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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

EDITORIAL 12.07.11

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Editorial

Month july 12, edition 000882, 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. WAGES OF INDIFFERENCE
  2. US TURNS OFF ITS AID TAP
  3. SNOOPING ON MINISTERS - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. WINNING A ZERO SUM GAME - MEDHA NANIVADEKAR
  5. DUMPED IN THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY - GWYNNE DYER
  6. IN US, SIKHS STRUGGLE TO COPE WITH HATE CRIME - TAMARA LUSH

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. POPULISM COSTS LIVES
  2. BIRTH OF A NATION
  3. TOO MANY HOLLOW PROMISES - ARVIND KEJRIWAL
  4. IT'S A WORKABLE IDEA
  5. BUILD INSTITUTIONS FIRST - AJAY VAISHNAV
  6. THE MIDDLE PATH - USHI KAK

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. CHOOSE: NOIDA OR GURGAON?
  2. SAFETY IN STUPIDITY
  3. THE BUZZ
  4. WASN'T JUSTICE BLIND? - ARUN JAITLEY
  5. WE SHOULD ALL GO TO REHAB  - NAOMI ALDERMAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. CASE BY CASE
  2. A STEP FORWARD
  3. ALL OF HUMAN LIFE
  4. NEO-LIBERALISM, OLD SLOGAN - MK VENU
  5. KARACHI BATTLEGROUND - MURTAZA RAZVI
  6. AN ORDER THAT HURTS - R K VIJ
  7. DISHONOURING A COMMITMENT - SHARAD YADAV
  8. A HOUSEHOLD NAME? - SARITHA RAI
  9. TESTING FOR TASTE - ROBERT JENSEN AND NOLAN MILLER

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. UNMANNED CROSSING
  2. WIZARD OF OZ
  3. NO, WE CAN'T? OR WON'T - PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. ASIA'S ENGINE OF GROWTH - AMITENDU PALIT

THE HINDU

  1. NO, WE CAN'T? OR WON'T?
  2. DEALING WITH THE DOPING MENACE
  3. MAKINGRAILWAYS SAFER
  4. OFFERING SLOW, SMALL CHANGES, MOROCCO'S KING STAYS IN POWER - NADIM AUDI
  5. NEEDED: THE MOTHER OF ALL RESHUFFLES - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  6. ANOTHER CONTENTIOUS NUCLEAR ISSUE - MICHAEL KREPON

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. MORE RAIL DISASTERS WAITING TO HAPPEN
  2. BALLERINA IN BOOTS - SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. NO TRAINS TO SAFETY - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
  4. LIFTING THE SIEGE - K.C.SINGH

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. POPPY CULTURE
  2. NATIONAL CONSENSUS
  3. MPLADS IS A SWINDLING SCHEME - BY INDRANIL BANERJEA
  4. BIO-DIESEL – AN ECO-FRIENDLY FUEL  - BY TARIT MUKHERJEE
  5. BLACK MONEY NAILED BY APEX COURT - BY DR P K VASUDEVA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. SAFETY MUST TOP RAIL AGENDA
  2. SUBSIDY PHASE-OUT
  3. DEMISE OF A NEWSPAPER
  4. PAKISTAN'S CONFESSIONS - BY LT-GEN HARWANT SINGH (RETD)
  5. MATERNAL SAGACITY - BY S.D. ANAND
  6. THE WEIGHT OF UNDER-NOURISHMENT - SHREE VENKATRAM

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. RECONSTITUTE, NOT RESHUFFLE
  2. ACCIDENT-PRONE RAILWAYS
  3. HANDICAPPED BY PARAPLEGICS - RAJEEV MALIK
  4. HOW ABOUT A DEPARTMENT OF AEROSPACE? - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. CEREAL KILLING - SURINDER SUD
  6. WHAT BHARAT NEEDS - AMARJEET SINHA

BUSINESS LINE

  1. SUGAR LEVEL RIGHT FOR DECONTROL
  2. WEST BENGAL'S GRIM FINANCES - PRATIM RANJAN BOSE
  3. WORLD LEANS TOWARDS MORE REGULATION - ALOK RAY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. STRUCTURAL FLAW
  2. EXPORT BOOM
  3. THE A IN PAKISTAN
  4. A NEW URBAN REFORM AGENDA
  5. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  6. ONSET OF AN ECONOMIC WINTER?  - ARVIND SINGHAL

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. PLAYING THE SHAME GAME

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. MORE RAIL DISASTERS WAITING TO HAPPEN
  2. BALLERINA IN BOOTS
  3. IN DEFENCE OF MURDOCH & HIS GUTSY PAPERS
  4. NO TRAINS TO SAFETY
  5. THE MONKEY AND THE MONK
  6. LIFTING THE SIEGE

THE STATESMAN

  1. A TALK WITH THE MAOIST
  2. PRESSURE PAID OFF
  3. BIRTH OF A NATION
  4. NICE MEN FINISH LAST - AMULYA GANGULI
  5. OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT  - ML KOTRU
  6. UN HAILS INDIA'S HIV SERVICES TO GAY, TRANSGENDER PEOPLE

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. CLIMBING UP
  2. GOOD EFFORT
  3. AN INDIAN CONSPIRACY  - ASHOK V. DESAI
  4. GLIMMER OF HOPE   - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. A DIFFERENT CITYSCAPE  - K.C. SIVARAMAKRISHNAN
  6. WATER CRISIS

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. EXTRA, EXTRA! MURDOCH SAVES GUARDIAN!
  2. THE NEED TO TALK WITH ONE VOICE IN LIBYA - FINAL ACT IN CYPRUS?
  3. HOW COME A FENER FAN WRITER BECOMES SO DARING? - MURDOCH'S TROIKA
  4. KAZAN SUMMIT: NOT A FAILURE, JUST A MEETING - HABIBE ÖZDAL

HAARETZ

  1. NO TO VOODOO SOLUTIONS
  2. ISRAEL MUST STOP SHEIKH RA'AD SALAH'S DANGEROUS BEHAVIOR - BY MOSHE ARENS
  3. ZIONISTS HAVE A RESPONSIBILTY TO JOIN THE UPCOMING JEWISH-ARAB MARCH  - BY CHAIM GANS
  4. PICK YOUR EXPLOITER  - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  5. AN EXTREMIST MINORITY IS PARALYZING ISRAEL'S LEADERSHIP - BY AMIR OREN

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. IDEOLOGY TRUMPS ECONOMICS
  2. THE LONG PURSUIT OF JUSTICE IN LEBANON
  3. NEW YORK'S LAGGING JUDICIAL PAY
  4. FAIRER TREATMENT FOR KATRINA'S VICTIMS
  5. THE MAGIC LEVER - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. CHERNOBYL'S LINGERING SCARS - BY JOE NOCERA
  7. BETTY FORD, PIONEER - BY RICK PERLSTEIN
  8. ALL HAIL THE (DEMOCRATIC) KING  -  AHMED CHARAI AND JOSEPH BRAUDE

THE NEWS

  1. US AND MILITARY AID
  2. PRECARIOUS TIMES
  3. MIRZA'S MADNESS
  4. NEW POLITICAL BATTLE LINES  - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  5. PAKISTAN'S EXTERNAL SECTOR  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. SO, BLAME THE BUREAUCRAT  - HUSSAIN H ZAIDI
  7. WEEPING BLOOD  - RIFAAT HAMID GHANI
  8. SEASON OF POLITICAL REALIGNMENT  - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. SOUTH SUDAN  - RIZWAN ASGHAR

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PPP ON COLLISION COURSE IN SINDH
  2. USA MOUNTS MORE PRESSURE ON PAKISTAN
  3. BIGGER MARKET FOR EXPORTING MANPOWER
  4. US PAINTS PAKISTAN IN IGNOBLE COLOUR - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. EXPOSE BAD EGGS IN MEDIA - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  7. US END GAME IN AFGHANISTAN - SHAMS-UZ-ZAMAN
  8. STOP SEARCHING FOR AN OBAMA DOCTRINE - FAREED ZAKARIA

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. BROKEN WORD AND BROKEN CONSENSUS TAXING FOR PM
  2. CANBERRA CANNOT HIDE ON CATTLE
  3. ROAD MASTERPLAN IS TOO MODEST

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. BOOZE TRADE COMES CLEANISH
  2. ABBOTT'S CARBON PURGATORY
  3. DIFFERENT DISASTERS EXPOSE THE SAME FAILINGS
  4. MALARIA HOPE VINDICATES RESEARCH

THE GUARDIAN

  1. NEWS CORPORATION: BUSINESS AS USUAL?
  2. TORTURE: CRIMES WITH IMPUNITY
  3. IN PRAISE OF … PROTEST POETRY

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. RULING WITHOUT LEADING
  2. PEACEKEEPING AND WOMEN'S ROLE IN PEACE AND SECURITY
  3. I GEDE SUMERTHA KY
  4. CLOSER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION IN ASEAN AND BEYOND (PART 1 OF 2)
  5. ANWAR NASUTION
  6. IPAD CASE AND THE ISSUE OF MANUALS
  7. MOHAMMAD TSANI ANNAFARI

DAILY MIRROR

  1. LEADERSHIP TRAINING AND EXISTING REALITIES
  2. VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTRE: SANCTUARY OF MINDFULNESS  - BY DAWPADEE KAWSHALYA
  3. LEADERS MUST SET EXAMPLE TO OVERCOME CURRENT CRISIS
  4. JUBAS TOUGH TASK
  5. SANGA 'SAGA' OR 'SAGE' SANGA
  6. PETROL CRISIS: THE FRAUD AND THE FIASCO

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. END OF THE WORLD - BUT NOT FOR MURDOCH    - BY GWYNNE DYER

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. EU FEARS GREEK CRISIS IS DRAGGING EURO DOWN - BY MEHDI MOHTASHAMI

  

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

WAGES OF INDIFFERENCE

RAILWAYS NEGLECTED, PEOPLE PAY THE PRICE


The ghastly accident involving the Howrah-Delhi Kalka Mail whose coaches jumped the rails near Malwan in Uttar Pradesh has come as a grim reminder that Indian Railways, the lifeline of this nation, continues to remain neglected. The latest mishap, which has taken a terrible toll of lives and left hundreds of passengers injured, follows a series of similar accidents over the past eight years. The heart-rending scenes witnessed at the site of the accident have touched millions of hearts across the country and left people seething with rage. But the inefficient and indifferent UPA regime headed by Mr Manmohan Singh, who has ceased to carry weight with even Ministers of State, remains untouched and unruffled. Ever since the UPA came to power in the summer of 2004, the Congress has cynically used the Ministry of Railways to leverage political support; the Prime Minister has shown neither interest in the management of Indian Railways nor inclination towards ensuring that it functions in a professional manner. This is not about allowing Ministers the autonomy to manage their Ministries, which is the way it should be; it is about Mr Singh abandoning, wilfully, knowingly, his responsibilities as the head of the Government. It is this indifference of the Prime Minister that has allowed Ministers like A Raja to rob the exchequer with impunity and bureaucrats with dubious service records to flourish. He cannot disown his role in allowing matters of governance to drift to a point where it increasingly appears nobody is in charge of either the Government or the nation.


Ironically, if previous train accidents have occurred under his watch, the latest disaster has happened with him as the Minister-in-charge of Railways: He has held the portfolio ever since Ms Mamata Banerjee resigned from her job when she became Chief Minister of West Bengal. Had he wanted to, he could have used this period to order a total overhaul of the safety systems of Indian Railways and put into motion the acquisition of critical equipment as well as filling up of hundreds of vacancies at various levels of the safety structure. But he didn't do so, just as he never bothered to ask his Ministers for Railways in UPA1 and UPA2 to explain their Budgets and plans. Nor has he ever shown any interest in following up on various reports on urgently required safety measures that are gathering dust.


There is time yet to retrieve Indian Railways from the brink of disaster. What is needed is known to all. What is missing is the determination to act swiftly, decisively. There is no dearth of excellent managers, engineers, technicians and staff in Indian Railways. They have to be encouraged to perform in a professional manner without cutting corners under political pressure. No railway system in the world can claim an accident-free record; tragic as they are, accidents do happen. But instead of learning to live with accidents, Governments step in to ensure corrective measures are taken and the scope of mishaps is minimised, if not eliminated. That initiative is sadly missing in our country, more so under the UPA's tutelage, with the Government callously disregarding the loss of human lives and the people meekly accepting their lot. When hollow populism becomes the creed of any Government, governance takes a back seat. That is what has happened with Mr Singh and his Government which increasingly seems to be in terminal decline.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

US TURNS OFF ITS AID TAP

AMERICANS REALISE THEIR DOLLARS ARE BEING WASTED


After months of debate over how best to deal with a belligerent ally with double standards, the US's decision to suspend more than one-third of its military aid to Pakistan is much welcome. For years now, India has cried itself hoarse over the perilous repurcussions of arming a rogue state that promotes cross-border terrorism as its state policy. But New Delhi's concerns have found little resonance in Washington, DC; especially after 9/11, when America launched its war on terror and turned to Pakistan for strategic cooperation. As Washington indulged its stooges in Islamabad with billions of dollars in aid and pampered the Generals in Rawalpindi with an equal number of war toys, it ignored New Delhi's warnings of a Frankenstein's monster in the making, choosing instead to follow a policy that would allow it to 'buy influence' in Pakistan. Yet, as the war in Afghanistan dragged on and Pakistan became the epicentre of global terrorism, that policy was found to be doddering. It fell flat on its face in January this year when the Obama Administration had to go to hell and back to extricate its security operative Raymond Davis from the clutches of Pakistani authorities who had promptly thrown him behind bars after he shot dead two gunmen in Lahore. In the aftermath of that incident which caused irreparable damage to the already fragile US-Pakistan relationship, there was hope that the Americans would finally realise that not only were their dollars failing to buy them any influence, the huge quantum of aid was literally going down the drains and into the pockets of individuals. To that extent, the US's unilateral raid on Osama Bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May pointed towards a paradigm shift in bilateral relations. From there on, the relationship has clearly nose-dived.


This, coupled with the increasing pressure on the Obama Administration to prove that recession-hit America's precious dollars were not being abused by a dubious ally ultimately led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to acknowlege, "When it comes to our military aid, we are not prepared to continue providing that... unless we see certain steps taken." Hence, on Sunday the White House suspended some $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military until the two countries had adequately sorted out their mess. Policy hawks have criticised the decision as a 'historic blunder' akin to the US's 1990 decision to impose sanctions on Pakistan for covertly developing nuclear weapons, only a year after the two had successfully driven out the Soviets from Afghanistan, but the fact remains that the US cannot solve the problem of Pakistan by simply throwing money at it. The question then is how does one solve a problem like Pakistan?

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SNOOPING ON MINISTERS

A SURYA PRAKASH


Congress has a tradition of bugging the offices of Ministers and even keeping a tab on the President. Pranab Mukherjee's complaint doesn't come as a surprise.

The Prime Minister told a select group of regional media editors the other day that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had complained to him that his office had been bugged. On receiving this complaint, the Prime Minister asked the Intelligence Bureau to investigate and report back to him directly. The Home Minister was kept out of the loop.

The IB came back to him and declared that it had found no bugging devices. And, with this report, the Prime Minister decided to treat the matter as closed. Those who know how these things are done, are not taken in by Mr Manmohan Singh's facile explanation.

There is enough evidence of how Mr Singh's predecessors have used the IB and other intelligence gathering agencies to spy on their colleagues and on their political opponents. There is also sufficient material to show that the Ministry of Home Affairs has often supervised such murky operations. In fact, in the present case, a private agency hired by the Finance Ministry to conduct a debugging operation has confirmed that Mr Mukherjee's office was indeed under surveillance. So, in these days when the Government's credibility has hit rock bottom, the opinion of a private detective agency seems to carry far greater weight than the mechanical defence of the IB by Mr Singh.

There is yet another reason why Mr Mukherjee's complaint sounds real, and that is the long-standing tradition among Congress Prime Ministers to 'use' the IB to keep tabs on their colleagues and to run personal errands for them. Some of this has been chronicled by individuals who have held senior positions in the Government and agencies like the IB and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

For example, Mr BG Deshmukh, the former Cabinet Secretary, has recorded how Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi wanted the Director of IB to deliver a suitcase full of Italian currency to his brother-in-law in Rome, supposedly as fees for training the Special Protection Group which was set up to guard the the Prime Minister. He also places on record the fact that during the years when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, IB personnel were deployed in Rashtrapati Bhavan to keep tabs on people visiting the then President, Giani Zail Singh.

Mr Deshmukh says that the security cordon around Rashtrapati Bhavan was manned by IB personnel under the Ministry of Home Affairs "and we knew in detail who came to see Zail Singh and when". The security personnel were free to frisk visitors and find any written messages or documents being taken in. "Zail Singh was very unhappy with this arrangement," according to Mr Deshmukh, but the Government continued with the surveillance.

Others have recorded that Zail Singh feared that his office had been bugged and, therefore, stopped meeting important visitors in his chamber. Instead, he chatted with them while walking in the Mughal Gardens. Mr Maloy Krishna Dhar, former Joint Director of IB, has done a far more elaborate documentation of the misuse of the intelligence agency in his book Open Secrets — India's Intelligence Unveiled. He talks of how when Mrs Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, her office had assigned him the task of spying on Zail Singh, who was then the Home Minister. Mr Dhar was asked to record the conversation between Zail Singh and an emissary of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at Bangla Sahib gurudwara in Delhi. Mr Dhar carried out the assignment and gave a report that went directly to the Prime Minister.

Even more troublesome is the fact that Mrs Indira Gandhi deployed this IB officer to mount a surveillance on her daughter-in-law Maneka Gandhi within the Prime Minister's residence at 1, Safdarjung Road, some time after the tragic demise of Sanjay Gandhi. Mr Dhar kept tabs on Ms Maneka Gandhi's friends and relatives. According to him, "a few friends of the young widow of Sanjay were wired up. That produced tonnes of appalling information on the courageous young lady who had decided to embark on a collision course". Later, Ms Maneka Gandhi left the Prime Minister's residence.

Thereafter, Mr Dhar was directed to mount technical and human intelligence operations against Ms Maneka Gandhi and her mother, Amteshwar Anand. He bugged the telephone at Amteshwar Anand's residence in Jor Bagh to gather intelligence. Also, on the orders of the Prime Minister's office, Mr Dhar says he did another "dirty job" — to infiltrate the Editorial Board of Surya magazine run by Ms Maneka Gandhi. These are just a few of the dozens of instances of the misuse of the IB and other intelligence-gathering agencies by Congress Prime Ministers.

As the instances show, these Prime Ministers used the IB to spy on even the Home Minister and the President. The IB was also used to spy on members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

In the present case, Mr Mukherjee is the most seasoned politician in the Union Cabinet. He was a member of Mrs Indira Gandhi's Ministry in the mid-1970s and handled key departments as Minister of State for Finance. Mr Singh was a bureaucrat who entered politics and became a Minister at PV Narasimha Rao's behest in 1991. There can be little doubt that Mr Mukherjee's presence in the Union Cabinet would give someone like Mr Singh a sense of insecurity.

In similar circumstances, Mr Singh's predecessors have called in the dirty tricks department to keep tabs on a more experienced Minister. However, at the moment we have no reason to believe that the Prime Minister has done any such thing. But, we need to bear in mind that there is another, more authoritative centre of power at the national level (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) and that centre of power decides who gets the Home portfolio and who becomes the Director of the IB.

Therefore, taking the Prime Minister at face value, it can be said that in all probability a Government agency was deployed by either the Ministry of Home Affairs or the 'Super Prime Minister to bug the office of the Finance Minister. When Mr Mukherjee complained to the Prime Minister, the latter probably called in the very same agency to ascertain the facts. The IB sleuths must have laughed all the way to North Block as they headed for their 'investigation' and, as part of the alleged inquiry, they may have even removed any traces of bugging. In case the Prime Minister still does not know, this is the theory that is regarded as the most credible in the capital today.

It is also the most credible for the reasons cited earlier in this article — the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty have a tradition of spying on their own MPs, Ministers, party leaders, family members and even the President. Mr Mukherjee has reminded us that the tradition not only continues but is getting stronger with each passing day.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WINNING A ZERO SUM GAME

MEDHA NANIVADEKAR


Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar recently made a failed attempt to build broader consensus on the controversial women's quota Bill by calling an all-party meeting. The Government should try to remove flaws in the Bill. Also, without going backward by considering separate constituencies for women or their indirect election, it must improvise further by learning from the system in other countries

On June 22, yet another all-party meeting on the Women's Reservation Bill failed to arrive at any consensus. I can't help but admire the persistence of all those who have been holding these all-party meetings, knowing well that they are going to fail because nobody is bringing fresh ideas to the table, nor is anyone willing to give up their 15-year old rock solid positions.

The Women's Reservation Bill (108th Constitution Amendment Bill) that was passed forcibly in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010 has turned women's empowerment into a zero-sum game, where 181 women would enter the Lok Sabha only if those many sitting male MPs are thrown out of the House. Common sense tells us that male MPs are not going to allow this to happen.

Moreover, the Bill has two serious drawbacks: The 15-year duration and rotational reservation. After enacting five Constitutional Amendments for extending SC-ST quotas in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies, the 15-year limit for women's quotas does not make sense, especially as women have historically been a more oppressed category than the SC-STs. The rotational reservation of constituencies would hamper the developmental work and also the process of leadership development. It would render women's empowerment ephemeral, as women MPs elected to women's seats would be on their way out even before they got a chance to learn the rules of the game. Very few of them would be re-elected from their de-reserved constituency in the subsequent election, if not pressured like their counterparts in local Government to give up their constituency in favour of male candidates. With these serious flaws, there is no need to be fundamentalist about this very draft of the Bill.

There is something to learn from about 100 countries in the world that have some type of women's quotas in politics. Nearly 50 countries have at least one political party with women's quotas and about 50 have constitutional or legislative quotas in their Parliaments. Most of these countries have a system of proportional representation, which makes it easier to implement gender quotas without making the issue too personal for male MPs. A handful of them do have the first-past-the-post system like India, but they either have indirect election for women; separate constituencies for women; or party quotas for women candidates. The important point to note is that none has reserved existing constituencies for women that bar male candidates from contesting elections from the same.

As 59 directly elected women in the Lok Sabha have managed to defeat men from the same constituencies without the help of any gender quotas, India need not go backward by considering separate constituencies or indirect election of women. We must improvise further. Therefore, as a staunch supporter of women's quotas, I am proposing a win-win formula of converting the 543 Lok Sabha and 4,120 Assembly constituencies into two-member constituencies, where each voter would cast two votes to elect one woman and one man.

Articles 81 and 170 of our Constitution can be amended to increase the seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies respectively. This would ensure not 50:50 but 100:100 gender representation without throwing the male incumbents out. It would double the existing number of SC-ST representatives by electing 131 SC-ST men and 131 SC-ST women from their 131 Lok Sabha constituencies. In addition, there would be 824 open seats, 412 for men and 412 for women where political parties can field as many OBC, minority, SC/ST or open category candidates as they want, thus leading to far greater representation to all categories than is possible under the 108th Amendment Bill. It conforms to the existing geographical boundaries and the number of constituencies as delimited in 2008, thus not violating the constitutional embargo on increasing constituencies before 2026. Possible clashes between the two representatives from the same constituency can be avoided by earmarking separate Local Area Development Funds for each member.

What about the OBC women's issue, which has effectively halted progress on Women's Reservation in the past? I don't think that the male OBC leaders would use the card of OBC women's sub-quota for opposing this formula. Come on! You didn't really believe their opposition to the Women's Reservation Bill was prompted by their concern for OBC women? It was just for saving their own seats! Had it really been for OBC women, while opposing the Women's Reservation Bill on these grounds since 1996, simultaneously they would have also demanded OBC women's sub-quotas in then prevalent OBC quotas in jobs and educational admissions. Moreover, in 2006 they would have insisted that OBC quotas in IITs and IIMs should not go through unless there is a sub-quota for OBC women. As the win-win formula does not deprive men of their existing constituencies, it is not likely to meet with the same fate as the Women's Reservation Bill. It has the maximum potential for forging a consensus.

Doubling the seats in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies is perfectly justifiable. An average MP In the first Lok Sabha represented 7.15 lakh people. This number has grown over three times to 22.2 lakh for the 15th Lok Sabha. Therefore, it is quite justifiable to have a Parliament twice as large and also to bear the resultant increase in the expenditure, especially when our less developed neighbours like Pakistan and Bangladesh have one MP per 5.15 lakh and 4.5 lakh people respectively. Today, Nepal's Constituent Assembly has 33 per cent women, Pakistan has 22.6 per cent and Bangladesh has 18.6 per cent women in their parliaments, whereas, in spite of having 10 per cent women among imprisoned freedom fighters, India has taken over 62 years after independence to send 10 per cent women to the Lok Sabha. This has undermined the legitimacy of this largest democracy in the world and has reduced it merely to an 'androcracy'.

The win-win formula can increase the legitimacy of Indian democracy and can gear it towards transforming patriarchy. By reinforcing women's equal entitlement to power in all its forms it would make men and women equal partners in the public sphere, which would eventually transform gender relations in the private sphere and reduce women's vulnerability to violence and discrimination. If there is the political will India has an excellent opportunity of keeping the promise made to Indian women while also setting before the whole world a phenomenal example of equal gender representation in politics.

-- The writer is a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington, DC.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DUMPED IN THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY

GWYNNE DYER


Britain's Sunday tabloid News of the World that built its readership by selling salacious and scandalous stories published its last edition last Sunday. In its quest for sensational scoops the paper indulged in corrupt practices that ultimately led to its shameful fall and death

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 Mr 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 News of the World 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 News of the World 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 News of the World also started hacking new communications technologies, even though that was against the law.

Over the past decade, the News of the World 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 News of the World'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 News of the World 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-pedalled the investigation (the News of the World 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 News of the World journalists have been arrested for questioning, including former editor Andy Coulson.

Mr 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 News of the World at the time of the crimes.) Last week it was revealed that the News of the World 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 News of the World 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, Mr Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World itself down.

His son Mr James Murdoch made the announcement, lamenting the loss of a paper with a "proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation." How true. Why, in its last edition it had a front-page story about Ms Florence Brudenell-Bruce's revelation that her new boyfriend, Prince Harry, was "fantastic in bed". The only picture they could find to illustrate the story, alas, showed her in her underwear.

News International isn't really going to lose money by closing the News of the World. 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 Ms Rebekah Brooks and fire her? Because if Ms Rebekah Brooks goes down, the next person in the line of fire will inevitably be Mr 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.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

IN US, SIKHS STRUGGLE TO COPE WITH HATE CRIME

IN THE DECADE SINCE 9/11, AN INCREASING NUMBER OF IMMIGRANT SIKHS ARE FACING PHYSICAL AND VERBAL ATTACKS FROM WHITE AMERICANS, WRITES TAMARA LUSH


Kamaljit Atwal's neighbourhood seems like an unlikely place for a hate crime. His street in Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb in California, seems a model of diversity.

Mr Atwal and his family are one of two Sikh families on the block from India. On his street alone, there's a Vietnamese family, a Mexican family, a Black woman and a White man.

But in March, Mr Atwal's 78-year-old father Gurmej Atwal and his 67-year-old friend Surinder Singh were shot and killed while taking an afternoon stroll in the neighbourhood.

Mr Atwal and his fellow Sikhs in the area wonder if the same ugliness that has brought violence to other Sikhs is the reason why. The men had long beards and were wearing turbans. Police are investigating whether their killing was a hate crime.

"It's a complete case of mistaken identity," said Mr Rajdeep Singh of the Washington, DC-based Sikh Coalition, which is the largest Sikh civil rights group in the US. "When people look at me with a turban and beard, the first thing that comes to mind is, 'That guy looks like Osama bin Laden'."

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, Sikhs have reported a rise in bias attacks, both verbal and physical, against them. The backlash that hit Muslims across the country has expanded to include them and their faith as well, with some assuming the sight of a long beard and turbaned head can only mean one thing.

Mr Kamajit Atwal said life used to be peaceful for him, his wife and their three children since moving to his quiet suburban block in 2003. Crime has gone down for four years in a row, in Elk Grove, where about 54 per cent of its 153,000 residents are non-White.

Mr Atwal keeps a framed photo of his father on the fireplace mantel, not far from where the retired Indian civil servant once enjoyed his tea. Almost every day, Gurmej Atwal and his friend drank tea together, took a walk and met with other Sikh retirees in a nearby park.

"My gut feeling is that it was a hate crime," said Mr Atwal. He said that other elderly Sikhs are so afraid of being out in public since the shootings that they no longer socialise in the park.

Mayor Steve Detrick said he's not convinced the double shooting is a hate crime because the area has a history of accepting others. "Elk Grove is probably one of the most accepting about racial and religious diversity in the country," he said. "I think somebody looked at these guys as an easy target. They were gunned down by cowards."

Mr Amar Shergill, a Sikh and Sacramento attorney who lives in Elk Grove, said the problem is not Elk Grove's. When people — including some politicians — try to stigmatise all Muslims as anti-American, Mr Shergill said, all people who look different are targetted unfairly.

"When the process becomes radicalised, that's when the disturbed actors take out on Sikhs and Muslims and people who are perceived to be Muslims," he said. Mr Singh said there's just not enough awareness of Sikhism, which is 500 years old and is the world's fifth largest religion with 18 million adherents.

Prior to 2001, Sikhs say, people were merely curious about the turbans and why adherents don't cut their hair. After September 11, some people felt that Sikhs were the enemy.

The Sikh Coalition said there have been at least 700 attacks or bias-related incidents against Sikhs since September 11 in the US. Hate crimes against Sikhs are lumped in with hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs and South Asians — all groups that have experienced increased discrimination since the attacks of 2001.

The group will hold meetings in New York on July 30 and in San Francisco on August 27 so Sikhs can talk about bias and discrimination in the last decade. Videos of the meetings will be sent to law-makers and police agencies. The coalition is also spearheading an effort this summer to stop bullying of Sikh children in schools after kids reported that other students tried to forcibly cut their hair, set their turbans on fire or attack them.

"Suddenly, our life has changed," said Mr Rana Singh Sodhi, the brother of a man who was murdered outside of his Arizona gas station five days after September 11. "We didn't have any issue before 9/11." Mr Sodhi said that he and his family have stopped going camping in isolated areas because they fear what will happen.

The man who was convicted of killing Mr Sodhi's brother expressed anger over September 11 and before the murder, had told his wife that "all Arabs should be shot."

In 2004, vandals scrawled the words "It's not your country" in blue spray paint on the wall of a Sikh temple in Fresno. No one has been arrested in that case.

In 2010, a Sikh cab driver was beaten by two men in Sacramento — located in a region with more Sikh residents than any in the nation. During the attack, one of the men called the cabbie "Osama bin Laden." He repeatedly told the assailants that he wasn't Muslim. In early June, Pedro Ramirez was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the attack a second man was sentenced to a year in jail.

On Memorial Day of this year, four weeks after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a Sikh man who is a subway employee in New York said he was punched in the mouth by a man who called him "the brother of Osama." No one has been arrested.

-- Tamara Lush is travelling the US writing about the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush.

-- AP

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

POPULISM COSTS LIVES

 

Like telecom till the other day, Indian Railways has been a gravy train for UPA allies. The wages of the populism this has bred are there for all to see. The accident involving the Delhi-bound Kalka Mail in UP left around 80 dead and many more injured. The same day, the Guwahati-Puri Express derailed in Assam, injuring nearly 100. While the latter may be attributed to a terror attack, the fact remains that statistics on recent train accidents make for grim reading. From April 2010 to January 2011 alone, 336 people died and 437 were injured. In 2009-10, 225 people were killed and 385 hurt while 2008-09 saw 209 deaths and 444 injured. The numbers tell the story: passenger safety seems way down on the list of official priorities.

It's perhaps no coincidence that Rail Bhawan was effectively on autopilot when it was under absentee minister Mamata Banerjee. Working primarily out of Kolkata, the Trinamool chief seemed to treat the business of running trains profitably and safely as less politically fruitful than the sops she handed out, especially to Bengal. Her excuse for fiscal imprudence was promotion of "social responsibility". Financially healthy prior to her tenure, the Railways unsurprisingly had near-empty coffers on her departure. Since May 2009, we've seen more and more trains and routes introduced without concern for viability even as passenger fares have remained static, further skewing the balance sheet.

As pointed out in a CAG report, a corporate safety plan for 2003-13 has been poorly implemented in critical areas such as recruitments, modernisation of assets and provision of basic amenities. There's been inexplicable delay filling over one lakh vacancies. Of these, the overwhelming majority involves safety-related posts, in areas ranging from operations and supplies to electrical and mechanical works. And those holding office are rarely rapped hard for security-related lapses. Moreover, during 2003-07, around Rs 17,000 crore was spent on safety measures, with little to show for it. There's been foot-dragging on installing and upgrading equipment such as signalling instruments, anti-collision devices and warning systems, even though technology can play a critical role in reducing the scope for human error or sabotage-related damage.

Track upkeep is another neglected area. Former railway officials say that the practice of overloading wagons on freight trains is a major cause of damage to already old tracks. This ups the hazards of train travel. Clearly, reform brooks no delay for Indian Railways, a mammoth enterprise that serves as a transport lifeline for millions of people and businesses. With a cabinet rejig coming up, UPA top bosses must ensure that competence, not coalition compulsions, determines who gets the crucial railway portfolio. Populism can't bring the Railways back on track. Only good governance will.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            COMMENT

BIRTH OF A NATION

 

South Sudan's emergence as the world's newest nation - and Africa's 54th - last weekend marks the end of decades of bloody strife that has cost 2.5 million lives. The future will be a struggle of a different kind. Achieving economic viability is the first and most difficult task before Juba. As of now, 98% of the new nation's revenue comes from its oil reserves. It's a dangerous dependence given that the processing installations and pipelines are in Sudan and neither side can agree on what the revenue split or transit fees should be. Building up a broader economic base is imperative. But South Sudan doesn't just have poor infrastructure; it barely has any infrastructure or industry at all. They must be built from the ground up. As much of a liability as this currently is, it could be leveraged to build profitable partnerships given that there has been no dearth of interest from the international community.

The US and EU have both already signed off on significant aid sums. India, for its part, has moved with commendable alacrity with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sending a letter to South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Indian vice-president Hamid Ansari attending ceremonies in Juba. New Delhi has displayed its expertise in development assistance and infrastructure building in Afghanistan. It must put those capabilities to use in the far less hostile environment of South Sudan now. With its energy, uranium and diamond reserves - as well as vast stretches of fertile land - an economic partnership could benefit both sides greatly. And it would signal the seriousness of New Delhi's intent to engage Africa, a front on which it has been eager to gain traction lately.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE

TOO MANY HOLLOW PROMISES

ARVIND KEJRIWAL

 

In government schools in the villages, teachers rarely turn up. They collect their monthly salaries and pay a part of it to Basic Shiksha Adhikari for marking false attendance. Medicines are diverted to the black market before they reach government hospitals. Poor people are turned away when they go to hospitals. There is endless corruption in the work done by various panchayats. Rations meant for people living in extreme poverty are diverted to the black market.

This is the reality of the aam admi's life. Yet, none of this corruption is covered under the government's draft of the Lokpal Bill. If the Bill does not serve the common man, what options does he have when faced with such corruption? We repeatedly posed this question to the government representatives in our joint drafting committee meetings. According to them, the existing systems would continue. But when we pointed out that the existing systems have not worked, they had no answers to offer.

The government claims that it first wants to tackle high-level corruption. However, none of the ongoing large scams like the Adarsh housing scam, the Commonwealth Games scam and the Reddy brothers scam are covered by the government's Lokpal. Even the 2G scam is only partly covered because the Lokpal would not have the jurisdiction to call for files from the prime minister's office, which has had a role in the affair. How ridiculous is that?

Why is the government so adamant about keeping junior officers out of Lokpal? The answer lies in the fact that while slush money received at the top often makes it to personal coffers, most of the money made at the lower levels is channelled directly to political parties. More than 80% of Rs 40,000 crore of the PDS subsidy is siphoned off, all of it through ration shops and food officers. It is this money that is used to run parties and their workers at the grassroots. The Rs 35,000 crore foodgrain scam in UP over many years, which is currently being probed by the CBI, took place at the lowest rung of the bureaucracy. Several hundred employees are involved in this scam. Such scams help feed the very foundations of our political establishment. It should come as no surprise that the government does not want lower-level corruption to be covered by Lokpal.

The government says that checking the corruption of four million central government employees and two million public sector employees would need a huge workforce. Is that a legitimate reason to keep them unchecked and corrupt? Under law, corruption is a crime, as serious as murder or rape. Can the government say that it will not provide adequate staff to counter murder and rape should these get out of control? Before anything else, it is the first duty of any government to protect its citizens against crime at any cost.

Another major flaw in the government draft is that it makes no change to its stranglehold on the CBI. The meaningful approach is to take the anti-corruption wing of CBI out of the government's direct control and merge it with the Lokpal. Even the Supreme Court has said in the Vineet Narain case that the CBI should be made independent of the government. Interestingly, all the cases of corruption mentioned earlier are either being investigated by the CBI or can be investigated by the CBI if it so desires. But Lokpal would have no jurisdiction over them. This means that the government's version of the Lokpal will give it a very small fraction of the CBI's jurisdiction.

Sadly, if history is any indication, the government won't give up its control over the CBI. Prime ministers have tended to appoint only their most trusted men as CBI directors, which is why appointments and exits of CBI chiefs have usually been almost coterminous with prime ministerial tenures. Not surprisingly, no prime minister has wanted to undo Rajiv Gandhi's unconventional order of 1988. In 1988, faced with the Bofors probe, Rajiv Gandhi brought the CBI directly under his own control. Since then, if the prime minister indulges in corruption, he can only be investigated by the agency which directly reports to him! Such a system makes a mockery of any kind of investigation. Should the need arise, it makes sense for the PM to be investigated by an independent Lokpal. Despite Manmohan Singh agreeing to this proposal, the Congress has vehemently opposed it. Perhaps the Congress is worried about Singh's successor?

Lastly, the government wants the judiciary to be covered through the Judicial Accountability Bill. Under this Bill, if any judge is accused of having taken a bribe, the permission to register an FIR would be given by a scrutiny committee consisting of three judges of the same high court. It is inconceivable that three judges of the same court would ever grant permission for action against their own colleagues with whom they interact on a daily basis.

The government's proposals to tackle corruption are far from sincere and will have no impact whatsoever on curbing corruption. 'Congress ka haath, aam admi ke saath', is how the slogan goes. But ironically, 'aam admi' has been abandoned in this Lokpal draft. In summary, the government draft does not cover junior officers, or the judiciary, or the PM, or any of the recent major scams. All the power is still vested with the CBI which remains directly under the control of the government. If this draft is not a joke, what is?

The writer is member of the civil society group on the Lokpal committee.

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TIMES VIEW

IT'S A WORKABLE IDEA

 

A South Asian Parliament, as suggested by Pakistan's National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, is an idea full of vitality and verve. It breaks through the tangles of everyday politicking in the region, providing a 'big picture' look at a big subcontinent brimming over with life and energy, richly deserving an umbrella body of representatives to tackle its problems - and be its voice in the larger world.

A South Asian Parliament could revitalise a moribund Saarc but it could also move considerably further. Avoiding the stuffiness of formal diplomacy, it could borrow from the subcontinent's breezy baithak style, providing a vibrant open forum for ideas, voices and experiences to meet, politics meshing with music, trade with learning, sport with spiritualism. A South Asian Parliament could unite the region's best characteristics - its energy, creativity and endurance - under one roof, using precisely these qualities to tackle its worst problems. Its pragmatic potential could be immense, members getting down to brass tacks on issues plaguing the region - such as poverty and human development.

From tackling problems that face us all the forum would gain enough experience to move to the problems that divide us. Controversial topics like terror could also be brought into the ambit of discussion, involving more countries than just India and Pakistan, identifying causes and creating solutions from within, not impositions from above. If incomplete democratisation is a problem that plagues the region, this would go some way towards plugging the democracy deficit. A South Asian Parliament could also represent its people to the world, raising concerns like trade limits or migration barriers as a concerted whole. Its sheer size - Mirza envisions it representing 1.7 billion South Asians - would give it far more heft than individual legislatures. Finally - just imagine the cafeteria. That alone would have us visiting.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

BUILD INSTITUTIONS FIRST

AJAY VAISHNAV

 

It's not unusual for the subcontinent to get into an upbeat mood over unrealistic ideas proposed by high-profile visitors during ritualistic Saarc congregations. Citing the European Union (EU) experience, Fehmida Mirza believes that a similar sort of arrangement in the subcontinent can promote sustainable peace and prosperity. Agreed, South Asian countries can replicate the European model over the long term. But before that happens they need to resolve their outstanding disputes and build institutions for cooperation on a lower key first, like the Europeans did.


The EU became viable because its foundations were laid by durable economic communities like the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, followed by the European Economic Community of 1958, which eventually evolved to become the EU in 1991. Unfortunately, in Saarc's case, there is no such precedent. Besides, in the EU's case, institutional cooperation could take off only after the end of Franco-German rivalry. Here, given the protracted conflict situation between India and Pakistan, the idea of a regional parliament will remain a non-starter. The animosity between India and Pakistan which has hobbled the growth of Saarc even after 25 years of its existence will also overshadow it. The two governments will never agree on its composition and powers.


Even if it becomes a reality, it will amount to creating another powerless bureaucracy from taxpayers' money. If policymakers really want to usher in subcontinent-wide cooperation they should hasten negotiations on existing issues, particularly a regional approach to trade, common currency and so on. Many ambitious plans drawn up by Saarc have either remained on paper or have progressed at snail's pace, because of these problems.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

THE MIDDLE PATH

USHI KAK

 

Words are a tease. More so the right ones. They seem like wispy feathers that fly away at the slightest gawky touch. One has to cajole, caress and approach them gently. Having coaxed elusive words into shape for publication as well as clearing the hurdle of editorial scrutiny for the first time, i remember the sheer joy of seeing my piece - what's called a "middle" in journalistic parlance - in a crisp morning newspaper. I waited patiently one full day for some feedback. Not a single call of appreciation from family or friends!

So it was time to take the matter into one's own hands. I conducted a telephonic opinion poll the next day on my word construct. The very first call dampened my spirits. "What, your article? Oh, i missed it. What name do you write under, incidentally?" queried the cheerful voice at the other end. Was that an innocent question or a Freudian slip, giving away the subconscious attitude of the respondent to my writing? Maybe one does need to have an alias, an aka, to hide under. Should women writers revert to the Victorian practice of assuming male pseudonyms? A name with a nice macho ring would perhaps do the trick. After all, the mind can run riot and concoct some sonorous male pseudonyms. But gender bias in this day and age didn't ring true.

My next call drew a blank again. "Oh well, i did see the title," said my friend, "but i was put off by the heading so didn't read it!" Well, each to his poison. Another astounding response was: "Oh yes, i read the piece but didn't look at the author's name. Was that by you?" So much for name and fame! Yet another friend was called up, gingerly. This time there was better luck: "Yes, i really liked your 'middler'." Middler? One wondered whether the synonym for the strange coinage 'middler' was 'howler'. That made the comment very suspect.

I never thought that the simple act of writing some innocent lines would unleash such paranoid tendencies in me. Dark images of famous writers going off the deep end cropped up in my mind. No wonder the Bard said, "The Poet, the Lover and the Lunatic are of one imagination compact." But there's solace to be had in the fact that one was not in the same league and didn't have a reputation to lose. Getting a grip on myself, i therefore persisted with my tele-poll. My next victim was a good friend given to puns and light reading. To my standard question whether he'd read my "middle", he replied with great relish, "Now, now, i could read your palm, your face, your lips, but reading your middle seems like an interesting proposition."

That put paid to any further quest for appreciation. The newspaper that had carried my piece was consigned to the 'raddi' heap without a requiem. Looking back on yesteryears when a genteel linguistic style was the order of the day, i had an epiphany. It struck me with force that, to grab eyeballs instantly in this day and age, one has to use words that hit you in the face.

Notice the fame - or rather notoriety - gained by the innocuous sounding words of the hit song from the movie, Delhi Belly. It seems that the line "Bhag D K Bose" repeated as a looped mantra yields a cuss-word in our colourful vernacular street lingo. Nothing genteel about it. A swear word it is, and it hasn't been ignored or overlooked. In fact, many individuals bearing the same name from our 'bhadralok' community have as a result been basking in their own 15 minutes of fame. One will have to question the saying: "What's in a name?" A lot, it seems.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

CHOOSE: NOIDA OR GURGAON?

Noida and Gurgaon stand for two radically different approaches to economic development. The jury is still out on which is better.

In the first model, the state — in this case the Noida civic authorities — provides infrastructure before economic activity commences. Hence, municipal bodies must acquire land cheap to lay roads and water and sewage lines.

In the second, it is assumed that new houses built in Gurgaon on land bought by developers at market rates create a demand for utilities. These public goods grow alongside the new private townships or follow them with a lag.

On paper, both yield the same result: planned cities.

However, as people living in either of Delhi's fastest growing suburbs will attest, market forces deliver a reality far removed from the one created by government intervention.

The differences lie in the scope of abuse present in the two approaches.

State procurement of land is vulnerable to crony capitalism. Allowing a relatively free market for land, on the other hand, reduces the likelihood that civic infrastructure will eventually measure up. In either case, it is a failure of governance.

Yet the political fallout of botched land acquisition is significantly more damaging. The golf courses built on farmland in Gurgaon score lower political points than the ones in  Noida. Taps running dry in houses of the middle class by contrast make for tame news copy.

In any case, Indians living in glass and steel high rises are willing to shell out extra for bottled water, personal generators  and private guards.

India does not have enough new affluents to matter at the hustings. Farmers being told they are being gypped of their land are an altogether different, and potent, constituency.

If the State is the weak link in either model of development — not being an honest broker in the one and failing to deliver services in the other — it makes sense to examine whether markets provide end-to-end solutions in India's urbanisation.

Gurgaon shows the market works for buying land and building houses on them. There is enough evidence, within India, that private provision of municipal services not only delivers but is a viable model. The bloke buying bottled water at Rs 5 a litre and captive power at Rs 11 a unit will gladly pay if he gets water fit to drink and uninterrupted power.

Both will be cheaper as the cost is spread wider. Those who cannot afford them can be subsidised by cash transfers. User charges for municipal services will make or break our cities.

Utilities must be taken off the subsidy transfer mechanism.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SAFETY IN STUPIDITY

On the face of it, it's one of those 'practical' remarks that your grandma would make. Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta has 'advised' women of the capital of 2011 India not to venture out alone too late at night.

To make his comments more specific, what the man said on Saturday was, "You can't go out at 2 in the night and then say you were a victim of crime." He added that the smart thing to do would be to "be accompanied by a relative or a friend when travelling at night".

We're yet to really ascertain whether he meant male relative or friend, but we're almost sure that this might be what he meant.

First of all, while late nights may be when those nasty Delhi menfolk may be out and about, Mr Gupta would be better informed about the fact that late nights are not the equivalent of the vampire's post-sundown.

Violence against women have been quite prevalent before Mr Gupta's mythical 2 am curfew hour.

And if he wants to suggest that women ideally don't step out of their homes unescorted, that's another matter altogether for which we could invite a Talib to argue his case for him. Yes, a woman travelling alone in Delhi isn't safe.

But the only way to make this an anachronism is to make the city safe — as it is in Mumbai or Kolkata, two places where women are already thanking their lucky stars that they don't live in Delhi or have a nincompoop of a police commissioner like Mr Gupta.

The 'don't ask for it' argument — well-meaning as it may be — is as old as the hills and only perpetuates the 'it's the victim who is stupid' logic.

No doubt it is true that the police can't be everywhere at all times.

But if Delhi, proud of its its women's independence as it hopefully is of its modernity, wants to make itself a safe place for women, the answer is not to send its ladies inside the safety of the their houses or behind the protective thrall of its men, but to make predators shake in their chappals as well as provide streetlights et al — things that usually make things a tad more difficult for prowlers to operate in.

Mr Gupta must have mixed up fixing curfew hours for youngsters in his family with setting unofficial rules for women in general. Sometimes silly people think that the best way to tackle dandruff is to cut off the head. Stupid, isn't it?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE BUZZ

The storm before the storm

Did former Union textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran seek a month's reprieve to put in his papers? It seems so.

On July 6, soon after the Congress core group ended its deliberations, Sharad Pawar apparently called him to inform that the PM wanted him to resign. Later, fellow DMK man TR Baalu, called to tell him that Pranab Mukherjee told him that Maran must quit, as the CBI had named him in the 2G status report.

An upset Maran said he would first talk to his grand-uncle M Karunanidhi. The next day, Karunanidhi told him to put in his papers. If there was one person who couldn't hide his glee, it was Maran's archrival and ex-telecom minister A Raja, who heard of the 'development' from his lawyers in  Tihar.

Son rises in the east

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee is set to rise further in the Congress. After becoming an MLA in West Bengal, he is now likely to be made a general secretary in the party's state unit. While a section of the party is upset with the way Mukherjee Sr is promoting his son, the top state leadership is ready to accommodate Abhijit in important ranks.

Surely, dynasty has nothing to do with it?

No more loose connections

Mobile phone jammers have been installed near the conference rooms where the meetings of the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) and public accounts committee (PAC) investigating into the 2G scam are being held. This has apparently been done at the behest of Congress members, who complained that their BJP counterparts were giving a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings to the media through SMSes.

A Congressman even claimed that some TV channels had reported about the JPC proceedings while the meetings were still in progress. What happened to good old closed-door meetings?

Puff, the tragic dragon

At a recent meeting of the CPI(M)'s Delhi leaders, most comrades were unhappy about former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee skipping the party's stocktaking meeting at Hyderabad after the poll debacle.

It was then that CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat decided to lighten up the tense atmosphere with his wry sense of humour. Bhattacharjee is a heavy smoker and was facing health problems as a result, said Karat, adding that once a party meeting was held in smoke-covered Kolkata, Bhattacharjee was sure to attend it.

Anniversary at Tirupati

President Pratibha Patil celebrated her 52nd wedding anniversary in Hyderabad's Rashtrapathi Nilayam last week with 60-odd relatives and friends. As this is her last year in office, the guest list included her school and college mates from Maharashtra.

Later, the guests and the prez went to Tirupati to witness a special puja — the  'Kalyana Utsavam' (celestial wedding) of Lord Balaji. We are yet to ascertain what assets this particular temple holds within its vaults.

The past meets the present

The new Union home secretary RK Singh, an IAS from the Bihar cadre, may owe his job to LK Advani. He was entrusted with the job of arresting Rath Yatra hero Advani in 1990. Later, when Advani became home minister, Singh's name came up for deputation for the post of joint secretary.

Advani apparently brushed aside all objections, saying that in 1990 he was merely doing his duty. If Advani had put a spanner in Singh's deputation in the home ministry back then, it's unlikely that he would have got the top job today.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

WASN'T JUSTICE BLIND?

ARUN JAITLEY

 

The Supreme Court's recent order to disband the anti-Maoist special police officers in Chhattisgarh is based on ideology, not on the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has quashed the appointment of Special Police Officers (SPOs) by the state of Chhattisgarh as unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The effect of the judgement is that the institution of SPOs working in Chhattisgarh and in other parts of the country under similar conditions will cease to operate.

SPOs have been appointed to perform the functions of regular police by protecting themselves and fellow citizens in areas where the environment has been threatened by insurgency. In Jammu and Kashmir, SPOs are the ones who constitute village protection committees that protect village communities from insurgents.

The same mechanism was effectively used in Punjab during the days of militancy. In the 'SPO system', the members of the community are empowered to protect the community. Policemen can't be present in every house or village.

Areas where there is an apprehension of breach of peace and security due to insurgency require the appointment of SPOs.

The Police Act, 1861, provides for the appointment of SPOs. The language of the legislations may be different but various state police legislations have similar provisions. Those familiar with the ground realities will realise the utility of such SPOs who are representatives of the community to protect the community and supplement the normal police administration.

The court's judgement creates a crisis situation. The state will now have to recover arms from the SPOs. This, in itself, is a daunting task. Every SPO realises he would be on the Maoists' hit list. He would have only two options left: either join the Maoists or continue to retain arms to protect himself from the Maoists.

Having been identified as an SPO without the backing of the state or arms to protect themselves, these SPOs will now be sitting ducks. The battle against the Maoists has been loaded against the Indian State. Maoists are now laying down terms for grant of amnesty to the SPOs. The vacuum created by their removal can't be filled easily by the local police.

A reading of the court's judgement prima facie indicates that the ideology of its authors has prevailed over constitutionalism. A legitimate question that arises is whether the courts enforce the Constitution or ideologies?

The Maoists are no reformers. Their principal objective is to destroy India's parliamentary democracy and establish a communist dictatorship in India. If the Maoists were to take over India, the judgement's authors and other well-meaning judges like them will not be manning the courts.

The courts would be controlled by a Maoist ideology.

The judgment itself makes for interesting reading. It's an ideological rationalisation of why the Maoists exist and fight for their causes and a denunciation of those who fight the Maoists.

"The State of Chhattisgarh claims that it has a constitutional sanction to perpetrate, indefinitely, a regime of gross violation of human rights in the same manner and by the same mode as done by the Maoists," it states, adding: "Set against the backdrop of resource rich darkness of the African tropical forests, the brutal ivory trade sought to be expanded by the imperialist-capitalist expansionary policy of European powers, Joseph Conrad describes the grisly and the macabre states of mind and justifications advanced by men, who secure and wield force without reason, sans humanity, and any sense of balance."

The judgement rationalises Maoist ideology by stating: "People do not take up arms, in an organised fashion, against the might of the State, or against human beings without rhyme or reason.  Guided by an instinct for survival and, according to Thomas Hobbes, a fear of lawlessness that is echoed in our conscience, we seek an order. However, when that order comes with the price of dehumanisation, of manifest injustices of all forms perpetrated against the weak, the poor and the deprived, people revolt." 

The judgement approvingly quotes The Dark Side of Globalisation: "Thus the same set of issues, particularly those related to land, continue to fuel protest politics, violent agitator politics, as well as armed rebellion… Are governments and political parties in India able to grasp the socio-economic dynamics encouraging these politics or are they struck with a security-oriented approach that further fuels them?"

The judgement also denounces a contrarian approach: "The culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by modern neo-liberal ideology, and the false promises of ever increasing spirals of consumption leading to economic growth that will lift everyone, under-gird this socially, politically and economically unsustainable set of circumstances in vast tracts of India in general and Chhattisgarh in particular."

Undoubtedly, the judges have entered the political thicket. They have chosen a preferred course of economic policy and substituted the wisdom of the executive for their own wisdom of how Maoism is to be tackled. Effectively, the judgement disregards the basic constitutional feature of separation of powers.

The law declared by the apex court binding on all subordinate authorities now is: "Predatory forms of capitalism supported and promoted by the State in direct contravention of constitutional norms and values, often take deep roots around the extractive industries."

After a detailed ideological discourse, the court goes on to find faults with the deployment of SPOs even though the Centre and the state legislation specifically empower them.

It is held to be violative of Article 14 — equality before the law— as youngsters with little education background from among the tribals are being given these appointments, and violative of Article 21 — the right to life and liberty — as SPOs have low educational qualification and can't be expected to understand the danger of fighting Maoism. Hiring such SPOs would endanger their lives and the lives of others and, therefore, encouraging them is violative of Article 21.

The payment of honorarium while performing the onerous task is yet another ground for quashing their appointments. If the court found the honorarium inadequate it could always direct a more humane honorarium. If it found that educational qualifications for becoming SPOs were inadequate, it could always direct the state to formulate a policy so that persons with reasonable qualification are appointed as SPOs.

The court failed to realise that lives of ordinary citizens, including SPOs, are threatened by the Maoists. Thanks to the Supreme Court, it is now 'Advantage Maoists'.

The rationale of the judgement is ideology, not the Constitution. When a court acquires an ideology, it decides to frame a policy. It dismantles the constitutional mandate of separation of powers and enters the domain of the legislature and the executive. The rationale in this judgement has upset the constitutional balance.

If the ideology of a judge decides constitutionality, the socio-political philosophy of the judge would become relevant. When the social philosophy of a judge is relevant, you are back to the dark days leading up to the Emergency. There is no greater threat to judicial independence than a judiciary committed to a socio-political ideology and not the Constitution.

India's political process and Parliament must seriously consider the consequences of this judgement.

(Arun Jaitley is the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WE SHOULD ALL GO TO REHAB

NAOMI ALDERMAN

 

 

It's no longer startling to find someone addicted to something

When Betty Ford, who died last Friday, first publicly described her addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs in the 1980s, she provided comfort to many. By revealing that even the First Lady of the US could suffer from addiction, she must have made thousands of similar conversations easier for men and women who'd been unable to confess to and confront their own addictions.

We still tend to think that alcoholics or problem drug users will be easy to spot.
But Ford highlighted the problem of `functional' addicts, the type who can deceive others and themselves that there is no problem. "My makeup wasn't smeared," she commented, "I wasn't dishevelled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?" People cared about her and were inspired by her struggle. And the Betty Ford Centre has helped thousands of people through rehabilitation.

Of course, what was once a courageous revelation sometimes seems now to have become almost compulsory. So many famous people have passed through the Betty Ford Centre's doors. I greet news of another celebrity's addiction with a dull sadness, wishing them a full recovery, hoping they won't relapse, that, like Robert Downey Jr -who felt like he had "a loaded gun in [his] mouth and [liked] the taste of metal" -they'll find a way to heal themselves. But it's not a surprise. It sometimes seems that everyone is addicted to something.

And it's not just drugs and alcohol. We suffer these days from the various neuroses of abundance -not exactly addictions but compulsive behaviours in which many of us constantly return to some source of distraction.
There seem to be so many things for which -like dogs with food -many of us apparently have no natural `off' switch Easy access to credit has allowed the non-wealthy to become compulsive shoppers. The flood of images on the internet has provided the opportunity for porncompulsion. The relative cheapness of mass-produced products -which were unknown 200 years ago -leads some to hoard compulsively. And the internet itself -a source of unlimited information -can become compulsive. One of the hardest challenges posed by the modern world is how to deal with abundance. It's even harder to confront because admitting that it's a problem seems spoiled.
"Oh, you have too many different forms of entertainment? Are your diamond shoes pinching you, too? Is your champagne fountain too loud for you to hear your string quartet?" It makes me feel spoiled to admit that I spend money on things I neither need nor particularly want just because I'm bored, that I have trouble turning off the internet to concentrate on work. Perhaps I could take inspiration from Betty Ford. If something is a problem, it's all right to admit it. So I admit it. And is there a solution to these low-grade compulsions? The Betty Ford Centre doesn't treat the compulsion to check Facebook, or to turn on the TV instead of facing your emotions.

