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Friday, July 15, 2011

EDITORIAL 15.07.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month july 15, edition 000885, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


































































The Prime Minister's attempt to reassure the people of Mumbai (and presumably the rest of the country, too) that there's nothing to worry as his Government is determined to not allow such terrible acts of terrorism, as were witnessed at three different places in the city on Wednesday, to be repeated would serve as a soothing balm only for those who are either indifferent to or ignorant of the reality that prevails. Nor will his astonishingly banal statement, that "this time there was no prior indication of the attack and hence terrorists had the advantage of surprise", serve to calm mounting anger. Surely the Prime Minister does not believe that terrorists provide prior information about their plan to attack a city so that the Government can take adequate measures to foil the attack?

The point is that this Government has failed, once again, to ensure adequate intelligence gathering for security agencies to be a step ahead of the terrorists. The scale of failure can be measured when compared to the swift manner in which security agencies of other countries that face the threat of terror attacks, especially in Europe, intervene to prevent terrorists from carrying out their deadly missions. Obviously, no lessons have been learned from the ghastly blood-letting that the world witnessed along with a shocked India when Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Soon after that grand plans were announced to streamline and strengthen the intelligence gathering mechanism through new security structures like the Natgrid.

But like everything else promised by this Government, all of that has proved to be no more than tall talk with little to show after three years. There is cold comfort in the assertion that the Government has been successful on 99 per cent occasions to prevent terrorist attacks; it's the one per cent which matters because lives are lost, people are maimed and faith in the state's ability to protect its citizens is eroded.

It could be argued, and justifiably so, that there's nothing called fool-proof security; that in a country as vast and populous as India, it is impossible to rule out the possibility of terrorists, either homegrown or exported by Pakistan, striking with devastating results; and, that no Government, irrespective of the party or coalition in power, can secure the country from terrorism of all kinds. But those who proffer this argument forget that the people expect the Government to do its best and take all possible steps to eliminate the chances of terrorists having the advantage of surprise. Also, people expect the Government to deal with terrorists and their facilitators with a firm hand so that others are deterred from following in their footsteps.

To fulfil both expectations, the Government requires political determination and courage. Sadly, the regime headed by Mr Manmohan Singh lacks both. It has drifted so far away from popular aspirations that it cannot even fathom the need to be seen as being proactive in dealing with a problem like terrorism. Instead, it is eager to embrace and appease a terror-sponsoring state which continues to demonstrate that it has neither the intention nor the inclination to abandon cross-border terrorism as state policy. For, the inspiration to kill innocent people in cold blood comes from the crucible of global terrorism, also known as Pakistan. Mr Singh prefers not to acknowledge this fact.








The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's drastic revision of the HIV/AIDS Bill 2006 so as to effectively exempt the Government from any legal obligation towards people living with the virus is not only a huge blow to the patients but will also impede nationwide efforts to battle the disease. The original HIV/AIDS Bill, which was drafted way back in 2003, included several noteworthy provisions such as making free treatment available to all those who are carrying the virus, providing them with adequate insurance, and allowing them recourse to judicial remedy in case their rights are violated by Government officials.

It goes without saying that these provisions and similar others delineated in the proposed Bill require the Government to commit extensive resources to the HIV/AIDS prevention programme. And, as Union Minister for Health Ghulam Nabi Azad has pointed out, these resources are not always easy to come by, especially now that some of its major sources for funding have dried up. Of the Rs 11,585 crore allocated to the programme, about Rs 8,724 crore came from foreign donors such as the World Bank, the Clinton Foundation, Unicef and UNAIDS. However, following the global financial crisis, international donors across the board are badly hit. Consequently, many have refused to commit funds for the fourth phase of India's anti-HIV/AIDS programme which begins in March next year.

The Government must now either bear the additional burden or dilute the proposed Bill so that the Ministry is not legally bound to the programme. Sadly, it has chosen to take the easy way out: Instead of mobilising resources within the country or looking for other innovative means to raise funds for the programme, the Health Ministry has chosen to shrug off all responsibility and let patients bear the brunt.

This is particularly sad, especially since in recent years the Government has effectively implemented a comprehensive an anti-HIV/AIDS prevention policy that has led to a steep decline in the number of new HIV infections. In fact, in the past decade the rate of new infections has dropped by an impressive 50 per cent. Yet, one must not forget that even today, despite all the successes of the Government's programme, India is still home to the world's third largest HIV/AIDS population. Clearly, the country cannot afford complacency in this regard. At a time when HIV/AIDS has become a global pandemic and countries across the world are struggling to bring the disease under control, India has done a commendable job of fighting the scourge and there is no reason for it to leave the battlefield. Instead, the Government should reiterate its commitment to the programme and undertake measures to strengthen what is already a proven success.






The 17th Karmapa, absolved of recent allegations, is at peace with himself. He now promotes Buddhist hymns' Sanskrit roots.

The 17th Karmapa has been finally permitted to visit the United States to attend Kalachakra Puja in Washington, DC. The Dalai Lama, along with his monks of Namgyal Monastery, is conducting the 11-day rituals. A few months ago, the Karmapa Lama made headlines when Himachal Pradesh Police seized foreign and Indian currency worth crores of rupees, stuffed in four large metal boxes, from a room of the Gyuto Ramoche Monastery, the seat of Ugyen Trinley Dorje, the Karmapa. The monastery is located some 15 km away from Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives.

Because the currency notes seized from the monastery were from nearly 20 countries, including China, the media speculated: "Is the Karmapa a Chinese agent in India?" The Karmapa's office immediately issued a statement refuting allegations about the China link. Later, the Enforcement Directorate accepted that the cash found in the monastery came from offerings received mostly during the celebrations to mark the 900th year of the birth of Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa. Ugyen Trinley, the successor of Dusum Khyenpa, had presided over the two-day celebration held at Bodh Gaya, attended by followers from India, Tibet, China and other countries. The office of the Karmapa explained that it had started the process of acquiring a piece of land to build a new monastery: "For this, the Himachal Pradesh Government was also approached to get clearances."

Everyone still had in mind how the 15-year old Karmapa, in a Bollywood-type escape, reached Dharamsala in January 2000 after crossing the highest Himalayan passes in the midst of winter. The Government of India was initially reluctant to grant him refugee status. Some of his entourage seem to have made contradictory statements. Some Indian officials believed that he had been 'planted' by the Chinese Government to create confusion over the Sikkim issue (China 'recognised' Sikkim as a part of India two years later.)

Things became complicated when a dispute erupted with another 'Karmapa' claiming the throne of Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. The previous Karmapa, 16th of the lineage, was one of the most revered Lamas of his generation. A powerful yogi, he impressed all those who approached him with his profound wisdom and an aura of strength and peace. In 2011, a further complicating factor surfaced: The fact that the media (Indian and foreign) often tried to project the young Lama as the Dalai Lama's political successor. The media forgets that the present Dalai Lama has ceaselessly worked from the early-1960s to introduce democracy in the exiled Tibetan community; to have a 'political successor' would negate all these years of hard work. Fortunately this problem has now been solved with the election of a new Prime Minister.

Since a long time I was keen to 'see' and meet the young Lama. I recently had the occasion to visit the Gyuto Ramoche Monastery at Sidhbari where the Lama has been offered temporary accommodation. The 26-year-old monk lives here, surrounded by relatively tight security, with the majestic Dhauladhar range as the backdrop.

Till now the Karmapa had refused to speak and comment on the accusations levelled against him. I discovered a remarkable, calm young man, deeply interested in Indian culture, art and the environment of the Himalayas, who is able to see the deeper meaning of the controversies that have surrounded him.

He put his relations with India in its perspective: "My relationship to India is not something limited to the life of a single individual. The beginning of my Karmapa lineage started 900 years ago, and its traditions are firmly rooted in India. The entire history of our lineage goes back to India with the great Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa and Mahapandita Naropa, whom we revere as the forefathers in our Dharma lineage." The gurus of his gurus have been Indian some 900 years ago; knowing the reverence the Tibetan Lamas have for their teachers is fundamental to understanding his 'present life'. He also emphasised his deep gratitude to India: "When Tibet went through a critical period, Tibetans turned to India. India has been a great host."

But there is more. He feels that India has provided a sanctuary for the preservation of Tibetan Buddhist religious and cultural heritage which was destroyed after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. This is an important point: "When the times were so difficult, when we were in such an utterly helpless situation, to whom did we turn? To India!"

A most interesting project the Karmapa is involved with is the revival of the Sanskrit tradition in the Tibetan monastic tradition. Often at the beginning of religious functions, when the sangha, the community of monks and nuns gathers together, prayers are chanted in their original Sanskrit. He explained, "We also have some wonderful sacred songs, known as dohas or songs of realisation with very profound words. These wonderful dohas that were once sung in India are now lost." He has decided to collect these 'realisation' songs and revive them by having them sung again in their ancient form: "We have treasured these sacred dohas for many centuries in Tibet." He now wants to "return them to India".

When I asked him about the recent allegations, he repeated this several times: "If people in the Government or people in positions of responsibility have any doubts or suspicions about me, I hope they will ask me. Please ask me! I am ready and willing to do whatever is needed to clarify any doubts anyone may have." The only time he lost his cool was when I asked him why the Chinese always attack the Dalai Lama and not him. His answer was sharp: "Just because the Chinese Government does not single someone out for public criticism, can this justify accusing this person of being a Chinese spy? Obviously, the Dalai Lama is specifically targetted for criticism by the Chinese Government because he has this prominent leadership role and he leads the cause so very well."

His main interest, apart from his spiritual studies, is the environment. He tries hard to teach his monks the basics of environment protection, sometimes using a Power Point presentation. He become very serious when he explains: "The issue of environment is beyond religion, beyond politics. It is a critical, fundamental issue for our very existence; the existence of all the species of this one Earth." Having met him after a gap of five years, I saw a much greater depth and maturity in him. Somehow, it is good that he does not have the burden to be the 'successor' of the Dalai Lama anymore.






The huge backlog of cases pending in courts across the country underscores the urgent need for overhauling the justice system so that judgements are not delayed and justice is seen to be done. Our poor justice delivery mechanism is the root cause of many of our problems, including corruption

Apoor justice delivery mechanism has been the root cause of most of our problems. It goes without saying that India has a weak, or rather a limping, justice delivery system which makes sure that justice is denied in most cases; even if delivered, it does not hold any value, thanks to the time (read lifetime) it takes to be delivered.

By the Union Government's own admission, a staggering three crore cases are pending at several stages in different courts. This situation is a deliberate creation of our successive Governments. If criminals were to be punished, how would they rule? Thus, to make the rule of criminals easy, Governments over the years have deliberately kept the judicial system dysfunctional.

It serves the purpose of the legal fraternity as well. Thanks to the years or decades that it takes to take a case to its culmination, the legal fraternity invariably ends up making a windfall profit. And thanks to the absence of a time-bound justice delivery mechanism, making moolah is not at all a challenge for our legal fraternity which is quite adept at purposefully making cases linger on for years.

The only thing that we nowadays talk about is corruption. And the only way of solving this issue is a functional judicial system. Corruption and greed are globally prevalent, yet these touch far fewer lives in other countries, for instance, the US, than in India simply because the American judicial system is functional while ours is dysfunctional. In America, they have 10 times more judges per million people than in India, so there is a fear of immediate punishment while here there is no such fear.

Thus, there are two key things that the Government must do to make our judicial system functional. The first is to increase the number of our judges to about 10 times the current figure. If we were to try and achieve such standards, we need to have about 100,000 or so more judges. It sounds huge, but is surely achievable in a span of five years. To have 20,000 additional judges per year, we have to budget for approximately an additional expenditure of `6,000 crore per year, assuming that the expenses around a judge and his office assistants put together is not more than `30,00,000 per year.

Given our massive annual expenditure, it's a shame to see Budgets being passed year after year with no focus on overhauling the judicial machinery and with no substantive allocations for improving the system. This after the Government bravely declared that by 2012 the entire backlog of three crore cases would be cleared. It's just a year more to go and nothing concrete has happened in that direction.

The second thing the Government must do is pass a statutory law in Parliament that would guarantee the delivery of justice in a time-bound manner. In developed countries like the US, for petty cases, people filing cases in the morning get justice literally by the evening. Even if India doesn't end up being so fast, still the concept of having a law that enforces that a case be adjudged within a stipulated time would be good enough.

Of late, our Law Ministry was doing relatively good and so was our judiciary. The Supreme Court has been displaying a proactive behaviour with respect to burning social and political issues (of course, it indicates the failure of the other two pillars of the nation: the executive and the legislature). The decisions taken by the Supreme Court over the last couple of months are in areas that largely come under the ambit of the executive and not the judiciary per se — almost akin to 'ethical hacking'.

Traditionally and fundamentally, the functioning of courts was restricted to providing justice to aggrieved parties on the basis of evidence collected by the executive and by following the laws drafted by the legislature. However, although it could be construed as trespassing beyond their jurisdiction, the courts' efforts have been laudable. Take for example the appointment by the Supreme Court of the special investigation team to probe money laundering cases and to go deeper into the black money issue, or the action against Delhi Police officials after Baba Ramdev's protest against black money and corruption — both of which should have been initiated by the executive or the legislature or the state machinery. In both these cases, the Supreme Court went a step ahead to protect the very essence of democracy, which is commendable. Similarly, the order to distribute foodgrains — which otherwise rot in granaries — among the poor was taken by the court.

Under all circumstances, such orders are meant to be announced by the executive. But by going beyond its defined role, the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of millions of people. Moreover, this apex institution with its near-clean record has kept its head high and continued the legacy of protecting the nation.

Under the former Minister for Law and Justice, Mr Veerappa Moily, the entire judicial machinery was being overhauled. By facilitating the release of 7.5 lakh petty offenders languishing in various prisons for years — their only crime being that they were poor — Mr Moily at least did what no other Law Minister before him had done. His vision to take care of pending cases was yet to be realised but he was shifted out of the Ministry.

The new Law Minister, Mr Salman Khurshid, is hugely capable and comes with a great reputation and background. We can only hope that he will go a step beyond what his predecessor planned and see to it that our judicial system becomes functional. If he does that, then he would have laid the foundation stone for a non-corrupt democracy, something that is the need of the hour.

-- The writer is a management guru and editor of The Sunday Indian.







Bill to prevent cruelty to animals is a farce: It allows some to be cruel

The Environment Ministry is reported to have re-framed the Animal Welfare Bill, 2011 in deference to Muslim sentiments. The proviso, which made painful methods of slaughtering animals for food an offence, has been changed after Muslim bodies protested. Their religious custom prescribes the slow bleeding of animals for obtaining meat, considered halal, and not haram. The new provision states; "Nothing contained in this Act shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community". However, animal welfare groups around the world have since long been campaigning to persuade Muslims and Jews, who also eat such flesh called kosher, to re-consider this religious practice. Interestingly, many Muslims have been taking a fresh look at their Hadith prescriptions and the Prophet's recommendations in respect of food as the world-wide campaign for animal rights gathers force, to determine the correct meaning of the old tenets.

This is not the first time that the Congress has capitulated to persons and groups that swear by custom. The politics of minorityism, perfected by the Congress, with an eye on the Muslim vote bank, has resulted in the community being frozen in an archaic time frame. Mullahs and theologians govern their flock with a stern hand, freely issuing fatwas that are geared to ensuring their dominance.

Yet, the winds of change have been blowing through the Islamic world. As far back as 1926, Turkey adopted a modern civil code, based on the Swiss model. Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Iran are among Muslim nations that modified their laws. In a bid to make relations between the sexes more equitable, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei banned polygamy. Pakistan and Bangladesh monitor such alliances, with divorce to be routed through an arbitration council, and the couple being made to undergo a reconciliatory process. But India remains one of the last bastions of Islamic orthodoxy. A man can divorce his wife simply by uttering the word 'talaq' thrice, or take four wives.

Attempts at reform have been thwarted by the Congress. Capitulating to clerics, the Rajiv Gandhi-headed Government in 1986, misusing its absolute majority in Parliament, brought in the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986. It revoked the Supreme Court's award of maintenance to Shah Bano, a mother of five, divorced by her husband. There was no provision for maintenance under the Muslim Personal Law, whose primacy for Muslims was thus upheld, even if other Indians, including Hindus, are governed by a modern civil code. The tragedy is that animals, too, are impacted by the incessant kowtowing to orthodox minority sentiments. First, it was the deliberate flouting of the constitutional directive to ban cow slaughter that took a heavy toll on India's cattle. The Congress, which ruled for the longest time at the Centre, refrained from passing a central law in this regard though States could pass their own laws.

The omission was ascribed to pressure exerted by butchers, beef exporters and leather industry, and the assumption that an outright ban would antagonise Muslims. There was no regard for the sentiments of the numerically dominant Hindus — as well as Jains and Sikhs — for whom cows and, by extension, cattle, have sanctity. Yet, eating beef or cow slaughter are not enjoined as religious duties under Islam. Rather, the Prophet Muhammad himself is said to have acknowledged the cow's immense virtues in this Hadith, translated from Arabic: "You should use cows' milk because it is good for health, and cow's ghee is good for health, but beef is bad for health".

A Muslim votary of vegetarianism refers in his blog to the medicinal benefits of cow's milk by quoting from the Book of Medicine of the Mustadrak al-Hakim, a classical Hadith commentary by al-Hakim al-Nisaburi: "The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him, said: 'Allah did not create any disease without creating its cure; and in cow's milk is a cure for every disease'".

The growing world-wide campaign for securing animal rights has swept many Muslims and Jews into its fold, with the manner of slaughtering animals for food being hotly debated. halal and kosher meat is obtained by cutting the necks of the poor creatures and letting them bleed to death so that the meat stays fresh. Yet, a study conducted in October 2009 at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, confirmed that such killing caused acute pain to the animal. In most of the West, animals are stunned before being killed. But, barring Norway, Jews and Muslims can ritually slaughter them for meat though animal welfare groups are pressing for revoking this right. Since no true religion prescribes cruelty as a tenet of faith, Muslims and Jews must determine for themselves the best way to slaughter animals for food, as painlessly as possible.

Here, the philosophic doctrine that sees all life as one has engendered the tradition of vegetarianism, which has crores of adherents. The Bhagvad Gita clearly states — "The enlightened see the same Self in the Brahmin, endowed with learning and humility, the cow, the elephant, the dog and the outcaste". Moreover, beliefs in the theory of karmic retribution and transmigration of the soul into non-human species deter many from eating flesh or causing pain to other creatures. The Congress must explain why it keeps going against the grain consistently.







The Cabinet reshuffle has proved to be a futile exercise. Neither will the UPA improve its governance record nor will it do much to control inflation, improve infrastructure or encourage foreign investment

A day before the Union Cabinet reshuffle, I asked a top source what was holding up the reshuffle. He promptly said that there was a lack of talent and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were not able to decide on the changes. Then, he startled me by asking: "Give me ten names". I answered that if the talent was not there the Prime Minister should try to get them from the market. In fact, Mr Singh himself is a shining example of how outsiders can adapt to the political system. Late Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had appointed Mr Singh as his Finance Minister when the country was engulfed in economic chaos. In any case, the Congress cannot complain about lack of talent, as this should have been taken into consideration during ticket distribution.

Mr Singh's latest Cabinet rejig has been described by one and all as lacklustre and unimaginative. Moreover, he has also made it clear that UPA2 will go for the 2014 polls with this team and there will be no more reshuffles. Given the present political atmosphere, every one was closely watching how Mr Singh and Ms Gandhi carry out the Cabinet reshuffle. Already, the Government is faced with a series of crises and a long list of corruption scandals. Prices are soaring sky high and food inflation has crossed double digits. Foreign investors are reluctant to invest in the country due to high levels of corruption. The Supreme Court has therefore become pro-active. Against this background, Mr Singh's moves were being closely watched.

But Mr Singh's last reshuffle has turned out to be an exercise in musical chairs that sends neither a strong political nor economic signal. Nothing spectacular has been attempted. When Mr Singh had announced in January that he was planning to restructure his Cabinet, there were hopes that he would really do so. Expectations were high but the reshuffle did nothing to restore the credibility of the Government.

It does not signify that the Prime Minister has made a mid-course correction. Incompetent Ministers have not been sacked. Corrupt Ministers have not been shown the door. The average age of the Cabinet is still about 65 years.

So, what political signals does this reshuffle send? First, the Prime Minister has not kept any room for new allies like the RLD, as he already has a jumbo Cabinet, where some Ministers continue to hold dual portfolios.

Second, the Council of Ministers is slowly gaining more of Mr Rahul Gandhi's loyalists. Some would even say that this is a rehearsal for 2014. Mr Gandhi is slowly building up his team which includes senior leaders like Mr Anand Sharma, Mr Jairam Ramesh, Mr CP Thakur, Ms Daggubati Purandeswari, Mr Salman Khurshid and junior politician like Mr Jitender Singh, Mr Milind Deora, Mr Sachin Pilot, Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, Mr Jitin Prasad and Mr RPN Singh.

Third, the Congress has shown that as the proverbial 'big brother,' it can keep its allies under control. While the DMK has not recommended replacements for A Raja and Mr Dayanidhi Maran, their portfolios have been kept aside.

Within the party, the reshuffle was used to send a signal to poll bound Uttar Pradesh by elevating the position of Mr Beni Prasad Verma and including Mr Rajiv Shukla into the Union Cabinet. But there were no signals for other poll bound States such as Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Punjab. Instead Tamil Nadu won the lottery with the inclusion of Ms Jayanti Natarajan.

As for the economic signal, there was not much in that either as there were no changes in infrastructure portfolios which were crying for efficiency. The Ministry of Power remains with Mr Sushilkumar Shinde while Railways has predictably gone to the Trinamool Congress. There is also no change in the Ministries of Roads and Transport, Coal, Steel, Petroleum, and Heavy Industry. This would have given confidence to foreign investors who are shying away from investing in India. If India wants to be a global power, the Government must realise that infrastructure plays an important role. There were also no signs that second-generation reforms would be coming any time soon, all though the Americans and other foreign investors are pushing for these reforms.

Also, the Prime Minister has not brought any prominent persons into his Cabinet — the names of renowned economists and technocrats like Mr C Rangarajan and Mr Nandan Nilekani respectively were doing the rounds. This too could have also instilled public confidence.

However, the most important message that should have been put out is that price rise and inflation would be brought under control. This was also absent. Moreover, competent Ministers like Mr Pilot, Mr Scindia and Mr RPN Singh could have been projected better but they being junior ministers, were overshadowed by their political seniors. Finally, by not touching the 'big four', the Prime Minister showed that he had no intentions of doing anything serious.

Sadly, Mr Singh has missed his chance to correct the image of his Government. If the UPA must stay on for the next three years, the Union Cabinet needs to be cohesive and performance-oriented, and Mr Singh needs to prove that he is the captain of the ship. He must have an efficient PMO and ensure that there are no more corruption scandals. He has enough time to establish his authority and Mr Singh must prove that he means business.







Economic reforms of the early-1990s were undertaken out of historical compulsion. Now, wisdom lies in reading the writing on the wall and deciphering the institution of delivery which Manmohan Singh designed

The Gross National Product is the total value of output produced by a nation. Gross Domestic Product is the total value of output of all goods and services produced within the geographic boundary of a nation. The difference is real.

