pages. Sometimes, even before they are born. Often, for being killed by their own kith and kin for such a simple act like marrying someone they like. The social web they are born and brought up in pushes them to make startling headlines — female foeticide, honour killings, and now child marriages — indicators of society's obstinacy for clinging to feudal values, while modernity knocks at its doors. In six months, 195 child marriages have been reported in Haryana, as compared to 47 in 2009. The reasoning offered behind these marriages is startling — safety for the girl and protection of family honour!

 

There are clear indications of violation of human rights for women at various stages of their existence. There are, of course, paradoxes like Commonwealth champions Babita and Geeta from Balali village in Bhiwani district, who were encouraged to take up 'kushti' (wrestling) by their parents, despite a lot of opposition from the villagers. After the medals started pouring in, the scenario changed. Now, four other girls from the same village have joined wrestling. And these are not isolated cases. But, unfortunately, instead of highlighting these champions and using them as their poster girls in a state where female foeticide is showing alarming figures, the government chooses to introduce cash incentives for the girl child, from her birth to her marriage!

 

So long as the girl child is treated as a liability, and money is offered as a kind of compensation under several schemes (Ladli, Balika Samriddhi Yojna, Dhan Luxmi, etc) by the government for letting a girl child take birth, it will be impossible for her to grow up with self-respect and the required confidence to claim her rights. And girls will continue to be bartered with money, material, in barter marriage (atta-satta) and under all other kinds of violations of her rights. If the government is serious about tackling this malaise, it should provide a safe environment for girls to come to schools and colleges, so that like other parameters of modernity, independent girls too find their space. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

FIRST THAI WOMAN PM

PREVENT MILITARY FROM MEDDLING IN POLITICS

 

Thailand's just concluded elections have led to an interesting development. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democratic Party has been ousted from power through the battle of the ballot despite the powerful military and the monarchy being its backers. The people's mandate has gone in favour of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, whose 44-year-old woman leader, Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, has taken oath as the country's new Prime Minister. Her party won 263 seats in a 500-strong Lower House of parliament, the House of Representatives. That she is the sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and then convicted in a corruption case and sentenced to a jail term, did not deter people from casting their vote in support of her party. Mr Thaksin Shinawatra has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai since then.

 

Ms Yingluck Shinawatra could easily form her party's government as it won a clear majority in parliament. But she has decided to go in for a coalition with the help of a few like-minded parties. She says she has preferred the path of national reconciliation, required in view of last year's disturbances in which 90 people lost their lives with the ordinary Thais expressing their disenchantment against the ruling dispensation in a strong manner. The voters' disapproval of the nexus between the Democratic Party, the military and the Thai King can be seen in the election results too.

 

The military may look for an opportunity to intervene again if Ms Yingluck Shinawatra does not play her cards tactfully. She has been described as a proxy for her brother, whose return to Thailand may be facilitated by the new government. Nothing should be done by ignoring the country's justice system. It would be better if Mr Thaksin himself remains away from Thailand for some time and plays the role of a mentor from where he is — in Dubai. Even if he is back to Bangkok, he should keep himself away from the corridors of power so that the military does not find a pretext to destabilise the Yingluck government.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

INDIA-CHINA DEFENCE EXCHANGE

HOPE FOR BOOSTING MUTUAL TRUST 

BY RUP NARAYAN DAS

 

After a long gap, defence cooperation, including military engagement, between India and China was resumed with the visit of Major-Gen Gurmeet Singh, General Officer-in-Commanding of the Rashtriya Rifles, to China from June 19 to 24. Earlier, General B.S. Jaswal had to cancel his visit on the ground that he was not issued a proper visa by the Chinese government as he headed troops in Jammu and Kashmir. The Chinese Embassy in India started the practice of issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir in 2008. However, during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China in April this year to participate in the BRICS summit in Sanya, the journalists from Jammu and Kashmir accompanying him were issued proper visas, which showed that the practice of stapled visas would be stopped. It was also indicated that defence exchanges between the two countries, suspended earlier, would be resumed soon.

 

The rationale for defence cooperation and military engagement can hardly be overemphasised, given the fact that the two countries fought a war in 1962 and they share a common border of 3,488 kilometres which remains undefined and disputed even after having 14 rounds of talks. The 15th round is going to take place sometime this year. There exists a persistent security dilemma between the two countries. Over the years there has been an incremental progress towards trust building.

 

The consolidation of diplomatic relations between the two countries with the path-breaking visit of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, to China in December 1988 led to the establishment of the Joint Working Group (JWG) and the groundwork for defence cooperation and military engagement. Later, during the visit of the late Prime Minister, P.V. Narashima Rao, the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China border area was signed on September 7, 1993. The agreement was indeed a breakthrough.

 

In the first place, the agreement affirmed the view that the India-China boundary question would be resolved through peaceful and friendly consultations and that neither side would use or threaten to use force against the other by any means. Yet another important highlight of the agreement was that it stipulated that "pending an ultimate solution of the boundary question between the two countries, the two sides shall strictly observe the LAC and that no activities of either side shall overstep the LAC".

 

Secondly, the agreement envisaged that each side would keep its military forces in the area along the LAC to a minimum level compatible with the friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two. It further noted that the two sides agree to reduce their military forces along the LAC in conformity with the requirement of the principle of equal security to ceilings to be mutually agreed upon, and that the reduction of military forces shall be carried out by stages in mutually agreed geographical locations, sector-wise, within the areas along the Line of Actual Control.

 

As a follow-up of this agreement, a senior-level Chinese military delegation aimed at fostering CBMs between the defence forces of the two countries made a six-day goodwill visit to India in December 1993. The visit was reciprocated by Indian Army Chief Gen. BC Joshi's visit to China in July 1994. Since then, regular exchanges have been taking place at various levels. Three years later, the Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and  Tranquillity along the LAC was followed by an agreement between India and China on confidence-building  measures in the military field along the LAC on November 29, 1996, during the visit of Chinese President Ziyang  Zemin to India.

 

The upward swing of defence cooperation and military engagement between the two countries was given a further impetus during the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2005. It was against this background of heightened engagement that the then Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, visited China in May/June 2006 and held wide-ranging talks with Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior Chinese leaders.

 

The high point of the visit was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which is the first ever of its kind between the two countries.  The MoU envisages the establishment of a mechanism to ensure frequent and regular exchanges between leaders and officials of the Defence Ministries and the armed forces of the two countries in addition to developing an annual calendar for holding regular joint military exercises and training programmes.  During the past few years, India and China conducted joint naval manoeuvres, but the interaction between their ground forces was limited to border meetings and mountaineering expeditions, and there had been no interaction between the air forces. The MoU signed thus aimed at addressing these imperatives.

 

These gains were further consolidated during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India in November 2006. In the joint declaration on November 21, it was mentioned that "the exchange of visits in the field of defence had resulted in the building of mutual trust and enhancement of mutual understanding between the defence establishments of the two countries.

 

Certain concrete steps were taken as a follow-up of the CBMs. For example, the armed forces of India and China held a meeting at a new border point in Arunachal Pradesh on November 18, 2006, on the eve of President Hu Jintao's visit to India. The two sides met at Kibithu in Anjwa district of Arunachal Pradesh, and discussed modalities for the conduct of troops along the border. Encouraged by the success of the first ever joint military exercise between China and India in Kunming in Yunnan in 2007, a week-long China-India joint anti-terrorist training programme was kicked off on December 6, 2008, in Belgaun in Karnataka with the performance of the Chinese Tai Chi and Indian martial arts.  

 

The defence cooperation and military exchange, however, suffered a setback because of the trust-deficit. It is hoped the recently concluded visit of Major-Gen Gurmeet Singh will give a boost to the bilateral relationship between India and China. After all, the security scenario involving the two countries should not be perceived in terms of defence preparedness alone. There should be mutual trust and confidence building as well at the highest levels. This, in turn, can lead to troop reductions on both sides of the border, resulting in a decline in the huge expenditure incurred on maintaining the behemoth of armies.n

 

The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HUMOURLESS IN UNIFORM

BY MINA SURJIT SINGH

 

The rivalry between different uniformed services and the bureaucracy in our country is legendary. Although free from malice, the contention invariably takes on insular undertones with each side never missing an opportunity to:

 

"Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer

 

And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer"

 

Born to an illustrious and disciplined army officer with a tangy sense of humour and a talented mother and married to a police officer, my loyalties have always been divided between the two services — something for which I have often landed in a piquant situation. Nonetheless, I must admit to a bias towards the latter, having spent a greater part of my life in the company of a civil, witty, intelligent, professionally competent and humane person.

 

What has prompted this musing is a statement cursorily made by a socially active citizen on a satirical piece published by a police officer recently. Albeit the observation was followed by grudging admiration, in a rather sweeping statement, all police officers were reduced to stick-wielding monsters, incapable of refined tastes and the kind of wry humor expressed in the article.

 

Oblivious of the stereotypes that such a thoughtless comment was likely to reinforce in public, our friend carried on regardless, even suggesting borrowed intelligence, much to my dismay. Thankfully enough, the love of lucre had ceased to be the exclusive prerogative of this much-maligned tribe now and hence was discreetly left out of the scathing accusation, as a safeguard against the foot-in-mouth epidemic!

 

I was outright indignant. How such broad generalisations could be made with such perfect élan, I wondered. This was something serious and definitely needed subtle but civil intervention, I thought to myself.

 

I had grown up believing that wit had certainly got nothing to do with well-polished boots or batons. It lay neither in 'khaki' nor in 'olive green' or even in 'civvies' for that matter! You either had it or you didn't. Agreed, that some people could boast of a native genius and ready brilliance, but the would-be wits were also free to happily thrive on borrowed humour, were they not? Be that as it may, the idea was to generate smiles, not scowls, any way.

 

I found myself resolutely offering a vociferous defence in the face of such irresponsible and unfair prosecution. All too soon an audience began to swell — even take sides and pitch in. The ensuing cacophony rapidly and predictably turned into a free-for-all, with each side vying to out-shout the other.

 

While this comedy of manners was unfolding and gaining momentum much to the curiosity and amusement of the dramatis personae, I was thankfully enough accosted face-on by a friend who I expectantly looked up to for support.

 

He came, he saw, he looked askance, couldn't understand what the entire shindy was about and in all his earthy wisdom, digressed into an eloquent discourse on the merits of intelligent drafting instead! I was completely flummoxed. Apparently, he too had left his funny bone behind!

 

Grinning sheepishly, I left my prosecutor gloating much to the satisfaction of the witnesses for the prosecution and discreetly beat a hasty retreat!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WE ARE STILL GROWING TOO FAST

INDIA MAY SEE POPULATION STABILISATION ONLY BY THE YEAR 2056-57 AT A LEVEL OF 1.62 BILLION. WILL THIS POPULATION BE SUSTAINABLE? THERE IS NEED TO REFLECT ON THIS

AMARJIT SINGH

 

World Population Day is an occasion for reflection on the population trends in the country.  The excellent work put in by Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, in sophisticated data capture and number crunching to produce results (census 2011) within weeks of enumeration, provides abundant material for the same.

A good place to start would be the National Population Policy of India, which was formulated in the year 2000 with the long-term objective of achieving a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental protection. The immediate objective of the policy was to address the unmet needs for contraception, health care infrastructure, and health personnel, and to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child health care. The medium-term objective was to bring the Total Fertility Rate (TFR is the average number of children each woman would have in her life time) to replacement levels by 2010, through vigorous implementation of inter-sectoral operational strategies.

 

How have we fared against these goals? The total population of India today stands at 1.21 billion, up from 1.02 billion in 2001; almost 17.5 per cent of the world's population lives in India.  It is equal to the combined population of the US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan.  Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra together are home to more people than those in the US.

 

The good news is that the decadal population growth rate has continued its decline over 1961-71; the current rate at 17.64 per cent is the lowest since Independence. But wait, we cannot rejoice; China grows at 5.43 per cent; Brazil at 9.39 per cent and our own Kerala at a little more than 4 per cent. Only Pakistan in our neighborhood is growing at a higher rate of 24.78 per cent.

 

The absolute increase in population at 181 million, for the first time, was less than the 182 million in the last decade. Even this increase is however, more than the population of Brazil, the 5th most populous country in the world.

 

True, the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have shown a decline in the rate of growth of population, however, they are still growing at more than 20 per cent per decade with Bihar leading at a decadal growth rate of 26 per cent! In the case of Chhattisgarh, the rate of growth of population has actually increased from 18.3 per cent in the nineties to 22.6 per cent now. These states account for 42 per cent of India's population and are likely to account for 52 per cent of the future increase in population of India.

 

To get an idea of the ramifications of the issue consider Uttar Pradesh; it has added the population of a Punjab to its population during the last decade. Bihar added 3 times the population of Himachal Pradesh; even poor Jharkhand added the population of Himachal Pradesh to its population during 2001-2011! Clearly the increase in population is most in the states least able to support it.

 

Economic growth

 

This has obvious implications for economic growth. The rate of growth of population in the poor states stands at 20.92 per cent as against the national average of 17.34 per cent; whereas in the case of better-off states it is at a low of 14.99 per cent.

 

The higher the rate of growth of population the poorer the state! How is Uttar Pradesh with poor Human Development indicators and 40.9 per cent of the population living below the poverty line going to absorb the additional population of a Punjab? Our ability to address this issue will determine whether the increase in population is a demographic dividend or a disaster.

 

On a more positive note, the literacy rate has improved by 9.2 percentage points to 74 per cent.  What is even more heartening; the female literacy rate has improved by 11.7 per cent to 65.46 per cent. The gender gap in literacy has come down from 21.59 per cent to 16.68 per cent.  Most improvement has taken place in the economically backward states: the so called Empowered Action Group (EAG) States. The increase in female literacy rate has expectedly resulted in lowering the fertility rate. 

 

There is however, an inverse co-relation of sex-ratio with education and affluence; the decline in sex ratio was higher in the case of women with 10 years or more of education than for mothers with no education. The census figures have revealed an acute gender distress. While the overall sex ratio has gone up from 933 to 940; the sex ratio for children between 0-6 years continues to decline. At 912, it is worse now than in any decade since Independence. It has been estimated that for second order births where the first is a female the conditional sex ratio has fallen to an abysmal 836 girls per 1000 boys. 

 

Gender distress

 

Many districts in Punjab, with a poor track record as far as sex ratio is concerned, such as; Kapurthala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar, Bhatinda, Jalandhar, Patiala, Rupnagar and Sangrur have shown a marked improvement in sex ratio.  Neighboring Haryana has recorded its best female ratio in at least 110 years, despite districts like Jhajjar recording the lowest sex ratio of 774, in the country, for 0-6 year population.

 

In the 50 districts with highest Muslim population, 39 districts show a drop in child sex ratio.  Pulwama, Badgaon, Kupwara, Anantnag, Baramula and Srinagar figure in the worst affected districts in this regard. They have contributed to an alarming decline in the child sex ratio in J&K from 941 in 2001 to 859 currently.

 

This is a reflection on the continuing poor status of women in our country. It is going to be difficult to achieve the demographic goals unless we address this issue. We also need to understand the other reasons behind the rapid increase in population. There is a considerable wanted fertility in the high fertility states; on an average, as per various surveys, the women in the eastern States want one more child than the women in the South. There are rational reasons for this; IMR in a state like Madhya Pradesh even today stands at 67, obviously the poor have more children as an insurance against higher child mortality in their states.

 

Son preference

 

The son preference is another major reason; the family is considered incomplete unless there is a son. In many cases the couples keep on having more children until they have a son. The girls in the high fertility states get married early; then they have children early to demonstrate their fertility, sometimes too many of them, and many keep on bearing children till late. One of the major reasons for the same is low female literacy rate and non-use of contraceptives in these States.

 

Then there is unwanted fertility. A number of surveys have shown that almost 60 per cent of the women do not want another child even in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The access to quality family welfare services is however, extremely poor, therefore they are in a way forced to bear more children. We need to increase access to quality family welfare services in these regions. Even in states, which have reached a replacement level of fertility, we need to delay the age of marriage and ensure spacing between children for healthy growth of mothers and children.

 

Clearly, we have a long way to go to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in the population policy 2000; the total fertility rate in the country still stands at 2.6 as against the expected 2.1. The current projections show we are likely to reach a replacement level of fertility only by the year 2021 and if growth continues at the same rate, stabilisation by the year 2056-57 at a level of 1.62 billion.

 

Will this population be sustainable? We need to reflect on this. The time to act is now.

The writer is Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development. He was formerly Executive Director, National Population Stabilisation Fund

 

 

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

EDITORIAL

MANAGING THE MURDOCHS

MEDIA MARKETS MUST REMAIN COMPETITIVE AND OPEN

The latest controversy in the British media, triggered by unethical professional practices by journalists at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, holds important lessons for the Indian media, and not just because Mr Murdoch has a significant presence in India and seeks more. The most important lesson is that public policy must prevent the emergence of all powerful media moguls like Mr Murdoch. The extent of concentration in the Indian media, at both the national and regional level, has grown alarmingly. Regrettably, such growth in size and revenue has not always contributed to good journalism, as we now see in Britain, and as is obvious in India. Unlike in many other branches of business, in media there is no evidence that with size of business and operation comes either quality or reliability.

The dominance of one business group in one segment of the media is dangerous, so is the increasing control of such dominant players across different segments of the media, namely, print, television and radio. While the government has not come forward with the promised broadcast Bill yet, the new FM radio policy has shied away from more stringent curbs on cross-media ownership. The "play safe" policy of auctioning licences to the highest bidder has been preferred obviously because of the controversy surrounding telecom licences, but there is a downside to "transparent auctioning" in the media business. It can privilege the powerful. Companies with deep pockets end up pocketing licences in the name of so-called transparency. A more confident government would have laid down other criteria too, including restricting cross-media ownership.

The sharp practices by Mr Murdoch's men and women in Britain draw attention to the hubris of a media intoxicated by power, made worse by the direct control that owners often exercise over editorial content. The consequent blurring of lines between the business bottom line and the editorial line is an assault on the idea of media as the "fourth estate" in a democracy. The Indian media has its Murdochs in every language publication and news channel. While the dominance of one or two media groups in each state and language market has not come in the way of a thousand flowers blooming, it has forced a large number of smaller players to become pawns in the hands of other business persons with deep pockets.

The Niira Radia tapes controversy in India drew attention to some of the unsavoury aspects of a nexus involving professional journalists, owners, politicians and business persons. This is only the tip of the iceberg. In various Indian states, the situation is worse with many Indian language media groups. The number of powerful politicians and business persons owning and openly controlling as well as manipulating the media is on the increase. The controversy surrounding former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran is an example of the media baron-politician-business person nexus. The Murdoch murk in Britain is a reminder of what could happen in India in the absence of regulation, rules of the game and codes of conduct aimed at preventing such unfair professional and business practices.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SOME COMMODITIES EASE

THANKS TO NATIONAL POLICIES AND GLOBAL TRENDS

Relief has come to the Indian economy from an unexpected quarter. Thanks to a cooling down of Asia's fast-growing economies and persistent low growth in developed economies, world commodity prices have softened. The medium-term trend witnessed in the past decade of a firming up of commodity prices may not have been reversed yet, but there is a thaw. The last quarter witnessed a decline in the prices of several key industrial commodities like oil, nickel, tin, steel, rubber and cotton. This comes against the background of a 30 per cent rise in commodity prices earlier in the year. Rising commodity prices were squeezing profit margins in the industrial sector, even as some manufacturers managed to pass this on to the consumer, and also exerted pressure on food prices. The G20 expressed serious concern over soaring commodity prices and the Food and Agriculture Organisation went a step further to advocate curbs on speculation in commodities. Forces on the demand and the supply side had contributed to this bullish trend. On the demand side, on top of rising demand from developing countries, the monetary easing by the US – through its quantitative easing policy – stimulated a demand for commodities as well as speculative investment in them. The financialisation of commodity markets was a logical consequence. On the supply side, national export control regimes and stock-building policies reduced global availability of several commodities. China, the world's leading player in the commodities sector, has, in particular, been using stock accumulation and export restrictions as a matter of state policy. While its excessive stock building in the past had disturbed the global supply-demand equilibrium of several commodities, the slowdown on this front in recent months has helped ease prices.

However, the China factor is far from over. It has retained curbs on the export of some key secondary commodities, such as bauxite, zinc, manganese, magnesium, silicon and the like, of which it is the premier supplier. Though the World Trade Organisation has held these curbs contrary to international trade laws, China seems unlikely to heed the world body, given the high domestic inflation and economic slowdown that the country is experiencing. The Chinese response to the global commodity boom and associated high internal inflation has, indeed, been no different from that of most other countries, including India. The strategies have tended to rely on financial instruments, such as a tightening of money supply and an increase in interest rates. These policies seem to have paid off, if looked purely from the inflation control standpoint, though there can be repercussions for overall economic growth. Gold and other precious metals, on the other hand, have seen a fall in price levels because of a strengthening of the dollar. The impact of a sobering down of commodity markets is also visible in India, where manufacturing companies are looking at the prospect of better margins thanks to reduced raw material costs. While non-agricultural commodity prices are softening, it is too early to hope for a similar softening of the prices of food and non-food farm goods.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

GROWTH, STABILITY AND CORRUPTION

POLITICAL INSTABILITY POSES A GREATER THREAT TO ECONOMIC GROWTH THAN CORRUPTION

SANJAYA BARU

Corruption in public life is not as much of a threat to economic growth as political instability. Cross-sectional and time-series evidence would show this. The starkest example is the hugely successful China of today. Mao's more ideologically pure and politically committed cadres ran a less corrupt system than Deng's disciples. But see who made China a rising power!

Closer home, India's "best performing" states, according to an exhaustive study by economists Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari, are Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Gujarat is home to Narendra Modi's government which has acquired the reputation of being one of India's less, if not least, corrupt governments. Tamil Nadu's two major ruling parties, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), have often been criticised for running governments that have been symbols of "efficient corruption" – work gets done – compared to the "inefficient corruption" in states like Jharkhand.

What Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have had, which has helped both states maintain high rates of growth over long periods of time, is political stability. Maharashtra is a good example of a state that has been afflicted with both corruption and political instability. The double whammy has hurt Maharashtra in the past decade.

Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, is an example of a state that experienced high corruption during the politically stable era of both Chandrababu Naidu and the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Corruption during both regimes did not hurt the state's growth as much as political instability has in the past two years. Andhra Pradesh has overnight become a hot potato for investors, including its own. Three prominent Hyderabad-based business leaders have moved out of the state in the past year, taking their business not just to other states but also outside India.

The correlation between political stability and economic performance is strong in South Asia as a whole. During the era of President Pervez Musharraf's "stable" regime, Pakistan's economy registered impressive rates of economic growth, by its recent standards, logging upwards of six per cent per year. In the past two years, the Pakistan economy has grown at just around two per cent. This year the most optimistic number coming out of even official Pakistan sources is 3.5 per cent growth.

Nepal tells a similar story. Its economy has suffered hugely at the hands of the political instability that has gripped this landlocked Himalayan nation in the past two years. On the other hand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have benefited from political stability, even if in Sri Lanka that stability has come at a high human cost. While Sri Lanka hopes to repeat last year's eight per cent growth story this year, Bangladesh expects to do that with its over six per cent growth.

Clearly, Pakistan and Nepal are examples of economies in which growth has suffered owing to political instability, while in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka political stability has fostered growth.

As a general proposition it can be said that political corruption is not as much a threat to economic growth as political and social instability. This is neither a nice thing to say or read nor a particularly elevating sentiment, but there it is.

On the other hand, one could even suggest, from Tamil Nadu's experience with the alternating regimes of the DMK and the AIADMK, that corruption may well oil the wheels of growth, while political instability would throw sand in them, as is happening today in Andhra Pradesh.

Both in Mumbai, India's financial capital, and in New Delhi the talk in the business cocktail circuit these days is that the fear of being charged with corruption among policy makers may be contributing to policy paralysis and a slowdown in growth and, at some stage, to political instability. If the absence of the oil of corruption slows the wheels of growth and the emergence of political instability throws sand into the already slow wheels, growth will plummet!

Events in Pakistan draw attention to the next threat from continued political instability — the flight of capital and talent. In the past decade, even when corruption was high, India continued to attract both investment and talent. However, in recent weeks more and more Indian business leaders are talking about investing abroad, including in China and Africa, as a way of de-risking and reducing their dependence on India.

Pakistan has seen such a flight of capital and talent. Millions of educated and wealthy Pakistanis are moving out of the country for fear of political instability. Though Nepal does not have as many rich or talented people, it too will experience this flight if political stability does not return quickly to the country.

There are, of course, fundamental moral objections to corruption in public life. Economists are also aware of the economic consequences of corruption, which can be both negative and positive. Corruption distorts the distribution of gains from economic activity, which contributes to inequity. At the same time, it oils the wheels of economic activity and policy making. Hence, economists cannot take a uni-dimensional view of corruption, while they would take a singular view of the negative economic consequences of political instability.

At a time when India is grappling with an economic slowdown, it would appear that any threat of political instability poses a greater problem for economic growth than the enduring problem of corruption in public life does.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

HOW INDIA CAN HELP BOOST US-IRAN TIES

NITIN PAI

As the war in Afghanistan enters what might be an endgame, it remains clear that there is broad convergence of geopolitical interests between two sets of players: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China on the one hand and India, Iran and the United States on the other. If Pakistan achieves its "strategic depth" in Afghanistan, it benefits Saudi Arabia to the extent that such an outcome unsettles Iran, Riyadh's regional and sectarian-ideological rival. For China, this means the United States is kept away from its south-western land frontiers, that Beijing is saved the messy business of intervening in Afghanistan and that friendly regimes help it manage the restive Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

If Beijing has masterfully managed its relationship with its natural allies, Washington has allowed a dogmatic petulance over Iran to take over strategic sense. Why else would it work to undermine co-operation among India, Iran and the United States to address the unprecedented threats to international security emanating from Pakistan's military-jihadi complex?

Imagine how profoundly the geopolitics of Asia will change should Iran and the United States were to co-operate, even if it is in the limited context of Afghanistan. Remember, the Iranians collaborated with their "Great Satan" ten years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, to get rid of the nearer Satan to their east.

Since improved ties between Iran and the United States are in India's interest, we should wonder why New Delhi doesn't do anything to lubricate a rapprochement.

This brings us to two myths about our own relationship with Tehran. Myth No. 1 is that without the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, we can neither buy gas from Iran nor have a good bilateral relationship with it. Myth No. 2 holds that the scope of India-Iran relations is limited by the tensions between Washington and Tehran. If it appears that these are ground realities, and not myths, it is because New Delhi chooses to make them so.

We don't need a pipeline, over land or under the sea, to get gas from Iran. We can buy it as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and ship it across to regasification terminals on India's shores.

The fascination with pipelines is part economics, part statist mindset, and part owing to the belief that a pipeline can bring peace between India and Pakistan.

Shipping LNG might be more expensive than the pipeline, but considering that the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline traverses the most dangerous territory in the world, the risk premium on the piped gas makes the project unviable without government subsidies. In other words, the taxpayer is being asked to make good what is fundamentally an unsound business case. Furthermore, even if pipelines can lock down gas supplies, Russia's attempts to coerce Europe using its monopoly position at the head end of pipelines demonstrate that being at the receiving end can be uncomfortable.

Proponents of a "peace pipeline" need to be asked whether India needs the pipeline for "peace" or for energy security. Should India's energy security be hostage to fantasies of those who want to put India's jugular in the hands of the Pakistani military establishment? It is astounding that a project that deliberately creates a vulnerability that Pakistan can exploit at will is somehow considered part of energy security.

Forget the pipeline. We must make strategic investments in LNG, enabling us to buy supplies from anywhere, including Iran.

On to the second myth. With India in a position to be a geopolitical swing power, India's ties with Iran need not be hostage to the tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Some might argue that this is already the case today, but the results on the ground have been unsatisfactory. Last year, Ayatollah Khamenei included Kashmir in the list of lands that needed to be "rescued from the demonic clutches of hegemonic powers". Pressure from the US caused India to disallow crude oil purchases from Iran under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism, hurting Indian importers and refiners. We are getting assailed by both sides.

New Delhi should declare India's interest in a rapprochement between the United States and Iran and work towards bringing them together, unofficially to start off with, and officially when it becomes possible. Indian diplomacy must be focused on persuading the two sides to undertake confidence-building measures. The goal should be to persuade the two sides to begin formal talks, under a "truce" with Washington committing to non-aggression even as Tehran halts its nuclear programme. Such a proposal will be rebuffed, but that need not deter us from taking our position.

Mr Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be very receptive, but let us remember that presidents can change, or change their minds. If a moderate Khatami could be replaced by an Ahmadinejad, the excesses of the latter could well cause a shift back to the centre. Similarly, if the US is cozying up to Vietnam today, and even talking to the Taliban, Washington is not totally devoid of realism.

So things can change. Especially if New Delhi musters the imagination and resolve that distinguish statesmanship from mere diplomacy.

The author is founder and fellow for geopolitics at the Takshashila Institution and editor of Pragati — The Indian National Interest Review

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

PROVISIONING FOR CREDIBILITY

THE CORPORATE GOVERNANCE ARCHITECTURE OF BANKS URGENTLY NEEDS REASSESSMENT.

K P SHASHIDHARAN

The way banks have been providing for liabilities disproportionately in different quarters over the years came to the attention of all stakeholders and regulators when the fourth quarter results of State Bank of India (SBI) for 2010-11 devastated investor confidence and credibility in financial reporting. This impacted the bank major's share price plummeting to one of its lowest marks.

A change in the chairmanship of the country's largest bank after five years enabled the bank to make unprecedented additional provisioning in the last quarter of the year to cover up inadequate provisioning for non-performing assets (NPAs) and pension liability for the preceding three quarters as required by the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) prudential norms and applicable accounting standards. This caused the bank's profit to decline 99 per cent to Rs 20.88 crore in the January-March quarter from Rs 1,867 crore.

The RBI's financial prudence norms stipulated that all banks should provision for 70 per cent of their NPAs and had set a September 2010 deadline. But where most banks made incremental provisions in each quarter to reach the prescribed level, SBI opted not to follow them till March 2010. So SBI's NPA coverage was just 44.36 per cent compared to Bank of Baroda's 74.46 per cent. ICICI Bank, ranked second in India by assets, reported 59.48 per cent coverage and Punjab National Bank 69.46 per cent.

Had the management provided for the additional NPA coverage from the time of the RBI stipulation, the impact per quarter would have been Rs 570 crore instead of the large Rs 2,330 crore made in the January-March quarter. SBI, being the leader in the banking industry, should have set an example by taking the lead to achieve the required coverage instead of waiting till the last quarter.

Again, according to the RBI's directive in November 2010, all banks offering teaser home loans had to provide higher provisioning of two per cent instead of 0.2 per cent earlier — which worked out to Rs 500 crore for SBI. Though its auditors asked it to make the higher provision for the quarter to December 2010, SBI made the provision only in the fourth quarter.

Though the need for provisions arose on account of wage revision in 2010, conservative accounting norms insist that provisions for such liabilities should be made from the year they become due based on broad estimates. SBI finally made a large provision of Rs 7,927 crore in the 2010-11 fourth quarter. Having insufficient profit, it had to draw this amount from the reserves, depleting its Tier-I capital below the benchmark eight per cent to 7.77 per cent. Since the government holds 59.40 per cent of SBI's equity, it was not convinced enough to permit the bank to go ahead with rights issue that had the potential to raise up to Rs 20,000 crore.

The fact that there are wide fluctuations in SBI's profitability whenever the leadership changes is a sad reflection on the quality of governance in the bank, despite the RBI's stringent norms and the entire gamut of corporate governance systems in place. The overwhelming power and influence of the chairman in deciding when and how mandatory provisioning should be carried out seems to prove that the pillars of the corporate governance architecture – board of directors, audit committee, the internal control framework, internal and external auditors – abdicate their collective wisdom and fall in line helplessly with the dominant leadership. The issue deserves to be examined in depth in other banks too.

The judicious application of prudential norms and accounting standards over the years could have averted erratically fluctuating stock prices owing to inappropriate reporting of quarterly financial results. If corporate governance in its true spirit is to be put in place, there seems to be a need to scrutinise the method of selecting members of the audit committee and reviewing its functioning. Fresh guidelines for fine-tuning quality governance may also be needed to deter inappropriate application of prudential norms. There is a case for overseeing the recent change in methodology of appointing auditors, who are selected by the management among the empanelled audit firms that compete fiercely for a few highly remunerative bank audits, instead of by the RBI and how auditors conduct the audit and differ in interpreting and applying the same norms.

All this may require a comprehensive review of provisioning and application of prudential norms cutting across all public, private and foreign banks. There is also a need for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to streamline its overseeing function and issue further guidelines to make auditors follow a code of ethics, irrespective of compulsions, even in circumstances in which powerful managements try to distort professional judgement in their favour.

The author is Director General in the Comptroller and Auditor General's office. These views are persona

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE CONUNDRUMS OF PUBLIC SECTOR BOARDS

THESE BOARDS NEED TO FUNCTION EFFICIENTLY TO MAXIMISE THE WEALTH OF THE NATION.

PRATIP KAR

The English lexicon says conundrum is a paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma. Talking of conundrums, a celebrated example of a conundrum appears in Alice in Wonderland. When Alice arrives at "a mad tea party" she notices that the tea party is characterised by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry. The Hatter asks Alice a riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" Hatter, of course, said he did not have an answer himself.

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the supercomputer, Deep Thought, was asked to find the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. After seven-and-a-half million years of computation and checking, the answer turned out to be 42. The ultimate question itself, however, was unknown. When Arthur Dent, the main hero of the book, attempted to extract the ultimate question, he got the question as "What do you get if you multiply six by nine"?

"Six by nine. 42."

"That's it. That's all there is." At this Arthur Dent concluded, "I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe."

The boards of public sector enterprises and parastatals, are also confronted with similar conundrums. The first conundrum: "What is the ultimate purpose of the boards of these enterprises, if these have very little role in strategy formulation?" Conundrum No 2: "Is it possible to resolve the inevitable conflicts between policy-making, regulation and commercial decision-making of an enterprise that has to function in a competitive market as opposed to a sheltered market?" Conundrum No 3: "Are there ways in which the government can exercise ownership functions without interfering with the boards of these enterprises?" Conundrum No 4: "Can the independent directors play an effective and meaningful role when the administrative ministry and the sector regulator are represented on the boards by very senior representatives?" Conundrum No 5 (which is a corollary to the previous one): "Do independent directors, then, really matter when 'all' is in the family?"

Of course, the underlying Euclidean assumptions behind the last two conundrums are that independent directors are always eager to bring to the board their expertise and wisdom, willing to speak up and contribute in the board meetings and are not simply cheerleaders.

Besides, there are overarching fixed boundary conditions imposed by the Acts that have created many of these enterprises and govern their objectives, purposes, the manner of their functioning, the board composition and selection of directors. A little examination would show that the difficulty often arises from the dominant logic borne out of deep apprehensions and abounding suspicions that these organisations are not yet mature enough and cannot be left alone, lest they run amuck.

There is also another issue that is not of mean significance. The government inescapably has several "public policy" and "greater social good objectives". These cannot be avoided, especially in a country like ours, but often give rise to the dominant logic that unless tight control is exercised by the senior representatives of the governments and regulators on the boards of these enterprises, the public policy objectives would be easily thwarted. Hence, the conclusion that organisations may have commercial objectives, and it is always a good idea to have boards and independent directors, but all cannot be left to them. They must be tied to the apron strings of the administrative ministries and sector regulators. This may, however, come in the way of growing the nation's wealth through increase of efficiency of these enterprises through well-functioning boards.

To change all this is not easy. It will only happen when there is inner willingness to change. It is not that we have not witnessed this willingness in the past. But the fears and apprehensions seem to be back now and with renewed vigour.

The ultimate solution to all the enlisted conundrums faced by a state-owned enterprise, be it an airline, or a bank or a manufacturing unit, would be found in the way the enterprise deals with governance challenges and the manner in which the majority owner and the sector regulator treats it as a commercial enterprise and is willing to give it the "real" freedom that is associated with a commercial enterprise. But the fundamental conundrum that needs to be solved is whether the enterprise is first a commercial enterprise, which competes in a free market and is valued on the stock exchange and then an enterprise that is government-owned. Or, is it a government-owned enterprise first, which has been permitted to operate in the free market. There is a difference in the emphasis in the two propositions, with attendant consequences. Assuming that we are not yet bold enough to agree to a "totally passive or distant ownership by the state", the answer to the conundrum can, however, be found in the politics rather than in the pure economics, though the hackneyed axiom is good economics makes for good politics. Our national and state poll results have time and again showed the truth behind this axiom.

An ancient Chinese proverb states that a fish rots from the head down. If an enterprise fails, one need only look to those at the top to find the root cause for that failure. The board of any corporate enterprise, irrespective of its ownership structure, is the fulcrum of the governance structure. So it is important that the governance of the boards need to improve. For this several steps need to be taken.

First, the Acts, which have established many of the state-owned enterprises in any sector, were enacted years ago when we did not have a market economy and none of these enterprises were even listed on the stock exchanges. The governance structures enshrined in the Acts may have become anachronistic and hence suitable amendments that reflect today's economic realities have become necessary. This will enable many of the organisations to be governed by contemporary principles of modern governance.