So what are we to do with these troublesome emotions? Not flick to Twitter.
Not buy something we don't need. Not turn on the TV. Just feel them.

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

CASE BY CASE

 

The solicitor general, Gopal Subramanium, has resigned because he was sidestepped, and another lawyer was chosen to represent the telecom minister, Kapil Sibal, in a public interest litigation petition. Subramanium claims his decision was prompted by the desire to preserve the dignity of his office. The solicitor general is the second highest law officer in the country, after the attorney general. The English, Scottish, US and Canadian models all place different emphases on the law officers' functions, but the core remains legal advice and representation to the government. And certainly, on that count, there is a clear disconnect between the government and its law officers — whether it was the 2G cases, the CVC confusion, the black money or Salwa Judum judgments, the government has struggled and failed to make a convincing case for its actions.

These cases have consequences not just of a political nature for the Central government. Many of these cases could also have an impact on the essential separation of powers laid out in our Constitution and on the manner in which internal security is handled. Therefore, the anarchy that the law ministry is presiding over requires the urgent attention of the prime minister. Recall the moral dilemma over the CVC's appointment. There was a striking lack of clarity on the principles involved, the documents presented were incomplete and failed to mention details of a case pending in the Kerala high court — in short, it exposed the perfunctoriness of the way the government intended to fill an statutory post. The error was inflated in court by the shoddy defence of its actions. Later, the government tangled with the Supreme Court on the choice of public prosecutor in the 2G cases. In the black money case, the government capitulated to the court's early assessment that it was not capable of handling the investigation and repatriation of the money, and that a special investigative team appointed by the court was necessary. In another demonstration of this laxity, only one of its law officers was present to appear for the government during most of the recent summer holidays, who presented over 150 opinions to the government in roughly two weeks.

These examples only serve to expose the larger abdication of his brief by the Union law minster. Never before have law officers in this country been drawn into so much controversy, or the government looked so adrift in the court.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A STEP FORWARD

 

What's in a name? Apparently nothing, or a lot. The draft memorandum of understanding, signed last week between the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and thereon dispatched to the Centre, calls the new administrative body for the Darjeeling Hills the "Gorkhaland Territorial Administration". Whether one chooses to pounce on the word present, "Gorkhaland", or on the word absent, "Autonomous", the nomenclature marks the give-and-take. Names are a matter of perspective and politics. And, sure enough, the GJM is selling the G-word in the hills even as the government is denying its significance. But the agreement is the distance traversed in an impressively short period of time. It solves for now the pressing problem of the governance vacuum in the hills since the dissolution of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council three years ago.

The new administration will be able to collect the levy from tea gardens and recruit junior-level government staff. It cannot legislate or collect taxes, and its territorial jurisdiction has been referred to a joint verification committee. Additionally, the state government is setting up versions of several government bodies in the hills. Once the electoral procedure is sorted out, the new body and the Bengal government must embark on a comprehensive development programme, wherein infrastructure, such as roads, is upgraded and the problem of necessities, such as drinking water, is solved. A blueprint must be drawn up for revamping and expanding the economy of the hills, because governmental job drives alone will not do. The tea industry itself must be rescued, revived and modernised.

All of this is apart from the question of Gorkhaland statehood, which the GJM is temporarily not emphasising but may foreground any day. Importantly, there is peace in the hills — so necessary for development. The intractable nature of the problem was partly cured by the approach of the new dispensation in Kolkata, which did not make the mistake of looking at the hills as enemy territory. It made the GJM climb down from its maximalism and become reciprocally flexible. Important barriers have been breached; but the work, however, has hardly begun.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                                EDITORIAL

ALL OF HUMAN LIFE

 

When the first edition of the News of the World rolled off steaming presses in October 1843, Fleet Street was very different. Aristocrats had The Morning Post or The Times, genteel recorders of high society, propped up against their silver toastracks at breakfast. The world's first capitalist class read the reformist Manchester Guardian on their way to their steel mills. Civil servants and clergymen, lawyers hurrying to their Inner Temple chambers, would scan The Standard, tut-tutting about South Africa or Ireland. But those who served the buttered toast, or held the horses, or swept the offices, had nothing to read. Until, that is, newsboys began hawking the News of the World, cheaper than any other paper — and far more fun.

"All human life is there," the masthead declared above stories of murder and prostitution, the news of their tough world, in lines considerably racier than the elites' Births, Deaths and Marriages sections.

Literacy spread, and the NOTW became the world's largest-selling paper, spawning countless imitators. It shut Sunday, while its first competitors still exist — although the Post merged with The Daily Telegraph, the Standard moved to the evening, and The Guardian abandoned Manchester — but they, and their cousins across the English-speaking countries, write of the world with an urgency and openness, even an eye for scandal and hypocrisy, adapted from the NOTW and its descendants.

Tabloids are dying. Their journalists are trusted, according to a recent survey, by less than 1 per cent of the UK; gossip is easier online, as is titillation; no big recent scoops from tabloids have really mattered. But the style of the big, screaming red-tops has been internalised and worked on by once-staid broadsheets, looking to expand their reach. The News of the World is dead, but the news of the world is still read.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

NEO-LIBERALISM, OLD SLOGAN

MK VENU

 

The Supreme Court order on black money makes some strong observations about the macro-economic policies followed by successive governments in recent decades. It characterises the economic policies of various regimes as "neo-liberal", promoting a form of capitalism that is predatory in nature. The court also chose to dwell on India's economic policy regime, describing it as "neo-liberal" and guided by the "Washington Consensus".

In fairness, the descriptions used by the learned judges have long been rejected as unworkable even by the institutions that gave birth to these ideas! The Washington Consensus was an idea propounded in the late 1980s by John Williamson, who later became chief economist for South Asia at the World Bank. The United States, then still economically strong and somewhat arrogant, had sought to impose on the developing world the idea that they must contribute robustly to global growth by accepting unfettered liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation as the fundamental tenets of economic policy.

This was aimed at furthering the neo-liberal agenda of the West, which had realised that growth was saturating in that part of the world and that new markets will necessarily have to open up rapidly in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, the World Bank itself realised the sheer fallacy of the Washington Consensus as the political economy of various developing countries rejected such prescriptions.

In the past decade, many Asian and African economies have come into their own, and have started following home-grown prescriptions that are perhaps more palatable in the context of domestic politics.

The world has changed quite dramatically since Williamson coined the term Washington Consensus. If anything, America and other crisis-ridden European economies probably need to follow various prescriptions relating to structural adjustments that the Washington Consensus had originally proposed for the debt-ridden developing world.

A key principle of neo-liberal economics which the Washington Consensus had proposed was the near-total opening up of trade in goods and services to maximise global output. However, when India proposed a comprehensive free trade agreement in goods and services during President Barack Obama's visit last year, US officials were not responsive because they were not sure how the American public would respond, given the persistent stagnation in their economy, with the unemployment rate failing to come down in any significant way.

So it is America that is fighting shy of signing a comprehensive FTA with India. This is how the world has changed in the last two decades. It is not for nothing that the Doha round of WTO negotiations has not reached a conclusion for a decade now. It is an open secret that the negotiations had been stonewalled on previous occasions because America was going to the polls. The US was never sure how the people would react to massive cuts in agriculture subsidies or to the opening up of textile markets which could result in massive loss of jobs in that sector.

So the question is: why would the original proponents of neo-liberal economics fight shy of it now? The learned judges of the Supreme Court may want to study this issue in detail.

Neo-liberal economics was always a bit of a misnomer. Even when economists like Adam Smith propounded the original version of neo-liberal economics, by posing it as an improvement upon the mercantilist (protectionist) policies followed by the colonising European powers, many critics said that liberal economics was merely "mercantilism in a new garb". No wonder the original mercantilists of the West are today accusing China and India of following mercantilist policies!

So the truth is India is not a victim of neo-liberal policies dictated by the West. It could be suffering because of flaws in the way it has designed its own domestic policies relating to critical sectors, such as infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and so on.

In fact, in some areas India seems to have shown clear alternative paths to the neo-liberal policy design. For instance, the global financial crisis of 2008 showed the resilience of the Indian banking system and regulatory mechanisms.

The liberal financial sector in the US had in the 1990s blurred all distinctions between commercial banking and investment banking activities which had led to massive risks from the stock and securities market entering the banking system. For years before the 2008 financial crisis, Americans were pushing very hard developing economies like India to import some of these "neo-liberal" ideas. But that did not happen. India is opening up its financial sector at its own pace, and with its own unique brand of regulation.

The other big neo-liberal (Washington Consensus) idea which got comprehensively rejected some years ago was outright privatisation of the public sector. Today, the policy is far more nuanced, based on the needs of individual public-sector enterprises. Indeed, India has evolved a model where public-sector companies compete with private-sector entities in most sectors.

The alternative to a neo-liberal agenda has happened because the people have voted for it. Left critics of the former CPM government in West Bengal used to complain that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government was following neo-liberal economic policies by favouring big businesses. Now Mamata Banerjee promises to follow a different model of development.

The Supreme Court has observed that in neo-liberal economics the "market begins to function like a bureaucratic machine dominated by big business, and the State begins to function like the market". This may have been true in recent years when crony capitalism has been rampant, especially in sectors such as mining, telecom and real estate.

However, it would be fair to say that of late state-appointed regulators, including the Comptroller and Auditor General, have shown their mettle and sent shivers down the spine of big business. So it might have been a bit excessive for the Supreme Court to suggest that the "state has begun to function like the market". The jury is still out on what model of development India is evolving, given the uncertainties that surround the global economy. It is an interesting phase, and it is best to discard overused slogans of the past to describe the emerging scenario.

The writer is managing editor, 'The Financial Express'
mk.venu@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

KARACHI BATTLEGROUND

MURTAZA RAZVI

 

The violence in Karachi has claimed at least 100 lives in the past week alone — from a state of instability that could be termed free for all, the city is in free fall now. Karachi is the goose that lays the golden eggs and over which everyone fights. It is Pakistan's Mumbai, and home to a large number of immigrants from across Pakistan, besides housing a million-strong population of Bangladeshis and Afghans. It is the city of the middle and the working classes as well as business tycoons, bankers and industrialists.

But more importantly, it is the city of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain, who can move and shake it at will from his exile in London. It is also the city where the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) hold eight seats out of a total of 41 that Karachi has in the Sindh provincial assembly; the rest are with the MQM. The party's closest rivals are the religious parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Sunni Tehreek, which can claim to bag a huge number of votes but fall short of winning any seats in the presence of the MQM. Therefore, if you put the MQM out of the power equation in Karachi, you are inviting trouble.

The PPP has done just that by abandoning the local government system, whose elections were due last year but were postponed on the dubious pretext of bad law-and-order situation. Part of an uneasy coalition with the largest ruling party, the MQM was a thorn in the side of the government since the 2008 elections as it pursued its independent policy on many issues, from inflation to employment, from administrative wranglings to appointment of officers.

Besides the PPP, the MQM's pet peeves remain rival parties with a vote-bank in Karachi: the ANP, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM-Haqiqi) and the religious parties. The MQM-Haqiqi was virtually decimated during the long reign of General Pervez Musharraf who had given the MQM a carte blanche to go after its breakaway faction. The religious right, which could have bagged one or more seats from Karachi, had boycotted the last election. The ANP, however, remained an untamed rival because of its clout in the transport sector. The party's vote-bank comprises the city's Pathan population, estimated to be about 15 per cent of the total population of Karachi, now touching 20 million. The mixed neighbourhoods, where both the ANP and the MQM voters reside, or where PPP voters meet the MQM's, are the real battlegrounds of Karachi, which can readily become killing fields when violence breaks out.

So how does one go about fixing the problem? If you ask the Sindh government, it seems to have no answer. It is the most inept government the province has had in decades. It has shown little interest in governance besides collecting the spoils which come with wielding power. It has also shown much contempt for the urban population of Sindh, where the MQM has its vote-bank. The PPP vote-bank remains overwhelmingly rural, and its politicians in Sindh come from the landed class. An urban-rural divide has plagued the province since 1947, when Muslim immigrants from India came in large numbers and settled in Sindh's cities. The ethnic factor in the urban-rural divide further aggravates the relations and has been a cause of constant trouble.

The problem with the PPP is that while it is in power it does not believe in sharing it, other than in rhetoric. The MQM resigned from the governorship of the province and moved its MPs to the opposition benches last month when it accused the PPP of rigging and postponing elections to the "Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly" (AJKLA). Two of its seats are in Karachi — the AJKLA's constituency is Pakistan-wide because of the presence of a large number of Kashmiri refugees spread across the country who are registered voters to the AJK assembly and not Pakistan's parliament. The election rigging was the last straw that broke the camel's back as far as the MQM is concerned. The party's real grievance, however, lies in the fact that it lost Karachi's city government, which was its pride for the last six years.

Now that the Sindh government has all but abandoned the holding of elections to the local government and reinstated the colonial-time commissionerate system, whereby bureaucrats and political cronies instead of elected representatives are appointed to run civic affairs, the move threatens to further vitiate the political atmosphere in Karachi. The MQM will not take it lying down. Meanwhile, the PPP will be upping the ante against the MQM by embracing the JI, which has a sizeable vote-bank in Karachi, by offering the JI the governor's slot vacated by the MQM. The name of Naimatullah Khan, a former mayor of Karachi, is being tipped for the post.

Such divide-and-rule tactics ill become a party that flags its democratic credentials but exercises none. This is not a good omen for Karachi.

The writer is an editor with 'Dawn', Karachi
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

AN ORDER THAT HURTS

R K VIJ

 

The Supreme Court's judgment on Salwa Judum and Special Police Officers (SPOs) stated: "The state of Chhattisgarh shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the operation of any group, including but not limited to Salwa Judum and Koya commandos, that in any manner and form seek to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person."

The idea that Salwa Judum is an armed vigilante group supported by the Chhattisgarh state has been publicised by the Maoists and other groups, to the extent that the Supreme Court assumes this to be the case. However, the history is somewhat different. In June 2005, villagers from Bijapur district had to abandon their land and flee from Maoist terror. Those who opposed the Maoists took shelter in nearby ashrams and schools and the village Kutru became the centre of the movement. Meetings were held almost every day to persuade the lower-cadre Maoists to live a peaceful life. In fact, scores of such Maoists surrendered. These gatherings were often attacked by the Maoists who had never witnessed opposition from the people whose support they enjoyed for almost three decades. This continued for more than a month until the villagers felt the need of a leader and Mahendra Karma, a tribal leader of the region, joined the movement, naming it "Salwa Judum", a Gondi word meaning "people's peace movement".

The people of Chhattisgarh and Bastar in particular, cannot forget the uncertainty that prevailed in Bijapur. The state government had to provide shelter and food to those who had been uprooted. There was unanimous support for the people's uprising among those who had borne the brunt of Maoist terror. These shelters were loosely called Salwa Judum camps, though in real terms they were little more than relief camps, gradually upgraded with health and educational facilities by the government. These have now taken the form of any normal village of the region.

Freedom of speech is the bulwark of a democratic government, and the right to assemble peacefully is also constitutionally guaranteed to citizens. Though the Salwa Judum has lost its sheen in the last six years, its right to protest against Maoist atrocities should not be abrogated because a few SPOs or Koya commandos (a group of active SPOs) exceeded their limits. Salwa Judum must be viewed separately from the SPOs.

The court held the engagement of SPOs in counter-insurgency activities as a violation of Article 14, and laid excessive emphasis on the lack of education of the tribal SPOs. But does this disqualification, by itself, render them unsuitable for police work? These tribals often outperform their peers, and have simply not had the same educational opportunities. It is also hard to believe that the SPOs, who on many occasions preferred not to take aim at surrendering Maoists, do not understand the essence of self-defence. The police fraternity has taught them more in the field than they could have learnt in classrooms. They have always accompanied the regular police force and worked under their direct supervision.

The court has also raised doubts over the informed consent of these SPOs, suggesting they do not understand the implications of counter-insurgency activities. This assumption, again, rests on the sense that they are inadequately trained, and not fully aware of the disciplinary codes and criminal liabilities that may arise on account of their actions. However, the fact is that they not only understand the temporary nature of the job but are also aware of the risks. Though many were killed in action, they never raised any alarm of indiscipline. Rather, despite Maoist warnings to villagers not to join the force, their number only grew. Forcing someone to join as an SPO was never on the agenda.

A few, who were in fact pressurised by the Maoists to leave, were immediately relieved. This can be corroborated from the fact that many joined the regular force against vacancies that arose. It is agreed that better training and education would improve any force, but there is no substitute for willing and motivated men, with high stakes and determination, to win peace.

Thirdly, the court, without elaborating, has held that nothing beyond the police duties specified in Section 23(1)(h) and 23(1)(i) of the Chhattisgarh Police Act, 2007, can be performed by SPOs. These two sections deal with disaster relief and traffic regulation. Notwithstanding sections 37, 38, 39 and 40 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which enshrines the crime prevention duties of any inhabitants of an area, the Court has placed limits on what they can do. It is a fact that not all SPOs participated in anti-Maoist operations. Many, while continuing to live in their villages, secretly provided intelligence and remained on the police rolls as SPOs. An honorarium was paid only to keep their interests intact. They were never exposed to the public as SPOs.  Providing information about crime to the nearest police station is a statutory duty of all citizens. Such duties cannot be held unconstitutional only because the criminal activities happen to relate to the Maoists.

The writer is an inspector general of police, Chhattisgarh

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DISHONOURING A COMMITMENT

SHARAD YADAV

 

he Union government has made a commitment to Parliament that it would conduct a caste census from June this year. The month of June is over and no caste census is taking place — if one doesn't count Tripura. There is no preparation for it, either. The present government has earned a reputation for not fulfilling commitments. Supporters of a separate Telangana state are saying this; even Anna Hazare and his team. The issue of caste census is a glaring example of how it does not care even for its commitments to Parliament.

This government is accountable to Parliament. While it faces MPs in the House, it takes note of their sentiments; once the session is over, it starts thinking in its own way, careless of its commitments. It promised a caste census in the House many times and gone back once out of Parliament.

A thorough nation-wide BPL survey is on; the government claims that by also identifying the caste of those being surveyed, it is fulfilling its commitment — making a laughing-stock of itself. We were demanding the enumeration of caste along with the 2011 census, such as would happen before Independence. After Independence it was discontinued without any valid reasons. Many programmes of the Union and state governments are related to the deprived castes; billions of rupees are spent there. There are even caste-based reservations, and we need to know how this policy is working. For all this, we need caste-based authentic data, so that we can focus those sections that are more impoverished and need more support. But we do not have such data, because the caste census was discontinued by our self-clamed "welfare state".

Whenever the government tries to give support people of weaker castes, the matter is brought to the judiciary, and there the data are demanded. But we have caste data only from 1931, considered too old. Why should we not have updated caste data? There is no answer to this question. If we still face caste problems, with the caste system eating up our party system, it is because of the neglect of the caste question by successive post-Independence governments.

There was consensus in the Lok Sabha on the issue. All parties demanded it; the government committed that the sentiments of the members would be honoured. Subsequently it used various tactics to wriggle out of honouring its commitment: it announced with much fanfare that caste would be enumerated in the camps where biometric data for the Unique ID would be collected. It was a well thought-out decision to dump the question of caste data. We protested that it was not practical to enumerate caste in those camps, only through a door-to-door census.

The government then said it would happen alongside the census — but last February the census happened without it, for no valid reason. We asked the government to add just one more column to the questionnaire — but we were told that caste would be enumerated separately from July. There was hardly any need for a separate caste census, but this government committed to it, and so we ceased our insistence in Parliament on caste enumeration as part of the February census exercise.

But what is the government doing now? It is doing nothing to collect the socio-economic data of various castes of the country. It is just enumerating the number of people belonging to various castes — and we can know at best what proportion of people of any caste is below the poverty line, and what proportion above. These data may be important for the purpose, they are being collected, but the socio-economic conditions of various castes and their education status cannot be known. Our Constitution says those backward classes of citizens would be given special opportunities in the recruitment of government services that are not adequately represented. Our BPL survey is not going yield any data of representation of people from various castes in government services. How will we judge whether job quotas are working or not as policies?

The government has delayed the monsoon session of Parliament. Whenever it takes place, the government will have to answer what it is doing about the caste census. This government seems to invent problems for itself. It has invented problems over Telangana. It has done the same on black money. And it has on the issue of caste census, it has done the same by not conducting it under the Census Act of 1948.

The writer is a JD(U) MP in the Lok Sabha and convenor of the NDA

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A HOUSEHOLD NAME?

SARITHA RAI

 

South India is changing, and slowly becoming "north Indian-ised". Or else, what explains a wedding sangeet invitation arriving from, of all places, Hassan in interior Karnataka? Or womenfolk in the backwaters of Alapuzha dressing in the salwar kameez? Now, yet another change is swiftly and surely sweeping the native land of S.M. Krishna, J. Jayalalithaa and A.K. Anthony — a more global, homogeneous naming convention.

Until a generation ago, many south Indian families followed what they thought was a fairly straightforward naming system. Parents bestowed a single name on their offspring at birth and then appended it with a generous sprinkling of initials. The abbreviations could stand for the ancestral village and the father's first name in Karnataka, the tharavadu or house name in Kerala, for the caste name in Tamil Nadu and in Andhra Pradesh, the place of family origin.

Karnataka-born, now Bangalore-based author Usha K.R. grew up in northern and eastern India, always self-conscious about her name around friends whose names followed the regular "first name-last name" formula. When younger, she wearied of the tiresome questions about why the initials and what they stood for. Usha says she yearned to have a name that required no explanations.

These days, as she notes the trend of disappearing initials, Usha is glad she kept her original identity. "The first initial in my name denotes where I'm from, my birthplace," she explains. "It keeps me rooted to my place and people." Her other initial is an abbreviation of her father's first name.

But names like Usha's, or her film-researcher husband M.K. Raghavendra's, could become rarities soon. These days, south Indian newspapers are full of notary-endorsed classified notices which announce the reworking of names to dispense with the initials. The names have acquired fashionable or convenient last names.

So, Ranjani M.L. will be known as Ranjani Kumar forthwith, says the newspaper notice. P.K. Jeevan announces that he has added a "Prasad" to his name after doing away with the initials. Rajanna S. says he will be hereafter known as Rajanna Anand. Ridding the name of initials and taking on a last name is nothing short of a sociological trend.

Tech blogger Prashanth H.N., whose e-commerce start-up is in stealth mode, wishes his parents had stuck to the formula. "It would have been cool to be a Rao or a Shroff," he says. In his name, the abbreviated initials are sometimes a prefix and other times a suffix. At his first job at a technology multinational, for want of a last name, Prashanth's colleagues sent emails addressing him "Mr H.N.".

Prashanth wants to go in for a name change "soon as I can come up with a good surname." It would be efficient and uncomplicated, especially on official documents such as the passport, he says.

Dealing with long, single south Indian names could be confounding to a foreigner. "How do you address people with one name?" agonises Nete Sogaard Poulsen, a Danish national who has spent the last couple of years working in Bangalore. She plays safe with "sir" or "madam" and then, further into conversations, proceeds to ask them what they want to be called.

Many south Indian women who have only one name, have found a quicker solution — when they marry, they simply take on their husband's first name as their last name. So, Murali and Ravi, Shashidhar and Anil have become their wives' adopted last names.

The trend seems to reflect the homogenisation of naming practices around the world, says sociologist Amita Baviskar of the Institute of Economic Growth in New Delhi. Standardisation first emerged out of the government's need for creating clear identities in a larger population, she says. "Additionally today, there are other institutions (banks, colleges, passport offices) whose standardised forms do not allow for culture difference."

Many south Indians say they have had enough of dealing with the boxes in credit card applications and passport forms which mandate entering a first name and a last name. Database software simply does not accept null values for surnames.

Taking on a last name has saved many others the embarrassment of strangers being addressed by their father's first name. Perforce, G. Kalyan officially became Guruswamy Kalyan when he expanded the initial for forms. He has tired of explaining how his name "officially" turned backwards and why they should call him Kalyan.

Meanwhile, Usha K.R. too has decided she has had enough of the mix-ups of not having a last name. Her son has a last name adapted from the name of the family's native village. He will deal with fewer questions about his name, she hopes.

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TESTING FOR TASTE

ROBERT JENSEN AND NOLAN MILLER

Consider this paradox: according to conventional wisdom, hunger is supposed to decline as a country's wealth increases. Yet in China and India, hunger appears to be growing even as incomes increase at phenomenal rates.

There are a few possible explanations: inequality, inefficient or indifferent governments, and recent increases in world food prices. While these factors may play a role, at least part of the answer may be much simpler: we are measuring hunger incorrectly.

Suppose you want to figure out if someone has enough to eat. The standard approach is to compare the number of calories eaten to the number needed, with "need" defined by a statistical average. In effect, policymakers tell people whether they are hungry based on whether the amount of calories they take in conforms to some externally imposed standard.

Of course, very few people actually conform to a statistical average. So what if, instead, you looked not just at how many calories people consumed, but at the food they chose to eat?

Start with a baseline: the share of calories people get from the cheapest foods, typically rice or wheat. We call this the "staple calorie share." We measure how many calories people get from these, and how much they get from more expensive foods like meat. The greater the share of calories from the former, the hungrier they are. The rationale is straightforward: the unpleasant sensations associated with hunger are the body's way of telling us that we need more calories. Once those needs are largely met, people will switch to more flavourful, but more expensive, foods.

Suppose you have very little money in your pocket, not enough to afford all the calories you need; and you have only two foods to choose from, rice and meat. Rice is cheap and has a lot of calories, but you prefer meat. If you spent all your money on meat, you would get too few calories. Usually you would spend almost all of your money on rice; when faced with true hunger, taste is a luxury you can't afford. But suppose you had a bit more money. You would probably add some meat to your diet, because now you can afford to do so while still getting the calories you need.

Now think about the two approaches to measuring hunger. Researchers taking the standard approach would add up all the calories in the rice and meat you ate and declare you hungry if that total was less than your caloric "need", regardless of the choices you made.

In the staple-calorie-share approach, however, they would look at the first case and say that since you were choosing to get almost all of your calories from rice, you must not be getting enough to eat; otherwise you would have switched to meat. But looking at the second case, they would say that since you are now eating some meat, you must be getting enough or nearly enough calories; otherwise, discomfort would cause you to seek more calories via rice. Thus, the decline in the share of calories from rice reveals that the person has had enough to eat.

In principle, both approaches can tell you who is hungry and who is not. So, why look at staple calorie share? With the standard approach, you need to know how many calories the person has taken in and how many the person needs. But that need varies widely based on age, sex, activity level and dozens of other factors. Though some of the factors affecting calorie needs are measurable, many are not. Moreover, it's hard to know how many calories a person is actually getting, since health factors, including the widespread incidence of diarrhoea, often mean that only a fraction of calories eaten are absorbed by the body.

The staple-calorie-share approach eliminates both problems. Your choice of foods reveals whether you have enough calories. Staple-calorie-share "need" is less variable across people; though one person may need more calories than another, they will both begin to switch away from staple foods when their needs are met. And your body isn't fooled by how many calories you put into your mouth; the physical sensation of hunger is regulated by the amount of calories you actually absorb.

The staple-calorie-share method can give us a radically different view of who is hungry and who is not. The standard approach reveals that in China, the fraction of people consuming fewer than 2,100 calories increased to 67 per cent from 53 per cent between 1991 and 2001. However, the fraction who appeared hungry, as measured by staple-calorie share (using a threshold of 80 per cent of calories consumed through staples), declined to 32 per cent from 49 per cent. Thus, instead of 150 million more hungry people in China, there were actually almost 200 million fewer.

Rising incomes have indeed made people better off; however, they have used their increased purchasing power to buy better-tasting foods, and non-food items, rather than to increase calories.

The writers are US-based economists
The New York Times

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

UNMANNED CROSSING

Perhaps the most important decision Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take later today, assuming the Cabinet reshuffle is not postponed again, will be the appointment of the next Railway minister and the kind of oversight he exercises over the new incumbent. Since May 2009, when Mamata Banerjee became the Railway minister, the ministry has been headless, given Banerjee's sights were always on Kolkata and the way there via Singur—her predecessor Lalu Prasad was also preoccupied, with Bihar, but he gave the Railway bureaucracy a free run, something Banerjee was loath to do. As a result, financials have badly slipped, so much so Railways have not been able to contribute fully to safety and depreciation funds. With no one at the helm, Railways safety record went for a toss—from 43 people dying in accidents in 2007-08, the figure rose to 80 by the time Banerjee took charge and was a stunning 247 in the April-November 2010-11. And that's when the number of accidents fell, from 129 in 2007-08 to 65 in the first 8 months of 2010-11. The death toll is the number to keep track of, and not the fancy statistics put out by the ministry which show a significant decline in train accidents from 0.29 per million train km in 2004-05 to 0.17 in 2009-10.

The most damming indictment of the safety in the Railways is the CAG performance audit made last year of the first phase of the corporate safety plan (CSP) for the 2003-13 period. Though the CSP proposed the replacement of overaged locomotives by new locomotives with enhanced safety features, Railways still have 223 overaged BG diesel and 82 overaged MG locomotives which, the CAG said, raised the possibility of derailments/accidents. The CAG also noted that out of the 1,252 rail over- and under-bridges that are to be completed by 2013 only 158 (12.62%) have been constructed as of March 2009. Out of the 171 level crossings test checked (92 manned and 79 unmanned) by the Audit, it was found that that many of the safety features were not provided at the level crossings. The CAG also noted that the railways was surrendering about half or more of the funds allotted for road safety works. In the case of rails, the CAG found that the use of alumino thermit welds, due to which tracks are prone to frequent weld failures, was still widespread and the use of more efficient mobile flash butt welding is yet to be introduced in 11 out of 16 zones. Further since rail/weld failures are caused by overloaded wagons, the CSP had proposed installing in-motion weigh bridges selectively on identified routes at originating points. But not only were half the weigh bridges not installed, it was also found that though a fifth of the wagons were found to be overloaded, they were allowed to proceed without any remedial action which had serious repercussions for the tracks. Hopefully Banerjee's successor, though from her party, will be more serious about his charge.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WIZARD OF OZ

There couldn't be greater irony. Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy all rode to power on a green horse, only to tamely stable it in the face of realpolitik. Julia Gillard rode to victory by ridiculing the climate-friendly predilections of predecessor Kevin Rudd, vowing that there would be no carbon tax under her leadership. It is this tax that she now looks set to push through in an ambitious manoeuvre, forced upon her by the necessity of having to build an alliance with the Greens to stay in power. Note that a carbon tax is exactly what Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman and many others think is really needed to pull the US economy off its Saudi addiction and onto a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour, stimulating green technologies into the bargain. The policy focus has been on cap-and-trade instead, largely on account of "hiding the ball"—talk of raising taxes wins no votes. If Obama has ruled out a federal climate bill this term even in these watered down terms (what with elections looming next year), there is no reason to expect a carbon tax to sail through smoothly across the Pacific. The Australian Coal Association is flashing ads saying, "No other major coal exporter has a carbon tax. Not one." The Minerals Council of Australia is warning that the tax would destroy 126,000 jobs. A US Republican Congressman has jumped in with support, calling the tax a "unilateral economic disarmament". These are exactly the kind of attacks that make governments suggest alternatives like internal cap-and-trade mechanisms.

Still, there are reasons why the carbon tax could actually go through in Australia, making way for the largest emissions-trading scheme outside the EU. Although Australians have ridden to prosperity on the back of plentiful coal, droughts and storms seem even more plentiful these days, making global warming a great concern here (even if it's gotten diluted by political bickering). Plus, Gillard seems to have impressive persuasive powers, having steered more than 100 bills through Parliament since coming to power, and having announced an aggressive taxpayer-funded ad campaign to confront conservative opposition and business groups. Australians emit more greenhouse gases per person than anyone outside the UAE, and if Gillard is able to persuade them that they can lead the charge on cutting emissions and adopting renewable energy, she could give climate mitigation efforts the kind of uplift that was expected of Copenhagen.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NO, WE CAN'T? OR WON'T

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 US 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 rationalised 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 US 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% when the Wall Street Journal issued that warning; at the end of last week it was 3.03%.

How have the usual suspects responded? By inventing their own reality. Last week, Representative Paul Ryan, the man behind the G.O.P. (the Republican Party) 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 programme 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 programme 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 summarise: 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.

—NYT

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ASIA'S ENGINE OF GROWTH

AMITENDU PALIT

Asian connectivity has assumed a whole new meaning with high-speed rail linking people and places not only within the countries, but also across countries.

China had begun the process a few years ago by laying out the design of an ambitious rail road network. Now South Korea has also followed suit. New rail links within, and from these countries, are being complemented by upcoming networks across Southeast Asia.

A key project plans to link China to upper Southeast Asia by connecting the former to the CLMV group of countries in the region—Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam—along with Thailand. The specifics of the project include rail corridors from Kunming in China's western province of Yunnan to Vientiane in Laos, which would produce further connections to Bangkok in Thailand, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam. The link will eventually extend right up to the tip of South China Sea and connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. This remarkable pan-Asian rail network bridging Northeast and Southeast Asia is expected to be ready by 2020.

Asian countries have begun investing enormous resources in internal rail networks. South Korea has announced ambitious plans for upgrading its high-speed domestic train network. The plans involve increasing both frequency and speed of trains. 'Bullet' is the buzzword in Asia's rail revolution. By 2020, Korean bullet trains are expected to cover distances in almost half the time that ordinary fast trains do now. This would be similar to what China is doing. Running times from Beijing to Tianjin and Shanghai to Hangzhou have slashed by 30 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively, from more than an hour, and just under two hours, earlier. These remarkable improvements are courtesy bullet trains that can record running speeds up to 250 km per hour. Another noticeable addition to the high-speed train family in China would be the Beijing-Shanghai bullet train. The train will cut commuting time between China's two largest cities in the North and South separated by around 1,500 km to just over four hours from more than ten hours now.

Rail is the biggest thing happening to Asia's infrastructure after the budget airlines, which had taken the region by storm. Low-cost air carriers connected remote parts of Asia in a manner that was almost inconceivable. Chengdu, Siem Reap, Lombok, Sabah, Chiang Mai, Penang, Jogjakarta, Darwin and several other places, considered difficult to access in Asia-Pacific, are now directly connected to major cities in the region by budget carriers. The biggest beneficiary of the dense network of air connections has been the travel and tourism industry. Asia-Pacific could have hardly attracted more than 200 million tourists annually, as it is doing now, had low-cost air connectivity not picked up at an amazing pace.

Why is rail now the priority infrastructure for Asia? No other infrastructure offers greater scope and scale as far as mobility of people is concerned. China's rail infrastructure, for example, is geared towards offering people the opportunity of moving back and forth between locations in less time and effort. For industry, such fast mobility implies having access to labour not tied down to locations and, therefore, not prone to demands for location-specific facilities like housing and recreation, which they would have demanded otherwise.

Industry in India hardly enjoys such advantages. Large-scale plants in India's hinterland, located deep within states, do not benefit from easy access to labour, which can commute back and forth from residential locations, due to lack of good transport links. From an Asian perspective, growth of a regional train network will enable movement of labour across countries enabling more efficient functioning of production networks across the region. Indeed, in this respect, multi-country rail networks are not only conduits for faster movement of people, but are equally important for speedier transport of cargo as well. It is high time that India becomes proactive in embedding itself in the upcoming Asian rail networks.

Apart from creating vital backward and forward linkages between industry on one hand and labour and raw materials on the other, investment on rail networks also produce virtuous multiplier effects for host economies by generating new employment and income. The Beijing-Shanghai rail link entails an investment of $33 billion. Vietnam is constructing a high-speed rail corridor between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi at an estimated investment of $55 billion. All other ambitious internal and cross-country rail projects coming up in the region involve substantial investments. The immediate impact of these projects has been to generate employment and increase demand for industrial raw materials like steel. Thus, both consumer and producer incomes have increased in a mutually reinforcing manner. There could hardly have been a more effective way of pushing back the rut created by the financial crisis.

There's a flipside to the rail story though; something that has begun dawning gradually upon the countries. High-speed rail links are heavily energy-intensive. Building and maintaining the corridors will result in quantum leaps in energy consumptions. Not only does that have implications for future costs, particularly with respect to higher energy imports, there are also worries over the projects resulting in carbon emissions rising steadily over time. Till now, there is little evidence of the projects being planned on green technologies.

While rail has spurred the engine of growth in Asia and will keep it chugging in foreseeable future, it might have brought for the region other worries. As of now, Asia is embracing 'bullets' and does not appear too concerned over what they might do to the atmosphere.

The author is visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

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

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 rationalised 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 agoThe 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 per cent whenThe Wall Street Journal issued that warning; at the end of last week it was 3.03 per cent.

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 programme 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 programme 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 summarise: 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. — ©New York Times News Service

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.'

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

DEALING WITH THE DOPING MENACE

Since the 2002 Commonwealth Games, India has faced major embarrassment in international sports because of doping by leading sportspersons. If the malady used to be deep in weightlifting, it has now spread alarmingly across Indian athletics. The news that eight athletes, including three members of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold-medal winning 4x400 relay quartet, Mandeep Kaur, Ashwini Akkunji and Sin Jose, have tested positive is a matter of shame. Predictably, all have pleaded innocence, triggering a blame game. The suspicion points to coaches and administrators. In a quick response to the public outrage, the Sports Ministry has sacked the coach of the relay team from Ukraine, Yuriy Ogorodonik. Indian coaches who were assisting him have also been placed under suspension. Measures aimed at cleansing the system have been initiated, with Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and an expert in sports law, being appointed to enquire into the modus operandi of doping in Indian athletics.

Where the lure of money, privilege, and fame becomes irresistible, many athletes turn to doping as a short cut to success. Several coaches and doctors aid the racket. Sports administrators, if they are not directly complicit, often turn a Nelson's eye to the goings-on in the camps so long as success is ensured to enlarge their own influence. The logic of sending teams for training to Ukraine and other countries, with the same set of coaches who have been assisting them in India, is difficult to understand. This policy needs to be reviewed. The current scourge appears to be a calculated fraud by coaches, doctors, misguided athletes, and unscrupulous officials. Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken must be commended for making a tough stand against doping and stepping in boldly to make it clear that there will be zero tolerance of such practices. He surely knows that the malaise is deep-seated and that dismissing the foreign coach, who denies any wrongdoing, touches only the fringe. A thorough probe and stiff penalties for those abusing the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code will help curb this menace. The public mood favours withdrawing the rewards and awards from the offending athletes. Since 2006, Indian athletes have remained prominently on the international dope-testing radar — without actually getting caught. Now, with the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) playing a leading role in catching the culprits, there is new hope that the dope cheats will be weeded out. Mr. Maken's insistence that punishment should be meted out to coaches and officials, apart from the athletes, reflects the mood of the sports fraternity.

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THE HINDU

MAKINGRAILWAYS SAFER

Three accidents in less than a week and a toll of well over a hundred deaths seem to speak to the state of safety in Indian Railways. Each of these tragedies may be different but they convey the same grim message. Last week, a snag-hit vehicle stranded on the tracks of an unmanned level crossing in Kanshiramnagar in Uttar Pradesh was pulverised by a speeding Mathura-Shhapra express, killing all 38 members of a marriage party. The Railways always holds vehicles crossing the track at unmanned level crossings responsible for their safety, as trains have the right of way. Around noon on Sunday, 15 bogies of the Howrah-Delhi Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan, claiming 68 lives, with several passengers still missing. Pictures from the accident site speak volumes of the deadly tragedy. The Army and the disaster relief teams had to be called in for rescue work and to cut open the mangled sleeper coaches. In the third instance, an IED blast on the track near the Rangiya station in Assam resulted in the derailment of eight bogies of the Puri Express. Fortunately, there were no deaths in this case.

While the Indian Railways seems to have perfected rescue and relief operations following accidents, it has not met with much success when it comes to accident prevention. The safety drive, for which the Indian Railways secured massive funding in the 10th and 11th Plans, needs a review to identify the grey areas — be it signalling, track replacement, or the status of the rolling stock. In the Kalka Mail derailment, for instance, preliminary reports indicate that the driver had suddenly braked for some reason, which led to the derailment. Why did this happen, and why should it result in 15 bogies being thrown off the rails? The Railways needs to step up its maintenance record, track patrolling, and also review the role of both the Railway Protection Force and the Government Railway Police to make them more effective. Finally, there is the question of political stewardship for this Ministry. The fact that no Railway Minister of Cabinet rank has been appointed since May, when Mamata Banerjee resigned to become Chief Minister of West Bengal, does not send out a reassuring message on the importance the government attaches to this key portfolio. It might be too much to expect today's politicians to emulate Lal Bahadur Shastri who, in 1956, resigned accepting moral and constitutional responsibility for a railway accident at Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu that claimed 144 lives. But at least one hopes the impending Cabinet reshuffle will see the Railways placed in experienced and capable hands.

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 THE HINDU

OFFERING SLOW, SMALL CHANGES, MOROCCO'S KING STAYS IN POWER

NADIM AUDI

With the pace of democratic change stalled or staggering under violent crackdowns in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco's recent decision to alter its Constitution provides what some see as an alternative to the bloody confrontations that have marked the Arab Spring.

Morocco's decision — in the form of a referendum to give more powers to elected leaders — was offered as a unique answer to the insistent calls for democratic change that have swept through Arab countries since Tunisians unexpectedly toppled their long-time dictator in January.

Symbolic

For now the electoral victory in Morocco remains largely symbolic. King Mohammed VI proposed the referendum himself, but the revisions to the Constitution it allowed ensure that he maintains nearly absolute political power and unquestioned control over the military. And the Constitution's ability to bring real change to this centuries-old monarchy will largely depend on how the text is applied to everyday politics.

But supporters of the new Constitution argue that moving slowly may be the surest way to achieve sustainable change, and analysts say that even baby steps may be enough to inspire others in the region to follow suit eventually. At the least, the events in Morocco provide a striking counterpoint to those in Egypt and Tunisia, where leaders' concessions appeared to work against them, emboldening protesters.

"It's a peaceful revolution, and the major difference with other countries in the region is that protesters never called for the fall of the regime," said Mokhtar El Ghambou, who is helping to found Rabat International University. "There was no bloodshed. I think it shows there are two options; the first one is radical change, the second is change with continuity."

For some, that is a good thing. For others, Morocco's example is troubling, providing ammunition for rulers and counterrevolutionaries intent on breaking the momentum for sweeping reform that was in protesters' favour for months.

"If the Egyptian revolution fails to bring change, with places like Morocco in mind, there will be a big backlash against the revolutions," Mr. El Ghambou said.

Morocco's evolution was inspired by many of the same issues that birthed the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

Morocco today

The kingdom, on the western edge of North Africa, has a large population of restless young people, many of them unemployed, and the country is troubled by a level of nepotism reminiscent of Tunisia's and a yawning gap between rich and poor.

At first, the nation's reaction to the stunning news from Tunisia and Egypt tracked with those of others in the region. Protesters took to the streets with their grievances, and the government cracked down, sometimes violently.

But the narrative diverged from there. Government troops beat demonstrators, but did not fire on them, and the protesters themselves were more interested on pushing their king toward a true constitutional monarchy than pushing him out.

Mohammed VI already had a well of goodwill to draw on. He is considered forward-thinking and a gentler leader than his father, King Hassan II. Early in his reign he took steps to modernise the kingdom, including promoting a family law that raised the age for women to marry and allowed them to seek a divorce.

With the rise of radical Islam, however, the king slowed the pace of change, frustrating many of his subjects. Over time, he was also accused of tolerating corruption and of allowing advisers and former schoolmates to amass fortunes from state contracts.

He began to propose major changes again only after protests roiled major Moroccan cities this year. He proposed the constitutional changes that went to a vote on July 1, and pardoned scores of prisoners who the opposition said were jailed for their political beliefs.

Under the new provisions, which fell short of demands for a real constitutional monarchy, the Prime Minister will still be appointed by the King, but will now need to be chosen from the party with the parliamentary majority. In a change from the past, the Prime Minister will be charged with appointing government ministers, but the King still needs to approve those choices.

The constitutional changes — and the reality that 98 per cent of an unusually high turnout of voters approved them — has left some Moroccans, especially on the left, disillusioned.

"The King gives the impression of giving the keys to the Prime Minister, while keeping a copy in his pocket," wrote Karim Boukhari, editor and publisher of the francophone weeklyTel Quel. "Morocco deserves much better, and right now."

Members of the February 20 Movement for Change, which coordinated the country's demonstrations, have vowed to keep up weekly protests.

"This text is not acceptable, it was cooked up in the hallways of the palace," said Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist and human rights advocate, who is active in the protest movement. "It's all cosmetic."

Whether Morocco's example can be replicated is an open question. Relative to its neighbours, the country was more open to reform.

Analysts said that other monarchies, including those in the Gulf, were unlikely to follow suit in good part because their populations were both wealthier and more conservative, and therefore less likely to agitate for democracy.

The leaders of two other Arab countries, Jordan and Algeria, have at least suggested political reforms, but it is unclear if they will move ahead.

Akin to Jordan

The situation in Jordan more closely mirrors Morocco's: it is a monarchy with close ties to the United States, and King Abdullah II has recently reshuffled his cabinet to try to appease protesters. But analysts said regional realities might doom more significant changes, especially as Syria descends further into chaos, with the government unable to quell unrest despite a fierce crackdown.

"They're closely watching the situation in neighbouring Syria, and are very worried about being destabilised by events there," said Muhammad Abbas Nagi of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, a government-financed research centre. "They're not comfortable with what could happen if they start answering the protesters' calls for change."

It is also in Jordan's economic interest to maintain close ties with countries like Saudi Arabia, which baulks at change in the region and sent troops into Bahrain to support the monarchy after weeks of protests. A recent offer to consider including Jordan as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council has been perceived as an effort to buttress the monarchy and keep Jordan in the fold.

But even if no country follows Morocco's example in the near future, the King's ability, at least so far, to satisfy critics and still maintain power presents an alternative for reformers searching for new ways to wrest power from leaders who have clung to their positions for decades.

"On one side, you have Libya, which is exactly where Arab populations want to avoid going; on the other, you have this Moroccan counterpoint, which showed it was possible to absorb discontent through reforms," said Haoues Seniguer, a professor and researcher at Lyon's Institute for Political Studies. "What is certain is that some governments might be inspired by this successful strategy to diffuse protests." — ©New York Times News Service

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THE HINDU

NEEDED: THE MOTHER OF ALL RESHUFFLES

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

A joke was doing the rounds in Delhi these past few weeks that with everybody and their baba now entering politics, perhaps it's time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also jumped in.

As with most jokes, there is an element of both truth and injustice in this one too. Injustice, because at a time when the middle class believes in the congenital venality of politicians, Dr. Singh's apparent lack of political guile is actually a big selling point for the Congress party he serves and the United Progressive Alliance government he heads. But the truth of the matter is that the Prime Minister and his advisers have also been spectacularly inept in dealing with various problems confronting their government. This failure has been one of political instincts and imagination, coupled, in some cases, with sheer bad intent.

The Indian system has a "normal" level of corruption hardwired into it. Judging by recent political history, corruption scandals, by themselves, do not appear to be fatal for parties or coalitions in power. Bofors may have become a byword for corruption but Rajiv Gandhi's defeat in 1989 was the product of other factors, including the mobilisation which took place around the Mandal Commission report on reservation for Other Backward Classes. The National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, too, had more than its fair share of scams. There was the Coffingate, where money was made in the import of caskets for the soldiers killed at Kargil. There was the petrol pump allotment scam. And then there were the scandals surrounding the privatisations of BALCO, IPCL and Centaur Hotel which effectively killed the government's plan to sell off the bulk of the Indian public sector to big companies at throwaway prices. But even though the PMO of Mr. Vajpayee was a revolving door for corporates and fixers, it wasn't the taint of corruption which finally did the Bharatiya Janata Party in. Rather, its 2004 defeat was the result of a combination of factors — from the Gujarat massacres of 2002 to the rising sense of economic insecurity felt by the mass of urban and rural Indians who saw the government's claims about a Shining India as the last straw.

In contrast, the UPA government today is at its most vulnerable on the question of corruption. It is true that punitive action has been initiated in the case of 2G spectrum allocation scam, the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh Housing Society. Never before have Ministers and important political personalities and corporate bigwigs been remanded in custody like this. And yet, the public remains unconvinced about thebona fidesof the Congress and the UPA. The question people are asking is why it took so long for the Prime Minister to recognise the rot that had set in under his own nose. Even now, the public perception is that the CBI is pulling its punches. When an attempt was made to use a crudely forged audio recording to malign Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan — the father-son duo who have done so much to push for a proper investigation into the 2G scam — it was a top CBI official who planted a story in a financial paper claiming the tape was authentic. Senior UPA Ministers and the Prime Minister himself have accused the Comptroller and Auditor General of over-reach, an accusation that has not gone down well with a middle class that is grateful to the CAG for bringing various irregularities to light.

Despite this handicap, however, all is not lost for the UPA. The opposition, both Right and Left, is facing its own crisis and there are still three years to go before the next general election. Much will depend on the political choices Dr. Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi make now. They can either choose to navigate their way to 2014 in the same lacklustre manner their ship of state has drifted these past two years. Of course, the accumulated cargo of unchecked corruption and unfulfilled promises will get heavier and heavier and ensure the UPA will not be able to undertake another voyage after that. The alternative is for the two leaders to make a break with the past, subject their government to a complete overhaul of crew and turn some of the timid policy proposals that have been knocking around these past few months — on food security, humane land acquisition, profit-sharing for communities displaced by mining, making the right to education more meaningful — into big ideas that can capture the imagination of the electorate.

The opportunity for such a makeover will present itself at 5 pm on Tuesday, the time when the much anticipated Cabinet reshuffle takes place. If the exercise is hesitant, tentative and small-scale, read it as a sign that the Congress leadership has lost the will to fight. A bold and edgy reshuffle, on the other hand, will send out the opposite message — of a party that realises the need to pull itself up and is readying itself for a struggle.

What would boldness in a reshuffle involve? There are three basic elements. First, a willingness to make changes in the optically crucial 'big four' portfolios of Defence, External Affairs, Finance and Home. Second, a desire to be innovative in matching politicians to portfolios on the basis of what the Ministry concerned actually requires rather than the ego requirements of individual Ministers. Third, a determination to purge underperforming Ministers, promote performers and induct new, and preferably younger, faces.

The Prime Minister's January 2011 reshuffle was a failure because there was a lot of sound but no substance or logic in the makeover. Non-performers were shunted out of their Ministries but not ejected from the Cabinet. Key portfolios were left unfilled. Conscious of the underwhelming impact, Dr. Singh promised a second, more weighty reshuffle. That is why the public expectations are high.

For this, the Prime Minister and the Congress president need to think out of the box, starting with the big four. Pranab Mukherjee could be given charge of Railways and also made Deputy Prime Minister. As Rail minister, he would not only ensure the implementation of the 'Bengal package' Mamata Banerjee is so attached to but will also bring his accumulated experience to a sector that has long been neglected by indifferent leadership. The idea that leaving Finance for Railways is a demotion would be countered by his elevation as DPM, a designation that would also accord with the large number of 'Groups of Ministers' he heads. The vacancy in Finance could be filled by the economist and former Reserve Bank of India Governor, C. Rangarajan, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP.

P. Chidambaram in Home is an asset for the government because of his go-getting attitude but his impatience for politics is seen by some as something of a liability in a Ministry that is as much about political management as security. He could be moved to External Affairs, where he would no doubt excel. Digvijay Singh, who has still not completed his self-imposed exile from official responsibilities, would make a good Home Minister, combining the no-nonsense attitude of Mr. Chidambaram with a keen sense of the political. With Telangana, Kashmir, Manipur and a range of tricky issues coming to the fore, the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister would be a useful man to have in North Block.

S.M. Krishna could move from the MEA to Defence. Now that A.K. Antony has put in place a system of transparency in defence procurement — and ensured that the $10 billion contract for fighter aircraft is not determined on extraneous considerations — the Prime Minister may consider deploying his poster boy for probity in the one Ministry most tainted by corruption: Telecoms. Kapil Sibal began the clean-up there after A. Raja's resignation but cannot permanently run Telecom and HRD. Here, the Congress should learn from the positive energy that has flowed from Jaipal Reddy taking charge of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry earlier this year. Once considered the bailiwick of India's largest hydrocarbon company, the Ministry today has managed to regain the trust of the public.

Mani Shankar Aiyar should be brought in to Rural Development to oversee the implementation of MGNREGA and other flagship schemes. Key Ministries like Power and Non-conventional Energy need younger and more dynamic leadership. Now that the Congress has indicated it would like Omar Abdullah to serve out a full term as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, perhaps it is time Farooq Abdullah was deployed in a less crucial job. Kumari Selja, Sachin Pilot and Salman Khurshid are all Ministers who could easily handle greater responsibility. The list of those who should be dropped is already known to the Prime Minister. A clue: most of those who lost their portfolios for a reason in the last reshuffle should be considered vulnerable. And one last thought. Sharad Pawar, who spends a lot of time attending to cricket administration, should be given a choice: please decide if you want to run the BCCI or a Ministry of the government. Surely cricket is too important a national preoccupation to have its chief administrator preoccupied with food prices and procurement.

Jokes aside, the Prime Minister should use the reshuffle to demonstrate his political leadership over the coalition government he runs. The people of India expect nothing less.

If the exercise on Tuesday is hesitant

and small-scale, read it as a sign that

the Congress has lost the will to fight. A

bold reshuffle, on the other hand, will

send out the opposite message.

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THE HINDU

ANOTHER CONTENTIOUS NUCLEAR ISSUE

MICHAEL KREPON

 

The U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement has already generated a lengthy list of grievances in New Delhi and Washington. The lofty ambitions behind the agreement have been much deflated. U.S. backers of the deal advertised that 27,000 high-quality jobs would materialise from building or supplying nuclear power plants in India. Given the liability legislation passed by the Indian Parliament, these jobs and profits are very unlikely to materialise. Likewise, U.S. defence contractors thought that the deal would place them first in line for the medium multi-role combat aircraft competition, but this hope was dashed. Bilateral defence cooperation is improving and other arms transfers are under way, but well below rosy projections. The deal's boosters in Washington expected much closer strategic cooperation with New Delhi. But India has not voted according to Washington's wishes at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Indian grievances about the deal relate to expectations of a "clean" exception to commercial restrictions and full membership at the high table of states possessing nuclear weapons. The latest grievance has been sparked by a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) decision to affirm a conditions-based approach to the sale or transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Because nuclear weapons can't be made without these technologies, the NSG has now conditioned transfers only to states that have placed all of their nuclear facilities under stringent safeguards — conditions that India will certainly not meet.

Those in India who are offended by the NSG's decision assert that it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. This conclusion is wildly at odds with what the Bush administration promised and what the U.S. Congress and the NSG insisted upon when consenting to the deal.

Facts

Here are the facts:

1.In responses provided to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in November 2005, Under Secretary of State Bob Joseph stated: "We do not intend to provide enrichment and reprocessing technology to India. As the President said in February 2004, 'enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.' We do not currently provide enrichment and reprocessing equipment to any country."

2.In April 2006, Senator Richard Lugar sought reaffirmation of this policy from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who did so, answering: "Thus, it was stated, without any qualifications or reservations, that the United States would not export such technologies to India."

3.The "Hyde Act," in which the House and Senate agreed to the civil nuclear deal, contained restrictions in Section 104 (d)(4) on "exports, re-exports, transfers, and re-transfers to India related to enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy water production."

4.The House Foreign Affairs Committee Report endorsing civil nuclear commerce with India included the following language: "Because the processes of enriching uranium or separating plutonium for peaceful or military purposes are essentially identical, they inherently pose an enhanced risk of proliferation, even under strict international inspections … In addition, the Committee notes that it is well-established policy of the United States not to transfer sensitive nuclear technology, including reprocessing or enrichment technology, to any state … The Committee finds that no part of this legislation should be interpreted to allow for any exceptions to this policy."

5.The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report endorsing civil nuclear commerce with India reinforced this message: "The Committee believes that the United States must work with other nations to prevent the export of potentially harmful technologies. NSG guidelines are not as strict as they ought to be regarding exports of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology, and the Committee supports the administration's efforts to achieve consensus on tightening those guidelines."

6.A "conference committee" convenes after the House of Representatives and the Senate pass a bill to craft a uniform version of its provisions. The Conference Committee Report on the civil nuclear deal concluded that "Given the special sensitivity of equipment and technologies related to the enrichment of uranium, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, and the production of heavy water, work with members of the NSG, individually and collectively, to further restrict the transfers of such equipment and technologies, including to India."

7.President Bush's transmittal letter to Congress of the 123 (Implementation) Agreement for the U.S.–India civil nuclear cooperation agreement included the following language: "Sensitive nuclear technology, heavy water production technology and production facilities, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities may not be transmitted under the Agreement unless the Agreement is amended."

8.The L'Aquila Statement on Non-Proliferation, released at the end of the G-8 Summit in Italy in July, 2009, called on the NSG to make further progress "on mechanisms to strengthen controls on transfers" of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.

The Obama administration's position on enrichment and reprocessing and the NSG's recent consensus decision are no different than the Bush administration's position. There is no basis to feel aggrieved that the letter or spirit of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement has been subverted. India needs nuclear power, and global constraints against transfers of technology especially suited for proliferation need to be strengthened. If New Delhi insists on such transfers as a condition of building nuclear power plants, it will either fail or in succeeding, it will do greater harm to global non-proliferation norms and the very institution that went out of its way to enable nuclear commerce with India.

(Michael Krepon is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre.)

