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Thursday, July 14, 2011

EDITORIAL 14.07.11

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

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month july 14, edition 000884, 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. AN UNEXPECTED BLOW
  2. FESTERING CIVIL WAR ENDS
  3. MARKETING OVER EDITORIAL - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. IT'S ADVANTAGE MAOISTS NOW - ARUN JAITLEY
  5. DON'T EXEMPT CBI FROM RTI ACT - B RAMAN
  6. NEGOTIATIONS COULD HELP END INSURGENCY - CP BHAMBHRI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. NO FREE LUNCH
  2. DON'T BUY, BARTER
  3. WHO WILL WATCH THE WATCHMEN? - MINHAZ MERCHANT
  4. THE MAGIC OF LOVE
  5. IT'S DANGEROUS ESCAPISM - DEEP K DATTA-RAY
  6. TEARS OVER LAUGHTER - BACHI KARKARIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. UNSCATHED IN THE CROSSFIRE
  2. NO MORE POTTERING ON
  3. SO SHOULD WE LEAVE TOWN? - AMRITA CHATTERJI ,
  4. CRIME DOESN'T PAY - FARRUKH DHONDY
  5. NOW LOST IN THE FOREST - CHITRANGADA CHOUDHURY

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. FACTORY FLAW
  2. ROUNDABOUT HOMAGE
  3. OUT OF LINE
  4. A VERY TANGLED WEB - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. WHAT THE BLEEP
  6. NANDINI NAIR
  7. WAGES OF VIRTUE - P. RAGHAVAN
  8. THE AFGHAN ENFORCER
  9. CHOOSE A CAPTAIN - MANOJCG
  10. THE ART OF THE START

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. NAC LANDS A COUP
  2. THINK LOCAL, ACT GLOBAL
  3. FROM ITALY TO THE US, UTOPIA VS REALITY - MARTIN WOLF
  4. FUTURE OF BT BRINJAL - ROBERT WAGER

THE HINDU

  1. A NEW COUNTRY IS BORN
  2. FUNDING FOLLY COMPOUNDED
  3. REBELS MAKE GAINS IN LIBYA'S WESTERN MOUNTAINS - DAVID SMITH
  4. A DAY AT THE VINEYARDS - P. SAINATH
  5. INDIA-PAKISTAN: NEED FOR INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION - AMARJEET SINGH DULAT & ASAD DURRANI
  6. THE DEATH OF A WARLORD - PRAVEEN SWAMI

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. DIP IN IIP: WHAT IS GOVT DOING?
  2. OUR BRIBESCAPE - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. DDB JAMMU
  2. CCI ACTIVATED
  3. GALLOPING INFLATION - BY LALIT SETHI
  4. GREEN MANURE FOR ORGANIC FARMING - BY PROF R D GUPTA
  5. INDIA AND NUCLEAR SUPPLIERS GROUP - BY SRINIVASAN K. RANGACHARY

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TRIBUNAL AS A REMEDY
  2. OMINOUS CALM IN ASSAM
  3. PAKISTAN DESERVED IT
  4. AGENDA FOR DEFENCE REFORMS - BY N.S. SISODIA
  5. DEMISE OF 'CHAVANNI' - BY RAJ KANWAR
  6. CELIAC DISEASE: A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC - ISHI KHOSLA

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. ENVIRONMENT FOR GROWTH
  2. THE OTHER OIL PROBLEM
  3. AGRICULTURE - BE LIKE GUJARAT - SHANKAR ACHARYA
  4. AWAY WITH THE ORG CHART - AJIT BALAKRISHNAN
  5. A CAMBODIAN 'UPRISING' - B N ROY
  6. IMMUNE TO AWARENESS 0 INDICUS ANALYTICS

BUSINESS LINE

  1. DODGY DATA
  2. SUCCOUR FOR GREEK CRISIS - MOHAN R. LAVI

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. ONUS ON THE STATE
  2. SCORCHED EARTH
  3. TALKING HEAD
  4. CORPORATE MIDLIFE CRISIS
  5. HITLER'S TALKING DOGS  - MAUREEN DOWD
  6. WHY POLITICS KILLS DEVELOPMENT - T K ARUN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. RIME OF THE MODERN MARINER

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. DIP IN IIP: WHAT IS CENTRE DOING?
  2. OUR BRIBESCAPE
  3. WANT A JOB? INVENT, ADAPT & REINVENT
  4. SWEET DEALS & PROMISED LANDS

THE STATESMAN

  1. SMALL-MINDED GLEE
  2. THE NO MINISTER
  3. TALIBAN STRIKES AGAIN
  4. GROUND BENEATH FEET - KP BHATTACHARJEE
  5. BACK TO THE PEOPLE  - ~ KULDIP NAYAR
  6. NOW & AGAIN - SUBRATA CHOWDHURY
  7. CULTURE IS THE KEY  - ASOKE BASU

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. DUMB CHARADE
  2. BRIDGING THE GAP
  3. THE DELIGHTS OF TRAVEL
  4. SHODDY TRACK RECORD  - SOROOR AHMED
  5. UNSOLVED MYSTERIES
  6. THE STATELY PLEASURE DOME

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. DEJA VU WITH THE EU?
  2. NOW IS THE TIME FOR A BIGGER 'NOW'
  3. ARAB SPRING, 'MODEL' DEBATE AND THE TURKISH EXPERIENCE
  4. AN ORANGE, A ROSE AND A TULIP: LESSONS FROM THE NORTH - AMBIKA VISHWANATH
  5. IS THE THIRD CLAUSE NECESSARY?
  6. INTO THE DARK SIDE OF TECHNOLOGY: HACKING
  7. SUDAN: THE LEFT-OVER COUNTRY

HAARETZ

  1. THE BLACK ROBE AND THE RED LINE
  2. THE OPPORTUNITY MISSED AFTER THE WAR  - BY ARI SHAVIT
  3. WHY ISRAELIS MUST FIGHT AGAINST BOYCOTT LAW - BY GIDEON LEVY
  4. PROTECTING THE NEIGHBORHOOD PHARMACIST  - BY AMALIA ROSENBLUM
  5. WHY ARE SUPERFLUOUS LAWS PASSED?  - BY ISRAEL HAREL

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. DRAWDOWN IN IRAQ
  2. GUN MAYHEM ALONG THE BORDER
  3. THE F.E.C. AWAKES
  4. THE COURTS STEP IN
  5. VIVE LA SIMILARITÉ - BY DAVID MCCULLOUGH
  6. THE REPUBLICAN CASE FOR COMPROMISE - BY AL HOFFMAN JR.

THE NEWS

  1. THE PLOT THICKENS
  2. DEADLY VACUUM
  3. DAM GAMES
  4. TOWARDS PAKISTAN'S JULY 14  - ROEDAD KHAN
  5. INDO-PAK INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION   - AMARJEET SINGH DULAT AND ASAD DURRANI
  6. TURNING BACK THE CLOCK  - IKRAM SEHGAL
  7. NEW PROVINCE IN SINDH?  - HARIS TOHID
  8. CHANGING THE SETTINGS OF MINDS  - KAMILA HYAT...

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. APPEAL TO US FOR PEACE IN RAMADAN
  2. CABINET MEETS IN QUETTA
  3. KASHMIRIS OBSERVE MARTYRS DAY
  4. INDIAN ARMY'S SHADY ARMS DEAL - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  5. NEW BATTLE FOR KASHMIR? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. KARACHI GOES THROUGH HELL - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  7. ROLE OF A MUSLIM STATE - ENGR SHARIQUE NAEEM
  8. TIME FOR US TO INVEST IN PEACE - MICHAEL SHANK

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. COACH WHO PLAYED THE MAN, HELPING STRENGTHEN CHARACTER
  2. PUTTING A CAP ON BAD POLICY
  3. SO BOB, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO SAVE THE PLANET?

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. RISING TO THE EURO CHALLENGE
  2. POLICE WHERE THEY'RE NEEDED

THE GUARDIAN

  1. PUBLIC FINANCES: FIXING THE HOLES
  2. IN PRAISE OF… BUTTERFLIES
  3. NEWS INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL: THE SKY FALLS IN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE WALLOWING PRESIDENT
  2. ENGAGING CHINA IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA - BAMBANG HARTADI NUGROHO
  3. 'WIDESPREAD IGNORANCE' ABOUT HIV/AIDS - ALITA DAMAR
  4. ELECTION PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRATIC PARTY POST-NAZARUDDIN

DAILY MIRROR

  1. A NEOLIBERAL TWO-INDIA REALITY - BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA
  2. MEDIA AND THE SUFFERING OF THE TAMIL PEOPLE  - BY NOEL NADESAN
  3. BUILDING PRESSURE ON DAMASCUS  - SANGAKKARA SPEAKS ON BEING SRI LANKAN
  4. HELP TEACHERS REGAIN THE LOST DIGNITY

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. ARABS LEARN TO FORGET WESTERN TEACHINGS   - BY ABID MUSTAFA

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. A MURDOCH PRODUCED SCANDAL
  2. BY KOUROSH ZIABARI
  3. MURDOCH'S DIRTY TRICKS AGAINST PALESTINIANS - BY DR. ROBERT LAMBERT
  4. NATO USING DU WEAPONS IN LIBYA - BY STEPHEN LENDMAN 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

AN UNEXPECTED BLOW

MAOISTS IN CHHATTISGARH CAN NOW BREATHE EASY


It is unfortunate that the Government of Chhattisgarh has chosen to remove Mr Vishwa Ranjan from the post of Director-General of Police. Over the past years, this upright police officer with a shining career record had crafted an effective strategy to fight back the Maoists and take the battle against Left-wing extremism to the den of these terrorists — Abujhmad, the impregnable and till recently uncharted forests of Bastar. It is equally unfortunate that Mr Vishwa Ranjan should have issued marching orders in an extremely unseemly manner without the minimum courtesies being extended to him despite his sterling service to the State and the nation. True, it is entirely the prerogative of the executive to decide who gets to hold which post in the State administration and, to that extent, the Government of Chhattisgarh has merely exercised its right in replacing him with another IPS officer. But surely this could have been done with greater finesse. The abrupt sacking, for that is what Mr Vishwa Ranjan's abrupt removal from the State police chief's office and his being shunted to the insignificant post of Director-General of Home Guards amounts to, cannot but rankle with senior officers. More worryingly, it runs the danger of sending out the wrong message to the rank and file of the State police force, resulting in the demoralisation of policemen who are on the frontline of the war on Maoist terror. If that were to happen, it would strengthen those waging war against the Indian state. Needless to say, this is undesirable.

If there was one person whom the Maoists in Chhattisgarh abhorred and feared in equal measure it was Mr Vishwa Ranjan. He had fashioned his strategy to counter the Maoist menace by resorting to what would be considered unconventional methods by most police officers. He studied the constitution of the Communist Party of India (Maoist); he delved deep into their ideology to learn more about what motivates their criminal minds; and he led from the front, travelling deep into what were once considered no-go zones for even security forces. He was not just a police officer given to knee-jerk reactions, but a strategist who plotted every move and counter-move to checkmate the Maoists on their own terrain. Yes, there were casualties and collateral damage, but ideology-driven insurgency imposes an asymmetrical war on the state in which neither can be avoided. He instilled a sense of pride and courage in his men; middle-level officers were enthused to step up the counter-offensive instead of letting matters spiral out of control which was the trend till Mr Vishwa Ranjan took charge. It is his pro-active engagement and initiative to take the war against Maoists to its logical conclusion that alarmed those given to providing ideological cover to the red terrorists. From Binayak Sen to Delhi-based Left-liberal activists and academics, his critics united to hobble his efforts by discrediting and painting them in the most lurid of colours. Their efforts did not go to waste: Witness the recent Supreme Court judgement that virtually declares the war on Left-wing extremism as 'un-constitutional' and legitimises Maoist depradations. That Mr Vishwa Ranjan's departure follows the judgement could be entirely coincidental, but it inflicts huge damage to Chhattisgarh's declared policy of not surrendering to the Maoists. That's a pity.

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

FESTERING CIVIL WAR ENDS

BUT OIL COULD REOPEN OLD DISPUTES IN NEW SUDAN


After decades of war and hostility when Africa's largest country broke into two, leading to the birth of the world's newest nation, it, in some ways, marked the end of one of the longest running conflicts of modern times. Since its independence from the British in 1956, Sudan has been in a state of perpetual strife; a violent civil war between the Muslim majority north and largely Christian south fetched devastation to the country between 1956 and 1972. After a few years of relative peace, Sudan once again plunged into civil war in 1983 and it was not until the Comprehensive Peace Treaty was signed in 2005 that the bloodshed came to an end. But by then the war had already claimed the lives of millions of people and several more had been rendered homeless. In many ways, therefore, the separation of the country's northern regions from its southern parts was the only way to bring about lasting peace on both sides of the divide. Yet as the new Republic of South Sudan celebrated its long-awaited independence on July 9, there is no doubt that its future continues to be intertwined with the fate of its northern neighbour. Already, there are the inevitable disagreements over border demarcation, citizenship rights and other pending issues, especially with regard to the management of natural resources, particularly oil. These need to be sorted out at the earliest through political deliberation and peaceful negotiations. Instead, the two countries have responded by violating the 2005 Peace Treaty that has resulted in large-scale fighting in the border State of Southern Kordofan, sparking fears of another long-drawn civil war.

Much of the ongoing conflict has its roots in oil which forms the lifeline of both regimes, in Khartoum and in the newly established capital of Juba. While most of the oil refineries, pipelines and export terminals are located in North Sudan, a majority of the oil reserves have gone to South Sudan. To complicate matters further, many of these precious reserves are located on the 2,100-km-long vaguely demarcated and hotly contested international border, leading to local conflicts in the oil-rich regions such as Abyei through which also runs an important oil pipeline. Up until now, the North and the South had a fifty-fifty southern oil revenue-sharing agreement but now that has been discarded. Consequently, Khartoum has lost more than a third of its annual income and it has promptly responded by invading the disputed Abyei area. Clearly, the two countries need to come to an understanding over the management of oil reserves and revenues. It is equally importantly for both to realise that over dependence on one industry is unsustainable. They should focus on expanding their economies through diversification of revenue generation.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

MARKETING OVER EDITORIAL

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY


The News of the World was never a serious paper. After Murdoch took over the tabloid, it placed greed for profit over media ethics.

India's position on Kashmir, Pakistan and terrorism would have been loudly trumpeted internationally if only Rupert Murdoch had been given the media opportunities he sought in this country. That's how China won him over so that he sold the South China Morning Post and shed BBC television from his Star service.

His News of the World, whose last edition appeared on Sunday, was pragmatic even before him. No Indian media magnate is as honestly down-to-earth as a former owner, Lord Riddell, who reflected in 1903 that "if all the other papers on earth rot away, leaving only the NoW for historians to pore over, they may decide, when reading its records of crime, perfidy and lust, that, in our day, it wasn't safe to walk down Fleet Street."

The earthiness of which he was so proud led journalists to dub the paper "Screws of the World" or "News of the Screws." Even then, it had a cash register instead of a soul.

When someone wrote that the NoW was the world's only newspaper to abide by CP Scott's famous "news is sacred, comment is free" dictum, he wasn't complimenting the paper on its lofty moral values. He meant the NoW had no comment and its only news were reports of court cases about prostitution, doctors who assaulted patients indecently, vicars who abused choirboys, incest, and the like, which had to be accurate to avoid litigation.

The paper was a broadsheet with an awesome circulation of eight million in the 1950s when I first saw it. A passenger brought a copy on board when my boat to England docked at Port Said, then still called the "armpit of Europe," which was very appropriate. The NoW was excitingly erotic for a 16-year-old from an austere Bengali home. I probably didn't even know the slang word "screw" (its four-letter synonym was much commoner in Anglo-Indian schools) and certainly didn't guess the NoW would one day provide occasional dollops of margarine on my bread.

That was four years later. As a reporter on a provincial English weekly I covered the courts and sometimes came upon lurid cases that my paper, with its family readership, wouldn't publish. "Write it up" the news editor said when a man was accused of raping two stepdaughters, "and we'll send it to the Screws." He ran a syndication (called linage, payment being per printed line) service for the national dailies. My share of the loot from the NoW came to a few shillings. (I got wiser later and much to his annoyance phoned through my own stories to the national papers.)

Hard-boiled modern youth found the 1950s formula tame. Net surfers weren't satisfied with soft porn court cases. The page three nude Mr Murdoch introduced after acquiring the paper in 1969 (he called it "the biggest steal since the Great Train Robbery") no longer set young — or old — blood on fire. The memoirs of Christine Keeler, the call girl who rocked Harold Macmillan's Government, for which the NoW paid £23,000, didn't seem particularly sinful.

As circulation dwindled from eight to 2.6 million, the paper looked for ever more exotic ways of titillating jaded tastes. Hence the sting operations, telephone hackings, hush money, bribery and impersonations. The NoW went too far. But I doubt whether the affront to decency alone would have brought about the closure without powerful commercial logic. Mr Murdoch has bigger plans. He has already registered a new paper, Sun on Sunday, and hopes (unless the Government intervenes) to buy up British Sky Broadcasting. The NoW was becoming an albatross round his neck.

An ad boycott by major companies like Boots, Mitsubishi and Sainsbury cost the paper at least £400 million. When investors in Murdoch-controlled companies on both sides of the Atlantic started dumping their shares, even BSkyB lost £666 million. Market quotations for the NoW's holding company, News Corp, recovered only after the closure was announced.

As Gavin Astor said of The Times which he owned before Mr Murdoch, "Without profits, it can have no prestige." But the profit motive must be balanced with a point of view, which Mr Murdoch didn't have. His Fox News in the US is known for its shrill Right-wing demagoguery. His Sun in the UK was staunchly Labour.

One aspect of the NoW that is familiar in India but no less unhealthy for that is the immunity and anonymity of those journalists who hacked, impersonated, bribed, bullied and indulged in other criminal activities. They were a privileged elite, not part of the general reporting team, answerable only to the bosses — or boss.

Ironically, people persist in calling a sleazy sex-obsessed rag quintessentially British. I remember Stafford Somerfield, the editor when the paper still belonged to an old English family, saying on TV in 1968 that "the News of the World was as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and should stay that way." It was a dig at the Hungarian origins of Robert Maxwell, the media and publishing baron, who was bidding for the paper.

Lord Francis Williams, the media commentator, called it "the most traditional of British newspapers." Now, Mazher Mahmood, the Pakistani-origin reporter who became notorious for masquerading as an Arab sheikh to trap news sources, claims in last Sunday's "Thank you and Goodbye" edition that the NoW "is simply part of the fabric of this country". If so, Britain's is a very tatty fabric indeed.

I suppose once the hoo-ha dies down, the NoW will also be forgotten — another paper that couldn't match the tempo of the age like the News Chronicle in Britain and The Mail (Madras) and Amrita Bazar Patrika of Kolkata.

But there's a reassuring message in its passing. Moralists who lament media excessiveness complain of the ineffectiveness of self-discipline, regulatory bodies and the justice system in checking capitalist adventurism. The NoW's demise suggests that the market mechanism that encourages licence can also punish. Presumably, that also applies to the electronic media which, too, survives on viewers and advertising.

That's something for proprietors who exalt marketing over editorial to mull over. Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch has visited India more than half a dozen times, talked to Mr Manmohan Singh and Ms Sonia Gandhi, promised to invest $100 million in regional TV channels and reportedly has his eye on a major newspaper chain here. India might gain a global spokesman if he gets what he wants.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

IT'S ADVANTAGE MAOISTS NOW

ARUN JAITLEY


A reading of the recent Supreme Court judgement quashing the appointment of Special Police Officers by the Government of Chhattisgarh to protect villagers from the depredations of Maoists is deeply flawed. The judgement unquestionably indicates that the rationale on which it is based is ideology not Constitution. Which raises the question: Can the judiciary enforce ideology?

The Supreme Court of India has quashed the appointment of Special Police Officers by the Government of Chhattisgarh as un-constitutional 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 under similar conditions in other parts of the country would cease to operate.

The SPOs have been appointed in areas where the environment has been threatened by insurgency to perform the functions of regular police by protecting themselves and their fellow citizens. In Jammu & Kashmir it is these SPOs who constitute village protection committees which protect the village communities from insurgents. The same mechanism was effectively used in Punjab during the days of insurgency. Appointing SPOs is a system where the members of the community are empowered to protect the community. Policemen cannot be present in every house or every village; areas where there is an apprehension of breach of peace and security due to insurgency require the appointment of SPOs.

The Police Act of 1861 provides for the appointment of SPOs. Various State police legislations have similar provisions for such SPOs to be appointed. The language of the legislations may be different. Those familiar with the ground realities of India would necessarily realise the utility of such SPOs. They are representatives of the community to protect the community. They supplement the normal police administration.

The judgement of the Supreme Court creates a crisis situation. The State would now have to recover arms back from the SPOs. This would itself be a daunting task. Every SPO realises that he would be on the Maoist hit list. He would have only two options left —to either join the Maoists or continue to retain his arms to protect himself from the Maoists.

Having been identified as SPOs, without the backing of the State or arms to protect themselves, they would 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 cannot be filled easily by the local police. The tranquillity in the region is going to be disturbed.

A reading of the judgement prima facie indicates that the ideology of the author of the judgement has prevailed over constitutionalism. A legitimate question that arises is whether the courts enforce the Constitution or do they enforce ideologies. The Maoists are no reformers. Their principal objective is to destroy India's parliamentary democracy and establish a communist dictatorship in India. The Maoists wish to dismantle every established democratic institution.

If the Maoists were to take over India, the author of the judgement and other well-meaning judges like him will not be manning the Supreme Court. The court would be controlled by ideology and ideological objects of the Maoists. The judgement itself makes an interesting reading. It is an ideological rationalisation of why the Maoists exist and fight for their causes. It is a denunciation of those who fight the Maoists.

The judgement states: "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 further states that "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 Conard 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 from the book titled The Dark Side of Globalisation where it is stated: "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 judgment denounces a contrarian approach where it says: "Rather than heeding such advice, which echoes the wisdom of our Constitution what we have witnessed in the instant proceedings have been repeated assertions of inevitability of muscular and violent statecraft. The root cause of the problem, and hence its solution, lies elsewhere. 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."

This judgement challenges India's fragile national security. Undoubtedly, the judges have entered the political thicket. The court has acquired an ideology. It has chosen a preferred course of economic policy. It has also substituted the wisdom of the executive for its own wisdom of how Maoism is to be tackled. The judgement disregards the basic constitutional feature of separation of powers.

The law declared by the Supreme 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 because youngsters with little educationsl background from amongst the tribals are being given these appointments. It is held to be violative of Article 21 (the right to life and liberty) because SPOs have low educational qualification and cannot be expected to understand the danger of fighting Maoism. Hiring such SPOs would endanger their lives and 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 appointment.

If the court found the honorarium inadequate it could always direct a more humane honorarium. If the court found that educational qualifications for becoming SPOs were inadequate, it could always direct the State Government to formulate a policy so that persons with reasonable qualification are appointed as SPOs. The court failed to realise that the life of ordinary citizens, including SPOs, is threatened by the Maoists. Their life and liberty is already in jeopardy. With the facility available to SPOs they could protect themselves and others from Maoist attacks. Thanks to the Supreme Court, it is 'advantage Maoists' now.

A reading of the judgement unquestionably indicates that the reasons for quashing the institution of SPOs on grounds of un-constitutionality are weak. The rationale of the judgement is ideology not Constitution. When a court acquires an ideology it decides to frame a policy. It dismantles the constitutional mandate of separation of powers. It 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 Emergency eve days. 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.

The writer is Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DON'T EXEMPT CBI FROM RTI ACT

B RAMAN


The total exemption of the CBI from the purview of the RTI Act is uncalled for and unjustified. It seems that instead of denying access to specific information which could have embarrassed the Government, it has chosen to impose a blanket exemption.

A number of questions have been raised regarding the recent decision of the Government to totally exempt the Central Bureau of Investigation from the ambit of the Right to Information Act. Previously, for four years, the CBI did not enjoy such exemption. This sudden decision of the Government to grant a total exemption to the CBI has been sought to be justified on grounds of national security. There has been criticism of the Government action from advocates of greater transparency in the functioning of our intelligence and investigation agencies. The following are some questions and answers to them:

Q: Is the CBI a national security organisation such as the Intelligence Bureau and the Research & Analysis Wing are?

A: It is not, but it does have a national security role to a limited extent. It is essentially an agency for the investigation of criminal cases entrusted to it. These cases fall into two categories — cases of corruption and other common law crimes of a serious nature and cases of terrorism and related offences such as the counterfeiting of currency notes. After the National Investigation Agency came into existence in 2009, the responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases of a specified nature was transferred to it from the CBI. Despite this, the CBI continues to have a responsibility for follow-up action on cases registered before the NIA came into existence.

The CBI played an important role in the investigation of the March 1993 blasts in Mumbai and other important terrorist attacks. It continues to have responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of important cases involving mafia groups and their nexus with terrorist groups. When the NIA gets going completely, the CBI's responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of cases relating to terrorism and mafia activities will be considerably reduced and it will focus almost entirely on the investigation of corruption cases and other common law crimes not necessarily having an impact on national security.

However, the CBI cannot be treated on par with the IB and the R&AW because it is not a clandestine organisation operating covertly. Whereas the IB and the R&AW are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny, some aspects of the CBI's work such as its budget are subject to scrutiny by relevant committees of the Parliament such as the Estimates Committee. Thus, to treat the CBI on par with the IB and the R&AW for giving it the benefit of total exemption was unwarranted.

Q: What must have made the Government bring the CBI under the totally exempted category after having kept it out of this category for four years?

A. It is difficult to answer this question categorically in the absence of details. Advocates of Right to Information should examine whether there is scope for forcing the Government to disclose these details which made it reverse its earlier decision not to exempt the CBI. Vague answers such as "national security grounds" should not be accepted.

The apparent suddenness and abruptness with which the Government took this decision would indicate that the CBI was probably in receipt of a request under the Right to Information Act for some information which it was not in a position to legitimately deny. The Government, therefore, decided that instead of denying the specific information requested for which could have put the Government in an embarrassing position, it would totally exempt the CBI. One example of such information could be relating to the past investigation in the Bofors case. There could have been other similar cases.

Q: Why is the BJP supporting the Government's decision to grant total exemption to the CBI?

A: One possibility is that the BJP genuinely feels that since the CBI had in the past investigated terrorism-related cases and now continues to investigate mafia-related cases, it should have the benefit of total exemption.

Q: Is granting total exemption to the CBI the only way of preventing disclosure of information relating to cases with national security implications such as terrorism, mafia activities, counterfeiting, etc?

A: No. Without including the CBI in the list of totally exempted organisations, the Government could have suggested to the CBI to take advantage of those provisions in the Act for denying information in cases having a bearing on national security on a case by case basis. The public has a right to a lot of information relating to the CBI such as its administration, methods of recruitment and training, budgetary control, etc. At the same time, it should not have the right to seek information relating to investigation of ongoing cases — whether of corruption or of other common law crime or terrorism-related. These two requirements could have been easily met by continuing to keep the CBI in the not-exempted category.

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

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NEGOTIATIONS COULD HELP END INSURGENCY

MEMBERS OF THE 'MORAL BRIGADE' SHOULD REACH MAOISTS AND HELP THEM ARRIVE AT A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT WITH THE GOVERNMENT, WRITES CP BHAMBHRI


The Governments in the Maoist-affected States are at their wit's ends as they are unable to deal with the threat posed by Left-wing extremists who are officially identified as the 'greatest threat' to the internal security of the Indian state. It seems that the Congress-led UPA Government has been utterly confused in its response to the challenge of gun-wielding Left-wing extremists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has always maintained that Maoism is a grave threat to peace and security of the country. But former Union Minister for Home Affairs Shivraj Patil, who had primary responsibility to maintain law and order, adopted a soft policy to deal with the Maoists. Later he was sacked for he also failed to face the challenge of terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

In fact, it appears that the lack of political consensus within the political and governing apparatus has helped the Maoist expand their areas of operation. And as per the the official-figure the number of Maoist-affected districts is set to increase from 83 to 100 out of total 626 districts in the country.

While addressing a meeting of the Director-Generals of police of nine Maoist-affected States on July 4, 2011, Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram announced an increase in the special security related expenditure for Maoist-affected districts. Mr Chidambaram also announced that 400 police stations in these States will be provided with sophisticated weapons. It has also been decided to launch strong police offensive against Maoists by providing 'helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles' to liquidate Maoist menace.

In the meantime, Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik asked the Home Minister to add four more districts to the already 15 districts under the security related expenditure scheme. Similarly, Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish kumar, who during his first term openly differed with the Union Government's law and order approach to Left wing extremism and did not attend even the Chief Ministers' meeting, called for evolving a coordinated approach towards the problem at the meeting of Direction-Generals of police called by Mr Chidambaram. He asked the Centre 'to include five more district in the list of 15'.

However, the Communist Party of India and the Trinamool Congress don't agree either with the Union Government or Chief Ministers of Maoist-affected States that problem of Maoism can be tackled by following a 'law and order' approach. It is not only among the mainstream political parties, a large strata of intellectuals have serious differences of opinion among themselves about the genesis of the origin of Maoism from the 1970s and its continuous spread.

The Supreme Court judgement of July 5, 2011 that declares the anti-Maoist activities of Special Police Officers, popularly known as 'Salwa Judum' or 'Koya Commandos', of Chhattisgarh as illegal and unconstitutional is only one part of the verdict. The honourable judges said that "Indeed, we recognise that the state faces many serious problems on account of Maoist/Naxalite violence.Notwithstanding the fact that there may be social and economic circumstances, and certain policies followed by the State itself, leading to emergence of extremist violence, we cannot condone it."

The judges further observed "The attempt to overthrow the state itself and kill its agents, and perpetrate violence against innocent civilians, is destructive of an ordered life." The court has, in its very nuanced approach, made three observations that faulty public policies might have given birth to social discontent and cult of violence, it does not mean that violence, be condemned and state has an obligation to deal with Left wing extremism but it cannot 'out source' its own role to ill-educated and untrained 5,000 'foot soldier' in forest areas.

The Union Government has realised the limitations of 'law and order' approach and has sanctioned Rs 25 crore each to 60 districts for schemes earmarked by a committee headed by district collector. The Government's special development scheme for 60 Maoist-affected areas is simple bureaucratic and centralised approach because local people should be involved in these schemes for which Rs 25 crore has to be spent. The larger issue as has been highlighted by Maoist activities is that Maoists have been welcomed in States and districts which are generally tribal inhabited and mineral resources rich where foreign companies and multinationals have gone berserk in setting up their projects by uprooting the really poor and disempowered tribals.

The tribal population had traditional livelihood rights in forest and they made their living by selling forest products and local politicians, bureaucrats and contractors supported by the politicians of the State Government squeezed these poorest of the poor and in return earned huge profits by selling rich forest wealth. It is the duty of elected representatives to act as a buffer between the exploiter and the exploited especially the tribals who are most vulnerable sections of society. It deserves to be clearly asserted that Maoists have nothing in common with the theory and praxis of Karl Marx and their methods and agenda is completely deviant from the theory and praxis of Marxian 'class struggle'. Maoists are not leading a 'united conscious class movement' of the 'working and exploited rural and urban underclasses'. India Communist parties have always disowned Maoists both politically and ideologically.

Further, 'politics of gun' against the Indian state does not have any future prospects because not only elected Governments have popular and democratic legitimacy and mass support, the Armed Forces of the state are quite effective in dealing with violence of insurgency, terrorism, and Maoism. The so-called 'Liberation zones' of Maoists is a pipe dream and an utopia and by launching 'armed struggle' they have completely wrecked peaceful, democratic working class struggles for changing the social order.

Also, the state has a history of negotiations through mediators and interlocutors with gun-wielding insurgents in North-East and in Jammu & Kashmir. Many 'accords' have been signed between the functionaries of the Indian state and insurgents and conflicts have come to an end because the 'mediators' could bring the two opponent parties sit together for a negotiated settlement. Members of a 'moral brigade' should also be able to reach Maoists and help them arrive at a negotiated settlement with the state. ***************************************


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

NO FREE LUNCH

The partial suspension of US aid and stepped up drone strikes in Pakistan's northwest place the spotlight, once again, on the glaring contradictions in the US-Pakistani relationship. Islamabad has pursued a high-risk strategy ever since Nato stationed troops in Afghanistan, one that is unsustainable in the long run. That strategy started coming apart with the US Navy Seals raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout at Abbottabad, and the currently unfolding chain of events are a part of the Abbottabad raid's fallout.

The US has poured in an estimated $12 billion in direct military aid to Pakistan since 2001, making it one of the largest recipients of US aid. Last year the Obama administration upped the amount of aid to the Pakistani military, in the belief - despite strong evidence to the contrary - that the reason Pakistan continued to harbour militants was that it lacked the wherewithal to take them on. Not surprisingly, that didn't alter Islamabad's reluctance to take on militants on its territory. And following the raid on bin Laden, it became too much of a stretch to argue that he was living in a high-security cantonment area for close to a decade, without the authorities knowing about it.

Having adopted a strategy of subterfuge, the bin Laden raid became a public relations disaster for the Pakistani military. It responded by ordering out up to 200 American military trainers in the country and reducing bilateral cooperation. With the fur flying freely Washington, in turn, is trying a new tack - it temporarily suspended $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military.

It's up to Islamabad to realise that the strategy of selectively targeting terror groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which attack its own citizens, while leaving others untouched, is doomed to failure. Militant groups share resources and ideology, and are angered at Islamabad's evident duplicity. Neither is ditching the US an option. Beijing is not going to rescue an internationally isolated Pakistan that will inevitably go down the economic tubes. Pakistan must not only deal with the TTP but also its friends. And it doesn't need American money to do so, it has the wherewithal for this. New Delhi, on its part, needs to engage the Pakistani military as part of the current dialogue between the two countries, or parallel to it. Since the reason many militant groups are protected is that they can be used against India, trying to resolve the Pakistani military's insecurities vis-a-vis India would be a worthwhile effort.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            COMMENT

DON'T BUY, BARTER

It's a sign of the times. The spread of social networking, internet exchange and barter sites, and the cramped economic times we live in have led to a new phenomenon: recycling chic. In place of the consumerist joys of becoming the singular owner of a branded commodity, there's a new ethic of sharing whereby things we no longer need are passed on. If you no longer need that old microwave, for instance, don't throw it away; sell it over the Net, or donate it to a clearing centre where someone else can pick it up for free instead of buying a new one. Or pay in kind, not cash; with services or other goods in exchange. Here cost, convenience and the rejection of a throwaway culture are more important than brand names and snob value. This could have interesting social and economic ripple effects.

The trend has washed up on Indian shores as well, although it may take a little time to sink roots into Indian soil. For one, widespread internet penetration and social networking sites are essential for making such barter networks viable. For another, it will have to overcome the pack rat mentality and an uneasy self-consciousness about what such bartering could say about one's social status. But the signs are encouraging. It's already catching on in urban centres. And the benefits are obvious. It allows one to stay on top of inflation. It monetises assets that otherwise would have just taken up space without serving a purpose. It reduces one's environmental footprint and wastage of natural and production resources. And it promotes a new ethic of sharing. Maybe that's what we need to save the world.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE

WHO WILL WATCH THE WATCHMEN?

MINHAZ MERCHANT

 

The audited balance sheets of the six largest political parties in India are hard to get and harder to decipher: they hide more than they reveal but are nonetheless worth close examination. Between them, the Congress, BJP, BSP, SP, NCP and CPM reported total income of Rs 1,046.76 crore for the year ending March 31, 2009. That was the year in which most of the funds for the 2009 Lok Sabha election were collected and deployed.

The Congress reported total income of Rs 496.88 crore, expenditure of Rs 274.75 crore and net profit of Rs 222.13 crore in fiscal 2009. The BJP showed total income of Rs 220.02 crore. Between them, the Congress and the BJP have 322 MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha. What does it cost an MP to mount a successful election campaign for a Lok Sabha seat? Best estimates from independent sources - and from the Election Commission (EC) itself - put the figure at an average of Rs 10 crore per MP. Taking into account the two parties' winning and losing candidates, actual expenditure by the Congress and the BJP in the 2009 Lok Sabha election would have been far in excess of their combined audited income of Rs 716.90 crore. Clearly, the Congress and the BJP need to generate a significant amount in cash to fill the official funding gap in an election year as well as pay the administrative costs of running national political organisations.

There are 28 state assembly and seven Union territory elections and at least one Lok Sabha poll during every five-year cycle - a minimum of 36 elections overall, or more than seven elections a year. The annual electoral funding gap is therefore large. Where does this money - all of it black - come from? Three sources: one, off-balance sheet cash donations by large and medium companies seeking quid pro quo favours from MPs when elected, leading to a corrupt political-business nexus. Two, wealthy individual donors, again in return for post-dated political favours. And three, scams.

Scams are of several kinds: illegal commissions from public-private partnership infrastructure projects, mining leases and arbitrary land acquisitions; leakages from social sector schemes like MNREGA where party middlemen skim off the cream; irregular allocation of natural resources (including telecom spectrum); and inflated civic projects in large events such as the Commonwealth Games. This vast infrastructure of corruption can only be dismantled with targeted electoral reforms.

In recent weeks, politicians cutting across party lines have rediscovered the primacy of Parliament in democracy. They have shown great concern for following due process on parliamentary legislation and, as the prime minister stated, ensuring that all new laws are passed within the framework of the Constitution. This concern for the purity of parliamentary democracy is at odds with the state of Parliament itself. Shockingly, 76 MPs - including 13 Congress and 19 BJP MPs - in the current Lok Sabha (14% of its total strength) have serious criminal charges framed against them by a court of law. These are not politically motivated charges. They include, as per affidavits filed with the EC, "murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion, forgery, bribery, dacoity and causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons". When 14% of our lawmakers are charged as lawbreakers, Parliament stands undermined. The presence of tainted elected Lok Sabha MPs poses a greater threat to Indian parliamentary democracy than any number of unelected citizen-activists.

Since there is no practical way to limit the use of black money in election funding, two specific electoral reforms are necessary to cleanse Parliament. First, the EC must have the power to deregister (it currently only has the power to derecognise) a political party which gives tickets in a Lok Sabha or assembly election to candidates with criminal chargesheets framed by a trial court, implying prima facie malfeasance. The law ministry has already begun drafting a Bill that proposes changes in the Representation of People's Act. The amendment would disallow candidates charged with criminal offences punishable with a jail sentence of more than five years from contesting any election. To weed out politically motivated charges, there will be a caveat: such charges should have been framed at least a year before the date of filing nominations.

Second, the EC must impose strict tenure limitations (say, five years) on the post of party president of every registered political party, with all related family members included in the mandated five-year ceiling. This will mitigate the damaging feudalism that has made many of our parties function like family dynasties, allowing unprofessional hierarchies to flourish.

During the forthcoming monsoon session, Parliament will discuss a slew of reformist legislation including the Lokpal Bill. But the Lokpal Bill is only one of several electoral and governance reforms that should be on Parliament's agenda. Making the CBI autonomous and implementing the 2006 Supreme Court directive on police reforms are both long overdue. The Judicial Standards and Accountability and Right to Justice Bills are equally vital for delivering swift, fair justice. The people's will is sovereign; Parliament is subordinate to that will. A Lok Sabha tainted by 76 criminally charged MPs undermines that will, diminishes parliamentary democracy and sullies the Constitution.

The writer is an author and chairman of a media group.

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TIMES VIEW

THE MAGIC OF LOVE

Swooning beauties, swashbuckling heroes, love's thunderclaps. What's life without a bit of romantic fantasy? Yet romance novels - of the Harlequin and Mills & Boon genre - face flak as supposedly injurious to women's emotional and sexual health. An article by relationship counsellor Susan Quilliam, in a British academic journal, suggests romance fiction breeds outlandish hopes and encourages reckless sexual conduct. So, women must junk chick-lit and get real. But hold it right there. A study shows 60% of such consumers are married. Most are educated and aged between 31 and 50. To say countless adult women can't tell truth from fiction is to devalue their grey cells.

Nor is there evidence teenage readers grow into incurable romantics unsuited for steady relationships or home-making. Clearly, Quilliam takes a very clinical and negative view of escapist literature. Men and women both have secret hopes about love. It's what makes them endearingly human, rather than fit cases for finger-wagging or 'corrective' counselling. Romance fiction sells because it fulfils deep yearnings. It also reflects a universal reality: everybody fantasises. If a taste for magic means automatic inability to accept flawed flesh-and-blood partners, people wouldn't be pairing up everywhere all the time.

Besides, cinema sells dreams as well. It depicts doomed, everlasting love (Titanic), shows impossible love as reachable (Pretty Woman) or celebrates love as destiny (Hum Tum). All are variations on a theme: the romantic ideal. Why, even literary classics fete fairy-tale endings and undying passion. Must we then frown upon Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights? War stories or spy novels, with their heroic exploits, can be as addictive. If their fans don't have problems adjusting to reality, surely romance buffs can manage as well.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

IT'S DANGEROUS ESCAPISM

DEEP K DATTA-RAY

 

The Mills & Boon genre of romantic fiction has never had much to say for itself as literature. If that's contested as a matter of opinion, the fact is that romance novels can mar people's ability to keep a grip on reality. They generate unrealistic expectations about love and sex. Psychologist Susan Quilliam notes that the novels make women 'suspend rationality'. Rather than face life, they escape into a dream world. Though it has changed with time, she says the genre still fails miserably in realistically portraying sexual pleasure or the ups and downs of relationships.

The culture of romantic fantasy and the problems it creates has spread to cinema as well. A study of 40 Hollywood romantic comedies found that couples typically report relationship issues arising from watching these movies. But the danger isn't limited to the psychological sphere. The romance genre can also do physical harm by idealising unsafe behaviour. Safe sex is cast aside: only 11.5% of such novels mention condom use. And repeated pregnancy is held up as the key to a successful relationship. Predictably, there's no mention of the health risks involved. Nor is it ever suggested that there are many other ways to express love and devotion to one's partner.

It's always been doubtful whether romance novels classify as literature at all. Authors for this type of writing are a dime a dozen, and their mediocre works are an endless rehash of formulaic ideas and themes. Rolling out assembly line products, romantic fiction merely offers well-packaged fluff. Worth some $13.6 billion, the genre dominates the consumer book market by accounting for 13.2% of all sales. The very success of romance novels indicates the extent of the danger they pose to people's emotional stability.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            ERRATICA

TEARS OVER LAUGHTER

BACHI KARKARIA

 

That Sunday afternoon was as soggy with nostalgia as a khari biscuit dunked in chai. Fifty old troupers of Mumbai's Parsi stage had reunited to celebrate a new book, Laughter in the House. They met over as hearty a lunch at the Irani Universal Cafe on a road aptly named after the remarkable playwright and director, Adi Marzban. Further up the street stood Jame Jamshed, Asia's second-oldest newspaper which 'apro Adu' also owned and edited.

With archive, anecdote and admiration, Meher Marfatia's book covers the most prolific years of Parsi theatre. Merely flipping through the corny names of the plays and slapstick photographs was enough to crack me up. But the tears rolling down my face were also of sadness, for that afternoon encapsulated death thrice told. It reminded me of the tragic disappearance of this hilarious brand of theatre, of the quaint Irani restaurant, and of the Parsis' rare ability to laugh at themselves.

Universal Cafe resounded with back slapping, 'Kem Sala'-ing, beer guzzling and dhansak-gorging. On the steps, there was much posing and more chaos as Sooni Tarporevala captured this sepia moment. Looking around, i tried to match a revised face to the old familiar names. Were these stooped and greying figures the same drop-dead gorgeous heroines and comic heroes who once dropped dead with histrionic regularity, keeping all the Gujarati-speaking communities of Mumbai in such splits?

The likes of Burjor and Ruby Patel, Jimmy Pocha, Dadi Sarkari, Jerry Kumana and the portly Dinyar Contractor were also part of my adolescent years in Calcutta, for Adi Marzban's patented magic came to Calcutta in the mid-1960s.

But we were prouder of our own Calcutta Parsi Amateur Dramatic Club, with its own anthem, gold emblazoned velvet banner, and its hardy perennials who met every Sunday for five whole months on the fourth floor of a faded Bowbazar mansion to rehearse for just one play every year. Mock them not. This 'Pateti Natak' was the annual ritual around which our small outpost community coalesced to renew its bonds. Dressed in our new year clothes, we did kissi-koti to each other, bent double with laughter, threw paper darts at the stage, and in the interval drank the free Byron & Co Vimto provided by its owner, the venerable Edulji Olpadwala.

Last year, shortly after the CPADC's centenary, there was no Pateti Natak, traumatising a tiny kaum deprived of its annual oxygenation. In the larger home-base of Mumbai, Parsi theatre, spiked with clever double entendre, had lapsed into a vulgar whimper of its rip-roaring self almost a decade earlier.

Irani restaurants, the second in that fading trilogy, have been decimated by a worse atrocity, turning into video-parlours, beer bars or even a McDonald's. Gustad Dehmiri's bright and airy Universal Cafe belongs to a pav-sized group of doughty survivors. It's surprising how entrepreneurial Mumbai has let this lucrative chance slip by. The Light of Persia clones have the most prime locations, and could easily be reincarnated as a stylishly retro dining experience, complete with their bentwood chairs, sweet lemongrass and mint tea, bun-maska - and a dour Shukriyeh Kayani manning the cash counter.

Which brings me to my third and last requiem of that Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the Mumbai Parsis aren't laughing good-naturedly at themselves on stage any longer because they no longer have much to laugh good-naturedly about in real life. An exemplary community which never got into communal conflict is now at war with itself, its leaders squabbling for the spoils. We were too busy laughing to have understood the large-hearted significance of Parsi theatre. We now have all the time in the world to weep over everything else that has fallen with the curtain.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

UNSCATHED IN THE CROSSFIRE

Despite the assassination of his half-brother, it's advantage President Hamid Karzai.

Afghanistan is the international military conflict of the greatest significance to Indian interests. Unfortunately, it's also a war of remarkable fluidity. None of the players can credibly claim that the winds are blowing in their favour.

Over the past few months, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has experienced the free-flowing nature of the conflict more than anyone else.

At one point, on the backfoot as Pakistan leveraged the expectation of a US withdrawal, Mr Karzai began negotiating what were feared would be 'surrender terms' with the Taliban and Islamabad. But the Abbottabad raid and the subsequent collapse of US-Pakistan relations gave him a sudden fillip.

The subsequent US announcement of troop withdrawal turned out to be a positive one — it undermined the US's dependence on supplies coming from Pakistan, emphasised the need for more funds and support for Afghanistan's security forces, and still left 70,000 US troops behind.

Importantly, it indicated a shift in US policy under which the war's crossfires turned increasingly against Pakistan —  with the barrel projecting from Afghan soil.

Then came this week's assassination of his half-brother and closest political confidant, Ahmed Wali Karzai. Wali Karzai carried out the dirty deeds that the president was unable to check. In the rough-and-tumble of Afghan politics, such actions were necessary to the Afghan ruler's survival.

The half-brother was seen as a thorn in Pakistan's side and accused, by Islamabad, of supporting insurgencies on their own soil. He handled Kandahar, the capital of 'Talibanistan' in southern Afghanistan — a task for which it will be difficult to find a successor.

The West's initial commentary about Wali Karzai was vituperative. And it's the change in his relations with the US, with his acceptance of Washington's demand for more inclusive governance and a greater American willingness to marry military action with his political direction, that indicated how things had begun to swing in Mr Karzai's favour.

A shift completely in keeping with India's own interests in the region.

What can be said with certainty is that the Afghan war has ceased to be about creating a modern Afghanistan. Rather, it's now a slow grinding conflict in which the various sides are seeking to tire each other into submission.

The US, seen as the most skittish player, seems to have found a new desire to stay on because of Pakistan's dismal domestic situation. This has changed the dynamic in a way that Islamabad can do little about — unless it corrects its many internal ailments.

And that seems the most unlikely development of the AfPak turmoil. Which is why the advantage, even after the assassination, lies with Mr Karzai.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO MORE POTTERING ON

With the second and final part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opening in theatres across the world, we are caught up, perhaps for the last time, in the whirligig of Potter mania. It's been 14 years since the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, unleashed

JK Rowling's boy wizard on the world. Seven novels and eight films later (whose staggered releases are said to be instances of a diabolical yet brilliant sense of timing), magic has invaded our vocabulary with as much force as merchandising.

It has spawned derivatives as varied as Harry Potter porn to Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter to the desi Hari Puttar and what have you, on what has essentially been the universal story of good's triumph over evil, with an average, rather uncomplicated David triumphing over an apparently invincible Goliath.

Those who deride the Potterian success story forget that Harry's magic spread beyond the unmistakably English setting on either side of the fictional platform nine and three quarters at King's Cross station.

Children queuing up for a copy in a bookshop in India weren't looking out for the heretical undertones of fighting evil with spells or the paganism in play in the novels, but were responding to the coming-of-age themes — friends, betrayal, love — that struck a common chord.

And surely, there is a place inside our less-tolerant-than-we-would-like-to believe heads (children, yes, but more importantly in adults too) where we wave magic wands, to 'obliviate' a painful memory, to 'silencio' the unabashed loudmouth or say 'evanesco' to vanish a bothersome pest.

Even as the actors who played Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley or Draco Malfoy move on with their Muggle-like pursuits in life, Potter fans would surely hope for Harry's second coming, a resurrection from that perch of blissful domesticity where the novelist had left him in the end.

For in the end, Potter did manage to provide an escape from the dull and the dreary, and it was good while it lasted.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SO SHOULD WE LEAVE TOWN?

AMRITA CHATTERJI ,

 

Dear Police Commissioner,

I read your emphatic recommendation that women should be accompanied by a "male relative or driver" if venturing outdoors at "odd hours" and that we women "can't travel alone at 2 am and then say Delhi is unsafe" with a mixture of disbelief, amusement and sheer disappointment.

I don't have a driver or a brother. I dare say thousands of other women in the city don't either. So clearly by your own admission we aren't safe. But whatever happened to the motto "Delhi Police — with you, for you, always"? For so many women in the city, venturing out at 2 am may be a function of necessity, not choice.

In the early years of my working life, when I was an "outsider" and a single working woman employed at a TV network, returning home in the wee hours of the morning was more the rule than exception. The same goes for the thousands of women employed in outsourcing operations, hospitality, health care, travel and aviation.

While employers are required to provide adequate protection by law, the police can't wring their hands and plead helplessness to serve and protect those who work late hours. Besides, there may be many scenarios in which a woman may need to step out late, whether for leisure, work, travel or a medical emergency. 

What about her security and safety then?

You also seem to think that since women are out partying at 'odd hours', they jolly well have to have a driver to chaperon them around. If not, then we're just asking for trouble — the overused argument that reeks of patriarchal prejudice.

Surprisingly, you don't seem to know the demographics of the city you are entrusted to protect, by first assuming that everyone has a driver (perhaps most of the ladies attending the Ficci function do) and second, that all women who live in Delhi enjoy the protective framework of a family.

The large number of young, educated women, who flock to the city from the rest of India to make a decent living, is a reality you don't appear to be aware of. What do you say to a woman who may be from out of town, living on her own or with other female flatmates and has to travel to the airport at 2 am to make a 5 am flight or return from the railway station after a delayed train?

Perhaps your next advice will be that if you don't have a driver, or male relatives, don't live in this city.

Do women get hassled, mugged and raped abroad? Of course they do. Is there crime on the streets of London? Of course there is.

But should a high ranking police officer, whose every word and public engagement should reassure the citizenry and strike fear in the hearts and minds of those on the wrong side of the law succumb so timidly to a longstanding challenge? I think that's a question I'd rather leave to you to answer.

(Amrita Chatterji moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1995 and has lived and worked in the National Capital Region (NCR) since. The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

CRIME DOESN'T PAY

FARRUKH DHONDY

Last week I was interviewed on an Indian TV channel about profiting from murder. One of their researchers called me in London for my opinion on Maria Susairaj, of whom and whose conduct I had never heard. I naturally asked, "Why me?" 

"Because you wrote a novel about Charles Sobhraj."

"It's fiction and it's not about Charles Sobhraj," I wanted to say, but after the channel called insistently a couple of times — and keeping in mind Gore Vidal's dictum of never turning down an offer to have sex or appear on television — I consented to give them five minutes.

I immediately researched the life and crimes of Susairaj and went on camera. The charming interviewer asked me what I thought of Bollywood moguls attempting to resurrect their careers by proposing to cast her in films.

Disgusting!

She then asked if I knew that Susairaj had been offered a crore of rupees to feature in a reality TV show. The victim whose body she had helped to dispose of was himself a TV executive of some sort.

These TV-wallahs have no shame!

Should murderers and rapists (not to mention directors and TV executives) be allowed to make an enormous profit from the proceeds of the notoriety that crime gives them?

There is apparently no law against it in India. There is in Britain. Criminals can't sell their stories for money. They can confess to a journalist or a writer but they can't be paid for it.

British journalists, entertaining news about the colour of celebrities' underwear, have become very wary of criminal notoriety. Obviously, if a serial killer wants to write a book on cookery or gardening, he or she is free to be paid for it, as long as the book doesn't contain recipes for human flesh or hints on how buried bodies fertilise the soil.

I experienced the ban at second-hand when some years ago I received a call from Charles Sobhraj in Paris. He wanted to know what 'red mercury' was and presumed that with my background in physics I'd be able to tell him. I did.

Russian scientists claimed to have concocted an antimony pseudo-radioactive explosive that could trigger a dirty fusion bomb. Very many international physicists pooh-poohed the claim, some even contending that it was theoretically impossible.

Why did Sobhraj want to know? He said he was working with Eastern Europeans who had some to sell and he was in touch with people in West Asia who wanted to buy. Business. I didn't at the time put one and one together.

The Iraq war broke out with George Bush and Tony Blair telling their countries that Iraq was building its capability to wreak terror through chemical, biological and nuclear weapons on the US and the world.

The next time Sobhraj called me, I asked him who these sellers and buyers were, and he said he had exchanged several e-mails with them, some coded and they were gentlemen from the Arab world. He even said he had been to Bahrain and talked to the prospective buyers.

It occurred to me that if he was telling the truth it may very well be that a West Asian government was exploring the possibilities of nuclear weaponry. Could the gentlemen have been representing Iraq? Sobhraj said they could. I said if he could prove it, he had a very big international story on his hands. He asked if I could help him place it.

I called Boris Johnson and Peter Oborne, both of whom worked for the weekly The Spectator. Would they like to investigate a story that perhaps proved the opposite of what the world now believed — that Saddam Hussein had no plans to build or obtain weapons of mass destruction? They said the equivalent of 'Yes please!' and Sobhraj came to London to provide them with proof.

Boris said the story was too big for The Speccie and handed it over to a Daily Telegraph journalist. At which point I left. The Daily Telegraph journalist called me and said Sobhraj wouldn't give him any of the e-mails or any other proof of his story until he was paid a substantial sum.

The journalist said he couldn't do that. It would be paying for knowledge of clandestine and criminal activity.

I believe they bargained for a few days and then Sobhraj pushed off to Nepal and was jailed for life for a murder he may have committed some 20 to 28 years previously. I didn't follow the trial but was told by someone who did that the evidence for the conviction was flimsy and would have been thrown out of a European court.

Now it occurs to me there may be countries in which Sobhraj can sell his true confessions for large sums of money, which won't be very useful within the walls of Kathmandu Jail.

I don't know whether Barack Obama, whose country still has troops on the ground in Iraq, would want to prove, for political, historical or even military-industrial-financial reasons that Iraq had, indeed, under Saddam set in train inquiries about nuclear triggers if not fuels.

Again, I don't know what clout the US or even Bush and Blair's friends now have with the government of Nepal. But if Sobhraj was willing to trade the evidence he previously wanted to sell, he might be able to strike a bargain.

(Farrukh Dhondy is a London-based author and screenplay writer. The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NOW LOST IN THE FOREST

CHITRANGADA CHOUDHURY

 

Incarcerated since May 28, hardware trader-turned-environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal has every reason to feel bitter. Instead, when I met the 52-year-old recently in the prisoner's ward of the Government Hospital at Raigarh in Chhattisgarh, Agrawal was spirited, joking about the need to lock up people like him.

Agrawal was arrested after Jindal Power Pvt Ltd, the biggest corporation in Raigarh district, charged him with defamation during an environmental clearance hearing. The case, two months after the actual hearing, suggested vendetta.

It came on the heels of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) cancelling the company's terms of reference for a proposed power plant, and writing to the state government to act against the company for beginning work without clearances. Agrawal had originally alerted the MoEF about the illegalities.

Agrawal's arrest on flimsy charges and the repeated denial of bail are jarring in the larger context of environmental violations in Raigarh and its adjoining districts, a coal-rich belt where dozens of power plants are in the offing.

Several villages here are home to forest-dwelling communities protected in theory by two laws: the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (Pesa), and the Forest Rights Act (Fra). But in recent years, residents have watched laws being disregarded to facilitate the industrialisation of mines, farmlands and rivers.