Second, the Acts need to lay down the broad principles of board governance, composition and structure of the boards.

Third, the board composition needs to undergo a change with only the internal and external directors. The presence of policymakers on the boards constrains the boards and presents conflicts. It also makes board members constantly look for approbation and approval from them at the board meetings. A condescending nod or deep lines on the forehead when discussing strategy issues can easily encourage or disenchant independent directors. The boards also need not have any representation from any vested interest groups. They are expected to act in the best interest of the company and not in the interest of any block shareholder who can, in any case, vote in the annual general meeting.

Fourth, the selection of independent directors needs to be based only on experience, knowledge and expertise and not on any other attributes. Their selection should happen only through the nominations committee. The position of the independent directors is not mere ornamental positions.

These changes will help many of the boards to function more efficiently. By enabling the boards to be composed efficiently, they will get a breathing space. The government or the regulator has nothing to lose from these changes, as in any case has powers under the statutes to give directions. This, of course, will not be easy unless there is a political will.

Like the Hatter's riddle and the ultimate question, the solutions to the conundrums faced by the boards of the public sector enterprises are not as hopelessly intractable as why the raven is like a writing desk or the question to which the answer is 42.

The author is former executive director of Sebi and is currently associated with the IFC's Global Corporate Governance Forum of the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank. These views are personal pratipkar21@gmail.com

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

G-20 AND FOOD PRICES

The G-20 will have to ensure there is free trade, without which prices will not come under control.

It is a pity that it took the G-20 — which accounts for 65 per cent of farmland in the world and 77 per cent of foodgrain production — so long to address the issue of surging food prices. Despite the long-standing nature of the problem, it was only two weeks ago that G-20 farm ministers agreed to set limits on export bans and create a crop database in a bid to tackle rising food prices. The agreement included a call for international market regulation, higher farm production and the development of a proposal for emergency food reserves. There can be no denying the G-20's complacency in addressing an issue as important as this. In February, an index of prices of 55 food commodities climbed to a record 238 (base period 2002-04) and it took the G-20 this long to wake up. Around the same time, the World Bank President, Mr Robert Zoellick, said that the elevated food prices had pushed 44 million people into poverty since June 2010, and that another 10 million could be added to the list if the index rose another 10 per cent. The World Bank has estimated that nations will spend $1.29 trillion on food imports this year, the highest ever, and 21 per cent more than last year. The Food and Agriculture Organisation, on its part, has been expressing concern over surging food prices since June 2010.

It is against this backdrop that the G-20 decision to examine any ban on exports becomes crucial. It should walk the talk. The actions of member-countries in the recent past have not been particularly inspiring. The first thing that Russia, a key group member, did to tackle the situation arising out of the worst drought it had faced in five decades was to ban wheat exports. Before that, India had played a prominent role in rice prices running up to $1,000 a tonne after it banned rice exports. Not only were the poorer sections in Africa affected but Indian paddy growers were also deprived of the gains from global prices. China, another key member, is also guilty of adopting such policies on foodgrains. Despite being pulled up by the World Trade Organisation over such export curbs, China refuses to budge. Likewise, India is yet to consider even lifting the ban on export of wheat and rice.

That said, the G-20 move to address surging food prices is in itself a positive development, as is its resolve to set up a crop database. It will have to ensure there is free trade, without which prices will not come under control. Policies have also to be formulated to encourage farmers to produce more and earn more.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

GLOBAL TRADE'S 'MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO' PROBLEM

VISHWANATH KULKARNI

Trade measures should be a last resort to enforce compliance, but only on the basis of multilateral scrutiny and approval through a mechanism.

The issue of unilateral trade measures (UTMs) has once again emerged as an area of concern for developing countries, including India, in the run-up to the United Nations climate talks to be held in Durban later this year.

UTMs include tariff, non-tariff and other fiscal and non-fiscal border trade measures that may be taken by developed countries against goods and services from developing countries. Pending the conclusion of a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol post-2012, the possibility of the developed world resorting to UTMs on imports from developing nations looms large. Policy-level discussions in the European Union and the United States indicate the possibility that provisions relating to UTMs may be imposed on imports from countries that do not have comparable green house gas (GHG) reduction norms.

A recent ICRIER Policy Paper "Unilateral Carbon Border Measures: Key legal issues" by Anuradha R.V. deals with the possible ways of addressing the issue.

The paper argues that though it may not be feasible to curb the possibility of unilateral actions, a strong multilateral framework could confine the limits of any such action.

Silent on triggers

The issue of UTMs assumes significance because the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) itself envisages the possibility unilateral actions. However, it is silent on the actual triggers that would justify implementing such measures.

Any unilateral action would have serious implications on the balance of rights and obligations that a multilateral agreement may hope to achieve under UNFCCC. But, this could be avoided if there is clarity on the conditions that need to be met prior to exercising any UTM, it says.

The Copenhagen and Cancun climate negotiations did deliberate on the UTMs, but the issue remains highly contentious and unresolved. India has strongly opposed any such unilateral action by the developed countries.

India recently called for the inclusion of UTMs as an additional item in the provisional agenda of the 17{+t}{+h} Conference of Parties of UNFCCC to be held in Durban. India believes that recourse to UTMs on any grounds related to climate change would be tantamount to passing mitigation burden onto developing countries. Such a move would clearly contravene the fundamental principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR).

CBDR principle

The CBDR principle has so far played a key role in defining the rights and responsibilities of countries in tackling climate change. However, the developed world is increasingly insisting that the developing countries, emerging as major emitters of GHGs, need to undertake commitments to address the issue.

Going by the current state of negotiations, chances of securing an outright ban on UTMs are not high, as the developed countries may not give up a right that they have acquired in the past. As there is no clear framework of agreed principle of unilateral action, any exercise of UTMs could result in trade disputes under WTO.

Last year, developed countries had threatened to raise the issue with WTO, when France and Italy had urged EU to consider a carbon tax on imports from developing countries. However, raising the issue with WTO may not be a panacea as it could throw up new challenges for the dispute settlement mechanism.

Multilateral measures

While a global climate pact is an imperative, trade measures within the anticipated framework should be confined only to the purpose of enforcement and compliance for which multilateral procedures have to be developed, the paper says.

Such procedures should envisage trade measures as a last resort to enforce compliance, but only on the basis of multilateral scrutiny and approval through a mechanism.

They should provide for multilateral determination of non-compliance, followed by multilateral authorisation of measures to obtain compliance, based on the precedent set by the Montreal Protocol and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Further, such multilateral procedures should provide for transparency, reporting, surveillance, consultation, arbitration and dispute settlement. They should be elaborately designed to ensure that members implement their obligations.

The paper states that trade measures to obtain compliance should be envisaged only against non-compliance with substantive obligations on reduction targets and should not be authorised for procedural shortcomings.

Should the elements for International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) and criteria for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of nationally appropriate mitigation actions, as envisaged under the Cancun Agreements, be converted into elements of a legally binding agreement, the remedy for non-compliance should not be trade measure, it states.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

BL DIARY - CAMERA CAPERS

It is not uncommon for news photographers and television cameramen to get into fights, among themselves if not with event organisers. At a recent event in Kolkata, some photographers were yelling out to a student presenter to move aside so that they could take pictures of Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and the West Bengal Governor. Evidently not used to the ways of cameramen, the hapless lass kept coming in their way. As the rumblings got louder, the former President — who must have some experience in dealing with such situations — stepped in gallantly. He not only helped the young lady move out of camera line; he also disarmed them by posing for them.

'Ash' comes after Santosh

Who is the most photographed personality from the Bunt community of coastal Karnataka? Could it be any of the famous Bollywood actors — Aishwarya Rai, Shilpa Shetty or Suniel Shetty? Surprise, surprise! It is actually Justice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka's highly popular Lokayukta, according to an office-bearer of the Mangalore chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Welcoming Justice Hegde as the keynote speaker at the recent CA Foundation Day , the ICAI office-bearer said the Lokayukta was the most clicked Bunt figure and has pushed the former Miss World to second place. For many months now, Justice Hegde has been in the spotlight, both for nailing Karnataka's corrupt public servants; and more recently as a member of the group that is drafting the Lokpal Bill.

Illustrious namesakes

You can never be too careful if you have to deal with illustrious namesakes. Just beware of slip-ups. At a recent Kolkata event, someone representing the organisers referred to the West Bengal Governor as "K. R. Narayanan", the late President. The Governor took it in his stride, but not without setting the record straight in his speech: "Much as I would like to be K. R. Narayanan, I am not. I am M. K. Narayanan." Everybody found it funny, except perhaps the embarrassed person from the organisers' side.

Eager to learn

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for K. V. Kamath, the Infosys chairman-designate and the non-executive chairman of ICICI Bank, it changed his life. Sharing the mantra for success, Kamath, during an interaction with journalists at the picturesque Bangalore Press Club, said that he was always curious and this made him learn new things and understand them better. "If you start with the assumption that you do not know anything, you will open up to newer experiences," he said. It was important to keep an open mind and look for opportunities, Kamath pointed out. These attributes and an engineering degree from the premier Regional Engineering College, Surathkal and an IIM-B spurred this man into making ICICI Bank one of the leading banks in South-East Asia.

Hit-and-run lessons?

Are there rules for certifying motor vehicle driving schools? Or are they allowed to flourish and become a law unto themselves? This is the question that came up in the mind of a colleague recently. Out on a Sunday morning walk, my friend noticed that a person learning how to drive scraped against another car while negotiating a turn. There were no casualties, except for a huge white scratch on the car that was hit. But rather than stop and take remedial action, the motor driving school instructor and student sped away. Now we know why so many people lose their lives in road accidents.

Full flights to Dhaka

An off-the-cuff remark by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Bangladesh has probably proved a money-spinner for the airline industry. No sooner was the PM's statement made public than there were a spate of announcements of high-profile visits to Dhaka. First off the block was External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna. Soon came the news that the Prime Minister would also visit Bangladesh. The Chairperson of the UPA, Sonia Gandhi, too is expected to wing her way to Dhaka. Officials from both countries will obviously fly between the two capitals to prepare the ground work for the high-profile visits, adding to the joy of the airline industry.

Factor T in business

Just as Hyderabad's monsoon build-up has ended in a whimper, it seems the latest Telangana agitation has turned somewhat tepid in spite of 100-plus legislators resigning from the Houses and a two-day bandh during the week hitting everyday life. So it seems to concerned T-watchers among industrialists. One of them, who sized up the new situation, said business sentiment was unlikely to be hurt whether a separate State was formed or not. His theory was: If the resignations of more than 100 MLAs have been brushed aside by the Centre on the ground that the issue called for a larger debate, a Telangana State is unlikely to be formed in a hurry.

The jolted legislators, meanwhile, are unsure about the next move and have cancelled all agitation plans.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SOUND INTENT, BUT...

THE PROFIT-SHARING POLICY FOR COAL IS A BAD IDEA AND THE CABINET SHOULD DUMP IT


A policy can be shoddy even if the underlying principle is sound. The group of ministers (GoM) approval last week for 26% profit-sharing by coal mining companies with local people is glaringly anomalous. It would be perverse incentive to fudge accounts, routinely prone to misinterpretation by all and sundry, and hugely problematic to implement as well. As many as 148 coal blocks have been identified for captive mining, for instance, and the notion of profit for such blocks would be wholly flawed. We certainly need to specifically earmark funds from mining for development purposes. For far too long mineral concessions have remained quite unrevised, thus depriving mineral-rich states of substantial funds for poverty alleviation. But the way ahead is to set aside funds from mineral output and sales, rather than link them to net profits which can dip and vary, be diverted via special purpose vehicles or simply go unreported by way of creative accounting. Instead, we need to value domestic minerals at globally traded prices, levy royalty at ad valorem rates, along with cess and other mining charges, and earmark a part of the corpus accruing to the states for local area development and compensation of those dispossessed.


The 13th Finance Commission did explicitly call for a share of royalty for mining areas, and it would make eminent sense to earmark funds upfront. The profit-share route for coal companies would be thoroughly questionable on other grounds, too. Consider the latest annual results of Coal India Ltd, the anachronistic public-sector monopoly. Its net is about . 10,000 crore, so a 26% profit share comes to . 2,600 crore. But CIL already spends a similar amount on social overhead. So would the 26% rule be over and above this expenditure? If yes, it would be cripplingly large. The Cabinet needs to nip the coal profitshare rule in the bud. Thankfully for minerals other than coal, the GoM wants development funds linked to royalty accruals, which is sound. But here again the levy ought to be transparently imposed on export prices of ore and not questionable (local) market prices that generally quote at a deep discount to the cross-border rates.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY UPHELD

THE APEX COURT RULING ON SALWA JUDUM SHOULD GUIDE ANTI-INSURGENCY OPERATIONS


The Supreme Court's July 5 ruling asking the government of Chhattisgarh to disband its so-called Special Police Officers has a bearing on the entire conduct of anti-insurgency operations across the country. The Union government as well as state governments will do well to take this fully on board, to avoid further raps from the judiciary. At the operational level, the Court has delegitimised and demobilised the armed bands used by the government against Maoists, and asked the Centre to not fund such militias. It has also called for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into excesses conducted by one such militia in Chhattisgarh. At a more general level, the Court takes up and refutes the view that Constitution, its values, rights and provisions can be held in abeyance while containing insurgents. The state upholds and acts in the name of the law against those who challenge the constitutional order itself, and is obliged to follow the spirit and letter of the law. The Court also comes down heavily on the failure of the state to modulate its counter-insurgency strategy to accommodate the role of its own moral and functional lapses in giving rise to widespread violent resistance by sections of the poor against deprivation and dispossession. This is welcome vindication of the capacity of the institutions of democracy to perform checks and balances on one another to deepen democracy.


That said, it is unfortunate that the Court chose to pass facile judgment on economic paradigms and development strategies. By describing India's current set of policies as neo-liberal, the Court gave legitimacy to populist rants on the subject. That the Union government can today spend . 12 lakh crore to advance popular welfare stems wholly from the success of the policies the Court dismissed as privatisation leading to emaciated state capacity to finance vital functions. The Court fails to distinguish between economic reforms and the unreformed, degenerate politics that aborts much of the emancipatory potential of economic reforms. This failure is a disservice to itself and to the nation as a whole.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEARLY CHEAP

SOLVING THE PUZZLE OF DELHI AND MUMBAI FIGURING IN THE LIST OF THE CHEAPEST CITIES

 

Delhi and Mumbai are the fifth and third cheapest cities of the world, out of 134 surveyed, says a news report. This comes as a shock, naturally, to those who live in these places and have been led to believe that they lead a pretty expensive life. Particularly what with the global commodity price boom pushing up material prices and the government's bleeding-heart employment schemes ratcheting up all kinds of labour costs. With their considerable experience in 'arranging' surveys to deliver the desired results, many a Dilliwala or Mumbaikar might be tempted to conclude the survey which came up with these results was manipulated by some sponsor or the other. Such cynicism goes out of the door when the same news report reveals that the survey was conducted by a respectable organisation. But a scrutiny of the top five cities and the two Indian cities' neighbours at the bottom yields a clue.


Tokyo leads the pack, followed by Oslo, Kobe, Paris and Zurich. One cannot readily vouch for Paris, but the other four are some of the most placid, peaceful cities of the world. When we come to the bottom of the ranking, giving company to Delhi and Mumbai are Tehran, Tunis and Karachi, the last mentioned being crowned the cheapest city of them all. Karachi gives the game away immediately, lifting all mystery over what exactly is cheap in these places jostling for space at the bottom of the list. Life, liberty and human dignity are what goes cheap in these towns and what makes Delhi and Mumbai worthy contenders in the race to global cheapness. When crime goes unchecked, even after being widely reported and condemned, and criminals run rampant, life gets degraded, deformed, even extinguished. Life, in other words, gets cheap. Call it the lighter side of death.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

IF ONLY THE WORLD WERE FLAT

IN THE REAL WORLD, PEOPLE ASPIRE FOR MEANING AND SUBSTANCE BEYOND MATERIAL WEALTH AND PROGRESS


Leading nations in politically and economically 'iffy' times is not easy. Flak comes from all sides. Watching President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh facing their nations, the opening line of Rudyard Kipling's poem, Ifcomes to mind — 'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you'.


If only the world was flat, as Thomas Friedman said it is, life for national leaders would have been simpler. Friedman described a world flattened by the flow of finance, corporations, and brands across its surface, enabled by a rising tide of technological innovations. In this flat world, countries compete to attract investors, and nations' leaders are called upon to make reforms to invite money into their countries. If only it was that simple. Friedman's earlier book The Lexus and the Olive Tree was about the round world, as it really is. In it, he pointed to two forces contending to shape humanity's progress. The Lexus represents global brands that people in all countries aspire for. The Olive Tree represents people's roots in their histories, and also their struggles for respect for their unique identities and beliefs. Friedman suggested that the modern Lexus would smother the anachronistic Olive Tree.


However, until they are around, these deep-rooted forces must be respected too. In fact, they are getting stronger, aided by the very Internet and technology that is flattening the world for corporate brands. New technologies are enabling local demands of people — for their rights to their lands and their demands for social and political justice — to be taken up by global communities. It is noteworthy that the number of civil society organisations is increasing much faster even than business corporations. And an energetic news media, also enabled by these technologies, will not let the trees be uprooted quietly.


In the middle, between the globalising world of finance and commerce flowing above, and the awakening world of concerns for human rights and equity rooted beneath, lie national governments. They must reconcile demands of international investors and corporations with demands of people within their national boundaries. From the perspective of foreign investors, a government that cannot stand up to the political forces within its country and make the reforms they want is non-reformist and weak. On the other hand, politics within nations demands that governments — especially elected governments —primarily respond to their people. People in India have been demanding political and social reforms. Indeed, these reforms have been waiting longer than the pending reforms of the financial system that concern international investors.


Kipling has more advice for leaders in If: 'If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings/ Nor lose the common touch'. If this was difficult when Kipling wrote his poem a hundred years ago, it is much more difficult in a 24x7 news world, in which leaders must not only be, but also seen to be, in touch with people all the time. 'People Like Us' were surprised when the NDA government, which claimed to have brought a shine to India, lost the national elections in 2004. Even more surprising was the crashing defeat of the Andhra chief minister who had been feted as a great 'CEO' by businesses in India and abroad. He had brought about substantial reforms that had benefited not only business investors but the people of the state too. In a private meeting with leaders of an Indian business association after his defeat, he said he never wanted to be publicly seen in their company again! His celebrated association with the international business crowd had made common people suspect that he was no longer one of them, he said.


    The former CM of West Bengal broke out of his communist party's mould to invite big industry to his state. His opponent in the recent election said he had not taken care of the people. She won a landslide election victory. Now she must appear fair to both, the people and also industrialists — whom she too is inviting to the state.


Economic reforms, such as industrial and financial reforms that impact corporations, are hard enough to sell. Land, agriculture, labour, judicial, electoral and administration reforms are much harder. Because they directly affect the lives of people, they require a much wider political consensus. Economics can be explained rationally, or so economists hope, because it is about 'rational' actors. Whereas political and social concerns are rooted in emotions, as Francis Fukuyama explains in his recent book The Origins of Political Order. Therefore, political and societal values cannot be expressed in the same language as calculations of financial value.
Around the world, political leaders and economists are realising that they cannot sell the idea of a better world to people merely in economic terms such as higher growth in GDP. People want to know how their lives will be improved, the freedoms they will have, and even indications of how much happier they would be! Like good architects, leaders must be able to describe the house they will build for the people, not merely in terms of the sturdiness of the walls and quality of the plumbing, but also in terms of the ambience of the home. People need a tangible vision of the future towards which they are being led, for them to willingly cooperate with the reforms necessary to create the home they desire.

 

ARUN MAIRA MEMBER, PLANNING COMMISSION

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

THE TWO-SECOND ADVANTAGE IN BUSINESS

ULLEKH N P


The Mumbai-born Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé is looking forward to the release of his new book, The Two-Second Advantage, which will hit the stands in the next few months. He has collaborated with writer Kevin Maney to talk about a certain "edge" that he says "can make the difference between winning and losing".


While Ranadivé's inputs for the book are more on technology and company behaviour, those of Maney are on individual behaviour, especially of top executives and other professionals. The book, says Ranadivé, is about the art and science of possessing and picking the right information in the right context. "That will make the world a better place," says the chief executive of TIBCO Software, which is widely credited with digitising Wall Street. According to Ranadivé, who is pursuing opportunities in the "cricket space" in India, a piece of information you get two seconds early is more valuable than a huge chunk of information six months later. His soonto-be released book will dwell at length on the advantage of possessing "that right piece of information" and making use of it in the most suitable way possible, Ranadivé says.


On collaborating with a professional writer, Ranadivé, himself a best-selling author of books such as The Power of Now and The Power to Predict, says, "We came together on it because my own focus was about how companies and governments can work better with the twosecond advantage… he focused on individuals such as CEOs and chat show hosts and others. So I thought it would be fun to collaborate." The two-second advantage, he says, is crucial in all walks of life. "If you are able to stay ahead of the curve, if you know what is about to happen in two seconds, you can make a lot of difference to what you do," he says, adding that "you can prevent something like say, losing a customer, if you know the right information a little bit beforehand."
Then he asks, "What is the point in knowing that fraud or a cyber attack has occurred after it has happened?" The two-second advantage is all about anticipating a little beforehand about what is going to happen, because it will help you win a customer, click with the audience as a chat show host or be a good leader of people, besides stopping something from happening, Ranadivé says. If businesses want to use specific information properly, they need specific software, he adds. The 53-year-old founder of the Palo Alto, California, based infrastructure-software provider, whose India unit is headquartered in Pune, says he is looking at significantly expanding in the country, apart from looking for opportunities in the glamorous, multi-billiondollar Indian Premier League (IPL), first launched in 2008. Asked if he would be interested in chasing non-IPL opportunities in cricket in India, he says: "IPL has the potential to emerge as a global platform." He also expects that thanks to more and more Indians making the US their home, cricket is bound to become popular in North America.


Ranadivé, who played cricket and football while growing up in Mumbai, has also been aggressively working at bringing NBA (National Basketball Association), the popular US basketball league, to India. In fact, Ranadivé, who left India in the mid-1970s to study at MIT and Harvard, is the first Indian-American to hold a large stake in an NBA team, Golden State Warriors. He is part of a consortium, GSW Sports LLC, led by Hollywood producer Peter Gruber and others, which bought the team, last year. He sees basketball will grow into a highly popular game in the country in the next five years. "Of course, it will always be next only to cricket," he hastens to add. He expects this to happen because in a country like India, which has a high density of population, the game can be played in smaller courts, as opposed to cricket and soccer. Bringing NBA to the country will mean setting up a local unit, hiring players, holding exhibition matches and tying up with corporates. Ranadivé had earlier talked about plans to use a software named Spotfire to help basketball players perform better and anticipate rivals' movements. He also said that his company's lays a lot of stress on cloud computing. He also sees IT requirements in counterterrorism and battlefield operations to emerge further as a major business opportunity. TIBCO is in the process of setting up a new facility in Hyderabad as its local arm looks to add clients and increase presence as an infrastructure software provider in the country, says Ranadivé, a hardware engineer by training who went on to launch one of the world's highly reputed software companies.

 

VIVEK RANADIVÉ

CEO

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

CAPITALISM'S IDEOLOGICAL CRISIS

JOSEPH E STIGLITZ


 Just afewyears ago, a powerful ideology — the belief in free and unfettered markets — brought the world to the brink of ruin. Even in its hey-day, from the early 1980s until 2007, American-style deregulated capitalism brought greater material well-being only to the very richest in the richest country of the world. Indeed, over the course of this ideology's 30-year ascendance, most Americans saw their incomes decline or stagnate year after year.


Moreover, output growth in the United States was not economically sustainable. With so much of US national income going to so few, growth could continue only through consumption financed by a mounting pile of debt.
Iwas among those who hoped that, somehow, the financial crisis would teach Americans (and others) a lesson about the need for greater equality, stronger regulation, and a better balance between the market and government. Alas, that has not been the case. On the contrary, a resurgence of right-wing economics, driven, as always, by ideology and special interests, once again threatens the global economy — or at least the economies of Europe and America, where these ideas continue to flourish.


In the US, this right-wing resurgence, whose adherents evidently seek to repeal the basic laws of math and economics, is threatening to force a default on the national debt. If Congress mandates expenditures that exceed revenues, there will be a deficit, and that deficit has to be financed. Rather than carefully balancing the benefits of each government expenditure programme with the costs of raising taxes to finance those benefits, the right seeks to use a sledgehammer — not allowing the national debt to increase forcesexpenditures to be limited to taxes.


This leaves open the question of which expenditures get priority — and if expenditures to pay interest on the national debt do not, a default is inevitable. Moreover, to cut back expenditures now, in the midst of an ongoing crisis brought on by free-market ideology, would inevitably simply prolong the downturn.
A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the US faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring healthcare costs — fuelled in part by the commitment of George W Bush's administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake —quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.
The remedies to the US deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich. But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the US economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the US financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways.
But matters are little better in Europe. As Greece and others face crises, the medicine du jour is simply timeworn austerity packages and privatisation, which will merely leave the countries that embrace them poorer and more vulnerable. This medicine failed in East Asia, Latin America and elsewhere, and it will fail in Europe this time around, too. Indeed, it has already failed in Ireland, Latvia, and Greece.


There is an alternative: an economic-growth strategy supported by the EU and the IMF. Growth would restore confidence that Greece could repay its debts, causing interest rates to fall and leaving more fiscal room for further growth-enhancing investments. Growth itself increases tax revenues and reduces the need for social expenditures, such as unemployment benefits. And the confidence that this engenders leads to still further growth. Regrettably, the financial markets and right-wing economists have gotten the problem exactly backwards: they believe that austerity produces confidence, and that confidence will produce growth. But austerity undermines growth, worsening the government's fiscal position, or at least yielding less improvement than austerity's advocates promise. On both counts, confidence is undermined, and a downward spiral is set in motion.


Do we really need another costly experiment with ideas that have failed repeatedly? We shouldn't, but increasingly it appears that we will have to endure another one nonetheless. A failure of either Europe or the US to return to robust growth would be bad for the global economy. A failure in both would be disastrous — even if the major emergingmarket countries have attained self-sustaining growth. Unfortunately, unless wiser heads prevail, that is the way the world is heading.


(The author is University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in economics)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

MURDOCH AND THE END OF NEWS

THE SUDDEN CALL TO KILL NOTW HAS ONCE AGAIN SHOWN THE MEDIA BARON'S RUTHLESS INSTINCT TO SEE THE BIGGER BUSINESS PICTURE


 Rupert Murdoch has always had two fascinations: the first is what he calls 'a spiritual calling towards journalism'; the second, the vision of science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke who, in 1945, imagined that a satellite placed in geosynchronous orbit would solve the 'global broadcast distribution problem.' Both of these primal impulses – the business of news and the animal urges of television – have combined with a third, the inexorable urge for corporate expansion to land News Corp in the mess that it is in right now.


 The phone-hacking tabloid News of the World has 'died of shame', as one British newspaper put it; there is a big question mark now over Murdoch's bid to buy 100% stake in Britain's largest satellite broadcaster BSkyB; and British politics is seeing its greatest debate in twenty years over the cosy equation between politicians, the media and the police.

 

 It is a churning that could have farreaching implications not only for Britain, and Prime Minister David Cameron, but also for the wider Murdoch empire and global media.

 

In the 1980s, Murdoch changed the face of the British press when he broke the power of the unions, single-handedly changed its prevailing culture and found common ideological cause with Margaret Thatcher who was breaking up unions in other sectors. It wasn't just ideological. Even Tony Blair's 'Cool Britannia' was based so much on an alliance with Murdoch that Lance Price, a special advisor at 10 Downing Street at the time, thought that he 'seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet'.

 

A Conservative government is now in power, but it is even cosier with Murdoch – James Cameron's former communications chief Andy Coulson has just been arrested in a police investigation into corruption and phone-hacking from his time as editor of News of the World and like the 2G scam, the longer the investigations continue, the more questions will be asked of the Prime Minister. At the very least, his judgement is in question.
    The unexpected decision to kill News of the World, Britain's largest selling newspaper, has once again shown Murdoch's ruthless instinct to see the bigger business picture.

 

It also seems unfair to many because the alleged phone-hacking (including that of a murdered teenage girl) happened years ago, and most of its current staff, from the editor downwards, is new.

 

With nearly 7.5 million readers, the paper was a cash cow but its revenues accounted for only a fraction of News Corp's global empire which earns about $32 billion a year, with assets totalling $56 billion.
    By closing it down, Murdoch is trying to keep the shadows of the scandal from affecting his real game – the politically controversial battle to buy out the 61% of shares in BSkyB that he doesn't already own. BSkyB made $2 billion in profits last year; this will be Murdoch's biggest acquisition, if it goes through; and it could change British television forever.

 

 With at least three investigations underway, there is probably much more muck that could come out and Mr Murdoch seems to be cutting his losses. Killing the masthead that was responsible may take the sting out of the criticism. But he has raised eyebrows by sticking by his Chief Executive in London, Rebekah Brooks, who edited News of the World from 2000-2003.
    She has denied knowing anything about phone-hacking but some of the wrong-doing happened under her watch. Politicians have been demanding her head and sacrificing an entire paper but sticking by her opens up charges of cynical pandering.
    The biggest long-term impact of this crisis could also be on the long-term succession stakes within News corp. Mr Murdoch is 80 years old and three of his six children have at various times have been seen as the heir apparent in a group where the family commands over 38% of the voting stock.
    Some talk of how the now-threatened BSkyB deal would have strengthened the stature of James Murdoch, who took over a newly created role as Deputy COO and Chairman and CEO, International, at New Corp earlier this year. Said to be the current first among equals, he has handled the London affair so far. His older brother, Lachlan, gave up his executive position at the company some years ago, and his sister Elisabeth, who left as well, has recently been involved in talks that could bring her own production company closer to News Corp.

 

 At its heart, the current crisis is about questions of governance in the world's most powerful media group and this could well have a bearing on its future directions.

 

 Whatever way the current crisis plays out, Mr Murdoch is not one to back away from a fight.
    His detractors should read former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating's reading of the media baron. As he reportedly advised Tony Blair: 'He's a big bad bas**** and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bas**** too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength.'

 

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DOLLAR APOCALYPSE

 

A group of US financial analysts has been predicting a dollar apocalypse that will devastate economies and lives all over the globe. The problem, according to them, is the wayward dollar. The world's reserve currency that has oiled international trade since the demise of the Gold Standard has been rapidly losing value as a profligate United States prints more and more dollars to cover its growing spending gap. Since 1971 when the then US President Richard Nixon declared that the US dollar would no longer be backed by gold, the global financial community has relied on the prudence of America's central bank, the Federal Reserve Bureau (better known as the Fed), to maintain the dollar's credibility. For most of the years since then, the Fed could print more dollar notes than the US economy needed without increasing its reserves of gold or stoking domestic inflation. The system worked because in the decades since 1971, world trade burgeoned like never before and the demand for dollars to finance that trade remained high. While every country had to sell something to get dollars, for the US government dollars were free, they could just be printed and used to buy things. There was, of course, a limit to the amount of dollars that the Fed would print. For, as every economist knows no responsible government can allow money supply to grow beyond some level considered prudent. Financial experts, central bankers around the world and even governments closely watched the US Fed's figure for money-supply growth, what economists call the M3 — the total of cash, bank deposits and so on. Then suddenly in 2006, the Fed stopped publishing M3 figures and left it to the financial community to guess just how much dollar liquidity was growing. At about the same time, it was clear that US trade deficit with China and other countries had gone through the roof and the Fed was having to raise more and more debt to finance that and a growing budget deficit. American spending had breached its earning envelope and was in free rise. The US federal budget deficit continues to surge and will hit $1.4 trillion this year. US national debt is capped at the level of $14.3 trillion and US President Barack Obama needs to legislate if the government is to borrow beyond this limit. But if this is not done by August 2, then the US Treasury could actually default on loan repayment, an event that is certain to trigger a tsunami in global financial markets. One way to avoid that would be to print even more dollars — literally print one's way out of debt. Some financial analysts claim that the monetisation of the US debt has been going on for the past two years through the expansion of deposit currency. This could lead to dollar-hyper inflation and eventually, perhaps, the end of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Already, the value of the dollar has been falling. Every strong currency has gained against the dollar; some exceptions include the South Asian countries, sanctions-hit Iran and troubled economies like Syria and Laos. In Europe, every single country has gained over the dollar except Turkey, Ukraine and Belarus. In Australia, for the first time in history, the local dollar is worth more than a US dollar! Even the battered Euro has risen 11 per cent against the dollar. The impact of the inflationary dollar on world trade has been devastating, especially for countries with high levels of inelastic import demand. Since most globally traded goods are priced in dollars, as the value of the dollar falls, their dollar price tends to rise. This is one reason for the sharp increases in global commodity prices, including that of oil. In many parts of the world, investors, including central bankers, are gradually but surely divesting their dollar assets and buying gold and silver. The dollar is rapidly losing credibility. India is groaning under the weight of rising commodity prices, especially oil. India's high dependence on energy imports has led to skyrocketing energy import bills, huge trade deficits and a consequent pressure on the rupee. As energy imports get more expensive, India will find itself increasingly in trouble with the Indian rupee unable to compensate for the falling value of the US dollar. Unlike other strong currencies, the real value of the rupee will continue to plummet. At one level, India's dilemma reflects a global issue: the lack of a credible alternative to the dollar. Despite periodic statements by world leaders that the global financial system needs reworking, nobody has been able to come up with a working solution that would do away with the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Everybody is hoping that the US government will mend its ways, get its finances in shape and avert the inevitable crisis. Problem is that all countries are resistant to change, especially when it threatens to affect their way of life. In Washington, too, there is no consensus on how to reduce expenditures: Democrats are looking at the whole problem as a social-spending issue; Republicans are resisting proposals to increase taxes on the rich; and President Obama, who clearly recognises the need to bring some budgetary order, is hamstrung by concerns about his re-election next year. To many American lawmakers, the global currency crisis might look chimerical, an unreal threat dreamed up by crazy financial experts. Problem is if it does break, it will not just bring down large parts of the global financial system but the power of the United States as well. * The author is an independent security and political risk consultant

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MICROFINANCE: BILL TO BRING IN ORDER

 

The government's proposed bill to bring the `22,000-crore microfinance industry under the regulation of a single entity — the Reserve Bank of India — has been widely welcomed, both by the industry and the public at large. In fact, the biggest listed name in the industry welcomed the move and saw its shares jump by 20 per cent on the day the proposed bill was announced. The government has invited comments on the bill from the public and will finalise it after taking these into account. Bringing the industry under one regulator was a long-felt need because if each state has its own rules and regulations, the situation can be pretty chaotic. The Reserve Bank deputy governor, Mr K.C. Chakrabarty, had said a few days earlier: "If we don't act under a common set of regulations (for the microfinance industry), it won't be practical to work. Five states having five different laws on the same subject will have practical difficulties for the industry." Till a Central law is in place, the Andhra-type situation can arise again, and this will nullify whatever the RBI is trying to do to bring some order, he pointed out. AP is a classic example: the state government had passed an ordinance that contained stringent regulations for the industry to follow. Not surprisingly, it was up in arms as it was unable to collect crores of rupees from borrowers. The AP government, however, was not wrong to enact such an ordinance — its move had followed complaints about the use of muscle power against those who had failed to pay back loans, and subsequent suicides by borrowers who could not pay up. There was also a considerable amount of misuse of funds as borrowers in some cases had used the loans to pay back others from whom they had borrowed money, something called "evergreening" in banking terminology. This was far removed from the original concept of microfinance — as developed by its pioneer, Bangladesh's Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank founder Muhammed Yunus, popularly known as the father of microfinance. The industry was accused of borrowing cheap from the banks and lending at exorbitant rates — of between 30 to even 60 per cent. It was not even sure if the borrowers, who were predominantly women, were really made financially independent or were able to have a sustainable business such as vegetable vending, which was the principal objective of microfinancing. It is to be hoped that the new bill will also provide for the independent monitoring of end users of loans — as it is absolutely vital for the borrowers to be made financially stable. Microfinance is in a way the device which can make possible "inclusive growth" — the mantra of both the Reserve Bank and the UPA government. The argument that the microfinance industry had tried to make was that it was being targeted by politically powerful moneylenders, who had a thriving business until the MFI firms came along. There may or may not be any truth in this, and it is for the government to act against usurious moneylenders. But this certainly cannot be used to justify the way some of the microfinance companies have behaved. This bill will hopefully go a long way in regularising the industry and in laying down guidelines so that the industry is able to fulfil its true objective — of helping the urban and rural poor as well as the disadvantaged. It gives the RBI the power to register microfinance companies and set benchmark and performance standards for the entire industry to follow.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A WORD IN DEFENCE OF TABLOID JOURNALISM

 