India has no basis to feel aggrieved that the letter or spirit of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. has been subverted.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

MORE RAIL DISASTERS WAITING TO HAPPEN

As many as 13 bogies, and the engine, of the Delhi-bound Kalka Mail flew off the tracks on the Allahabad-Kanpur section on Sunday. It appears the accident occurred when emergency brakes were sought to be applied. At last count 68 passengers had lost their lives and about 200 were injured. No possible cause for the derailment, including sabotage, can be ruled out for now. But no matter where the inquiry leads, it is reasonable to suggest that the Indian Railways have been among our least supervised national assets.

It is a shame that this is the case. Our railways, after all, offer the most extensive network of trains in the world and are used mainly by ordinary people, for whom it is the cheapest and most convenient means of long-distance transportation, whether of passengers or goods.
Even if the Kalka Mail derailment is proved to be the handiwork of saboteurs, the railway administration cannot wish away its responsibilities. It is an obligation for it to ensure that the nation's transportation lifeline is better looked after even from the security point of view. It does need to be considered that desperadoes gain extra propaganda points when they are able to hit important trains such as the Kalka Mail, which is among the oldest and most prestigious in the railways' stable. However, looking at probable causes of rail accidents in India, it is not unlikely that safety and maintenance shortcomings will top the chart, although "human failure" is usually the first cause that officialdom thinks of. But realistically speaking, top officials ought to be concentrating on systemic causes. The figures of deaths due to rail accidents have climbed alarmingly in recent times. It appears that in the past decade, the railways have failed to meet their own corporate safety plan targets. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has pointed to failures in the meeting of goals in key areas such as the modernising of signalling equipment, installation of the anti-collision devices, maintenance of assets and the filling of safety-related vacancies at all levels.
According to the CAG, there was shortage of safety staff in almost all sections in all 16 railway zones. It appears that the key post of member (traffic) on the Railway Board has not been filled for over a year, while general managers in several zones have not been appointed. These top-level personnel oversee the flow of traffic in all directions and in handling train operations overall. This is a disturbing state of affairs, which attests to systemic decay, not growth. The adding of more trains on nearly every route, mainly to suit the whims or political compulsions of railway ministers, and raising their speed without commensurate upgrading of tracks and other equipment needed to bear the extra load, cannot obscure the deficiencies which are certain to lead to outcomes that are fatal. In fact, if things remain the way they are, more accidents are waiting to happen.
The railways are a departmentally run undertaking of the Government of India, and are led by a Cabinet minister at the Centre. In recent years, however, the political appointee has been an absentee owner of the fief, as is graphically illustrated by the case of Mamata Banerjee, who had no time to give to her charge as she was concentrating on wresting control of Kolkata's Writers' Buildings from the Left Front. Before her, Lalu Prasad Yadav sought to build a reputation for himself as a manager by augmenting railway revenues, but generally left railway safety to chance, ushering in neither consolidation nor innovation. In both its avatars, the UPA ought to have done better, given its stated objective of improving infrastructure. With Cabinet changes around the corner, it will be interesting to see if the Prime Minister exercises his prerogative to give charge of the railways to someone who is truly interested in the job.

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THE ASIAN AGE

BALLERINA IN BOOTS

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

The induction and build-up of the Indian Army in a 750 sq km "manoeuvre area" allotted by the Chhattisgarh government in the Naxalite-affected Abujmarh zone of Chhattisgarh, howsoever presented to the public, has long been expected. The preliminary moves commenced with the establishment of an Army sub-area headquarters in Raipur, and now an infantry brigade (5,000-7,000 troops depending on the composition) is in the process of establishing jungle-training camps

in Narayanpur district, 300 km from Raipur, adjacent to the Naxalite "liberated zone" near the Abujmarh forest region, which is said to have remained unsurveyed since Independence. That by itself should be ample indication of the root cause of the Naxalite problem, and the official acknowledgement by an outgoing home secretary of the Government of India that Abujmarh is a "liberated zone" should come as no surprise. The Army, of course, has been careful to emphasise repeatedly that its mission is purely training and not anti-Naxalite operations, but also realises the very live possibility of encounters and clashes during the process of training in what is in effect a no man's land between the government and the Naxalites. A very real likelihood, therefore, of "mission creep" as a result of such encounters.
It is no secret that given the chronic and long-running nature of the Naxalite problem and the failure of the politico-administrative process to tackle the issue, recourse to an Army presence was regarded by many as more or less inevitable. The Army has all along been a reluctant participant here, knowing only too well the utterly thankless nature of another commitment on counterinsurgency, with no credit but only a surfeit of endless criticisms and allegations, besides the travails of establishing healthy working relationships with multiple state administrations and their police forces.
The Naxalites are certainly watching the Army's movements very carefully through their network of informants and observers in the area, including this new element as it goes about its work in their domain. The Army's training schedules will be hard, realistic and rigorous, and as per established doctrines there is likely to be civic action programmes within and in the vicinity of the manoeuvre area, which the Naxalites will try to counter by warning against fraternisation with the Army and stepping up the fear psychosis amongst the locals. Also, sooner rather than later, Naxalites should be expected to launch tentative probing attacks, ambushes and IEDs on Army camps, detachments and transport to test the waters and demonstrate their own presence in the area.
However, a hostile training area is nothing novel for the Army, because its well-established and reputed Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, Mizoram, was also established during the initial stages of the Mizo insurgency in an area then frequented by the hostile Mizo National Army on the principle that a live hostile presence sharpens the edge of combat training. Similarly when Pakistan-sponsored terrorism spread into the hinterland of Jammu and Kashmir, where the Army initially had no presence, units were moved into the area for training and area domination to deny a free run to the terrorists.
That being said, it must be realised that the critical elements in the fight against Naxalites cannot be the police, paramilitary forces or even the Army. Rather it is that element of the security structure who have gone missing totally by default, if not actively disparaged and demonised by all concerned, particularly the media: The tribals indigenous to the area, who are the chief participants as well as sufferers on both sides. They have been mobilised by local politicians like Mahendra Karma into the counter-Naxalite Salwa Judum movement, supported by the state, and recruited as police auxiliaries designated "Special Police Officers" (SPOs). Mahendra Karma's unsavoury reputation is well known and his Salwa Judum has, of course, earned a horrific reputation for indiscipline and gross atrocities against their opponents, who are part of the same tribal society. The Salwa Judum has recently been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India, which has ordered the state and Central governments to disarm and disband these SPOs. However, that notwithstanding, the historical fact is that insurgency can only be combated by indigenous forces, whether by the Sunni awakening in Iraq or the Punjab police in India. There is no real alternative in Chhattisgarh too, where it is the successful utilisation of indigenous tribal auxiliaries which holds the key to success.
The Chhattisgarh police is under staffed and overstretched. In this context, the Army's presence in Chhattisgarh can perhaps most effectively and imaginatively if the state government agrees to allow it to intensively train and mentor the Chhattisgarh police, along with the entire structure of tribal SPO auxiliaries, to function under tight control against insurgents in an effective but acceptable manner. It is not by any means easily achievable, given the political and administrative forces at play in that troubled state — political and police leadership are always sensitive to issues of turf.
The Chhattisgarh government and its chief minister have displayed the most hard-line anti-Naxal attitude, as manifested in the Salwa Judum and the case of social activist Dr Binayak Sen, all perhaps inevitable considering the terrible hatred and bitterness the conflict has generated. Dr Sen's case demonstrates that this attitude has permeated even to the higher judiciary in the state. Dr Sen could ultimately obtain relief by approaching the Supreme Court, away from the jurisdiction of the state. The state has always demanded the deployment and involvement of the Army against the Naxalites, which is one reason the training areas near Abujmarh were so readily allotted, and it is expected that the clamour for military involvement in the Naxalite problem will now increase.
The Army finds itself in the position of a ballerina dancing in combat boots, treading warily between the minefields of IEDs and civil rights. But the Army has also made its rules of engagement clear — it is not a sitting duck; if fired upon, it will fire back.

The author is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

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THE ASIAN AGE

NO TRAINS TO SAFETY

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

The Kalka Mail's tragedy holds sharp personal anguish for someone who was brought up on the railways in another age of travelling in comfort and security. Sunday afternoon's derailment in Uttar Pradesh might possibly be due to sabotage (like that of the Guwahati-Puri Express the same day) but my instincts say this is yet another consequence of the mismanagement that marks an India that is trundling to the moon in a creaking bullock cart packed with diseased and undernourished people.

Great things are being done for India but not for Indians. The impermanence to which the permanent way — nearly 65,000 km of track — is being reduced matters more than 2G and Commonwealth Games scams or the fuss over a Lokpal.
It was with a stab of pain that I read amidst harrowing tales of death and suffering that the derailed train has fallen to fourth place in the pecking order. Time was when no train in Kolkata was grander than the Delhi Mail which went on to Kalka. As a child, I looked on it with awe for a very personal reason — my father's saloon couldn't be attached to it; he wasn't an important enough railway official to add to the length and weight of a train that had sped the viceroy to Shimla. The main platform at Howrah used to be ablaze with the movers and shakers of the world when the Kalka Mail with its smart dining car run by Kellner (Spencer handled catering on southern routes) set out for Delhi each evening.
That august train now follows humbly in the wake of upstarts of the railroad like the Rajdhani and Duronto and Poorva Expresses. The Rajdhani certainly isn't half as splendid as the Kalka Mail used to be. Its downfall probably began unnoticed when the original sitting room was lopped off. Recently, I had to take it from Patna, and noticed how my first class airconditioned coupe was only a stark box of splintering plywood without many of the fittings (wash basin, wardrobe, etc.) that had been there only a few years ago. One might argue that a stark wooden box can move just as smoothly and safely on the rails as the viceregal saloon used to, but if trains have been so downgraded, it's likely that so have the rails and supporting infrastructure.
Each new political adventurer who bags the railway portfolio only seeks personal fame and a place in posterity by adding a new train. That is all that public life in India is about nowadays. It's the same in the professions, even in my own trade of stringing words together. Everyone is selling something and that something is himself (or herself). Only, railway ministers do it at the cost of public life and safety. Lal Bahadur Shastri was the only incumbent to have had the decency to acknowledge that. The others are out for what they can get.
"I am the minister of state, not the railway minister," Mukul Roy is quoted as saying after Sunday's calamity. "I will go to the spot if the PM tells me." The remark betrayed his discontent at not being given Cabinet rank and his anxiety for an opportunity to push himself to the notice of Manmohan Singh and, even better, Sonia Gandhi. Why else should he bother with loss of life and property? It's not his life or his property! Perhaps Mr Roy had already got wind of the rumour — now reported as fact — that like a medieval empress rewarding subservient courtiers, Mamata Banerjee has decided to bestow the portfolio not on him but on Dinesh Trivedi.
Trains were always on time in a childhood spent in railway colonies when we were not romping in a saloon shunted in the sidings in some distant station or in retiring rooms with the knowledge that a good restaurant with khansamas in crisply beplumed turbans and gleaming brass medallions was available just down the stairs. The last time I had to spend a night in a retiring room was in Arrah because I was visiting the Sonepur fair in the 1970s. The bed linen was so filthy that I reclined all night in a long cane planter's chair. I should imagine that handsome piece of teak has either been chopped up for firewood or graces some official's residence.
Trains were on time because engines were well maintained, the tracks perfectly in order with sleepers and fish plates so spaced as to cause the minimum bumps, and no signalman was ever caught napping on his watch. It would offend his izzat and there was no greater insult than that. It was fascinating to watch the signalman at the end of the platform deftly fling the wire ring to the engine driver who caught and flung it back with equal adroitness. The exchange signalled the all-clear.
The inspector in his sola topee on a trolley wheeling along the track under blazing skies or in torrential rain was another indicator of the importance attached to safety. Four bearers pushed and pulled the platform for a while and then jumped on it to remain seated while the momentum lasted. The trolley's smooth passage ensured that the train following had nothing to fear from missing segments of track, worn-out sleepers, loose fishplate screws or other dangers. The sola-hatted inspector and his bearers literally put their lives on the line for passengers.
Maoism has come as a tremendous boon. The consequences of substandard material (everyone takes a cut on every purchase), shoddy workmanship, poor maintenance and negligent inspection can be blamed on saboteurs. What would all our public services do without those armed rebels? It recalls the principality of Monaco cabling Paris after the end of the Second World War asking for some Communists. Monaco didn't qualify for Marshall Aid otherwise.
It's a hell of a way to run a railroad, as the old American saying goes. It's also a hell of a way to run a country.

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray is a senior journalist, columnist and author

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THE ASIAN AGE

LIFTING THE SIEGE

K.C.SINGH

What should be the role of media in a democracy? In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the question during his commiseration with five editors on June 29, remarking that their profession has become "the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge". This way, he concluded, "no parliamentary democracy can function.

" In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron bemoaned the modern political culture of over-reliance on media against the background of the arrest of Andy Coulson, his director of communications who has been with his party since 2007, for suspected complicity in phone-hacking and bribery earlier as editor of the tabloid News of the World.

Both Prime Ministers were off the mark. While Dr Singh overlooked the fact that the Indian media was responding to a moral vacuum generated during the seven-year rule of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and laissez faire decision-making by its Cabinet members, particularly those from coalition partners, Mr Cameron was overlooking his party's Faustian bargain with Murdoch i.e. political endorsement in exchange for future business support. Media is, after all, both a business as well as democracy's lifeblood, because it holds those in power accountable, keeps the electorate informed and the markets under scrutiny. NBC's Andrea Mitchell correctly surmised that "politicians always say they want a fair press, when what they really want is a positive press".

The media's role, historically, has oscillated in relation to the nature of political leadership, existence or breakdown of national cohesion on vital issues — domestic or foreign, and the infusion of new technologies. If television in the West compelled print media in the 1970s to adapt, merge or perish, then the same occurred in India three decades later. Today, however, the role of Internet in news dissemination and the innovative rise of Twitter, Facebook and Google are impacting globally simultaneously. India is both bucking the trend, as newspaper readership is still expanding, and yet conforming as seen in the expansion of television news, with over 80 of the 500-plus satellite channels devoted to it.

To assess if investigative journalism is good or bad for democracy it would be useful to turn to the US, an older democracy and a global power. In the early 1970s, the US presidency came under the sort of attack that the Indian Prime Minister is bemoaning now. The publication of the Pentagon Papers, a history of the war in Vietnam, in the New York Times beginning June 1971 and the Watergate revelations by the Washington Post in 1973, about illegal phone-tapping of political rivals, set the stage for the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. By 1975, the public mood swung the other way. David Rockefeller financed a Trilateral Commission, under Samuel Huntington, to study whether the US had "an excess of democracy" and also if "the development of television journalism contributed to the undermining of government authority". As it turned out, from 1981, President Ronald Reagan's accession to power set the stage for a harmonious, if not collaborative, relationship with the media. Mark Hertsgaard in his masterly 1988 book, On Bended Knee, analyses how success depended partly on Reagan's likeability, and partly on his ability to perform to a script in a radio trained voice, but above all on the deftness of his handlers.

In India, too, Prime Ministers' media relations have had their highs and lows. Nehru the patrician ignored aides and media barons. Indira Gandhi cultivated individual editors, treating the beast with disdain, calculating that her constituency was beyond the English press. Imposition of Emergency and press censorship in 1975 rested on similar logic. Rajiv Gandhi, idolised in the first two years, found in 1987 his worshippers turning into inquisitors over Bofors, the Postal Bill and a Muslim woman's alimony. The reformist Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, to whom India owes its current global rise, came unsought and left unheralded. Erudite but taciturn, exuding knowledge but without charisma or charm, for the press he was Chanakya masquerading as king.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was India's Ronald Reagan. Both got power two decades too late. Despite being consummate public communicators, both rarely came close to the camera. The former clammed up on seeing one; the latter tended to commit gaffes when off-script. One survived Kargil, a damning intelligence failure, turning it into electoral success; the other lurched into the Iran-Contra imbroglio, yet surviving with his ratings intact.

The media, thus, does not undermine democracy, nor does investigative journalism. It inconveniences ruling parties, sometimes even ousts governments. The antidote is synchronisation of a government's political and media strategies; continuous and coherent briefing by designated spokespersons (not party interlopers); and maintaining of a firewall between bureaucracy, which can do background briefing or on-record statements, and the ministers, who must defend policy.
Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao's recent television interview that Pakistan's stance on terror has changed, contradicted later by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, alleging Inter-Service Intelligence's hand in journalist Shahzad's death, and that despite the recent Nuclear Suppliers Group rules amendment India had counter-leverages, are statements best left to politicians to tackle.

The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POPPY CULTURE

 

Reports of increase in poppy cultivation in some parts of the valley, especially in some villages in Pulwama district of South Kashmir are alarming. Poppy is used for making drugs for which there is a big international market. Previously, it was grown sparingly and only opium was obtained from it and used for medicinal purposes. But when the market for drugs worldwide flourished, poppy cultivation became a lucrative pursuit which can yield 60 to 70 per cent more than what ordinary agricultural crop can yield. That is the reason why farmers got attracted to it.

Drug addiction is gripping the youth of our state. Drugs menace spread in the valley with the rise of militancy two decades ago. Pakistani terrorists are usually trained in many terrorist camps in Pakistan's NWFP bordering on Afghanistan. That country is world's number one poppy cultivation destination, and the Afghans have been earning billions of dollars through drug trafficking. Those Pakistani militants brought with them the drugs and made their local Kashmiri accomplices addicted to it. This was the beginning of induction of drug culture into Kashmir. Unfortunately, the pro-militancy elements in Kashmir did not pay any attention to this debilitating social evil, and whenever it was brought to their notice, they brushed it aside labeling it Indian propaganda. But when drug trafficking began to assume serious proportions, the police swung into action and found that many farmers in South Kashmir had converted their paddy producing and well irrigated farms into poppy producing ones. The returns were several times more and the money came in bulk.

Drug trafficking has international ramifications because it is the international market that has caused high rise in its price and marketing system. Much of heroin produced in Asian countries is shifted to Western countries. Poppy cultivation became the mainstay of Taliban economy whose legions made Afghan farmers cultivate poppy in vast stretches under the shadow of gun. Several provinces of Afghanistan like Helmand and Nangarhar are known worldwide for their huge poppy cultivation. The business has brought in most modern methods and machinery of making highly concentrated drugs out of poppy. Then there are definite channels across the Central Asian and Russian regions for transportation of drugs to European markets. As the drug trade flourished, it also gave rise to state and non state mafia. Armed gangsters involved in the trade kept vigil along the transportation routes, most of them circuitous, and even when need arose they took to shooting and killing of those who intercepted them and tried to bust the mafia.

Kashmir poppy cultivation is also linked to this international drug mafia. Many a time state police has confiscated consignments of drugs within the borders of the state as these were intended for onward transshipment to European countries. Thus as a preventive measure the state police is reported to have destroyed at least 200 kanals of land somewhere in South Kashmir during this year's anti drug operations. The new poppy crop will be ready sometime in September and if the government is serious, it must act now to identify the locales and destroy the dreaded product. But that is not enough. The government shall have to frame stringent laws for poppy cultivation and unless exemplary punishment is given to the cultivators and their conduits, the menace is not going to be brought under control. With Srinagar airport being converted into international airport the apprehension of drug trafficking, directly between Srinagar and the foreign destinations has a fair chance of exacerbation. It has also to be reminded that being a very lucrative trade in which huge cash is transacted the government has to ensure that Enforcement staff performs its duty honestly and efficiently. A survey of international drug trafficking crime has revealed large scale involvement of Enforcement officials in the dirty trade. Of late some drug consignments have been hauled up by the police authorities at the border town of Lakhanpur in Jammu. It may be a small incident but has serious potentiality of escalating into a virtual drug mafia. The government's duty is to nip the evil in the bud

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NATIONAL CONSENSUS

 

The proposition of "national consensus" for solving Kashmir problem is a gimmick likely to be ignored by those for whom it is invented. Harping on Kashmir as a tripartite issue or bringing in Pakistan as a party everywhere and anywhere in public addresses has become an obsession with the party in opposition. Every week or fortnight, one or the other suggestion comes for making Pakistan a partner in the issue. Everybody knows well that the purpose is not to find a viable solution but to keep the pot boiling and thereby endear themselves to the dissident groups and ensure political survival. The "national consensus" on Kashmir is one that was expressed by the Parliament of India in a unanimous resolution in 1994 wherein it re-affirmed country's ability and the will to take back the part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan. This unanimous decision has been reiterated individually as well by almost all mainstream political parties in the country. Those creating the bogey of impending crisis in the region owing to "non resolution of Kashmir problem" know they have no takers. The impression that in Pakistan elected government has established control over the Army and the ISI is simply ridiculous. The civilian government in Pakistan exists on the goodwill of the Army hour by hour. And the civil government has said in no ambiguous terms that it is not able to control the non-state actors meaning jihadis who are taking a heavy toll of civilian life day in and day out. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made an apt and timely suggestion to Pakistan to forget Kashmir and address her domestic problems escalating with each passing hour. Three wars with India plus the ongoing proxy war have not yielded Kashmir to Pakistan. All that it yielded is the painful loss of thousands of innocent Kashmiris. The national consensus is that militancy should be curbed in Kashmir with an iron hand; all focus should mount on development of the State, opening avenues for employment of the youth and increasing the level of life of ordinary people. For this purpose it was the national consensus that desired allocation of 6600 crore rupees for the State's annual plan 2011-12 plus 2000 cores from Prime Ministers Fund and many more thousand crore from various central departments and agencies to boost State's economy. Those raising the bogy of impending crisis in the region know that their rhetoric has no takers and the day is not far off when even this rhetoric will die down just because the coalition Government is making steady progress in delivery system.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

MPLADS IS A SWINDLING SCHEME

BY INDRANIL BANERJEA

The Union Government notified on July 8 an increase in the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD) fund from the existing Rs. 2 crore a year to Rs. 5 crore a year for each MP. This will involve an extra annual expenditure of Rs. 3,950 crore. At the same time, the finance minister indicated the Government would formulate tougher norms for the scheme. Many audit reports have shown a need to plug loopholes.

The Left parties were critical of this increase and, instead, wanted to end the scheme altogether as it was against the spirit of the panchayati raj system. Why should an individual decide what is to be done for development in an area? The other MPs across party lines welcomed it.

On the loopholes in usage of MPLAD money, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India have been giving adverse report year after year.

The Left parties had opposed the scheme at its inception in 1993. The telecom minister Kapil Sibal said, "There is no question of good or bad. The intent is certainly that we spread the benefit of the MPLAD scheme to the aam admi and I hope that objective is achieved.

The MPLADS started with a provision of Rs.50 lakhs per constituency to enable MPs to implement small capital works in their constituencies. The outlay was increased to Rs.1 crore in 1994-95 and to Rs.2 crore in 1998-99. The Ninth Report (December 2001) of the Lok Sabha Committee on MPLADS recommended increasing the quota "at least Rs.5 crores" in view of "the phenomenal cost escalation of every item of day-to-day life". The budgetary grants for this scheme from 1993-94 to 2009-2010 totalled Rs. 84, 946 crore.

The main features of the Scheme are that an MP can recommend works in his constituency to the district collectors or commissioners who will get them completed through the implementing agencies of the State Governments. The works shall involve creation of durable assets for public use. The ownership of the assets should vest in the Government. The works to be recommended by MPs are subject to the guidelines prescribed.

The scheme suffers from serious defects. First, it contravenes the spirit and letter of the Constitution in so far as it affects the distribution of powers in the federal set-up, as it negates parliamentary control over the Executive and distorts the role of MPs. Second, the administrative ministry had not evolved so far a satisfactory financial procedure, leading to serious violation of every norm of audit and accountability.

When Parliament sanctions grants for certain projects, it is for the administrative ministry concerned to implement the works subject to the directions and rules prescribed. If there is any failure on the part of Government, it is for Parliament and its committee system to fix responsibility and take remedial measures. Instead of strengthening the supervisory role of MPs, the MPLADS involves them "in the entire system of implement and completion of project works" and makes them "participate directly in the administrative work of the country". By his participation directly in the administrative system, the MP loses his constitutional authority and ability to control the administrative ministries, at least in respect of expenditures incurred under the Scheme.

The grants are given under the Union Budget to the MPLADS which forms part of "Central Assistance to state plans". Thus, the constituency funds to the MPs are merely diversion of funds earmarked for the respective states. While the services of district collectors and the implementing agencies of the states are utilised for completion of work under the scheme, the guidelines do not allow any payment to the states for the services rendered. The State Governments have to bear such expenses over and above depletion of the Central assistance due to them.

The ministry of planning and programme implementation is responsible for the overall supervision and budgetary control of the scheme. When the Audit took up in 2008-2009 scrutiny of the performance of the scheme, it found that the ministry had not done any book keeping -- it was unable even to give particulars of year-wise release of funds of the district heads and the expenditure incurred. The audit had to approach the state agencies in this regard.

In Para 3, the 2009 audit report observed: "The Central Government transfers the funds for scheme directly to the District Collectors. These funds do not lapse at the end of the financial year. The usual checks and balances, which automatically become applicable to Government expenditure when Government expenditure flows from normal state budgetary route, do not, therefore, apply in the administration of the MPLADS funds. It was necessary for the ministry to have devised appropriate accounting procedures at the stage of formulation of the scheme itself."

The object of establishment of the scheme was to remove maladministration and creeping corruption in execution of works by the Government. Instead, direct participation of MPs in implementation of the works has distorted the entire system of administrative responsibility and legislative control.

The Audit Reports found innumerable irregularities - 7,211, works had been sanctioned by district collectors without proper recommendations from the MPs concerned; 3405 works were allowed by the district collectors without the requisite technical sanction and administrative approval. The 2009 Report pointed that the district collectors did not get utilisation certificates in 11,915 works, forming 70 per cent of 16,978 works completed. These findings were the outcome of sample audits in 111 constituencies for a period of three years. If a thorough scrutiny of all the projects in all the constituencies for the 10- years were to be conducted, the irregularities revealed could be of mind-boggling proportions.

There was a suggestion in the Second Report of the Rajya Sabha Committee (2009) for setting up a separate cell in the Union ministry to monitor the progress of the projects under MPLADS. To this, the ministry sent a reply: "As Department of Statistics & Programme Implementation, Ministry of Planning and Implementation, has been provided with skeletal staff, it is not possible to set up a separate cell to monitor the progress of the projects taken under MPLADS."

Do we have a Parliament that controls the ministry or a ministry that dictates terms to the Parliamentary Committees? It is a pity that the scheme involving Rs. 3,950 crore of investment will be managed -- or mismanaged -- by a ministry that has no commitment to financial responsibility and administrative accountability.

There appears to be a strange dissonance between objective and implementation. It would be pertinent to recall the findings of the Era Sezhiyan committee, a damning indictment of the scheme that has over the years made a mockery of the founding principles. Almost every rule in the book has been violated. Projects worth crores have been entrusted by MPs to private contractors despite directives to the contrary.

The fundamental stipulation that MPs will have to get the work done by implementing agencies, appointed by the State Government, has been almost uniformly flouted. Continuity has been disrupted and projects abandoned whenever a constituency has elected a new MP. Funds have even been diverted for loans and grants and for construction of places of worship, notably in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Most of the contracts were given to relatives of MPs for monetary benefits. And MPLADS is out and out swindling scheme. (INAV)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BIO-DIESEL – AN ECO-FRIENDLY FUEL

BY TARIT MUKHERJEE

As our lifestyles become more 'developed' by the day, so does the damage we do to the environment. Our every move, from watching television, to working at a computer, to taking a flight to our favourite holiday destination harms the environment in one way or the other. Air and water pollution levels are increasing world over by the day. Never before has the need to use alternative resources, such as wind, solar and nuclear energy been so high.

India is one of the largest petroleum consuming and importing countries. India imports about 70 % of its petroleum demands. The current yearly consumption of diesel oil in India is approximately 40 million tones constituting about 40% of the total petro-product consumption. Bio-diesel can be the major replacement in terms of petro-product consumption by India which is eco-friendly too.

Bio-diesel is a clean burning, eco-friendly natural fuel obtained from tree born oil by a chemical transformation process called "Transesterification" carried out in a chemical processing plant. Transesterification is an age old chemical process and is a time tested method of transforming vegetable oils or fats into bio-diesel.

Bio-diesel is a bio-fuel produced from various feedstock's' including vegetable oils (such as oilseed, rapeseed and Soya bean), animal fats or algae. Bio-diesel can be blended with diesel for use in diesel engine vehicles. Bio-fuel – The term bio-fuel applies to any solid, liquid, or gaseous fuel produced from organic (once-living) matter. The word bio-fuel covers a wide range of products, some of which are commercially available today, and some of which are still in research and development. Bio-diesel is a fuel made from plant oils that can be used in a conventional diesel engine.

Bio-diesel, derived from the oils and fats of plants like sunflower, rape seeds, Canola or Jatropha (Bhagveranda) can be used as a substitute or an additive to diesel. As an alternative fuel bio-diesel can provide power similar to conventional diesel fuel and thus can be used in diesel engines. Bio-diesel is a renewable liquid fuel that can be produced locally thus helping reduce the country's dependence on imported crude petroleum diesel.

Bio-diesel is a safe alternative fuel to replace traditional petroleum diesel. It has high-lubricity, is a clean-burning fuel and can be a fuel component for use in existing, unmodified diesel engines. This means that no retrofits are necessary when using bio-diesel fuel in any diesel powered combustion engine. It is the only alternative fuel that offers such convenience. Bio-diesel acts like petroleum diesel, but produces less air pollution, comes from renewable sources, is biodegradable and is safer for the environment. Producing bio-diesel fuels can help create local economic revitalization and local environmental benefits. Many groups interested in promoting the use of bio-diesel already exist at the local, state and national level.

Bio-diesel is not harmful to the environment. A vehicle tends to pollute the environment and emits harmful gasses, if injected with HSD whereas if the engine is using bio-diesel it emits no harmful gasses rather keeps the environment pollution free. Bio-diesel may not require an engine modification. Bio-diesel can be blended with diesel so as to improve the efficiency of the engine without any hassles. Bio-diesel is cheap. Any Vehicle using Bio-diesel has very low idle starting noise. It is noted that bio-diesel has a Cetane number of over 100. Cetane number is used to measure the quality of the fuel's ignition. Bio-diesel is cost effective because it is produced locally.

As it is easy to use, bio-diesel can be used in existing engines, vehicles and infrastructure with practically no changes. Bio-diesel can be pumped, stored and burned just like petroleum diesel fuel, and can be used pure, or in blends with petroleum diesel fuel in any proportion. Power and fuel economy using bio-diesel is practically identical to petroleum diesel fuel, and year round operation can be achieved by blending with diesel fuel.

Bio-diesel provides significantly reduced emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, unburned hydrocarbons, and sulfates compared to petroleum diesel fuel. Additionally, bio-diesel reduces emissions of carcinogenic compounds by as much as 85% compared with petro-diesel. When blended with petroleum diesel fuel, these emissions reductions are generally directly proportional to the amount of bio-diesel in the blend.

The existence of low volatility nature of bio-diesel, makes it easier and safe to handle than petroleum. The danger of accidental ignition increases when the fuel is being stored, transported, or transferred because of high energy content in all liquid fuels. The possibility of having an accidental ignition is related to the temperature at which the fuel will create enough vapors to ignite, known as the flash point temperature. The lower the flash point of a fuel is, the lower the temperature at which the fuel can form a combustible mixture. Bio-diesel has a flash point of over 26600F, meaning it cannot form a combustible mixture until it is heated well above the boiling point of water.

The resources that are used to produce Bio-diesel are locally available. The in-house production of Bio-diesel provides host of economic benefits for the local communities. Therefore, bio-diesel is a safe alternative fuel to replace traditional petroleum diesel.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

BLACK MONEY NAILED BY APEX COURT

BY DR P K VASUDEVA

The whole nation has admired the Order of Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and Surinder Singh Nijjar, extending to 67 pages and 80 paragraphs, passed on July 4, 2011 on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Messrs Ram Jethmalani and others, demanding stringent action against Indian nationals who had stashed illegally unaccounted money in foreign banks and tax havens. The Bench also ordered the disclosure of the names and other particulars concerning such persons and their accounts.

It is one of the most historic verdicts that has not only done great justice to the issues of black money, but is also a masterly treatise on the duties and obligations of the state and the parameters determining the quality of governance and the inescapable imperatives of transparency and accountability to which elected governments in a democracy are required to conform. It is estimated that India has the largest numbers of account holders who have illegally stashed trillions of dollars of ill gotten black money in foreign banks.

The Order of the apex court gives a disturbing account of all the instances of tardiness by the Government in unearthing black money and its willingness to turn a blind eye to the glaring malfeasance of the gangs involved in the government and other public service personalities (criminals). The Order also shows the Government in poor governance in handling the much-needed black money within and out side the country that points a finger towards the present rulers. It is one of the most scathing attacks on the present government for dilly-dallying the issue.

The Court orders: "Depending on the volume of such monies, and the number of incidents through which such monies are generated and secreted away, it may very well reveal the degree of softness of the state."

The Order goes beyond this to enquire whether India is also becoming a failed state. Its quotation from Director, Programme on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Robert Rothberg's book, "When states fail: Causes and Consequences" brought out by Princeton University, dwells on the features of a failed state, which are remarkably similar to those present in the country: Unparalleled economic opportunity confined to a privileged few, hand-in-glove with the ruling oligarchy; conspicuous absence of the Government's responsibility to maximise the well-being and prosperity of all its citizens; and flourishing corruption - petty and "lubricating," on one side, and uncontrollably escalating on an unusually destructive scale, on the other.

The impression left in the minds of the people by the findings of the Bench on the conduct of the Government and its investigative and enforcement agencies like Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), insofar as black money is concerned, is that of their having been negligent of their duties and deficiency in service under the Constitution. This is one of the reasons that Jan Lokpal Bill has not been passed in the Parliament for the last 60 years. The doubts are still raised if the Bill will be passed in the near future despite agitations by the civil society.

The Supreme Court actually gives blunt expression to its worry on "the extent of (systemic) incapacities …as well as (those) of ethical nature, (which) go to the very heart of, (and run a foul of), constitutional imperatives of governance". It minces no words while pointing out that "the lack of seriousness in the efforts of (the Government) is contrary to the requirements of laws and its constitutional obligations….(It) clearly indicates a compromise of the ability of the state to manage its affairs in consonance with what is required from a constitutional perspective…. A substantial degree of incapacity, in the above respect, would be an indicia of the degree of failure of the state".

In essence, the picture emerging from the Order is of the Government's failure to discharge its functions in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution. If similar situation had arisen in respect of a State, it would have led to the imposition of the President Rule.

The Supreme Court's Order setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) with retired Supreme Court Judges as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and directing the Government to disclose to the petitioners the names and nature of the action taken, except in regard to investigations which are yet to be completed, can only mean a well-deserved verdict of lack of confidence in the bona fides of the Government which, one regrets to say, has brought it all on itself by its omissions and commissions.

On the whole, the decision has made not only the nation but also the Supreme Court proud. The nation feels a sigh of relief that the truth will come out now and the economy of the nation will be given a big boost once trillions of dollars illegally stashed in the foreign banks is brought back to the exchequer and the future movement of black money taken out of the country will stop once and forever.

Let us hope that the SIT will get full cooperation from the Centre and State Governments for unearthing the illegally stashed peoples' wealth in foreign countries.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SAFETY MUST TOP RAIL AGENDA

THERE'S NEED FOR FIXING ACCOUNTABILITY

 

It was the worst train accident in recent years that occurred on Sunday involving the Kalka Mail in Fatehpur district, near Lucknow, resulting in the death of a large number of people and injuries to over 100. Far away from UP, another rail mishap was reported from Kamrup district in Assam when four coaches of the Gauwahati-Puri Express got derailed, leading to injuries to 50 persons. These were not the only train accidents that have occurred this year. Such incidents were reported in January, April and May also. No one knows if accountability was fixed and any guilty railway employee was punished. Somebody somewhere is definitely responsible for what happens on the railway tracks. Those who board trains do so to reach their destinations, and not to lose their lives in the manner the unlucky Kalka Mail passengers did.

 

The authorities looking after the functioning of the Indian Railways may take comfort from the available statistics, which say that in terms of per million route kilometres, India has the lowest number of train accidents in the world. But the number of lives lost is the highest in this country. Keeping these figures aside, one must remember that such an explanation cannot absolve the railways of its primary responsibility of ensuring the safety of train passengers. In a country where trains are the most preferred mode of transport, there should be no compromise on the safety aspect.

 

The Indian Railways needs a full-fledged and efficient minister who does not use this vast department for promoting his or her political interests. It needs to be saved from leaders like Ms Mamata Banerjee and Mr Lalu Yadav. Now that Ms Banerjee has resigned as Railway Minister after becoming the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should look for someone who can understand the railways' problems and responsibilities. It is not enough to introduce new trains and provide rail services in the areas which have remained left out so far. Rail tracks and overbridges should be maintained properly and there should no delay in carrying out the needed repairs. Passenger safety should be on top of the railway agenda.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SUBSIDY PHASE-OUT

HP ADDRESSES A SCHOOL GROUSE

 

Of late, hundreds of new private schools have mushroomed in the country, including in Himachal Pradesh. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier situation when the schools were so scarce that the government used to subsidise some of them heavily. With the passage of time, this practice had degenerated into a pick and choose instance of favouritism, causing a lot of heartburn. Even courts had demanded an equitable distribution of the subsidy. The Himachal Pradesh government has taken a step in that direction by approving a policy for the takeover of government-aided private schools, which were receiving 95 per cent of the salaries as grant. The reform will hopefully help in removing the various aberrations and distortions.

 

There are only 40 such schools, which receive Rs 11.50 crore as grant from the government. The managements of 19 schools have consented to hand over both assets and liabilities and these schools can now be run by the government, thereby ending the dual control. The rest of the schools being run by well-known chains have reservations about transferring the assets. In their case, only the staff will be taken over and after that the institutions will not be eligible for any further grants from the government.

 

The government will be free from the burden of the grants. Plus, at one go, it will get several hundred experienced teachers who can be employed elsewhere, while the schools will go in for fresh recruitments. However, the move may lead to a sharp increase in the fee structures in some private schools, which will be hard on parents. A similar controversy had arisen in the case of Shimla's famous St Bede's College recently, where too there was a major upward revision of fee. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

DEMISE OF A NEWSPAPER

PAYING THE PRICE FOR SENSATIONALISM

 

A tabloid that failed to live up to its creed, "Our motto is the truth, our practice is fearless advocacy of the truth", has been shut down by its owner in an effort to contain damage to his media empire. It had history —168 years of it; readership of 7.4 million which made it the biggest-selling English-language Sunday newspaper in the world, and was the first British newspaper acquired by the media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 1969. The paper's old formula of sensationalism and sex, which had earned it a certain reputation for scurrilousness, had a new patron in Murdoch and the tabloid attracted more and more readers, and thus circulation figures soared.

 

Instead of reporting scandals, The News of the World itself has been the focus of a growing scandal, as it faces an investigation into phone hacking of individuals, perhaps thousands of them, allegedly conducted at the paper's behest, through a private investigator. The hacking of voicemail messages of murder victims and their families, and the relatives of London 7/7 London bombings have particularly angered the British public. The newspaper has apologised for intercepting voicemails between 2004 and 2006, but its executives and editors are facing a fresh investigation. Even as the paper is shuttered, the investigation goes on, and the political fallout is likely to impact the Murdoch media empire that controls 37 per cent of Britain's newspaper circulation. It is increasingly clear that senior executives lost perspective and instead of looking for truth, became purveyors of information that would make headlines, without giving much thought to human emotions and values.

 

The conduct of executives at The News of the World brings into sharp focus the pitfalls of not paying enough attention to means and bothering only about the ends. While Britain will continue to debate the controversial decision to shut down the paper and the transgressions of its staff, some of whom have been arrested, the fall of this tabloid is a cautionary tale for all those who stray from journalistic norms and practices and seek sensationalism over substance.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

PAKISTAN'S CONFESSIONS

INDIA SHOULDN'T GO SLOW ON DEFENCE MODERNIZATION

BY LT-GEN HARWANT SINGH (RETD)

 

The Pakistan Defence Minister in a recent statement has acknowledged that his country just cannot match India in defence capabilities. This, it is argued, is due to the vast difference in the GDP and foreign trade of the two countries, etc. But these essential constraints have never held back Pakistan from not only attempting to achieve parity with India in defence capabilities but also to constantly needle this country.

 

Pakistan, following the policy of beg, borrow and steal, has all along tried to maintain parity in defence capabilities vis-a-vis India. In the 1965 war it fielded larger and the then latest fleet of tanks as compared to India. In infantry and artillery, India's edge was only marginal and that too because India was able to withdraw troops from the Tibet border due to winter conditions there. India brought about destruction of Pakistan armour and came out on top through some luck and, to an extent, due to superior generalship. In 1971, too, India was able to shift the troops deployed against Tibet to the plains due to the harsh weather conditions, but this is less likely to happen again.

 

Notwithstanding this statement from the Pakistan minister, recent reports indicate that it is striving hard to acquire parity with India in nuclear weapons capability and missile technology as also in many other defence-related areas. Its attempts to develop tactical nuclear weapons is an area of much concern for India. As long as the Pakistani security establishment retains control over the social and economic fabric of that nation, peace between the two neighbours will be tenuous, and there will be sustained attempts to achieve balance in military capabilities. Therefore, this assertion by a Pakistani political leader, perhaps to lull India to sleep, needs to be taken with more than a pinch of salt, and calls for a closer look and reality check.

 

This balance which Pakistan continues to strive to achieve is against only those elements of Indian defence forces that get deployed on its Western front. The understanding and some sort of secret defence pact between China and Pakistan gives the latter assurance that India will not be able to shift troops deployed against Tibet to its Western front, even if there are no hostilities across the Himalayas. With Indian defence budget pegged at below 2 per cent of the GDP and Pakistan to contend with only one part of the Indian forces (those deployed on the Western front), there is not much difficulty for Pakistan to achieve near parity with India, especially when China is there to extend all the help. Increasingly Pakistan is becoming a vassal of China. Of the 20 billion dollar aid that Pakistan received from the US during the last 10 years, much of it has been used for acquiring military hardware.

 

Pakistan continues to acquire sophisticated weaponry from France — notably, eight upgraded Mirage III and Mirage V combat aircraft. France is also supplying Pakistan with new diesel submarines. The first was commissioned in late 1999, with two more being built under licence in Karachi. Over all, Pakistan is making efforts to build a strong navy to interdict the supply of fuel to India from West Asia if such a need arises. Building of a naval base at the mouth of the Straight of Hurmoz (Gwadar naval base) has to be seen towards creating such a capability.

 

Pakistan manufactures its own tanks and is now trying to upgrade these to the level of tanks recently bought from Ukraine. This is essentially to counter India's import of T-90 tanks from Russia. In the face of India's growing military arsenal, Pakistan is seeking to enlarge and modernise its forces too.

 

Pakistan has been beneficiary of defence largesse from the United States and, of late, from China as well. Because of this there has been less outgo of finances for the purchase of military equipment as compared to India. Import of nuclear and missile technology came free to Pakistan with little or no expenditure on its indigenous development. China has also set up defence units in Pakistan.

 

Islamabad's policy now appears to be to have sufficiently strong forces to inflict heavy casualties on any attacker. At the same time, it relies upon its nuclear forces to deter an aggressor in the first place, but would threaten their use to stall the aggressor from bringing about total defeat of its military or a deep thrust into that country. Further, in any future conflict, China may not remain a bystander and vice versa.

 

Though Pakistan is a factor to be taken into reckoning, India's chief strategic concern will have to be China. Therefore, unless Pakistan needlessly needles India, it should have no worry about Indian defence forces posing any threat to that country.

 

As far as India is concerned, in a worst case scenario, it has to contend with hostilities on two fronts, with either both getting activated or active hostilities on one front and 'stand off' on the other. The induction of Chinese troops in the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan is a new factor in this India-China-Pakistan triangle.

 

While India need not take the statement of Pakistan's Defence Minister seriously, it has to draw up plans to build adequate military capabilities on the one hand and on the other how best to meet the challenges of a possible war on two fronts.

 

A conflict on two fronts is easier contemplated than conducted. It was the bane of the German General Staff for half a century across two World Wars with no workable solution in sight. On both occasions the war ended with disastrous consequences for Germany, because it strived for victory on both fronts. In the Indian context, the problems of a war on two fronts is far more complex, even if one is to discount the difficulties in the North east. Here, therefore, lies a major lesson for Indian strategists who talk, rather lightly, of war on two fronts and are striving to work out a strategic concept to meet such a situation.

 

It would be wrong to examine Indian defence capabilities in relation to Pakistan alone. As an emerging economic power on the world stage, it has to have matching military capabilities whereby it can extend its area of influence over the entire region of its interest and to ensure peace and tranquillity in this space. It should be able to keep the sea-lanes free from interference from hostile navies for free flow of goods and energy needs of the countries in the region and its own. India also has to protect the country's offshore assets and island territories.

 

Though it has become fashionable these days to discuss soft power as a stand-alone influential entity which by itself can further national interest, nothing could be more wrong. One of India's former Ministers of Sate for Foreign Affairs has been advocating that India should project its soft power in the form of Indian food, culture, classical dances, etc, and that by itself should suffice!

 

Soft power by itself is of no consequence. It becomes valuable only when it forms an extension of the hard power of a country in the projection of a viable policy. This is best explained if we look at the example of the U S; the most successful exponent of soft power.

 

A strong military capability is needed to ensure that the country's vital interests are not jeopardized, its area of influence does not shrink, its water resources are not high-jacked, and external powers do not disturb internal peace and tranquillity and gain a foothold in the states on the periphery of India's borders.n

 

The writer is a former Deputy Chief of Army Staff.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MATERNAL SAGACITY

BY S.D. ANAND

 

There is a marked difference between a confession made before the Lord in the 'Confession Box' and a similar exercise made before a court of law. The Lord is extra kind to the human race and 'forgives' the sinner. The blindfolded lady representing the law does not have that amplitude of charity. A confession of the latter category may, thus, entitle the maker only to dilution on point of sentence.

 

Though the discussion on point of law is not irrelevant to the piece I propose penning, any mention of the subject during the lunch intermission at my natal court, would have automatically rendered me liable to 'penalty'. One of the varieties thereof, welcome though, could be ordering ice-cream or kulfi or kheer for the compulsive lunch gathering.

 

Well past midnight, I and my (only) brother were in conversation with our maternal uncle, a rare visitor. He had an exceptional sense of humour. If only I could ignore the pace at which he would run out of patience stock, he was a role model who would not bat an eyelid to sacrifice for his siblings. My mother represented the female specie in the trio of siblings.

 

It was compulsive for the police to deliver special report (First Information Report) in heinous cases like murder etc. to the Illaqa Magistrate. The exercise had to be done all the 24 hours of the day, including dead of the night.

 

A call bell disturbed our conversation. I opened the door and obtained the special report. After noticing the receipt timing and the name of delivering official, I rejoined the conversation.

 

A "sage" piece of advice followed. There could be an eventuality, we were told, when we find that the visitor at unearthly hours is armed and his designs are not very flattering, 'emotionally' and also 'economically'. In that contingency, the piece of advice continued, the opener (of the door) could loudly give out a call that his 'arms' be also provided 'forthwith' ("mera pistol jaldi se lao"). We had to meekly accept that the 'clarion' call would scare the criminal.

 

My brother did not, however, join me in observing the golden rule of silence for long. "Mamaji, agar usne kaha ki jab tak aapki nahin aati tab tak meri pistol se kaam chalayein" (Make do with my pistol till yours is available).

 

The illogical character of the 'sage' advice notwithstanding, a spanking followed, a 'medimix' exclusively doled out by the elders in the family.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE WEIGHT OF UNDER-NOURISHMENT

WOMEN IN INDIA NOT ONLY HAVE TO FACE SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPEDIMENTS, EVEN THEIR HEALTH PARAMETERS LEAVE MUCH TO BE DESIRED. THE HEALTH OF INDIAN WOMEN IS AMONG THE WORST IN THE WORLD. THIS NOT ONLY LEADS TO HIGHER MATERNAL MORTALITY RATES BUT ALSO LOW BIRTH WEIGHT OF THEIR BABIES

SHREE VENKATRAM

 

In 1970, a young community health physician, Saroj Pachauri in her PhD thesis focused on low birth weight, which was a major cause of death among infants in India at that time. Thirty per cent of all babies born then had low birth weight. Today, the figure remains the same and low birth weight continues to be a major cause of death among infants.

 

Decades of various family planning and welfare programmes have not been able to give our babies a better start in life. Of all infant deaths, 65 per cent occur in the very first month, and majority of them are babies with low birth weight. It becomes very tough to save them in the sub-optimal conditions of our rural health centres, if they reach there at all.

 

Dismal picture

 

The health of the Indian women is among the worst in the world. A recent World Bank report put the figure of anaemic and undernourished girls in India at 300 million and women at 30 million. This should jolt a country to remedial action.

 

Poverty, poor infant feeding practices, neglect of the girl child and social customs like eating after the men and the boys have been fed, leave the females undernourished. When under and malnourishment is coupled with early marriage as over 50 per cent of Indian women marry before they reach 18 years, it spells danger, especially during childbirth.

 

A recent study puts the maternal mortality figure at 254 per 1,00,000 live births. Infant mortality, defined per 1000 live births, is at 53. Both the figures, though improved over the last few decades, are still extremely high. A real shame! For a country, which attracts people from around the world for complicated medical procedures, cannot save its own women and babies. India's maternal mortality ratio is 16 times higher than Russia, 10 times that of China and four times that of Brazil.

 

Both the babies and the mothers die largely from the same factors – apart from poor hygiene, lack of adequate newborn and maternal care. Low birth weight predisposes them to complications and death from malaria, pneumonia, and diarrohea.

 

Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam contribute 75 per cent of all infant deaths in the country. Maternal mortality figures are high among, what are now termed as the Empowered Action Group states - Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh and Assam.

 

Schemes don't reach out

India has been dispensing iron and folic acid tablets to the pregnant women for decades and dishing out meals to its school going children. For the last 40 years, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme has been running. However, these schemes have had only limited success. One of the criticisms against ICDS was that it failed to reach the very vulnerable 0-3 year age group, in any significant way. By then, under-nourishment had done its harm.

 

The upcoming Fourth National Family Health Survey will reveal just how well the efforts at improving the health of women and children have been. Since the third survey in 2005-06 the National Rural Health Mission and the Janani Suraksha Yojna (JSY) have been launched, entailing large-scale employment of resources, human and monetary, like never before.

 

In 2005, JSY, the biggest cash transfer scheme ever, was launched. It aimed at getting the women to deliver at a medical centre, as opposed to home, so that they and the newborn could get timely medical attention. Initial studies show that women have started going to institutions for delivery, but they are being discharged within a few hours, so that they become eligible to receive the Rs 1400. Health scientists point out that woman and her baby need to be under medical care for at least 48 hours. The neonatal period is a critical time and many infants and their mothers could be saved.

 

Interviews by the writer in Uttar Pradesh villages revealed that people are happy with the cash amount they get, at times given after a mandatory 'cut' to the 'authorities'. But it is not being spent on food for the mother; instead it goes towards buying household items. Even the National Rural Health Mission, which has improved the demand for public health facilities, has not been able to check infant mortality rate in any substantial way.

 

The results of NFHS 3 have been disappointing. Around one third of the women were having their first child while still in their teens. The risk of low birth weight and neo natal mortality increases when the woman is an adolescent. The Indian Council of Medical Research has found maternal mortality among adolescents to be as high as 645 per 100,000 live births.

 

Think beyond numbers

 

In 1983, the National Health Policy had expected to reach the replacement level total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 per cent by 2000. TFR is calculated as the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime. But by 2000, we were nowhere near. However, the year saw the establishment of a new National Population Policy and the goal of 2.1 TFR was extended to 2010. Today ten states – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Dadra and Nagar Haveli have TFR between 3.0 and 3.9. Demographers now predict that the near replacement TFR is still some decades away. The US Census Bureau calculates a fertility rate of 2.2 by 2050! By then, we would have become the most populous country in the world with numbers that could range from 1.5 billion to 1.8 billion, overtaking China in 2030.

 

We will soon have the largest ever generation of adolescents. They can be a 'demographic dividend' only if they are healthy. But a half of India's children today are moderately or severely malnourished.

 

What is more, most Indian children suffer from at least one micronutrient deficiency. Over 75 per cent of preschool children suffer from anaemia and almost 60 per cent have sub-clinical Vitamin A deficiency. Progress in reducing the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies in India has been excruciatingly slow. Child morbidity and mortality is higher for girls aged one month to 5 years than for boys, as the girls receive less food and health care. It is a vicious cycle—an undernourished girl will grow up to be unhealthy and give birth to low weight babies.

 

In 1994, some health scientists brought out a book – "Listening to Women Talk About their Health". It featured health studies from different villages and slums of India and made a strong case for population-based studies on women's health instead of hospital/clinic ones to get a better picture so that better policies can be framed and their needs addressed. For often poor women do not, or to put it better, cannot access the health system. Therefore, listen to what they are saying, what they want from a health system.

 

Some health scientists have been critical of India's obsession with numbers, i.e. population control, and not focusing enough on women's health and well being. At the end of it all – a healthy woman means a healthy baby. And a healthy and an educated woman means a healthier child and adult. Forty years down the road, Dr Pachauri, now heading Population Council of India, is saying the same thing: Improve the health of the women if you want to save the babies.

 

The writer works in the development sector

 

Seeking boys bad for health

Imbalanced sex ratios at birth are an increasing cause of concern in some South Asian, East Asian and Central Asian countries, particularly as they are indicative of persistent and underlying gender discrimination against girls and women. Such discrimination, and the intense pressure to produce sons, has serious and profound effects on the mental and physical health of women. The increasing availability of technologies such as amniocentesis and ultrasonography has facilitated an increase in the occurrence of sex selection.

Medical and other health-related technologies should instead be regulated to ensure that they are only used by qualified individuals in full accordance with the evidence-based guidelines of professional associations. The prevention of gender-biased sex selection will require major commitment and sustained and concerted efforts by governments, civil society and international agencies. A carefully planned and systematic approach involving stakeholders at all levels is needed to put in place supportive legal and policy measures for girls and women.

Source: "Preventing gender-biased sex selection", an interagency statement issued by OHCHR, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO.

 

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

EDITORIAL

RECONSTITUTE, NOT RESHUFFLE

MANMOHAN SINGH NEEDS A NEW TEAM, UPA NEEDS RENEWAL

 

If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had not used the term "expansive" to describe the kind of reshuffle he would attempt after the Budget session of Parliament, expectations about what he is likely to do at this stage in the government's tenure may have been more subdued. After all, he has done one round of reshuffle at the beginning of the year and he can afford to wait for some more time before reinventing and revitalising his government. Despite the lingering bad odour of the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, it remains stable and enjoys adequate support in the Lok Sabha. Moreover, the Opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, is still unable to create a new platform for itself even when the government is offering so many opportunities, and the so-called Third Front is in disarray. Heavens will not fall if the prime minister chooses to undertake only a minor reshuffle, filling vacancies that have arisen, leaving the existing team in place for a few more months.

However, apart from the fact that Dr Singh has raised expectations about the impending reshuffle, the mood of the opinion-making Indian middle class is so sullen and that of Indian business and enterprise so downbeat that the time may well be ripe for a major reconstitution of the UPA government, rather than a mere reshuffle. The past ten months have seen the government's reputation take a beating repeatedly and the prime minister's image has been directly hurt. In politics it is all right to be loved or hated, but no one should risk the ignominy of ridicule. That is the image problem that Dr Singh has to set right. A total overhaul of the Union Council of Ministers will end up upsetting some and pleasing others. The prime minister would revert to the acceptable status of being hated or loved, not ignored! If he demonstrates that he is his own man, as he did when he stood his ground against the Left in 2007-08, some will hail him, some may denounce him, but few will ridicule him.

But the reasons for a reconstitution go well beyond the imperative of an image makeover. The time has come for the UPA to reinvent its platform and personality. More competent and capable people need to take charge of the more important ministries, younger leaders of proven ability deserve leadership opportunities, and politicians and professionals with a cleaner reputation should be appointed in key economic ministries. Sometimes, a thorough overhaul, including a new team on Delhi's Raisina Hill, helps impart a new image to the government. At the same time, it will re-empower the team's leader, giving the prime minister renewed confidence to act in the manner he wishes. The UPA should realise that it cannot improve its own image, or that of the individual constituents of the alliance, including the Congress party, if it allows the prime minister's authority and image to weaken. Admittedly, reshuffling portfolios is not just about improving a prime minister's image or a government's performance, it is also about changing power equations. And it remains unclear whether either the prime minister or UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi is ready to challenge existing power equations within the coalition and the Congress party.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ACCIDENT-PRONE RAILWAYS

BETTER MANAGEMENT AND BETTER CUSTOMERS CAN REVIVE INDIAN RAILWAYS

India's railways are in a mess, in terms of both finances and safety. A series of recent accidents draws attention to the decline of the Indian Railways compared to its Asian counterparts, thanks to more than a decade of political interference, populism, corruption and inadequate investment. The appointment of a new railway minister should provide an opportunity for a turnaround if the new minister decides to be a modern, forward-looking manager rather than a political hanger-on fulfilling the bidding of various vested interests. Of all the Cabinet appointments the prime minister is going to make this week, the more important ones will be in the railways. Hopefully, he will find an able leader who can first give it some oxygen and then put it on a health regimen to regain financial muscle and energetic performance. In a way the finances and safety record are related. If an organisation is ably led, it is likely to do well financially and also prevent major accidents, over 60 per cent of which are caused by human error.

A well-run organisation will also, in all likelihood, give a good account on the punctuality front. In fact, this issue gives us an idea of how deep the rot in the organisation is — even official statistics cannot be taken seriously. Against mountainous anecdotal evidence that trains seldom run on time, official statistics claim that the national carrier is on time 90 per cent of the time year after year! If this is the state of punctuality statistics, one can well imagine the state of accident statistics? On the issue of accidents, those that occur at level crossings need to be highlighted. The unspoken attitude of the railway establishment is that "these are beyond our control and not for us to share the blame for". There is a need to work out a joint programme with a couple of local panchayats which use every level crossing to be guarded day and night by villagers who know that the fate of their people depends on their vigilance. The wages for the guards can come from the rural employment programme. If the Indian Railways has already been working along these lines then a white paper to inform everyone would do wonders, particularly since there has been no impact so far. Two level crossing tragedies have occurred recently.