Agrawal studied regulations, extracted documents under the RTI, tested claims made on paper against ground realities, and regularly wrote to the authorities about the violations he saw. In effect, he was doing the work the statutory agencies are meant to. He never heard in return, but persisted.

"When Jairam Ramesh came as minister, I got a response for the first time," he said. But action from the Centre resulted in greater hostility on the ground. In the months before his arrest, Agrawal was physically attacked, and his shop damaged (the police made no arrests on his complaints).

Even under arrest, he laid out files on his hospital bed to draft a letter to authorities about the misrepresentations in a proposed power plant's environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Agrawal's experiences reiterate the urgency for a 'whistleblowers' protection' legislation. Equally, his incarceration raises larger questions about how violent and violative mining and industrialisation in our resource-rich Pesa and Fra areas have become, and are taken for granted.

In a 2010 lecture, Ramesh had asked, "Is the debate really 'environment vs development' or is it one of 'adhering to rules, regulations and laws versus taking the rules, regulations and laws for granted'?" Nowhere is tackling this non-adherence as challenging as in these areas.

The reasons are three-fold. The first is the deeply partisan role the executive and the political class — the district administration, the Pollution Control Boards, the police, MLAs, etc — have taken on. This draws upon a deeper tradition of constitutional disregard and misgovernance in tribal areas.

Because mining has become so profitable, and it makes ample economic sense to trick tribal communities into giving up their land, a tenacious culture of corruption has built up in the past decade around public life in these areas. This makes it difficult to contest illegalities.

Second, if public hearings around a project's environmental impact or land acquisition are to be genuine, they must be held in the spirit of a conversation among equals. But hearings have been reduced to a token opening of the door to the people in the process of decision-making.

Last December, a petition with over 80,000 endorsers from across Chhattisgarh made the regular demands of implementing Pesa and Fra, but it also asked for an end to fraudulent public hearings for environmental clearances and land acquisition.

In the villagers' eyes, the sole purpose of such hearings is for the State to facilitate their dispossession. In Pesa areas, the hearings are particularly alienating because of cultural barriers. Project documents are never conveyed in local languages like Gondi, and are filled with scientific terms that villagers can't read, let alone make sense of, or petition the State on.

But these communities are not ecologically illiterate.

Finally, most of these areas lie in states witnessing Maoist insurgency. The Centre's strategy has been to cast thousands of troops into these villages on the one hand, and crores of rupees into bureaucrat-driven physical programmes on the other.

Neither of these two measures challenge what lies at the heart of the insurgency: an exclusionary ethic of policy-making, corruption in governance, and the resultant alienation of the people. The state's default reaction has become to criminalise dissent.

A common thread underlies all these problems: mainstream India views its tribal communities as inferior citizens; their knowledge systems and worldview are held as irrelevant and dispensable in the national project of double-digit economic growth.

We need urgent correctives in our land acquisition and environmental protection regimes to ensure that our model of mining and industrialisation is no longer grounded in deceit and violence against these communities.

(Chitrangada Choudhury is a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow at Columbia University, US. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FACTORY FLAW

 

Predictions for growth in the industrial sector this May, as compared with the same month in 2010, were mostly in the range of 8 per cent. Some analysts stuck their necks out and suggested it might go as low as 7 per cent. Thus few were prepared when the real numbers were released on Tuesday. They indicated that industrial growth — as represented by the index of industrial production, or IIP — was as low as 5.6 per cent year-on-year. This number, shockingly low, was driven by a weak performance from the manufacturing and mining sector. Indeed, India's growth continues to owe practically nothing to the manufacturing sector: in the past half-year, it has contributed less than a single percentage point of GDP growth.

It is not necessary that these lower-than-expected numbers mean India must scale down its overall growth expectations for the entire year — there is some good news, for example, in the robust numbers for consumer demand. Nonetheless, the numbers are a reminder that India's growth is unbalanced and unsustainable without further reform. Manufacturing growth — and the growth in employment, productivity and wages that comes with a vibrant manufacturing sector — is essential to modernising the economy and moving a large population permanently out of poverty. This requires the next generation of reforms to happen, and to happen fast. It might be useful to step back and remember that when the UPA was re-elected it was supposed that it would use the mandate to extend the reform agenda: to kick-start manufacturing, to finally pass a new Companies Act, to attack the thicket of restrictive labour laws that keep India's manufacturing constrained.

There are, of course, smaller administrative and governance tweaks that could help manufacturing going till these big-bang reforms are implemented. Coherent, clear application of environmental regulation; a new land acquisition framework for industry; and upped investment in infrastructure, as well as a reduction in red tape. But even such lower-intensity reformist actions seem to have been put on the back burner. UPA 2 seems to believe that nothing is as certain as continued growth, except perhaps for its re-election in 2014. The IIP numbers demonstrate the holes in that assumption. Unless the government makes a genuine effort to prioritise the reform agenda in the remainder of its term, long-term growth will stutter.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ROUNDABOUT HOMAGE

 

Renaming a place is seldom inconsequential. It tinkers with geography, reorders memory and reveals, like a palimpsest does, the politics of the time. In its wrenching away of a part of a city, the act often becomes controversial. But if a case can be made for renaming a street or a stretch, or a roundabout, in the heart of New Delhi, it can be done for Sobha Singh — one of the builders of the city — exactly

100 years after King George V announced the shifting of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has forwarded a well-timed request to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to memorialise Sobha Singh. The government, in turn, has chosen the roundabout Windsor Place and since sent a proposal to the home ministry to name it after Sir Sobha.

Here a reordering of memory seems fitting, for this would be a retrieval of the first chapter of New Delhi. For one of the earliest stories associated with its building, after that romanticised instance of architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker glimpsing a rainbow where India Gate stands now and thus deciding on Raisina Hill as the site for their grand capital city, is of 18-year-old Sobha moving the city's foundation stones in a bullock cart from Kingsway to Raisina Hill in the dead of night. He went on to build what became the markers of the city — from South Block and India Gate to the earliest buildings of Connaught Place and the first cinema hall, Regal. Yet, like other builders and architects — Baisakha Singh, Teja Singh Malik and even Baker —

Sobha Singh's name was confined to a slab in a South Block alcove. It is time they were brought back to public memory and celebrated among the grand façades they built.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                                EDITORIAL

OUT OF LINE

 

Uninspiring as this cabinet reshuffle appeared to be for the signals it sent on governance issues, it provoked several senior Congress leaders into open tantrums. Gurudas Kamat indicated his displeasure at being given the water and sanitation portfolio by quitting the council of ministers altogether; Srikant Jena has refused to take charge as minister of state for statistics and programme implementation, and blamed "coalition compulsions" for his not making cabinet grade; and Veerappa Moily, who has been moved from law to corporate affairs, delivered an astonishing rant about a "campaign by vested interests", and how he was being "hanged for the sins of other ministries". Meanwhile, Vilasrao Deshmukh, who had been shifted from the rural development ministry to science and technology, compared the whole exercise to a kho-kho game and skipped the swearing-in ceremony to lobby for the presidency of the Mumbai Cricket Association.

These may just be passing fits of pique, but they speak volumes about the lack of cohesion within the ruling coalition — temporarily thwarted ambition can drive the UPA's leaders to publicly question their decision-makers and speculate on their motives. Moily cannot mutter darkly about vested interests influencing the prime minister, and then disclaim the remarks, saying "yesterday was yesterday" — having made such a large and damaging claim, he must back it up with evidence. Though the Congress has not taken any disciplinary action against these individuals, these small insurrections chip away at the authority of the PM at a moment when he is most vulnerable.

But apart from the swollen sense of entitlement, these tantrums reveal a disdain for certain categories of work. One would think that drinking water and sanitation are deeply important matters for

India. Similarly, statistics and programme implementation can be a critical ministry, if it commits to keeping infrastructure and welfare programmes on track and throwing greater sunlight on government processes. However, political leaders are not willing to attach any dignity to that labour, and instead hanker after jobs with more clout, and a greater interface with industry. The ministries that matter are evidently not the ones where you can make a tangible difference to millions of citizens or craft innovative policy, but those where you can throw your weight around.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A VERY TANGLED WEB

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

It is a pity that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna could not stop himself from welcoming the US suspension of military aid to Pakistan. It was just a matter of time before Defence Minister A.K. Antony joined the chorus.

"India has consistently taken the view that it is not desirable that this region had to be heavily armed by the US which will upset the equilibrium in the region itself, to that extent India welcomes this step," Krishna reportedly said. Antony wanted to know if the suspension was just a temporary one.

The comments from the two senior ministers of the UPA government were both irrelevant and ill-considered. Irrelevant because what is at stake is not the supply of heavy weapons to Pakistan or the military balance between India and Pakistan.

Islamabad is nowhere near matching India's own current purchases of advanced conventional weapons, including from the United States.

Their remarks were ill-considered because they suggested India's glee at Pakistan's adversity, and reinforced the image of Delhi's unreconstructed hostility to Islamabad. They also come at a time when India is trying to revive a working relationship with Pakistan.

Krishna himself had worked hard over the last few months to renew the dialogue with Pakistan that was stalled after the terror attack on Mumbai in November 2008.

Delhi is set to host Pakistan's foreign secretary and foreign minister later this month to review the progress in the first round of talks. This was not the moment for a perverse Indian "welcome" of US aid to Pakistan being suspended.

What is more troubling, however, is the lack of appreciation in our political class of the complex dynamic that has enveloped US-Pakistan relations since the killing of Osama bin Laden by American Special Forces deep inside Pakistan on May 2.

This is not just another familiar moment in what is widely seen as a "transactional" relationship between Pakistan and the US. Pakistan has been at once the most sought after and most sanctioned ally of the US for nearly six decades.

Washington has cut off aid to Islamabad before, but only to embrace the Pakistan army again and again. Washington and Islamabad find themselves in a very different situation now.

Unlike on the previous occasions, the US can't simply walk away from Pakistan today. Without changing Pakistan's strategic behaviour, Washington knows, America won't be secure.

Take for example the turn of the 1990s. After the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan at the end of the 1980s, Washington washed its hands of and started sanctioning Pakistan for its clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

This time, the US must get the Pakistan army to hunt down the residual leadership of al-Qaeda still hiding in the country's western borderlands. It is pressing the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, to go after the Haqqani network in North Waziristan that is responsible for most attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

Washington wants Kayani to put pressure on the Afghan Taliban leadership to negotiate a political settlement with Kabul and the international community as the US withdraws its forces starting this month.

Despite the double embarrassment from the bin Laden episode — that he was hiding right under the nose of the Pakistan army and was attacked by the US without Rawalpindi's permission — Kayani has been reluctant to oblige the Obama administration.

The news over the weekend that the US was suspending about $800 million of military aid to Pakistan followed an explicit warning by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a couple of weeks ago that there will be consequences if the Pakistan army does not keep its promises on combating terror.

That warning was followed by a series of leaks in the New York Times that damned the ISI for promoting regional terror, its complicity in the killing of the Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, and exposed the links between the Pakistan army and the global nuclear black-market.

As the Obama administration turns up the heat, the Pakistan army's reaction has been cool and composed. Rawalpindi has declared that it can do without American military aid. In fact, a few weeks ago, the army's corps commanders pompously called for the "diversion" of the US military aid to the civilian sector. Kayani is playing hard ball.

Traditionalists in Delhi would say Washington and Rawalpindi will sort things out, and kiss and make up sooner than later, because they need each other so much. Others might argue that Kayani will find it hard to comply with the American demands without undermining his position at home and abandoning the army's presumed interests in Afghanistan and India.

Some would point to the explicit debate in Pakistan on ending the historic strategic dependence on the US and looking for other options, including China and Saudi Arabia. There is no evidence so far in the public domain that either Beijing or Riyadh is eager to replace Washington.

Whichever way Pakistan moves, there is no denying the deepening contradiction between the interests of the US and the Pakistan army in Afghanistan. As Washington and Rawalpindi try to stare down each other, Delhi should closely watch the spectacle rather than sleepwalk into the theatre as Krishna and Antony have done.

For the first time since 1954, when the US and Pakistan launched security cooperation, it seems plausible that their partnership could spin out of control. The subcontinent's geopolitics, then, might be on the cusp of a historic rupture.

India's challenge at the moment is to reflect on Pakistan's alternative futures and develop creative approaches to both Rawalpindi and Washington. Until then it is best for official Delhi to keep its lips sealed, eyes and ears open, and the brain ticking.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT THE BLEEP

NANDINI NAIR

 

When did you first learn that f-word? Was it from the television? From an elder sibling? Or, perhaps, a younger one? Or, from a classmate who wrote it on a paper and passed it around sixth grade. The teacher saw him. He scrunched the paper and tried to throw it out of the window. But it sat there on the ledge staring at the boy, daring the teacher. She picked it up, smoothed the creases and led the boy to the headmaster's office. I was in that class. I can still feel the tension as boy and teacher glared at the offending paper ball.

We don't remember when we learned the words "Amma" and "encyclopaedia". But four-letter words — they brand themselves into memory. Taboo words, expletives, cuss words, call them what you will, but both speaker and listener react to them viscerally. They subvert authority, assert veracity and banish helplessness.

They take us back to our childhood. Cuss words in our native language elicit a far stronger emotional reaction than those in any other. The language of your dreams is the language you fight in and the language you swear in. An abuse will purge you of rage or affirm joy only when you've been told through childhood not to use it.

Words require context but expletives more so. Gaalis are seldom passed across generations and they don't cross geographical boundaries either. They live in a definite time and place. In Italy, the "horns of a cuckold" cause more insult than the middle finger. In Australia, never make the mistake of saying "I am stuffed" after a meal. Gaalis are place-specific and to understand them proves that one belongs to this place and this time.

Language makes us civilised. To speak and write clearly means thinking clearly. But to use "damn" is to acknowledge that sometimes language proves insufficient. Language follows rules but emotions seldom follow any — they are anarchic and wilful. We feel more than we can express. And sometimes we should admit that.

This June National Geographic carried a "List of Most Predictable Passwords", be it for ATMs or email accounts. While variations of "12345" and "password" topped the list, "bleep" came in at fifth place. The magazine put a star at "bleep" and explained, "Not appropriate to publish in this magazine. Many popular passwords are vulgar." Clearly we all use vulgar words more than we wish to admit.

But one must earn the right to swear. They say to understand the Blues you must have lived a little. The same holds true of swearing. You have to have dented your new car, have met the wife of the man of your dream, have been betrayed by a friend, to be allowed to swear. It is a responsibility and a privilege and it must be earned. And must be used sparingly to have any value at all.

A movie like Delhi Belly replaced full-stops with expletives. It was hyperbolic and scatological — but it was also fun. Society tells us that only gangsters, molls and fisherwomen swear; People Like Us don't. But Delhi Belly showed that just as People Like Us might suffer from diarrhoea and dry flushes, People Like Us also curse. We are really not that different. In No One Killed Jessica, journalist Meera (Rani Mukerji) swore liberally as well — but in the worst way possible — to establish she was the boss. She did nothing for empowering the gaali.

Swearing often serves little purpose, it simply fills in the silences of pubescent boys and girls and the potty-mouthed uses it against those younger and weaker. But it has also held its place in literature down the ages. Shakespeare remains relevant 400 years later because he best articulated the messiness of the human condition. He wrote of sex, murder and revenge and swore liberally as well. "Zounds" and "Sblood" were some of his most scandalous. Meaning "God's wounds", this was the Elizabethan four-letter word. In Gone with the Wind would the line have carried through history if Rhett Butler had told Scarlett O'Hara at the door, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a hoot"? Would we remember Philip Larkin's line if it was, "They mess you up, your Mum and Dad"?

The four-letter word has a hallowed place in our society. It must be used with care, but it heeds our human imperfections. As loving father, Adam Mansbach sings to his son at night, in the recent Amazon bestseller Go The F to Sleep: "The tiger reclines in the simmering jungle./ The sparrow has silenced her cheep./ F*** your stuffed bear... Cut the crap. Sleep."

nandini.nair@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WAGES OF VIRTUE

P. RAGHAVAN

 

The results of the 66th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS), which was conducted in 2009-10 and focused on employment, have been mired in controversy, with some experts questioning the credibility of the numbers. Its findings — a sharp deceleration the growth of the labour force, of the workforce and even of unemployment rates, have been challenged. However, the clamour about the robustness of the survey's results has only served to camouflage its other major finding: the sharp surge in wages to an all-time high.

This is an important indicator of the growing impact of an inclusive growth strategy. And what is more significant is that wage gains have been extensive, covering all labour markets — both rural and urban, male and female, This, perhaps, explains the continued buoyancy in consumer markets despite the stagnant level of investment in the last few years.

Also interesting is the reversal of trends in growth rates. Wage gains have accelerated faster for women workers, in both salaried and casual-worker segments. For regular, or salaried, employees, the largest gains have been in urban markets; for casual workers, in rural markets — possibly due to the impact of NREGA. However, looking at the wage-gain numbers across genders shows that it was female workers who made the largest gains, in both rural and urban sectors. This might indicate a tightening in the availability of female workers across the board — perhaps due to withdrawals from the labour force.

On the positive side, the higher growth of wages for female workers has pushed up the ratio of female-to-male wages across most segments. The only exception is the urban casual-labour market, where the ratio has been relatively stable. This is a significant turnaround; the female-to-male wage ratio had steadily declined for almost three decades since 1983.

A look at the trends over the last 10 years would provide a better perception of these gains. While the wages of urban, salaried women workers grew an annual average rate of 15 per cent to Rs 309 in the five years between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the wages of regular women workers in the rural sector increased by 12.8 per cent, to Rs 156. In contrast, the wages of male salaried workers went up by only 13.2 per cent, to Rs 378 in the urban sector and by 11.4 per cent, to Rs 149 in the rural sector.

For casual workers, too, wages increases were the highest for female workers, up by 14.6 per cent to Rs 69 in the rural sector, and by 11.8 per cent to Rs 77 in the urban sector. For male casual workers, wages grew at a lower 13 per cent to Rs 102 in the rural sector, and 11.5 per cent to Rs 132 in the urban sector.

But despite the significant wage gains made in the last five years, wage rates remain highly skewed. Look, for instance, at the daily average earnings of male, salaried urban workers. This is the best-off, highest-paid labour segment; and in big states, their average earnings varied sharply, from Rs 283 to Rs 709. The most disadvantaged segment of the workforce, is female casual workers in rural areas; and here the disparity was even larger, with daily wages varying between Rs 58 to Rs 207 during the year.

And where was the average daily wages of the regular or salaried workers the highest? Interestingly, not in the richest states, but in middle- and low-income states, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala. In sharp contrast, male urban regular workers were paid the lowest in the richest states like Gujarat, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu. (The difference is between Rs 150 and Rs 200.) It is indeed a puzzle why fast-industrialising states, like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, with larger manufacturing sectors, continue to be among those with the lowest wages for regular salaried employees. Is it perhaps that the low wages here are an added incentive for rapid industrialisation?

Coming to the female casual workers in the rural sector — the most disadvantaged labour segment — states with the highest wages included Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan and Punjab. In contrast, the states which paid the lowest daily wage to female casual workers in the rural sector included both middle-income and poor states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.

It certainly looks like it will take a long time for wage rates to converge across states.

The writer is a senior editor with 'The Financial Express'

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE AFGHAN ENFORCER

 

Senior American and NATO officers in Afghanistan have wanted Ahmed Wali Karzai gone — set aside, retired, out of the country or worse — for many years now. His killing by a close family associate yesterday may have granted their wishes. But what now follows the death of the most powerful political broker in southern Afghanistan may be much worse than Karzai ever was. In fact, Afghanistan just got more dangerous and unpredictable.

After Hamid Karzai became president in 2002, his half brother Ahmed Wali virtually ran the southern provinces for him. However much Ahmed Wali Karzai was loved or loathed, his death leaves a huge political vacuum for the Americans and President Karzai at a critical moment for three efforts — the war against the Taliban, the start of the drawing down of American forces, and American efforts to talk to the Taliban and forge a peace agreement.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was involved in all three. He had forged tribal alliances to defend his half-brother's presidency and extend the central government's rule outside Kabul. He openly helped American and British forces with strategic advice and knowledge of the tribes, and ran a clandestine Afghan special operations team for the CIA. And, as early as 2007, he was the first prominent Afghan leader to start talks with the Taliban in a bid to end the war.

Of course, he was far better known in other, less savoury contexts. He was accused of being a drug smuggler or at least a protector of drug cartels — which he denied — and he was involved in the business rackets that the millions of dollars in American military spending brought to the south, in activities that included building bases, other construction projects, transportation of military goods and property speculation. You could not do business in the south without Ahmed Wali's knowing about it.

He was ruthless with the tribes who did not support the president; for example, he cut them out of the aid largesse that poured into the south once United States Marines arrived in force in 2009. His tribal politics often led his rivals to join the Taliban. He was a wheeler-dealer in the classic Afghan mould. But if he was a rogue, he was a lovable rogue who charmed you — one way of doing political business in Afghanistan.

Yet the corruption, controversy and tribal rivalries that always surrounded him did not endear him to American and British commanders when they arrived in the south; they had yet to learn how Afghans wield power. You got the feeling that many of these officers washed their hands after shaking Ahmed Wali's, not fully appreciating that this was Afghanistan, not West Point or Sandhurst.

I got to know Ahmed Wali before September 11, 2001, when he lived in exile from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in Quetta, Pakistan, with his half brother Hamid. He was the practical operator while Hamid was the ethereal dreamer. After 9/11, when Hamid Karzai became the first Pashtun tribal leader to enter Afghanistan (on a motorbike) to take on the Taliban, it was the ever-practical Ahmed Wali who provided him with cash to buy food, guns and a pair of binoculars.

For the rest of the war from Quetta, Ahmed Wali ran a clandestine network of Afghans in the city of Kandahar who, over satellite phones, called in the location of Taliban commanders so that the Americans could target them with cruise missiles. It was a nerve-racking job, and he lost many good friends to the Taliban. At that time he was quiet, unassuming, removed from the news media or controversy. I spoke to him often because he would tell me when his brother's satellite phone was free so I could ring Hamid Karzai and ask how the war was going.

He came into his own immediately after the fighting of 2001 ended, when his half-brother gave him the task of securing Kandahar — the Karzai family heartland — and the southern Pashtuns. By then the Taliban, who had never surrendered, had disappeared into Pakistan, as rival Pashtun warlords sponsored by the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence fought to control Kandahar.

When Ahmed Wali slipped into Kandahar, nobody took him seriously. But he soon made his presence felt. He was elected head of the provincial council of Kandahar province, a lowly job compared with that of provincial governor. But because of his connections in Kabul, and with American support, he soon made his word law in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan. He made many enemies, and fewer friends.

The motive of his killer, a family friend and onetime bodyguard of another brother of Hamid Karzai, is still unclear. But what seems certain is that nobody can entirely replace Ahmed Wali in holding the south together as he did.

Karzai is likely to install another of his brothers in the south to oversee the tribal politics and reassure his supporters. But there is a fear now of even greater fragmentation there. Governors, tribal chiefs, transporters and contractors in the four provinces will fight over the political and financial spoils. They will start to cut their own deals with neighbouring Pakistan, the Taliban and power brokers in Kabul.

Now the fear is that despite the military surge and the successes of American forces, uncertainty has once again returned to the south.

Ahmed Rashid is the author of 'Taliban' and 'Descent Into Chaos', The New York Times

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CHOOSE A CAPTAIN

MANOJCG

 

Choose a captain

An article in the RSS weekly, Organiser argues that, as the Congress is grooming Rahul Gandhi as its next prime ministerial candidate, the BJP should ready its own candidate rather than waiting another three years.

The article, written by M.V. Kamath and occasioned by Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh's statement that Gandhi was now fit to be PM, says that "it may be argued that the times proclaim the man, and the public does not have to get unduly panicky," but adds that "even so, the nation cannot wait for fate to decide its future and it has become incumbent on the two leading parties, the Congress and the BJP, to name the leaders preferred to be their prime ministerial candidate, come 2014."

Kamath adds: "It can be done without making a song and dance of it, and even behind the scenes, if that is a good alternative. But the message must reach the citizen that the future of the country and the strengthening of its administration and economic sinews is at the top of its agenda. Pre-planned is well planned."

He says that future prime ministers will have to be a new breed, capable of understanding the needs of a younger generation, their concerns going beyond caste and class, and that "a wise party will take note of it, present a united front, keeping internal bickerings under total control and command the respect of voters as Nehru did." He also talks about the paucity of "national" leaders despite the abundance of regional leaders. "Narendra Modi has done extraordinarily well in Gujarat — even his worst enemy cannot but admit to it — but where does he stand in the party?" he asks.

Trust the temple

The RSS believes nobody should be allowed to meddle with the wealth found at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Ram Madhav, spokeperson for the RSS, writes in an Organiser article that it is safe only in the hands of the deity, and no one else — not even government-run trusts — should handle it.

It says that the royal family's "enormous commitment" to the presiding deity must be acknowledged, in safeguarding the wealth despite the dip in their financial fortunes. Madhav writes that the ongoing litigation that led to the opening of the temple's locked chambers appears to be "motivated" by "sinister designs".

"This litigation has brought back into focus the critical issue of the control of Hindu temples by the political establishment. Temples and their entire wealth — whether lands or offerings or antiques — should belong to Hindu society only. There is a need to amend or discard the Hindu Endowment Act so that the religious places of Hindus become the property of society rather than the government," he says.

Madhav argues that the Kerala chief minister had been sensible in declaring that his government has no interest in taking over the wealth or management of the temple. "Suggestions by sections of the media and intelligentsia, like creating a museum or trust are also too premature. What is needed is for the entire Hindu society, including saints and spiritual leaders, to vociferously oppose any move to take over the temple or its wealth. Let it be protected by the management as before," he says.

NAC-do spirit

Panchjanya has an editorial on the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, which, it says, exists as a parallel government. It says the NAC is a direct result of Sonia Gandhi's ambition of remaining "super-prime minister" and that it has substantially weakened the prime minister's office. "The office of the prime minister is the soul of Parliamentary democracy. It is its main pole. This has been proven by everyone from Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Rajiv Gandhi, to Vishwanath Pratap Singh, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, all of whom led with the strength and respect at their command. But the way the prime minister is being treated today has not only damaged the integrity of the person sitting in that office, but completely undermined the importance, influence and respect of the institution," the article says.

The NAC, it argues, has put a question mark on the supremacy of Parliament, and is working towards making both the legislative and executive branches of democracy its "rubber stamp". It criticises the NAC-drafted Communal Violence bill, saying the people roped in to draft the legislation firmly believe in the theory that a Muslim or a Christian can never be a criminal and a Hindu can never be innocent.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE ART OF THE START

The rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 per cent has Democrats and Republicans reliably falling back on their respective cure-alls. It is evidence for liberals that we need more stimulus and for conservatives that we need more tax cuts to increase demand. I am sure there is truth in both, but I do not believe they are the whole story. I think something else, something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today's job market more than people realise.

Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the US economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here's what's scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don't employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they're all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.

Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can't, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.

Today's college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalisation and the IT revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job.

Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day —- more than a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria. This is not your parents' job market.

This is precisely why LinkedIn's founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley — besides co-founding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook and sits on the board of Mozilla — has a book coming out called The Start-Up of You, co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: "Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old midcareer professional! Here's how you build your career today."

Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mind-set and skill set to compete. "The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone," he said to me. "No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it's now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business."

To begin with, Hoffman says, that means ditching a grand life plan. Entrepreneurs don't write a 100-page business plan and execute it one time; they're always experimenting and adapting based on what they learn.

It also means using your network to pull in information and intelligence about where the growth opportunities are — and then investing in yourself to build skills that will allow you to take advantage of those opportunities. Hoffman adds: "You can't just say, 'I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.' " You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then "find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it's differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us."

Finally, you have to strengthen the muscles of resilience. "You may have seen the news that [the] online radio service Pandora went public the other week," Hoffman said. "What's lesser known is that in the early days [the founder] pitched his idea more than 300 times to VCs with no luck."Thomas L. Friedman

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NAC LANDS A COUP

If there was any doubt left after Tuesday's Cabinet reshuffle that Uttar Pradesh was top on the government's mind, Jairam Ramesh's decision to back the NAC's proposals on land acquisition makes the priorities clear. Interestingly, Wednesday's decision to back the NAC's proposals on land acquisition—Jairam said the draft Bill would be put out for debate next week—comes after the government had indicated that it was not going to accept the recommendations. But that was under a different rural development minister. Given that Rahul Gandhi's challenge to Mayawati is largely centred around the Bhatta-Parsaul and other land acquisitions, the move will have important ramifications.

Gandhi's campaign and the fact that the courts have struck down various land acquisitions by the Uttar Pradesh government forced Mayawati, and rightly so, to continuously come up with more attractive land acquisition rates and policies. To the extent the NAC proposals better these—the one-time payment, for one, has to be six times the circle rate; then there are generous annuities linked to minimum wages, jobs, and so on—accepting them is a good thing. The problem, however, lies with some of the other proposals. For one, the NAC wants no role for the private sector wherever more than 400 families are involved. Given how most private sector land acquisitions have been relatively smooth and most government acquisitions troublesome, that is certain to set back large projects; a government monopoly over land acquisition for large projects also gives government the ability to play favourites. The plan, it's important to keep in mind, is a U-turn on the larger role for the private sector. The current draft Bill, for instance, suggests that the private sector buy 70% of the land first, and it is only after this that the government acquire the rest—Mamata Banerjee wanted this to be raised to 90%, but presumably a loan package for West Bengal could be dangled as a bait.

A critical piece here is a 25% capital appreciation clause. One of the NAC proposals, put forward by NC Saxena, is that a fourth of any capital appreciation up to 25 years after the land is sold will have to be shared with the original landowner. So, if a flat built on land got for a housing complex is resold after 24 years, a fourth of the capital appreciation will be given to the landloser. While Saxena is of the view the NAC has ratified this, there is some confusion. And Jairam's statement about whether land should be acquired for golf courses suggests a government role in deciding which projects will be cleared. Why not just specify conversion rates from agriculture to industrial/commercial use and let the private sector acquire the land?

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THINK LOCAL, ACT GLOBAL

With investments by Indian firms in overseas markets rising 144%, from $18bn in 2009-10 to $44bn in 2010-11, it's tempting to conclude that this is a natural corollary of the policy paralysis India has seen a lot of over the past couple of years. Indeed, FE's Page 1 story today, of TVS Motor planning to shift half its export production to China immediately (70% over 3 years), is testimony to the impact this policy drift is having on sections of India Inc. But to explain away India Inc's aggressive outward foray as a defensive reaction to a hostile domestic environment is missing the wood for the trees. In any case, around $650bn was invested, largely by India Inc, in the economy last year; so the $44bn of outward FDI is small change in this context—indeed, this includes a big jump of $20bn of 'guarantees' issued by Indian corporates and that could be a one-time blip.

The big deals of the last fiscal—Bharti's $10.7bn Zain buyout in Africa and Reliance's $5.8bn investments in shale gas in the US—are by and large strategic buys for companies that have proved their mettle in India and have set their sights on going global. Shopping abroad is a natural progression for India Inc, after learning to compete successfully with global biggies who crowded our shores post-liberalisation in 1991. Buying market share, technology, or plugging a portfolio gap in industries where the game is global is a business imperative, and each of these Indian investors must have weighed the domestic vis-à-vis foreign opportunity crucially, and for the long term, not necessarily getting influenced by the prevailing far-from-benign business conditions domestically. If a local consumer buying a car can just as easily buy a Tata Motors car as one from General Motors, then Tata Motors has to be globally competitive and if buying JLR helps in that, then so be it.

As a country, too, strong outward FDI is a measure of an economy's heft playing out globally through its companies' ability to put down global roots. Could the US have become a global superpower if it didn't have the globe-trotting IBMs, GEs or Coca-Colas? Equally, diversifying trade baskets have led to companies like Godrej, Marico and Dabur buying local companies in markets like Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The hunger for more food, fuel and other natural resources has sent companies like Lanco and Karuturi scurrying for mines and farms in faraway Australia and Africa. Think of outward FDI as India's strength, not its weakness.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FROM ITALY TO THE US, UTOPIA VS REALITY

MARTIN WOLF

 

In the eurozone, the fiscal crisis is lapping on Italy's shores. In the US, the administration declares it will run out of funding early next month if the debt ceiling is not raised. Far fewer Europeans than Americans believe public sector defaults are beneficial. But important Europeans share with Republicans the view that there are still worse outcomes. For reluctant Europeans, the eurozone must not be a "transfer union". For recalcitrant Republicans, taxes must not be raised. Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus—let right be done even if the world perishes—is the motto.

 

The fiscal crises we see are a legacy of the west's private and public sector debt binges of recent decades. As the McKinsey Global Institute tells us in an update of last year's study of the aftermath of the credit bubble, this is an early stage of a painful process of deleveraging in several economies (see chart). "If history is a guide," noted the 2010 report, "we would expect many years of debt reduction in specific sectors of some of the world's largest economies, and this process will exert a significant drag on GDP growth." So it is proving, with disappointment almost everywhere.

 

The link between private and public sector debt is intimate. In some countries, notably Greece, easy credit led to an upsurge in public sector borrowing. In others, notably Italy, it encouraged governments to relax attention to debt reduction: its primary fiscal budget (before interest) moved from a surplus of 6% of gross domestic product in 1997, before joining the currency union, to 0.6% in 2005. Elsewhere, the sudden end of private sector credit booms led directly to collapses in government revenue and surges in public spending: the US, UK, Spain and Ireland are examples.

Exploding fiscal deficits are mainly the result of collapses in activity and revenue rather than of bank bail-outs. But fiscal weakness then undermines the banks, partly because the latter hold large quantities of domestic public debt and partly because they rely on fiscal support. The private and public sectors are intertwined. The view of Republican hawks in the US and of German or Dutch hawks in Europe that the crisis has fiscal roots alone is wrong. Easy credit ends up in fiscal crises.

US evidence is striking. Compare the forecasts for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012 in the 2008 and 2012 presidential budgets, the first under George W Bush shortly before the crisis and the second under Barack Obama well after it (see chart). The 2011 deficit was forecast in 2008 to be a mere $54bn (0.3% of GDP). But in the 2012 budget, it is forecast to be $1,645bn (10.9% of GDP). 58% of this rise is due to unexpectedly low revenue and only 42% due to a surge in spending, both of these changes mostly due to the financial crisis, not the modest stimulus package (about 6% of GDP).

The astonishing feature of the federal fiscal position is that revenues are forecast to be a mere 14.4% of GDP in 2011, far below their postwar average of close to 18%. Individual income tax is forecast to be a mere 6.3% of GDP in 2011. This non-American cannot understand what the fuss is about: in 1988, at the end of Ronald Reagan's term, receipts were 18.2% of GDP. Tax revenue has to rise substantially if the deficit is to close.

It is not that tackling the US fiscal position is urgent. At a time of private sector deleveraging, it is helpful. The US is able to borrow on easy terms, with yields on 10-year bonds close to 3%, as the few non-hysterics predicted. The fiscal challenge is long term, not immediate. A decision not to allow the government to borrow to finance the programmes Congress has already mandated would be insane. As the fiscal expert, Bruce Bartlett, has argued, the law requiring Congressional approval of extra debt might even be unconstitutional.

Yet, astonishingly, many of the Republicans opposed to raising the US debt ceiling do not merely wish to curb federal spending: they enthusiastically desire a default. Either they have no idea how profound would be the shock to their country's economy and society of a repudiation of debt legally contracted by their state, or they fall into the category of utopian revolutionaries, heedless of all consequences. Meanwhile in Europe, happily, nobody believes that defaults are good. But Europe is trapped in its own utopian project: the single currency. Just as members of the Tea Party hate paying taxes for those they deem unworthy, so, too, do solvent Europeans hate transfers to those they deem irresponsible.

Alas, as many have long predicted, what would, in the absence of the currency union, have been a straightforward currency crisis has now morphed, within these constraints, into an agonising fiscal cum financial crisis. Worse, spreads on Spanish and Italian 10-year bonds over German bunds have reached 328 and 296 basis points, respectively.

In slow-growing economies with overvalued real exchange rates, these spreads begin to be dangerous. If they became and remained, say, 400 basis points, the real interest rate on long-term debt would be 5%. These countries would then be slowly shifted from a good equilibrium, with manageable debt, to a bad equilibrium, with close to unmanageable debt. Italy, with the fourth-largest public debt in the world, is probably too big to save: Italians themselves must make the decisive moves needed to restore fiscal credibility. That, in turn, requires both a sharp tightening and measures to raise the growth rate. Can this combination be managed? Only with difficulty, is the answer.

These are dangerous times. The US may be on the verge of making among the biggest and least-necessary financial mistakes in world history. The eurozone might be on the verge of a fiscal cum financial crisis that destroys not just the solvency of important countries but even the currency union and, at worst, much of the European project. These times require wisdom and courage among those in charge of our affairs. In the US, utopians of the right are seeking to smash the state that emerged from the 1930s and the second world war. In Europe, politicians are dealing with the legacy of a utopian project which requires a degree of solidarity that their peoples do not feel. How will these clashes between utopia and reality end? In late August, when I return from my break, we may know at least some of the answers.

martin.wolf@ft.com

©The Financial Times Limited 2011

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FUTURE OF BT BRINJAL

ROBERT WAGER

Ask any farmer and you will hear how difficult it is to grow food crops. This is particularly true when one looks at agriculture in the developing world. Large variations in rainfall, waves of pests and huge subsidies for North American and European agriculture make farming in the developing world very challenging. Now there is a new obstacle, the obstruction from environmental non-governmental organisations (eNGOs) that are using falsehoods, scare stories and pseudo-science to pressure governments to block proven agricultural technology. The story of Bt brinjal in India is an excellent example of negative impact caused by these eNGOs.

Brinjal is a staple food for millions of people in the developing world. Unfortunately, insect pests also like brinjal. Indian farmers often lose over half of their brinjal crop to insect pests. Until recently, pesticide spraying was the only option farmers had to protect their crop. It is common for brinjal to be sprayed more than 50 times in a growing season. Agricultural scientists have developed an alternative to the massive spraying of pesticides. It is called Bt brinjal.

Bt stands for a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. These bacteria produce proteins that target insect pests. When the insect ingests the Bt bacteria or just the Bt protein itself, it dies. Bt bacteria have been used as organic pesticides for over 100 years in China and over 40 years in the organic food industry. They are safe and effective. Modern agricultural scientists have transferred the Bt proteins into a variety of crops to produce insect-resistant crops. These crops are a type of GM crop and as such have suffered from huge anti-GM campaigns driven by eNGOs.

The science of GM crops is years old and thousands of experiments have been conducted to test the products. With respect to Bt crops, the UN-OECD 2007 report Consensus Document on Safety Information on Transgenic Plants Expressing Bacillus thuringiensis-Derived Insect Control Protein states: "Both the long history of safe use of B.thuringiensis and the acute oral toxicity data allow for a conclusion that these and other d-endotoxins pose negligible toxicity risk to humans."

When considering GM crops in general, the 2010 EU report A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001-2010) stated: "According to the projects' results, there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms."

A decade of Bt brinjal research has demonstrated yield increases of 70%. Further, the huge reduction in pesticide spraying coupled with the increased yields would benefit the Indian farmer by R70,000 per hectare. During the process to gain commercial approval of Bt brinjal, the Indian Genetic Engineering Approval Committee stated: [Bt brinjal] "is effective in controlling target pests, safe to the environment, non toxic as determined by toxicity and animal feeding trials, non allergenic and has the potential to benefit the farmers."

Although science is clearly on the side of commercialisation of Bt brinjal, the politics of GM crops in India is anything but clear. When the then environment & forests minister Jairam Ramesh declared a moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal, he said he had to be "responsible to science". He then went on to claim that Greenpeace-sponsored researcher Dr Seralini had demonstrated harm from Bt crops and this helped him decide on a moratorium.

Greenpeace is one of the world's largest eNGOs. They have been clear that no amount of scientific research will convince them that GM crops are safe. Is it any wonder that Greenpeace-sponsored 'research' found fault with Bt crops? But, if one looks at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review of the Seralini 'research', a very different conclusion is reached. EFSA said the Seralini 'research' did not present any new information or reason to change the safe evaluation of three different Bt maize crops. The EFSA statement agrees with every other scientific body that has evaluated Bt crops. Seralini's claims have repeatedly been rejected by world food safety authorities. Conversely, globally accepted research is unanimous in its support for the commercial release of Bt brinjal. What did minister Ramesh mean when he said he was "responsible to science"?

A decade ago, the Indian government held back on the commercial release of Bt cotton, even though science clearly supported its release. The result was widespread illegal planting of Bt cotton by farmers who had realised the benefits of the technology. Soon, problems of counterfeit Bt seeds started causing huge crop losses to farmers who thought they were planting genuine Bt cotton. If the current moratorium of Bt brinjal in India is not reversed, the same problems seen with the delayed release of Bt cotton will return to haunt the Indian farmers who already want to plant Bt brinjal.

Greenpeace advocates the use of Bt bacteria in organic agriculture but then claims Bt proteins, from the same bacteria, are dangerous when they are found in GM crops!

Late Norman Borlaug has been credited with developing crops that saved a billion people in the developing world. Greenpeace has a very active anti-GM campaign in the developing world. When asked about Greenpeace, Dr Borlaug had said: "These are utopian people that live on Cloud 9 and come into the third world and cause all kinds of confusion and negative impacts on the developing countries."

Reduced pesticide sprays, increased yields and healthier food are all well documented outcomes from Bt crop technology yet minister Ramesh had said the Greenpeace-sponsored anti-GM campaign justifies the moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal. It is very difficult to understand how this is being "responsible to science".

The author is a faculty member at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Canada

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A NEW COUNTRY IS BORN

The birth of the Republic of South Sudan has suffused a conflict-ridden part of the world with euphoria. South Sudan, whose eight million people comprise Christians and followers of other African religions, voted in a referendum in January 2011 to separate from the Arab-Muslim dominated north Sudan. The referendum itself was the culmination of a 2005 peace treaty that came after a four-decade long armed struggle by the south Sudanese, backed by the United States and other western powers, in which more than a million people are estimated to have been killed. At the independence celebrations in the new country's capital Juba, the attendance of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir signalled that the Sudanese leadership had come to terms with a separation it long tried to prevent through the use of force and repression. President al-Bashir's participation in the celebrations was crucial. Even the U.S., which is in the forefront of efforts to bring him to trial for alleged genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur, seemed thankful for his presence alongside other international leaders — India, among the first to recognise the new country, was represented by Vice-President Hamid Ansari — for the swearing-in of the first President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit. The reason: ironical as it seems, having achieved a hard-fought liberation from Sudan, Africa's 54th nation is now almost entirely dependent on the good wishes of the parent country for its well-being.

This is the big challenge facing the new country. South Sudan has inherited the bulk of the undivided Sudan's oil wealth, with which it hopes to transform its present poor economic conditions. It has already generated investment from the world's major economic powers. But the oil refineries are located in Sudan, as is the seaport from which the oil is exported. The pipelines that take the oil to the port are laid across the length of the north. Key to how the two countries divide their oil wealth is whether they can resolve their rival claims over the border area of Abeyi. As recently as May, the Sudanese Army occupied the area in an operation in which 100 people died and over 45,000 were displaced. There has also been fighting in South Kordofan — Sudan has sent its forces there to retain a region whose people fought on the side of the south Sudanese but now find themselves north of the international border. Much will depend on how President al-Bashir views the west's considerable influence in South Sudan, given the troubles in Darfur and the ICC charges against him. Fortunately, since Sudan too needs the money from the oil, it should be as interested in a peaceful resolution of its disputes with its newest neighbour.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

FUNDING FOLLY COMPOUNDED

The government has succumbed to collective pressure from Members of Parliament — barring those from the Left — and agreed to a generous increase in the annual allocation under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme. In place of Rs.2 crore, each MP will now get Rs.5 crore. This marks a tenfold increase of the sum allocated when the scheme was launched in 1993. The annual bill will now be Rs.3,950 crore. This decision flies in the face of criticism expressed over time by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the National Advisory Council, the Administrative Reforms Commission, and the Planning Commission as well as public-spirited individuals, among them Bhim Singh, Era Sezhiyan, and J.M. Lyngdoh. Allegations of diversion of funds came to the fore first in 2003, and again in 2005 through a sting operation by a television channel.

Last year, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India dismissed a batch of petitions against MPLADS. Upholding its constitutional validity, the judgment noted that there were "sufficient checks and balances" to prevent misuse. But it added that "this court does not sit in judgment of the veracity of a scheme, but only its legality … The court can strike down a law or scheme only on the basis of its vires or unconstitutionality but not on the basis of its viability." The court also called for "efforts…to make the [accountability] regime more robust." It is clear then that the judgment fell short of an unconditional endorsement of the wisdom and practical logic behind MPLADS. Moreover, at least a couple of points the judgment held in favour of the scheme have been modified by the government. Under the revised guidelines, up to 75 per cent (instead of 50 per cent) of the project cost can be released as the first instalment, and a Lok Sabha member can spend up to Rs.10 lakh a year anywhere in India — this, it is claimed, is to "promote national unity and fraternity among the people." The basket of works that can be taken up has been widened. If anything, the new guidelines have only loosened the purse-strings. The changes seem tailor-made to speed up the outflow of funds and expand outflow routes. The government ought to appoint a high-level national commission to examine this inherently wasteful and conceptually flawed scheme. What concerned citizens can do here and now is this: they can use the provisions of the Right to Information Act to seek data on money drawn and spent under the scheme in every parliamentary constituency, identify the purposes it serves, and see whom it reaches.

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THE HINDU

REBELS MAKE GAINS IN LIBYA'S WESTERN MOUNTAINS

DAVID SMITH

A flattened lamp-post, two neat rows of bullets and a no-left-turn sign lying on the tarmac road mark the frontline in Libya's western mountains.

Nearby are seven young men, leaning against a battle-scarred building they say was once a guardhouse for Italian soldiers during the Second World War. Another sits on a rock, gazing into the desert of no man's land in search of Muammar Qadhafi's forces, said to be only two kilometres away.

The advance in the Nafusa mountains, in western Libya, has raised hopes of a significant breakthrough for rebels striving to reach Tripoli and topple Mr. Qadhafi. Whereas the battlefields in eastern Libya have reached a virtual stalemate, rebel soldiers have seized 40kms of this rocky terrain in recent weeks, putting government troops on the defensive.

But it is a hard campaign, an attritional struggle unlikely to meet NATO's timetable for an end to the war, especially with a further slowdown expected for Ramadan next month. The rebels are forced to consolidate their gains before they can think about moving forward.

The young men guarding the frontline post at Qawalish said Mr. Qadhafi's troops tried to retake it two days ago and subject them to a nightly bombardment of Grad rockets.

"We are not scared," said a 21-year-old, who gave his name as Ahmed, half-an-hour after another rocket had thudded into the earth nearby. "We are OK, we just take these things, we get used to it. It's the Qadhafi army who's afraid." Sitting on a wooden crate of ammunition and wearing a Valencia football shirt, army trousers and trainers, Ahmed said he was risking his life for two reasons: "Democracy. Freedom." Qawalish fell to the rebels a week ago as, kilometre by kilometre, they gradually push from west to east along the mountain ridge. On the road to the frontline the Guardian saw a series of ghost towns which were home to thousands of residents during peacetime. There were wrecked shop fronts, abandoned mosques, concrete buildings blackened by fire, cars blown upside down and tanks and rocket launchers apparently destroyed by NATO air strikes.

Government soldiers who were not killed or captured during these battles appeared to have fled, leaving a trail of abandoned uniforms, boots and weapons still visible in the shade of trees where they once camped. Along roads the rebels used to move in on Qawalish, government forces planted 240 anti-personnel mines and 72 anti-tank mines, say Human Rights Watch.

The road passes through checkpoints that consist of mounds of earth and improvised road blocks: a plastic bin, car seat, tyre, gas canister and a dining chair. At one a yellow fluorescent jacket was hoisted on a pole, arms outstretched like a scarecrow. At another, a painted sign said: "Welcome to Freedoom," which may or may not have been a misspelling. Revolutionary graffiti and the red, black and green colours of the rebels are everywhere.

The next major prize, about 50 kms away, is Gharyan, a heavily fortified city 100 kms south of Tripoli along a government-controlled road. A previous uprising in Gharyan was brutally crushed but it is believed that rebel sympathisers remain. Colonel Juma Ibrahim, of the military council in western Libya, said: "Gharyan is the capital of the western mountains. When we finish Gharyan, all the western mountains are under our control. There is no other way to Tripoli." Asked if his men were capable of taking Tripoli, Colonel Ibrahim insisted: "It will be so easy, more than Gharyan. We would have a clear road to Tripoli. I have contact with people around Tripoli, in Zawiya, Zuwarah and Al 'Aziziyah, and they are waiting for us. When we get to Gharyan, we can open many frontlines." He added: "There will be an uprising in Tripoli. When we are near, they will think they can move."

Speaking in Zintan, a town that spent two months under siege but where the streets now bustle with rebel ordnance, Colonel Ibrahim gave an upbeat assessment of when the capital would fall. "Less than one month, inshallah ." But just as in Benghazi and Misrata, this is an ersatz army of former doctors, engineers, students, taxi drivers and teachers, in need of training and weapons. They are highly dependent on hardware captured from Mr. Qadhafi's forces, some of which they repair or upgrade with the help of technical manuals they find on the internet.

Al-Fitouri Muftah, a member of the local military council in Kikla, one of the closest towns to the frontline, warned: "We don't have enough weapons and bullets to capture Gharyan. We don't have anything except what we capture from the Qadhafi forces." The 60-year-old, previously a government soldier, called on NATO to do more. "NATO's performance is weak. NATO is necessary for us to take Gharyan." As Mr. Muftah spoke, the rumble of NATO planes overhead indicated that Mr. Qadhafi's troops would leave their positions and run for cover, affording Kikla a respite from enemy fire. But shortly afterwards, when it appeared that NATO had left, the boom of another ordnance explosion could be heard from a nearby hill.

Mr. Muftah, treading on a dusty doormat that bore Mr. Qadhafi's face, said rockets still land on Kikla every day, including around 30 on Monday alone. "Mr. Qadhafi just wants to destroy the town," he said. "He wants to kill as many rebels as he can." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Weeks of fierce fighting see troops consolidate positions less than 160 km from the capital.

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 THE HINDU

A DAY AT THE VINEYARDS

P. SAINATH

Some of that legendary 'Banarasi pan' could have begun its journey from Gujjari Mohanty's vineyard in Govindpur, Orissa. "I've sold our leaves in Benares [Varanasi] myself," says her son Sanatan. As have many of their neighbours. "Our leaves are high-quality and greatly valued." The betel leaf, though, is not just about pan. It is also valued for medicinal qualities as a digestive, for the antiseptic nature of its oil, and its use along with arecanut for treating different ailments under Ayurveda.

The vineyard is tiny, just a tenth of an acre (roughly 4,300 square feet). Multiple rows of bamboo and other sticks eight feet tall hold up, in all, hundreds of metres of betel vine ( Piper betle ). The vineyard is fenced off with bamboo also carrying other creepers. And a thin thatch of casuarina and coconut leaves cover the top. Casuarina leaves offer only a light shade and so make ideal "roofing" — since some degree of sunlight is also vital. The rows are inches apart and you have to walk sideways to cross one. It's expertly organised and feels like a pleasantly air-conditioned room.

"The work is skilled but not strenuous," says Gujjari Mohanty who, past 70, handles it easily. It requires frequent but light irrigation. "It needs attention every day for brief periods," says a neighbour. "But even a weak, older person can do much of this." Some chores, though, are tougher and command twice the daily wage rate of Rs.200. In official count, Posco's project zone holds around 1,800 betel farms. Farmers here say 2,500. These vineyards would die if the farmland here were acquired for Posco's Rs.52,000-crore power and steel project. The government insists the betel farms are on forest land. The villagers, who have occupied this land for well over 80 years, demand their rights over it be recognised under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

Betel farmers in Dhinkia and Govindpur villages, home to the largest number of vineyards, are resisting the takeover of their land. "Who is demanding jobs?" asks Sanatan Mohanty. "There's only a demand for labour here. We pay the highest daily wage rate." Sanatan and Gujjari speak to us while tending the vineyard and while sorting the leaves at home into kadas (bundles of 50). In a year, they might harvest up to seven or eight lakh leaves, sometimes even 10 lakh, from this tenth of an acre. With over 2,000 farms, some of them bigger, that's a lot of leaves. And most of this is exported out of Orissa.

With countless thousands of other betel farms in the State, the quantities exported are not small. Where once it all went to Benares, their produce now reaches Mumbai, Dhaka and Karachi. That's in a scenario where agriculture and forest products now account for just 0.01 per cent of Orissa's exports, according to the State's latest Economic Survey. (Mineral and metallurgical products make up over 80 per cent.) Oddly enough, the word 'Odisha,' which is the official name of the State, means "land of farmers." But agriculture's share of GSDP is down to 18 per cent though well over 60 per cent of people depend on it. The communities here, along with other coastal folk, also have a share in Orissa's marine fish exports, already badly hit by Paradip port. Posco's planned captive port at Jatadhari would bury this sector.

"In the first three quarters of the year we get two lakh leaves in each, in the last one around 1.2 lakh leaves," says Ranjan Swain, a betel farmer. "That lower yield is in the three winter months, but the quality improves and prices double in that period."

"For the first six lakh leaves," points out Jagadish Pradhan of the Odisha Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (the Orissa village self-rule campaign), "they get Rs.450 per thousand leaves on average. That gives them around Rs.2.7 lakhs. For the remaining 1.2 lakh winter leaves they make a rupee a leaf. In all, a total of Rs.3.9 lakh."

The over 540 work days this produces in a year in 4,000 to 5,000 square feet means a labour cost of Rs.1.5 lakh, calculates Pradhan. The wage rate here at Rs.200 and higher is above what a construction worker in Bhubaneswar gets. But workers taking on tasks like lifting and tying of the creepers command up to Rs.500 a day. Those handling manure application, Rs.400. Workers doing earth filling and fencing claim Rs.350 a day. These tasks though last fewer days in a year. It means, however, that even landless workers are unenthusiastic about Posco's project.

On average, the wage paid out is almost double the State's MNREGS rate of Rs.125. And it comes with a good meal. Then there are the costs on organic manure (oil cake), the wooden poles, bamboo pieces, rope wire, pump set maintenance. These add up to another Rs.50,000. "There are no transportation costs. The merchants pick them up from our doorstep in vans. There are a few other costs, but minor ones." (As in much of rural India, farmers never count their family labour as a cost). After a total expenditure of around Rs.2 lakhs, they're left with between Rs.1.5 to Rs.2 lakhs each year. "And some of them," observes Pradhan, "have more than one vineyard." Sanatan has four. Barring a brief period after the 1999 super-cyclone, several here have managed their farms largely without bank loans.

On the three acres his family have apart from the vineyards, Sanatan has over 70 species of trees, plants, fruit and medicinal herbs. (He takes one yield of paddy from a limited patch for his family's consumption.) This too is a good source of income.

Against this, the compensation the State is offering betel farms works out to Rs.1.15 lakh for a tenth of an acre farm like the one we're in now. "Imagine what we would lose," says Sanatan. A thought shared by thousands of others. "All this for a project that has a life of 30 years. And who will give us our prawns, our fish, our wind, our highly fertile lands, our weather and climate?"

"I have spent nearly ten lakhs on educating my four children in the past several years. I am building a house that costs a little less than that. We don't need their compensation. We need our livelihoods."

"Do they think we're idiots when they talk about jobs?" asks Gujjari. "Every thing is getting mechanised. Who goes today to the post office, buys Rs.5 stamps, and sends letters when there are mobile phones?"

Oddly enough, the word "Odisha," which is the official name of the State, means "land of farmers."

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THE HINDU

INDIA-PAKISTAN: NEED FOR INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION

AMARJEET SINGH DULAT & ASAD DURRANI

Post-9/11 and post-26/11, one would think that exchange of intelligence information among friendly agencies was occurring as a matter of course — to help fill information gaps, to verify sources and substance, and to get a 'second opinion.' However, as any report on intelligence reform or failures shows, the absence of coordination, even among their own agencies, remains problematic. Those in the business know why it is so rare. Intelligence agencies are possessive of turf and sources. They are reluctant to part with potentially valuable leads. Very often, though, doubt about the quality or veracity of information deters an agency from sharing it, to avoid embarrassment. Intelligence cooperation is an exception.

However, despite the valid questions, doubts and apprehensions, one can also envision conditions when such cooperation is thinkable. When countries are faced with common external or internal threats, exchange of mutually beneficial information might not only be thinkable but also desirable, even prudent.