Forgive me if I don't join in the orgy of sanctimony surrounding the News of the World. If any evidence is uncovered that proves a member of the paper's staff hacked into Milly Dowler's phone and deleted her voicemail messages, then, yes, he or she should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But to describe such behaviour as "shocking" is to reveal an astonishing ignorance about the tabloid profession. It's a bit like claiming to be "shocked" when a celebrity is caught cheating on his wife or a politician is caught lying through his teeth. The reason phone hacking was, until recently, such an established tool of the Fleet Street trade — and I'm talking about every red-top, not just the News of the World — is because a good tabloid journalist will stop at nothing in pursuit of a story. That's the newsroom culture. They don't cross the line into illegality because they're dishonest or corrupt or lack a moral compass. It's because they have until 5.30 pm that evening to nail the story and they know that if they don't, someone else will. People unconnected with Fleet Street imagine that tabloid journalists have all sorts of sinister agendas. They're determined to distract the masses from their wretched plight by bombarding them with celebrity tittle-tattle or tricking them into voting for whichever political party has promised to do the most to advance the business interests of their proprietor. Or they're racists or homophobes or misogynists. In fact, there's only one agenda on the Street of Shame and it's the news agenda. Getting stories — and getting them first — is the vital thing. Everything else pales in comparison. The reason the Milly Dowler revelations have surprised some people is because at the time of the alleged incident she was missing, presumed dead. Again, this is to reveal a breathtaking lack of knowledge about the culture of tabloid hacks. They pride themselves on being unsentimental about the dead or the recently bereaved. Surely everyone knows that if you lose a member of your family in a terrible accident and a tabloid reporter turns up on your doorstep, the last thing you should do is invite them in for a cup of tea. The moment your back is turned, they'll steal a photograph of your loved one from your mantelpiece. Remember, it used to be a rule of the Daily Express foreign desk that any journalist coming across a scene of carnage and devastation was to announce themselves with the following words: "Anyone here been raped and speaks English?" Walter Kerr, the late New York Times drama critic, summed up this attitude when he reviewed a production of The Front Page, Hecht and MacArthur's affectionate satire of the Chicago newspaper industry. The central character is a no-nonsense editor called Walter Burns and Kerr described the essence of his appeal as his ability "to walk into a tough situation in order to be brutally nonchalant." This was the chief characteristic of Chicago newspapermen, their complete lack of sentimentality and it remains the hallmark of most tabloid hacks. Any News of the World journalist who thought he ought to temper his zeal because the story he was working on concerned a 13-year-old schoolgirl who had probably been murdered was in the wrong office. Now, you might disapprove of some of the "dark arts" that tabloid journalists use — phone hacking, for instance — but if they always played by the rules they'd rarely get the scoop. Some of these stories are trivial and hardly of vital national importance, but others are not. Without the unscrupulous, appalling, "shocking" behaviour of red-top reporters, we probably wouldn't know about Cecil Parkinson's infidelity or John Prescott's affair with his secretary. We wouldn't know about the match-fixing antics of Pakistani cricketers or the corruption at the heart of Fifa. Yes, the ink-stained wretches regularly desecrate the graves of dead girls, but they also speak truth to power and they do it more often — and with more impact — than the broadsheets. So by all means condemn the News of the World for its newsroom culture, a culture that encouraged reporters to think it was acceptable to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of an "exclusive". But before you get up on your high horse, remember that without these Fleet Street foot soldiers Britain would be a more corrupt country in which the ruling class could engage in all sorts of nefarious practices with no fear of being caught. Without its tabloid newspapers, Britain would be France. By arrangement with the Spectator

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HIDDEN TREASURE, ROYAL TEARS

 

Ever since a dazzling treasure was discovered in the cellars of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, all eyes (and ears) have been on the Travancore royal family, which runs the temple. But the family has been tightlipped so far. So the media has been hanging on to every word uttered by the head of the family, Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma, who is still king to many people of Travancore. Reporters went up to him when he attended a function organised by the railways and sought his reaction. But all he said was, "You can read it in my eyes" and drew two lines on his cheek. The media deconstructed this as "tears" and speculated that the royals were sad at the treasure being brought out. However, the next day, Mr Varma handed over his collection of news clippings and magazines to a library. The media interpreted this as a sign of his desire to give the wealth to the people though it ran contrary to their earlier finding. And on July 1, he dwelt on the "dimming of the light from the East" while releasing a book on Vedanta. Mediapersons are now racking their brains on whether this also has any connection with the temple wealth. Probably we need a Dan Brown to crack the Travancore code. From Lucknow to Delhi Trains and flights from Lucknow to Delhi are under surveillance in Uttar Pradesh. This has nothing to do with any terror threat but relates to speculation that upper caste Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs are hobnobbing with the Congress and planning to defect. Sleuths are now keeping a close watch on trains and flights to Delhi to track BSP MLAs who are making frequent visits to Delhi without any apparent reason. A number of BSP MLAs have already booked seats on trains and flights for the next month when the Monsoon Session of Parliament begins. This is the time when all Congress leaders will be stationed in Delhi and meetings will be happily arranged through "common friends". Some shrewd BSP MLAs, meanwhile, have sensed the surveillance exercise and are quietly changing their plans. "Recently, an intelligence sleuth casually asked me about the duration of my stay in Delhi (next month) and I immediately sensed that something was amiss," said a BSP MLA. "I am now changing my itinerary and mode of travel." Most MLAs are now planning to take the road route while some are going to Delhi via Mumbai, Kolkata and even Patna to escape identification. Once out of Lucknow, the state politicians find all roads leading to Delhi. The toughie and his truth Deputy chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar is regarded as an egotistic and arrogant man, who often crosses limits in his speeches. When the controversy about his adverse comments about the media was raging, he said at a rally, "I am a thagya (a hefty, thug-like person). In politics, you have to be a thagya." In Lokrajya, the state government's official magazine, where the current edition's theme is "habit of reading", several state leaders have written on the books they had recently read. Mr Pawar has written about Mahatma Gandhi's My Experiments with Truth. He said he learnt a lot from the book and has been so impressed with the book's ideology that he follows it strictly in his life. "I believe in speaking the truth," he said. "I make tough decisions and stick to them. I am always straightforward and tell people the truth right in their face. Maybe people mistake all this for arrogance." Political doctors The Congress has always depended on "doctors" in politics to lead the organisation in Rajasthan. Last time, it was Dr C.P. Joshi who served as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief. Dr Joshi had a master's degree in physics and a Ph.D. in psychiatry and has also taught at the University of Udaipur. "When he was the PCC chief, he ensured discipline," said a party leader. "He used to convert the party office into a classroom. When someone crossed the limit, he would be reprimanded like a student." Now Dr Chandarbhan has replaced Dr Joshi as the PCC chief. He has a background in medicine and is different from his predecessor. "Since he is a doctor, he takes the worker to a corner like a doctor does with a patient and hears him calmly," said a leader. Before Dr Joshi and Dr Chandarbhan, Dr B.D. Kalla led the organisation as the PCC chief. He was a teacher, but he picked up two medical professionals — Dr C.S. Baid and Dr Pramnavdeep — to assist him in running the organisation. Dr Girija Vyas also served as the PCC chief and she, too, taught at the University of Udaipur. One wonders if these doctors have a cure for all the ills afflicting the party. Temple bonhomie Religion divides people and also brings them together — no matter what political hues they represent. This was amply demonstrated when the bigwigs of Madhya Pradesh politics lined up to pay obeisance to Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati on July 9. The occasion was the ritual unveiling of Goddess Raj-Rajeshwari Tripur Sundari Lalitamba's idol at a temple in Bhopal. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, along with many high-profile people's representatives and senior state ministers, including Opposition leader in the Assembly Ajay Singh, were present as VIP devotees to grace the occasion. The bonhomie between leaders of the BJP and the Congress was remarkable as they met and hugged each other, forgetting their political and ideological differences for a moment.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NO HARD FEELINGS

POSITIVE ENDEAVOUR IN DHAKA


THE mild storm in a tea cup ~ the chatterati in India was more ruffled than in Bangladesh ~ has blown over and significantly during the external affairs minister's visit to Dhaka. One must give it to SM Krishna that his performance in Bangladesh has been more effective than in Pakistan some months ago. The pitch had then been queered by the former Home secretary's inference from Headley's testimony on 26/11. Like the Prime Minister, GK Pillai wasn't wholly off the mark. Dr Manmohan Singh must be lamenting his superficial observation on what he calls the anti-India segment across the border. Yet as this newspaper has had occasion to comment, the thrust of the statement cannot readily be discounted. The Bangladesh foreign office has been mature; the cloud has been cleared with its assertion that "there is no misunderstanding now". Foreign minister Dipu Moni has been remarkably gracious to concede that "such types of mistakes do happen'', a statement that she has couched in the admission that the Bangladesh foreign ministry "had once committed a similar mistake by putting something on its official website and then editing it out". Mr Krishna's visit has been marked by a conscientious endeavour by both sides to improve relations. Hopefully, this spirit shall persist in the run-up to the Prime Minister's scheduled visit in September. Dhaka has been diplomatic enough to ensure that there are no hard feelings not least at its highest level; given the context, Begum Hasina's statement that Bangladesh is "looking forward to Dr Singh's visit" is more than an expression of polite courtesy.


It is essential to maintain the forward movement though limited to relatively peripheral issues such as protection of investments and the movement of Nepalese and Bhutanese trucks, carrying goods, between India and Bangladesh. The contentious issues remain to be sorted out, primarily the demarcation of borders and the sharing of waters of Teesta and Feni. Last Thursday's trade agreements ought to lend an impetus to progress on matters that are at the core of occasional misunderstanding. There are no hard feelings, and this must be the primary upshot of Mr Krishna's visit.

 

SINCERITY TEST

MPS SET ONE FOR THEMSELVES

CONSENSUS on various elements of the proposed Lokpal legislation may have eluded leaders of national political parties, but a reassuring positive did emerge at the 3 July interaction ~ the emphasis all placed on the supremacy of Parliament and its procedures. But was that sincere? Or just a clever tactical ploy for that specific occasion? A case of lip-service, mere "thieves honour" if a harsher term is preferred? It will not be long before the nation gets to learn the truth ~ the monsoon session is just weeks away. Will it be marked by the disruptive tactics of the Opposition and the arrogant attitude of the government that have combined to make the last few sessions nothing more than a series of stand-offs? There is special onus on all sections of both Houses to salvage the institution. The groundswell of public opinion in favour of anti-corruption crusades launched by Anna Hazare (fuelled by frequent castigations of the government from the Supreme Court and other Constitutional authorities) and others is indicative of the stock of the political establishment having dipped to an all-time low. It has sunk beyond a credibility-deficit to a breach of faith.


Traditionally ~ if tradition still means anything in the apex legislature ~ the monsoon session is the "legislative session", when a number of Bills are processed. Given the delicate balance in numbers, cooperation across the aisle is required for successful conclusion of legislative business. So there will be occasions aplenty for larger interests to prevail over "party pride". This is not to suggest that the Opposition back off from its mandated task of keeping the government in line, just that it re-discover the finesse of its leaders of yesteryear ~ they got their message across without taking recourse to adjournments, slogans from the well, vicious personal attacks and so on. A dignified walk-out sufficed to register grave protest. But it was not "one-way traffic": the government was sensitive, prepared to accept suggestions, seldom insulting. All these qualities were abandoned when the Congress party became so personality-oriented, so sycophantically propelled. It would not be inappropriate to conclude that neither the Prime Minister nor the UPA chairperson are "creatures of Parliament" ~ they acquired their clout elsewhere. But an effective minister for parliamentary affairs could facilitate a more conducive atmosphere but the incumbent is an unmitigated disaster. Did we hear a cabinet reshuffle is in the offing?

 

CALAMITY CIRCLE

CP HAS BEEN REDUCED TO THAT

MASSIVE understatement would be the term "too little too late" if used in respect of Sheila Dikshit's setting up a committee to oversee timely completion of the redevelopment of Connaught Place ~ which is more than a shopping complex and as much a showpiece of the Capital as India Gate, Parliament House and Rashtrapati Bhawan are. It borders on the criminal when officials talk of "Phase II": for what is now being undertaken at the proverbial snail's pace is unfinished business of the city-ruining Commonwealth Games. In retrospect it has been disaster all the way these past four years, shoppers (as opposed to crowds) have deserted the complex, traders have suffered huge losses, and whatever little "make up" was applied before the Games has worn off. Loose wires are to be found everywhere, pedestrian movement is hampered by continuous digging, parking problems have worsened. All this after CP had just about started recovering from the serious disruption it suffered when underground Metro corridors were being laid. Such has been the toll taken on commercial activity that some traders wonder if the developers of the new malls away from the city-centre have conspired with official agencies to put Connaught Place out of business. It is no surprise that many of the original shops ~ and their gentlemen shopkeepers ~ have put down the shutters. The new "international brand stores" are a pitiful replacement. As pitiful as the functioning of the NDMC that was once hailed a "model" civic body ~ CP is not its sole CWG "dud", the Shivaji Stadium remains incomplete. Having made the CWG such a personal "show" the chief minister must be held to account. Crores of public rupees have been squandered, but she bashes on brazenly. There are no signs of the Prime Minister taking her to task for slamming the report of the Shunglu Committee, which he had appointed. And what was the urban development minister of the day doing when in the name of "heritage" Connaught Place was subjected to horrific mismanagement? New Delhi, our netas need reminding, is not just the exclusive enclave Lutyens created, an enclave from which they choose not to venture beyond. Monitoring committees like the one Dikshit has now appointed can do no more than damage-containment. Only a miracle will rejuvenate Connaught Place. One more reason to join Dr Manmohan Singh in lamenting the lack of a magic wand ~ to compensate for the UPA's governance-deficit.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

THE TAXMAN COMETH~II

THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN REVENUE, EXPENDITURE AND DEVELOPMENT

SHANTANU BASU

 

THE chaos in India's urban centres is understandable given the 3 per cent rise in allocations in real terms. In contrast, the India Infrastructure Report (IIR), 2008, shows the country recorded an annual urbanisation rate of 2.5 per cent, with the second highest urban population in the world. Yet 45 per cent of the people in Bihar and MP do not have access even to a latrine. Infrastructure is poor, the outcome of a 4 per cent real increase in development expenditure in the last two decades. If all the developmental budget heads are aggregated as a proportion of the total expenditure, the real increases remain illusory, some even negative. The IIR 2007 states the country requires about $320 billion in 2007-12 to repair and add to its physical infrastructure. Where does the money come from?


Every year governments show surpluses on capital account. The capital assets include fancy office buildings, residential accommodation for government employees and thousands of incomplete and delayed projects. Neither the citizens nor governments have the foggiest idea of the capital assets the nation owns.
The major expenditure of the government  is on salaries, allowances and pensions of several crore public employees. This has risen from 23 per cent of total non-development expenditure to over 26 per cent in 2008-09 at 1989-90 prices.  Add to that the expenditure on account of pilferage, wastage and deficient/redundant services. Of every rupee spent by governments, 57 paise is expended on the government per se and  43 paise on governance ~ a figure perilously close to a former Prime Minister's calculation.


The CAG report notes that Rs 51000 crore transferred directly to state/district level autonomous bodies, NGOs, etc in 2007-08 for implementation of centrally sponsored schemes were not fully spent. Similarly, revenue expenditure of about Rs 1600 crore by the Central government was classified as capital expenditure. The veracity of government accounts and budgeting are open to question.


Unless accounting and budgeting systems are urgently revamped along with financial rules and regulations and fiscal discipline rigidly enforced, the revenues and spending may detract from the ambitious GDP growth rate.
Bad policies and equally bad administration are responsible for India being ranked 84th in Transparency International's Global Integrity Index 2009. Its rank in the UNDP's Human Development Index 2007 is 134th. The country ranks high only in terms of remittance from abroad.


The Public Finance Statistics from 1990-91 to 2007-08 portray an alarming quality of governance and accountability even as the population crossed the billion mark. Of about Rs 623000 crore spent for non-development purposes by states and the Centre, the bulk was expended on pensions and food subsidy in 2007-08. In stark contrast, development expenditure of about Rs 685000 crore was only about 10 per cent more than non-development expenditure. Reduced to the 1990-91 prices, the real value of the government's developmental expenditure in 2007-08 is only Rs 320000 crore. Social and community services accounted for about Rs 288000 crore or approximately Rs 2400 per head of the 1.20 billion population in 2007-08. Reduced to 1990-91 prices, the real annual expenditure declines to about Rs 134000 crore or Rs 1160 per head or Rs 3 per day.


In 2007-08, the "surrenders" by Central ministries was about Rs 108000 crore of the total Rs 24500000 crore.  While in percentage terms such savings may only be notional, the fact remains that the sheer volume of such savings is substantial. Such "surrenders" include funds for the modernisation of police forces, maintenance of sugar buffer stocks, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, scholarships, education and court infrastructure, immunization programmes, and seemingly inadequate funds for international cooperation. Such "surrenders" take place because of populist plans, poor implementation, release of funds on the last midnight of the fiscal year,  delays inherent in the centralised procurement of stores, poor coordination between administrative departments and their expenditure- sanctioning authorities, inter and intra-ministerial wrangling over directions. For all such failures, the government borrows money; this consumes 43 per cent of its annual budget, maybe about Rs 7000 crore in 2007-08 on surrendered Central funds alone, without any return for itself or by way of service to citizens.


Indeed the definition of poverty would change dramatically if such rampant "surrender" of funds were sternly penalised by the Government of India's principal budget, finance and administrative officers acting in tandem. Adding 50 per cent of food subsidy of Rs 33000 crore and interest payout of Rs 7000 crore on central surrenders and the rural poor would have another 65 lakh NREGS jobs. Every Rs 100 crore saved from non-development expenditure translates into over 27000 year-round jobs. The Census 2001 shows that about 4.50 crore rural people are seeking work, for which an additional Rs 70000 crore is required per annum. Part of  this is already available in the NREGS budget. Aggregating similar "surrenders" and interest payouts by states, part of the two crore urban unemployed may be covered under a similar scheme. Non-development expenditure consumed 60 per cent of the total revenues.


The Government of India's tax revenues are said to have increased four-fold in the last decade. This claim is inaccurate as it is based on a simple linear calculation without accounting for inflation. The Controller General of Accounts informs us that revenues have trailed expenditure by providing only 82 per cent of the feedstock for the Central government, the rest being presumably left to currency printing presses to make good in paper. This has left the GOI with an illusory cash balance of Rs 230000 crore neutralised nearly seven times over by an accumulated deficit of Rs 1587156 crore in 2007-08 ~ the price for government over governance.


Suggestions for direct cash transfers to citizens and communities in the form of self-help loans/grants for specific purposes are pertinent in this context ~ more bang for the buck without pilferage or overheads leading to empowerment of citizens. Every rupee surrendered or wasted enhances the alienation of the rulers and strikes at the core of our nationhood and national pride.


Thomas Jefferson had once remarked, "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of Government." In this endeavour, governments both at the Centre and in the states have been found wanting.

(Concluded)

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

TALK TIME

It is July — the time of the year when the ritual peace talks with Pakistan are held. Last year, they ended unpleasantly. During the joint press conference held by the two foreign ministers at the end of last year's meeting in Islamabad, S.M. Krishna kept rushing out and talking to the prime minister on telephone. It looked as if he was taking instructions, and S.M. Qureshi made a gratuitous reference to the fact in the conference. He also made generous use of the K word. The diplomatic lapse made news. Last February, the prime minister of Pakistan offered Mr Qureshi the water portfolio; Mr Qureshi did not take it. So instead of him, Mr Krishna will encounter the minister of state, Hina Rabbani Khar, who, if she lost her job in the Pakistan government, could easily get a role in Bollywood. He will have to remind himself not to be charmed into giving away Kashmir. A preparatory meeting between his foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, and Salman Bashir, her Pakistani counterpart, ended without undue bonhomie; Mr Krishna would be well advised to proceed with caution.

Still, it would be sad if such a nice minister of state for external affairs were sent away without a present. A replica of the Taj Mahal will immediately come to Mr Krishna's mind, but he should put away the thought; it is not a happy thought for a Pakistani that the world's most famous mausoleum is not in Pakistan. Instead, he should talk in advance to the commerce minister, and see if he can offer Pakistan a market, for Pakistan's exports are extremely constricted. He cannot offer it most-favoured-nation status, for that was already given away in 1995. But maybe he can offer a market for some of Pakistan's agricultural goods. He cannot do so for its wheat without running into trouble with his colleague in the agriculture ministry. He could do so for cotton, but Pakistan would want to keep its cotton for its own textile industry. For some time, fruit and vegetables from Pakistan found a good market in North India; it can be revived, as can the market for mangoes in Pakistan.

One product, however, on which Ms Khar and he could possibly agree may be leather. Pakistanis are ardent meat-eaters. In the process they are left with millions of animal skins; they do not have a big enough shoe industry to use it. India's leather exporters, on the other hand, are extremely competitive, and are having to import leather from as far away as Brazil. If Pakistan were to develop a tanning industry, it could find a ready market in India. But what would be even more fruitful is if the two countries could negotiate freer travel: holidays in one another's country would be much cheaper than going far afield. And if Indians and Pakistanis can meet, they will find much to trade amongst themselves.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BITTER PILL

The Sports Authority of India is struggling to close the stable door after the proverbial horse has bolted — but not with much success it would seem. With top athletes of the country continuing to test positive for banned drugs, the SAI is in a limbo — it is trying to act suitably outraged, even as it is busy saving its own skin. According to the rules laid down by the World Anti-Doping Agency, any remarkable improvement in the performance records of an athlete is supposed to be investigated thoroughly, especially with periodic dope tests. Clearly, the SAI has been neglecting its duty for a long time. And more alarmingly, neither the sportspersons nor their coaches and trainers seem to be specifically aware of the restrictions on diet and medication. It is standard practice among athletes worldwide to take substances recommended by their trainers unquestioningly. But such blind faith, especially in an age of increasing accountability and stringent checks and balances, is inexcusable. So the players are no less culpable than the people who have supposedly led them up the garden path.

Although the scale of the scandal is shocking, unscrupulous practices such as these could not have sprung up overnight and without the knowledge and complicity of a wide range of people in responsible positions. Chemists' shops that sell prohibited drugs to athletes are certainly not the only culprits around. It may be more useful to find out why coaches allowed athletes to take these drugs. Trainers cannot expect to be forgiven by pleading ignorance about the status of these banned substances. They are supposed to know the dos and dont's and make sure that their clients stick to the norms. Evidently, the ministry of youth affairs and sports, of which the SAI is a part, needs to pull up its socks. Of course, a better idea would be to have an independent regulatory body, free of political influence, carry out a thorough purge, from top down, of the corrupt system

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THE TELEGRAPH

DESIRABLE PARTNERS

IT IS HIGH TIME INDIA ESTABLISHED ECONOMIC TIES WITH BANGLADESH JAYANTA ROY

One big gap in India's impressive growth story is its inability to forge a strong economic partnership with its immediate neighbours. With the exception of a successful trade agreement with Sri Lanka, and electricity trade with Bhutan, India's relationship with other South Asian countries is marginal at best. But there is at present a big window of opportunity to make Bangladesh a strategic partner in South Asia. Going the arduous route of a free trade agreement is not the answer. India as the most successful country in South Asia must unilaterally offer concessions to Bangladesh to help sustain, and even accelerate, its economic growth. An economically strong Bangladesh as a natural partner will assist in reviving the sagging West Bengal; help put the neglected Northeast on India's development map; and through West Bengal as a natural hub, further expand India's trade and investment with the burgeoning Southeast Asia. It is a win-win situation. The prime minister's forthcoming visit to Bangladesh must seal this economic cooperation.

No major economic player has neglected its leadership role in its immediate surrounding region. Empirical research highlights the leadership role of China in East Asia. Its meteoric rise in the global trade arena is felt throughout East Asian companies and governments who have come to rely on China as a market for vital exports — from palm oil to semiconductors — and a source for imports that benefit people. The stronger economic ties between China and East Asia are matched by the political and diplomatic influence China wields over its neighbours. It has decisively replaced the United States of America as the predominant trade partner of East Asia. The free trade agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations initiated in 2004 has resulted in China's trade with the 10 member countries to steadily grow by over 25 per cent a year. Most important, the rise of China, and its influence, is seen as an opportunity by its neighbours.

India is not playing the same role in South Asia. In contrast to 20 per cent inter-regional trade in East Asia, South Asian inter-regional trade is stagnant at two per cent for decades. India's phenomenal growth is not shared by its neighbours, leaving the rest of the region far below its potential. According to the latest available figures before the recent global crisis which are reflective of a normal trend, the total global exports of all small South Asian countries (excluding Pakistan but including Bangladesh) was equivalent to just eight per cent of India's global imports. India's merchandise exports rose by 283 per cent during 2000-2009 in contrast to the rest of South Asia's modest 90 per cent growth. India, which accounts for 81 per cent of South Asia's gross domestic product is hardly influencing the growth and prosperity of its smaller neighbours. A dynamically competitive economy such as India must take the lead in opening up to smaller and economically weaker neighbours with limited industrial capacity, and relatively lower rates of export growth. While duty-free access to imports is allowed to Bhutan and Nepal, a time has come to extend this concession to Bangladesh unilaterally without demanding any reciprocity. It should be free and open for all Bangladeshi imports without any positive or negative lists, so long as simple rules of origin are satisfied.

Allowing duty-free imports from Bangladesh will neither open the floodgates of imports, nor put the readymade garment sector under stress. Bangladesh's global exports are $15 billion compared to India's total imports of $321 billion. Even if half of Bangladesh's exports come to India, it will be a minuscule portion of India's imports with insignificant revenue implications. Bangladesh is mainly competitive with India in RMG, not in other sectors. Also, the RMG sector in Bangladesh is heavily reliant on cotton yarn and other inputs from India, thus its growth will push the exports of intermediate products from India. After the abolition of the multi-fibre agreement, the Indian RMG sector needs to be competitive. It should be able to withstand the competition from Bangladesh without any protection. Duty-free import access will also stop smuggling of products between the two countries, leading to higher official trade figures and cheaper and higher quality imports to consumers and producers. Simple calculations will prove that India has nothing to lose, but a lot to gain by allowing this concession to Bangladesh. The goodwill it will generate will pave the way for much stronger economic ties, purely based on trust and friendship.

The need for a stronger and long- lasting strategic relationship with Bangladesh is so great that the government should also consider extending a few other concessions to further Bangladesh's economic prosperity. Bangladesh has a 31-million strong educated middle class. It is making a distinct mark in the corporate and academic job markets in the US, Europe and the Middle East. India's skill development is not matching its industrial and services growth. India should think of a policy which allows skilled Bangladeshis to qualify for a work visa if they have acquired a degree from a recognized university in sectors facing an acute shortage of skills. This will create an enormous stake for Bangladesh's middle class in India's growing prosperity.

The major benefit of a strong partnership with Bangladesh is trade and transport facilitation. This will immensely benefit both countries since the trade corridors are associated with massive transaction costs in terms of long delays at the border crossings, time-consuming inspection and documentation, rent-seeking activities of transporters, officials and middlemen, and lack of warehousing facilities. The time is ripe to have state-of-the-art joint border posts with a single harmonized set of documents and one-stop cargo clearance with joint customs and inspection facilities. India should provide an impetus to Bangladesh to collaborate in this venture by allowing Bangladeshi exports destined for Nepal and Bhutan transit through the Siliguri and Benapole corridors. Minimal inspections should be done at the borders to ensure that no third-country exports are finding a way into India, avoiding duty. One can also work on sealing of the goods in transit to avoid any pilferage en route to the destination. This will be a boon to Bangladesh's exporters with no cost to India, and help boost goodwill.

This will motivate Bangladesh to allow passage of exports and imports of the Northeast through its Chittagong port. The Northeast region is also connected to the rest of India by a narrow and congested land corridor referred to as the "chicken's neck". The transport cost will fall substantially when goods from and to the rest of India are allowed through Bangladeshi territory. It has been estimated that the Northeast was spending almost as much in transporting commodities from the rest of India as the cost of commodities themselves. Routing goods through Bangladesh will be a major factor in the development of the depressed and isolated Northeast region.

As outlined in my earlier piece in this paper, strengthening economic relations with Bangladesh will assure energy security by bringing in gas from Southeast Asian countries through Bangladesh, and also help promote trade through the West Bengal hub to the growing markets of Bangladesh and Southeast Asia.

Making Bangladesh a strong economic partner is a necessary condition for India's further acceptability as a leader in the region. It will also help develop its isolated Northeast states. We need to use both skilful diplomacy and a unilateral offer of duty-free access to Bangladeshi imports, and the other concessions suggested earlier. A strategic partnership between India and Bangladesh will be a win-win for both countries. It is long overdue.

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THE TELEGRAPH

DAMAGE CONTROL

FIFTH COLUMN: GWYNNE DYER

The troika hurtles across the frozen plain. The wolves are close behind, and from time to time a peasant is hurled from the sleigh in the hope of letting the more important people escape. But nothing distracts the pack for long, not even when the occupants of the sleigh move up the pecking order and throw a couple of minor aristocrats to the wolves. Wait! What's this? They have thrown a newspaper to the wolves? An entire newspaper, with 200 full-time employees and hundreds more freelance contributors? How do they think that that will help them to get away?

The troika is called News International, the newspaper wing of Rupert Murdoch's globe-spanning media empire. The paper that has just been sacrificed is the News of the World, a Sunday tabloid that claims to have more readers than any other paper in the English-speaking world. The NoW makes a tidy profit, but this Sunday's edition will be its last. It used to get its salacious and scandalous stories by paying celebrities' friends to betray them, or just by going through celebrities' garbage in search of letters, receipts and so on. The NoW also started hacking new communications technologies, even though that was against the law.

Over the past decade, the NoW has paid various shady characters to hack the voice-mails, e-mails and other electronic data of literally thousands of people, from members of the British royal family to Z-list celebrities. A few of them, suspecting they had been hacked, launched lawsuits against the paper, and the whole shabby enterprise began to unravel.The first peasants to be thrown from the troika were the NoW's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and Glenn Mulcaire, the private eye he had paid to hack into the royal family's phone messages. Both men went to prison in 2007. The management at the NoW insisted that they were just a couple of "bad apples" — but it paid their legal expenses in order to buy their silence about any further hacking.

Strange penalty

The stone-walling worked for a while, as the police soft-pedalled the investigation. But details of the hacking continued to leak out anyway, and during this year several more senior NoW journalists have been arrested for questioning, including former editor Andy Coulson. James Murdoch, Rupert's son and heir apparent, was moved from London to New York in March, at least partly to put him beyond easy reach of the British legal system.

Last week, it was revealed that the NoW had been hacking not only celebrities' voice-mails, but also those of a murdered schoolgirl, of the grieving families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and of victims of the terrorist attack in London. Public disgust was intense, and it was clearly time to throw the wolves a really big meal. The obvious candidate was Rebekah Brooks, who was the editor of the NoW in the early years of phone hacking. She is now the chief executive of News International, and a close friend of Rupert Murdoch, so firing her would create the impression that Murdoch's empire was serious about cleaning house. Instead, Murdoch closed down the NoW itself.

News International isn't really going to lose money by closing the NoW. It will be replaced almost immediately by a new Sunday edition of its weekday stable-mate, the Sun. But why didn't they just blame Brooks and fire her? Because if Brooks goes down, the next person in the line of fire will inevitably be James Murdoch. That cannot be allowed to happen, because he is leading News Corporation's bid for control of British Sky Broadcasting, which would give it utter dominance in the British media and huge profits. So leave Brooks out there to draw fire until the British government approves the BSkyB takeover bid. Then, if necessary, she can be thrown out of the troika too.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ERDOĞAN - NETANYAHU: WHERE TO STOP?

 

MURAT YETKİN - murat.yetkin@hurriyet.com.tr

When high-ranking Turkish and Israeli officials met in New York last week over bringing the ongoing crisis between the two countries to an end, there was a cautious optimism in the diplomacy corridors. Upon indirect pressure from the Turkish government, the Mavi Marmara boat, the symbol of the flotilla crisis last year, was withdrawn by the Turkey-based aid organization İHH and perhaps this time Turkish, Israeli and of course American diplomats could come up with a word to solve the crisis.

The word which was looked for would "sound like an apology in Turkish and not sound like an open apology in Herbrew" in order to satisfy the prime ministers of both countries who have obvious commitments to their people on the crisis.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan demands an apology from Israel because of the killing of nine of his citizens on boat in international waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as compensation for the losses and an end to the embargo on Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, says they had all the right to impose an embargo on Gaza, showing the Hamas rule there, which declines to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, as the reason for the embargo. The Israeli government also thinks that an open apology is out of the question since it would make an example for further cases and question Israel's sovereignty rights.

Last week's efforts by the United Nations were announced void by Erdoğan's words on Saturday, who said that Turkey would never accept anything less than an apology, compensation and lifting of the embargo on Gaza on humanitarian material. That word they were seeking will not work, it seems now. Because after this stage, the press would naturally focus on the real meaning of that word in respective languages and this won't do either government any good. Isarel's reply to Erdoğan immediately came from Netanyahu's hard-line coalition partner and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said on Sunday that the talks have failed.

That would do more harm to Israel than Turkey because of three reasons, it seems: First, Israel is facing another flotilla affair - without active participation from Turkey - in the midst of another peace initiative led by the Americans, between Israel and Palestine. Second, there is the need to convince Hamas to acknowledge Israel's existence, to cooperate with Fatah on talks with Israel and a group of American senators told Erdoğan 10 days ago that only Turkey could do that. Third, Erdoğan increased his popular support to 50 percent at a time of weakening of regimes in the Eastern Mediterranean because of political (like in Egypt, Jordan and Syria) or economical (like in Greece) reasons and when Israel is busy neutralizing the effect of Iran on the other hand.

Tel Aviv should be in the need of assessing the changing regional balances in its relations with Turkey, the only other Western-oriented democracy in the region.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

HOPES HIGH FOR A CYPRUS DEAL

Settlement this year, or at the latest by the first quarter of 2012, the European Union term presidency of a united Cyprus with Turkish Cypriots have taken up their rightful share in governance and sovereignty of the new partnership state. That was the high target declared by Turkey's not so high but gifted Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during his short visit Saturday to northern Cyprus. The trip indeed was a symbolic one as it has become a tradition for foreign ministers to make their first foreign trip to northern Cyprus. Though Davutoğlu retained his portfolio a new government has just come to power in Turkey. Yet, the outpour of positivism from the mouth of the Turkish foreign minister was a product of the just-completed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon-chaired Cyprus summit in Geneva.

At the Geneva talks last week Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Dimitris Christofias were presented by the secretary-general, though not a full-fledged road map, with a new modality for the Cyprus talks process that called for completion of the talks by end of October.

It might be summarized that the trilateral Geneva summit has defined where the process would lead, and what steps would be taken to achieve the targeted result. In the new period the U.N. secretary-general and his envoys will not be just "facilitators" of the process but would undertake a much more active role. While that "much active role by the U.N." will not unfortunately include arbitration, which would indeed contribute to progress towards a bitter compromise deal, the U.N. secretariat will facilitate the talks with "bridging proposals" or "alternate ideas." As the Turkish side, in a revolutionary shift from earlier position proposed opening discussions on the territorial aspects – provided territorial adjustments are finalized on maps at the very last stage of the talks. The Greek Cypriot side has agreed that in the new federation the principle of bi-zonality and bi-communality should be reflected in the demography and land ownership of the two constituent states. Indeed it might be said the Geneva summit has produced a revolutionary breakthrough, which indeed produced an unprecedented optimism that there might finally be a Cyprus deal.

In Cyprus talks the differences in the interpretation of the "federal settlement" term and the "bi-zonality and bi-communality" principles were the biggest impediments in marring a deal. In the first trilateral summit last year in New York, the secretary-general has managed to reconcile the two sides on the meaning of "federal settlement." Now, this latest trilateral summit has produced – even though not reflected to the statement of the secretary-general – an accord between the two sides in the presence of the secretary general that bi-zonality and bi-communality required the two constituent states to have not only clear demographic majority in their respective zones, but the principle must be reflected as well as regards to land ownership. This understanding, of course, will have revolutionary impact on discussions on the property issue and has become possible with a revolutionary move by Turkish Cypriots to accept discussions on the territorial aspects.

The secretary-general stood firm. He instructed leaders to go through all chapters, cultivate their convergences and come to New York in October with an almost done deal to be taken to an international conference where the security guarantees aspects would be discussed together with Turkey, Greece and Britain, with the EU and the Security Council's permanent five as observers.

Is a deal in the making? No one can have doubt of the existence of the will in northern Cyprus. If Greek Cypriots manage to preserve the will Christofias demonstrated in Geneva, yes indeed, finally.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NEW GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER TO MEET DAVUTOĞLU DURING LIBYA TALKS

Ariana Ferentinou - a r i a n a @ b i l g i . e d u . t r

The fourth Libya Contact Group meeting to be held this week in Istanbul (July 15-16) will no doubt attract wide world attention. The situation in Libya is at a critical stage with Gadhafi now threatening attacks against European targets, while rebels are consolidating their power in parts of the country. The location of the meeting has its particular symbolic importance after Turkey's full diplomatic swing. After a prolonged diplomatic see-sawing starting with an initial opposition to the Western-led military action, Turkey has as of last week, recognized the rebels of the Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Mr. Davutoglu's recent visit to Benghazi confirmed Ankara's change of heart and he will not doubt have a lot to discuss on this with Hilary Clinton during the Istanbul meeting.