Improving the state of the railways requires no rocket science. Basic housekeeping has to improve vastly. Upgradation and modernisation of infrastructure and services must go hand in hand with organisational reform. In the week the Indian Railways was dealing with accidents, China Rail launched a superfast service from Beijing to Shanghai that would be the envy of the developing world. One reason for the decline of the railways could be that urban middle class Indians, especially government officials, have shifted to low-cost airlines and have lost interest in the quality of passenger rail service. Elsewhere in the world, including China, railways are becoming popular again with upper income groups. The Indian Railways needs the return of the influential and well-heeled customer for its revival, if not survival.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

HANDICAPPED BY PARAPLEGICS

SUBBARAO'S EFFECTIVENESS HAS BEEN COMPROMISED BY A GOVERNMENT THAT OFTEN APPEARS TO THINK OF RBI AS A VACUUM CLEANER

RAJEEV MALIK

 

Reserve Bank of India Governor D Subbarao will complete his three-year term in early September. It remains to be seen if he will get an extension, but it is best to avoid the useless speculative zeal that some columnists and the local media have succumbed to. However, it is instructive to assess his hits and misses.

He is the third consecutive RBI governor who had to navigate the Indian economy through significant global financial and economic turbulence. Earlier, Bimal Jalan (1997-2003) had to deal with the fallout of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and Y V Reddy (2003-08) had to check the build-up of the global liquidity-driven boom-bust cycle. The complexities were different in each case as the Indian economy continued to increase its integration with the rest of the world. However, each governor distinguished himself in dealing with the emerging challenges, and in limiting the subsequent economic, social and political costs, though Dr Subbarao probably had the worst cards dealt to him.

It was a baptism of fire for Dr Subbarao. After all, he took over from Dr Reddy in early September 2008 and the Lehman bust occurred soon afterwards, pushing the world into uncharted dangerous waters. No one knew exactly how events and markets' reaction would unfold. There was heightened uncertainty and most of the conventional policy-making tools seemed limited in their effectiveness. Policy makers cannot conduct experiments in such crises, and while everyone wants to be protected, the beast transforms itself suddenly and repeatedly, thus forcing policy makers to be quick on their feet but with no guarantee of success.

Dr Subbarao deserves full marks for the aggressive policy response that cushioned the downside to growth following the global financial crisis, for the measures that prevented significant economic crippling, and for engineering a quick economic turnaround. The RBI announced several monetary and non-monetary measures, conventional and unconventional, to deal with the global financial crisis. More importantly, it reportedly resisted the calls for even bigger reduction in rates, and fought against a formal monetisation of the fiscal deficit, the latter being a hard-won battle by the RBI.

Central banks are risk managers, not gamblers, and the RBI's calculated approach paid off. People expect central banks to always have the right answers but it is often forgotten that central banks are run by people and, in the absence of perfect foresight, actions and solutions may not always be clear. This is particularly true when a new crisis erupts as financial innovation outsmarts financial regulation to change the nature of the next crisis.

High inflation is where the RBI under Dr Subbarao will get brickbats, some of them undeserved, in my opinion. It goes without saying that the essential dharma of a central bank is to at least keep inflation in check. But India's inflationary pressures are a complex mix of demand- and supply-side factors, cover food and non-food categories, and are structural and cyclical in nature, with global commodity prices also being a key driver. A lax fiscal policy undermined the effectiveness of monetary tightening, and poor RBI was left to clean up the mess while making sense of the embarrassingly inadequate and poor-quality economic data published by the government. The lasting solution for India's inflation challenge lies with the government's supply response and faster reforms, not just in higher interest rates.

 

 

Dr Subbarao continued with the reform agenda of developing the local financial markets and sticking with the gradual liberalisation of the capital account. But his term should be best remembered for the path-breaking hands-off approach towards the rupee, partly owing to the compulsions of a tight monetary policy. The hike in the savings deposit rate was another important decision during his term, so was the move to a single policy rate (finally!).

He brought about some important changes in monetary policy communication, including the release of the minutes of the meetings of the technical committee on monetary policy. These matter less for the common person but play a crucial role in the transmission across the financial world, which in turn affects the real economy. The policy statement was shortened and policy reviews were moved to a six-week cycle, the latter being an important reform. However, the live telecast of monetary policy was an unnecessary overkill.

A recent editorial in this paper unconvincingly argued about moving back to a quarterly frequency for policy reviews. Bad advice sometimes crops up in the most unexpected areas, as was the case with this suggestion. The need and importance of the six-week cycle arise because India is more integrated with the rest of the world, which is, in any case, in a topsy-turvy mode. There are quickly shifting global cross-currents and the high-frequency data allow for quicker reaction than waiting for once-a-quarter move. More importantly, high frequency of meetings does not mean that the RBI has to act at each meeting, but such a schedule anchors markets to expect any possible move as per the schedule rather than the old "anything, anytime" approach that added to policy uncertainty.

Dr Subbarao, with his surprisingly disarming personality for a central banker, often explained things in a non-technical manner, and was refreshingly secure to avoid pretending to know more than he did. He often came across as a consensus builder but was not a pushover as initially feared. He spoke his mind on issues such as the Financial Stability Development Council and the setting up of the debt management office (DMO). Ironically, as finance secretary, Dr Subbarao had endorsed the DMO, but as RBI governor, he has been right to advise not to rush into it. The DMO should eventually happen, but the government first needs to show fiscal responsibility by convincing investors that it can properly add and subtract on its fiscal accounts.

In the final tally, the positives under Dr Subbarao's tenure more than outweigh the negatives. High inflation is perhaps the biggest stigma but that outcome would have been there no matter who was leading the war. This is because the government's irresponsible fiscal approach and the embarrassing inability to move on reform initiatives undermined the effectiveness of monetary tightening. Indeed, Dr Subbarao's constructive record as RBI governor does not warrant a place in history as the first of the four consecutive governors to be denied less than five years in office. He surely deserves better, and has earned it.

The author is senior economist at CLSA, Singapore.
The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

HOW ABOUT A DEPARTMENT OF AEROSPACE?

WE MUST INSTITUTE AN OVERARCHING BODY THAT CAN COORDINATE DEVELOPMENT OF AEROSPACE INDUSTRY, VERTICALLY INTEGRATING RESOURCES AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL

AJAI SHUKLA

A number of strands are coming together in structuring India's air power capability for the second quarter of the 21st century. The indigenous Tejas light fighter, developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), is entering production and an improved Tejas Mark II is being developed. Riding this success, ADA is developing a fifth generation medium fighter, called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). Simultaneously, the overseas acquisition of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is nearing a close with Dassault's Rafale and Eurofighter's Typhoon in a race to the finish line. In the heavy fighter category, the redoubtable Sukhoi-30MKI is being upgraded even as more trickle into the fleet. Meanwhile, Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) are working together on the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

These five fighters will form the sword edge of the Indian Air Force (IAF) from 2025 onwards. At that stage, the IAF will operate seven squadrons (an IAF squadron has 21 fighters) of Tejas, more if ADA can enhance capabilities and reduce price. Six squadrons of MMRCA are currently planned, but that could rise to 10 squadrons, if performance is great and technology transfer smooth. The indigenous AMCA will equip another 10 squadrons. Thirteen IAF squadrons will fly the upgraded Sukhoi-30 MKI, while the FGFA will equip another ten squadrons.

By then five current fighters, whose service lives have been extended by upgrades – the Mig-21 BISON; MiG-27; MiG-29; Jaguar; and the Mirage 2000 – would retire. Despite that the IAF would field a minimum of 46 squadrons, possibly more than 50. That would make for a far more reassuring air power equation than the IAF's current strength of 32 squadrons against an authorisation of 39.5 squadrons. Importantly, half the fleet would be indigenous in 2025, with 17 squadrons (7 Tejas + 10 AMCA) entirely Indian-designed and another 10 FGFA squadrons with a substantial indigenous component.

This planned fleet would boast a formidable technological profile. The oldest fighter in 2025, the Tejas, a Generation-four fighter once the Mark II is inducted, would be enhanced to Generation-four plus through a mid-life upgrade. Another 19-23 squadrons (MMRCA + Sukhoi-30MKI) would also be Generation-four plus. And the IAF's Generation-five fleet would comprise a solid 20 squadrons (MCA + FGFA).

Supported by mid-air refuelling, airborne early warning, and the world-class airlift capability provided by the C-17 Globemaster III, the C-130J Super Hercules and the Indo-Russian Multi-role Transport Aircraft, the IAF would be capable of safeguarding Indian interests along the Pakistan and Chinese borders and in the Indian Ocean region. But this rosy picture depends largely on two development programmes that are in their early stages: ADA's development of the AMCA, and the HAL-Sukhoi FGFA. Without success in these programmes, India's fighter fleet would appear depleted and vulnerable.

That success is far from guaranteed. Notwithstanding the Tejas experience and the growing technological capability of Indian industry, India lacks the overarching structures that are essential for supporting two advanced fighter development programmes. National aerospace capabilities remain fragmented, islands of excellence in a sea of dysfunction. ADA, which oversees the Tejas programme, is the closest to an overarching body for controlling aeronautical development. Since the DRDO chief heads ADA, it successfully coordinates between the DRDO's aerospace laboratories but exercises direct control over little else. HAL, India's 900-pound aerospace gorilla, remains primarily a manufacturing behemoth, churning out Russian-designed fighters from Russian blueprints.

With coordination lacking even within the defence ministry, it is unsurprising that there is little synergy with "outsider" organisations like the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), which functions under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. NAL's designers and its sophisticated test facilities are busy in pipedreams, dissipating effort into marginal projects like the struggling Saras transport aircraft rather than pooling talent into a national effort like the AMCA. Nor is there systematic cooperation with India's many top-class academic institutions, which have the researchers and the facilities that could feed into a national project.

We must, therefore, institute an overarching body that can oversee and coordinate the development of the aerospace industry, and especially complex projects like the AMCA and the FGFA, vertically integrating resources at the national level. The successful models provided by two existing domain-focused organisations – the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Space – must be studied for creating a Department of Aerospace (DoAer) under the defence ministry. One branch of DoAer must manage research organisations, with another branch managing production organisations, including within the private sector. An aerospace technological specialist with managerial skills and experience must head DoAer. He must be given the rank of secretary to the government, even though this will inevitably run up against turf interests within the bureaucracy.

ajaishukla.blogspot.com 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CEREAL KILLING

HEALTHY COARSE CEREALS ARE GOING OUT OF PRODUCTION DUE TO A STEADY DECLINE IN CONSUMPTION AND NEED TO BE REHABILITATED

SURINDER SUD

When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced, in his 2011 Budget speech, a special provision of Rs 300 crore to promote the production and consumption of nutri-cereals (nutritious millet), he essentially sought to extend the scope of what was already being done under the flagship farm research programme, the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP).

Coarse cereals like sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), finger millet (ragi) and others are healthy foods that are going out of production due to a steady decline in consumption and need to be rehabilitated. Recent studies by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, have borne out the health advantages of millet, especially for people suffering from diabetes and obesity.

But a false impression has somehow developed that coarse grains are food for the poor. This, coupled with the availability of fine cereals like rice and wheat at relatively cheaper prices thanks to government subsidies, has contributed to driving millet out of the food basket.

It was, indeed, to restore the due place of millet in Indian diets that NAIP has launched a project to develop and popularise technology for value-added and easy-to-consume products of sorghum with the ultimate objective of encouraging farmers to grow this millet. NAIP is a World Bank-assisted research and development (R&D) programme that aims, among other objectives, to encourage scientific work on the complete chain of production systems from farm to fork. It lays emphasis on developing value-added stuff for direct consumption or for other end uses.

Titled "Creation of demand for millet foods through the production-to-consumption value chain", the project is being implemented by a consortium of several research institutions led by Hyderabad-based National Research Centre on Sorghum and the Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR).

Of the various possible semi-processed jowar-based foods, five have been identified for developing the technology for their commercial production and promoting their consumption. Selected on the basis of market surveys, these items include sorghum flakes, pasta, vermicelli, rava and multigrain atta. Well-conceived strategies have been evolved to popularise these wholesome products through displays in malls and organised food chains, and road shows through mobile vans to target different market segments.

A notable feature of the ongoing project is that it does not end at the development of technology and creating a niche market for the product but also prepares business models for prospective investors. A demonstration unit to show the process of making jowar flakes has been set up at Borisawant village in Parbhani district. It has a capacity to churn out 100 kg of flakes a day at an estimated cost of Rs 22 per kg. The production cost can be lowered to Rs 17 a kg by increasing the capacity of the unit to 200 kg or more.

This technology is said to be simple enough to be taken up by small entrepreneurs, self-help groups or farmers' cooperatives, besides food processing companies. Entrepreneurship development programmes have been conducted on production, processing and value-addition for the benefit of potential entrepreneurs in rural as well as urban areas of Parbhani, Adilabad and Nanded districts. Some farmers' groups, apart from a few industrial houses, have already come forward to start commercial production of value-enriched sorghum products. DSR has registered a brand name "Eatrite" for such products, some of which are already being sold through the outlets of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) in New Delhi and those of "Heritage Fresh" retail chain in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

Now that the Union government has provided budgetary support for the promotion of millet on a wider scale, these crops are expected to get much-needed impetus for their growth. The scheme mooted in the Budget seeks to provide the market-linked product support to one million millet growers in arid and semi-arid regions. The programme will be taken up in around 1,000 compact blocks covering nearly 25,000 villages. While grain millet will be used to boost the nutritional status of food, the rest of the crop biomass will be available as nourishing fodder for livestock.

Indeed, the sorghum project is among numerous other similar production-to-consumption system development projects of the NAIP. Many of those also merit to be supported in a similar way for the benefit of farmers and consumers alike.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WHAT BHARAT NEEDS

AMARJEET SINHA

How can we make social and inclusive development a reality? The answer lies in assessing the unique conditions that prevail at the grassroots and crafting credible public systems that deliver at the local level.

The last 15 years have taken me to over 570 of India's 643 districts. These visits were made to understand social development better by meeting people, field functionaries, civil society activists and public servants. Is it possible to set public systems right? Is it possible to move from distrust to trust? What is it that will make a difference? How does one change the character of government employment? How does one bring in new skills of public management?

The first and foremost need is to harness the homogeneity of local communities, women's organisations, self-help groups and so on. Habitation-level solidarities need to be well integrated with the Panchayati Raj system at the Gram Panchayat level. The identity of hamlets and their organisations is important because in over 60 per cent of India's villages, five to 10 hamlets will actually constitute a Gram Panchayat. Urban areas need similar efforts to harness community organisations. Organisations of the poor at the hamlet level are our best guarantee for oversight since they have a direct stake in securing the entitlement to social development. The success of the Mahila Samakhya Programme, the Velugu Project in Andhra Pradesh and the Mitanin Programme in Chhatisgarh, are replicable examples of building on habitation-level solidarity.

The second requirement is to realise the unique situation in disadvantaged regions and among disadvantaged communities. Physical and social distance has led to a hierarchy of access to social services. Such hierarchies can be best demolished by recognising the need for incrementally developing local youth as social development workers and providing special incentives for those willing to serve in unserved areas. There is no substitute to a resident development functionary. Poor governance, disparate and difficult living conditions, and the absence of transparent human resource policies often end up making public servants prize comfort, permanence and easy posting. Making teachers out of local Shiksha Karmis in Rajasthan through an assessment and support process, the work of Community Health Workers in Abhay Bang's Garhchiroli programme to reduce neo-natal mortality, the work of the Aroles in Jamkhed with community workers, are all examples of what is possible through such an approach.

The third requirement is to transfer funds, functions and functionaries right down to communities. Schools, hospitals and Aanganwadi Centres can never function effectively without community monitoring and oversight. Distant bureaucracies are no solution for local-level accountability. This needs a change in the character of government employment, from reporting to a distant bureaucracy to being accountable to local communities. Efforts made with Shiksha Karmis in Madhya Pradesh, the Auxiliary Nursing and Midwifery programme in West Bengal and social development workers in Tripura and Mizoram, are examples of how this can be done effectively.

The fourth requirement is to change the character of government employment from job guarantee to a service guarantee. Public employment must be institution-specific and outcome-focused. This calls for reforming public recruitments from a source of unbridled social security, invincibility and insulation from all public protest and action. There is also a need to make recruitments far more professional, since leaving it to community or PRI selection will always be fraught with local pulls and pressures. The electoral performance of parties is beginning to improve cutting edge accountability of functionaries in states like Bihar, Assam and Orissa.

The fifth need is to continuously provide for external assessments of performance of public servants and provision of services. The professionalisation of public services require accreditation of public institutions on standards, quality and client satisfaction. The ISO/NABH accreditation of public system health facilities in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Kerala, the learning guarantee programme of the Azim Premji Foundation, Pratham's Annual Status of Education Reports (ASERs), are all examples of holding public systems accountable.

Sixth, social development is about identifying the gaps and providing for it. It is not possible without allowing for institutional autonomy and decision-making authority at the local level. There is a very strong case for moving from distrust to trust within an overall framework of community monitoring and institutional-level accountability. The work of hospital management committees under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and school committees under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in many states is an example of the power of trust over distrust.

The seventh need is to realise that public systems need all the modern-day skills of management. From IT experts, planning professionals, managers, accountants, procurement professionals, they are all needed to make public systems deliver quality services. Governments ordinarily do not recruit such skills. The agenda of setting public systems right needs an infusion of new public management skills. Both SSA and NRHM have brought in these professionals into the public system on a large scale. These skills need internalisation.

The eighth need is to accept an entitlement approach to social development and always plan for the universe of people and their rights within the geographical region that is covered by an institution. The provision of financial and human resources has to be based on agreed service guarantees. A legal framework of rights enables provisioning according to minimum standards and norms. A Public Health Act defining standards of access to quality water, sanitation, nutrition, healthcare and education is needed to put pressure on the state to guarantee entitlements. The Centre, state and local governments need to sort out their financing responsibilities within such a legal framework for social development.

The ninth need is to realise the importance of non-governmental organisations in the task of capacity development and professional management. Public systems need partnerships with the non-governmental sector to build capacity for quality service guarantees.

To be sure, languishing public systems need not be given a burial; they need to be revived by crafting a credible public system of delivery. That alone will ensure that inclusive development and social development for all can become a reality.

The author is a civil servant. These views are personal. He can be contacted at amarjeetsinha@hotmail.com  

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SUGAR LEVEL RIGHT FOR DECONTROL

With the market in balance, as also the interests of producers and consumers, there can be no forceful argument against decontrol.

Sugar decontrol has been in the air for nearly eight years now but New Delhi has failed to effect any significant policy change to enable the process. In times of glut, decontrol was thwarted on the ostensible ground that market prices would collapse and hurt producers; and in times of shortage, the excuse was consumer protection. Now, the Agriculture Minister has hinted at the possibility of sugar decontrol — this time, with some seriousness. To be sure, sugar is a vestige of the control and quota raj of the 1980s and one of the handful of industries still caught in a tangle of official restrictions. Indeed, the time is right for decontrol, simply because the domestic sugar market is in a state of balance — there is neither glut, nor shortage. If anything, prices are largely consumer-friendly. Sugar export has been opened up to liquidate the small surplus and prevent prices from collapsing. Imports continue to be allowed duty-free. Importantly, indications for next year (2011-12) are that the sugar market will again remain fairly balanced. With the market in balance, as also the interests of producers and consumers, there can be no forceful argument against decontrol.

Essentially, two elements are involved in sugar decontrol. One, withdrawal of the 'levy system,' through which the government mops up a tenth of sugar produced by the mills for sale through the public distribution system (PDS); and, two, abolition of the so-called free-sale quota mechanism that restricts the mills' freedom to market the commodity. Doing away with the levy will force the government to purchase sugar for PDS from the open market; this, in turn, will advance market-driven pricing. The free-sale quota for mills is an anachronistic control that deserves to be done away with expeditiously. Again, marketing freedom for mills will enable more transparent pricing of the sweetener. Cane growers' interests should be protected by continuing with the annual Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) for cane. While the input price is fixed by the government, the output (sugar) price will be determined by the market. The option to import should be available, to keep domestic prices under check.

Importantly, removal of at least these two impediments (levy system and free-sale quota) will improve the investment climate which, in turn, will help kick-start the process of modernisation as well as consolidation of fragmented capacities. While decontrol is imperative, policymakers and industry together must look ahead and plan for the future. Breaking the cyclical nature of cane output, raising cane yields, making cane cultivation more water efficient, improving sugar recovery, researching the adverse effects of global warming on sugar cultivation, and examining the impact of the plethora of trade agreements are some of the issues that must engage stakeholder attention. With economic growth and rising purchasing power, demand for food products including sugar is set to burgeon. It is critical that the sugar industry seizes this market opportunity.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

WEST BENGAL'S GRIM FINANCES

PRATIM RANJAN BOSE

 

West Bengal has the highest revenue deficit and the second highest fiscal deficit among all states.

Having assumed office in May, one of the foremost concerns of West Bengal Chief Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, was "resurrecting" the state's finances.

While her economist Finance Minister, Dr Amit Mitra, keeps projecting a growth in tax revenues, Ms Banerjee seems to have relied heavily on a "special package" from the Centre to fulfil her electoral promises.

But barely two weeks after her last month's visit to New Delhi, sections within the government are expressing doubts over whether the package will come through. They are also sceptical about whether the package can help the State overcome its financial constraints — it has the highest revenue deficit and the second highest fiscal deficit (West Bengal Government Finances: A critical Look", EPW October 30, 2010) among all the States.

Tall order

Although the West Bengal Chief Minister has not been come out clearly on the issue, it is believed that she handed over a wish-list worth tens of thousands of crores of rupees to the Centre, seeking "special allocations" to bring the State out of a proverbial "debt-trap", as well as ensure "proper development".

Ms Banerjee's claim for exclusive treatment has run into opposition. Insiders suggest that the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) poster boy, Mr Nitish Kumar, was quick to remind the Centre that constrained with a minuscule revenue budget and an infamous legacy of under-development, Bihar deserved similar, if not more, attention from the Centre.

Reality check

There is little doubt that West Bengal is reeling under a huge debt burden, to the extent that its annual interest payment is greater than the development expenditure.

Interest payment (Rs 12,367 crore in 2008-09) as a percentage of development expenditure stands at an appalling 54.5 per cent – the highest in the country, after 26 per cent in the case of Rajasthan and a national average of 24.5 per cent.

A March 2011 RBI report clearly points to the spending habits of the State as the culprit. West Bengal spends nearly 67 per cent of its revenue receipts — the highest in the country after 45 per cent of Kerala — as "committed expenditure" (largely salaries and wages). To add to the trouble, nearly 34 per cent of the revenue receipts are spent on interest servicing — also the highest in the country after 21 per cent in the case of Punjab.

As the central bank puts it, West Bengal "could not contain its non-interest revenue expenditure, and net borrowing has been used to finance current non-interest expenditure".

More expenditure

Though it is too early to comment on the financial management of the new Government, its early announcements do not indicate introduction of strong fiscal practices.

On the contrary, the proposed extension of Rs 2 per kg rice distribution scheme; recruitment of 46,000 teachers and large number of policewomen; withdrawal of VAT on LPG; forcing municipal bodies to withdraw plans to impose tax on water supply (and even disallowing the state power generation and distribution utilities to recover fuel surcharges to the extent of Rs 100 crore a month) indicate increasing pressure on finances.

However, insiders in the Government suggest that even Ms Banerjee is fast realising the futility of expecting Central largesse to help her tide over the financial mess.

With the Left agreeing to adopt the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in 2010, there is not much fiscal space left either.

Relief on loan rates

The State government is pinning its hopes on the adoption of the Dr Shyamala Gopinath committee's recommendations, on reduction of interest on loans against small savings, to put a brief check on its mounting interest liability.

It is also hoping for the allocation of "specific purpose funds", reportedly in the range of Rs 1,000-1,500 crore a year to fulfil part of the development agenda.

Initial estimates suggest that the Gopinath committee recommendations, if adopted, will enable the state to raise fresh borrowings (to the tune of Rs. 17,000 crore) during the year without any increase in its total interest liability.

Similarly, specific allocations by the Centre may help Ms Banerjee address development issues in the Naxalite-affected Junglemahal region; the Sunderbans; and other pockets of underdevelopment.

While Mr Mitra's commitment to enhance tax revenue is a step in the right direction, it is yet to be seen how the government fares in expenditure management. Considering the 'popular' mandate, Ms Banerjee is not faced with easy choices.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

                                                                                                                                                                   OPINION

WORLD LEANS TOWARDS MORE REGULATION

ALOK RAY

 

While regulation is back in favour after the financial crisis, politicians and bureaucrats are not keen on setting up truly independent regulatory bodies.

Mainstream thinking on economic regulation has gone through a cycle. In the 1950s and 1960s, in almost all developing economies, the dominant paradigm for economic development was nationalisation, state planning and regulation of economic activities.

Then, starting from the 70s and specially from the 80s (after Communist China switched towards 'market socialism'), deregulation and economic liberalisation (popularly known as 'Thatcher-Reaganomics' in the West and 'Washington Consensus' in the developing world) started replacing controls and regulations.

Now, after the financial crisis and economic recession hitting the western economies and greater public concern over inequality and environmental degradation, the pendulum is swinging everywhere towards more regulation.

But what are the experiences of different countries with regulation? CUTS International (a Jaipur-based think-tank), in collaboration with the Norwegian Government, recently organised an international conference in New Delhi.

It was a rare meet where theorists, actual regulators and civil society groups from a wide cross-section of countries (including the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, Norway, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, China, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and, of course, India) exchanged notes on their respective experiences.

Good vs bad regulation

All economists recognise that regulation is needed for markets to function properly. Otherwise, markets could be rigged by big and influential players. Efficiency in resource allocation, equity and macro-economic stability would suffer.

What distinguishes good from bad regulation? It is generally agreed that for a good regulatory framework the regulators should be independent (this would require, among other things, open selection, fixed tenure and independent funding), accountable and must have legal power ('teeth') to enforce their decisions. The decision-making process as well as the deliberations should be transparent. Keeping video records of discussions may be a good idea. Penalties imposed by regulators for violation of rules should be proportional to crimes. There should be appellate review of regulatory decisions.

The number of sectoral regulators should be small, with minimum overlap of jurisdictions. Regulatory bodies should comprise knowledgeable people with technical expertise in the respective fields but should avoid retired bureaucrats from the ministries.

Keep it simple, clear

One problem is that the regulatory laws are written in such a manner that industry organisations understand laws and regulations much better than consumers (and small enterprises) and hence big players can manipulate them in their favour. Consequently, there is a need to present regulations in simple language and all necessary clearances obtained from the regulator need to be displayed publicly, as a mandatory requirement.

For example, some builders construct buildings on unauthorised land or raise additional floors beyond official sanction. In the absence of mandatory public display of clearances from the municipal authorities, unsuspecting buyers suffer as the promoter flees after getting the money and the buyer ends up holding the illegal baby. Such practices are prevalent in many developing countries.

Though it is easy to suggest the broad contours of a good regulatory framework, politicians and bureaucrats are not usually interested in setting up truly independent regulatory bodies with enforcement (instead of advisory) power.

They know that it would undermine their authority to take the final decision — sometimes by bending rules to favour their chosen players — specially when huge monetary gains (for instance, in allocating licences to use scarce natural resources such as minerals, forests, water, spectrum) are involved.

Sometimes, there could be conflicts between competing objectives. For instance, allocation of spectrum to the highest bidder may maximise government revenue but may imply high prices for the final users of telecom services. One way out could be that the licence should go to the highest bidder offering the lowest price to the consumers. Another is that all scarce resources should be auctioned to the highest bidder and then the government should use part of the (maximised) revenue to subsidise the price charged to the customers/users.

If necessary, the government can selectively subsidise use of services in specific rural or under-served areas.

Regulating the regulator

The experience from most countries suggests that regulators in many cases have not been independent. There has been a heavy hand of the government in bending rules, especially when state-owned enterprises compete with private players. In China, the concept of 'administrative monopoly' is often used to limit competition to protect state monopolies (in areas such as telecom, power) and regional companies from outside competition.

How to regulate the regulator? While rejecting an application, the regulators should give clear reasons behind their decision as well as the remedial steps (for example, to comply with environment regulations) that need to be followed in order to get the clearance from the regulatory authority.

It is felt that the idea of an Ombudsman (proposed Lok Pal in the Indian context) or super-regulator is fraught with danger. It is not prudent to have a single authority with the power to investigate, prosecute and judge. Better to have an appellate authority and use the standard judicial mechanism to redress grievances against the regulators.

If necessary, fast-track courts can be set up to handle cases against the regulators (including ministers) since in many developing countries (such as India), the courts take an inordinately long time to dispose of cases. There is also a big role for civil society organisations and media to highlight cases of wrong-doing by regulators and build public pressure to punish the culprits.

The basic objective behind most regulations is to preserve competition and maintain a level playing field for all players. But even perfect competition cannot protect the natural environment nor ensure optimal use of non-renewable resources (such as minerals) keeping in consideration the interests of unborn future generations. So, society would need regulations, even when a high degree of competition exists in the market place.

Proper enforcement, a must

But, just as holding elections does not ensure democracy, existence of regulations does not ensure competition or protection of environment and natural resources. Effective enforcement of regulation is a must and is often lacking.

For instance, a very stringent regulatory law on preservation of forest was put into place during British rule but in the course of the next 150 years, nearly half of Indian forests have disappeared due to enforcement deficit.

Similarly, we have all kinds of regulations on mining. Yet, in addition to allocating mining rights to favoured parties (the big-ticket scam of Madhu Koda is all too well-known), rampant illegal mining takes place in all parts of India, often in connivance with the local politicians, officials and the police.

Though social activists and media sometimes focus on illegal mining by big companies, routine illegal mining of coal and other minerals by thousands of small operators (headed by a mafia) are brushed aside as poor people's means of livelihood. This, again, is a problem common to many developing countries.

(The author is a former Professor of Economics, IIM, Calcutta. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STRUCTURAL FLAW

RAIL ACCIDENTS HIGHLIGHT THE NEED FOR DRASTIC REFORM OF INDIAN RAILWAYS

 

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action. That pearl of wisdom from the world of cloak and daggers resonates true in the context of India's serial rail accidents. These accidents that extinguish hundreds of lives every year and blight the lives of thousands more arise from structural flaws in how Indian Railways are organised and function. These structural flaws are neither happenstance nor coincidence; rather, these stem from greed that converts the people's representatives into their enemies. It is time the political class stopped viewing the Railways as a plum platform for patronage disbursal and saw the Railways for what they are: a vital, but failing component of India's transport infrastructure that has the capacity to make or break the nation's competitiveness. Moving imported coal to inland power plants, imported components to factories just-in-time, finished goods from factory to port and people across the length and breadth of this vast sub-continent, all with speed, safety and predictability — that is the transport challenge in which the Railways play a small and diminishing role. A move to reverse this would lead to restructuring of the Railways. The most drastic reform could well be to dispense with a separate ministry and a separate budget for rail transport. The nation could do with a single ministry of transport which focuses on planning and regulation. It is entirely possible to think of reorganising the Railways into a number of separate companies, some of which compete among themselves. One company could own the tracks and signalling while other companies own and run rolling stock on the tracks, ferrying passengers and goods in competition with other modes of transport as well as with other rail companies. The incentive to make profits while engaged in such intense competition would prove far more productive than the short-termism of populist politicians who today control the Railways and mismanage them.


But then, the familiar question is, who will bell the cat? The best laid plans of mice go awry. Are there any men making sensible plans out there?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

EXPORT BOOM

THE UNEXPECTED GROWTH IN EXPORTS, A VITAL SOURCE OF GROWTH, NEEDS TO BE SUSTAINED

 

India's external trade is booming, indicating deeper integration with the global economy. Exports constitute a vital source of overall growth and need to be sustained. The way ahead is to have a stable trade policy environment, slash transaction costs, and shore up trade-related infrastructure on a priority basis. On top of 37.6% growth last fiscal, mercantile exports during the first quarter of the current one have grown by 45.7%. Non-oil imports rose by a strong 71% y-o-y in May this year and by 43.2% in April-May, indicating strong economic activity and exports in the pipeline. But the balance of trade (BoT, value of exports less imports) for the quarter has marginally fallen to $31.6 billion from the $32.3 billion registered in the first quarter last fiscal. Also, the current export trend may well lose steam, given rising domestic inflation, trade policy rigidities and a panoply of infrastructural bottlenecks, apart from weak external demand. Now, there is no hard and fast rule to determine the size of a sustainable BoT, and given our offsetting large invisible inflows (inward remittances, positive net services earnings, etc) India can afford to have a large trade deficit, provided the current account deficit stays well below 3% of GDP. However, we do need to diversify and boost exports of value-added products across regions and geographies. The commerce ministry target, in fact, is to double exports to $500 billion in three years, which calls for a compound annual growth rate of about 27%.
We need to boost our key industries like engineering goods and chemical products, diversify exports in textiles and leather products and go up-market in gems and jewellery. Engineering exports already make up about 20% of our total export basket. But the upside is huge. Note that India's share in world exports of machinery and transport equipment was a mere 0.3% during 2003-07. There's also huge potential in the export of drugs, pharma products and chemicals. Further, since trade demand in Asia, South America and Africa are the fastestgrowing, we need to be proactive across regions.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE A IN PAKISTAN

HOPE MIGHT RESIDE ONLY IN HEAVENLY WAYS FOR OUR BELEAGUERED NEIGHBOUR

 

What's in Pakistan," the old, biting joke goes, "except Allah, Army and America." And were one to ponder a little bit, one would perhaps need to concede that our neighbour might also be in trouble on those three counts. Pakistan's relationship with 'Amrika', to put it colloquially, has often been something like that of a nervy, edgy teenage couple. An onoff sort of a thing. The latest decision by the US to suspend all those millions of dollars in military aid also sounds faintly as if an angry partner is threatening to cut off allowance, or alimony, if you will. Perchance the tiff over Afghanistan and all those baddies getting safe havens in tribal badlands might get worse. Which could pose a question mark over one from the A-trinity. Next, we have the army. Here is an institution that only and only seems have realised, if at all reports to that effect are to be believed, after thousands of deaths and attacks on its bases and personnel, that home-grown extremists might just perhaps pose something of a threat. Right. And maybe another couple of decades will pass before something wholesale is done to remedy the situation. And that begs the question whether this 'army which has a nation' is any good at all.
But it's the third, or rather the first part of the trinity that might really be the big issue. Even well-wishers might well have a case if they bemoan that God does seems to have forsaken Pakistan. Which is rather sad, since this was only the second country in the world originally set-up as a d e f a c t o residence-on-earth for the Almighty. Then again, human history proves, and scriptures themselves proclaim, that God works in inscrutable and merciful ways. Therein, perhaps, may lie salvation for the beleaguered country. For, it seems, now only God can help.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

A NEW URBAN REFORM AGENDA

THE NEXT STAGE OF THE URBAN MISSION SHOULD AIM AT HIGHER GOALS, AND THE TIME TO PREPARE IS NOW

 

All saidand done, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was instrumental in introducing one of the pioneering changes in the way our urban governance system functions. But it's also true that its 23-layer reform stream could not make the expected headway. While some states have done well in implementing a good number of reforms, some have not been able to keep pace. What is the reason for this? This is something the subcommittee of the National Development Council (NDC) comprising state chief ministers should ponder. Let us make a dispassionate review of the reform agenda. But for the insistence by the Centre, would states that still had urban land ceiling legislation in operation have taken action to repeal the legislation and free up costly urban land for development purposes? Would there have been a movement towards a uniform stamp duty across the country? It is a fact that public disclosure and community participation legislations have now entered the charter of urban governance. E-governance is actively on the agenda. At least there are attempts to streamline the building approval process, though state governments have more or less refused to take a call on the need to transfer city planning functions to the elected local bodies.
One line of argument could be that the seven-year period of the JNNURM — 2005-12 — was not sufficient for the states to have geared themselves up to bring about all these changes. Yet, states and cities have now been introduced to the need for, and the importance of, reforms. At a time when governance is increasingly becoming transparent and the need for delegation is strongly felt, what is to be done is to continue with the emphasis on reforms and take the agenda further forward. Let us list what all still needs to be done in a timebound manner.
On water supply, the earlier reform agenda talked only about the levy of reasonable user charges and having bylaws for reuse of recycled water. As bulk water supply improves, thanks to the augmentation projects taken up, and as new beginnings like 24x7 water supply are made, water supply should get fully transferred to the cities. The levy of user charges; ensuring 100% access to drinking water; full recycle and reuse of waste water; plugging distribution inefficiencies; implementing the service-level benchmark concept; taking up energy conservation measures; reducing water wastage to an acceptable 15% level (which currently is about 50%); making the water utilities fully accountable; having an effective grievance redressal mechanism; and committing an assured number of hours of water supply are other important steps.
In the case of solid waste management, ensuring 100% collection and proper disposal; making sure cities are garbage-free; door-to-door daily collection arrangement; levy of user charges; conversion of waste to energy or other forms; and implementing the city sanitation plan would all need to be mandated. This is an area where public-private partnership (PPP) can work well as has already been demonstrated. To bring about economies of scale in smaller towns, regional arrangements as distinct from the town-specific approach would have to be taken up. Having a master plan for sewerage coverage is also a must.
On urban public transport, measures such as drawing up a comprehensive mobility plan; having an pan-city organised public transport where it does not exist; having a properly formulated parking policy; developing enough parking complexes through PPP; laying proper footpaths; a legislated, unified metro transport authority for large cities; and time-bound implementation of the national urban transport policy are all measures to be taken without delay. Housing for the poor and affordable housing for urban migrants need proper strategisation. Today, cities do not seem to be responsible for this. We have to get rid of the current ambiguity and have tasks clearly assigned to the state and urban body. Otherwise, slums will continue to grow, negating all civic facility improvement efforts.
    Apart from civic amenities, there is another set of areas where changes may take place. Each city must have a futuristic town development plan. What would be the additional forms of raising resources at the city end itself? There will have to be milestones for implementing the recommendations of central as well as state finance commissions. Provision needs to be made to engage eminent citizens in monitoring and overseeing project implementation. Servicelevel benchmarking is a handy tool available now for at least six sectors of urban activity. Constantly benchmarking, evaluating and bringing about improvements would mean a lot in terms of citizen satisfaction.
E-governance has to be mandated at all city and town levels, and to start with, all the eight basic services listed — issue of birth and death certificates, payment of property tax and utility bills, grievance redressal, building plan approval, procurement, licences, accounting system and personnel information system — must be available online. Energy conservation has to emerge as a serious agenda in every city through incentivising green buildings, etc.
All in all, there is a big agenda of changes still to be taken up. As we get ready for the 12th Five-Year Plan, the NDC must be seriously concerned. It is possible that another version of the urban renewal mission may take shape soon. Let us accept that if the broader reform agenda is not worked out and insisted upon simultaneously as part of the further set of projects and provision of grant, cities will only see more chaos. This is the time to prepare. This period available before the 12th Plan could be utilised to evolve a time schedule for completing the larger reform agenda.

 

M RAMACHANDRAN FORMER SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE


Cross-Firing
Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam's offer to resign is only the public display of the mess in the government's law department. The murky affairs in the department have been a badlykept secret. To start with, it is widely known how Subramaniam and Attorney General G E Vahanvati do not, to put it mildly, share a workable equation, and that law minister Veerappa Moily's failure to show a sense of command has made things worse. Since Kapil Sibal has been critical of the handling of the Central Vigilance Commissioner and 2G spectrum cases, it did not surprise Congress leaders that Mr Sibal did not feel comfortable about letting either AG or SG fight a case where the minister has a lot of personal and political stakes. It is also no secret that some Congress leaders are, of late, getting nostalgic about the services of exlaw minister H R Bharadwaj. So what do you realise when Moily felt compelled, on the eve of the Cabinet rejig, to say that he 'is confident of continuing' as a minister? Edgy, eh?


Cell in Overwork

The AICC media cell is working overtime. Well, you may counter by asking why, in that case, nothing great is coming out of the party's routine media briefings. What we meant by 'overworking' is how all prominent spokespersons are seeking ministerial berths. If Janardan Dwivedi has been a steady tale of neversay-die optimism since 2004, Jayanthi Natarajan too is at it, hoping to emerge as the Congress' 'female face from Tamil Nadu' at the Centre! In his case, Manish Tiwari has been enlightening everyone about the need for the Congress to balance the non-Sikh representation in the Union Cabinet ahead of the Punjab polls. And no points for guessing where Abhishek Singhvi would like to offer his services when the government's legal department is in need of major repair…


Original Patent

Such are the deep fault lines in the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership that even the nomination of Smriti Irani as party Rajya Sabha candidate from Gujarat has become an issue for its leaders to take potshots at each other. So, we have the spectacle of a number of leaders trying to outmatch each other by mudslinging one another while claiming the patent for Ms Irani bagging the Rajya Sabha ticket. But amused old-timers in the party say none of these ambitious leaders either had the courage to claim such a patent or even the guts to whisper even a word of appreciation for Ms Irani when the redoubtable (late) Pramod Mahajan singlehandedly launched her into the BJP orbit. Such was Mahajan's clout that Ms Irani could even get away with calling the Gujarat riots a 'blot' on the party. They remember how Mahajan bailed out Ms Irani and helped her sort out issues with Narendra Modi by making her issue a statement to undo the damage. But then, it is no secret that once Mahajan died an untimely death, many BJP leaders have been trying, unsuccessfully, to be what Mahajan was for the party in many critical areas.


Home Remedy

The pro-Telangana Congress MLAs and MPs were upbeat when they arrived in New Delhi, flaunting their 'resignations' that can 'endanger' the life of the state and central governments. But if they were confident of their 'pressure tactics' working, they met more than their match in a livid Pranab Mukherjee. When the Andhra Pradesh Congress brigade asked Mr Mukherjee to place forth a peace formula, he told them the Congress won't give in to blackmailing by those who have 'unilaterally resigned'. Desperate, they asked how they could meet the expectations their resignations had given rise to. "You face the music," quipped back the Congress veteran. More desperate now, they said their stay in Delhi was already making their political rivals talk of 'secret deal-making'. "Then go home," is what Mr Mukherjee said in reply! Most of the Congress 'rebels' went home the next day, agreeing that the Centre needed time to find an amicable solution to settle the issue of a separate state.

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

MARKETMIND

ONSET OF AN ECONOMIC WINTER?

ARVIND SINGHAL

 

In recent weeks, there is a palpable moderation in expectations relating to India's growth story. The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council has now pegged the 2011-12 growth to 8.5%, lower than the 9% projected in the Budget earlier this year. The government, however, continues to believe that it can still target 9-9.5% levels during the 12th Five Year Plan years commencing April 2012. Unfortunately, the ground realities very strongly belie such optimism. Indeed, India will probably struggle to achieve even a 6-6.5% annual growth in the next few years — so strong are the headwinds against it. Hence, the message for the industry and especially for those in the consumer products and services industries is to be prepared for a steady deterioration of consumer confidence, erosion of discretionary purchasing power and a very different kind of buying behaviour than what has been seen in the last few years.
Of the various separate currents which are converging to create this strong headwind against India's growth, the most disturbing one is the rapid increase in the momentum against the current government. The various omissions and commissions of UPA-I and UPA-II are surfacing almost on a weekly basis, creating paralysing even the most basic policy and decision-making. While many believe the government may be able to fight and survive these battles, there is also a (currently minority) view that India may see general elections sometime in the next 12-15 months itself with the likely trigger being some yet-to-surface mega scam or scandal searing the Congress party itself and engulfing some of its so far holier-thanthou senior functionaries.
Beyond scams and scandals, the second most potent challenge is that of the runaway inflation. Many have now started to acknowledge that India's inflation is almost entirely self-inflicted and is mostly on account of supply-side bottlenecks. However, the government (and the extra-constitutional National Advisory Council) still continues to, on one hand, use very classic macro-economic policy tools such as curbing money-supply and raising interest rates to stifle demand and on the other, further stoke inflationary fires by handing out even more largesse through myriad populist schemes that do nothing more than hand out alms to the very poor. The hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees that have been disbursed in recent years through schemes such as NREGS have merely created additional demand for basic goods and services while taking away a very large pool of unskilled labour from labour-intensive activity such as farming, construction and even manufacturing, leading to steady wage inflation. Had this money been deployed in creating additional supply or in physical and social sector infrastructure development including investment in mass low-cost housing; education, especially vocational; healthcare, especially primary and upgraded secondary; land acquisition, not only for builders and SEZs but also for industrial estates; urban development; public transport, including modernisation of railway; and modernisation of farming, including expansion of irrigation, etc, not only some of the supply-side constraints would have been alleviated but tens of millions of productive and sustainable new jobs would have also been created. The third ominous undercurrent against India's growth story is the likelihood of a rapid slowdown in the formation of fresh capital. While the government still continues to take a muddled view on attracting foreign capital in just about every major capital intensive sector, with totally irrelevant policy enforced caps on foreign shareholding (the obsession with 26%/ 49%/ 51%/ 74% foreign ownership caps is totally bewildering), the interest of the domestic retail investor is declining precipitously. If the government plugs the commonly-known but not yet officially acknowledged round-tripping of Indian money from dubious overseas destinations, there will be further decline in capital availability in the coming years. Some of the major growth sectors such as real estate and private (and public-private) infrastructure development may even see a spectacular collapse if such access of capital chokes.
Finally, it will also not help if some of the most iconic Indian business tycoons find their own (and of Indian business itself) reputations tarred beyond easy salvage. If this scenario does unfold, there is no reason to despair too much. Yes, India needs very high growth for decades to come if it desires to take hundreds of millions out of abject poverty and then offer to several hundred other millions a better quality of life and a higher standard of living. However, a return to a moderate economic growth rate for some years to come, in the backdrop of a much-needed major political catharsis, could give India the opportunity to refocus, recalibrate and rebalance both the government and private business policy, which can lay the foundation for a high growth for decades to come.
(The author is chairman of
Technopak Advisors)

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

PLAYING THE SHAME GAME

IF KALMADI IS A MAGNATE WHO SIPHONED MILLIONS, TAINTED ATHLETES ARE HUNGRY CHILDREN WHO STOLE A LOAF OF BREAD


"Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or poison that one may find on the tip of one's tongue, so it is impossible for one dealing with government funds not to taste, at least a little bit, of the king's wealth."
    – Chanakya, in Arthashastra

 

Corruption in India is centuries old. Chanakya spoke about it in Arthashastra, his defining work on statecraft, which played a crucial role in the establishment of the Mauryan Empire. Roger Boesche, a professor at Occidental College and one of Barack Obama's intellectual mentors, has described Arthashastra as a book "analysing how the political world does work and not very often stating how it ought to work". In other words, Chanakya spoke about how things really were 2,300 years ago, rather than preach what is moral and what isn't.

 

There has long been a debate about how corruption percolates through India: from the top down or bottom up. However, in the last few months, when ministers and Members of Parliament have been exposed and imprisoned over issues ranging from telecom licences to the Commonwealth Games, the topdown model has started to emerge clearly as the dominant form.

 

It may therefore seem ironic that bang in the middle of this period of selfrealisation and agitation, India has been rocked by stories of programmed doping by athletes who were seen as part of a new sprinting revolution.

 

Those who follow Indian sport are aware that athletes are its smallest footsoldiers, the group of people at the very end of the food chain. They suffer in silence as they're forced to live in ramshackle hotels and sleep in train compartments, practice in centres where airconditioners do not work and basic equipment is hard to come by, surviving on paltry daily allowances even as the heads of their federations live in lavish bungalows and fly first-class to international junkets.

 

It is only when these athletes, despite all the hurdles, win medals on the world stage, are they marketed by the establishment, hailed by the media, and celebrated by the public as the torchbearers of a shining, new India. When Sushil Kumar won a bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he asked the TV cameras thronging his dilapidated akhada at Delhi's Chhatrasal Stadium where they had been for so long, and how many of them would visit when the frenzy around him had died down. When Abhinav Bindra won the shooting gold, the first individual Olympic gold medal for India ever, he shunned those who wanted to project him as a new national icon, saying there was a feeling of "emptiness" inside him.

 

 As crores of rupees were being showered upon them by the government and corporate houses, Sushil and Abhinav were well aware of what Saina Nehwal bravely articulated last week: that a number of their colleagues take performance-enhancing drugs in their desperation to be recognised in a system where the gap is so wide between those who make it and those who don't.

 

When corruption is rampant at the top, is there any surprise if those at the bottom, who are fighting for their basic needs, eventually give in? In the athletics federation, for example, two top officials – life president Suresh Kalmadi and secretary Lalit Bhanot – are in jail for their involvement in the Commonwealth Games scam. They have been accused of misappropriation of funds amounting to hundreds of crores from CWG alone, apart from decades spent handling substantial funds in their capacity as athletics officials and office-bearers of the parent Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

 

If they're akin to corporate bigwigs who siphon off millions by fudging books, giving contracts in exchange for cash, inflating bills, and procuring poor equipment at higher rates, the tainted athletes are, in comparison, hungry children who stole a loaf of bread.

 

Ashwini Akkunji, Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose have been on TV every day for the last week, with a red banner calling them dope cheats who brought shame to India. Less than a year ago, they had been on television for the first time, branded as girls who had brought glory to the nation after winning the 4x400 relay in the Commonwealth and Asian Games. The media never bothered to talk about them before that, or even a few days later, when their medals were forgotten.

 

Cheating is bad, and cheats must be punished. The larger issue is not who took steroids but why they did it.
    Outrage is an easy sentiment; so is saying that someone has shamed your country. But if anyone wears the flag on their sleeves, it is the athletes; not experts, opinion writers, TV anchors, or the officials who hold on to their federation offices for decades. Fighting corruption in sport cannot start at the bottom. The athletes are victims who succumbed to pressure, rather than part of a grand design. With Kalmadi and Bhanot as their bosses, we should've expected a few of them to slip.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MORE RAIL DISASTERS WAITING TO HAPPEN

As many as 13 bogies, and the engine, of the Delhi-bound Kalka Mail flew off the tracks on the Allahabad-Kanpur section on Sunday. It appears the accident occurred when emergency brakes were sought to be applied. At last count 68 passengers had lost their lives and about 200 were injured. No possible cause for the derailment, including sabotage, can be ruled out for now. But no matter where the inquiry leads, it is reasonable to suggest that the Indian Railways have been among our least supervised national assets. It is a shame that this is the case. Our railways, after all, offer the most extensive network of trains in the world and are used mainly by ordinary people, for whom it is the cheapest and most convenient means of long-distance transportation, whether of passengers or goods. Even if the Kalka Mail derailment is proved to be the handiwork of saboteurs, the railway administration cannot wish away its responsibilities. It is an obligation for it to ensure that the nation's transportation lifeline is better looked after even from the security point of view. It does need to be considered that desperadoes gain extra propaganda points when they are able to hit important trains such as the Kalka Mail, which is among the oldest and most prestigious in the railways' stable. However, looking at probable causes of rail accidents in India, it is not unlikely that safety and maintenance shortcomings will top the chart, although "human failure" is usually the first cause that officialdom thinks of. But realistically speaking, top officials ought to be concentrating on systemic causes. The figures of deaths due to rail accidents have climbed alarmingly in recent times. It appears that in the past decade, the railways have failed to meet their own corporate safety plan targets. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has pointed to failures in the meeting of goals in key areas such as the modernising of signalling equipment, installation of the anti-collision devices, maintenance of assets and the filling of safety-related vacancies at all levels. According to the CAG, there was shortage of safety staff in almost all sections in all 16 railway zones. It appears that the key post of member (traffic) on the Railway Board has not been filled for over a year, while general managers in several zones have not been appointed. These top-level personnel oversee the flow of traffic in all directions and in handling train operations overall. This is a disturbing state of affairs, which attests to systemic decay, not growth. The adding of more trains on nearly every route, mainly to suit the whims or political compulsions of railway ministers, and raising their speed without commensurate upgrading of tracks and other equipment needed to bear the extra load, cannot obscure the deficiencies which are certain to lead to outcomes that are fatal. In fact, if things remain the way they are, more accidents are waiting to happen. The railways are a departmentally run undertaking of the Government of India, and are led by a Cabinet minister at the Centre. In recent years, however, the political appointee has been an absentee owner of the fief, as is graphically illustrated by the case of Mamata Banerjee, who had no time to give to her charge as she was concentrating on wresting control of Kolkata's Writers' Buildings. Before her, Lalu Prasad Yadav sought to build a reputation for himself as a manager by augmenting railway revenues, but generally left railway safety to chance, ushering in neither consolidation nor innovation.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BALLERINA IN BOOTS

 

The induction and build-up of the Indian Army in a 750 sq km "manoeuvre area" allotted by the Chhattisgarh government in the Naxalite-affected Abujmarh zone of Chhattisgarh, howsoever presented to the public, has long been expected. The preliminary moves commenced with the establishment of an Army sub-area headquarters in Raipur, and now an infantry brigade (5,000-7,000 troops depending on the composition) is in the process of establishing jungle-training camps in Narayanpur district, 300 km from Raipur, adjacent to the Naxalite "liberated zone" near the Abujmarh forest region, which is said to have remained unsurveyed since Independence. That by itself should be ample indication of the root cause of the Naxalite problem, and the official acknowledgement by an outgoing home secretary of the Government of India that Abujmarh is a "liberated zone" should come as no surprise. The Army, of course, has been careful to emphasise repeatedly that its mission is purely training and not anti-Naxalite operations, but also realises the very live possibility of encounters and clashes during the process of training in what is in effect a no man's land between the government and the Naxalites. A very real likelihood, therefore, of "mission creep" as a result of such encounters. It is no secret that given the chronic and long-running nature of the Naxalite problem and the failure of the politico-administrative process to tackle the issue, recourse to an Army presence was regarded by many as more or less inevitable. The Army has all along been a reluctant participant here, knowing only too well the utterly thankless nature of another commitment on counterinsurgency, with no credit but only a surfeit of endless criticisms and allegations, besides the travails of establishing healthy working relationships with multiple state administrations and their police forces. The Naxalites are certainly watching the Army's movements very carefully through their network of informants and observers in the area, including this new element as it goes about its work in their domain. The Army's training schedules will be hard, realistic and rigorous, and as per established doctrines there is likely to be civic action programmes within and in the vicinity of the manoeuvre area, which the Naxalites will try to counter by warning against fraternisation with the Army and stepping up the fear psychosis amongst the locals. Also, sooner rather than later, Naxalites should be expected to launch tentative probing attacks, ambushes and IEDs on Army camps, detachments and transport to test the waters and demonstrate their own presence in the area. However, a hostile training area is nothing novel for the Army, because its well-established and reputed Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, Mizoram, was also established during the initial stages of the Mizo insurgency in an area then frequented by the hostile Mizo National Army on the principle that a live hostile presence sharpens the edge of combat training. Similarly when Pakistan-sponsored terrorism spread into the hinterland of Jammu and Kashmir, where the Army initially had no presence, units were moved into the area for training and area domination to deny a free run to the terrorists. That being said, it must be realised that the critical elements in the fight against Naxalites cannot be the police, paramilitary forces or even the Army. Rather it is that element of the security structure who have gone missing totally by default, if not actively disparaged and demonised by all concerned, particularly the media: The tribals indigenous to the area, who are the chief participants as well as sufferers on both sides. They have been mobilised by local politicians like Mahendra Karma into the counter-Naxalite Salwa Judum movement, supported by the state, and recruited as police auxiliaries designated "Special Police Officers" (SPOs). Mahendra Karma's unsavoury reputation is well known and his Salwa Judum has, of course, earned a horrific reputation for indiscipline and gross atrocities against their opponents, who are part of the same tribal society. The Salwa Judum has recently been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India, which has ordered the state and Central governments to disarm and disband these SPOs. However, that notwithstanding, the historical fact is that insurgency can only be combated by indigenous forces, whether by the Sunni awakening in Iraq or the Punjab police in India. There is no real alternative in Chhattisgarh too, where it is the successful utilisation of indigenous tribal auxiliaries which holds the key to success. The Chhattisgarh police is under staffed and overstretched. In this context, the Army's presence in Chhattisgarh can perhaps most effectively and imaginatively if the state government agrees to allow it to intensively train and mentor the Chhattisgarh police, along with the entire structure of tribal SPO auxiliaries, to function under tight control against insurgents in an effective but acceptable manner. It is not by any means easily achievable, given the political and administrative forces at play in that troubled state — political and police leadership are always sensitive to issues of turf. The Chhattisgarh government and its chief minister have displayed the most hard-line anti-Naxal attitude, as manifested in the Salwa Judum and the case of social activist Dr Binayak Sen, all perhaps inevitable considering the terrible hatred and bitterness the conflict has generated. Dr Sen's case demonstrates that this attitude has permeated even to the higher judiciary in the state. Dr Sen could ultimately obtain relief by approaching the Supreme Court, away from the jurisdiction of the state. The state has always demanded the deployment and involvement of the Army against the Naxalites, which is one reason the training areas near Abujmarh were so readily allotted, and it is expected that the clamour for military involvement in the Naxalite problem will now increase. The Army finds itself in the position of a ballerina dancing in combat boots, treading warily between the minefields of IEDs and civil rights. But the Army has also made its rules of engagement clear — it is not a sitting duck; if fired upon, it will fire back. * The author is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IN DEFENCE OF MURDOCH & HIS GUTSY PAPERS

 