In 1991 the focus was on the growth rate of the economy. Through the instrumentality of the Five Year Plan, the attempt was to achieve a five per cent growth rate. That was the dream. VS Minhas, then a Member of the Planning Commission had his reservations and asked for setting realistic targets. Predictably he lost his job. Five per cent growth rate at that time was more a political target. That was all about GNP growth rate and not GDP growth rate.

The anxiety about foreign companies in India oscillated between one extreme of paranoia on any foreign entity entering Indian business scene to the other extreme of oscillation which had to do with welcoming them beyond any reservation. Today all companies know the wisdom of following the sovereign diktat. In the early 1990 the powers that be did one better and they tried to link up the employment with foreign direct investment.

The repudiation of the economic policy of the late 1960s to 1970s came from the hands of many architects of that philosophy. Yet one constant remained: The national need to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Interestingly, it leads to a situation where whether the poor were brought up or not remained a moot point but certainly there was a ceiling on people becoming rich. The buyer needs had very little to do with creating capabilities of delivery without the Government playing an intervening role. Reversing this was never simple and it has still to be taken to its logical conclusion.

Per capita income remained at a constant low. Private investment was not taking place, hence unemployment spiralled. All this would have been possible to live up to had one the capacity to pay back the loan, short-term or otherwise which have emerged because of the problem of the balance of payments.

Put simply, economic reforms of the early 1990 were also because of historical compulsion. The wisdom, of course, lay in looking at the writing on the wall and the skill lay in deciphering the institution of delivery which Mr Manmohan Singh designed. The honeymoon with socialism was not quite over, fuelled by the abysmal poverty of vast majority of people. At long last rising the quality of life of the people became a stated objective of the planned document.

Through reforms of the public sector banking, limited rupee convertibility, making available the routes for financial direct investment, the objective was to increase growth and GDP. Clearly the difference between economic growth and economic development was beginning to be marked. There is greater interest in economic growth in the developed countries. The low income countries are obviously more interested in economic development.

In a developed economy, consumer durables are generously available but in under developed economy, these assets are only with limited percentage of population. Thus it is that one would want to go in for development to create a more equitable social order.

The role of the public sector has to be understood in this context. Indeed while various parts of the world were under going melt down, public sectors in India were recruiting. When economic development as concept takes precedence over other thought processes, such an eventuality becomes inherent. The complication, of course, was that while this was going on one hand, India was being gripped in the war fare of identity politics.

Religious identity, caste identity and other pre-industrial identities were being reinforced for purposes of evoking loyalty and thereby the votes. The country still has to develop tradeoffs between the two. The chance seems to be that identity politics is all set to permeate economic development with more and more innovative and unprecedented demand of a quota and indeed quota within a quota. The limitations of the political establishment and populism is the inability of have anyone to stand up and say what the freedom fighters in the 20s and 30s of the last century were able to tell the colonial rule "We do not accept any division of Indian identity into segmented identity".

That ability to stand up, then, buried the McDonald Award. McDonald Awards or no McDonald Award, the reborn contents of that proposal seem to be over taking the political scene and the social discourse.









India is under assault. One doesn't know yet who was responsible for the terror blasts that struck Mumbai on Wednesday - killing around 18 and injuring more than 100 - but their motives are crystal clear. First, India's financial capital has high symbolic value as a target.

Second, two of the localities targeted are crowded business areas - hubs of the gold and diamond trade - and all three attacks happened at rush hour. The aim was clearly to inflict maximum damage, disrupt economic life by spreading fear as well as mar social peace in a cosmopolitan metropolis like Mumbai.

While no one has claimed responsibility yet, it's of a pattern with past attacks carried out by the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Among many pointers there is the use of tiffin carriers and cloth bags, and the 13th as a preferred date. The attack comes just before foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are due to meet this month.

Similarly the Pune bakery blasts took place on February 13, 2010 - right after the announcement of resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue. The Pune bakery had been surveyed prior to the blasts by David Coleman Headley of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an organisation known to hide and train IM members in Pakistan.

2008 had seen a string of attacks by the IM, followed by some successes scored by security agencies in cracking down on its networks in India. But the Mumbai blasts could be an indication that the IM is reviving again. The relative lull in terror attacks since 2008 has allowed complacency to set in.

That was evident in the goof-ups in the 'Most Wanted' list that was posted to Pakistan. It's clear that there's nowhere near the desired level of coordination among security agencies in India. Many of the internal security reforms proposed after the 26/11 attacks have bitten the dust.

Unless authorities ramp up security not just in Mumbai but across Indian cities, we could be back to 2008 or earlier. Our anti-terror agencies, including the premier National Investigation Agency, seem more geared to cleaning up after the event than preventing terror. This must change. Let's not say terror will sometimes hit us no matter how vigilant we are.

Our aim should be 100% deterrence, even in cities with high population density. If Mumbai's police-to-people ratio needs increasing, the force nationwide needs more muscle. Better intelligence gathering and forensics capability are a must.

Shared databases for crime fighters will aid information exchange and nabbing operations. IM's network, for instance, ranges from Maharashtra to UP and Karnataka. Only inter-state coordination can choke terror cells and destroy their strike capability.

The AfPak region is now global terrorism's epicentre. The terrorism issue must be strongly raised in talks with Pakistan. The government has rightly refused to defer the foreign ministers' meet - there's no concrete evidence that points to a Pakistani link to the Mumbai blasts yet. But there is concrete evidence linking Pakistan to 26/11 - in which case there has been minimal cooperation in investigating the attacks.

Both Pakistani president Zardari and prime minister Gilani have condemned the Mumbai attacks. If they really mean it, they should have no objections to handing over voice samples of 26/11 accused, or rolling up terror training camps on Pakistani territory.






The latest industrial production figures demand a reformist economic agenda. At 5.6% for May, industrial production grew at the slowest pace in nine months. The slowdown's extent is revealed by last May's figures. Then production grew by 8.5%.

The manufacturing sector, which accounts for 75% of industrial output, slowed from 8.9% to 5.6% over a year. A slowing economy won't be helped by the Mumbai bombing. They reiterate that India faces a clear and present terrorist threat.

It could make already wary investors jittery. But a bigger worry on the economic front is financial turmoil in our biggest trading partner - Europe. Moody's have cut Ireland's credit rating to junk, a week after Portugal's was similarly downgraded.

The Greek contagion is spreading. It'll necessitate another bout of financial bailouts and inevitably belt-tightening throughout the EU.

Now that a new cabinet is in place, it must get to work on the economy. EU finances are beyond the cabinet's ken. What ministers must do is unlock internal sources of productivity by getting on with the unfinished business of economic reform, remove market distorting red tape and fix leaky distribution systems.

That'll bring down overall inflation, which puts many items out of the consumer's reach. Rising interest rates too are dampening demand. These are dangerous signs for a young economy.

Our much-touted demographic dividend can rapidly turn into a liability if the young cannot find gainful employment.

And the best way to do so is to encourage industrialisation. Not only will it provide the basic necessities for life, but in doing so will absorb our large and young talent pool.



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There was a sense of deja vu for the people of Mumbai and for all of us in India as we learnt of the three blasts across the city's busiest parts. And the big question that is being asked is: "Has anything changed since 26/11, and will India's cities ever be safe and secure?"

As yet, sadly, there is little room for comfort. Even after the dramatic 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, our internal security leaves a lot to be desired. So much could have been done, but the lack of political urgency - with even the proposal of a national counterterrorism centre taking about 30 months to get the cabinet's nod - and the turf fight between the Union home ministry and its equivalents at the state level have added to the confusion. The writing on the wall has been ignored. With the elimination of Osama bin Laden and the imminence of a US-Nato withdrawal from the AfPak region, terror networks were expected to get active again.

Take the case of the past four months. The warning signals have been there for us to see as we learnt of a number of failed bomb attacks - in Ranchi, Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, Delhi high court, Delhi's Gargi College and elsewhere - which were dismissed as pranks, and weren't followed up on. But, in fact, these were perhaps signs of what the Islamic Jihad (IJ) or the Indian Mujahideen (IM) - groups that have traditionally targeted Mumbai - were preparing for. No wonder the initial assessment of intelligence agencies is that these latest attacks in Mumbai too have the stamp of the IM, which is a well-known front for the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The attacks were on the 13th, a favoured date, and in crowded marketplaces, a typical IM target.

The IM was set up as part of the LeT's so-called Karachi Project around 2002-03 to create a fifth column of jihadis in India who could aid and carry out terror attacks at the direction of the hardliners in the Pakistani establishment. This would allow Pakistan to evade responsibility for such attacks. David Headley too has, in his confessions to the FBI, confirmed this terror link.

Their aim is to target India's economic rise and its cities, which remain crowded, chaotic and vulnerable. What we need are certain elementary steps that could make citizens secure. The effort to adopt homeland security initiatives like the US did after the 9/11 attacks, in a vast and varied country like India, has left us neither here nor there. Instead, if the British model of community policing were to be adopted - given that London still has perhaps the largest movement of terrorists through it but remains secure - then the first steps could be taken in making our cities secure.

This would essentially involve beat policemen and local police stations working much more closely with citizens. Instead of using local policeman purely as muscle and trusting only a few specialists in state capitals to deal with all other aspects of policing like investigation, intelligence etc, we must integrate our local police stations to assist with these tasks as well. The national intelligence grid initiative could help fill this void, but it is still some years from being completed. Until then, our policing will remain inadequate.

That apart, the shortage of police personnel across the country is in itself another sorry tale of what we haven't been able to achieve despite decades of terror attacks and the wake-up call of 26/11. By the admission of the home ministry itself, about 5,40,000 policemen were immediately required to make up the shortages in our police forces. But less than a third of that number has been recruited. And even if the full recruitment target is met, India's projections for policing are still well below the UN recommended ratio of 222 policemen per 1,00,000 citizens. Worse still, for a country repeatedly targeted by terrorists, India's internal (homeland) security budget is less than 1% of its GDP, whereas India's defence budget is about 2.5% of its GDP. If the responsibility of the government is to protect its citizens, then it simply needs to spend more on equipping, training and arming our policemen to achieve greater efficacy.

Unfortunately, despite P Chidambaram's assertions that a long-term strategy is required, what we have seen so far are only quick-fix methods - such as the increase in policemen in public places when VIPs visit or when a threat is anticipated with the deployment of metal detectors that rarely work. But common sense says that terrorists virtually never attack the same target for a second time in quick succession. What we need is not just the home minister rattling off statistics but a blueprint on how the government proposes to engage citizens and society.

Moreover, the sheer stubbornness of Manmohan Singh in engaging Pakistan despite Pakistan's unwillingness to do more on the evidence of 26/11 - the botched list of the most wanted 50 individuals notwithstanding - and also the rehabilitation of politicians like Vilasrao Deshmukh and R R Patil have shown that while India might not be willing, Singh is certainly willing to forgive and forget.







French ambassador Jerome Bonnafont spoke on the eve of Bastille Day with Deep K Datta-Ray :

France supports India's UN bid, but do you expect India to assume a global leadership role?
India is one-sixth of humanity. You're a democratic, peaceful, responsible giant. It's therefore imperative that you be permanently on the Security Council. It's designed to answer threats to international peace and security. Quite clearly, if this responsibility is to be carried out legitimately, the UNSC has to reflect the equilibrium of today's world, not of the past. So expansion is necessary. Add to this that there's been a major transformation within India and the case seems obvious to us.

Will expanding the UNSC deter its effectiveness because it'll be too big?
No! UNSC has to be efficient and legitimate. One does not go without the other. The world now comprises 193 sovereign states. UNSC cannot be based on the same numbers as when there were only 100 states or so. Membership has to be expanded within reasonable limits, in the two categories, permanent and non-permanent members. And good rules and procedures have to be put in place to ensure efficient functioning.

How should India lead on climate change?
We don't ask India to choose between growth and CO2 emissions. That's absurd. We want an international effort - tech transfer, financial mechanisms - to mitigate emissions while creating growth. For that we need an international treaty. It's the only way to ensure everyone exercises their rights and responsibilities. Shared but differentiated responsibilities is the cornerstone of our policy, but based on what's happening now, not historically. How can you talk about historic responsibility when people weren't aware of climate change? It's a weak argument. Anyway, the EU is reducing emissions, while the rest of the world is emitting more. So, we need an agreement on what's to be done, in what proportion, by when, and who is collectively responsible. We need an agreement that distinguishes between the efforts of reduction by industrialised countries and capping by emerging ones, which would help affected populations adapt to the consequences of global warming. India's aware of this. Your emissions growth is about half of economic growth. There's a national plan on capping emissions. That's why India has everything to gain by taking the lead on a treaty with a clearly defined objective.

Would France expect India to exercise a military role in Afghanistan?
India's in Afghanistan and we value its socio-economic and political contribution. The neighbourhood has to be involved in creating stability in Afghanistan. Regional stakeholders had a conference with the coalition on what happens next. Our strategy is to have by 2014 an Afghan political structure, successful in national reconciliation and have Afghan national forces that can exercise control. India's contribution in the political and socio-economic contribution to this will be very important.

De Gaulle said it's impossible to run a country with so many cheeses, so how can India overcome its internal contradictions to become an international leader?
India takes care of one-sixth of humanity, ensuring freedoms and human progress. That in itself is an achievement. But India does this in a very particular way: diversity is used to foster unity, to deliver a variety of freedoms. India is, therefore, not only much less divided than it seems, but can also serve in many ways as a model internationally.






There was a time in our young lives when the humble 25 paise coin was king. Elders called it 'char anna'. For us kids, the miracle coin did wonders. It got us a 'big' paper kite or a top with a 'latti' at shops in the market. Or a bicycle on hire for two hours at two annas an hour. Two days of tuck, the delectable jaggery-coconut-peanut treat, in the school canteen was just a 'chawanni' away.

When broke, we'd earn it the hard way. Doing chores. Clearing the garden for neighbours or singing carols. We'd form a group and descend upon the cottages of unsuspecting gentle old Anglo-Indian couples. There we'd stand by the gate and belt out, 'Come all ye faithful' and such that we were taught in school. If lucky, a lady would emerge from the house and say, "Isn't this rather early for Christmas, dear? Why, it's just November!"

And then seeing through our game, she'd smile, and press 25 paise coins into our little hands. Happy as Larry, we'd put out a hearty, "We wish you a Merry Xmas," and scoot to the nearest ice-cream parlour!

There were other things we discovered that the money could buy. Adventure. For that we pre-teenagers forayed into "strictly forbidden" territory. The legendary New Taj Hotel in the market area. Visiting service-providers such as the carpenter or plumber to our household would rave about it in their chats with the driver and cook. Overhearing the talk, and fascinated by the food and place, we'd be dying to go there - of course, without the knowledge of family elders.

Our chance came one afternoon after school. We made our way through the crowded market area and were dumbstruck by what we found. The small Taj had a crush of people, inside and outside, waiting to get in. An old radio over the cashier's head at the entrance blared old Hindustani film songs. Old wall-fans whirred noisily. The sounds of clattering plates and crockery and a sizzling kitchen could be heard at the entrance. As we found our way in, Shamshad Begum was going great guns on the radio. People laughed or conversed at high decibel. The honking and rush of traffic outside apparently required pumping up the volume.

Topping the cacophony were the shouts of the waiters. There was repeated yelling when placing orders to the kitchen. And more yelling, over the heads of diners, to the cashier telling him amounts to be collected from exiting customers.

As soon as we managed to get seats at a table, a waiter slid four glasses of water and a plate of biscuits and samosas to the centre of the marble-top table. After taking the order from people sharing our table, he turned to us. Nervously, we said, "Tea." "With 'malai' or without 'malai'?" he asked impatiently. Nervously we said, "Cream", and reached for the snack plate. By then, two burly men with bad tempers came up behind us, starting to talk and argue. As the expletives flew fast and furious, we rushed through our tea and made for the exit. By then a stentorian yell stopped our hearts from beating.

Our waiter was calling out to the cashier. A grey-haired gent in front was referred to as "Lal topi wallah, khuska aur paal aur chai, att anna." We were the "Chikkne ladke. Samose-malai chai, chawanni."

Novel and awesome as the experience was, we just couldn't wait to get home, to tell and retell the story. What if we were pulled up for the act of defiance? Never mind, the adventure was worth the money - all chawanni of it!








Nothing could be more insulting to the people who have lost their lives and those who have lost family members and friends than to say that the 'Spirit of Mumbai' will get them up and running again immediately after an alleged terrorist attack.

People have to live with the pain of loss and injury and there is nothing that can help them get over their grief other than the certainty that this kind of outrage will not happen again. Can anyone, never mind the government, assure that?

After 26/11, the government had put in place several measures, including the setting up of a national investigation agency to ensure that such planned attacks would be pre-empted. The fact that this has happened again and that, too, in crucial places in Mumbai suggests that our intelligence operations are not working as they should.

Mumbai, as anyone can figure, should be the last place on Earth that such an attack should come as a shock. And yet, we tend to be surprised — not at the attack by the enemies of the State but at the unpreparedness of the State whose job is to protect its citizens.

In the past, we have said that our intelligence failure has taken place because we have not had enough by way of interpreting the chatter that we hear on a daily basis. Home ministry sources say that "no intelligence does not mean an intelligence failure". But perhaps, that is not what we need to hear.

What we need is human intelligence, not a very difficult proposition, in the tiny gullies and alleys in which these kind of atrocities take place. Last heard, the Government of India and its ears are competent information-gatherers.

So what we need is more boots on the ground in the form of local police and more effective functioning on their part as well as people who can process the information that lands on their laps. Such attacks can come from within or from outside India. It is always easy to blame the latter for this kind of atrocity.

But the fact remains that such kinds of attacks suggest a weakness of the Indian State — not only in terms of gauging the danger involved but also about how to deal with it.

India has prided itself on being an emerging economy. Such attacks will do little to bolster its stock. But the real tragedy lies in the fact that many people who have lost their lives in bomb blasts have got no closure.

The American example may hold some lessons for us.

After the ghastly attack on 9/11, America has not been hit again by such an outrage. We should ask a simple question: what does it take to scare people in the same way? To depend on the spirit of a city to lift itself from the debris of terror is to ask for far too much from anyone.

And, frankly, it's another way to say: deal with your tragedy.




For all that it is — the raw, dried seeds of a fruit growing in mountainous areas in the tropics — coffee has had a remarkable physical and social progression. It moved beyond its place of origin, turning itself into a drink of choice with mythical enervating powers, gradually becoming the fulcrum around which society could live out its little tragedies and comedies.

The coffee house was its most ingenious vehicle, reputed to be first established in Istanbul in the 16th century, but which eventually found its way to every part of the world. As a place of chatter, propaganda and gossip, it was nonpareil — something that visitors to Delhi's Indian Coffee House, about to shut down after 42 years, will surely attest to.

Not that coffee houses — or their modern, glitzy avatars — are a dying breed. More than before, they are organised, often as part of international chains like Starbucks or Costa, where the roasting and brewing that goes into the beverage is only a bit player in the larger cast that includes ambience and entertainment.

But if coffee hastened the peddling of news among traders in 18th century Britain, if it stimulated the grey cells of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir while they pored over their cuppa in Paris's Les Deux Magots (or even Satyajit Ray and Co. as they argued in Calcutta's College Street coffee house), the contemporary versions, well, just sell coffee.

The way we communicate, too, have changed. A peep inside any coffee parlour of the day will reveal less animated discussion over coffee, and more people hooked to their laptops and smart phones, the conversation having shifted to the absent reality from the present one.

But to the end that connections are still being established, today's café remains as relevant as yesterday's coffee house — a refuge for the body, and a trigger for the mind.






After the triple explosions in Mumbai on Wednesday, home minister P Chidambaram said that the architects of the blasts used ammonium nitrate and local timers in the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). This combination is not new: European terrorist groups and terrorists in the Oklahoma City bombing had used it.

Ammonium nitrate is widely used as a fertiliser and the fuel oil (Anfo) could either be diesel, kerosene or molasses. Anfo is widely used in mining, quarrying and civil construction. It is, therefore, impossible to control the sale of Anfo or keep an eye on the purchasers.

It is difficult for the security agencies to detect the manufacturing of IEDs since the components — explosives, detonators, trigger circuits, power supplies, timers — are easily available in the market and have other legitimate uses.

The power supply to such bombs comes from batteries and the trigger circuits are usually cellular and cordless phones, transistor radios, remote control toys etc. For building timers, terrorists use electronic circuits like quartz circuit watches.

The electrical ends of a receiver circuit (like a cellphone) are placed inside plastic explosive or the detonating cap and the terrorist, who may be several kilometres away from the site, can push a button on a transmitter circuit (cellphone) to send the signal to a receiving device. The receiver circuit then produces an electric current to detonate the explosive.

Even other plastic explosives such as RDX (Research Department eXplosive, chemically cyclo-tri-methylene-tri-nitro-amine), PETN (Penta-erythritol Tetra-nitrate), Semtex (a mixture of RDX and PETN) can be made easily. RDX is manufactured by fusing concentrated nitric acid (available in any school laboratory) with hexamine, which is widely used as a medicine as well as an industrial chemical.

Purchasing large quantities of hexamine would not arouse any suspicion since it is used as an antibiotic for treating urinary tract infections and in brake and clutch linings. PETN, which is a very powerful explosive, is even more easily available since it is used as a heart medicine.

Plastic explosives are almost impossible to detect; even metal detectors cannot do the job. If an expert makes them, they will be odourless and can be moulded into any shape. Even if they are made in a makeshift laboratory, they will smell like vegetable or fruits. Even trained sniffer dogs find it difficult to differentiate them from food products.

Only very expensive tests (Neutron Activation Analysis, Gamma Ray Irradiation, Laser Spectroscopy) can detect such chemicals. But they also require an expert to go very close to the suspected explosive. These expensive detectors can at best be used at entrances of airports or VIP security zones.

It is also difficult to prevent IEDs from exploding. Most VIP zones and motor convoys are protected against Remote Control IEDs (RCIEDs) by electromagnetic jammers that emit high power radio waves. If radiowave power is higher than the signals transmitted by the terrorist, they will jam or prematurely detonate the IED.

But if a terrorist brings an RCIED within the range of a jammer, the RCIED could explode. While the VIPs would be saved, there could be many civilian casualties. Also, since the best jammers work between 20 Hertz to 2,000 MegaHertz, they would interfere with cellular phones, TV and radio signals.

The political blame-game being played over the Mumbai blasts are misplaced since it is impossible for even the best intelligence agencies to detect and prevent such terror attacks. In an asymmetric warfare, the advantage lies overwhelmingly with the attackers.

It would require thousands of security personnel to be on high alert round the clock to prevent one single terror attack. Out of a thousand attempts, a terrorist needs to succeed just once; in contrast, the security agencies need to succeed every single time.

(Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad heads a group on Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting in South Asia. The views expressed by the author are personal)





If politics were to mirror celluloid, then clearly our netas seem out of step. A fortnight ago, two Hindi films were released: Buddha Hoga Tera Baap and Delhi Belly. The first had the legendary Amitabh Bachchan trying to recreate the magic of the 1970s, the second was a multiplex movie with young actors designed for the MTV generation.

Trade figures suggest that Delhi Belly in its first week grossed twice as much as the Amitabh starrer. The main reason seems to be the demographic dividend: for a country where 60% of the population was born after the original Amitabh hit Zanjeer, Delhi Belly with its irreverent, almost blasphemous humour, has struck a chord with young India. Crude and crass it may be, but 'DK Bose'  is clearly the flavour of the season.