But, the Istanbul meeting will also be a platform for another meeting with its own symbolic importance on a regional level. Although not confirmed yet, (watch the news) the Istanbul meeting on Libya will bring together for the first time Ahmet Davutoğlu, only just reconfirmed to the post after the recent general elections in Turkey, with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Stavros Lambrinidis. Lambrinidis, a dynamic MEP and a vice president of the Party of European Socialists was given the foreign affairs portfolio after the Greek government reshuffle on June 17. The times are tough with the image of Greece at its lowest ebb particularly among the public opinion of its European partners. In a few days since his appointment, Lambrinidis already embarked in a frantic tour of Cyprus, Germany, Holland and the Balkans. His task is doubly difficult. He has to improve the spirit of negativism towards Greece among Europeans, but at the same time he has to avert the fears inside his country that Greece being "at the edge of the cliff," is more likely to "give away" strong cards of its foreign policy.

During a radio interview to the Greek Real FM radio, Lambrinidis was adamant that there would be, "no change whatsoever on national issues and no danger because of Greece's difficult economic situation." When asked whether the ongoing Turkey-Greece exploratory talks have reached a jointly committed plan to go to the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, for a settlement on the continental shelf between the two countries, he replied "the exploratory talks have not finished yet" and that he was not in a position to say whether the two countries will resort to the ICJ or not. Much more interesting was his reply to the question whether Greece intends to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ, around certain island close to Turkey in order to prevent Ankara from challenging their continental shelf. "For Greece, EEZ is a right which can be exercised whenever it considers proper… Ankara may attempt to do many things and on the basis of its own aims it may make statements wherever and however it wishes… each time, it has received an instant response from Greece…Greek foreign policy is a continuity, it does not change with different governments. There may be possible adjustments, but it does not change…especially on foreign policy issues we have to retain a self confidence as a country of special importance in the region and beyond this."

Lambrinidis's first official trip was to Cyprus. From there he stressed the "brotherly relations" between Athens and Nicosia and declared "the key to a fair solution in Cyprus, is held by Ankara who has to change stance… because as long as there is occupation (by the Turkish army in the North), there is no EU entry."

There is a general feeling in Greece that Lambrinidis was "the right man for the right job." His experience in Brussels, they say, may prove extremely useful at a time when Greece has an upright task in trying to convince European that it is not the central problem of the EU's economic stability. At the same time he is knowledgeable of the complications in Turkey's EU entry process at a moment when Ankara wishes to renew its EU efforts through an upgraded EU Ministry led by Egemen Bağış. If Ankara wishes for a United Cyprus to take up the EU presidency during the second half of 2012, as Mr. Davutoğlu publicly declared, then the next period will be interesting in the Turkey-Greece relations.

Provided, of course, the Papandreou government survives until then.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

THE CRISIS OF 'POST-KEMALIST TURKEY'

NURAY MERT - NURAY.MERT@HURRIYET.COM.TR

What a relief, the political crisis seems to be over and we can now get onto our holidays. Living under permanent political crises has taught us to be modest - we feel content when we can escape at least "major confrontations" even for a very limited time.

In fact, even if the opposition parties end their protest and especially if the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, agrees to come to Parliament, it will not mean much. We should be happy with any positive step in the way of political consensus, yet what Turkey really needs is a "major rapprochement" to overcome the crisis of post-Kemalist politics.

Kemalism declined so gradually that Kemalists never felt it. They were so keen on the vanities of the Republican Westernism that they did not bother with major social and political problems. Their major concern has long been limited by the rising numbers of headscarved girls rather than anything else. Under those circumstances, the crises, which resulted from a rigid understanding of secularism could not be recognized, let alone be overcome. Even after Islamists found a way to adjust themselves to the political system and come to power under the name of "conservative democrats," most Kemalists chose to put all their efforts into recalling the ancient regime.

On one hand "nostalgia" dominates the political space that's filled by Kemalists and creates a lot of social and political tension. On the other hand, conservatives who have long felt bitter about being excluded, now feel mesmerized by their "newly acquired but firmly established" power. Their understanding and use of political power poisons the prospect of democratization in every way.

Worst of all, Kemalists and conservatives seem to agree only on denying the place of Kurds in the political life of post-Kemalist Turkey. The conservative democrat government wants to end the process of change in Turkey since it got what it wanted. The Kemalist regime was a problem for conservatives because of its rigid understanding of secularism and post-Kemalist Turkey is thought to be "conservative Turkey" and that is it.

Despite the hopes and dreams of "democratization" by most Turkish intellectuals, the so-called "passive revolution" of conservatives or ex-Islamists has ended. That is why "Kurds" have started to be treated as "trouble makers" again, rather than being regarded as political actors who have been struggling for more rights and freedoms. Now, they are being invited to join "the new status quo" in return of minor political gains.

Turkey did not achieve more democracy when it moved from Kemalism to post-Kemalism. Now we live the crisis of post-Kemalism and the Kurdish question cannot be solved unless the new status quo is reestablished along more democratic lines. That is why even a quiet summer may not be so quiet after all.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHAT IF TURKEY INVADED SYRIA?

Soner Çağaptay - S o n e r C @ w a s h i n g t o n i n s t i t u t e . o r g

Turkish-Syrian ties are unraveling. After becoming Assad's close ally, Ankara is now worried about the Syrian conflict. Turkey has expressed outrage at the situation, calling the crackdown in Syria a "savagery," and a Turkish army commander recently issued a tacit warning while visiting the Syrian border. Meanwhile, Damascus has positioned tanks along its border with Turkey.

Still, when reacting to the unrest in Syria, the instinct of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government in Ankara will be to avoid conflict and opt for a buffer zone inside Syria to manage the likely flow of refugees on Syrian territory. But if that does not work, Turkey could take matters into its own hands, sending troops into Syria. Did I just say Turkey might invade Syria? Yes. And what a can of worms such an intervention would open, humanitarian though it would be. As the Syrian crisis spills over into Turkey, the AKP's conflict avoidance policy may not be sustainable. Should the Assad regime carry out massacres in large cities, the AKP might find Turkish sympathies for the persecuted fellow Muslims next door too unbearable to ignore. Massacres in Syria, coupled with the breakdown of law and order, would make Turkish intervention almost inevitable. A Turkish intervention in Syria could change almost everything about the Turkey we know today. For instance, domestic politics. Although Turkey is split down the middle between the AKP's supporters and their opponents, war would unify domestic opposition behind the AKP leader and Turkish Prime minister Erdoğan. But it is worth considering that a successful military campaign would also re-empower the secular Turkish army, which has lost face in recent years for purported involvement in a coup plot against the AKP. As for foreign policy, a Turkish intervention would nearly revolutionize the AKP's regional agenda.

Strong ties with Syria that the AKP has cultivated since 2002 would crumble in the case of an invasion. In 1998, Damascus stopped allowing the Kurdistan Workers Party to use it territory to launch terror attacks into Turkey, when Ankara threatened to invade Syria. Since then, the Turks have come to believe that Syria is neither a threat nor a source of instability and that Israel is the true problem in the region. This view would change with a Turkish intrusion into Syria, as would Turkey's relationship with Israel, harkening back to the 1990s, when the two countries united against Damascus for its harboring of terrorist groups. The AKP's decision to pressure Turkey's NGOs to disengage from this year's Gaza flotilla signifies the renewal of a Turkish realization that Israel could be an ally in an unstable region. In addition to reconfiguring Turkish-Israeli-Syrian ties, a Turkish incursion would drive a wedge between Ankara and Tehran, thus, ending the honeymoon Ankara has pursued with Tehran since the Iraq War, when the two countries found themselves allied in their opposition to the U.S.-led campaign. Today, Ankara and Tehran are at odds; their policies on Syria are diametrically opposed. In the event of a Turkish intervention in Syria, the competition between Ankara and Tehran for influence in Iraq would further compound the situation. Such an intervention would deteriorate Turkey and Iran's increasingly problematic relationship. A Turkish invasion would rejuvenate Turkish-U.S. ties, which have yet to recover fully from the Iraq War. Since 2003, many Turks have come to believe that the U.S. does not care for Turkey and that the two countries have conflicting interests in the Middle East. But now, Turkey and the U.S. are on the same page. Both countries resent crackdown and fear a likely refugee crisis. The crisis in Syria is leading the U.S. and Turkey to coordinate their Middle East policies to an extent not seen for nearly a decade. A Turkish intervention in Syria and backed by the U.S. to uphold the nascent doctrine of "responsibility to protect," would indeed warm up U.S.-Turkish ties beyond imagination. A can of worms, indeed.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FUTURE OF THE EURO

Eurozone countries have abandoned their national currencies to accept the euro for getting rich and prosperous. Now some of them have begun to talk about the future of the euro and even discuss the probable problems created if they quit this common currency. Countries with enormous deficit and debt problems might think that after abandoning the euro and returning to their old national currency or introducing a new one, with the help of a sharp devaluation, it would bring a solution to their problems. Or some other countries, like Germany, which comparatively do not have such big problems and are fed up of dealing with the problems of the weak Eurozone economies, might think it is better to quit the euro and restore their old national currency.

However it is not so easy. First of all, it must be remembered the very serious social and political difficulties and the enormous financial cost of introducing the euro years ago. Secondly, when a comparatively rich country, again like Germany, reintroduce its old currency it would be almost impossible to stop the over valuation, which will make exporters unhappy and will deteriorate not only trade and current account balances but also balances in financial markets.

On the other hand, a country with a weak economy that quits the euro and returns to its old currency or introduces a new one will be forced to implement some controls on capital movements, banks, financial markets, etc. in order to stop the inevitable rapid capital outflow. This will close the domestic markets to international ones and create additional difficulties to get foreign financial support to solve the already debt and deficit problems.

As a matter of fact, the main problem that obstructs the expected functions of a common currency accepted by a group of countries is discrepancies of national economic policies among the same countries. Even if the harmonization of national economic policies as a common package is realized in the beginning, emergence of different economic problems after a time will make it impossible to implement this common package in every country. Establishing a supranational authority that imposes the rules to force individual countries to implement that package is not realistic. The leaders of the Eurozone countries can not even agree on more simple issues.

 It is not rational to blame them. Not only economic but also political and social problems of individual countries are so different from each other, it is not just to wait for them to put international problems in front of domestic ones. And it is impossible to convince them and their people that without solving common problems it is impossible to solve individual domestic ones.

In short, although the euro is creating a lot of problems, wise people know it is not the main reason behind recent economic catastrophe seen in some countries. Moreover it is not so easy to quit the euro without calculating the cost of this act. This cost might be bigger than the cost of living in the Eurozone. Some economists, academicians, analysts, however have a different idea. They defend the view that the only way to save the weak economies of the Eurozone is to quit the Euro. Easy for them to say, difficult for politicians to decide.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'THE CAUCASIAN WINTER

ZAUR SHIRIYEV

The Middle East is at the top of the international community's political agenda: The "Arab Spring" and developments in Libya remain priorities. On June 24, however, the world was looking to the Russian city of Kazan, where the Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijan presidents were meeting to discuss the long-running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Before the meeting, local analysts had expressed anxiety about a new war. They spoke of a "Caucasus Winter," suggesting that political relations between regional countries were becoming increasingly frosty and that the region might return to the international spotlight. Other analysts have given exclusive focus to the issues raised by the Arab Spring revolutions as they might be transferred to the Caucasus, but the question of this possible "Winter" carries far more urgency.

Before the Kazan meeting, the international community shared these fears about the re-opening of the conflict and Kazan was described as the "last chance for peace." These hopes for the Kazan meeting followed what many consider to be an unprecedented joint statement by the United States, Russian and French presidents, at the G8 Summit in Deauville, France on May 26. The presidents of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan issued a joint statement after Kazan, to say the parties have recorded progress on the Basic Principles of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution.

It seems the main unresolved and contentious issues between the parties involved are the "basic principles" of the "Madrid Principles," proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group in 2007. After years of debate between the relevant parties, there is still some way to go before the "Madrid Principles" are accepted as the basis for peaceful political resolution. However, the procedural parameters for the settlement as described in the Madrid Principles are clear. This is the basic formula that has underpinned all previous attempts to negotiate a deal and which has been publically accepted by the Azerbaijani government, although Baku has attempted to compromise by offering to give Nagorno-Karabakh the "highest level of autonomy" within its territory (much as Tatarstan functions inside the Russian Federation). There is certainly a feeling within government circles in Azerbaijan that the current process is payback for the past years of "failed hopes," and in the absence of pressure on Armenia by the international community, the peace process has served only to support and solidify the status quo. This is why Azerbaijan saw the Kazan meeting as a key opportunity to establish a concrete peace process. The fear was that if this discussion fails to provide any further developments, as they have in the past, Azerbaijan may boycott future meetings.

In order to fully understand the dynamics of the peace negotiations and the current stalemate, it is important to consider the underlying basis of the Armenian position. On a practical level, Yerevan is under pressure from both Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto authorities and the Armenian Diasporas, notably in the U.S. These groups are more nationalistic and less willing to compromise than opposition parties within Armenia itself, due in the former instance to "frontier spirit," in the latter, to the luxury of distance. These groups exercise financial, political and ideological leverage over the Armenian government and are certainly not beholden to its policies. Any pledge by Armenia to withdraw from the districts surrounding Karabakh will face staunch opposition in Khankendi (Stepanakert) and could push the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist's military to launch attacks against Azerbaijan, as a means of disrupting the peace process. The fact that Armenia is building an airport in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan constitutes a real provocation; if Azerbaijan responds with military action, then it will be easier for Armenia to argue that Azerbaijan poses a threat to peace. The risk is that that the resolution framework will be abandoned and replaced by unilateral - and potentially military - approaches by both sides. This was demonstrated in a recent BBC Russia interview with Ter-Petrosyan, former president and the current leader of Armenia's opposition. He argued "the Karabakh conflict has not been resolved because the people of Karabakh demonstrated a maximalist approach - they decided that this was not enough, they could push harder and get more... And not just people in Karabakh," said the ex-president, who was forced to resign in February 1998, less than half a year after presenting his vision for ending the conflict.

It might reasonably be asked: Is this process about delineating the terms of a fair peace agreement, or is it about sustaining the status quo?

Obviously, each time the peace process has been restarted, we have heard the same kinds of hopeful statements from the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs and the same counsel from political analysts. Each time we have been told that those who criticize the Armenian position are "opponents of peace." But each time, this flawed political process has brought us no closer to a workable solution. Perhaps it is time to imagine a different process, one that takes seriously both the security concerns of Karabakh Armenians and the rights of Karabakh Azerbaijanis, as seriously need be. In other words, the ultimate objective of the settlement process is to elaborate and define a political model and legal framework for the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan believes the process of defining any such status shall take place in normal peaceful conditions with direct, full and equal participation of the region's entire population, namely the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities, with constructive interaction with the government of Azerbaijan and within the framework of a lawful and democratic process.

Last but not least, what the peace process procedure needs is a change in its "location"; it does not need to change its current format, only strong support and innovation can lead to resolution. Otherwise, the international political agenda will feature the war of the "Caucasus Winter," war and chaos as seen in August 2008, or a continued silence of "no war, no peace," as is seen internationally. The international community must bring "Spring" to the Caucasus and this means peace, constructive discussion (as in the 2001 Key West and 2006 Rambue talks). What we do not need is fruitless discussion based on copy-pasting of the Arab demonstrations. In the near future, the involvement of the international community in the peace process is a source of optimism; that is to say, the U.S., and France as a representative of the EU could bring a breath of "fresh air" to the process.

Zaur Shiriyev is a Foreign Policy Analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku, Azerbaijan and the Executive Editor of Caucasus International journal.

 

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                                                                                                                                                HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

PURVEYORS OF HATRED

THE CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE THE IDEA THAT THE PALESTINIANS ARE DELEGITIMIZING THE "EXISTENCE OF ISRAEL" HAS TURNED THE CRITICS OF THE RIGHT-WING GOVERNMENT INTO ISRAEL-HATERS.

BY AKIVA ELDAR

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is nobody's fool. He certainly knows that photos of policemen dragging away civilians who have come to protest the occupation and the siege do not enhance Israel's standing as "the only democracy in the Middle East." He undoubtedly understands that horse-trading over terrorists' dry bones does not help rebuild the shattered remnants of trust between Israel and the Palestinians.

He also presumably knows that open conflict with the U.S. president is detrimental to Israel's long-term interests. And this expert on America most likely took into account that his refusal to meet with a congressional delegation of supporters of the dovish American-Jewish organization J Street did not reveal him to be an enlightened leader.

Netanyahu knows what he is doing. This is exactly what he wants.

Everything used to be simpler. Hamas suicide bombers sowed terror and the right wing reaped hatred. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat smuggled in a ship full of weapons and the right wing smuggled voters away from the left.

But when mothers do not fear letting their children roam the malls, it is hard to foster loathing. When PA President Mahmoud Abbas gets his Fatah party's governing organs to adopt U.S. President Barack Obama's formula for resuming negotiations, one must root around for new sources of hatred.

A spirit of reconciliation with the Arabs and international support might, God forbid, give voters the idea that "Judea and Samaria" are "occupied territories." Voters might think it makes sense to freeze construction in the settlements during negotiations over the fate of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But the flotilla and the fly-in, the conflict with the PA, the crisis with Obama and the clashes with the left are all serving Netanyahu's purposes. "They should break their bones," one person told a radio interviewer reporting from Ben-Gurion Airport on the reception given the peace activists - sorry, the "pro-Palestinian protesters" (or "provocateurs," as the best reporters put it ). An Internet talkback proposed the protesters be "tied up and put to sleep and then they can be sent as animal cargo." Another traveler at Ben-Gurion suggested, "Let them go to Syria."

The well-orchestrated campaign to promote the idea that the Palestinians and their international supporters are delegitimizing "the very existence of the State of Israel" has turned all critics of the most right-wing government Israel has ever had into Israel-haters.

We respond to force with more force. We respond to hatred with more hatred. Who cares if Abbas has reiterated publicly that he recognizes the State of Israel within the 1967 borders as the state of the Israeli people? Why pay the price to free Gilad Shalit if the captured soldier's terrble suffering and Hamas' cruel abuse of his family ensure a continued supply of Arab-hatred? Who cares whether a respected group of former security officials has called for immediate implementation of the Shalit deal?

If Netanyahu were concerned about the fact that Israel's international standing is collapsing, he would not have placed the country's foreign relations in the hands of the individual most deserving of the title Minister of Chutzpah. The prime minister has turned increased global support for a Palestinian state into a political asset. The government has turned domestic criticism of itself into something approaching betrayal of the country in wartime: "Quiet! They're shooting at us!"

The delegitimization of those who oppose the occupation and injustice is trickling down to the lowest-ranking police officer, as is hatred of the left. Israeli leftists from the Solidarity movement who stubbornly continue demonstrating in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods, activists in Breaking the Silence and volunteers with Machsom Watch tell of harsh verbal and sometimes even physical violence against them by the security forces.

To oil the wheels of hatred, Netanyahu and his spokespeople use hate-filled Palestinian publications that differ little from "Torat Hamelech," a book by a settler rabbi, or the leaflets on the weekly Torah portion that flood synagogues throughout Israel. To deal with this phenomenon among the Palestinians, Abbas told the American administration he was willing to immediately resume the activities of the joint committee against incitement; he has also conveyed direct messages to this effect to the Prime Minister's Bureau.

But Netanyahu prefers to sell hatred of gentiles. He knows that Israelis feel warm and cozy in the bunker, as long as it includes cheap cottage cheese.

 

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

 

A LAW TO SUBVERT DEMOCRACY

KNESSET MEMBERS WHO VOTE FOR THE ANTI-BOYCOTT LAW MUST UNDERSTAND THEY ARE SUPPORTING THE GAGGING OF PROTEST IN AN EFFORT TO LIQUIDATE DEMOCRACY.

Today, the Knesset was slated to approve the final reading of the Boycott Prohibition Law, which imposes severe punishments on anyone who calls, directly or indirectly, for boycotting Israel. Inter alia, the law says any person or organization that calls for boycotting Israel, including by calling for a boycott of the settlements, would be deemed guilty of a civil offense. Organizations that call for boycotts would not be entitled to receive tax-deductible donations or obtain funding from the state.

This contemptible law blatantly violates Israel's Basic Laws. It is couched in vague language: It defines "a boycott of the State of Israel" very broadly, while the definition of causing a boycott is fluid. Under the law, it would suffice for a call to boycott Israel to have "a reasonable possibility" of leading to an actual boycott for the lawbreaker (under the Torts Ordinance, New Version ) to be defined as having committed a civil offense. The lawbreaker would then be deprived of significant economic benefits and would also have to pay high compensation to those purportedly harmed by the boycott.

This vagueness is intentional, designed to conceal the goal of spreading a wide protective net over the settlements, whose products, activities and in fact very existence - which is controversial to begin with - are the main reason for the boycott initiatives, both domestic and foreign. The legislators are thereby trying to silence one of the most legitimate forms of democratic protest, and to restrict the freedom of expression and association of those who oppose the occupation and the settlers' violence and want to protest against the government's flawed order of priorities.

The law's sponsors are also creating a mendacious equivalence between the State of Israel and Israeli society as a whole, on one hand, and the settlements on the other. They are thereby granting the settlers sweeping legitimization.

This is a politically opportunistic and anti-democratic act, the latest in a series of outrageously discriminatory and exclusionary laws enacted over the past year, and it accelerates the process of transforming Israel's legal code into a disturbingly dictatorial document. It casts the threatening shadow of criminal offense over every boycott, petition or even newspaper op-ed. Very soon, all political debate will be silenced.

Knesset members who vote for this law must understand that they are supporting the gagging of protest as part of an ongoing effort to liquidate democracy. Such moves may be painted as protecting Israel, but in reality, they exacerbate its international isolation.

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

 

CAUTION, ARABS!

HOW THE STATE AND ITS FLAG BECAME A TRAP FOR THE COUNTRY'S ARABS.

BY OUDEH BASHARAT

A story from the Galilee: With the first rain every year, a certain tow truck driver would pour a bottle of oil on one side of the dangerous curves in the road and then pray for God to bring income to him and his family.

Columnists, on the other hand, have no need to pour oil in order to earn a living; they have MKs Miri Regev (Likud ) and Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ).

If readers are bored during the period of waiting for the September tsunami, if they are fed up with the intifada that, according to the Hebrew press, will be breaking out every Monday and Thursday, they have Regev and Michaeli, who are proposing to condition the existence of non-profit associations on the Jewish character of the state. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ), who is apparently enchanted by their proposal, has suggested that food manufacturers brand their packaging with slogans such as "Jewish-Democratic Fruity Yogurt."

In its day, the national flag played the role of recognition of "Jewish and democratic," and Arab villages were harassed with accusations of debasing the flag. The Arabic press was called to the flag - to condemn those Arabs who want to wipe out the state. School children were arrested, representatives of the military government threatened and foamed at the mouth with anger, and cowed mukhtars ran around muttering "our home is destroyed." At the end of the patriotic campaign, the young people were released without indictments. And thus the state and its flag became a trap for Arabs.

Poet Samih al Qasim scrawled a few words in honor of the affair; Samir al Hafez sang them; and like Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi's "Zanga Zanga," they became a hit: "The state has driven us nuts. It said: Shut up, don't breathe, for the sake of state security."

A certain leader, one of the good Arabs, instilled his philosophy in children and said: "The state is everything. A state is a home. The state is land." And his enthusiasm was so great that he went on to say: "Kundarti [my shoe] is also a state." And those uncivilized children got only the last sentence. "The state is a shoe," they told anyone who wanted, or didn't want, to listen.

In the disastrous way of the need to glorify the name of the state at that time, one of the good Arabs called out, in all innocence: "Long live the State of Israel al mazouma [the liar]."

Apparently, since the honorable man had so often heard from the broadcasters in the Arab countries the phrase Israil al mazouma, and because mazouma in literary Arabic resembles the world zaima, which means "leader, the man got confused. And although his intention was "Israel the leader," he did cause much consternation among the honorable sirs from the military government who were present.

Thus, as Emil Habibi recounts in his book, "The Opsimsit," it came about that in those days, one could recognize an Arab's car on Independence Day by the national flags - the Jewish national flags, of course - that adorned it. And in Tel Aviv, when an Arab youngster got in trouble because of his origin, he began shouting "Arab, Arab," and fled in the midst of the uproar, thus saving himself from getting lynched.

"In order to be heard, ask for the possible," said Ali ibn Taleb, the fourth Caliph. Otherwise there will be lots of rude remarks like those of the children back then who are the leaders of today.

The tow truck driver pours oil carefully, at the edge of the road. The initiatives of the honorable Knesset members, however, are oil poured on the middle of the road, which will yet cause us to skid, all of us, into terrible realms.

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

NO REASON TO CRAWL

WHY SHOULD ISRAEL GET DOWN ON ITS HANDS AND KNEES AND APOLOGIZE, ANYWAY?

BY EHUD TOLEDANO

These days there are intense talks between Israel and Turkey in an effort to improve the poor relations that have developed between the two countries over the past two years, especially since the flotilla affair in May 2010. However, there is a disagreement between those who want to meet Turkish demands for an Israeli apology and compensation to the families of the casualties, and those who are willing to only "express sorrow" and maybe offer indirect compensation.

In the assessment of those who believe that the demands should be met, Jerusalem needs Ankara more than Ankara needs Jerusalem and therefore every effort should be made in order not to upset the Turkish government, especially the man at its head, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In their view, Israel should walk lightly and if need be, crawl and kowtow. Only thus, they would argue in private, will we be able to restore the "strategic alliance" which was a major part of Israel's regional policy.

That is why senior Israeli statesmen almost never respond to the attacks of Erdogan and stay away from debates in the Turkish media, even though they could influence the open political dialogue with the main elite groups there.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman may express vigorous opinions on the matter, but his position is viewed in Turkey as prejudiced and not representative.

The logic of this stance is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it should it should be understood that damage to Israel's "strategic alliance" with Turkey is irreversible. In the foreseeable future we will not be able to resume defense, military or intelligence cooperation, mostly because the other side is not interested in bringing it back.

Those who would want these kinds of cooperations, and in the past even carried it on without the knowledge or the agreement of Ankara, have lost their ability to act. The independence and political position of the Turkish army has been eroded and Erdogan controls the Turkish intelligence service, MIT.

The stability brought to political life in Turkey by the ruling party in recent years enabled the government to remove the army from the political scene, to which it had been called a number of times in the past to intervene in order "to save the nation" from the chaos created by the politicians of the old elites.

Removing the military from politics also stemmed from pressures from the European Union to adopt democratic reform, which may ease Turkey's accession process to the EU.

Normalizing diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey will not mean the resumption of any alliance, but at most a change in rhetoric. Trade relations have not suffered, except in defense, and this is a trend that will unlikely change for the worse.

Therefore the main question is why should Israel get down on its hands and knees and apologize? What is the return that it may receive in return for the humiliation in its political standing in the eyes of the Turkish elites, which will not consider this a gesture, but a withdrawal and a clear sign of weakness?

On the other hand, improving the atmosphere between the countries could be achieved in a different way. Israel has strategic assets that are very important for Turkey, which aspires to wield influence and have a role in the various Middle Eastern arenas.

Ankara too understands, especially after it was burned by the boiling "Arab Spring," that without working relations with Israel and a rebuilding of basic Israeli trust, its government will not be able to take part in future regional processes. The minute that this is made unequivocally clear, even the appeasers will be surprised to witness the speed with which the style of Erdogan and his aides will change vis-a-vis Israel and its government.

 

The writer is professor of Ottoman and Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University.

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

LAWS FOR LIQUIDATION

THE BOYCOTT BILL IS AN IMPOSITION OF THE VIEWS OF THE MAJORITY ON THE MINORITY, ESSENTIALLY SHUTTING THE LATTER UP.

BY TALIA SASSON

The Knesset was due to vote today on the second and third readings of what has been dubbed the "boycott law," under which anyone calling on the public not to purchase goods made in the settlements, for example, will have committed a civil violation, as would someone who calls on artists not to perform there.

Even those who oppose boycotts as a tool for social change cannot stand idly by as the Knesset passes such a harmful law. This legislation strikes at one of the fundamentals of a democratic regime - freedom of expression, which is an ultra-legal constitutional right, the foundation stone of every democratic administration. It hits at the very place where the people need the broadest possible freedom of expression - the realm of political expression.

Here, especially, if people aren't given space to express conflicting views, the extremism, hostility, alienation and hatred between groups will increase, and are liable to lead to violence.

The restrictions on freedom of expression that the law proposes will fall on those who hold a specific political viewpoint, who believe that the settlements are illegal or illegitimate or do not serve the good of the state. The bill is an imposition of the views of the majority on the minority, essentially by shutting the latter up. Whoever declares in public that his conscience forbids him to sing in Ariel will be punished.

This is legislation that directly contravenes the role of a parliament in a democratic state - namely, to protect minority rights from majority oppression. It's also a reversal of norms: While the consensus throughout the world is that the settlements are illegal, anyone in Israel who dares oppose them will suffer consequences.

Even worse is that this law equates Israel with the West Bank. Even Israel's critics acknowledge its existence as a sovereign state within the Green Line. Israel's settlement policy is criticized, and there is wide international consensus that the settlements are illegal and illegitimate. But there is a difference between criticizing Israel's settlement policies and recognizing its right to exist within the borders of the Green Line.

Now, through a Knesset law, Israel is drawing an analogy between its right to exist as a state and its policy of settling territories in which it has no sovereignty.

Ever since the 18th Knesset was formed, MKs have been competing among themselves to see who can more heavily bruise Israel's democratic regime. The flood of anti-democratic laws, among them the boycott bill, only some of whose dreadful clauses are described above, are the product of a guiding hand. There are no coincidences here.

These policies come directly from the school of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who periodically get some help from Kadima volunteers. All of them are trying to change Israel's democratic system, which still allows room for broad freedom of expression and defense of minority rights, even if this requires intervention by the High Court of Justice, which sees itself as authorized to void a Knesset law that contradicts basic democratic values.

Those sponsoring this legislation believe, apparently justifiably, that even if the High Court does strike down this law, or any part of it, such intervention will not be possible against all the bad laws that are coming down on us, and that at least some of them will remain on the books. Those who support this legislative process also believe that every time the High Court intervenes and strikes down a law, its standing among the public drops.

Thus, these officials are confidently leading the way toward making Israel a "thin" democracy, where there are formal democratic processes - such as elections every so often - while the substance of democracy dissipates like morning fog.

The harm these people are doing to the State of Israel will cause mortal damage to its legitimacy, because the nations of the world, including the United States, will not support an undemocratic state.

But why should these people bother themselves about such minor details? Their main objective is to perpetuate their control.

 

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

EDITORIAL

DANGEROUS OMISSIONS

The gunman in the Virginia Tech massacre, Seung-Hui Cho, should never have been allowed to buy the weapons he used in the 2007 rampage. He had been found mentally ill and ordered into treatment by a court, yet that record never made it into the database of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System used for screening prospective gun purchasers.

Prompted by that tragedy, Congress approved a law, signed by President Bush in 2008, authorizing new grant money and penalties to encourage states to submit to the federal system pertinent records regarding individuals judged to be severely mentally ill, as well as others barred from buying or possessing firearms, including convicted felons and drug abusers. Although more records are in the system now, the results are still distressingly deficient.

As of April, six states — Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — had not submitted a single mental health record to the gun check system, according to a new report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Nineteen more states and the District of Columbia had submitted fewer than 100 mental health records apiece. Many federal agencies also lag in submitting relevant records to the system.

Meanwhile, the 2008 law is having an unfortunate side effect. In exchange for its help in passing the bill, the National Rifle Association insisted that to qualify for grants to help improve their record sharing, states must establish "a relief from disability" program that would allow people with histories of disqualifying mental health problems to apply to have their gun rights restored.

The result, as Michael Luo reported in The Times, has been a proliferation of new restoration laws, many with extremely lax standards, adopted at the N.R.A.'s behest, for determining whether a petitioner can be trusted to handle guns. Too often judges, lacking expertise in the area, make decisions without reviewing important evidence about an applicant's mental health, sometimes after only a brief hearing or no hearing at all.

President Obama was on the right track two months after the mass killing in Tucson, when in an op-ed article in The Arizona Daily Star, he pointed to the missing state records and the need for an "instant, accurate, comprehensive" background check system. That would require ending the gun show loophole and other exceptions that allow dangerous individuals to avoid background checks.

Mr. Obama, however, has failed to follow up with a strong bureaucratic effort to overcome the technological challenges, the privacy concerns, and the inattention of state officials who maintain mental health and other underreported records. Nor has he thrown his weight behind a promising measure, sponsored by two New York Democrats, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Carolyn McCarthy. Their legislation would impose tougher monetary penalties on states that do not submit required reports to the national background check system. It would also extend the background check requirement to all gun sales, including those at gun shows. Four years after Virginia Tech and six months after Tucson, presidential leadership is still missing.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DROPPING THE BALL ON HEALTH EXCHANGES

In the frenzied final days of New York's legislative session, an important health care measure fell by the wayside. The Republican-led State Senate failed to pass a bill to establish a health insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses would be able to buy coverage starting in 2014. An identical bill had already passed the Democratic-led Assembly.

If the state fails to enact the authorizing legislation soon, it will find it extremely hard to qualify for a big federal grant to underwrite the entire cost of setting up the exchange and operating it through 2014. Tens of millions of dollars in federal support could be forfeited.

The Senate leadership pulled the bill before the vote because a few Republicans absurdly equated a vote for a health exchange with a vote to support the federal health care reforms. They refused to "give" Democrats both gay marriage and "Obamacare" on the same day. They need to realize that if the state does not set up a health exchange, the federal government will step in and do so.

Many senators said they were uncertain about the bill's implications and were unsatisfied with answers they were getting from the bill's sponsors. The bill pending in the Senate would create the exchange as a "public benefit corporation," run by an independent board appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and authorized to develop regulations to comply with federal health reforms.

The bill also provides that if any provision of the federal reforms is repealed or found unconstitutional, the state's exchange law becomes invalid. No matter what the Senate does, health care reform is going to happen. It makes sense for New York to set up its own exchange — crafted with an eye toward the state's particular needs — and have Washington foot most of the bill. The senators should return later this year and pass this legislation in the form it was approved by the Assembly.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN AGGRESSIVE RULING ON CLEAN AIR

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued a welcome and overdue rule compelling power plants in 27 states and the District of Columbia to reduce smokestack emissions that pollute the air and poison forests, lakes and streams across the eastern United States. The regulation reflects the E.P.A.'s determination to carry out its mandates under the Clean Air Act despite fierce Congressional opposition, and bodes well for progress on a host of other regulatory challenges the agency faces.

The rule, which takes effect in 2012, would cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain, and nitrogen oxide, a component of smog, by more than half by 2014 compared with 2005 levels. The E.P.A. administrator, Lisa Jackson, said the rule would improve air quality for 240 million Americans in the states where the pollution is produced and in areas downwind.

As is true of nearly every regulation spawned by the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act, the rule's benefits will greatly outweigh its costs to industry — a truth routinely ignored by the act's critics, most recently the Tea Party supporters in Congress. The E.P.A. estimates annual benefits at $120 billion to $240 billion, mostly from fewer premature deaths, hospital visits and lost work days associated with respiratory illnesses.

By contrast, the costs of new pollution controls and plant retirements are estimated at $800 million annually, on top of about $1.6 billion in capital improvements already under way in anticipation of the rule.

There were predictable complaints from industry lobbyists and some in Congress that the rule would impede economic growth. Those groups are likely to be even more critical of the rest of the agency's clean-air agenda.

Over the next few months, the E.P.A. will propose new "performance standards" governing largely unregulated greenhouse gas emissions from power plants; issue a final rule mandating reductions in toxic pollutants like mercury; and propose new state and local health standards for ozone.

In addition, President Obama has asked that the agency, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation, set new mileage and emission standards for cars and light trucks manufactured from 2017 to 2025. An earlier round of fuel efficiency standards in 2009 remains Mr. Obama's single most impressive environmental achievement, but he and the auto industry are nowhere near agreement on what the new standards should be.

Taken together, these rules should lead to cleaner air, a reduction in greenhouse gases and, in the case of the automobile standards, reduced dependence on foreign oil. Given the political obstacles, completing all these will be a remarkable achievement. The new power plant rule is a promising start.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

JETER'S MOMENT

Here's the thing about Derek Jeter: He's great and we love him, with an admiration that has little to do with statistical milestones and big round numbers. He got his 3,000th hit on Saturday, as a million flashbulbs popped and documentary cameras rolled and cheers and emotion washed over Yankee Stadium. It was an extraordinary moment, mixed with relief. His chase for an abstraction was finally over, and he could go back to the day-in, day-out job of being Derek Jeter, Yankee shortstop. That's the great long trip he's still on, and we're just glad to be along, never mind what the hit odometer says.

Don't get us wrong; 3,000 hits is a huge deal. It's a height reached only through extraordinary consistency, resilience and effort. It fixes Jeter firmly in the constellation of the greats, like Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente, Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner. Three thousand is just a number, but it's a good proxy for all the qualities of sustained baseball excellence — the basic traits of Jeterness — that are easy to see but hard to quantify.

There are no stats for doggedness. No one counts batting-cage swings and practice ground balls fielded over and over again in the quest for earned perfection. There's no record of spectacular diving catches that never had to happen because Jeter was well-positioned for the routine snag, pivot and throw to first. No meter measures loyalty, reliability or double-play elegance, or the rate of fan-jaw-droppage and pulse racing caused by defensive moves that nobody could have dreamed of. (Search for "Jeter Giambi" online and you will see.)