Fair warning: This column is a defence of Rupert Murdoch. If you add everything up, he's been good for newspapers over the past several decades, keeping them alive and vigorous and noisy and relevant. Without him, the British newspaper industry might have disappeared entirely. This defence is prompted in part by seeing everyone piling in on the British hacking scandal, as if such abuses were confined to News International (we shall see) and as if significant swathes of the British establishment had not been complicit. It is also prompted by having spent time with Murdoch 21 years ago when writing a profile for the New York Times Magazine and coming away impressed. Before I get to why, a few caveats. First, the hacking is of course indefensible as well as illegal. Second, Fox News, the US TV network started by Murdoch, has with its shrill Right-wing demagoguery masquerading as news made a significant contribution to the polarisation of American politics, the erosion of reasoned debate, the debunking of reason itself, and the ensuing Washington paralysis. Third, I disagree with Murdoch's views on a range of issues — from climate change to West Asia — where his influence has been unhelpful. So why do I still admire the guy? The first reason is his evident loathing for elites, for cozy establishments, for cartels, for what he's called "strangulated English accents" — in fact for anything standing in the way of gutsy endeavour and churn. His love of no-holds-barred journalism is one reason Britain's press is one of the most aggressive anywhere. That's good for free societies. Murdoch once told me: "When I came to Britain in 1968, I found it was damn hard to get a day's work out of the people at the top of the social scale. As an Australian, I only had to work eight or 10 hours a day, 48 weeks of the year, and everything came to you". So it was easy enough, from 1969 onward, to rake in the media heirlooms. Along the way he's often shown fierce loyalty to his people — as now with Rebekah Brooks, the embattled head of News International — and piled money into important newspapers like the Times that would otherwise have vanished. The second thing I admire is the visionary, risk-taking determination that has placed him ahead of the game as the media business has been transformed through globalisation and digitisation. It's been the ability to see around corners that has ushered him from two modest papers inherited from his father in Adelaide to the head of a company with about $33 billion in annual revenues. Yes, there have been mistakes — MySpace, the social media site just sold for a fraction of its purchase price is one. But I'd take Murdoch's batting average. He's gambled big on satellite TV, on global media opportunities in sports, and on the conflation of television, publishing, entertainment, newspapers and the Internet. British Sky Broadcasting and Fox alone represent big businesses created from nothing against significant odds. A favourite Murdoch saying is: "We don't deal in market share. We create the market". Of course, his success makes plenty of people envious, one reason the Citizen Kane ogre image has attached to him. (He would have endorsed Kane who, when asked in the movie how he found business conditions in Europe, responded: "With great difficulty!") His success has caused redoubled envy in Britain because there he is ever the outsider from Down Under. (America doesn't really do outsiders.) The Times, which I've found a good read since moving to London last summer, has impressed me with its continued investment in foreign coverage, its bold move to put up a pay wall for the online edition (yes, people should pay for the work of journalists), and with the way the paper plays it pretty straight under editor James Harding. The Telegraph to the Right and Guardian to the Left play it less straight. British Sky Broadcasting is emphatically not Fox. It's a varied channel with some serious news shows. Overall, the British media scene without Murdoch would be pretty impoverished. His breaking of the unions at Wapping in 1986 was decisive for the vitality of newspapering. He took the Times tabloid when everyone said he was crazy. He was right. He loves a scoop, loves a scrap, and both the Wall Street Journal and the Times show serious journalists can thrive under him. But Murdoch's in trouble now. An important deal for all of British Sky Broadcasting hangs on his being able to convince British authorities News Corp management is in fact reputable. He'll probably have to sacrifice Brooks for that. Politicians who fawned now fulminate. Prime Minister David Cameron is embarrassed. Both Murdoch and his savvy son James Murdoch (of more centrist views than his father) are scrambling. I'd bet on them to prevail. When I asked Murdoch the secret of TV, he told me "Bury your mistakes". The guy's a force of nature and his restless innovations have, on balance and with caveats, been good for the media and a more open world.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NO TRAINS TO SAFETY

 

The Kalka Mail's tragedy holds sharp personal anguish for someone who was brought up on the railways in another age of travelling in comfort and security. Sunday afternoon's derailment in Uttar Pradesh might possibly be due to sabotage (like that of the Guwahati-Puri Express the same day) but my instincts say this is yet another consequence of the mismanagement that marks an India that is trundling to the moon in a creaking bullock cart packed with diseased and undernourished people. Great things are being done for India but not for Indians. The impermanence to which the permanent way — nearly 65,000 km of track — is being reduced matters more than 2G and Commonwealth Games scams or the fuss over a Lokpal. It was with a stab of pain that I read amidst harrowing tales of death and suffering that the derailed train has fallen to fourth place in the pecking order. Time was when no train in Kolkata was grander than the Delhi Mail which went on to Kalka. As a child, I looked on it with awe for a very personal reason — my father's saloon couldn't be attached to it; he wasn't an important enough railway official to add to the length and weight of a train that had sped the viceroy to Shimla. The main platform at Howrah used to be ablaze with the movers and shakers of the world when the Kalka Mail with its smart dining car run by Kellner (Spencer handled catering on southern routes) set out for Delhi each evening. That august train now follows humbly in the wake of upstarts of the railroad like the Rajdhani and Duronto and Poorva Expresses. The Rajdhani certainly isn't half as splendid as the Kalka Mail used to be. Its downfall probably began unnoticed when the original sitting room was lopped off. Recently, I had to take it from Patna, and noticed how my first class airconditioned coupe was only a stark box of splintering plywood without many of the fittings (wash basin, wardrobe, etc.) that had been there only a few years ago. One might argue that a stark wooden box can move just as smoothly and safely on the rails as the viceregal saloon used to, but if trains have been so downgraded, it's likely that so have the rails and supporting infrastructure. Each new political adventurer who bags the railway portfolio only seeks personal fame and a place in posterity by adding a new train. That is all that public life in India is about nowadays. It's the same in the professions, even in my own trade of stringing words together. Everyone is selling something and that something is himself (or herself). Only, railway ministers do it at the cost of public life and safety. Lal Bahadur Shastri was the only incumbent to have had the decency to acknowledge that. The others are out for what they can get. "I am the minister of state, not the railway minister," Mukul Roy is quoted as saying after Sunday's calamity. "I will go to the spot if the PM tells me." The remark betrayed his discontent at not being given Cabinet rank and his anxiety for an opportunity to push himself to the notice of Manmohan Singh and, even better, Sonia Gandhi. Why else should he bother with loss of life and property? It's not his life or his property! Perhaps Mr Roy had already got wind of the rumour — now reported as fact — that like a medieval empress rewarding subservient courtiers, Mamata Banerjee has decided to bestow the portfolio not on him but on Dinesh Trivedi. Trains were always on time in a childhood spent in railway colonies when we were not romping in a saloon shunted in the sidings in some distant station or in retiring rooms with the knowledge that a good restaurant with khansamas in crisply beplumed turbans and gleaming brass medallions was available just down the stairs. The last time I had to spend a night in a retiring room was in Arrah because I was visiting the Sonepur fair in the 1970s. The bed linen was so filthy that I reclined all night in a long cane planter's chair. I should imagine that handsome piece of teak has either been chopped up for firewood or graces some official's residence. Trains were on time because engines were well maintained, the tracks perfectly in order with sleepers and fish plates so spaced as to cause the minimum bumps, and no signalman was ever caught napping on his watch. It would offend his izzat and there was no greater insult than that. It was fascinating to watch the signalman at the end of the platform deftly fling the wire ring to the engine driver who caught and flung it back with equal adroitness. The exchange signalled the all-clear. The inspector in his sola topee on a trolley wheeling along the track under blazing skies or in torrential rain was another indicator of the importance attached to safety. Four bearers pushed and pulled the platform for a while and then jumped on it to remain seated while the momentum lasted. The trolley's smooth passage ensured that the train following had nothing to fear from missing segments of track, worn-out sleepers, loose fishplate screws or other dangers. The sola-hatted inspector and his bearers literally put their lives on the line for passengers. Maoism has come as a tremendous boon. The consequences of substandard material (everyone takes a cut on every purchase), shoddy workmanship, poor maintenance and negligent inspection can be blamed on saboteurs. What would all our public services do without those armed rebels? It recalls the principality of Monaco cabling Paris after the end of the Second World War asking for some Communists. Monaco didn't qualify for Marshall Aid otherwise. It's a hell of a way to run a railroad, as the old American saying goes. It's also a hell of a way to run a country. * Sunanda K. Datta-Ray is a senior journalist, columnist and author

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE MONKEY AND THE MONK

 

Gnana means "to know", not "to philosophise". Unfortunately, philosophy is mostly being passed off as gnana yoga today. Fundamentally, if you want to pursue gnana, you need to be alert and have a sharp intellect. Every day and every moment one must slowly sharpen one's intellect. It should not miss anything; it should go through everything, but nothing should stick to it, nor should it be influenced by things happening around. This is gnana. If you can use your intellect in such a manner, it will penetrate through the process of life and show you what is true and what is untrue, what is real and what is unreal. Today, people just jump to conclusions without proper assessment. They make up philosophies. People tend to say, "Everything is maya. It is all illusion, so why worry?" They are just trying to console themselves. But when maya gets them properly, all their philosophies evaporate. Something similar happened with the great Swami Vivekananda. All the time Swami Vivekananda went about his work with great strength, "Everything is maya, don't bother about anything. The whole world that you experience is all illusion." Once, when he was walking with two of his monks, a rabies-infected monkey, which had gone crazy, started chasing him. Vivekananda screamed and ran. Luckily, the monkey found some other distraction and went away. Vivekananda stopped and realised that all his "maya" teaching suddenly fell through. "Monkey is also a maya, monkey's madness is also a maya. That the monkey is going to bite me is also maya. Why did I run like this?" These things hit him very strongly and from then on, he was never the same man again. So talking about the illusory nature of the world, or talking about the Creation and the Creator, or believing that the world is like this or that is not gnana. Gnana yogis cannot afford to believe or identify themselves with anything. Unfortunately, today, in the name of gnana, people believe so many things — "I am atman, I am paramatman". They believe in the arrangement of the cosmos, the shape and size of the soul, how it will transcend; they read all this in books. This is not gnana yoga, because you are believing something without real assessment. People who walk the path of gnana are those whose intellect is such that they are not willing to believe anything, nor do they disbelieve anything. "What I know, I know; what I do not know, I do not know" — this is gnana. — The author, a prominent spiritual leader, is a visionary, humanitarian, an author, poet and internationally-renowned speaker. He can be contacted at www.ishafoundation.org

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LIFTING THE SIEGE

 

What should be the role of media in a democracy? In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the question during his commiseration with five editors on June 29, remarking that their profession has become "the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge". This way, he concluded, "no parliamentary democracy can function." In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron bemoaned the modern political culture of over-reliance on media against the background of the arrest of Andy Coulson, his director of communications who has been with his party since 2007, for suspected complicity in phone-hacking and bribery earlier as editor of the tabloid News of the World. Both Prime Ministers were off the mark. While Dr Singh overlooked the fact that the Indian media was responding to a moral vacuum generated during the seven-year rule of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and laissez faire decision-making by its Cabinet members, particularly those from coalition partners, Mr Cameron was overlooking his party's Faustian bargain with Murdoch i.e. political endorsement in exchange for future business support. Media is, after all, both a business as well as democracy's lifeblood, because it holds those in power accountable, keeps the electorate informed and the markets under scrutiny. NBC's Andrea Mitchell correctly surmised that "politicians always say they want a fair press, when what they really want is a positive press". The media's role, historically, has oscillated in relation to the nature of political leadership, existence or breakdown of national cohesion on vital issues — domestic or foreign, and the infusion of new technologies. If television in the West compelled print media in the 1970s to adapt, merge or perish, then the same occurred in India three decades later. Today, however, the role of Internet in news dissemination and the innovative rise of Twitter, Facebook and Google are impacting globally simultaneously. India is both bucking the trend, as newspaper readership is still expanding, and yet conforming as seen in the expansion of television news, with over 80 of the 500-plus satellite channels devoted to it. To assess if investigative journalism is good or bad for democracy it would be useful to turn to the US, an older democracy and a global power. In the early 1970s, the US presidency came under the sort of attack that the Indian Prime Minister is bemoaning now. The publication of the Pentagon Papers, a history of the war in Vietnam, in the New York Times beginning June 1971 and the Watergate revelations by the Washington Post in 1973, about illegal phone-tapping of political rivals, set the stage for the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. By 1975, the public mood swung the other way. David Rockefeller financed a Trilateral Commission, under Samuel Huntington, to study whether the US had "an excess of democracy" and also if "the development of television journalism contributed to the undermining of government authority". As it turned out, from 1981, President Ronald Reagan's accession to power set the stage for a harmonious, if not collaborative, relationship with the media. Mark Hertsgaard in his masterly 1988 book, On Bended Knee, analyses how success depended partly on Reagan's likeability, and partly on his ability to perform to a script in a radio trained voice, but above all on the deftness of his handlers. In India, too, Prime Ministers' media relations have had their highs and lows. Nehru the patrician ignored aides and media barons. Indira Gandhi cultivated individual editors, treating the beast with disdain, calculating that her constituency was beyond the English press. Imposition of Emergency and press censorship in 1975 rested on similar logic. Rajiv Gandhi, idolised in the first two years, found in 1987 his worshippers turning into inquisitors over Bofors, the Postal Bill and a Muslim woman's alimony. The reformist Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, to whom India owes its current global rise, came unsought and left unheralded. Erudite but taciturn, exuding knowledge but without charisma or charm, for the press he was Chanakya masquerading as king. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was India's Ronald Reagan. Both got power two decades too late. Despite being consummate public communicators, both rarely came close to the camera. The former clammed up on seeing one; the latter tended to commit gaffes when off-script. One survived Kargil, a damning intelligence failure, turning it into electoral success; the other lurched into the Iran-Contra imbroglio, yet surviving with his ratings intact. The media, thus, does not undermine democracy, nor does investigative journalism. It inconveniences ruling parties, sometimes even ousts governments. The antidote is synchronisation of a government's political and media strategies; continuous and coherent briefing by designated spokespersons (not party interlopers); and maintaining of a firewall between bureaucracy, which can do background briefing or on-record statements, and the ministers, who must defend policy. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao's recent television interview that Pakistan's stance on terror has changed, contradicted later by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, alleging Inter-Service Intelligence's hand in journalist Shahzad's death, and that despite the recent Nuclear Suppliers Group rules amendment India had counter-leverages, are statements best left to politicians to tackle. * The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

A TALK WITH THE MAOIST

OF CONCESSION AND COMPULSION


THE fragile peace in Junglemahal appears to have prompted the Chief Minister to announce the initiative for negotiations with the Maoists. This is welcome as must be the prompt endorsement by Sitaram Yechuri. The offer has been couched in the major concession that the tribals/Maoists will be entitled to partake of the forest resources, the principal source of their livelihood. Alone among the heads of government along the Red Corridor, Mamata Banerjee has been remarkably explicit in upholding the right of the subaltern. Whereas others have played footsie almost in tandem with the forest dweller and the investor, for mining down under and industry above ground. That having been said, the Chief Minister has iterated a condition that has marked the CPI-M's policy since Jyoti Basu's time. Precisely, that the Maoists must surrender their arms before both sides head towards the negotiating table. And it is a critical condition that the Left radicals have resisted for as long as they have. Without an arms surrender, the extremists have the lethal option to resort to violence, one that no government ~ irrespective of the political hue ~ will have the nerve to contend with. On the Chief Minister's saddle for close to two months, Miss Banerjee is seemingly conscious of the compulsions of governance. Notably, that Central forces will remain stationed in Junglemahal till normal conditions are restored. In effect she has jettisoned her principal campaign plank against the CPI-M, specifically the demand for the removal of the paramilitary from the volatile belt. She has realised that the  extremist challenge is much too forbidding for the state police. Electoral rhetoric and governance are very different propositions. One can almost visualise Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee enjoying a quite chuckle.


The outlook is uncertain; the Maoists have decided to take a call on the talks offer by referring the proposal to their central committee. As crucial as the talks is the need for a rehabilitation package, which is yet to be devised. The CPI-M's belated welfare handout had foundered on two counts ~ lack of inter-department coordination and the fiscal crunch that may impede efforts for some time yet. There is yet no commitment from the Centre on the state's plea for a special fund earmarked for Junglemahal; a similar demand may well be raised by the other states. Yet the talks must begin as an essay towards a forward movement... with the ultimate objective of an improvement in the quality of life. Miss Banerjee's approach marks a qualitative change from P Chidambaram's contemptuous reflection ~ 'they live in the jungles'.


PRESSURE PAID OFF

PROBE BEYOND THE CRIME

WERE it not for the strong position taken by the Tamil Nadu chief minister there was every possibility the police would have failed to trace the killer of the 13-year-old shot dead when stealing fruit from a tree in an army residential complex in Chennai. That it took almost a week to nab the suspect points to local army authorities doing little more than technically "co-operate" with the police ~ when propriety, and the enormity of the incident, dictated their taking a pro-active role in averting revulsion and disgrace being cast upon the uniform. If one tip-off came from a domestic aide who noted abnormal behaviour in the suspect's family, surely others in as close-knit a society as the military ought to have noticed it too. Were others in the complex not shocked at the lad's death; aware of the public outcry; and concerned about the killer being identified, prosecuted? That the Lieutenant Colonel in custody now appends "Retd." to his name is no alleviating factor. He was on active duty till three months ago, occupying official accommodation (to which he was entitled), still very much a soldier ~ which requires high standards of behaviour. Sure urchins who steal fruit are a nuisance, but to shoot at one with a high-powered rifle is a poor reflection on military training, discipline and "attitude".. Had the incident taken in place in an insurgency-afflicted zone it might have been possible to understand ~ though not excuse ~ the man being "jumpy", but not in a tranquil, exclusive enclave in metropolitan Chennai. Something is just not right. Hence the chapter cannot be permitted to close with the criminal prosecution. The defence minister would do well to order an independent probe to assess the quality of the army's cooperation with the police investigators, was there any stonewalling, perhaps even a bid at a cover- up? If so strong action is necessary, the military must get the message that it is not above the law. Sadly, it is not easy to perceive the incident in isolation: only weeks ago army personnel forced their way into a hotel in Leh, roughed up some tourists. It is time that Army Headquarters works to change the soldiers' mindset. And what about the host of retired generals who park themselves outside TV studios, ever-ready with their expert comment? Their silence on the teenager's slaying tells a tale. Doesn't it?


BIRTH OF A NATION

SOUTH SUDAN IS INDEPENDENT

A NEW member has joined the comity of nations at the stroke of the midnight hour last Friday-Saturday. South Sudan has gained independence after a prolonged and bloody insurgency against the North, the messy divorce overshadowed by the gloating celebrations in Juba, the South's capital. The presence of Omar Hassan al-Bashir at the independence ceremony was a grand gesture on the part of undivided Sudan's Head of State. As must be India's immediate recognition of the new country. Saturday's grandstanding was the logical corollary of the peace deal concluded in 2005 to end the civil war in the north. It has taken more than six years for the consummation to fructify. The trends were fairly clear last January when the Republic of South Sudan won the momentous referendum on independence. Yet it remained a war of nerves till the historic end; both North and South were wary of a renewed bout of confrontation in an impoverished and fractious country. In popular reckoning, moving away from the  North implies "total freedom" for the South. Mercifully, the fragile peace did hold in the six months since the referendum. Yet between the euphoria in Juba and the grudging acceptance in Khartoum, a new period of uncertainty appears to have set in.


In the immediate aftermath of victory, the trends are ominous. While President Bashir has reconciled himself to the independence of the breakaway South, he has intensified the crackdown against the rebels within his North. The militia, entrenched in the Nuba mountains, are allied to the South and have signalled their intent to "march on Khartoum". Indeed, the authorities of the North face a double whammy ~ the loss of the South in parallel with the rebels of a truncated country. Taking advantage of the South's independence, one of the leaders of the resistance movement has swiftly declared self-rule in the Nuba Mountains. President Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, will have to contend with a string of internal rebellions ~ from Blue Nile state in the east to the ever so restive western region of Darfur. Independence of the South is but one facet of the movement. The two thorny issues of the  border and share of oil revenues between the two Sudans are yet to be resolved. A division of the country is not an enduring solution, as the history of the Indian subcontinent so grimly illustrates.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

NICE MEN FINISH LAST

WEAK PM, DRIFTING GOVERNMENT

AMULYA GANGULI


IF the resignation of Dayanidhi Maran and the incarcerations of his party colleagues, the DMK's Andimuthu Raja and Kanimozhi, prove anything, it is that if the investigating authorities are given a free hand, much of the corruption can be controlled if not eliminated. It is only when the probe agencies are under political supervision that they are unable to act freely because they are not allowed to. Ever since the present investigations into the 2G spectrum and other scams were being monitored by the Supreme Court that the CBI has moved swiftly to jail the suspects.


This is precisely the reason why the court had called in 2006 for insulating the law-enforcing agencies from political influence so that they could function without fear or favour. But the obiter dicta was ignored by the Centre and the states because the ruling politicians have long become accustomed to using the police and the CBI for partisan purposes, which included shielding the guilty belonging to their own parties and spying on the Opposition. Hence, the ease with which Ottavio Quattrocchi, an accused in the Bofors scandal, left India and whose London bank account was unfrozen by a helpful Government of India.


If the parties in power of all hues had rooted out every vestige of professionalism from the police and the investigating agencies, incidents such as the Gujarat riots of 2002, where the police acted as spectators during mob violence, or the "invasion" of Nandigram in West Bengal by the Marxist militia as the police stood by, would not have taken place. Nor would have the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Delhi and surrounding areas. There is little doubt that much of the malaise affecting the country is the result not only of the government's ineptitude, but also the malign manipulation of the police and the bureaucracy by the political class.
The average person will not be too displeased, therefore, at the way the Supreme Court is taking matters into its own hands even if the consequent encroachment and curtailment of the executive's rights by the judiciary violate the principle of the division of power in a democracy. Ideally, none of the three "estates" ~ the executive, the judiciary and the legislature ~ should trespass into the other's turf. But, if the judiciary has done so in the spectrum, black money and other affairs, the reason is that the government has been doing nothing to nail the miscreants.


As the Maran episode shows, his acts of indiscretion stretch back to the first UPA government, which means that the Prime Minister failed to act for years till the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Supreme Court issued their indictments. As a result, it is clear that the Prime Minister's position has been further weakened by this development.


Those who believed that the recent spate of arrests and jail terms would redeem his reputation by showing that some steps were at last being taken would note with dismay the long periods of inaction in Maran's case, which amounted to virtual compliance with the ministerial shenanigans.


Besides, the fact that Maran was still attending cabinet meetings on the eve of his resignation ~ although he withdrew briefly during a discussion on FM radio channels ~ showed that he held on grimly till the last. The inference is that a weak Prime Minister allowed him to do so when he should have asked him to go long ago. Moreover, the DMK's expectation that Maran's portfolio would remain with the party ~ TR Baalu's name was mentioned as a possible replacement ~underlined its shamelessness although the conduct of its two ministers and an influential MP, who is none other than the chief minister's daughter, has come under the scanner.
Not surprisingly, a weak executive has had to retreat before an assertive judiciary not only in the spectrum allocation cases, but also in the matter of unearthing black money stashed away in foreign tax havens. In a way, this step of the Supreme Court is an even more crippling blow to the government's prestige because it entails the judiciary's entry into an arena involving foreign countries.


The court's presumption that the double taxation agreements, which have been the government's excuse for inaction, do not rule out the revelation of the names of people with secret funds  abroad,  has  considerable  implications for foreign relations, not to mention the domestic scene.


The two reasons for the government's present difficulties are obvious ~ the meekness of a soft-spoken prime minister unable to deal with the unscrupulous elements in the ministry and outside, and the reluctance of the Congress president to endanger the ruling alliance by alienating grasping allies like the DMK. As a result of their naivete or flawed political judgment, the Congress has already paid a heavy price by losing Tamil Nadu and barely scraping through in Kerala while the party can hardly expect a runaway success in the 2014 general election, which had seemed like a cakewalk after its 2004 and 2009 victories.


The only way in which the government and the party may be able to recover some of the lost ground is if the cabinet reshuffle is regarded as a meaningful exercise and not the mere shuffling of a tattered, old pack. The government should also push ahead more energetically with economic reforms, which have been on hold for reasons unknown despite the Left's absence, resulting in a drop in foreign investment and even a flight of capital. Since reforms are Manmohan Singh's forte, he should bank on them. Otherwise, he will confirm the belief that nice men finish last.


The writer is a former Assistant Editor, The Statesman

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT

THERE IS LITTLE CHANCE OF INDO-PAK TIES IMPROVING AS LONG AS THE MINDSET AT THE TOP POLITICAL AND BUREAUCRATIC LEVELS DOESN'T CHANGE. EVERY TIME THE TWO NEIGHBOURS SEEM TO REACH A POINT WHERE THEY COULD THINK OF BURYING THE HATCHET, A LAST-MINUTE HITCH COMES UP,
WRITES ML KOTRU

Born some 18 midnights before Rushdie's Midnight's Children, I spent my pre-teens and teens in Srinagar where my family would subscribe to such English-language newspapers from British India as the now-defunct Civil and Military Gazette and the Tribune ~ both published from Lahore. Since the Srinagar school run by British missionaries that I attended had English and Urdu as mediums of instruction, we would also subscribe to another Lahore daily, Zamindar, other than the long-defunct newspaper, Indian News Chronicle, published from Delhi.


So, though living in a princely state, I could keep myself abreast of Qaed-e-Azam Jinnah's battle with Nehru, Patel and the Mahatma. I was in fact in the second year of college in Srinagar when Pakistani mercenaries recruited by a British soldier-cum-Pakistani army chief invaded Jammu and Kashmir. At that time Muslim and Hindu youths, armed with toy guns and lathis, together chased the mercenaries away! We could well have been defeated but for the invaders' greed which led them to remain preoccupied with loot and rape. As they remained engaged such, delaying their foray into Srinagar by three days, it gave the Maharaja enough time to shift the valuables from his Srinagar Palace to Jammu, sign an accession treaty with India and allow Indian Army units to land in antediluvian aircraft at the Srinagar airport. That was then. I moved to Delhi the same year to complete my education although an "Emergency Degree" was available for those of us studying in colleges at the time. But the sense of urgency that those times carried remained with me for the rest of my life. I remember having written in my paper some two decades later: "Thank God, Pakistan and Kashmiri journalists on either side don't have to burn the midnight oil to find a topic for a report or a short leader. The easiest things for most Indian and Pakistani political journalists is to give vent to their nervousness and knowledge on matters concerning the ongoing Indo-Pak dispute."


In the six decades since India gained Independence, not a single day has gone without the media reporting on the  Indo-Pak dispute. For someone like me, who has travelled at least 30 times to Pakistan, covering top-level political exchanges on professional visits as a journalist and to forge some lasting friendship, I must, sadly say that there is little chance of bilateral ties improving as long as the mindset at the top political and bureaucratic levels doesn't change. Every time the two neighbours seemed to have reached a point where they could think of burying the hatchet, a last-minute hitch would come up. I remember Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former UN Secretary-General, confiding in a different context on how he hated to see Indian and Pakistani bureaucrats serving together on any UN panel. "They will fight for hours over the placement of a comma in a paragraph….."


Therefore, I was somewhat pleased last Sunday to read the observation by India's outgoing foreign secretary and Ambassador-designate to the USA, Mrs Nirupama Rao, that Pakistan's attitude towards tackling terror had changed and that India should take note of this "concrete" development. Had it been India's ties with any other nation, I would have regarded the cautious Mrs Rao's statement as a positive one. But then, only 24 hours before that, I had heard Pakistan's two senior ministers other than Mr Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N hauling India over the coals. It is a most complicated situation, considering the mutual distrust, and made worse by Pakistan's state-sponsored terrorism aimed at India. It will require superhuman efforts from both India and Pakistan to substantially improve relations.


I don't know whether it is a good thing or bad that the National Assembly of Pakistan has passed the 18th Constitutional amendment which removed the power of the country's to dissolve parliament unilaterally, turning Pakistan into a parliamentary republic. It seemed as if Jinnah's wishes were finally coming true! But it's true that even the current ruling coalition had dithered for a year before doing the needful. One of the problems which Pakistan had was not really being able to overcome its inability to give itself a stable Constitution and to ensure that no one dared fiddle with it. After Pakistan came into being in 1947, the ruling elite of West Pakistan saw to it that the aspirations of the provinces were undermined, thus forever alienating East Pakistan which renamed itself as Bangladesh following the 1971 war.


Pakistan's Constitution was finally framed in 1973. When the Pakistan People's Party came to power in 2008, it promised to return to the letter and spirit of the 1973 Constitution. Before that, Gen. Yahya Khan, in one of his wisest decisions, had abolished the One-Unit Plan in 1970 restoring the country its four original provinces. Ironically, the Muslim League's Pakistan resolution of the 1940s had spoken of "independent States in which constituent units would be autonomous". The resolution also demanded effective and mandatory safeguards for minorities and for the protection of their religious and cultural aspirations.


In reality, the Muslim League resolution of the 1940s was never allowed to be implemented after 1947. The provinces were virtually crushed into submission by the country's Punjabi majority. Balochistan and North-west Frontier Province (NWFP) were deprived of most power and Sindh, with its large Mohajir population, fared only marginally better. East Pakistan became a distant colony.


Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had promised to abolish the concurrent list compiled as per the 1973 Constitution. Before he could even take the first step to implement his plans, General Zia-ul Haq first toppled and then hanged him. Since Islamabad has taken the first step towards ending its control over subjects that rightfully should be the prerogative of the provinces, Pakistani political observers (their fingers firmly crossed) hope that President Asif Ali Zardari will keep his promise. A casual look at Balochistan and NWFP tells us how much the provinces have been oppressed. But now, under the amended charter, the dominance of the most populous province of Punjab will likely be curbed. Punjabis, who have dominated the armed services and politics for decades, will now have to reconcile to assertive smaller provinces. They did not oppose the Prime Minister in the National Assembly when he announced his decision to implement the 18th amendment. This augers well. But one can never tell with Mr Nawaz Sharif around, and with, of course, the immeasurable vested interest the military has in the economic life of Pakistan.

The writer is a veteran journalist and former Resident Editor of The Statesman, Delhi

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WINNER TAKES ALL

NOW & AGAIN

AC TULI

 

"Guess how superannuated old men of our city pass their time when their children are well settled in life and they no longer have to work for a living?" asked my friend Vivek, as we sat sipping tea in a restaurant.
Vivek has a way of assuming the role of a quizmaster to test my knowledge when I am with him. I replied: "Retired old men mostly sit at home watching TV or reading newspapers, or dangling their grandchildren on their knees, or heatedly discussing the latest political news with their neighbours. Of course, a good many of them go for their morning and evening walks regularly."


"Absolutely right," agreed Vivek, "but the list of their activities is still incomplete. Think again, for something might have escaped your mind on first go."


I puzzled over it for a while, but in vain. "If you know about any particular activity of retired old men," I said somewhat impatiently, "then why don't you name it?"


"Well, for this you'll have to come with me to a park near my house. Shall I call on you at four in the afternoon today?" Four in the afternoon seemed to me rather early for that kind of exercise, but I agreed.
Vivek came on the dot and, without wasting time on preamble, led me to a public park in the vicinity of his house. I was astonished to find the park crowded with visitors even at that early hour of the afternoon. As we walked along the cobbled path that went round the park in a zigzag way, Vivek asked me to look around and see for myself what retired old men were doing there.


I ran my eyes all over the terrain. There were not only retired old men but also a few young men, sitting here, there and everywhere in the park, in small groups. Each group was immersed in playing its game of cards. Such indeed was their absorption in their game that not even once did I see anyone raise his eyes from the cards to see what was happening around.


"These taash ke khiladi (card players)," said Vivek, "start trickling into the park at eleven in the morning. They settle down for their endless games of sweep or rummy and call it a day only when it is time for the Sun God to switch off its great powerhouse. In short, when it becomes difficult for these inveterate card players to tell the Queen of Spades from the Queen of Clubs. And, mind it, this is not the only park where these veterans meet for this pastime. There are hundreds of such parks in our metropolis where you can find them indulging in this pastime. These taash ke khiladi, like shatranj ke khiladi, do not care a bit about what others say about them..."
But at this point, Vivek's philosophising was suddenly drowned in a loud burst of merriment and laughter from one of the card-playing groups in the park. Obviously, a game had been won by a team and the winners were poking fun at the losers.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

UN HAILS INDIA'S HIV SERVICES TO GAY, TRANSGENDER PEOPLE

 

UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, has lauded India's efforts to provide prevention and treatment services for men who have sex with men and transgender people, while stressing the need for scaling up services and eliminating homophobia.  


According to a Press release issued by the agency in New York, India's AIDS response has resulted in a drop in new HIV infections by more than 50 per cent in the past decade.


UNAIDS says that 67 per cent of more than 400,000 men who have sex with men in India are accessing prevention services. "India's rich tradition of inclusivity and social justice must include men who have sex with men and transgender people," Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS executive director, said on the sidelines of the National Convention of Parliamentarians and Elected Representatives.


"India's successful AIDS response has been possible owing to the strong participation of communities of men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs and transgender people backed by a strong and progressive national AIDS policy," he said.


According to estimates provided by India's National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco), HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in India is 7.3 per cent compared to a prevalence rate of 0.31 per cent among the general adult population. UNAIDS lauded the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, for iterating his government's strategy to provide HIV services to groups at higher risk of infection and welcomed his call to have an "HIV-sensitive" policy and programmes so that marginalised groups affected by the virus were not denied the benefits of health and development programmes.


UNAIDS also lauded a Delhi High Court order overturning a 150-year-old law and decriminalising homosexuality. The agency has pledged to work with the Indian government, civil society and community groups in realising the vision of zero new-HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in India.


Guidelines released by UNAIDS and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that legislators and other government authorities establish anti-discrimination and protective laws to eliminate discrimination and violence faced by men who have sex with men and transgender people.


The head of UNAIDS also welcomed the announcement that India would continue to manufacture generic drugs to combat the disease and said the decision would save millions of lives. After a meeting with India's commerce minister Mr Anand Sharma in New Delhi, Mr Michel Sidibé said: "Millions of people will die if India cannot produce generic antiretroviral drugs and Africa will be the most affected… For me, it is an issue of life or death."


"The government of India reaffirms its full commitment to ensure that quality generic medicines, including antiretroviral drugs, are seamlessly available, and to make them available to all countries," a UNAIDS Press statement quoting Mr Sharma reads. In the statement issued in New York, UNAIDS said that India's pharmaceutical industry produced more than 85 per cent of first-line anti-retroviral drugs used to treat people living with HIV. The agency stressed that the cost of the least expensive first-generation treatment regimen had dropped from several hundred dollars to less than $86 per patient per year with generic drugs.
Mr Sidibé said: "India, together with Brazil, South Africa, China and Russia, must forge an alliance with other high-income countries to ensure that no single person in the world dies because they could not afford to buy life-saving medicines or health care."


Malaysia crackdown

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed concern over the measures taken by Malaysian authorities to restrict freedom of expression ahead of a peaceful demonstration. In a Press release issued in New York, the OHCHR said it had been receiving reports of a crackdown, including harassment, intimidation, arrests and threats targeting members of the Bersih (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections). "According to reliable sources, 150 people have been summoned, arrested or charged, including a number of Opposition lawmakers," OHCHR spokesperson Mr Rupert Colville said.


He added that Malaysian authorities had arrested activists simply for possessing the coalition's distinctive yellow T-shirts and campaign pamphlets. "We are very concerned about the various measures that are being taken by the authorities to restrict freedom of expression in Malaysia, including preventive detention, and the government's decision to reportedly declare Bersih an unlawful organisation," Mr Colville said. "We call on the authorities to release all those being detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression," he said.


States in transition

The United Nations has launched a set of indicators designed to help post-conflict and other countries in transition to strengthen governance through efficient administration of justice, effective policing and proper management of correctional institutions.


The UN Rule of Law Indicators, developed by the department of peacekeeping operations and the UN rights agency in partnership with other UN entities, consists of 135 indicators for police, the judiciary and correctional facilities, according to a Press release issued in New York.


"These indicators, plus implementation guide and related tools, were developed after implementation on a pilot basis of an earlier set of indicators in Haiti and Liberia," Mr Dmitry Titov, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said at a Press conference in New York. The indicators launched will be implemented in Haiti and Liberia first, he told reporters.


Mr Titov said that the indicators were designed to "highlight apparent successes and shortcomings within institutions and to monitor changes over time within countries". But he added that those were not intended to support direct comparisons between states or rank them.


The document that lays down the indicators defines rule of law as a "principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards".


anjali sharma 

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

CLIMBING UP

The new regime at Writers' Buildings has done well to move fast in order to create a new administrative set-up for Darjeeling. At a time when the demand for a separate Telangana state is gathering momentum once again, an agreement between the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha holds out new hope for Darjeeling. What is particularly remarkable about the agreement is that it steers clear of not only the issue of a Gorkhaland state but also the controversies over the new set-up's territorial reach. Bimal Gurung, the GJM president, had cast some doubts over the forthcoming agreement with his prediction that another partition of Bengal was inevitable. He had also repeated his demand that parts of the Dooars be included in the jurisdiction of the new set-up for Darjeeling. It must have come as a relief to Mamata Banerjee that the GJM did not allow such demands to stand in the way of finalizing the agreement. Clearly, an atmosphere of mutual trust between the new government and the GJM has made this possible. This was missing during Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's regime, although the latest agreement is largely similar to the one that had been discussed between the two sides last year.

The inclusion of the word "Gorkhaland" in the name of the proposed set-up for Darjeeling need not ring alarm bells. If the GJM flaunts this as the first step towards the creation of a separate state, it is more political rhetoric than anything else. Even the previous set-up, which had been created by the Darjeeling Accord of 1988, had the word "Gorkha" in its name. However, the names of both the previous body — Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council — and the new one — the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration — recognize the ethnic distinction of the people in the hills. But the real challenge for any separate administrative set-up for Darjeeling is to make life easier and better for the local people. Decades of disruptive politics have nearly ruined basic civic services in the once-famous hill resort and made life increasingly difficult for the ordinary people. For all the political noises made over it, the new set-up is primarily a development body. The sooner the GJM and other political parties accept this, the better it will be for the people of Darjeeling. The GJM has an opportunity to use its good equations with Ms Banerjee and rebuild Darjeeling.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

GOOD EFFORT

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That message seems to underlie the decision of the United States of America to 'suspend' $800 million in military aid to Pakistan. It is ironic that the US should be having to hardsell its image of a toughie despite Abbottabad, which should have been enough to establish its moral and physical calibre to the domestic audience, as also to Pakistan, whose lack of integrity stood severely exposed during the mission. Unfortunately, the US does not seem to have bargained for Pakistan's ability to reinvent itself. Pakistan has successfully turned the tables on the US by accusing it of playing the role of aggressor in conducting Operation Geronimo without the knowledge of the Pakistan government. The argument has allowed Pakistan to demand the cessation of US drone attacks on Pakistan's soil, to suspend assistance to US counter-insurgency operations and even to drive out US personnel engaged in intelligence-gathering. Instead of equipping the US with the weapon to beat an obdurate ally into submission, Abbottabad appears to have doubly inconvenienced the US. The Barack Obama administration is fighting with its back against the wall. Since the grimness of top US officials does not seem to be having the desired impact on Pakistan, the US has decided to take its problems head on. The most important of these is the Pakistan army. After accusing it of masterminding the murder of a journalist, the US has bitten the bullet and suspended some of the aid to the Pakistan military.

The withdrawal of 40 per cent of US military aid is bound to hurt Pakistan, notwithstanding its show of nonchalance. However, the advantages that are likely to accrue to both the civilian and the military establishments in terms of regained self-respect far outweigh the loss. The decision, in fact, is likely to hurt the US more than it does Pakistan. The latter can cosy up to China to meet its defence needs. But the US has no replacement for Pakistan as an ally if it is to exit Afghanistan honourably. The threat of antagonizing a nuclear-powered nation or sacrificing long-term strategic interests in South Asia may also make it difficult for the US to sustain the tough-talking. The US's decision on military aid, which its compulsions may soon force it to reconsider, in fact shows how painfully limited the options before the US are in dealing with Pakistan.

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THE TELEGRAPH

AN INDIAN CONSPIRACY

INDIA SPENDS MORE OF THE GDP ON DEVELOPMENT THAN PAKISTAN WRITING ON THE WALL - ASHOK V. DESAI

India's population last year was 6.8 times Pakistan's, which was estimated to be 17.89 crore. Its gross domestic product per head at current market prices was 3.4 times Pakistan's. It follows that India's income per head was half of Pakistan's, or that an average Pakistani was twice as well off as an Indian.

That, however, assumes that the purchasing power of the two rupees was the same. This is obviously unwarranted. One way of correcting this error is to bring the exchange rates into the picture. In the nine months to last March, the Indian rupee was 1.88 times the Pakistani rupee. If we correct for this difference in value, India's per capita income rises to 95 per cent of Pakistan's.

But we can do better; there are some institutions which value countries' GDPs at the same prices. The International Monetary Fund estimated India's income per head in 2010 at $3,339 — 20 per cent more than Pakistan's. The World Bank placed it at $3,586, 34 per cent more than Pakistan's. The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America placed it at $3,500, 40 per cent higher than Pakistan's. If these figures are to be consistent with the ones given in the previous paragraph, prices in Pakistan must be 26-47 per cent higher than in India. Pakistan imposes stringent restrictions on imports only from India, in contravention to the most favoured nation treatment it is required to give India as member of the World Trade Organization. The excuse it gives is that Indian industries are too competitive and would wipe out Pakistani industries. The price comparison supports Pakistan's contention, except that overvaluation of its rupee is not a gift from heaven; it is the result of its government's policy.

If the Pakistani rupee is overvalued, it should show in the growth of imports and exports. In fact, Pakistan imports far more than it exports. Its exports in 2009-10 were only 63 per cent of its imports. But that is hardly peculiar to Pakistan; India's exports were only 61 per cent of its imports. If Pakistan's rupee is overvalued, India's would seem to be even more so. But it is wrong to look at the balance of trade alone; a country may export services and use the money to import goods. And that is what both India and Pakistan do. In 2009-10, Pakistan ran a trade deficit of $11.8 billion, but it received transfers of $12.6 billion from abroad, of which $8.9 billion came from Pakistani workers abroad. India, on the other hand, ran a trade deficit 10 times as large — $118.4 billion — it received private transfers from abroad of $52 billion, as well as $33.7 billion of something that the Reserve Bank of India mysteriously calls miscellaneous receipts, but which includes the earnings of the information technology industry.

The figures I gave at the beginning imply that India's GDP at current prices and exchange rates is roughly six-and-a-half times Pakistan's. But its 2009-10 imports of $300 billion were almost 10 times Pakistan's $31 billion, and its exports of $182 billion were nine times Pakistan's. This is odd, for smaller countries are normally more open; Pakistan should have higher trade ratios. Why is its trade so constricted?

The structure of exports of the two countries is not very different. Of India's exports in 2009-10, two-thirds were manufactures, a sixth mineral oil products, a tenth agricultural goods, and the rest minerals. Of Pakistan's exports, seven-tenths were manufactures, a sixth food (that is, agricultural) products, and a twentieth oil products.

But the range of manufactures was very different. Three-quarters of Pakistan's exports were textiles; of India's manufactured exports, a quarter was machinery, vehicles and metal goods, a fifth was gems and jewellery, an eighth was textiles, and a tenth was chemicals. India's exports were more diversified; so they found more diverse markets.

India's governments — Central, state and local — took away 22 per cent of 2009-10 GDP: 16 per cent in the form of taxes and 6 per cent in other forms. Pakistan's governments managed to take away only 14 per cent: 10 per cent in taxes and 4 per cent in other ways. Income tax and corporation tax yielded 6 per cent of GDP in India — almost twice as much as in Pakistan. India's fiscal deficit of 12 per cent of GDP was twice as high as Pakistan's 6 per cent; in other words, India's governments financed twice as high a proportion of GDP by borrowing and by manufacturing money as Pakistan's.

Thus Indian governments' expenditure came to a third of GDP; Pakistani governments' expenditure came to only a fifth. The ratio of current expenditure to GDP was not very different for the two countries: 14 per cent for India, 17 per cent for Pakistan. India spent 2.3 per cent of GDP on defence as against Pakistan's 2.5 per cent; on interest India spent 5.3 per cent as against Pakistan's 4.5 per cent. Thus their expenditure on old-style government as a proportion of GDP was similar. What was different was the volume of development expenditure as a proportion of GDP — three-and-a-half per cent for Pakistan, 19 per cent for India.

One can take either of two views on all this expense that India incurs on "development". One can either take the government's claims at face value, and say that a third of this development expenditure went to social services, principally education and health, a quarter to energy, which is almost entirely in government ownership, and a sixth to transport, which includes railways, ports, and airports. The governments in India spend on a vastly larger scale than those in Pakistan on infrastructure and social services. Or one can take the cynical view and say that the Indian governments give politicians opportunities to enrich themselves on an enormously greater scale. Indian democracy works so much better than Pakistani because it is better lubricated with money.

The two interpretations are not mutually exclusive. Whether they are benign or malign, governments in India have been able to appropriate a much larger share of GDP; and they have spent the excess on benefiting a fairly large group of people. By doing so, they have kept the common people out of the way of those who invest, innovate and expand the economy, and let the latter get on with growth. The latter, in return, have given governments more resources to enjoy and play around with. The political contract between the queen bee and the worker bees has worked better in India. As a result, the beehive has grown faster. In Pakistan, on the other hand, the queen bee keeps screaming "Kashmir! Kashmir!" and makes her bees go and steal honey from the Indian hive. This gives them a tremendous feeling of self-righteousness; but it does not make them happy or mutually comfortable. Their obsession has worked well — so well that it is difficult not to suspect that it is an Indian conspiracy. Whenever it looks as if Pakistanis are beginning to forget Kashmir and starting to go about their lives like normal people, India sends a few mischief makers; they get the Pakistanis back on the right, righteous, miserable road. Long live Kashmir — for Indians at any rate.

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THE TELEGRAPH

GLIMMER OF HOPE

MALVIKA SINGH

Rahul Gandhi has made a huge impact on the people along the route he is travelling in Uttar Pradesh. If he goes on a padyatra across the country next year, the Congress might well win a critical mandate in the State again. India has had enough of the armchair politicians in Delhi who sit back and instruct their party people and workers on how to operate from the ground. The country has suffered enough at the hands of such semi-literate manipulators who pose as 'advisors' to the more senior leaders. One of the best aspects of Rahul Gandhi's walk is that there are no hangers-on from the party. It is a relief to note the absence of the chamchas from Delhi, who have failed to deliver but insist on talking, ad nauseam, in front of the cameras. The walk is a fresh, clean, energetic and straightforward exercise, without the baggage that destroyed the Congress in the first place.

In sharp contrast to the image of Rahul Gandhi leading the padyatra in the scorching heat and talking to men, women and children in the midst of a profound lack of basic, working infrastructure, are the many images of scams, resignations of ministers and attacks on the government with adequate evidence. All of these show a complete lack of management and governance. In unison, the people of India are asking some fundamental questions — why does this government act only when irregularities are exposed either by the press or through public interest litigations? Why has this government turned a blind eye to all that it has known over the last five years? Surely the coalition dharma of this government is not a celebration of corrupt practices? The lid is now off and the citizen-voter is desperately looking for people who will rule with a sense of probity and simple 'care'.

Change-maker

Despite the hysteria on television and the silly retorts of adults both in the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, the media can be a great leveller. In the last couple of days, the images of Rahul Gandhi 'walking away' from the horrific unravelling of the government's faults, minus the often tainted hangers-on from his party, give the viewer a glimmer of hope about the future. Will he cleanse the party of the players who have delivered failure? Will he hang on there till he manages to swing the mood in his favour or will he succumb to the politicking and pressures of those running for cover in his party? The faces that appear mysteriously for photo-ops but are not there at all on the padyatra will, most definitely, try to kill this salutary initiative. They have no option if they want to survive in their present capacities. Otherwise, they will be put to pasture and forced to retire. Sadly, most of them are not even in a position to write their true memoirs, which could have explained how things went so wrong in the governance of the country.

Sonia Gandhi needs to ensure that the food security bill is passed and Rahul Gandhi needs to capture the imagination of the people of Uttar Pradesh. These two moves together could lead to a third United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. A radical shuffling of the cabinet to include 'inexperienced' younger elected members of the coalition parties could start the process of cleansing. They could be mandated to start with new ideas that resonate with the thinking and aspirations of a new generation. The ministries of information and broadcasting, health, environment, commerce, tourism, culture, external affairs, railways, civil aviation, food processing, youth and sports, all need leaders who are neither aged nor stuck in a time warp, and who are able to understand the changing times.

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THE TELEGRAPH

A DIFFERENT CITYSCAPE

PLANNING THE CALCUTTA METROPOLITAN REGION IS IMPORTANT FOR FUTURE EMPLOYMENT AND SERVICES, WRITES K.C. SIVARAMAKRISHNAN

Well before the flushing from Farakka to desilt the Calcutta Port, Bidhan Chandra Roy had thought of dredging the Hooghly and pumping the silt to fill up the marshes north of Calcutta. The Yugoslavs provided technical assistance and added a plan for Salt Lake, a rather bland copy of New Belgrade. The irrigation and waterways department of West Bengal was given the job of making a township out of the silt. Bidhannagar today stands out for a few things. One is the use of pairs of English letters to identify blocks of the township, such as AA, BD, or GD. The second feature is the repetition of four- and five-storey blocks of flats in street after street. The third is the ubiquitous tea stall on most footpaths, and fourth, the equitably distributed garbage. All of these have now become the brand equity of Bidhannagar.

Sector V of Bidhannagar is also unique in having been made into an industrial township. Wipro, Infosys and Webel are the three main entities in this sector, apart from the Border Security Force. The ostensible purpose was to make this particular sector of less than 100 hectares a privileged enclave beyond the municipal domain. This was possible by a loophole clause inserted as a proviso into Article 243Q when the 74th constitutional amendment was being enacted.

A few years ago, when the commerce ministry was promoting the special economic zones, it was suggested to state governments that in keeping with the exemptions from various laws of the land for an SEZ, freedom from municipal jurisdiction could also be one by making use of this loophole clause. This clause provides that if in any area an industry is prepared to provide all municipal services, it will not be necessary to set up a municipality there. The Left Front government seized the suggestion with alacrity. Sector V was taken out of Bidhannagar, made into an industrial township and christened Nabadiganta — new horizon. Today the new horizon is obscured by the uncertain clouds over Bidhannagar and Rajarhat. The recent decision to put Sector V back into the old horizon of Calcutta city is therefore welcome.

Adding some areas such as South Dum Dum, parts of Joka and even Bidhannagar to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation is reported to be the other decision in the offing. The Left Front government had added Jadavpur and Behala to Calcutta. A similar extension by the Trinamul Congress government need not be grudged. Every core city in a metropolitan area has to have some cogent boundaries. Such changes have taken place in Hyderabad and Bangalore too.

But local self-government by itself should not be regarded as an altar of worship. Given the precarious financial situation of the state, a collection of bankrupt municipalities is the last thing that West Bengal needs.

Many parts of Calcutta and its surrounding areas are occupied by reasonably well-to-do middle-class professional people. Most of them can afford to pay for the services they get, such as water. What they expect is a dependable service. Without tax money that kind of service simply will not happen. Abolition of municipal water rates or playing around with property taxes are pointless exercises in populism. The chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, knows that cities and towns of West Bengal are an economic reality and their effective upkeep is crucial for the state's well-being. A determined effort is needed to help the city corporations and municipalities to perform better, which is possible only if they can mobilize resources. The citizens will not be totally averse to paying taxes. The 13th Finance Commission has given a clear set of prescriptions to help manage municipal finances. There are several other reports containing specific recommendations.

A critical issue facing urban West Bengal is the absence of a development perspective and planning for the Calcutta metropolitan region as well as for Haldia, Asansol, Durgapur and North Bengal. In its eagerness to promote decentralization, the government has encouraged many municipalities to become fiefdoms limited to their boundaries, unable to reach across for setting up and sharing common services.

Fortunately under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the Calcutta metropolitan area is covered, which enables funds to be given for work in the various constituent municipalities. Similarly in the Asansol metropolitan area, projects within Asansol, Durgapur and Raniganj are covered. Haldia and Siliguri are included in the small and medium towns component. The total cost of the projects sanctioned under the various components of the JNNURM for West Bengal is about Rs 8,000 crore. Half out of this is Central assistance. If the KMDA, which is the nodal agency for the JNNURM, the different implementing agencies and the municipalities choose to perform the provision of trans-municipal services, it can make some difference. However, this provision is only one part of the scenario.

Strategies for development, priorities for infrastructure investment and overall metropolitan-wide planning were the objectives with which the KMDA was set up. It was to mobilize and administer the metropolitan fund to be given to implementing agencies. Excepting basti improvement, for which a separate wing was set up, the KMDA itself was not expected to take on the implementation of works. However, during Siddhartha Shankar Ray's regime, Bhola Sen, the public works department and urban development minister, went on a merger spree to bring within the KMDA fold the Calcutta Improvement Trust, the Calcutta Metropolitan Water and Sanitation Authority and various divisions of government departments. But Sen's idea of one umbrella was very difficult to hold aloft. Meanwhile the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority changed from a planning organization into a public works empire. From less than a hundred employees in the beginning, the KMDA staff roll went up to a few thousand.

The Left Front reversed this through decentralization. The individual municipalities were given a free rein. Metropolitan-wide planning became diluted. The Marxists also set up the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee as required in the 74th amendment. But this committee has rarely met. At any rate, there was no planning set-up in the CMDA, now called the KMDA, to support the committee. The few planners who remained were scattered to the different sectors.

It is high time that the KMDA's mandate is revisited. It should begin to shed responsibilities for direct execution of works. Placing CIT in the fold of the corporation is one possible alternative. The development planning function of the KMDA has to be revived. The economic profile of 2035 for the metropolitan area indicates that though the share of tertiary sector in metropolitan employment will rise from 60 per cent in 2001 to 65 per cent in 2020, unemployment will be close to 22 per cent. While the city itself has not grown, according to 2011 census, the growth rate between 2001 and 2011 in the adjoining districts of North and South 24 Parganas and Howrah ranges from 13 to 18 per cent.The corresponding increase in labour force will have to be provided for. The employment scenario therefore becomes critical. Infrastructure and other investments will have to be directed to maximize these employment options. That will be the central task of the KMDA.

The urban minister will do well to talk to his colleagues in the development and planning industry and other departments to see what needs to be done. Expertise to help them will not be difficult to find. It is available in West Bengal and elsewhere in the country, if only the government chooses to ask for it.

The author is a former chief executive of the Durgapur and Calcutta Development Authorities

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

WATER CRISIS

Maritime disputes in the South China Sea are once again hitting the headlines. Vietnam and China are at odds over a recent incident between a Vietnamese survey ship and Chinese patrol boats in waters off the southern coast of Vietnam, and the Philippines is protesting against China's recent unloading of building materials on Amy Douglas Bank, an area claimed by the Philippines. The disputes underline the fact that the geopolitical competition between China and the United States of America is in full swing. The Obama administration tried to pursue a policy of cooperative strategic engagement vis-à-vis China. It attempted to construct a partnership under the assumption that China wants to operate within the international order, given that the US and China share same threats and interests. As Hillary Clinton suggested, the multi-polar world would be a multi-partner world where the US could use its unique global role to foster cooperation among major powers for collective benefits.

China was key to this worldview. The Obama administration went all out to woo Beijing. Obama refused to meet the Dalai Lama, did not raise the issue of human rights while visiting China last year, postponed the decision to sell arms to Taiwan, and downgraded India in the US's strategic calculus. But China read these as signs of US decline and saw an opportunity to assert itself as never before. The regional allies of the US became nervous and urged it to restore its traditional leadership in the region. This changing Sino-US dynamic is palpable in the issue of expansive claims in the South China Sea and the US's response to the challenge. The US has undertaken military exercises with South Korea to underline commitments and has offered to mediate on disputes in the South China Sea, much to Beijing's irritation. Beijing has claimed that the bulk of the South China Sea constitutes Chinese territorial waters. This came as a shock to the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, which also have territorial claims in the sea. This sea passage is too important to be controlled by a single country, that too by one located far away from these waters. Clinton responded that the US was willing to help in mediating conflicting claims in the South China Sea, thereby drawing clear red lines for China. China has made strident claims to virtually the entire South China Sea in recent years. This has resulted in the detention of hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen, the harassment of the US and other navies, and threats to international oil giants.

After being on the sidelines of the South China Sea dispute for two decades, the US has decided to change its posture to reassure its allies in the region that China's growing regional dominance would not go unchallenged. The dispute in the South China Sea is not merely about resources, it is also central to China's ambitions of a blue water navy, able to operate away from its shores. The South China Sea has also suddenly assumed significance arguably because of the SSBN base China has chosen to build in Hainan to the south, partly enveloped by the Vietnamese coast.

Last year, there were reports of confrontations involving the Malaysian navy, the Indonesian navy and the Vietnamese navy, each separately with the People's Liberation Army Navy. In April 2011, a flotilla of 10 ships of the Chinese navy's East Sea Fleet conducted exercises involving passage through international waters. During these exercises, two Chinese navy helicopters came within about 90 metres of a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer of Japan watching over the exercises. More significantly, weeks before this incident, six ships of the Chinese navy's North Sea Fleet, based in Qingdao, passed through waters between the Okinawa and Miyako-jima islands, headed to the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and went on to operate in the South China Sea. By purposely deploying the North Sea Fleet, China was demonstrating its great interest in this sea area.

Japan's dispatch of SDF transport vessels to participate fully in the humanitarian aid operation, 'Pacific Partnership', led by the US early this year, was meant as a response to China's moves. This is happening even as South Korea is re-evaluating its ties with China. Seoul is disillusioned with Beijing's shielding of North Korea from the global outrage over the Cheonan incident when North Korea torpedoed the warship, ROKS Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors last March. China watered down a presidential statement from the United Nations security council condemning the attack in which North Korea was not even identified as the culprit. As a result, no punishment was meted out.

China would like to extend its territorial waters to include the entire exclusive economic zone. It is challenging the fundamental principle of free navigation. All maritime powers, including India, have a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea. But India should also be aware of the changing balance of power between the US and China and fashion its foreign policy accordingly.

HARSH V. PANT

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EXTRA, EXTRA! MURDOCH SAVES GUARDIAN!

OK, I know that Rupert Murdoch is THE leading source of evil in our industry. I also know readers are sick of reading about the Sunday closure of the "News of the World," the vile tabloid that impaled itself on illegal practices including the hacking of a murdered child's phone mail.

But let's suspend both assumptions just for a moment. I know this is hard, particularly if you read the speech his son James gave announcing the newspaper closure which promised "every penny" of the final issue's revenue would go to charity. But please, bear with me. After all, we are talking about an icon, founded in 1843.