Intelligence services could provide an ideal backchannel to pave the way for political dialogue — with the added advantage of discretion and deniability. It cannot harm anyone and may even help. If the governments concerned are not in a position to embark upon a "peace process" due to political constraints, they may ask their premier agencies to establish links. (In rare cases, the agencies may even do so on their own initiative.) By the time the environment has become favourable for the dialogue to be brought out of the basement, the secret channel would have prepared ground, identified contacts, and may even recommend an out of the box approach. If war is not a serious option, then dialogue — away from public glare and, therefore, under less pressure — makes plenty of sense.

Cooperation can also help to guard against panic reactions: for example, unintended mobilisation of forces or possible nuclear alerts. Some intra- or extra-regional forces could cause crises that might spin out of control, with possible nuclear consequences. While the nuclear bogey should not be exaggerated, for these and other reasons it is advisable to establish a preventive mechanism; intelligence cooperation indeed being its lynchpin. Even in the worst days of the Cold War, the CIA and the KGB never ceased contacts, even through open declared officers in each other's capitals.

Our two countries, India and Pakistan, have all the above reasons for covert, even overt, intelligence cooperation. Indeed, the two countries have taken related measures of a non-intelligence nature — some of them before going overtly nuclear in May 1998. During the Pakistan Army's multi-corps exercise in 1989, Zarb-E-Momin, India did not move its troops to the borders since its ambassador and military attachés in Islamabad were informed and observers invited. Similarly, when the Indian security forces were wrapping up Sikh militancy in the Punjab in 1992, Pakistan was duly informed, and perhaps even offered facilities to do ground checks. Post-nuclearisation, to avoid misunderstandings about their nuclear alert statuses, both countries have developed a reasonably functional system of exchanging information, including, importantly, forewarning missile testing.

One would have reasonably assumed that post 9/11, with so much trouble on Pakistan's western borders, the country would have reached some understanding with India to prevent tensions in the east. Post-26/11, it seems that it had not. During the Cold War, the U.S. was notoriously less than generous when sharing information with NATO allies (post-9/11, its interest in information sharing increased). If that be so among allies, what are the prospects that India and Pakistan, with long standing ill-will, will engage in any meaningful cooperation? And, even if they could, would either side trust the other?

Maybe. Notwithstanding their differences, neighbours understand each other better than distant powers. It is not very likely that the two antagonists would agree on a common approach to address regional security. Past baggage and divergence in views on how best to resolve, for example the problem of Afghanistan, argue against it. They, however, might have a common interest to prevent another incident of the kind which occurred in Mumbai in November 2008 — India for obvious reasons, and Pakistan since it can ill-afford to be distracted from its internal front and the fallout from the war in Afghanistan. Also, since the perception that the GHQ rules the roost in Pakistan is widespread, intelligence cooperation may be one way to reach out to people who matter.

A Joint Anti-terror Mechanism (JATM) agreed upon after the 2006 NAM Summit in Havana hardly moved forward, leave alone achieve any success, especially given the Indian concerns in the aftermath of the 26/11 carnage. Terrorism cannot be addressed by a panchayat (committee); intelligence agencies are much better equipped to deal with it. At the very least, it needs to be improved to ensure sharing of intelligence at least on groups operating from either side of the borders. In case of an incident, it must provide for joint actions, like investigation and interrogation of suspects. Bureaucratic and political reservations are expected; some of them are even legitimate, such as concerns about "sovereignty" and intrusion in sensitive matters. However, if these are not overcome, endless exchange of dossiers, a la post-26/11, is unavoidable. A revolutionary step like JATM will only work gradually, starting with areas of critical interest for both India and Pakistan; for example, against a group out to embarrass both or start a war between them. Once rapport is established, we might expand cooperation. As the two sides develop trust and rapport, the canvass is bound to expand. One day, even joint trials might become possible.

Intelligence links between neighbours are obviously desirable. It is better to institutionalise them now, rather than trying to activate them in times of crisis (that is why they failed in 26/11). In due course, both sides would understand the need for 'open' intelligence posts in diplomatic missions. In the meantime, petty harassment of each other's officers and staff could end. Intelligence links can succeed where all others fail. What agencies can achieve is not at times even conceivable in political or diplomatic channels.

(This is a joint paper by two former heads of intelligence — Amarjeet Singh Dulat of RAW, and Asad Durrani of the ISI — discussed in a Track II setting with current and former policymakers from July 1-4 in Berlin, at the 59th Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. It now appears simultaneously in The News International and The Hindu . )

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THE HINDU

THE DEATH OF A WARLORD

PRAVEEN SWAMI

Eleven centuries ago, Afghan poet Abu Shukur wrote words which have often haunted rulers of his tormented nation:

" a tree with a bitter seed,

fed with butter and sugar,

will still bear a bitter fruit. "

The assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half-brother and one of the country's most feared men, necessitates a careful reflection on the abiding power of its country's warlords and what their influence portends, as the United States begins scaling down its forces.

Long cultivated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mr. Karzai used his connections to build an empire in Kandahar: an empire that is alleged to have been paid for with cash harvested from the drugs trade as well as business interests that extended from land to transportation and infrastructure projects. Even though the U.S. was well aware of his corruption, leaked diplomatic cables suggest it feared losing a powerful partner in the war against the Taliban.

In a little-noticed speech delivered in the winter of 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush's Defence Secretary, declared that the U.S. was not in Afghanistan "to engage in what some call nation-building."

That decision gave birth to the Emperor of Kandahar — and demonstrates, as nothing else could, the failure of the neoconservative way of war.

Manufacturing warlords: Modern Afghanistan's foundations are often said to have been laid by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747. For over a century though, the country remained locked in a near-permanent state of crisis. Lacking domestic resources and hemmed in by powerful neighbours, successive kings simply did not command the cash needed to build a strong state.

From 1880 though, King Abdur Rahman Khan and his successors began to lay the foundations for a modern state, adroitly leveraging competition between imperial Britain and Russia to raise the resources they needed. Afghanistan acquired a standing army and a functioning tax-collection and banking apparatus.

King Zahir Shah, the last Afghan monarch, was deposed in a bloodless coup led by his brother-in-law, Muhammad Daud, in 1973. Daud accelerated the pace of reforms, using aid from the Soviet Union. Five years later, another coup brought the Afghan communist party to power.

Faced with rebellion by traditional tribal elites and clerics, who were incensed at the new regime's programme of land reform and social change, Afghanistan called for military assistance from the Soviet Union. The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan responded to the Soviet intervention by sponsoring Islamist insurgents, sparking off one of the greatest wars of our times.

The war had seismic consequences for Afghanistan's political life. "New Khans," scholar Antonio Guistozzi has recorded, displaced the traditional leadership. In the main from humble backgrounds, the New Khans were "effective military leaders [who] emerged from the ranks of former officers, political activists, former outlaws and only marginally rural notables."

In 1992, a coalition of Islamist groups led by Burhanuddin Rabbani — now a key figure in Mr. Hamid Karzai's efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban — came to power in Kabul. It lacked the resources though, to impose its authority over the "New Khan" warlords who had fought the anti-Soviet jihad.

From 1994, the Pakistan-backed clerical networks which called themselves the Taliban began to battle the tide of warlord violence that washed over Afghanistan. In 1996, the Taliban took power in Kabul, and set up a shari'a-based regime, called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Islamic opposition to the Afghan state has a long history. Najamuddin Akhundzada, Mullah of Hada, led what came to be known as the Great Pashtun Rebellion in 1897. His mentor, Sayyid Ahmad of Rae Bareilli, sought to unite the Pashtun tribes to wage a jihad against the Lahore durbar — dying, in 1831, during a battle which still fires the imagination of regional Islamists. Mirza Ali Khan, the Faqir of Ipi, waged a guerrilla war against Britain in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sana Haroon's magnificent history of the region, Frontiers of Faith , has demonstrated that Afghanistan's clerical networks cut across tribal and clan lines, allowing for mobilisation against both the growing influence of the British and the expansion of the Afghan state in the late 19th century.

Even the Taliban was compelled to seek accommodation with the warlords. Elements of groups like the Hizb-e Islami, the Jamiat-e Islami and Junbesh-e Milli — as well as mainly Shi'a groups like the Hizb-e Wahadat — entered into agreements with the Islamic Emirate, allowing them to continue policing their local areas of influence.

The rise of men like Mr. Karzai, Guistozzi has argued, must thus be traced to "the slow and incomplete formation of nationwide social classes and groups" — not to the traditional structures of Afghan tribal life.

Afghanistan had witnessed, to use Guistozzi's evocative term, an extended act of "state-icide."

Stateicide in Afghanistan: Less than three weeks after the events of 9/11, the Islamic Emirate quickly collapsed — not least because of the defection of its warlord-clients to the side. Few of the victors, though, had any intention of surrendering power to the new central regime they had installed: Ismail Khan declared himself the emir of western Afghanistan; General Abdul Rashid Dostum enjoyed similar authority, if not the title, in Faryab.

In Kandahar, analyst Anand Gopal has noted, the defeat of the Taliban paved the way for a "reversion to the rule of the traditional tribal leadership" — not the flowering of democracy that had been promised.

Kandahar's tribes are broadly divided between the Ghilzai and Durrani confederations. The Durranis are further subdivided between the Zirak and Panjpai tribes — the former historically occupying a privileged status.

The warlord Gul Agha Sherzai used his influence as governor to bring several of his fellow Barkzais, who are a part of the Zirak, into positions of power — reversing the displacement of the tribal aristocracy which took place during the Soviet and Taliban rule. Mr. Karzai, who succeeded him, promoted his sub-tribe, the Popalzai. Not surprisingly, the rising influence of these groups fuelled resentment — and the rebirth of the Islamist insurgency.

Force increasingly came to be used to maintain the warlords' new patronage networks. "There is," lamented a provincial governor interviewed for a 2004 World Bank-funded study, "currently a paradoxical situation where the international community and government of Afghanistan want to bring security to Afghanistan through those people who don't want security."

For key policy-makers in the U.S. though, the paradox was not evident. In a thoughtful essay on the U.S.' war in Iraq, scholar Toby Dodge has noted that the neoconservatives grouped around President George W. Bush were deeply hostile to the projects that sought to use state power, basing their opposition on the argument that left to themselves, people would make rational choices, paving the way for a free market economy. Paul Bremmer thus set about dismantling the Iraqi army and bureaucracy; in Afghanistan, administration and security were subcontracted to warlords. Faced with reports of large-scale looting in Baghdad in 2003, Mr. Rumsfeld could blithely observe: "freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes."

Though President Bush had invoked the memory of post-Second World War reconstruction at the outset of the Afghan campaign, Mr. Rumsfeld successfully argued a long-term presence in Afghanistan would be "unnatural," even "counter-productive." In Europe, Japan and South Korea, the U.S. had successfully invested in long-term state-building; in Afghanistan, the neoconservatives were unwilling to put in either the cash or the effort.

Ironic, because the challenge in Afghanistan was, and is, of magnitudes larger than that Europe faced after the horrors of the world war. Post-Nazi Germany had an educated population, a bureaucratic structure, an entrepreneurial tradition and a history of industrialisation. Afghanistan has drugs, a devastated agricultural centre and a population of whom less than one-third can read and write. "Even on the day the Second World War ended," James Surowiecki noted in an essay written in 2001, "Germany was vastly better off than Afghanistan is today."

Where might Afghanistan now be headed for? Back in 1985, social scientist Charles Tilly offered a radical reappraisal of the role of organised violence in the making of the modern nation-state. European warlords, Tilly argued, laid the foundations of the modern state system in the centuries after 1400, using the growing revenues from the territories they controlled to build ever-more sophisticated coercive arms to quell domestic opposition and subjugate their rivals.

Popular resistance, though, tempered the relationship between the rulers and the ruled, while economic imperatives restrained states from waging total wars. In countries like Afghanistan, though, these constraints did not apply: external support allowed warlords and insurgents to develop their military capabilities independently of their ability to mobilise resources.

Mr. Karzai was a bleak emblem of Afghanistan's political future: a dystopia brought about by the neoconservative way of war, in which entrepreneurs of violence fused organised crime and politics. Few in Kandhahar will mourn Karzai — but there is little doubt that the political void he has left will be filled by someone similar.

Ahmad Wali Karzai's story illustrates how the American neoconservatives' way of war allowed entrepreneurs of violence to expand their power in Afghanistan.

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THE ASIAN AGE

DIP IN IIP: WHAT IS GOVT DOING?

The unexpected dip in the May index for industrial production (IIP) to a nine-month low has sent everyone, from analysts to the government, into a tizzy. The finance minister is correct when he says he does not see monthly or weekly figures as a trend-setter, but even he says "it is not encouraging". What is worrying is that the April figure was revised downwards to 5.7 per cent from the earlier 6.3 per cent; this means that even the May figure of 5.6 per cent may be revised downwards next month. It is interesting to note that analysts had expected eight per cent IIP growth for May. One wonders on what they based this figure. They are supposed to be serious professionals and their figures impact the stock markets, but they seem far off the mark since the figure emerged at 5.6 per cent.
RBI governor D. Subbarao had complained that much of the statistics they work with are unreliable and there is a constant revision even of GDP numbers. So, looking through rose-tinted glasses, one could say the official figures could be wrong because of inaccurate data collection. The most important point of worry, however, is the figure of production for the manufacturing sector at six per cent against 11.6 per cent in 2010 (April-May); this figure has been falling month by month. The manufacturing sector generates jobs but it has been neglected over the years in favour of the services sector, which is not as big a job creator as manufacturing is for the crores of jobless people entering the job market annually. But all is not lost. It is a good thing that the finance minister has said that they are in discussions with all the stake-holders, like chambers of commerce and other bodies, to see that manufacturing accounts for 25 per cent of GDP from the present 16 per cent. It would be advantageous if the FM could tell the nation periodically what is being done to increase production. This would underscore the seriousness of the government's intent given that it is being distracted by the huge political and governance problems that have cropped up. Part of the slowdown in industrial production can be explained by high interest rates and high raw material costs, and, to a significant extent, attributed to the global financial crisis which shows no signs of going away soon. The export sector still depends largely on orders from the US and Europe and these are the troubled areas. So exports, booming in the last few months, are likely to slow down because of the global crisis. India's exports are basically from major job generating sectors, such as like leather, garments and textiles. The textile sector, too, slowed down in May to 6.6 per cent. Another constant worry is the infrastructure sector, which is just not picking up. Whether ports, roads or airports, everything is moving at a snail's pace. Growth in the core sector, infrastructure, was down to 4.9 per cent against 7.9 per cent last year.  At one point the Prime Minister's Office was supposed to be tracking this sector but nothing much seems to have come of it. Unless the government can show that it is serious, and not look for scapegoats like the environment ministry, this sector will not move forward. Global and domestic business companies have been talking about the flawed decision-making process and lack of governance in important sectors like infrastructure. Why should it be so difficult for the government to tackle this?

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THE ASIAN AGE

OUR BRIBESCAPE

SIDHARTH BHATIA

As the Lokpal Bill talks between the government and representatives of the civil society movement wend on their pot-holed path, one question continues to perplex: Why does the Anna Hazare team not also talk about corruption in the private sector?
The entire focus of the activists seems to be on the government, from the lowest peon to the mightiest in the land; in fact, much time and energy has been expended in demanding that the Prime Minister be included in the list of those the Lokpal can question. But not a word about the private sector.
Indeed, a suggestion that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) too should be included was immediately pooh-poohed and criticised. Built into the Hazare team's notion of who should form the Lokpal is the dreamy-eyed belief that somehow those who belong to "civil society" are morally and ethically superior to everybody else, especially the venal political class. But the campaign is called "India Against Corruption" so it should logically be aimed at all those who indulge in this pernicious practice. Instead, much invective and snide comment has been directed at politicians, but very little time has been spent in analysing the inbuilt contradictions of the draft Lokpal Bill.
Corruption is a zero-sum game. After all, for every "corruptee" there is a "corruptor", for every bribe-taker a bribe-giver. It is the car owner who slips a few bucks into the outstretched hand of a constable so that the latter does not take away his licence and it is the corporate honcho who deals with the politician to get a licence that will help his company and additionally stymie his opposition. For proof, one has to only look at the list of worthies sitting in the sweltering Tihar Jail — there are ministers, politicians and chief executives, all implicated in the same scam.
Yet, our crusaders feel there is no need to include businessmen. Why? Could it be because they think that the private-sector bribe givers — corporates, citizens — are victims, in that they are forced to cough up speed money because the babus and netas are greedy and demanding? Or that it is the elected representatives and the government superstructure in general that should be more accountable to the people? Or perhaps they genuinely feel that the private sector is clean and honest and it is only the government and politicians in general who are corrupt and mendacious.
None of these explanations wash. True, politicians and bureaucrats are servants of the people and should be accountable, but the same applies to a corporate entity (more so the listed ones) or an NGO. They may not be elected, but as far as corruption is concerned, they too are complicit if they indulge in it and the exact same law should be applied to them. This is not to remotely suggest that businessmen and NGOwallahs are corrupt, but the purpose of this bill is to create an organisation that will go after those who are. And an omnibus Lokpal like the one that has been proposed should logically be empowered to treat everyone the same way. It is a different matter whether there should be such an all powerful Lokpal at all, but at the very least, it cannot view the issue of corruption so selectively.
Post-liberalisation, corruption has only increased, as is evidenced by the scams we see all around us. The scams now are on a truly epic scale, easily dwarfing the biggest one of the 1980s — the Bofors scandal was worth a piffling `64 crore. Immediately after the economy was liberalised, we had the stock market scam in which `4,000 crore disappeared. The portents were apparent right then. And now we have the second-generation and Commonwealth Games scams which are monumental in their size. In all of them, official agencies and the private sector have been involved. Babus have played their role, as have members of Parliament and ministers and chief executive officers. This is not a mere matter of skimming a bit of cream off the top; this is corruption on a grand scale, designed by smart and devious minds to cheat the country of wealth.
The official investigative agencies are working to get to the bottom of the whole thing. But it's hardly an exaggeration to say that the citizen has very little faith in a just outcome. India has the laws, but not necessarily the commitment to fight corruption. Which is why the demand for a Lokpal — an over-arching body that will probe and prosecute — has caught the imagination of people.
The civil society activists have been demanding that only their version of the bill should be accepted; but curiously, while professing no faith in existing processes, laws and institutions, they are not pushing for cleansing the entire system. Their selective targeting continues to be baffling and is one reason why their campaign will always lack credibility.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DDB JAMMU

District Development Board Jammu met under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister to deliberate on the yearly allocation of funds for Jammu district. The Board approved 92.53 crore annual plan for the year 2011 of which more than a half has already passed. As usual, there has been lot of rhetoric poured out in connection with various aspects of the plan like time limit, judicious spending, quality work, infrastructure, priority projects and the rest of it. There is nothing new or significant in all that has been deliberated upon. The endemic problems of Jammu remain and the treatment given is in piecemeal. The most important and frustrating problem of Jammu district, as has been pointed out by a cross section of MLAs is of paucity of power which has adversely affected industrial growth of Jammu. The official team including the Chief Minister had no strong point to justify frequent power cuts in the district. The Chief Minister made a lame excuse by arguing that the problem arose owing to snag in revenue collection mechanism. He said that 100 per cent metering would solve this problem. This is sheer rhetoric and will be accepted with a pinch of salt. A large part of Jammu city has been metered and only some segments remain. Why does not the government get 100 per cent metering done when it is convinced that that would remove power shortage or pilferage? Authorities should have given figures regarding the improvement in revenue collection in metered sector as well as the un-metered sector. The fact of the matter is that there is high level of corruption in the department and the government is unable to stop it. Transmission system is outdated and old-fashioned and the department has no plan of changing it to modern system. Privatization of power supply and maintenance could help things improve considerably. The officials in the meeting had nothing to say on this count.

Jammu is expanding fast for various arsons. It has absorbed migrants, refugees, migratory labourers and at the same time is a temporary destination to millions of visitors, pilgrims and tourists. All this has necessitated expansion of the city and thus in absence of government's plans for housing, haphazard colonies has sprung like mushroom in unsanitary and unhygienic conditions. The annual plan should have taken this into account and recommended a comprehensive and long term town planning programme for Jammu city to relieve the old city of congestion and traffic snarls. The important issue of widening the streets particularly in densely populated and crowded localities of the city should have been on the priority list of the Board. The chaotic condition of Jammu traffic for which there are many reasons has not been touched upon. What does the annual plan for 2011 envisage to do with this chaos? Some members raked the issue of education in the district and alleged that while some of the city schools were over staffed those in the rural areas remained under-staffed. There was great discontent among the teacher community and the attention of the CM was drawn towards it. Power, water supply, traffic, education and medical facilities were the subjects on which a time bound and judicious projects should have been finalized. The CM did speak about slow delivery in the first quarter of the year and acceleration of speed towards the ending quarter as one important reason for non-delivery or bad delivery. He should have also announced what remedial measures the government would be thinking about to overcome this deficiency. Essentially it is closely linked to corruption and underhand means. Unless some radical change is brought about in the work culture of the concerned departments, CM's exhortation, no doubt sincere and honest, would have little impact on time hardened bureaucracy. Jammu needs immediate attention of the authorities in various other sectors like relocation of general bus stand, renovation and streamlining of railway station area and removing congestion and encroachment, improving public health sector etc. The Chief Minister cannot find an alibi in the Centre not sanctioning funds as recommended by the Task Force for Jammu and Ladakh. Plan allocation for 2011 must earmark reasonably adequate share of Jammu District Development Board so that nobody among public figures in Jammu has any reason to complain of discrimination.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CCI ACTIVATED

As the District Development Board for Jammu district has been engaged in discussing annual plan allocation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jammu also sprung into action to express its concern over the inordinate delay in implementation of some important projects in Jammu which are pending since long time. The projects highlighted by a delegation of CCI Jammu to the political adviser of the CM included Gandola project from Mubarak Mandi to Bagh-e Bahu, lifting of water from River Chenab and making the drinking water needs of Jammu met, construction of flyovers from Bikram Chowk onwards, from Jewel to Canal head, and flyover from new plots onwards. The completion of the convention center at guest house which is lying uncompleted but is very important for the winter capital of the state was also included besides the expansion of the existing airport to International standard with all the ultra modern infrastructure so that all national and international flights can be operated from there

Removal of idle parking from the existing bus stand and converting it into multi-tier parking complex and construction of multi-tier parking complexes in and around the old city to bring vehicular traffic under control was also include. In this connection the CCI delegation said that the government had already identified parking spots near City Chowk and Kachi Chowni which must be developed as multi tier complexes at the earliest.

The delegation also reminded that Chief Minister has promised to widen the BC Road before the construction of flyover from Amphalla onwards.

During the course of discussion the deputation stressed that immediate steps should be taken to beautify the city of Jammu and make provision to make the electricity wiring system of the entire city safe and un-interrupting for the normal activities under the core area development scheme.

All these projects show that a great deal needs to be done to raise the standard of Jammu as the winter capital and a big tourist terminus in Northern India. We would also like that the Central government accords sanction to the recommendations of the Task Force and approves budgetary allocations fro raising the status of Jammu city.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

GALLOPING INFLATION

BY LALIT SETHI

Is the galloping inflation coupled with the galloping prices a threat to the national economy or is it a political threat as well? Is the Government truly worried and concerned? Or is everybody in authority or in the Opposition shedding crocodile tears about the plight of the people and promising all the time to tame the rebellious tiger of high cost living, already out of the woods and at large in the streets, though not in the marketplace, which has a playing field of its own?

Will the Government's announcement of several measures to increase supplies of all kinds of consumer goods through public distribution system and alternative channels other than the middle men and retail outlets help check prices of essential goods? It remains to be seen because the reach of these alternative channels may be widespread but not all pervading.

With petrol prices rising to Rs. 58 to 60, though diesel prices up remain low, there may be a degree of discontent. Compressed natural gases is dearer as well along with jet fuel, but will public transport would become even dearer, higher air fares are not considered hurting the man in the street because flying is not believed to be his life style. But diesel prices are being held back from big increases only for a couple of months as world petroleum prices are on the upswing all the time. Supplies of petroleum to the world, including India, have been somewhat diminished because Iran, a major oil producer, is unable to export in view of a payments ban. A major private Indian refiner, who generally exports all its products, has stopped imports of four million tons of Iranian petroleum, but public sector refiners are also unable to import six million tons of petroleum because of payments issues raised by the Reserve Bank. Alternative supplies are under negotiation.

Does the aam adami feel that he is helpless and occasional half-hearted measures leave him with prices a few hundred per cent higher than a couple of years ago and he has to live with the new upper level of basic necessities? Sugar may have settled at Rs. 37 to 40 a kilogram against Rs. 17 a few years ago; onions may be settling at Rs. 35 to 40 from Rs. 15 last year, but other vegetables, lintels, wheat and rice have climbed to a new higher level, with world prices rising all the time.

The Government might say that wage levels have gone up in the government and private sector as well as the self-employed sector, but there are no massive protests as in the bygone decades of the previous centuries. Have the people been lulled into silence as there is little prospect or hope of ever reverting to old price levels? An interesting, if not rather funny, projection being made by some dubious experts is that in 40 or 50 years India's economy will be close to the present size of the American economy or 83 per cent of it, which means that the Indian economy will be almost worth $14 trillion or at the purchasing price parity or market exchange rate. With the value of the dollar declining slowly and purchasing price in India rising rapidly, India would not need very high levels of annual growth to match the world's largest economy has fairly cooled, if not chilled, economies in double quick time as some of the most advanced countries at the PPP or exchange rate levels. That is the kind of economic jugglery, which may not be easy to fathom, but do such calculations have any basis or relation to ground realities?

What are these ground realities? Is unbridled corruption a factor? Are the several scams that are making headlines a factor in economic growth? Is it possible to claim that unaccounted money plays a key role in the growth of certain sectors to the detriment of overall development of national infrastructure? If they are hurdles, is it possible to curb corruption and scams in an era of diverse polity and coalition governments? Are these renewed manifestations of crony capitalism? Or are these facts of public life and private life from which there is no possible redemption?

Crony capitalism has been the bane of several countries, if not all countries and it tended to sink some nations, which were rescued in the past by the World Bank or the US, as in the specific case of South Korea and Mexico and recently by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in the case of Greece and Ireland even as Portugal and Spain face threats of erosion of their economies, waiting to be saved from dire consequences. The US itself is going through a grave crisis of confidence with the Federal Reserve and its treasury lining up new rescue and stimulus measures running into hundreds of billion dollars to save ailing conglomerates and banks and financial institutions. In this scenario, the American over-reach of help for friendly nations is down to zero. (NPA)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

GREEN MANURE FOR ORGANIC FARMING

BY PROF R D GUPTA

Intensive cropping with frequent use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to obtain more yields of high yielding varieties of various crops has resulted in breaking down of soil structure, destruction of organic matter, depletion of soil fertility and crop productivity. Not only this, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides during green revolution has not only degraded the environment but has emitted toxicants of chemicals. These toxicant, have entered into different food stuffs endangering thereby, the whole of the life sustaining ecosystem. It is through heavy metal contamination, nitrate poisoning and residual effects of various pesticides. Changes in ground water's quantity and quality have also been observed. It is due to its overuse, following monoculture i.e growing of rice and wheat year after year. Quantitatively, the ground water levels have declined. Moreover, there is failure of wells/tubewells and shortage in water supplies. Qualitatively, the deep ground water aquifers in most parts of Punjab and Haryana and other states have become marginalised and highly saline and contamination with nitrate, fluorine and heavy metals.

In a nutshell, the disadvantages which the intensive cultivation brought out are fuel intensive, requires high value inputs and heavy cost outlays. Hence, the need of the hour is to follow an alternative source of plant nutrients. Application of organic manures such as farm yard manure (FYM) compost, oilseed cakes, biofertilizers and use of green manuring practice are some of the measures, which can be taken up actively to maintain an adequate level of soil fertility for sustainable farming.

''Green manuring consists of sowing a suitable, rapidly growing crop and turning it after a few months of growth (usually 1-2 months) into the soil by ploughing or digging, decomposing it, which finally produces a manure for the succeeding crops''. Green manure is a valuable source of organic manure that supplies organic matter to the soils. Organic matter is a mixture of many substances including essential chemical elements needed for the growth of the plants i.e N,P,K,Ca,Mg, S,Fe, Cu, Mn, Zn, Mo, B&Cl. Infact, green manure is the primary source of N in soils. About 98% of the N in most of the soils is in organic combination and the remaining 2% as ammonical or nitrate form. Thus, organic matter plays a direct role in making the soil fertile through supplying plant nutrients in available, form. Green manuring is a very old farm practice which has been practised from early times as a means of supplementing animal manure i.e farm yard manure and compost. For this purpose, fast growing leguminous crops with more vegetative growth are used. Sunhemp, dhaincha, cowpea, phaseolus etc; are the most common green manuring crops which produce relatively higher biomass and accumulate more N in soils. Studies have shown that dhaincha (Sesbania aculeata) added more than 100 Kg N ha-1 in 6-8 weeks of growth before transplanting of wet season rice. It can be grown throughout the year and with stands a varied type of climatic and soil conditions like drought, salinity sodicity and water logging. In semiarid and arid zones the fertility of the soil can be considerably improved by growing and burying green manuring crops. Growing of legumes as green manure crops for soil improvement and amelioration of productivity of following crops is one of the oldest practice. It is particularly more beneficial for light and sandy soils which are very low in organic matter content and available plant elements.

Green manuring offers an easy means for meeting farmer's manurial requirements. Apart from improving soil structure and nutrient status, it increases an air cum water perme ability of the soils. Green manures are suitable means for minimising losses of soil organic matter, reducing the compaction and soil erosion, and maintaining economic return.

The residual effect of green manuring was also seen during rabi season in wheat crop. In the green manured plot, the yield of wheat crop was 26 q ha-1 in comparison to control where the yield was 21 qha-1.

From the foregoing contents of the article, it is emerged that organic manure obtained through green manuring practice is quite akin to animal manures, rather superior to FYM and compost as it supplies lot of green matter in the soil besides plant nutrients. Therefore, the farmers must be encouraged to utilize this technique wherever, it is possible.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

INDIA AND NUCLEAR SUPPLIERS GROUP

BY SRINIVASAN K. RANGACHARY

The public statement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on June 24, 2011, after the conclusion of the 21st Plenary meeting of the group, stated that "The NSG agreed to strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies;" without elaborating the changes to the guidelines. However, it is commonly understood that one of the major substantive changes, of concern to India, to the guidelines was the condition that suppliers should not authorise the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and equipment and technology, if the recipient is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is in full compliance with its obligations under the treaty. The changes to the NSG guidelines have caused some concern in India since India is not a member of the NPT and hence under the new NSG guidelines not eligible for ENR (enrichment and reprocessing) transfers from the NSG members. In what manner and how seriously do these changes affect the Indian nuclear programme?

The enrichment and reprocessing facilities in India are all built on indigenous technology. The facilities are usually kept out of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards except, when they contain safeguarded material as in the case of some of the reprocessing facilities. If the current Indian technologies in both these areas are in line with the best contemporary practice, then there is no need for India to import facilities or technology and the changes to the guidelines should have very little practical impact on the Indian civil nuclear programme. What if the Indian level of expertise in one or more of these areas in not up to the best international standard? The Indian indigenous civilian nuclear power programme has been planned in three stages with the first stage being based on the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) run on natural uranium, the second stage being the Fast Breeder programme running on plutonium obtained from reprocessing of the spent fuels from both PHWRs and Light Water Reactors (LWR) and the third stage being advanced reactors based on thorium fuel.

The only need for enrichment of uranium arises from the need to obtain highly enriched uranium (HEU) for India's nuclear submarine programme. The imported LWRs will be covered by the accompanying fuel supply agreements making it unnecessary for India to enrich uranium for its LWR programme. And since India's natural uranium reserves are low, there is little or no possibility of India entering commercial enrichment facilities.

The matter is slightly more complex in the case of reprocessing technology. India already operates three reprocessing facilities. The total capacities of these plants have so far been sufficient to satisfy the current needs of reprocessed fuel. However, as the civil nuclear power sector expands with the import of LWRs, expansion of the PHWR programme and the introduction of FBRs (Fast Breeder Reactor), there will be a need to increase substantially the reprocessing capabilities in India.

The Russian government, for example, passed a resolution No. 992 on December 9, 2009 which, allowed export of isotope uranium enrichment plant, chemical processing of irradiated nuclear India, ENR and NSG fuel as well as relating to such installation of equipment and technologies to any state not a nuclear weapon state only if that state is a party to the NPT.

What about reprocessing technology and facilities? India may require importing reprocessing facilities or technology. Although a large number of countries have, or had operated in the past, reprocessing facilities and currently only eight countries namely, China, France, India, DPRK, Pakistan, Japan, UK and Russia have operating facilities. Of these eight countries four - France, Japan, UK and Russia - are members of G8 and are, therefore, already enforcing NPT membership as criteria for transfer of reprocessing facilities and technology. None of remaining four either operate any large scale commercial reprocessing plant, of the size that would be needed by India in future or have any technology superior to that already possessed by India. Hence, the recent NSG changes to its guidelines will have no practical impact on India's access to globally competitive reprocessing technology.

Therefore, a transfer of ENR technology to India under the current environment can be made only if India agrees to such conditions i.e. allow for an examination by IAEA or mutually agreed experts to decide whether or not any similar ENR facility constructed by India subsequent to an ENR transfer is or is not based on the transferred technology i.e. whether or not the constructed facility should or should not be covered by IAEA safeguards. If India should consider such a condition a violation of its freedom to separate the civilian and military facilities and not agreeable to it, then transfers of ENR technologies to India may not be possible even if NSG does not bar ENR transfers.

Hence for all practical purposes the recent NSG changes should not have any appreciable impact on India's civil nuclear programme and should not be a matter of concern from that angle. Under the circumstances it may not be out of place to suggest or assume that the NSG changes were directed primarily against India. So what should India do now? Currently, NSG is considering on how to accommodate India as an NSG member. As NPT membership is also a criterion for admittance of new members to NSG, the NSG will, therefore, have to craft a language that will allow India to circumvent this requirement. If the NSG is willing to grandfather this language in respect of ENR transfers as well then India may not have any problem with the revised NSG guidelines. If, however, the NSG is unwilling to consider such a move then India may reconsider its approach to the issue of NSG membership and decline NSG's offer of NSG membership. Why? Under the current environment, neither India nor the NSG stand to gain or lose much if India is not a member of the NSG. To recapitulate the reasons for such a conclusion:

India has already got an NSG exemption allowing for NSG members to trade in civil nuclear commerce with India without fulfilling the requirement of IAEA full scope safeguards; India has formally declared its adherence to the NSG guidelines; India has a robust export control system in place; Therefore, NSG membership does not confer, at this moment, any additional benefits to India with the NSG exemption already in place. The NSG also does not get, at this moment, any additional benefits to its non-proliferation goals from India's membership as India is already committed to adhering to the NSG guidelines.

That being the case, a country refused a nuclear transfer license by an NSG member can approach any non-NSG member for technical and industrial assistance and India will be one of the few countries with the full range of nuclear activities that would be able assist such countries. Since India will not be member of the NSG, even if it agrees to adhere to NSG guidelines, there will be no bar on transfers from India to NPT members in good standing. It will make commercial sense as well for India to delink its nuclear commerce from that of the major NSG members who have been in the forefront of actions against India in the NSG. Therefore, India should refuse the offer of NSG membership even if it is offered to India in the absence of NPT membership so long as the NSG does not consider transfer of ENR technologies to India under proper safeguards as a legitimate requirement for the progress of Indian civilian nuclear programme. (INAV)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TRIBUNAL AS A REMEDY

HANSI-BUTANA ROW SET TO DRAG

 

The Supreme Court has suggested that the Hansi-Butana canal dispute should be referred to a tribunal. Punjab has got some relief as the status quo will have to be maintained until the issue is settled. This will bring to a halt the ongoing construction work on the canal embankment by Haryana. But a large part of the concrete wall along the canal is already there and in case of excess rain, canal water would continue to overflow towards Punjab, submerging residential areas and the fields. There is no immediate relief for the harried villagers, who live in constant fear of floods during the monsoon.

 

In essence, the Supreme Court verdict means the Hansi-Butana canal dispute will linger. The apex court pulled up the Central leadership for keeping quiet as the inter-state water dispute was on the boil. Haryana and Punjab have had a history of water disputes, which have defied legal and political solutions. The Central intervention had not helped much in the past. This does not inspire much confidence in the tribunal proposed by the court.

 

River water disputes can be settled if handled maturely by visionary leaders. Small-time politicians make inflammatory speeches to raise passions over emotive issues and create ill-will among people living in peace as neighbours. Villagers along the canal held a protest recently and deprecated the petty water politics. They blamed the floods on politicians' failure to clear and repair canals and rivers. Punjab and Haryana leaders are now dragging their feet over the Centre's Rs 1,130-crore project to tame the Ghaggar. It seems they do not want to delink it from the existing water disputes. Some are even questioning the viability of the project. Their lack of interest or knowledge is appalling. It is perhaps too much to expect such politicians to rise above narrow interests and sort out inter-state issues.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

OMINOUS CALM IN ASSAM

BID TO DERAIL TRAIN A GRIM REMINDER

 

The use of explosives barely 60 kilometres from the Assam capital Guwahati in a bid to derail the Guwahati-Puri Express on Sunday night is cause for concern. Besides indicating the failure of routine safety measures, it revived the spectre of a return to chronic violence that was a feature of Assam not too long ago. The state,however, had a largely peaceful Assembly election this year and appeared to have made some headway in peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). Sunday's explosion, which fortunately did not result in any casualty, is however a grim reminder that all's still not well in the eastern state. While suspicion initially was directed at the National Democratic Front of Bodoland ( NDFB), a barely three-year old outfit styled as Adivasi People's Army (APA) has claimed responsibility for the subversive act.

 

The NDFB is known to have been sulking for some time. The outfit, which declared a unilateral ceasefire in 2004 but has been 'active', has been complaining that it was not being taken as seriously by the government as the ULFA. If the government could negotiate with ULFA and even release its top leaders, who were arrested in Bangladesh and handed over to India, argued the NDFB, the government could also release the arrested NDFB chairman Ranjan Daimary in the same manner. The Adivasi People's Army came into existence after the long-standing demand of tea garden workers, estimated to be 20 million strong, to be treated as Scheduled Tribes, received no response from the government. The ancestors of these tea garden workers were tribals and migrated from Jharkhand, Orissa and other northern states a century ago. But they were denied the tag of 'ST' in Assam.

 

The government does appear both slow and stubborn in dealing with popular and emotive demands. By appearing to ignore relatively smaller and peaceful groups, it has been giving out the wrong signal that only dramatic acts, insurgency and violence are capable of drawing its attention. The explosion, one hopes, would serve as a timely warning for the government to nip the existing discontent once and for all.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PAKISTAN DESERVED IT

US DECISION ON AID VINDICATES INDIA'S STAND

 

The US suspension of $800 million military aid to Pakistan has come after a lot of pressure from the American public that the country that has been the breeding ground of terrorism does not deserve this kind of assistance. This is, however, only a part of the promised US aid to Islamabad — $2 billion over five years. As India has been pointing out time and again, the cause of peace in South Asia demands that the entire aid to Pakistan from the US and other Western sources in the name of fighting terrorism be stopped forthwith. A country which has been using terror to achieve its geopolitical objectives cannot be expected to abandon it when its aims remain unchanged. Moreover, this kind of aid has been misused to strengthen Pakistan's armed forces with their anti-India agenda.

 

Pakistan has deployed nearly 100,000 troops along its borders with Afghanistan. It launched drives against Taliban and Al-Qaida militants in its tribal areas. It also keeps on saying that as a "victim of terrorism" it cannot tolerate the scourge on any pretext. But the truth is contrary to this. Osama bin Laden had a safe haven in Abbottabad, near Islamabad, till he was eliminated by US forces. Pakistan's soft approach towards some Taliban factions is well known. These pro-Pakistan groups get all kinds of assistance from Islamabad so that they are ready to be used to strengthen Pakistan's position in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal from there. There has also been a Pakistan policy to impress upon the US and the rest of the West that Islamabad is basically fighting their war against terrorism and, therefore, it is their responsibility to fund it.

 

The US move is very upsetting for Islamabad as it may ultimately affect Pakistan's economy too. Yet the Establishment in Islamabad is putting up a brave face because it wants to use the opportunity to improve its image among the largely anti-US public. Pakistan also hopes that its all-weather friend, China, will come to its rescue. It will be interesting to watch if the US decision remains unchanged in view of the China factor. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

AGENDA FOR DEFENCE REFORMS

TIME TO CONCENTRATE ON TWO KEY AREAS

BY N.S. SISODIA

 

The announcement about the setting up of a task force to review the reforms in the management of national defence has not come a day too soon. Ten years have elapsed since the Group of Ministers submitted its recommendations on "Reforming the National Security System" in February 2001. During these 10 years many recommendations have been implemented, but some crucial ones are either unimplemented or only partially implemented. In the meanwhile, the security scenario has changed dramatically. China's rise poses a long-term challenge and its growing support for and inroads into Pakistan call for some caution. The Af-Pak region is rapidly descending into chaos.

 

Cross-border terrorism is a real danger. New threats like cyber terrorism, climate change, water, energy and food shortages and militarisation of space are looming on the horizon. Strategic technologies are making rapid advances and lending themselves to new military applications. The proposed strategic and defence review is, therefore, overdue.

 

Given its mandate, what should be the agenda for the task force? There are two key areas crying for reform: One is integration among the three defence services; the other is the integration of Services Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence.

 

One crucial area that the task force should look at is the structure of the higher defence organisation in India. An important finding of the Arun Singh task force of 2000 is that the Chiefs of Staff Committee comprising the three Service Chiefs and chaired by the senior-most Chief has remained ineffective in fulfilling its mandate. As a consequence, firstly, there is no single-point military advice to the political leadership and during crises the government may receive divergent opinions, complicating the decision-making process.

 

Secondly, the defence planning process is dysfunctional with each Service advancing its own capability without taking into account the inter-se priority of projects proposed by the three Services. This greatly mars the efficiency of the planning process and prevents optimal and efficient use of limited resources. Thirdly, modern warfare demands a very high degree of coordination in planning and operations among the three Services.

 

Currently, despite some feeble attempts of the past few years, the Services tend to operate individually, rather than jointly. Thus, "jointness" or integrated functioning, a vital requirement of contemporary warfare, is sorely lacking. And, finally, India — now a nuclear weapons power — lacks appropriate structures for the management and control of nuclear weapons and strategic forces. Following the Group of Ministers recommendations of 2001, a Strategic Forces Command under a Vice-Chief has been created, but he remains somewhat outside the apex decision-making level.

 

To address these glaring deficiencies, the Group of Ministers had recommended the creation of the institution of Chief of Defence Staff. All major nations, especially those with nuclear weapons, have either a Joint Chief of Staff or a Chief of Defence Staff. He ensures "jointness", integrated defence planning, inter and intra-Service prioritization, and renders single-point military advice to the government.

 

This crucial recommendation remains unimplemented and needs to be revisited by the Naresh Chandra Committee. In 2001, the Cabinet Committee on Security deferred a decision on it till consultations were held with political parties. But 10 years is a long enough period for such consultations. As many experts speculate, the reasons for this recommendation lying in cold storage may be unfounded fears about the creation of an extraordinarily powerful and high-profile military institution; serious reservations voiced by the Indian Air Force's leadership; bureaucratic resistance; or all these three factors combined.

 

The second crucial recommendation of the Group of Ministers made in 2001 relates to the integration of the Services Headquarters with the Ministry of Defence by designating them as "Integrated Headquarters". This recommendation has been implemented but it remains a cosmetic change. When India adopted its Constitution, the President of the Republic became the Supreme Commander. This necessitated changes in the military hierarchy of the erstwhile British imperial command. At that stage, the then Chief of General Staff, Gen J.N. Chowdhary, proposed in a paper for the Chiefs Staff Committee that the three Service Chiefs should be kept out of the government but continue to remain Commanders-in-Chief of their forces.

 

The government accepted this recommendation, which resulted in the Service Chiefs becoming both Chiefs of Staff and commanders of their forces, thus combining the functions of long-term planning with command functions. Naturally, the latter role assumed greater importance and the former role of long-term and operational planning suffered. This arrangement also distanced the Chiefs from the Defence Minister and deprived them of direct participation in decision-making. The Defence Minister then created his own secretariat which has been expanding over time.

 

Since Service Chiefs are independent juridical personalities located outside the ministry, their references are treated as proposals to be scrutinised by the minister's civilian secretariat. The ministry acts as a check rather than playing a complimentary role. Chronic tension between the civilian secretariat and the staff of the Services is thus inherent in this structure. Jawaharlal Nehru had promised Parliament that for purposes of consultative decision-making, Army, Air Force and Navy councils will be created; but this never happened as Service Chiefs were not inclined to sit with their principal staff officers under the chairmanship of a minister of state.

 

The culture of India's armed forces headquarters is a legacy of the British Raj and remains essentially a command culture of a theatre command, with Chiefs monopolising the decision-making authority. The Service Chiefs remain preoccupied with administrative chores and the vital task of long-term, future-oriented planning suffers as a consequence.

 

Finally, there is no real integration between the ministry's civilian staff and the Service Headquarters staff; their roles often become adversarial rather than mutually supportive.

 

The task force on defence reforms needs to address this structural anomaly by recommending complete integration of the Chiefs of Staff with the ministry and the creation of joint theatre commands, directly accountable to the Defence Minister. The much needed integrated planning, inter-Service prioritisation and jointness in the entire gamut of the activities of the Services ranging from doctrines and training to operations should be ensured by creating the institution of Chairman, Chiefs of Staff or Chief of Defence Staff. He should be appointed through a process of deep selection and not reverted to his parent Service. Such an arrangement alone will ensure that he has no parochial commitments and is able to act decisively in the interest of inter-service prioritisation.

 

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

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DEMISE OF 'CHAVANNI'

BY RAJ KANWAR

 

Though the 25-paisa coin together with its junior siblings had laid in coma now for many years with zero purchasing power, the formal announcement by the Reserve Bank of India about its official demise has saddened me a good deal.

 

The 21st century has seen a drastic fall in the value of currency worldwide. It would have been better if the government had also simultaneously announced the death of its senior sibling, the 50-paisa coin which too had been for long in a comatose state. Manufacturers of consumer goods and even neighbourhood grocery stores give MRP only in rupees, barring some newspapers which still mention their cover price as Rs 2.50 or 3.50. A rupee today cannot even purchase a small candy. Beggars too would give one a disapproving look if a rupee coin was given.

 

Its pre-decimal avatar i.e. four anna coin, popularly called 'chavanni', was one of my most cherished possessions during my childhood and adolescent years. During the college days too, the 'chavanni' carried considerable purchasing power.

 

The pre-decimal era rupee had 16 annas and 64 pice or paise. In our younger days, the 4-anna coin was much in demand. In fact, it was my daily pocket money when I went to school in Lahore, and bought me enough of snacks and lassi or milk that would be my lunch and still leave enough balance to buy a cream roll, ice cream soda and even a cup of ice cream at Nisbet Road's Crystal Restaurant.

 

Even the pice or paisa in the pre-1947 era enjoyed considerable value. I could buy a plate of chhole with kulcha or a pocket full of peanuts for one paisa. A tandoori roti would cost 1 paisa at a dhaba with complimentary dal. During World War II when the then British Indian government had introduced rationing, I bought five sers (1 ser = 0.93310 kg) of sugar for just one rupee. That meant that a ser of sugar would cost less than a 'chavanni'.

 

Almost until 1950s, the 4-anna class in picture houses was the most popular among the hoi polloi, including students. The success or otherwise of a movie too was judged by the response it got from the 4-anna fans. The louder the whistling, clapping and shrieking, the greater was the deemed response from the fans. Once, our group of students decided to see a popular movie "Ek thi Ladki" in 4-anna class and used our muscle power to book all the seats. Other 4-anna movie goers were sorely disappointed and our group collected five rupees from amongst ourselves in order to pacify the protesters and told them to see the next show. Needless to say, our group was the noisiest of the lot that day in the cinema hall to the annoyance of the rest of the picture goers.

 

Even in 1950s and up to mid 60s, 'chavanni' carried much value. We paid four annas for a cup of coffee or tea (per head) and another Chavanni for a king size samosa in the upscale restaurants such as Kwality. Interestingly, post-Independence, I paid a tuition fee of eight annas in my college. It was a special refugee concession, though I claimed Rs 5 from my father which was the regular college fee at that time.

 

Those of us who have lived through the cheap and cheerful days of 'chavanni' today mournfully bid adieu to its successor, the 25-paisa coin. May its soul rest in peace!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CELIAC DISEASE: A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC

TODAY, CELIAC DISEASE IS NEITHER RARE NOR NECESSARILY A DIARRHOEAL CONDITION. NEARLY 1-2 PER CENT OF THE POPULATION SUFFERS FROM IT. ALSO, NO LONGER IS IT A CHILDHOOD DISEASE AS A MAJORITY OF THE CASES ARE BEING PICKED UP BETWEEN 40-60 YEARS OF AGE

ISHI KHOSLA

 

Believed to be a rare diarrhoeal disease of childhood, given no more than half a page in medical textbooks, the face of celiac disease has changed radically — a revelation which came as a consequence of my personal experience.

The journey to confirming gluten-intolerance in my elder son was unusual and long. As he grew from a chubby, "picture book" baby (up to 3 years) into a tall lanky child with sunken cheeks, I became concerned about his fussy eating habits and borderline low haemoglobin. While most family and doctors felt I was overly concerned about "nothing" as a mother (and a nutritionist), I felt I needed to find out why my exceptionally tall son did not eat as well as others of his age.

By the time, he reached age 10, I suspected "mal-absorption" and tossed the idea with my colleagues. Celiac disease is a common cause for mal-absorption, but no one seemed to think of it as a possibility. This, however, need not deter me from getting the basic tests for gluten intolerance available in those days (1995-96). The "anti-gliadin" and "anti-gluten" antibodies tested positive but these results were dismissed by experts as being non-specific markers.

As time went by and my concerns unabated, during discussions with colleagues sometime in 2002, I was informed of two new serological markers — tissue trans glutaminases antibodies (tTg,IgA) and anti endomycelial antibodies with 99 per cent reliability. I promptly went ahead for these and this time too the results were positive. Finally, without any resistance, I was advised to go ahead with the "gold standard" –the endoscopic biopsy, which confirms gluten intolerance.

The confirmation came almost as a relief, as I seemed to have found answers to my worries. It was then that I entered the gluten-free world and realized how little all of us knew about it….If I being a health professional had to go through so much to reach this far, what would be the fate of the others less literate. I discovered that celiac disease was like a hidden epidemic.

Rare condition

Celiac disease is believed to be a rare condition, both by health professionals and the general public. While in the Western world it is beginning to get more attention than before, in India it is just getting recognized. Today, it is neither rare with 1-2 per cent of population suffering from it, nor necessarily a diarrhoeal condition. Also, no longer is it a childhood disease as majority of cases are being picked up between 40-60 years of age. Nearly, 25 per cent cases are diagnosed in individuals over 60 years of age. The disease occurs globally, has no socio-economic boundaries and can occur at any age.

Celiac disease is a condition where individuals cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found commonly in grains, including wheat, oats, barley (also rye, triticale and spelt, not grown in India), where gluten damages the intestinal lining and reduces the ability of the body to absorb food.  

Typical symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, gastrointestinal disturbances like abdominal distension, flatulence, pain, constipation; nausea, vomiting, growth problems, stunting, anemia, but not everyone presents with these. In fact, only 50 per cent cases may present with diarrhea. Other symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, tiredness, bone problems like osteoporosis and cramps; skin problems, infertility, mouth ulcers, numbness and behaviour problems like depression, anxiety, irritability and poor school performance. Absence of typical symptoms makes the diagnosis difficult and often leads to ill health and life threatening maladies. 

Causes are unclear

The cause for celiac disease is unclear and there are no simple answers. It is clearly a complex interaction of genetics and the environment. Some specific genes have been identified and some are yet to be identified.

Some of the environmental risk factors associated with the development of celiac disease, particularly in children include absence of breastfeeding, repeated infections and early introduction of cow's milk, wheat, and egg. The type of wheat being consumed these days is also believed to be genetically different from the one in earlier times and has been implicated as a probable cause for increasing prevalence.

In India, the prevalence of celiac disease is certainly more common than previously appreciated and since it is largely an undiagnosed condition, the real numbers may be much larger.

Diagnostic challenge

Generally speaking, celiac disease is a diagnostic challenge. It may present itself in many ways —  typical, atypical, and even silent (with very mild symptoms), which can make diagnosis difficult. Often, I see patients who have been considered for growth hormone therapy for short stature, been through rounds of hospital admissions due to debility and ill-health, and even on anti-tubercular treatment for unexplained diarrhea and weight loss, only to worsen their suffering. Nearly 60 per cent have no diarrhea and may have completely atypical symptoms — which could be as diverse as neurological problems, ataxia (loss of coordination), bone and joint pains, in women there could be miscarriages, infertility or bone and joint problems like arthritis and osteoporosis. Final diagnosis is done using serological markers (blood tests) and endoscopy.

 Left undiagnosed, celiac disease can increase the risk of developing a severe form of malnutrition, non-specific ill health and can prove fatal. Celiac disease can increase the risk to disorders like type-1 diabetes mellitus, autoimmune diseases, liver diseases, thyroid disorders, pulmonary diseases such as asthma; ulcerative colitis, crohn's disease as well as cancer.

Permanent condition

It is a permanent condition and requires lifelong strict restriction to gluten along with nutritional supplements to correct deficiencies. Gluten-free diet usually helps restore normal health.

Living with celiac disease in developed countries is easier as food labeling is better, conveniently packed food is available and restaurants and fast foods provide gluten free choices. The same however is not true for India, so far. Food options in India are restrictive and food labeling inadequate.

Clearly, the need to raise awareness is urgent. My book 'Is Wheat Killing You?' aims to demystify the condition and also puts the condition in complete perspective by providing insights into gluten-free living.

To raise awareness about this condition the first Celiac Society in the country, has also been formed with doctors, academicians and people from food industry.

Common Signs & Symptoms

 

Recurrent digestive complaints
Milk intolerance
Liver dysfunction
Lack of appetite
Mouth ulcers
Growth failure
Weight loss
Unexplained Fatigue
Flattened nails
Easy bruising
Anemia
Frequent headaches
Bone & joint pain
Easy fractures
Infertility
Recurrent miscarriages
Giddiness and imbalance
Epilepsy
Numbnessand  tingling sensation
Depression
Anxiety
Poor attention span
Itchy blistering rash
Eczema & Psorasis

Screening Tool
Check if you have experienced any of these symptoms at least once a week during the past three months: 
Bloating
Gas and/or stomach cramps
Diarrhoea or runny stools
Constipation
Joint pains
Numbness or tingling in the extremities
Itchy skin lesions
Constant unexplained fatigue
Frequent headaches or migraines.
Check if you have been diagnosed with any of these illnesses:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Eczema or unexplained contact dermatitis
Fibromyalgia
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Nervous stomach (non-ulcer dyspepsia).
Check if you have any of the following: 
Lactose intolerance
Osteopenia or osteoporosis
Autoimmune disorders
Thyroid disease (hypo/hyper)
Diabetes mellitus (type 1)
Sjgren's syndrome 
Chronic liver disease
An immediate family member with an autoimmune condition
Peripheral neuropathy
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Small intestinal cancer
Psychiatric disorders or depression
Anaemia (iron deficiency)
Infertility.

 

Scoring: All the symptoms in Section 1, diagnoses in Section 2, and associated illnesses in Section 3 are intimately related to celiac disease. 
If you have checked one or more options in either Section 1 or 2, or any of those in Section 3, you and your doctor(s) should definitely explore a diagnosis for celiac disease. 
Men or women under 45 with osteopenia and/or osteoporosis should consider testing for celiac disease.
Source for the screening tool: CELIAC DISEASE-A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC, PETER H.R. GREEN, M.D. AND RORY JONES.

 

Celiac Disease affects 
Almost 1 per cent of the community, most (not exclusively) Caucasians, 
Middle Easterners, West Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, Europeans and Americans. 
About 5-6 per cent in the Saharawis, the Arab population living in the Western Sahara. 
It is virtually unknown among the Japanese and black people. 
Age of manifestation: 6 months- 90 years and over. 
Since it is largely undiagnosed, real numbers may be much larger. 

 

GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES

 

GLUTEN-FREE BHATURA
Leavened, Deep-Fried Bread
Makes: 10 bhaturas Preparation time: 2 hours
Ingredients
1 cup soy flour (bhatt ka atta)
1/2 cups husked, split black gram flour (urad dal ka atta)
3/4 cup brown rice flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds (til)
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup yogurt, whisked smooth
1 tsp oil + extra for deep-frying
Method
Sift all flours in a large bowl.
Add remaining ingredients, except yogurt and oil.
Gradually add a little yogurt at a time, and mix to make a soft pliable dough.
Knead well, cover bowl and set aside for 1 hour.
Smear dough with 1 tsp oil and knead till oil is thoroughly incorporated.
Roll out into 10 oval bhaturas on a lightly floured surface.
Place oil for deep-frying in a kadhai or wok over moderate heat. When hot, fry 1 bhatura at a time for 1–2 minutes on each side, till puffed and light golden.
Drain and place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
Fry remaining bhaturas in the same way.
Serve hot with cholé (chickpeas) or potatoes.

BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES
Makes: 6 pancakes 
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
Ingredients
Pancakes
1/3 cup buckwheat flour (kuttu ka atta)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 tbsp oil + extra for frying
Filling
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped 
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup green or red bell peppers, finely chopped
1 cup aubergine (brinjal/ baingan), chopped
1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp pure tomato purée
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Topping
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Method
Pancakes
Sift both flours with salt into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and whisk in egg, gradually drawing in flour from sides of bowl.
Gradually stir in half the milk and 1 tbsp oil. Beat thoroughly till smooth. Add remaining milk and mix well.
Place a frying pan over moderate heat. Smear with a few drops of oil.
When hot, pour in 1 tbsp of batter. Rotate pan quickly to coat base evenly with a thin layer of batter. Cook till base is light brown. Flip over and cook the other side for a few seconds.
Remove pancake from pan and keep warm.
Make remaining pancakes in the same way. Serve with honey, fruits and butter or a savoury filling as described below. 
Filling
Heat oil in a fresh pan. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat, till softened.
Add garlic, bell peppers and aubergine and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring 
occasionally.
Stir in remaining ingredients, cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes.
To assemble
Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5.
Spread filling along the length of each pancake. Roll pancakes and arrange in a lightly greased, shallow ovenproof dish.
Top with cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for about 
15 minutes
Serve hot.
Variation: Buckwheat flour can be 
substituted with finger millet (ragi) flour.

(From Ishi Khosla's book, 'Is Wheat Killing You?')

The writer is Clinical Nutritionist & Director, Whole Foods India, Founder President of Celiac Society for Delhi and author of "Is Wheat Killing you?" published recently

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

EDITORIAL

ENVIRONMENT FOR GROWTH

WEAK IIP NUMBERS CAN BE REVERSED WITH BETTER POLICY

The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) numbers for May 2011 will further dampen investor sentiment and put at risk the growth projections for the year. The IIP growth number of 5.6 per cent in May 2011 over May last year is the lowest in nine months. A downward trend in IIP has been seen since December 2010, with brief interludes of good news. The slowdown in industry is a fact and needs to be tackled head-on. Of the three major components of the index, only electricity (10.3 per cent versus 6.1 per cent) has done better year on year. For the corresponding period, mining (1.4 per cent versus 7.9 per cent) and manufacturing (5.6 per cent versus 8.9 per cent), which comprise approximately 87 per cent of the weighted index, have declined sharply. Within manufacturing, the lower year-on-year growth numbers for both capital and intermediate goods indicate declining investment and manufacturing activity. The increase in interest rates has definitely moderated demand, resulting in lower private investment. This largely explains the 1.4 percentage point decrease (5.9 per cent versus 7.3 per cent) in capital goods production. The more severe decline in intermediate goods (0.9 per cent versus 11.7 per cent) reflects conservative demand forecasts by manufacturers. A pickup in investment and demand typically lags policy by a few months, which suggests the gloomy sector numbers may be here to stay for some more time.

What explains the sharp fall in mining? The decline in the index can be ascribed to a virtual stasis in the coal industry as well as a significant drop in gas production. The coal industry till recently was reeling under the onslaught of public and ministerial activism on land and environment issues. The change of guard at the ministry of environment and forests would hopefully ease the constraint imposed by this ministry on industrial growth. The coal sector must also take its share of the blame. Non-production from sites already granted brings it no credit. While a clear, transparent and fair land acquisition and mining policy is an absolute necessity, its absence does not explain the five-fold drop in year-on-year growth rates. Government estimates for FY 2012 suggest the agriculture sector will grow four per cent and services 10 per cent. If the sectoral shares of GDP for agriculture, industry and services are taken as 16 per cent, 28 per cent and 56 per cent respectively, GDP should grow by approximately 7.9 per cent, assuming there is no further pickup in industrial activity during the rest of the year.

These are impressive numbers for a large economy like India in the midst of a worldwide economic slowdown, even if they do not match the nine per cent plus growth rates that were glibly assumed to be par for the course not long ago. More to the point, these projections are unlikely to pressure the Reserve Bank of India to go slow in its efforts to alter inflationary expectations. Perhaps India needs more realistic expectations for its manufacturing sector. There are too many structural impediments that stand in the way of a sustained 15 per cent annual growth in domestic manufacturing. The focus should be on engendering a policy environment that provides traction across the sector. The desired growth numbers will follow.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE OTHER OIL PROBLEM

DEPENDENCE ON IMPORTED COOKING OIL SHOULD BE REDUCED

For a country whose cuisine uses so much edible oil, India's dependence on imported cooking oil is as economically debilitating as its dependence on imported energy. Barring a short spell in the late eighties, when the country was nearly self-sufficient in edible oil production, the bulk of the cooking oil needs have been met through imports for decades. Even today, domestic oilseed production does not meet even half of the Indian consumers' requirement. Since palm oil constitutes 80 per cent of all vegetable oil imports, India has come to become dependent on the handful of countries that have exportable surplus of edible oil. Any disruption in supplies from these limited sources can cause mayhem in the domestic edible oil sector. This problem gains greater importance against the backdrop of a deceleration in domestic oilseed production. Stimulating domestic production depends critically on improving productivity of land and crop varieties, and oilseed cultivation is able to stand up economically to competition for land from alternative crops. Outsourcing oilseed production by acquiring land in other countries can be one way to handle this problem. Some companies engaged in the vegetable oil business are already trying to do that. But this alone may not suffice. The easier option is to promote domestic cultivation of oil palm, the highest oil-yielding perennial crop.

Unlike other oilseed crops, which yield less than one tonne of oil per hectare, oil palm can deliver four to six tonnes of crude edible oil, besides four to six quintals of palm kernel oil, which has industrial applications. Many farmers who have switched to oil palm from traditional crops with encouragement from edible oil companies in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Orissa and Mizoram are earning good profits. While the Union government seems to have bought into this idea and plans to bring 60,000 hectares under oil palm this year, the funds made available in this year's Budget – Rs 300 crore – will be inadequate. High initial investment and long gestation period (plants begin yielding oil only from fourth year of plantation) necessitate long-term financial support for farmers, which may subsequently be recovered in installments.

The biggest challenge in oil palm production is the post-harvest management of fresh fruit bunches or FFBs that contain palm oil. Being highly perishable, they need to be crushed within 24 hours of harvesting. The development of FFBs processing facilities, therefore, needs to go hand in hand with expansion of oil palm plantations. Strengthening sustainable links between growers and oil mills, much like what sugar and sugarcane cooperatives have sought to do, can provide one route to sustained growth of domestic output. An experts committee on oil palm has estimated that over a million hectares of irrigated land can be brought under oil palm plantations in several southern and eastern states. If this domestic potential is fully exploited, it will augment edible oil availability and help limit dependence on imports. More importantly, it will stabilise the country's overall oilseed production and cooking oil availability in the long term, because once they are seeded, oil palm plantations remain productive for nearly a quarter century.

.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

AGRICULTURE - BE LIKE GUJARAT

OTHER STATES HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM INDIAN AGRICULTURE?S STAR PERFORMER

SHANKAR ACHARYA

In the 60 years since 1950 Indian agriculture has recorded an average growth rate of 2.7 per cent per year. In the past 30 years, the rate has crept slightly above three per cent, well short of the four per cent target set in successive recent Five-Year Plans. Most analysts infer that it would take great good luck (with weather) or a sweeping revolution in policy design and implementation to achieve and sustain four per cent growth. Is that really so?

For a more optimistic answer let's look at the variation in agricultural performance across India's 20 largest states (by population) in the last decade (see Table). It's striking that agriculture in seven sizeable states (Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa) grew faster than four per cent between 2000-01 and 2007-08. And that fact doesn't change when the relatively bad agricultural years of 2008-09 and 2009-10 are included. What's more, most of these states are more water-stressed than average. The star performer is semi-arid Gujarat, clocking eight per cent (nearly triple the national average) agricultural growth over the decade.

So let's dig a little deeper into the reasons behind Gujarat's stellar agrarian success, especially as it comes after the decade of the nineties when growth averaged less than five per cent. The story is persuasively documented in the recent monograph compiled by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, professors Ravindra Dholakia and Samar Datta: High Growth Trajectory and Structural Changes in Gujarat Agriculture (Macmillan, 2010). Broadly speaking, professors Dholakia, Datta et al (henceforth, DDEA) identify six factors that were given a concerted push by the Gujarat government from 2002-03 onwards:

·      a sustained programme of water conservation and management;

·      a massive and well-coordinated extension effort;

·      a successful overhaul of rural electricity distribution;

·      a strong emphasis on non-food crops like horticulture, Bt cotton, castor and isabgol;

·      sustained and comprehensive support to livestock development;

·      major revamping of agriculture-supporting infrastructure, including roads, electricity and ports.

Some of these factors merit elaboration.

With only a quarter of its agricultural land irrigated, efficient conservation and management of water has been a continuing challenge for Gujarat's agriculture. Three major programmes received a fresh impetus from 2000 onwards. With assistance and encouragement from the Planning Commission, watershed development programmes were rapidly scaled up, adding about 100,000 hectares per year. By 2009, nearly 2,000 projects covering 2 million hectares had been completed and another 900,000 hectares were under execution. Second, the Jal Kranti programme for constructing check dams, recharging wells and reviving village ponds/tanks was vigorously pursued. By the end of 2008, "a total of 113,738 checkdams, 55,917 bori bandhs and 240,199 farm ponds were constructed by the Water Resources Department" (page 25, DDEA book). Third, micro-irrigation (through drips and sprinklers) received an enormous boost in the past decade spearheaded by the Gujarat Green Revolution Company. During 2006 to 2010 nearly 2 lakh hectares were covered, benefiting a similar number of farmers.
 

AGRICULTURE GROWTH (GROSS VALUE ADDED) ACROSS INDIAN STATES                                                                       (Percentage)

 

2000-01–
2007-081

2000-01–
2009-102

Sectoral share of
agriculture in state
GSDP* (2007-08)1

Gujarat

11.7

8.0

16.0

Chhattisgarh

9.4

6.7

17.0

Rajasthan

5.8

3.5

23.9

Maharashtra

5.6

4.0

13.0

Andhra Pradesh

5.6

4.7

22.4

Madhya Pradesh

5.5

6.2

24.2

Orissa

4.6

4.8

23.3

Himachal Pradesh

4.0

1.6

19.4

Jammu and Kashmir

3.6

3.1

24.1

Haryana

3.6

3.4

21.0

Uttarakhand

2.5

2.2

16.1

Tamil Nadu

2.5

2.0

12.2

Punjab

2.4

2.2

31.7

West Bengal

2.1

2.0

18.5

Uttar Pradesh

1.7

1.8

27.3

Bihar

1.5

1.1

23.0

Karnataka

1.2

0.6

15.4

Kerala

0.7

0.9

12.4

Assam

0.5

1.6

24.6

Jharkhand

-0.7

1.1

8.6

(1)  Based on national income data at 1999-2000 prices
(2)  1999-2000 prices data up to 2007-08 and 2004-05 base data for growth in 2008-09 and 2009-10
*Gross state domestic product                                                    Source: Central Statistical Organisation

As in the rest of India, the system of agricultural extension established in the years 1950 to 1970 had suffered serious entropy and decay in next 30 years. In the early noughties, a systematic and massive renewal of agricultural extension systems was carried out under the Krishi Mahotsav programme. It included an "ambitious programme for issuing soil health cards and kisan credit cards for each farmer and micro level planning for each block and village for recommending profitable alternative crop patterns…" (page 27, DDEA book). The programme required a month-long deployment of about 100,000 personnel from across 18 government departments. It has been carried out each year since 2005.

Along with revamping water management and extension services, the Gujarat government also achieved a major breakthrough in rural electrification. The Jyotigram Yojana was launched in 2003 and ensured 100 per cent electrification of the state's villages and reasonably regular supply in three years. The scheme included a crucial component of power supply for groundwater management with eight hours a day of full voltage power made available on a pre-announced schedule.

These major initiatives on the supply side facilitated a robust response of the agriculture sector to the changing composition of demand as Gujarat's overall economy grew at double-digit rates during the decade. The state was quick to seize the opportunities for diversification into non-food crops. Despite some controversy, Gujarat was an early and successful adopter of Bt cotton, which fuelled rapid growth in cotton production. Other commercial crops such as castor and psyllium (isabgol) also did very well. Household incomes grew apace, so did the market for horticulture products. The production of both fruit and vegetables was about four times higher in 2008-09 compared to 1991-92 and the output of spices was almost five times greater. This robust growth in horticulture owed a lot to improvements in infrastructure and marketing.

Apart from crop production, agricultural policies also encouraged rapid expansion of the livestock sector. During the past decade, milk production grew at five per cent per year, egg production at 19 per cent and meat output at 10 per cent. With rapidly rising incomes the mainly vegetarian orientation of the state's population has gradually lessened. Besides, cross-border sales have also grown.

How much of Gujarat's agricultural success story can be replicated in other Indian states? In the preface to their book, professors Dholakia and Datta claim that "this story is certainly replicable by other states and regions within and outside the country". Well, maybe. A few sentences earlier they write "It is not a miracle that happened exogenously. It is fully endogenous, systematically led by long-term vision and comprehensive strategy requiring solid commitment and dedication to the cause, political will to pursue market-oriented reforms of policies and institutions, interdepartmental and inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation, and a responsive and entrepreneurial farming community". Well, in much of today's India that doesn't sound too "endogenous"; it seems closer to an "exogenous" miracle!

The author is honorary professor at Icrier and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India
The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

AWAY WITH THE ORG CHART

AJIT BALAKRISHNAN

Every era leaves behind symbol systems well after it has passed; the pyramid-like Organisation Chart or Org Chart is possibly one such symbol system and it is a relic from the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution itself has meant many things to many people. In the minds of some, it evokes sprawling textile factories spewing smoke, and workers pulling and pushing levers under the glaring eyes of their supervisors. For others, the Industrial Revolution means progress, the move from low-productive farms to efficient factories.

Gandhiji took a dim view of the Industrial Revolution. That view is neatly coded in the Congress party's flag of that time. The hand-spinning wheel or charkha, which was destroyed by the Industrial Revolution, found a place of honour at the centre on a white background with green and saffron bands above and below it.

The pyramidal Org Chart, a symbolic representation of how work is organised, is one such symbol system.

A typical Org Chart starts with a box at the top depicting the Overall Leader, with arrows pointing downwards from him to a row of boxes representing Smaller Leaders of "functions" such as sales, finance and marketing. It then shows more rows below each with its set of boxes which, in turn, have arrows pointing down to more rows of more boxes depicting Even Smaller Leaders. Such Org Charts are used for a wide variety of purposes. They are used, for example, to explain to outsiders and new employees "how this organisation works".

People at higher levels in such a chart see it as an inalienable right that they are paid more than those at lower levels in the chart. Offices and even office furniture must reflect the position in the chart; people at higher levels expect to have larger offices with greater privacy and more elaborate furnishings. Organisations that have such neat Org Charts are applauded as "well-managed".

However, organisational theorists today are starting to cast a sceptical eye on such neat Org Charts. Do these charts mean that a person at one level in the chart should conduct a task-related conversation only with a person in the box above or below him and directly linked to him by an arrow? Does it mean that a person may issue work directions only to those in a row below him and directly connected to him by an arrow in the Org Chart?

The hidden code behind these charts, the sceptical organisation theorists say, is that work life ought to be organised in today's Information Age exactly as it was designed in the Industrial Revolution era of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In that era, the key to productivity and, therefore, to organisational success, was the principle of economies of scale and this was supposed to be obtained by making standardised widgets in very large quantities. Henry Ford encapsulated this thinking best in his dictum that you could have any colour of his Ford Model T car as long as it was black.

Unfortunately, true Information Age organisations derive their success not from economies of scale and standardised widgets; they bank on "network effects", the phenomena by which, for example, a single mobile phone has no value, and two mobile phones mean that at least you can talk to another person, thus each mobile phone acquires some value. Extending this further, 100 mobile phones mean that each person can now talk to at least 99 other people and so on. In other words, as an increasing number of people use mobile phones, each mobile phone becomes more valuable, so does the value of the network that connects them.

In a visual depiction, a mobile phone network that shows each mobile phone user connected to every other mobile phone user may indicate that it is a more valuable entity than one in which such connections are sparse.

Such network effects are starting to be uncovered not just in the Internet and Web industries but also in academic institutions, news organisations, Hollywood, research labs, stock markets and many, many other places. In each of these cases, the higher the extent of network connections of people within and across organisations, the more is the opportunity for value creation.

Authority and prestige in such network industries no longer rest on your ability to command and control people "below you"; they depend on your capacity to add value to the network as a whole. The pyramid, therefore, flattens into a picture of extensive networks with critical people at the nodes.

So, is it time we neatly and silently folded and consigned the pyramidal Org Chart to the waste-paper basket?

ajitb@rediffmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

A CAMBODIAN 'UPRISING'

KNOWN AS THE ASIAN 'WILD WEST', THE COUNTRY IS ON ITS WAY TO STEADY GROWTH - THE REAL ESTATE BOOM IS AN INDICATION

BARUN ROY

A 60-storey skyscraper soaring above the low, monotonous spread of red-tiled roofs of Phnom Penh? Don't be surprised. After several years of slow growth, Cambodia is stirring again, and when an economy turns, real estate is usually where an emerging nation stamps its first ambitious footprints. Cambodia is no exception.

Of course, it's still an idea, but the idea has been approved by the government, along with at least 200 other proposals for buildings higher than 10 floors that, once built, will change Phnom Penh's skyline forever. Nine buildings in the capital are already 20 storeys or more high. A 38-storey mixed-use development, Vattanac Tower, is due for completion in September 2012. A 52-storey project, called International Financial Complex, is still on after some pruning. Sixty storeys can't be too far behind.

It's an "uprising," literally, now spreading to other parts of the country as well, especially Seam Ream to the north, the once-sleepy outpost that's now the country's second-largest city. Fuelling the boom is a new law, passed in May last year, which allows foreigners to own up to 70 per cent of any property above the ground-floor level that's not within 30 km of a border.

Cambodia is still an LDC (least developed country), with its 15 million mainly agriculturist population surviving notionally on $1 a day. But the LDC status allows the country to have quota- and duty-free access to most world markets, which an increasingly pro-private-sector government now sees as an advantage. Export policies have been liberalised and tax reforms have been implemented to let investors exploit this benefit to the full. The government also wants to leverage Cambodia's membership of the economically resurgent Greater Mekong sub-region, which offers investors the prospects of a wider regional market.

All this has spurred a fresh investor interest in Cambodia and triggered an explosion of demand for commercial and living spaces. New apartment blocks are proliferating all over the place. Rental for "Grade A" office space in Phnom Penh has shot up to around $30 per square metre. A one-bedroom apartment in Seam Reap, believed to be the fastest-growing city in Asia, now rents for $450 a month, while a two-bedroom one could easily fetch $650 or more.

South Koreans are developing a whole new satellite city near Phnom Penh, called Camko City, aimed particularly at foreigners looking to settle down in Cambodia. Although the project has run into temporary snags, with its principal financial backer, Busan Savings Bank, being investigated for banking irregularities at home, Cambodians believe the project won't be allowed to crumble as almost half a billion dollars has already been sunk in it and quite a few residential towers are up on its 119-hectare site, reclaimed from a lake.

Four other satellite cities are at various stages of development around Phnom Penh, including the 260-hectare Grand Phnom Penh International City, invested by Indonesia's Ciputra Group, with architectural designs that are considered too avant-garde for Cambodia. A fifth one has just been announced by a local firm, Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, which is prepared to spend up to $3 billion to build a 387-hectare property. Satellite cities are part of the government's plan to cope with Phnom Penh's burgeoning population, now 1.5 million but growing at about 20 per cent a year.

The popular impression of Cambodia is still that of an Asian "Wild West," where ganja, guns and sex can be had in plenty, corruption runs through all levels, roads are dusty and easily flooded, and all kinds of backpackers, outcasts, drifters, paedophiles and alcoholics feel at home. In parts, that may still be true, but the signs of change are many and convincing.

There's a rush of new hotels, restaurants and Western-style shopping malls, and Phnom Penh's first multiplex, licensed to show Hollywood movies, has just made its debut. Fund transfers through domestic banks are on the rise. Car sales are strong, helped by easy bank loans. The telecom network has already spread to three international gateways and more than 20,000 km of fibre-optic cables. The country's first communication satellite could be launched in early 2013. Roads are being upgraded with help from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Trains are running again on the country's once-defunct railway under an Australian concessionaire.

The economy remains strong. Garment exports, Cambodia's second major business after tourism, are on course for a 30 per cent rise this year over last year's $2.99 billion earning. As for tourism, 42 large-scale projects worth $2.6 billion were approved in the first five months of this year, more than double from a year ago. Club Med is considering making an entry. ADB has just announced a three-year, $500-million programme for projects in agriculture, education, finance, water supply and transport. And Cambodia's long-awaited securities exchange is ready to start trading by the end of this year.

rbarun@gmail.com  

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

IMMUNE TO AWARENESS

KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HIV AND AIDS HAS IMPROVED BUT IS STILL WORRYINGLY LOW AMONG WOMEN

INDICUS ANALYTICS

Recent statistics released by the World Health Organisation show that the HIV prevalence rate in India has declined from 0.4 per cent of the population in the early 2000s to 0.3 per cent in 2009. Even so, the prevalence rate is higher than many other developing countries, like China, where it is 0.1 per cent.

The relatively low level of awareness of HIV infection among Indian women clearly indicates the population's vulnerability to HIV. According to the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for 2005-06, a mere 57 per cent of ever-married women in the age group of 15-49 years reported being aware of HIV or AIDS; though this was significantly higher than the 40 per cent who reported awareness in the 1998-99 NFHS-2 survey. Efforts to increase awareness have, therefore, borne fruit but are still lacking in rural areas where awareness rose from 30 per cent to 46 per cent over the seven years.

The HIV situation is diverse across the country. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation, HIV prevalence has stabilised in Tamil Nadu and other southern states with a high HIV burden. However, new areas have emerged in northern and eastern states. Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai have a significant population living with HIV among injecting drug users. The reasons for such prevalence vary from state to state depending on the proportion of high-risk groups. Despite consistent efforts of the government and non-government organisations, the level of awareness varies widely across states. (Click here for graph)
 

POSITIVELY LOW
Percentage of women who have heard about AIDS

WEALTH INDEX

 %

Lowest

23.90

Second

40.70

Middle

60.00

Fourth

77.60

Highest

92.00

EDUCATION

 

No education

30.30

Less than 5 years

57.20

10-11 years complete

94.90

12 or more years complete

99.00

Source: NFHS-3, 2005-06

In Manipur, Kerala, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu more than 90 per cent of women are aware of AIDS. High literacy rate and concerted campaigns have contributed to increased levels of awareness in these states. India's first-known HIV infection was diagnosed in Chennai and this is reflected in the high level of awareness among men and women in Tamil Nadu. These states are followed by Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashra with more than 80 per cent awareness among women. At the other end are Bihar, Rajasthan and Jharkhand where awareness among women is less than 40 per cent.

The level of awareness among men is considerably higher than women and there are 14 states with 90 per cent or more awareness levels among men. Meghalaya, however, is one of those states where awareness among both men and women is merely 62-63 per cent. Jharkhand is at the bottom of the list with just 60.8 per cent awareness among men.

Knowledge of AIDS increases with education and with the wealth index of the household. This is true even in the case of men since about half of the men with no education (51 per cent) and 53 per cent of men in the lowest wealth quintile have heard of AIDS, while knowledge is almost universal among men at the highest education level and in the highest wealth quintile. Television was cited as the most common source of knowledge, followed by radio among all sub-groups of the population. Though levels of awareness need to be increased, it is equally important to clear misconceptions about the disease among the general population. Going ahead, the key to control the spread of AIDS is effective communication among high-risk groups across the country.

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

sumita@indicus.net

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

DODGY DATA

Reforms in data-gathering are overdue. Industry bodies and independent research outfits can be roped in to supplement the government's efforts.

The RBI Governor, Dr D. Subbarao, was right in observing a week ago that the quality of macroeconomic data left much to be desired. Estimates of GDP, industrial output and inflation, on the basis of which the RBI formulates monetary policy, are subject to constant and major changes. This adds to the risk of the RBI and the government making the wrong moves. For instance, the growth estimates for 2009-10 changed from 7.4 per cent towards the end of that fiscal to 8 per cent by January 2011. Six months from now, we may be looking at a very different figure for GDP growth in 2010-11, making the present policy steps seem inappropriate. And even that 'final' number is likely to be wrong, thanks to the inability to capture developments across large segments of the economy.

To be fair to the government, it has revamped the WPI and the IIP, enlarging the representation of services in the former and including about 100 new industries and weeding out 42 old ones in the case of the latter. But this can only be the beginning. GDP estimates are unable to get a fix on the unorganised sector, believed to make up over half the economy. Enterprise Surveys carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation, are read along with the NSSO's surveys on employment and the Census to arrive at the number of workers and units in the unorganised space. But it is anyone's guess whether the universal or sample surveys are reliable. Estimates of gross value added (GVA) per worker are considered suspect, more so when the output is intangible, as in services. It is, however, hoped the output estimates of organised manufacturing will improve with the introduction of the new IIP, which can be used to extrapolate data collated by the Annual Survey of Industries. Input-output tables for various sectors of industry need updating from time to time. Due attention must be paid to services sector data, believed to be the most unreliable of all. Studies suggest that the GDP deflators used for the services sector have not kept pace with inflation after the 1990s, leading to an overestimation of output.

The RBI Governor is not the first to voice concerns about data quality. The former Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, aired his doubts over IIP data soon after industrial output was reported to have grown at 1.3 per cent in August 2008. However, most policymakers bring up the subject only when the numbers don't suit them. Rather, they should focus on institutional reforms in data-gathering. Industry bodies can be roped in to plug data gaps and independent research agencies asked to supplement the government's efforts. Unless this is done, economic projections would amount to whistling in the dark.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SUCCOUR FOR GREEK CRISIS

MOHAN R. LAVI

IFRS-9 standard gives specific instances when cost of financial instruments can be considered to be representative of fair value and when it cannot.

The official name of Greek Parliament is Hellenic. Living up to a part of the name, the country has given hellish times to its citizens over the past few years. Like any crisis, the Greek one had its origins years ago when the country with a tiny economy was consistently living beyond its means. When tough times came , Greece discovered that it did not have enough to service its debt. Events quickly overtook the Government forcing an austerity package. Probably the most difficult part of the austerity package involves disinvesting on an average one public sector undertaking – which accounts for 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country— every 15 days.

Banks that hold Greek bonds have discovered that their values are at their nadir. The new Chairman at the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has commenced his tenure with a statement that adoption of IFRS-9 on Financial Instruments would give more breathing space to banks from accounting for losses on bonds.

IFRS-9

IAS 39, the previous avatar of IFRS-9, was pooh-poohed as an over-ambitious standard since differing economic conditions ensured that the mark-to-market mantra stipulated for most financial instruments therein did not represent the fair value in moody markets. IFRS-9 nipped the problem in the bud by providing for only two classifications of financial instruments — those measured at amortised cost and those measured at fair value.

The available for sale and held-to-maturity classifications stipulated in IAS-39 were eliminated. Classification is made at the time the financial asset is initially recognised, namely when the entity becomes a party to the contractual provisions of the instrument.

IFRS 9 permits debt instruments to be measured at amortised cost if they met two tests — the business model test and the cash flow characteristics test.

The business model test would be satisfied if the objective of the entity's business model is to hold the financial asset to collect the contractual cash flows (rather than to sell the instrument prior to its contractual maturity to realise its fair value changes).

The cash flow characteristics test would be said to have been satisfied if the contractual terms of the financial asset give rise on specified dates to cash flows that are solely payments of principal and interest on the principal outstanding.

The European banks that held Greek bonds would have the option to value the investments at amortised cost since at least one of the tests would be satisfied. IFRS-9 requires all equity instruments to be measured at fair value. However, considering the fact that borrowers in trouble normally propose that the debt be converted into equity, IFRS-9 provides an exception. The standard gives specific instances when cost can be considered to be representative of fair value and when it cannot.

Measurement at cost cannot avoid the annual impairment test on these assets though it is felt that the losses on impairment would not be as much as the losses that could have been incurred had the instruments been measured at fair value and the dip in values hit the profit and loss account.

Reviving IFRS

IFRS-9 has been issued after vehement protests over IAS-39 and is seen as a saviour to prevent IFRS standards themselves from being impaired. Treading carefully, the IASB has issued the standard in stages.

India has not gone beyond the exposure draft stage in implementing the accounting standards for financial instruments. Possibilities of a Greek-style debt syndrome in India are remote considering the fact that Government bonds are trading at healthy rates and external debt is not too high. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs along with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India combine should think of amending Ind-AS 32, 39 and 107 on the lines of IFRS-9 with its toned-down measurement criteria.

(The author is a Banglore-based chartered accountant).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONUS ON THE STATE

IN NOIDA, THE STATE GOVERNMENT SHOULD COMPENSATE FLAT-BUYERS AND DEVELOPERS

 

In upholding the Allahabad High Court order quashing the Uttar Pradesh government's acquiring of 156 hectares of land for residential apartments in Greater Noida, the Supreme Court has changed the scenario of how land should be obtained for such projects. It has also intervened decisively on the larger question of land acquisition. More than 6,000 hopeful flat-owners, who have bought flats built on land that now has to be returned to the farmers have been wronged. The Court's subsequent order, asking builders to return their money with interest, is therefore also welcome. However, property developers who bought land from the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA) now find themselves stranded. The Court should direct the GNIDA to return all the money received from the builders with interest. Ultimately the GNIDA and the Uttar Pradesh government bear all the blame for buying land under the pretense of creating industries and then selling it to property developers to build apartments and malls. The financial liability, too, must ultimately rest with the GNIDA and the UP government.


The UP government bought the land under an 'emergency' clause of the Land Acquisition Act and then quickly switched the land use from industrial to residential. The apex court had also rightly pointed out earlier that state governments were using the colonial land acquisition law to prise land away from farmers. Now that the Court has ordered the return of the land to villagers, the government should comply. Thereafter, the flatbuyers and the developers, and through them, the lenders must be compensated, in either of two ways: either with as much cash as they had shelled out plus interest or with land re-acquired on terms acceptable to the farmers. In either case, the state must pick up the tab. It is clear that people's resistance against the way land is acquired is hardening and becoming widespread. Policy must ensure proper compensation, annuities as well as some form of stakeholding for landowners in any project that comes up on their land. Only a policy that is perceived to be just towards all will succeed in the long term.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SCORCHED EARTH

THE GOVERNMENT HAS TO ACT FAST TO STOP THE EROSION OF SOIL QUALITY ACROSS INDIA

 

About 70% of the land under cultivation in India is in deep trouble: the quality of soil is falling, water tables are sinking and salinity and acidity are increasing. Farmers no longer use traditional things like cowdung and crop stalks to replenish soil; excessive use of chemical fertilisers, needed for green revolution crops, is adding to the trouble. Earthworms, necessary to turn over soil, cannot survive in the chemical muck that farmland is turning into. Various government agencies recognise the problem, but seem to be stumped about what to do about it. Indeed, there's no silver bullet that will rejuvenate soil quality, but a series of measures taken together will help. First, to better the quality of soil, it is important to improve water management. Excessive use of irrigation to grow, say, rice in Punjab or sugarcane in Maharashtra, not only depletes the water table, but washes away precious soil nutrients. Traditional methods of storing and handling water by harvesting rainwater, digging wells and building small check dams will help. Second, it is important to control the amount of chemical fertilisers that are pumped into the soil. Rotating crops and planting legumes, which trap and store nitrogen naturally are obvious alternatives.


Third, it is important to educate farmers in ways to improve soil quality. Andhra Pradesh has pioneering projects that teach people how to separate organic waste from other stuff like plastics and turn it into compost. Other states should follow this example. Finally, the government should use its policy tools to prod people into adopting these practices. Big subsidies on fertiliser, water and diesel used to drive pumpsets keep their prices artificially low and promote overuse. Apart from being a drain on the exchequer, these subsidies are proving to be damaging for farming itself. Now, the government is trying to cut subsidies by stealth. Instead, it should educate states about the damage that these subsidies cause before scrapping these sops. This will require some political spine, but if this government discovers its vertebrae, it could help avert a major farm and ecological crisis.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TALKING HEAD

WHY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN SHOULD IMPORT HER TV SKILLS TO THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY

 

 Jayanthi Natarajan, a Congress spokesperson before she got a ministerial post in Tuesday's cabinet reshuffle, has moved from television news studios to the environment ministry. Most political observers have missed the significance of Ms Natarajan's previous job vis-a-vis her current remit — what she learnt in TV studios can be immensely useful to her. Jairam Ramesh encouraged substantive debates, which made life difficult for UPA-II. Ms Natarajan should use the TV technique. Call all the stakeholders for a 30-minute meeting. Industrialists, green activists, local representatives, experts, Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, the two Bhushans (we are assuming some or all of last four would be keen to join the discussion) — all of them seated around a long table, Ms Natarajan presiding.


She makes an opening statement that sort of confuses all stakeholders and then invites their opinions, and soon after they start making their case passionately, she interrupts them, and while appearing to say something linked to the speaker's point makes a completely different point and invites another stakeholder to speak. This will confuse matters further, especially since every speaker will be given the same treatment. To ensure complete confusion she should encourage plenty of cross-talk between the stakeholders, more than one of them speaking at the same time and, occasionally, she should join in. Also, she must have at least two to three breaks during the meeting. This being the government, these would have to be non-commercial breaks — patriotic songs should play in these breaks. At the end of the 26 minutes of talking, she can announce pretty much anything, no stakeholder will be in a position to object because no one will have any idea what they actually talked about.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CORPORATE MIDLIFE CRISIS

THE PROBLEM IS NOT RESTRICTED TO PEOPLE, BUT HAS IDENTIFIABLE SOLUTIONS

 

Individuals, organisations and even nations go through midlife crisis. Some of India's most successful and admired IT companies have seemingly lapsed into a midlife crisis, which has arrived a day too soon because of the global meltdown in 2008. For over a decade, these companies dazzled, sustaining high quarter-onquarter (q-o-q) growth in both topline and bottomline. The growth has since been stagnating and each one of them is looking for a possible way out of the trap.


Some IT companies have seen three/four changes at the top levels in the last couple of years. In fact, one of them has since appointed a well-respected (rank outsider) manager as non-executive co-chairman of the Board. Whereas this unconventional (in India) initiative will hopefully bear fruit over time, a company which is being regarded as an epitome of corporate governance in the country had to take this unusual step probably to (appropriately) beat the midlife crisis. What a catharsis? Incidentally, corporate governance is not mere conformance with the must list as laid down by the regulatory authorities. It encompasses visualising vision, articulating mission and providing direction to ensure long-term growth and sustainability. Corporate governance at the board-level must lift up the approach from business management to enterprise management, ensuring longterm economic health of the enterprise as against only the current.


Mid-life crisis is broadly described as a stage when an individual, organisation or a society having grown at a fast pace, in most cases admirably, matures into becoming enviable, but unwittingly falls into a complacency trap. More often, it shapes up because the fire to grow subsides, struggle to stretch stops, creativity to unleash enthusiasm comes to a halt, ability of innovate goes into hibernation, success goes to the head, and/or arrogance of invincibility overtakes.


Organisations and societies are driven by human beings. Human nature likes to bask in the glory of achievements. This is the first signal of midlife crisis. Having had no occasion to get an incisive view of the functioning or the analysis of numbers along with business matrix of any of the IT companies, it is not opined that all or any of them have been afflicted by either of the attributes of the midlife crisis. However, they do have issues and challenges of midlife, which the leaders of these enterprises must be addressing sagaciously and with speed. The fact of the matter is that some or all of these symptoms do threaten every enterprise one time or the other, leading to midlife crisis. The impact of midlife crisis is generally serious. Very few organisations are able to emerge out unscathed. Some lose shine, while others go down the hill and a few even get buried in the wreckage of economic history. To obviate the inevitable, it is important for organisations to prepare for the likely onset of the event — proactively and coactively rather than reactively deal with the situation as and when it dawns.


There are a couple of broad spectrum values (like broad spectrum medicine) that an organisation can nurture to avert the disaster. The first and foremost is to 'respect the voice of dissent' from whatever quarter — inside or outside. Dissent should be valued as an important input to analyse the functioning of the organisation and individuals. Human nature likes to listen to pleasant stories and is apathetic to unpleasant news. The courage to listen — intently, objectively and with positivity to not-so-encouraging news — acts like the pillar of strength to beat the possible catastrophe that may be brewing. The voice of dissent works like an antenna to receive the signals ahead of time. Nature has gifted such antennas to birds and animals in jungle to help them run to safe shelters to ward off any arriving calamity.
    Secondly, 'humility' must remain on firm grounds and at all levels, and should never give way to arrogance. Arrogance closes the doors for the fresh air and new light. It drives organisations into a cocoon of success. Thirdly, build 'equanimity'. Rejoice success but never make a bond of it, howsoever singular scaling the summit of success might have been. There is a poem which suggests whenever you are too happy, look up; you will find many having scaled greater heights may not be in the same area. Whenever you are morose, look down; you may find many who could not achieve even your level, notwithstanding demonstratively greater struggle, higher resources and bigger support. The prescription is like suggesting abstinence from the tempting repast of success. The idea is to fill only part of the appetite so that the fire in the belly continues to ignite greater success. Success is a journey, and not a destination.
Nurture 'creativity'. Every human mind has a genius in him. The reflection of genius becomes visible only when challenged. The ability of leadership lies in challenging every human mind day in and day out so that the creativity remains at its imaginative best in all the men and women he leads.
There has to be a specific prescription tailored to treat ills of the industry and/or organisations. However, the canopy of value system to drive insatiable ambition to scale still greater heights of success must remain over every enterprise to protect against the adverse fall outs of the success. Propensity to fall prey to midlife crisis is all-pervading. Leaders! watch out.

 

G N BAJPAI FORMER CHAIRMAN, SEBI & LIC OF INDIA

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

HITLER'S TALKING DOGS

MAUREEN DOWD


At this late date, when we believe we know absolutely everything about Adolf Hitler, could it be that he was even crazier than we thought? From Caligula to Nero to Gadhafi, dictators are often not just cruel and evil, but lunatics. It's very rare to find a rational dictator. Absolute power deranges them and gives them delusions and fantasies. So, we shouldn't be surprised by news reports suggesting the Fuhrer was batty beyond even Mel Brooks' satire.


First, an MI5 document was declassified in London in April, revealing megalomaniacal schemes for Nazis to rise again if they lost the war by scattering sleeper agents around the world, and by killing Allied officers with poison infused in sausages, chocolate, Nescafe coffee, cigarette lighters and Bayer aspirin. German agents said they were instructed to first offer Allied targets a cigarette treated by Nazi scientists to give the smoker a headache, then finish the job with a poison aspirin that would kill within 10 minutes. Secret German weapons included a pellet that would emit a fatal vapor when heated by cigarette ash; poison for books, desks and door handles; a tablet of exploding powdered glass that would activate when placed next to a wet glass, and a belt buckle with a silver swastika that concealed a .32 pistol that could fire two shots.
"The Werewolf organisation, a network of Nazi saboteurs who would fight to create a Fourth Reich in the event Hitler's empire crumbled, were to leave tins of instant coffee powder and other foods laced with toxins where they could be found by British and American soldiers," The Daily Mail of London wrote, describing the declassified dossier. Four German spies captured after they parachuted into France in 1945, including one woman, spilled some of the assassination plots. Female agents were given purse mirrors with microbes hidden inside them, so they might infect top Allied occupiers with deadly bacteria.
British military officials at the time considered the agents' stories "somewhat fantastic," but were worried enough to prohibit "the eating of German food or the smoking of German cigarettes" by advancing Allied troops. A new book, Amazing Dogs by Jon Bondeson, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University in Wales, reveals that Hitler supported a German school that tried to teach large, muscular mastiffs to "talk" to humans. This story set off a panting spate of "Heel Hitler," "Furred Reich," "Wooffan SS" and "Arf Wiedersehen" headlines in British tabloids and plenty of claims that Hitler was "barking mad."


"There were some very strange experiments going on in wartime Germany, with regard to dog-human communication," Bondeson writes, wondering: "Were the Nazis trying to develop a breed of super-intelligent canine stormtroopers, capable of communicating with their human masters of the Herrenvolk?" He discovered a 1943 Nazi magazine piece about the headmistress of the canine school, a Margarethe Schmitt, claiming that some of the dogs spoke a few words. "At a Nazi study course, a talking dog was once asked 'Who is Adolf Hitler?' and replied 'Mein Fuhrer!"' Bondeson writes of these claims, noting that "the Nazis, who had such conspicuous disregard for human rights, felt more strongly about the animals."


Nazi propaganda dwelled on Hitler as a dog lover. He owned two German Shepherds named Bella and Blondi. He tested a cyanide capsule on Blondi and killed her just before he committed suicide in the bunker. The Nazis took their dogs seriously. As The Guardian reported in January, the Nazi government was so furious about a dog in Finland that had been trained to imitate Hitler with a Nazi salute that the foreign office in Berlin started "an obsessive campaign" to destroy its owner.


Bondeson writes that in Germany in the'20s, some people had a strong belief in the potential of super-intelligent animals. He said that along with Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse, an Airedale terrier named Rolf was considered one of the leading German intellectuals of the early 1900s. Rolf's owner said she taught him his own alphabet with a system of taps of his paw on a board and, Bondeson notes drolly, "he successfully dabbled in mathematics, ethics, religion and philosophy." The latest wacky Hitler story comes from the British author Graeme Donald. He says that, while researching a military book, he stumbled across a story that Hitler and Heinrich Himmler were so worried about German soldiers' getting sexual diseases from French hookers that they cooked up a plan for soldiers to carry small blowup blond, blue-eyed dolls called "gynoids" in their backpacks to use as sex "comforters." Donald said Himmler ordered 50 dolls but the soldiers were too embarrassed to carry them. "In the end the idea fizzled out," Donald told The Sun, "and the place where they were made and all the dolls were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden."


© 2011 New York Times News Service

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CURSOR

WHY POLITICS KILLS DEVELOPMENT

T K ARUN


What is the link between the death threats received by economist Jean Dreze in Jharkhand, the zero payment in Karnataka of unemployment allowance under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the serial killings in Uttar Pradesh of medical administrators? There is a linkage between these disparate happenings: political failure arising from the almost exclusive funding of Indian democracy by corruption.
Prof Dreze is the patron of a non-government organisation in Jharkhand that tries to generate awareness about the NREGS. One of its workers had been killed for insisting that workers under the scheme be paid their wage entitlement in full. An allegedly Maoist organisation has now issued a threat to decimate other leading lights of the NGO if they continue with their meddling.


Readers would probably recall some other reports of NGO activists being attacked, if not killed, for their advocacy of proper implementation of NREGS. But they would not have come across a single instance of any political party worker making it to a morbid headline on account of employment guarantee activism. This is actually quite strange. The NREGS is underpinned by an Act of Parliament, unlike all previous rural employment and development schemes. This Act creates a new right, for one member of a rural household to ask for and obtain unskilled work for 100 days a year at the stipulated wage. A guaranteed right is a contract between the state and the citizen, mediating which is quintessentially the job of a political party. Yet, across the country, no political party has sought to enforce this right. Karnataka's experience is illuminating. The National Institute of Advanced Study, Bangalore, assessed how NREGS is implemented in the state, based on an extensive, stratified survey of households in the five distinct regions of the state. While their conclusions and recommendations are of interest in themselves, for our present purpose, we will focus on some select findings.
According to official statistics, the proportion of target households that have been issued job cards is 81.55% whereas the Survey found that only about one-third the households had job cards, while two-thirds did not have any. As many as 29% of the job cards had been issued to households with at least one another job card, whereas the promise of the scheme is one job per household. A fifth of all households with job cards did no work under NREGS. Whether this was because they had taken the job cards as insurance and did not seek work or because they were refused work is not clear.


Of the households that did get work, the average number of mandays worked was 52.5, as against the promise of 100 days of work. The proportion of households who reported that they were denied work/ additional work was 8.21%. Now, if someone demands work but does not get it, he or she is entitled to unemployment allowance. The survey estimates that 76,773 days of unemployment allowance should have been paid out. The actual payout was zero. The Act stipulates that wages have to be paid weekly or at least every fortnight. The average delay in payment, in reality, was 3.57 months. The average daily earning under NREGS was . 80 for men and . 70 for women, while the law required that both men and women be paid . 125 a day (. 100 per day for some part of the year till it was revised to . 125). Karnataka has a functional system of local governance in place. Only a handful of other states have a comparable system of effective decentralisation. So, in most states, the working of the NREGS would be far worse than in Karnataka. Yet, no political party has come forward to champion proper implementation of NREGS, while only NGOs and activists have, only to receive death threats for their pains. Not even the Congress, which should, in theory, have a vested interest in proper implementation of a major instrumentality of achieving its professed goal of inclusive growth.


The Right to Information, another key innovation of the UPA, would come in handy for any serious effort to enforce pro-people implementation of the scheme. The right sleeps on the pages of the statute book, in the context of the NREGS. But why? Why shouldn't the Congress mobilise people to enforce the right to work in BJPruled states, and why shouldn't the BJP return the compliment in Congress-ruled states? The question baffles only the armchair analyst. Politicians who battle it out in the trenches understand only too well that the huge outlays on rural development — .40,000 crore for NREGS and .58,000 crore for Bharat Nirman this year — represent, for a large part, pickings for the politician. Unless they filch this money and loot the exchequer in this fashion, how can they finance political workers and activity?


Rights-based development comes into conflict with corruption-funded politics. Politics beats development. What we need is for politics to boost development. For that, parties need a funding route other than corruption.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

RIME OF THE MODERN MARINER

IN HIS FIRST BOOK, WRITER NICK HAYES PRESENTS AN UPDATE ON COLERIDGE'S POEM AS A MORALITY TALE FOR OUR TIMES


Whenever I read old poems, I'm struck again by how marvelous many of them are. In the light of Nick Hayes' graphic work The Rime of the Modern Mariner (Jonathan Cape 2011), a re-telling of the Coleridge poem, I've been re-reading "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," first published in 1798. Coleridge was a master of strange, terrifying, supernatural effects, and his poem still gives me the creeps. (I think he could give the Ramsays a run for their money!

 

Coleridge's poem is about a mariner who, in an act of meaningless violence kills the albatross that has been following their ship, and bringing it fair weather. Terrible consequences follow: "The very deep did rot, O Christ!/That ever this should be!/Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs/Upon the slimy sea." There's water everywhere, but nothing the sailors can drink: "And every tongue, through utter drought,/Was withered at the root;/We could not speak, no more than if/We had been choked with soot."

 

The events are strange, but the obsessive guilt he feels even after being forgiven, is very realistic. He can't forgive himself, he can't let go of the blame he has internalised. He is doomed to tell his story of guilt and redemption over and over again to any listener he can mesmerise with his "glittering eye."

 

Hayes writes a modern horror story about the mindless degradation of the earth. (The Romantics, too, living in an age of industrialisation were also concerned about the environment). The modern mariner finds his ship becalmed in those "great, slow-moving whirlpools" of plastic and other waste that exist in every ocean. They are seven of them (five according to others) with the North Pacific Gyre nine kilometers deep in some places. According to descriptions I've read, the rotational pattern of the ocean at certain points draws in and traps all kinds of debris, mainly plastic waste. Some of this plastic releases toxic chemicals into the sea. This ends up in the stomachs of birds and animals. If humans eat contaminated fish, they end up absorbing this toxicity.
    As in Coleridge, the jaunty verse which accompanies his graphics reads somehow emphasises the horror: "Screaming fists of hail and ice/Crashed down like weights of lead…/And ancient Thor of Nordic lore/Hammered on my head./I gaped across Poseidon's lair…/And saw a gathering army:/Waves of wailing Mymirdons…/Had formed a great tsunami."

 

Earlier, when the supercilious modern mariner has just killed the albatross, the sailors are terrified: "You killed the lucky albatross,/You contravened the sea,/And by the morals of the mariner/Punished all are we./These superstitious simple souls/I soon put in their place/But they just sat with silent eyes/That drilled into my face./So I turned around frustrated/And looked across the sea/And saw we were surrounded/By a wash of polythene./Swathes of polystyrene/Bobbed with tonnes of Neoprene/and polymethyl methacrylate/ Stretched across the scene."

 

Coleridge had to rely on words for his effects. Hayes uses graphics along with words. Robert Macfarlane writes in his blurb, "Brilliant, eerie and timely, Nick Hayes has created a stunning visual language to match his modernising of Coleridge's poem, hints of Bewick's woodcuts, Hokusai's waves, but with contemporary anger and edge."

Somewhere Nick Hayes says, "It was when I discovered a picture of an albatross, belly swelled to busting, full of plastic bottle caps that it had mistaken for shrimp, rotted and interlaced with plastic bags tight around its bones, that the penny dropped: albatross; Coleridge; burdens of guilt. It was time for a modern mariner.

 

 Nick Hayes is political cartoonist for The Guardian. He is also the founding editor of Meat Magazine, a periodical which includes new writing, comics and illustrations. The Rime of the Modern Mariner is his first book.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DIP IN IIP: WHAT IS CENTRE DOING?

The unexpected dip in the May index for industrial production (IIP) to a nine-month low has sent everyone, from analysts to the government, into a tizzy. The finance minister is correct when he says he does not see monthly or weekly figures as a trend-setter, but even he says "it is not encouraging". What is worrying is that the April figure was revised downwards to 5.7 per cent from the earlier 6.3 per cent; this means that even the May figure of 5.6 per cent may be revised downwards next month. It is interesting to note that analysts had expected eight per cent IIP growth for May. One wonders on what they based this figure. They are supposed to be serious professionals and their figures impact the stock markets, but they seem far off the mark since the figure emerged at 5.6 per cent. RBI Governor D. Subbarao had complained that much of the statistics they work with are unreliable and there is a constant revision even of GDP numbers. So, looking through rose-tinted glasses, one could say the official figures could be wrong because of inaccurate data collection. The most important point of worry, however, is the figure of production for the manufacturing sector at six per cent against 11.6 per cent in 2010 (April-May); this figure has been falling month by month. The manufacturing sector generates jobs but it has been neglected over the years in favour of the services sector, which is not as big a job creator as manufacturing is for the crores of jobless people entering the job market annually. But all is not lost. It is a good thing that the finance minister has said that they are in discussions with all the stake-holders, like chambers of commerce and other bodies, to see that manufacturing accounts for 25 per cent of GDP from the present 16 per cent. It would be advantageous if the FM could tell the nation periodically what is being done to increase production. This would underscore the seriousness of the government's intent given that it is being distracted by the huge political and governance problems that have cropped up. Part of the slowdown in industrial production can be explained by high interest rates and high raw material costs, and, to a significant extent, attributed to the global financial crisis which shows no signs of going away soon. The export sector still depends largely on orders from the US and Europe and these are the troubled areas. So exports are likely to slow down because of the global crisis. India's exports are basically from major job generating sectors, such as like leather, garments and textiles. Another constant worry is the infrastructure sector, which is just not picking up. Whether ports, roads or airports, everything is moving at a snail's pace. Growth in the core sector, infrastructure, was down to 4.9 per cent against 7.9 per cent last year. At one point the PMO was supposed to be tracking this sector but nothing much seems to have come of it. Unless the government can show that it is serious, this sector will not move forward. Global and domestic business companies have been talking about the flawed decision-making process and lack of governance in important sectors like infrastructure. Why should it be so difficult for the government to tackle this?

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OUR BRIBESCAPE

As the Lokpal Bill talks between the government and representatives of the civil society movement wend on their pot-holed path, one question continues to perplex: Why does the Anna Hazare team not also talk about corruption in the private sector? The entire focus of the activists seems to be on the government, from the lowest peon to the mightiest in the land; in fact, much time and energy has been expended in demanding that the Prime Minister be included in the list of those the Lokpal can question. But not a word about the private sector. Indeed, a suggestion that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) too should be included was immediately pooh-poohed and criticised. Built into the Hazare team's notion of who should form the Lokpal is the dreamy-eyed belief that somehow those who belong to "civil society" are morally and ethically superior to everybody else, especially the venal political class. But the campaign is called "India Against Corruption" so it should logically be aimed at all those who indulge in this pernicious practice. Instead, much invective and snide comment has been directed at politicians, but very little time has been spent in analysing the inbuilt contradictions of the draft Lokpal Bill. Corruption is a zero-sum game. After all, for every "corruptee" there is a "corruptor", for every bribe-taker a bribe-giver. It is the car owner who slips a few bucks into the outstretched hand of a constable so that the latter does not take away his licence and it is the corporate honcho who deals with the politician to get a licence that will help his company and additionally stymie his opposition. For proof, one has to only look at the list of worthies sitting in the sweltering Tihar Jail — there are ministers, politicians and chief executives, all implicated in the same scam. Yet, our crusaders feel there is no need to include businessmen. Why? Could it be because they think that the private-sector bribe givers — corporates, citizens — are victims, in that they are forced to cough up speed money because the babus and netas are greedy and demanding? Or that it is the elected representatives and the government superstructure in general that should be more accountable to the people? Or perhaps they genuinely feel that the private sector is clean and honest and it is only the government and politicians in general who are corrupt and mendacious. None of these explanations wash. True, politicians and bureaucrats are servants of the people and should be accountable, but the same applies to a corporate entity (more so the listed ones) or an NGO. They may not be elected, but as far as corruption is concerned, they too are complicit if they indulge in it and the exact same law should be applied to them. This is not to remotely suggest that businessmen and NGOwallahs are corrupt, but the purpose of this bill is to create an organisation that will go after those who are. And an omnibus Lokpal like the one that has been proposed should logically be empowered to treat everyone the same way. It is a different matter whether there should be such an all powerful Lokpal at all, but at the very least, it cannot view the issue of corruption so selectively. Post-liberalisation, corruption has only increased, as is evidenced by the scams we see all around us. The scams now are on a truly epic scale, easily dwarfing the biggest one of the 1980s — the Bofors scandal was worth a piffling `64 crore. Immediately after the economy was liberalised, we had the stock market scam in which `4,000 crore disappeared. The portents were apparent right then. And now we have the second-generation and Commonwealth Games scams which are monumental in their size. In all of them, official agencies and the private sector have been involved. Babus have played their role, as have members of Parliament and ministers and chief executive officers. This is not a mere matter of skimming a bit of cream off the top; this is corruption on a grand scale, designed by smart and devious minds to cheat the country of wealth. The official investigative agencies are working to get to the bottom of the whole thing. But it's hardly an exaggeration to say that the citizen has very little faith in a just outcome. India has the laws, but not necessarily the commitment to fight corruption. Which is why the demand for a Lokpal — an over-arching body that will probe and prosecute — has caught the imagination of people. The civil society activists have been demanding that only their version of the bill should be accepted; but curiously, while professing no faith in existing processes, laws and institutions, they are not pushing for cleansing the entire system. Their selective targeting continues to be baffling and is one reason why their campaign will always lack credibility.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WANT A JOB? INVENT, ADAPT & REINVENT

The rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 per cent has Democrats and Republicans reliably falling back on their respective cure-alls. It is evidence for liberals that we need more stimulus and for conservatives that we need more tax cuts to increase demand. I am sure there is truth in both, but I do not believe they are the whole story. I think something else, something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today's job market more than people realise. Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the US economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here's what's scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don't employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they're all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers. Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and healthcare and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can't, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever. Today's college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalisation and the Information Technology revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job. Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyper-connected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfil those criteria. But you would never know that from listening to the debate in Washington, where some Democrats still tend to talk about job creation as if it's the 1960s and some Republicans as if it's the 1980s. But this is not your parents' job market. This is precisely why LinkedIn's founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley — besides co-founding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook and sits on the board of Mozilla — has a book coming out after New Year called The Start-Up of You, co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: "Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old mid-career professional! Here's how you build your career today." Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mindset and skill set to compete. "The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone," he said to me. "No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it's now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business." To begin with, Hoffman says, that means ditching a grand life plan. Entrepreneurs don't write a 100-page business plan and execute it one time; they're always experimenting and adapting based on what they learn. It also means using your network to pull in information and intelligence about where the growth opportunities are — and then investing in yourself to build skills that will allow you to take advantage of those opportunities. Hoffman adds: "You can't just say, 'I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.'" You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then "find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it's differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us." Finally, you have to strengthen the muscles of resilience. "You may have seen the news that (the) online radio service Pandora went public the other week," Hoffman said. "What's lesser known is that in the early days (the founder) pitched his idea more than 300 times to V.C.'s with no luck." By arrangement with the New York Times

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SWEET DEALS & PROMISED LANDS

We need to be fair to farmers K.C. Mittal Land acquisition is done from farmers for a variety of purposes. Besides the usual development needs, such as building roads, railway tracks, institutional buildings that will serve the community, industry, or water channels, in recent times land has also been acquired for housing to be sold to townspeople. Farmers are usually not against selling their land for development, for they also get served by that development. Their children get employment and the value of their land improves. The problem lies in the latter case. Governments sell the land purchased at cheap rates from farmers (sometimes in the name of industrial development, as we saw in Greater Noida, but in reality not so) to builders at many times the price they originally paid to farmers. This is the first stage of profit-making. Then builders charge house buyers hundreds of times the original land value, making a huge killing. When the farmer sees this, he is left wondering. He has been divested of his property that sustained him, while others skim off the milk. This is the root cause of current problems. Unlike in the case of community or industrial development projects, in the case of builders being the eventual buyer, farmers derive no benefits, in terms of employment or otherwise. If hard market conditions hold sway today, the farmer cannot be left out of the gains that accrue from it. That is the base point. This is at the heart of the thinking that land bought from farmers for different purposes — development versus profit-making by builders and contractors — should fetch him different prices or compensation package. The government of India is thinking of changing the land acquisition law framed as long ago as 1894. Either have two separate laws for the two kinds of cases outlined above, or in the same legislation, make two clear-cut provisions. This will be in the interest of fair play. Our farming community should not be taken for granted. Land acquisition is a complex issue which has to be legislated on keeping in view the larger impact on the livelihood of our farmers since it often paves the path for unemployment. To prevent the exploitation of farmers by the builders or state governments, two separate provisions will offer better safeguards. In Bhatta-Parsaul, there has been a clear exploitation of farmers. (As told to Suchitra Kalyan Mohanty) * The author is former president of Delhi high court Bar Association * * * It is a policy of divide and rule By Vandana Shiva The issue of land acquisition has become an issue of land-grabbing — whether this is for urban housing (through which the builder lobby gains), or for mining, highways and factories. In both cases big businessmen and corporate houses gain and poor farmers lose. So, because it is a case of one issue of exploi-tation, the paradigm should be treated as one issue of land justice. To split one issue of land grab into two separate issues will be to enforce a divide and rule policy while the point is that farmers are being killed be-cause they are defending their land. Therefore, the question of land acquisition has become a life and death issue for farmers. It is the farmers who feed the country. So, what they are defending is not just right to their land but their right to feed the country. This cannot be lost sight of. The issue is not just of land sovereignty, but also food sovereignty and food security. At a time when 215 million people are starving, the government is promising a food security act; it is promising 61 million tonnes for feeding the poor. At the same time, through the land acquisition policies, the government is making sure that there will be no food for the poor. If the government is serious about the right to food, it must be serious about farmers' right to land without which there can be no food. As far as food production is concerned, it is the fertile land around the city that is being grabbed for land acquisition for urban expansion. When you realise this, it becomes clear that you are hitting the food security base of the country and the livelihood base of the farmers. Therefore, there is no reason to treat the question of land acquisition for urban housing as a separate category. The recent case of Bhatta-Parsaul shows that the builder lobbies are no different from the mining lobby. Both are willing to have people killed to get land. In a democracy, there is no place for such injustice and violence. The government is promising to bring an amended land acquisition act in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. This is recognition that the old law has become the source of injustice and conflict. Whether the amended act will ensure justice to farmers depends on whether they, their occupation (agriculture) and the food question get priority. Remember, land is the basis of our society and civilisation. It is not a commodity. * The author is a noted social and environment activist-writer

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SMALL-MINDED GLEE

SOUTH BLOCK'S PAKISTAN COMPLEX

LEGITIMATE it was for Krishna Menon to use the United Nations' platform to point out that even American expertise could not produce weapons that fire in one direction only ~ hence the USA's arming Pakistan was detrimental to Indian security. That was over 60 years ago, but the "foreign office" appears imprisoned in that brand of thinking. What need was there for the external affairs minister to "welcome" a US decision to suspend military supplies to Pakistan (ostensibly to counter terrorism) and to regurgitate the Menon argument? The issue was strictly between Washington and Islamabad, withholding the $800 million package was in the context of deteriorating relations after the unilateral American action at Abbottabad.