Jeter's quest for 3,000 hits was accompanied by a lot of dispiriting negativity and commentary about old age and injury. Those are issues for people who fixate on numbers. We'd rather look at the precise swing, the liquid catch-turn-throw, the intensity of focus, the obvious joy of playing ball really well — all gifts Jeter has been giving us for 17 years, and counting.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO, WE CAN'T? OR WON'T?

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

If you were shocked by Friday's job report, if you thought we were doing well and were taken aback by the bad news, you haven't been paying attention. The fact is, the United States economy has been stuck in a rut for a year and a half.

Yet a destructive passivity has overtaken our discourse. Turn on your TV and you'll see some self-satisfied pundit declaring that nothing much can be done about the economy's short-run problems (reminder: this "short run" is now in its fourth year), that we should focus on the long run instead.

This gets things exactly wrong. The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action — notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy's weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.

Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity — a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses.

Excuse No. 1: Just around the corner, there's a rainbow in the sky.

Remember "green shoots"? Remember the "summer of recovery"? Policy makers keep declaring that the economy is on the mend — and Lucy keeps snatching the football away. Yet these delusions of recovery have been an excuse for doing nothing as the jobs crisis festers.

Excuse No. 2: Fear the bond market.

Two years ago The Wall Street Journal declared that interest rates on United States debt would soon soar unless Washington stopped trying to fight the economic slump. Ever since, warnings about the imminent attack of the "bond vigilantes" have been used to attack any spending on job creation.

But basic economics said that rates would stay low as long as the economy was depressed — and basic economics was right. The interest rate on 10-year bonds was 3.7 percent when The Wall Street Journal issued that warning; at the end of last week it was 3.03 percent.

How have the usual suspects responded? By inventing their own reality. Last week, Representative Paul Ryan, the man behind the G.O.P. plan to dismantle Medicare, declared that we must slash government spending to "take pressure off the interest rates" — the same pressure, I suppose, that has pushed those rates to near-record lows.

Excuse No. 3: It's the workers' fault.

Unemployment soared during the financial crisis and its aftermath. So it seems bizarre to argue that the real problem lies with the workers — that the millions of Americans who were working four years ago but aren't working now somehow lack the skills the economy needs.

Yet that's what you hear from many pundits these days: high unemployment is "structural," they say, and requires long-term solutions (which means, in practice, doing nothing).

Well, if there really was a mismatch between the workers we have and the workers we need, workers who do have the right skills, and are therefore able to find jobs, should be getting big wage increases. They aren't. In fact, average wages actually fell last month.

Excuse No. 4: We tried to stimulate the economy, and it didn't work.

Everybody knows that President Obama tried to stimulate the economy with a huge increase in government spending, and that it didn't work. But what everyone knows is wrong.

Think about it: Where are the big public works projects? Where are the armies of government workers? There are actually half a million fewer government employees now than there were when Mr. Obama took office.

So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn't the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had. This isn't 20-20 hindsight: some of us warned from the beginning that tax cuts would be ineffective and that the proposed spending was woefully inadequate. And so it proved.

It's also worth noting that in another area where government could make a big difference — help for troubled homeowners — almost nothing has been done. The Obama administration's program of mortgage relief has gone nowhere: of $46 billion allotted to help families stay in their homes, less than $2 billion has actually been spent.

So let's summarize: The economy isn't fixing itself. Nor are there real obstacles to government action: both the bond vigilantes and structural unemployment exist only in the imaginations of pundits. And if stimulus seems to have failed, it's because it was never actually tried.

Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you'd think the problem was "no, we can't." But the reality is "no, we won't." And every pundit who reinforces that destructive passivity is part of the problem.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE METHOD TO THEIR MADNESS

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

The Republican Party's strategy in the debt-ceiling negotiations has baffled centrists and vindicated liberals. For months, the party's leaders have repeatedly turned down deals that would cut spending significantly because their members won't compromise on taxes. To moderates, this intransigence is inexplicable: Are they crazy? To the left, it's all-too-predictable: See, we told you they were crazy!

But there is a method to the Republicans' madness, and it rests on four things they know (or at least sense) about the deficit debate that the rest of the political class often ignores.

Barack Obama wants a right-leaning deficit deal. For months, liberals have expressed frustration with the president's deficit strategy. The White House made no effort to tie a debt ceiling vote to the extension of the Bush tax cuts last December. It pre-emptively conceded that any increase in the ceiling should be accompanied by spending cuts. And every time Republicans dug in their heels, the administration gave ground.

The not-so-secret secret is that the White House has given ground on purpose. Just as Republicans want to use the debt ceiling to make the president live with bigger spending cuts than he would otherwise support, Obama's political team wants to use the leverage provided by those cra-a-a-zy Tea Partiers to make Democrats live with bigger spending cuts than they normally would support.

Why? Because the more conservative-seeming the final deal, the better for the president's re-election effort. In that environment, Republicans have every incentive to push and keep pushing. Since any deal they cut will be used as an election-year prop in 2012, they need to make sure the president actually earns his budget-cutting bona fides.

Tax increases are lurking just over the horizon. The White House hasn't made spending concessions just because the president wants to campaign as a deficit cutter next year. It has made concessions because it knows that taxes are already scheduled to go up when the Bush-era tax rates expire at the end of 2012.

If Obama gains a second term, Congressional Republicans will have to choose between a deal that lets the top rate go back to 39 percent (a $700 billion tax increase over 10 years) or no deal at all (a $3.8 trillion tax increase). Obviously, this dilemma won't exist if President Mitt Romney occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But Obama's re-election is the more likely scenario, meaning that any deal struck this summer comes with a very large asterisk attached: *Includes tax increases to be named later.

Bipartisan budget deals usually deliver fewer spending cuts than they promise. The grand bargains of the past haven't been as bad for conservatives as right-wing mythology sometimes makes them out to be. As a share of G.D.P., federal spending fell faster in the decade after George H. W. Bush broke his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge and cut a deficit deal with Congressional Democrats than it did during the Reagan era.

But in absolute terms, no bipartisan bargain in the last three decades has delivered anywhere near the spending reductions that it promised. (As The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein notes, by 1995 actual spending was $58 billion higher than it was projected to be when Bush the Elder and the Democrats reached their 1990 agreement.) Bipartisan tax increases, by contrast, always seem to happen as scheduled.

The long-term deck is stacked in favor of tax increases. For decades, the tug-of-war between left and right has kept government's share of the economy nearly constant, around 19 percent of G.D.P. But in what you might call the revenge of Lyndon Johnson, the ballooning cost of Medicare is poised to tilt the debate decisively toward liberalism.

For now, tax increases and entitlement cuts are equally unpopular. But with every passing year, the constituency for letting Medicare grow as scheduled gets bigger and bigger, and the clout of working-age taxpayers diminishes. Already, even a relatively radical proposal like Paul Ryan's budget seems compelled to exempt current retirees from its Medicare reforms. Imagine how the landscape will look in a decade.

These are the realities driving Republican intransigence. Past experience, present politics and future trends all suggest that conservatives should be aiming for the nearly perfect in the current negotiation, rather than the merely good.

But this logic also cuts both ways. Precisely because conservatives have a window of opportunity that they may not have again, there's also a strong case to be made for striking the biggest possible deal — even if that deal requires concessions that a smaller deal does not.

At the moment, Republicans seem to be moving toward a smaller, purer bargain. Depending on what's being offered, that may be the right course. But self-described "constitutional conservatives" should remember that Mr. Madison's ingenious system doesn't just require compromise. Sometimes it rewards it as well.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BAD BORDERS, GOOD NEIGHBORS

BY EPHRAIM SNEH

Herzliya, Israel

TODAY, as American, European, Russian and United Nations officials meet in Washington to discuss the future of the Middle East peace process, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remains adamant that a peace deal premised on returning to Israel's pre-1967 borders poses an unacceptable risk to its security.

He is right: the country's 1967 borders are not militarily defensible. But his use of this argument to reject the only viable formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace — a negotiated two-state solution based on mutually agreed upon land swaps — is wrong, and it does not serve Israel's security interests. 

Israel needs peace with the Palestinians, and that will likely require a return to the 1967 lines with a few adjustments. These borders can be made defensible if they come with a security package consisting of a joint Israeli-Palestinian security force along the West Bank's border with Jordan, a demilitarized Palestinian state and a three-way Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian defense treaty. Combined with such a package, the balanced formula President Obama outlined in his May 19 speech can give Israel the security it needs and deserves.

Until June 1967, Israelis feared that a swift Arab military move could cut Israel in two at its "narrow waist" — an area near the city of Netanya, where the country is less than 10 miles wide. By doing so, Arab tanks and artillery could have reached Tel Aviv within a few hours. In the 44 years since, the geography has not changed, but the threat has.

Today, there is a new menace that we did not face in 1967. Short- and medium-range rockets, mortars and missiles supplied by Iran are making the lives of Israeli civilians a nightmare. Thousands of these rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli towns and villages since Hamas wrested control of Gaza in 2007; and if an independent Palestine emerges on the West Bank, these weapons could find their way there, too.

That is why the border between the West Bank and Jordan must be made impenetrable. This cannot be done remotely, from the 1967 lines; it will require a joint Israeli-Palestinian military presence along the Jordan River. Such joint military activity would not violate Palestinian sovereignty and could be modeled on Israel's current coordination with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. It would be far more effective than deploying an international force. After all, United Nations forces in southern Lebanon have failed to prevent a colossal military build-up by Hezbollah since Israel withdrew from the area in 2000.

Second, the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. No tanks, artillery or missiles can be deployed within its boundaries. In the absence of this weaponry, international guarantees will ensure Palestine's security and territorial integrity.

Third, an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian defense treaty is necessary to safeguard their common strategic interests. Joint military planning and sharing early warning systems to prevent threats from Iran, its proxies and other jihadist forces in the region would cement this treaty.

This security package would make the 1967 borders defensible, and keep Palestine from becoming another launching pad for terror. Moreover, an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would bring about a dramatic, strategic change in the Middle East. It would remove the obstacle preventing moderates in the region from uniting against militant Islamist extremists and lay the groundwork for a new strategic alliance in the region, including the Persian Gulf countries, which are natural business partners for Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

As a result, Israel would be able to extend its hand to new democratic and secular governments in the Arab and Muslim world. And those committed to Israel's destruction would be confronted by a new alliance with enormous economic and military power.

I have devoted more than three decades of my life to defending Israel, from the Litani River in Lebanon to the western bank of the Suez Canal in Egypt, and I would never support irresponsible, hazardous solutions to Israel's security problems. I don't believe durable peace in the region is possible unless Israel remains the strongest military power between Tehran and Casablanca.

We have no choice but to protect ourselves in a perilous world of aggressive Islamist fanatics and complacent, confrontation-averse Western democracies. But nurturing settlements in the West Bank and maintaining an occupation in order to protect them is not the proper way to do it. 

Following that path will lead to disaster. Israel could become a binational state of first- and second-class citizens at war with each other; a third Intifada could break out, damaging Israel's economy and destroying Palestine's nascent infrastructure; or the pro-negotiation policy of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, could collapse, allowing Hamas to take power in the West Bank. If this happens, the doomsday prophecy of rockets raining down on Ben-Gurion International Airport just might be fulfilled.

To avoid this fate, we must embrace the proposals of our American friends, end this conflict and allow Israel to become an active member, rather than an isolated actor, in the rapidly changing Middle East.

Ephraim Sneh, a retired general in the Israel Defense Forces, was Israel's deputy minister of defense from 1999 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2007.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KURRAM OPERATION

 

Last Saturday, the Pakistan Army formally launched a full-fledged operation in central Kurram Agency, two weeks after the government had notified 80 square kilometres of the area there as a conflict zone. This Friday alone, security forces backed by gunship helicopters and artillery guns killed 11 militants, taking the enemy fighters' death toll of the almost weeklong offensive to over 60. There is no independent confirmation of the death toll because journalists and aid workers don't have free access to the area. A complex set of geopolitical issues has influenced events in Kurram valley, not least that it is central to the interests of the Taliban, offering easy access to Afghanistan. Kurram has a Shia majority and the area has been plagued by sectarianism for decades. Since 2007, things have been exceptionally grim, especially when the main road linking Parachinar on the Pakistan-Afghan border to Peshawar was closed due to militant activity, resulting in acute shortages of essential items in Parachinar. The sectarian problem also exploded in Kurram Agency that year and hundreds were killed. The sectarian conflict has intensified with influx into Kurram of Taliban and other Sunni militants after the US invasion of Afghanistan. The 2008 military operation in Orakzai Agency didn't help matters, forcing the militants to flee their positions for nearby Khyber and Kurram regions.

In 2008, the so-called Murree Peace Accord was signed between the rival Turi and Mangal tribes in the presence of members of parliament from the agency. However, this accord was never implemented. Just in March this year, the Taliban attacked three vehicles heading from Peshawar to Parachinar and kidnapped 22 Shias, and the road was closed again. Hakeemullah Mehsud, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan commander in Kurram and Orakzai since 2007, wanted the prisoners to be handed over to him so he could receive ransom for their release, which Kurram-based commander Fazal Saeed Haqqani's deputy refused, killing eight of the hostages instead. Hakeemullah removed Haqqani from the command and in retaliation Haqqani formed the Tehreek-i-Taliban Islami Pakistan and severed all contacts with the TTP. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse, and the army has now stepped in to, it says, "clear the area of terrorists involved in acts of terrorism, including kidnapping and killing of local people, suicide attacks and blocking the road that connects Lower Kurram with Upper Kurram." While there are several benchmarks for the success of an operation in Kurram, the bare minimum that security forces must achieve is to permanently end the violence that has plagued the lives of the agency's people, especially in lower and upper Kurram where both Shias and Sunnis have been displaced by sectarian attacks. Militant activity along the Thall-Parachinar road that has isolated the population from the settled areas must also be decisively stopped. The success of the operation will also depend on how well the government, and the international community, is able to handle the almost 12,000 families expected to be displaced over the course of the operation. The operation in central Kurram is likely to neutralise resistance pockets of Taliban still operating in the Mamoozai area of Orakzai Agency. The latest operation is also a prerequisite for any operation, if one is ever conducted, in North Waziristan, since without securing central Kurram, foreign militants and the TTP in NWA would have shifted to Kurram and Orakzai.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POPULATION DAY

 

There are a lot of us, 187 million by the most recent estimate, and 35.4 percent of us are aged 14 or under. The average age is 21.6 years which makes us an extremely young population by global standards. Estimates of our growth rate vary a little, but it is between 1.573 percent and 2.03 percent. We give birth to 24.81 children for every 1,000 of the population every year and, thanks to better healthcare (yes, really) and diet (also yes, really) 6.92 of us per 1,000 die every year. We increasingly live in the cities, with 36 percent of us 'urbanised' in 2011 and that number is set to grow by 3.1 percent every year in the current estimates that run until 2015. We are highly susceptible to a range of diseases but on average will live for 65.99 years, though only seven of those years will be spent on education. About 63 percent of men and about 36 percent of women have basic literacy but it is very basic indeed, and as of 2008 we spent 2.9 percent of the GDP on education – which more or less guarantees that we will remain at the back of the queue developmentally for a long time to come.

Our population is bigger than that of Bangladesh and smaller than that of Brazil and World Population Day on July 11 passes us by scarcely rippling the surface of the pool of ignorance and indifference that many of us live in. This year's World Population Day falls in the year when the planet Earth will probably see the birth of its seven billionth inhabitant. Whilst that at one level is cause for the celebration of our diversity, it is a warning that our numbers are outstripping the ability of the planet to feed, clothe, and house its human population. As a species we are having serious negative effects on the health of the tiny celestial body we live on – and there is no lifeboat. If the ship goes down, we go with it. Our efforts to counter global warming are faltering at best, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals are globally beginning to fall short of their ambitious targets. The part of the planet to which we are steward – Pakistan – is entering a period of severe water and power shortages which could present existential threats and a demographic that has a youth bulge which is fast becoming a threat rather than an opportunity. For us, World Population Day is a note of caution – but notes of caution we rarely hear, or heed if we do.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE ONLY FOR ARABS

 AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

 

Serves him right. That was my instant reaction to the International Criminal Court's warrant for Muammar Qaddafi. The whole country has been on fire and on its feet demanding the demented colonel's departure for nearly six months now. And all the Libyans have got in return for their demand for freedom is death and destruction from the man who has all these years claimed to be the saviour of the Arabs and Muslims.

The ICC move against the Libyan dictator is therefore as justified. Indeed, it should have come sooner; maybe it could have saved hundreds of precious lives. More important, it could have thrown fear of God – and retribution – into Qaddafi's followers.

Look at the endless carnage in Syria. It's the same story there. In fact, it's even worse. At least in Libya's case, the international outrage and condemnation of the regime has been led by the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. As for Syria there's been a deafening silence across the region. The only exception has been Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has not just opened Turkey's borders for the deluge of Syrian refugees but repeatedly confronted Damascus.

The Arabs clearly fear that any weakening of Syria, the largest country of the Levant, could end up helping Israel and its friends in high places. Their fear isn't entirely without basis given the long history of Israeli machinations against Arab neighbours including Damascus. But should the fear of Israeli and western plots blind us to the suffering of the Syrian people and the interminable slaughter of innocents by their own troops?

A nation is made and defined by its people. What is Syria without its people who are being gunned down for demanding what is their right but are taken for granted around the world? We therefore ought to take heart from the fact that the wheels of justice have finally started turning.

I have a question for the ICC. Does international justice work only in the case of the Arab and third world dictators? After Sudan's Omar al Bashir, accused of being the architect of the genocide in Darfur, Qaddafi is the second Arab 'leader' to have been charge-sheeted by the ICC.

Of course there have been others – from the butchers of the Balkans to the mass murderers of Rwanda, Congo and Cambodia, who rightly deserved nothing but swift and the toughest retribution for their awful crimes against humanity.

The question is: why is international justice blind to similar crimes perpetrated by western powers and their long pampered bullies in the neighbourhood?

Israel killed thousands of civilians, including women and children, in just one offensive on Gaza in 2009. God only knows how many more it has killed in its myriad wars and perpetual onslaught on a defenceless and besieged people. Not to mention the political and material dispossession of the Palestinians and the incalculable price they have paid in economic, physical and emotional terms.

Yet we haven't heard a single word of warning from the ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo against Israel's 'democratic' leaders. Why won't Uncle Sam even allow a perfunctory condemnation of Israeli actions in the UN Security Council, let alone pass an ICC warrant against the Frankenstein created by the west?

And what has monsieur Ocampo done so far to bring justice to the Afghani, Iraqi and Pakistani victims of similar atrocities? Their suffering is little different from that of the Libyan people. Indeed, it's far worse.

Bush, Blair and others of the coalition of the willing are not just enjoying their retirement, they are making big bucks by writing million dollar books about how they planned and executed the whole circus. Unlike Bashir and Qaddafi, they are not afraid of flying or visiting distant friends.

A million people and more have been killed for a lie. So what? Saddam Hussein's much trumpeted weapons of mass destruction are not to be found. So what? Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld would put it with a smirk on his face. And so what if Iraq after all had no links to the 9/11 attacks, as claimed by the president and his zealot followers?

And so what if two countries have been totally ravaged – and a third is unravelling fast – as the US war continues to expand across the Muslim world, from Central Asia to Middle East to Africa?

People are being killed like flies on a daily basis, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia and no one, including their worthy leaders, so much as raises an eyebrow. What justice, what accountability and what due process? Uncle Sam is the judge, jury and executioner. America's word is law. The international criminal court, yet to be recognised by the sole superpower, knows this and so does its chief prosecutor. Some are clearly more equal in the eyes of international justice.

Last week, around the time monsieur Ocampo was unveiling the Qaddafi warrant with a relish, an extraordinary piece of research titled The Cost of War was released in the US by the Eisenhower Study Group offering new estimates of America's wars ostensibly provoked by the 9/11 attacks.

The wars have already cost Washington $3.2 trillion dollars and are soon expected to cross $4 trillion. No wonder the US economy – and the world economy – are still teetering on the brink despite the constant oxygen supply provided by the Chinese. More than 6,000 US soldiers have been killed and nearly half a million have lost limbs and carry the scars of war, and not just on their bodies.

But what about those who were at the receiving end? Will we ever get to know the real costs of these wars for the victims? The study, carried out by some two dozen anthropologists, economists and political scientists, for the first time also examined the deadly effects of the 12-year long crippling UN sanctions imposed on Iraq killing tens of thousands, many of them young children, long before the 2003 US invasion.

The most cautious estimate of the war dead, according to the study, is 258,000 although as far back as 2006 a study by the UK-based medical journal, The Lancet, had put the number at a million in Iraq alone. Thousands more have perished since, and more will – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Even if you accept the questionable number of 258,000, that is too many precious lives wasted, is it not? For every person killed on September 11, 2001, America has killed at least 73 people with more to follow.

Then there are those who have been driven from their homes by these wars. Nearly 10 million people have been displaced internally or forced into neighbouring countries. It is feared that the human and economic costs of these wars will be paid by the affected countries for many decades to come.

The question is, who is responsible and who will pay for these appalling crimes against humanity? Can the ICC hold them to account? Or is that too much to ask of the world court? Is the international law only good for the scum of the third world?

The Americans are not going to lose sleep over these inconvenient questions of course. Now that Obama has announced the withdrawal of "most US forces" from Iraq this year and Afghanistan by the next, they have already consigned the whole unpleasant business to the dustbin of collective amnesia. The issue is off the agenda of 2012 presidential election. America has clearly moved on. But can the world afford to do so too?

The writer is based in the Gulf. Email: aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO?

 TALAT FAROOQ

 

 Commenting on the possibility of a grand alliance of the opposition, the July 5 editorial 'Alliance politics' (The News) rightly points out: "There are many who will find this beneficial for ordinary citizens who continue to seek political forces willing to speak out against ceaseless inflation and the absence of effective governments. If they wanted to, politicians could play this role efficiently, if they wanted to." And therein lies the first million dollar question. Why would they want to?

Political leopards living in the post colonial Pakistani state have never found it politically beneficial to change their spots. The state has been an administrative, not a political entity despite the façade of democracy. The wealthy and the privileged landowners, industrialists and military elite have run the country without ever making genuine efforts to bridge the gulf between the state and society. Increasing disconnect between the masses and the political elite has existed because of a dearth of common, shared values between the two; whether it is provincial autonomy or foreign policy; education, health or poverty, the two segments have remained poles apart.

The actual purpose of the rulers has not been development or nation building but control of state resources to further personal interests. It is therefore not surprising that over the last six decades Pakistan's social indicators have consistently shown a downward spiral that has not been arrested by either the military or civilian governments. What has happened now that would change the trend and turn these self interested politicians into philanthropists?

Since 2008 the PML-N has been the friendliest opposition ever, Chaudhry Nisar's tantrums notwithstanding. The MQM, in keeping with its past record has been hand in glove with the ruling elite, despite Altaf Husain's anti wadera, anti jagirdar and anti authoritarian rhetoric. As for JUI (and JI), the lesser said the better. In another time and place this pro militancy religious leadership would have been tried for treason. In Pakistan in the 21st century they can still pass for 'ulema'.

No surprises then if the culture of impunity remains healthy and well looked after as we approach another election campaign. Be it tax evasion or imposition of agricultural tax; bonded labour or land reforms, VIP culture or nepotism or appeasement of the jihadi groups – nothing has changed for the better.

The PML-N and MQM's joint rhetoric emphasises corruption and 'awami masail' as the motivation behind the effort to create the said alliance. Terms like inflation, load-shedding and law and order are being thrown about as important issues. One cannot help but ask another million dollar question: What took you so long to work this one out?

The overall corruption according to Transparency International, increased from Rs195 billion in 2009 to Rs223 billion in 2010. Nearly 80 percent Pakistanis in a 2009 survey saw the PPP coalition government as the most corrupt ever. The cumulative rate of inflation by the end of 2009 was 44 percent and as per SBP estimate, this compelled more than 40 percent Pakistanis to live below the poverty line by 2010. It doesn't take a genius to infer that since then the situation could only have gone worse.

According to a 2010 security report compiled by Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies the number of terror attacks in Punjab increased from 46 in 2009 to 62 in 2010. Lahore was the worst hit where 44 attacks were carried out as compared to 11 in 2009. The report further states that South Punjab appears to be providing recruits for militant outfits. The PML-N, however, has made no substantial efforts at the provincial or federal levels to ensure the implementation of a viable counter-terrorism legislation. Moreover, besides using acts of terrorism as occasions to criticise an incompetent federal government the PML-N has never dared breathe a word against the Taliban or other jihadi outfits operating from within Punjab.

The turf wars in Karachi between the MQM, ANP and PPP are not a new phenomenon. According to a Human Rights Commission report 272 targeted killings took place in 2009 and the number increased to 748 within the first six months of 2010 of which 447 were political activists, while the rest were innocent citizens. According to the records of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) there were 1,034 deaths in the first ten months of 2010. CPLC's records show that this is the highest number of target killings since 1995. According to a foreign news agency target killings in Karachi in 2010 claimed more lives (1233) than that of suicide bombings across the country (1,208).

The latest spate of target killings is merely an addition to the sordid drama being enacted by the representatives of volatile ethnic and political fault lines in Karachi. Politically motivated extortion rackets, land grabbing and killings along with kidnappings, sectarian violence and street crime have continued unabated in Karachi under the PPP-MQM government since 2008. Why did the plight of the masses not bother the Grand Alliance Aspirants much, much sooner than mid 2011?

Pakistan's political, judicial, social and economic institutions have failed to resolve the issues of the common people over the last sixty years. The simple reason is that both the ruling elite and the opposition belong to the same social class. Their confrontation with each other is about control of state institutions and resources; it is about power. Whoever is in opposition tries subverting the ruling elite in order to grab power for furthering their own self interests. Opposition alliances are never for the welfare of the downtrodden. The people or 'awam' are part of the political hyperbole – nothing more.

The politicians operating within the prevailing environment will never initiate change. Only the people themselves can change this situation. And so here's another million dollar question: Do we have what it takes to protect the future of our children?

The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email: talatfarooq11@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DEFENDERS OF PAKISTAN

 DR A Q KHAN


While my first contact was with then army chief Gen Tikka Khan, it was followed by my contact with Gen Ziaul Haq, who became army chief in April 1976, Gen Arif, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz, Gen Abdul Wahid Kakar, Gen Jehangir Karamat and last, but worst of all, Gen Pervez Musharraf. Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Kakar stood out above all the others. I also had close contact and meetings with Gen Haq Nawaz, Gen. Tanvir Naqvi, Gen M. Akram Khan, Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman, Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Gen Sharif Nasir, Gen Ali Kuli Khan, Gen Shamim Alam, Gen Ahmed Jamal, Gen Mustafa Kamal, Gen Arshad Chaudhry, Gen Ali Nawab, Gen Moinuddin Haider, Gen Saeed Qadir, Gen Javed Nasir, Gen Ghulam Mohammad, Gen Ashraf Qazi, Gen Afzal Janjua, Gen Abdul Qayyum, Gen Zamin Naqvi, Brig Ibrahim Qureshi and Brig Iqbal Tajwar, to name but a few. All of them were thorough gentlemen, as well as highly professional.

However, this does not mean that there were no others whose character, performance and attitude were abhorrent. Of the army chiefs, only Gen Asif Nawaz was short-tempered, and sometimes even rude. After meeting him a few times I wondered how the army's evaluation system could allow people like him to reach such heights. After meeting Gen Musharraf, my wondering turned to shock. In my evaluation he should not have been promoted beyond the rank of major. Not only the jawans and army officers at large, but also the public, were aware of his undesirable behaviour. When I once asked Gen Hameed Gul how he, as director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and corps commander of Multan, gave positive annual reports about Musharaf, he admitted that this had been a mistake. He was misled by Musharraf's behaviour of a "brave commando," he said.

Once again, please don't judge the whole army by the misdeeds of a few high-ranking officers. It is our prime institution. The jawans and young officers never hesitate to sacrifice their lives for the country when called upon to do so. I personally had marble graves constructed for Mahfooz Shaheed and Karnal Sher Khan Shaheed. They are our heroes and always will be. The martyrs of 1965 are still remembered by the whole nation and will never be forgotten. The wars of 1965 and 1971 and the Kargil conflict were started by adventurist generals, but were paid for with the lives of brave jawans and junior officers. In all armies of the world one can always find some misguided opportunists. Our army is no exception. The command structure is such that jawans and junior officers have to obey orders. Nobody can refuse, disobey or question. It is difficult, but an army must allow a culture of freedom of expression and discussion to develop. That would make it strong and more popular.

In the 25 years that I worked at Kahuta, nobody ever said anything unpleasant or challenged my authority. They knew that, though I was their boss, I was more of a friend and colleague who had their interest at heart. They could frankly discuss all matters with me, even their personal problems – whether they were Grade 1 or Grade 22 colleagues. One can ask any of my former colleagues how I worked and behaved with them.

One bad thing in our class-ridden society is the presence of those who behave like "Firauns" with their juniors and those of lower standing , treat them like chaprasis and don't allow them to even give their views. The culprits are least bothered about, or even conscious of, their objectionable behaviour. However, someone of a decent family background would never act like that.

The biggest damage to the reputation and respect of the army is being done by the intelligence agencies. Many incompetent, superseded officers considered unsuitable for promotion, are subsequently retired and posted there. They vent their anger and frustrations on their juniors (or even on those who were their benefactors, as in my case). The army, the air force and the navy should do all their intelligence work through Military Intelligence, Air Intelligence and Naval Intelligence and then coordination should be done at the Joint Staff Headquarters. The ISI should be dissolved and a new National Intelligence Agency be established. This new body should not employ serving armed forces officers, for obvious reasons of conflict of interests. It should be established under a non-controversial, well-educated and experienced civilian or former chief of one of the services (with the rank of a federal minister) with competent civilian sleuths. This would go a long way in relieving the army of dirty extra baggage like kidnappings, abductions, murders and harassment which the ISI has continuously dealt in and is accused of by every segment of society in Pakistan and by foreign countries as well. I am sure the army chief does not know what goes on in the ISI behind his back and without his knowledge. Let the civilian government be responsible for the new organisation and all their acts be accountable to the judiciary and the public.

A few words here about a very brave and competent army officer, the late Brig Ibrahim Qureshi. He died on July 5, 2010. When I stayed back in Pakistan at the personal request of Mr Z A Bhutto, he made me head of the autonomous project named Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) after a few months. He also established a coordination board to oversee the activities of ERL and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and their coordination. The Board consisted of Mr A G N Kazi (secretary general, finance), Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan (secretary general, defence) and Mr Agha Shahi (secretary general, foreign affairs). I had very cordial and close relations with all of them. At that time, travelling abroad was not easy for government officers. This problem was solved by Mr Agha Shahi, who provided my colleagues and me with diplomatic passports – an excellent arrangement. He introduced me to one of his officers, Brig Ibrahim Qureshi, who was director general of administration at the time. He was a soft-spoken, highly efficient, thorough gentleman, and very helpful. He assisted us for many years until we were a fully-fledged organisation, all the while making things easy for us. He was later posted as high commissioner to Kenya.

I request all Pakistanis to show love, affection and respect to the defenders of our country – they who are there to be the first to give their lives for you, me and Pakistan. Long live the brave, patriotic defenders of our motherland! Long live Pakistan!

Concluded

Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR CHALLENGES

 ASIF EZDI

 

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

In his Naudero speech last month on the anniversary of Benazir's birthday, Zardari claimed credit for the PPP for having started Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes, while denying any kudos to Nawaz Sharif for having carried out nuclear tests in 1998. Zardari was partly right.

As he said, the country owes a lot to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for starting Pakistan's nuclear programme. Our nuclear capability has prevented Indian military adventurism and produced a measure of stability in the South Asian region.

Zardari's other claim at Naudero – that it was Benazir who began Pakistan's missile programme – is quite new and it is not true. Pakistan started planning on its missile programme in 1987, a year before Benazir became prime minister and the programme was continued under her and governments that followed. The first test of Hatf-1 was carried out in January 1989, three months into her first term but work on it had started earlier.

But more important and relevant today than the achievements of past leaders is the question what Zardari and his government have done to meet the country's current nuclear challenges, in particular getting access to peaceful nuclear technology. Not surprisingly, he had nothing to say on that in the Naudero speech. The fact is that Pakistan has not made any headway in this area during the past three years, apart from the Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 plants that China has agreed to provide under an international agreement reached much earlier. While India has been given a waiver from the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which bar nuclear supplies to countries that do not accept full-scope IAEA safeguards, the international embargo on Pakistan continues and the government has done little to have it lifted.

Zardari's 'contribution', as we know from the WikiLeaks cables, was actually in facilitating the grant of exemption to India from the NSG guidelines. At a meeting with US Ambassador Patterson in January 2009, he reminded her that it had only taken a phone call from the US for the government to give up its opposition to a safeguards agreement with India at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in July-August 2008. The approval of the safeguards agreement cleared the way for the grant of the waiver to India shortly afterwards. According to another WikiLeaks cable, Zardari told the US Ambassador in April 2008 that if he had his way, he would give the IAEA access to Dr A Q Khan.

Unlike Pakistan, the nuclear debate going on in India these days is not about which political party can claim laurels for having given the country its nuclear weapons. The debate is about further steps to enhance India's nuclear status and to get unrestricted access to technology for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing needed for the production of nuclear weapons. The ultimate goal is to get full recognition as a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Delhi took the first giant step on this path when in September 2008 it obtained a waiver from the NSG. This has been followed by other initiatives. In August 2010, India and the US concluded an agreement giving India the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel of US origin but without sufficient safeguards against its diversion for weapons purposes. India's current efforts are focused on getting membership of the NSG.

On the whole, Delhi's efforts to legitimise its nuclear status have been going well. But the Indians have recently been left guessing about the impact of a revision last month of the NSG guidelines on the transfer of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology. Under the previous guidelines, the supplier countries were only required to 'exercise restraint' in the transfer of sensitive technology usable for nuclear weapons. The new rules, adopted at a meeting of the NSG at Noordwijk (Netherlands) on 23-24 June bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology to states that have not signed the NPT or do not allow comprehensive IAEA safeguards.

If applied to India, the new guidelines would not only bar the country's access to advanced technology for boosting its nuclear weapons programme, but also amount to a rebuff to its quest for a nuclear status at par with the five nuclear weapons states recognised by the NPT. It is hardly surprising therefore that India has been crying foul. It has called the new guidelines a rollback of the so-called 'clean waiver' given by the NSG and has hinted that it will not buy nuclear reactors from countries which refuse to sell ENR technology.

But for the present India is not likely to push the NSG too hard because it badly wants membership in the group. The Indian candidature has the strong support of the US, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. Beijing has been non-committal so far. The Indian expectation is that China will eventually go along, as it did in 2008 over the question of India's waiver from NSG guidelines.

It does not take much imagination to guess how India's admission would impact on Pakistan's interests. Even as a non-member, Delhi campaigned feverishly among the NSG countries to scupper the project for the construction of Chashma-3 and Chashma-4. Once India becomes a member of the NSG, it will get a veto over any future proposal to open up trade in peaceful nuclear technology with Pakistan.

Pakistan, though nominally an 'ally', has been getting a particularly raw deal from the US on access to peaceful nuclear technology. While other western supplier countries are falling over each other to sell nuclear reactors to India, the doors have been slammed shut on Pakistan. The ostensible reason is Pakistan's record as a nuclear proliferator. This looks like a plausible reason but the real grounds are to be found in Washington's strategic plans for the region. As the then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said in 2005, the nuclear deal with India was the first step towards "making India a global power" – as a potential counterweight to the rise of China.

A lot of the blame for our failure to get access to peaceful nuclear technology lies with us. Zardari, like Musharraf before him, has been loath to risk losing US favour by pressing Washington on this issue; and the opposition parties have been too preoccupied in petty politicking to give attention to major issues of national security. Nawaz Sharif has surrounded himself with the same old coterie of professional sycophants and fawning careerists whose self-serving counsel brought about his downfall in 1999. To this day, he continues to harp on his great moment of glory, the nuclear tests of 1998, not realising that the world has moved on since then and the nuclear challenges facing Pakistan today are of a very different nature.

Gilani has recently been complaining about the 'discriminatory' policy followed by the US in denying nuclear technology to Pakistan. He does not know that in diplomacy such moralistic arguments and pleadings cut no ice. US will only listen if it makes the calculation that its own interests will be better served if it stops denying nuclear technology to Pakistan. We could help Washington reach that conclusion by serving notice that if India is admitted to the NSG, and as long as Pakistan does not get nuclear technology on the same terms as India, we would continue to oppose negotiations in the CD on a fissile material treaty and, besides, will not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Since the CTBT cannot enter into force without Pakistan's participation, US will have to choose between the test ban treaty and keeping the nuclear embargo on Pakistan. It is to be hoped that Washington would then choose wisely: for the CTBT.

Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

AT THE EDGE

 CHRIS CORK

 

For the last five years – at least – I have argued strongly and in a variety of quarters and contexts that we are not a failed state. My argument was based on a range of purely practical indicators. The ATMs worked everywhere. Running a national system of interconnected ATMs is a massive and complex undertaking, that the 'failed states' of this world by and large are unable to create or sustain. National internet services have grown quickly and with them distance learning, online retail and banking and massively enhanced business opportunities everywhere the service exists. The mobile phone network has revolutionised communication and we are one of the most connected countries in the region. As a nation we are resilient and tough, able to withstand enormous shocks to the entire system of infrastructure; and drag ourselves out of whatever hole calamity has thrown us into.

All of these are powerful plus-points, and fly in the face of the doomsayers who would have had us dead and buried within a decade of partition. I mustered my arguments carefully, trying not to err on the side of over-optimism or lose sight of the dreadful realities that we face that are the indicators most often used to point to state failure. The failure to invest in education from the outset. Failed land reforms. A failure to collect revenue (taxes) that means that our budget deficits never narrow alongside a dependence on aid to bolster an economy that currently is dead on its feet courtesy of the chronic power supply problems. All of which and more are undeniably indicators that this is a state in serious difficulty – but not, I argued, failed.

But what about the terrorism? The extremism? Well, these things are cyclic, nothing is forever and they will, eventually, pass. A lot of people are going to die along the way, many more will be injured. But a close look at the map of terrorism tells us that all of the country is not under the terrorist boot, most of the country as a proportion of the total landmass is relatively peaceful and the population go about their business largely undisturbed. They are disturbed by the images of what they see happening elsewhere, but personally mostly untouched. This is not me having a pink-and-fluffy fantasy; this is the for-real experience of most of us.

However, of late my delicately balanced position is looking increasingly vulnerable. I am not of the view that Pakistan is about to collapse like a house of cards, but parts of it are collapsing at a rate faster than the state can or will prevent. The picture emerging for me today is one of an increasing area of ungoverned land, and that may include one or more cities and certainly will include expanding ungoverned areas to the northwest. Within ungoverned areas there are going to be islands of governance, places where the rule of law holds up, and a semblance of normality in terms of trade and daily life continues. Some of these areas will be geographically large, such as much of Punjab for instance – and self sustaining. Others will be oceans of poverty and deprivation, lawless or semi-lawless and in large part abandoned by the central government.

Why do I think this? It is because of the accelerating decay of the political system, the failure to adapt in the face of adversity and abandon the structures of dynasts for a solution-based form of governance. Our primary and causative failure is squarely in the hands of our politicians. And where do they live? On the islands of governance, of course.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OUR LORDS AND MASTERS

 RAANA SHAH

 

In offices and boardrooms, coffee houses and drawing rooms, newspapers, and sound bites we have gorged ourselves on a rich buffet of stories featuring such edifying words as greed, corruption, incompetence, and rapaciousness, all topped off with a supersize serving of shamelessness. We no longer have to search for these stories – they smack us in the face as they dance and caper across our screens.

This clarity and detail regarding specific instances of corruption is a relatively new development in Pakistan – and the credit for unveiling harsh facts is split between the judiciary and the media. In a synchronised dance, one publishes the sordid facts and the other takes suo moto notice, or the court compels testimony from bulging-eyed, hyperventilating officials, and the media faithfully announces it to the country. They've frankly done an incredible job, but what happens now?

Now that we know how deep the fault lines of corruption in this country run, what exactly are we to do to ensure even a glimmer of hope for the future of Pakistan? The 'expert commentators' (consisting of has-beens and never-beens) pontificate endlessly about revolution, jihad, or Nawaz Sharif but I'm pretty sure no matter which of our civilian or military leaders occupies the top spot, the end result will be the same – massive corruption at the expense of the nation and its people.

Our political and economic system is deeply flawed and heretofore has escaped having to deal with a comprehensive system of checks and balances. The courts and the press have made a good start in terms of providing this system but it will take time for it to be established as changes will be required in laws, accountability, mindsets, and attitudes. Change is never easy for anyone because it requires huge amounts of energy and commitment and a willingness to reevaluate our entrenched points of view, and for a country that has, through sheer stubbornness and laziness, allowed terrorists to take over its soil inch by creeping inch, that has allowed rulers corrupt enough to startle Enron executives into power multiple times with no caveats for accountability of any decision including financial irregularities amounting to billions, that is an almost impossible task.

You have the justices of the Supreme Court and the high courts doing an incredible job to fight corruption against immense odds – not least being the fact that the very prosecutors whose job it is to bring before the court cases of government corruption are appointed by the defendant. There is no independent system of appointment for these prosecutors – as a result, all of them are extremely disinclined to do their jobs because doing so will result in them being thrown out on their ear. So you have a farcical situation where the judge is forced to constantly prod the prosecution into reluctant, foot-dragging action, while the prosecution itself would like nothing better than to join its counterparts at the defence table. It's because of this that several high profile, clear-cut cases of corruption are dragging along at a snail's pace in the Supreme Court and the entire concept of crime and punishment as far as corruption is concerned, is hardly seen as a deterrent.

We need independent prosecutors and the best way to get them is to take the appointment power away from the government and hand it to an independent commission comprising former judges, law professors and yes, qualified representatives of the government. Have the prosecutors be accountable before this commission for their work performance, allow the creation of a team of investigators solely attached to these prosecutors, and I'm pretty sure, we will see not just a new vigour and passion when it comes to clearing the cases of corruption already on the books but we will find more and more cases being ferreted out and brought before the courts. Hopefully then the quaint concept that corruption and misappropriation of funds is detrimental to the country and its people, and that punishment for said crime consists of hard jail time and confiscation of properties here and abroad will sink in.

Our politicians must recognise one fact. While some of them might be feeling uncomfortable, the Supreme Court has emerged as the best protector of democracy in Pakistan. Remember, when military coups in Pakistan used, rightly or wrongly, the free-range corruption of politicians as one of the principal reasons for overthrowing elected governments and imposing military rule? By taking strong action against powerful political bosses involved in mega corruption scandals, the Supreme Court is actually removing the principal pretext for the imposition of military rule. This coupled with a robust media presence and a slowly growing, less politically naive civil society is our best hope for the economic and political future of this country – we certainly cannot say that our politicians are ever going to be the harbingers of honest and competent governance.

To see our government frantically twisting and turning to find a way to protect its corrupt ministers is one of the sorriest sights I have seen. That they have no problem elevating mediocrity or befriending the remnants of dictatorship or displaying staggering levels of clueless governance is what we have sadly become used to, but the brazenness and panic-stricken defiance displayed by our government regarding corruption is treasonous. To protect their own they have shown themselves to be perhaps the most brazen and inept thieves Pakistan has seen in over half a century. And soon they intend to come to us asking for reelection.

However, they must comprehend one very basic fact – that we, as a nation, are truly unable to see any good they, or their political party, might have done in the past few years, through the veil of corruption that overlies all their actions. For God's sake, actual bank account numbers and transaction trails have been published – yet we are expected to believe the strident denials and crocodile tears of our lords and masters!

The writer is a business analyst who has studied and worked in Pakistan, Canada and the US.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NORMALCY CAN RETURN TO KARACHI

 

AFTER four days of bloodbath that left about one hundred people dead, Karachi witnessed a comparative calm on Saturday after Rangers took over control of Qasba Colony and Kati Pahari and other violence hit areas. Though there were fears of resumption of violence, yet traders and transporters took courage, resumed their activities and people started to go to their businesses bringing a semblance of sanity.

Credit goes to Rangers personnel and police who managed to assert control over the trouble spots within a mere 24 hours of their deployment at full strength and gave a clear message that they mean business and no unlawful activity would be tolerated. The deployment was well received by all segments of the society and had positive impact in different localities. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and newly appointed Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wasan visited some of the strife hit areas followed by MQM leaders including Dr Farooq Sattar that gave some encouragement to the people who had become hostages in their houses. We think that it is the duty of the political leadership in Karachi to cooperate with each other and collectively work for peace instead of leveling allegations against each other for petty political gains. If there is peace and tranquillity every one would benefit as people are in the knowledge as to who isworking for their security and who is supporting the gangs of criminals who have made their lives miserable. The near normal situation shows that lasting peace could be restored to Karachi if there was a genuine effort on the part of the Federal and Provincial governments and the law enforcement agencies were given a free hand to nab the criminals and they were not released later through political intervention. Apparently all the political stake holders have supported the Government's efforts to restore peace but instead of mere statements, they should practically contribute to achieve the desired results. It should be left to the courts to decide the cases of those arrested on charges of killings and violence rather than hurling accusations that a particular party or group was being victimized. We would suggest that the Rangers should remain deployed in the disturbed areas for quite some time and the operation be taken to logical conclusion to cleanse the mega city from criminals and all sorts of gangs and mafias.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER MAY 2 – LIKE OPERATION IN THE OFFING

 

THE new US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta during his visit to Afghanistan has stated that strategic defeat of al-Qaeda was within reach if the US could kill or capture up to twenty remaining leaders of the core group and its affiliates. At the same time he rather confidently stated that the terror group's new chief Ayman al- Zawahiri was living in Pakistan's tribal areas and the US would like to see Pakistanis target him.

Though in the past too such statements were made by American officials but his assertion this time can be described as an FIR in the court of world public opinion and must be taken seriously by the Pakistani leadership. Before the killing of Osama bin Laden, which is still shrouded in mystery, similar vibes were coming from Washington and after the statement of Panetta one can assume that another Abbottabad like operation would soon be launched. His statement that the Americans would like Pakistan to target Al Zawahiri appears to be just a face saving exercise to avoid further criticism by Pakistan that it was not taken into confidence and when the Americans would have some knowledge, they would certainly go for unilateral action. However we would like to point out that FATA is a large and inaccessible mountainous area and Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies cannot reach to every nook and corner with meagre resources. The Americans have all the hi-tech intelligence equipment and they can help in identifying the actual place of hiding of al-Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda high profile leaders. It is worth mentioning that even the Americans themselves had admitted that they were not hundred percent sure that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, but were suspicious that some key suspect was living there till al-Qaeda leader was killed. Therefore Mr Panetta might not be certain about the presence of the new al-Qaeda leader in FATA but through his statement he has placed Pakistan on notice. It is therefore necessary that Pakistan must gear up its intelligence network further and double check the suspected hideouts because if the US launched an Abbottabad like operation again, it would not only bring a bad name to the country but also adversely hurt the image of our armed forces and intelligence agencies and encourage our enemies to plan similar operations. Though the consequences of another unilateral US attack and how it would be projected are difficult to imagine, but we would like to warn that the statement of Mr Panetta should be considered as a danger bell and must be taken seriously as people of Pakistan would not tolerate any more humiliation.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AFTER EAST TIMOR, NOW SOUTH SUDAN

 

AFTER ensuring independence for East Timor from Indonesia, the major world powers have managed to create a new Christian State of South Sudan by dividing the mainland Sudan into two parts. Celebrations erupted at midnight as thousands of revelers poured into Juba's steamy streets in the predawn hours on Saturday, hoisting enormous flags, singing, dancing and leaping on the back of cars.

From the mid-1950s, even before Sudan shook off its colonial yoke in 1956, the southern Sudanese were chafing for more rights. Sudan had an unusually clear fault line, reinforced by British colonizers, with the southern third mostly Christians and the northern part majority Muslim and long dominated by Arabs. Christian groups had been championing the independence of southern Sudan and their efforts paid off in 2000 when George W. Bush elevated Sudan to near the top of his foreign policy agenda and in 2005, the American government pushed the southern rebels and the central government to sign a comprehensive peace agreement that guaranteed the southerners the right to secede. South Sudan is oil rich region and with Christian majority the western world extended support for separation of the region like East Timor. Surprisingly the long struggle of Kashmiris and the Palestinians continue but no serious attention is paid to their rights except for mere statements. It is a lesson for countries like Pakistan to remain vigilant because the West exploits the countries to achieve its objectives. Therefore it is time for the government to pay fullest possible attention to address the grievances of the people to avoid further dismemberment of the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

"KILLING FIELDS OF KARACHI"

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

 

The heading is taken from a Karachi daily with the largest circulation in that city. I have chosen it as title for this article as it appropriately describes what has happened in Karachi during last four/five days- near about 100 killed in a senseless shooting spree. I saw a piece of TV coverage of the shooting going on from the " Pahari" on the opposite Qasba Colony". The firing was so intense that it reminded me of the long bad days of such shooting during Civil War in Beirut . As happened in Beirut so in Karachi there was evacuation from the besieged localities, the same pathetic scenes of scared persons among those who were left without food for days, children, women, old persons. Then I recalled the early days of unrest in Kosovo, when I was ambassador to Yugoslavia

This time it was different from previous shoot outs of such inter-community killings in Karachi: The weapons used by one side were deadly long range guns, rockets and as a photo in a highly prestigious daily showed the attackers were firing from behind well built bunkers. Previous clashes were spontaneous and confined to a tit for tat killings of innocent individuals. Obviously one side had planned these attacks and persons and weapons used were like those used by terrorists in the mountains in the North. These created suspicion that some of the lawless elements from the North have infiltrated in Karachi. To talk of "foreign powers trying to " destabilizing" Pakistan is a far fetched explanation.

The government and political elements tried to give some unconvincing explanations for this inter-community armed attack. This inter-community fights had some similarities with what I witnessed in foreign countries. There too, the police and army were absent from the scene. The causes of clashes there too were inter-community clash of interests.

The same apathy of law and order, land mafias and such criminals were said to be behind the spates of target killings. This is highly unconvincing. The biggest mafia in the world are the crime mafaias in America and the Sicilian Mafia. They fight with the gangs competing with them. The entire community or inhabitants of an area do not attack othr community in support of the Mafia. The biggest mafia in recent history was that of Al Capone in Chicago. No inter-community wars in support of Al Capone and his opoosite mafia took place. Yes there can be mafias in Karachi but they do not have the backing of entire communities. This is an unacceptable explanation. Another explanation was that some powers want to destabilize Pakistan. This is a far fetched explanation, when it was just a repeat of off again on again inter-communities violence for establishing total control over an area. The only thing new in the present situation as pointed out above in the sign that the elements from the North have joined one side in the inter-community armed clashes.

Raza Haroon a leader of the MQM described the clashes as PPP Governments vendetta against MQM's resignation from the PPP coalition. This could be plausible but such inter-community mini wars had taken place over years in the past , as Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated " It had documented deaths of more than 1,100 people in Karachi in the first half of 2011 .. of which 490 were target killings on political, ethnic or secretarian grounds" . The reports in the press said that "Security forces, political groups and non-state armed groups have been blamed for target killings which have been on the rise in the recent years." This seems to be the real cause of the off again on again blood baths broadly of the two or three ethnic identities living in Karachi. Obviously the authorities are reluctant to name the two groups involved . They know that it was a kind of fighting for assertion of power by one group over the other in which possibly the Taleban joined hands as is clear from the first ever use of long range weapons and of missiles. This is where the firing from previous clashes is different.

Why such clashes are recurring? First because ethnic identity is over powering Pakistanism. The basis of Pakistan nationalism was the brotherhood of all components of the nation , whereas in recent past the grip of unity of Pakistan nationalism has been weakening. In the recent past the first official patronage given to ethnicity was the creation of Khayber Pakhtun khawa Province. Now the ruling Party has included in its manifesto its plans to creation three more ethnic provinces including Sraiki Provinces. Were more provinces suggested for administrative reasons that would have been a different reason .In this atmosphere the ethnic differences are asserting themselves and in fact poised to clash.

Another reason is that the Sindh Government has been unable to solve Karachi's problems. Karachi's problems are of a unique nature. May be for this reason Sindh Government and its administration has been unable to handle Karachi's problems While interior Sindh is entirely agricultural and its educational and economic development level is very different from that of Karachi, a mega city of about 20 million population with a very high rate of literacy , Karachi is economic hub of Pakistan and industrially most advanced in Pakistan; it contributes may be 65 % of funds to the Federal Budget. Structurally the two parts of Sind have different problems and different contents. Karachi needs an autonomous status to be managed by its own representatives of all those who live in Karachi irrespective of their ethnicity- whoever they are whether , Muhajirs or Pakhtuns, Sindhis or any Pakistani permanently residing in Karachi without any discrimination . Let me clarify that Urdu Speaking is not the correct description for the "Muhajirs" and their children because among the Muhajirs mother tongue of some is Gujerati, Memoni, Madrasi, Telugu, Kinari, and so on. Urdu is only the lingua franka of the Subcontinent , not only of Pakistan. It is mother tongue of a small minority of "Muhajirs" from North India only. Once in Cairo at the farewell of the Nepali ambassador by Egyptian Government were present Indian, Bangla Deshi, Sri Lakan, Afghan ambassador and myself, and we started talking amongst ourselves in a dialect understood to most of us. The Egyptian host asked me what tongue are you speaking?. I replied we would all disagree on naming it. I will call it Urdu, the Indian will say Hindi, etc. Do not ask us to name it. What shape this autonomous status of Karachi could be is a matter of detailed consideration which can be decided by inter-community caucus, of all communites?

In the meanwhile, Karachi's situation will continue to simmer and clashes can recur from time to time if elements from the North have become a new addition in Karachi. Police cannot handle the situation, Rangers are under local control, only the Army can control it, as it is doing in the North. Here one would agree with Pir Pagara Saheb on the necessity of calling Army to control the law and order situation.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAKISTAN-INDIA STALEMATE

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

Towards the end of their official tenure, often people tend to say things which they have been opposing while in chair. Conversely, such statements also indicate that the incumbent would soon leave the chair. Three such statements are quite interesting. First, Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao has articulated some promising things about India-Pakistan relations. She said that perhaps it was wrong on the part of India to stop talking to Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attack; and that Pakistan's attitude had changed towards terrorism and therefore there were better prospects for an India-Pakistan normalisation. Second, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed the hope that Pakistan will "leave Kashmir alone", as it has its own share of internal problems to deal with! Manmohan Singh went on to add that Pakistan hasn't done enough on the terror front.

Third, Dr Singh made derogatory remarks about Bangladesh to the effect that about 25% of its population is under the influence of ISI; it invoked a demarche by Bangladesh. Indian foreign minister had to rush to Bangladesh to save the forthcoming India-Bangladesh summit. Nevertheless, Dr Singh's tribute to ISI will certainly improve its rating, which is at its lowest after 'Operation Geronimo!'These remarks, however indicate that 'Singh is King' who has probably been asked to pave the way for young Rahul Ghandi. Through such statement, India imitates American behaviour. Dr Singh's statement on Kashmir indicates the Indian perception that under current environment, Pakistan cannot do much to change the Indian position on Kashmir. India assumes that Pakistan has been made too weak, internally and externally, to stand in front of India; and that internal disorder would compel Pakistan to focus inward, for quite some time, to avoid an implosion.

Indeed India has a major role in bringing Pakistan to the current situation of domestic instability. Indian political policy making tier is employing its spy networks for destabilizing FATA and Baluchistan. This behaviour indicates India's opportunist approach towards Pakistan aimed at retaining the handle for derailing the ongoing peace process, when so required. For Pakistan and Kashmiri people, settlement of Kashmir dispute is of an immediate concern. Indeed, it is the only core issue between India and Pakistan. On the other hand, India does not seek the resolution of Kashmir issue as per the wishes of Kashmiri people as enunciated in several UN resolutions. India understands that, in such a setting, it would lose IHK. Therefore, buying time and supporting a 'freeze' suits India.

There is international pressure on both India and Pakistan to start talking; India has all along been urged to abandon its policy of linking all progress in talks to the resolution of Mumbai attack case. Though Ms Rao's statement has improved the prospects for a better environment for dialogue, it would be a miscalculation to assume any paradigm shift in Indian stance. At this point and time India is enjoying the squeezing that Pakistan is going through and is in no mood to give any breathing space to Pakistan. India has learnt the art of protracted and dead ended dialogue process from Israel. India's stiff attitude in benign matters like water sharing and Pakistan's access to EU markets amply demonstrate its obstructive mindset. Talks are for the satisfaction of the international community; actually India has its own agenda to follow.

Ms Rao is only trying to improve her constituency in Washington, where as Indian ambassador to America she will be required to look at Pakistan more realistically. On Pakistan-India plane, little will move forward unless Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government can end the perception that things are falling apart in Pakistan. Jyoti Malhotra's recent comments about Indian polity's dysfunction are quite incisive, 'On the face of it, India's economy is growing at a respectable 7-8 per cent, especially when you compare it with the US, which is verging on a default, or the UK where growth continues to be a meagre 1.5 per cent. It has moved from being a recipient of western handouts, in the sixties, to handing out cheques to Afghanistan and Africa... India's self-esteem quotient has come a long way, yet the nagging persists within. There is a strong sense that all is not right with the republic... The Congress-led government has refused to lead and the BJP led opposition has failed its own imagination'.

Despite a state of denial, Kashmir dispute has ever since been recurrently coming back in circles to haunt India and as a corollary to affect Pakistan. The latest episode is the refusal of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to grant membership to India and Pakistan for the reason that the two countries must settle their territorial disputes to qualify for membership. India is a wilful defaulter of UN resolutions on Kashmir. Hence, its pipe dream of a berth in UNSC is also in jeopardy. A day after the UN General Assembly approved Ban Ki-moon for a second term as secretary-general of the UN; he said that he would be discussing the long-standing Kashmir dispute with the leaders of India and Pakistan to help resolve it peacefully through a dialogue. "I will have opportunities in the future, as in the past, (to) discuss the matter with leaders of both India and Pakistan how we can help on how this issue could be resolved peacefully through dialogue." The secretary-general was specifically asked whether he would take more active interest in his second term in helping to resolve the Kashmir dispute over which the United Nations has passed several resolutions. "I am aware of the positions of both India and Pakistan leaders. They have been discussing this matter at foreign secretary level, and foreign ministerial level meetings have taken place." "I understand there is going to be one soon," Ban said. "All these issues should be resolved peacefully through dialogue between the two governments," he added.

Indian Held Kashmir, like Palestine, is a zone where human tragedy reigns since 1947. Over half a million security personnel suffocate the state with draconian powers. Recently discovered mass graves in Kashmir stand as an ugly showcase of 'shining' India. Indian brutalities have killed innocent Muslims in thousands but have not been able to suppress their urge for self determination. India-Pakistan relations are a typical example of a textbook stalemate, marred by zero-sum psyche and a pattern of one step forward and two backward. There is a need for change of mindset if the two countries aim to improve the quality of bilateral relations. Core issue of Kashmir has to be addressed squarely to help evolve sustainable goodwill among the two estranged neighbours.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SKELETONS IN UPA'S CUPBOARD

SUNITA VAKIL

 

The focus in the country once again is on the black money stashed abroad. The Supreme Court's decision to appoint a special investigation team to probe black money stashed by Indians in tax havens is an indictment of the UPA government and the sloppy way in which it has handled the issue. It thoroughly exposes the incompetence and ineptitude of the UPA government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Exasperated over the Congress led UPA government' lackdaisidal approach, the Supreme Court has ordered the setting up of a special investigation team to monitor and probe the accumulation of illegal money by Indians nationals and entities operating in this country and abroad. The SIT will have a former judge of the Supreme Court as its chairman and another retired judge as its deputy chairman. The other members of the team will include the heads of CBI, RAW, IB, CBDT, ED and other senior officials who can possibly play a role in probing the accumulation of money abroad, their use and those culpable.

The comprehensive mandate of the SIT includes "investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution" involving civil and criminal proceedings, arising not only from the case relating to that of Hasan Ali and Kasinath Tapuria but also from any other investigation pending, already commenced or waiting to be commenced in respect of unaccounted for money in foreign banks. Indeed, the Supreme Court has pulled up the Union government in no uncertain terms for its lack of seriousness to probe the matter. It also condemned the " inertia" of the "soft state" due to which the unholy nexus between law makers, law keepers and law breakers remains intact. Justifiably, the court was outraged over the Centre's inabilit to track the extent of money deposited by Indian's abroad, the source of these funds and the possible use of these huge monies despite clear leads that linked Hassan Ali with arms dealers. That the Supreme Court had to resort to the unprecedented measure of appointing a special investigation team to find and repatriate black money not only shows the government in a poor light but also implies that on its own, it was unwilling or incapable of the task. Hopefully, the SIT will deliver what the government appointed 10 member high powered committee could not due to very obvious reasons. But unless it comes to grips with the overall pathology of black money, India will continue to remain vulnerable to corruption.

The landmark order, which came after eminent citizens like senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani, former IPS officer KPS Gill and Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyndog filed a PIL requesting the Apex Court to take necessary steps, is also a sign of a huge trust deficit.

This, of course, is not the first time the Court has ventured into and occupied a corner of the executive's turf. Ironically the first time the Court had taken such an extreme decision was also in a case of mega corruption, the notorious to 2G Scam. In an appalling trend, the Court had to step in again to fill the breach created by the government's apathy towards corruption and financial malpractices. However, the UPA regime alone cannot be blamed for the black money problem. Indeed, none of the political parties has shown any commitment to retrieve the illegally stashed money abroad. As such, no previous government has exhibited a sense of urgency to bring back black money from safe havens. This notwithstanding the fact that the amount is estimated to be a whooping Rs. 500 Billion approximately. The apex court's intervention is therefore a step in the right direction. After all, this is our national wealth that should be used for the betterment of the country. Hence the need to retrieve it at the earliest.

Indeed, corruption has become so all pervasive that it threatens national security. It gives a flip to terrorism by facilitating the inflow of funds and making passports and other documents available to terrorists easily. But now that the apex court has stepped in there is a hope that stern action will be taken and exemplary punishment will be meted out to corrupt individuals who rob their own nation. The judiciary-which scores high in public esteem is expected to make a huge contribution towards ending the problem of black money.

—The author is a Delhi based senior journalist

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MOUNTING US PRESSURE ON PAKISTAN

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

 

The new US secretary of Defence Mr. Leon Panetta on his very first visit to Afghanistan as Secretary of Defence issued a statement that, Dr Aiman-al-Zawahiri, who succeeded OBL is hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He promised the ISAF commanders including CIA Director designate, General David Patreaus that, Pakistan will be pressurized to kill Zawahiri and many bothers. Besides, the Secretary of Defence said that, "20 top commanders of al-Qaeda, might be living in Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen and North Africa will be killed or arrested after Osama." Although, the Secretary did make a mention of the sacrifices of the Pakistan during this long-drawn war on terror, yet his revelations regarding presence of new Al-Qaeda chief means a lot.

The statement indeed is part of the pressure tactics US is using since last three years to launch a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). United States feels that pressurizing Pakistan indeed aims at compelling "Pakistani military to make a difficult choice between backing the country that finances much of its operations and equipment, or continuing to provide secret support for the Taliban and other militants fighting American soldiers in Afghanistan." This indeed is a very provocative statement by US authorities. The statement gives a feeling as if, Pakistanis are being fed through US finances, contrary to the reality. However, this is neither the first nor the last claim made about Pakistan by a top US official. The change is that there is enhancement in the frequency of the accusations by US, after the Raymind Davis case and later following the OBL episode.

On July 9, 2011, the New York Time quoted three senior US officials that, United States is seriously thinking to stop "about $800 million in military aid and equipment, or over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan." Since quite some time, the news paper indeed has been used a propaganda tool by Pentagon, CIA and even US State Department. As per news paper, the US feels that such a step has been necessitated because of Pakistani Military has ordered return of US Military trainers and demanded for the vacation Shamsi Air Base, currently in use of US troops. If these are the logics, U.S feel sufficient to stop the military aid to Pakistan, then it is the height of narcissism by a super power, with a partner who selflessly contributed for the US cause throughout in its history and still doing that. After all, national interest and sovereignty of Pakistan should mean something to Pakistanis and US too. Was not it sufficient for US forces to use the airbase for ten years? Moreover, Pakistani Military does not need British and US Military trainers anymore; therefore, they were requested to join back their respective countries.

Besides, US and NATO forces have been and are still using many logistic facilities of Pakistan to support troops in Afghanistan. According the Ministry of Communication, damages worth billion of USD have been caused by the heavy US and NATO trailers to the roads under National Highway Authority (NHA). There would be a requirement of $7 billion over next few years for the repair of the roads and US and NATO has not paid its initial damage cost of $1.5 billion earlier demanded by NHA. As per a statement of NHA, "We have written numerous letters to the Prime Minister's Secretariat and the Foreign Office since 2009 but neither the Pakistani government nor the US or NATO have provided any monetary help to repair the damaged highways infrastructure by NATO trucks until today." By promising $1.5 billion annual assistance under KLL, which Pakistan is waiting to get in lump sum even today, US feels that it has bought all Pakistani facilities? This indeed is a wrong perception of United States about Pakistan. The super power has to be reminded of over $70 billion economic losses; Pakistan has suffered in last ten years, for its partnership with the US against the war on terror. The cost of social deterioration and insecurity caused to every Pakistani in these long years is beyond any estimate. Can US pay for that, being responsible for all these breakdowns? US carrot and stick policy can be imagined from a recent statement of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Senate Committee. She said that, "When it comes to our military aid, we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken." The Secretary of Defence Leon E. Panetta, while substantiating Ms. Clinton said, "We have to continue to emphasize with the Pakistanis that in the end it's in their interest to be able to go after these targets as well."

This indeed is a height of US ungratefulness to Pakistan. While making such accusations, US should have wisdom to visualize that, does Pakistan train militants to attack its own innocent people and security forces or destroying its own installations. Can US compare the sacrifices of Pakistan and rest of the world including its own during these ten years of war on terror? Pakistan has lost over 35,000 people since the start of this war on terror. Out of these casualties, 5000 combat soldiers have embraced martyrdom during the anti-terror campaign, as against 3000 deaths of ISAF forces of over 48 countries. Therefore, before stopping the Pakistani assistance US should think ten times. Whatever, little success US had in Afghanistan, it was because of Pakistan. U.S and NATO cannot stay in that hostile country for few weeks without the active support of Pakistan. Besides, the US military assistance to Pakistan is mostly in the form of reimbursement, rather offering a free lunch, which is not a norm in US. Even today, U.S has to reimburse billion of USD to Pakistan on various accounts.

These pressure tactics indeed are designed to relegate Pakistani contributions during the war on terror. By doing so, US desires that Pakistan should have no role in the future setup of Afghanistan and interests of new US allies, should be accommodated in that country. Pakistan, however, would continue its support against the terrorism and would like that, any future setup in Afghanistan should accommodate the interests of Afghan people, rather the regional hegemonic powers. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Pakistan will continue looking after the interests of its Afghan brethrens and even today looking after over 2.5 million Afghan refugees. Pakistan strongly feels that all afghan factions and group should be partners and made stake holders in any future setup of that country. —The writer is International Relations analyst.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

KEEP THE FIZZ GOING..!

VIEWS FROM ABROAD

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

So often we are very excited when given a new task, a new project or assignment; we feel great we have been chosen, we also feel we can do a great job of it, and we start of with a bang. But often it's like opening a soda bottle, initially there's a lot of fizz, and then it's gone. I remember getting this same feeling a few months ago when two publishers had told me to go ahead with writing two books, and also the thrill of starting a new column in a business magazine, but after the initial emotion, which had lasted a whole month, I slowly stopped doing anything.

I had begun to feel the drudgery of the whole exercise. There is a saying often applied to sporting events that also fits very well with every other endeavor in the workplace: "It is not how you start, but how you finish." When a new initiative begins, such as rollout of an innovative product, an imaginative marketing strategy, or implementation of new technology, we typically experience high levels of enthusiasm. Expectations are lofty and hopes soar in anticipation of promising outcomes.

However, such peaks of energy and excitement are rarely sustained. It is not unusual for people to become disillusioned, discouraged and fatigued about halfway into a difficult challenge, no matter how worthwhile it may be to pursue. Emotions start to subside and the reality sets in about the hard work and drudgery required to bring a project to its conclusion. At such times it helps to get matters into a proper perspective; when I start to feel the fatigue, it is important to remind myself that my feelings are not a reliable measure of how things should go. For instance, the Book of Proverbs says, "Like an open city with no defenses is the man with no check on his feelings."

Feelings can soar and feelings can spiral, so we cannot trust in emotions if we are to successfully finish what we have started. Our feelings come from a variety of sources – past, present and future. But in fact feelings are not always a reflection of reality. Not only that, but life is complex and we must often live with mixed feelings: "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief" Or as someone said, "Sometimes I laugh to keep from crying."

Feelings act like a ride on a rollercoaster; all ups and downs. They are also like two rails on a railway track. One rail represents good and positive things in life; the other represents the bad and painful elements of our life. We need to recognize a simple truth that we will always encounter good and bad at the same time, that there will always be something good and something bad happening in your life. That we need to move away from emotions and focus on the job at hand, to work past our feelings, and bring discipline into the fulfillment of a goal. I've begun my two books again, pushing past my feelings and trying to keep the fizz going..!

Email:bobsbanter@gmail.com

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

A CAUTIOUS STEP TOWARDS A LOW CARBON FUTURE

AFTER a decade of debate and countless false starts, the nation at last has a clean energy plan that the parliament is likely to support.

Julia Gillard has succeeded where her predecessor failed, in a remarkable display of determination and pragmatism. It has brought out the best in a leader whose negotiating skills are proving to be her strongest asset.

The Prime Minister has settled on a plan that attempts to put economic credibility ahead of gesture politics to deliver low-impact incentives to drive innovation. That said, there is little sense in pretending the government's plan is perfect, or to expect that policy purity could survive this finely balanced parliament. The package contains some costly compromises, but retains its integrity by respecting fiscal discipline, acknowledging that adjustment must be gradual and recognising that the market, not the government, should eventually set the carbon price.

Despite its failings, this package carries the hallmark of an economically rational, reforming Labor government. Like the tariff reductions of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, the path begins with a gentle incline rather than an ascent of the north face of the Eiger.

The immediate aim, a reduction of 160 million tonnes of national carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, appears achievable. A new target of an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050, up from 60 per cent, is a laudable ambition, but will require substantial technological advance and at this stage can only be regarded as symbolic. The bottom line, however, is that targets can only be met through innovation. We must find cheaper ways to produce energy, and more efficient ways of consuming it. Providing the incentive to invest in research and development will allow Australia to determine its own destiny in a carbon-constrained world. And the built-in incentives that a price on carbon will deliver will encourage businesses to find smarter ways of doing more with less.

Connoisseurs of political irony will find much to savour in coming months as the package is debated in parliament. It is barely a year since Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan staged a coup against a prime minister whose biggest mistake was to bungle his proposed emissions trading scheme - and then went to an election foreswearing the very carbon tax they now propose. The Greens meanwhile have been forced to accept a scheme less efficacious than the Rudd scheme they opposed. Tony Abbott will perform his weather-vane act by campaigning against a tax he once thought might be better than the ETS, on behalf of a party that went to an election in 2007 promising a carbon reduction scheme more rigorous than the Gillard proposal. All seem to be following Gough Whitlam's advice: only the impotent are pure.

What began as a scheme to save the planet has morphed into an exercise in tax reform driven by the politics of compensation. Raising the tax liability threshold from $6000 a year to $18,200 from July 1 next year and $19,400 in 2015 is certainly a better way to compensate householders than simply throwing money at them. Direct compensation will be reserved, as it should be, largely for pensioners and family tax benefit recipients. The downside for Ms Gillard is that reform is less visible than a cheque in the mail and could be easily forgotten in the heat of the campaign the Opposition will launch against the carbon tax. In the long term, however, putting money in voters' pockets permanently through a tax cut is politically and economically astute, and Labor's second round of cuts scheduled for 2015-16 will dangle a carrot before voters at the next election.

Trebling of the threshold below which no tax is paid means almost a million Australians will pay no tax, and that tax cuts of between $300 and $600 will be enjoyed by those earning up to $80,000. This should sharpen the incentive for low-paid and casual workers and those receiving welfare payments to re-enter the workforce or take on extra hours. Reducing the disincentives to work and reducing the welfare-tax churn were key drivers in the reforms recommended by the Henry tax review last year. If it works, it will be a step towards increasing national productivity at a time when mining is absorbing labour capacity and unemployment is at 4.9 per cent.

The reforms edge us closer to the flatter tax regime The Australian has long advocated, but the long-term goal must be to reduce effective tax rates across the board. Encouraging as this focus on tax reform might be, it is far from the "root and branch" reform the Treasurer once promised. A heavily altered mining tax, and now a piecemeal attempt at income tax reform is a poor dividend from the Henry review, which contained many proposals worth pursuing. Henry's proposed tax-free threshold of $25,000 combined with a flat rate of 35 per cent on incomes from $25,000 to $180,000 looks dead in the water, and the timing of the October tax forum looks even stranger. But this bolt-on extra to the clean energy package begins the long-overdue job of removing disincentives for people to help themselves by increasing their income. We hope for more in future budgets.

The interim carbon price of $23 a tonne is high by world standards, and twice as expensive as the New Zealand level. But it is well below the economy-destroying numbers the Greens had been canvassing. Locking in the rises (2.5 per cent increase plus inflation each year) for three years, before moving to a market-based system will allow industry to draw breath. In return for agreeing to a plan that will not shut down our coal and steel industries, the Greens appear to have extracted some feel-good compromises that will reduce the efficiency and add to the cost of the Gillard plan. Mandated renewable energy, in which the government picks winners and consumers carry the cost, has pushed up the price of electricity for little, if any, reduction in atmospheric carbon. Yet this scheme includes programs that will throw good money after bad, against the advice of the Productivity Commission. Instead of allowing the market to discover the cheapest form of abatement, the nation will subsidise the Greens' pet projects.