We all know what is really at stake: Murdoch's effort, approved by European Union competition regulators last December, to buy all of BSkyB, the British satellite broadcaster of which he already owns 39 percent. His offer for the remaining shares is a little more than $19 billion. The scandal embroiling the former News of the World was threatening to derail that sale. Murdoch needed to do something dramatic. He did. Whether it will work remains to be seen.

But as long as we are playing "what if?" imagine if Murdoch had taken a slightly different tack in his hastily assembled PR scheme to tout good citizenship. What if he had deeded the assets, revenue and brand of his tabloid rag over to Britain's Scott Trust Ltd? Now that what have been something.

For if News of the World was indisputably one of the world's worst newspapers, the Guardian, which has led in exposing the phone hacking scams, is arguably one of the best. Contributing to the Guardian's high-mindedness is its lack of a conventional ownership structure. Unlike the News of the World, it doesn't have to worry about day-to-day advertising pressures. For it is owned by the Scott Trust, set up in 1948 by the previous owner to guarantee the newspaper's independence and integrity in perpetuity.

Alas, even insulated by this unusual (but not unique) foundation structure, the Guardian is in trouble. It is reorganizing, paring down and laying off reporters in the face of losses in recent years of about $50 million annually.

The reports I could find indicate that News of the World generates about 3 percent of the $7 billion or so of annual revenue to its parent. That would be about $200 million a year. Rather than shut the newspaper, Murdoch could just turn it over to the Scott Trust. Surely he hates the Guardian with a passion but times call for pragmatism. What would they do with this gift? Cleaned up and ordered to act ethically, it would still bring in tons of the cash the Guardian so needs.

Murdoch could then bask in the glow of saving not one icon, but two. The Guardian is even older, founded in 1821. If anything could shut up Ed Milliband, the leader of both the Labour Party and the growing ranks of Murdoch-bashers, this would be it. Surely this would grease the skids underneath the pending BSkyB deal.

Of course it may be that all the speculation is correct, that the Murdoch clan just plans to cynically rebrand their shuttered title as a new Sunday edition of the other vile newspaper, the daily Sun. Odds are this is what will happen.

Nonetheless, it is still fun to play the game, "what if?"

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

THE NEED TO TALK WITH ONE VOICE IN LIBYA

When we analyze Turkey's foreign policy, we tend to forget that, some of Turkey's acts come as a reaction to a mess created by others.

Take the case with Libya. The simple short term solution to Libya is the departure of its leader Moammer Gadhafi. But Turkey's Western allies have closed the exit doors to Gadhafi with their own hands when they authorized the International Criminal Court, or the ICC, to investigate Libyan leader's crimes in the United Nations Security Council resolution 1970. The ICC's request for arrest warrant has further locked the door.

Turkey had warned prior to the adoption of 1970 that including an ICC investigation would be a grave mistake, leaving no room for Gadhafi to leave his country. That warning fell on deaf ears.

In contrast to the earlier statements coming from France and Britain, it seems it is now becoming clear to everybody that a limited air operation of NATO to the disorganized opponents is not going to lead to the fall of Gadhafi's regime. As public support for the NATO operation is diminishing and it is nearly impossible to have a consensus for a more active NATO intervention, it looks like efforts will intensify to find an exit strategy for Gadhafi. But the problem here is three-fold:

Firstly, Gadhafi's ability for rational thinking is dubious. He might be living in a virtual world where he thinks he can still survive.

Second, even if there is some degree of rationality left, there seems to be a communication problem. Aides who are contacted by foreign envoys, including Turkish and even French, have apparently told their interlocutors that they cannot convey different formulas for an honorable exit to Gadhafi since it will cost them their heads. Thirdly, even if somehow Gadhafi gets the message and starts thinking about leaving, there is a confidence problem. How can he be sure he will not face the faith of other ousted leaders in the Middle East?

It is but the Libyan themselves who can find the right communication channels and introduce the best ways to convince Gadhafi to leave. In this sense Benghazi based National Transitional Council bears a lot of responsibility. They should be given unequivocal support but at the same time they should be told that they should be flexible to any deal with Tripoli. Members of the international community should do everything in their power to show their support to the Transitional Council, to keep the pressure on Tripoli. But they should also be honest with them, telling them they will not step up their military support and that at the end of the day it is not military operations but a mutually accepted agreement that is going to end the current stalemate.

I see Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit last week to Benghazi in this perspective. In contrast to earlier zigzagging, Turkey seems to have finally gotten on the right track.

But the international community needs to talk in unity with Benghazi. Actually in contradiction to earlier divergences between Turkey and some of its allies, the gap between the stake holders in Libya seems to have gotten smaller. Everyone is looking for a way out from the mess but no one seems to know how.

Turkey is still doing the best it can to show the way forward.

The arrival of the holy month of Ramadan might serve as a good opportunity to secure a ceasefire.

Let's hope the stakeholders in Libya who will meet in Istanbul by the end of the week, will further bridge their differences and grab the opportunity provided by the coming of Ramadan to push the conflicting sides for a peaceful outcome.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FINAL ACT IN CYPRUS?

The meeting in Geneva between Turkish Cypriot President Dervis Eroğlu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Dimitris Christofias, under the auspices of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, appears to have revived hopes for a Cyprus settlement by the end of this year.

 Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was also upbeat during his visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Saturday. He said an accord by the end of this year could be followed up by referendums in the first months of 2012, enabling a reunified island to assume the European Union's Cyprus Presidency scheduled for then.

 In the meantime President Eroğlu announced in Geneva that the Turkish side was prepared to discuss the issue of land swap within the context of a settlement plan, a clear attempt to be proactive on an issue of high sensitivity to both sides.

 As for President Christofias, he appears willing now to allow the United Nations to play a more enhanced role in settlement talks, an issue the Greek Cypriots have been shy about since the failed Annan Plan of 2002. This along with anything that smacked of a deadline for a settlement has been consistently rejected by them.

 The reason for this from a Turkish perspective is that they have been playing for time since 2003 in the hope that their EU membership and Turkey's membership combined will represent a political carrot and stick forcing Ankara into accepting their terms in any eventual settlement.

 But this failed to work and today the "EU carrot" hardly exists for Turkey and the Greek Cypriot "stick" has proved ineffectual. In the meantime, as former Netherlands Ambassador to Cyprus, Max Gevers, noted on Sunday in the Cyprus Mail, the EU is also "bored stiff with the Cyprus problem...looking at its watch and going on to the next item on the agenda as fast as possible." The simple fact is that the overwhelming rejection of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriots in the referendum in 2003 left the whole issue in limbo. That settlement contained all the basic elements that will inevitably have to be enshrined in any accord, including the demilitarization of the Island. The simple question then was, if the Greek Cypriots were not prepared to accept this plan, endorsed by the EU also at the time and which the Turkish Cypriots accepted overwhelmingly in their separate referendum, then what were they prepared to accept? If it was a question for them of aiming for a one-sided settlement that did not acknowledge the tenets of bi-zonality and bi-communality, along with power sharing based on political equality between Turkish and Greek Cypriots - as the Annan Plan did - this would never be acceptable to the Turkish side unless some unknown "force majeure" came into play. Judging by what is being written now, after the Geneva talks, it appears the Greek Cypriot side may be inching its way to accepting these principles, including the notion of a time frame for settling the problem. Still this is the Cyprus of Bitter Lemons and it is best to take it all with a pinch of salt.

 But what are the options if the talks fail this time? Max Gevers laid this on line also in his Cyprus Mail commentary: No more U.N. mediation, eventual withdrawal of U.N. troops, partition, the Cypriot National Guard facing the Turkish army directly, no unhindered exploration and production of hydro-carbons meaning very serious loss of income for Cyprus, loss of tourism and services in an unstable environment, a goodbye kiss to the famous but so far empty slogan of Cyprus being a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. What remains would be, merely, an island of love . . . for some!" Some may add "No more EU membership for Turkey" also. But in all honesty, looked at from today's perspective, can one say that EU membership for Turkey is really on the cards anyway?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

HOW COME A FENER FAN WRITER BECOMES SO DARING?

I entered a parking lot to get my car the other day. I went near the car and opened its door. As I was about to enter, the parking lot attendant approached me with obvious excitement.

He asked with a low voice as if involved in a secret and risky operation: "You are a journalist, sir. Would they relegate Fener?"

He seemed overwhelmed with anxiety. He wanted to generate hope from the answer to be given.

I tried to calm him down. I chattered nonsense that meant nothing, such as, "Whatever will be, will be."

***

The parking lot attendant did not ask me:

Will the Republican People's Party, or CHP, take the oath?

What will become of the deputies in detention?

Will the Kurdish issue be solved?

What is happening in Cyprus?

Are there any developments in our struggle to make a living?

Where is Turkey heading?

Instead of all these, he asked, "Would they relegate Fener?"

He wished so much that the answer would be, "Don't you worry about it. They won't relegate Fener. They cannot."

***

Now, tell me about it.

In a country such as this, of course those Cengiz Çandars will write such pieces as, "It is that way in Ergenekon / It is this way in Fener."

In a country such as this, would those Cengiz Çandars ever care about double standards?

Deniz Feneri issue

One has to have principles.

One should not say, "They have done it to us; it should be done to them."

One should not say, "They should be arrested."

One should not say, "They should be put in a dark tunnel without knowing when they will be out."

One should not say, "They should be declared guilty even though there is no judicial verdict against them."

One should not say, "Information should be leaked from the police and the prosecutor's office."

Instead of this, the same should be said as it was said in other cases in question.

It should be said, "Detention should not turn into punishment."

It should be said, "They have not escaped up until this time; why should they escape now?"

It should be said, "Is there any evidence left to be hidden in three years?"

It should be said, "Police and the prosecutor's office should not leak information."

It should be said, ""They should not be declared guilty unless there is a judicial verdict against them."

***

If you say, "What about what was done when it was Ergenekon or Balyoz in question?"

I would say how darkness would be enlightened by saying, "They have done that, so we should also do the same."

Notes on what detention means to us

In Turkey if you are tried while detained, they say, "He must have committed a crime to have deserved detention."

In Turkey, those who are tried without arrest are treated as if they were acquitted.

In Turkey, a referral of a suspect to court with a demand for arrest means that that suspect is screwed.

In every place in the world, arrest is an exception; it is "essential" to us.

Punishments here are not executed by verdicts; they are done through arrest warrants.

Those who are not sentenced after being jailed for months receive a big "pardon" in Turkey.

In Turkey, if a person who was detained in the first place is released by court pending trial, then that case is believed to be not so serious anymore.

In Turkey, for a suspect to be arrested, there does not need to be doubts of "tampering with evidence" or "fleeing the country."

 In Turkey, such a solution has been found for the very long process of finalizing cases: "Punishing" those suspects that have not yet received a verdict by "arresting" them.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MURDOCH'S TROIKA

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 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, or 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 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 stonewalling 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 2000-2003. 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 down the News of the World itself. His son James made the announcement, lamenting the loss of a paper with a "proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation." How true. Why, in its last edition it had a front-page story about Florence Brudenell-Bruce's revelation that her new boyfriend, Prince Harry, was "fantastic in bed." The only picture they could find to illustrate the story, alas, showed her in her underwear. 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.

If it took a steady diet of 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.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

KAZAN SUMMIT: NOT A FAILURE, JUST A MEETING

HABIBE ÖZDAL

The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia met behind closed doors in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan on June 24. The talks, which were mediated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, failed to produce an agreement on the basic principles for a Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.

On May 26, at the G8 Summit in Deauville, Medvedev, U.S. President Obama and French President Sarkozy issued a joint statement that urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach an agreement. While international mediators, Russia, France and the U.S., had clearly expressed the urgency of a deal, Russia's goal for the late-June meeting in Kazan was to persuade the sides to agree to the set of "basic principles" negotiated four years ago. The basic principles were first formally presented to Armenia and Azerbaijan in late 2007. They have since undergone several modifications aimed at making them more acceptable to both sides. The latest meeting which brought Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders together highlighted a number of issues that are independent from each other, but affect one another. During the last three years, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has internalized the role of "chief broker" and organized a dozen meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan "under the auspices of Russia." Such a situation not only strengthens Russia's position but also decreases the effectiveness of the Minsk Group. Because even though the mentioned initiatives are being taken within the framework of the Minsk Group, Moscow appears to be the most active actor. Moreover, as the number of Russia's initiatives increase, the closer both Armenia and Azerbaijan become to Russia since they start to believe it is necessary to have close relations to meet their demands.

Second, there have been a number of meetings in various ways to conciliate Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders. There is a clear lesson to be drawn from previous meetings. Conciliating both leaders is not enough since the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is a matter of concern in the domestic politics of both countries. Nagorno-Karabakh is a domestic political issue as well as an international dispute. It is vitally important to note that since any attempt to solve the problem is being evaluated as compensation, the Nagorno-Karabakh problem has unseated numbers of politicians in the past. Preparing societies for change is a necessary prerequisite to awaiting further steps from these leaders toward any solution. Third, Russia's priorities in the region and its role during the negotiation process should be emphasized. Russia's active participation in the Minsk process is derived from Moscow's understanding that any possible solution should take place under Russian leadership. For Russia, the solution of the problem could strengthen Russia's position in the region by showing that it is the only actor capable of mediating in its backyard. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, the Russian presence continues not only in military aspects but also politically. Hence, it seems the only winner in both scenarios is Russia. Fourth, Russia, which is one of the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group established to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, is also the main promoter of Armenia. Moreover, taking Russia's support for granted does not make Armenia more flexible. Last but not least, the two sides are simply too far apart in the very essence of the problem. There's no political will for a solution since the key to conflict resolution is not urgent for any part.

In conclusion, the Kazan summit should not be seen as a failure since it is only one of many meetings. The zero-sum game understanding between Armenia and Azerbaijan could not yet be replaced with a win-win understanding. Under these circumstances high expectations from the summit had no ground. Furthermore, without "perception change" it would be hard to see progression. The only concrete result of the Kazan Summit is to see Russia once again as a mediator on the one hand and an actor that wins in any scenario on the other.

Habibe Özdal is a researcher at USAK center for Eurasian Studies,

International Strategic Research Organization.

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                                                                                                                                                HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

NO TO VOODOO SOLUTIONS

 

The cottage cheese protest's success in sweeping the entire public along behind it has not found suitable resonance among the decision-makers.

 

The cottage cheese campaign is Israel's most successful consumer protest in years. Finally, Israeli consumers were roused from their apathy and began to demand lower food prices, which are significantly higher than the prices of similar products overseas.

 

Nevertheless, the protest's success in sweeping the entire public along behind it has not found suitable resonance among the decision-makers. They - primarily the Agriculture Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, bolstered by a populist tailwind from Knesset members - prefer to pull the wool over the public's eyes with voodoo solutions.

 

The two principal voodoo solutions are reinstating price controls on a long list of basic food products and reducing value-added tax on food. These steps would indeed lead to a limited, temporary reduction in some prices, but would not solve the problem that has caused them to skyrocket in the first place.

 

The fundamental problem is the lack of competition at every level of the food industry, from the (government-controlled ) dairy farmers' cartel through the lack of competition among the big food manufacturers (in the case of milk, three companies - Tnuva, Strauss and Tara - control 90 percent of the market ) to the limited competition among the supermarket chains.

 

Lack of competition is the root of the problem when it comes to food. Even if cottage cheese becomes cheaper now, this will not help reduce the price of olive oil (which cannot be imported, inter alia because of high customs duties ), canned tuna or diapers. Nor will it create competition among the thousands of food products sold in Israel, most of which are made by a handful of companies: Five producers control 44 percent of Israel's food market.

 

Price controls don't create competition; on the contrary, they reduce it. Lowering VAT also won't create competition, nor would it help the poor: It would merely force the government to forfeit NIS 5 billion in tax revenue, with most of the savings going to the wealthy.

Neither of these measures addresses the root of the problem: the lack of competition in the food industry. Thus if these are the measures the government decides to adopt, Israel's first consumer protest is doomed to fail.

 

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

ISRAEL MUST STOP SHEIKH RA'AD SALAH'S DANGEROUS BEHAVIOR

HOW CAN THE U.K. ACT AGAINST SHEIKH RA'AD SALAH, WHILE ISRAEL ITSELF DOES NOTHING?

BY MOSHE ARENS

Sheikh Ra'ad Salah was arrested in London for illegal entry into the United Kingdom. There he has been labeled by the British media as a "preacher of hate" and a "virulent anti-Semite." The sheikh is well known in Israel and Israelis can vouch for the veracity of these appellations. However Salah's attorney in London has stated quite correctly that the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement that Salah heads "is a legitimate organization which Israel has never moved to ban."

Who can explain the blatant inconsistency between Salah's scandalous and treacherous behavior and the subversive nature of the Islamic movement he leads and their continued unhindered activity in Israel?

A reminder of who it is we are dealing with can be found in the conclusions of the Orr Commission that investigated the events of October 2000. According to the final report, Salah was guilty of "transmission of messages that negated the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel and presenting the state as an enemy ... he had a substantial contribution to provoking tempers and the violent and widespread outburst that took place in the Arab sector at the beginning of October 2000."

He has subsequently been convicted of raising funds for Hamas and of having had contact with an Iranian intelligence agent. In 2009 he accused Jews of using children's blood to bake bread, and in 2010 he joined Turkish terrorists on the Mavi Marmara ship.

Every year his movement conducts mass assemblies in Umm al-Fahm under the incendiary slogan "the al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger." Over the years, a number of Israeli Arab members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement have been convicted of terrorist activities.

His movement is actively propagandizing the Bedouin population in the Negev, inciting them against Israel and discouraging their youth from volunteering for service in the Israel Defense Forces. As long as the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement is allowed to carry out its activities unhindered, Israel's Arab citizens are in effect being told that acting against the state is permitted, and that whoever wants to can feel free to do so.

There are many examples in recent history of democratic countries whose regimes have been subverted because they took a permissive attitude toward movements that were actively pursuing the destruction of the state, for the sake of "freedom of speech and civil rights."

The attitude a democratic society should take in such cases was considered many years ago by the Israeli High Court of Justice. Three legendary justices, Shimon Agranat, Yoel Zusman and Haim Cohen, acting on an appeal regarding the El Ard movement, stated in their decision to deny the appeal that freedom of speech and organization was not absolute.

"The freedom to organize is one of the basic principles of a democratic society, and one of the fundamental rights of the citizen," they wrote. "Under no circumstances should we deny this right and ban an organization for the only reason that one of its aims is the desire to change the existing legal status in the country ... But no free society will lend a hand and give recognition to a movement that tries to undermine the society itself ... more than once in the history of democratic regimes, there arose against them fascist and totalitarian movements which utilized all those rights of free speech, free press, and the right to organize, provided by the state, in order to conduct their destructive activities under their protection. Whoever saw this in the days of the Weimar republic will not forget this lesson."

Almost 50 years have passed since this important decision. The El Ard movement was banned at the time, but in its stead there arose the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement under the leadership of Ra'ad Salah. The watchdogs over Israel's democracy, the government, the Knesset, the High Court, seem to have fallen asleep while Ra'ad Salah continues with his nefarious activities inciting against the State of Israel - sowing seeds of dissent between Israel's Arab and Jewish citizens, providing support to Israel's enemies and attempting to undermine the very foundations of the state.

It is high time that our lawmakers put a stop to these dangerous activities. A democratic society must know how to defend itself.

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                        OPINION

ZIONISTS HAVE A RESPONSIBILTY TO JOIN THE UPCOMING JEWISH-ARAB MARCH

ALL OF US, ISRAEL'S JEWISH CITIZENS, BEAR SOME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE STATE'S SUPPORT FOR THE SETTLERS, ESPECIALLY IF WE ARE SILENT.

BY CHAIM GANS

The planned Jewish-Arab march in support of the Palestinian declaration of independence has been causing quite a stir. In this newspaper, Ishay Rosen-Zvi ("Not masters and not culprits," July 6 ) sees it as an "unprecedented event in the history of Zionism." Yael Sternhell ("The right side of history," July 7 ) compares it to the protest marches of the U.S. civil rights movement in the struggle for equal rights for blacks in the 1960s. And Ruth Gavison responds with "I won't join the solidarity march" (July 10 ), fearing that the march will reinforce the Palestinians' feeling "that someone is else doing the work for them and that they are likely to see their just demands met without committing to the necessary painful concessions."

There are many reasons why Israel's Jewish citizens should prefer the historic significance that Rosen-Zvi and Sternhell attribute to Jewish-Israeli support of the Palestinian declaration of independence, over the scorekeeping significance that Gavison sees in it. At least one reason has to do with Jewish Israelis' responsibility for the interpretation of Zionism. Zionism's interpretation as the realization of the Jewish people's right to self-determination in the Land of Israel cannot justify the enterprise of settling the occupied territories or the attendant abuse of the Arab population. Jewish self-determination was achieved in Israel with the establishment of the state in 1948. The settlements, built after the occupation of the territories in the 1967 Six-Day War, are not vital to its existence.

Neither can the settlements be justified by the Jewish need for security. First, for security purposes, the territories could have been held by military means, without settling there. Second, the stunning victory in 1967 makes a mockery of the claim that Israel's borders at the time were indefensible - particularly in light of Greater Israel's weakness in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Based on what we, Israel's Jewish citizens, have been accomplices to since 1967, Zionism since then can have only one interpretation. According to this interpretation, the goal is not (only ) to achieve Jewish national self-determination, and not (only ) to serve the Jewish need for security and dignity as Jews, but also, and more importantly, to realize the Jewish biblical deed of ownership over the entire Land of Israel.

This interpretation sentences Zionism and Israel to a continuous carrying out of injustice and oppression since 1967, via the settlements. The Arabs' status, according to this interpretation of Zionism, is by necessity one of thieves. The settlers, honest people for the most part, would not abuse the Arabs if not for their adherence to this interpretation of Zionism and the status of thieves it necessarily attributes to the Arabs. Israel's governments would not back the settlers if not for the belief of most of their members in the Arabs' inferior status in this country.

All of us, Israel's Jewish citizens, bear some responsibility for the continuation of these acts, especially if we are silent. Anyone who believes that Zionism's task is not to put into practice the Jewish deed of ownership over the Land of Israel, but rather to achieve self-determination for a persecuted nation, must therefore interpret the solidarity march in Jerusalem this Friday in the historic spirit of the struggle for human rights. They must interpret it in the spirit as seen by Yael Sternhell or Rosen-Zvi, who believes that "this land and its peoples have no future without cooperation."

The march expresses the need to show solidarity with the Palestinians and shift Zionism away from the path of corruption on which it has been headed for more than 40 years. It expresses the need to shift Zionism away from the settlements, the abuse of Arabs, and other acts of injustice committed in its name.

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

PICK YOUR EXPLOITER

THE LOSERS IN THE FIGHT OVER THE NURSING HOME TENDER WILL BE THE ELDERLY WHO NEED LONG-TERM HOSPITALIZATION.

BY MERAV MICHAELI

Some very small headlines have been devoted to the very big fight over the nursing home tender: Dozens of care providers appealed against the tender, which sets the price the state would pay them for a day of care. Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen canceled the tender in response. Then, the Finance Ministry announced it would appeal her decision, while the Health Ministry said it would study the ruling. The Knesset Finance Committee, for its part, asked the attorney general to throw out the appeal, and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman wrote Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to say he opposes the appeal.

It sounds like an esoteric, unsexy issue, but it is already clear that the losers will be the elderly who need long-term hospitalization.

The tender prices a day in the hospital at NIS 290 to NIS 301.60. Nursing care providers say this isn't enough: At these prices they will lose money and won't be able to offer adequate service, they say.

The appellants presented an economic analysis that showed NIS 336.15 was the minimum they could receive.

The 2008 State Comptroller's Report determined that the pricing in the tender, which was initially issued in 2007, would not balance between the patients' needs, the institutes' profits and the state budget. The Finance Ministry stood behind its cost calculation, but refused to divulge how it came to those figures, a fact that apparently helped the judge determine that "the prices do not allow nursing home patients to live with dignity and are extremely unreasonable."

Abandoning the elderly like this is scandalous. Moreover, pricing the services at below cost means that people aren't getting paid enough for the very hard job of caring for these patients, and thus another link in the chain of helpless, invisible people has been abandoned: women and people who do women's work, which is given a low value in both monetary and social terms. This impacts both their children and their own ability to receive proper care when they themselves enter nursing homes.

Indeed, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) said: "We sympathize completely with the court's ruling and demand that the government hold a serious debate ... this is a sensitive issue with critical social implications."

The judge's ruling, with which the committee sympathized, stated: "Pricing welfare services at a loss opens the way for the state to close its eyes and absolve itself of responsibility for protecting individuals' rights."

But the state has already absolved itself of responsibility for protecting our rights in so many ways - why should this be any different?

Meanwhile, the treasury claims that it set this rate based on a pilot in Petah Tikva over a year, which "raised the elderly patients' level of the service, physical state and mental state."

A treasury official was quoted as saying, "The nursing home heads are complaining due to their concerns that their insane profits will be slashed. It won't be so terrible if they have to drive a BMW instead of a Mercedes."

These are the days of the cottage cheese boycott. In light of the cynical profits businesses are making at our expense, who can say for sure that the official is not correct?

Meanwhile, Litzman has called for nursing care providers to "come out of the corner they have painted themselves into and reach an understanding about pricing." It sounds like two powerful forces are winking at each other and working out a convenient arrangement: the treasury, which consistently strikes at welfare and hurts the weakened, and private business owners, who are prone to abusing the helpless and taking advantage of the weakened. It seems that in Israel today, it's a lose-lose situation: It does not matter if the treasury does not pay, or whether it pays and the money goes to the nursing home owners. Either way, the elderly and long-term care patients will find no succor.

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

AN EXTREMIST MINORITY IS PARALYZING ISRAEL'S LEADERSHIP

ONLY TWO COUNTRIES HAVE NOT YET RECONCILED THEMSELVES TO ISRAEL'S EXISTENCE IN THE 1967 BORDERS, WITH MINOR, MUTUALLY AGREED ADJUSTMENTS: IRAN AND ISRAEL.

BY AMIR OREN

Of all the countries in the world, only two have not yet reconciled themselves to Israel's existence in the 1967 borders, with minor, mutually agreed adjustments: Iran and Israel.

This is the reality on the fifth anniversary of Hezbollah's kidnapping of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, which sparked the Second Lebanon War: The most serious security problems facing Israel are Iran and Israel itself. But this fact will be repressed at the upcoming meeting of the Israel Defense Forces high command to discuss "IDF strategy." The government, whose intentions the army is barred from questioning, has no strategy, yet without formulating working assumptions the army will have trouble planning its forces and operations.

Iran's revolutionary Islamic regime is the last remaining obstacle preventing Israel from waking up. Its all-out war against Israel is a matter of principle that has nothing to do with Israel's territorial extent. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not yet decided to develop nuclear weapons. But he is making technological, industrial and military progress toward the "safety zone" that would enable him to decide to race forward and close the tiny remaining gap between having nuclear capability and realizing it.

All that stands between desire and the weapon itself is Khamenei's judgment. The big question is to what degree this judgment will be influenced by his assessment that Israel will not show restraint in the event Iran approaches the safety zone - which, once reached, would offer deterrence against an attack that would cause enormous environmental damage.

Israeli deterrence may carry some weight, but Khamenei is likely more deterred by the force that U.S. President Barack Obama could bring to bear under certain circumstances, most of which relate to the broader regional and global context rather than Israel. In other theaters, contrary to conventional wisdom, Israeli deterrence is weak.

The outgoing GOC Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, often said the primary goal of his command sector was "long-term deterrence and maintenance of the security status quo over time." In his view, accomplishing this goal would constitute "victory." Anything more would be impossible, he would say, quoting David Ben-Gurion: "We can't change the situation in Lebanon and Syria via military action."

But the effective cease-fire on the Lebanese border since mid-August 2006 - by Hezbollah fiat - is not really deterrence. Rather, it amounts to leaving the initiative to Hezbollah, thereby signaling that Israel will let the organization arm itself to its heart's content - and force Israel into a permanent state of alert, with all the attendant security and economic ramifications - until such time as Hezbollah deems the conditions ripe for a renewed assault.

Exactly the same is true of Hamas: Its decision to stop firing rockets for the time being after the blow it took in Operation Cast Lead has improved life in the Negev. But it merely whets the sword hanging over most Israelis living in Tel Aviv and southward, whose handle is not controlled by Israel. The lull is a temporary respite, not a real solution.

Sparing human life is important, and avoiding military campaigns (there hasn't been a real war here since 1973 ) is vital. But the burden of conscription, reserve duty and the defense budget illustrates the costs, and limitations, of deterrence.

After withdrawing from south Lebanon and from the Gaza Strip, Israel shrank from making the requisite changes to its policy on the use of military force. The Barak, Sharon and Olmert governments were all afraid to acknowledge the contradiction between the illusions that accompanied these withdrawals and the need to scrupulously prevent violations, even at the cost of reoccupying evacuated territory.

As a result - and, some IDF officers would add, because of the philosophy that put Gilad Shalit's tank at Kerem Shalom and Regev and Goldwasser on patrol, instead of replacing them with innovative technologies - Shalit was abducted, Israel responded with hesitation and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah took courage to launch his own cross-border kidnapping on July 12.

Israel proper, in the 1949 armistice lines, was recognized by the most of the world after passing the double test of the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. But greater Israel, including the territories and the settlements, is preventing Israel proper from making a maximal effort to obtain peace and security. An extremist minority within it has deterred the politicians, who secretly agree with the moderate majority but give priority to electoral considerations. The ambitious goal of deterring external enemies is a bitter joke when Israel's leadership is paralyzed at home.

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

EDITORIAL

IDEOLOGY TRUMPS ECONOMICS

There is a huge gap in logic at the heart of the Republican intransigence on a debt-ceiling deal, and President Obama helped to illuminate it on Monday.

The party claims, as an article of faith, if not evidence, that the government's growing debt is the reason for persistent unemployment and economic stagnation. And yet Republicans are spurning the president's compromise offers to reduce that debt by trillions over the next decade because he is sensibly insisting that any deal include some increase in tax revenue.

"Where are they?" Mr. Obama asked at his news conference. "I mean, this is what they claim would be the single biggest boost to business certainty and confidence. So what's the holdup?"

The holdup, of course, is that Republicans are far more committed to the ideological goals of cutting government and taxes than they are committed to cutting the deficit. They rejected several compromise offers by the White House, even though any revenue increases would be far outweighed by spending cuts.

Republican rejectionism was on clear display Saturday night when John Boehner, the House speaker, was forced to abandon a plan he and the president had discussed to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.

The plan would have gone much too far in cutting discretionary spending and entitlements, taking too much money from the economy at a time when it desperately needs government investment. But it would have been better than the slashing and burning the Republicans have been demanding because it would have raised from $700 billion to $1 trillion in additional revenue beginning in 2013 by ending tax breaks and deductions for corporations and the rich, or by ending the Bush tax cuts for families making $250,000 or more.

The House Republican leader, Eric Cantor, insisted to Mr. Boehner that his members, shackled to antitax pledges, could not accept it, or anything similar. Now negotiators are trying to reach agreement on a deal to lower the deficit by $2 trillion or so over a decade. But the consequences for the economy and Americans' lives would be just as disastrous if all of those "savings" come out of essential government programs, with no additional revenue.

Mr. Boehner's refusal to push back against his party's ideologues is only feeding their worst impulses. Many House Republicans have gone even further than Mr. Cantor and have rejected any deal that raises the debt ceiling, whether it contains revenue increases or not.

Representative Michele Bachmann and Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman, airily and irresponsibly insist that the government will find some other way to pay its bills. That's dangerous nonsense. And as the president forcefully noted, a default could propel interest rates skyward, throw millions more Americans out of work, and create another recession.

It was good to see Mr. Obama challenging the Republicans' illogic and pushing them to make a deal before it's too late. But we fear the sort of deal he is willing to consider, based overwhelmingly on spending cuts, could still consign the country to more years of economic stagnation.

The president spoke about the need to create an infrastructure bank, to maintain unemployment benefits, and to protect the elderly and the poor. But keeping those goals will be nearly impossible with a debt deal that cuts three times as much spending as it raises revenue. A balanced plan, like the one Senator Kent Conrad is circulating among Senate Democrats, would cut spending and raise revenue equally, and would make it possible to pay for programs that kick-start the economy.

Americans need to hear the hard economic truth that there is no way to both cut the deficit and revive the economy without finding additional sources of revenue. As the president himself said on Monday, "If not now, when?"

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LONG PURSUIT OF JUSTICE IN LEBANON

An international tribunal has called on Lebanon's government to arrest four suspects indicted in the 2005 car-bomb killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. All four of the accused are members of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement whose cynical mix of politics and armed intimidation helped bring Prime Minister Najib Mikati to power.

Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, vows the four will never be turned over for trial. Mr. Mikati has a legal duty to arrest them. He claims to be politically independent of Hezbollah. This is the perfect chance to prove it.

Carrying out these arrests will require extraordinary political courage. Failure to do so would cost Lebanon dearly, threatening its civil peace and leaving no doubt that the real powers in Lebanon are Hezbollah and its backers in Syria.

The reverberations of Mr. Hariri's murder have rocked Lebanon for the past six years, threatening its recovery from the disastrous 1975-1990 civil war. Mr. Hariri was a symbol of that recovery. Popular fury over his killing helped force out Syrian occupation troops. But the failure to bring his killers to justice has revived the bitter mistrust among Lebanon's main confessional groups — Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druse — opening the way for Hezbollah's alarming rise.

Other countries have important roles to play in urging Mr. Mikati to turn over the indicted suspects. That goes especially for members of the United Nations Security Council, whose authority stands behind the international tribunal. The United States, the European Union and Russia have issued helpful statements. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have spoken less emphatically. All need to raise their voices in the weeks ahead.

Lebanon has until early August to arrest the four men. If it does not, the international tribunal has the authority to try them in absentia. If convicted, they would become international outlaws, subject to future arrest and punishment. Any Lebanese government that continued to shelter them could be subjected to international sanctions, including suspensions of economic assistance. Lebanon should do its duty now, and arrest the four indicted suspects and turn them over to the tribunal.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW YORK'S LAGGING JUDICIAL PAY

Across the country, judicial salaries are falling woefully behind what is needed to sustain a high-quality justice system. The problem is acute in New York State, where judges have gone without a raise for a dozen years.

Thanks to this parsimony, judicial salaries in New York, once the highest in the nation, are ranked 46th when adjusted for the cost of living, according to the National Center for State Courts. Turnover on the bench has increased, as William Glaberson of The Times reported last week. Nearly one in 10 judges are leaving annually. That attrition rate is more than double what it was 11 years ago.

While the $136,700 salary for New York trial court judges may not seem low, it lags behind the pay of federal judges and many government lawyers. Some law clerks in New York, who received regular raises while judicial pay was frozen, earn more than the judges they serve. Apart from the unfairness to the state's 1,300 judges, inadequate pay deters talented lawyers from seeking judicial office.

A special judicial pay commission created by the Legislature is expected to report by September on its recommended pay levels for judges for the next four years. Those recommendations will go into effect beginning next April unless the Legislature and the governor act to modify or reject them. A sensible approach would be to bring the salaries up to federal judicial pay levels; future cost-of-living adjustments should also be on the table.

Even in these hard financial times, New York judges deserve, and the state can afford, a pay increase that restores their lost purchasing power and shows that their service is valued.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FAIRER TREATMENT FOR KATRINA'S VICTIMS

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last week that it had reached a legal settlement in a civil rights lawsuit over Louisiana's Road Home program, which distributed aid to those trying to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The suit filed in 2008 by fair housing groups charged that the program discriminated against minority homeowners because the grants were based not on replacement costs, but on the prehurricane value of their houses, which were on average less expensive than identical homes in wealthier neighborhoods.

The failure to treat low-income homeowners equitably has been longstanding. Shortly after Katrina hit, President George W. Bush pledged that the federal government would "stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." When Mr. Bush left office three years later, it was clear that the federal government had done little to ensure that low- and moderate-income communities got the 50 percent share of federal disaster aid that they were entitled to under federal law. As a result, many poor families have suffered far more and far longer than they should have while redevelopment in some areas has lagged.

The Obama administration has worked to reverse this trend all along the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast. The HUD secretary, Shaun Donovan, has pressed both Mississippi and Texas to direct more money to low- and moderate-income communities. Under last week's settlement, about $62 million in aid will be distributed to 1,400 mainly minority homeowners whose homes are not habitable.

The settlement is just the latest chapter in a six-year struggle to win a fair share of the redevelopment pie for struggling neighborhoods. To prevent a replay the next time disaster strikes, Congress needs to strengthen the law so that poor communities get what they are entitled to from the beginning, not five or six years later. That means reinforcing aid eligibility rules and watching closely to make sure that the states follow them.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE MAGIC LEVER

BY DAVID BROOKS

The world economy is a complex, unknowable organism. Most of us try to diversify our investments and balance risk and security to protect against the unexpected.

But a few years ago a group of bankers thought they had the magic tool to help them master financial trends and predict the future. Sophisticated risk assessment models would enable them to rewrite the rules and make more money.

Their arrogance was soon exposed. Along came the financial crisis.

In the middle of the crisis another group emerged, believing it had the magic lever to alter the economy's trajectory. Democrats argued that through gigantic deficit spending, they could bring unemployment rates down sharply and produce a "summer of recovery."

The spending they began must have done some good to cushion the recession, but either through a failure of theory or a failure of implementation, their lever was not as powerful as they promised. Federal spending rose from 19.38 to 24.91 percent of gross domestic product, but the economy refused to rebound and the world is awash in oceans of debt.

Now a third group has emerged, also claiming that it has the magic lever to control the economy. Staunch Republicans argue that taxes are central to determining economic growth. Tax cuts, they argue, have huge positive benefits and tax increases have disastrous negative effects.

In the middle of the current budget negotiations, these Republicans argue that the tax increases the Democrats are proposing — ending some deductions for the affluent, hitting oil and gas companies — would be terrible for the economy. These unacceptable increases would be worse than the threat of national default, worse than a decade of gigantic deficits.

Not many Americans have this expansive view on the power of tax policy. According to the Gallup Organization, only 20 percent of Americans believe the budget deal should consist of spending cuts only. Even among Republicans, a plurality believes there should be a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts.

Yet the G.O.P. is now oriented around this 20 percent. It is willing to alienate 80 percent of voters and commit political suicide because of its faith in the power of tax policy.

These three groups — bankers, Democratic Keynesians and staunch Republicans — have one thing in common: They all believe they have identified the magic lever. They believe they can control their economic fate.

Some of us do not believe there is a magic lever. Deficit spending stimulates growth, but not by that much. Tax increases are bad, but they are not disastrous. We believe that there are a thousand factors that go into economic growth, and no single one is dispositive.

We look at the tax cuts of 2001 and do not see tremendous gains. We look at the tax increase of 1982 and do not see a ruinous disaster. We look at high deficit eras and low deficit eras and do not see an easy correlation between deficit spending and growth. On the contrary, if you look around the world there's a slight negative correlation between government size and prosperity.

We believe that if you rest everything on a single lever (Increase deficits! Cut taxes!), you give people a permission slip to be self-indulgent. They will spend or cut to their hearts' content and soon you'll be facing national bankruptcy. We believe that even if you are theoretically right, your policies will be distorted by human frailties and special interests.

The people in my group (you might call us conservatives) are more likely to embrace a low and steady approach to fiscal policy. Control debt. Control entitlements. Keep tax levels reasonable and the tax code simple. Work on the economic fundamentals: human capital, productivity, labor market flexibility, open trade, saving and investment. Don't believe you can use magic levers to manipulate growth month to month.

People in my camp form a silent majority. But we have been astonishingly passive during these budget negotiations. The tax cut brigades and the Medicare/Spending brigades are well organized. The people who believe in balance and the fundamentals sit piously on the sidelines.

The tragedy is that in Barack Obama and John Boehner we have leaders who would like to do something big. They seem to know that you need bipartisan cover if you want to really cut spending. They seem to know circumstances for deficit reduction will only get worse in the years ahead.

But they are bracketed on all sides — by the tax cut and Medicare brigades, by the wonks hatching budget gimmicks that erode trust, by political hacks who don't want to lose their precious campaign issues: tax cuts forever, Medicare spending without limit.

Mostly, they are buffeted by the proud, by those who think they have a magic lever to control human destiny and who will not compromise it away. This is the oldest story known to man.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHERNOBYL'S LINGERING SCARS

BY JOE NOCERA

Oddly enough, the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident in history has been marked by journalism about animals. Two magazines, Wired and Harper's, have published lengthy articles about the rebirth of animal life in the so-called exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

All well and good, but given the recent Japanese nuclear accident, wouldn't you rather know what has happened to the, er, people who were affected by Chernobyl?

I know such a person. Her name is Maria Gawronska. Thirty years old, smart and attractive, Maria is a native of Poland who moved to New York in 2004. I met her through my fiancée maybe four years ago. She always wore a turtleneck, even on the hottest of days.

Maria's hometown, Olsztyn, in northern Poland, is more than 400 miles from Chernobyl. She was 5 years old in April 1986 when the reactor melted down, spewing immense amounts of radioactivity upwind, where it spread across Ukraine, Belarus and, yes, northern Poland.

"At first," Maria said, "they said it was an explosion but it wasn't dangerous." But within a few days, the Soviet Union grudgingly acknowledged the accident. Maria recalls that everyone was given iodine tablets, and told to remain indoors. She stayed in the house for the next two weeks.

She also remembers hearing people say that it would be years before Poles knew the health consequences of the accident. Among other things, radiation can wreak havoc on the thyroid gland; that is why people take iodine tablets, to minimize the amount of radioactive iodine that their thyroids absorb.

Sure enough, over the course of the last quarter-century, there has been an explosion of thyroid problems in Olsztyn. Maria told me that entire hospital wings are now devoted to thyroid disease. This is no exaggeration. Dr. Artur Zalewski, an Olsztyn thyroid surgeon, confirmed that his practice had seen a huge increase in thyroid operations since the early 1990s. Some people have cancerous thyroids, but many more have enlarged thyroids, or thyroids that have stopped functioning properly.

Dr. Zalewski also cautioned me, though, that there was no scientific proof connecting thyroid disease to Chernobyl. Partly because of Soviet intransigence, and partly because of what The Lancet would describe as "considerable logistical challenges," epidemiological studies were never begun that might have helped link the disaster to Poland's thyroid problems.

The studies that have been done have focused on cancer. According to The Lancet, it is possible that increases in childhood leukemia and breast cancer in Belarus and Ukraine can be attributed to Chernobyl. But because of "flawed study design," these studies are not definitive.

When I e-mailed Maria's mother, Barbara Gawronska-Kozak, however, she was adamant: "I am convinced that Chernobyl increased thyroid problems." Barbara, a scientist herself (though not an epidemiologist), told me that this was what the "average citizen of Poland" believed. She herself required a thyroid operation a decade after the accident. Her mother had two thyroid operations. Her best friend had a thyroid operation. An old high school friend recently had a goiter removed. Maria told me that her father was the only family member who had not had a thyroid problem.

Around five years ago, it was Maria's turn. Gradually, her thyroid had become so enlarged that it impinged on her trachea, making it hard to breathe in certain positions. The unsightly growth, of course, was why she always wore a turtleneck. A specialist in New York told her that he had never seen anything quite like it, and that the operation to correct it was high risk and could possibly damage her vocal cords. So Maria decided to return to Poland and have the operation in her hometown. She did so earlier this year.

Just as in Chernobyl's case, it will be years before we know how the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station will affect the health of those who lived nearby. Although much less radiation escaped, it did leak into the water, and traces have been found in the food supply. It makes one wonder how to deal with nuclear power, which offers the tantalizing prospect of clean energy — along with the ever-present risk of disaster should something go wrong. These are not simple questions — as we are reminded whenever there is an accident like Fukushima Daiichi. Or Chernobyl.

For Maria, at least, the story ends happily. Dr. Zalewski, who operated on her, didn't flinch when he saw the size of her thyroid. The operation was a success. Her vocal cords are just fine. She has more energy than she has had in years.

Maria told me that while she was in Olsztyn, she sought out old friends. As soon as they heard why she had returned, she said, "They all laughed and pointed to their own scars."

When I saw her not long after she returned to New York, I couldn't help noticing her own small scar. She wasn't wearing a turtleneck.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BETTY FORD, PIONEER

BY RICK PERLSTEIN

Chicago

THE obituaries for Betty Ford, who died Friday at the age of 93, were filled with colorful stories about an incongruous life: former Martha Graham dancer, dispenser of scandalous comments to the media, alcohol and drug addict. So colorful, in fact, that they may crowd out her historical importance — which may well have been greater than those of her husband, President Gerald R. Ford.

Though she was never an elected official, industry titan or religious leader, few Americans changed people's lives so dramatically for the better. I learned it for myself in the most unlikely of places: a Ford family estate sale in 2007.

Some historical background: in August 1975 Betty Ford went on "60 Minutes" and said that if her 18-year-old daughter had an affair, she would not necessarily object. Soon after, she volunteered in McCall's that she had sex with her husband "as often as possible."

Those comments were widely reported. Less well known is what happened next.

Experts considered her a political liability. A syndicated humor columnist imagined aides seeking her resignation — before it was too late: "The networks and women's magazines ... are making incredible offers to get the First Lady to sit down and openly discuss adultery, drinking, homosexuality and a proposed postal rate hike."

Bad joke. Two months later a Harris poll found that 64 percent of Americans supported what Mrs. Ford had said on "60 Minutes." By then she was known for her self-assuredness before the media: she had already announced that she had breast cancer, then let herself be photographed in her hospital room after her mastectomy — at a time when respectable people only whispered the word "cancer."

Then, a year and a half after leaving the White House, she famously owned up to her alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs, even as her husband was quietly putting himself forward as a 1980 presidential possibility. Once more the public embraced her, voting her ahead of the first lady, Rosalynn Carter, no slouch in the popularity department herself, on Good Housekeeping's list of the country's "Most Admired Women."

No one would have predicted this. America had been a nation of shame-faced secrecy in so many of its intimate domestic affairs. The 1970s was when that began to change. Betty Ford was that transformation's Joan of Arc.

It made her a threat to some. The Christian right was especially cruel. In 1976, when a rabbi collapsed of a heart attack beside her at a ceremonial dinner, she courageously took the lectern to lead a prayer for his life. The rabbi "was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital a short time later," Christianity Today mocked in its next issue.

But that was the same year Christianity Today was advertising a book entitled "The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love," by Tim and Beverly LaHaye, which argued that Christian wives should want sex as often as possible, and even demand more orgasms.

Betty Ford always seemed to be vindicated in the controversial things she kept doing. Which, of course, is one of the definitions of a genuine leader. One afternoon four years ago in Beaver Creek, a Colorado resort, I saw it for myself.

A year after Gerald Ford's death, Betty Ford closed up the family house in Vail, Colo., and was offering its contents for sale at a conference center in Beaver Creek. A smaller, outer room contained items of lesser value: cassette tapes President Ford dubbed from friends (John Philip Sousa, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir); books by John Grisham and Danielle Steel; period relics like "The Women's Liberation Board Game" with a sticker reading "Property of Gerald and Betty Ford." (I'll forever regret being too cheap to shell out the $20 for that item.)

The second room held more valuable items, including books inscribed by their authors. Few were signed to the president. When Americans sent gifts to the Fords, they usually sent them to Betty.

The authors, most of them obscure, had written recovery memoirs and cancer memoirs and feminist manifestos, autobiographies bearing witness to struggles of every description. They had never met Betty Ford. But they wrote to her with an intimacy that was almost embarrassing for an outsider to read, as if they were writing to a loved one. Which, in a certain sense, they were. She had taught them how not to feel ashamed.

I'll never forget something else. A surprising number were gay men. Take that, Mr. Satirical Columnist Whose Name No One Remembers: Betty Ford openly discussed homosexuality. I didn't know she had made the insanity of shaming same-sex desire any sort of special cause. Only one obituary I found noted, in passing, any interest in gay rights. I didn't find any references in an online search of historical newspapers.

But she must have said something. She probably said it long before any other "respectable" public figure dared. Because that's what she always did. That courage made her more of a hero than most of us ever imagined.

Rick Perlstein is the author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ALL HAIL THE (DEMOCRATIC) KING

BY AHMED CHARAI AND JOSEPH BRAUDE

Rabat, Morocco

IT isn't news anymore when an Arab ruler facing mass protests pledges sweeping reforms. But Morocco's July 1 constitutional referendum may be the most significant development in the Arab world all summer. For the first time since the Arab Spring began, a population broadly embraced its leader's reforms and scaled back antigovernment demonstrations. In the weeks before the referendum, over 100,000 people had taken to the streets; after the vote only about 10,000 did.

A sizable majority of Moroccans approved the new Constitution, which calls for King Mohammed VI to cede half his power to a prime minister appointed from the parliament's majority party and ensures the rights of women and non-Arabs, including the country's large Berber population.

Morocco appears to have found a new model for political transition. If the constitutional experiment succeeds, the country will have the opportunity — and responsibility — to take on the regional leadership role that has traditionally been played by Egypt.

The major parliamentary opposition parties, including the main Islamist party, endorsed the Constitution. Those rejecting it, including a radical Islamist group which aims to overthrow the king and install a caliph, had the chance to make their cases on public radio and television. Some officials believe this new openness is serving as a force for moderation. "The more the extremists go on TV, the more ridiculous they look," said Nawfel Raghay, who manages the country's broadcasting authority. "We should have done this 20 years ago."

The Constitution's power split provides a check against Islamists, if they were to win elections. In the event of an Islamist landslide, a new Shariah-minded prime minister would have the authority to appoint all senior civil servants and oversee domestic security. However, control over the army and foreign intelligence services would rest with the king. The monarch would also retain his traditional role as the country's highest religious authority — meaning that he could block attempts to use mosques, the news media and religious education to impose chauvinist religious mores.

This novel arrangement also addresses the historic dilemma between values and interests the West has faced in its relationship with Morocco. The country has long been regarded as a constructive player in regional affairs, but its pro-Western authoritarian elite has a troubling human rights record and has constrained political and economic opportunity for the country's impoverished majority. The Constitution could allow the emergence of new elites and open up the political arena.

It is important for America and its allies that Morocco achieve this balance at a time when Egypt is not in a position to serve as a regional powerbroker. Under its former president, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt served as a bridge between Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Arab dictatorships like Syria and Libya. But today, there is a new Arab political divide — between autocracies and countries undergoing democratic transitions. Morocco, a transitioning government itself and a prospective member of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council, is uniquely positioned to bridge this divide.

Whereas Mr. Mubarak mediated between Israelis and Palestinians, the new Egyptian government has yet to form a coherent policy on that conflict, let alone earn the trust of both sides. Morocco, by contrast, has a history of doing so. Years before Egypt normalized diplomatic relations with Israel in 1980, the Moroccan king Hassan II was a liaison between Israel and its neighbors. The country's distance from Israel was not a serious disadvantage then, and it is even less so today in the era of instant communication and intercontinental strategic partnerships.

Morocco also has a deep historical bond with the Jewish people: the king protected 200,000 Moroccan Jews from the Nazis during World War II, and nearly one million Israelis have Moroccan roots — including some senior political and military officials. Morocco can extract concessions from both parties to the conflict that Egypt never could.

The Moroccan constitutional model sets an obvious example for Jordan, whose king also claims some religious authority and remains relatively popular. For the more embattled Sunni kingdom of Bahrain, a similar pact of electoral power-sharing with the Shiite majority may be the only way, in the long run, for Bahrain's dynasty to survive.

Before the referendum, scores of protesters were wounded by the police, and one was killed. While this violence is deplorable, it is a far cry from that of Egypt, where hundreds died, let alone Libya and Syria, where state security forces have killed thousands.

There is great optimism in Morocco today. Millions have signaled their desire for freedom and opportunity within a constitutional framework. If parliament is vigilant in ensuring that the reforms are swiftly applied, Morocco can set an example for peaceful political transitions across the Arab world.

Ahmed Charai is publisher of the weekly Moroccan newspaper L'Observateur. Joseph Braude is the author of "The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World."

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

US AND MILITARY AID

 

The Islamabad-Washington relationship, always tricky, seems to have reached a new low: the White House has confirmed it will withhold some $800 million in assistance to Pakistan's armed forces, almost a third of the $2.7 billion in security aid it provides to Pakistan each year. Pakistan has said the cutback will not affect its ongoing campaign against militants and that it has conducted successful military operations in the past without external assistance. It has also pointed to increasing defence ties with China that will help fill gaps arising from reduced military aid from the US. Indeed, it seems the Pakistan Army is willingly pushing for a drawdown in ties with the US. Gen Ashfaq Kayani has himself asked that Coalition Support Funds be diverted to the civilian government while the army has reduced US military trainers and limited visas for US personnel. The aid cutback may be a response to these moves, but is also animated by the US belief that Al-Qaeda's remaining leadership is hiding in Pakistan and Pakistani territory is still being used by the Afghan Taliban and allied Haqqani network. In recent times, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also reiterated that Washington will not continue the same levels of military aid unless it sees some changes, including ground operations in North Waziristan. In the latest ISPR statement, it is clear aid with conditionalities is unacceptable.

To counter growing alarmism over a deteriorating relationship, it must be highlighted that the aid drawdown is merely a warning. Aid can only be suspended if Congress so decides, and risk-averse US senators understand fully that cutting military aid would cripple the war effort since nearly all military supplies to Afghanistan go through Pakistan. Just last week, two bills aiming to cut off aid to Pakistan altogether were voted down in Congress. The latest announcement is just part of a larger repertoire of pressure tactics aimed at changing Pakistan's behaviour and gaining more leverage. Moving away from such tactics and finding honest, upfront ways to cooperate may be the better option. Following Osama's take-out, the two countries agreed to form a joint intelligence team to hunt down Al-Qaeda operatives. Perhaps, it's time to formalise that agreement and establish a mechanism for joint operations against high value targets. It's high time the US decided if, and on what terms exactly, it wants to stay in this relationship. This half-way-house, of veiled threats and pressure tactics, will achieve nothing.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PRECARIOUS TIMES

 

The complete breakdown in relations between the PPP and the MQM, mainly over the ruling party's decision to restore the pre-2001 commissionerate system, has led to a swift rise in temperatures in Karachi, and suggests the possibility of a complete meltdown if the angry exchange of accusations continues. The PPP seems to be in no mood to keep things on an even plane with Senior Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza adopting an all too familiar aggressive tenor as he stated he had met MQM Haqiqi leader Afaq Ahmed. The move can only add to the mounting distrust within the MQM, while the PPP would surely have known as it altered the local government system without consultation that this move would anger its former ally. The furious reaction we are seeing was hardly unpredictable. Given the potential for violence we see with it, it would have been wise to avoid it.

The PPP seems to be doing all it can to provoke anger. The MQM has accused it of having the phones at its Nine Zero offices disconnected. The conflicting accounts that have come in response, from the Sindh chief minister and the federal interior minister as he ordered the restoration of the phone lines, indicate that the suspicions voiced by the MQM at a press conference are not entirely without grounds. Such acts of pettiness can do nothing to solve the issues of Karachi and the new threats that seem to be waiting in the shadows. What we need to see is a measure of maturity from both parties; the PPP, given its position at the top of the power hierarchy, could perhaps take the first step towards this - and remember that the key to running a successful democracy lies in building consensus with all concerned groups - especially on matters such as the running of local government. Sadly, we see no semblance of this, and it is the ordinary people who will suffer most. The violence in Karachi has not ceased and there is real danger that it could again escalate to the level we saw over the last few days. Both the MQM and the PPP need to keep in mind the dire consequences of this. More bloodshed must be avoided, reason must prevail and all political players must act responsibly to ensure peace in the tormented city.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MIRZA'S MADNESS

 

Our politicians as a whole tend towards odium, but few edge as deeply into it as Zulfiqar Mirza. He had left the political stage only recently but has been resurrected to take charge of the Sindh Ministry of Works and Services. Keen to make a personal mark in his own inimitable way he launched a verbal and physical attack on a Geo News team covering his progress down MA Jinnah road on Sunday last. He uttered a verbal threat to kill a reporter (possibly a cognisable offence) and directed his security team to take the Geo team's equipment including camera, microphone, and bullet-proof jackets and helmets. His language throughout the incident was abusive and vulgar, not becoming of a provincial minister.

Mr Mirza is not a man to tolerate transparency or accountability or plurality. In this he is not alone and there are many across the board and particularly in the ruling setup who find themselves held to account in ways that were unthinkable – impossible, even – a decade ago. Mirza's attack exemplifies the acute discomfort felt by him and others like him by those in the media they see as challenging the status quo and conventional wisdoms. It is the media that exposes corruption and falsehood – and the sometimes appalling behaviour of politicians and bureaucrats alike. And it is the media that is the target when tinpot despots find themselves skewered and exposed. Media-people die for telling the truth, for showing us what floats on the surface of the cesspool of public service and political life. And there are always more messengers ready to stand in the boots of those killed for delivering the messages we all need to hear.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

NEW POLITICAL BATTLE LINES

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

 

Politics in Pakistan is an endless drama. It may not be entertaining, but it certainly is amusing. The actors frequently change their roles and their partners.

There have been some dramatic shifts recently in the country's politics, with Sindh occupying centre-stage. Old alliances have collapsed and new ones are being put together. There are no principles involved in this game of musical chairs because the goal is to stay in power, by hook or by crook. The opposition too is more than willing to engage in unprincipled politics in a bid to oust the government and capture power.

This was going to happen once the two main political parties, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), began drifting apart after a brief period of friendship following the 2008 general election. PML-N ministers were pulled out of the federal cabinet, with Nawaz Sharif accusing President Asif Ali Zardari of going back on his promises and violating the two parties' agreements. However, the PPP and PML-N continued to be part of the ruling coalition in Punjab until it was no longer possible for them to maintain the facade of their being political allies. The PPP-led federal government had also begun creating problems for the PML-N's Punjab government through the late Governor Salmaan Taseer. A major attempt was made to oust Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister, but it failed.