 As for that supply upsetting the "equilibrium" in the region, SM Krishna ought to take into consideration an economically-empowered India's massive military acquisitions in recent years: if the claim that India faces a China threat is valid, so too is Pakistan's that terrorism is crippling it ~ even if it still perceives India as the principal adversary. But the bottom line remains that India was not a factor in the American decision, hence applauding it was totally unwarranted. Having now, intentionally or otherwise, injected itself into the equation India must be prepared to witness Pakistan using Krishna's comment to further its theory of an Indian menace. South Block repeatedly insists that there should be no hyphen between India and Pakistan, but it repeatedly betrays a bracketed mindset. It is also sickeningly clear that India expects the USA to "bat" for it: witness the gloating over Abbottabad, the hope it would bring pressure to bear on committed anti-India jihadis, the disappointment over Rana not being convicted for his 26/11 connect.


It is amazing that in the same breath that the EAM (the defence minister subsequently added his tuppence) welcomed the arms supply suspension, he should expect the USA to take positive note of efforts "to normalise relations with Pakistan, to reduce the trust deficit". For had he not re-emphasised that deficit by refusing to accept Pakistan's claim that it required military assistance to combat terror? New Delhi appears rather confused over what line to take in dialogue with Islamabad, ministers speak in different voices. Admittedly it does take two hands to clap ~ South Block is still unsure of which one to stretch out.


THE NO MINISTER

AWAY FROM THE ACCIDENT SITE

COMMENT on the Kalka Mail catastrophe must await the report of the investigation; the driver, who is said to have accelerated to 108 km per hour ~ for whatever reason ~ is too grievously injured to depose. Quite the most regrettable sideshow in the immediate aftermath of the horrendous accident is the attitude of Mukul Roy of the Trinamul Congress and the  minister of state for shipping, and on the day holding additional charge in the Rail ministry. He didn't visit Fatehpur; neither was he asked to. But on Monday morning, the Prime Minister did direct him to visit Assam, where an explosion triggered by a militant outfit had caused the derailment of the Guwahati-Puri Express.


  Fatehpur was an accident; Ghagrapar witnessed a sabotage by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. Mr Roy responded with a statement that verges on insubordination ~ "I am not the Railway minister. The PM is the Railway minister." He compounded his folly by quoting railway officials at Rangiya to say there was no need for him to go there because there were no casualties. Is it possible he was peeved over the prospect of missing out the Railway portfolio in the Cabinet reshuffle? As MoS overseeing Railways, whom does he report to? The North-East Frontier Railway authorities or the PM?


Mr Roy was in Kolkata on Sunday, and his reasoning for not visiting Assam is specious ~ the overriding compulsion of accompanying the Chief Minister to Junglemahal. And the excuse was outrageous. "There was no death. Moreover, there was hardly any passenger from Bengal." Need we remind the minister that death or injury knows no provincial frontier; his laboured excuse verges on the parochial. Is this how the Shipping ministry will now be run? A rush to rescue Bengali sailors held hostage by pirates, and indifference towards others?


TALIBAN STRIKES AGAIN

THE ASSASSINATION IN KANDAHAR

THE Taliban has promptly claimed responsibility for the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghanistan President's brother. It is a setback to the government's attempt to gain control of the militant stronghold of Kandahar. Far from being weakened, as the US-led coalition imagines, the Taliban has demonstrated that it can strike at will and in any part of the fractious country. Indeed, Tuesday's assassination extends the loop of recent outrages ~ the militant attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and the killing of senior officials in northern Afghanistan. The attacks have been mounted despite the US announcement of a major pullout after the troop surge in 2009. Despite the pressure, the Taliban do have certain logistical advantages.


  The group has been known to shift from one valley to another, and often as much to bordering Pakistan ~ ever so ready to play the willing host. The other critical factor that has been exploited by the Taliban is the souring of relations between America and Pakistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden. It may be just a coincidence that the killing of the Afghanistan President's brother, believed to be the most powerful figure in the south of the country, occurs days after the US freeze on military assistance to Pakistan.


It has been fairly clear over the past few months that the Taliban remains a well-organised force, a fact that was exemplified in April by the spectacular escape of 541 Taliban prisoners from Kandahar jail... and through a tunnel that was dug over five months. That great escape exposed the weakness of the central authority, in power through a fraudulent election that was tacitly condoned by the Western nations. True, US forces have killed several middle level Taliban commanders; but for every Taliban killed two are born. After close to ten years of the Pentagon's colonisation, America may not have any option but to leave Afghanistan to its own devices. The outlook is more grim than it was in October 2001. The Taliban remains a group that can still evoke shock and awe.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

GROUND BENEATH FEET

SINGUR REMAINS A POLITICAL TOOL

KP BHATTACHARJEE


LAND has been a contentious issue in India for the past five years, affecting a vast swathe of the country ~ West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Gujarat. The situation has deteriorated because of the Centre's failure to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha but not in the Lok Sabha, pending further discussions.
Several have died in the protests against land acquisition and inadequate compensation, notably in Noida in March-April. Last September, the Allahabad High Court gave a landmark judgment against forced eviction of farmers: "Throwing villagers from their land and taking away their livelihood and a way of life is  state sponsored terrorism".


Singur showcases a watershed movement by farmers against eviction. In Orissa, the recent human chain of children and women highlighted the plight of forest dwellers who have been evicted for setting up the Posco steel plant.


In its election manifesto, Trinamul Congress had pledged to return the land to the unwilling Singur farmers who did not accept compensation from the government. Towards that end, the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill has been passed.  In her reply to the Opposition, the Chief Minister stated: "We are passing the Bill expeditiously as our priority is to alleviate the misery of the farmers of Singur and not to be obstructed by the technicalities."


However, experts feel that further discussions might have removed the Bill's weak and contradictory clauses. Instead of forcibly occupying the land leased out to Tata Motors, alternative ways should have been considered for getting back the unused land from the Tatas. And that land could have been distributed among the unwilling farmers. The distribution process would have been faster. Perhaps the Tatas would have agreed to the proposal if the land on which the car factory was coming up had been left to them ~ either to complete the small car unit or set up some other industry. The Tatas have repeatedly said that they are keen on further investment in Bengal.


On 21 June, the District Magistrate of Hooghly put up a notice on the gate of Tata Motors factory, stating that the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act has come into force with effect from 20 June, and the land leased out to Tata Motors was vested with the state government. The notice added that the company was to return the land to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, failing which the state would  take appropriate action under the Act.


On 22 June, Tata Motors moved Calcutta High Court for an injunction on the state government's notice and action taken for acquiring possession of their land and factory. The Bench instructed the counsel of Tata Motors to serve notice to the state government.


When the local people came to know that the government had served notice on the company to vacate their land, they were quite simply overjoyed. There have been reports of theft from the site when people entered the factory area, as alleged by Tata Motors. The High Court has directed the District Magistrate to investigate and submit a report.


The legal battle between the state and Tata Motors could well be prolonged. The government should work out alternative methods to resolve the dispute and provide relief to the farmers.


One major drawback of the Bill is that it is Singur-specific. It could have covered similar cases where the land of the unwilling farmers has been forcibly acquired. Logically, that land must also be returned or tracts of similar size provided elsewhere. There were protests in Burdwan and Siliguri on 22 June when local farmers demanded a similar "resumption" of land.


The day the Bill was introduced, farmers in Singur complained that there was no plan for  their rehabilitation and resettlement. Nor for that matter does the Bill mention a definite time-frame for the return of the land. Will it be a fertile tract? If not, what will they do with the land? It will be difficult to sell the vested land. No wonder a section of farmers feel that the land issue is being used as a political tool by parties before any election.
The state government is now mulling over how to return the land to the unwilling farmers. This is normally done by distributing pattas, but those who possess the pattas do not have the right to sell the land. The matter remains to be sorted out.


The state is considering another legislation to amend Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act (1894). This section prevents the government from returning the land, that is once acquired, to the land-losers. But since an amendment to the Central Act requires the approval of the President, the process may take some time. The government is, therefore, trying to devise an alternative arrangement.


The state government has already made it known that it will not be possible to return the same plot of land that the farmers had held before the car project was undertaken. All the plots acquired had been amalgamated to develop the land for the car plant and ancillary units. The government will return land of the same area as the previous plot, but not the earlier plot.  Even if the unwilling farmers get back plots of the same area, the quality of the soil may not be fertile to allow the cultivation of two or three crops.


It is obvious that farmers will not benefit from the land they are expecting to be returned by the government. The outlook is uncertain.


It appears that the very purpose for which this Act has been passed by the newly constituted Assembly may be defeated if alternative ways of resolving the state's dispute with Tata Motors and vendors are not devised. Till such time as the final court verdict is pronounced, the land will remain locked and guarded by the state police, and the quality of the soil will deteriorate. The unwilling farmers will neither get back the appropriate quantum of their original land nor any compensation for loss of their land. They will be the real losers.


The question that will trouble the people of West Bengal is whether Mamata Banerjee has taken the right decision to implement her political agenda through the hastily passed Singur Bill? Has she failed to use her political acumen to achieve her objective ~ provide an equal area of land to the unwilling farmers, and at the same time maintain cordial relations with the Tata group?


For all the interactions with industrialists, they are bound to be unnerved by the relentless controversy over Singur. In due course of time, they will realise the hollowness of Trinamul's political agenda.
Land ought never to be used as a tool to gain political mileage. If the government fails to return the land to the land-losers, its image will be dented. This will send the wrong signal to industrialists and prospective investors. Parliament must pass the requisite legislation to amend the 1894 Act. Till then, the states will tend to frame their own rules of engagement. This will only deepen the confusion.


The writer is Executive Director, Centre for Human Settlements

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

BACK TO THE PEOPLE

BETWEEN THE LINES ~ KULDIP NAYAR

Mere assurances are not enough. Members of both Parliament and state legislatures must understand that the ground under their feet is slipping away slowly and steadily. The nation must go back to the people

Civil society in India may not have succeeded in forcing the government to adopt a radical Bill to constitute the Jan Lokpal, an ombudsman, to eliminate corruption. Yet the threatened movement and fast by Gandhian Anna Hazare ~ the centre of action ~ has put the fear of God in the mind of the government. It has begun cleansing its stable.


Two telecom ministers were forced to quit the Cabinet, one of them is in jail. Former Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chief Mr Suresh Kalmadi, too, is in jail for financial irregularities. The ruling Congress did not exactly follow the coalition dharma when it felt that the fire of corruption was licking it.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's reshuffle of the Cabinet this week shows that he is conscious of the nation's outcry against corruption. Some eight ministers inducted into his Council of Ministers do not have any baggage of taint. The seven he dropped did not enjoy a good reputation. None is sorry to have lost them. Changing the minister of state for railways was necessary when he did not visit the site of the Kalka Mail derailment, which killed some 70 people.


Even the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun to assert itself. It must have been at the instance of the Prime Minister because the CBI is under the control of the government. I have no doubt that the agency's action against DMK ministers and particularly, against DMK chief Mr K Karunanidhi's daughter, Ms Kanimozhi (she is in jail), would not have taken place without the government's permission. This development is welcome because the CBI had come to be called the Congress Bureau of Investigation.


However, over activism of the judiciary in an environment of mistrust for the government is a mixed blessing. That the Supreme Court is coming down heavily on corruption is a welcome sign of vigilance. The court has won kudos for having appointed a committee of two retired judges to supervise the cases. The government's efforts to bring back black money, which some top Indian politicians and bureaucrats have stashed abroad, will be now under the court's direct gaze. As much as Rs 45 lakh crore is believed to have been stashed abroad.
Yet, by directly monitoring the progress of cases, the Supreme Court has upset the delicate balance between the judiciary and the executive. Both are an integral part of the democratic structure. If the judiciary encroaches upon the territory of the executive, the judges would have to blame themselves if there is an outcry from Parliament. They should realise that the hallowed Lakshman rekha respected over the decades cannot be violated. This may lead to a clash which is not good for democracy. The executive has the force of the majority of elected representatives behind it.


However, I am worried about the future of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which stirred a debate on corruption in the first instance. It is unfortunate that the Bill has not found favour with the government. Maybe, the Bill asked too much at the same time. The government is proposing a Bill of its own which looks better than the first one. The main Opposition party, the BJP, tends to favour its one feature, not to touch the judiciary at all. True, civil society wants the judiciary under the Lokpal. But the proposed judicial commission may meet its demand. Thus the differences can be spanned once the judicial commission is set up. New law minister Mr Salman Kurshid has announced that the Bill on judicial accountability will be placed before Parliament in the next session, beginning 1 August.


Mr Anna Hazare's fast unto death may not help the situation which has the potential of going out of hand if civil society continues to support him. How far civil society will defy the government is not known. But my experience is that civil society does not have the stamina to pursue for long. All avenues of conciliation should be exhausted before the fast is undertaken. Therefore the deadline of 16 August sounds like an ultimatum. At the same time, the government should not take it easy if there is no fixed date for the fast.


The most important thing is that civil society stays united. There are already some differences over the type of Lokpal the country should have. Activists are also not united. It is understandable that they should not voice criticism in public. But that does not dilute the fact that serious differences exist on how to conduct the agitation.
Those who talked to the government on behalf of civil society have to reach out to the critics within their ranks. They should realise that the movement can embrace all sections of the society if they do not have the touch-me-not attitude. The support of people's mass organisations must be harnessed. For that the basic right to livelihood will have to come to the fore. The movement can take a radical turn. Is civil society prepared for that? All these aspects must be considered beforehand.


Indians may be too talkative. But they are not oblivious to what is happening around them. They would have taken one or two scams in their stride. But when they found them tumbling out of the government's closet at regular intervals, they inferred that the entire system was rotten to the core. They have no trust in the government, whether at the centre or in the states. This is the reason why politicians are at the receiving end all the time.


Political parties may argue endlessly that Parliament is supreme. Yet, what the parties do not realise is that parliament does not now evoke the kind of respect or confidence it once did. There is a feeling that Parliament ~ people watch the daily live telecast of proceedings ~ passes important Bills like the budget within a few minutes. But when it comes to non-issues, the MPs have all the time in the world and go on ranting tirelessly.
Mere assurances are not enough. Members of both Parliament and state legislatures must understand that the ground under their feet is slipping away slowly and steadily. No doubt, people's cynicism of Parliament does not help in any way. Nor does MPs' lack of concern for people's aspirations and sentiments. As of today, the existing political parties are bound to lose the seats they have today.


A third option is required. Maybe, the socialist party which was revived in Hyderabad earlier this year can become a nucleus for a new political party, democratic and secular. Civil society may come to the conclusion before long that there is no alternative except to give a call for fresh elections. The nation must go back to the people.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentor

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

NOW & AGAIN

SUBRATA CHOWDHURY

My grandfather Kshitish Chandra ~ an eminent scholar who went to Presidency College with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a crack shot, a renowned bibliophile and a diehard philanthropist ~ used to take great pride in his five brothers with whom and whose families he shared our ancestral north Kolkata home.


It was a treat as a child to listen to the enchanting anecdotes that he would share while suspending immersion in a volume of Tolstoy or Anatole France or Romain Rolland or Tagore or even, Manik Bandopadhyay. The book of his choice would be forgotten on a marble-topped rectangular table that adorned his study as my grandfather would fondly recount the exploits of his brothers. But his accounts would not be entirely truthful always. Say, he would never admit that his eldest brother Satish Chandra had earned the title of Roy Bahadur by simply being in the good books of the British ~ it would always be about how Satish Chandra owed it to his rise as one of the top industrialists in the country between 1920s and 1940s.


My grandfather would flex his muscles while recounting how his younger brother Naresh Chandra would amaze his Xaverian collegemates with his Herculean physique. Some days, he would ask me to fetch the violin from the shelf and after dusting it clean, would murmur with his eyes closed and fingers cajoling melody from the instrument about how accomplished a player his sibling Sailesh Chandra was. "Even Pandit Gopal Misra used to consider him as an equal!"


One day, he was reading me sixains from Kathamrita when he remembered another sibling, Paresh Chandra. "Paresh was an ascetic like the Paramhangsha," he declared. But the most interesting anecdote he shared with me before his demise in the 70s following prolonged illness is worth sharing.


On a sultry day in end July, 1920, Suresh Chandra, older brother of my grandfather, had a disagreement with the office-bearers of the local Jorabagan Club of which he was the vice-president. What had angered Suresh Chandra was the club's decision to drop a protégé from the team on a flimsy ground barely minutes before it played the then top-ranking "native club", Mohun Bagan, at a crucial Cooch Behar Cup match. Suresh Chandra had appointed himself the mentor of the player because of their shared east Bengal roots and he left the ground fuming. He landed at the doorstep of his childhood friend, Bonari Mohan Roy (grandfather of cricketer Pankaj Roy) in no time after driving his Rolls furiously. "Bonari, we must have a club of our own. I promise to shoulder the cost but will you come on board?" That very evening, all landed gentry and well-to-do businessmen of Kolkata with roots in east Bengal met  at the Kumartuli home of Roy and unanimously elected Suresh Chandra as the president of football club about to be founded. The party then drove down to Whiteway Laidlaw ~ the departmental store that was the pride and joy of Chowringhee Road in pre-Independence India. The day was 28 July and though the club was yet to be founded, the patrons had decided to choose the jersey first. They attributed the urgency to their resolve to start the club by the very next month. Sets of red and yellow jersey with black shorts were available at the store and the lot was purchased. The club was born on 1 August, 1920 with the support of thousands of those referred to as Bangals by their inimical compatriots who traced their roots to west Bengal and invariably formed the supporter base of Mohun Bagan.


I can still hear my grandfather, on his deathbed at that time, whispering fondly, "You know, when the club won the IFA Shield for the first time, it was brought to our north Kolkata home with great fanfare; a military band played and my pet dogs, some 65 of them, accompanied it in unison."


I visited the tent of the club founded by my ancestor at the Kolkata Maidan years later. The life-size oil painting of Suresh Chandra, hung on the wall opposite the entrance to the East Bengal club and bearing a plaque with the legend "Founder", instantly ignited in me the subliminal bond that my grandfather had cherished and had surreptitiously cultivated in me.  

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

CULTURE IS THE KEY

ASOKE BASU


As the newly-elected leaders of the state of West Bengal deliberate on public programmes and policies, they would do well to seek cultural solutions to the state's socioeconomic malaise. In the 18th and 19th centuries, civic leaders valued and honoured human divinity in the same way that the 14th century Vaishnava minstrel Chandidas extolled the dignity of man and woman: Sunahe manusbhai/Sabar upare manus satya/Tarpar kichu nai ("Listen, O brother/The Truth of Man is the highest of truths/There is no other truth above it").
I concluded from my decade-long sociological study that Bengalis tend to suspect temporal authority. The early reformers located the message of truth about humanity on the banks of the Ganges, and not in the conference rooms of the Writers' Buildings. They realised that in order to seek political freedom, they first must find a common vocabulary for all, in all, and by all.


In my forthcoming book, I have identified three major institutions ~ religion, education, and commerce ~ that question selfish individualism, and instead promote respect for ordinary men and women. By the mid-1800s, two social movements ecumenicalised spirituality and reason. First was the Brahmo Samaj, established by Raja Rammohun Roy. Then, a few decades later, Sri Ramakrishna, an uncommon seer from an ordinary folk background, inspired the Ramakrishna Order. Effectively, both movements humanised and liberalised Bengal's social organisation. Furthermore, both reconstituted the idea of the redemptive hero of Bengal as one who may be rich as poor, but who must be preeminently virtuous and just, dedicated to the cause of the spirit of human service.


By the end of the 19th century, religion, modern education, and local commerce had considerably rationalised Bengal's social capital. Although some of the local indigenous merchants profited exorbitantly from the crops and products cultivated by the impoverished peasants, economic returns on the capital encouraged other merchants to take risks. For example, a merchant from the mineral-rich region of the northwest became wealthy by ferrying coal on the Damodar River for customers in the marshy villages and towns of Bengal's southern hinterlands. On his way back, the same entrepreneur loaded the empty boat with jute, which he sold in the north-western market.


Merchants' fortunes did not sit idle. Many small businessmen donated to local affairs, subsidising the construction of educational, artistic, and theatrical institutions and purchasing books for public libraries. Both the Goddess of Wealth (Lakshmi) and the Goddess of Learning (Saraswati) met in holy company in the paras.
The legal designation of a district created yet another social platform for cultural liberalisation. Essentially, districts became like Petri dishes in which customs and habits came under scrutiny. This pattern of cultural review was particularly evident where institutional complexity accompanied rapid rises in population and social density. The educated classes ~ and, in certain districts, the British officers ~ played an important role in accommodating the native reconstruction. In short, Bengal's social organisation grew heterogeneous, legal, and rational. Out of this mixture, the civic leaders mined the common truth of man from the early sinews of Bengal culture and spirituality.


For example, civic elders of the town of Bally realised that in the new economic order lay the possibility of modernising Bengal's hidebound social structure by refashioning the critical institutions of religion and education. In emphasising openness to truth by straightforward self-inquiry, these reformers returned to the philosophy of the early sages regarding the role of individual reasoning as the basis for genuine dialogue between faith and reason.

Based on my sociography of Bengal districts, the newly elected-officials of the state of West Bengal will be well-advised to design and implement public policies that acknowledge regional distinctiveness, as well as social diversity. My study demonstrates how the districts became the social matrix of cultural toutes between commerce and education. This process reached from Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri in the upland east to Barisal and Cox Bazar in the steamy southern deltas; from Noakhali and Sylhet on the sand banks of the east to Bankura and Nabadwip in the ethnically mixed west.


I encourage the policy framers of the state to respect the universal rights of individuals, including property rights, as they focus on five projects: creating jobs for eligible adults; sheltering the poor; developing efficient literacy programmes for both youths and adults; establishing vocational and technical schools that suit the specific economic needs of each area; and investing in basic infrastructures, especially staffing health clinics and improving sanitation facilities. Perhaps the government could start with promptly implementing these projects in the underdeveloped rural areas of the state of West Bengal.


The writer is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at California State University, East Bay and author of the forthcoming book Let a Thousand Lotuses Bloom

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

DUMB CHARADE

The word shuffle, a cursory look at a dictionary will reveal, has at least two meanings. One meaning is moving people or things around in different positions or a different order. Another is dragging one's feet along. In a remarkable feat, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has conveyed both these senses of the word when he made changes in his team of ministers. To describe it as a reshuffle is to exaggerate its significance. The changes announced by the prime minister do not suggest that their primary aim was to enhance governance. Rather, they are suggestive of a few cosmetic changes aimed to keep up the appearance of fulfilling the promise, made a few months earlier, of a major reshuffle when a similar meaningless exercise was carried out. The prime minister has again stopped short of initiating any major and radical change in his cabinet. In other words, he has dragged his feet: he has shuffled. The reason for this tardiness is not difficult to guess. Mr Singh does not want to rock the boat by removing key ministers from critical portfolios. That failure of confidence cannot be a sign that governance has top priority in the agenda of the second United Progressive Alliance government.

The appointment of a cabinet minister for railways fills a vacuum, and the choice was dictated by a powerful and successful ally. Jairam Ramesh loses environment but gets a cabinet berth; Salman Khurshid, given his educational qualifications, gets a portfolio which should have been his in the first place. Changes of this nature — and the so-called reshuffle is full of such alterations — do not add up to the making of a new team that is capable of bringing fresh energy and dynamism to governance. The prime minister needed, at this critical juncture, to look at the major problems facing the country and then proceed to pick a team that would be best qualified to address and solve those problems. This would not have been an easy task but at least he could have picked ministers with whom he is in empathy and would therefore have been able to imprint on governance and the economy the prime minister's personal vision. This would have generated confidence in the government and in the prime minister's abilities to institute reforms. Mr Singh has achieved neither. But he has managed to conflate two meanings of shuffle in a single act. It is remarkable what politics can make of a good man.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BRIDGING THE GAP

Nothing alienates the people from a government more than a trust deficit. If Jangal Mahal turned away from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government and joined the Maoists, it was because the people there no longer trusted the administration. Mamata Banerjee's biggest challenge is to regain the confidence of the people of Jangal Mahal and thereby wean them away from the Maoists. It may take her some time to succeed completely in such a difficult mission. But the first move that the chief minister has made — by visiting the area less than two months after assuming office — is a good beginning. It will be seen as an honest attempt to resolve the contentious issues. Her visit will also be contrasted with the previous government's abdication of authority in the area once the Maoists had penetrated it. Ms Banerjee's visit and her announcements underscore a strategy in which governance, rather than politics, is key to tackling the issues in Jangal Mahal. Her decision to retain the Central forces in the area for the time being makes eminent administrative sense. It may have prompted the Maoists and their sympathizers in civil society to cry foul. But the state government cannot afford to halt the anti-Maoist operations by the Central forces in the area until the State's writ is allowed to run there.

However, it is one thing to announce a generous welfare package and quite another to see its benefits actually reach the people for whom it is meant. Even the Left Front government had created a ministry dedicated to the development of Jangal Mahal and announced a slew of welfare measures to lure the poor people there away from the rebels. But the programmes did not help the people much, thanks mainly to political interference and administrative inefficiency. Ms Banerjee's offer of talks with the Maoists is the only viable political approach to tackling the insurgency. The operations by the Central and state forces can be effective in creating the right ambience for the talks. Once such an atmosphere is created, the government may consider a partial withdrawal of security forces from the area and also release some of the Maoist rebels now in custody. The overall approach should be one of caution that will help restore the people's confidence in the government. Peace with the Maoists is crucial for Ms Banerjee's strategy, but its success will depend on how she delivers on her promises.

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THE TELEGRAPH

THE DELIGHTS OF TRAVEL

A WET WIMBLEDON AND A SOLITARY SUMMER IN EGYPT WESTMINSTER GLEANINGS - ANABEL LOYD

A very wet Wimbledon recently got over. The organizers must be wondering if more of their tennis courts should have a retractable roof like the one recently added to the centre show court after years of typically British controversy over changing anything that has always been done in a certain way. As it is, this summer, there would have been very little tennis at all had it not been for at least one court where rain couldn't stop play. It is somehow inevitable that our idiosyncratic climate should have provided the driest spring since records began, only for the deluge to arrive as summer and the summer sporting calendar reach their zenith. Our best British hope for a Wimbledon win after so many years remains Andy Murray, who, one imagines, must have looked upon the championship fortnight as one of the worst of the year as national expectations once more fell so heavily on his shoulders as to weigh him down.

I have been in Egypt for ten days and seem not to have missed much in my absence. The famous music festival of Glastonbury also took place with thousands of fans camping miserably in several flooded fields in Somerset for the sake of bands, including Coldplay and U2. U2's image has been getting a bit of a bashing after revelations that the Irish band and its frontman, Bono, the very public human rights activist often known as Saint Bono, have, like the rest of the super rich, been guilty of tax avoidance through tax havens — so, not so saintly, after all.

Financial matters, mostly Greek, otherwise dominated the headlines over little of note on the domestic front. The prime minister has further reduced current interest in Westminster with the announcement that he will not be reshuffling his cabinet — a regular for storms in press teacups at approximately this time of year. I can't help but feel he is right to keep people in their posts for a longer time, although the civil servants who run the various government departments may well favour new brooms that lack experience so that they can get on with business as usual without too much interference from their ministers.

In Egypt, people are thrilled with their revolution, although hardpressed to give a coherent answer to the question of what might come next or indeed who exactly is currently governing the country. Friends who have lived in Cairo for more than 20 years believe that Hosni Mubarak's departure will change very little in reality the way in which the country is run. Plenty of his more faceless cohorts remain in the shadows, in positions of potential power, although no one individual has appeared in the spotlight.

Concerns over Islamic extremism based on the high profile of the Muslim Brotherhood during the anti-Mubarak movement have died down in the face of student union elections in Alexandria and Cairo where the Muslim Brotherhood gained only small percentages of the vote in coalition with socialist and other groups. It seems that most Egyptians fear religious rule would be more repressive than even Mubarak and his ilk; they were shocked, too, by the outbreak of religious violence in tandem with the revolution that resulted in the destruction of both Coptic churches and Islamic shrines. In the end, the highest hopes seem to be for some sort of a coalition of the secular and Sufi movements that are both anti-extremist and tolerant to other religions and shades of religious opinion. If a Christian Democrat coalition can govern Germany, why not a Muslim Democrat coalition in Egypt?

Meanwhile life goes on; in the countryside people still live much as they have for the thousands of years since their lives were first illustrated on the highly decorated walls of the tombs of kings, queens, and, the most revealing, on those of nobles and ordinary artisans with their painted scenes of daily life. Village life is still, as in India, dominated by family, seasons, the land and small-scale economics. The Nile is still the lifeblood of the land, the great river that feeds a country of year round bright blue skies and sun, with almost no rain otherwise to water the green strips of land and the towns and villages that give way after a short distance from the river to endless desert sands. The Aswan High Dam has changed the flow of the river forever, so inundations of the land are no longer a yearly event. But man's greater control over nature has not reduced its role as the essence of existence in the country.

For those involved in tourism — and there are many in a country where Thomas Cook, to all intents and purposes, invented the package tour, let alone where history is so long that even the Romans were tourists at the ancient Egyptian sites — life is hard at the moment. A few months of greater stability should bring the travellers back en masse in the winter season, but in the heat of a post-revolution summer, numbers are dramatically down, and while it is sheer bliss for anyone prepared to bake in solitary enjoyment on the hot stones of almost deserted temples, the souvenir touts are suffering. There is a half-hearted air about the endless offers of camel rides and carved scarabs for sale and a sense among shopkeepers and foodsellers that it is best just to give up, enjoy the pervasive sense of freedom that Mubarak's departure has engendered, tighten the belt, drink tea and drift with the smoke of a liquorice-smelling shisha until times get better.

As for me, I can't help revelling in travel in the aftermath of an upheaval whether natural or manmade. Egypt recently encouraged further planning for trips to Syria, Yemen, where I have always wanted to go, and who knows where else in the Middle East once the dust of the present revolution has settled just a little bit. There are few really hidden places in the world these days and the best one can hope for and enjoy in popular places is a reduction in the number of visitors caused either by extreme weather or human conditions. Fewer fellow foreigners also means greater opportunity to meet local people, one of the true delights of travel.

I have been in a deserted Libya in the days before there was any tourist infrastructure to speak of; in a deserted Angkor Vat as soon as possible after the Khmer Rouge disappeared to forest and mountain hideouts, although a driver offered a visit to a Khmer Rouge camp, but I think the road was flooded; in Vietnam when the Imperial Tombs echoed with emptiness and an ancient royal servant was prevailed upon to unlock doors and gates; and in a few other places made unpopular by extreme weather, manmade mayhem or thoroughly uncomfortable conditions. The alternative, what our grandparents would have thought of as standard travel, increasingly involves queues for every exhibition or major site or booking in advance to get into the great galleries of Europe, where you are given a two-hour time slot at best and woe betide you if you miss your moment.

The worst part of going away anywhere, even for as little as ten days, is the piled high desk on your return and the sense of dislocation from normal life, however moderated by constant internet and telephone connections in all but the most remote places. O well, I am in London for a while now and wet tennis was hardly a distraction from the pressing requirements of my office — although a cheap flight to Sanaa might be tempting.

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THE TELEGRAPH

SHODDY TRACK RECORD

SOROOR AHMED

Thank god there was no railways minister to fix the blame on Marxists, Maoists, saboteurs or any state government for the Kalka Mail accident near Fatehpur. Barring a few exceptions, railways ministers in recent times have passed the blame on to others immediately after mishaps. They have never waited till the Railway Safety Commission came out with its report.

It was after a freak accident that the former railways minister, Lalu Prasad, had said that he would always pray to Lord Vishwakarma so that no such disaster occurs again. Whether his prayer was heard is a different matter, but the truth is that the number of accidents was much less during his tenure.

That such a huge ministry, which has its separate budget and is the largest employer in the country, was running without a full-fledged 'driver' for the last two months speaks volumes about the importance given to the Indian Railways. When the Puri-New Delhi Purushottam Express hit the stationary Kalindi Express from behind near Firozabad on August 20, 1995, there was no railways minister. Over 400 passengers perished in one of the worst tragedies on Indian tracks. Only a week before it, the railways portfolio had been taken up by the then prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Today, many feel that the railways ministry is being remotely driven from Calcutta, the point of origin of the Kalka Mail, the oldest long-distance fast train in the Indian subcontinent. It was the Kalka Mail's precursor that started its journey as the first train to link Calcutta and Delhi in 1866, 13 years after the first train ran on Indian soil between Bombay and Thane. In 1891, when the tracks were laid between Ambala and Kalka, this train's route was extended to Kalka, the terminal point for travel to Simla, the summer capital of British India. Exactly 120 years later, the Kalka Mail, once India's most prestigious train, had its worst accident. British officials, their families and subordinates would travel from Calcutta to Kalka via Old Delhi station every summer. From Kalka they would travel by road and, after 1903, by the narrow gauge train to Simla.

Blame game

In the last three-and-a-half decades, all the three premier trains on the Howrah-Delhi route have met with accidents. The Air Conditioned Express, also called Deluxe, rammed into a stationary goods train in Naini near Allahabad on October 10, 1977. The Rajdhani Express rolled down the bridge on River Dhaba in Rafiganj in Aurangabad on September 9, 2002.

Apparently, one may not blame the railways ministers for such accidents. But the truth is that, be it Mamata Banerjee or Nitish Kumar or anyone else, they have done one disservice to the Indian Railways. When the Rajdhani had an accident, the first thing that the then railways minister did was to put the blame on the Maoists and on the then state government. Similarly, Banerjee squarely blamed the ruling Left Front government of West Bengal for the derailment of the Jnaneswari Express on May 28, 2010, and then for another accident in Sainthia on July 19, 2010.

By immediately putting the blame on others, these ministers inadvertently shielded those responsible for the loss of lives. They thus played havoc with the system without any regard for accountability. The tragedy is that both Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar blamed the state governments when the mishaps occurred in their respective states. Banerjee said nothing when the Goa Express hit the Mewar Express near Mathura on October 21, 2009. Kumar, incidentally, took the blame and resigned after a horrendous head-on collision between the Awadh-Assam Mail and the Brahmaputra Mail near Gaisal in West Bengal on August 2, 1999. But when an accident took place in Bihar, he was quick to blame others.

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THE TELEGRAPH

UNSOLVED MYSTERIES

ADHEESHA SARKAR DISCOVERS A STRANGE METIABRUZ, HAUNTED BY AN INTRIGUING PAST BUT TRAPPED IN CRIME

On the fringes of Calcutta lie unsolved mysteries. One such mystery is Metiabruz, once known as the "second Lucknow", and now labelled a crime den. Once a king called Wajid Ali Shah, ousted from his throne in Awadh by the British, tried to recreate his kingdom here. What happened to this shadow kingdom after the king died? There are facts, myths and speculations, sometimes fantasies, but these are just fragmented snapshots, not the entire picture.

The king was quite an amusing character. There is much hearsay about his supposed obsession with women (he had more than 250 wives), as also about his passion for the arts. Memories of this unusual king survive in Metiabruz in the Imambara, the mosque, and the burial ground. The British auctioned off all else the king owned. His family survived after his death on pensions from the Empire.

I went to Metiabruz to meet Naiyer Kader, one of the great grandsons of Wajid Ali Shah. That I was intrigued by the film, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, may have fuelled my interest in the surviving members of the king's family. Otherwise, it was pure curiosity about an unknown world. Naiyer Kader's family welcomed me into the beautiful Imambara tinged with nostalgia. Members of the family still retain traces of Lucknow's culture of tehzeeb. Apart from that, they are as ordinary as we are, almost a little out of place in the grand building they inhabit.

Speaking about Wajid Ali Shah, Kader seemed a bit defensive. The point he wanted to make was that his ancestor was anything but promiscuous. "It is true that he had over 250 wives, but that does not mean he was licentious. He married these women so that they would receive pensions from the British government. He was not intimate with everyone in his harem."

Another member of the family pointed out an interesting fact. The road in Metiabruz named after the king has been named wrongly, he said. "They call it Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Road! Wajid Ali Shah was not a nawab! He was a shah, a king. A nawab is only a provincial governor."

At the Imambara, I met a schoolteacher who has lived in Metiabruz for over 40 years. He told me what still remains of the second Lucknow, and what has changed over the years. He talked about the paan shops ("real paan shops, not the ones that sell cigarettes"), and, of course, the delicious biryani. The kite industry in Metiabruz is another relic of the royal culture. The garment industry, too, was once related to the royal legacy, but now it has acquired a life of its own.

This was about the past, but what about the present, I wondered. What about the chilling rumours surrounding Metiabruz? The schoolteacher gave me some startling facts. The administration of Metiabruz is controlled to a great extent by mafia families. They have continued to hold sway for generations, and their influence is so deep-seated that a change in the political regime is unlikely to uproot them. Kerosene, for example, can only be bought through the black market, and any objection to the higher prices is likely to be met with threats. Many a poor family in Metiabruz cannot afford to cook for this reason.

The tailor community, however, creates a counterpoint. They control the economy of Metiabruz through the flourishing garment industry. Here, too, exploitation exists, but in a different garb. The ostagars, or the cloth merchants, buy raw material and get the dresses stitched and embroidered by the tailors at very cheap rates. The merchants then sell the finished products at a good margin and keep the profits. On the other hand, the tailors, when short-staffed, outsource the work to people from villages, who get paid even less. It is like a chain reaction.

These stories led me to venture into the streets of Metiabruz with a local boy, Zameer, as guide. Away from the immaculate Imambara, the meandering alleys of Metiabruz now gave off the palpable scent of poverty, decay and neglect. The area looks as if the State has never set foot in it. The police station was the most deserted place around. The only hospital in the area, I learnt, lacked basic equipment.

We found the kite-makers in roadside stalls. Hoards of colourful kites almost cheered me up, till I learnt that school-going girls are often engaged in making them. A hundred kites fetch a kite-maker Rs 70. The kites are then sold in the market at a retail price of Rs 4-5 each.

Afterwards, we visited the tailor community at Noorani Basti. The 'factories' were actually dingy rooms, with inbuilt platforms to accommodate more than six people per room. The tailors were mostly young people, a great many of them children, some almost infants. They get paid Rs 5-7 for embroidering each piece of cloth, and Rs 5 for stitching each small frock. Interestingly, I found a computerized embroidery centre in the vicinity. Some of these young tailors have learnt to use technology, but even that has not improved their condition. The entire Noorani Basti area does not have a single school.

What amazed me is the huge number of skilled workers who form the core of Metiabruz. And the fact that they all belong to the unorganized sector. Metiabruz sustains the largest wholesale market of ready-made garments in the state. But the State has done nothing to improve the lives of the makers of these garments. Branding the area a crime den, we have conveniently shifted our gaze to more comfortable zones. In Metiabruz, crime is a by-product of neglect. Does the government not realize this?

As I talked to Naiyer Kader, he began a sentence with "When I was in Calcutta…." I pointed out that Metiabruz is a part of Calcutta. He looked embarrassed. "Of course, I said that inadvertently." After a short journey through the area, I wondered if his reference to Calcutta as a distant place was altogether inadvertent.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

THE STATELY PLEASURE DOME

EACH PHASE IN THE HISTORY OF METIABRUZ HAS LEFT ITS RESIDUE OF PEOPLE

As you draw near, people boarding the number 12 bus ask to be taken to "Matia burj". The sharper, anglicized 'Metiabruz' has fallen away and the name reverts to the original. Matia burj, the dome of earth, which existed before Wajid Ali Shah made his regal progress there, before a fine Lucknowi dust settled on it. This place was not going to oblige with melancholy relics of the nawabi era or strains of ghazals wafting in the air. Neither did it seem, at mid-day, like the hotbed of crime that the average Calcuttan likes to gasp at. Rain beat down on winding streets lined with open drains, piles of garbage, a crush of shops. Heaps of earth had been dug up and left by the roads in an eternal cycle of repairs. Maybe the place was still a mound of earth, raw and smarting in the rain, with a million different organisms making furrows in the mud, altering its shape every moment.

Each historic change has deposited new populations in Metiabruz and washed away others. Wajid Ali Shah, the exiled nawab of Awadh, left Fort William in 1859 complaining of mosquitoes, it is said. The British then pensioned him off to Metiabruz, a desolate tract of land near the ports at Garden Reach. The splendour of the king's exile, his abundance of wives, the sudden efflorescence of paan and poetry have been well documented. A wave of settlers from Lucknow and other places in Uttar Pradesh arrived with Wajid Ali Shah. With his death in 1887, however, the British sold many of his properties and demolished others, and the opulence of the past three decades melted away. But by then a new group of inhabitants had arrived in Metiabruz.

Hurtling down the Garden Reach Road, the bus passes a stretch of high walls with iron shapes rearing up behind them. Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited, set up in 1884, had attracted a large number of workers in what was then a highly labour-intensive industry. Most came from Bihar. Many also came to work in the port. According to some estimates, there were at least 10,000 people employed by the ports in the 1920s. Over the next few decades, the nawab's retreat would turn into an industrial hub. Alstom, K.C. Mills and Hindustan Lever set up factories there, drawing hordes of workers.

Then Calcutta's fortunes turned; by the 1970s and 1980s, traffic at the port thinned to a trickle, many of the shipbuilding yards were shut down and factories closed. Unemployed workers now populated the pavements of Metiabruz. Many returned to the villages they had come from. According to local sources, the once thriving port now has barely three or four thousand employees. Relief came in the form of the ready-made garments industry, which started booming from 1992. While this provided employment for the local population, it also brought a number of Bangladeshi businessmen to the area, many of whom have made huge profits from the industry. Each era has left its human residue and Metiabruz today has a mixed population of Biharis, Marwaris, Bangladeshis, Bengalis as well as a few of the original settlers from Lucknow. The area remains predominantly Muslim, but even this community has evolved over the years. Traces of this change are most visible among the women of the community.

Sajida Bano, who has lived in Metiabruz all her life, was the first woman from her locality to go to university. She recalls that, till the mid-1960s, there was no high school for girls. When the Maulana Azad Memorial Girls High School opened, she became one of its earliest students. Teachers were hard to find and after the first batches graduated, many would come back to coach their juniors. Few of Bano's schoolmates went to college; she was the only one to complete a masters and a PhD. She was encouraged by her mother, who had only finished primary school herself. Bano's daughter, Nabi Shahkar, on the other hand, sailed through to college and even campaigned for the Trinamul Congress this year. But like others her age, Nabi wants to leave the locality.

Feeding pigeons on her terrace in true nawabi style, Nabi remarks that what she will miss most about Metiabruz is the sense of a close-knit community. This has disappeared from other parts of the city, she says. But the terrace only offers a view of brooding rooftops. The Hooghly gleams brown in the distance. The dome of earth keeps its secrets well. In spite of its transitions, the markers of a modern city have been slow to come to arrive. After years of neglect, the last government was galvanized into action by the Sachar Committee report. Anxious to retain its minority vote bank, it promised new schools and started repair work; the Calcutta Municipal Corporation was to fund the restoration of the Hooghly Imambara and other structures. But little changed.

This year, the construction of a railway link with the main city has been sanctioned. Flyovers have been promised in the area, which many local people still identify with a mud bridge (or bruz) that once stretched across the Hooghly. The Bengal Police is to withdraw from Metiabruz and it will be brought under the Calcutta Police. The 'second Lucknow' on the peripheries of the city, so long a site of fear and fantasy for most Calcuttans, may finally be integrated with the rest of Calcutta. No doubt, this will bring a new wash of people to Metiabruz and carry others away.

The nawab of Awadh's dream of home has long faded, along with the courtly culture he brought with him. Or so one would think. A late-afternoon visit to the local councillor's office finds him lodged behind a massive desk, eyes closed, face coated with foam and a serene joy as someone trims his moustache and smooths away the stubble. People line the walls, talking in muted voices. Someone walks in carrying a child. An eye opens, a smile spreads, the councillor inclines his head in recognition. It is a stately gesture, almost nawabi.

IPSITA CHAKRAVARTY

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DEJA VU WITH THE EU?

There was a weird silence on the Turkish side of relations with the European Union for sometime, which usually means something important might happen soon. And increased traffic between Ankara and the Turkish side of Nicosia was a hint that the status of the Mediterranean island was giving a base for that; since there is less than a year left for the term presidency of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said last week that he hoped that the United Nations-lead reunification process would bear fruit by then.

He gave the first indications of a possible crisis between Turkey and the EU yesterday in Ankara after meeting with Stefan Fuele, the commissioner for enlargement.

Davutoğlu said that if a solution could not be found for Cyprus, Turkey may freeze its relations with the EU, because Ankara believed an EU Presidency under the Greek Cypriot government could be destructive for the relationship anyhow.

As a reaction to Davutoğlu, Fuele said it was not a proper time to give such statements. It is not clear whether he meant the economic crisis that the EU is dealing with or the fragile situation in the Middle East, but Turkey's concerns are different.

Davutoğlu dragged the situation to the threshold of a crisis and stopped there, leaving the political decision to PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan is expected to go to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for the anniversary of the Turkish military intervention on the island in 1974, following a right-wing military coup there that threatened the island's Turkish population. Since then the island has been divided.

Davutoğlu's statement might well be a prelude for a stronger statement by Erdoğan, if nothing happens to avoid it in the coming few days, because the escalation of events recalls a freeze in relations that actually took place in 1997.

It was after an EU summit in Luxemburg on Dec. 12-13 of 1997, when the club of then-15 decided to give a membership perspective to 12 others, including the Greek Cypriot government but excluding Turkey, saying that she was not eligible for

candidacy.

A few days later, on Dec. 17, the prime minister of that time, Mesut Yılmaz had announced at a stopover on his way to the United States in Brussels that unless the EU would stop showing Cyprus as a precondition in relations, Turkey would stop all political talks with the union.

That situation had ended when the EU had invited Turkey to the Helsinki Summit on Dec. 10-11, 1999 to approve the candidacy. Turkey had carried out a series of serious harmonization reforms between 2002 and 2004, changed its policy on Cyprus and encouraged the Turkish Cypriots to vote yes in a U.N. referendum for reunification. Despite Turkish Cypriots approval and Greek Cypriot rejection of the EU-backed U.N. plan in 2004, Brussels accepted the Greek Cypriot government as a member, representing the divided Turks on the island, despite their rejection.

Since then, the Republic of

Cyprus has been blocking membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU, deepening the lack of trust between Brussels and Ankara.

Erdoğan's statement in a few days' time on Cyprus and EU matters is something to be watched closely.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

NOW IS THE TIME FOR A BIGGER 'NOW'

A colleague's phone call was not intended to answer a nagging question. But it pushed my thinking in a new direction. For how do we expand the concept of "now?"

In my own mind the question goes back to the lament of the seminal 1972 book by the Club of Rome, "The Limits to Growth," which did a pretty good job of forecasting today's many environmental dilemmas. I've returned to the book over the decades, particularly to its lament that humans and our institutions can seldom grapple with a time horizon beyond a few months, a year at most.

This question of our narrowing "now" got reframed in 1986 with a proposal to create a clock capable of operating for 10,000 years. One result, carried out by British and American thinkers, was the "Foundation for the Long Now" a decade later. With $42 million from Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, this group is now busy constructing this complex clock in Texas. If curious, more can be had at www.longnow.org.

I've followed these efforts at consciousness-building keenly. Our fleeting attentions are a general problem of the age. But they add up to an acute problem in the news business. The clock itself strikes me as an indulgence. It's a lot of money even for a very cool clock. But what other ways might we carry our thinking, our policy-making, our stewardship of our institutions forward?

On the horns of this dilemma I have remained stuck.

Until a few days ago when a friend called me to inform me of her new job. Etiquette suggests I not say where it is but it involves a start-up news organization based in Istanbul. Her task, with five or so colleagues, will be to research the coming agenda, to guide the organization toward the stories that are not being reported today, but might be tomorrow. This goes beyond the usual "strategic planning" of most corporations. It goes beyond the one-off "brainstorming" exercises common to news companies. It's an exercise in futurism, scaled down to fit inside a newsroom. It is perhaps the best idea for our craft I have heard in years. What will Turkish manufacturing be like in 2021? Yes, we are talking now about the implications of a third bridge across the Bosphorus. But where is the debate about a planned bridge across the Dardenelles straight? Will the political borders of Turkey's region stay the same? I doubt it. But what might they look like? Just what are the long-term scenarios for Turkey's failing education system?

In thinking about this, however, it occurs to me that an effort to expand the definition of "now" should embrace the past as well as the future. The Turkish news media, for example, has done well at maintaining focus on the unresolved massacre of 35 Alevi intellectuals in 1993 at Sivas's now-infamous Madımak Hotel. But how have we so quickly forgotten the May 2009 slaughter of 44 family members at an engagement ceremony near Mardin?

Stories of short shelf life abound; cancer clusters near Istanbul… the collapse of Turkish agriculture… the disappearance of indigenous species… Who remembers the university testing scandal of three months ago amid the match-fixing allegations that capture headlines today?

An effort is afoot to create bigger, longer "now." It's just in time.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ARAB SPRING, 'MODEL' DEBATE AND THE TURKISH EXPERIENCE

Three distinct groups of people believe that Turkish democracy was built after the 2002 general elections.

First are some cunning Westerners. They present Turkey as an example in order to deal with events in the Middle East with the least possible damage and to pacify political Islamists. "Be patient, look at Turkey," they say. "You can come to power without causing too much trouble."

The second group is comprised of the region's political Islamists. They identify with the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and entertain the idea of following the AKP path to power.

Finally, some Turks with over-inflated egos simply want to manipulate Turkish domestic policy.

Each country has a different democracy-building experience, determined by their unique history, geography, culture and psychology. Different times and conditions shape the beginnings of the journey to democracy. For a meaningful "model" debate, a quick glance at the history of Turkish democracy is compulsory. If the below-mentioned conditions are met, I cannot imagine why Turkey can't be a model for the Arab world!

The first condition is self-confidence. To meet this condition, you need to find a society that inherited a six-century-old empire and never lived under colonial rule. Secondly, there is the definite mark of a leader at every stage of democratization, like today's self-confident leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey was lucky to have an effective and pragmatic leader like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as early as 1923 who was not under the influence of personal, familial, tribal or sectarian interests. He did not perceive the world as divided between the Islamic and Western, but instead saw civilization as the common work of humanity. He was able to focus on the goal of "Westernization" with no external imposition, to reject both fascism and communism and to implement a series of legal, political and social reforms. His belief in secularism and gender equality was of great importance. Accordingly, he radically changed the status of women. He was followed by İsmet İnönü who enabled a peaceful transition to a multi-party system and transferred power to a new ruling party. Later, Adnan Menderes led Turkey into NATO. This opportunity not only provided security for the country, but also transformed Turkey into an ideological partner of the West.

Turgut Özal was the spark behind the formation of a free market, ensuring Turkey's integration with the global economy in the 1980s. Under his leadership, the private sector became the driving force of the national economy. This radically transformed political, economic and social structures, internal dynamics, and the mindsets and expectations of the public, setting the stage for new actors coming out of Anatolia. In 1999, Turkey became a candidate for full European Union membership under Bülent Ecevit. Having this as an official state goal caused an internalization of "democratic values."

Leaving aside historical accidents, such as coups and the issue of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, this brief assessment shows that leaders and historical continuity matter. Erdoğan claims that his professed objectives of "advanced democracy" and a "liberal economy" demonstrate his commitment to this continuity.

For those seeking a model, the question is this: Is Turkish democracy the work of the AKP? Or is the AKP the work of Turkish democracy?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

AN ORANGE, A ROSE AND A TULIP: LESSONS FROM THE NORTH

AMBIKA VISHWANATH

After months of speculation former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of Ukraine's revolution, was finally brought to trial on abuse of power. The charges are from the camp of current President Viktor Yanukovych; interestingly, the very man against whom the revolution of 2004 was fought. There is fear that this trial will mark the end of the famous Orange Movement – a movement that inspired neighbors, raising hope from Belarus to Baku.

Across the sea, the Arab world is experiencing similar freedom movements. With two ousted presidents, interim governments, leaders that cling to power and clamp down against protestors, the region is facing a period of turmoil. Beyond the turmoil, there is an overwhelming feeling of utmost hope that these movements will bring change and a new era of governance. Some say that change is inevitable, that nations cannot go back in time. But the lessons from Ukraine and other similar movements teach us that change might not always be favorable, swift or lasting.

There are numerous comparisons to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Iranian revolution of 1979 and even Turkey. But the sobering lessons are elsewhere, from countries that are not always put in the same basket as the Middle East.

Ukraine of 2011 teaches us that a fallen leader does not automatically ensure the fall of institutions, and that systems have to change. For that, time and collective action by all sections of society are required. Otherwise, the transition from disorganized autocracy to disorganized democracy may not necessarily lead to improvements in the country's development prospects. It could also result in a return of ousted leaders, such as Yanukovych's return in 2010, due to widespread public discontent and disillusionment. There is also the example of Kyrgyzstan, where in 2005 the Tulip Revolution forced the ouster of Askar Akayev. Hastily held elections lifted Kurmanbek Bakiyev to the presidency. Yet, in 2010, discontent and a new round of protests forced Bakiyev from power, leaving the country in further uncertainty.