By contrast, the Cabinet reshuffle (or political kho-kho as suggested by former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh) that took place this week appeared to embody an older India. The average age of the Cabinet ministers after the reshuffle is 65 years while 60 is the average of UPA 2's Council of Ministers.

While 14 Cabinet ministers, including the PM, are in their 70s, just one — Kumari Selja — is in her 40s. A majority were born before India got independence in 1947. The average age of the ministers of state — normally considered a nursery for 'young' politicians — is a rather 'seniorish' 54 years.

Of the three ministers of state (MoS) under 35, all of them — Sachin Pilot, Agatha Sangma and Milind Deora — are the dutiful children of influential politicians. It would be fair to assume that had they not been blessed with a political surname, their chances of being made ministers would be dim.

In any case, being a MoS in an elephantine Cabinet is more ceremonial than substantive. All this in an era where a 45-year-old David Cameron is shaping the face of Britain, while a 50-year-old Barack Obama is poised for re-election in the US.

The easy option would be to blame the ancien regime in Indian politics for the predicament. After all, it is the old guard in politics that zealously guards the principle of seniority, partly because of tradition, but also at times out of necessity. The value of grey hair cannot be devalued in government: politics is not a game of cricket where matches can be won and lost by young legs.

Wisdom is a rare quality that can only be enhanced with the passage of  time. Mastering the working of government requires administrative experience that can't be learnt in a B school alone.

Give me a 76-year-old tried-and-tested Pranab Mukherjee as finance minister any day compared to a foreign educated 40-something politician who may have the right vocabulary but cannot deal with the complexity of governance.

Unfortunately, the so-called 'young guns' of Indian politics have done themselves few favours by remaining prisoners of  their lineage but offering little else by way of fresh ideas. A number of them are democratic dynasts, sons and daughters of politicians who see electoral politics as an extension of their family fiefdom.

Blessed with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, we rarely see them speak out in Parliament, take up socially relevant issues or give us a sense of what they stand for.

If our young MPs claim to represent young India, then why don't we see them take up issues that directly impinge on generation next: jobs, education, corruption, environment, morality, Aids, even gay rights?

When the judgement on Article 377 was delivered in the Delhi High Court, we didn't hear a squeak from our younger MPs, almost suggesting an inner social conservatism that didn't quite match their outward 'liberal' appearance.

When the lokpal anti-corruption campaign gathered momentum this summer, we again didn't hear from our young MPs, reinforcing a reluctance to publicly commit to a clearcut stand on a contentious issue.

It wasn't always like this. The Nav Nirman agitation in the 1970s that eventually sparked off the anti-Emergency movement began on university campuses. Student activists then were unafraid of taking on the establishment and raising the concerns of the young. Many of them went to jail fighting State power. 

Today, the youth outfits of political parties are like glorified event managers: the BJP Yuva Morcha organised a high-profile Tiranga Yatra that had little to do with youth concerns while the Congress's National Students' Union of India seems happy enough to parade Rahul Gandhi at well-choreographed interactions in college auditoria. Where is the cut and thrust of new ideas that should shape the mind of a new India?

But all hope is not lost. At a recent Young Indian leaders conclave, the Congress's 40-year-old minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia delivered an impressive speech on the need for preserving the idealism of the youth. At the same function, one met some remarkable young men and women who have become true change agents.

Take 32-year-old E Sarathbabu from Chennai.

Growing up in a slum colony, he worked his way to the Indian Institute of Management and then started a successful idli business that today employs several hundred people. He contested the Tamil Nadu elections, lost, but intends to fight again. The day the Sarathbabus are able to break open a closed and ageing political system, India will be a better place.

Post-script: Rahul Gandhi still stays away from joining the government. We are told that he feels he is not ready yet. When a youth icon doesn't want to take up a ministerial responsibility at the age of 41, is it any surprise that we have one of  the oldest Cabinets in the world?

(Rajdeep Sardesai is editor-in-chief, IBN 18 Network. The views expressed by the author are personal)



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

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

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

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






Trauma has revisited Mumbai, as three bombs tore through crowded parts of the city. What happened afterwards was familiar, as the city, under the glare of national attention, picked itself up immediately and citizens tried their best to cope and be of assistance. Mumbai is a city that always manages. Distanced from the devastation, one can only express compassion and solidarity for this city that so often has been the site for both terrible violence and the victim of administrative abdication.

The dignity with which Mumbaikars offered assistance in the aftermath of the blasts put in sharp profile the administrative failures that have dashed the city's promise. It is not Mumbai's fabled openness that makes it vulnerable, but the way it has been systematically let down by the state, by those who are supposed to protect it and facilitate its functioning. The 26/11 attack revealed the lack of cohesion in Mumbai's police — and that situation has only been exacerbated by many layers of authority in the city and state police, several security and intelligence nodes that compete rather than cooperate with each other. And this is a reflection of Mumbai's official culture — the gravy-train municipal arena is fought over by the Shiv Sena and the Congress-led coalition, but the city is more dilapidated than ever, and increasingly unequal to the task of hosting the dreams and aspirations of its residents. These fissures can be observed at every level, right up to the highest levels of state government. The home ministry has been handed back to the NCP's R.R. Patil, after he was removed following 26/11. It is, of course, difficult to identify one particular factor that may have allowed this attack to happen — but there is no escaping the larger political reality of a city that has been abandoned, that has no easy way of wresting accountability from its administration.

Mumbai has been thoroughly bypassed by politics — the city's real concerns do not factor into the state or national electoral calculus. The levels of sleaze, corruption and state collusion are legend. Instead of the real crises in employment, infrastructure, housing and other fronts, the only issues that resound clearly in Mumbai's politics are emotive questions of identity. No political formation has spelt out a liberal alternative to the Sena-led politics of grievance, because the current dynamics suit them fine, and save them the bother of improving governance. That Mumbai holds together in this administrative void is the real marvel.






Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo", the phrase whence it all began, is Latin-sounding gibberish. So in its very origins, the "hoax" was, by definition and default, false. But it has an etymology. Hoax traces itself back to the verb "hocus", meaning to trick, cheat, deceive, impose upon, even "befuddle" with "drugged liquor". Now, it's not a hoax if it lacks the intent to deceive. In other words, a deliberate falsification is essential. A rumour, or legend, passed on in good faith is not a hoax. So whoever changed (falsified) the date of birth of Ajmal Kasab on Wikipedia, was perpetrating a hoax. The significance, or lack thereof, of real or false birthdays of Kasab is another matter, but this hoax was in poor taste — malicious, and after Wednesday's tragedy, even menacing.

Information technology and the Internet caused a paradigmatic shift in the commonest form and forum of hoaxes. Therefore, Kasab could languish in police custody and be oblivious to the Internet war, and the fooling of reputed media outfits, sparked off by somebody changing his supposed DoB to July 13. Who did it is a question we would, certainly now, like to know, if it's at all possible to know. But of greater import was the possibility of an untoward fallout of the mischief. That, luckily, was denied the mischief-maker(s).

But the matter resurrects another problem we may be still less comfortable confronting. Much as we celebrate, and sincerely, the advent of crowd-sourcing of content (or citizen journalism), this hoax has been an instance of how dangerous or improper some results of that necessary democratisation can sometimes be. Wikipedia itself had tidied up and tightened its mass-editing mess. But privileges once given are hard to withdraw, or limit. Nor is it desirable. The challenge is to keep it that way, and yet avoid July 13s.






The National Advisory Council's draft of a food security bill has been deeply contested for the manner in which it seeks to deliver foodgrain to beneficiaries, and indeed on how the beneficiaries are to be identified. However, a key provision of the draft legislation, which has been cleared by a group of ministers, bears unequivocal endorsement. The ration card issued to beneficiary households will be in the name of an adult woman. To force the point, the bill stipulates that in case there is no female member of a household above the age of 18, an adult male will be designated as head of the household - but upon a female member attaining turning 18, she will replace her male relative.

The council says the intervention is based on the belief that the woman is "the natural custodian of food and nutritional security in the family". It is also dovetailed by other "pro-women" features in the bill, like prioritising licensing and management of fair price shops to women. Existing schemes aimed at nutritional security, such as mid-day meal schools, too are based on the assumption that the woman of the household is best entrusted with overseeing her family's interests.

But it would be unambitious to miss the larger potential of such a familial restructuring on official documents. As the falling child sex ratio has shown, women's empowerment has not been an automatic fallout of rising literacy and material success. Indeed, studies show abortion of female foetuses — as ready an index as can be had on the status of women — to be higher among women relatively well-placed along these socio-economic parameters. On its own, a ration card may not change anything. But if supported by other measures, symbolic and substantive and encompassing more than what is traditionally perceived to be the woman's domain, to demonstrate that at least for the state a woman's standing is equal to that of a man, it could be a valuable instrument in empowering women. To this end, inheritance rights are vital.








That there is little governance in Mumbai is quite an understatement. In reality, there is no governance. A huge, ever expanding mass of humanity, cramped in a tiny, narrow expanse of land makes it a low-cost, high-impact model for terrorist groups. It is no coincidence that terrorists continue to strike this megalopolis almost at will. Time and again, it has been proved that cities with dilapidated infrastructure and poor civic mechanisms suffer more during such attacks. And so the common, hapless Mumbaikar is seen to be a low-risk target for even amateur terror outfits.

The root cause of all of Mumbai's ills is its uncontrolled growth and the city's ability to attract the poor from all corners of the country, despite all its odds. The city, in every aspect of life, has problems of plenty. At present, it houses more than two crore people of which more than a third, around 85 lakh, live along roads, railway tracks, etc. They have no homes. Every day, Mumbai witnesses some 65 lakh people crisscrossing the city suffocatingly crammed into local trains in order to make their living. A little over than half of these use city buses every day. It is like a small-size European nation moving from this end to that end every day. A lot has been written, talked about Mumbai's never-say-die spirit. The much-hyped Mumbai Spirit is nothing but the city's helplessness that it is being forced to be always on the move. The poor Mumbaikar has no choice but to keep moving. Else, he faces the danger of being left behind by the world speedily moving around him.

The city, which has an annual budget bigger than more than half-a-dozen Indian states and that houses double the number of people than do some European nations, has been politically orphaned for quite some time. Political establishments of all hues milked Mumbai to the hilt. At present, there are 19 agencies that run the city. For example, for the relatively routine job of maintaining roads, the city is divided among four agencies. It has that faceless, inherently corrupt government department called the PWD. Then there is the MSRDC, a loss-making state-owned corporation created to build and maintain roads. Add to it the MMRDA, a city planning authority, along with the local municipal body.

The same goes for the machinery expected to handle law and order. The state has a director general of police who cannot call the shots in its state capital, Mumbai. Because there is another body called the Mumbai Police whose chief competes with the state police chief for supremacy. Even within the Mumbai Police, the chief of its intelligence wing has been accorded near equal status to that of the Mumbai police commissioner. As a result, he usually does not like to report to the city police chief. Not to mention newer agencies such as the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Force One, Quick Response Team, etc. Remember how too many cooks spoil the broth?

As far as planning is concerned, the city has its own local self-government, the BMC. For the last two decades, it has been controlled by the Shiv Sena, which propagates its sons-of-the-soil prescription. Since the Congress has successively failed to capture the cash-rich BMC, it created another body called the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, or MMRDA. It is controlled by the state government where the Congress has had an uninterrupted reign. Through the MMRDA the Congress gained access to the city's resources and tried to have its finger in the pie.

At the state level, Maharashtra has two parallel governments. One led by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and the other by NCP chief Sharad Pawar's nephew, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar. As per the alliance arrangement, the crucial home and finance ministries are with the NCP which has a one-point agenda: to unseat the Congress wherever possible. In this game of one-upmanship, any politician doing anything good for Mumbai faces the danger of being painted anti-poor in his home constituency by the rival. For many, to be called pro-Mumbai is shorthand for being anti-poor. The irony is that almost all important politicians have homes and families in Mumbai, their kids make best of the city's opportunities but none dares to take steps to improve its infrastructure. This dichotomy results in Mumbai having ministers with a rural mindset who are ill-equipped to tackle modern, metropolitan sensibilities. As a result, state Home Minister R.R. Patil, who belongs to Satara in the rural heartland, ends up acting as a moral cop.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Mumbai has the Shiv Sena, the BJP and that new kid on the block, the MNS. The Sena, though it espouses Marathi causes, hasn't grown much politically. It continues to handle the issues affecting the city in a manner that smacks of extortion. Its offshoot, the Raj Thackeray-led MNS, has yet to prove that it can do any good than beating helpless pani-puri vendors on the street. Senior member of the saffron camp, the BJP, have willingly allowed the Sena to appropriate its political space and, as such, the party has reduced itself to a level of insignificance in the city.

The common Mumbaikar sees one universal factor binding these different political forces. That all are a part of the contractor-driven economy. More than the needs of the people, the Mumbai economy serves an all-pervasive entity called the contractor. This class, that has strong bonds with politicians, has large stakes in the city and can go to any extent to safeguard them. With a large swathe of the poor around, there is no dearth of lumpens who can be groomed for criminal activities. Although Mumbai prides itself in its service sector, the politician-contractor nexus has failed to create a hospitable climate for the service industry. A sizeable number of small-scale industries in Mumbai have downed their shutters over the years because of the poor work culture and absenteeism and a distorted idea of unionism.

Mumbai has grown into an unmanageable beast. The dinosaur and mammoth faced extinction not because there was nothing left to feed them, but because of their unwieldiness. The same may hold true for Mumbai.

The writer is executive editor of 'Loksatta',







How do you feel?" asked the voice on the phone. Feel? Who wants to feel any more? Instead, I want to occupy myself with the constant hum. Steady rain, fluctuating anger and hopelessness. Stomach-churning weariness. White noise. Déjà vu. Same old routine, on replay. TV anchors cackle shrilly. Man on the street makes anti-Kasab anti-Pakistan anti-government statements. The spirit of the city is invoked. The common man is praised for dealing with body parts and mangled steel efficiently. A list of names, dead, in hospitals. A list of numbers to call. Human interest angles, to be returned to, but for now: "How did you feel?" a reporter asks an old, bearded, dazed gentleman, while urging him to turn his back to the camera so it captures the blood stain.

Anna Hazare, athletes doping, Adarsh scam, Kalka Mail. All forgotten. Twitter has a new trending topic with 40 new tweets every second. Online maps are made. Apps modified. Numbers exchanged. Help offered and taken. The cell phone continues to buzz. "No, we're okay, really, thanks for calling," is repeated to every fresh call, from Australia, America, Patiala. Let's talk about it. In the streets, on the train, in the office. Collective catharsis needs to be achieved. P. Chidambaram is calling a press conference. PM will be here any minute. Things are under control this time.

Meanwhile, a small box on an inside page: three more minors raped in UP. What is this emotion? Can it be extricated and examined in a forensic lab? This impetus that causes violence to be plotted and executed against another human being? The recent blasts are faithfully plotted on a timeline next to other bomb blasts. 1993. 2003. 2006. Etc. How do we classify other acts of violence that are committed in this nation, every day? What dates do they sit next to? Who sends out Facebook petitions for their perpetrators to be hung? How do they make us feel?

There are multiple narratives of India. In one, India is a country that is almost a global power. Its financial markets boom, it has rich people who build high towers, its educated workers buzz with energy, and while misery exists, economic progress is bound to ensure a better life for millions, soon enough. Bombay is the crucible for this narrative. The maximumest city of dreams — come here, and make your own destiny.

It is a flawed narrative. We residents know this, each time we encounter a builder, a politician, a policeman, a criminal, or worse of all, each other. Each time we become or are at the receiving end of pothole-filled road rage, each time we hang out from the overworked trains, and manage to avoid death, each time we look out of our windows and see the vast expanse of a garbage dump, or each time we read about a J. Dey killed and then forget about it, we are reminded that this is a harsh and cruel city. It is not a melting pot but a cauldron of ferocity, fuelled not by ambition and the brotherhood of citizenry, but by cruelty, hatred and exploitation.

Why then do we feign outrage when bombs rip through our innards? Is it because we like our middle-class fantasies — rather, we need these fantasies — and each bomb blast is a loud reminder that there are other narratives too? Narratives of conflict and inequality. Narratives that question other narratives. Narratives within which, a crowd of innocents, in a city's throbbing heart, must lose their lives on a rainy Wednesday evening, as collateral damage.

What remains? Pointlessness. Emptiness. A failed attempt at meaning-making. Breaking up is really hard, whether with a person, or with a city. So, finger gets entwined in finger. Stomach pushes against hipbone. Somewhere in this narrative, body parts are strewn across a slick bloodstained floor. But others continue to function. Limb is still attached to limb. It needs to be caressed. Touched. Loved. There is a kitchen that is crying for the aroma of ghee. There are vegetables that need to be cut, and served for tomorrow's lunch. There is a maid that needs to be bantered with. The trashman didn't come.

No one likes loud reminders. But I fear the silence that follows even more. Silence is scary, it forces you to reflect, to look inwards. It must be filled up with white noise.

Parmesh Shahani, head of India Culture Lab, is the author of 'Gay Bombay'.






Oh no, not again! This was my reaction when I switched on a TV news channel in Mumbai a little after 7 pm. As I watched hysterical reports on the carnage on television, my thoughts turned to the 7/11, 2006 train blasts and the 26/11, 2008 terrorist attacks, when I also happened to be in the city. Friends called, and posted messages on Facebook, asking why Mumbai? Why has the city been subjected to repeated attacks — 1993, 2003, 2006, 2008, and now in 2011? Why indeed?

Political leaders appeared on television, declaring that the city was a target because it was India's financial hub. To say that the attack is on the economic heart of the country, however, is to mobilise nationalist sympathy for Mumbai. It is to ask the citizens to stand together with the state's security forces to defend the city as vital to India as a nation. In a way, this is understandable. In moments like this, state leaders are apt to summon broad nationalist sentiment and seek support for its security forces.

Yes, Mumbai is India's financial capital, but is that the only or the primary reason that it has suffered repeated attacks? Far more important, in my view, is what the city represents as society. Of all Indian cities, Mumbai is the most radical social experiment. Nearly a century ago, Dinshaw Wacha, a prominent Parsi writer and political leader, lamented that the city lacked historical depth. Its architecture did not embody rich and long traditions, and its society was run over by upstarts. Everything was new and plastic. But what the city lacked by way of deep tradition, it made up for by gathering communities from elsewhere. People from other parts of India and beyond washed up on the Island City — Hindus, Muslim, Christians, Jews, and Jains; and Europeans, Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, Tamilians, and North Indians. To be sure, the city's vaunted cosmopolitan society was built by colonialism and brutal capitalist exploitation of immigrant mill workers. But there is no denying that what made Mumbai dynamic, what turned it into an economic powerhouse was its mix of religions and languages, of castes and classes, of Bombay and Mumbai. The city did not abandon the promise of a modern, cosmopolitan society even after the bitter blow of Partition. This is evident in the Hindi films of the 1950s. Powerfully registered there is the promise — and the failings — of a city of openness and opportunity.

It is this city that is under assault. But the attack began much before the recent spate of terrorist strikes. It began with the rise of the Shiv Sena as a nativist and Hindu nationalist political party in the late 1960s. The Sena campaign against south Indians, communists, and Muslims as "outsiders" struck at the heart Mumbai's fabled life as a city that welcomed people speaking all languages, practicing all creeds, and following all ideologies. The Hindu-Muslim riots of 1992-93, followed by the bomb blasts of 1993 left its image of cosmopolitanism as charred as the buildings and vehicles damaged by explosions.

When the city's name was officially changed from Bombay to Mumbai in 1995, many concluded that this encapsulated the demise of the city that had once signified openness to all. Of course, Bombay was always also Mumbai, the name that Marathi and Gujarati speakers used for the city. And now, while Mumbai has the official stamp of approval, Bombay endures in everyday conversations by both high and low, by anglicised elites and non-English-speaking taxi drivers. No matter how hard the attempt to impose a singular identity on it, the city always resists. When the Sena youth wing demanded the withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey from the university curriculum in 2010 on the grounds that the novel hurt Marathi sentiments, the authorities meekly succumbed. But the people protested vociferously.

Without harking back to the nostalgic ideal of the old cosmopolitan Bombay, these protests spoke insistently for the contemporary city's irrepressible pluralism, for the everyday cohabitation of religious and cultural difference. This is the city, besieged by nativists and terrorists but striving to cope with the challenges of urban life, that is once again under attack. For, what else do these terrorist attacks seek but to inflame a bloody clash between communities, to destroy the city itself as a form of society? What the terrorists hate the most is any suggestion that communities can live with and negotiate their differences.

Mumbai is a repeated target because it continues to represent the ethic of a negotiated life of religious and cultural difference. It is this city that we should defend.

The writer teaches history at Princeton University and is the author of 'Mumbai Fables'







I was passing by Opera House about an hour after the blast at Diamond Market. In about 15 minutes, three bomb explosions had ripped through Mumbai. Yet, there was no extreme panic at Opera House on Wednesday evening. People were not in a state of shock for long. There was no heightened sense of anger. Rather than wild hysteria, there was a strange sense of order, as the immediate neighbourhood came together to help the injured and rush them to hospitals.

Mumbai has suffered time and again, there have been blasts after blasts. Is that the reason why Mumbaikars have somehow got immune to panic even in the aftermath of an explosion? Is that why people here don't get scared so easily like they do elsewhere? Are people here indeed getting accustomed to such a thing happening in the city? If so, that is a dangerous thing. For this should not be a norm for any city. That is why, even as an orderly Mumbai took care of itself and of the danger in its midst, I worried about the sense of casualness that has crept into the system.

People have started to feel that the state does not have any control over what is happening in Mumbai. Power is eroding — and so is the people's regard for the powers that be. Mumbaikars know that they are left to their own devices — this is true about the man on the streets and as well as the very affluent. People don't seem to have faith and respect for the guardians of law and those who administer it.

After 26/11, the government went into a high-alert, emergency mode, Mumbai got the NSG hub that it was promised, but that has not stopped a July 13 from happening. Zaveri Bazaar has had three bomb blasts in the past two decades, it is almost as if it is a favourite spot for terrorists, but why are the basic security measures not in place there?

Mumbai has its different reactions. When Opera House was in damage-control mode, across the road in Chowpatty, the restaurants were full and busy. The Fort Area, where Zaveri Bazaar is located, was not in a spot of bother either. The city went on functioning. The city has become more resilient, you realise. But you also wonder: at what cost has this happened?

For Mumbai to possess this sense of restraint even when it is under attack, this feeling of "So what's new about this?", it has had to go through a cycle of violence and in the end be possessed by this feeling of being orphaned by the state.

But there is another side to this evolving sense of restraint. The good thing is that a blast does not see Mumbaikars rushing to their neighbours — in rage, to kill them. That restraint has helped to contain the damage; for the damage is never just physical, but of the mind as well.

(As told to Charmy Harikrishnan)

Shyam Benegal is a film-maker and Rajya Sabha MP







So it's time once again to hail the spirit of Mumbai. A city riddled with blasts and bullets three times over in five years. And with each ordeal it suffers, there is someone wagging the dog towards that most honourable act, holding Mumbai's spirit high. Glory be to Mumbaikars!