There is no doubt that Nawaz Sharif was forced to hold his hand in opposing President Zardari's policies to save the PML-N government in Punjab. In the process, he came to be known as a "friendly" opposition leader, even though the PML-N leadership has been insisting that it didn't want to rock the boat and derail the democratic system by aggressively challenging the Zardari government. However, it is a fact that the temptation of ruling Punjab, Pakistan's biggest province that alone is capable of making and breaking governments in the country, was too strong to attempt something drastic in opposition to the PPP-led coalition government in the centre.

This would haunt Nawaz Sharif as he tries to build the so-called grand opposition alliance because the political parties that were not part of the government in the centre or the provinces and the ones that had boycotted the 2008 polls would in all probability stay away from the PML-N. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan has coined the term "grand fraud" to describe Nawaz Sharif's idea of a grand opposition alliance. He is reminding everyone that Nawaz Sharif had broken ranks with the opposition in 2008 by deciding to take part in the general election held by Gen Pervez Musharraf after having promised to boycott the polls.

All political parties and groups, big or small, have suddenly become important and worthy of attention, now that the PML-N and the PPP are looking for allies in a bid to outdo each other. The two biggest prizes were the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), a party divided in search of the right kind of patrons, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), forever an uneasy partner in any coalition government and willing to try a new alliance if that serves its purpose. The PML-Q has already splintered and its lawmakers are now essentially part of the PML-N government in Punjab and the PPP government in the centre, instead of functioning as members of a separate entity.

It reminds one of another PML faction from the past whose leader Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan was made interior minister by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his PPP government, and gradually Qayyum Khan's own party vanished. The PML-Q may not vanish because it still has many strong candidates capable of winning assembly seats on their own, but it would certainly become weak and some of its leaders could decide to join the PPP or the PML-N to fight the next election.

By concluding an alliance with the PPP and joining the government, the PML-Q under the Chaudhrys of Gujarat strengthened the hands of President Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and indirectly weakened the bargaining power of the MQM. Not long ago the PML-Q and MQM had come close to each other, but are now in rival camps. Their interests clashed and prompted them to choose new allies. The PML-Q, once dubbed "Qatil League" (Killer League) by President Zardari for its possible role in the assassination of his wife Benazir Bhutto, is now an ally of the PPP. The MQM, on the other hand, has moved closer to the PML-N, and the two bitter rivals of yesterday are on course to become part of the proposed grand opposition alliance.

The PML-Q and the PPP could attempt to do certain things together. They could plot the overthrow of the PML-N government in Punjab and contest the next general elections as electoral allies to deny victory to Nawaz Sharif in his native province. The MQM and the PML-N could also consider forming an electoral alliance, or at least put together a joint political front against the PPP.

Feeling isolated, the PML-N had few options as it sought allies. In the past, Nawaz Sharif had done well to make alliances with the nationalist parties operating in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He still has cordial ties with some of these parties, but a few like Asfandyar Wali Khan's Awami National Party (ANP) are now firmly in the PPP camp and steadfast allies of President Zardari. Some of the Sindhi nationalist groups opposed to the PPP have been friendly to Nawaz Sharif, but they lack electoral strength and would be unable to provide a foothold to the PML-N to win a seat or two in the Sindh Assembly. Some of the Baloch nationalist parties that were once close to Nawaz Sharif have undergone splits and many of their members, having drifted to militancy and separatism, are no longer interested in doing politics in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has been sympathetic to the Baloch cause, but so is Zardari, and in a more effective position to deliver than the PML-N through the stronger PPP base in Balochistan.

Among the Islamic parties, Maulana Fazlur Rahman's JUI-F has mostly been a PPP ally and is distrusted by the PML-N. In any case, the JUI-F would prefer joining an Islamic alliance in case it overcomes its differences with the Jamaat-e-Islami in time for the next general election to revive the MMA, in its old shape or under new nomenclature. A revived alliance of Islamic parties could only dream of the kind of electoral victory that the MMA achieved in the 2002 general election, but it would certainly do better than the dismal result the JUI-F managed in 2008 due to a host of factors, one being the boycott of the polls by the Jamaat-e-Islami and the other the collapse of the MMA.

In such a depressing situation for the PML-N, the MQM presented the only option of a significant political force that could be befriended while competing for influence with the PPP. However, the PML-N alliance with the MQM appears unnatural, and a rather forced one, as people will have difficulty forgetting the kind of language the leadership of the two parties used against each other in the past. The nationalist elements among the Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Baloch who have been at loggerheads with the MQM at one time or the other will also not forgive the PML-N for joining hands with Altaf Hussain.

Meanwhile, the ruling PPP in Sindh is doing everything within its means to sideline the MQM. It has reached out to the Islamic parties opposed to the MQM, formed closer bonds with the ANP and opened lines of communication with MQM-Haqiqi's jailed leader Afaq Ahmad. It has revived the commissionerate system in Sindh despite strong MQM opposition, though this is something that the other provinces have also done and is being backed by almost all political parties. The battle lines for a new round of confrontation, not only in Sindh but also elsewhere in the country, have been drawn and the outcome could only be political uncertainty and possibly chaos. This could benefit one set of political elites and harm the other, but it is difficult to see how it would serve the interest of the ordinary people.



The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahimyusuf zai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PAKISTAN'S EXTERNAL SECTOR

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

Pakistan's external balance of payments improved significantly in 2010-11 on the strength of the robust exports and remittances, and strong inflows on account of the Coalition Support Fund and flood-related grants. In his budget speech, the finance minister made special mention of the performance of the external sector, in particular exports and remittances.

The finance minister has chosen to discard the neutrality that behooves him as a technocrat in favour of politically partisan reflections on economic matters. I would like to display the other side of the picture. Indeed, the minister should have a contingency plan ready for him to be able to meet the emerging challenges on the external sector in the current fiscal year.

It is a fact that Pakistan's external sector has performed impressively. It is also a fact that exports and remittances have posted stellar growth. But it is also beyond dispute that the performance of the external sector is based on windfall gains and one-off developments, which are not likely to be repeated in the current year. This article reviews the performance of the external sector, quantifies the contribution of the one-off development in exports and examines the mysterious growth in remittances. Most importantly, it raises questions over the surplus of the current account balance.

After six years, Pakistan witnessed a current account surplus of $205 million in July-May 2010-11, owing to strong growth in exports and remittances. The political leadership and technocrats-turned-politicians would celebrate this as a grand success of their policies. But we need to go behind these numbers and find the reasons for the surplus in current account.

Any student of economics would know that saving-investment gap is identically equal to the current account gap (S-I=X-M). A surplus in current account means savings have exceeded investment. Pakistan's savings rate is not only low but it declined sharply to 13.8 percent in 2010-11, from a peak of 20.8 percent in 2002-03. A decline of 7 percentage points in eight years. A surplus in current account in 2010-11 means the saving rate has exceeded investment. In other words, investment has declined sharply to sink below the already low savings rate. In fact, investment declined to a 40-year low at 13.4 percent of the GDP in 2010-11, against the savings rate of 13.8 percent, posting a current-account surplus of 0.4 percent of GDP.

Only four years ago (2006-07), the investment rate had reached an all-time high of 22.5 percent of the GDP but experienced a decline to 13.4 percent in 2010-11 – a fall of over 9 percentage points in just four years. Such a sharp reduction in investment should be a matter of serious concern for the economic managers as it does not augur well for economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation in the medium term.

Achieving a current-account surplus by drastically reducing investment is a bad idea. The people of Pakistan will pay a heavy price for this surplus in terms of low economic growth, more unemployment and more poverty. Should we celebrate the success in the external sector? I leave it to the finance minister and his economic team to decide.

Let me turn to exports. Pakistan's exports were up 27.4 percent, to reach $22.8 billion in the first eleven months (July-May) of the last fiscal year. Textile manufacturers alone contributed 62 percent to the surge in exports. The contribution of textile manufacturers stems largely from the unprecedented surge in cotton and textile manufactures' prices in the international market.

Pakistan's overall exports increased by $4.1 billion on account of the price effect alone. If Pakistan's exports in terms of quantity are calculated on the basis of last year's price, the overall exports are estimated to have been reduced by over $4 billion, of which, textile manufacturers gained $3.2 billion on account of the surge in their prices. In other words, textile manufacturers contributed 78 percent to the additional gain in exports owing to the unprecedented increase in cotton prices in the international market.

This was a windfall gain, a one-time development, and not likely to be repeated this year. In fact, cotton prices have already started declining sharply in the international market. Furthermore, since the global economic recovery is fragile, the international demand for Pakistani exports is likely to remain weak in the current fiscal year. Hence, a weak external demand, declining cotton prices, domestic energy constraints and a deteriorating law and order situation, particularly in the major growth centres of the country, may keep exports growth flat or even negative in the current fiscal year.

The mysterious growth in remittances is also a matter of serious concern. Pakistan received $11.2 billion's remittances in 2010-11, posting a growth of 25.8 percent. The Philippines, a major recipient of remittances, is witnessing a declining trend in these for the past one year. Their recent numbers suggest that remittances could increase by 3.9 percent in 2011 to reach $20 billion. It is well known that Filipino workers are in high demand in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and other countries). These are countries where Pakistan's expatriates also work. How come remittances are growing by 3-4 percent in the Philippines and 26 percent in Pakistan? Is it not a mystery? The State Bank of Pakistan should look into this mysterious development.

There is nothing to celebrate the success of the surplus in the current account. The surplus has been achieved by drastically reducing investment. Exports have performed impressively on account of a one-off event and the extraordinary growth in remittances is at best a mystery. Indeed, the external balance of payments is likely to come under pressure owing to adverse domestic and external developments.



The writer is principal and dean of NUST Business School at the National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SO, BLAME THE BUREAUCRAT

HUSSAIN H ZAIDI

 

"Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the meeting," the Chairperson said, throwing a cursory glance at more than a dozen participants. "As you're aware, political parties in India have forged a grand alliance to root out corruption in high places. Since we have the uncanny habit of trying and match whatever Indians do, the government has been petitioned by the media and civil society to form a similar alliance in our country. I personally take this proposal with a pinch of salt, but being a popularly elected government, we are always responsive to public opinion. That is why I have called this all-party meeting and I am thankful to you all for attending it, which shows your trust in the government. Now the house is open for discussion."

"Mr Chairperson," began the representative of a major opposition party known for his bluntness, "I want to make it absolutely clear that my presence here doesn't in the slightest reflect our trust in your government. We have a lot against you and your allies, but I had better withheld my comments. Coming to the matter to be discussed, we believe that corruption has become endemic in our society, especially in the upper echelons, and something drastic needs to be done urgently to stem the rot. But I doubt your government has the capability and the willingness to do so."

The Chairperson looked askance at the opposition member and responded: "Sir, I can come out with even nastier remarks about your party, but I think we should avoid point-scoring and get straight to the issue. Do you support the formation of a grand alliance against corruption?"

"We are more anti-corruption than anyone else. But we believe that the idea of the grand alliance is a non-starter, because the ruling alliance itself is the hotbed of corruption and therefore can't take up the cudgels against this menace. The only way to stamp out corruption is to get rid of you people and therefore what we need is an anti-government grand alliance."

"Mr Chairperson, that isn't getting us anywhere," interposed a ruling party ally. "We are here to discuss an institutional mechanism against corruption, and not the performance or ouster of the government. We are in principle of the view that all political parties should join hands for a corruption-free society."

"That's nice," remarked the leader of another political party. "But in practical terms the goal of a corruption-free society is a bit off the mark. If we are to have a grand alliance against corruption, we need to be specific in defining our terms of reference. I mean, we should first agree on the locus of corruption we are to fight against: Is it political or bureaucratic corruption, corruption in the judiciary or in the armed forces that needs our attention? Once we arrive at a consensus on the locus of corruption, we can figure out the ways and means of getting our teeth into the problem."

"Yours is a very good idea," the Chairperson said with a nod of the head. "Instead of beating the air, we should know who and where to attack."

"Pardon me, Mr Chairperson," interrupted a participant, "you said in the beginning that you had some reservations about the formation of a grand alliance against corruption. Would you be kind enough to elaborate?"

"Well, if you insist, said the Chairperson with a smile. "I think the issue of corruption is being blown out of proportion. I wouldn't deny that corruption is a problem but I maintain that it is not that serious a problem. You know our country is facing an existential threat at the hands of militants. Conspiracies are being hatched against the democratically elected government. Economic growth and employment are below the desired levels. Social, political and economic stability is thus the need of the hour and if a grand political alliance is to come into being, it must be geared towards achieving this objective. Allow our government to complete its tenure and execute its agenda and corruption and other such problems would wither away. But, again, this is my view and I wouldn't thrust it upon others. So let us get back to the grand alliance against corruption."

"We are barking up the wrong tree," said the representative of the major opposition party. The present government is part of the problem rather than a solution to it. The longer it stays on course, the more difficult it will become to stamp out corruption. The sooner it is shown the door, the easier it will be to purge the polity of corruption."

"Tut, tut! The gentleman from the opposition is harping on the same note. Let us hear him no more and pick up the thread from where it was left by my honourable friend," said another political leader, himself facing several cases of graft...

"I can't take it," the opposition member interrupted. "I walk out in protest."

"Regrettably, in our country corruption is identified with politics," the political leader resumed after the opposition member had left. "You talk of any malpractice and the finger will invariably be pointed at the politician. I ask you all: are only politicians sinners and the rest are saints, are only politicians devils and the rest are angles? Yes, there may be corrupt politicians here and there. But this doesn't mean that the entire breed should be condemned. In fact, only politicians have the moral courage to acknowledge corruption in their ranks, while the rest of the society thinks it is an embodiment of fairness and integrity."

"My friend has hit the nail on the head. We the politicians are periodically judged by the people and the fact that they elect and re-elect us confirms that they trust us, and they would hardly trust us if they believe we are corrupt. At any rate, the politicians are held accountable before the electorate and this is the only legitimate means of their accountability. So if a commission against corruption is constituted, politicians must be excluded from its purview, as a matter of principle," opined the representative of another political party.

"I see eye to eye with the honourable member," said another ally of the ruling party. "We politicians are the governing class. If we start appearing before accountability commissions, who the devil will rule the country?"

"You may be right, but I see one little problem," noted the Chairperson. If politicians are not made accountable, who else will be? For obvious reasons, neither the members of the judiciary nor those of the armed forces can be made to account for their acts. What then will be left for the proposed commission to do? Mind you, we are to set up a body to check corruption in high places."

"I have the solution to your problem," interposed a senior politician widely known for his political wisdom. "Make the commission probe bureaucratic corruption. We can sell this idea by propagating that our bureaucrats are the most dishonest breed on the face of the earth and that it is they who are also responsible for political corruption wherever it exists. If we do away with bureaucratic abuse of power, the dream of a corruption-free society can be realised."

"As usual, our senior colleague has stolen the show," the Chairperson remarked in appreciation. Let there be a grand alliance against bureaucratic corruption and a commission to probe it. I thank you all."



The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi @gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WEEPING BLOOD

RIFAAT HAMID GHANI

 

If something is rotten in our state, there is also something that is not – the common people of Pakistan. Their sanity and goodness is keeping the ship of state afloat despite the weight of countless pressures.

In tragic contrast is the nature of the helmsmen. What to bemoan first there? In a context where we have been subjected to the national trauma of May 2 with boots on the ground and planes in the air; and where, within the month, terrorists breaching Mehran base underlined the grim corollaries and implications of that exercise, the recurrent killings in Karachi boom through the length and breadth of Pakistan with astonishing heaviness.

Why?

Because they tell of native error and villainy that is too old, that preceded outsiders like Raymond Davis, and agencies like Blackwater. Where the blowback from 9/11 may be intrusive but is not causal. Where there has been time to cure and prevent and failure to do so, as well as reluctance. The ethnic violence in Karachi originated long ago in national politics. The unspeakable truth is that, over the years, successive administrations, whatever the hue, in or out of uniform, have continually exploited the phenomenon and the factors generating and subject to violence for factional gain.

Did Gohar Ayub ignite it with his victory parade into Lalukhet? Did General Azam keep the wound from festering in Azam Basti? Did a quota system serve to aggravate or compensate? How would Mumtaz Bhutto or Altaf Hussain assess the language riots in hindsight? Did cosmopolitan Karachi become a Mohajir principality because Ayub Khan changed the federal capital and negated provincial Pakistan? Was ethnic polarisation in Karachi the outcome or the cause of the urban-rural divide in Sindh? General Zia had a calamitously solid foundation to build on when he set about neutralising the PPP through a symbiosis between the Mohajirs and native inhabitants of Sindh.

There are many benchmarks and as many queries but the fundamental one is the power contest between the military and the civil-political group in conjunction with leverage from what started out as the Karachi University's APMSO with an amazing student-leader. That body grew into the MQM we know today whose outreach is still expanding.

At some stage along that journey the MQM turned from puppet into kingmaker; a price was exacted from it when kings changed and rewards conferred when kings were enthroned. And it has by now itself become powerful enough a political entity to be deemed autonomous in its political position, virtues, and vices. It has served and been ill-served by both mainstream national parties, the PML-N, and the PPP.

If the MQM was amenable to military dictators so was the PML-N. The new millennium's PPP had no compunctions negotiating a clearance with dictator Musharraf. Its leaders' re-entry had more to do with the NRO compromise that suited both parties to the deal than joining the people's demos triggered by the resistance of a deposed chief justice and sustained by the bar and the media with the strength of their professional unions and associations. Politically, both the PPP and the PML-N had no choice other than professed support for an independent judiciary. The bald fact for those parties is that presently neither commands the substance of a meaningful mass mobilisation. But both retain the fibre of disruptive populism.

We see this at work provincially in Punjab. And the PML would like to return the favour in Sindh but yet lacks a Jam Sadiq Ali. In Karachi-centred mischief-making the MQM is but in mainstream political party mode and the same may be said of the ANP. The Pathan demographic element and the Mohajir element are now played off against each other by an incumbent PPP administration with the same kind of sinister dexterity as the Sindhis and Mohajirs were for the purpose of establishment gain.

Karachi port is a strategic prize and that is why, in ethnic games there of yore, conventional wisdom was that the army would never allow any single political party to gain a stranglehold in Karachi.

When ethnic violence ran amok in General Zia's time between Pathans and Mohajirs, the political leaders complained that they were not allowed to reach the people to contain the killings, fear, and mistrust. What excuse do they offer today?

Karachi's population has lived with a mutating syndrome of ethnic violence and corrupt politics over decades and has learnt to read the disease without depending too much on the opinions expressed by a participant panel of political experts. For Karachi's people, that panel and its diagnoses are part of the disease, treating only those parts of the cancer that do not run through their cells.

Apolitical, butchered, Karachi agrees with every charge each party makes about the other. There is a corrupt mafia at work. Land, water, electricity, transport – utility services that are the lifeline of a city – each party seeks a monopoly over them. In terms of local government, the collection of tolls and taxes, the delineation of boundaries – each party has a vital stake. Demographics and administrative access determine electoral results in a democratic system that sustains and functions by way of corruption. Given Karachi's parliamentary weight, control there is something 'to die for'.

How much can entrenched federal-power personae obtain in violent power play-offs and reconciliatory gestures, in calibration of course, with their varying provincial power demands and actual party-base?

That is the game played in Karachi with peoples' blood. The MQM; the MQM-H; the ANP; the PMLs (A,N,F,Q etc); the PPP; Sindhi nationalists; Rangers; police; and various troops sent in by Asif Nawaz, commanded by Naseerullah Babar, or refused by Aslam Beg. Each one of these has had some of each other's and almost all of Karachi's blood on its hands. Trouble here will only cease when these elements are able to see sense and feel a common human decency.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SEASON OF POLITICAL REALIGNMENT

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

The season of political realignment is in full swing. The most dramatic expression of this is the newfound bonhomie between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Only a few months ago they were locked in a war of words and exchange of bitter invective, which even by the standards of Pakistani politics reached excessive limits. But in a political culture where expediency trumps principle, their patch up came as little surprise.

With senate elections in March 2012 being seen by the government and opposition alike as a turning point for their political fortunes, quick-fix deals are being pursued to buttress their positions.

Although the elections in Azad Kashmir became the rationale for the MQM's break with the PPP-led ruling coalition, the cause lay closer to home: differences over local government in Sindh, the crux of which is the issue of who controls Karachi.

The MQM's decision to part ways with the PPP offered opposition leader Nawaz Sharif an opportunity to break out of his political isolation. He was quick to seize on this. Meetings between the two parties yielded agreement to work together as "an effective opposition" in the national and provincial assemblies.

Leaders of both parties also began to raise the prospect of a grand opposition alliance as efforts were launched to reach out to another of the PPP's estranged allies, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and his JUI. But the rhetoric about this possibility outpaces the reality.

For now the chances of an opposition coalition remain unclear. Certainly more volatility can be expected in inter-party relations. But the PPP has already fortified itself and its parliamentary majority by forging an alliance with its former nemesis, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid led by the Chaudhris. This ensured the smooth passage of the budget and provided the People's Party the fallback majority it needed as it confronted the MQM's threat to quit the coalition.

The calculation by PPP leaders to reinforce their flanks went much beyond the budget. It is the looming senate election that is increasingly concentrating the minds of political leaders and shaping their alliance strategies.

The accord with PML-Q put the PPP ahead of this game – with the alliance designed to limit Nawaz Sharif's electoral fortunes in Punjab. Splitting the vote that is cast for the Muslim League has always been critical for the PPP's ability to win seats in the largest province. And this is exactly what President Asif Ali Zardari is aiming for.

This is not to say that the MQM's exit is not a setback for the PPP's effort to fashion its own grand alliance in pursuit of an effective election strategy – both for March and the general elections beyond. This is the MQM's third walkout in six months. Posturing as an on-again-off-again ally is a well-rehearsed tactic used by the MQM to strengthen its bargaining position.

But this time the break with the PPP seems irreversible. What has sealed the parting of ways is last week's announcement by the government of the revival of the old commissionerate system in Sindh, virulently opposed by the MQM.

But while there is no prospect of the MQM reversing course, can its abandonment of the ruling coalition have a snowball effect and bring about game changing realignments? Much depends on whether the PML-N is able to capitalise on this development by showing shrewdness and flexibility that has so far been in short supply.

Mr Sharif will certainly need to overcome at least three widespread perceptions about him to secure this goal. One, the impression that he is unable to work with others fed by his go-it-alone past record. Two, his Punjab-only base of support reinforced by what his detractors depict as his Punjab-centric politics. And three, he has to change the perception that he is locked in the past, with his prime motive being to avenge past 'wrongs' done to him rather than craft a vision to deal with the future. Mr Sharif can surmount this by showing willingness to embrace all the Leagues. But there is as yet little indication of this.

The present round of political manoeuvres suggests a protracted period ahead of pre-election realignments with March 2012 becoming the driving prism. The PPP strategy is to preserve the present coalition and make it to March. Reliance on PML-Q exposes the PPP to new vulnerabilities as its new ally lacks internal consensus on the arrangement. But if the alliance can be kept intact it will bring the PPP within reach of attaining an absolute majority in the upper house – something that has eluded governments in the past. Its chances to win the next general elections will then get a boost.

By the same token PML-N's strategy would be to deny the PPP a senate majority. As things stand the only way to do this is to push for early elections. In a recent interview Mr Sharif sought to play down the impression that he was seeking to mount pressure for fresh elections. But this is precisely what he must do if his party is not to be left at a disadvantage in the national polls.

The lack of sure footedness on the part of Mr Sharif contrasts sharply with the confidence exuded by top PPP leaders about their political future. Buoyed by election wins in Azad Kashmir and a number of by-elections, the PPP leaders seem more assured of their strategy to achieve their goals in March and beyond.

This confidence also comes from the party's belief that its mostly rural vote bank has benefited from their period in power. According to this reasoning, at a time of economic distress for other social groups, rural incomes have risen – thanks to higher world commodity prices and government decisions especially higher official support prices for major crops. The economic downturn and spiralling food inflation has hit the living standards of the urban population who are not traditionally the PPP's electoral mainstay. The PPP leaders believe the party can ride to electoral success on the back of these economic trends.

Whether these assumptions are valid or will hold is open to question. It is too early to say whether this rural 'advantage' will be outweighed by anti-incumbency sentiment and other factors including perceptions about the PPP's quality of governance. The political landscape will undoubtedly change between now and election time. These changes will be determined by how the government handles the country's multiple crises including the unprecedented power crisis that the entire nation is struggling with. Elections also have wild cards and intensely local swing factors which make the outcome hard to predict.

What seems certain is that coming months offer the prospect of political energies being consumed by political manoeuvring and even less attention focused on addressing the country's mounting challenges. As expediency not issues has shaped the shifts in political alignments, this trend will likely escalate as March 2012 approaches.

Politicking will take precedence over policy, expedient bargains over consensus building and political stagecraft over statecraft. This risks opening an even greater void in governance as attention turns to the competition for power and distribution of patronage to cement electoral support.

Urgent government decisions – on the economy, fiscal and energy crises and security issues – will continue to be postponed. And this at a time when the worsening law and order situation confronts parts of the country, especially Karachi with the danger of social breakdown, even anarchy. The costs of deferred decisions will continue to multiply.

Governments elsewhere too balk at taking politically risky decisions when the election season approaches. But they rarely put urgent policy matters on hold. Pakistan, which confronts a confluence of unresolved challenges, can ill afford a prolonged period of policy paralysis. The growing disconnect between politics and policy will compound problems further, even heighten the risk of some of them exploding in unexpected ways to endanger social and economic stability.



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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SOUTH SUDAN

RIZWAN ASGHAR

 

Sudan, literally meaning 'land of the blacks' is a land of ancient civilisations, with sweeping deserts in the north and grasslands, mountains, and savannahs to the south. On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan became independent followed by the historic referendum in January 2011, in which close to 99.5 percent of voters opted for secession.

South Sudan's independence comes after decades of conflict with the North. Around two million people were killed in this conflict, which ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), inked between the two sides in 2005. Governed as separate territories during Anglo-Egyptian rule at the turn of the last century, North and South Sudan had been locked in an uncomfortable civil war since independence in 1956. From the outset, the government in Khartoum treated its southern neighbours with contempt and effectively forced them into submission as nomadic raids swept down from the north.

Even as tens of thousands of people are celebrating their freedom, the newly born state will nonetheless have to deal with some very difficult challenges; both internal and external. Internally, the country is woefully ill-equipped to overcome numerous difficulties. A region the size of the Iberian Peninsula has been ravaged by decades of conflict and famine. The education and health sectors are quite dysfunctional and the country has the world's highest maternal mortality rate.

Only a tiny fraction of the population has access to electricity. More than half the people here live on less than a dollar a day and estimates of illiteracy among the female population exceed 80 percent. There is a lack of reliable transportation, and fear of an outbreak of violence and corruption. Additionally, there are at least seven anti-government armed militias fighting against the government of President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

Externally, one of the decisive issues following independence is how North Sudan and South Sudan are to share oil revenues. Most of Sudan's oil reserves are found in the South and so far the two have shared the income. The oil needs to be transported to north through pipelines and facilities at Port Sudan on the Red Sea. This issue may be difficult to solve as consensus on any plan of sharing oil revenue has been elusive.

Abyei, an important transit-point for Sudan's vital oil trade, is a highly disputed region that is becoming increasingly affected by conflict. The region has seen a series of bloody clashes since January 2011 and there are fears that if a solution to the Abyei dispute is not found, it could reignite a full-scale war between North and South Sudan. In January 2011, the Abyei region was scheduled to hold a referendum to decide which part of Sudan to join, but later the referendum was postponed. An agreement could not be reached as to who could vote.

Another point of contention between the North and South is a disputed election in South Kardofan. Sudan declared that the northern ruling party won an election for the governor in South Kordofan on May 15, 2011, an election the South claims was rigged. South Kordofan is the North's main oil state and also borders the volatile Darfur region.

Intense fighting has erupted in the border region of South Kordofan and the neighbouring Abyei where an estimated 110,000 civilians were displaced in May when the northern army invaded. The government in North Sudan has renewed attacks on Darfur, with aerial bombing that has killed civilians and destroyed homes. More than 2,200 people have died this year in violence across southern Sudan.

Within the heart of the South Kordofan state, another area prone to conflict exists – the Nuba Mountains. The Nuba Mountains may be where the next conflict in North Sudan occurs, as the people of the Nuba Mountains are on collision course with President Omar al-Bashir. These internal and external challenges may render South Sudan a failed state in the near future. Furthermore, if all the contentious issues are not dealt with, new conflicts may also erupt in the region.



Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PPP ON COLLISION COURSE IN SINDH

 

THOUGH PML (N) Central Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal has reacted sharply to pronouncements of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani that the PPP would form the Government in Punjab after next elections but on the whole the comments of the PM have been received well by people of Pakistan who have interpreted them as an announcement not to make any attempt to dislodge the incumbent PML (N) Government in the province. This is indeed part of the oft-repeated claims about pursuing the policy of national reconciliation and consensus but regrettably this is not visible in Sindh, at least at the moment.

In democratic dispensation, differences do arise among coalition partners and with other political parties and interest groups but these are sorted out while remaining strictly within the rules of the game. PPP and MQM, who had been coalition partners in Sindh since the beginning of the present set up, amicably sorted out their problems but a stage came when parting of ways became necessary because of conflict of interests. However, separation from coalition is something else and taking differences to extreme ends is something quite different. It is regrettable that after submission of resignation by MQM Governor and Ministers, no serious attempt has been made to hammer out differences and instead steps are being taken that could plunge the metropolitan city into darkness. Despite claims by some leaders of the PPP that they want the MQM back into the folds of the coalition, the moves on the ground belie such claims as new partners have been embraced and ordinances issued that are being seen by the MQM as detrimental to its interests. Zulfiqar Mirza, who is known for his wild temperament, is once again back in the business creating tension with the media and using foul language for others. According to unconfirmed reports, he has even met MQM dissident Afaq Ahmad in jail and possibilities of his release are being discussed, which could understandably spark clashes in the city. The emerging scenario, therefore, doesn't augur well neither for Karachi nor for Pakistan and no one is likely to be gainer at the end. We would, therefore, urge all sides to exercise restraint for the greater interests of the city, province and country and the Prime Minister, who is known for his soft approach, may intervene decisively to salvage the situation.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

USA MOUNTS MORE PRESSURE ON PAKISTAN

 

IN a shocking development, the United States has withheld $800m worth of military aid for Pakistan as part of its policy to put maximum pressure on the country, forcing it to toe American lines blindly throwing national interests in the dustbin. According to media reports, Washington has come out with a 10-point demand, two of which have already been met by Pakistan but the US wants fuller and faithful implementation of all.

The move confirms beyond any doubt that the United States is not a dependable ally and never hesitates to stab in the back of otherwise declared friends and allies. Eversince its independence, Pakistan chose to align itself with the US-led West and joined CEATO and SENTO, earning wrath of the erstwhile super power Soviet Union and leading ultimately to its dismemberment. But in return Pakistan was betrayed by the West on all difficult moments and even spares of vital military equipment were blocked during wars when Pakistan's very existence was in danger. The United States imposed highly discriminatory sanctions against Pakistan because of its nuclear programme which proved counter-productive but Americans have not learnt the lesson and are treading the same path again. In fact, as CIA Director Leon Panetta had demonstrated his clear bias against Pakistan and as Defence Secretary he is taking the process to extreme limits. The United States is much annoyed because of Pakistan's decision to cut down the strength of its military and other personnel, which Americans claim were trainers but in fact, were engaged in activities like that of Raymond Davis. If they were genuine 'trainers' then there was no cause for anxiety for the US but the way the issue is being agitated is manifestation of the fact that they were mere spies and nothing else. Dr Maleeha Lodhi, who served twice as Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, has rightly pointed out that the US will be repeating a historic blunder and hurting itself in the bargain by using a blunt instrument of policy at a time when it needs Pakistan's help to defeat Al-Qaeda.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

BIGGER MARKET FOR EXPORTING MANPOWER

 

WORLD over there is a trend that professionals explore and shift to countries where they get better remuneration and healthy working environment. Over the decades a significant number of Pakistanis had been going to the Gulf countries for jobs but the demand is now shifting from unskilled to skilled and trained manpower and accelerated efforts would be needed to train our labour force in different skills.

According to figures available, the Overseas Employment Corporation (OEC) sent about 1,900 people abroad during the last financial year to GCC States and South Korea. The export of manpower by the OEC is low because it arranges jobs on the basis of requests received from government departments of the friendly countries but we believe that there are other markets where Pakistani skilled labourers could be integrated. To achieve this goal, there should be more communications with countries which are short of manpower and they could be persuaded to look at Pakistani manpower which is hardworking, law abiding and comparatively cheaper than developed countries. Thorough studies need to be carried out about future market demands and then training programmes be organised for the educated youths in different fields. Certain steps have been taken by private institutions to train the youth but a large scale effort is needed which could be undertaken only at the Governmental level. This is entirely necessary because the demand of unskilled labour force has shrunk in the Gulf and other countries and only trained professionals are now a day in demand. We say so because over the past few years the export of Pakistani workers especially to the Gulf has been slowing down remarkably because we lack sources and institutions to train and develop skilful workforce. Pakistan sent abroad 430,314 persons in 2008 but the figure came down alarmingly to 310,000 in 2010 because the demand has changed. To reverse this trend we need to develop an appropriate infrastructure for skill development and placement programme to gain our rightful share in the bigger world manpower market particularly at a time when the unemployment rate is on the increase and the country is heavily dependent on remittances by overseas Pakistanis.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

US PAINTS PAKISTAN IN IGNOBLE COLOUR

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

'For quite some time, American government and media have been painting Pakistan in the most ignoble colours and its military in the most humiliating shades. What Obama administration could not say it straight it says through its mouthpieces - the New York Times and Washington Post. Baseless stories are published to mislead the world, and accusations are leveled against Pakistan and its armed forces to denigrate them in the public eye. However, it is not just their hubristic arrogance that sets the blood boiling, it is their outpouring's imperialistic tone that hurts in soul and mind. They talk as if we are their vassal state, where they are the masters and we are the slaves. They do not want Pakistan's cooperation but total submission and compliance of their orders. But what else one can expect when nation's elites have over the years been genuflecting before the American adventurists. In fact, it is only the present military leadership that has shown the guts to say no to any reasonable orders or demands, because the foreign office is still hopeful of improvement of relations with the US.

Pakistan government and military on Saturday rejected as baseless and mischievous stories in the New York Times (NYT), accusing it of colluding with militant groups and Pakistani intelligence services of approving a journalist's killing. Athar Abbas drew parallels between these stories and the newspaper's reporting in the run-up to the Iraq war, some of which it later retracted. The New York Times had to apologize for telling lies about weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons in Iraq. The NYT carried another story on Saturday claiming that Obama administration will hold back about $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military because Washington is unhappy with Pakistan's expulsion of US military trainers, but on Sunday White House confirmed having stopped the US aid to Pakistan. Meanwhile, during his first visit to Afghanistan after assuming the position of US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta also said on Saturday that he believed Aymin Al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's new commander, was now living in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and Pakistan would be forced to take action.

Since joining the defence pacts with the West and bilateral agreement with the US in 1950s, Pakistan military and Pentagon had developed special relationship, which had continued till 1990s despite differences that emerged during Taliban rule in Afghanistan. However, after US Special Forces action in Abbottabad, the relations are at the lowest ebb. Since Leon Panetta, former CIA director has assumed the charge as Secretary Defence, he has unleashed propaganda campaign against Pakistan military. Former Defence Secretary Roberts Gate showed restraint in his statements, and lately he was all praise for Pakistan and advised the US not to ignore Pakistan. It would be better if Leon Panetta focuses on building up durable relationship with Pakistan, as America stands to benefit more than Pakistan does. Anyhow, the present standoff between US and Pakistan will be detrimental to US interests in the region because without Pakistan's cooperation America can neither win the war nor can have an honourable exit from Afghanistan.

During the last three years, Pakistan military has successfully demolished terrorists infrastructure in Bajaur, Swat, South Waziristan, there are some remnants that need to be eliminated. But the US insists on early launch of military operation against Taliban factions, in particular, the Haqqani network, which Americans allege is the launching pad for violence in Afghanistan. COAS Ashfaq Parwez Kayani has more than once stated that Pakistan's army is overstretched, and he will decide about the time of launching any other operation keeping in view Pakistan's own priorities, national interests and political consensus. It is strange that the US is negotiating with the Taliban but pushing Pakistan to launch military operation in North Waziristan. Last week, international media carried a news report that Mullah Muhammad Omer sent Motasim Agha Jan, his son-in-law, as part of a secret delegation, which met British, American and German officials in Qatar to broker an Afghan peace deal. According to a website and international media, Mullah Omar has given his blessings to Afghan peace talks along with three emissaries.

Reportedly, Agha Jan was appointed to head the Taliban's political commission in 2008, and was in charge of prospective contacts with western governments and Kabul. Some diplomats insist the discussions in Qatar and at least one meeting in Germany are just "talks about talks", The Scotsman reported. The problem is that Northern warlords have had the dominant position since Taliban's ouster, and they would not like to see that negotiations succeed, as they would have to share power with the Taliban. But it is in America's interest that the Pushtun majority gets its rightful share in power, because otherwise it will be impossible to keep Afghanistan together. Since it is not likely that America would mend fences with Iran in foreseeable future, Pakistan is the only viable route by which they can continue supply of heavy equipment and weapons for NATO forces, and after their withdrawal the only road link with the Central Asian Republics. So far, American leadership has kept Pakistan out of the negotiations process.

One would not know what happens when new military chief takes over, outgoing chief Admiral Mike Mullen during a luncheon with Pentagon Press Association on Thursday told reporters: "Clearly what has happened, they are going through an internal reassessment period of time, and part of that is reassess their relationship with the United States," The reduction in trainer troops and few other steps being taken by Pakistan are a direct result of this, he said, adding "They (Pakistan) have, despite the criticism about Haqqani (network), have lost thousands of citizens wounded; they have killed or captured more terrorists in any country. So it is not like they are sitting on the sidelines here." Admiral Mike Mullen tried to give a soothing effect when he said the other day that he didn't have a "string of evidence" linking the death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad to a specific government agency. Whereas he cleared the ISI but at the same time said that the government had issued orders for action against him. However the general perception is that they are trying to weaken Pakistan.

In fact, America has been unfair throughout its relations with Pakistan. After using Pakistan as a pawn in their triumphant proxy war against the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan, the Americans repaid us — their much trumpeted strategic partners by slapping all nuclear-related sanctions and bequeathing on us the tinderbox of religious fanaticism. And of course stridency out of which we are desperately struggling to get out. Once again they coerced Pakistan into joining the war on terror and made it a frontline state. They also elevated Pakistan as a Non-NATO ally, but despite all this cooperation and sacrifices, Americans distrust Pakistan, and are out to weaken it. To remain relevant in the region, American leadership must address Pakistan's concerns, and should understand that no progress can be achieved unless Pushtuns that make more than half of Afghanistan's population, who draw the bulk of their fighters and supporters in Afghanistan are given sterling guarantees that they will have their rightful share in power. Anyhow, it is for the first time that the US has taken Pakistan into confidence about its dialogue with Taliban at unknown places.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

EXPOSE BAD EGGS IN MEDIA

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

Our media has created super hype over incidents of US helicopters assault in Abbottabad, Mehran naval base attack, Kharotabad incident in Quetta , killing of Sarfaraz Shah in Karachi at the hands of soldier of Sindh Rangers, and murder of journalist Saleem Shehzad, pinned on ISI. The wrath of media is focused on armed forces, particularly Army and ISI and it looks as if it has old scores to settle and is giving vent to its pent up resentment. It is not leaving any stone unturned to tarnish the high reputation and image of Army and ISI and its rancorous posturing is in harmony with biased foreign media which has a specific agenda. Kharotabad incident in which the FC soldiers killed five Chechens on the pointing of police was sensationalized by media simply because an Army officer was part of the shooting team. Karachi incident was also dramatized since Rangers were seen as part of Army not realizing that both FC and Rangers fall under the authority of Interior Minister and Army has no role in its employment.

Having a close look at the clip flashed hundreds of times on all TV channels to trigger sympathy wave for the deceased Sarfaraz, one wonders why didn't he beseech the policemen who had caught him red handed with a pistol in his hand mugging a passerby, pulling his hair and beating him? What for was he pleading the Rangers on duty to whom he was handed over by police? Why was Sarfaraz not stepping backwards and not cowering in sheer fright rather than continuously moving forward towards the soldier pointing a loaded weapon towards him despite being repeatedly warned to stay back? He came so menacingly close to the gunman that he dipped the barrel of the gun downwards. What if he was wearing a suicide jacket under his shirt and had pressed the button or had snatched the rifle and started firing indiscriminately resulting in death and injury of scores of people. Why didn't the media highlight the criminal background of Sarfaraz who was a member of eight involved in hundreds of crimes?

Isn't it true that the terrorized people of Karachi are fed up of terrorists, target killers, extortionists, kidnappers, car and purse snatchers, robbers, dacoits and thugs who have made their lives and property insecure? Isn't it true that the Rangers help has been sought repeatedly by Sindh government since the police was helpless to restore order in Karachi ? Has the Home Minister not been issuing orders to shoot to kill on sight on several occasions when the situation went out of control? Did the inquisitive media enquire as to what sort of instructions had been issued to Rangers employed in aid to civil power and that were the Rangers operating under normal conditions or warlike situation? Have we forgotten that on express orders of the then Sindh government, the Rangers stood aside and watched the massacre of people on 12 May 2007 and 9 April 2008 and how Rangers was criticized for its inaction?

Thousands of people have been brutally killed in Karachi in the last three years. Has the media cameras ever captured one scene of target killing and unmasked the killers riding motorcycles? Has the media found who puts viciously tortured dead bodies in gunny bags and dump them on roadside? Even if some were caught, put on trial and sentenced, they were released and asked to continue with their gory practice. With Karachi soaked in blood, where average daily killings is up to 10-15, how come tears were shed so copiously over the killing of Sarfaraz who was a known mugger? Why was sacking of DG Rangers Sindh and IG Sindh on orders of Supreme Court hailed by the media? Wasn't it appreciable on part of DG Rangers to make an announcement on the TV the same evening of the occurrence that the matter will be dealt with expeditiously and culprit punished? So why so much of hue and cry was made as if sky had fallen? It was media hype which forced Supreme Court to take suo motu action. While I have deepest regards for this institution under Chief Justice Iftikhar, I personally feel this act was done in undue haste. Suo motu is applicable if the person in authority is directly or indirectly involved in the crime, or is trying to shield the culprit, or is not cooperating and is refusing to hand him over to the investigating authorities.

In this land of the pure, concept of accountability of wrongdoers has become redundant under the present government. The corrupt and criminals are shamelessly protected, re-instated and rewarded. Upright and honest officials on the other hand are punished. So far, hardly any directive of Supreme Court has been implemented. Adhocism, cronyism, favoritism, are at peak and merit butchered. The so-called liberated media is being misused to build perceptions of their choice and to promote Indian and western culture. In the prevalent contaminated environments where morals, high principles and pristine human values are of no consequence, armed forces stand out as the sole institution where semblance of order is still in existence. The rank and file is disciplined, organized, competent and devoted to service matters. The three services build rather than plunder. The juniors respect the seniors and the latter take good care of welfare of subordinates because of which team spirit never gets eroded. The Army delivers when all other institutions fail. Each member is ever ready to lay down his life for the cause of the country. 3500 officers and men have embraced martyrdom while fighting the foreign paid terrorists bent upon destroying the country. It was owing to their huge sacrifices, valor and unwavering determination that the militants could not gain an upper edge over the military.

The soldiers are braving hardships of extreme weather and terrain in Siachin and battling with Indian troops on the highest battleground of the world with fortitude since 1984. They are tenaciously defending the line of control in Kashmir and keeping Indian forces at arms length. Several aggressive attempts by Indian troops five times superior in men and material on eastern border have been thwarted by our valiant soldiers. They are fighting war on terror since 2002 without any letup under adverse conditions. Their epic role in 2005 earthquake and floods in 2009 and resettlement of 2.4 million displaced persons of Swat region cannot be forgotten. Discomforts, hazards and disruption of family life have made no dent on their morale. There has not been a single case of mental disorder or suicide case as in the case of ISAF in Afghanistan and US-NATO in Iraq and Indian forces in occupied Kashmir where the rate of mental and suicide cases is alarmingly high. Unlike civil institutions, Armed forces have inbuilt strict accountability system and defaulters are seldom let off.

The ISI acting as the first line of defence is up against a gang of six intelligence agencies operating from a single base in Kabul and has managed to keep their ingresses in check. Terrorists aided by foreign agencies succeeded in hitting military targets in cities mainly because the government allowed CIA and Blackwater to establish their posts inside Pakistan and Interior Minister provided them protection. Our Ambassador in Washington facilitated their entry without security clearance. Raymond Davis was a golden bird in our hand but he was let off on express orders of President. Despite such heavy odds, the ISI undertook its duties efficiently and deserves kudos rather than admonishment.

—The writer is a defence analyst.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM

LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)

 

Hindu religion diversify the Indian society and caste system mainly into four castes like; Brahmins, Ksatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras (Dalit). According to the Hinduism, the followers of the caste system believes that by birth, Brahmin works for; peace, self-harmony, austerity, purity; loving-forgiveness and righteousness; vision, wisdom and faith. The Ksatriya are heroic minded, believes to be Constance, resourceful, courage in battle, generosity and noble leadership. The trade, agriculture and the rearing of cattle are the work of a Vaishya. The work of the Shudra is service. The word "Dalit" comes from the Sanskrit, and means "ground", "suppressed", "crushed", or "broken to pieces". It was first used by Jyotirao Phule in the nineteenth century, in the context of the subjugation faced by the erstwhile "untouchable" castes of the twice-born Hindus. Although in 2008 Indian Govt tried to tackle the issue when National Commission for Scheduled Castes, noticing that "Dalit" was used interchangeably with the official term "scheduled castes", called the term "unconstitutional" and asked state governments to end its use. After the order, the Chhattisgarh government ended the official use of the word "Dalit".

It is also a known fact that the large majority of the Dalits in India are Hindus but due to extremists' Hindu behavior, many of them have been converted to Buddhism, often called Neo-Buddhism and Christian. Moreover, the attitude of Upper-castes Hindus towards low-caste Hindus and minorities have never been cordial. Internationals and local human rights organizations always reported that Dalits are being pushed towards wall continuously. Though, all main political parties like Congress, BJP and Shiv Sena believe in the supremacy of Hinduism in India but Shiv Sena is a known hard liner party which openly believes in carrying out brutality against minorities and Dalits. Extremists Hindus even do not hesitate in killing innocent and sexually assaulting women, young girls and children. It has been found that local police, troops deployed in IOk are involved in raping women fathering children for sexual abuses. In this context even Indian soldiers in Peace Keeping Mission are also found involved in sexually assaulting women and children. Reportedly, 12 officers and 39 soldiers are facing investigations in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India, to conclude if they had sexually abused the local women and children once they were on UN Peace keeping Mission in Congo.

According to the Amnesty International Reports of March 2011 , in Indian occupied Kashmir under the garb of the Public Safety Act (PSA) to incarcerate suspects without adequate evidence, India has not only violated their human rights but also failed in its duty to charge and try such individuals and to punish them if found guilty in a fair trial. Between January and September 2010 alone, 322 people were reportedly detained in addition to the raping women, punishing and killing "Dalits" Maharashtra, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, Tamils and Bru areas.Amnesty International also prepared the report on the basis of research conducted by the team during a visit to Srinagar in May 2010 and subsequent analysis of government and legal documents relating to over 600 individuals detained under the PSA between 2003 and 2010.

The Tamil Nadu government has ordered probe into the Police firing in air at Villur village near Tirumangalam on May 1. Madurai superintendent of police Asra Garg opened fire in the air after a mob of around 500 persons belonging to caste Hindu Thevar families allegedly attempted to assault police. The angry mob had demanded the release of five caste Hindus who were arrested by police for assaulting a Dalit youth for riding a motorcycle along the main street of the village against a discriminatory diktat. The caste Hindus, for years, allegedly oppressed Dalrts by preventing them from riding motorcycles on Kaliamman Koil street in Villur. Caste Hindus had also issued a diktat that Dalits should not walk with footwear. Christians are demanding an inquiry into how seven dalit and tribal people were falsely charged with the murder of Hindu leader Laxmananada Saraswati, which led to months of violence in which more than 100 people died and hundreds of homes destroyed. Police now say Maoists have confessed to murdering the man. The Christians leaders have stated that innocent Christians were branded and paraded as killers by the police. It smacks of vendetta. Now the state should extend apology to those falsely accused and release them immediately. The government should come up with a comprehensive plan for the compensation and restoration of justice. Others called for a White paper probe, suggesting the authorities acted in cahoots with Hindu extremists. We demand a white paper on the nexus between the administration and Sangh Parivar. Pradhan, whose family was forced to become Hindus for a month, said the hate campaign against Christians still continues. The administration and Hindu fundamentalist should own up and be booked accordingly. In January, 2009 seven Dalit and tribal Christians were charged with the murder the Hindu leader. But this week, police charged seven Orissa- based Maoist leaders with killing Saraswati and four others at Jaleshpata Ashram in the Kandhamal district on the night of August 23, 2008.

In short, we can conclude that injustice in the society, denying of basic rights and violations of human rights of minorities are some of the major factors which gave birth to new states. For example, in nineteenth century, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka appeared on world map as result of extremist's Hindu discriminatory treatment towards Muslims, Buddha and even Sri Lankan's Hindus. Similarly some incorrect political decision and Indian intrigue against Pakistan produced Bangladesh. Here, I would also mention that the basis of independence of Pakistan was the ideology of two nation theory. The same theory proved to be correct since Bangladesh did not fall into Indian lap even after separating from Pakistan. Thus, brutality against Dalits and minorities will likely to give birth to new states, Muslim Bengal, Tamilistan, Nagaland, Kahlistan, Kashmir and Nexilites. The Dalit community has to get up to force Indian government of protecting their rights and get some independent state where they should live without fear and perform their religious obligations freely.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

US END GAME IN AFGHANISTAN

SHAMS-UZ-ZAMAN

 

The US has contingency plans to deal with a situation, if it conceives of a serious threat to Pakistan 's nuclear weapons arising from a possibility of falling these into wrong hands. With the Afghan war entering in the end game phase and frequent rising of concerns by the US lawmakers and media over suspected Pakistan 's complicity with terrorist groups, Pakistan finds itself braced in a situation of between devil and the deep sea. US calls for expanding the sphere of operations by Pakistani military against militant/extremist outfits in tribal areas and also on mainland Pakistan could lead to internal instability and backlash while any inaction might put it in a confrontational situation with the US which also is unaffordable.

Most of the good will earned by Armed Forces of Pakistan, after the restoration of judiciary, successful Swat operation, resettlement of IDPs and relentless efforts to provide relief to the flood affected people has considerably been lost in flurry of events since May 2. The situation in the US perceptions appears to be serious especially in wake of series of stories published in the Western media reporting of widespread discontent prevailing within the rank and file of the armed forces coupled with CIA's efforts to stage a coup. The severity of situation forced Kiyani to address the officer cadre at various stations in a crash visit programme. However, recent arrest of military officers including a brigadier, over their alleged connections with the extremist outfits has just confirmed the fears of trouble within its ranks. These developments might ultimately provide the right opportunity for the US government if it becomes desirous of conducting a May 2 style of raid over Pakistan nuclear installations.

However, in past the US officials were not confident of achieving a 100% success in any such kind of operation. According to an unnamed US military official, every war gaming scenario on the issue has always ended up in a 'sort of mess and an unmanageable situation for the US '. There is no available data on the perceived success ratio but obviously the US confidence in its abilities in any such kind of operations after Operation Geronimo, must have been reinforced. The Obama's troop drawdown speech from Afghanistan came as a stern warning to Pakistan , reiterating that terrorist safe havens would not be tolerated inside Pakistan . This changing US role, from counter insurgency to counter terrorism could involve frequent aerial strikes, deep within Pakistani territories, besides coercing Pakistan to take action against militant groups like Haqqani networks and LET etc which so far haven't been actively pursued by the military. Such operations would have profound domestic implications in shape of severe backlash from these groups, economic degeneration, public discontent and further radicalization of the society which eventually could affect the armed forces as well.

Therefore, these operations if conducted could bring about a situation just deemed necessary for implementation of US plans to secure Pakistan nuclear sites. On the other hand if Pakistan takes a stand against US, it may result in direct confrontation which could be used to acclaim Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism and subsequently be subjected to nuclear disarmament under the UN mandate. The case of military personnel having links with extremist organizations would serve the purpose by providing US a space to build upon its hypothesis of Pakistan nuclear weapons falling under the control of undesirable elements. Or else a CIA sponsored coup could provide a classical justification for nuclear safety and security operation in Pakistan . The US plan to secure or strike Pakistan nuclear installation, can be implemented both ways i.e. if the a situation arises where threat of their falling in wrong hands become obvious or else create environments using covert means, conducive enough for implementation of such plans. Analysing the current course, Pakistan at the moment is heading in a direction where eventually it would meet its day of reckoning and unfortunately not many options are available within this short span of time and Pakistan has to walk on a tight rope.

The only rational course therefore, must be to immediately put its own house in order besides strengthening its bond with its regional countries like Iran , China , Turkey and Afghanistan etc finally to speed up its process of composite dialogue with Indiatowards a logical end. Decreasing dependency on foreign and US aid is vital for Pakistan 's survival because historically no state or empire has ever proved to be indispensable in the grand design.

—The writer is a research scholar at NDU, Islamabad.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

STOP SEARCHING FOR AN OBAMA DOCTRINE

FAREED ZAKARIA

 

Every few months, commentators find a new grand strategy that animates Barack Obama. First he was the anti-war candidate, because his rise in the Democratic primaries had much to do with his early and consistent opposition to the Iraq war. But even some on the right, including Robert Kagan, pointed out that he was interventionist on other issues, such as Afghanistan. Some criticised his multilateralism, pointing to his offers of engagement to all comers, from Iran to Russia to China. More recently, watching his vigorous outreach to Asian countries threatened by China, the scholar Daniel Drezner concluded that the new grand strategy was one of "counterpunching."

So what is the Obama Doctrine? In fact, the search itself is misguided. The doctrinal approach to foreign policy doesn't make much sense anymore. Every American foreign policy "doctrine" but one was formulated during the Cold War, for a bipolar world, when American policy toward one country — the Soviet Union — dominated all U.S. strategy and was the defining aspect of global affairs. (The Monroe Doctrine is the exception.) In today's multipolar, multilayered world, there is no central hinge upon which all American foreign policy rests. Policymaking looks more varied, and inconsistent, as regions require approaches that don't necessarily apply elsewhere.

Obama does, however, have a worldview, a well-considered approach to international affairs. His views have been straightforward and consistent. From the earliest days of his presidential campaign he said that he sees the basic argument in American foreign policy as "between ideology and realism" and placed himself squarely on one side. "I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush," he explained in a May 2008 interview with David Brooks. In a 2008 interview with me on CNN, he reiterated this admiration but also praised Harry Truman, Dean Acheson and George Kennan for their tough-minded internationalism. Then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told The New York Times in April 2010, "If you had to put him in a category, he's probably more realpolitik, like Bush 41."

Commentators have made much of his response to the Arab Spring, especially the May 19 speech in which he outlined a broad policy of American support for democracy in the region. All American presidents have supported and should support the spread of democracy. The real question is: Should that support involve active measures to topple undemocratic regimes, especially military force? On this point, beneath the rhetoric you can see a pragmatism at work again. After being caught unawares by events in Tunisia and Egypt — as was most everyone, including the leaders of those countries — the Obama administration saw that the protests in Egypt were going to succeed and acquiesced in the inevitable. It took Ronald Reagan two years to turn on Ferdinand Marcos. It took Obama two weeks to urge Hosni Mubarak to resign.

The fashionable criticism is that Obama does not have a consistent policy toward the Arab Spring. But should he? There are vast differences between the circumstances in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia; American interests in those countries; and our capacity to influence events there. Take the case where American interests and values most starkly collide, Saudi Arabia. Were the administration to start clamouring for regime change in Riyadh, and were that to encourage large-scale protests (and thus instability) in the kingdom, the price of oil would skyrocket.

The United States and much of the developed world would almost certainly drop into a second recession. Meanwhile, the Saudi regime, which has legitimacy, power and lots of cash that it is spending, would likely endure — only now it would be enraged at Washington. What exactly would a more "consistent" Middle Eastern policy achieve? In Libya, the administration confronted a potential humanitarian crisis in which Moammar Gadhafi's domestic opposition, the Arab League, the United Nations and key European allies all urged international action. It found a way to participate in a multilateral intervention but has been disciplined about keeping its involvement limited. Syria is different, with a regime more firmly and brutally in control. And while I wish Obama would voice his preference that President Bashar Assad should resign, it is worth noting that the same critics who want Obama to say this also criticise him for calling for Gadhafi's ouster when he does not have the means to make it happen.

Or perhaps they want us to intervene in Syria as well, which would bring the war count to four.In all these cases, what marks administration policy is a careful calculation of costs and benefits. The great temptation of modern American foreign policy, from Versailles to Vietnam to Iraq, has been to make grand declarations — enunciate doctrines — that then produce huge commitments and costs. We are coming off a decade of such rhetoric and interventions and are still paying the price: more than $2 trillion, not to mention the massive cost in human lives. In that context, a foreign policy that emphasises strategic restraint is appropriate and wise. The writer is a syndicated columnist.

— Courtesy: Chicago Tribune

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BROKEN WORD AND BROKEN CONSENSUS TAXING FOR PM

JULIA Gillard has no option at present but to adopt Winston Churchill's advice: "When you are going through hell, keep going."

The Prime Minister is about as popular as her carbon tax, and her party's standing in the polls is at such dire levels the only good news is that an election isn't due for two years and the caucus doesn't meet for more than a month. Seldom has an Australian leader pinned their fortune so clearly to one issue. Despite the broadly rational package of measures she negotiated over many months and announced on Sunday, Ms Gillard faces a seemingly impossible task to deliver this policy and survive politically.