In Egypt, the Supreme Military Council is moving at a slower pace than desired, and protests continue with demands for a new constitution. Though the streets of the city seem cleaner, systems remain the same, as many controversial figures remain in power. In Tunis, there is talk of bringing some of the former president's men back to aid in a smoother transition; men who have supposedly been cleared of wrongdoing. The public is not convinced and demand more transparency. The experiences of both Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan bear testimony that transition cannot be immediate, and hasty decisions could prove fatal in the future. It is important not to overestimate the ability of new governments to solve old problems, or underestimate the ingenuity and brutality of the old regimes.

Any new government that forms in Egypt or Tunisia will have to ensure that it retains legitimacy by delivering visible improvements within the country as well as re-establish relationships with neighbors. Other richer regimes in the region can afford to spend their way back to stability, an option not available to economically unstable and poorer Arab countries. It would also prove prudent and useful in the long term to join free trade agreements or customs unions that will aid and support investment and economic growth, ensuring that the country is not solely dependant on foreign aid and handout packages.

Such cooperation and new associations with emerging economies will prove fruitful in the future. In 2003, the Rose Revolution in Georgia elevated a younger generation led by a president without ties to Soviet communism and the old guard. Mikhail Saakashvili remains committed to Georgia's membership in NATO as well as maintaining strong relations with Turkey, an important neighbor and ally. The trend is toward regional partnerships.

An opening of society and more freedom will also allow people to contribute. Though the Ukrainian revolution might have faltered in aspects of governance, the country today has a high level of freedom of speech and press which is a direct result of the Orange movement.

While different histories, religions and traditions have created different circumstances between the Arab world and their northern neighbors, the essence of creating good governance structures and proper institutions remain the same. It would serve Egypt and Tunisia well to examine the experiences of others around the globe and not just in the immediate neighborhood; perhaps that will in turn serve to positively influence the entrenched regimes of Libya, Syria and Yemen.

*Ambika Vishwanath is an analyst with Strategic Foresight Group, a Mumbai-based think tank. She specializes on issues in the Middle East, with a focus on innovative methods of conflict resolution. This article was written after a visit to Kiev in June 2011.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IS THE THIRD CLAUSE NECESSARY?

SAMI KOHEN - S K O H E N @ M I L L I Y E T . C O M . T R

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was reading the government program in the Parliament, he mentioned three conditions for the normalization of relations with Israel: First, Israel's apology for the attack on Mavi Marmara, second, compensation payment for the families of the martyrs and the third is lifting of the embargo imposed upon Gaza.

Up until now, since it was only two conditions that were cited in official statements and negotiated between the two parties, the addition of a third clause has been regarded as new by many people. However, the prime minister in his former statements had contained the lifting of the Gaza blockade also within the framework of normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations; in other words, he had mentioned this third clause "in between lines." Now, since this clause has been included in the new government's program that was read in the Parliament, it is fully official.

The "apology" because of the Mavi Marmara incident and "compensation," are clauses that directly concern and affect bilateral relations. Ankara is right in placing this incident, where nine Turks were killed, as the focus point of Turkish-Israeli relations that have become strained and reached a freezing point.

These two topics have been extensively negotiated in the talks between Turkish and Israeli diplomats but no agreement has been reached on the issue of the "apology" until now.

Israel must have long since understood that unless it meets the "apology" and "compensation" conditions, bilateral relations would not get back on track and consequently this coldness would continue for a long time. Yet, there are obstacles stemming from Israel's own internal politics. But if the Netanyahu government does not overcome these difficulties and does not meet these two conditions that Turkey considers sine qua non, Israel will have to face "losing Turkey."

If Israel accepts to apologize and to pay compensation, will the government consider this adequate for the normalization of relations, or will it wait until the "lifting of the Israeli embargo against Gaza" as projected as a "third condition"?

Turkey's sensitivity on the Gaza issue is known by everybody. Erdoğan especially, has demonstrated a much closer attention than other countries to the dramatic situation at this Palestinian land and he has taken it as his duty to carry this issue to international platforms at every opportunity.

The Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, government, while maintaining its support of the Gaza people, now is upgrading this issue as an element of bilateral relations.

Actually, it is slowly becoming evident that it is a wrong policy that Israel still continues its blockade of Gaza. Egypt has opened the Rafah gate. All kinds of "strategic goods" traffic are continuing through the tunnels at the Egypt-Gaza border. Besides, trade between Israel and Gaza is also carried out through indirect ways.

Israel's lifting of the embargo, no doubt has a symbolic and political meaning. But the Netanyahu government does not seem to have any intention to take a step on this issue despite all pressures.

Will Turkey's indexing the bilateral relations to this issue, while continuing its efforts, yield a result? As a general rule, how correct is it to involve issues that are outside bilateral relations in this framework?

According to this criterion, should Turkey not, for example, also impose a condition for development of its relations with countries that exercise an embargo to the Northern Cyprus that this embargo should be lifted?

Turkey has avoided putting forward the precondition of Cyprus even in the process of normalization of Turkish-Greek relations and this attitude has facilitated rapprochement of Ankara-Athens.

On the other hand, Ankara has set the condition of solving of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue to normalize relations with Armenia. What result this stance has produced is self explanatory.

*Sami Kohen is a columnist of daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

INTO THE DARK SIDE OF TECHNOLOGY: HACKING

Last week as I wrote about the leaked information regarding Fenerbahçe Sports Club boss Aziz Yıldırım and how surveillance technologies were being used abusively, the News of the World scandal broke out. It reminded the whole world about the dark side of technology. It can better our lives greatly but cause immense damage in the wrong hands. It is like the knife, you can use it to slice up tomatoes or end lives. The News of the World scandal also reminded us that no one can avoid it, if ill-mannered people aim to hack into personal lives. The celebrities were hacked, the victims were hacked, police were hacked and even the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's personal life was hacked. The journalists are accused of stealing information about Brown's son from hospital archives. Brown said in an interview "I just can't understand this. If I, with all the protection and all the defenses and all the security that the chancellor of the exchequer or the prime minister has is so vulnerable to unscrupulous tactics... what about the ordinary citizen?"

This question is the pinnacle of all the debates that will come after these events. What about the ordinary citizen?

In an answer to Brown's question the current British prime minister said: "To have your child's privacy invaded in that way is completely unacceptable and heartbreaking for the family concerned. I am absolutely determined we will not rest until we get to the bottom of these problems."

Actually both are missing the point. Being hacked is not a question of being famous or powerful, in fact it is more likely that you will be a target if you are powerful. No one could brag about hurting a nobody but every hacker is interested in taking the biggest bull down. Therefore as long as Internet exists and surveillance technologies keep evolving, no one can get to the bottom of these problems. Hacking evolves as does the technology.

People can hack into hospital or juvenile records or they can hack into cameras at displayed computers on a regular store. Two days ago the U.S. Secret Service raided the home of an artist who collected images from webcams in a New York Apple store. According to the agencies Kyle McDonald is said to have installed software that photographed people looking at laptops then uploaded the pictures to a website. McDonald said he had obtained permission from a security guard to take photos inside the store.

Hacking doesn't stop at the hardware level. According to BBC, the first British study into cyberstalking found victims were more likely to be harassed on sites like Facebook than by email or mobile phone. Some 353 British victims of cyberstalking were surveyed for the study.

Half of them said the person harassing them was either unidentified or a complete stranger.

That's a much higher rate than in face-to-face stalking cases where the perpetrator is more likely to be an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. The report suggested that social media websites should be held accountable for crimes and it should be their duty to protect their users. Many other authorities are talking about restricting the Internet.

I don't really share the same opinion. It is illogical to limit freedoms over the Internet to prevent hacking. Hackers would find ways to overcome any obstacle. That's why they are called hackers in the first place. Internet restrictions would only harm the people that Brown referred to as "ordinary." It would mean the loss of full scale democratization of information. Establishing a global Cyber Law would be the finest solution in my opinion. The people who ruin lives should be found and brought to justice no matter in which country they are. The authorities should understand that there is no "bottom" of these problems. There are only harmful people. If they understand this fact, they can let go of the illusion of worldwide Internet restriction that would solve all problems.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SUDAN: THE LEFT-OVER COUNTRY

The flags have been waved, the anthem has been sung, and the new currency will be in circulation next week: the Republic of South Sudan has been launched, and is off to who knows where? Perdition, probably, for it is a "pre-failed state," condemned by its extreme poverty, 15 percent literacy and bitter ethnic rivalries to more decades of violence and misery. But what about the country it leaves behind?

It's telling that there is a South Sudan, but no North Sudan. What's left is still just Sudan. It's still the second-biggest country in Africa, and it still has four-fifths of the people it had before the south broke away. But it has lost a big chunk of its income: almost three-quarters of the old united country's oil was in the south. It's also an Arab country run by a dictator who has been in power for 22 years. So we know what comes next, don't we?

The dictator, President Omar al-Bashir, is unquestionably a bad man. He seized power in a military coup in 1989, and he is the first serving head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. In 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in his conduct of the war in the rebellious province of Darfur. It added three counts of genocide last year. But he's not all bad.

He inherited a much bigger war, between the predominantly Muslim north of the country and what is now South Sudan. It was a squalid, dreadful affair that killed about 2 million southerners and drove another 4 million – about half the southern population – from their homes. Bashir has a lot of blood on his hands. But he eventually realized that the south could not be held by force, and he had the wisdom and courage to act on his insight.

In 2005 he ended the fighting by agreeing that the two parts of the country would be run by separate governments for six years, after which the south would hold a referendum on independence. He knew that the south would say "yes" overwhelmingly – in the end, 98.83 percent of southern Sudanese voted to have their own country – yet he never reneged on the deal.

"President Bashir and [his] National Congress Party deserve a reward," said Salva Kiir, now the president of South Sudan, after the votes were counted in February. And Bashir said: "We will come and congratulate and celebrate with you... We will not hold a mourning tent." His decision made him very vulnerable politically in the north, but he stuck to it for all these years, and as a result many tens of thousands of people who would have died are still alive.

That doesn't necessarily mean that north-south relations will be smooth after the South's independence. Most of the oil is in South Sudan, but the new country is landlocked: the oil can only be exported through pipelines that cross Sudan proper to reach the Red Sea. Yet there is not a deal on revenue-sharing yet, nor even on the border between the two countries.

Bashir's immediate problem is economic. The deal to split the oil revenue equally between north and south lapsed with South Sudan's independence, and he is bringing in harsh austerity measures and a new currency as part of a three-year "emergency program" to stabilize the economy. But the price of food is already soaring in Khartoum as confidence in the Sudanese pound collapses.

Unaffordable food was a major factor in the popular revolts against oppressive Arab regimes in recent months, and Bashir is trying to insulate himself against that by promising stricter enforcement of Islamic law in Sudan. That may win him some support among the Muslim, Arabic-speaking majority, but by the same token it will further alienate the north's remaining religious and ethnic minorities. So more rebellions in the outlying regions.

On top of all that, Bashir will forever be seen, however unfairly, as the man who "lost" the south. His status as an indicted war criminal does him no harm with the majority population at home; his failure to crush the southerners by force is what really undermines him. So he may soon have to go abroad and live with his money.

He did one good thing in his life, and no good deed goes unpunished.

It's telling that there is a South Sudan, but no North Sudan. What's left is still just Sudan. It's still the second-biggest country in Africa. But it has lost a big chunk of its income

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                                                                                                                                                HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

THE BLACK ROBE AND THE RED LINE

The version of the Boycott Law that was passed by the Knesset this week is a type of uncrossable red line in terms of the constitutional problems it poses. That's not merely the opinion of its opponents, within the Knesset or without. To some degree Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein shares this view, and he is the state's most authoritative interpreter of law, until the High Court of Justice rules otherwise.

But there's theory and there's practice. Weinstein said on Tuesday that he would defend the law before the High Court, when it hears a petition against it.

Theoretically, that's what we would expect from a civil servant, who is meant to discount his own dissenting opinion and to carry out his duty to implement the decision. It could be compared to a lawyer who, in the event that a client rejects his advice, nevertheless goes on to represent that client as if the strategy imposed upon them was their own.

That approach is fine for petty matters, but not for important ones. In trifling cases one could understand the distress of a government whose attorney general might leave it without representation.

But when it comes to issues that strike at the heart of Israeli democracy and the Basic Laws, the body of constitutional codes whose purpose is to protect it from problematic legislation, the attorney general must place himself on the correct side of the red line, without hesitation or rationalization.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior ministers absented themselves from the vote on the law when it became clear it would pass without them. Each can now tell his voters how he actually supported or opposed the law (circle the appropriate answer ), and how his presence wouldn't have changed anything.

That's how politicians act, but there is a fundamental difference between them and the attorney general. The attorney general's refusal to appear before the High Court would be taking a stand, not merely fleeing from it. Being prepared to defend the indefensible is the classic example of abandoning one's professional and moral responsibility.

If Weinstein stands behind the official statement issued in his name, and indeed believes that the law's wording is "borderline" and poses a type of red line, then he should not represent the government in the expected legal battle over the law before the High Court.

 

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

THE OPPORTUNITY MISSED AFTER THE WAR

BY ARI SHAVIT

The great failure of the Second Lebanon War is the failure after the war. The 2006 war was waged poorly, and its results were grave. But the five years since were worse than the 33 days of the war itself. Even after the sirens wailed and the warning lights were lit, Israel wouldn't change. It avoided internalizing the deeper meaning of the war. It didn't have the courage to confront the deep systemic and moral failures the war had exposed.

Israel did not make conclusions, learn lessons or change its conduct. The war failed to wake Israel from its coma.

The Second Lebanon War exposed a failure of leadership. The leaders of the war made inconceivable mistakes. But they were not merely personal. They didn't stem only from the personal weaknesses of Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz. They stemmed from the Israeli leadership problem - its quality, values, conduct and the planning, administration and command institutions that serve it.

The leadership problem has not been addressed since the war. Olmert, Peretz and Halutz aren't there anymore, but the sickness is. A bitter personal disagreement on the personal responsibility of the leaders of this failed war prevented radical treatment of the overall leadership problem. There have been changes here and there - some for the better, some for the worse. But both the political system and the media, including yours truly, bear the responsibility for prioritizing personal over state matters.

The day after the war was a day of skirmishing and accusations, not a day of correction and amendment. The question of who leads us, where he leads us and how he leads us has been left open. Unanswered.

The Second Lebanon War exposed a grave military failure. The IDF operated as an unfocused, indecisive army, corrupted by internal politics. Immediately after the war, two major moves were made: Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi was crowned, and Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch was demoted. The message was loud and clear. The IDF after the war will be very combative, very soldierly, but without originality, honesty or a spark. And this is how it was.

Just like after the Yom Kippur War Motta Gur built a great army whose spirit was dim, Ashkenazi built a combative army whose spirit is bleak. The emergency stocks are full, the soldiers are training, but there's no spark, creativity or uncompromising values. This is why the army question also remains open. The improvements introduced into the army don't match the challenges facing Israel.

The Second Lebanon War exposed a political failure. The hardest feeling left of the war was that there's no state. There's no one to run the ghost cities in the north. There's no one to take care of the refugees from the north. There's no solidarity linking north, south and center. After the State of Israel became the Economy of Israel it was left bereft of a serious public sector, a responsible state system and without the feeling of a shared fate.

It suddenly turned out that the political-consumerist ethos we developed does not match the historical reality in which we live. When the day comes, our fabled market does not protect us and does not sustain us as one society and one country. It makes us strong in some aspects and weak and vulnerable in others.

In the five years since the war, this dramatic contradiction was not settled, but redoubled. The economy is blooming, while society is withering. The GDP is skyrocketing but the government cannot function. We've forgotten the trauma of 2006 and went on living as if we were in southern California.

So when the day comes again, we'll be surprise again. When it next comes, we'll once again ask what happened to us. Why we went on partying for five years on the deck of the Titanic, instead of reinforcing it and steering it away from its doomed course.

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                        OPINION

WHY ISRAELIS MUST FIGHT AGAINST BOYCOTT LAW

WITH THE NEW BOYCOTT LAW THE MEAGER ISRAELI DISCOURSE WILL BECOME EVEN MORE THREADBARE DUE TO THE SILENCING LAWS; THIS MAY BE THE LAST CALL TO BOYCOTT THOSE WHO ARE BOYCOTTING ISRAELI DEMOCRACY.

BY GIDEON LEVY

I have never preached publicly to others to boycott the products of the settlements. Everyone should follow his own conscience. Just as I try to buy blue-and-white Israeli products, I also try not to buy "black": products with a very black flag flying over them, a flag of injustice and theft. The Boycott Law that was passed this week is causing me to change direction: From now on I will publicly preach to others, too, not to buy black products. Yes, boycott them!

"Yo, brechen!" was the headline above the article by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, which was published in Heint, the organ of his movement in Warsaw, on November 3, 1932. "Yes, break them!" was the headline of the Hebrew translation of the article, which appeared on the front page of Hazit Ha'am on December 2, 1932, less than two months before Adolf Hitler came to power. At the time Jabotinsky called to break the "demand for monopoly and rule" of the Histadrut labor federation in Palestine. This is the time to raise a no less emotional cry: Yes, break it! The demand for monopoly and unbridled rule of the right and the settlers in Israel.

This is a no less fateful cry than Jabotinsky's. The domination of the settlers and anti-democratic right-wing circles is endangering the country far more than the Histadrut, against which Jabotinsky was fighting, endangered the nascent state.

One doesn't buy stolen merchandise. Period. We can and must say that out loud, before this disgraceful law was passed and even more so after it was passed.

According to the new law of the new Israel, whose image is becoming distorted at alarming speed before our amazed eyes (and the eyes of the world ), it will be forbidden to say that. Now, even those who did not always read the small print on every container of salad and bag of pretzels from Barkan, mushrooms from Tekoa and wine from the Golan, are called on to boycott these products. Now these are no longer products of the settlements - now it's the regime.

Now we call not only on those who consider the damage caused by the settlements to be decisive, but also those who fear for the character of the country and the society in which they live - to boycott.To boycott, boycott and boycott. Not only the products of injustice, but the unjust regime as well. This law must now be boycotted.

Is the attorney general stammering? The public that cares must not stammer like him. In that sense there is actually value to the Boycott Law and its ilk, its predecessors and the laws that will follow it. The more they multiply, the more anger and protest will erupt. Maybe they will finally arouse the Israelis from their apathy in light of what is being done in their name and what is being done to them.

It's not the settlements, dummy, it's all of us. Now we're not talking only about what is happening in the land of the occupation, which is far from the eye and the heart. Now it's already close to home, and this house is on fire.

There is only one important aspect to this Boycott Law. It shows the Israelis what they may and may not say. The subject that was the cause of the stormiest public controversy in Israeli society, until it curled up in its complacency, desperation and lack of interest, has now become taboo by dint of the most illegal law that the Knesset has ever passed.

In that way Israel's most significant asset is being destroyed - the asset of being an open and democratic society. Israel's friends in America and Europe understand that, but in Israel people don't even begin to understand. The price of disposable diapers is still causing far more excitement than the price of those suffocating diapers with which the Knesset has wrapped the public discourse in Israel.

If the public (and the Supreme Court ) surrender now to the edict, an unforeseeable shower of edicts will follow. Ask the Danons and the Elkins what else they have up the barrel of their gun, which is firing straight into the heart of democracy. Today calling for a boycott is forbidden, tomorrow it will be forbidden to call for an end to the occupation. Today it is forbidden to call for refraining from buying Ahva (Brotherhood ) brand halva. Tomorrow it will be forbidden to call for brotherhood between Jews and Arabs.

Wait - wait and see. The meager Israeli discourse will become even more threadbare, due to the silencing laws. That's why this is the time, this may be the last call: Boycott. Boycott those who are boycotting Israeli democracy.

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

PROTECTING THE NEIGHBORHOOD PHARMACIST

BY AMALIA ROSENBLUM

Last month the Ministry of Health issued a warning notice against a private pharmacy in Tel Aviv, which is suspected of selling drugs that do not meet ministry standards. The shocked reaction of all the customers of the pharmacy raises the question of the role of the neighborhood pharmacy in the era of large drugstore chains, powerful drug companies and burnt-out family physicians.

Many Israelis have a pharmacist to whom they turn when they need prescription drugs because they feel that going to a doctor for a prescription does not provide a reasonable cost-utility ratio. On the face of it, this is scandalous. Medicine is a profession that requires a long period of training and extensive knowledge. But as the doctors justly claim, treating a patient also requires time and attention.

Family physicians complain that the pressure they are under does not enable them to allocate more than seven minutes per patient. On the other hand, a visit to the neighborhood pharmacy can last as long as required by the customer. During this relaxed visit he can give the pharmacist a far more comprehensive and detailed picture of the state of his health, which is diagnostically more valuable than the description of his most acute symptoms that he is likely to provide in the seven minutes allocated to him by the doctor. In many cases, the pharmacist is also familiar with the customer's medical history and can devote more attention to discussing the most suitable medication for him.

Of course that doesn't mean that the efforts of the Health Ministry to protect the public from charlatans are unnecessary. But the harsh crackdown on the private pharmacies raises the question as to whether there are additional groups who are profiting from this battle. In order to answer this question we have to understand the role of alternative medications in the small pharmacies' struggle for survival.

There are few pharmacies belonging to the large chains where homeopathic medications are prepared, for example. For that reason, the preparation and distribution of drugs according to homeopathic prescriptions are activities that strengthen the status of the neighborhood pharmacy in the community. In this context, we suspect that cracking down on the neighborhood institution is related to the battle between representatives of the central stream in medicine and those who favor alternative medicine.

This is not only an ideological gap, but a significant economic issue as well. The small pharmacies are in a situation similar to that of small bookshops or neighborhood grocery stores. The attempt to survive in the face of the large chains is doomed to almost total failure. The situation obligates small businesses to find creative ways of giving their customers added value in order to compensate for their inability to offer products at sufficiently "competitive" prices. The personal attention and finding the alternative products are a pharmacy's solutions, just as they are the solutions of the independent bookshop that is within walking distance of your home.

Of course we cannot ignore the gaps in knowledge and training between a physician and a pharmacist. The solution does not have to be the elimination of the small pharmacies, but rather empowerment of the pharmacists, for example by encouraging and developing the clinical pharmaceutical industry.

In any case, in the Israeli reality, where the ability to improvise is a vital trait for survival we can understand that anyone who expects the plumber to waive value added tax, also expects the pharmacist to waive the prescription.

 

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HAARETZ

                                                                                                                                                OPINION

WHY ARE SUPERFLUOUS LAWS PASSED?

BY ISRAEL HAREL

Although Likud was ostensibly in power for much of the past 34 years, the party, apparently suffering a serious inferiority complex, left the stage on which the national and moral character of the state is determined in the hands of those that the public rejected at the polls.

The latter, through their control of the media, the judicial system and much of the government bureaucracy, have led the nation to deprecate the basic Zionist values upon which the state of the Jews was founded.

In the current Knesset, which includes Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu MKs who are relatively free of the traumas of the previous generation, things have started to change thanks to legislation that expresses the ethical worldview of Israel's majority.

The Boycott Law isn't important; perhaps it's even superfluous. But the verbal arrogance of those who oppose it - after all, only the camp that has appointed itself guardian of the law may declare which laws we must obey and which we can transgress - demonstrates that those who have initiated the recent laws, most of which are justified and necessary, are moving in the right direction. The primal, authentic identity of the state now has a legal anchor in the statute book.

The ones spurring these legislative initiatives are the organizations that use foreign funding to besmirch the state and its military, to prosecute Israel Defense Forces officers abroad and to change the state's Jewish-Zionist identity. It isn't clear why the prime minister hasn't acted personally to stop this funding, part of which is aimed at toppling his government. Most of the money comes from European states, whose heads he can talk to as he did to stop the flotilla.

If Israeli citizens weren't betraying their country and being convicted of acts of terror, there would be no need for a law revoking their citizenship. And if all citizens met their military service obligations there would be no need for a ("discriminatory" ) law that gives benefits and priority to those who risk their lives for the country.

The existence of a small and specific group that has united against these laws aimed at reinforcing the state's values and sovereignty obligates the majority to voice its support for the general trend of these laws.

This is a fierce disagreement over the character of the state, particularly in light of the vehemence of those who reject these laws and have declared their intention to violate them. (Law professors and political leaders who oppose the laws have failed to hush these voices, as duty requires. )

Given the sympathy of the High Court of Justice to the behavior of these groups, as well as the precedent it set in previous similar cases, is quite clear how the court will rule. That is unfortunate, because it will further damage whatever prestige remains to this vital institution and will cement its image as the servant of the left in terms of perspectives and opinions. Such issues should be determined in the court of public opinion rather than in the biased court of law.

It is not MKs David Rotem, Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin and company who are responsible for these laws, which are superfluous in a normal, responsible democracy. Most of the blame lies with those who are systematically, continuously, eroding the moral underpinnings of the Jewish state.

These legislative initiatives, some of which indeed go too far, such as the parliamentary inquiry of leftist organization (that's what happens when one must deflect attacks from all quarters ), are attempting to restore some order to the insanity.

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

EDITORIAL

DRAWDOWN IN IRAQ

President Obama is fulfilling his promise to wind down the Iraq war. When he took office, there were about 142,000 American troops on the ground; now there are 46,000. All are supposed to be gone by Dec. 31 under a 2008 agreement between Washington and Baghdad.

The war, which should never have been launched, has already cost more than 4,450 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars over eight long years. Like most Americans, we are eager to see all of our troops back home and out of harm's way. But if Iraq requests it, there are legitimate reasons to keep a small military force there — if the mission is carefully drawn. Iraq still needs help building its military and calming tensions between Arabs and Kurds in the north. A small American force — there is talk of 8,000 to 15,000 troops — would also send a big message to Iraq and all of its neighbors that Washington is not ceding the region to Iran. Tehran has been increasing its meddling in recent months.

Experts say most Iraqi factions want the Americans to remain a while longer. No Iraqi politicians have been willing to say that publicly. Their fractious political system indulges foot-dragging well beyond the 11th hour.

The Obama administration, which has demanded an answer for months, is understandably frustrated. "Do they want us to stay, don't they want us to stay?" Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Baghdad on Monday, adding: "Dammit, make a decision."

The logistics of withdrawing thousands of troops and their equipment are complicated. But the administration is pleading too hard. This has to be an Iraqi decision, and Iraqis have to live with the consequences.

If Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki or any other leaders really want an extension on the 2008 withdrawal agreement, they need to speak up soon and they need to tell their supporters why this is good for the country. Uniting in common cause is their best hope of neutralizing Moktada al-Sadr, whose pro-Iran faction has long insisted that all American troops must leave.

If a residual American force stays, the mandate should be carefully drawn: gathering intelligence and, when needed, supporting Iraqi forces in going after insurgents; continuing military training; and conducting joint patrols with Arabs and Kurds along the disputed internal border. Iraq's government must commit to aggressively going after Shiite militias that have increasingly targeted American troops. Any deployment should be reviewed periodically to see if it is needed and still makes sense.

President Obama has concluded the American combat role in Iraq and is beginning the drawdown in Afghanistan. He must be held accountable for his promises but also be prepared to modify his policy when needed. If Iraq asks, we think he should say yes. But only if Iraq asks.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

GUN MAYHEM ALONG THE BORDER

It is an open and deadly scandal that at least 70 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico's bloody drug war originate in the United States, where shady gun buyers operate freely thanks to loopholes in American law. To its credit, the Obama administration has ordered the more than 8,000 dealers along the border to begin reporting multiple sales of AK-47s and other semiautomatic battlefield weapons to the federal firearms bureau.

Straw buyers have been easily purchasing thousands of fast-firing weapons on the American side to supply the cartels, which deal drugs back across the border. These guns have no legitimate place in civilian life and were banned outright for 10 years until Congress and two successive administrations failed to fight for the ban's renewal. In Mexico, semiautomatics have been at the heart of a five-year-long drug war in which more than 35,000 people have been slain.

The National Rifle Association, of course, is greeting the new regulation as an unconstitutional outrage against the right to bear arms. But the reporting of multiple sales of handguns is already required of dealers in all 50 states. Gathering information on a buyer of two or more semiautomatic rifles within five days is logical and overdue in the four border states. The rule, issued by the Justice Department, even provides that a report will be destroyed after two years if it produces no criminal cases.

Gun lobby sycophants in Congress are calling the regulation a smoke screen to distract attention from a gun-tracking operation botched by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Known straw buyers made purchases that were supposed to lead to the cartels' main brokers. But hundreds of guns disappeared into Mexico, and two turned up at the scene of a shootout where an American Border Patrol guard was killed. If anything, the ill-conceived operation, which deserves the fullest investigation, is a measure of the firearms bureau's frustration in dealing with porous American law.

The new regulation is one answer to the problem. Controls also are needed over sellers at gun shows who, unlike gun shops, are unregulated in peddling war weaponry. The Obama administration must pursue stronger gun controls as Congress plays lackey to the gun lobby.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE F.E.C. AWAKES

It is heartening that the usually dysfunctional Federal Election Commission has now ruled that candidates cannot solicit large-scale donations for the new "Super PACs" intent on raising hundreds of millions for the 2012 elections. For too long the F.E.C. has spent much of its time creating loopholes for party machines and declining to punish even egregious violators.

In this case, however, the commission had to recognize that the law clearly barred candidates from groveling for unlimited Super PAC money. Now comes the hard part: The commission must rigorously enforce the law. Lately, Republican members of the bipartisan panel have repeatedly blocked needed actions.

Thanks to the Supreme Court's decision allowing unlimited, secretive donations from corporations, unions and special-interest moguls, the new Super PACs are already gearing up to do land-office business for Republican and Democratic candidates. The one antidote recommended by the court — public disclosure of deep-pocket donors — has been blocked by Congressional Republicans.

The F.E.C. ruling will still let candidates solicit Super PAC money up to a donor's maximum $5,000 contribution allowed under the law. Candidates will also, unfortunately, be free to speak at Super PAC functions. The Super PAC era is such a growing threat to fair elections that it was deservedly satirized by Stephen Colbert, the political comedian, who registered his own PAC and even got F.E.C. approval to tout it on his show. Voters need to be reminded, as often as possible, about the damage done to democracy when special-interest money trumps all else.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE COURTS STEP IN

In three new rulings, federal judges in different states have acted to block immediate enforcement of measures that restrict abortion rights and women's access to affordable contraception, lifesaving cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. These rulings are important victories for women's health and reproductive rights.

On June 24, Judge Tanya Pratt of the Federal District Court in Indianapolis issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of a new Indiana law banning the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide essential health services to low-income women. The mean-spirited law is part of a Republican-led national campaign to end public financing for Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration promptly told Indiana, and other states weighing similar legislation, that the measure violated federal law by imposing impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid beneficiaries to choose health care providers. Judge Pratt agreed with that assessment in her decision.

In another ruling six days later, a federal trial judge in South Dakota issued a preliminary injunction blocking, on constitutional grounds, a deeply intrusive state law requiring women to wait at least 72 hours after an initial doctor's visit before terminating a pregnancy — the longest waiting period in the nation. This law also requires that women seeking abortions endure counseling at so-called pregnancy help centers run by antiabortion activists with the aim of discouraging abortions.

"Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being," Judge Karen Schreier wrote in her decision.

On July 1, Judge Carlos Murguia, a federal district judge in Kansas, blocked immediate enforcement of a new Kansas licensing law and health department regulations imposing extensive, medically unnecessary requirements on the state's three remaining abortion providers — like mandating 50 square feet of storage space for janitorial supplies — with the obvious goal of shutting them down.

While these rulings are preliminary, each is a determination that enforcing the law would cause irreparable harm and that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail at trial. They do not, however, address other threats to women's health. Those include the slashing of state support for family-planning services by governors like Chris Christie of New Jersey, and attacks from Congress like the bill Republicans pushed through the House in May that would use the nation's tax system as a weapon to end abortion insurance coverage in the private market.

Still, these rulings serve as a reminder that courts have a vital role to play in blocking the extreme anti-abortion, anti-family-planning movement accelerating in the states and in Washington.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

VIVE LA SIMILARITÉ

BY DAVID MCCULLOUGH

West Tisbury, Mass.

THE recent arrest in New York of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the head of the International Monetary Fund, has caused some people to question the American-French relationship. Though we will probably never see a Bastille Day when French flags fly along Main Street and strains of "La Marseillaise" fill the airwaves, July 14 would not go so largely unobserved here were we better served by memory. For the ties that bind America and France are more important and infinitely more interesting than most of us know.

Consider that the war that gave birth to the nation, our war for independence, would almost certainly have failed had it not been for heavy French financial backing and military support, on both land and sea. At the crucial surrender of the British at Yorktown, for example, the French army under Rochambeau was larger than our own commanded by Washington. The British commander, Cornwallis, was left with no escape and no choice but to surrender only because a French fleet sailed into the Chesapeake Bay at exactly the right moment.

The all-important treaty ending the Revolutionary War, wherein King George III recognized the United States to be "free, sovereign and independent," was signed in Paris. The plan for our new capital city on the Potomac was designed by a French engineer, Pierre Charles L'Enfant. The first great statue of our first president was the work of a French sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon. The first major study of us as a people, "Democracy in America," was written by a French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville. Published in 1835, it remains one of the wisest books ever written about us.

To be sure, our relations with France have not always been smooth. Tensions over a diplomatic snafu called the "XYZ Affair" led, in 1798, to an actual but undeclared shooting war at sea that could have flared into full-scale war had it not been for the level-headed judgment of President John Adams.

But the rewards of our ties with France have far exceeded any difficulties there have been. With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, the size of the country was more than doubled. The Statue of Liberty, one of our most treasured symbols, was a gift from France.

No less conspicuous are the number of French names all across the map of America — cities and states, rivers and lakes: Baton Rouge, Des Moines, New Orleans, St. Louis, Terre Haute, Louisiana, Vermont, the Au Sable River, Lake Champlain. And then there are colleges and universities like Lafayette, Duquesne, Marquette, Notre Dame.

More than nine million of us are of French descent. Over a million American students are taking French, making it, after Spanish, the most commonly studied foreign language in our schools.

Times continue to change, yet we remain conspicuously fond of all manner of things French. We deck ourselves out in French fashions, French lace, French cuffs, spend small fortunes on French perfume and French luggage. We love French doors, French cheeses. We've made French fries a national staple, and in time-honored tradition raise glasses of French Champagne at important celebrations.

For well over 200 years, our most gifted American writers, artists, architects, composers, musicians and dancers have flocked to Paris to study and work, nearly always to their benefit and ours. John Singleton Copley, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Richard Wright, Louis Gottschalk and Louis Armstrong, Cole Porter, Isadora Duncan and Josephine Baker, and, of course, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The list goes on and on.

Especially for American women and for African-Americans, Paris provided an atmosphere of freedom and of acceptance such as they had never experienced.

Less well known but of great importance were the hundreds of young Americans who went to study medicine in France in the 19th century, when Paris was the medical capital of the world and who brought home ideas and skills that would transform American medicine and medical education.

And there is a further reason France should hold a prominent place in our memories and in our hearts. More American history has unfolded in France and more Americans are buried there than in any other country but our own.

During World War I more than two million American soldiers served "Over There." In World War II another generation of American soldiers numbering more than 800,000 served in France. In all, more than 60,000 Americans are buried in French soil, at Meuse-Argonne, Normandy and nine other cemeteries. At the Meuse-Argonne, the largest, lie fully 14,246 American dead. The grave markers are a sight never to be forgotten.

Though I love France and greatly value the friends I have made there, I am not an overboard Francophile. But as an American I think it is well past time to get back to respect and affection between our countries, on all fronts and with all possible good will.

For my part this Bastille Day, I intend to raise a glass or two of Veuve Clicquot in a heartfelt toast: "Vive la France!"

David McCullough, a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, is the author, most recently, of "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE REPUBLICAN CASE FOR COMPROMISE

BY AL HOFFMAN JR.

North Palm Beach, Fla.

I HAVE always been a conservative Republican, and I subscribe to the ideas of less government, lower taxes, innovation and entrepreneurship. But I also believe that, in the face of a possible debt default by the federal government, Republicans need to embrace the principle of compromise.

Indeed, despite talk that Senate Republicans might simply let the president raise the debt ceiling unilaterally, and thus avoid the issue of budget and tax reform, it's not too late for both sides to strike a grand bargain. By so doing, they will prove the better statesmen.

The threat of default is not about liberal or conservative politics: our nation has spent $14 trillion in money it doesn't have and is on track to be saddled with as much as $26 trillion in debt by the end of the decade. That's simply unsustainable.

Yes, Democrats are depicting Republicans as fanatics holding, as President Obama put it in a recent speech, a "gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners." Republicans may want to walk away from these cheap demagogic attacks, but our nation can't afford it.

Instead, they should counter the president's smallness by going big. Rather than go to their martyrdom as ideological purists, they should open the door to tax increases — but only if every $1 in new taxes is applied to deficit reduction and is matched by at least $4 in real spending cuts, including entitlement reform.

Why the 4-to-1 ratio? Precedent: in a study of fiscal reforms by 21 developed countries between 1970 and 2007, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group, found that, on average, "failed attempts to close budget gaps relied 53 percent on tax increases and 47 percent on spending cuts."

Successful formulas, on the other hand, combined 85 percent in spending cuts with 15 percent in tax hikes. The president has proposed a much lower ratio, closer to 60 percent in spending cuts and 40 percent in tax hikes, but at least the two sides would be on the same page.

Moreover, tax revenues do not need to come through higher, growth-deterring tax rates. The president's bipartisan debt commission has already developed proposals to reduce or scrap tax breaks in a way that would both lower tax rates and generate $1 trillion in revenues over 10 years. Under one scenario, all tax breaks would be zeroed out except the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit; meanwhile, three new, lower income tax rates of 9 percent, 15 percent and 24 percent would be established.

This plan, or a variant, would check several boxes in the Republican agenda: it would fundamentally reform the tax code, promote economic growth, reduce the deficit and make America more competitive in the global economy.

Unfortunately, there is a major stumbling block to any sort of real reform: the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a document written by Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative advocacy group, and signed by most Republican senators and representatives. The pledge states not only that signers will oppose hikes in marginal income tax rates, but also that they will "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." In other words, signers of the pledge are supposed to vote to keep an irrational and corrupt system of tax loopholes if even $1 of savings goes toward deficit reduction.

And yet many House Republicans seem willing to wait until 2013 to pass major reform. By then, they hope, their party will control both chambers and they will be able to pass their own budget plan into law, with its promises to eliminate or shrink tax breaks and drastically reduce government spending, all without violating their tax pledge.

Whether or not their plan is a good idea, the strategy assumes there is time — and time is one luxury we don't have. If Republicans really believe their own oratory about an impending debt crisis, now is the time to act, not the spring of 2013, even if it means compromise.

Some Republicans understand this. When queried about breaking the tax pledge, Senator Tom Coburn, a stalwart conservative from Oklahoma, asked which pledge was more important, "the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group?"

Republicans needn't abandon their commitment to smaller government. But by taking the high road of compromise now to achieve real reform later, they might just show which party is truly committed to its country's future.

Al Hoffman Jr. was a national co-chairman for George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns and a finance chairman for the Republican National Committee.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE PLOT THICKENS

 

The United States has decided to withhold a third of its annual $2.7 billion security assistance to Islamabad after Pakistan ordered dozens of military trainers to leave Pakistan and limited visas to US personnel following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. In large part, Pakistan's response has been that it doesn't care about the aid cutback and that Pakistan is capable of fighting terrorism using indigenous resources and has carried out several successful military operations in the tribal regions without external help. This was certainly the message reiterated by Gen Kayani at the latest corps commanders conference on Tuesday. Despite Washington's punitive move to withhold military assistance, the Pakistan Army has announced it will not reverse its crackdown against the American footprint in the country. On its part, Washington is hitting back against what it thinks is a continuing relationship between the Pakistani military and Afghan insurgents and other militant groups, as well as Pakistan's refusal to go after the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. "No more blank cheques," is the US message.

Given that elections are drawing closer in the US, it makes sense for the Obama administration to want to tell the American public it will not allow Pakistan to continue with its alleged double game in Afghanistan and with regard to militant jihadists. However, if the US needs Pakistan, which it clearly does, especially as it plans to scale down its troop presence in neighbouring Afghanistan, it makes little sense to take this action at this time. Such moves will leave the US with less, not more, influence with the Pakistani military. Most importantly, the US needs to understand that that it cannot bully Pakistan into submission. Cooperation cannot be coerced by punitive actions. The right approach would be for the US to formalise a mechanism for joint operations against high value targets. It is thus a positive move that the ISI chief has decided to travel to the US this week and is expected to discuss intelligence coordination. In Pakistan, the US move to withhold aid will turn public opinion more caustic and delay any large-scale campaign against militants, especially Al-Qaeda targets. It will also hurt Pakistan's economy if Washington holds back on the $300 million of the Coalition Support Fund. These reimbursements, for money already spent on military operations, go into the general treasury and withholding them will definitely damage Pakistan's finances at a time when they are already under immense strain.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DEADLY VACUUM

 

It would be wise not to entirely swallow the Taliban claim to have killed Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar on Tuesday. The man who killed him was his long-time bodyguard with no known Taliban leanings, and there is no shortage of reasons for one man to kill another in Afghanistan. The Taliban may have had a hand in his death but it is equally possible that he died as a result of personal enmity, business gone bad, or a power struggle in the criminal underworld which he was, for years, credibly associated with. The backstory is irrelevant to a degree because his passing leaves a vacuum not only in the political life of Kandahar, but of Afghanistan as a whole. It is no exaggeration to say that he was the lynch-pin for his half-brother in the presidential palace – Hamid Karzai. He it was who was able to deliver elections, to be the broker in the eternal feuding between tribes and families that characterises much of Afghan life, and he it was that Nato and the CIA looked to as a powerful fixer eternally useful in the fight against the Taliban.

The death of Wali Karzai also brings into sharp focus the folly of relying on individuals rather than building institutions of governance, a folly repeated by Nato and Isaf virtually everywhere in Afghanistan. Many of the men that Nato and Isaf have cultivated have colourful and decidedly murky pasts – hardly the kind of compost from which might spring the green shoots of an emerging democracy. As the country moves into the transition wherein Isaf and Nato forces decline in numbers, and responsibility for security devolves to the Afghan army and police force, this death is going to have a profound effect on security and stability. There is no obvious successor and the Taliban, who are keen to consolidate their own political positions preparatory for the inevitable talks that might see them entering government, will capitalise on his death. Whoever succeeds Wali Karzai will need to give careful thought to their choice of bodyguard.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DAM GAMES

 

According to a recent newspaper report, we appear to have lost the latest 'water battle' with India. Our water resources have been mismanaged almost from the genesis of the state, and chronic incompetence coupled with inter-provincial rivalry has led to a poverty of power and a growing thirst. The Indus River system ties us inescapably to India, and India is home to much of the headwater and downstream flow of the major rivers before they cross our border. The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty is the primary regulator of water access and usage between India and Pakistan, and has thus far been successful in that there has been no 'water war' – but the demands of development and expanding populations on both sides are producing strains.

India has a rapidly industrialising economy, Pakistan's is less so but has industrial potential. Dams produce power, and India transpires to be further advanced with the construction of the 330MW Kishanganga hydropower project than was projected. It has completed 40 percent of construction work, contrary to a statement by the water and power authority to the Senate Committee on Water which said that India has completed only 23.5 percent of the work. These figures indicate that we have lost a race. If the Indians complete their project before we complete the Neelum-Jhelum project, then they will have water priority rights on the Neelum River, and we will have lost the legal battle we are currently fighting with India in the Court of Arbitration (CoA). Kishanganga is likely to be 90 percent completed by 2014; the Neelum-Jhelum project has a new finish date of 2016. It would appear that the Senate has been seriously misled, either by accident or design, and we know not which. India will have stolen a march on us and stretched the boundaries of the Indus Waters Treaty once again. The government has been badly advised, we lack the technology to allow us to close the gap now or in the future, and water looks set to be the catalyst for deepening future tensions.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

TOWARDS PAKISTAN'S JULY 14

ROEDAD KHAN

 

The Supreme Court is in a standoff with a corrupt executive determined to obstruct the course of justice. In order to save the coalition between the PPP and the PML-Q, the government is desperately trying to prevent Zafar Qureshi, additional director general of the FIA who is chief Investigator in the NICL scam case, from assisting the Supreme Court, and doing his duty.

Mr Jinnah foresaw all this, and much more, with uncanny prescience, and forewarned civil servants against the shenanigans and manipulations of corrupt politicians. In his informal talk with civil servants in Peshawar in April 1948, he forewarned civil servants against the shenanigans and manipulations of corrupt politicians. I reproduce this talk in some detail because it is germane to the current situation in the country.

"The reason why I wanted to meet you," Mr Jinnah said, "is that I wanted to say a few words to you, who are occupying very important positions in the administration of Pakistan in this province. The first thing that I want to tell you is this, that you should not be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige or greatness of Pakistan, you must not fall a victim to any pressure, but do your duty as servants to the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly." He described service as "the backbone of the state."

"Governments are formed, governments are defeated, prime ministers come and go, ministers come and go, but you stay on, and, therefore, there is a very great responsibility placed on your shoulders. You should have no hand in supporting this political party or that political party, this political leader or that political leader—that is not your business. Whichever government is formed according to the constitution and whoever happens to be the prime minister coming into power in the ordinary constitutional course, your duty is not only to serve that government loyally, faithfully, but at the same time fearlessly, maintaining your high reputation, your prestige, your honour and integrity of your service. If you will start with that determination you will make a great contribution to the building up of the Pakistan of our conception and our dream..."

He said: "While impressing this upon you on your side, I wish also to take the opportunity of impressing upon our leaders and politicians in the same way that if they ever try to interfere with you and bring political pressure to bear upon you, which leads to nothing but corruption, bribery and nepotism...if they try and interfere with you in this way, I say, they are doing nothing but disservice to Pakistan."

He asked each one of the officers to "understand his own sphere of duty and responsibility and act with others harmoniously and in complete cooperation." He added: "If you on your side start with that determination and enthusiasm..., and if you will stick to your determination, you will have done a great service to your nation."

Putting pressure and influence on service people "is a very common fault of politicians and those with influence in political parties. But I hope that you will now, from today, resolve and determine to act according to the humble advice that I am giving you. Maybe some of you may fall victim for not satisfying the whim of ministers. I hope this does not happen, but you may even be put to trouble, not because you are doing anything wrong but because you are doing right. Sacrifices have to be made and I appeal to you, to come forward and make the sacrifice and face the position of being put on the black list or being otherwise worry or troubled. If you will give me the opportunity of your sacrifices, some of you at least, believe me, we will find a remedy for that very soon. I tell you that you will not remain on the blacklist, if you discharge your duties and responsibilities, honestly, sincerely and loyally to the state. It is you who can give us the opportunity to create a powerful machinery which will give you a complete sense of security."

During the last 63 years, the country has lived in a state of permanent political crisis. Amid so much political instability, how could the republic continue to function and its ephemeral governments manage the business of a modern government? What held the country together more than anything else and enabled the republic to function tolerably well was the steady hand of the much maligned permanent establishment. It comprised various organs, run and staffed by permanent civil servants, which administered the law, the legislation passed by parliament and the acts and services of government. In its strange but in steady exertions one can see much of the secret of the solidity and continuity of life in Pakistan despite the toppling of regimes, dictatorships, the execution of an elected prime minister and the incessant changes in regimes and governments. In the 20th century a good deal of this bureaucracy seemed to be an anachronism, an apparatus musty from age. In reality it was one of the foundations of the republic.

Elected and un-elected rulers would come and go, some of them whiling away much of their time in the West at the taxpayer's expense. Parliaments might be suppressed; ministers might spend most of their time in their hometowns or abroad, the permanent bureaucracy, the officials high and low, the magistrates, the civil and criminal courts, the revenue officers, the lowly clerks, the postmen, the police officers manning the police stations, throughout the country, the engineers and doctors, saw to it that the machinery of government ground away. Taxes were collected, accounts kept, justice dispensed, and public services and civil order for the most part maintained. Despite all the turmoil over decades of the country's history, the bureaucracy, the permanent establishment, stood like a Rock of Gibraltar against the chaotic currents of whatever times. Honest to a degree unknown or unpractised among parliamentarians or cabinet ministers, industrious in a plodding sort of way and fairly efficient, possessed of a strong sense of public duty, of a remarkable esprit de corps, and of a pride in their professional code, but also woefully unprogressive and unresponsive to the demands of the evolving society, they were a pillar of the state. Like the French permanent establishment, ours saw to it that the business of government got done even at the most chaotic moments.

Unfortunately, the service we inherited on independence, known for its integrity, objectivity, and political neutrality was, over the years, thoroughly mutilated, demoralised, emasculated, politicised, corrupted, and changed beyond recognition, and is now a ghost of its former self. The most arduous search will not turn up many civil servants anywhere in the country today who do their duty as servants to the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly, who are not influenced by political pressure from any political party or individual politicians, and who do not have a stake in supporting one political party or another, or one political leader or another.

This species, I regret to say, is now largely extinct. Fortunately, some officers like Zafar Qureshi seem to have survived. Under tremendous government pressure Zafar Qureshi is doing his duty courageously and without fear or favour. People like him are our unsung heroes worthy of our commendation. Zafar Qureshi must not suffer for acting on the advice of Mr Jinnah.

It is now clear that President Zardari, corrupt beyond the pale, does not believe in the rule of law. He believes in the rule of man. Independent judiciary also does not suit him. Today the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is the only rampart standing between the republic and a thinly disguised civilian dictatorship. If Zardari has his way, he would turn all courts of law into government courts. The lesson of history is that when that happens, the dykes of law and justice break and revolution begins. That is what happened in France on July 14.



The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, www.roedadkhan.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

INDO-PAK INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION

AMARJEET SINGH DULAT AND ASAD DURRANI

 

Post-9/11 and post-26/11 Mumbai, one would think that exchange of intelligence information among friendly agencies was occurring as a matter of course—to help fill information gaps, to verify sources and substance, and to get a 'second opinion.' However, as any report on intelligence reform or failures shows, the absence of coordination, even among their own agencies, remains problematic. Those in the business know why it is so rare. Intelligence agencies are possessive of turf and sources. They are reluctant to part with potentially valuable leads. Very often, though, doubt about the quality or veracity of information deters an agency from sharing it, to avoid embarrassment. Intelligence cooperation is an exception.

However, despite the valid questions, doubts and apprehensions, one can also envision conditions when such cooperation is thinkable. When countries are faced with common external or internal threats, exchange of mutually beneficial information not only might be thinkable but also desirable, even prudent.

Intelligence services could provide an ideal back channel to pave the way for political dialogue—with the added advantage of discretion and deniability. It cannot harm anyone and may even help. If the governments concerned are not in a position to embark upon a "peace process" due to political constraints, they may ask their premier agencies to establish links. (In rare cases, the agencies may even do so on their own initiative.) By the time, the environment has become favourable for the dialogue to be brought out of the basement; the secret channel would have prepared necessary ground, identified contacts, and may even recommend an out of the box approach. If war is not a serious option, then dialogue—away from the public glare and therefore under less pressure—makes plenty of sense.

Cooperation can also help to guard against panic reactions; for example, unintended mobilisation of forces or possible nuclear alerts. Some intra- or extra- regional forces could cause crises that might spin out of control, with possible nuclear consequences. While the nuclear bogey should not be exaggerated, for these and other reasons it is advisable to establish a preventive mechanism; intelligence cooperation indeed being its lynchpin. Even in the worst days of the Cold War, the CIA and KGB never ceased contacts, even through open declared officers in each other's capitals.

Our two countries, India and Pakistan, have all the above reasons for covert, even overt intelligence cooperation. Indeed the two countries have taken related measures of a non- intelligence nature; some of them before going overtly nuclear in May 1998. During the Pakistan Army's multi-corps exercise in 1989, Zarb-e-Momin, India did not move its troops to the borders since its ambassador and military attachés in Islamabad were informed and observers invited. Similarly, when Indian security forces were wrapping up Sikh militancy in the Punjab in 1992, Pakistan was duly informed, and perhaps even offered facilities to do ground checks. Post-nuclearisation, to avoid misunderstandings about their nuclear alert statuses, both countries have developed a reasonably functional system of exchanging information; including importantly forewarning of missile testing.

One would have reasonably assumed that post 9/11, with so much trouble on Pakistan's western borders, the country would have reached some understanding with India to prevent tensions in the East. Post-26/11 Mumbai, it seems that it had not. During the Cold War, the USA was notoriously less than generous when sharing information with NATO allies (post-9/11 its interest in information sharing increased). If that be so amongst allies, what are the prospects that India and Pakistan, with long standing ill-will, would engage in any meaningful cooperation? And, even if they could, would either side trust the other?

Maybe. Notwithstanding their differences, neighbours understand each other better than distant powers. It is not very likely that the two antagonists would agree on a common approach to address regional security. Past baggage and divergence in their views on how best to resolve, for example the problem of Afghanistan, argue against it. They however might have a common interest to prevent another incident of the kind which occurred in Mumbai in November 2008 Mumbai-like incident—India for obvious reasons, and Pakistan since it can ill-afford to be distracted from its internal front and the fallout from the ongoing War in Afghanistan. Also, since the perception that GHQ rules the roost in Pakistan is widespread, intelligence cooperation may be one way to reach out to people who matter.

A Joint Anti-terror Mechanism (JATM) agreed upon after the 2006 NAM Summit in Havana hardly moved forward, leave alone achieve any success, especially given the Indian concerns in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage. Terrorism cannot be addressed by a panchayat (committee); intelligence agencies are much better equipped to deal with it. At the very least it needs to be improved to ensure sharing of intelligence at least on groups operating from either side of the borders. In case of an incident, it must provide for joint actions, like investigation and interrogation of suspects. Bureaucratic and political reservations are expected; some of them are even legitimate, such as concerns about "sovereignty" and intrusion in sensitive matters. However, if these were not overcome, endless exchange of dossiers, a la post-26/11-Mumbai, is unavoidable. A revolutionary step like JATM will only work gradually, starting with areas of critical interest for both India and Pakistan; for example against a group out to embarrass both or start a war between them. Once rapport was established, we might expand cooperation. As the two sides develop trust and rapport its canvass is bound to expand. One day, even joint trials might become possible.

Intelligence links between neighbours are obviously desirable. It is better to institutionalise them now, rather than trying to activate them in times of crisis (that is why they failed in 26/11 Mumbai). In due course both sides would understand the need for 'open' intelligence posts in diplomatic missions. In the meantime, petty harassment of each other's officers and staff could end. Intelligence links can succeed where all others fail. What agencies can achieve is not at times even conceivable in political or diplomatic channels.



This is a joint paper by two former heads of intelligence — Amarjeet Singh Dulat of RAW and Asad Durrani of the ISI — discussed in a Track II setting with current and former policy makers from July 1 to July 4 in Berlin, at the 59th Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. It now appears simultaneously in The News International and The Hindu.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

IKRAM SEHGAL

 

The latest round of violence in Karachi has converted what was essentially a political problem into an ethnic one – a dangerous development by any measure. Fed up with bureaucratic rule, which in Pakistan's case was simply a continuation of colonial mastery after Shaheed Liaquat Ali Khan's assassination in 1951, the people of Pakistan in 1971 craved power at the grassroots level. These aspirations for a more just social order being championed by Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were overwhelmed by the predominantly ethnic agenda pursued by the Awami League's (AL) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in East Pakistan. The sustained violence, the likes of which one would rather not witness first hand again, saw Pakistan come apart at the seams.

Instead of learning from this traumatic experience and addressing the worsening situation politically, the government has added fuel to the fire by bringing back the commissioner-ate system. This is political bankruptcy at its worst, throwing in an administrative monkey wrench into problems of democratic governance. Asif Zardari has been politically sure-footed until now, successfully running circles around the Opposition, but someone has certainly given him very bad advice.

For bureaucrats and feudal alike, their nexus stands to benefit from turning back the clock on the people's aspirations. On February 22, 1990, in the series "The Sindh factor", I wrote, "the city of Karachi is a hotchpotch of overlapping administrative responsibilities. For a city of nine million people, this (is) tantamount to unmitigated disaster of the highest magnitude. Without local bodies elections or elected councillors, it becomes a farce perpetuated in the name of democracy. The violation of democratic principles at the very foundations of administrative tiers creates grounds for malfeasance up the line. Nepotism and corruption are endemic in bureaucracy, all the problems stem from appointments and promotions based not on merit but on corrupt practices which provide the fuel for corrupting authority," unquote.