The city is burning, but Mumbaikars will have no option but to step out for their daily bread. While some may proudly come forward to claim responsibility, some will express shock. Some will be scampering around to blame the government, while some will find the story for the next blockbuster. A good day for many. A bad day for cops. A fruitful day for the troublemakers. Just another day for the Mumbaikar.

And who is to blame? The convenient "aatankvadi". It's easy, isn't it? Any law and order lapse is aatankvad. Any lack of civil order is aatankvad. Aatankvad is the easy way out, it conveniently deflects blame away from the lack of law and order. Of any possible nexus between the terror creators and the corrupt in the system.

How can such an important nerve centre of the country be so callously dealt with? Mumbai is such a tempting and easy target, and sometimes the solution to this mayhem would lie in simple solutions. These may not be the best but it would be a start, and a whole lot more than what's being done today. Here are five reasons why Mumbai will always be a sitting duck for such attacks :

Easy 1: Crowded streets are easy targets. No point attacking empty roads. Can we do something about this? Yes — control pedestrian movement. Ensure that it is not haphazard and people running around and crossing streets, as and how they please. The footpaths are almost never used. People believe it's their birthright to walk on the roads. Controlling crowd movement will minimise damage to life.

Easy 2: There is garbage thrown everywhere. Bags and leftover food strewn around, people chucking rubbish out on the streets. When a whole city is treated like a trash can, it's hard to be suspicious about any package, unlike in the West where any odd package stands out like a sore thumb. There must be strict penalties for littering. Garbage cans must be placed away from traffic areas such as train stations and bus stops. But this one is perhaps the toughest. But it's time that the toughest steps are taken. In some of the best terror fighting countries of the world, 80 per cent of terror attacks are thwarted due to civilian vigilance.

Easy 3: This is one city in all my travels where I see a total disregard for traffic rules. The rule-breaker and rule-maker are equally responsible, as both turn a blind eye. Many of the attacks involve vehicles randomly parked and typically also breaking signals, speeding, etc. And there are too many doing this to be able to single out the suspicious ones. We need strict enforcement of traffic rules.

Easy 4: Have a super-efficient response system that can instantly move into the situation. The entire ecosystem of terrorism response management has been developed to the finest sophistication and accuracy by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Over the past 50 years, the Israeli government has introduced several measures to prevent terrorist attacks or mitigate their effects. Those that inflict terror seem to always find new ways to subject others to pain and destruction. Indian security seems to be continuously battling it with outdated means and total lack of anticipation. It reads like a joke that after the attacks are inflicted, a high alert is issued in all major cities.

We seem to be happy designing post-attack counter measures while they find a totally novel way to cause unexpected destruction, again... and again... and again. The element of surprise is what keeps them ahead in this battle. And the lack of foresight takes us several steps back each time. If we are incapable of developing such a system, maybe we should seek help from those who have mastered it. We cannot remain defenceless anymore.

And finally, the not-so-Easy 5: Our own internal battles of corruption and hidden agendas. J. Dey's death is termed an attack due to professional reasons while the blasts were terrorism. How different are the two? The signal sent out is the same. Public life is in constant jeopardy. Mumbai, once the safest city in India, is today one of the most unsafe. How is it that crime has resurfaced to such open and blatant levels in full view of the protectors? Crime is lurking right behind each of us and we can do nothing about it because our system is weak, inefficient, incapable and unwilling.

From Bombay being the flagship city of India at one time to Mumbai today struggling to cope with the basics of existence, it is being pulled down rapidly. Why, by whom, to what end... I cannot tell. From a slogan change of "city of opportunities" to "city that never sleeps" and more recently, "the spirit of Mumbai", assigned by the self-proclaimed guardians of the city.

I have lived through three big civilian terror attacks here and several other communal clashes, no less damaging. And I can only imagine what Mumbaikars went through during the shattering floods. On each occasion, there were those Mumbaikars who stayed home watching the soap opera unfurl on TV. And then there were the Mumbaikars who headed straight off to work the next day. Salute the spirit of Mumbai! But little does the rest of India realise that this spirit is not because it is high but because it is at its low. Low because it worries for its tomorrow. Worries for its today.

Mumbai rocks. Yes. But mostly, between the acts of violence inflicted by political knives and the attacks on humanity, in the name of humanity. The spirit is struggling to survive, while the rest of India hails it. And the guardians of Mumbai conveniently adopt it to divert attention from the real crises that face the city. It's sometimes uncertain who is causing such acts in Mumbai. But it's always uncertain who runs Mumbai — the mother, the father, the son or the holy spirit of Mumbai. Amen.

The writer is CEO, 'Product of the Year', India, and has worked in advertising for more than 20 years







I was away from Mumbai this time. So all I did was make the selfish calls to check on loved ones and watch the same stuff on TV about six or seven times; then I proceeded to forget about it. Last time I was in Mumbai. The absurd drama stayed on the TV screens for several days. A friend who I had known for 40 years was cruelly shot dead in the Oberoi. This time I am resigned, apathetic and quite honestly bored.

We have had bombs in Mulund, in Ghatkopar, at the Gateway of India, on Dalal Street, in Nariman Point, in Worli, in Zaveri Bazaar, in Dadar, in the Opera House neighbourhood, on trains, in stations, hotels, restaurants, on the streets, inside taxis and cars, on motorcycles, on lamp-posts.

What are we supposed to do? Sometimes I think we should just leave Mumbai and move somewhere else. Cursing the police and intelligence agencies is something that comes normally to us. But now even this has become something that we do mechanically. What can these agencies do? Our city is so chaotic, so anarchic, so thickly populated, so completely open and vulnerable, such a tempting target — in short, we have all the ingredients that make "prevention" virtually impossible. The public response of our state actors has been better than before. We now have control rooms, official press briefings, some order in the way we hospitalise victims. Previously, every police officer, every army officer and every politician would have said crazy things and spoken out of turn. Every TV anchor would have revealed vital facts to all viewers, which include terrorists and their handlers. Speculation would have gone on forever.

So I guess we should feel just a tad better. The maniacs have struck again. But at least we haven't been bumbling, incoherent, childish and completely mindless for the whole world to witness our Indic incompetence. But that does not address the simple question: what exactly are we supposed to do? The powers that be advise us to "stay calm and peaceful" — of course we will — haven't we always been that way? In any case, what choice do we have?

I have a thought — a trifle crazy, but something we should not reject out of hand. Suppose we did not say "this is an attack on our sovereignty, on the financial capital of our country"; suppose we did not bother to give the incidents 24x7 TV coverage? Strangely enough, I believe that our adversaries may actually cool off. I am not sure we can take this approach to extremes — but if we let the terrorists know that not only are we not amused, quite frankly, we are bored. Admittedly, this response is easier if the death toll is zero or in a callous manner of speaking, it is less than twenty. If it goes to two hundred, we could not countenance such words. So these maniacs may get the impression that they need to kill at least two hundred to get our attention.

We need to find the right balance between not exaggerating the impact of their acts ("attack on sovereignty", for instance) and not feigning complete indifference, which might encourage them to increase the intensity of their attacks. Yet another way to counter them may be to let them know that these attacks do not have any effect on the activities of our financial capital. Market activities are carried on using networked computer terminals and the data is backed up in multiple places. Modern markets are not as vulnerable to bombs as these half-educated terror-mongers might think.

The creative tension that we, as residents of Mumbai (which by now must have been attacked as or more often than Belfast or Tel Aviv) have is to get the message across to our terrorist enemies that they are certainly killing folks, but they are not getting too far in achieving any of their larger objectives, assuming they have some. Only then will they reduce their efforts at targeting us. In this process, we need to be careful not to egg them on to more horrendous acts. This is not going to be easy. But the vastly improved public response of our state authorities (poor folks — I feel sorry for them — it's so easy to call them incompetent, but I really wonder if I could do a better job if I were a senior cop in Mumbai) gives me some hope that if we start the discourse among ourselves as to how we can position ourselves as a less tempting target, we might make progress. This may appear to be a coward's approach. I don't believe it is. It is a practical suggestion that we need to collectively apply our minds to. Killing of innocent civilians anywhere is shameful and sorrowful. But for now, I would be happy if it happened less often in Mumbai.

The writer is chairman of the Nasscom Foundation









In the past, our commercial capital has seen terrorist attacks on its railways, monuments, hotels, stock exchange and a synagogue—targets that are iconic, congested. As in the past, it's proving to be resilient this time too, with schools and workplaces reporting thick attendance the morning after the latest of the blasts to scar Mumbai's face, with trains crowded as before. The dream factory refuses to be defeated. From across the oceans, from another country that finds battling the people who "hate us" to be an ongoing, arduous labour, Barack Obama has sent his statement of support, saying that he saw first-hand the strength and resilience of the Indian people during his trip to Mumbai, and that he has no doubt the latest of the deplorable terrorist attacks will also be overcome. Yet there rises a doubt that resilience can be a synonym for apathy; calls for calm can couch the resignation of spirits, a dousing of hope that things can get better. Except, things have changed since 2008. This time around, there was a chief minister who responded to the situation in a timely, humane and decisive manner. Ditto for the Union home minister, who announced that there would be a briefing every two hours. The National Investigation Agency was created in the 26/11 aftermath and started its investigations immediately, while the National Security Guard had set up a Mumbai hub that went into rapid response mode. As P Chidambaram convincingly argued, when bombs are placed where the population density is mind-boggling, it obviously poses "inherent difficulties" for security agencies. But it is equally obvious that there have been definite improvements in our domestic security apparatus over the last couple of years, even if these cannot completely negate the challenges of living in the "most troubled neighbourhood in the world".

From people tweeting up blood banks to the police sending an SMS soon after the first explosions, social media and mobile technology proved as responsive as on 26/11. Bollywood celebrities also came through straight away, advising calm and communal harmony. There is no downside to such resilience. The home minister is right in saying the "target is India's unity, integrity and prosperity", and refusing to name villains till the evidence is in. The finance minister is also sending the right signals by proclaiming that "our economy and markets will rise above this incident and continue to show robust growth". The Sensex did end up higher than Wednesday on Thursday. The fight against terrorists has to be fought on many fronts, but there couldn't be a stronger shoutback than robust growth. It's not arms but reforms that will deliver this.





The WPI numbers, which show inflation has once again picked up to 9.44% in June, only highlight the stalemate the central bank has landed itself in. Despite persistent increases in policy rates for over a year since March 2010, the wholesale prices have remained above the 9% level for the last 7 consecutive months. Although food prices have come down by more than half to around 8%-plus over the recent months, they seem to have stabilised at that level for 2 consecutive months, despite the hope that the good monsoon in June will help push down food inflation. This is despite the fact that prices of cereals like rice and wheat, and of pulses have sharply decelerated or even declined in the recent months. In fact, numbers show that it is the prices of high value food products like fruits, milk and egg, fish and meat that are holding up food inflation rather than the staples, which point to a sharp shift in consumption patterns. In the case of manufactured goods, where inflation has crept up to 7.43% over the last three months, it is consumer goods like processed food, sugar, edible oil, and cotton and manmade textiles that are moving up faster than that of other basic and intermediate products and driving up price levels. In sharp contrast, the fall in investment demand has pushed down the prices of machinery, machine tools, and transport equipment and parts to less than 3%. Among other manufactured goods, prices are buoyant only in the case of metal products, bolstered mainly by the prices of iron and steel.

All these broadly indicate that inflationary pressures are driven by the supply-side factors, which remain constrained, and have failed to match the sharp increase in consumption spending in recent times. As the recent quinquennial survey by the NSSO for 2009-10 shows, the consumption levels have picked up in double digits, mainly on account of the record increase in incomes. This is no statistical error, as the numbers show that both wages and consumption have picked up across the board, including in the rural sector, despite the fact that the rural economy was to have been impacted by drought in that fiscal year. So, any inflation strategy that focuses on monetary tightening without taking substantial measures to remove the supply constraints is unlikely to roll back inflation. The stickiness of the wholesale prices for almost 7 months once again validates the idea that the undue preoccupation with monetary tightening will only hit growth without bringing any relief on the price front.






I know this is a bit insensitive", a well-known anchor of a leading business news channel asked a Mumbai-based industrialist less than an hour after the blasts on Wednesday, "but will this have an impact on growth?" The industrialist was a bit upset about the timing of the question, and indicated as much before talking about how the much-vaunted 'spirit' of Mumbai would ensure that commerce would prevail.

The anchor should have spoken to Arthur de Montalembert, the head of the Indian operations of French nuclear reactor giant Areva. Arthur and his wife spent the evening of November 26, 2008, outside the Taj Mahal hotel. Not as curious bystanders, but as concerned parents. Their daughter was trapped in the hotel, so based on the gunfire they could hear and the explosions/fire they could see, the two guided her on where she should run from, on where she should go so that the firemen could rescue her. Once their daughter was rescued, along with another colleague's wife who was also trapped in the hotel, Montalembert put it behind him and went back to what he did best: negotiate with the Indian government to sell nuclear power plants.

So it's not just the spirit of the Mumbaikars, it's true of many others. Indeed, as the clutch of data put out by some newspapers, including FE, on Thursday showed, the Sensex has bounced back after most terrorist attacks. Look at the data on investment, whether Indian or foreign, or on economic growth, and the story is the same one of resilience.

Nor, by the way, is that true only of India. On our oped page today, we have a summary of several academic papers on the impact of terror attacks on various aspects of economic growth and the result is by and large the same: terror attacks can't stop a nation. One study ( on the impact of terror in 51 African countries from 1970-2007 found that while terrorism raised the cost of doing business including higher insurance premia, "a country with a population of 50 million would have to experience 50 transnational terrorist incidents in a given year to have its income per capita growth rate decline by 1%."

Another study, by a Harvard professor ( twe.pdf) uses a different set of data and finds that "on average, a standard deviation increase in the terrorist risk is associated with a fall in the net foreign direct investment position of about 5 percent of GDP"—it defines a one standard deviation as roughly the difference in terrorist risk between Italy and the US (the latter being more risky). So, the impact is higher in countries that have a high share of foreign investment (which clearly isn't the case for India). Other studies found that, for instance, the September 11 attack resulted in a loss of 0.3% of US GDP. The authors find a larger impact when terrorism is sustained over long periods of time, a point made by another study ( as well. "Empirical data suggests," the study says, "that single terrorist attacks affect a macro economy in the direct aftermath only. The effects thus remain short-lived and stand in contrast to the impact of campaign terrorism which—in the case of consistent and longer periods of terrorism—can affect GDP growth by up to 10% in approximately 20 years".

The larger point, from the point of the human impact, is the adequacy of government response—is the government doing enough to prevent terrorist activity, and questions like that. While the smart response from the Union home ministry (the quick sending of NSG teams and forensic experts as well as the decision to have a two-hourly bulletin) as well as the Maharashtra government earned a lot of goodwill, the obvious questions about intelligence failure have come up. Most attribute this to not having enough feet on the street, and certainly the broad numbers suggest this to be true, not just of the police, but of judges as well—indeed, look at any parameter you can think of, doctors or nurses, and the result is the same. When he was an Express columnist, P Chidambaram cited World Bank figures to say that while the average Asian country has 2.6 civil servants per 100 people (the OECD average is 7.7), the figure for India is just 1.4. As many as 93% of government employees, Chidambaram wrote, are support staff, "they fetch and carry for the Class I and Class II officers".

In the case of the police, India has about 134 policemen per lakh population—the OECD average is around 400. Once you factor in the vastly superior technology available to these forces, their levels of education, as well as the vastly lower population densities they have to deal with, the comparison becomes even more unfavourable. Indeed, as data from for the Bureau of Police Research and Development ( shows, things have got worse over the years. While this ratio was 145 in 1998, it fell to 134 in 2008, the latest year for which data is available. Each policeman is supposed to service an area of 1.54 sq km, but thanks to a huge number of posts being vacant, this number is more like 2.04 sq km. A little caveat is in order here: the numbers for Mumbai and Delhi are around the OECD average of 400 policemen per lakh population. Even if you take into account the lower levels of technology available, there's a clear problem that needs examining. Even between Delhi and Mumbai, Mumbai is terror-prone—does this have something to do with the stories of the links between the police and the underworld?

Once the immediate shock of the blasts is over, and it will be sooner than you think, these are the questions the government will need to tackle.





In the recent past, several macroeconomic themes—demography, technology adoption, shift in economic activities and relative growth of developing economies, etc—have driven the theory of a flat world. Under this theory, technology will become ubiquitous and economic growth will be driven by young demography, which will result in geography becoming history. The world is seen as a level-playing field where all competitors have an equal opportunity. This means that the geographical and historical divisions are becoming highly irrelevant and the best in the world succeeds. There emerged the theme of the world becoming a flat world.

While the concept of a flat world still has lot of relevance, it will be tested heavily in the volatile world we live in today. The global recession following the huge sub-prime crisis in the US structurally changed the world. The resulting uncertainty and volatility is going to take years to reverse and, in the interim, could create a world full of protectionism.

All the developed economies have a structural problem of high unemployment, low economic growth and high sovereign debt, coupled with high inflation and huge budget/trade deficits. What this means is that most of the developed economies will see slower growth for years to come as the government's focus shifts to reducing deficits and cutting social spending in the economy. The demography in those countries are also not in their favour and the governments, in their eagerness to reduce social spending, are increasing the retirement age, which, in turn, will crowd out employment opportunities for the young. The manufacturing industry, which is the biggest employment creator in any economy, has totally shifted to China with little capability left in those developed economies. Also, the large companies in the US are not necessarily large employment creators. The classic examples are companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The high unemployment in developed economies is, to some extent, structural in nature. The resulting uneasiness will put heavy pressure on the political system to erect barriers to protect local employment. We have already seen several countries tightening the immigration laws and increasing visa fees. This will make it difficult for free movement of labour, which is a pre-requisite for a flat world.

The high trade deficit also will result in artificial barriers being put to protect the home market. For example, when Europe had brought in the new carbon emission norms for the airline industry, China had cancelled its orders for buying new planes from Europe, in a tit-for-tat response. All these barriers will increase friction in global trade and will impact the free movement of goods, which is again a pre-requisite for a flat world.

The developing markets are seeing a huge inflow of capital as the growth is restricted in the developed markets. This is also putting enormous pressure on the currencies of developing markets. The developing markets are also actively increasing their interest rates to fight high inflation in their economies. While the developed markets were unable to raise interest rates to fight inflation due to anaemic growth in their home markets, the developing nations are aggressively increasing interest rates to fight inflation. This is a double whammy as more and more money is flowing into the developing nations in search of better yields. Brazil has already talked about a currency war and has taken steps to protect its currency. These kinds of distortions in the world economy between developed and developing nations will result in more restrictions on capital account and will impact the free flow of capital, which is again one of the pre-requisites for a flat world.

The developed markets are the biggest preachers of open markets and of equal access to everybody. They were the ones who were spearheading the whole globalisation process. But, when their own economies are in trouble and see a structural decline in the years to come, they will be in the forefront to erect trade barriers. This will create more friction in the world trade. So, the concept of the flat world will be tested in all three dimensions—free movement of labour, free movement of capital and free trade. The resulting uncertainty will question the basic premise of the concept of a flat world. If the uncertainty and volatility continues for long, we will see a more protective world, which will not be flat.

The author is CFO of Infosys






Believe it or not, in the hours since the murderous terrorist bombings in Mumbai, the ruling dispensation has been busy congratulating itself on the robustness of its counter-terrorism policies. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi told journalists in Bhubaneswar that the United Progressive Alliance's police and intelligence reforms had succeeded in stopping "99 per cent of terrorist attacks" — a claim startling for its arithmetical precision as much as its empirical innocence. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram underlined the fact that there had been no terrorist strike on Mumbai since November 2008 — even though there is no evidence that policing deterred a single planned attack. He explained the absence of intelligence this time by noting that the perpetrators of this carnage had "worked in a very clandestine manner." Responses like this are of a piece with a longstanding official tradition: after each tragedy, cities are promised that gaps in policing will be filled, and lavishly praised for their spirit of resilience. The same resilience marks the lives of peoples in Karachi or Beirut, surely not models we should emulate.

The unpleasant truth is that the much-vaunted police modernisation effort the government began after 26/11 has just not delivered. Not one of the five urban terrorist attacks that preceded the latest Mumbai bombings has been solved. India's intelligence services believe all these attacks are linked — and probably carried out by different modules of the Indian Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Taiba-affiliated group responsible for bombings that claimed hundreds of lives between 2005 and 2008. Key leaders of the Indian Mujahideen escaped a successful police crackdown in 2008; the testimony of the Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley has corroborated earlier suspicions that several remain active in Pakistan, harboured by elements of its intelligence services. Indian intelligence operations targeting these networks remain deficient. Emergency response capabilities have not improved significantly since November 2008. In Mumbai on Wednesday, the injured were evacuated, like cattle, on trucks and other readily-available transport; hospitals ran short of blood; traffic snarled and rumours proliferated. Mr. Chidambaram has correctly pointed out that India is located in one of the most dangerous regions in the world. That makes it all the more imperative to develop the capacities our police and intelligence services desperately need: better training, better skills, better working conditions. Instead, the focus of the post-26/11 effort has been on raising special forces and acquiring cutting-edge technology, assets which the existing system simply does not have the foundations to use to good effect. It is disturbing that two years after 26/11, India does not have a national centre of excellence for education in investigation and intelligence-gathering, a world class centre that can produce trainers for State police forces. The nation's counter-terrorism establishment needs to stop focussing on appearing impressive on television, and buckle down to the task of serious, system-wide reform.






That Chennai is bidding for next year's FIDE World Chess Championship title match between defending champion Viswanathan Anand and challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel assumes thrilling significance. It was at home that Anand played his maiden World Championship match in January 1991 and came out a resounding winner against Russian Alexey Dreev. Should the Indian bid, backed by the strong and decisive support extended by Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, outweigh the offer of the Russian Chess Federation, the chess-loving people of Chennai will get a rare chance to watch their beloved superstar play again for the crown. Anand, a four-time world champion, has already expressed his delight over the prospect of defending the title in his backyard. Much of the credit for this strong opening should go to Tamil Nadu's sport-minded Chief Minister. She was the moving spirit when Chennai hosted the 1995 SAF Games and she continued to support sportspersons from Tamil Nadu with liberal cash awards whenever they won medals at multi-discipline games.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's initiative came to the fore when All India Chess Federation officials, in the company of the World Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, met her on Wednesday and mooted the idea of Chennai hosting the prestigious tie in April 2012. Her spontaneous commitment to spend $4.5 million has suddenly made India the favourite to win the bid that opens in the first week of August. Anand has always been eager to play in Chennai but the quality of field he deserves has not assembled in the country for nearly two decades. A winning bid will bring him back into action in India after October 2002, when he retained the World Cup at Hyderabad. If chess is believed to have originated in India, then Chennai must be recognised as the nation's chess capital. From providing the country's first International Master to Grandmaster, the city has kept alive the rich tradition of producing young champions at regular intervals. Despite its relatively low profile as a spectator sport, chess has traditionally enjoyed strong public support in Tamil Nadu. It is important that Chennai wins this bid.




The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has elected Ambassador Peter Thomson, Fiji's permanent representative to the United Nations, its president, Fiji's Ministry of Information said in its media release on July 14.

Ambassador Thomson was elected as ISA president by its assembly which is holding its annual session in Kingston, Jamaica.

The assembly is the supreme body of the organisation, consisting of delegations from 161 member states.