The proposal's fiscal credentials have been tarnished by the revelation that the combined effect of the carbon tax and compensation will not, after all, be budget-neutral. We look to the Treasurer for an assurance that any blowouts will be balanced by savings, to kill any suggestion he is making a bloated government even bigger.

Despite a rhetorical attempt to demonise the big polluters, the government has acknowledged through its assistance package to the trade-exposed industries that jobs are on the line if they are driven off-shore. We wait to see the details of the job-related support promised for the coal and steel sector.

Allowing farmers to trade in carbon makes sense as part of building a carbon market into the economy. Agricultural emissions are exempt from the carbon tax, but the government has moved to exploit our massive land mass to lower pollution. Under the Carbon Farming Initiative, farmers who undertake measures such as reforestation and revegetation will be able to earn money through selling these credits to big polluters that are liable for the carbon tax. The land initiatives offer some concrete gains for the country, and will have tangible domestic benefits, irrespective of whether or not other countries take action to reduce their emissions. The incentive for our agricultural sector to improve land management techniques will boost low-quality land and improve national productivity.

A key test of the carbon tax is that it does no harm. The challenge of global warming is a global one, and by moving ahead of the rest of the world, Australia's trade-exposed industries are disadvantaged. The world's biggest emitters, the US and China, show little sign of taking action any time soon, while the European Union's scheme is proving costly and inefficient. After the failure of the Copenhagen summit, it is a reasonable question to ask why the Gillard government has invested so much energy into this reform, rather than focus on strengthening the economy through productivity, which would put Australia in a better shape to move towards a carbon-constrained future when the rest of the world is ready to move. In the meantime, we can only hope the expectations of further global action built into the modelling supporting Ms Gillard's carbon scheme hold good.

The task of seeking retrospective endorsement for a new tax is enormous. Despite the package's redeeming qualities, Ms Gillard faces the fight of her political life to convince voters of its benefits. Breaking an election promise to embark on this course has put her political capital into deficit, and the circumstances of her ascension to power diminish her credibility in the eyes of many. The trust Labor put in Ms Gillard when she was chosen as leader a little over a year ago has been vindicated to some extent by the dogged determination she has shown in delivering this package against the odds. But the fact remains that seeking parliamentary endorsement for the proposal before securing a popular mandate is an error of judgment voters will find hard to forgive. The Prime Minister's struggle for political redemption has just begun.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

PURPOSE, NOT POLITICS, THE REAL TEST OF CARBON TAX

THE ultimate test of the carbon tax to be announced tomorrow is not whether it saves Labor, but whether it does anything to save the planet.

This newspaper has long supported the need for a market-driven approach to carbon emissions: the benefit from reducing greenhouse gases is a given. The question is whether this tax, at this time, will achieve that aim without harming our exports, domestic industries, jobs and living standards. The first test is that the tax does no damage to the global competitiveness of our trade-exposed industries.This is not just about setting appropriate levels of tax and compensation now, but of checks and balances to ensure the scheme does not escalate ahead of the rest of the world in future. The tax cannot become the plaything of the Greens with their skewed view of economic reality.

Staying in step with the rest of the world on carbon pricing has become even more important after the failure of the Copenhagen climate change summit in December 2009 and the Obama administration's decision to drop its proposal for a cap-and-trade scheme. Ensuring there is enough compensation to the energy, steel and cement industries is vital in efforts to protect the national economy. It would be a disaster if the tax led to higher costs in these sectors and a consequential "leakage" of factories and jobs overseas.

Labor's decision to exempt petrol from the tax will please consumers. But the possibility that this will be funded by clawing back revenue from mining companies through cutting diesel fuel rebates opens a new front in the battle to make sure we are not disadvantaged internationally. Labor has promised that most householders will be compensated for increased power bills. But that is only one way in which the tax will impact on workers. Power charges flow on to every business and can harm domestic and export competitiveness with implications for jobs and household costs.

The Gillard government must demonstrate that its new model is flexible enough to meet any future challenges. It must not limit policy options in the pursuit of short-term political advantage. A case in point is the exemption of petrol, not just now but after the conversion to a market-based trading scheme. Forever is a long time in politics, and the difficulties of changing the GST should be a warning to government not to shut out options. Transparency is vital. We must know what the government intends in terms of operation, regulation and compliance.

The new tax is of critical importance to our future and it is appropriate Julia Gillard will address the nation tomorrow night. For too long, Labor has tried to bluff, obviously believing the public too unsophisticated to absorb the detail. Voters are not fools, and they are yet to be convinced that the pain of this tax will be worth the gain. This was the challenge John Howard and his coalition colleagues met a decade ago when they introduced the GST. This time, even after years of debate, many voters are still asking why the tax is being introduced.

Tomorrow's package must be more than politically palatable in the short term. It must also show that it does no harm now -- or later -- to the national economy while at the same time making a difference to the planet.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

A GOOD RESULT FROM THE BER

BRAD Orgill's unexpected call for a Productivity Commission inquiry into building escalates concern about the extent of the waste in the federal government's schools building program.

Mr Orgill's original remit was to investigate the Building the Education Revolution but he now argues we need a much more comprehensive look at the construction sector. His call, contained in his final report into the BER, is a vindication of the concerns of parents, principals and teachers who saw first-hand the cost-overruns, gouging and inefficiencies as builders sucked up $16.2 billion of taxpayers' money in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In 2009, when this newspaper began investigating where BER money was being spent, the Rudd government accused us of focusing on a handful of complaints. Julia Gillard, at that stage education minister, argued the BER was delivering much-needed school infrastructure as well as saving jobs and protecting Australians from the impact of the GFC.

It took Ms Gillard a long time to concede there were problems but, to her credit, in April last year she commissioned Mr Orgill to investigate. His earlier reports identified major issues and led to changes in the rollout of funds. Now we have the complete -- and damning -- picture, showing that more than $1.1bn was wasted in Victoria and NSW alone, with state schools paying up to 60 per cent more for buildings than their private counterparts. The report blames the states for this dreadful waste and identifies as a major problem the "hollowing out" of public works capacity over the past 20 years, leaving the system unable to efficiently manage an outsourced model of delivery.

Mr Orgill has revealed the pitfalls in huge government spending projects. But his call for the PC to be involved is particularly valuable at a time when increasing national productivity should be top of the government's agenda. The waste in the BER is a tragedy. But if we are to improve productivity, it is essential we identify the specific factors which contribute to such inefficiencies. Mr Orgill is right: The lessons from the BER must be applied to other building and infrastructure projects delivered by federal and state governments. There is much to learn, including the need for politicians to take seriously complaints of parents, teachers -- and the media.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

GILLARD'S STEALTH STRATEGY CHANGES THE CARBON GAME

After all the fuss, the Gillard government's carbon tax package will probably surprise most people by its mildness. That is clearly the intention. The government wants to calm an over-anxious electorate in which fear has been running wild for months. It has set the rate of tax low - $23 a tonne of carbon. The rate will rise more slowly than expected in later years. It has restricted the number of those on whom the tax will fall to the 500 biggest polluters. And though these will mostly pass on the cost to consumers, most of the latter, too, have been amply compensated, even overcompensated, by big changes to the tax and family benefits systems.

Along with the gradual tax increase, the industry compensation packages will be phased out slowly. The stealth strategy is entirely understandable, given the recent history of this issue, in which opponents of measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions have resorted to the most dishonest and irrational tactics. The debate, so-called, on this question is not one of which Australia can be proud. It is to the government's credit that it has stuck to its task and produced this result.

The package's many beneficiaries attest to its tumultuous gestation. Sensitive industry sectors have been squared away. Gassy coalmines get aid to cope with change. So does the steel industry. Existing programs to explore clean coal technology will continue. Farmers - in a borrowing from the Coalition's climate policy - will be helped to use some of their land as a carbon sink. Motorists will not be touched. As we have argued previously, that is a mistake though the government's reasons are understandable. In a necessary acknowledgement of the contribution motorised transport makes to greenhouse gas emissions, operators of trucks weighing more than 4.5 tonnes will pay more in fuel excise. There is extra money - $13 billion - to help clean power generators get up and running, while the existing power industry will be assisted to close 2000 megawatts of coal-fired generator capacity. This will be done through a tender process but the measure is aimed clearly at Victoria's old and dirty brown-coal generators in the Latrobe Valley, which emit most greenhouse gas per unit of electricity generated.

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People will have a year to become accustomed to the changes. Most households will be compensated and, for the one in 10 which are not, living costs will not rise unduly, according to the Treasury's estimates. As a political strategy all this ought to work. For the good of the environment and the economy, something like it has to work. But there is little goodwill left in the community for this government. So will these changes stick?

The tax reforms make the package harder for the Coalition to unpick if it came to office and had the numbers in the Senate - an unlikely prospect at the next election. It would also run into resistance from industry, which sees trends across the world towards carbon pricing and has mostly ignored the Coalition's climate-change scepticism. Ever since the first carbon pollution reduction scheme was in the offing, business has been waiting for clarity about tax arrangements so that investment decisions can be made with some certainty. Gillard's scheme gives them that - and an undertaking that the carbon tax will move to an emissions trading scheme by 2015. The Coalition will have to think carefully before it throws this whole issue back into the melting pot. It risks being rendered irrelevant and disruptive by the lapse of time. Assuming this government runs its full term, two more years will have passed in which more countries will be implementing greenhouse-gas reduction regimes. The Coalition's alternative, already outdated and inadequate, will look even worse if it reintroduces confusion where Labor brought certainty.

There is danger, though, in the government's tactic of combining the carbon tax with income tax changes. Because it will be paid by only the largest companies, the carbon tax has become a business story, rather than one for the general public. With that main issue sidelined and the question of climate change with it, the tax and family payment sweeteners may well turn the package in the public's mind into something more about income than the environment. More "what's in it for me?" than "will this limit greenhouse gas emissions?" We can expect a rerun of the vacuous debate over whether households with an income of more than $150,000 - the threshold at which most compensation cuts out - are rich or not.

Whether it turns the government's fortunes around, by announcing the details the government has marked a new stage in this debate. The government has to ensure that the purpose of its package stays in the front of the public mind. The tax is necessary so that business and consumers change their behaviour to reduce the amount of greenhouse-gas pollution Australians produce.

We can expect too to hear the well-worn claim that doing so will not change the world's climate. Acting alone, of course Australians cannot do that. But with other countries' efforts, which have already begun, they can. Australians as the world's worst greenhouse polluters per head of population cannot sit back complacently and wait for everyone else to move first. This country - like other Western nations that have done the most to cause this problem through their excessive, long-term consumption of fossil fuels - has a duty to take a leading part in the world's moves to avoid climate change's worst consequences. For the government the carbon tax should be only the first step; it must continue a concerted diplomatic effort to make the global campaign effective.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

MORE FACTS AND LESS HOT AIR WILL BENEFIT CARBON TAX DEBATE

FOUR years after both sides of politics promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by pricing carbon, Australia is set to do so. The first efforts to set up emissions trading foundered after Tony Abbott deposed Malcolm Turnbull as leader, reversed Coalition policy and joined the Greens in blocking legislation. Mr Abbott has furiously attacked the proposed carbon tax, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard had rashly promised not to introduce. Yesterday's announcement of details of carbon pricing and compensation makes a scare campaign much harder to prosecute.

The first point to observe about the new Clean Energy Future package is how modest the initial impact will be. The sky will not fall in. So large is the compensation for pensioners and taxpayers - totalling $14.9 billion of the $24.5 billion raised in the three years after implementation from July 1 next year - that a majority may be better off. Voters will see for themselves the effects of a $23-a-tonne carbon tax well before the next election.

The opposition is entitled to doubt the government's ability to deliver policy promises, but many of its own claims have been less than the ''gospel truth'', to quote Mr Abbott. As with the national broadband network, it is harder to destroy a project, as he has vowed to do, once it is up and running. Labor leader Kim Beazley ran a long scare campaign against the Howard government's GST, but, when it was in place, vows to roll back the policy lost their appeal for millions who had enjoyed tax cuts and pension increases. Even if it wins office, the Coalition is unlikely to have the numbers in the Senate to dump carbon pricing.

The GST was just as unpopular before it took effect in 2000. John Howard at least took the policy to the 1998 election, in which the Coalition retained office with a minority of the vote. His government then made sure compensation was generous. Compared with the $50-million-a-year GST, the carbon tax is forecast to raise only about a sixth as much over the first three years. Yet the Gillard government has also taken out hefty political insurance. Ninety per cent of Australia's 8.8 million households will get some assistance, with modelling showing the average of $10.10 a week will exceed the average cost of $9.90 a week. About 4 million households will be ''overcompensated''. Most petrol use is exempted and average bills are forecast to rise by $3.30 a week for electricity, $1.50 for gas and 80 cents for food. Claims of rocketing prices look to be on shaky ground.

An important reform proposed by the Henry tax review will also be undertaken, albeit as a result of Labor's need to minimise the carbon tax's electoral impact. Lifting the tax-free threshold from $6500 to $18,200 from July next year, and to $19,400 from July 2015, should boost workforce participation by eliminating punitive effective marginal tax rates that discourage low-income earners from returning to work or increasing their hours. More than 1 million people may also be relieved of the burden of filing tax returns.

The government, which has been constrained in its ability to refute opposition claims with factual detail, has set up its counterattack by weighting its package towards ensuring most individuals are no worse off. What, though, of the more important structural shift to a low-emissions economy, which is the point of carbon pricing? The bar was raised yesterday with a new target for cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but that is a symbolic move. What changes next year is the ability of Australia's 500 biggest emitters to do so ''free of charge'', as Climate Change Minister Greg Combet put it yesterday.

Yes, the government will provide $9.2 billion in industry assistance over the first three years, which contributes to a net cost to the budget of $4.3 billion over four years. Carbon pricing will eventually be revenue-neutral, says the government, but industry does need a transition period to develop renewable energy or at least cleaner energy sources.

The government will set up a $10 billion technology investment fund and allocate $3.2 billion to develop renewable energy, which globally has attracted more investment than fossil fuels for the past three years. Carbon storage and energy efficiency are other key elements. Treasury modelling suggests the scheme will still drive change in the electricity industry, which produces more than a third of all emissions.

Significantly, Ms Gillard announced that the set carbon price will last only three years - up to five had been mooted - before switching to an emissions trading scheme. The Productivity Commission recently concluded that market pricing mechanisms are the best way to cut emissions at least cost - by contrast to a demonstrably costly ''picking winners'' approach, which the Coalition's ''direction action'' policy would perpetuate. The government package is both complex and limited, but at least leaves it to emitters, who best understand their industry and business circumstances, to find the most cost-effective ways to cut emissions. The flexibility of market price signals can take account of changing conditions and needs - domestically and globally.

From next year, both the government and opposition will have to deal with the facts of how carbon pricing works. Ill-founded scaremongering has for too long derailed attempts at rational debate and reform.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

HEALTH: THE MALADY LINGERS ON

Reining in the Conservative right's deep urge to dismantle the NHS was bound to be a four-year project

Things are far from healthy in the English health service. For all the grand talk about cutting bureaucracy, there are rumblings about a new mega-board with 3,500 staff and the working title, NHS England. For all the promises to listen to the professions, the physician Sir Roger Boyle has just quit as national heart disease director, citing the government's wrongheadedness. And for all the slogans about putting patients first, we report today on signs that many waiting times are creeping up.

For patients, of course, delayed diagnostics can, in extremis, make the difference between life and death. But as other gales blew through Westminster's corridors last week, there was no sense of crisis in committee room 10, where MPs were quietly reconsidering the detail of Andrew Lansley's rewritten health and social care bill. While the opposition were opposing as normal, the coalition seemed to be operating on the assumption that the extraordinary political fix that it had cooked up a few weeks before had removed all sting from the legislation. Having heard David Cameron admit to past mistakes and declare his love for the service, it might be tempting for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats to sit back and bask in the rare sense of having halted the Tory train.

That would be a temptation to resist at any time: reining in the Conservative right's deep urge to dismantle the NHS was bound to be a four-year project, not a four-week one. It needs particular resistance just now because of the lashings of fudge which were served on the side with the coalition's compromise. After Mr Lansley's legislative pause, Professor Steve Field produced a summary report for the coalition which suggested "removing" the duty on regulator Monitor to promote competition, but this was based on a more detailed report by Sir Stephen Bubb which emphasised the importance of promoting "diversity of supply", which in plain speak means more private provision. Many of the emerging ministerial amendments can be read in different ways, and there are whispers that while the drive to privatise has been struck off the face of the bill, it could be reintroduced through the back-channel, by tweaking the powers and duties on commissioners.

In a significant speech last week, Shirley Williams damned parts of the hastily recooked bill as "confusing, obscure and ambiguous", and argued cogently that muddled policy at the top is compounding the difficulties of managers charged with overseeing retrenchment on the ground. The coalition greased its way out of a fix using the oil of ambiguity, but the Lords will be determined to clear up the slick, even if the Commons isn't bothered. The sooner Lib Dem MPs turn their minds to the detail, the better.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

NEWS INTERNATIONAL: THE COVER-UP AND THE COPS

Dismissive statements by two senior police officers let the company off the hook and might have discouraged investigation

The moment the Guardian published its July 2009 story into the James Murdoch-authorised cover-up payments to Gordon Taylor and others, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, ordered a review of the original police investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World. That investigation didn't last very long. Within hours Assistant Commissioner John Yates popped up to announce that no further investigation was necessary. He added that the original inquiry had been very careful; that it had only identified a few victims of "tapping"; and the police had contacted "all" the cases where there was clear evidence that their phones might have been hacked. He specifically ruled out the possibility that John Prescott's phone was a victim. Mr Yates emphasised that the Yard's decisions at the time of the original investigation had been taken in close consultation with the then head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Ken Macdonald.

That statement was immensely useful to News International as it braced itself for the follow-up to the Guardian story by other journalists. The company was able to point to Mr Yates's remarks to suggest there was nothing new to report. NI gained further comfort from another former assistant commissioner, Andy Hayman, who by then was on the payroll, working for the Times. He wrote there was only evidence that "perhaps a handful" of phones had been tampered with. These dismissive statements by two senior officers undoubtedly let NI off the hook and might have discouraged other journalists from picking up the scent.

In a remarkable Sunday Telegraph interview, Mr Yates described his actions on the day as "pretty crap". Indeed he admitted: "I did not do a review." He conceded he had failed the victims of the NoW intrusion and that the Met's reputation had been extremely damaged by it all. Mr Yates knows that, during private meetings with the Guardian in the intervening period, we tried to convince him that his original statement was at error in both judgment and fact. So we welcome his belated admission of regret. It will be for a judicial inquiry to establish his and Mr Hayman's motivations and to challenge the latter on whether his employment by NI coloured his views in any way. Given that his role at the CPS will now be under scrutiny, it is surprising that Ken – now Lord – Macdonald should feel it appropriate to be retained by News International to advise them on their dealings with the police.

In other developments on Sunday the Sunday Times revealed the existence of an NI internal 2007 report which had uncovered that hacking was more widespread than previously admitted, and that money might have been paid by the NoW journalists to police. The document – described by an NI source as a "ticking time-bomb" – was not revealed to the police. A further BBC report said that NI's solicitors had found 300 emails suggesting criminal behaviour – but that these were not handed to the police until four years later, on 20 June. This pattern of deception, hush-money, concealment and foot-dragging was, in common parlance, a cover-up. The people at the top of the company at the relevant time were James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, together with her predecessor, Les Hinton, who is currently running the Wall Street Journal.

It has now been announced that Ms Brooks will not, after all, be in charge of investigating herself. Which leaves Mr Murdoch in charge of the investigation of his own stewardship of the company. Many editorials are currently praising the notion of self-regulation – indeed, the final editorial of the NoW's last edition put in a last word for the doomed Press Complaints Commission, adding comically "self-regulation does work". James Murdoch is doing great harm to the future prospects of self-regulation by the way he has, over the past four years, presided over the cover-up at News International.

• To comment on this story or any other about phone hacking, visit our open thread

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … DISTRICT JUDGE JONATHAN FINESTEIN

His obstinate determination to enforce the letter of the law has shaken power in the land

Rumpole grumbled about the Uxbridge beak, and libertarian lawyers expect little from magistrates or the district judges that keep them company on the bench of the lowest courts. The critique is that the beaks are over-suspicious of every suspect, always up for sending folk down and – above all – determined to keep the police's wheels turning. But at Salford magistrates court, district judge Jonathan Finestein did something that would have had Rumpole choking on his claret. Applying a doggedly literal reading of the law governing police bail, he ruled that the cops could not alternate between briefly detaining and then bailing a suspect, in the on-and-off manner they have relied on for years, but must instead permanently open the cell door just 96 hours after it was first slammed. His interpretation was dubious, but was upheld by the high court, with consequences that ricocheted to parliament. Reasonably fearing that dangerous men under prolonged investigation would suddenly be free to refuse invitations to the nick, MPs have just rushed through an emergency law. Finestein nonetheless deserves the praise heaped on him by, of all people, local MP Hazel Blears. His obstinate determination to enforce the law's letter as he reads it has shaken power in the land. And by threatening to break bail, he has demonstrated just how important it is. The panicked politicians rushing to restore it ought to ask why the regular bail that protects us all against murderers can't also do the work of all those draconian terror laws.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

MALAYSIA: RICH BUT NOT FREE

The leaders of Malaysia are laboring under an old paradigm that says you can have development or democracy, but not both. We have news for them: You can be rich and free at the same time. Malaysians deserve both and they deserve it now — not sometime in the future.

The lengths the government went to in trying to prevent and then break up the Bersih 2.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday shows that the nation's leaders were still not prepared to let go — even when an increasing number of Malaysians of all races have been pressing for more freedom and justice.

The rally, defying a government ban, went down as the largest in Malaysian history. It was significant that representatives from all three major races participated.

The government vainly tried to play the race card, suggesting it was a concerted move to undermine the dominant Malay race. Earlier it suggested that the rally was a communist plot.

There was nothing subversive about the rally. It was held to demand electoral reforms ahead of the next election in 2012.

The demonstrators, who numbers were independently estimated to top 10,000, were simply trying to exercise their rights of free speech and assembly.

They may have defied the law, but they were still marching peacefully. A few clashes erupted when the police tried to break them up. When they did disperse, they did so peacefully.

The police clearly overreacted. They did not need to invoke the Internal Security Act to arrest some of the protest's leaders before Saturday. They certainly did not need to detain more than 1,600 on the day of the demonstration.

Aspirations for freedom and democracy are universal. Governments everywhere will, sooner or later, have to make accommodations. You cannot suppress the people and deprive them of their freedom forever. You must give them their due — or else they will get it by force. The Arab Spring is a case in point.

Given its current economic strength, Malaysia is in an enviable position to allow greater freedom and democracy. It can afford to take some risks without necessarily undermining development. A few powerful people may stand to lose their economic privileges, but they should have been phased out by now.

The Bersih 2.0 rally is the clearest sign that Malaysians want freedom and justice, as well as wealth.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

A NEW KICK OFF FOR THE PSSI

It was a relief for soccer community that the extraordinary congress of the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) in Surakarta, Central Java, on Saturday finally came up with a new chairman for the organization.

Djohar Arifin Husin, a former official at the Youth and Sports Affairs Ministry and former chairman of the PSSI's North Sumatra branch, was elected to chair the association for the next four years along with deputy chairman Farid Rahman.

Djohar won 61 of 100 votes cast in a second round of voting, trouncing Agusman Effendi, the acting PSSI chairman when former chief Nurdin Halid was imprisoned.

Djohar was backed by the so-called Group 78, which previously supported former Army chief Gen. George Toisutta and oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro to lead the PSSI.

George and Arifin were banned from the PSSI leadership race, along with Nurdin and former deputy chairman Nirwan D. Bakrie.

The congress, which was marred by vote-buying allegations, ran smoothly without interruption, overturning fears that it might collapse as did the last congress. Chaos at the last congress in May led to a deadlock, causing the PSSI to fail to meet a deadline mandated by FIFA to select a new chairman.

Soon after his election, Djohar promised to immediately reform the ailing association and make it a more efficient organization, speed up fund-raising, build better soccer facilities and form an effective youth development program.

Still reforming the association is no easy task. Djohar and Farid will need to streamline the organization and turn the PSSI into an independent organization that is no longer dependent on government funding.

Soccer fans and observers have high hopes that Djohar can deliver on his promises to reform the PSSI, which has long been marred by allegations of match fixing in its domestic leagues an inattention to the development of the young.

The new PSSI chairmanship's first goal is to win the gold at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games before a hometown crowd in November. The last time Indonesia won gold at the Games was in 1987 in Jakarta.

Djohar and Farid have a rough road ahead. They will have to pick the right people to help them run and improve the organization. Working together with "rivals" at the congress will be unavoidable as they also represent the soccer community.

The last thing fans need to hear is that the PSSI is facing organizational bickering again. Those who were defeated at the election said they fully supported Djohar and Farid. We expect them to keep their words.

The new PSSI officials definitely need support in reforming the organization and helping improve the national team's performance on the international stage. We should give them time to materialize their promises.

For soccer fans, they have thrown their support behind the national team and the new officials should help players meet the fans' expectations.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

RI-NORWAY TALKS: TIME TO HARVEST

HAFID ABBAS

Indonesia and Norway marked the 10th anniversary of their human rights dialogue in Oslo on June 21-22, 2011.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Retno Marsudi, Indonesian Foreign Ministry's Director-General for European and American Affairs, who was representing Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, jointly opened the event. In his opening, Støre said the dialogue was a landmark of bilateral relations between the two countries and laid the groundwork for cooperation on many subjects, such as non-proliferation, climate, health and foreign policy.

As a testimony to this first decade of the dialogue and as a lesson learned for a country in transition, especially for Middle Eastern and North African states, this experience could be a comparative perspective for their immediate recoveries.

In my capacity as a deputy minister, in 2000 I accompanied then Indonesian human rights minister Hasballah Saad for an informal meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Hilde F. Johnson to discuss various human rights issues and explored the possibilities of cooperation and an annual dialogue on human rights.

The visit to Norway was short due to political dynamics at home at that time, but the bilateral meeting provided a platform for human rights cooperation between the two countries. Indonesia then was similar to Egypt or Tunisia today. Indonesia truly engaged in a life-and-death struggle with human rights, with bloodshed in Ambon, Poso and a separatist movement in Aceh. Luckily, Indonesia survived as a nation without suffering too many sacrifices, unlike the fates of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 was triggered by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and his policy to restructure Soviet political and economic systems and pursue greater openness and transparency within all government institutions, which ultimately weakened the central government.

Similarly, the partition of Yugoslavia in 1991 apparently stemmed from the loss of a unifying leader, Marshal Tito. Under Tito's authoritarian Communist rule, Yugoslavia enjoyed a relatively long period of security and inter-ethnic peace and prosperity but all this gradually disintegrated after Tito's death in 1980.

Like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Indonesia had made fundamental changes and lost its charismatic leader but remained strongly united and integrated. Amazingly, Indonesia has now fully recovered. The latest World Economic Forum 2011 said Indonesia displayed the strongest progress among G-20 countries, exceeding India, South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

After a decade of dialogue, I reflected upon the different stages of Indonesian development by comparing the agenda of the first and the 10th dialogues, respectively.

The first dialogue in Jakarta on April 29-30, 2002, addressed the following issues: (1) corruption and economic crimes, (2) human rights courts, (3) the role of the judiciary in democracy, (4) human rights education, and (5) human rights, regional policy and civil society. The latest dialogue addressed: (1) human rights and the armed forces, (2) the promotion and protection of the rights of children in conflict with the law, and (3) interfaith dialogue and the culture of tolerance.

Each agenda item was thoroughly discussed and at the end of each dialogue, concrete commitments were jointly declared by both delegations.

The reason to propose graft and economic crimes in the first dialogue was simply because Indonesia had to establish an independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to confront endemic corruption for an immediate economic recovery.

Since its inception late in 2003, the KPK has investigated, prosecuted and sent those found guilty of corruption to jail. Probably Indonesia is among only a few countries in the world that prosecute and imprison their ministers, governors, mayors, legislators, businessmen, judges, military, police and ambassadors, as well as the governor and deputy governors of its own central bank for graft.

The success of the KPK has helped Indonesia recover gradually and manage its democratization process with greater decentralization, uphold the supremacy of law and rehabilitate the economy. Great achievements have been made in corruption eradication, despite some cases that remain unsolved, such as the Bank Century bailout and the SEA Games project saga.

The breakthrough in tackling corruption was, in my view, largely inspired by the dialogue. As an indication of the genuine commitment involved, at the fourth dialogue in Oslo on April 27-29, 2005, Indonesia sent a high-ranking delegation, including former minister of justice Hamid Awaludin, chief justice of the Supreme Court Bagir Manan, attorney general Abdul Rachman Saleh, KPK deputy chairman Amien Sunaryadi, House of Representatives members, media, NGOs, etc.

The first decade of the dialogue has been completed alongside remarkable achievements in the dynamic transition of Indonesia from authoritarian rule to democracy. The historic choice in 1998 appeared to be the point of no return. May it be proved that through the dialogue, Indonesia can share with the world that there is no contradiction between democracy, human rights and Islamic values. May Indonesia remain one of the largest democracies in the world and a shining example for all countries in transition.

The writer is a professor at State University of Jakarta, one of the architects of the first human rights dialogue between Indonesia and Norway.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

INCREASING RI WORKERS' BARGAINING POWER A MUST

DONNY SYOFYAN, PADANG

The Saudi Arabian government has decided to stop hiring maids from Indonesia and the Philippines as of Aug.1. On the one hand, the decision comes from the embarrassment the Saudis encountered after they beheaded an Indonesian maid, Ruyati binti Satubi, last month.

On the other, it is to do with Indonesia issuing a moratorium, which takes effect on Aug. 1, refusing to allow its citizens to go to Saudi Arabia until human rights conditions there are improved.

Today, there are as many as 22 Indonesian migrant workers who may also face the same punishment in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Sulistyowati Irianto, the chair of the University of Indonesia's Center for Women and Gender Studies, in this paper (June 26) interviewed 170 overseas workers in the United Arab Emirates who claimed that they were not allowed to pray during their working time.

The Indonesian government's decision to establish an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding (MoU) with any country that is not serious about protecting Indonesian migrant workers is not compromised. The government must improve the protection system for migrant workers employed in the informal sector and strengthen diplomatic ties in order to tackle the violence suffered by many Indonesian migrant workers abroad.

Intensive diplomacy toward target countries is necessary to ensure protection, health, insurance and legal assistance to Indonesian migrant workers abroad. The process should not take place at the ministerial level anymore; rather, talks should be conducted at the state leadership level: namely, between the Indonesian president and the Saudi king.

In diplomacy, the government is required to use mind and heart to deal with the issue. For that purpose, it is important for the government to improve diplomatic mechanisms when dealing with target countries, especially Saudi Arabia, in its efforts to increase and strengthen Indonesia's bargaining power. This is urgently needed, considering the Indonesian migrant workers who are also facing possible execution in Saudi Arabia. Indonesia's poor bargaining power has contributed to poor legal insurance for our migrant workers.

A weak MoU is proven to have allowed violence against Indonesian maids, especially in the Middle East and Malaysia. The unclear MoU has paved the way for the target countries to torture and mistreat Indonesian domestic workers. A great number of Indonesian maids involved in court cases suggest that they are vulnerable to violence.

Consequently, workers in the informal sector, such as housemaids, often undergo physical, economic and social abuse. They are regarded as so uneducated that their employers are inclined to think that they are not knowledgeable about the law and their rights.

Many groups have proposed countless recommendations to prevent abuse against migrant workers from happening again and again. Legally speaking, the government needs to revise Law No. 39/2004 on employment recruitment agencies (PPTKI) to ensure more legal protection to Indonesia's overseas migrant workers. Yet, the law revision means nothing as the government attempts to intensify diplomacy with target countries and to develop village economies as a promising alternative employment opportunity. At the international level, it is a must for the Indonesian government to ratify the long-awaited Migrant Workers Convention.

The government should apply a selective approach in determining target countries and fields of employment. It is time to channel and distribute our migrant workers to countries that apply international labor laws regarding the rights and protection of foreign workers. Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, to mention just a few, are famous for their protection of foreign workers.

The police need to crack down on unauthorized placement agencies that send workers abroad without proper training. So, for instance, if a placement agency intends to send workers to the Middle East, then the workers should be taught Arabic beforehand. So far, the protection of Indonesia's overseas workers still relies on our diplomats abroad, while the workers themselves face practical and geographical limitations. Meaning that, in terms of protection, workers are still regarded as objects, not as subjects who are capable of protecting themselves.

In addition to the death sentences and violence facing legitimate migrant workers, there is an increasing number of Indonesians working illegally in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Such illegal workers have been subjected to discrimination and sometimes end up going to jail for years. For sure, these illegal workers, who are defenseless and susceptible to severe legal enforcement in their host countries, will get nothing in their dream of creating a better life.

In general, Indonesia's overseas migrant workers are scattered across different working sectors, including agriculture and domestic. These sectors provide an indirect indication of the low educational level of many Indonesian overseas workers. It is believed that the lack of formal education has contributed hugely to the physical, economic and social discrimination Indonesian migrant workers often suffer abroad.

While, collectively, Indonesian migrant workers sent around US$500 million (Rp 4.5 trillion) a month to their home country in 2010, it is sad to know the state has failed to thank and protect them in return. Indonesia's female workers have been tortured, whipped and beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Where is ukhuwah Islamiyah (Islamic brotherhood) down there? Why do Hong Kong and South Korea treat our employees much better? I'm afraid Saudi Arabia should learn real brotherhood and sisterhood from those two countries.

The writer is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang, and a graduate of the University of Canberra, Australia.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

CLOSING ECONOMIC GAP: URGENT FOR PAPUA

MARCELLUS RANTETANA

Papua has always been called by those living on the island as Papua Tanah Damai (The Land of Peace), but is it really so? On the contrary, to some people Papua is probably the least peaceful area in the nation.

Those that have interest in Papua know that Papua is still far from being a true land of peace despite that various groups living in the area seem to be living peacefully side by side.

In Jayapura it does not take much time to understand why the seemingly peaceful conditions are actually prone to conflict. This condition is deeply rooted in the unbalanced control of economic resources.

Just go shopping around Jayapura or other towns in Papua for that matter and it will become immediately apparent that the bulk of the economic resources are in the hands of non-natives. The natives are practically in the periphery of the rapidly growing local economy.

The economy of Papua practically comprises two distinct and mutually exclusive components, namely the modern part controlled by non-natives and the sub-informal by the natives.

Few natives would be found shopping in malls, supermarkets, fast food stalls and other modern economic facilities. Needless to say, they would own shops.

Instead, the natives would be selling pinang, bottled gasoline, running very small kiosks and various other informal economic activities on roadsides. They practically do not participate much in the rapidly advancing modern sector of Papua.

As such they do not tap a meaningful share of the added value of economic activities of the region, and as long as this wide gap in resources control prevails, it is unlikely that Papua will become a true land of peace.

The current welfare gap will unlikely disappear through market mechanism as the "survival of the fittest" principle will disregard the inability of the natives to compete.

Unless they are equipped with necessary skills to meaningfully take part in the economic development, they will continuously be trapped in the informal sector.

Nevertheless, both local and central governments seem to rely more on cash transfers to strengthen the buying power of the natives than enhancing their economic capability.

Very few initiatives are in place to enhance among others their business skills, as confessed by the Papuan women participants in a workshop on business basics conducted by Papua Knowledge Center a few months ago.

They all openly acknowledged that the government did not provide any support for their business activities. They have no access to various credit schemes provided by both local and national governments. "The procedures were far too complex for us," they said.

Through the 2001 Special Autonomy Law (OTSUS), the Papuans have been given special opportunities and resources to catch up with their fellow citizens in other parts of the country.

In this regard, the law has very clearly specified that the Special Autonomy fund must be mostly used on education and health.

However, after 10 years Papuans still top the list of poor people, illiterates, school dropouts and prevalence of deadly diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

Several factors can be identified causing this meager improvement. First of all the resources allocated by local governments to these two sectors have been far from adequate.

They tend to focus on physical construction such as office buildings and inter-regency roads than tending the needs of the people directly. There is no question that these two sectors are important as argued by most regency administrations, but should they be the first priority right now?

Unless the natives are properly prepared, interconnection between regencies will not bring much benefit to them.

The education sector has been inflicted by the establishment of new regencies that has been out of control over the last decade. The number of regencies has almost quadrupled in the last 10 years.

New government positions in the newly established regencies were mostly filled by teachers as they were comparatively the most ready in those areas.

This was exacerbated by high the teachers' high rate of absentee for various reasons, including difficult living conditions in the remote areas.

Hence, unless things are made easier for teachers and health workers in the rural areas, education and health of Papuans will be stagnant for some time in the future.

As an effort to enhance the edu-cation level of Papuans, local governments have been sending hundreds of students to major universities in Sulawesi, Java and abroad, such as Australia, Japan, the US and Europe.

The number of these students, however, is only a tiny percentage of total population of Papuan students.

Hence, systematic and robust approaches and programs to boost the overall quality of education and health in Papua are imminent, otherwise those currently seeking better education outside Papua will not mean much in closing the gap as desired by the law.