That the top down feudal mindset for dispensing selective justice cannot be in sync with the common man's desires was quite apparent from the electronic images of the "Arab Spring" and Tahrir Square. This could very well happen in Pakistan, my article as far back as February 20, 1990, said, "Power must belong to the people in the real sense of the word, not just lip-service hypocrisy to stroke democracy. The judiciary must be separate from the executive, taking such action that must be necessary under the circumstances," and then the implicit warning, "God help us if we have to resort to martial law. That would be a doomsday solution. The moves we must make should be political and economic, in that order of priority," unquote.

To what end is Pir Sahib Pagara demanding that the army intervene in Karachi? To pit the army against the people so that after the death and destruction that would surely follow, a handful of feudals and their bureaucrat associates could implement "Constitutional" rule over the debris? This was avoided only by the skin of the teeth in Egypt when the army refused to fire at the people in the streets despite repeated orders from Mubarak and his cronies.

On September 22, 1992 in "The stabilising force of democracy," I said: "We have a serious crisis on our hands because the representatives of the people have made themselves unaccountable to the people. Promises are media-fed to the masses while the real rulers, the feudals aided by bureaucrats, exercise their authority quite independent of the populace. Anyone can rule, history is replete with morons who have governed, posterity's pages are full of their misdoings but is there anyone among us who can sit up and dare to change the system to one that is suited to the true genius of our people by allowing the people to really govern themselves?" Unquote.

Even within the bureaucracy the rank injustice is inhuman; consider the treatment meted out by the federal DMG to the provincial civil services (PCS) officers. Just ask Rai Mansoor of the (Punjab PCS) who has been knocking the door of the superior judiciary in a futile exercise against their stranglehold on power.

The expert opinion is that replacing local bodies with commissionerates runs afoul of the Constitution and is subject to legal challenge. The Zardari game plan may actually be to keep the matter in court for the next 18 months to successfully filibuster the NRO into oblivion. This already has repercussions in line with Newton's third law of motion, "for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction". For example, the demand for a separate province suddenly surfacing out of the blue in Sindh? Or Hazara in KPK and the Seraiki in Punjab demanding separate provinces soon after their respective local bodies were dissolved? Remember, all these were commissionerates!

The Sindh government must be commended for revoking Police Order 2002. If it could not be implemented for nine years, far better to consign it to the dustbin. Jameel Yusuf and myself were part of the original task force mandated by Lt Gen Moinuddin Haider, than federal minister of interior, for effecting police reforms. The DMG representatives, effectively sidelined our suggestions by the normal bureaucratic sleight of hand of "being sent" intimations for committee meetings but never receiving them. Police Order 2002 effectively destroyed the remaining potential of an already frustrated and demoralised police service.

Three different models of Police organisation – commissionerate, directorate and inspectorate – came into being in South Asia. The worst one, the inspectorate model, was based on the Irish Constabulary, designed to be militaristic, its prime aim being to crush the people. Suiting the feudal requirement this was unfortunately adopted in (West) Pakistan on the creation of one unit in 1956.

Police Order 2002 focused on the perks and promotion of senior ranks rather than reforming the police organisation and making it people-friendly. The additional chain of supervisors in a society heavily dependent on a "client-patron" relationship only added to the deterioration in the efficiency of the police force. On the other hand, the focal point of service, the police station, was ignored in terms of resources and professional staff with consequent deterioration in the quality of leadership.

The overwhelming majority of provincial police officers (PPOs) are discriminated against by the powerful federal police services of Pakistan (PSP) officers. Instead of career planning for lower and upper echelons, the direct induction of police inspectors blocked the promotion prospects of constables and junior officers and became an unmitigated disaster for police morale. Merit is overlooked and deserving PPO officers are either sidelined or given promotions only when they were about to retire. Going back to 1861 is no answer, there should be substitute legislation emphasising accountability. PSPs and PPOs must work out an equitable formula between themselves, or by a properly constituted judicial commission.

Some feel that all this may be a deliberate attempt to foster total anarchy in Karachi, keep the army engaged on one more front while on the other create a legal limbo in the superior judiciary by refusing to implement their decisions. Things seldom go according to plan. In such a volatile situation anything can happen.



The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

NEW PROVINCE IN SINDH?

HARIS TOHID

 

Within a few hours on Sunday, graffiti appeared in different parts of Karachi in favour of a Mohajir province. Mobile phones bleeped as sms messages started to announce the holding of a protest near Orangi town to demand a separate province for Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking community.

With the country already in a domestic and international crisis, it is a highly inappropriate time to demand a separate province.

The development could possibly mean that the residents of Sindh should brace for a political showdown on the ethnic battlefield between the two top political stakeholders in the province, the Pakistan People's Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. This is not the first time that there have been calls for a separate province. The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 was immediately followed up by calls for a "Sindhu Desh" in Sindh, but the cause never gained momentum.

Leaders of the MQM accuse Sindhis of refusing to accept the Mohajirs who arrived from India after 1947, and not letting the immigrants assimilate with the local population. Sindhis rubbish this accusation by saying that, of all regions of what is now Pakistan, only the residents of Sindh who welcomed the new arrivals with open arms.

It is as if those who sprayed Karachi's walls with graffiti to demand the separate province believed the recent killings in Orangi, in the northern outskirts of the city, were aimed at exterminating the Urdu-speaking community in the city.

Advocates of a new province accuse the law enforcers of apathy in the pursuit of the armed elements who carried out the killings, and say this alleged reluctance is a sign of some deep-seated grudge against Urdu speakers.

However, the MQM is against the division of Sindh, although it does favour formation of new provinces in other parts of the country. The PPP and Sindhi nationalist parties are also against the idea of splitting the province. So who could be behind this idea? Is it the "third element" that Interior Minister Rehman Malik talks about so often?

Great! Punjab for Punjabis, Sindh for Sindhis, Balochistan for Baloch, Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa for Pakhtuns and "Mohajirabad" for Mohajirs, or whatever the name chosen for that new province. But those who demand the creation of new provinces in Pakistan on the basis of ethnicity forget that, regardless of their respective ethnicities, the people of all parts of the country share a common culture and history.

Despite a sense of alienation that some Mohajirs from different parts of India might have in Karachi, they have far stronger bonds with Pakistan now than they have with the country of their ancestors. This is natural, because most Mohajirs are second- or even third-generation Pakistanis.

Let us assume that this is a demand that is worthy of consideration. But then the aspect of demographics comes in, and unless that critical element is taken into consideration, the demand would at best be a non-serious one. In addition, no discussion of Karachi's demographics can be complete until it involves the city's steady ruralisation, especially in the last three-and-a-half decades. Ever since independence there has been an influx from all part of Pakistan of rural poor seeking work in the country's industrial and commercial hub. The same applies to Sindh's other urban centres, which also have large Mohajir populations.

A population census is now overdue. But according to estimates the population of Karachi is around 18 million. Of the major ethnicities populating this microcosm of Pakistan, Pakhtuns are three million, Bengalis two million and Sindhis one million. The bulk of the rest of its population are Mohajirs, who are an estimated six million.

Since 1988 the MQM (then named Mohajir Qaumi Movement) has made an impressive showing in Sindh Assembly elections and local bodies polls in Karachi and in Sindh's other urban centres. On that basis it claims the right to rule and represent Karachi and urban Sindh.

Devolution of ministries took place after the promulgation of the 18th Amendment, but the implementation of measures related to devolution seems to be faltering, especially in Karachi's case.

Karachi, being more than one-third the population of the whole province, must have its own police force, composed mostly of those settled in Karachi. This could prove to be the most effective measure for the improvement of the law and order situation. A policeman with a local background is likely to be more effective against crime and violence than one with his roots elsewhere in the country.

As for the latest bout of violence in Karachi, it is strange that the two largest political forces in Sindh decided to make things even worse for residents by their actions. The leaderships of the PPP and the MQM must keep the precarious situation of the country in mind before taking rash decisions.



The writer works for Geo TV.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CHANGING THE SETTINGS OF MINDS

KAMILA HYAT...

 

In the times we live in, dealing with alterations in settings for laptops, electronic notepads, mobiles, and other devices is a regular part of life. Many of us are accustomed to dialling the relevant number, dealing with the increasingly complex automated messages we hear, and then following, or at least attempting to follow, the series of instructions given out.

One wishes that changing the settings of minds was as simple a procedure. Unfortunately, it is not. An attempt to do so has been underway in Swat since the end of the military operation there against militants in 2009, with the military setting up a rehabilitation centre to re-educate 14 to 17-year-olds; a separate programme is run for older militant recruits.

Success is being claimed, but the true degree to which this has been achieved will become clear only with time. The degree of attention being given to the issue in Swat is however encouraging – with the COAS General Kayani recently emphasising the need to change minds at a seminar he addressed in Mingora and urging civil society to play a role in this.

The army chief did not, of course, go into the issue of the part played in the past by the military in building this line of thinking in the first place as part of its strategic planning – with the slogan of 'jihad' embedded everywhere in its training manuals and pamphlets.

But for all this, the efforts in Swat deserve praise. The key question we need to ask is why they are not being expanded further, beyond Swat and into areas like the Punjab – where extremism is spreading rapidly and has, in fact, already taken a deep hold. Experts believe it is here that the need for change is most urgent.

The 'de-radicalisation' initiative the COAS talks of needs to be extended beyond the rather limited confines of Swat. In the last few years, there has been a concentration of militancy in the province, with the Lashkar-e-Taiba – blamed for the Mumbai attacks – centred here, as are other forces such as those behind last year's massacre of 90 Ahmadi worshippers in Lahore.

A retired army officer who overpowered one of the assailants at an Ahmadi place of worship described the absolute lack of expressions on the young man's face as he went about his task of ending the lives of other human beings.

This has also been the experience of others who have had the misfortune to come face to face with the killers who have entered buildings and laid siege to them or detonated suicide jackets in crowded places.

Indoctrination, usually by promising deprived youngsters all the luxuries – including access to beautiful virgins – along with the drugs which are used to achieve this degree of emotional blank out, are obviously highly successful.

The experiment in Swat is reported to have been successful. Psychologists, Islamic scholars and teachers worked together to re-educate the boys. We must hope their efforts will continue over an extended period of time and will serve to rescue these young men from the trauma they have lived through.

The real question though is, how we are to carry out indoctrination on a far larger scale. The kind of centres set up in Swat may work for a small set of young, hard-core militants. But what we need is more sweeping change. If we had a magical instrument that could look into the minds of people, we would see dangerous ideas lurking in unexpected places.

Even those who present themselves as 'liberals' often support the Taliban in one way or the other, hostility towards India is engrained into young minds in schools and surprising levels of intolerance lie everywhere.

These factors prop up extremism as do the activities of many groups that operate with official approval, maintaining they are engaged only in preaching their message.

On campuses, forces such as the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba continue to make violent attempts to stamp their brand of morality everywhere, in the most recent incident at the Punjab University attacking male students who sat alongside their female peers.

Still worse are the nonsensical messages spouted by uneducated prayer leaders. A recording circulated over the Internet a few months ago gave a terrifying word-by-word account of a sermon by a cleric who told his audience in Khanewal of a dead woman emerging from her grave without her hair, her lips, and other miscellaneous body parts to narrate how she, in the after-life, had been punished for going unveiled, wearing make-up, and for other similar misdemeanours.

In Lahore's mosques, Osama bin Laden has been hailed as a hero and those opposing blasphemy laws have been described as infidels.

We need a clear-cut policy which can be implemented at a very wide level to alter all this.

In the first place, the curriculum used at schools must be altered and the elements of hatred included within them, sometimes subtly and sometimes far more blatantly removed.

At the same time, the media needs to be persuaded to play a role in building tolerance rather than promoting extremist ideas. All this needs to be combined with strategies that can be used to combat the way people think and the ease with which they can lured away by militants.

This means the creation of employment opportunities and also a more equitable society which allows opportunities to all based on merit rather than on class or influence.

It is not enough to limit efforts to Swat. The campaign against extremism in that area has to be combined with an effort at the national level to bring about genuine change in the lives of people and to eradicate the messages that have been used with devious intent to warp their manner of thinking.

The attempts being made in Swat to rehabilitate militants must also be replicated elsewhere so that guns can be replaced with less menacing implements that do not bring death or play havoc with lives. This task must be begun immediately. It has been neglected long enough already.



Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

APPEAL TO US FOR PEACE IN RAMADAN

 

FASTING is one of the five pillars of Islam and Muslims throughout the world greet the holy month of Ramadan with special care, ceasing hostilities, if any, during the month. This is because attainment of inner peace and tranquillity during this period impacts individual and collective behaviour during the entire year.

In this backdrop, it is tragic that for the last several years blood is shed even during this month in different parts of the globe. The situation seems to be no different this year as there are several hot spots around the world where conflicts are going on involving Muslims. The entire Ummah seems to be in the grip of insecurity because of the so-called war on terror, which is solely directed against Muslims. Leaving aside volatile situation in Iraq where Americans claim to have restored normalcy, Muslims are being targeted in a number of Arab and African countries and especially in Libya where collective might of the West is being used to bomb and destroy the country in a bid just to force a regime change and that too for the sake of control over its vast oil reserves. Similarly, in Afghanistan, apart from those who are being described as militants and terrorists, innocent people including women and children are killed on daily basis in military operations by the occupation forces. Drone attacks also kill dozens of people in Pakistan on every occasion and on Tuesday alone 61 people were killed in three separate drone attacks in South Waziristan and North Waziristan. Apart from all this, there are many other regions and areas where Muslims are facing the wrath of foreign powers or local governments. President Obama has been making concerted efforts to send positive messages to the Muslim world and that is what he also did during his visit to Cairo. We believe that Ramadan is the time for him to announce a halt in operations and attacks against Muslims, at least temporarily, during the holy month and we are sure this initiative would earn him a lot of goodwill. We would also urge the Government of Pakistan to stop operations during the month and make a similar appeal to Taliban as well. If this is done, we are confident, this would have salutary impact on the overall situation.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CABINET MEETS IN QUETTA

THE decision of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani to convene a meeting of the Federal Cabinet in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, is indeed a welcome move and would go a long way in normalizing situation in the province. We believe that this should have been done earlier but they say it is never too late to mend. Equally important is the decision of the PM to visit Balochistan every month and direction to Federal and Provincial Ministers as well as parliamentarians to keep a close liaison with people of the province.

All this is in line with the declared policy of national reconciliation being pursued by the present Government that has paid dividends in different forms. President Asif Ali Zardari too had sought apology from people of Balochistan for past mistakes and wrongs but unfortunately this goodwill gesture was not taken forward for unknown reasons. Anyhow, gathering of ministers, government functionaries and bureaucracy would surely lead to resolution of irritants and problems that are being agitated by people of Balochistan. We are glad that availing the opportunity, the Prime Minister also launched an appeal to Baloch nationalists and estranged leadership abroad to come to the negotiating table. But this appeal should not be restricted to public pronouncements alone and must be followed up by contacts with those leaders for the sake of peace and progress of the province and overall interests of the country. Majority of Baloch people are peace loving and they want normalcy and developmental activities in their province but a handful of elements and some foreign powers are exploiting the situation to their own advantage. We hope the Baloch leadership would heed to the timely appeal of the Prime Minister and respond to it positively. In the meanwhile, we would suggest to the Prime Minister that there was no harm if reshuffling both in government and bureaucracy is done to bring to fore the doers and achievers who can accomplish the urgent task of restoring confidence in the Province.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

KASHMIRIS OBSERVE MARTYRS DAY

 

KASHMIRIS on both sides of the Line of Control and the world over observed the Martyrs Day on Wednesday with pledge that they would not relent until the achievement of their inalienable right to self determination. The Day is observed every year to pay tributes to the Kashmiris who sacrificed their lives on 13th July, 1931 when Dogra troops shot dead 22 people who had gathered outside the Central Jail in Srinagar to attend the court proceedings against one Abdul Qadeer who had asked the Kashmiri people to defy Dogra rule.

It was the most effulgent day in Kashmir history as people challenged the autocratic rule in Kashmir thereby laying the foundation of freedom struggle. Since then, Kashmiris have been paying heavy price to get their right to self-determination. India has continuously been suppressing the Kashmiris voice for freedom through brute force. The occupied territory has been converted into a police state and state sponsored terrorism has been let loose. Thousands of Kashmiris have lost their lives since then but the candle set alight by the Martyrs would continue to inspire the youths to attain their fundamental right. People and successive governments in Pakistan have been extending moral, diplomatic and political support to the Kashmiris but it is clear that until the international community exerts pressure on India to agree to the holding of a plebiscite, it would be difficult to achieve the cherished goal. What is most unfortunate is that the United States and the Western countries forced Indonesia and Sudan to give independence to East Timor and South Sudan Christians but for diplomatic and economic reasons, India is not being pressurized to give freedom to Kashmiris. Even people in the occupied territory were not allowed to hold rallies and the entire Kashmiri leadership was placed under house arrest on the day. We hope that one day the international community would realize the gravity of the situation and force India to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir because peace, stability and development in the region hinges on the solution of the lingering core issue.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

INDIAN ARMY'S SHADY ARMS DEAL

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

Although high-ranking officers of the Indian Army like Chief of Army Staff, Gen V K Singh, Lt Gen Surendra Kumar Sahni, Lt Gen S K Dahiya, Maj Gen Anand Swaroop, Maj-Gen SP Sinha, Maj Gen Anand Kapoor, Maj Gen Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, Brig Guredeep Singh including a number of low-ranking officials were found involved in corruption of various forms such as irregularities in procuring meat and dry rations for the troops, stationed at Siachen, unauthorised construction of a golf club building at Ambala cantonment, possessing disproportionate assets, smuggling of large quantities of defence liquor etc., yet involvement of the 27 officers of the Indian Army in illegally selling of arms and weapons is most surprising.

In this regard, on July 7 this year, even Indian media disclosed this new mal-practice of Indian Army officials. Army sources of India admitted that the officers, mostly lieutenant colonels and colonels, had faced a court of inquiry following a public suit filed in the Rajasthan High Court by an advocate who said that the officers were selling their private weapons to people of dubious character. In this respect, The Economic Times revealed on July 7, 2011, "the weapons were bought by these army officers from the Central Ordnance Depot of Jabalpur and later sold to civilians in violation of the Arms Act, the petition had contended. The Supreme Court is presently hearing the case." Sources also suggest that disciplinary action has been initiated against these army officers after the court of inquiry indicted them, and further course of action in the matter, "be it court martial or otherwise would be decided after legal vetting." It is not the new practice of Indian Army officers' illegal involvement in arms sale. In this connection, in 2005, an army inquiry had found misuse of the privileges, given to service personnel to purchase private weapons. Indian Army officers including a few seniors had similarly bought weapons from private suppliers, when they were on a posting in Bhutan as part of the Indian military training team there. In that case, after probe, the army court of inquiry had indicted 25 officers who were punished, but did not face a court martial.

However, despite various investigations and punishments, illegal arms trade of Indian Army officials have continued. In this context, some cases of unauthorised weapon's sale by the army officials either remained undetected or were deliberately not disclosed by the Indian high-ranking military officers in order to save the image of the Army. Only those cases were admitted, which had already been disclosed by the media—or came to surface as some source indicated the same with solid evidence. In this context, in October, 2010, The news of Indian army scandal pointed out that 72 officers including a serving Colonel and three Lieutenant Colonels were found involved in an illegal arms selling racket on sensitive international borders.

The Indian officers serving in border districts of Rajasthan and in the Indian Army Training Team (IMTRAT) at Bhutan were found involved in an illegal arms selling racket. The 72 named officers sold both prohibited and non-prohibited bore to dealers and private persons by violating the Army Act and Customs Act. While describing as very serious matter—the involvement of Indian army officers in illegal sale of arms, The Supreme Court of India had questioned as to what the Ministry of Defence and the army commanders were avoiding to file a proper affidavit in the matter. The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar remarked, "it is wondered whether the weapons had landed in the hands of dacoits," adding, "the weapons could well be used in acts of terrorism."

The Supreme Court said that the affidavit by the centre was entirety eyewash as it had not mentioned the names of any senior officers of the rank of Brigadier and Major General, who were part of the illegal arms selling racket. While raising objection in the affidavit, the bench also remarked that it was mentioned that 40 officers sold their weapons, but it was also stated that only four top-ranking officials were involved in the racket of illegal weapons' selling. The court took serious notice, saying, as to why a junior officer of the rank of Captain submitted the affidavit, showing the non seriousness of the Indian Army in the highly sensitive case. It emphasised that there was a need to maintain some decorum and that some higher authority should have filed the affidavit.

Additional Solicitor General, Vivek Tankha also explained the issue as very serious one, and his remarks lodged a strong protest from a high official who was compelled to say that he had raised the question of national security, while the government filed an affidavit through a junior army officer. At this point, the bench questioned as to how an army officer can file an affidavit on behalf of the Ministry of Defence? We cannot go by this affidavit. Various sources suggested that the affidavit filed by the Indian Defence Ministry had stated that four top-ranking officers of the Indian army obtained weapons, supplied to their colleagues, but illegally sold to gun houses, arms dealers and even to civilians. And 40 other officers sold their own weapons and 25 others were found in possession of ammunition in excess to their privilege.

On December, 2010, a case of 41 officers, one JCO and 4 retired officers of the Indian Army relating to sale of Non Standard Pattern (NSP) weapons came to surface. They were found to have sold the NSP weapons without taking sanction of the competent authority. In that respect, court of inquiry investigated into the case and identified six arms dealers who bought the illegal arms from the army personnel. Besides, some other developments also show that despite tight security and preventive measures, it is very easy for the Indian Army officers to steal arms and ammunition from Indian depot. For example, on April 6, 2008 in the house of Bajrang Dal fundamentalists in Nanded, a bomb went off. The investigations proved that the militants belonging to the Bajrang Dal were found in the bomb-making and attack on a mosque in Parbhani in 2003. Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra arrested a serving Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit along with other army officials, indicating that they were helping in training the Hindu terrorists, providing them with the military-grade explosive RDX, used in the Malegaon bombings and terrorist attacks in other Indian cities. ATS further disclosed that Lt. Col. Purohit confessed that in 2007, he was involved in bombing of Samjhota express, which brunt alive 69 Pakistanis.

India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) is now convinced that besides Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit, other Indian army officials and a Hindu right-wing leader Swami Aseemanand were directly involved in the Samjhota Express blast. In this regard, a court in Panchkula, Haryana has recorded Aseemanand's statement in the blast case before a magistrate. His earlier confession was recorded in the Mecca Masjid case, which is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It is interestingly notable that Dr. J C Batra, who is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, was asked to give opinion on Aseemanand's confession. He appeared very defensive and stated that Swami's statement does not have much legal value as circumstantial evidence is also needed, while adding that RSS is being wrongly implicated. And without naming Indian Army officers, he also stated that there could be others involved who are not being exposed. In this context, a Pakistani parliamentarian, Mian Abdul Sattar, parliamentary secretary for planning and development, who was accompanying him, later said that he was told by JC Batra that the Indian Army was involved in this case and there "are efforts to shield it from getting exposed". Nevertheless, Leaders of the Indian extremist parties, Shiv Sena, BJP, VHP and RSS are now pressurising the Congress regime to release the culprits.

Nonetheless, mostly, we see some odd cases of corruption in the Indian armed forces which include lower-ranking officials, but involvement of the senior ranked army officers in various mal-practices is a matter of concern for the whole Army. It is due to this fact that over the years, the confidence of the soldiers over their military leadership has been dwindling. But, in the present case, 27 officers have been facing charges for illegal sale of weapons procured from Indian ordnance factories. On the whole, one can conclude that it proves illegal arms trade of the Indian Army.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

NEW BATTLE FOR KASHMIR?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

South Asian Democratic Forum & friends of Gilgit-Baltistan are hosting meeting on 13th July followed by lunch in room no. ASP 5G-1 of the European Parliament on 'Xinjiang and Gilgit-Baltistan. The politics of exploitation' on hearing from a friend of mine in Germany I was unable to understand, why the sponsors have linked the two different situations under the banner of The Politics of Exploitation when the people in Xinjiang province of China enjoy full rights under the Chinese set-up, whereas people in Gilgit-Baltistan remain deprived in spite of a so-called province like status. When the people of Gilgit had liberated the area under the command of Capt Hasan of Dogra Army and Baltistan and parts of Kargil and Laddakh district was liberated by the locals ex-servicemen and Pakistan army, UN resolution on Kashmir was passed on the request of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru with the pledge to hold free & fair plebiscite in Kashmir to determine their future. Gilgit-Baltistan continued to be ruled under Draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) up to 1975 but story of their exploitation has not finished in spite of a so-called province like status granted to them a few years back.

The people in Xinjiang province enjoy equal rights as their other Chinese brothers and sisters, so it appears to me that sponsors of such like meetings are working on some hidden agenda not only to continue deprivation from implementing UN Resolutions on Kashmir by not holding plebiscite to please India but are also trying to promote their heinous agenda by bringing Xinjiang on such agenda to create gulf between the time tested friendship that exist between the two countries and its people to suit the American agenda to build India as a stumbling block against China, which the people in Pakistan would never like. So my humble advice to the sponsors of this meeting & friends of Gilgit-Baltistan is not allow their forum to be used for some ulterior objectives to bring bad name for Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The unresolved Kashmir conflict — a gift of British conspiracy starting from in complete partition of India in which Gurdaspur and Pathankot were given to India in spite of 51% Muslim population which was converted into minority by machination of fatwa to convert majority into minority to provide road access to India through the infamous Redcliff award. The subsequent u-turn on Kashmir by India in denying their birth right to decide their future with the Western support is another unfortunate story, which is hounding the subcontinent and especially the Kashmiri people for as long as sixty four years is taking a heavy toll from all the parties concerned.

Obviously India being the most resourceful now with US -Israel nexus is thinking they can solve the problem with an 'iron hand' or sit it out. Pakistani governments on the other hand have leased Kashmir policy making out to the army which is another mistake. And finally, the international community and the UNSC have proven their helplessness in conflict resolution and even lacking commitment to do so brings down the stature of UN in the eyes of people of Pakistan.

The Kashmir conflict can rightfully be called a conflict of unfinished agenda hanging fire between India and Pakistan. The British who in their haste to leave their former crown colony agreed to partition and not transfer power to successors of Bhadur Shah Zafar from who they had usurped power in India under a commercial entity. The East India Company, but failed to properly plan and execute it due to political expediency. Thus the status of the indirectly ruled princely states – an anachronism in itself that suited the upkeep of their colonial rule- was kept undecided in the sense that it was undecided who would decide accession the ruler or the people and if there was a third option offered to Sheikh Abdullah by Pundit Nehru before his sudden death that has been buried with Nehru by Indian stalwarts. The interpretation of the partition bill was left to India and Pakistan who decided to clamp down on the princely states on their respective governments regardless of what the ruler or the people of those states thought or wanted but Kashmir was much different a case. That was so for Hyderabad-Deccan and for some other princely state with Muslim majority were forcibly taken over by India through police action. Kashmir was the only princely state bordering with both newly independent states which therefore could have acceded to both India and Pakistan by their free will and this perhaps did not suit the West.

While Pakistan being created out of the Muslim majority territories of the subcontinent rightfully expected that Kashmir should join Pakistan, the Hindu ruler was undecided and would have preferred independence rather then joint Pakistan in spite of majority wish to join Pakistan. India was in no mood to accept either. Their long-term preparations to get hold of Kashmir can be seen from the fact that the border commission which was tasked to demarcate the borderline between India and Pakistan was persuaded to give Gurdaspur through which the only road connecting India and Kashmir was running to India by converting the Muslim majority of this district into a minority.

This was done by announcing that the two percent Qadianis living there were no Muslims which turned the Muslim majority into a slight minority. By thus securing access to Kashmir India tried to pressurize the maharaja of Kashmir into accession; they finally succeeded in October when under the pressure of tribal invasion from Pakistan the Maharaja is said to have signed the accession deal on 26th of October while Indian troops were landing in Srinagar early morning on the 27th October. The first Indo-Pakistani war for Kashmir lasted until the cease fire in 1949. The cease fire line which was later renamed into Line of Control demarcated the parts of J&K controlled by India and by Pakistan. This de facto partition also triggered a wave of Muslim refugees from the Indian controlled areas like Ladakh, Kargil, Poonch and the Kashmir valley into Pakistan controlled Kashmir and later into the whole of Pakistan. While India incorporated its part of J&K territory politically and constitutionally into India Pakistan never did the same afraid that their doing so would damage their stand in the UN on Kashmir. While the Kashmiri part of J&K on its own constituted itself into a state Azad Kashmir and gave itself a constitution the same never happened in Gilgit-Baltistan which until today has hardly any judicial status and political structure and all recent pronunciations of it being the fifth province of Pakistan are highly overstated.

The Kashmiri refugees from the valley got 6 seats and Jammu refugees got 6 seats reserved for themselves and are being represented in the Azad Kashmir assembly and though one seat was given to the refugees from Ladakh and Kargil in AJK Council in sixties the same has been denied to these refugees of Kargil and Laddakh in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan now, which is another example of political exploitation. The de facto division of J&K between India and Pakistan for more than sixty years leaving the dispute unresolved has created untold plight for the people of those areas. Any solution of the conflict therefore must take into consideration their wishes and finally be acceptable to them otherwise black Americans leader Farah Kahn has pointed out the political and economic exploitation going on in different parts of US, which might turn into a volcanic situation due to their political exploitation, which should attract the attention of all the thinking minds, will the European Parliament would dare to discuss these realities also, before creating another holocaust in the world.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

KARACHI GOES THROUGH HELL

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

Karachi went through hell in five days of target killings in an ethnic and political warfare which claimed about one hundred lives mainly in outlying Mohajir colonies which were attacked by armed gangs without any let or hindrance from any law enforcement agencies. The rulers in Karachi and Islamabad quietly watched the carnage with blind eyes and closed ears as media shouted and wailed loudly in all corners of the country but the rulers did not see or hear its outcry. No leader said a word of concern nor took any action to forestall the killing spree. It seemed as if the provincial and federal governments were watching and waiting for the completion of their planned action to punish Mohajirs for MQM's pull out from PPP government and sit with PML-N in the Opposition.

Ultimately, when about one hundred people were killed and many more injured and as many families lost their sons, their parents, their husbands and other relatives, the government thought it is good enough punishment and unleashed armed police contingents and rangers who controlled the situation in one day. MQM observed a day of mourning but cancelled its proposed march for fear of further escalation of tension. Meanwhile, prime minister is in a state of denial if he thinks that MQM is still their partner and democracy is under no threat from opposition parties and our allies are with us. What allies? Is he banking on PML-Q which joined the government only on one point agenda i.e. to save Moonis Elahi son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi who is under detention on a corruption charge. Isn't it the same party which has been associated with General Musharraf and used to heap abuse on PPP day and night? Has this party been left with any credibility to help PPP win an election? Not really.

In another move, Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, who was dropped from the Sind cabinet on MQM's demand, has been brought back with a vengeance as a senior minister in the provincial cabinet. He lost no time to take on MQM even before taking oath of his office. MQM says Dr. Mirza met its renegade leader Afaq Ahmad in prison to open a front against Mr. Altaf Hussain. An MQM leader, Anis Ahmad Qaimkhani told a midnight news conference that the PPP government was planning to attack the MQM head office Nine Zero in Karachi. All telephone lines of the head office have been disconnected and an attack on it was imminent. In another move to provoke MQM, the Sind government has revived the commissinorate system in the province which MQM is determined to challenge in court. In short the battle lines have been drawn between the Sind government and MQM, which is determined to fight it out in any case. This, no doubt is a very scary scenario for the Mohajir community not only in Karachi but all over the province and the country.

On the national front, Pakistan-US relations have suffered a setback as was expected. The US government has decided to withhold $800 million military aid to Pakistan. This is about a third of the annual US security assistance to Pakistan. The White House chief of staff Bill Daley told an American TV channel that Pakistan had taken some steps which gave us reason to pause on some of the aid which we are giving to Pakistan military. He acknowledged that the May 2nd raid in Abbottabad which killed Osama Bin Laden had caused new strains in bilateral ties between America and Pakistan. According to New York Times, "while some senior US officials have concluded Pakistan will never be the kind of partner the administration had hoped for when President Obama entered office, others have emphasized that US cannot risk a full break in its relations with Pakistan or a complete cutoff of aid as it happened in the nineteen nineties when Pakistan was caught developing nuclear weapons. But the recent curtailments in US aid are clearly intended to force the military to choose between backing the country which finances much of its operations and equipment or continue to provide secret support for Taliban and other militants." This is the first time America has expressed its views in clear terms about Pakistan providing secret support to Taliban and other extremist groups.

Meanwhile, the new US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on his recent visit to Afghanistan that the United States was within reach of strategically defeating Al-Qaeda and the US focus has narrowed down to capturing or killing 10 to 20 crucial leaders of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. About the new Al-Qaeda leader Al Zawahiri, Mr. Panetta is convinced that he is living somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan. It seems that the new US Secretary of Defense is more convinced about the impending defeat of Al-Qaeda than his predecessors.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

ROLE OF A MUSLIM STATE

ENGR SHARIQUE NAEEM

 

With the Arab spring in full flow, it is becoming clearer that many players are competing for the space created by the overthrow of some rulers in the Middle East. Whilst the masses braved the brutal crackdown on the streets to end the architecture of client rulers, foreign interference and foreign dependency constructed by the Western colonial powers, the West continues to call the Arab spring as a call for democracy, Western values and more Western involvement. The decades of oppression by the dictatorial rulers has led to some confusion on where Capitalism ends and where Islam begins.

The debate as to what should replace fallen tyrants, is now taking place in the Arab world. The western media, has cleverly equated the demand for justice and removal of tyrants, with the notion that only democracy can meet those demands. This however is not true. Firstly, the masses have not stood up for a 'secular democracy' as envisioned by the west, and secondly that democracy itself has fundamental flaws. However, the Islamic system is fundamentally different, because it takes the Holy Qur'an and Seerat of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as the basis of governance. It therefore has the capacity to offer true justice to the people, irrespective of their creed, ethnicity or language. A Muslim State applies the Islamic constitution, and it will replace the existing plethora of constitutions that keep the Muslim world subjugated and backward. It guarantees elections, and regional and 'nationwide' assemblies which form the pre-requisite governance institutions, including a judicial authority to check the actions of the executive, and protect the rights of all citizens – men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It is imperative to note that the Islamic state will neither be theocratic nor does it model itself on any other contemporary Muslim state.

The new Islamic constitution will have one head of state to replace the current unstable and ill-defined roles of Monarch, President or Prime Minister. A new People's Assembly will replace the plethora of lower and upper houses and a strengthened judiciary, with a new court targeting state injustice, will replace the existing politically manipulated legal system. Both the new judiciary and elected People's Assembly will provide the requisite institutional checks and balances in the Islamic political system.

Also, both the head of state and the new People's Assembly will be elected via an open, transparent and fair process. The People's Assembly comprises representatives from all walks of life and will include Muslims and non-Muslims. The council is designed not only to make representations to the state, but also has the power to scrutinize and overturn state policy, analyze the budget and hold leaders to account. In this way accountability is focused. Whereas in Democracy, shared ruling results in shared accountability, that results in diluting any efforts towards accountability.

Moreover, courts will be independent from the executive and consultative assembly. No individual — not head of the state, armed forces and their chiefs, the elite, or industrial barons – is above the law. The rule of law will be implemented without fear or favor. All policies of the state can be challenged in court. Where the court is actively investigating a complaint against the head of state, the head of state has no right to remove any judge involved in the case.The appointment of a Chief Justice creates a dedicated office of the judiciary charged with checking the state's compliance with the law. The court does not rely on a plaintiff raising a specific complaint against the state and is charged with ongoing monitoring of all organs of state.

The Chief Justice has the power to remove the head of state if he breaches his terms of contract. Contrary to this in the present democratic system, the court's jurisdictions are restricted. For example the court cannot order to stop drone attacks, XE operatives, NATO supply lines etc, because many of such actions have legal protection from the legislature or establishment. Unlike in dictatorships and democracies, torture, spying and arbitrary arrest as carried out by the Muslim world's intelligence and security apparatus under the supervision of the US is forbidden under Islamic law. Such activities therefore are absolutely illegal (haram), have no place at all in any civilized society and would be prosecuted under the Shariah. The State will introduce Islamic policies that tear down any provisions that enforce the Police State. Citizens of the Khilafah, Muslims and non-Muslims, will have the right to take any member of the enforcement agencies, regardless of rank, to court and/or register a complaint to an independent judiciary (Mahkamut ul-Madhalim) without any implications for his/her wellbeing.

Whilst the West has a short history of developing checks and balances fundamental problems exist in every secular democracy, advanced, emerging, large, small, western or eastern. They all show the same thing: they serve the elite and not the public; their politicians are largely corrupt; wealth remains confined to a tiny minority; and long term challenges are consistently ducked – this is the reality of democracy. To copy and paste this system in the Islamic lands will just turn the uprisings from dictatorships to examples of democratic failures. Pakistan is one such example, where both democracy and dictatorship have been tested again and again, and have continued to fail. The only natural and viable option left for the Muslim world, is to opt for an Islamic political system which will deliver the much needed justice to the masses.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

TIME FOR US TO INVEST IN PEACE

MICHAEL SHANK

 

Australia's Institute for Economics and Peace recently released its 2011 Global Peace Index, citing a veritable "who's who" of peaceful countries. It counted up the savings had the world been at peace: more than $8 trillion last year, and almost $38 trillion over the five years since the index was started. Think of what a country such as the United States – which does not fare well on the index – could do with that kind of change. Produced in coordination with the Economist Intelligence Unit, the index ranks 153 countries. It uses data on each nation's domestic and international conflicts, safety in society, and miniaturization. Measuring a range of factors from violent crime and homicide levels to incarceration rates and weapons access, the peace index is an important contribution to the global security debate.

In contrast with the failed States Index and the Terrorism Index developed by Foreign Policy magazine, the Global Peace Index is one of the first indices to assess the true cost of violence and the true economics of peace. The 2011 peace index shows that the world became less peaceful in the last year. Among the most peaceful nations, Iceland, New Zealand, and Japan emerged as the top three, respectively. European Union countries also fared well, garnering six of the Top 10 slots, with Canada ranking as 8th most peaceful. Most worryingly, the US ranked 82nd, far behind its EU allies. This is hardly a rosy picture for America and seems to fly in the face of foreign policy indices that show the US among the most free, democratic, and least failing states. For the US, the domestic data vis-à-vis violence is particularly daunting – though America has improved peace-wise since the mid-1990s because of a substantial decrease in homicides and violent crime. Still, in the US, every year almost 100,000 people are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, or accidents, or by police intervention – one-third of whom die.

The cost of this violence is financially untenable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that for each life cut short by homicide, the economy loses $1.65 million. For prisons, America spends $80 billion annually on its correctional system – or $35,000 per inmate – a figure that does not include the nearly $98 billion in lost productivity from America's 2.3 million inmates. America pursues policies that primarily react to violence, not prevent it. It does this despite the fact that we know, from the US Peace Index (produced by the same groups that produce the global index) that the more an American state "graduates its students, insures its residents, provides basic services, prevents pregnancy and infant mortality, and lowers poverty and inequality rates, the less prevalent and pervasive violent crime, homicide, incarceration, policing and small arms trafficking will be. Reducing violence by a mere 25 percent – a feasible goal, which should be the focus of foreign policy forums – could reap a global peace dividend of at least $2 trillion annually. This all sounds very pie-in-the-sky; who doesn't want to reap the economic benefits of peacetime? As it turns out, weapons industries, among others, profit mightily from conflict – whether it happens in Afghanistan or Detroit. Since 9/11, America's defense budget has grown 7 percent annually, correlating positively with money spent by the defense lobby, which grew by 7 percent in the last year alone. This growth serves defense contractors well. In 2009, for example, shares of Lockheed Martin, one of the US Defense Department's primary contractors, reached a decade-high price of $120, the same year the company received nearly $40 billion in US contracts, made $3 billion in profits, and paid its chief executive officer $22.9 million. And yet Lockheed tops the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database compiled by the Project on Government Oversight.

Despite defense industry influence, peacetime economies are ultimately more profitable for the public. That's not surprising, given the economic activity that thrives during peacetime (development, trade) and the additional business that could be redirected from industries that generate and contain violence to other more productive sectors. That the economics of peace have had such a hard time prevailing in policy conversations is, in part, because the dominant language, lobbies, and learning environments are all geared toward the mechanics of war.

Thankfully, there are some alternatives. The nonprofit National Peace Academy in Shelburne, Vt., is one such institution, building the skills for the professional peacemaker in every aspect of life, be it at the personal, social, political, institutional, or ecological level. And, thankfully, university programs like George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, which pioneered the country's first graduate programs in peace, are becoming more numerous. But more is needed as invasions loom, inmates abound, and poor index rankings continue. The economic argument for peace may be unassailable – all we need now is to make this field as professionally attractive as the war business. The writer is the senior policy adviser for US Rep. Michael Honda (D) of California, and is a doctoral candidate at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. — Courtesy: The Christian Science Monitor

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

COACH WHO PLAYED THE MAN, HELPING STRENGTHEN CHARACTER

ALLAN Jeans will be remembered as one of Australian football's greatest coaches.

A member of the Hall of Fame since 1996, he died yesterday aged 77. Jeans coached St Kilda to its first and only premiership in 1966, and in the 1980s turned Hawthorn into a powerhouse that contested seven consecutive grand finals for four premierships, including one season when he handed over to his assistant because of ill-health. But Jeans, who played fewer than 100 games before turning to coaching, is revered for much more than his game-day exploits. An old-style and long-serving policeman, his many football charges credit him with a patriarchal role -- a mentor whose first priority was to ensure his players sought excellence at a personal level as well as on the field.

Coming at a time when AFL players, and those from other codes, have made a habit of disgracing themselves and their sports, Jeans's passing is a reminder of how sport can both shape and strengthen character. He eschewed the media antics of modern coaches but orchestrated some of the greatest football theatrics ever seen on the field. The team bravery displayed in St Kilda's one-point grand final win and Hawthorn's epic victory over Geelong in 1989 (after Jeans's return from a brain haemorrhage) say more about the man than mere words ever could.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

PUTTING A CAP ON BAD POLICY

IN finding a solution to what Ross Garnaut calls a diabolical challenge, no one expects policy purity.

Nevertheless, it is clear that subsidising renewable energy and other abatement measures will do less, and cost more, than encouraging enterprise to do the work for us. The Productivity Commission calculates that a tonne of carbon saved through such measures costs at least 10 or 20 times more than pricing carbon. That is why Tony Abbott's direct-action plan can be regarded only as a short-term political fix to see him through the next election. An economically credible manifesto at the next election must surely provide for a shift to a price-mechanism. Without it, the Coalition's economic credentials will be badly eroded. Subsidising renewables allocates scarce resources inefficiently, skewing the market and eroding prosperity.

The Gillard government, swayed by the Greens' hillbilly economics, also has a case to answer on that score, albeit a lesser one. The Coalition has pledged to spend $3.2 billion on direct action over four years, less than the government's $4.3bn not offset by carbon tax receipts. Both would achieve a 5 per cent emissions cut by 2020. Beyond that, without an efficient market mechanism such as Labor's emissions trading scheme, the rapacious cost of the Coalition's policy would soar into tens of billions of dollars a year and become untenable if the world committed to large-scale emissions cuts in the vicinity of 80 per cent by 2050.

The realpolitik of this complex global challenge will be heavily shaped by other nations. If by the time of the next election, for example, the US, Canada and China have not moved to an ETS or carbon tax, the case for our doing so will have receded. In such circumstances, it might be advisable for Labor to consider putting its ETS on hold and for both sides to cut costly abatement measures. The strength or weakness of the international drive to cut carbon is yet to be seen. The equation that will remain constant, however, is that subsidising biofuels and other inefficient energy sources costs taxpayers hundreds of dollars a tonne of carbon saved and wastes scare resources that a market mechanism would allocate more efficiently.

Irrational economics are never acceptable. If the Opposition Leader is looking to spend the political capital he is accumulating, an investment in a rational, long-term policy would be a wise one.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

SO BOB, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO SAVE THE PLANET?

AS a carbon crusader, Bob Brown is well versed in the climate change bible, the collected thoughts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Strange then that the Greens leader ignores the IPCC science behind carbon capture and storage. The Greens insisted that research into CCS be excluded from funding under the carbon package they negotiated with Julia Gillard. Not interested, was the verdict of the Greens on the technology that captures carbon dioxide emitted when coal is burnt, and then stores the CO2 underground.

Yet the IPCC says CCS is "feasible" and "there appear to be no insurmountable technical barriers to an increased uptake of geological storage as an effective mitigation option". It says CCS could represent up to 55 per cent of total carbon mitigation effort to the end of the century. The International Energy Agency estimates CCS can deliver about 20 per cent of the abatement needed by 2050. The eminent foundation director of the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics at Cambridge University, Herbert Huppert, says CCS is a "key solution" to the carbon challenge.

Why then, did Senator Brown make it a condition of signing up to the Gillard tax that CCS would be excluded from the $10 billion clean energy fund financing research into renewable energy? Can he be serious about saving the planet when he is so happy to sideline a technology that can make such a difference to emissions?

The answer, of course, is that Senator Brown is campaigning not against carbon dioxide but against coal. He and his deputy, Christine Milne, have been explicit in calling for all coalmines to be closed down. Modernising coal-firing processes so that the planet is cleaner does not fit their script. Treasury modelling shows that coal production in Australia will grow by at least 92 per cent by 2050, with most of it shipped overseas and burnt in the northern hemisphere. Yet Senator Brown dismisses a technology that if applied to these exports could dramatically mitigate the global impact of carbon. He says the industry should pay for its own CCS research, blithely ignoring the fact that he expects taxpayers to pay for other future-tense projects such as wind power. Ideology, not technology, drives the Greens' approach to clean air.

It is true that the federal government should not be in the business of picking winners. As we said in our editorial on Monday, the Prime Minister has acted against the advice of the Productivity Commission and thrown good money after bad with her $10bn renewables fund: "Mandated renewable energy, in which the government picks winners and consumers carry the cost, has pushed up the price of electricity for little, if any, reduction in atmospheric carbon . . . Instead of allowing the market to discover the cheapest form of abatement, the nation will subsidise the Greens' pet projects."

But the Greens' opposition to funding CCS research is especially short-sighted, given that Australia has a comparative advantage in coal. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this technology has the potential to generate a huge industry, equal to oil as a global wealth producer. Australian investment in CCS now could have a stunning return down the track. Other countries such as Germany, which is pouring huge money into renewables, might do better from wind power than us, but Australia is well placed to get an edge with coal-related measures.

The good news is that while Senator Brown is hostile to CCS, the Minister for Resources is not. Martin Ferguson presides over a $1.7bn fund that supports flagship CCS programs. Yet given an opportunity to send a strong signal to the market about CCS, Labor has allowed the Greens to force its hand and marginalise the technology.

The Greens have been equally doctrinaire about the closure of brown coal-fired power stations. At their insistence, the government will take up to $3bn from the federal budget contingency fund rather than use carbon tax revenue. It leaves taxpayers out of pocket but satisfies the moral rectitude of the Greens. They succeed in closing down coal-fired stations but do not get their hands dirty: finding the money becomes someone else's problem.

Just as with CCS, Senator Brown cannot have it both ways.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

RISING TO THE EURO CHALLENGE

THE snowballing of concerns about European government debt repayments to include Italy, Europe's third-biggest economy, ushers in a dangerous new phase in the ongoing fiscal crisis. Investors now appear worried Italy's anaemic rate of growth will be insufficient to generate the revenue needed to keep up with repayments on its debts, which, at 120 per cent of gross domestic product, remain the second highest in Europe. Faith in the ability of the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to push ahead with difficult austerity reforms has been shaken.

Members of the European Union, already called upon to bail out Greece and Ireland, wonder if they may now also be called on to foot the Italian bill. They have vowed to stick together in good times and bad, but European unity is strained, to say the least. It is possible that the euro single currency will not survive.

Meanwhile, to the east, the economies of China and India wage parallel battles against rising inflation. With China still growing at 10 per cent a year, its authorities must fight against rising inflation without the assistance of a floating currency. If the yuan were allowed to appreciate freely, this would help to limit inflation by making imports cheaper and dampening growth by making exports less attractive to foreign buyers.

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So the economic management skills of many nations are being tested. There is no room for complacency here either. Australian political leaders could be called upon once again to act quickly and maturely in the face of a deepening international financial crisis. There could even be an argument for another round of government spending to cushion the blow.

Could we rise to the challenge of a global financial crisis, mark II? Both debt scaremongering by the Opposition and the government's determination to meet its entirely arbitrary surplus target could quickly become shackles on our ability to respond to changing circumstances.

Public confidence in the ability of government to solve the problems of the day has also been eroded by the Opposition's successful campaign of negativity and the genuine failures by the Rudd and Gillard governments to implement policies.

Confidence is a fragile thing. Surveys of consumer and business confidence released this week demonstrate the depth of concern not only about the carbon tax but the economic outlook in general. Perhaps an overtly bipartisan approach to dealing with another financial crisis is too much to expect. But if it comes, there must be limits to political bickering. The Americans are giving us a good lesson in the dangers of partisanship above pragmatism.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

POLICE WHERE THEY'RE NEEDED

The Police Minister, Michael Gallacher, is not waiting for the results of the special audit of police numbers and allocation of resources that he commissioned from a well-respected former assistant commissioner of police, Peter Parsons. He is already indicating the kind of shake-up he hopes to see: fewer top-level positions, more sergeants out in country police stations instead of concentrations in big regional centres, and more effort to get police hit mentally or physically by the stresses of duty back into active roles dealing with crime.

The O'Farrell government came to power promising 550 extra police, five new police stations and 25 new mobile command vehicles over the next three years. The push by the Police Association for increased numbers is already met in part, although the union still feels NSW will be under-policed compared to other states, especially when Victoria gets the 1700 extra police its new Coalition government has promised.

Let us hope Parsons can keep his detachment under all this pressure from his masters and his former colleagues. But as it is 15 years since the current area command structure was introduced, a fresh look is hardly premature. A lot can change on the ground in that time, in the pattern and incidence of crime and in the demographics of the state. On the enforcement and evasion sides, both police and criminals have the new technologies of the information revolution that has swept society over that decade and a half.

The inflow of police recruits has become better educated, better balanced in gender, and more diverse in ethnic origin (though perhaps not yet enough). The performance of the police is under much greater scrutiny, with less automatic acceptance of their version of events, thanks to the scandals of the 1980s and the Wood Royal Commission findings. All this should be taken into the reckoning of the Parsons audit and the minister's recommendations to the government.

The three aspects raised by the minister in his interview with the Herald, reported yesterday, are essentially ones of managing resources. The regional commands in country NSW do represent some sacrifice of closeness to the community, in return for greater professionalism and specialisation, and a more predictable and balanced workload for police and their families. Better educated, more culturally sensitive officers are more likely to be shaken by the horrors they come across. Well-paid superintendents in challenging command roles make the force more corruption-resistant. The minister should be prepared to leave well enough alone, and work on the things that can be improved.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PUBLIC FINANCES: FIXING THE HOLES

On the issue of public-sector pensions, the budget watchdog actually served not only to take some heat out of the debate – but to show up government ministers

Big numbers, big worries? There were certainly plenty of the former in the report from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Public sector pensions liabilities now over £1tn. The total amount of government debt on course to rise to more than the entire national income by the middle of this century. The value of PFI contracts pegged at around £40bn, rather than the £5bn usually reported.

Such sums are almost incomprehensibly large, which makes them especially worrying. Yet in presenting this first long-term outlook for public finances, the OBR's head Robert Chote made it clear there was no need to panic. Indeed, on the particular issue of public-sector pensions, the government's budget watchdog actually served not only to take some heat out of the debate – but to show up government ministers. Coalition frontbenchers may bang on about pensions for public-sector workers being unaffordable, but table 3.4 of the fiscal sustainability report shows they are no such thing. Public-sector pensions will cost 2% of national income in 2015, it projects – before falling steadily to 1.4% in 2060. In other words, the unions are right on this one, and ministers wrong: our public-sector pensions bill is not going to balloon. If David Cameron, George Osborne and Francis Maude wish to cut government contributions to public sector pensions they will need to make another, and more honest argument.

Indeed, the need for honest debate is the recurrent theme of the OBR's survey. Pick through the book's tables and graphs, and the message is a simple one: as Britons live longer they will cost more, in health and long-term care. And the burden this will put on the public purse, without more money coming in through tax revenues, is "unsustainable".

This will undoubtedly lead to calls from the right to slash public spending, but that is not the only conclusion that might be drawn from the OBR report. As Mr Chote pointed out, the UK could choose instead to become a "high tax, high spending" economy. And there are plenty of options in between: health care might be rationed; or ministers try (again) to boost productivity in the NHS. Strip out the numbers and set aside the scare-mongering, and discussions of public finances are really debates about what kind of society we want to be: how we want to look after our old and sick and how we plan to pay for that.

Without a proper debate about these issues, Westminster might well end up following the US path of having shrill debates about budgets and debt ceilings, complete with nonsense being talked about defaults. The OBR report gives MPs no excuses to mimic the Tea Partiers.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… BUTTERFLIES

Increasingly, we realise we need the butterfly as much as we need a soul

For a few weeks in July, it seems, they are everywhere: gatekeepers bobbing along hedgerows, peacocks supping from buddleias and holly blues darting around treetops. "You ask what is the use of butterflies?" said John Ray, a 17th-century lepidopterist. "I reply to adorn the world and delight the eyes of men; to brighten the countryside like so many golden jewels". Butterflies – and their lovers – struggle to justify their place in our world. In medieval times they were seen as mischievous fairies. Victorians collected them – sometimes to extinction. Now they are brutalised by industrial farming and changing woodland management. Today, as most of Britain's 59 species continue to decline, butterflies are defended as vital indicator species showing the impact of climate change, pollinators of plants and providers of caterpillars for birds. But their presence in our skies cannot be so simply measured. Increasingly, we realise we need the butterfly, psyche in ancient Greek, as much as we need a soul. Fashions change but children always appreciate the intricate marvel of creatures like the large blue, which lives for 10 months in ants' nests, or the purple emperor, the most lordly of butterflies with a depraved taste for dog poo. The charity Butterfly Conservation, whose membership is 48% up in five years, wants everyone to count them this summer. This is not an exercise in logging decline. It is a thrilling way to connect with a natural world we feel increasingly estranged from and rediscover our own capacity for childlike wonder.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

NEWS INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL: THE SKY FALLS IN

At the start of the month, no senior politician dared defy Rupert Murdoch. Now, all of them have

It is a measure of how much has been achieved in this revolutionary week that by the time David Cameron set out details of the inquiry into media and police standards on Wednesday lunchtime, and News Corporation announced it was dropping its bid for BSkyB soon after, both things seemed natural and unavoidable. A wave of public and political contempt is reshaping the landscape. At the start of the month no senior politician dared defy Rupert Murdoch. Now, all of them have. Party leaders united around the terms of the inquiry and the Labour-sponsored Commons debate – itself presaged by the collapse of the deal it had been arranged to condemn.

YesterdayWednesday brought a drama in four acts. At prime minister's questions Mr Cameron sought unsuccessfully to rid himself of the taint of proximity to the News International executives who oversaw phone hacking, of which more in a moment. In his Commons statement, the prime minister set out the terms of an inquiry into media standards of extraordinary scope and potential. By mid-afternoon, News Corporation pulled the plug on the BSkyB deal: a victory for plurality over the power of a rootless corporation. In particular it was a success for Ed Miliband, whose decision to break with News International has become the definitive act of his leadership so far. Finally, Gordon Brown delivered a powerful speech whose justified moral outrage was only equalled by its divisive consequences in the chamber.

Mr Brown presented himself in retrospect as a white knight who stood up to the Murdoch empire, only to be let down by the timidity of others. Not everything at the time was like that. The Brown government was far from pure in its dealings with the press. But the former prime minister was on firmer ground when he questioned Mr Cameron's record. The prime minister's response raised further significant questions about his slapdash approach to phone hacking and the appointment of Andy Coulson as his media adviser.

In February 2010, this paper ran a story which should have given Mr Cameron pause for thought. For legal reasons it contained only limited details of the News of the World's decision, while Mr Coulson was editor, to employ a private investigator who had served a seven-year sentence for perverting the course of justice and who had been charged with conspiracy to murder. Believing that Mr Cameron should be made aware in private of the full details, the Guardian passed them to his senior adviser, Steve Hilton.

In the Commons, however, Mr Cameron told MPs that the Guardian passed no significant private information about Mr Coulson to his staff. That is incorrect. Second, he suggested that the Guardian had been able to put all the significant facts of the story in the public domain at the time. That is incorrect, too. Third, he claimed that the fact that the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, did not mention the story to him at two later meetings implied it was not important. That is an evasion: the first meeting followed the private warning and the second took place after Mr Coulson had resigned. Mr Cameron could have been in full possession of the facts, and acted on them, had he chosen to be. Instead he gave Mr Coulson a job in Downing Street.

This matters because at the core of the whole affair lies the shoddy and secret way in which some powerful media groups have dealt with political leaders from both main parties. In this, Mr Cameron may not even be the greatest sinner. But he happens to be the prime minister who must address all what has gone on. He cannot do so properly while he continues to evade the truth of his own past dealings.