Following in the footsteps of former Fijian Ambassador and ISA Secretary-General Satya Nandan, Fiji has played a prominent role at the ISA since its inception.

Established in 1982

The International Seabed Authority was established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Fiji was the first signatory to the Convention on December 10, 1982. The ISA is an autonomous international organisation, to which state parties to the convention are given the responsibility of organising, controlling and administering the resources of the international seabed beyond the limits of national exclusive economic zone (EEZ). — Xinhua






The Mubarak model doesn't work It is not in the same league as Arab spring uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere, but Malaysia's fancifully named "hibiscus revolution" has potential, at least, to inflict a winter of discontent on the gormless government of Najib Razak. That's something the British Prime Minister David Cameron should bear in mind when Najib comes touting for business in London from July 14. Bilateral trade and investment is important. Respect for basic human rights more so.

Najib reacted with characteristic heavy-handedness when tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur at the weekend demanding reformasi — democratic reform — and an end to a defective electoral system which guarantees that Najib's party, Umno, representing the Malay majority, stays in power indefinitely.

About 1,700 people were arrested and many injured as police used baton charges, water cannon and teargas to break up peaceful protests. One protester, identified as Baharuddin Ahmad, 59, collapsed and later died near the Petronas Towers in central Kuala Lumpur while fleeing teargas.

Amnesty International said police had beaten many demonstrators and demanded an investigation into claims they had failed to provide prompt assistance to Baharuddin.

"Prime Minister Najib's government rode roughshod over thousands of Malaysians exercising their right to peaceful protest," Amnesty said. "This violent repression... flies in the face of international human rights standards and cannot be allowed to continue. David Cameron should tell Prime Minister Najib that these human rights violations are unacceptable." The protests are the product of rising tensions linked to mooted early elections, spending cuts, political upheavals in neighbouring Thailand and Singapore, establishment cronyism, curbs on public assembly and debate, and state-imposed censorship considered draconian even by regional standards.

Marimuthu Manogaran of the Democratic Action party, representing the ethnic Chinese minority, said many of the protesters were first timers. "Young people [are] coming out there to demand their rights... and I think that is a good sign for Malaysia," he told Luke Hunt of the Diplomat magazine.

Another report, denied by police, said a hospital, where protesters had taken refuge, was attacked by security forces. Bersih 2.0, the opposition "coalition for clean and fair elections," called for a royal commission of inquiry and vowed to continue its reformasi campaign, come what may.

Far from admitting fault, Najib has threatened more strong-arm tactics. "Don't doubt our strength. If we want to create chaos, we can. Umno has three million members. If we gather one million members, it is more than enough. We can conquer Kuala Lumpur," he said.

Such threats seem ill-advised. When elected in 2009, Najib promised to bridge political, ethnic and religious divisions. Now he is in danger of exacerbating them, as his old boss, Malaysia's founding father Mahathir Mohammed, suggested in a recent interview.

Malaysia is not immune to the international zeitgeist, any more than its economy is immune to global trends. This latter consideration explains why Najib is in London. And it gives Cameron and other European leaders leverage should they choose to use it.

Malaysians need only look north to see how Thai voters defied the political-military establishment and voted in a leader of their choice. And if Malaysians look south to Singapore or east to Hong Kong, they see entrenched ruling elites under determined challenge by activists emboldened by the spirit of change.

Led intelligently and openly, Malaysia could be a paradigm for South-East Asia. Led repressively, it could fall apart. Najib must get on the right side of history. The Mubarak model doesn't work. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Premier Najib Razak must get on the right side of history.





Barack Obama is all set to create a new record — for being the first incumbent Democrat President of the United States to get re-elected primarily by Republican voters. During his time in office, which began with high hopes for a strong, liberal-Democratic policy agenda, Mr. Obama has steadily drifted to the right, nudged along by a series of drastic compromises with a truculent opposition party and a stalemated Congress.

After reneging on campaign promises to close the legally-dubious Guantanamo Bay prison, after soft-peddling on comprehensive immigration reform, and after prevaricating on the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, the President's latest compromise poses a grave threat to the country's largest social welfare programmes, Social Security and Medicare.

After secret negotiations with Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the President, last week, delivered the unkindest cut of all to the liberal base of the Democratic Party. In his much vaunted "Twitter Townhall," the President took no more than 140 characters to reveal that he had buckled under Republican pressure to put cuts to Social Security and Medicare back on the table.

'Entitlement programmes'

Some context is necessary here. Social Security and Medicare, along with Medicaid, are among the largest so-called "entitlement programmes" — a term that Republicans and Tea Partiers now use in a pejorative sense. Yet these programmes have, since their inception in 1935 and 1965 respectively, comprised the "centrepiece of the nation's social contract, an intergenerational commitment to provide at least a subsistence income to the most vulnerable of citizens."

Certainly, their Leviathan-like magnitude today has made them a tempting target for public expenditure cuts, especially as the August 2 deadline for raising the U.S. debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion approaches. Social Security accounts for more than 20 per cent of the federal budget, and, according to its operator, it handed out close to $672 billion in benefits to around 51 million Americans in 2009. Medicare is similarly massive.

The ongoing discussions between Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner reflect a genuine effort to forestall the nightmare scenario of sovereign default. Mr. Obama was not exaggerating when he warned that if no agreement on the debt limit was reached, then "our credit could be downgraded, interest rates could go drastically up, and it could cause a whole new spiral into a second recession, or worse."

Yet at the heart of these negotiations lies a gun that is aimed squarely at the head of the poor, the elderly, the infirm and those who have watched what savings and assets they had at the start of the 2000s wiped out by eight years of unbridled free-market policies under George W. Bush.

The threat that Republicans now hold out to Mr. Obama, to compromise on cuts to welfare programmes or else face the prospect of plunging the nation into a debt crisis, is both opportunistic and, ultimately, internecine. The fallout of a sovereign default will be electorally catastrophic for both sides. A second recession would push American middle class families, already struggling with a sinking housing market and rampant joblessness, into a tailspin of economic despair. They will not forget to punish those responsible.

So far as Republicans' political incentives are concerned, their leadership is still highly contested and struggling to throw up a candidate who might have a realistic chance of defeating Mr. Obama in November 2012. For the Grand Old Party then, it makes no sense to do anything but try and discredit Mr. Obama and Democrats, especially in such high-profile negotiations.

Ironically it would appear that GOP and fiscally conservative Tea Partiers are succeeding in their efforts and the President seems to be walking these policies to the fiscal guillotine. If he permits free-market forces to whittle them down into a shadow of their current form then no longer will those born in this country with fewer than average opportunities rise to become the great entrepreneurial successes, the school-dropout billionaires of the future.


Yet to the consternation of top Democrats, last week Washington was abuzz with news that Mr. Obama was considering a "back-door" reform to cut Social Security spending. This reform would see the current methodology for cost-of-living adjustments substituted with a chain-weighted version of the Consumer Price Index.

The problem with using such chain-weighted indexes, as Max Richtman of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare explained in the New York Times , is that "Social Security beneficiaries did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment this year or in 2010 because inflation, as measured by the standard Consumer Price Index (CPI), was so low."

It is certain, then, that in the current low-inflation, slow-growth U.S. economy, the hard-to-reverse inclusion of the chain-weighted CPI could have devastating consequences for senior citizens and the poor. The fact is there would be no need to resort to such obscure definitional manipulations if the President had not allowed Republicans to block all negotiations on one vital component of the public accounts — tax revenue.

Some background is in order here too. During the last few months of 2010 — by which time the House was already lost to Democrats and Republicans had the numbers to hold the legislative process hostage on a whim — there was a negotiation between the two parties that was similar to the present one. The discussion focussed on whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest one per cent of Americans, those earning above $250,000 per year, or let them expire per deadline.

As it played out, Republicans demanded that the tax breaks that these wealthy sections enjoyed be retained in exchange for which they would permit tax breaks for ordinary, middle-class families to also continue. As a consequence the federal income tax rate for the top income bracket is 35 per cent today, far less than the 70 per cent that it was under Republican President Richard Nixon in the 1970s and certainly less than the 91 per cent that it was under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s.

What Mr. Obama was hoping to achieve in the last round of negotiations was merely to knock the tax rate for the wealthiest back up a few points to the 39 per cent-level that it was under President Bill Clinton — and that too only on income in excess of $250,000. Extrapolating from estimates by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts, this could have netted the exchequer an additional $1.1 trillion over the next decade, a not-inconsiderable proportion of the $2 trillion that both sides are hoping to agree in cuts.

Yet the fiscal hawks who are effectively holding the nation hostage have insisted that the very mention of tax cuts being withdrawn is unacceptable. In late June, Republican negotiator Eric Cantor walked out, in an almost impetuous fashion, from meetings convened by Vice-President Joe Biden as part of a serious effort to find a common ground. In the face of such truculence, White House officials were reduced to pleading for no more than "positive revenue increases."

While Mr. Obama has acquired a reputation for carefully hedging his bets in various policy dealings, the debt negotiation may well be the one situation where he cannot please all parties concerned. This zero-sum game may require him to call the Republican bluff. The President should not fear this outcome but have faith that Americans believe that their nation was built on firm social justice foundations.

At the heart of the debt limit negotiations is putting a gun to the head of the poor, the elderly and the infirm.





The confluence of recent events is an opportunity to rethink health systems. The new Medical Council of India, the proposed Human Resources in Health Bill, the penultimate year of the National Rural Health Mission, preparations for the 12th Five Year Plan and the promise of a significant increase in the health budget mandate such reappraisal. The poor indices of health and inequity related to class, caste and gender underscore the urgency of the situation. While diverse aspects (financing, personnel, infrastructure, drugs, governance and empowerment of communities) need to be addressed, this article focusses on medical training and practice.

Issues in training

The philosophy, nature and quality of training determine the range and value of health care services provided. The current mismatch between training imparted and skills and competencies required for practice mandates review.

Primary versus tertiary standards: Current training of medical professionals is entirely based in medical college and tertiary care facilities. Such institutions, being at top of the referral chain, serve only a small proportion of the population. They manage complex disorders using sophisticated medical technology. Doctors produced by such a system find themselves at sea when asked to serve in primary and secondary care hospitals, which manage the bulk of patients with milder, acute and common health problems, using clinical skills and low-tech approaches. The battle to provide relevant and quality health care to the general population is lost by locating medical education in specialist facilities.

Local concerns versus international focus: International traditions of modern medicine have focussed on universal conditions to the near-complete exclusion of locally relevant diseases. They also emphasise expensive technological solutions, which are out of the reach of average Indians. Physicians are more at ease prescribing low cholesterol diets for heart disease than locally appropriate food for malnutrition. Pharmaceutical and tertiary hospital industries, which cater to the richer classes, drive medical concerns.

Knowledge versus skill and competencies: Much of the training of physicians involves the transmission of knowledge. The near complete absence of skills and competencies required for practice makes most medical graduates opt for further specialist training. Today's new doctors, with major deficiencies in diagnostic and management skills, would rather apply for post-graduate courses than engage in practice. Yet, competency-based medical curricula seem light years away.

Family practice versus specialist training: The tertiary care formatting of medical knowledge and training have resulted in a syllabus based on medical disciplines rather than a curriculum with a focus on common clinical presentations and problems. Such divisions encourage specialist perspectives rather than support training concerns related to broad-based generalist education. The rarity of family and general practice departments and training, the cornerstone of good medical practice, disempowers physicians, forcing them to specialise.

Critical thinking: The Indian education system does not promote critical thought. Unquestioned acceptance of received wisdom is the norm. The acknowledgment of its inappropriateness and lack of relevance in many Indian contexts is rare. Attempts to understand the problems of practice, so crucial to the provision of holistic care, do not merit attention. The need to inculcate critical thinking among physicians, who constantly have to re-read original texts and theories, identify their limitations in clinical practice and alter received wisdom, is never encouraged.

Issues related to practice

The nature of practice and its determinants play a significant role in shaping health care delivery systems.

Universal and contextual knowledge: The dominance of medical theory, considered universal and authentic, over clinical practice, deemed trivial and less valid, makes for the dismissal of patients' concerns and context and delegitimises physicians' conflicts. Illness is confused with disease and the patient's demand for healing is misconstrued in the physician's pursuit of cures. The imperfections of practice, based on the original theories, are dismissed as problems of application and translation. Modern medicine, with its current market-driven logic, precludes working with the patient's circumstances, family, environment, culture, community and politics. Context-driven practice needs to influence, modify and change medical theory in order to deliver holistic care. These issues need to be researched and be part of pedagogy in India.

Horizontal versus vertical programmes: Many governmental health initiatives function as vertical programmes (eg HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc.) with their own specific logic, goals, organisation, personnel and practice. International funding agencies also prefer such divisions, as financial inputs are easier to monitor and their impact simpler to evaluate. However, these approaches preclude horizontal integration of expertise and services required for general and family practice in primary care settings. Good integrated primary care services, so necessary for optimal health care delivery, remain fragmented and reflect the conflicts and contradictions of tertiary care formatting of medical knowledge.

Public health approaches or curative medicine: It is widely acknowledged that compared to curative medical strategies, public health approaches, which target the social determinants of health, have a much greater influence on health and longevity of populations. Nevertheless, clean water, sanitation, nutrition, housing, education and employment receive much less importance, with curative medical approaches continually hogging the limelight. Education, in general, has a greater impact on health than specifically targeted health education.

Private investment or public funding: The success of capitalism has increased the demand for private investment solutions for problems in health care delivery. Nevertheless, the unequal doctor-patient relationship with regard to medical information is fertile ground for exploitation. In addition, private capital needs to maximise profits and selectively targets diseases and services that are lucrative rather than focus on the needs of the population. While private partnerships bring in efficiency, the absence of a regulatory framework implies that meaningful health care for populations is usually sacrificed at the altar of economics. This is also true of private initiatives in medical education with their exorbitant fee structures and variable standards in education.

Indigenous research and technology: Current medical approaches employ western technology and their monopolistic pricing policies result in health care that is out of the reach of average Indians. There is a need to focus and fund indigenous research, which is locally relevant and appropriate to the Indian context. The Jaipur foot is one such example.

Universal care versus coverage: The capitalist mantra prefers universal health coverage to universal health care, with a substantial provision of services by private providers. Many States have introduced health insurance to cover for life-saving medical conditions. The unregulated and high-cost private sector provides care for low-frequency diseases in tertiary facilities, without a gate-keeping role for primary care. The absence of cover for common conditions makes the impact of such schemes marginal for the majority of the population. The consequent neglect of public hospitals also demands caution in bringing private players to manage national health care delivery.

Moving forward

Inequities in health demand critical reflection on the medical culture and clinical practice in India. Tinkering superficially with medical curricula, administrative structures and health delivery systems falls far short of any meaningful and relevant change. The challenge is to acknowledge the inappropriateness of the current health education and delivery systems to the Indian context, and to refashion health care delivery relevant for the country.

The emphasis of medical training, clinical practice and funding should be on primary health care. While physicians can specialise, their basic training should make them competent for medical practice in primary and secondary hospital settings. Medical practice should be relevant and contextual.

The gross inequity in health argues for universal health care as a democratic priority. The Pratichi Trust highlighted the inadequacy of public debate, poor media coverage and limited space in the legislative agenda for health, at the Dr. Chandrakant Patil Memorial Eastern India Regional Health Assembly, recently held at Kolkata. The Trust emphasised the fact that social determinants of health (clean water, sanitation, etc.) find no place in the public discourse. The conference also stressed the bidirectional relationship between economic development and health, which justifies much greater financial input to improve the health of populations. Media interventions to increase awareness and demand, support collective engagement and argue for health as a human right with legal entitlements, will increase the democratic pressure on governments to operationalise equitable health care. Health equity should be part of all policies — financial, developmental, environmental, educational, etc. All discussions should prioritise values rather than project practicalities. There is a need to foreground health in the public discourse. The struggle for health equity is more than a fight for democracy; it is about the definition of justice.

(Professor K.S. Jacob is on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore. This article is based on his presentation at the Dr. Chandrakant Patil Memorial Eastern India Regional Health Assembly, Kolkata.)

The challenge is to acknowledge the inappropriateness of the current health education and delivery systems, and refashion health care delivery relevant for the country.





Four weeks after a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone ended his life on May 21, 2010, Said al-Masri's spoke to his followers from the grave, through a posthumous audio tape his followers posted online.

"I bring you the good tidings," al-Qaeda's third-in-command declared, "that last February's India operation was against a Jewish locale in the west of the Indian capital [ sic. , throughout], in the area of the German bakeries — a fact that the enemy tried to hide — and close to 20 Jews were killed in the operation, a majority of them from their so-called statelet, Israel."

"The person who carried out this operation was a heroic soldier from the 'Soldiers of the Sacrifice Brigade,' which is one of the brigades of Qaedat al-Jihad [the al-Qaeda's correct name] in Kashmir, under the command of Commander Illyas Kashmiri, may Allah preserve him."

From the text, it is clear that al-Masri had little detailed knowledge of the bombing of the German Bakery in Pune, where 17 were killed in a still-unsolved bombing in 2010 — the second of the five urban terror attacks which preceded Wednesday's horrific carnage in Mumbai.

Pune is not, of course, to the west of New Delhi; it is not Jewish-owned; no Israelis were killed there.

But al-Masri words — the first explicit al-Qaeda claim of responsibility for an attack on India — are unlikely to have been inventions: the Egyptian Islamist was a veteran of the jihadist movement, having served as al-Qaeda's finance chief and as a ranking member of its legal committee. He was senior enough to have been one of just three commanders — along with Sheikh Mahfouz Ould al-Walid and Saif al-Adl — to dispute the wisdom of bin Laden's 9/11 plans.

In 2008, Indian investigators dismantled much of the infrastructure of the Indian Mujahideen — a Lashkar-e-Taiba affiliate drawn from the jihadist fringes of the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India, which carried out an urban bombing campaign that claimed hundreds of lives after 2005. More than 70 of its operatives were arrested.

Key leaders — among them the network's top organiser, Abdul Subhan Qureshi, its ideologue Iqbal Shahbandri, operational commander Riyaz Shahbandri and bomb-maker Ahmed Yasin Siddibapa — escaped the police, though. Sheltered, India's intelligence service believe, in Karachi and Kathmandu, the leadership sought to rebuild the shattered group. But, after Pakistan came under intense international pressure in the wake of 26/11,

From 2010, though, the attacks resumed again — building up to Wednesday's bombings. India's intelligence services believe that al-Masri's words may hold out clues to what is going on. Evidence for this proposition lies in the worlds of a man the world has come to know well in recent weeks.

The twin Karachi projects

Last summer, the Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley, who carried out surveillance operations for the Lashkar before the 26/11 attacks, provided India's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) a detailed insider account of Pakistan-based jihadist operations targeting the country.

Headley told the NIA there were in fact two distinct, competing jihadist projects targeting India, both headquartered out of the port city of Karachi. The Lashkar itself ran one, using dozens of cadre recruited from the ranks of Islamist groups in India.

The second, NIA documents reveal him to have said, was run by a retired Pakistani military officer called Abdur Rehman Hashim, also known by the code name "Pasha." This second group of Indian jihadists, Headley told the NIA, was a "personal set-up of Pasha, and it is independent of the LET."

Major Hashim, according to Headley's account, had served with the 6 Baloch Regiment until 2002, when he refused to lead his troops into combat against Taliban fleeing from the Tora Bora complex in Afghanistan — the last stronghold of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in that country.

For his actions, Major Hashim was demoted to captain, resigned from service, and joined the Lashkar as an instructor — training, among others, the men who attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's rally in Srinagar in 2004.

But Major Hashim later fell out with the Lashkar — incensed, like many jihadists, by its refusal to take on the Pakistani state and western forces in Afghanistan. Following the 2007 siege of jihadists hold up inside Islamabad's Lal Masjid in 2007, Headley was to recall, Major Hashim even contemplated assassinating Pakistan's former President, General Pervez Musharraf.

The Lal Masjid events, Headley recalled, sparked off an ideological war, leading to "splits in many of the outfits." The Lashkar's top military commander, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, even faced a "serious problem in holding [on to] the LeT [cadre] and convincing them to fight for Kashmir and against India."

In spite of energetic efforts by Lakhvi and the ISI, Headley said, the "aggression and commitment shown to jihad by the several splinter groups influenced many committed fighters to leave Kashmir-centric outfits and join the Taliban." "I understand this compelled the LeT to consider a spectacular strike in India," Headley surmised. Headley himself turned to Muhammad Illyas Kashmiri, a former jihad volunteer with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen who fought in Kashmir before forming the al-Qaeda affiliated Brigade 313, to fund his plans to execute a bombing in Copenhagen. He railed against Lashkar, who backed out of the project after initially supporting it, of having "rotten guts."

Major Hashim was eventually arrested by Pakistani investigators in October, 2009 — but was never brought to trial. Pakistan's government has been less than forthcoming, though, about what it found out about his India networks.

Headley said, for example, that the Mumbai assault team training in Muridke initially included an "Indian, possibly from Maharashtra." The Indian, "was finally dropped as Sajid [Mir] wanted to use him elsewhere." He also said another Maharashtra resident, who used the alias Abu Ajmal, trained with him at the Lashkar's intelligence-tradecraft in August, 2003. Both figures are of considerable interest to 26/11 investigators, since at least one of the men who guided the attack team to its targets using a voice-over-internet line had a strong Mumbai accent. Pakistan's own investigation into the attacks, though, has provided no insight into who he might be.

The Pakistani-American Lashkar operative also met with several men involved in earlier attacks in India: among them "Abu Hamza," who along with Uttar Pradesh resident Sabahuddin Ahmad, executed the shoot-out at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in 2005.

Little is known about operations these men are now engaged in — or the activities of other Lashkar-linked Indian jihadists like Fayyaz Kagzi, Rahil Sheikh, and Zabiuddin Ansari involved in earlier terror operations.

In January, the fugitive Mumbai organised crime figure Rajendra Nikhalje claimed to have assassinated the Indian Mujahideen's Riyaz Shahbandri in Karachi — an enterprise intended to bolster his popular credentials as a nationalist. Photographs he released to police as evidence of the killing, though, turned out to have digitally manipulated, casting doubt on the claim.

Al-Masri's 2010 audiotape, though, gives at least some reason to believe some Indian jihadists have gone the same way as Headley — losing patience with the Lashkar, and its apparent unwillingness to act on its promise to back transnational jihadist attacks, and turning to al-Qaeda for support.

In April 2006, bin-Laden himself spoke of a "Crusader-Zionist-Hindu war against the Muslims." His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned Pakistanis in September 2003 that General Pervez Musharraf was plotting to "hand you over to the Hindus and flee to enjoy his secret accounts." In the wake of 26/11, al-Masri himself released a statement warning India of attacks if it struck against Pakistan.

Locked in a competition for legitimacy as authentic representatives of the jihadist movement in Pakistan, both the Lashkar and al-Qaeda have reason to escalate their operations against India. That could mean the five attacks seen since 26/11 could prove precursors to further horrors.

Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley's testimony could cast light on who carried out the bombings in the city — and why.