Papua is almost half way through the OTSUS period that will end in 2025. Without concerted efforts by all stakeholders both in Jakarta and Papua, the development gap between Papua and other regions and more importantly the welfare gap between Papuans and others in Papua will very unlikely be closed.

The central government must move away from "hands off" policy to active engagement especially in closely monitoring the progress of all sectors in particular education and health.

The welfare approach must be adopted to replace whatever approach is currently employed. Budget allocations should be target-oriented instead of output oriented.

Meanwhile, in Papua itself, the provincial government should proactively assist the regency governments especially the newly established ones.

And although there is no longer a direct command line between Jakarta and Jayapura, the provincial government can use its budgeting power through the OTSUS fund allocator to directly influence program formulation and budget allocations in the regencies. With right programs we can be sure that the special status with specially allocated funds will bring Papuans up to par with their fellow citizens in the near future.

The writer is head of the Papua Knowledge Center, Jayapura.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

COUNTRY FIRST

The post war Sri Lanka is poised for change and offered an opportunity it only dreamt of for three long decades. Where it now turns and how it will share the responsibility is a discussion left to a Sri Lankan forum that has the interests of the country first. Engagement of all people be they Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim in this discussion is crucial to how peace will prevail in the future.

A Tamil Diaspora that does not desire a return to the country at any point of time, can not be offered the decision making power over the Sri Lankan Tamil people. It would be both a catastrophic political blunder as well as a betrayal of the people who would ultimately have to suffer the consequences and the outcomes. It is imperative that Tamil political groups like the Tamil National Alliance be mindful of the fact that a final solution must overcome compulsions for its own survival.

It is equally important that the Tamil people be educated of the real reasons behind the political games played by the Tamil Diasporas. Be it the Channel 4 fiasco or the various human rights concerns raised; the fact remains that the Tamil Diaspora needs such mechanisms to justify its continued presence in the West. The hundreds of thousands who have made the West their home on grounds of political asylum, can not afford to let the fires of 'ethnic' discriminations die down. They can not allow for questions on why they need to remain in these countries now that the war is over, be the focus.

 Ironically, neither can they allow for a political solution; if that is the desire of the Tamil people of the North or the East be implemented. Admitting to the existence of a conducive atmosphere for the peaceful co-existence of all people in the country is also allowing the focus to be shifted towards them. This sadly is the reality behind the concern of a large majority of the Tamil Diaspora today pointing the finger at Sri Lanka.

Needless to say, the situation leaves much to be done to take the war ravaged Northern and Eastern parts of the country to their desired conditions. One; that the government has genuinely committed itself to, if the development activities or the resettlement process are to stand witness. In a scenario where those who cry foul from the West have failed to assist in the development drive in these areas, the legitimacy of the 'concerns' must be questioned.

It is therefore essential that the Tamil polity take on the responsibility of securing a future for its people by committing themselves genuinely to the process underway. Equally important is that they refrain from sacrificing such a future for their people by playing petty politics for obvious personal gain. The innocents of both sides of the divide have paid enough for private political games played by such opportunist for thirty long years. It is time country and not self took precedence.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

BIO-DEGRADABLE BAG........

Bio-degradable bag

During the World Environmental Day recently held I was driving around the city of Colombo and suburbs and was walking along the local roads, where I live it was an eye-sore to observe empty polythene packs of tea, sugar, fruit drinks and milk, printed with very popular brand names, on the roads, in drains and unauthorized garbage dumps.

Sri Lankans have been challenging our local researchers and industrialists to manufacture a bio-degradable bag for packing and carrying common consumables. Their attempts of research and manufacture seem to have miserably failed due to overt and covert reasons. The main purpose of this challenge was to phase out the use of polythene, which has become a menace causing innumerable problems such as spread of dengue, clogging of waste water and drainage lines and even causing a threat to our wild life, mainly the wild elephants and the domestic cattle who swallow polythene packs along with the food waste dumped in the periphery of wild life national parks of Wasgamuwa, Manammpitiya and Udawalawe which are highlighted very often by the media.

I really do not know whether bio-degradable small containers/bags made of waste papers, straw or reeds are too expensive. If so the consumers can pay a small sum for them as in some places we already do for polythene bags. I am sure it will not raise the present cost of living which is already high and increasing unchecked, any way. In the long run this move will save most vulnerable environment, save the lives of citizens of the country from dengue menace and further save colossal sums of money in the government coffers, now being spent on eradication of dengue and treatment to thousands suffering from the diseases.

A few years ago the government enacted laws to make polythene bags thicker. This probably made the polythene bag manufactures and dealers richer, and it has certainly not made, the use of polythene bags lesser. Substitutes to polythene bags, made of natural straw elephant dung and reeds are confined to the neglected cottage industries and their brochures.

Major General 

A. M. U. Seneviratne, Rtd.

 

Dengue - Who is
Responsible

I am a resident of a road leading off Galle Road close to the CTB Depot in Ratmalana. The municipal area concerned (Municipal Council of Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia) has been declared a "dengue disaster zone" and they in turn are blaming the citizenry. On the other hand not too long ago a political big wig took the law into his hands in meeting out punishment "Kekille style" in what can only be described as the act of a political lackey trying to impress his masters.

My attempt here is not to discuss politicians but try to bring to the attention of the powers that be the urgent need for action.

Let me illustrate a few points here, based on what I observe day in and day out.

1. Storm water drains not cleaned of the accumulated sludge thus impeding the flow of water and becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. But several rate payers were prosecuted when a few water sources were found in several home gardens.

2. Permanent, semi-permanent and temporary shops - virtual shacks - built over the drains at the top end of the road, obstruct the cleaning of such drains and prevent the smooth flow of storm water. But rate payers will be prosecuted if they construct any unauthorised building in their private gardens that obstructs the flow of water.

3. Approving or allowing such shops to be built with no thought of the need for sanitary facilities of the shopkeepers who have to be in those from morning till evening. But will any rate payer be allowed to build a house with no toilet facilities?

4. There are even house owners who have created drains that discharge their kitchen and bath waste water on to the road surface. This is because there is no storm water drain on one side of the road but this should not be an excuse for allowing some residents to break municipal laws on health and sanitation.

How the PHIs dare to come and tell householders to take action to remove mosquito breeding places baffles me when they ignore the more obvious breeding grounds such as above.

W. A. J. Francis

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ADDRESSING THE BASICS TO A POLITICAL SOLUTION

SS Reports that the Government and the TNA have decided on coming out with written proposals on power-devolution only at the conclusion of the current negotiations on a political solution, if true, should be welcome. The intention seems to be arriving at a practical solution, fitting with the times. Ideas and ideology that cannot be kept out of a written proposal could stymie the talks from the word, 'Go'.

Political negotiations are all about give-and-take. It involves negotiating skills. The TNA has not been involved in any political negotiation of any kind for decades now. The world as also the way political negotiations are handled, have changed. The TNA also suffers from a lack of expertise and experience in addressing issues as conducive to the conditions of the Tamils back home.

Whatever advice and expertise that they can hope for are from the Diaspora. The Diaspora lives in the past – and offshore, with no intention of returning home, and facing the Sri Lankan State, the Sinhala majority polity and society. Their host-nations seem to have concluded that for the non-citizen Diaspora to return home, Sri Lanka should become a safer place for the Tamils, and be seen as so.

Any proposal from the TNA at the commencement of the talks, or even at this stage, would naturally borrow from the past – and for its own reasons. It would thus have to have mentioned 'unitary State', 'federalism' and 're-merger', among others. Not only the Sinhala polity and the party in power, the Sri Lankan State as an institution is also uncomfortable with such concepts.

It is no different in the case of written proposals from the Government. They too will have to start off on the 'negative list'. The Tamils would not like it. Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, a member of the Government team negotiating with the TNA, has reiterated the official position against 'federalism'. Others may have been said within the confines of the negotiations room.

The TNA could not be seen as even reacting to written proposals of the kind. Their constituency is not expected to like it. Focussing on specifics like Police and Land powers, and population-distribution and de-limitation could produce mutually-acceptable solutions.

This way, the respective constituencies of the stake-holders may be happy to weigh the take-aways at the end of the negotiations and form a cumulative opinion. Both sides thus need to acknowledge that the other side too will have to convince its constituncy, at least up to a point. There is some truth in the repeated TNA claims that it represents Sri Lankan Tamil interests in the country. Alliance leaders have also often declared that whatever is not acceptable to the TNA would not be acceptable to the Tamils in the North. They need to clarify that whatever is acceptable to the TNA would be acceptable to the Tamils in the North.

They would also need to make their position clear if they were negotiating only on behalf of the Tamils of the North, or those in the East, and elsewhere, too. That clarity is lacking at present. If left unaddressed, it could create problems, not for the negotiaters but for the negotiations, and thus for the Sri Lankan Government.

Post-war elections have showen that there is a substantial – though not majority Tamil opinion – in the North that supports Tamil parties aligned with the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The second phase of local government elections later this month is expected to bring in greater clarity. It can be expected to be punctuated by TNA allegations that the Government parties misused power, to garner votes and to deny them their due.

There are the Muslims of the North, driven out of the region by the LTTE at one-go in 1990. The TNA says it wants them back. In a way, their return would also have to be a part of any process that would signal a complete return of normalcy. As is known, the Muslim parties that dominate community politics in the East are not the ones that manage the affairs in the North.Apart from the 'Tamil politics' of the Eastern Province, the divided Muslim polity is becoming increasingly assertive as far as the 'ethnic talks' are concerned. As is known otherwise but is yet to be acknowledged by the TNA, Census-2011 is expected to throw up a relatively higher figure for the Muslims in the East.

In these weeks after the first phase of the local government elections in March that the SLMC lost in most traditional strongholds in the East, the party has demanded a 'third seat' in the ethnic negotiations. This takes the Muslim-centric aspect of the 'ethnic negotiations' to the days of the 'Oslo process'.

There are also Upcountry Tamils in substantial numbers in the North. There are reasons to believe that many, if not most, inmates of the IDP camps in the North could belong to the community. Their integration and special needs to have to be addressed here and now, if there have to be no future ruptures on that ground.

This is not to shut one's eyes to the continuing conditions of the Upcountry Tamils where they belong. Their divided political leadership is in dissarray. Their frustrated youth have had a ring-side view of the rise and fall of the LTTE. Their voices need to be heard. Venues and avenues have to be created for the purpose, employing the constitutional process.

The UNP Opposition is as yet unclear about joining a Parliament Select Committee (PSC), as outlined by the Government a fortnight back. It is yet to make clear its position on supporting whatever solution that the Government and the TNA may thrash out. The alternative will be for the party to join an all-party formation, called by whatever name, and trash out the basics of an all-acceptable solution. UNP leader Lakshman Kiriella has since declared that the Government would break if it offered a political solution acceptable to the Tamils on the ethnic issue. If that were the case, the UNP's decisions in the matter become even more significant. Under such circumstances, the party may be called upon to weigh the price for supporting such a solution – and the consequences if it strayed one more time.

What is true of the UNP, is true of the JHU and JVP, too. They all have been offering lip-service to the Tamils. On substantive issues and in substantive ways, their approach too has been negative. They seem to be waiting for the day when the peace negotiations faltered. They see politics in it, not a problem whose solution can alter the course of Sri Lanka's progress and growth.

The Government has continuously reiterated that a political solution should be acceptable to all communities. One would include the Tamil community to the list The Government and the TNA will have to fast-track the negotiations, rather than let ideas linger for too long. Together, they need to be in touch with other sections of the nation's polity, formally or otherwise, to hear out their views, if not share the status of the negotiations. There could be modalities and methodologies, but one should not overlook this part of the process.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

PROBLEMS OF THE GRAIN SACK NEETA LAL

As the south-west monsoon explodes over the parched Indian landscape, the alchemy of rain, wet mud and its heady smell is delighting millions across the country.

However, this annual elemental assault is also spelling grief for the farmers. The rains are wreaking havoc on grain stocks as India simply doesn't have enough granaries to hold its overflowing produce. Indeed, in a country where millions go to bed hungry everyday, 50 per cent of the women are anemic and child malnutrition is rampant, it seems surreal that millions of tons of grain rots due to a space crunch.  Ironically, the bumper rot is in spite of the Supreme Court's 2010 directive to the Centre to ensure free distribution of about 2.5 million food grains to the poor. But the government cited high transportation costs and the already existing raft of food subsidies to the poor as excuses to bypass the order. 

Amenable weather conditions, effective irrigation and improved quality of fertilisers, say agriculturists, have been producing lush crops for the past three years. Traders are crying for an end to the export ban while farmers are piqued that  compelling market dynamics are fetching them very low market prices for their grain. The absence of an effective public procurement network has only aggravated the scenario.

Despite the grim situation, the states and the Centre are busy buck-passing while the poor and cattle are starving. In the Krishna-Godavari belt, for instance, the farmers are having to dispose of their paddy at abysmal rates. Furious, many have flung the crop on the streets and declared a crop holiday!

Agriculturists are questioning why – given the government's poor inflow-outflow crop management – India can't export its food grains? Or invest in a world-class storage facility? After all, as experts point out, the covered storage capacity at FCI-owned facilities has remained stagnant at 12.9 million tons for over five years. But the government has kept deferring its decision to invest in modern storage facilities citing "identification of locations" and "costs" as major issues. It is estimated that it would take over Rs 20 crore per day to distribute this surplus crop.

Where does the solution lie? Spreading food cultivation uniformly across the country – rather than just the current fertile regional pockets – will be a good start. This will help the government save millions currently funneled into warehousing costs, whittle down the time required for transportation and distribution while ensuring that the crops actually reach the beneficiaries. Privatisation of the warehousing sector is another viable suggestion.

India is, indeed, fortunate to not only have enough food grains to sustain its billion-plus population but also a surplus at times when food prices are breaking the backs of governments across the world. If only if it could also devise a simple way to make its farmers—who till the land with their sweat and blood—smile rather than despair each time the monsoon arrives. 

Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based journalist

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE WOMEN THEY LEFT BEHIND...

BY NABEELA HUSSAIN

Bertrand Russell said: "war does not determine who is right but who is left behind." They argue about who is right and wrong, if the war was won fairly according to international laws. They see the destruction left behind by the war, but do they see the women left behind by it?

Widowed and alone, in a society that trained them to be the home makers and believe it's the man's duty to provide for the family, they are today left destitute and desperately searching for a way to survive and not be exploited in the process.

The exploited
Non-Governmental Organizations and politicians in the north both show increasing cause for concern about the situation faced by women in the North. They say that many have been exploited and are facing many hardships, alone, as they are very often widows who bear the pain of not only losing their husbands but also their children and in some instance the entire family.

"Some of these women have their husbands in rehabilitation camps and they have no one to turn to, the NGO's that provide them with funds have asked many of them to come to distant places like Colombo to collect it and therefore they are unable to go," said Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) Political Leader M. K Sivajilingam.

Mr. Sivjilingam explained that women who were desperate for work to support their families are the ones who were exploited the most, with some being promised employment but being tricked into prostitution. "There are women who have been taken to Colombo and other places promising them employment and then forced into prostitution not even the teenage girls are spared from this menace," he said.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP and Spokesman, Suresh Premachandran said women were the most affected by the war in the Northern Province. "Many have been married at an early age because they did not want to go to war and now many of them are widows desperately searching for their families.

"There are women in prisons in the North who have been there for years, they have no chargers against them, but they are yet there," the Parliamentarian said. He explained that many were war widows with children of young ages who have no family to support them and no income of their own.

MP Premachanran explained that even though there was a considerable number of widows with no income, NGOs were unable to help them because of government regulations. "Even some of the local NGOs have told me that it is challenging to work there and that they are unable to do so because of some government regulations," he said.

 The parliamentarian said that even though the issue was raised with the government no steps were being taken. "The government has no plan to help them and it has no funds to do so either," he said.

Premachandran explained the situation was made much worse by the fact that the government had no proper census of the widows or those who were missing.

"We don't want to point the finger at anyone but these women are being exploited by those who are said to be looking after them and others in the public as well," he stated.

"The only thing that many of these women ask when we meet them is to help look for their families who they believe are alive. We have asked the government to release such information but it had done little and these women spend their time travelling desperately from police stations to camps doing everything they could to look for their loved ones," he said.

Director General of the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS), Lakshman Hulugalle however said that they had not received complaints from anybody regarding the harassment faced by women. "We agree that they are facing major difficulties but up to now we have not received any complaints and neither has it been taken up in parliament," he said.

Situation in Jaffna

The Home for Human Rights (HHR) said that there was a definite increase in the number of violence against women in the area.

HHR Coordinator, T. A Arulnayagam explained that the events could not be pin pointed to a particular group, but they were entreating the authorities to take action as the number of complaints was increasing.

"We received 50 cases during the past five months alone and these are statistics that we alone have received. We don't know the number of cases that other organizations have received," he said.

"These incidents are scattered throughout the peninsula and many of them take place in the village areas," Mr. Arulnayagam said. He explained that they had taken steps to hold a peaceful demonstration together with other NGOs to create public awareness and also ask the authorities to take more action.

"We also have our own village motivators through which we create awareness," he said. Mr. Arulnayagam said that the change in the situation in the area was a contributing factor for the hardships faced by women, from being concerned about only their safety during the war people's mentality had now changed with the end of war.

"The police are conducting investigations into these cases but they are incomplete therefore we are asking them to double their efforts so that violence against women in the area maybe reduced," he said. 

The Jaffna branch of Women In Need (WIN) stated that they receive 20- 30 cases a month. The Organization said that they receive work that come directly to them while others have been directed to them by the police. WIN said that many of the cases were from the village areas and they were conducting awareness programs in the area.

Even though it will take time and effort to reduce the hardships faced by women in the North who have been severely affected by the war it is an ongoing process that need to be strengthened by the authorities.

And as Eve Merriam (poet) said that "she dreamt of the day of giving birth to a child who will ask, Mother what was war?", unfortunately for many of the Sri Lankan women, many of who live in the North that day is yet far away…

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ARSENIC, GODS AND SCIENCE: ANOTHER OPINION

I have recently read with great interest the response of Prof. Nalin de Silva, of the University of Kelaniya, to the statement issued by the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS). Also interesting was the article published in the Sunday Times of July 3rd, in which Prof. Priyani Paranagama justified the use of "divine intervention" in scientific discovery. I would like to offer the following comments.

Actually, there is little one can say about Prof. de Silva. Although a Dean of Science at a major university, he is not a scientist, but a mathematician. He openly despises science, always qualifying the word with the adjective "western." He believes that the West is using "western" science to "suppress" us. He further states that the SLAAS represents this presumably evil, colonialist, western science in Sri Lanka, but then boasts of his life membership in it. He clearly does not understand how science works, and believes that it is acceptable, in his version of science, to collaborate with a god. He claims that it was because of this collaboration that his group did not publish theft results; did the god decline to be named as a co-author?

Prof. de Silva challenges the President of the SLAAS to a debate about western science. I would love to see such a debate take place, but I doubt that it will. There must be some common ground, some shared assumptions, before a debate can take place. As a member of the SLAAS, I do not think that the SLAAS accepts that there is such a thing as "western" science, as opposed to any other kind. Also, millions of people in the country, including many scientists, do not even believe in the god Natha. Perhaps they may be forgiven for wondering what those who claim to be in communication with Natha are drinking or inhaling!

Prof. de Silva is well known to espouse views that the SLAAS has diplomatically been characterised as "eccentric." There are many people like that, though not all are Deans of Science. They play a certain role in society, as a source of public entertainment. However, society needs to be wary when they are in a position to influence public policy. As the leader of a research group that includes Prof. Paranagama, Nalin de Silva is in just such a position.

Unlike Prof. de Silva, Prof. Paranagama has the credentials of a serious experimental scientist. I was therefore deeply disappointed to read about her defence of the use of "divine intervention" in science, by reference to purely private and personal actions like invoking blessings of gods upon the purchase of a new car or building a new house. People are entitled to be as superstitious as they please in their private lives. Science, especially science that may influence public policy, is another matter.

Science works! That is why it is widely accepted. Both its success and its acceptance are due to certain basic features, two of which are objectivity and reproducibility. This means that a scientist must approach a problem in an unbiased manner, and whatever results he or she achieves, another scientist must be able to reproduce, or else those results are worthless. A scientist who claims guidance by a god, in whom she presumably has faith, is unlikely to be objective even when using scientific methodology, since there would be a probable bias towards confirming the god's predictions. Indeed, this has happened. A scientist who boasts of divine inspiration (as opposed to, say, a dream), even if merely as the source of an idea, must be aware that other scientists and members of the public, who may not share her belief in that particular god, will view her results with suspicion. This too appears to have happened. While not invalidating her results, it does increase her burden of proof. Finally, a scientist's results must be reproducible by others. So far, Prof. Paranagama's results have yet to be confirmed by accredited laboratories, such as the Industrial Technology Institute. Taken together, all of this not only casts doubt on the conclusions proclaimed by her, but may permanently tarnish her reputation as a credible scientist.

Prof. Paranagama expresses surprise at being ridiculed for seeking "divine intervention" in support of her research. She should have expected nothing less. Not only scientists, but even members of the Sri Lankan public, who are in general quite religious, understand that science and the supernatural do not mix.

Most members of the public will probably be uninterested in this arcane discussion of what science is and how it should be done. They naturally want answers. I cannot give them answers. I can only comment on how the answers given to them have been obtained, and how much confidence I have in them, as a scientist so, as far as arsenic is concerned, let me stick my neck out and say that I have confidence in the answers provided by the accredited laboratory at the Industrial Technology Institute. Those are very likely the best answers available in Sri Lanka.

Dr. R.D. Guneratne
University of Colombo

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

US 'PEACE PROCESS' A ROAD TO NOWHERE  

BY DR JAMES J ZOGBY PRESIDENT

ON the day the New York Times reported the Israeli military had demolished the homes of Palestinians in Jordan Valley to clear the area to consolidate Israeli control, that same military was being rebuffed in its efforts to remove an illegal Jewish settler outpost in the same occupied West Bank.

There were also reports of settlers running amok in the West Bank committing violence against Palestinians and Israeli military personnel, and other news accounts of thousands of extremist rabbis demonstrating outside Israel's Supreme Court in opposition to government efforts to silence one of their leaders.

He had been arrested for advocating violence against Palestinians (maintaining that it was acceptable to kill innocent Palestinian children before they grew to adulthood and became a real threat to Jews).

These incidents demonstrate, in a nutshell, why I have lost confidence in the so-called "peace process" and US peacemaking efforts.

While Israel continues to oppress and humiliate Palestinians, and extremist Israeli settlers continue to run roughshod over Palestinians and the Israeli military, it seems downright short-sighted and silly for the US to have nothing more interesting to offer than their lame mantra that "parties need to return to the negotiating table".

And yet that is about all they have to offer at this point, but neither side is in a position to negotiate.

Israeli politics has moved decidedly to the right. With a half million settlers in the West Bank (many armed to the teeth and ideologically committed to stay on "their land" no matter what deal their government might sign with the Palestinians), Israel not only has no interest in finding a solution that would be fair to the Palestinians, I'm not convinced they could or would muster the resolve to convince their hardline public to accept even an unfair settlement with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have no real leverage to stop Israeli behaviour and are in no position to negotiate with them.

The Palestinian leadership is fragmented and their body politic is divided. Gaza is isolated and under a blockade, while the West Bank is under Israeli control and has become dependent on the largess of international donors.

A few weeks ago we had a glimmer of hope that the Palestinians were ready to alter this stagnant situation. The major Palestinian factions were reconciling and their leadership was ready to challenge Israel and the US by demanding a UN vote on Palestinian Statehood.

But with the US and Israel opposed to Palestinian unity and a UN vote, and the Palestinian factions unable to agree even on a temporary government, hopes have dimmed.

It is not that a UN vote would create a state, or that Palestinian unity would bring peace. Healing the fractured Palestinian polity is a necessity so the Palestinian National Authority can be seen to represent its entire constituency.

The push for a UN vote is an important effort by the Palestinians to buttress their position with leverage from the international community.

What made these two Palestinian initiatives more desirable than US efforts to restart talks is the Palestinian steps attempted to juggle the equation, while simply restarting talks does nothing but bring together the parties, as they are, to talk about a situation the Israelis don't want to change and the Palestinians are powerless to change.

If there is to be Israeli-Palestinian peace, the current dynamics in Israeli and Palestinian societies and the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, must be changed.

That requires strategic thinking and a willingness to shake thing up, especially in Israel.

Both Israeli's sense of entitlement and their ability to operate with impunity must be ended.

And the Palestinians must feel supported, empowered and responsible for their own destiny.

jzogby@aai.usa.org

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

MACDONALD ON MONDAY 

I have never been much of a fan of the News of the World and, to the best of my knowledge, have never purchased a copy.

I vaguely remember reading a couple of copies of the newspaper when it did a rather good job in exposing War Minister John Profumo when he was having an affair with a woman who was also seeing a senior naval attache at the Soviet embassy in London.

Given that this was back in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, there was certainly a good deal of public interest justification in the story.

I doubt if they have done much in the public interest since then.

As far as I can gather, this red top specialises in revealing details of the sex lives of football players, politicians and people who appear on reality television programmes.

Exactly where the public interest in these tales lies, is beyond me.

But there clearly is some public interest because up until today 2.6 million people bought the paper every Sunday to relish the personal secrets of the famous and not so famous people and minor members of the royalty.

According to the newspaper, that translates into more than seven million readers.

Now they have lost their Sunday read because of the actions of the world's biggest media tycoon. Around 200 staff have also lost their jobs, even though the vast majority were not working on the paper at the time of the alleged telephone tapping.

Former editor Andy Coulson may have been arrested but Rebekah Wade is still a News International employee in spite of the fact that she was editor and then an executive at the time of the alleged tapping.

Telephone tapping and the level at which intrusion into people's personal lives has now come under scrutiny.

But closing down a highly popular newspaper does not seem to be the way forward if we are to see a tightening of standards in the industry.

The telephone hacking episode raises a number of issues that the industry should address.

The question of freedom of the Press is always a touchy subject with journalists.

While we all appreciate that Press freedom cannot be finite, equally we would argue that if you allow the government to set up a body to regulate the Press you are clearly moving towards state sanctioned censorship and, given recent scandals like MPs' expense accounts, there are doubtless many in Westmin-ster who would not shy away from censorship.

The integrity of an industry that sometimes regards itself as a profession has also been called into question.

But while everyone and his brother is condemning hacking telephones, why is raising the issue of cheque book journalism not also being addressed?

Have we really got to the point that kiss and tell stories prised out of nonentities with the offer of filthy lucre to dish the dirt on some personality is what the news business is all about?

The final issue that the closure of the News of the World raises, and in my opinion the most important issue, is media ownership.

In my time in this industry, there has seen an increasing concentration of the UK media in too few hands.

I think it is shocking that one individual should be allowed to own four national titles. But Rupert Murdoch not only owns newspapers that claim to decide who governs Britain, he is also an Australian born US citizen who does not even have a vote.

Now he wants to own a UK television station too.

But when it comes to concentration of too much media power in too few hands, he is by no means the biggest threat.

When I started in newspapers I was employed by the Alloa Advertiser, which was an independent newspaper owned by one man.

Our major competitors on our borders were Scotland's two largest provincial newspaper groups Johnston Press and Scottish & Universal Newspapers, which each owned about 10 titles.

But for the rest of Scotland, most newspaper companies were family owned and only had one or two titles.

The same was largely the case in the rest of the UK.

How things have changed during my time in this trade.

Today Johnston Press owns 17 daily newspapers and a string of more than 240 weekly publications.

Trinity Mirror, which includes the Daily and Sunday Mirror in its stable, has 160 regional titles, while Northcliffe, owned by the same people as the Daily Mail, boasts more than 200 daily and weekly titles.

Newsquest, which is US owned, has 200 publications.

At a national level, I am greatly concerned about the fact that a few media groups have massive power, but we are now getting to the point that the local media is owned by massive conglomerates, and that is something that cannot be good for journalism.

Local newspapers are no longer local. They are simply cash cows for international organisations who are more interested in advertising revenue than they are in providing a news service to local people.

What made local newspapers local n my day was not the journalists but the owner.

The guy who ran the Alloa Advertiser lived in the community while even a 10 stable operation like Johnston Press was run by a guy who came from Falkirk and was part of the local scene.

Journalists on local newspapers tended not to be local.

They were all there covering the Menstrie flower show or the latest news from the Dollar Academy sports day, dreaming of the day they would hit Fleet Street.

Ownership made local papers local and that is now a thing of the past.

But ultimately it is ownership of the national Press that particularly bothers me. It is almost 10 years since the events that have led to the telephone tapping scandal have come to light.

Yet in that time has the News of the World carried out any investigation into the manner which it carried out its news gathering operations?

I think not.

But I think it should have.

I cannot believe that any editor of a newspaper would not have quizzed the journalists in question where they were getting their information from.

More importantly, I cannot believe that any editor was not questioning why they were paying money to the mobile phone hacker in the first place.

There are serious questions that have to be asked about the veracity and integrity of UK journalism in the wake of this scandal which go way beyond the single issue of a bit of telephone hacking.

Anyone who comes from the UK and witnessed the coverage of recent events in Bahrain would have to agree that something is rotten in the state of British journalism.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MURDOCH'S TROIKA

BY GWYNNE DYER

 

The troika hurtles across the frozen plain. The wolves are close behind, and from time to time a peasant is hurled from the sleigh in the hope of letting the more important people escape. But nothing distracts the pack for long, not even when the occupants of the sleigh move up the pecking order and throw a couple of minor aristocrats to the wolves.

Wait! What's this? They have thrown a newspaper to the wolves? An entire newspaper, with two hundred full-time employees and hundreds more freelance contributors? How do they think that that will help them to get away?

The troika is called News International, the newspaper wing of Rupert Murdoch's globe-spanning media empire. The paper that has just been sacrificed is the News of the World (NoW), a Sunday tabloid that claims to have more readers than any other paper in the English-speaking world.

The NoW makes a tidy profit, but this Sunday's edition was its last. After 168 years, the institution that pioneered the art of persuading the emerging class of semi-literate English people to buy newspapers has been shut down by its owners.

Semi-literates were consumers too. If it took a steady diet of salacious and scandalous stories about the rich and/or famous to get them to read a newspaper, the publishers of the NoW were always willing to provide it. The advertisers flocked in and the "News of the Screws", as the magazine Private Eye dubbed it in the 1970s, flourished like the green bay tree.

It used to get its salacious and scandalous stories by paying celebrities' friends to betray them, or just by going through celebrities' garbage in search of letters, receipts, etc. Starting as long ago as the late 1990s, however, the NoW also started hacking new communications technologies, even though that was against the law.

Over the past decade the NoW has paid various shady characters to hack the voice-mails, e-mails and other electronic data of literally thousands of people, from members of the British royal family to Z-list celebrities. A few of them, suspecting they had been hacked, launched lawsuits against the paper, and the whole shabby enterprise began to unravel.

The first peasants to be thrown from the troika were the NoW's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and the private eye he had paid to hack into the royal family's phone messages, Glenn Mulcaire. Both men went to prison in 2007. The management at the NoW insisted that they were just a couple of "bad apples" -- but it paid their legal expenses, and probably much more besides, in order to buy their silence about any further hacking.

The stone-walling worked for a while, as the police soft-pedaled the investigation (the NoW had been paying them for stories, after all). But details of the hacking continued to leak out anyway, and during this year several more senior NoW journalists have been arrested for questioning, including former editor Andy Coulson.

James Murdoch, the 80-year-old Rupert's son and heir apparent, was moved from London to New York in March, at least partly to put him beyond easy reach of the British legal system. (He was ultimately responsible for the NoW at the time of the crimes.)

Last week it was revealed that the NoW had been hacking not only celebrities' voice-mails, but also those of a murdered schoolgirl, of the grieving families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and of victims of the terrorist attack in London in 2005. Public disgust was intense, and it was clearly time to throw the wolves a really big meal.

The obvious candidate was Rebekah Brooks, who was the editor of the NoW in the early years of phone hacking (2000-03). She is now the chief executive of News International, and a close personal friend of Rupert Murdoch, so firing her would create the impression that Murdoch's empire was serious about cleaning house. Instead, Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World itself down.

News International isn't really going to lose money by closing the NoW. It will be replaced almost immediately by a new Sunday edition of its weekday stable-mate, the Sun: new web addresses for thesunonsunday.com and TheSunOnSunday.co.uk were registered last week. As British Justice Secretary Ken Clarke pointed out: "All they're going to do is rebrand it".

But why didn't they just blame it all on Rebekah Brooks and fire her? Because if Rebekah Brooks goes down, the next person in the line of fire will inevitably be James Murdoch himself. That cannot be allowed to happen, because he is leading News Corporation's bid for control of British Sky Broadcasting, which would give it utter dominance in the British media and huge profits.

So leave Brooks out there to draw fire at least until the British government approves the BSkyB takeover bid. Then, if necessary, she can be thrown out of the troika too.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Photo: In this photo illustration, a man reads the last edition of the News of the World on July 10, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Getty Images)

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE SECESSION OF SOUTH SUDAN

BY AHMAD BAKHSHI

 

Southern Sudan officially seceded from the north on July 9, 2011, becoming an independent state called the Republic of South Sudan.

Covering an area of about 619,745 square kilometers and with a population of 8 million, the new country has borders with the Republic of Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the National Congress Party of the North and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement of the South, which ended the 21-year civil war. The agreement called for a referendum on self-determination to be held on January 11, 2011 and the establishment of a coalition government from 2005 to 2011, in which the former rebels of the SPLM would be given a number of cabinet and deputy minister posts. During this period, a new constitution was drafted to govern the region.

The official results of the referendum were announced on January 30, 2011 and 98.83 percent of the citizens voted for the secession of South Sudan. The results were confirmed by the northern government. The independence of the Republic of South Sudan was officially declared on Saturday July 9, making it Africa's fifty-fifth state and the 193rd member of the United Nations.

But the new government is facing numerous challenges in both the national and international arenas. Due to the lack of preparation for establishing a new government, scarcity of funds, and many other social and cultural problems, the international community has expressed great concern.

The most important problems are the following:

Border disputes: The boundaries of the new republic are not yet clearly marked. According to the Naivasha Agreement of 2005, the border agreement signed on January 1, 1956 was set to determine the boundaries of the country, but there are still five areas where there are border deputes between the North and the South and there is the possibility of a new war between the two countries.

Oil reserves: One of the main bones of contention between the two sides is control of the oil reserves. The new southern republic has plentiful oil reserves, but the landlocked country must export its oil through the north. Of course, Khartoum will charge a fee for such shipments, which has not yet been finalized because of the unresolved disputes between the two sides. This issue is so important that the African Union is making serious efforts to find a solution.

Ethnic diversity: South Sudan has no dominant ethnic culture and there are about 200 ethnic groups, the largest of them being the Dinka. This ethnic diversity could become a great challenge for the efforts to establish peace and security. The new president is a Dinka, which could cause some resentment among rival ethnic groups.

Security is one of the biggest challenges for South Sudan, and the new government should focus on the issue of security and the disarmament of the guerrillas of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which must be transformed into a professional and national army. At the regional level, the new administration will have challenges in regard to border disputes with neighboring countries like Uganda and Kenya and with northern Sudan as well.

Sharing the water of the Nile: This issue is another challenge that can create problems with the governments of Egypt and Sudan. Egypt has announced that its quota will be the same as what was decided in the 1956 agreement and it will have nothing to do with the disputes between northern and southern Sudan.

Moreover, given the history of war and conflict in the region, the prospects for the establishment of a fair and democratic system in the country are not good.

Economic and social challenges: The lack of economic infrastructure such as roads, railways, power transmission systems, water systems, and health and social welfare services are the main concern for South Sudan. The lack of infrastructure prevents the optimal exploitation of the natural resources of the region.

The management and distribution of natural resources will be a key factor for sustainable development of the country. Moreover, the country needs to diversify its economy to reduce it dependence on oil. South Sudan has 85 percent of the total oil resources of the two Sudans and this provides over 98 percent of the new government's revenues. However, the country possesses other natural resources, like timber, stone, urea, copper, and chromium, which can help efforts to diversify the economy.

Ethnic and racial diversity is the main social challenge for the new government. As a result of the long civil wars, the education and social welfare systems are not adequate for meeting the needs of the people.

War and poverty have also resulted in food insecurity in South Sudan and the country will be extremely dependent on foreign aid to address this problem.

Political analysts believe that if these problems are not solved soon, South Sudan will become a failed state. For example, in a report issued by the CIA in 2010, the possibility of genocide in southern Sudan was identified as a real threat for the international community. The new government needs to establish peace in order to rebuild the war-torn country. However, the long history of civil wars and the conspiracies of foreign elements could cause a dangerous situation to arise.

Despite its previous emphasis on maintaining the integrity of Sudan, the largest Muslim nation in Africa, the Islamic Republic of Iran should accept the new reality in order to establish more communication with the new state. Any delay could cause misunderstandings with the government of South Sudan, which would open the door for the intervention of foreign countries. After the signing of the North-South peace agreement in 2005, it would have been better if Iran had established consulates and other offices in the region. This would have set the stage for Iran to have excellent relations with the new republic from its inception.

Ahmad Bakhshi is the deputy director of the Center for African Studies at Tarbiate Modarres University in Tehran.

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