The world is changing. Mr Murdoch's spell has been broken. The BSkyB deal is off. The inquiry can lead to a cleaner, more plural, future. Mr Cameron is trapped by his past.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE WALLOWING PRESIDENT

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The free-for-all politics of Indonesia over the last decade has taught us a valuable lesson well known to other democracies: There is no such thing as an absolutely "clean" political party.

Power corrupts absolutely. It doesn't matter if we are talking about the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) or the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – all have been lured by avarice, a relentless vice that constantly tempts those who have had their first whiff of power.

The Democratic Party has proven to be no different, and in some ways worse, by resolving to blame others
for the corruption scandal allegedly implicating former party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin, among
others.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the party's chief patron, on Monday launched a salvo of diatribes,
saying his party was a victim of intrigue perpetrated by media organizations and other "invisible hands" trying to divide the party.

One cannot help but smile and shake one's head as Yudhoyono lambasted "unchivalrous politics" aimed at discrediting the Democratic Party while all the while "unchivalrously" censuring the press as the cause of his party's problems.

Unsurprisingly a slew of criticism has appeared in local headlines as media observers and the Press Council lambasted Yudhoyono for wallowing in self pity.

One should no longer be taken aback at such behavior. The "blame game" attitude has increasingly become a characteristic of the Yudhoyono administration. Instead of humble introspection, they maintain a pretense of innocence while holding others at fault. It exemplifies weak leadership.

It is the same when Yudhoyono blamed his Cabinet last week, all the while neglecting the failures that should be his sole burden as the chief executive.

Polls showing a decline in Yudhoyono's popularity are testament to the fact that people are tired of a president who seems to be more concerned about his image than his country.

Nevertheless there is still every reason to believe that the Democratic Party can survive these indignities. There is still time to clean house and regain the trust of the voting public.

One painful strategy that must be undertaken is to demonstrate transparency and accountability to the
public without hiding behind the shirttails of a president who technically holds no executive power within the party.

The most damaging outcome of Monday's charade is a perception that the Democratic Party is nothing but a stooge of the Yudhoyono family and its inner circle.

The picture of Yudhoyono making grotesque counter-accusations as the party's top executives – including his son – stood glumly in the background reinforced the cult of personality being built around a man who once carried the democratic hopes of this nation.

Like the PDI-P and its leader, Megawati Soekarnoputri, ultimately the Democratic Party will soon find that their strongest asset is their biggest liability.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

ENGAGING CHINA IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

BAMBANG HARTADI NUGROHO

 

The issue of the South China Sea again drew public attention last month. The overlapping claims over a body of water located south of the People's Republic of China between six countries — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and China itself — has become a serious strategic concern because it involves a regional rising power whose attitude and intentions remain in the shadows despite years of interaction with the international community.

To complicate things, the conflict almost certainly will be a magnet for the involvement of the United States as a global power.

What is interesting to look at in this conflict is how the adversaries perceive China's attitude toward the case, which in turn will determine how they will respond and choose the best mechanism in managing the conflict.

As a rising power, China has attracted the interest and curiosity from many, including policy-makers and scholars. One of the biggest concerns regarding China's rise is what kind of new power it will become, and what kind of behavior it will show once it has become one. Such concern weighs on the longstanding fear and animosity among Southeast Asian countries about China, due to the past experience of the spread of communism in the region.

In 2007, Avery Goldstein proposed two alternatives to explain the rise of China. The first one sees China's rise as a possible way toward a power transition, particularly in East and Southeast Asia. Quoting the hegemonic stability theory, this argument sees that China's rise might indicate that the country is progressing toward replacing the US' role as a regional — or even global — hegemon.

In the case of South China Sea dispute, such a perspective sees it as China's efforts to get out of the security architecture in the region which has always been under the US' security umbrella. One might see China's long-term strategy as developing its blue water navy as a strong indicator of this future projection.

On the other hand, Goldstein also proposes a more optimistic view of China's rise. This outlook does not necessarily believe that China is undergoing a completely peaceful rise, but it negates the fear that most countries experience toward the Asian giant.

It is argued that despite its often hard stance on certain issues, including territorial sovereignty, recent development shows that China has been willing to engage in several multilateral mechanisms and institutions. People see China's accession to the WTO as a significant event that supports such arguments.

Toward ASEAN, China's eagerness to be engaged in multilateral mechanisms can be seen for instance by acceding to the Treaty of Amity of Cooperation (TAC) in 2003, the first among the major countries. One year before, it also ensured its conformity to the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) regarding the South China Sea dispute.

Non-legally binding as they may be, the signing of both the TAC and DOC indicates China's good will to create a stable and peaceful region.

Despite having no legal obligation toward the arrangements, China indeed has a political responsibility to act in accordance to what they have previously agreed.

In less formal situations, China has also participated in a series of workshops on the South China Sea (SCSW) by sending scholars and officials.

With the two paradigms on the table, it is now up to ASEAN to decide which to believe, and in turn, act in accordance. It appears from the current situation, however, that ASEAN's stance is ambivalent. There is a notable gap between ASEAN's position as a group, and individual policies of its members.

As a group, ASEAN has been trying to engage China in multilateral mechanisms, as previously mentioned. The organizational stance is to solve the problem through political and peaceful ways.

Then again, when it comes to the individual members, some of the claimants often indicate their inclination toward military means. Military cooperation with the US particularly in the form of joint military exercises in or near the disputed area can be deemed reckless, considering the already heated situation.

Such actions clearly undermine ASEAN's efforts to find a political solution to the case and might send the wrong message to their common adversary — China. It can also be inferred that ASEAN members that happen to be the claimants either have a different way of looking at China, or are have miscalculated the situation.

ASEAN's preference to find political instead of military solutions for disputes is not only due to their commitment toward a peaceful settlement, but also by the realization of their limited power compared to other major countries, even as a collective. ASEAN realizes that they have no chance to stand in a military confrontation against China in the South China Sea; hence they resort to political solutions.

Such a condition, however unfavorable, provides ASEAN countries with very limited options to create a strategy vis-à-vis China in this case. For instance, albeit the individual members' personal interests in the dispute or perspective toward China, they have no other option other than to stick to the collective stance of ASEAN; that is, to continue pursuing a political and peaceful solution to the dispute.

Many scholars' counsel to maintain the US' involvement in this case must be interpreted as continuing its commitment and participation in multilateral dialogue forums to discuss the case; not its contribution in military exercises, let alone operations.

Regardless of the very nature of its rise, China in fact considers territorial sovereignty as an essential matter and, just as any other country, may defend its territory with all of its capacity when faced with aggravation. China's reaction — the official statement and the launch of its patrol ship — soon after Vietnam's military exercise, is a plain indicator of such a possibility.

Once again, it is up to ASEAN countries, particularly the claimants, which option they will choose. Nonetheless, the smart choice is to continue engaging China in multilateral arrangements while restraining themselves from doing provocative actions in the disputed area. With reciprocity as a basic principle, it is hard to expect China to behave if ASEAN countries themselves cannot.

The writer is an assistant lecturer and researcher at the Department of International Relations, University of Indonesia.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

'WIDESPREAD IGNORANCE' ABOUT HIV/AIDS

ALITA DAMAR

 

Widespread Ignorance" about HIV-AIDS and the government's reluctance to effectively campaign for safe sex for fear of being accused of promoting promiscuity by conservatives, have recently been reported by Reuters as the main reasons that have contributed to fuel the HIV epidemic in Indonesia.

While the national prevalence is 0.2 percent with 300,000 people estimated to be HIV-positive, over the past five years, newly confirmed cases have more than doubled to 4,158 as of 2010, with 65 percent of transmissions occurring through unprotected heterosexual intercourse in 2010.

Yet, addressing widespread ignorance about HIV/AIDS through media campaigns, recognized as a long-term but effective communication and education tool to change public attitudes, will not be part of Indonesia's policy any time soon, based on the argument that this country's epidemic is "Low level, Concentrated", while media marketing is considered "High Cost, Low Impact".

According to UNAIDS, a Generalized Epidemic is defined as an HIV prevalence greater than 1 percent among the general population, with HIV prevalence consistently greater than 1 percent among pregnant women.

Indonesia's first AIDS case was discovered in 1987. While the government has been conducting HIV/AIDS campaigns for many years, less than 500,000 Indonesians have so far been tested (less than 0.21 percent of the population).

That is because such campaigns have only been effective among people with "risky" behavior, known as "Key Affected People" (KAP), while the general population's ignorance about HIV/AIDS has never been addressed.

Moreover, a prevalence of above 1 percent was found recently among pregnant women in a region outside Papua but quickly dismissed as "invalid".

The truth is no one can be absolutely sure where Indonesia actually stands as far as its national HIV epidemic is concerned.

The prevalent sexual behavior here is widely thought unlikely to cause a generalized epidemic, where HIV transmission is most likely to occur only vertically. Therefore, if most Indonesian women do not engage in sexual relationships with men other than their long-time partners, HIV will stop among them or their children.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of women have contracted HIV from their husbands and then went on to infect their children, leading to HIV transmissions among heterosexuals largely exceeding those among KAP. But it looks like women and children, which are part of the general population, will not be targeted for any interventions in the near future.

If "High Cost" is related to media campaigns, it clearly needs to be specified in relation to what, to which results and for how long. If "Low Impact" is also associated with media campaigns, one should wonder why a recent survey conducted in the US found that six out of 10 Americans said they received information on HIV/AIDS through the media — way ahead of other sources such as schools, doctors, family, friends, etc.

The reason for not making use of mass media campaigns, obviously, is not the cost associated with such marketing but the government's lack of "Political Will" to address the general population on grounds that the national HIV epidemic is not "Generalized".

Furthermore, when discussing "Vertical" transmission of HIV through heterosexual contact, female sex workers are always placed at the top, followed by the sex workers' clients and then their wives/long-time partners and, at the bottom, the children.

How these men "said" they acquired HIV and how they were actually infected, can of course be two different things, as it is difficult to determine who infected whom and how the infection actually occurred. People don't always tell the truth, yet studies are often based on what respondents "say".

A bisexual man, for example, may prefer to report an infection from female sex workers rather than from other men, due to social norm pressures.

Fearing a double-stigma and/or an arrest, a former or active injecting-drug user is also likely to blame female sex workers rather than reveal his connection to illegal drugs which was a punishable crime until recently.

Indeed, statistics have shown that HIV transmission through anal sex between homosexual men and through blood between injecting-drug users are much more efficient than through heterosexual contacts, with probability of female-to-male infection a great deal lower compared to male-to-female transmission.

While it is possible for heterosexual men to acquire HIV through unsafe sex with female sex workers when other risk factors are involved such as sexually transmitted diseases, sex workers are always accused as vectors of HIV/AIDS. Not many would stop a moment to think "how" the sex workers became infected in the first place. In so-called "Vertical" HIV transmissions, clients of sex workers obviously should be placed on the same level as sex workers — not below.

Without media campaigns, ignorance about HIV/AIDS will continue to be widespread. People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and KAP in general will continue to be stigmatized and discriminated against.

This, in turn, will remain a major obstacle to scaling-up HIV-testing, which is a primary target if Indonesia's ultimate objective is to reach Zero New Infection, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths.

New HIV infections will thus continue to occur, mainly among women not knowing they may be infected by their long-term partners despite being faithful to them and among children whose mothers are not aware that transmission to their children can be prevented, but also among health workers — or just anybody — not knowing how to handle sick or wounded PLWHA properly. Ignorance will also cause insurance policies to continue excluding HIV/AIDS and/or PLWHA from their coverage.

While interventions among KAP including "High Risk Men" are important, it is unlikely that these men will apply their understanding of safe sex within their relationships with their wives or long-time partners.

Safe Sex has been proven effective to prevent HIV infection through sexual contact. But as long as this country's epidemic remains defined as "Concentrated", it appears that women and children will be sacrificed.

Not addressing the current widespread ignorance about HIV/AIDS based on fallacious reasoning that the national epidemic is not "Generalized" is clearly an expensive mistake Indonesia will have to pay for.

The writer is specialized in Public Health and Sociology and currently Program Director at Kapeta Foundation.

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

ELECTION PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRATIC PARTY POST-NAZARUDDIN

HANTA YUDA AR

According to various pollsters and media outlets, the electability of the Democratic Party has declined.

This is because the public is increasingly losing faith in the party's ability to eradicate corruption and bring about clean governance, with the emergence of several cases implicating former party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin and public communication chief Andi Nurpati.

The party, founded by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is not even eight years old yet, but won a spectacular victory in the 2009 legislative elections — securing 20.8 percent of the ballot and 148 parliamentary seats — as well as the glorious achievement of winning the presidential election in one round. But this was apparently the peak of the golden era of the Democratic Party.

Lately, this party, which was declared on Sept. 9, 2001, has been showing signs that its glory days may be over. What were the factors that supported the Democratic Party's victory in 2009? And what are the early signs of its declining strength?

There are at least are four factors that contributed to the strengthening of the electability of the Democratic Party in the 2009 elections.

First, the magnetic central figure of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was also the strongest presidential candidate in 2009.

Although the percentage of support for SBY as a person was much higher than the percentage of support for the Democratic Party, both are positively correlated. Thus, the increase in support for SBY had an influence on the party.

Second, the Democratic Party managed to claim the success of various government programs as accomplishments. The government's perception of success has been related to a positive assessment of popular policies, such as the direct cash assistance program, the school operational assistance program, and the PNPM Mandiri program.

While Jusuf Kalla, then Golkar Party chairman and SBY's vice president in the 2004-2009 term, played an important role in the government's performance, the success was claimed as the Democratic Party's.

Therefore, public satisfaction with government performance was also an important factor for the Democratic Party's second victory, in 2009.

Third, the Democratic Party was the party with the most positive image in the eyes of voters, particularly in its anticorruption commitment, according to several surveys before the 2009 elections. Such perceptions of the party being clean and against corruption also contributed to its victory in 2009.

Fourth, there was strong internal solidity before the 2009 elections. Even if there was factionalism in the Democratic Party, it was certainly not as strong as the division within the Golkar Party, because there was the central powerful figure of Yudhoyono as the "Father" of all "groups" and internal political factions in the Democratic Party.

Solidity and success factors were the factors supporting the Democratic Party win in the 2009 elections.

Only if these four factors can be maintained by the Democratic Party and only if there are good strategies or other positive factors, will the party go on to achieve another victory in 2014.

Although the 2014 elections are still three years off, there are already signs of the weakening of these four electoral strength factors in the Democratic Party.

First, the powerful figure and charisma of Yudhoyono have experienced a turning point. The fact that Yudhoyono cannot run again in the 2014 elections will certainly influence the political map before 2014.

Moreover, according to the results of surveys and polls, the level of people's satisfaction with Yudho-yono has also declined.

This means that the figure of Yudhoyono can no longer be relied upon as the primary "selling" point for the Democratic Party in 2014. The SBY factor will not be as strong as it was 2009.

Second, public satisfaction with government performance has also declined, as shown in recent polls and surveys, which have concluded that the government of Yudhoyono-Boediono has failed to handle major legal cases and fight corruption such as the Bank Century case, the "fat" accounts of several high-ranking police officers, taxation corruption, and the latest case allegedly involving Nazaruddin.

This has an impact on the decline in the electability of the Democratic Party, and this is certainly bad news for it.

Third, the party's image as the cleanest political party has faded due to corruption cases allegedly involving several important figures within the party.

This phenomenon has happened not only at a national level, but has also implicated party cadres who have become regional heads and members of local councils. The deteriorating image of the party will be critical in the days leading up to the 2014 elections.

Fourth, the decreased solidity of the Democratic Party has also worsened the internal disputes among its factions, with Nazaruddin having triggered strong rifts.

The party is not used to resolving internal problems independently and institutionally. If the party fails to manage this division, it will also undermine its strength in 2014.

The extent of success in preparing a powerful figure to replace Yudhoyono is critical. The Democratic Party should thus slowly reduce its dependence on Yudhoyono. It should also show strong support for the resolution of big legal cases in order to improve the public trust in the government.

It should also be serious in cleaning and repairing the party's image. And, last but not least, it should manage factionalism and internal conflicts.

Otherwise, the Democratic Party may disappear from the political sphere as quickly as it emerged.

The writer is a political researcher at the Indonesian Institute.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

A NEOLIBERAL TWO-INDIA REALITY

BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA

The liberalization of the Indian economy began in the 1980s when some policymakers realised that India was falling behind the Asian Tigers. It was Rajiv Gandhi, who wanted a real breakaway from past policies and initiated the process.

But the 1991 economic crisis necessitated the introduction of a package of structural economic reforms which comprised drastic changes from past policies as a condition for receiving IMF loans for bailing out India. These were aimed at trade, industry, infrastructure, disinvestment and policies towards the financial sector, and FDI.

The economic liberalisation that followed has unshackled India in many ways. There are gleaming airports, shopping malls, high-rise buildings and highways that one can be proud of. The middle class has grown to a size of 350 million and India is one of the biggest markets in the world. Indeed famous brand names are vying with each other to open shops in India because a great many Indians have the spending power and craving for branded goods.

In the 1990s, the licence raj was dismantled and imports and foreign investments were freed from past restrictions. Private enterprise was encouraged and today private enterprise constitutes about 20 per cent of the economy.

The telecom revolution was also ushered in after 1991 leading to the phenomenal growth of mobile phones. More Indians have mobile phones today (about 860 million) than they have access to sanitation and toilets. Similarly, there has been a big increase in the number of cars and the automobile industry has grown rapidly. Other industries that have flourished are pharmaceuticals, software and biotechnology.

India's GDP growth rose from an average of 3.1 per cent in the past to an average of 7 to 8 per cent in the last one decade. Exports have grown at a rapid pace and per capita income has also risen much faster than before. Imports have led to an improvement in the quality of domestic goods and greater competitiveness in international markets. But imported inputs have also led to higher product prices and cuts in subsidies have led to higher fuel prices as they are now linked to the international oil price. Higher international food prices have impacted on domestic prices.

In the last two decades, there has been a rapid rise in urbanisation. Urban infrastructure has become inadequate as a result and though India has world class airports and shopping malls, and a sizeable number of dollar billionaires and millionaires, the power situation and the quality of water in big cities remain typically third world.

Full-fledged liberalisation, which began in 1991, was carried forward by the BJP Government and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee endorsed it. He continued with privatisation, reduction of taxes, sound fiscal policy and liberalisation of imports. Today India is a picture of a nation in transition in many ways. More people are traveling abroad than before, spending more on entertainment and eating out. The middle class is buying up a variety of consumer goods and durables but are also saving more. The saving rate has gone up in recent years to 38 per cent of the GDP. But the quality of public service has not improved, especially in health, education, infrastructure and judiciary.

Culturally also there are disturbing trends. While in clothing and fashion, Indian men and women are getting westernised rapidly, the greed for property, dowry and wealth has also increased. Inexplicably it has led to increase in female foeticide in some of the rich states resulting in an imbalance in the sex ratio. India is expected to see a 20 per cent surge in the number of young men in the future. More males than females would translate into social tension because India has the second highest rate of marriage (75 per cent) in the world.

The aspirations of the youth who now comprise more than half the population have been raised. Though they lack the proper qualifications, they nevertheless aspire for the same rewards as others with college degrees and training. This has led to frustration and an increase in crime.

Unemployment remains high, especially in villages and those without jobs are joining the Maoists. Roads in rural areas remain underdeveloped even though they have mobile phones, consumer goods, motorcycles and STD booths. Agriculture is beset with problems and public investment in storage, irrigation and roads has not been sufficient to lift more people out of poverty. There has also been tardy growth in agricultural productivity.

Thus, unless some important and critical areas are addressed, India's growth story could be interrupted. There is already an unprecedented increase in corruption, lawlessness and lack of proper governance. Corruption is one issue which is at the heart of much public discontent and would remain so unless the Lokpal Bill and the Swiss money questions are settled. More opportunities to defraud the government have arisen with liberalisation and globalization and people in high offices who are without scruples are doing so regularly.

Neo-liberals also point out that India needs a change in labour laws. Out of a workforce of more than 400 million, 92 per cent are in the informal sector. They are without capital, assets, insurance or any safety net to fall back on. Their incomes are far lower than in people employed in the corporate sector. They need health care and education for their families. Unless there is a social safety net, the labour laws cannot be changed to facilitate easy 'hire and fire' policies in factories.

If India has millions (more than 300 million) still living in abject poverty then it is clear that liberalisation has not yielded the desired 'trickle down'. Liberalisation has benefited those with capital, education, assets, property, skills and contacts. Working for multinationals has increased the salaries of some people manifold and they have access to lifestyles parallel to their counterparts in the West. On the other hand people living in slums are contracting diseases due to congested spaces, shared toilets, water borne diseases and lack of access to primary health care. Public hospitals are overcrowded with people queuing for hours to see specialists.

(The writer is Senior Fellow at
 Obsever Research Foundation)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

MEDIA AND THE SUFFERING OF THE TAMIL PEOPLE

BY NOEL NADESAN

As a Tamil domiciled in Australia I served the Tamil community by editing the only Tamil community newspaper, UTHAYAM. I ran it for 14 years My experiences in dealing with the Tamil community, both in Australia and in Sri Lanka, make me feel sad about the callous way in which the media is exploiting the suffering of our Tamil people for self-serving ends. I think I could speak as an independent voice with no allegiances to the politics of either community or political parties. My main concern has been to help our Tamils in Sri Lanka who had to face the brunt of all attacks from the Indians soldiers, Sri Lankan forces and, above all, the so-called Tamil liberators, the LTTE. I have just completed building a small hospital in the island of Eluvaitivu, in which I grew up and, sooner or later, I plan to go back to serve our Tamil people who are desperately in need of help.

It is against this background that I thought of forwarding my comments to you after viewing the re-broadcast of Channel 4 programme, The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka. I must confess I felt depressed and I could not sleep that night. I have recovered since then and I feel I must send you my comments for your consideration because I feel that you aired it to exploit the suffering of our people whose need of the hour is not to rake up the bloody past but to find a way out of the past.

I fail to see how your programme could help the victims of the war – if that was your intention – when their immediate and long-term needs are to regain a future free from these. The sensationalism certainly may help the ratings of Channel 4 and ABC but how will it help our people?

Our people who lived through the horrors of the futile war know that this is only one side of the story. Our Tamil leaders have informed the world that the LTTE has killed more Tamils than all the other forces – Indian, Sri Lankan and rival Tamil parties – put together. The moralizings of the media lacks credibility because our people who lived through the horrors of the war know who killed whom in what manner. Leaving aside the die-hard partisans, our people know that the LTTE was a cruel and beastly outfit they had never encountered in living memory – and do not want to encounter in all their lives to come.

Undoubtedly, there are Tamils who are jubilant about this broadcast because they are aligned politically to the side (i.e., the LTTE) that perpetrated the worst crimes against the Tamils. If Channel 4 produced a film of the atrocities committed by the LTTE against their own people and the other communities throughout the 33-year-old war – the longest running in Asia – it would shock the world beyond belief.

Then there is the documented story of Velupillai Prabhakaran herding nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians to serve as his human shield when he was retreating. In the last stages he shot the Tamils who were running away from him into the arms of the Sri Lankan forces who were commended or their humanitarian services by the Ban Ki-moon's expert panel and even by Gordon Weiss. Any Tamil who was in Prabhakaran's human shield will tell you that the Sri Lankan force treated them humanely than the LTTE cadres. 

The atrocities committed by the LTTE are numerous. Why didn't Channel 4 balance their story with the other side? Yes, there were passing references to LTTE atrocities but you will agree that the blame was put entirely on the Sri Lankan government. Is this fair journalism? 

It was a controversial document in which the best of experts disagreed on the authenticity and the accuracy of the contents. For instance, Channel 4 showed images of a young man who was tied to a tree, threatened with a knife and subsequently killed. I was told by sources in the Wanni that this was an LTTE operation and pictures were taken for propaganda purposes by LTTE. Have a close look and you will find among the so-called soldiers a man in slippers. Sri Lankan soldiers never go about in slippers when they go out on operations. 

 

Those who know both sides of the story were appalled by your decision to air a partisan video. Despite occasional references to the LTTE the main thrust of the video was to blame the Sri Lankan government. You were aware of this gross distortion and you went ahead because it fitted into your biased political agenda. As stated by the London Sunday Times, it was shoddy journalism unworthy of a reputed media institution like the ABC.

Take the case of Suthanthirapuram which was declared as the first No-Fire Zone for the civilians. The LTTE moved their radio station and artillery unit to fire at Army points from NFZ. They were also firing at the advancing army from close proximity to the hospital or make-shift hospital. The AGA Parthipan and Dr Shanmugaraja can confirm this. I will quote another incident. When former EROS leader Balakumar and his family , who worked with LTTE for many years, tried to flee in a boat in Mullaitivu in 29th April   2009, the LTTE, knowing very well who he was, fired at them. His young daughter was critically injured and the bullets tore her forearm. Her hand is yet to heal.

 These are facts
 How do I know all this? I travelled Sri Lanka seven times last two  years widely in war zones in Wanni and talked to the victims who were trapped in the war zones. They knew that they were targeted both sides and they could not comprehend why the LTTE should expose to retaliatory fire in the NFZ. They could not understand why the LTTE turned the NFZ into a war zone. 

The agents of LTTE in the Tamil diaspora also shed a lot of crocodile tears about the 300,000 IDPs. They described the IDP camps as concentration camps. Knowing the general conditions under which Sri Lankans live I can assure you that the conditions of the Tamils, particularly in the  in the IDP camps, were far superior to the slums of Colombo or even the conditions of the Sinhala villagers and hill country Tamils in remote areas.

Even the Tamil MPs of Tamil Nadu and Indian journalists who visited the camps were convinced that the Sri Lankan authorities had done a very good job under trying conditions. Besides a comparison with the manner in which the government treated the Sinhala JVP rebels who took up arms in 1971 will reveal that the LTTErs received far better treatment than the JVPers. Most of them were incarcerated for more than four years. 

However, I wish to emphasize that at this stage the government has to accept responsibility for their share of the civilian casualties and apologise for that and compensate the next of kin. In calling for justice it is fair and just to hold the leaders in the Tamil expatriate groups who financed, lobbied, and gave moral and material support to the LTTE to prolong their futile war. They too are liable for aiding and abetting a banned terrorist group. Justice demands that these leaders, posing as human rights activists in Western bases, too should be tried  for the crimes committed by the LTTE against their own people.

On balance, it must be conceded that the elimination of the ruthless LTTE outfit was commendable. What Prabhakaran did to Sri Lanka was 100 time worse that Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden did to America. Like America any democratic country had the right to eliminate threats to its sovereignty, peace and stability, transgressing, if necessary, international humanitarian law and international law. 

India did it in Punjab and continues to do so in Kashmir. Russians did it in Chechnya. NATO allies are doing the same thing in Libya. America has done it in their war against Al Quaeda since 9/11.

At the end of it all Sri Lankan Tamils now realise that their destiny is inextricably linked with Sri Lanka and Sinhala people. Violence is not the way out. It was the LTTE who sought the military solution and started the war- they have reaped the bloody harvest they sowed. Now we must genuinely commit themselves to the paths of peace, reconstruction and rehabilitation because violence will not lead anywhere except to the destruction of the remaining Tamils in the north and the east.

Dr. Noel Nadesan is Editor
of the UTHAYAM.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

BUILDING PRESSURE ON DAMASCUS

Reacting to the Syrian regime loyalists attack on the US and French embassies in Damascus yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has strongly criticised c, renouncing his legitimacy.

Declaring that he was "not indispensable", Clinton spoke of US ambitions to see the implementation of the Syrian people's will for a democratic transformation.  The implicit message for the Syrian people from Washington is that its support is not for Assad but for the people who must take charge of their destiny.

Clearly Washington has its hands full at present in Libya and with the ongoing efforts to broker a power transfer arrangement in Yemen. It would rather lend moral support to popular efforts thus absolving itself of interference claims or the chance to get dragged into another controversy as in the case of Libya.

The continued political deadlock in Syria that has witnessed a large number of killings over the past few months, internal displacement and a large exodus of refugees to neighbouring Turkey has rung alarm bells across the region. One Syrian neighbour that is probably more apprehensive than others about an eventual regime change in Syria is Israel.  Despite tensions with Damascus over support to Hezbollah and alliance with Iran, not to forget the Golan Heights issue, Israels bigger worry at this juncture lies in dealings with a new and unpredictable set of neighbours. This is precisely the leverage Syria could also use in  upsetting the equilibrium towards greater regional instability. It is therefore very important to maintain a distance sans provocation and put pressure on Damascus through diplomatic means. Isolating and shunning the regime at this point is hardly going to solve matters.

While the atrocities committed by the security forces under Assad are a fact, so is the danger that further instability poses for the regional geopolitics. The more prudent course would be to send respected international mediators to persuade the Syrian government to desist using force against civilians and to back its ongoing National Dialogue initiative with credible measures to prove its sincerity to the opposition. Little good is such an initiative likely to achieve in the face of continued state violence and a reneging of the grand promises of amnesty.

Damascus must also understand that using force to quell popular grievances on a large scale is not the solution. It is best that Assad seizes the opportunity and puts an end to the deteriorating situation before it gets any worse.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SANGAKKARA SPEAKS ON BEING SRI LANKAN

Cricket is not merely a sport in Sri Lanka. Like in the rest of the sub continent, it is a passion. Arguably it is Sri Lankas secular religion with millions of adherents, characterized by a zealous commitment and passion. In Sri Lanka, the high priests of cricket are the nationally treasured team and the icon who serves as its captain. The high standing and credibility of the national cricket captains are among other ways demonstrated through two of them Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya being popularly elected members of the national legislature, one on each side of the political divide.

Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara is no ordinary cricketer. With over eight thousand runs in test cricket and even more in the limited over game, he captained the national team from 2009 till the conclusion of the World Cup in April. A former head prefect and Ryde medalist of Trinity College, he is also a law graduate. The invitation to deliver the Cowdrey Memorial Lecture at the MCC was a rare honour on the global cricket stage. The MCC is for cricket what the Oxford Union is in academia. It was here, before a distinguished audience of over a thousand of cricket's good and great that the former Sri Lanka cricket captain choose to speak on being Sri Lankan, from a national cricketer's perspective.

A Sri Lankan Identity

The issue of a Sri Lankan identity is crucial to nation building and reconciliation in post war Sri Lanka. Never was the issue of a Sri Lankan identity as much under assault as when the LTTE fought for a mono ethnic enclave in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Sangakkara draws on his experiences as a young boy during Sri Lanka's darkest hour of July '83, when goon squads roamed the streets hunting down Tamil persons for murder and mayhem to decry the narrow ethnic chauvinism that spawned such murderous violence in Sri Lanka.

 The concept of a Sri Lankan identity, one that is reflective of the diversity of our people is sadly not the dominant concept on which our society is built on. The commitment to and the acknowledgement of a pluralist, multi ethnic and multi religious society is often subsumed in Sri Lanka by arguments and appeals to more narrow, ethnic or religious identities or both. Such narrow ethno religious identities not overlaid and dominated by a more unifying and common Sri Lankan identity spawns the seeds of parochial politics and sectarian violence.

 It is truly in cricket that Sri Lanka demonstrates her best, both on the playing field and outside. The team and its ethos is a celebration of Sri Lanka's diversity, with a distinctly multi ethnic and multi religious, pluralist flavor. Cricket transcends the narrow divides and ethnic polarizations of Sri Lankan society and in that triumph lies the possibility of a Sri Lankan identity. To Sri Lankans, Murali is not a Tamil, he is Sri Lankan.  "Fans of different races, castes, ethnicities and religions who together celebrate their diversity by uniting for a common national cause. They are my foundation, they are my family. I will play my cricket for them. Their spirit is the true spirit of cricket. With me are all my people. I am Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and Burger. I am a Buddhist, a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. I am today and always, proudly Sri Lankan" (Kumar Sangakkara, MCC, July 2011).

Patriotism verses
Nationalism

Sri Lankans are regularly exhorted to be patriotic. But this call to patriotism, in the absence of a Sri Lankan identity becomes in its substantive essence more often than not an appeal to narrow ethnic nationalism. Patriotism is a love of one's country and her people. Ethnic nationalism is the love of one's race. National patriotism is inclusive, ethnic nationalism is exclusionary. Patriotism is generous and accommodating of diversity, nationalism is mean spirited and divisive. Apartheid in South Africa, Srebrenica in Milosevic and Mladic's Serbia and Darfur in Omar Al Bashir's Sudan all took place in the context of an over abundance of ethnic nationalism.

 Sri Lanka has an opportunity to forge a Sri Lankan national identity that accommodates and celebrates the ethnic and religious diversity of her people. Sri Lankan cricket has done that, transcending the polarizing divides of her society. It is now to be seen if the Sri Lankan State can follow suit.      

 (The writer served as Spokesman to President Kumaratunga from 2001-2005)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

HELP TEACHERS REGAIN THE LOST DIGNITY

Teaching has continued to be revered as one of  the most noble of professions over the years, in this country. As the professionals who mould and educate the future generations of the country, nowhere has their contribution to nation building proved crucial to the country as now. Yet, the multitude of discriminations and the hardships faced by the teachers of this country have only provided fodder for disappointment and little else. Successive governments have refused to address the growing concerns within the teacher community with any real commitment. Numerous pledges made in impressive election manifestos of every political party have pathetically remained in the publications with the ground reality unchanged. Meagre salary increases have helped little to regain the dignity of the profession and help the profession assert itself to its past glory.

As they continue to lose the day-, day-out battle against survival, the necessity for these professionals to reach out to less than dignified methods to eke out a living has only seen an increase. Largely viewed as a profession with little or no economic scope for success, the increasing drop in the standards of both the profession as well as those taking up teaching is to be expected. It is not difficult to comprehend the necessity for children to opt for private tuition in a scenario where hardly trained or qualified people join the profession. The acute lack of qualified teachers for subjects like Mathematics, Science or English has reached serious proportions with no remedy in sight.

This is a vicious circle that the government must commit itself towards addressing soon. The immediate nature of the concerns faced by students' demand prioritizing the situation and applying remedial measures fast. Children are our future- an investment that must be made. How a government commits itself to educating them, speak volumes of where its priorities are. Politics is a game every party plays both in and out of office. Its games; some more predicable than others, may be applicable to all other sectors of society but education.

Our very development, economic and social goals would fail miserably if we fail our children and their right to education. Poised for such impressive change Sri Lanka can not afford to limit its focus to other sectors at the cost of our literacy levels. It is incumbent upon the government to address these issues and ensure that contented educators committed to raising the academic capabilities of our children go before the students. No amount of political pledges will ever suffice where ensuring that our future generations are equipped to meet the increasing global challenges is demanded.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

ARABS LEARN TO FORGET WESTERN TEACHINGS  

BY ABID MUSTAFA

 

AS the world debates the merits of the Arab revolt, very little has been said about the Arab mindset.

Yes, the Arab people have become bolder, but this is an accurate description of their psychological state, not their mindset.

The thinking process of the Arabs has also experienced a massive change.

Consider the euphoria that greeted the banishment of Ben Ali from Tunisia, or the arrest of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Initially, it was assumed this would lead to a permanent change.

Instead, and within a few months, the Egyptians learnt that the regime not only survived, but was given a new lease of life.

The peace treaty with Israel - despised by the majority of Egyptians - remained firmly intact.

The military, once the stalwart of the revolution, went from heroes to "traitors" overnight.

Western protŽgŽs groomed in exile and presented as viable alternatives to the status quo were quickly repudiated by the masses. Even the public enthusiasm for constitutional reforms and the presidential election has faded.

Right now, it seems as though any Western attempt to orchestrate political change in Arab countries is rejected and thrown back.

The dormant Arab mind is awake and is fast producing results diametrically opposed to the West's longevity and primacy in the Middle East.

The learning curve, which consists of the sensation of the reality, contemplation and judgment, is no longer so steep for the Arab masses. So how have Arab minds changed?

It can be argued that over the past 80-odd years, the breadth and depth of problems faced by Arabs have grown in magnitude and scope.

They include the end of the last Caliphate in 1924, Western occupation of Muslim lands, the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, successive Gulf wars, the "war on terror" and the reoccupation of Arab lands - all leaving an indelible impression on Arab minds.

However, the West - through Arab exiles and her surrogates in the Arab world - fed the masses a diet of corrupt Western thoughts to confuse and shield the Arabs from arriving at the correct judgment about the events that befell them.

For many Arabs, this resulted in intellectual paralysis and stagnation of Arab societies.

Severed from their natural feelings, the Arabs were unable to generate home-grown solutions to the problems they faced and were forced to import Western solutions and ideas.

What compounded the situation further was the adoption of Western solutions, which rarely solved problems, but exacerbated and sometimes prolonged them, as they were often 'copied and pasted' without any real understanding of their origins and motives. This made the helpless Arabs more reliant on the West.

In this way, the West was able to keep its intellectual stranglehold over the Arabs and the wider Muslim world for years.

Today, this no longer appears to be the situation. The Arab thinking process is no longer fragmented and disconnected from its surroundings. On the contrary, it is vibrant, in touch with its environment and takes solace from its rich Islamic heritage.

The time taken to truly understand events is visibly shorter and the judgments more often than not are rooted in Islamic thoughts.

Western thoughts and views are now routinely discarded. In its place is a new constellation of Islamic concepts and values.

The concepts of Caliphate, jihad, Islamic politics, ummah (Muslim community or nation), unity and Sharia are so prevalent now, that it is common to see these terms included as part of West's lexicon to interpret the events in the Muslim world.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

A MURDOCH PRODUCED SCANDAL

BY KOUROSH ZIABARI

 

The scandalous closure of the "News of the World" tabloid after 168 years of publication once again demonstrated the Western media's lack of adherence to codes of ethics and morality in journalism and showed to the international community that what is advertised as the freedom of speech in the West is nothing but unrestrained violation of the privacy of citizens and betrayal to the common values of a civil society.

The "News of the World" was voluntarily closed down on July 10, 2011 after it was revealed that the staff and workers at the magazine had been clandestinely hacking the phone conversations of a number of high-ranking public figures in the UK including politicians, members of Royal Household and also ordinary citizens for many years. This unprecedented incident hugely damaged the reputation of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation and stirred a widespread controversy all over the UK.

Controversy around the News of the World, a subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corporation originally started in August 2006, when the Metropolitan Police of the UK sued Clive Goodman, the magazine's royal editor, and Glenn Mulcaire, a close associate of Goodman and a private investigator for the allegation that they intercepted voicemail messages left for the cell phones of the members of Royal Family. They were both pleaded guilty and sentenced to prison in 2007.

However, the allegations of phone hacking continued in the subsequent years and several public figures were targeted by the interceptions. In February 2010, The Guardian revealed that two UK telecommunication companies complained that over a hundred of their customers' phone calls and voicemail messages were hacked by unknown sources; however, independent reports and Scotland Yard's inquiry show that more than 4,000 people have been victimized by the phone hacking affair.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the News Corporation officials are facing demands to appear before the House of Commons "to answer allegations that they suppressed evidence of widespread illegal activity at the News of the World. The company is under mounting scrutiny following revelations that an internal inquiry in 2007 gathered "smoking gun" emails showing that several of its journalists were hacking mobile phones and making payments to police officers."

As said by the report published on the Vancouver Sun's July 11 issue, the News of the World editors and staff writers have been involved in stealing the British citizens' email correspondences and phone conversations and paying bribes to the police officers since almost four years ago, but the evidence indicating these criminal activities have been seized by the Scotland Yard a few weeks ago.

The "evidence was only passed to the police last month, four years after it was collected. During that time, James Murdoch, European chief executive of News International, personally authorized at least one substantial settlement payment to a victim of phone hacking, in exchange for signing a gagging clause," the report added.

The newspapers and news agencies have revealed that James Murdoch, the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the European chief executive of News International has been personally involved in several cases of phone hacking and paid bribes to a number of victims to convince them not to publicize the matter in the media and withdraw their complaints from the national courts.

Charlotte Harris of the law firm Mishcon de Reya, which represents several of the victims seeking damages from the News of the World believe that the British tabloid will be sentenced to pay at least £20m to those whose privacy has been violated; however, according to some reports, the total amount of the compensation to be paid by the News of the World can reach to £40m.

According to The Economist, "privacy law in Britain is a late arrival, derived mainly from the European Convention on Human Rights and built up through judicial interpretation. The size of the awards against the News of the World will depend on the view taken by Sir Geoffrey Vos, a High Court judge, of the actual damage to hacking victims, as well as of the intrusion itself, when he hears test cases later this year."

Now the whole world cautiously follows the developments in the UK to see what actions will be taken by the government to bring justice to those who have been flagrantly violating the privacy of British citizens for so many years.

Unquestionably, the phone hacking scandal is not a trivial matter to be neglected irresponsibly. What has taken place is that the most private information and communications of British citizens, from the most high-ranking members of the Royal Family to the most ordinary citizen working in a restaurant have been mischievously and illegally monitored and collected by the staff and personnel of a magazine which is owned by a Zionist billionaire and media mogul. This is not something which can be gotten away with recklessly.

Although it is a conventional and familiar tradition in the Western countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States to listen in the phone communications or electronic correspondences of citizens on baseless allegations such as precluding terrorist activities, the NoW affair is a particular case as it implicates journalists and reporters who are supposed to be the trustees of people in the society, but unfortunately, these trustees have become traitors and trampled the principles of morality and decency underfoot.

Now, it's the responsibility of Murdoch and his men to explain to the public opinion the reasons why they stigmatized the reputation of thousands of people and stole their personal information for commercial purposes. Even their apology to the victims of phone hacking whose valuable personal information and private communications have been stolen cannot appease the pains of the victims. It's for sure that the history will not forgive Murdoch and NoW staff for this disgustful and loathsome offense.

Kourosh Ziabari is a prolific writer from Rasht, Iran. He has contributed this article to the Tehran Times.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MURDOCH'S DIRTY TRICKS AGAINST PALESTINIANS

BY DR. ROBERT LAMBERT

 

Hacking the mobile phones of British families who had lost loved ones to sexually depraved violent criminals, Al-Qaeda inspired "terrorists" and Taliban insurgents proved the tipping point that led to the closure of Britain's most popular Sunday newspaper The News of the World, first published in London in 1843 and printed for the very last time on Sunday July 9, 2011.

To adopt a current media idiom, hacking these telephones at times of deep family grief became toxic for Rupert Murdoch's News International media empire because public support for precisely these victims sits at the heart of all Murdoch's political strategies. As a result, Murdoch has been forced to mount a damage limitation exercise on an unprecedented scale in an effort to protect his global media empire from the fallout.

Hugh Grant, a famous British actor turned investigative journalist, himself a victim of News International phone hacking was the first to acknowledge the extent to which the invasion of celebrities and politicians' privacy paled into insignificance compared to the unpardonable intrusion into the lives of the newly bereaved. Grant is absolutely right, but it is the fact that Sunday's News of the World - like its daily sister The Sun - sets itself up as the champion of these victims that hoisted it by its own petard.

In fact, the "Sarah's Law" campaign that named and shamed convicted pedophiles following the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne was spearheaded personally by Murdoch's now beleaguered lieutenant Rebekah Brooks. When confronted with criticism that the campaign encouraged vigilantism and threatened the rule of law she responded that she did not "regret the campaign for one minute". The same well attuned ear for the popular mood led The News of the World and The Sun to launch and promote the popular charity Help the Heroes that supports British troops.

Damaging reputations

Safe in the knowledge that Murdoch's News International phone hacking scandal will now be subject to forensic examination and extensive analysis, I will delve instead into the News of the World toolbox of dirty tricks to see what dark arts of the modern hacks' trade have been deployed against supporters of the Palestinian cause in recent years. In doing so I believe I will get closer to the heart of Murdoch politics -- an important topic that will almost certainly remain untouched by any official inquiry into the criminality and immorality that has dramatically engulfed his media business in Britain.

I believe it is especially enlightening to reflect on the damage done to the reputation of Palestinian supporters by News International journalists in a week when David Cameron has been seriously compromised by his close association with the disgraced former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, yet has come under no pressure in parliament for keeping the prominent Palestinian peacemaker Sheikh Raed Salah in prison for no good cause. Moreover, it is no coincidence that the handful of British politicians who might once have voiced their concern over Sheikh Salah's ill-conceived arrest have been silent in the face of the ongoing power of uncritical pro-Israel politics nurtured by Murdoch's journalists over a long period.

As Samira Quraishy observes in an article for Middle East Monitor, this silence has been most conspicuous in the case of leading Liberal Democrats including party leader Nick Clegg, Sarah Teather, Ed Davey and Simon Hughes. Take the case of Sarah Teather -- before she became a junior minister to the Murdoch-friendly neo-con cabinet hawk Michael Gove, she was an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians. Not only is her present silence on Sheikh Salah's plight a tribute to Murdoch's unbroken grip on government security policy, it is also a slap in the face for the many voters who put a tick in the box next to her name at the last general election in the mistaken belief that she would show consistency of conduct in or out of government.

Smear tactics

True to form, The Sunadopted a tried and tested smear tactic by juxtaposing moral outrage aimed at Salah - an alleged "hate preacher" -- entering Britain unchallenged with an unconnected story about Britain being hindered from deporting "hundreds of foreign killers, paedos and rapists" by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. This follows the same successful formula adopted against a wide range of Palestinians and Palestinian supporters, especially Muslims, such as the academic Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh Yusef al Qaradawi. Whether low brow tabloids or their upmarket counterparts in the UK, U.S. and Australia, all Murdoch newspapers have a consistent policy of targeting and denigrating active supporters of the Palestinian cause whenever and wherever they can.

Before considering two notable instances where the journalist's dirty tricks toolbox has been used against British campaigners for Palestinian justice I should first illustrate day to day News International reporting in this arena. Typically, just days after terrorists inspired or directed by Al-Qaeda bombed London in July 2005, The Sun explained to its readers how this atrocity was linked to Palestinian resistance by seizing on a planned visit to Britain by the academic Tariq Ramadan to make its case. It is worth highlighting extracts from The Sun's front page to remind ourselves of the tabloid style deployed so effectively in support of a global strategy in support of Israel that masquerades as support for Britain and the West:

"Extremist Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who backs suicide bombings, is to address a London conference part-funded by police".

"...in our bomb-hit capital he is being given a platform to speak -- while the victims of Britain's worst terror atrocity wait to be buried".

"The police must pull the plug without delay. And Home Secretary Charles Clarke must move swiftly to ban Professor Ramadan from our shores".

Tales of hacking and bribery

In addition to the targeting of specific "extremists" such as Ramadan, Murdoch's tabloids regularly stigmatize Muslim communities in Britain. According to research published last week on the sixth anniversary of the London bombings, the News of the World and The Sun have contributed to the creation of "suspect communities" through reporting that fails to distinguish between terrorists and the communities in which they live.

According to The Guardian's exemplary ongoing investigation, phone hacking and police bribery appear to have been relatively cheap and frequently used tools to elicit information for news stories of all kinds, whether political in nature or not. Interestingly, however, when The News of the World wanted to exert maximum pressure on its chosen targets, it would resort to a more invasive and pro-active tactic -- the deployment of undercover investigators, most notably the notorious Fake Sheik, Mazheer Mahmood, in what are often described as "sting" operations.

Doubtless Mahmood's book Confessions of a Fake Sheik, published in 2008 by Harper Collins, is the least reliable kind of evidence -- but it does at least provide some compelling if unwitting testimony about the political motivation and machinations behind his undercover deployment against two notable Palestinian supporters in the UK, former Labour Party and Respect Party MP George Galloway and Mohamed Ali, CEO of Islam Channel TV in London.

Mahmood ruefully admits failure in his sting operations against both Galloway and Ali. Characteristically, when he became fully appraised of the News of the World sting operation, Galloway exposed Mahmood in parliament as an "agent provocateur". Subsequently, it came as no surprise when Galloway joined the long list of phone hacking targets being offered large sums of money by News International in an attempt to silence them - an unlikely ambition in Galloway's case.

Supporting corruption

What Murdoch's tabloids sought to obscure was the reality on the ground. Their portrait of Galloway as an appeaser of terrorists was shown to be well wide of the mark in London, where he was twice attacked by Al-Qaeda cheerleaders for successfully persuading young Muslims to channel their anger against British foreign policy in the Middle East into democratic politics. Not a story that fit with Murdoch's agenda.

Most telling, is the credence that Murdoch journalists gave to corrupt dictators -- such as Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt -- happily now deposed and discredited. Indications of Murdoch's personal interest in discrediting Mohamed Ali became apparent when considering the role of journalist Richard Kerbaj, who was transferred by Murdoch from The Australian to The Times in London -- not least because of his contacts with corrupt security regimes in North Africa and the Middle East.

Suffice to say, Kerbaj supplemented Mahmood's dirty work on behalf of The News of the World with his own supposedly authoritative reporting for The Times. Much the same kind of synergy can be seen between Dean Godson's eloquent or "anti-Islamist" commentaries in The Times and Richard Littlejohn's belligerent versions of the same message the columns he wrote for The Sun.

In Ali's case, Mahmood was clearly briefed that his intended victim was a former "terrorist", ultimately on the discredited word of a corrupt dictator. Had the Fake Sheik succeeded in his sting against Ali, News of the World readers would doubtless have been treated to an account of Ali's "terrorism" that echoes Kerbaj's version -- and is now wholly discredited.

Retaining dignity in the face of such provocation, Ali writing for Open Democracy, explains the unexpected and beneficial impact of the Arab Spring in his case:

The West talks about the human rights abuses and democratization of the Middle East, and yet turned a blind eye to the repressive anti democratic methods used by Ben Ali

[in Tunisa]. Western leaders supported him, believing him to be a staunch ally in the war on terrorism and against Islamist extremism.

In the circumstances, Ali, who as a young man was tortured by Ben Ali's regime, might have directed his words to Murdoch as well as to Western leaders.

On a lighter note, and again unwittingly, Mahmood's book reveals weaknesses in his tradecraft that might suggest he will now be seeking more conventional employment. More seriously, it was a similar failure of tradecraft by the corrupt investigator Glenn Mulcaire, employed by the News of the World, that led him to delete voicemail messages on a mobile phone belonging to murdered teenager Milly Dowler, and thereby leave an audit trail that would provide the trigger for the worst week in the history of Murdoch's global media empire.

It is therefore noteworthy that setting up elaborate sting operations against supporters of the Palestinians, such as Galloway and Ali, would not cause Rupert Murdoch to lose a minute's sleep -- even today. To the contrary, it remains central to the political journalism he has nurtured.

Dr. Robert Lambert is Co-Director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter, Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews and author of Countering Al-Qaeda in London which will be published by Hurst in September 2011.

(Source: Al Jazeera)

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NATO USING DU WEAPONS IN LIBYA

BY STEPHEN LENDMAN

 

As part of a Libya international observer team, Middle East analyst Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya headlined his July 5 Global Research.ca article "NATO War Crimes: Depleted Uranium Found in Libya by Scientists", saying:

Sites targeted include "civilians and civilian infrastructure." Scientists from the Surveying and Collecting Specimens and Laboratory Measuring Group confirmed "radioactive isotopes (radioisotopes) at bombed sites" from field surveys conducted. Scientific analysis was conducted at the Nuclear Energy Institution of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

It showed that "several sites contain even higher than expected doses of uranium," including holes from NATO missiles and ordnance fragments. In interviews, Nazemroaya also said cluster bombs and other weapons are used freely in civilian neighborhoods targeting non-military sites.

Washington and NATO allies are using illegal "dirty bombs."

In late March, the Stop the War Coalition said dozens of bombs and missiles that the U.S., the UK, and France fired at Libya in the first 24 hours all had DU warheads. They continue to be used daily despite the denials of the Pentagon and other countries' governments.

On April 14, Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Conn Hallinan told Press TV that:

"The fact that the U.S. is denying the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions is just nonsense." When used against tanks, "enormous fireballs" are visible, a unique DU signature. As a result, "long-term consequences (for Libyans) are going to be severe." More on that and DU munitions below.

On April 19, investigative journalist/author Dave Lindorff also told Press TV that strong evidence points to DU use, saying:

"The way some of these (armored) vehicles and tanks have been hit looks like it's pretty strong evidence that it is depleted uranium. It's the kind of explosive burn that you get from that particular ammunition. And certainly the U.S. has been flying A-10s, which generally use (DU) shells in their armaments."

On June 6, historian/researcher Dr. Randy Short repeated the same charge, telling Press TV viewers that NATO targeted Tripoli residential areas with DU weapons, cluster bombs, and other illegal substances. Back from Tripoli, he said:

"I've been to one particular area… in which Seif al-Islam Gaddafi's house is located, and in that community, which was residential, I saw the damage to civilian homes."

He added that high numbers of civilian deaths and injuries emboldened Libyans to resist Western imperialism.

On April 18, former Pentagon Depleted Uranium Project director Dr. Doug Rokke told Russia Today that DU-struck areas can't be decontaminated, saying it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. As a result, it's called "the silent killer that will never stop killing."

He also said he "was watching ABC News (on April 15) and, lo and behold, there was a DU impact. It burned and burned and burned."

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Rokke was ordered to lie about its use and effects. It damaged his health, and most of his crew died from exposure. Nonetheless, "DU is so good against all types of targets that (the Pentagon) will never give it up."

America is one of the few non-signatories to the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission's DU ban. For over two decades, it's contaminated vast areas in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Serbia/Kosovo, Libya and other nations struck. Moreover, the Pentagon regularly uses other illegal terror weapons, including experimental ones tested in real time.

Former Lawrence Livermore Lab chemical physicist Marion Falk calls DU "the perfect weapon for killing lots of people," adding that "depleted uranium missiles (and other weapons) fit the description of a dirty bomb in every way."

On March 31, the UK Uranium Weapons Network and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament issued a joint news release headlined, "Fears grow over possible depleted uranium use in Libya", saying:

Inhaling highly toxic/radioactive DU "is thought to be linked to the sharp increases in cancer rates and birth defects reported in affected areas," as well as numerous other diseases.

Nonetheless, on March 28, Admiral William Gortney said, "We have employed A-10s and AC-130s over the weekend." A-10 gunships use DU munitions against tanks, armored vehicles, and other targets, including residential neighborhoods.

They fire 3,900 armor-piercing high explosive rounds per minute, spreading vast DU contamination. According to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's general secretary Kate Hudson:

"Depleted uranium weapons are weapons of indiscriminate effect," causing cancer, birth defects and other diseases. "Using them in built up areas in effect targets civilians. This runs counter to everything the coalition has claimed about protecting (them. It represents) an appalling step backwards. It is completely unacceptable -- indeed illegal," because of their long-term harm to human health.

Why U.S. military uses DU munitions

DU's density enables it easily to penetrate targets and destroy them. They're solid missiles, bombs, shells, and bullets, weighing up to 5,000 pounds in a single "bunker buster" bomb.

Using solid DU projectiles or warheads, they're used in all U.S. war theaters, including indiscriminately against civilian targets. They're de facto nuclear bombs, what major media reports won't explain and Pentagon officials deny.

First developed by the Navy in 1968, Israel tested them under U.S. supervision during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Later they were sold to 29 or more countries but never used until the 1991 Persian Gulf War when the U.S. broke an international prohibition. Thereafter, thousands of tons contaminated air, water and soil in target zones and well beyond.

Although no international convention or treaty bans them, they're de facto and de jure illegal under the 1907 Hague Convention, prohibiting "poison or poisoned weapons" use. Also, under the 1925 Geneva Protocol, as well as later Geneva and other conventions, specifically banning chemical, biological, and other poisoned weapons.

In all forms, DU is radioactive and chemically toxic, thus conforming to Hague's poisonous weapons definition. Using them is thus a war crime.

Moreover, their use also meets the U.S. federal code definition of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) in 2 of 3 categories:

The U.S. CODE, TITLE 50, CHAPTER 40, SECTION 2302 defines a Weapon of Mass Destruction as follows:

"The term 'weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism, or (C) radiation or radioactivity."

Because the U.S. is a Hague and Geneva signatory, its own code is thus violated. Moreover, under other binding international laws, using weapons that cause post-battle environmental and human harm are illegal and prohibited.

Their greatest damage happens after use because they penetrate targets deeply, aerosolize into a fine spray, then spread permanent contamination over wide areas. Their microscopic and submicroscopic particles remain suspended or get swept into the air from tainted soil. Winds then carry them worldwide as radioactive components of atmospheric dust, settling indiscriminately far from strike zones.

As a result, countless millions have been irreparably harmed or killed, combatants and civilians. In fact, radiation poisoning causes virtually every imaginable illness from severe headaches, muscle pain, general fatigue, depression, and permanent disability to major birth defects, infections, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer, and later deaths.

Libyans now face the same fate as Iraqis, Afghans, Serbians, Kosovars, and other victims of U.S. aggression. It's of no consequence for U.S. political and Pentagon planners, spreading death, destruction, and human misery globally, not liberation and better lives because of American good will it never had and doesn't have now.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

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