For the people of Mumbai, the serial blasts of Wednesday were a rude reminder of their repeated vulnerability to terrorism. The loss of life and the injuries caused have not been inconsiderable. Since 1993, Mumbai has been hit by terrorists every three or four years, which is suggestive of the fact that those employing terrorism in pursuit of a certain brand of politics have tended to act with a sense of impunity. The frequency with which Mumbai has been made a terror target is surely an international record if we don't count locations in Pakistan where the phenomenon of terrorism was nurtured as a matter of state policy, and is thus a case of blowback. It is time our policymakers and those in charge of keeping the city and the nation secure dealt with the question why adequate measures have not been put in place to prevent major terrorist incidents. It is true that terrorists need to get lucky just once, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher observed. The implication is that it is hard to stop every single attack. This is what Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi sought to suggest a day after the Mumbai serial blasts. But his timing was all wrong even if the analysis was not. Whatever the case, better systems needed to be put in place for Mumbai which witnessed the horror of November 26 just over two and a half years ago. The government of India needs to ask a few tough questions of itself, not just the city police department or the Maharashtra government.
It was quite pathetic to see Union home minister P. Chidambaram call the tragic Wednesday events "a coordinated terrorist attack" but declare in the same breath that there was no intelligence failure. If the home minister did not wish to demoralise the personnel engaged in the fight against terrorism, he might have done well to opt for silence. Perhaps several factors contributed to the system not being able to unearth the conspiracy that led to the latest blasts, not just intelligence failure. But the multiple intelligence departments are hardly in a position to disclaim all responsibility.
It is evident that the Mumbai police is far from being at its best. It has been repeatedly found wanting in dealing with terrorism in an era in which every major city in the world is throwing in resources to develop anti-terrorism capabilities. And what is being said of the police force in the country's financial capital can just as easily be said of any metropolitan police in the country, although these have not been tested with the same regularity as Mumbai. In the specific case of Mumbai, the Ram Pradhan Committee, set up in the wake of 26/11, made a series of recommendations pertaining to the upgrading of equipment and better counter-terrorism training. How much of this has been followed up? Particularly in Mumbai, those who are meant to hunt terrorists need to liaise closely with colleagues charged with tackling crime as several city gangs have been found in the past to offer their services to terror merchants.
While the ruling coalition and the police and intelligence departments cannot pretend they could not have done things differently, it is opportunistic of BJP leaders — L.K. Advani in particular — to seek to extract political mileage. Mr Advani has called Wednesday's strike a failure of policy, not of intelligence. This is a jibe without meaning. He can just as easily be asked about the debilitating record on the terrorism front when he was Union home minister. We need to close ranks in a moment of crisis, not give the impression of being a nation divided.





Every man becomes a bit philosophical as he grows older, or when he reads his favourite newspaper. Old age gives you a sense of the gradients of time, allows you to look at events in history, in terms of cycles. Newspaper gives you the immediacy of a map, a sense of topicality and the space of the now. Reading it, one often goes beyond the event, the news as we call it. We seek different patterns, connections of a different kind. New questions start to trouble us.
One of the things that is bothering me is the way everyone talks of globalisation. The gossip of Internet, the role of multinationals, the feats of the diaspora intrigue me. Yet, I want to ask, is there a globalisation of evil? Are we confronting new forms, new constructions of evil? Local demonologies seem inadequate to understand this.
Think of evil as a geography. Think of globalisation as a map. Can we map evil? Can we connect the trails of destruction, trafficking, genocide, displacement and look evil in the eye. I am not asking for a fundamentalism that condemns. I am proposing a secularism that understands that something new is happening. It is occurring on a scale of complexity that evades ordinariness.
Earlier when we thought of evil we talked of violence, cruelty, corruption, incest and prostitution. Good and bad were easily identified and accountable. Hitler was evil, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi were good. Our moral science book, our teachers and our parents could identify evil. The evil they identified had a face, a persona that could be explained in terms of religion, folklore, or mythology. The Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Panchatantra came in handy. Cruelty and kindness, selfishness and sharing, violence and gentleness provided the easy polarities of this world. Even bad people had a biography, a history, a human face.
Globalisation seems to have altered this. Firstly, the old model of good and evil does not work. A lot of life is in the threshold between the two. Ordinary people who are not villains seem capable of enormous violence. Secondly, cruelty or villainy does not explain the vandalism of multinationals or the collective violence against ethnic groups. There is a new idolatry of concepts like security, science, development where nations, governments are ready to inflict violence in the name of these concepts. The nation state, the modern bureaucracies, the idea of science has claimed more victims than the old wars of religion. The idea of cause and effect, of face-to-face evil has lost out to abstraction and distance. We seem to kill not out of hate but out of indifference. As our violence increases, killing becomes more abstract. We kill at a distance and then resume our normal lives as if nothing has happened. The bureaucratisation of responsibility also decreases any sense of it. Today, our genocides are explained away as orders from above. Officials who kill are cogs in the machine and do not feel accountable for the violence they trigger.
There are two other changes we have to discuss. As violence moves from hate to distance, method becomes more important. Bureaucratic decisions replace crimes of passion. Prediction and calculation, strategy and science become the new grammar of violence. Think of nuclear war, an act of bombing, an urban project or just the act of building a dam. Cruelty gives way to a calculus of violence justified as security or progress.
Violence today has changed in scale. It is collectively organised. Physical violence was demanding. Today, technological violence can eliminate a people at the touch of a button.
Globalisation has added another layer to evil. Think of tourism, or trade. They all merge into a theory of trafficking. Desire no longer has local sites. It seeks a global market. German tourists seek to be pedophiles in Thailand. Whether it is trafficking in children, arms or the sex trade — they all seem secularised in terms of economic indices. Crime or corruption is as much a part of GNP as education or health. Globalisation seems to have multiplied the markets for evil and simultaneously secularised them. Commerce as defence deals, drugs, warfare, trafficking, environmental destruction all belong to a flat land called globalisation. Globalisation creates connectivities for desire on a grand scale and yet banalises it.
It is not just bird flu or AIDS that has become global. Evil has acquired an epidemic form and then bureaucratised itself.
Think of terror. Nothing is more global today than terror. Nothing is more evil in its combination of anonymity and intimacy, of immediacy and distance. Terror as a commodity is a form of world-wide commerce. Groups like the LTTE showed they could multitask globally between kidnapping, extortion, drugs and bombings. An office in Paris did not preclude a bombing in London or Delhi.
My fear is an old fashioned one. An old fashioned mind discerns the new with an acuteness that is rare. I think our ordinary sense of good and evil lacks the scale, the canvas, the language to understand the globalisation of evil. Our language, our ethics is anchored in folklore or a 19th century utilitarianism. We need a new kind of wild ethics that can map evil on a different scale.
Think of war. It is a devastation on a different scale. Disasters and displacements like wars require a theory of healing on a different scale. The language of humanitarianism or charity is inadequate or too sentimental to fight evil. Think of the Kissingers, the Bushs, the diamond merchants of Africa, or large-scale development projects. If we apply the old paradigms we land up giving many of them a Nobel Prize for peace or economics. Goodness then becomes naïve and complicit.
The challenge of our time is a credible response to the emergence of evil. A failure to rethink our sense of goodness would be catastrophic. The new challenge of globalisation asks for an innovative ethics to challenge power and desire. We have to dig deep into our cosmology, our civilisation to come up with new ways of thinking, language, living, relating, consuming. There is a necessity for a new craftsmanship around work, agriculture, new ideas of community. Without a reworking of classic ideas, we are bound to repeat our mistakes in an escalating violence.

The author is a social scientist





While we routinely claim that the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on October 26, 1947, and is now an integral part of the Indian Union, both in terms of national and international laws, we take little interest in what is happening in the vast area which has been in illegal occupation of Pakistan. The elections on June 26, held in a part of that area for its Legislative Assembly, for example, went practically unnoticed in our media. The strategic importance of this area is immense and China, with the collaboration of Pakistan, has been making extensive inroads into it.
We call the area in question Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). On the other side of the Line of Control, it is known as "Azad Jammu and Kashmir", with the fiction of sovereignty woven around it: Its name is not even mentioned in the Constitution of Pakistan, nor does it have any representation in the Pakistan National Assembly or senate.
The area of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is about 78,114 sq. km., which is roughly one-third of the total area (222,236 sq. km.) of the erstwhile princely state. Of this, about 85 per cent constitutes the two main regions of Gilgit and Baltistan and three smaller territories of Hunza, Nagar and Punial. These regions/territories, grouped together and separated from "Azad Jammu and Kashmir", have been designated as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (Fana). The area that remains as "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is only 15 per cent of the total area occupied by Pakistan and it is in this area that elections to the 49-member Legislative Assembly were held in June. The attempt of Pakistan has all along been to present this area to the world as a "quasi-sovereign" entity with a democratic set-up. But stark facts stand in the way of this attempt.
"Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is governed by its interim Constitution of 1974 which has quite a few trappings of sovereignty. Apart from its law-making Legislative Assembly, it has a Supreme Court and an Election Commission. Its head of government and constitutional head are called Prime Minister and President respectively. But all these trappings have little meaning — in reality, the area is run as a fiefdom of the federal government of Pakistan.
According to the provisions of the aforesaid Constitution itself, there is an "Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council" of which the Prime Minister of Pakistan is the chairman and the federal minister for Kashmir affairs its secretary. The Prime Minister of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is merely its vice-chairman. The council has 11 other members of whom five are members of federal Parliament. This is an all-powerful body with as many as 52 legislative items under its jurisdiction. The council has the sole power to declare emergency and dissolve the Legislative Assembly and its decisions cannot be challenged in the Supreme Court of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir".
Its vast jurisdiction and extensive powers leave hardly anything to the government of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir". Even appointments to all key posts — chief secretary, finance secretary and inspector-general of police among others — are made by the federal government. No wonder the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees has reckoned the area as "not free".
The northern areas are in a much worse position. Till 2009, they did not even have a semblance of a representative body and were directly administered by the federal government through a joint-secretary of the ministry of defence. A sizeable demographic change was also brought about by settling a large number of Pathans and Punjabi Sunni Muslims in these areas which earlier had an overwhelming majority of Shia and Ismaili population.
All this caused acute resentment amongst the people. A number of public agitations, including violent ones, followed. The Pakistan government relented. To assuage the anger, it issued an ordinance, notified as the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009. Under this order, to preserve the local identity, the northern areas were renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. The order also provides for an elected Legislative Assembly and a governor and chief minister.
What is significant is that the entire area, which legally belongs to India, has been formally incorporated in Pakistan. The feeble protests made by the Government of India and political parties of Jammu and Kashmir and of Azad Jammu and Kashmir were ignored by Pakistan. Earlier in 1963, Pakistan had virtually ceded 5,180 sq. km. area to China, in addition to about 37,555 sq. km. which was already in its possession.
India has paid dearly for not paying serious attention to the developments on the other side of Line of Control. During the last 20 years, both the "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" area and Gilgit-Baltistan region have caused grave problems. The former became an active centre for cross-border terrorism, and the latter served as an avenue of intrusion into Kargil, which resulted in the Kargil War of 1999.
What should be a matter of special concern to India right now is that the Pakistan-China axis is sowing seeds for future trouble in the region. Of late, Pakistan has been giving de facto control of a vast chunk of Gilgit-Baltistan area to China for building rail and road links between Eastern China and Pakistani port cum naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara. With the completion of these projects, China would be able to transport its goods for exports to and imports from the Gulf countries in two days instead of the present period of 22 days. The Karakoram Highway is also being extended and strengthened to provide an effective link between Sinkiang province of China and Pakistan.
All this is bound to establish stronger strategic and economic bonds between Pakistan and China. Both may join hands to cause more difficulties for India with regard to the Kashmir issue and also for the United States vis-à-vis its interests in Afghanistan. Already, about 10,000 soldiers of the Peoples' Liberation Army are working in Gilgit-Baltistan on road, rail, irrigation and other development projects.
It is time India started taking a closer look at the events on the other side of Line of Control and evolved an effective strategy to counter their adverse fall-outs.

The author is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister








With many politicians and commentators, diabolic avowal and patent cliché is the patent idiom for speaking about Kashmir issue. Many of them would want to create an impression that earlier politicians were unable to reach the bottom of the jinx, and that only they have the divine gift of a revealed and unassailable formula for Kashmir. One such example refers to the interview recently given by the PDP patron to this paper. Read between the lines, the entire prognosis is built around subjective perception with an air of willing suspension of disbelief about hard facts of so complex an issue as Kashmir. Take the assertion that "Kashmir can become a bridge between India and Pakistan". What are we actually going to bridge over? Pakistan, as a homeland for the Muslims of India, is just 63 years old. Against this, Kashmir rightly boasts of more than three thousand years of historical, spiritual and cultural continuity, out of which seven hundred and odd years are filled by secularist indulgence. Is it feasible to build a bridge with one embankment made of solid rock and the other of slipping sands? From the day of inception, Pakistan coveted Kashmir, and to wreck its indigenous identity made three attacks plus the ongoing proxy war, in the course of which it lost one half of its domain to Bengali Muslims. Do we want to build a bridge to tell Pakistan that since she failed miserably to wrest Kashmir, or to maintain one half of her eastern colony, therefore here we are, in following our true tradition, coming over the bridge to offer you the land and the people whom your leaders never trusted and never took into confidence?

Moreover, which Kashmir do the visionaries want to make a bridge? The Northern Area (Gilgit and Baltistan), previously integrated into Pakistan, have now been ceded to the Chinese as their foothold in Central Asian region. The remaining tiny part called "Azad Kashmir" is governed directly by Islamabad through the Secretary Kashmir Affairs Ministry. These occupied parts are not going to be the bridge, and what remains of the slogan "Kashmir as the bridge" is the valley, not even Jammu region. True some valley people have sentiments about Pakistan. So have the Hindu Punjabis and Sindhis about their original home in West Punjab and Sindh. Nobody thinks of providing them a bridge with their original homeland? Have not the Mohajirs of Karachi sentiments about their original homeland in Bihar and UP? Why not provide them with a bridge? Are they devoid of sentiments? No, they are as good human beings as anybody else.

Where is the Kashmir issue in reality that the PDP patron is obsessed with its solution? Do not Kashmiris enjoy and exercise the power given to them by the constitution? Did not PDP come to power through the provisions of constitution? Is it not sitting in opposition through the instrument of constitution? Why did not it solve the problem if it thought there was one? Kashmir is a bone which crushed Pakistan's teeth while trying to snatch it from Kashmiri people. Anybody contributing to Musharraf's six zones plan leaves no doubt that he is a contributor to wanton slicing of the State into pieces, something worse than two-nation theory. How is it possible for vibrant, fast growing and outreaching Indian economy to dovetail to the crumbling economy of a feudal-military state surviving on the crumbs from a super power in return for accepting the status of a client state? Kashmir economy is receiving its due share in the burgeoning Indian economic structure and needs no economic zone therapy. To put the record straight, former Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee never threw the N C's greater autonomy plan into waste paper basket. All he did when it was presented to him was that he called the then Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah and asked him to tell him where he was not autonomous in the existing constitutional arrangement so that grater autonomy would be considered. Dr. Farooq had no answer and left the room. Out of 97 items identified by Sheikh Abdullah government in 1975 for review, 95 were found to have gone through proper constitutional and legal process. The same is true about the "self-rule formula" usually boasted about by the PDP patron. Nobody's voice is muzzled in the state; the press is free; the platform is free and elected leaders are free to spit anti-India venom. There are more papers in the State that are critical of the government and there are some that have always towed the line of the separatists. They were never banned and are thriving. The reason for extraordinary security bandobast on martyrs' day is the old rivalry between the jihadi groups and the anti-autocracy groups in Kashmir, the sher and bakra in their new avatar. This see-saw game between them is part of Kashmir history. Every conscious and responsible government has to take preventive measures, Terms like "muzzle", "siege" "repression" etc. intended to deride the ruling coalition speak more of mean vendetta and feud psychosis than of political acrobats. Unfortunately, last year some stone throwing youth got killed in police action to curb lawlessness. We honestly hope that the victims were not the beneficiaries of Mufti's "healing touch" programme.






What is the rationale for the state government to complain of shortage of funds every now and then when reports say that it is going slow in recovering arrears of sales tax to the tune of 592 crore rupees. The defaulters include some prominent industrialists and politicians both in and out of power. They also include public sector units and corporate. Obviously, they are misusing their political position or influence at the cost of the poor tax payer in the state. The documents in the hands of media reveal that 303 crore rupees are due from defaulters from Kashmir region and Jammu owes 289 crore. Payment has been pending for 8-10 years and the interest on this amount comes to a huge sum which is also lost to the exchequer. Most of the defaulters are reported not traceable or that they have not given their real address to the tax collection authorities. What ever the reason the anti-corruption organization should book not only the defaulters but also the taxation authorities who are supposed to have taken up the case for proper disposal but failed to do so.







India is the Holy land. Her skies are divinely illumined, Her earth smells Holy, Her breezes carry the message of peace and goodwill. Her spirit guides the destinies of mankind. Her culture and heritage is blended spiritual through and through. All Her institutions, disciplines and branches of knowledge are derived from the ocean of spiritual wisdom which has its sources in numerous manifestations of Gods, Goddesses, saints, sages, seers and sacred scriptures.

Guru Purnima is the most auspicious day on which disciples and followers worship their spiritual master (Gurus) of their lineage by making offerings of Guru Dakshina, chanting Holy scriptures, observing austerities, holding meditation sessions, singing glories of the Guru and listening to Guru's discourses. The manner of worshipping (Guru Puja) differs from lineage to lineage.

Guru Purnima or Vyas Purnima falls on the birthday of Veda Vyas, a great sage who authored our most sacred Holy scriptures. Born to Satyavati and sage Prashar in an island ('dweep'), he was named 'Dweepayan'. Because he divided Vedas into four parts, he was ultimately named Veda Vyasa. Immediately on his birth, he attained adulthood and lost no time in retiring to deep forests for austerities.

Disciples treat Guru Geeta as the most sacred scripture besides Guru's commandments. It is believed that 68 places of pilgrimage lie at the lotus feet of Guru. Guru is the manifestation of Brahma (Creater), Vishnu (Sustainer) and Maheshwara (Destroyer). 'Gu' means Darkness (Ignorance) and 'Ru' means Light (Viveka). One who pulls out of darkness and leads to Light is 'Guru'.

Man is the noblest work of God. Among the 84 Lac species, he is the most superior who can discriminate between the Shreyas(Good) and Preyas (Pleasant). He has the option to adopt the Shreyas Marg to reach the Source and fulfill the aim of his birth for which the Soul has been longing for too long. Barring man, all 'Jeevas' are under the thumb of nature. Man commands the nature. Man can live without bread but cannot live without faith.

He, therefore, selects a Master or Preceptor or Guru in whom he plants his faith. He seeks guidance and spiritual enlightenment from that competent and highly illumined Soul by total surrender, intensive love and eternal relationship. Guru is the 'Adarsh Purush' to the disciples. Therefore Guru is worthy of adoration. By acting as spiritual Master, he is there always in all situations.



' To meditate, concentrate on Guru's benign countenance, to worship, worship Guru's Holy feet, to chant, repeat Guru Mantra (words), the Liberation lies in Guru's grace, in his infinite kindness.

Guru Geeta





' Through love for Guru, aspirant's mind is fixed on him and he dips in state of Superconsciousness. The dedication to Guru never goes unrewarded and the reward is dispassion. Dispassion puts the mind in peace and deliverance is sought. The brave 'Sadhak' through his spiritual journey is bound to reach the destination.'

Swami Gaibanand Ji Maharaj in Anandullas

Even the incarnations of God like Lord Rama and Lord Krishna had their Gurus Sage Vashishth Ji and Sandipini Ji Maharaj respectively. Dev Rishi Narad's Guru was Sanat Kumar Ji Maharaj. Guru Gorakh Nath's Guru was Dattatreye Ji Maharaj (an incarnation of Lord Shiva). Meerabai, the royal queen turned saint, had her guru Sant Rai Dass ji Maharaj. Sant Eknath's Guru was Janaradhana Swamy Ji Maharaj. Chhattarpathi Shiva Ji, the great warrior king, who had surrendered his kingdom to his Guru in 1655 and ruled on behalf of his Guru, had his spiritual master Smarth Ram Dass Ji Maharaj.

Today also, we witness thousands of Gurus with millions of followers/disciples.

To the disciple, Guru is the most trusted friend, philosopher and guide. He shapes the disciple like a potter who shapes the vessel by using his skill. Guru makes disciple to conquer his mind and walk towards excellence. He teaches the disciple to guard against snares of senses and NOT to transgress the line of caution. He expects disciples to be truthful in all their undertakings.



'Nothing should be concealed from Guru. Never tell a lie before him. Good or bad, true or false- everything should be unfolded before Guru.'

Sehjo Bai

True service to Guru is to follow, preserve and protect his Treasure of Truth (his teachings). This Treasure is dearest to him. For the Truth, many masters faced gallows, underwent live-roasting, poisoning and made other such sacrifices but refused to budge from the Truth. Guru is the highest deity and disciples must spread his message of Truth far and wide for the benefit of mankind.






The much awaited Cabinet expansion has taken place and after two years in governance it is at best a 'mid way' correction. The positives are the appointment of a full time Railway Minister in Dinesh Trivedi, the talented and articulate Salman Khurshid gets the Ministry of Law and along with the elevation of Beni Prasad Verma as a Cabinet Minister this will be a positive for the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Jairam Ramesh is promoted and this is well deserved and is shifted from Environment to Rural Development and in view of the Land Acquisition bill and other land issues this is a very good move. Verrapa Moily has always been a emotional man but his experience, integrity and knowledge will be good for the Corporate Affairs Ministry and a great deal of 'cleaning up' is necessary as Corporate rivalry has muddied the situation.The changes are not without controversy and the issues concerning Gurudas Kamat and Sri Kant Jena should have been handled better and in a difficult situation the Government will be tested on several occasions and by the time this article appears in print the changes in the Cabinet and the limited honey moon will be over and forgotten and we will be back to critical issues of governance. The reality of 'numbers' is that the Coalition is stable and help can come from unexpected quarters and the UPA 2 will not come under pressure. The DMK as a party have very limited choices as internally they have a family feud and matter of time before the two brothers start their battle for control. The Maran brothers face prolonged litigation and possible arrest and the entire family weighed down by excessive assets face retribution for years of excesses. CM J Jayalalitha moves carefully but will act in good times and the DMK as a political force have ceased to exist.

The UP election next year will determine if the UPA Government will last till 2014. The current situation shows CM Mayawati and the BSP under pressure and the campaign by Rahul Gandhi and the issue of land acquisition has spread to the entire state and the anti incumbency trend may well hit the BSP and it is far to early to arrive at any decisive trends and in theory the Congress will gain but so will the BJP and the decline of the SP may also have been halted? The next few months will be critical and this is clearly the time for the Congress to intensify their efforts in Central and Eastern UP. The SP look better with the return of Azam Khan in Rampur but the BJP lack credible leadership in the State to make solid gains. We are heading for a coalition Government in UP and I think both the BSP and the SP will think twice before voting against the UPA2 at the Center. Coalition politics is complicated but Uttar Pradesh holds the key both now and after the Assembly elections.

The DMK have few choices and should accept Textiles and Water resources and then there is always the Ministry of Programme Implementation and Statistics.