Much of the difficulty stems from its history. Five years ago, Labor chose climate change and pricing carbon as its light on the hill for the 21st century. But Ms Gillard and her supporters plunged the government into turmoil by first urging Kevin Rudd to abandon the policy, then disposing of him and sensibly sidelining the climate issue. After squandering Labor's majority, the Prime Minister managed to cling to power partly by promising the Greens she would impose a carbon tax. This undercut her own sound reasoning for awaiting international action and building a national consensus. It also represented a blatant breach of her word that haunts and taunts her daily.

Ms Gillard likes to characterise the tax package as a historic economic reform in the mould of the Hawke-Keating era. If most of the world's large economies eventually do move to pricing carbon, she will be proved right. But this invites the question of why Hawke and Keating succeeded. The economic reforms of the 1980s had the incalculable advantage of bipartisan political support. While financial deregulation and tariff reductions were unpopular with sections of the public, and therefore politically susceptible, they were embraced as a public good by the conservative opposition. These reforms promised short-term pain for long-term gains and were implemented without destroying the government.

Carbon pricing enjoyed bipartisan support for the first two years of this government before it disintegrated at the end of 2009. Labor overplayed the politics and fractured the opposition on the issue; the Coalition had a change of heart and switched leaders; the Greens played an absolutist game and destroyed the scheme. People will apportion blame where they will, but the point that matters now for the Prime Minister is that consensus is not possible. As intrinsically as her future is linked to taxing carbon, Tony Abbott's is joined to opposing the tax.

So her partner for success, at least in the rarefied atmosphere of Capital Hill, is the Greens. But passing the package through parliament won't be a successful outcome for Labor unless it can remain in power to bed down its legislation. And by conspiring in the capital with the Greens, Labor only fuels voter scepticism and resentment in the real world.

Mr Abbott is exploiting discontent and campaigning unambiguously to rescind the package. If he wins the next election, he could have a powerful mandate to do so. It is hard to imagine Labor inflicting a double dissolution on the issue months after losing office.

Still, that is getting way ahead of where Ms Gillard is now. One reason she is losing the debate on climate change is because she has not convinced the electorate of the rationale for her action. Both sides of politics promise to meet the same emissions reduction target of 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020. And most people now understand this will have no discernible impact on global climate. It only matters if the world acts -- and the largest emitters such as the US, China and India are not pricing carbon. Labor promises a historic economic reform and faces the awkward question from the electorate: "For what?"

On top of all this, Ms Gillard is choosing to make this tax the centrepoint of national debate, rather than carve out a reform agenda in, say, productivity, infrastructure or immigration. She once recognised the need to build national consensus on this issue, but now seeks to crash through. So she turns up every day contesting the Coalition's preferred issue -- the carbon tax. Churchill proffered some other wise advice: "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

CANBERRA CANNOT HIDE ON CATTLE

THE live cattle trade with Indonesia will resume and Jakarta has pledged to stun animals before they are slaughtered. Problem solved, right?

Sadly, no. The end of the ban is good news but the industry will take time to recover. West Australian authorities suggest the trade will be at only 10-15 per cent of normal levels by the end of the year. The move towards stunning addresses the cruelty inflicted on animals at some abattoirs as workers tried to control them before slaughter. But stunning will not be mandatory and the challenge is to ensure promises are honoured. Australian cattle farmers are not the only ones damaged by this incident: Joe Ludwig badly mishandled the matter. Once the ABC TV Four Corners program screened, the Agriculture Minister had little choice but to impose a temporary ban. Yet as we report today, it should never have got to that point. The minister had plenty of warning of community concerns and of his obligation to control the trade, not just leave it to the industry to manage. His failure to heed advice from his department in its incoming briefing, or "Red Book", that the live cattle trade was a red-hot issue has exacted a high price. The onus is now on Senator Ludwig to ensure the $320 million industry gets back on the rails quickly-- in a manner that is acceptable to Australian voters.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ROAD MASTERPLAN IS TOO MODEST

UPGRADING the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Cairns is a priority not just for Queensland but for the nation.

This corridor of prosperity stretching for 1670km from Brisbane to Cairns links centres of mining growth as well as farming, industries that will fuel our export growth for decades. As far as it goes, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh's 20-year plan to upgrade the highway incorporates much-needed improvements after a recent RACQ motorists' survey labelled the highway Queensland's most unroadworthy road. The 340 km of highway duplication, new bridges, ring roads, deviations, intersection upgrades and passing lanes will improve safety, capacity and flood immunity. As the population expands, the promise of at least four lanes from Brisbane to Bundaberg, 380km north, by 2031 will be especially beneficial, although at peak times traffic flows from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast warrant eight lanes in some stretches.

The problem with the so-called "masterplan" is that it is too modest. By 2031, it would leave most of the coastal corridor, one of Australia's fastest-growing areas, linked by just one lane in either direction. With an extra 2.5 million people expected to boost Queensland's population to seven million within 20 years, a four-lane divided highway from Brisbane to Cairns should be a priority for the federal and Queensland governments.

The opposition LNP's response so far has been unimaginative -- with some justification, it branded the plan a "sham". But Queenslanders thinking of changing their votes in coastal seats at the coming state poll will be looking for an alternative that meets the needs of provincial Queensland. Ms Bligh and LNP leader Campbell Newman both have strong track records of road-building in Brisbane and understand the importance of upgrading infrastructure to boost productivity. They can do better. As the Queensland Infrastructure Plan shows, each dollar spent on infrastructure boosts economic activity by as much as $1.60.

Both sides of Queensland politics ruled out a suggestion by Michael Keegan, head of Infrastructure Australia, to impose tolls on the Bruce Highway, but with much of the federal government's global financial crisis stimulus wasted on unproductive projects and Queensland struggling to regain its AAA credit rating, taxpayers will be hard pressed to find the capital to bring the highway up to standard.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BOOZE TRADE COMES CLEANISH

THE liquor industry's decision voluntarily to attach health warnings to most beer, wine and spirits products is welcome. It is also a tactically shrewd move - a pre-emptive show of virtue designed to forestall, or at least put the industry in a better position to resist, any government move to impose a mandatory and potentially more commercially damaging regime. Whatever else, the Big Booze approach is more responsible and sophisticated than the cover-ups and "nanny state" hysteria drummed up by Big Tobacco.

True, the interchangeable warning labels aimed at young people, pregnant women and problem drinkers that will now appear on most liquor products - "Kids and alcohol don't mix", "It is safest not to drink while pregnant" and "Is your drinking harming yourself and others?"- seem discreet to a fault. They are certainly less robust and explicit than medical experts and health workers have urged. But at least they are an acknowledgement by those who make, advertise and sell alcohol that, however pleasant the stuff may be when taken in moderation, it can also be dangerous, even deadly.

This modest gesture towards self-regulation, while welcome, will not and should not put an end to the campaign to reduce the unacceptably high social and economic toll of alcohol abuse - a toll that includes its large and rising contribution to road deaths, disease, crime, suicide, workplace injuries and broken families. State and federal governments, which have been dithering for ages over the liquor labelling issue, should certainly take note of the industry's initiative. But this does not relieve them of their responsibility to decide whether more forceful warnings are needed.

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Besides, labelling is only one aspect of the challenge of minimising the abuse of, and harm caused by, alcohol - and arguably not the most important. More dramatic results might be achieved, particularly among the young, by simply making the stuff more expensive, perhaps by taking up the Henry review's suggestion that liquor should be taxed by alcohol content. Obviously, at a time when the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is facing trouble enough trying to sell a carbon tax, increasing the tax slug on booze, however rational and socially desirable such a reform might be, would be politically difficult. So would restricting advertising or making drink less easily available.

But that's the rub. Alcohol is etched into this nation's culture. Its abuse is a multi-faceted problem, not amenable to easy, comfortable or popular solutions. It is not a challenge the Prime Minister wants just now, but she should face it.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ABBOTT'S CARBON PURGATORY

ON MAY 21 this year, according to the Oakland, California, evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping, the first stage of the end of the world was going to begin. The small number of true Christians, about 2 per cent of those professing the faith, would be ''raptured'' to heaven. The rest of us would be left wallowing in ''tribulation'' until the fiery end on October 21. We haven't noticed any missing Christians and the general level of tribulation seems normal, but perhaps the actual number of the chosen was very small and October 21 is still some way off. Yet for most people, Camping is now one of a long line of false prophets of doom.

Tony Abbott is taking the risk of joining them with his stump around the country warning of economic disaster striking come July 1 next year when the Gillard government's new carbon pricing system comes into operation. If, in the outcome, the carbon tax produces only a small blip in the cost of living for most households, similar to the quickly-forgotten impact of the GST, and the coal industry is not brought to its knees, he could end up a political version of Mr Camping, perhaps predicting doomsday is coming, but that it will take just a bit more time to work through.

At the weekend, Abbott donned his customary hard-hat and safety vest to spruik at the Wambo coal mine in the Hunter Valley and declare: ''This mine will be one of many mines under threat if Julia Gillard's carbon tax goes ahead.'' On Monday it was revealed that Peabody Energy, the American company which owns Wambo and other mines cited by Abbott as under risk, had launched the biggest takeover for an Australian coal company yet seen, for Macarthur Coal. From the sharemarket's jump in coal stocks, the $4.7 billion offer may be only the forerunner of a new wave of investment in Australian coal properties. Abbott's immediate take was that the tax had made an Australian company subject to the tax more open to foreign takeover. But Peabody clearly thinks it can run Macarthur at a healthy profit even with the tax.

At the moment, the polls show Abbott on a hiding to nothing to win if an election were held. But he may have to wait two years, with a relatively harmless introduction of carbon pricing undermining his fear-mongering before then. He risks looking like someone talking down Australia and its economy, warning investment away. Perhaps we have entered a time of tribulation.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

DIFFERENT DISASTERS EXPOSE THE SAME FAILINGS

 

A LONG drought led to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009. Then came the rains, bringing vast floods last summer. Each disaster cruelly exposed the inadequacy of emergency responses. An interim report on the floods, released on Monday, and the Bushfires Royal Commission both found services were overwhelmed. The fires happened on the Brumby government's watch and the flooding peaked within months of its defeat, but it is up to the Baillieu government to fix systemic flaws in the state's disaster management.

The scale of the disasters is not an excuse for the failings of the policies and systems that are meant to protect Victorians. The commission rejected the defence that the fires were unprecedented. These were not the first such disasters and will not be the last. In opposition, one of Ted Baillieu's lines of attack was that the government had ignored many previous recommendations. ''There's no point in having lengthy and expensive inquiries, reports and royal commissions if the Premier continues to ignore and fails to implement their recommendations,'' he said.

The commission found no single person or agency was in charge and that confusion and system breakdowns contributed to the bushfire death toll of 173. Mr Baillieu pledged to act on all the inquiry's recommendations. As Premier, he now has another report before him that finds emergency services were overwhelmed as a result of lack of planning, poor understanding of who was in charge, and incident control rooms ignoring local knowledge. Residents of the 140 flood-hit towns praised the State Emergency Service volunteers, but not the disorganised emergency responses.

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While this is an interim report, the key lessons of recent disasters are clear. The report, which also reflects on the bushfire responses, states: ''The government may wish to consider the benefit of central co-ordination of Victoria's emergency services agencies to allow for maximising capacity and enhanced interoperability, training, resources and an effective multi-agency response to future emergency events.''

Acting Premier and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan is right to commit to an ''all hazards, all agencies'' approach. Fire and flood may seem to be opposites, but the same principles of disaster management apply. Last October, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley likened his new role to that of the Defence Force chief. The separate firefighting services would

co-operate more under his command, he said. ''My job is all about making sure we can deploy integrated resources.''

The new post was created on the recommendation of the royal commission, which wisely focused more on systemic deficiencies than individual failings. Political leaders and agency chiefs come and go; sustained protection depends on getting the right structures and systems in place. This is a government responsibility.

The Baillieu government must heed the recommendations of every disaster report, but it will not be enough to prepare specifically for the next flood or fire. The state must be ready for the next disaster, whatever form it might take. To extend Mr Lapsley's analogy, the various arms of the military must be ready to launch a

co-ordinated response to any attack by land, sea or air. Similarly, emergency agencies must be able to work as one. That requires absolute clarity about responsibilities and procedures so all elements of the emergency response fit together.

After the September 11 attacks and Bali bombings a decade ago, governments invested a huge amount of time, money and effort in anticipating and preparing for terrorist threats. Natural disasters are probably a bigger threat to Victorians. The challenge before the government is to act on the big picture of disaster management. This means improving the laws, policies and chains of command and control that apply to all agencies charged with protecting the people of this state.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

MALARIA HOPE VINDICATES RESEARCH

ABOUT 1 million people die each year from malaria, a disease that has until now resisted efforts to find a vaccine that will prevent it. Caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, malaria infects up to 250 million people a year, mostly in Africa, where a child dies from the disease every 45 seconds. Over time, this disease and poverty trap is responsible for gross underdevelopment. Economist Jeffrey Sachs has calculated that per capita growth and productivity in malaria-free countries is five times that of malaria-ridden nations.

People in the developing world have had little hope of avoiding the disease other than by relying on sprays and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. This stop-gap approach has necessarily been the major focus of aid agencies. While these strategies have limited the spread of malaria, scientists have long sought a more permanent solution. The development by Australian researchers of a vaccine that completely protects mice against multiple strains of malaria - a very hopeful sign that it could be effective in humans - is a heartening breakthrough.

At Queensland's Griffith University Institute for Glycomics, a team led by Professor Michael Good has developed a method by which ultra-low doses of malaria parasites are ''put to sleep'' using a unique chemical treatment. Human vaccine trials, to be conducted by the institute's Laboratory of Vaccines for the Developing World, are expected to produce an immune response that will protect against all known strains of malaria.

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The work has been supported by funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council Australia fellowship and program grant as well as a grant from the US National Institutes of Health. It is an unambiguous example of the potential returns on investment in research, which are measurable both in human well-being and economic growth. In an era when industrial output has dominated the national economic discussion, it is easy to lose sight of the value of research to a knowledge economy. But we neglect it to our detriment.

The results of scientists' painstaking work can be unpredictable but often have profound and enduring effects on the way we live. Elusive achievements such as a malaria vaccine - a holy grail of medical research - not only offer commercial returns for Australia but can benefit all humanity. As we applaud the achievements of Professor Good and his team, we remind the government that it is vital to fund universities to achieve both these goals.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

NEWS CORPORATION: BUSINESS AS USUAL?

Sunday Times revelations show intrusive practices went beyond the NoW – which dents the 'one rotten apple' defence

Even before a squeak had emerged from News Corp, the eighth day of the saga was every bit as instructive as the seven that had gone before. Before lunch, it emerged that the News of the World's informal payroll reached into the royal household, with protection officers reportedly taking bungs for providing contact details for – among others – the Queen. Next Scotland Yard put out a statement, which complained about leaks that were jeopardising its ongoing investigation, and pointed the finger in the direction of senior News International staff. A little later, the Guardian and BBC revealed that the previous prime minister had been subject to extensive NI prying. Gordon Brown's treatment was striking in two particulars. First, the intrusive practices were not restricted to the NoW – which dents NI's ability to revisit its favourite "one rotten apple" defence. Second, questions will be asked about how the Sun obtained details from the medical records of Mr Brown's infant son and why Rebekah Brooks, as editor, decided to publish a story, based on the material, about the child's serious illness.

At around the time this story was breaking, Rupert Murdoch produced his latest breathtaking gambit. Five days after closing the country's bestselling newspaper in order to secure the quick-fire acquisition of 100% of BSkyB, News Corp signalled there was no real hurry. It was suddenly happy to have the matter referred to the Competition Commission. Even in these shaming times, Wapping retains at least the appearance of dictating events up-river in Westminster, and a few minutes later, Jeremy Hunt was on his feet in the Commons explaining that a referral which he had bent over backwards to avoid would after all be going ahead. And so a bunch of technocrats will now spend months poring over statistics about market share and weighing arguments about vertical integration. Important work, certainly, but work removed from the outrage gripping the country.

The prime minister, who stuck to his timetabled speech on public services, still has not grasped that this is no moment for business as usual. He could, and should, have attended the Commons, where it was left to the hapless Mr Hunt to answer questions about judgments made by his boss. It was David Cameron's decision to bring the former NoW editor Andy Coulson into No 10, despite warnings passed by, among others, the Guardian.

Word about the NoW's dealings with a convicted criminal during Mr Coulson's period at the helm reached Mr Cameron's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn. Did Mr Llewellyn pass them on? In any event, what sort of vetting did Mr Cameron order – no matter his desire to offer an offender "a second chance"? Already, and for the first time since the election, there are tentative signs of Labour and Lib Dem politicians reaching out across party lines, in an anti-Murdoch alliance. Mr Cameron must tidy things up quickly, if he is to avoid serious cracks opening up in his coalition.

Ed Miliband was in spirited, forensic form in the chamber. But the immediate parliamentary opportunity for him, and the immediate threat for Mr Cameron, receded. It had been to force a vote in the House demanding upon the referral. Now that both Mr Murdoch and the government have acceded to that, there is no division to be forced on this. But live questions remain about the form referral will take. Will the commission go away and examine plurality narrowly, or will the terms of the reference be broader? And how will Ofcom now proceed?

Cynical onlookers have often been right about Mr Murdoch in the past, and yesterday they rushed to pronounce that he was throwing himself into the Competition Commission to avoid such scrutiny. But after the week that saw the end of the World, it should not be assumed that he has the power to avoid it. The questions for News Corp continue to multiply, as opposed to fading away.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

TORTURE: CRIMES WITH IMPUNITY

Human Rights Watch reports that there are solid grounds to investigate George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rusmfeld

It is often said that only by confronting the past can nations construct a better future. Germany, Spain, Argentina, Chile and South Africa have put themselves through the wringer of historical self-examination. Putin's Russia has yet to. It is, though, easier to point the finger at dark episodes embedded in the past than to apply the same scrutiny to recent history. To be both liberal and democratic is to be axiomatically part of a club that examines itself. Not so, argues Human Rights Watch. Exhibit A? Barack Obama's record in investigating the allegations of detainee abuse authorised by his predecessor, George W Bush.

The wrongdoing of that administration is today broadly, although not universally, acknowledged. Waterboarding has been declared as torture by the attorney general Eric Holder. Enhanced interrogation techniques are no longer used. The CIA has closed down its programme of secret detention centres. Unidentified planes no longer land at odd hours at Prestwick Airport with unknown human cargoes (although rendition-type questions have been raised about a Somali interrogated aboard a US warship for two months). There are still 171 detainees in Guantánamo Bay, and military commissions still exist, but in general it is fair to say the most egregious practises of the Bush war on terror have ceased. Far from enhancing security, the wisdom in Washington today is that these practises endangered it .

The crimes are there for all to see, but the people who ordered them, sanctioned them and bent the Geneva conventions for them, walk free. Two weeks ago, the search for accountability hit the buffers when Mr Holder announced that a two-year review by a specially appointed prosecutor determined that any further investigation into the mistreatment of nearly 100 detainees was not warranted. Criminal proceedings will be launched only about the deaths of two suspects in CIA custody. This is no surprise as the probe was limited to unauthorised acts, and could not examine authorised acts like waterboarding.

HRW today says that there are solid grounds to investigate George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet for authorising torture and war crimes and that the roles of the former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and former attorney general John Ashcroft should also be examined. Nothing will happen in the US, where the rule of law has been rebooted rather than applied. But this important report could provide grounds for the arrest of suspects abroad under universal jurisdiction. Political inconvenience should not be confused with criminal liability. If it is, justice is for other nations to apply.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … PROTEST POETRY

Al-Barghouti is one of the poets whose work is being celebrated in Poet in the City, a festival of the literature of the Arab spring

It is an old saw that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. But that doesn't make it untrue. Poetry and protest live together in the passion of eternal youth. The vigour of the great street poems of 1960s anti-Vietnam protests can now be found alive, well and flourishing in the Arab spring. Once again, its capacity to inspire, to articulate and also to mock are on show, a call to resistance as recently as this weekend's demonstrations in Tahrir Square. Like the protesters everywhere in the Middle East, Egyptians use verse to undermine their masters – poetry that ranges from rhyming couplets in the rhythms of the classical Arab world to emotive ballads that owe less to technique than the urgency of the moment. The ruling elites rightly go in fear. Last month, a young Bahraini woman was jailed for a year for publicly reciting a poem that included the lines, addressed to the king: "We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery. Don't you hear their cries? Don't you hear their screams?" As the Palestinian poet Tamim al-Barghouti argued recently in the context of the Tunisian revolution, poetry has "widened people's imagination, changed their perception, increased their self-confidence and showed them how fragile their tyrants are". Al-Barghouti is one of the poets whose work is being celebrated in events in London this week organised by the Poet in the City, a festival of the literature of the Arab spring. So much more effective than the party political broadcast.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

RULING WITHOUT LEADING

That President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is one of a few world leaders who democratically won reelection with the highest approval rate, no one doubts. But few are pleased with the way he has exploited that advantage.

Since winning the vote by a landslide in 2009, the President has gradually lost not only public confidence, but perhaps also respect from his aides as evident in the fact that most of his instructions have either not produced results, or have been left unheeded.

In the past seven months, Yudhoyono has issued eight presidential instructions, including on the investigation into the Bank Century scandal, the eradication of case brokers and tax office graft and a forest conversion moratorium.

Not to mention his order to bring back graft suspect and Democratic Party member Muhammad Nazaruddin from his hideout somewhere overseas.

The President could rap his ministers' knuckles for failing to implement his policies. But such punishment, or even the dismissal of "lazy" ministers who have not lived up to his expectations, would not change the damage that has been done.

A good leader will not rely on the cane or threats to correct flaws, but rather blame himself or herself at the earliest convenience for any mistake or incomplete work as a show of responsibility. Rarely does a leader apologize for faults committed by their subordinates here in Indonesia. The common strategy here is for a ruler to never admit they have done wrong, which often means finding a scapegoat.

The unimplemented instructions should serve as a warning that the President is running an ineffective government not because of the system in place, but his leadership style, which many say lacks decisiveness and tends to pursue compromise.

On a number of occasions, the latest being his keynote speech at the congress of the Association of Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs last month, the President refuted criticism about his indecisiveness. He said he avoided rushing to conclusions, and that the public had misperceived his caution.

Yudhoyono's firm grip on the government has been put to a tough test several times, ironically most often following his double win in the legislative and presidential elections in 2009.

Albeit with some sacrifices, he cleared his hardest hurdles in 2010 when power brokers at the House of Representatives launched an investigation into alleged fraud in the bailout of Bank Century and earlier this year when the House survived a motion for a probe into tax.

In both cases, Yudhoyono's coalition partners, the Golkar Party and the Prosperous Justice Party, fought against the President, but he refrained from taking action against them to show who the boss was.

Whoever is elected the President may have to face such a complicated coalition mechanism that often holds the head of government hostage as he or she has to find a balance between public and group interests.

What makes Yudhoyono different is his convincing public mandate, but his competitive edge has not produced capital. Whether he is aware that his popular support will be kept intact only if there is always an link between his words and deeds, or most recently between his instructions and their implementation, we don't know.

Those who voted for him and the whole nation want him to come good on all of his commitments and promises, either in corruption eradication or infrastructure development, through actions, instead of rhetoric.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

PEACEKEEPING AND WOMEN'S ROLE IN PEACE AND SECURITY

I GEDE SUMERTHA KY

 

At the end of the Cold War, internal armed conflicts constitute the vast majority of today's wars. Many of these conflicts take place in the world's poorest countries, where state capacity may be weak and where belligerents may be motivated by economic gain.

Situations like this make a government unable to deliver basic needs for the people and can cause a state of emergency.

These conflicts can destroy the normal economy and the majority of the population typically lives under very difficult economic conditions to begin with.

With many male relatives killed, injured or displaced by the conflicts, women take on additional responsibilities to care for and feed their families.

Yet traditionally, women and girls tend to have less access than men to education, skills and credit and fewer prospects for employment. In such an environment, exchanging sex for money or food is often a means of economic survival for many women and their families.

Populations in post-conflict environments — especially women and children — are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.

In response, the United Nations Security Council issued resolution No. 1325 on Women and Peace and Security on Oct. 31, 2000.

The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in maintaining and promoting peace and security.

It also calls on all parties in conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence — particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse — during armed conflicts.

The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates with implications for member states and entities in the UN system.

Historically, the practice of peacekeeping began in 1948 when the first UN military observers were deployed to the Middle East.

During the ensuing Cold War, the goals of the UN's peacekeeping mission were limited to maintaining cease-fires and stabilizing situations on the ground.

Several of the UN longstanding peacekeeping operations fit this "traditional" model.

With the end of the Cold War, the strategic context for UN peacekeeping changed dramatically and the Security Council began to work more actively to promote the containment and peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

The transformation of the international environment has given rise to a new generation of "multi-dimensional" UN peacekeeping operations.

These operations are typically deployed in the dangerous aftermath of violent internal conflicts and may employ a mix of military, police and civilian capabilities to support the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement.

UN integrated missions are usually mandated to deliver a wide range of functions, including support to the peace process, facilitation of humanitarian and development assistance, human rights monitoring, protection of civilians, disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reinsertion and reintegration and security sector reform under a single, over-arching management arrangement, i.e. under the authority of a Special Representative of Secretary-General/Head of a Military Component.

Therefore, in the multidimensional peacekeeping operation known as an integrated mission, the main task of the military component of the UN is demanding the cooperation between the military component of the civilian component in terms of humanitarian aid and protection for civilians.

The activities of the peacekeeping operations for multidimensional peace processes represent the initial stages of the transition process, namely the state of war to peace conditions.

The continuation of the peace process was followed by a number of humanitarian aid activities and efforts that support the development and peace building.

Respect for human rights was one of the main reasons for founding the UN. The UN Charter requires all member states to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

In order to meet the challenges posed by Security Council Resolution No. 1325, the Peacekeeping Center of the Indonesian Military, which was established on Jan. 29, 2007, has been providing TNI soldiers, male and female, who will conduct UN missions with gender equality materials in their pre-deployment training.

The TNI's Peacekeeping Center is committed to promoting international human rights law, especially in disseminating its content to military personnel who will conduct UN missions.

There are four subjects delivered in predeployment training: human rights in peacekeeping, child protection, prevention of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, and Security Council Resolution No. 1325 on Women and Peace and Security.

Based on that resolution, the TNI has attempted to meet the number of women personnel in its UN peacekeeping mission as regulated by the UN of a maximum of 10 percent of a total contingent.

But, in practice, it has never been fulfilled because of two reasons: first, many women candidates have failed in the recruitment process because of minimal English skills and second, many of them are married and cannot get their husbands' permission to join in a UN peacekeeping operation.

However, despite remaining at the minimum, there is an increasing number of female soldiers participating in UN peacekeeping operations, from three participants in 2007/2008 to 24 participants in 2010/2011.

The writer is the chief of the Indonesian Military's Peacekeeping Center.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

CLOSER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION IN ASEAN AND BEYOND (PART 1 OF 2)

ANWAR NASUTION

The negative impacts of the recent global financial crisis of 2007-2008 on East Asian economies gave a signal for the need to speed up the promotion of closer regional integration in trade, the creation of a regional crisis financing facility and the development of the financial market.

The crisis filtered into the export-oriented East Asian economies through the current and capital accounts of the balance of payments.

The crisis hit the economies of this region hard through declining commodity prices, trade, capital outflows and lower remittances from citizens working overseas.

At that time, foreign demand for this region's exports fell sharply as the interconnected world economy began to show signs of having entered a dangerous downward spiral: recession shown by low global economic growth, falling commodity prices, rising unemployment, faltering stock markets, exchange rate realignments, collapsing property values, the implosion of hedge funds, foreclosures, bankruptcies and write-offs, as well as a credit crunch.

To offset the negative impact of declining exports to its traditional markets in the United States and Europe, this region needs to gradually replace the current export-oriented development strategy with the promotion of sufficiently robust domestic demand and large intra-regional trade.

To overcome the economic crisis, many countries, including those in the ASEAN region, expanded domestic demand by introducing fiscal stimulus in 2008 and 2009.

Another way to boost domestic demand is to improve the social security system through social insurance and social assistance programs to reduce the need for the households to save for economic insecurity. Well-developed insurance companies and pension funds can provide financing for long-term investment projects.

Intra-regional trade can be promoted by pursuing trade liberalization, with the ASEAN FTA (AFTA) as a base, with a series of major trading partners, such as China under the ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA).

This agreement came into force on July 20, 2005 and was fully implemented in 2010. It replaces non-tariff barriers with tariffs and at the same time reduces import tariffs. The ACFTA offers a wide range of benefits; however, it also creates problems for ASEAN countries since China is a destructive competitor to its neighbors.

The effects of China (and, to some extent India) on the goods markets of its regional neighbors, including in the ASEAN, are immense. The rapid industrialization, urbanization and motorization in China (and India) have caused positive external shocks, particularly export market shocks in ASEAN countries because these rapidly growing economies need more energy and many different types of raw materials that will raise their prices.

The rising consumer income, urbanization and demographic change increase demand for food and shift its structure toward high value added foods, partly exported from ASEAN. On the other hand, ASEAN countries import low-priced products from China.

On the negative side, China has become a destructive competitor to ASEAN mainly because of the  undervaluation of Chinese currency, the renminbi (RMB), as a principal instrument for export-led development strategy.

Despite the policy change in its exchange rate regime, including the replacement in July 2005 of the RMB-dollar to pegging to several currencies, the pace of the RMB appreciation has been very slow.

Goldstein and Lardy (2008) estimate that the real effective exchange rate of the RMB (on trade-weight basis) is still undervalued on the order of 15 to 25 percent. Exchange rate undervaluation is a protectionist trade policy since it is like a combination of an import tariff and export subsidy.

It is interesting to note that Indonesia, the only ASEAN member country in the G-20, and the current chair of the ASEAN grouping never raised the issue of the exchange rate misalignment, either in the G-20 or at ASEAN meetings, to defend the economic interests of ASEAN.

Only India, Brazil and other member of BRICS have made loud noises about this. The reason is because these two countries and other emerging economies, such as those in ASEAN, are the main victims of China's exchange rate policy as they compete more closely with China.

ASEAN also benefited from the second external shock, namely, the low interest rates in international markets during Alan Greenspan's term at the US Fed and the quantitative easing policy adopted in OECD countries to overcome the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-2008. The low international interest rate reduces the cost of foreign borrowing for companies, banks and the public sector of ASEAN that were traditionally highly dependent on foreign financing. A combination of a high rate of growth and high interest rates in ASEAN has, again, attracted massive capital inflows to this region since 2009. The high interest rates in ASEAN are partly a result of inefficiencies and distortions in their banking systems, which are the core of their financial systems.

The writer is professor of  Monetary Economics at  the University of Indonesia.  He is former senior deputy  governor of Bank Indonesia,  the country's central bank. This  article is based on his presentation  at a recent international conference  in Yogyakarta hosted by  Gadjah Mada University.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

IPAD CASE AND THE ISSUE OF MANUALS

MOHAMMAD TSANI ANNAFARI

Recently the police arrested two alumni of the Bandung Institute of Technology who had tried to sell iPad tablet PCs without users' manual in Indonesian on an online marketplace. Many say the police went over the top in this case, but since the case has already reached the judicial system, it is best to let the courts decide.

However, given the fact that consumers of the gadget typically are well-educated and technologically literate, what harm can it do for such Indonesians to buy iPads that do not come with Indonesian manuals?

This can be easily answered if we consider that a brand-new imported iPad — that does not have an Indonesian manual — being sold in Indonesian indicates that the product has been obtained illegally, i.e. on the black market. But this is often not the case as many of the products are sold as secondhand or used ones.

As a black market product, the price of a gadget does not include import tax and duties. Therefore, they can be offered at lower prices, which in the long run may distort the market mechanism and harm the society. This violates article 10A and 10B of Law No. 17/2006 on Customs.

Black market products are typically not technically certified by the Communications and Information Ministry and offer no warranty. Therefore, selling the product is a crime as it violates articles 8 and 62 of Law No. 8/1999 on consumer protection and article 32 of Law No. 36/1999 on telecommunications.

In many countries users' manual are often used as a non-tariff instrument to prevent the flooding of imported consumer goods. Thus the more such goods are available in the market, the more illegal imports or smuggling actually may happen.

Surprisingly, I did a short investigation and found the illicit products are widely offered on social media sites like Facebook. Indeed, the seller often claims to have plenty of stock, which indicates that they may be professional smugglers. Offline trading of the products can also be observed in several electronic shopping centers across Jakarta.

Therefore, the customs agency is also responsible for this as it is supposed to trace how the products were able to slip by customs. In this case, if the sellers fail to show the proper import declarations, or smuggled goods, then they should be punished according to the law. If the goods are no longer in the port area, the police should act equally on this issue if protecting the public's right is the concern.

From the demand side, this phenomenon indicates that our people are getting more infatuated with high technology products but are very pragmatic in obtaining them as they cost a lot. Therefore, supply of the products at a more affordable price is pressing.

The government should consider this growing opportunity by encouraging and supporting local industries in this field as India has done through their iPad-like touch-screen laptop project.

We should imagine that in the near future, students and employees may no longer bring their books and documents, but their iPad-like devices. Therefore, we cannot just let over 200 million people in the country work with hand-held gadgets from overseas.

We should learn from Japan's industrial policy that successfully encourages local electronics manufactures to produce local handsets. The local industry collaborates with the network service provider to bundle the cellular service with the local handsets there.

In a recent visit to the headquarters of the biggest telecom company in Japan, I found how visionary they are with the cellular technology. They show us how their handset industry evolves from the simplest devices to the most sophisticated, all of which incorporate local culture and values. They do not only produce special devices for kids, but also for the elderly and the disabled to realize technology for all.

In this case, profit is not the only motivation, but coping with technology advancement is the concern. By doing so, the country has technological independence, at least, in the field of telecommunications which has not been the case at the Transportation Industry, especially car industries. This is particularly critical if we would consider that telecommunication and transportation is key to sustaining an archipelagic country like Indonesia.

In short, we need a strong industrial policy in this field. This can start by making our country suitable as a home base for the advanced telecom industry.

But more importantly this should also include collaboration between universities and industries so that we can offer more opportunities to our university graduates to produce rather than import products.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the Technology Management and Economics School at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and works for the Indonesian Finance Ministry.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

LEADERSHIP TRAINING AND EXISTING REALITIES

First and foremost I must apologize that my name and  logo had been inadvertently placed in the article written by Mr. Sathya Moorthy on page eight for the Daily Mirror of 10 July 2011. I must apologize to him too, since such erudite analysis on political issues is not my forte!

I normally express only my ideas on various situations that occur in this country. Having clarified this matter my intention this week is to express my views on the state of the essential reality that the people in the country face against the beautification that is taking place in the city of Colombo and the vast infrastructural  development on  highways, stadium renovations and flyovers.

The import of  allegedly substandard fuel  not only affected the vehicles that were provided with it but even the very pumps in petrol sheds that were given the fuel for distribution.  The Minster apparently claims that he was unaware of this import and had not sanctioned it. So far no one appears to have  been accused of having taken a mistaken decision and no responsibility has been  placed on any one. It is as if the decision for the import has been made by a non existing entity !

Surely some one in the Ministry or Corporation must bear the responsibility for the import that occurred and a scheme of compensation devised to assist the unnecessary expenditure caused to the already cash strapped public  who now largely resort to credit card buying ! 

Surely the Ministry and Corporation must be having  some committee presided by a Deputy Minister and at the very least a senior public servant to serve on  Tender Board that takes such decisions. While the Minister appears to be passing on the buck to his senior public servants the Secretary of the Ministry apparently according to news paper reports has tendered his resignation  papers!

Article 28 of Chapter VI of the Constitution of Sri Lanka clearly specifies that the exercise and enjoyment of rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of duties and obligations. Accordingly, it is the duty of every person in Sri Lanka: to preserve and protect public property and to combat misuse and waste of public property; and to protect nature and conserve its riches. Well, it appears that even as the new entrants to the University  are given leadership training perhaps Ministers and Senior public servants should be given a course in the article of the Constitution and their applicability especially with reference to accountability and the sovereignty of the people as is set out.

Such a course might teach the politicians that they are only trustees in using whatever resources it has and as trustees they are accountable for each and every action of theirs to the people who have given them that trusteeship. Arbitrary power does not rest in their hands and in the final analysis they have to give account of the manner in which they acted as trustees. In the same manner it is also essential that the public service too is reminded of their own responsibilities, they certainly are not pawns in a game of chess played by political superiors!

Unfortunately, it appears today that the Constitution is never read by either politicians or public servants so perhaps a training in the  finer discipline in matters of the sovereignty of the people should be explained to them. Then hopefully accountability and transparency will come into existence!

One also tends to wonder whether the  Minister of Higher Education  in his continuous chant of  having foreign students in the Universities has decided that they too must have leadership training, maybe they may decide not to come or perhaps their countries may think that by associating with our generally very dissatisfied and unruly university students in addition to the equally dissatisfied  and protesting University Dons they may return to their countries getting rather confused notions. Moreover  students who come from countries that have volatile situations might take back  certain  rebellions ideas so perhaps till the minister sees the effects his leadership training has had on new entants and their influence on those already in the campuses he should delay his rather brilliant idea of making some much needed money for the rather cash strapped universities.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTRE: SANCTUARY OF MINDFULNESS

BY DAWPADEE KAWSHALYA

For someone who has become familiar with the pulse of the busy city, Colombo, meditation may look like an impossibility among the hustle and bustle. But the array of saffron robes in the Dhamma Sala of Vipassana Meditation Centre, situated in the very heart of Colombo 7 told a different story. The silence that pervades around you, only invites you to immerse yourself in the sense of tranquility, and let go of your worldly worries for a moment.

This was the picture presented by 53 undergraduates of the Pali and Buddhist university, Homagama, who were taking part in a five-day retreat at the Vipassana Meditation Centre, under the guidance of Ven. Harispattuwe Ariyawansalankara Thera.

Last Wednesday saw the passing out of the first batch of trainees which consisted of 49 monks and 12 laymen. The Vipassana meditation centre, frequented by people of all walks of life, irrespective of their ethnicities and religious beliefs, has dedicated the month of July for undergraduates.

Briefing the long history of the centre, Ven.Harispattuwe Ariyawansalankara Thera said it was started fifty-five years ago as part of the 2500 Sambuddha Jayanthi celebrations. According to him, the importance of such an institution was first discussed at the Asian Prime Ministers' Summit in Bandung, as a result of which, Vipassana Centre was established as a gift from Burma, which was a branch of Sasana Iththa Centre in Rangoon.

The meditation centre was initially housed in Nissanka bungalow, a residence belonged to a powerful yesteryear politician. It had been  the sanctuary of many Burmese monks who came to take part in year-long meditation programmes.  The change of place came when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike came into power and a one-acre land in Koombi-Kele was donated to the centre.

As times go by, Vipassana Meditation Centre became a mother figure, under whose guidance several of its branches were established across the country. Out of them, the one situated in Kanduboda has won a name of its own.

Vipassana centre is taken care of and governed by the Vipassana Society, which consists  of a group committed personalities,  who are dedicated to the dhamma and the welfare of both the clergy and laity who find refuge in the centre.

Even though the centre is spacious enough to accommodate  quite a number of clergy and laity, with two two-storied buildings in its compound, being qualified to take part in the sessions is a compulsory procedure. According to Ven. Thera, the applicants should forward applications together with a character and medical certificates for his approval.

"Sometimes our programmes are fortnight-long, some of them are week long. Meanwhile we have five-day and three-day programmes for those who can't spare a day more than that. It's not about how many days you are meditating but how much meditation you do within the given time," he explains.

Once one becomes qualified for a residential training, accommodation and food are provided free of charge during the course of the programme. After the programme, if one wishes to continue taking part in spiritual activities organized by the centre, one can get the membership by paying a membership fee which is spent on the improvements and expenses of the centre.

A student who took part in the programme, voicing his opinion said, "Taking part in a residential meditation programme such as this was a component of our university curriculum. I consider it a privilege to complete the training under the guidance of a prominent and eloquent preacher like Ven. Harispattuwe Ariyawansalankara Thera. Many of us had seen him preaching on television. But the experience with him as a teacher and a guide was one of the most memorable lessons I have learnt in my life. He talked to the youthful hearts and used a lot of modern methods to put across his message.  We came into this centre as different persons, today we leave this place, changed vastly for the better."

A Buddhist monk narrating his experience said, "The five-day programme injected a lot to our lives and we go out today as better persons. Ven. Harispattuwe Ariyawansalankara Thera was always behind us, giving us advice and confidence. He was a like a teacher monk watching over his student monks day in and day out. Past five days taught us a lot of things and life would never be the same again."

Speaking on behalf of the Vipassana Society, U.G.S. Ariyarathna said the students were treated like his own children even though they were the bearers of the sacred saffron robe. "I hope this programme will help those who are beginning to get grips of life's realities and help others who are trying to understand it. I hope you will learn how to live the right way of living and not give way to temptation to blind you. This programme will be an investment that will bear fruit when you attain maturity," he added.

A soft breeze was blowing across Colombo and the sun was dying down. The first batch of trainees was making their exit from the hall and the next batch was arriving. You begin to think twice of the things you thought  held a higher importance in your life. And you wonder whether the things that matter to you really matter to you in the deeper sense. And with a sense of new revelation, you begin to see the senselessness of human hypocrisies and worldliness. You wish you could stay, meditate and see the end of human suffering at the threshold of nirvana. And you realize the spiritual bliss you have been dying to come across had always been waiting for you at Vipassana Meditation Centre.

Pics by Indraratne Balasooriya

Ven. Harispattuwe
Ariyawansalankara Thera

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Ven. Harispattuwe Ariyawansalankara Thera said that it is always important to assure the students that the teachers are there to guide them and stand by them in times of trouble and tribulation.

"Here at Vipassana Centre, I always tell my students that if ever they find it difficult to figure out a way to live or feel lost in life, come to me, I will take charge of you," he added.

The eloquent dhamma preacher, Ven. Thera served as a school teacher for 16 years and a lecturer for 25 years. Even though for many  he is a popular face that comes on TV, only very few people know about his service as a conductor of meditation programmes.  After retiring from his teaching career, he started conducting meditation programmes all over the country, which won a huge public response.

Then he became the head of the Vipassana Meditation Centre and won praise both nationally and internationally for his fluency in Sinhala and English. His preaching style and clarity with which he explains complex parts of the dhamma made him one of the best preachers in the country.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

LEADERS MUST SET EXAMPLE TO OVERCOME CURRENT CRISIS

Ayubowan, vannakum, assalamu allaikum and best wishes as Sri Lanka faces another natural calamity amid a black July- international crisis over alleged war crimes.  

For decades, especially after Sri Lanka in 1977 shallowed  the globalised Capitalist market economy policy, we have recklessly polluted the environment and upset the delicate balance in the eco system. For this selfishness arising out of greed or ignorance or a combination of both we are paying a heavy price today with unpredictably dangerous changes in our weather-patterns.

In January and February this year, tens of thousands of Sri Lankas suffered severely in the worst-ever floods of recent decades. Now we are at another extreme and facing what might turn out to be one of the worst ever droughts. Power and Energy Minister said last week the water levels at four of Sri Lankas hydro-power reservoirs had plunged to less than 25 per cent of their capacity. He said the Norochcholai coal power plant and other alternative energy projects had not worked as successfully as expected due to technical problems. The Minister appealed to the people to cooperate in over-coming the current crisis by cutting down on the use of electricity and water. He said he would appreciate a reduction in the use of electricity especially during the peak hours from 6 pm to 10 pm and he had directed local councils to restrict street lighting from 7 pm to 5 am each day. Cutting down on the use of electricity and water to prevent power and water cuts would be acts of enlightened patriotism and most Sri Lankans would cooperate. Power and water cuts would not only cause inconvenience to the people but pose a dangerous threat to the economy at a time when the government is launching massive projects to make Sri Lanka the model or wonder country of Asia. Like in all such issues or crises, the example needs to come from the top. The Minister needs to appeal to government leaders, MPs and Politicians to set the example by cutting down on the use of electricity and water. Politicians are known to like power but the time has now come for them to cut down on the use of power and water in their homes and in state events arranged by them.

While switching off bulbs, fans and curbing the use of television, radio and other electrical appliances, we need to also implement long term measures. These could include rain water harvesting or collection in houses and simple processes by which or bath water could be recycled for toilets. This is done by people in many western countries and the government needs to conduct awareness programmes for Sri Lankans. In addition, the government needs to give priority to the rebuilding and revival of thousands of rain water collection wewas which were built in Sri Lanka more than 2,000 years ago. This came after King Parakramabahu made the famous plea that not a single drop of rain water should go waste into the sea without being made use of. Under his guidance our irrigation engineers used marvelous techniques to build the wewas.  Unfortunately over the last few centuries and especially recent decades we have allowed the wewas to go into ruins while inviting World Bank experts from abroad to teach us irrigation management.  

Let us hope that political and other leaders will set the example for the people to cooperate in overcoming the current crisis while the government works out its strategy to overcome the international crisis over alleged war crimes.  

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

JUBAS TOUGH TASK

It's too early for the merrymakers in Juba and elsewhere in South Sudan to talk about nation building. But that is earnestly a task they have to pick up sooner than later. The divorce from Khartoum is in need of being choreographed into an opportunity to make the difference felt.

There is no death of challenges and difficulties on its way, as the young nation of around nine million people channelises its synergies for economic growth and infrastructure development. Poverty and civil strife have badly rented its social fabric, and according to rough estimates more than half of the population is without proper food, shelter and clothe, and lives on less than a dollar a day.

President Kiir's gigantic task should be to ensure upliftment in human development index, and broaden political reconciliation at home. Moreover, provision of security services in the lawless terrain should be the government's top priority, as it is directly related to the welfare of the infant nation in times to come. The new political dispensation will be better advised to take along all the political forces, and instantly open a dialogue with Khartoum so that tricky issues such as defence, foreign affairs, border demarcation and natural resources do not turn into a bone of contention in future. The natural resources rich region has to open a new leaf of collaboration and interdependence so that the political independence and separation of identity doesn't come as an impediment in the collective betterment of people who were one polity before the velvet divorce.

Khartoum and the international community have to stand beside Juba as it gets going. Evolving durable trade, cross border exchanges and strengthening of geopolitical ties with neighbours should be its top priorities. Apart from self-esteem what the people of south had vied for is progress and prosperity, which could grant them a new identity in the comity of nations. They shouldn't be made to fail at any cost. Tribal feuds and political bickering, which transcend borders, is in need of a broad-based dialogue, and President Omar Hassan Al Bashir and Salva Kiir have to lead from the front. This is the right time to bury the hatchet.

Khaleej TImes

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SANGA 'SAGA' OR 'SAGE' SANGA

Visualize at a sacred site in the United Kingdom, a Sri Lanka guest speaker standing up for a dedication to the military and censoring the terrorism of the LTTE, receiving a thundering standing ovation from a distinguished audience. The possibility of extracting the same response with a transported Barmy Army in attendance, at a another venerable site was abruptly aborted after the organizers expressed unsubstantiated fears that cheers may turn to jeers but more likely wilted under pressure from hands unknown: possibly the same dirty claws that called for a boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket tour to UK.

They dared not spoil the Colin Cowdrey Memorial Lecture to incur the wrath of an eagerly awaited event in London's social calendar. They never anticipated such would be the response not knowing the script's intellectual input or speaker's vocal talent, that did Sri Lanka proud.

So too did a Minister, maybe way short on English or pleading an excuse of not having read sufficiently/ having read and not comprehending the content therein. Wielders of power believe their reach extends to the infinite and often it is so. Not this time as the target was sacrosanct. A lesson was learnt. In their respective homes in the Central Province on a poll, if held, would reflect the winner and loser.

 

In contemporary UK only a Sri Lankan cricketer could extract a standing ovation but the greatness lies in obtaining it off field on delivery of a speech.

Significantly the crowd that roared its' approval, had heard or seen the documentary Killing Fields of Sri Lanka. The goodwill and acclaim Sri Lanka gained is the kind that Our High Commission in London would not garner for all the suppers served during the 30 year war. Sangakkara is known in the UK than any Ambassador at St James Court, certainly better than one unknown Christopher Nonis. Difference on impact is as significant as Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is to the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS). Who knows whom and what in matters in Britain. Sangakkara's words count on the runs scored and the style displayed.All the kudos that flowed from a gratis hearing had a call for an inquiry possibly for disciplinary reasons. For the same show to be staged public relations companies, engaged would have called for a hefty fortune for a return below zero. The same source does not call for an inquiry as to how Sri Lanka Cricket is insolvent after the World Cup.

Last time its was held in Sri Lanka we became flushed with funds, this time we are pleading for bankruptcy. COPE, the all-party outfits' decision to call for an investigation, shows there is a prima facie case. Will a unanimous report say it all? Or could we anticipate a majority/minority versions that will be inconclusive? Time is the healer for avoidance placing it in the realm of the forgotten. Justice requires, at times, the speed of a Malinga yorker aimed at the toe.

There were great cricketers of the past who have held public office such as Ashantha de Mel and D.S. de Silva.It would be interesting to hear their comments on this subject since they were associated with Sri Lanka cricket? Where have those cricketing giants gone?

The Sangakkara saga makes Sangakkara a sage because the message it carries reveals the potency of media, public opinion, and still more the command of the commentator. The high and mighty in the land rallied behind Sanga because he is a force to be reckoned making a Minister disappear off the sports radar in shame.

The same truth said by a less known cricketer playing for a club in the premier league at an interview to the press would have led to an inquiry that would result in a premature retirement from the game in disgrace. In Sri Lanka who says what matters more, than the truth that is spoken. Sangakkara has shown the way for more to emulate; those who matter must dare to bare. Sri Lanka's silent supreme has to share the blame. Man on the street does his vocal honours on the streets; elite prefer to see a bulge develop in their pockets silently or whisper in a company bound by an oath of the Free Masons or champion it at ceremony of a private Ku Klux Klan. They blame the government, mostly unheard while in power and say it loudly to the contrary when they are out of power.

The Government is answerable for the stupidity of its Ministers. Left untold, the art hitting wildly by barbaric pinch hitters will become more prolific than the runs that Sangakkara will accumulate. A moment of glory on which Sri Lanka could have basked in the sun in the foreign media was overturned by a silly saying that portrait us as being quick on inquiries in cricket on applause and slow on war crimes on demand.It is like getting run out on a free hit. Time is ripe for the President to become the batting coach to tame our our big hitters travelling on an aerial route to be caught, as if on a high on a prohibited drug.

Sangakkara need not regret as he has soared above Shavindra Silva; both are heroes but let it not reach their heads to become a flanneled fool or a tin pot soldier. Their idols should be one Jayasuriya and another Fonseka; leave the occupation of politics to the two colleges of Rajapaksas and Wickremasinghes and live on laurels without spoiling profiles.

Undoubtedly Sangakkara displayed he is Captain Clever as the insights on socio-politics on cricket is comparable to L.C. R.James's Beyond the Boundary or Mike Marqusees's War Minus Shooting.He is an ornament on crickets' mantelpiece to be a future prime cricket anchormen on TV or place in the ICC administration as spokesman. Both will more rewarding that India's Twenty Twenty.

His failure in the talk, to criticize India's instant cricket offering a body blow to Sri Lanka's cricket is a notable deficiency and as a beneficiary failed to report at the beginning of the English tour to represent Sri Lanka probably a contributory factor at the First Test for the debacle. Another cricketer of fame but of lesser means did it, makes a difference. Play for Sri Lanka on and off the field is important for nation's sake. Had Sangakkara fulfilled that obligation I would have stood on my chair and applauded.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

PETROL CRISIS: THE FRAUD AND THE FIASCO

The latest scam to hit Sri Lanka is that of the purchase of 20,000 metric tonnes of low quality petrol, which was found to be nowhere near the expected octane 90 standard. A Sunday newspaper revealed the petrol-bombshell news that this stock was tested at a laboratory and found unfit for use because there were metal particles and other substances which could damage motor vehicles. But a top official had reportedly ordered that the contaminated stock be released to filling stations and as a result thousands of motor vehicles were damaged as were pumps at filling stations with repairs costing several hundred thousand rupees.

As in other scams, in this instance too there appears to be no one claiming responsibility or held responsible for the circumventing of tender procedure and purchasing the stock from a United Arab Emirates supplier who is not registered and as such one with an unknown road record. When the news broke out, Minister Susil Premajayantha not surprisingly gave a number of reasons for what could have happened. He said the petrol was purchased in a hurry fearing a shortage because of a 10-day breakdown at the Sapugaskanda oil refinery and that it was purchased from this particular supplier because the regular suppliers were unable to deliver the stocks on time and also because they had jacked up the price knowing the Petroleum Ministry was in a bind in its attempts to overcome the petrol shortage.

In an apparent attempt at vindicating the Ministry, the Minister said the petrol could have got mixed up with rain water. He had conveniently forgotten that we are in the midst of a drought and this kind of thing had not happened even during the heavy rains early this year. Another reason he gave was that the petrol might have got mixed up with the sludge in the storage tanks at filling stations. But is there no sludge at other times too when fuel levels in storage tanks hit bottom?

Eventually most of his claims or statements were found to be baseless if not absurd. As usual in instances such as this, the Minister acting the hero stopped the distribution on the balance 3,000 metric tonnes of this low quality petrol, threatened to take action against those responsible and said he had suspended payment to the supplier. But stopping payment is easier said than done because the purchase was made on an irrevocable letter of credit and the practice is to release the funds after the stocks are accepted by the buyer after verifying their quality. In this instance not only had the buyer accepted the petrol but had even released them to the filling stations. Those whose vehicles were damaged after using this low quality petrol were asked to call several hotlines, provided by the Ministry. But to their consternation they found that the hotlines had turned out to be dead lines and no compensation has yet been paid.

The fresh stocks of petrol which were purchased  must have been at a premium and how did the new stocks get here so soon? Isn't this another case of indiscriminate misuse and wastage of public resources with people's trust betrayed and the government's credibility badly dented? Abdicating moral responsibility, the lack of accountability and transparency is as deplorable as the hurried purchase and distribution of the low quality petrol. 

Before attempting to transform Sri Lanka into any sort of a hub let the Rajapaksa regime be inspired and determined to transform this country into a hub where good governance based on principled leadership within a participatory democracy, accountability, judicial and media freedom takes centre stage.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

END OF THE WORLD - BUT NOT FOR MURDOCH  

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 more important people escape. 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.

But the troika has now thrown a newspaper to the wolves, with 200 full-time employees and hundreds more freelance contributors. How do they think that will help them 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, the Sunday tabloid that claims to have more readers than any other paper in the English-speaking world.

It makes a tidy profit, but 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.

It used to get its salacious and scandalous stories by paying celebrities' friends to betray them - or just by going through celebrities' garbage.

Starting as long ago as the late 1990s, however, it started hacking new communications technologies, even though that was against the law.

The first peasants to be thrown from the troika as a result were News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman and the private eye he had paid to hack into the British royal family's phone messages, Glenn Mulcaire.

Both went to prison in 2007. The newspaper management insisted they were a couple of "bad apples", but it paid their legal expenses.

The stone-walling worked for a while as police soft-pedalled the investigation (the paper had been paying them too, after all).

But details of the hacking continued to leak out and this year several more senior journalists have been arrested for questioning, including former editor Andy Coulson.

An obvious candidate for the chop was Rebekah Brooks, editor in the early years of phone hacking and now chief executive of News International.

Instead, Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World down.

James Murdoch, heir to 80-year-old Rupert, made the announcement, lamenting the loss of a paper with a "proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation."

How true. Why, in its last edition, it had a front-page story about Florence Brudenell-Bruce's revelation that her new boyfriend, Prince Harry, was "fantastic in bed".

The only picture they could find to illustrate the story, alas, showed her in her underwear.

News International isn't going to lose money by closing the News of the World.

It will most likely be replaced 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 re-brand it."

But why didn't they just blame it all on Rebekah Brooks and fire her? Well, if Brooks goes down, the next person in the line of fire would 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 at least 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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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

EU FEARS GREEK CRISIS IS DRAGGING EURO DOWN

BY MEHDI MOHTASHAMI

 

Greece is a country with a very fragile and complex economic structure which is very weak in terms of productivity. The economy is mainly based on tourism and shipping, and the productivity rate in other areas, such as the industrial and agricultural sectors, is very low.

Greece's economic problems have always led to social unrest in recent years.

Greece has been regarded as one of the poorest countries in the European Union since its accession to the eurozone in 2001. In fact, by joining the eurozone, Greece agreed to a series of commitments that improved the country's infrastructure but caused more economic problems.

The actions taken in line with these commitments led to major problems, such as unemployment and inflation, and the government was forced to receive a series of financial assistance loans from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the EU, and the United States.

Now, the accumulation of more than 350 billion euros of debt has actually crippled the country with a second crisis, prompting a series of new austerity measures, which has caused great consternation among Greek citizens.

To achieve a short-term solution, the EU has offered Greece a new financial rescue package worth about 120 billion euros, but economists say this move will not alleviate the massive pressure on the Greek government and people.

On the one hand, the EU is helping member states deal with the crisis in order to prevent it from spreading to other countries, but on the other hand, it is imposing many commitments on them to downsize their governments, reduce the number of government institutions, and increase taxes.

This can lead to more social unrest in Greece because it has direct consequences on the daily lives of citizens. The people are experiencing unemployment and inflation while the per capita income is steadily declining.

However, it appears that in the current situation, Greece has no alternative to implementing austerity measures, which may help reduce Greece's fiscal problems in the long run. This compulsory situation is so serious that the Greek prime minister has said he is ready to resign if another group or party can be found that is prepared to implement the plan.

The creation of the euro currency has been the most important achievement of the EU, in terms of financial and monetary cooperation, since its establishment. Thus, whenever a member state cannot meet its commitments, the status of the euro becomes a matter of great concern for other EU members.

The EU is concerned that as a result of the crisis in Greece, the euro's position as one of the world's major currencies will be diminished. This concern goes both ways. Greece does not want to be expelled from the eurozone, and the EU does not want other countries to be affected by the crisis.

The situation will be slightly eased by the new austerity plan in the short term, but this depends on the performance of the Greek government. In fact, the government should promptly take belt-tightening measures in order to reduce its debt. Otherwise, the problems will continue, resulting in more social unrest, which could damage the relationship between the Greek government and the EU.

Mehdi Mohtashami formerly served as Iran's ambassador to Greece.

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