The Middle East continues to burn and in Afghanistan the brother of the President is killed by his security guard and no one is quite clear on the role played by Wali Karzai and media reports suggest drug connections, extensive assets and a very close linkage with the CIA. The situation deteriorates by the day and this murder coincided with the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and as I have written before we can expect the worst both in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the USA lose influence and besides the usual rhetoric from President Barack Obama we can expect very little as we have seen in the Mumbai violence. The Middle East is in political turmoil and many in Europe suffer from a similar ailment on the economic front and we can all see the situation in Greece and Portugal and now the virus spreads to Italy and Spain and while chaos may be averted their ability to act on political issues is very restricted. Look at the situation in Libya and Syria and look at Yemen, Tunisia and even in Egypt and Bahrain and has anyone been able to influence events?

Governments across the world are under increased scrutiny and now it is the turn of the media as we see both the Conservative and the Labor party combining together against Rupert Murdoch and the News of the World. The hacking of 4,000 telephone lines of VVIP'S and VIP along with their personal records [even the children were not spared] have horrified many but should this have come as a surprise to those who have been reading these tabloids and their gossip columns? Reform sadly comes after excesses have been committed and happily for us in India the media has made rapid strides but is still very far from the kind of journalism associated with the News of the World. Action is inevitable as criminal activity is involved and it would be interesting to see the 'level' this illegality will go to and in practical terms all this could not have been possible with some form of assistance from those in power. The Royal family was not spared and as the emails show police officers were paid money for information and access to telephone lines and all this information was available three years ago but was suppressed. The false expense scandal covered hundreds of MP'S and now all this indicates that all is not well and is any information secure in the system?

The Kalka train tragedy was possibly the worst we have witnessed in recent times and it was good of Dinesh Trivedi the new Minister to visit the site immediately after taking oath and earlier there was a visit by Rahul Gandhi and along with the relief measures taken it would be good to know what caused this derailment? Media reports suggest that the train was travelling at 100km plus and the driver applied the Emergency brake and can this be true? This tragedy like others is beyond words and hundreds of families have suffered and I do not know what to say in this situation. We seem to be going from one disaster to another and I do hope something will be done on this occasion to take care of the personal loss the families have suffered and to give the assurance that train travel is safe. I heard a remark that the political leaders would know little as most of them travelled by special planes, helicopters or by air and it is the Aam Aadmi who suffers in these fatal accidents! This may not entirely be true but sad that this sentiment should be expressed.




There are those who have said that the Prime Minister's latest reshuffle of his Cabinet was a meaningless move. Do not listen to them. If the only change had been the removal from the Ministry of Environment of Jairam Ramesh it would still constitute a change more meaningful than you can imagine. There are those who say that ousting Ramesh from the ministry that made him so very famous was a bad move. They say that his concerns about protecting India's environment were passionate enough for him to put the environment before economic growth and this was a good thing. Do not listen to them either. There is more to this story than is immediately obvious.

Jairam Ramesh's decades long career in politics has been mostly unremarkable. He wandered into it through the backdoor. Not by finding a constituency and seeking election to the Lok Sabha but through becoming Sonia Gandhi's speech writer and being a skilled and intelligent courtier. For this he was rewarded with a place in her kitchen cabinet, the National Advisory Council (NAC), and a place in the Rajya Sabha. From there he went on to become a junior minister (at her behest) and rendered a performance so ordinary that it is hard to remember the ministry he worked for. It was only when he was put in charge of the Environment Ministry that he saw his chance to finally make a name for himself. He did this at the cost of great damage to the country but he could not have cared less because it was not the environment he was concerned about but what the environment could do for Jairam Ramesh. To this end he cultivated environmental correspondents (a dubious bunch at best) who followed him as he wandered the land seeking out tigers in reserve forests and floating down the Yamuna to see if its waters were clean. His pictures duly appeared on front pages across the land. Had he restricted himself to this quest for harmless publicity it would not have harmed India for him to have continued as our Minister of Environment. Unfortunately he wanted much, much more.

He wanted to be the most famous minister in the Cabinet and knew that he could do this best by stopping big projects in which huge investments had already been made. From the environmental activists who are his biggest supporters he learned that this was the best way to grab headlines. So he stopped Vedanta from mining in the Niyamgiri Hills after the company had invested more than Rs 11,000 crores in a bauxite refinery. Had Vedanta been allowed to go ahead with its plans to make aluminum close to vast sources of bauxite it would have halved the international price of this very environmentally friendly metal and India could have become an aluminum producing centre. Powerful international interests were working against this happening and India's Environment Minister fell into their trap. The grounds on which this project were closed were so flimsy that N.C. Saxena, who wrote the environmental report for the ministry, admitted that if 500 more jobs had been created he would not have stopped the project. It is hard to believe that a company that had spent more than Rs 11,000 crores on its refinery would not have been able to create these jobs.

The other project that Jairam Ramesh stopped, or at least delayed for more than year, in Orissa was Posco's steel plant. Posco is making the single biggest foreign direct investment in this project and if Vedanta and Posco had succeeded economic experts believe that these two projects could have doubled the annual revenue of one of India's poorest states. Surely, they could have gone ahead making sure that any environmental damage was rectified as fully as possible? Surely the Environment Ministry could have ensured this? But, Ramesh reveled in his reputation for being 'India's green wrecking machine' as he was described in the Wall Street Journal.

His next big target was Lavasa the first city that India has built since Chandigarh. We need 500 more cities if we are to accommodate the urban population we are likely to have by 2050 but if ministers like Ramesh are allowed to roam free there is no chance they will be built. Lavasa is being built to the highest environmental standards. The hills in which it is being built are greener now than they were before. Eighteen villages have affirmed that the city planners have brought them roads, markets, prosperity and a higher standard of living than they have ever known. But, Jairam Ramesh closed the project down more than six months ago, causing more than 15000 workers to lose their jobs, without even sending his own committee to assess if there had been environmental damage. When he did set up an Environmental Assessment Committee it told him that there had been no serious violations but he continued to withhold permission for work to start in Lavasa on the grounds that he had pre-conditions that must be met. Lavasa Corporation told a court in Mumbai last week that the pre-conditions amount to them being forced to admit that there have been violations when there have not been any. I have personally been associated with this project since its inception and it saddens me deeply that a fine, new Indian city that hoped it could become an educational and cultural centre could end up destroyed because of a minister's arbitrariness and vanity.

It was when Jairam Ramesh's depredations began to affect major public sector projects like power plants and airports that the Prime Minister knew he had to act. He has been trying to evict him from the Ministry of Environment for months but Ramesh has been protected by his closeness to the Gandhi family. Now that he has gone we must hope that the damage he did to India's image can be repaired enough to woo back the foreign investors who have fled to safer countries.

India needs foreign investment to modernize her rickety ports, railways and roads. We need economic growth to solve our horrendous problems of poverty and deprivation and this cannot come if even Indian investors begin to look for safer countries to take their investments. In the Prime Minister's memorable words 'poverty is our biggest environmental problem'. May the new Environment Minister keep these words in mind when she begins to repair the incalculable damage done by her predecessor.











The three blasts that rocked the crowded areas of Mumbai on Wednesday evening have brought  people at large face to face with the reality that the comparative lull in terror activities since the 2008 terror attacks at various locations in the commercial capital is no cause for any let-up in vigil. The time chosen for the serial blasts when swarms of Mumbaikars are on their way home after work  indicated that they were designed to cause maximum casualities and create heightened panic. Evidently, considerable preparation had gone into these well-coordinated attacks and there was an all-too-familiar failure of intelligence. With the Indo-Pak dialogue process having resumed recently, it is reasonable to surmise that the terror outfits in Pakistan are out to derail the peace process.


Much as Home Minister Chidambaram may say about giving terrorists a bloody nose, there can be little doubt that terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Indian Mujahideen are emboldened by the soft nature of the Indian state. The lone survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks of 2008 Ajmal Kasab, though sentenced to death, could spend years in death row going by the experience of others, including Afzal Guru, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the attack on Parliament but has not been executed for years. Many terrorists have been arrayed before courts in the past only to be freed for lack of evidence. There is indeed a woeful lack of deterrent which is lowering the credibility of the Indian state to deal with such situations.


It goes to Mr Chidambaram's credit that after he took over in the wake of the 26/11 attacks of 2008, this is the first major terror incident. Intelligence has been beefed up to some extent but needs to be strengthened further, and the police reaction time on this occasion was a lot better than in the past. The perpetrators of the Wednesday blasts must be tracked down on a war footing. The law must be strengthened so that there is speedy meting out of justice and an effective deterrent is created. The terrorist menace leaves no room for complacency. The country can ill afford to be looked upon as too soft a state to be feared.









Punjab's 5.5 per cent schools have only one teacher compared to 3.1 per cent in Haryana. The figures for Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir are relatively higher at 9.5 per cent and 12.7 per cent, respectively, which may be because of their difficult terrain and scattered population. Himachal is way ahead of the northern states on the education front despite paucity of resources and infrastructure but the quality of education provided requires attention. Single-teacher schools mock at mass unemployment among teachers. Teachers are appointed on contract at abysmally low salaries. The absurd situation needs to change if the Right to Education is to become a reality.


Much of what ails education – lack of teachers, school buildings, well-equipped laboratories, libraries, toilets, boundary walls — can be attributed to poor budgetary allocation to education at both the Central and state levels. Education, like healthcare, does not get the priority it deserves. From the tight education budget more is given to higher educational institutions than primary and secondary schools. Then there are governance issues – teacher absenteeism, high dropout rate, misuse of resources etc. Education ministers take more interest in teachers' appointments and transfers than the condition of schools.


The neglect of government schools has contributed to the rise of private, English-medium schools, where charges are higher and regulation poorer. Since the number of schools with a reputation for excellence is limited there is often a scramble for admissions and malpractices crop up. Children are made to travel long distances to reach the school of their parents' dream. The concept of neighbourhood schools has never been pursued. Private schools started as business ventures are driving up the costs of education, making primary education unaffordable even for middle-class parents. Children from families of modest means are left at the mercy of government schools, which are usually in bad shape. The education divide is growing and will in time further widen income disparities, resulting in youth unrest and social tensions. 











The killing of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar by his chief security guard shows that anyone known for his closeness to the US can be eliminated anytime despite the efforts to woo the Taliban. Wali Karzai, head of the Kandahar provincial council, was a towering figure in southern Afghanistan. President Karzai depended heavily on his brother's advice for any step that he took, particularly for meeting the Taliban challenge. Wali Karzai's opinion was also respected by the Americans. His US connection was the main reason why the Taliban hated him the most. He had also acquired the image of being one of the most corrupt public figures in Afghanistan, an embarrassment for President Karzai. But no one could replace him so long as he was alive because of his stature and being the head of the powerful Popalzai tribe to which the Afghanistan President also belongs. The position he held has now gone to another Karzai, Shah Wali Karzai.


President Karzai is passing through a very difficult phase in his political life. He had been offering the olive branch to the Taliban for some time, yet the extremists have eliminated a prominent member of his family. Even then he has not condemned the Taliban's dastardly act. What President Karzai said in the presence of tribal elders in Karz, his ancestral village where Wali Karzai was buried on Wednesday, was that "Even if the Taliban say that they have killed my brother, I call on them, brothers, come, make peace." He declared that he was committed to ensuring that the peace dialogue with the Taliban remained undisturbed.


The truth is that President Karzai is almost helpless. The US and its Western allies have accepted that the Taliban cannot be defeated by force, and the best way to deal with the extremists is to win them over through negotiations. Some Taliban leaders have been given feelers to join the Karzai government and leave the path of violence. But, perhaps, they want more concessions. The assassination of Wali Karzai seems to be aimed at conveying this message forcefully.









A few days back at its 2011 plenary meeting in the Netherlands, the 46-nation nuclear cartel, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), came up with new guidelines regarding the tightening of exports of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies. Though the exact formulation of the new guidelines have not been made public, they seem to underscore that the transfer of sensitive ENR technologies will exclude nations which are not signatories to the NPT and do not have full scope safeguards. This has led to an intense debate in India as it seems to go against the spirit of the NSG exemption granted to New Delhi in 2008. In an unprecedented move then, the NSG gave a crucial waiver to India enabling it to carry out nuclear commerce and ended 34 years of the country's isolation from international mainstream in the wake of the 1974 nuclear tests.


This was a major step in the implementation of the US-India nuclear accord and since then New Delhi has been working towards establishing a mutually beneficial partnership with friendly countries in an area which is important for both global energy security and climate change. Describing it as a "historic deal," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated that "it is a recognition of India's impeccable non-proliferation credentials and its status as a state with advanced nuclear technology."


This move is being viewed as directed against India, shutting the doors on commerce related to enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Not surprisingly, senior Indian officials had already expressed their concerns regarding the new ENR rules suggesting that they would make the 2008 exemption to India rather meaningless. There is a growing disquiet in India. Some of it is rooted in genuine apprehensions about India's ability to take part in global nuclear commerce in the future, but a lot of it is ideological.


Every setback on the nuclear deal front is viewed as a triumph by those who all along have been against the deal on ideological grounds. The CPM has accused the Prime Minister and the government of "misleading" the people and Parliament even as the anti-American lobby is back with a bang underscoring US perfidious behaviour in trying to scuttle Indian nuclear ambitions.


The US State Department has tried to allay growing concerns in New Delhi by suggesting that "nothing about the new ENR transfer restrictions agreed to by NSG members should be construed as detracting from the unique impact and importance of the US-India agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation." It argues that "the NSG's NPT references, including those in the ENR guidelines, in no way detract from the exception granted to India by NSG members in 2008 and in no way reflect upon India's non-proliferation record."


But this is not being viewed as enough, especially as under the proposals that were mooted under the Bush Administration the exports of ENR technologies would have been banned for those nations that did not have them which would have made India eligible for their transfers, given India's indigenous capabilities in the field.


India enjoys a unique status in the global nuclear hierarchy and it was always going to be a difficult exercise in bringing India into the nuclear mainstream. It was the US that expended precious diplomatic capital in bringing the naysayers around when the original exemption was granted to India in 2008. Without the diplomatic heft of Washington DC, New Delhi would not have anything even with tacit support and good intentions of Moscow and Paris.


But the Obama administration's ideological rigidity on non-proliferation has led to the danger of destroying the hard won gains from the nuclear rapprochement between India and the US. The Obama administration's support for the new ENR guidelines also stems from its ideological commitment to the extant nuclear non-proliferation regime. Successive US administrations have viewed proliferations on WMDs as the biggest threat to the American and global security, but unlike its predecessor the present dispensation in Washington DC believes that the regime framework needs to be strengthened in order to counter the proliferation threat.


New Delhi is not blameless either. India has been signalling that it doesn't really need Washington DC to operationalise the nuclear deal and garner its benefits. This has been much applauded by those who want a more independent (read anti-US) foreign policy. More applause followed when Indian Parliament passed a nuclear liability law that makes it virtually impossible for US companies to operate in the Indian market. And now when the US is refusing to put its weight behind the NSG deliberations in favour of India, there is much heartburn about American duplicity.


Mired in domestic problems, the Indian government lost crucial time over the last three years when it could have settled this issue with some finality. Now, the never-ending chaos surrounding the UPA-II is raising serious doubts about the ability of this government to take important and decisive steps in the realm of foreign policy. With two non-serious governments in New Delhi and Washington DC, is it any wonder that the gains of the landmark treaty are likely to be frittered away?


The Indian government has now sought reassurances from its nuclear partners, including the US, France and Russia, that they would stand by their earlier commitments and they have reiterated their adherence to understandings with India. Nuclear commerce is not a one-way street. India remains a huge market and it should leverage its assets accordingly. While the new ENR guidelines are a setback, ground realities can be altered by astute diplomacy. After all, NSG guidelines are voluntary, so that its member-states can have the flexibility necessary to deal with the issues related to nuclear commerce.


At a time when the US is working to seek India's membership in the NSG, it is imperative that Washington DC and New Delhi work together to put the basic bargain of the Iandmark US-India civilian nuclear energy cooperation pact back in place.


The writer, author of "The US-India Nuclear Pact: Policy, Process, and Great Power Politics (Oxford University Press), teaches at King's College, London.









Gopal's flight has got delayed and he will now leave after having dinner at my home. Would you like to consult him?" asked a lawyer friend over the telephone. He was referring to Gopal Subramanium, then a young and brilliant lawyer at the Supreme Court.


Subramanium had flown to the state capital to appear in a case before the High Court and was to have flown back to Delhi the same afternoon. The lawyer friend knew of my on-going battle of attrition with the state legislature and the breach of privilege notice it had slapped on the Editor, printer and Publisher. The notice, for good measure, had been sent to the Chairman and another director of the company as well.


Upset at the legislature's demand that the company chairman appear before the Privileges Committee, the company's legal cell was insisting that the Resident Editor should tender an immediate apology and close the chapter, a move that yours truly was resisting to the best of his ability.


The issue involved the authority of legislative committees. Could a House Committee, set up to inquire into 'X', exceed its brief and look into 'Y' was the question. Could a committee, asked to inquiry into an alleged purchase scandal in the state electricity board, plead that it had neither any evidence nor the technical expertise to inquire into the allegation? And yet, could it go on to say that it found 'centralisation of authority' in the chairman and recommend that he be sacked?


It appeared such a brazen misuse of legislative authority that the newspaper ran a campaign against it, exposing the committee to ridicule. Stung, the legislature hit back with a summons to the Privileges Committee, a warning and reminders every second day. The move was to intimidate the newspaper into silence.


It was in this backdrop that Gopal Subramanium had appeared in the state capital and the lawyer friend, now a High Court judge, made the friendly call with the offer to introduce me to Mr Subramanium. Needless to say, I clutched at the straw and rushed to consult him.


It took little time to explain the case as Mr Subramanium patiently listened. He looked grave, even grim, and I had the sinking feeling that he was not really amused at the diversion. Soon I exhausted my arguments and sat back to hear what he had to say.


When he spoke, he was brief and businesslike. The points which have been raised, he declared, were fundamental questions and he would be delighted to take up the case, right up to the Supreme Court. You can also tell your management that I will not charge any fee, he added with the slightest of smile hovering on his lips.


Two days later I was in Delhi, explaining my conduct to the legal cell. They were exasperated at my refusal to tender an apology and informed regretfully that the Chairman would have to be told of my abominable conduct. Their pitying look said it all. I sat there alone, brooding darkly about how to draft my resignation, as the law officers went to the Chairman's office to brief him.


I was summoned after half an hour and asked if I had to say anything for myself. I have reasons to believe that it was Mr Subramanium's offer that saved the day and my job. Now that Gopal Subramanium, the Solicitor General of India, has put in his papers, I remembered that I never went back to thank him. It's never too late, I guess. Thank you, Gopal, for standing by an unknown Indian.








Black money is that part of the GDP which is beyond the accounted stream of the economy. It may have grown out or converted from offences like drug, arms trade and smuggling, terrorism, kickbacks in various public or private sector deals, hawala transactions, invoice manipulation or simply tax evasion. Whatever the origin, the common denominator is the non-payment of taxes.'


The quantum of black money has been under discussion ever since Kaldor, a distinguished economist, assessed it in the mid-fifties at 5 per cent of the GDP, though now every expert puts it at 50 per cent or above.


I have analysed the creation and use of black money in truck operations, beedi-making, real estate and Delhi marriages. Mining, manufacturing and professionals like doctors, advocates, architects etc are great black money spinners.


In 2007 Transparency International studies trucking operations in India and concluded that a truck travelled about 1,00,000 km a year and had to shell out 70 paise per km or Rs. 79,220 as bribe to various departments during an year with a major portion going for overloading. The study arrived at a total figure of Rs.22,048.20 crore of bribe money. At the rate of 70 paise per kilometre, trucks all over the country cover 31,497 crore km to pay Rs. 22,048 crores as bribe.


According to this study, 100-150 per cent overloading is the rule. A truck with nine tonnes capacity carries a load of 18 to 22.5 tonnes, thereby cheating the exchequer in two ways. First, the fee paid for the permit is in proportion to the authorised capacity of the vehicle and second that all this tonnage is hauled up unrecorded and the entire income from these operations turns black on which neither the service tax nor the income tax is paid.


Actual and recorded GDP


In 2006-07 the minimum GDP of Delhi must have been Rs. 1,93,000 crore in place of the official figure of Rs. 77,000 crore. The remaining Rs. 1.16 lakh crore remained black, causing a tax loss of at least Rs. 50,000 crore. That shows the actual GDP of the country may be double the recorded one.


No wonder that the price of land in Delhi in certain areas is as high as Rs. 11 lakh per square yard against the official circle rate of Rs. 86,000 for a sq. metre or Rs. 75,000 per sq. yard. Thus, every acre sold in the posh areas involves a black component of Rs. 500 crore. With varying rates, that is the story all over the country but things are much more serious when we come to the metros.


In OECD countries place 36 per cent of GDP is collected as taxes. We collect only about 14 per cent. The generation of black money can stop if the whole economy gets recorded and is subjected to taxation.


Black money emerges as too big a national problem. People should not allow the issue to be dragged into political controversy and be killed though no party can take a public stance that black money stashed abroad should not be brought back. All political parties are responsible for it.


Black money abroad


A part of hush money flows abroad and is parked mostly in tax havens that have no tax or very low tax and are armed with secrecy laws. This money could be deposited in banks, invested in real estate, jewellery, shares etc. Jewellery can then be brought to India on return from a foreign visit. The dentention of actors carrying unaccounted jewellery is becoming frequent.


The issue of bringing back black money came into focus in 2009 when a Swiss bank director disclosed the figure of Indians in private Swiss banks as $1,456 billion.


Recession compelled developed nations to get back deposits of their citizens. Germany got lists of accounts through an employee of LGT and a number of them like the US, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Italy, U.K and Ireland, whose nationals were also on the list, collected information about their citizens and seized their money.


The Indian government's efforts to obtain the names of Indians on the list have been half-hearted. Even the Hassan Ali case worth $8.1 billion has not been followed with any seriousness for years. Now the Supreme Court has constituted a Special Investigating Team under two retired judges to look into the whole gamut of black money. Even if our government gets serious, we may not achieve much as not only political will is lacking and enforcement is weak, but our laws are also weak.


We need stringent laws that shift the burden of proof on the defaulter. These laws need to be implemented with equal strictness for everybody and that requires functional freedom from the executive (both political and administrative) for investigating/enforcement agencies and in particular the CBI.


Tax evasion should be made a criminal offence. The violations of foreign exchange need to be brought under the category of crime so that the money laundering Act could cover it.


Get tough with tax havens


Treaties should be renegotiated and concluded with the countries fight the black money menace as well as the countries housing or acting as tax havens. India should boycott in all political and economic fields the tax havens which refuse to cooperate.


Like France, close operations in their country and also their business establishments in the jurisdictions of the non-cooperating tax havens. India should ban operations by any Indian or foreign firm that has an office in any of the tax havens. Mauritius falls in this category.


The tax havens will not be cowed easily. Even the US had threatened to close all 381 branches of Swiss banks located on its territory. This scared the Swiss banks into submission. Secondly, America does not suffer from internal contradictions as our government faces here. Our salvation lies in building nationwide pressure on the government.


Manipulation in foreign exchange has ceased to be a criminal offence after FERA was replaced by FEMA. So carting money abroad that is not linked to any substantive crime by itself is not a criminal offence in India. Then how can we even draft an application for getting our money back?


Still to befool the public, our government asked the Swiss bank authorities for the names of all those Indians who are keeping secret accounts with them. On August 22, 2010, we received a big rebuff. The Swiss authorities not only chided us but also upheld the sanctity of the age-old secrecy provisions, making us stand in the dock for witch-hunting and fishing expeditions.


We have made our fight for bringing black money impossible and weaker by weakening the law in India itself. Till such time we strengthen our laws, we should not pin any hopes of any help or understanding from the world community. Yet, the government applied only to counter pressure from the Opposition. Both have deliberately befooled the people. However, this befooling game has served a very useful purpose as people have been educated in the process.


We need not cow down but fight it out breaking even international laws for obtaining the information. Germany motivated an LGT employee to spill the beans. Our missions abroad could also organise some such activity. But our government would not permit that.


The only alternative left with the people is to hack the accounts in tax havens and put them on the web for all to see. Once secrecy is broken no one will keep his money there. This will compel the government to act. All the money along with penalty be recovered from the depositor.


The writer is a retired DGP of Haryana and former Joint Director of the CBI. He is the author of a book titled: "Financial Terrorism: Black Money and the Indian Elite"


Pay Through Banks


n Transactions in cash should be made difficult and the use of bank money or plastic money be encouraged. Let there be a limit that no transaction beyond Rs. 1,000 (though ideally 500) would be made in cash.


n Drive the surplus cash comprising bigger notes out of the market. This will compel people to use banks. The black economy will shrink; tax collection will look up; the medium of storage of black money will disappear; the serious problem of counterfeit currency will be automatically solved and with no black money to be paid, kidnappings, loot by domestic servants in particular etc and even dowry will disappear.


n Make all government payments by cheque or credit amounts in the bank accounts.


n Make the holding of 'benami' assets difficult. Introduce a National Property Register that should record all assets of an individual on the basis of a unique ID to be allotted on fingerprint classification or any other unique identity code.


n Make tax evasion a cognizable crime with a jail term as punishment. It could be linked to the amount of tax evaded.


n For regulating the private sector, make auditors independent of the person or the firm audited so that they conduct meaningful true audit and expose rather than conceal wrong actions. US President Theodore Roosevelt, referring to the role of auditing, onbserved: "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people." In India, the auditor is employed by the person who is to be audited. No wonder, he is a conspirator in the generation of black money.



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Terrorists and extremists who kill Indians seek to divide the people of India. Every terror attack is an attempt to sow the seeds of sectional hatred and insecurity. Terrorists do not aim to kill people as an end, they do that as a means to divide people along communal or other sectional lines. While the mature response of ordinary Indian people to such provocations has been inspiring, many politicians and mediapersons have sought to exploit a national tragedy for sectional gains. It's a pity that the Bharatiya Janata Party has been tempted to politicise a human tragedy and sections of the electronic media have been chasing angry viewers, sensationalising their anguish.

Terrorism is neither a new threat to India nor one that is likely to disappear soon. Different governments have had to deal with it over the years. Moreover, to imagine that all terror is exported from Pakistan is to remain blind to emerging domestic sources of extremism in Indian political life. Islamic and Hindu extremists, Maoists, separatists, insurgents and suchlike are all resorting to violence to further their political goals. Given the nature of the beast, it is time the government, political parties and the media responded in a measured and focused way. It is a measure of the maturity of Mumbaikars that the response of ordinary people in Mumbai has been more inspiring than that of most political parties.

India's record in dealing with terrorism has improved under the able leadership of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. His measured, informed and thoughtful statement on television and his responses have inspired confidence. His transparent and honest statement to the media should be welcomed. He was right to state that no one should speculate about the identity of the terrorists without the availability of facts. The response of the people of Mumbai, the state government and the central government this time has been better than ever. Mr Chidambaram has provided impressive leadership to the Union home ministry since those tragic days of the 26/11 attacks. He has been able to impart a greater degree of professionalism to the functioning of the national security apparatus. It is just as well that he was urged to stay put in his present job by the prime minister.

Till the identity of the terrorists is established, it would not be fair to indulge in any finger-pointing, even at Pakistan. One of the aims of religious extremists in South Asia is, in fact, to disrupt the process of normalisation in the subcontinent. It would be a pity if South Asia's politicians and media facilitate that disruption by the manner of their response to such terror attacks. Both Hindus and Muslims have died in Mumbai this Wednesday. They were all Indians and those who killed them were India's enemies. The country must unite in its response, and not fall prey to the machinations of those who seek to divide India.






The draft Bill on microfinance regulation put out by the government has the virtue of being unambiguous. It seeks to put the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) unequivocally in charge of this sector and end the regulatory ambiguity that was exposed when the crisis in the sector blew up last year. This gap and crisis, which centred around Andhra Pradesh, prompted the state government to come up with its own regulation for the sector to contain the political fallout of suicides induced by coercive recovery practices. Those regulations were draconian and, if left to define the future regulation of the sector, would have seriously impaired its growth. Plus, there would have been total confusion if other states had followed suit and drafted their own regulatory frameworks. That would have been calamitous since microfinance is one of the key weapons, though not the only one, to fight poverty and every effort is needed to make it sustainable and self-financing. Recoveries by microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Andhra are down to 10 per cent and MFIs stand to lose Rs 7,000 crore or more. The Andhra model will mean the end of private finance and leave the sector to be funded only by the state government and banks via self-help groups.

Predictably, the Andhra government does not like the draft Bill and has highlighted the anomaly that while it seeks to keep the states from regulating the sector, they will nevertheless be left holding the baby when malpractices create crises like suicides. Also, the draft Bill seeks to limit the margins that MFIs will be able to earn when high costs and low margins can coexist with high interest rates. What is needed is a cap on interest rates, something that affect the borrower. The proposed law leaves most of the specifics to be spelt out by the RBI through its regulations. The regulations resulting from the Malegam committee's recommendations reveal the RBI's mind and these stipulate an interest rate ceiling. The problem with a cap is that it will push out of business small MFIs that don't have scale to bring down costs. A few large players without fresh blood coming in can create unhealthy market conditions to the detriment of small borrowers.

Microfinance became exciting when it was realised that its business model had stabilised and could offer a return to private equity. But things went off the rails when private equity-funded MFIs, mostly concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, expanded their loan books too rapidly and chased recovery over-zealously, creating social distress. It is now clear that microfinance is neither wholly commerce nor wholly philanthropy. Social entrepreneurship should guide it, producing enough returns to attract social capital but not freely floating global capital. A cushion is needed to take care of the vulnerability of the poor (occasionally they will face distress and default). Those providing it can look for steady moderate returns over a long period and scope for additional returns from offering a range of financial services to the poor. The draft Bill includes remittance, pension and insurances services among microfinance activities. MFIs need to be driven along the right channels so that at some point the best and most stable among them can accept deposits, like Grameen Bank. The draft signals this by including thrift under the MFI menu.







New Delhi and Dhaka are acting together again to boost their relationship. The upcoming visit of India's prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to Bangladesh offers an opportunity to review the bilateral relationship between New Delhi and Dhaka.

Whenever such top-level meetings take place, the Indian media recalls New Delhi's critical role in Bangladesh's liberation, culminating in the creation of a new country in 1971. However, relations between liberators and the liberated rarely turn out to be easy. Misaligned expectations lead to mutual resentment, and objective problems are often shrouded in negative atmospherics, making their resolution more difficult, if not intractable. With the exception of a brief period immediately after the liberation, the relationship between the two countries has been marred by mistrust and mutual suspicion.

Nevertheless, some progress has been registered recently, as recorded in a joint communiqué last year between the two countries, including the grant of a $1 billion line of credit by the Indian government to Bangladesh. India has increased the annual duty-free quota from eight to ten million pieces of Bangladesh garment imports, but Bangladesh is looking for the removal of the "quota", an option India needs to consider.

Co-operation in the power sector, including grid connectivity, has already taken off and should grow through 2013. In addition, India's National Thermal Power Corporation has gone ahead to set up a 1,320 Mw green field power plant in Khulna, Bangladesh, as part of a joint venture. Work on linking the railway lines between Tripura and eastern Bangladesh is also progressing. Similarly, two "Border Haats" in Meghalaya will soon be ready, encouraging cross-border trade by local populations.

Regular exchanges of business delegations have resulted in several joint venture agreements in packaging, animal foods, auto components, denim and household utensils. Exports from Bangladesh to India increased by 52 per cent in the first nine months of 2010-11, a helpful development in broadening Bangladesh's manufacturing base in the near future.

Earlier, from India's perspective, Bangladesh seemed resentful of India's economically more successful track record, failing to emulate its growth strategies and resisting several large India-inspired economic projects and related Indian investments, for example from the Tata conglomerate.   

Of greater concern to India was the strength of radical Islam in organised politics in Bangladesh as well as the existence of significant Islamist militant groups, some of which had international links (including with confederates in Pakistan, and, allegedly, in India). The fear of Talibanisation of Bangladesh, which seems far-fetched to casual observers, remains real and urgent for much of India's security establishment, although Bangladesh's new government, under Sheikh Hasina, has reversed the dalliance with Islamic extremists that marked the period of Bangladeshi government under her arch-rival Khaleda Zia.

Bangladesh's politics has long been dominated by these two women, both linked to political dynasties. Ms Zia was perceived in India and the West as playing on Islamic radicalisation, and relations with New Delhi suffered accordingly. Ms Hasina's return to power in December 2008 has greatly improved the mood for bilateral relations.

The migration of Bangladeshis to India has at times been a politically salient and sensitive issue for New Delhi, particularly when terrorist acts in India are attributed – not always convincingly – in whole or in part to Bangladeshi migrants. In addition, Bangladesh's reported harbouring of movements aiming at secession of parts of India's north-east region (much of which was coveted by Pakistan in the run-up to the Partition) has been a sore point in bilateral relations.

While Bangladeshis are worried about the potential for Indian domination, India has its own concerns about border management, water sharing, transit-related issues and illegal migration — the narrow Siliguri corridor that links the north-east region with the rest of India is a worry.

India is seen by many in Bangladesh as an insensitive regional power. Given the growing trade imbalance between the two countries, India's government needs to demonstrate sensitivity to Ms Hasina's public opinion. Some unilateral measures by India benefiting Bangladesh will give a fresh impetus to the relationship, notably on market access for Bangladeshi exports to and through India. A recent study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry suggests that Bangladesh is internationally (and relative to India) highly competitive in batteries, jute twine, cordage and ropes, and cement and bricks. Investment by India in these sectors in Bangladesh, combined with the option to re-export to India, will help diversify Bangladesh's trade and reduce the trade gap between the two countries.

While Bangladeshis understandably feel "India-locked", those in India's north east sometimes feel "Bangladesh-locked". India's ability to trade with, and support, the remote north-east region is limited. Bangladesh could help. Moving beyond a history of turmoil in India's north-east region, Bangladesh could seek market access and make investments there, setting up special economic zones along the border to tap raw materials from India's north east using Bangladesh's capital, technology and labour to expand employment, trade and exports. Bangladesh's entrepreneurial and business communities can help develop this Indian region. 

Active economic and security co-operation is very much in the mutual interest of both countries, even where it is asymmetric. The two governments must accept this proposition and work towards implementing it.

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy is senior assistant director, International Affairs at Ficci, New Delhi and David M Malone is the president of IDRC, Canada, and the author of Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy,

The views are personal






When I was a young man – oh, about, five or six or 25 years ago – my father – still a young man, by the way – taught me several features of the market. One that I remember often and well is that, when volatility rises suddenly, it frequently presages a major turning point.

Since my business is helping companies manage risk and since my clients often think I have a pair of crystal balls, I am compelled to keep looking for turning points in the market, which may be why I call far more of them than actually happen.

In any event, I have noticed for a long time that volatility in most markets has been remarkably low, and I have been watching for signs of change everywhere. And, lo and behold, today, as I wondered about how edgy the euro/dollar has been getting, I looked a little closer and found that the volatility of the dollar index (DXY), at 8.67 per cent, while not meaningfully different than either its five- or 10-year average, has risen suddenly to where it exceeds its short-term (three-month) average by more than one per cent — sorry for all these numbers, but bear with me.

Over the last 10 years, this has happened only 245 times, and each time it happened, the DXY moved, on average, by more than five per cent over the next six months. Now, five per cent may not seem like a lot, but the last time the DXY was five per cent higher than today's level was back in January, and the last time it was five per cent below today's level was was way back in April 2008.

Further, let's remember that five per cent was only the average movement; the most dramatic movement in the DXY was nearly 14 per cent in six months. Applying that kicker would translate to a DXY of over 85 (this level was last seen in June 2010, right after the Greek problem first came to light) or under 65 (this level has never been seen).

While there's no analytic reason to prefer the higher to the lower level, there is also no reason to assume that the breakout will be larger than average. The single point this analysis suggests is that the DXY is going to move sharply sooner rather than later.

To put some context to all of this, we need to now move to the real world of economic (ha ha) fundamentals, and try to thread this assertion in. Looking around, China has just delivered substantially higher-than-expected growth and US Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has opened a smidgen of a door to (surely not) QE3. Both of these have pushed commodities higher; gold is also rocking. If this were to continue as the trend, it would argue in favour of the DXY collapsing.

On the other hand – and, there's always another hand – the European debt crisis is going from strength to strength, and it is harder than ever to see any sort of either short-term or meaningful long-term solution. This is keeping the euro on the ropes and is providing the much-needed support to the DXY.

Returning to the blue corner, the yen has suddenly surged to within spitting distance of its all-time high.

In the red corner, of course, is the continuing bubbling of West Asia and North Africa and other points of geopolitical instability. And, an important one — the US trade deficit grew to a multi-year high as imports surged, suggesting that US growth may not be as terrible as it looks.

Woozy from the battering, where is the DXY to go?

Well, let's go to one more videotape. If the DXY were to go back to 85, the rupee would likely cross 46, to where it was back in June 2010 when the DXY last crossed 85. If the DXY were to plunge further towards 65, the rupee would strengthen, and very likely cross even 43 to the dollar.

Which of these two broad directions seems more likely? Well, remarkably, despite our political paralysis, foreign institutional investors have been flocking to Indian equity markets of late. But, I note that none of the talking heads on television is calling for a sustained bull market. Granted, global brokers are making a beeline for the Indian market, snapping up personnel from the weakening domestic broking sector, but then, global players are – supposedly – here for the long run.

As you can probably tell, I don't buy a current bull market.

Which leaves the other alternative —a wobbly Sensex, a stronger dollar and a weaker rupee.

Fortunately, rupee volatility has not yet taken off — BUY OPTIONS OR CALL SPREADS.







A few weeks ago, a daily published a news report alleging that baby girls were being subjected to sex-change procedures to turn them into boys. The racket was supposedly centred on Indore; seven surgeons operating out of various clinics were said to have performed hundreds of such sex-change operations.

The report asserted that every year, around 300 infants were first being pumped with male hormones and then made to undergo genitoplasty surgery to give them male sex organs. The cost was estimated to be Rs 1.5 lakh.

If true, it's obviously sensational. However, many aspects of the story just don't add up. The medical procedures involved, the costs, and in behavioural terms, the expected long-term utility for the parents just don't make sense.

We can surely infer that Indians want male children and grand-children. The gender ratio is massively skewed in favour of males. The so-called 100 million "missing Indian girls" under the age of five, have been written about extensively. The sex-change racket was, supposedly, another data point underlining the Indian obsession with males.

India has a law against pre-natal gender determination. This specifically bans amniocentesis for that purpose. Abortion is legal and no reason is required for wanting an abortion, before week 20.

Quite possibly, unscrupulous Indian doctors and lab technicians ignore the law against sex determination.

Apart from that, it's possible to buy DIY sex-determination kits ("Jack or Jill" on for example, costs $12), use them to send a sample of the pregnant woman's blood to an overseas lab (the lab test costs $100-150) and get a foetus gender determination delivered online.

Abortion is also an easy and cheap procedure. The cost could be as low as Rs 300. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, it may vary between Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 according to a study by the Centre for Operations Research and Training, Baroda. A late-stage abortion with anaesthesia and invasive surgery would cost an absolute maximum of about Rs 15,000 at a high-end private hospital. The Consortium on National Consensus for Medical Abortion in India estimates that around 11 million medically-terminated pregnancies (aka abortions) take place every year.

Hence, Indians can determine the sex of the foetus and selectively medically terminate pregnancy, for a fraction of the alleged cost of genitoplasty. Moral considerations aside, this makes a sex-change operation worth it only if the parents think they will get a healthy boy-child, capable of reproduction, at the end of the process.

However, this is not possible. As mentioned above, foetal gender determination can be done by testing the pregnant woman's blood. The test is 98-99 per cent accurate (amniocentesis is 100 per cent accurate). It checks for traces of foetal chromosomes in the mother's blood.

A chromosome is a DNA strand containing the genetic material of the parent. Chromosomes are paired. Human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes, of which 22 ("autosomes") are not related to gender. The 23rd pair determines gender.

Boys have a set of two differentiated gender-chromosomes known as a XY pair while girls have two identical sets called XX. Once the chromosome set is fixed early in conception, they cannot be changed. Even in cases of genitoplasty surgery, a female who has grafted male organs or vice-versa, remains sterile.

The utility of genitoplasty lies in two other cases. Infants are sometimes born with abnormal genitalia. Some for example, have undescended or partially descended testes — Hitler was a famous example. Others have difficulty in urination and to put it crudely, need their plumbing fixed.

In such cases, genitoplasty surgery is undertaken to correct the shape, size and function of organs. These are well-known procedures, but not sex-change operations. A boy or girl with genital problems will undergo surgery to "normalise" respective organs, not swap them.

Sometimes called intersex surgery, genitoplasty can take years. It does involve hormone treatment (testosterone for male genitoplasty, and oestrogen for females). According to a study by Shilpa Sharma and Devendra Gupta, Male Genitoplasty for Intersex Disorders, 326 such intersex procedures were undertaken at AIMS, Delhi, between 1989-2007. The ages of the patients ranged from 2.5 years to 22 years with a median age of 5.5 years. Note — no infants.

In adults, this surgery is also carried out for transgender people, who do wish to undergo sex change. Again, it includes hormonal administration as well as intensive psychological counselling. The writer Jan Morris, for example, is a well-known individual who changed sex (from male to female) and so did the tennis player Renee Richards.

To qualify for such transgender surgery, the subject has to be a sane adult and undergo at least six months of hormone treatment and counselling. The waiting period before surgery ranges between 18 and 24 months with some US states insisting on three years of the individual living as the other gender.

The costs for this are well above Rs 4 lakh — much more than that report alleged. The entire process of sex change takes about two years to stabilise. The individual will always be sterile and doesn't change at chromosomal levels.

Indian laws and identity documents such as passports and voter IDs now allow for a third sex identification of "other". That's a welcome change in official attitude. But it doesn't translate into hundreds of baby girls being turned into sterile boys on an assembly line.

Indians do have reprehensible social attitudes that clearly favour boys over girls. But, given the consequences of surgery and the far cheaper simpler alternatives of gender-determination and selective abortion, the use of genitoplasty surgery for this seems unlikely.







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)




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

















Andhra Pradesh




Madhya Pradesh








Himachal Pradesh




Jammu and Kashmir












Tamil Nadu








West Bengal




Uttar Pradesh
























(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






The best defence against terror is effective governance rather than superior law enforcement.

Just when the nation may have begun to think that innocent lives are at risk only from a badly managed railway network, terrorists have sent the message that they are by no means a spent force. Mumbai was once again the target of a terrorist attack, this time not from gun-toting suicide-warriors but a cowardly bunch that packs explosives in sacks and gunny bags and leaves them in crowded places to wreak havoc. Mumbai's visage of a metropolis throbbing with commercial vitality is at once a curse as it is a boon to the millions from far-off lands seeking succour in its ample bosom. But it is this very feature of the 'maximum city' that makes it the chosen target of those who want to make a violent statement. This time too, Mumbai will, no doubt, dust itself and carry on valiantly with its business, as it has done so many times in the past. But the anguish is palpable for now.

The news of the blast has inevitably resulted in focusing the public mind to a simple question: Why does the state repeatedly fail to get its act together? The Home Minister was quick to clarify that the absence of intelligence about the latest terror strike does not mean there is an intelligence failure. Of course, he can, no doubt, put a spin on these things to leave the public in a state bewilderment. But public criticism of intelligence failure must actually be seen as a nuanced rebuke of the Government at all levels, be it provincial, regional or national, for a general failure of governance itself. After all, if the crowded streets were spotlessly clean as a result of effective conservancy measures by the local municipality, then an unattended parcel concealing explosives would cry out for attention from everyone passing by. The governance deficit at the municipal level is a reflection of such a deficiency at the regional and the national levels.

The Government will also face some tough public scrutiny with regard to the ongoing diplomatic exchange with Pakistan. Concrete proof or not, in the minds of vast sections of the public at least, the needle of suspicion must point towards a Pakistani hand. The inevitable question, then, would be whether India should at all engage with Pakistan diplomatically while some sections in that country are still plotting against India. But the problem has never really been about talking to Pakistan, despite suspicions of its complicity in some of the terror strikes in India. It is about the multiplicity of centres of our neighbour's official and non-official power and the futility of engaging with one when other potent forces that can inflict harm remain on the periphery. That apart, India would do well to remember that globally, terror has become democratised, in the sense that weapons of terror are widely and easily accessible and societies are riven by a feeling of alienation among significant sections. The best defence against terror is effective governance rather than superior law enforcement.






A company's adherence to good environmental practices can force its counterparts to switch to clean behaviour.

Should society collectively reward forbearance from bad behaviour or incentivise a change from bad behaviour to good conduct? This is at the heart of a controversy over the grant of carbon credits to Reliance Power, which is putting up a 4,000 MW (Ultra Mega Power Project or UMPP) at Krishnapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh.

The company said in a statement on Tuesday that it has secured a registration from the competent authority under the United Nations Framework for Climate Control (UNFCC) that the electricity generated by it will qualify for emission reduction certificates which can then be sold in the market and earn additional revenues for the company.

The company's claim for carbon credit rests on the principle that it had the option to go in for a cheaper, but more emission-intensive, process. It has, however, opted for a cleaner process that burns less coal per unit of electricity produced. The less the coal it burns, the fewer the particles of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

By forswearing the use of a dirtier process of power generation the company is doing the global environment good and, hence, such avoidance must be financially rewarded by society.

After all, it does not matter whether the company is driven by considerations of social responsibility or dictated purely by self-interest.

What matters is that the planet as a whole will have to contend with fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the Krishnapatnam power project than would have been the case had it opted for an alternative process.

Clean coal tech

But this is precisely what a Washington-based 'green' group that monitors the grant of UN certificates for projects under the Clean Development Mechanism disagrees with.

The group, CDM Watch, contends that the terms of the Government of India tender required that the bidders agree to produce power using available clean coal technologies.

This means the company did not really have the option of burning more coal and emitting the resultant carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The question of rewarding the company for its forbearance does not, therefore, arise. The company has also secured all the financial approvals and sanctions for financial assistance from lenders and investors. That means the project is inherently viable and, hence, needs no additional incentive by way of sale of carbon credits. "To say that this project requires Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) revenues to go forward is patently absurd," is the reaction of the group's spokesperson.

Wrong argument

The 'green' group is clearly in the wrong. The issue is not about whether Reliance Power was obliged to use clean technologies for producing power or if it merely chose to do so even as it was quite well within its right to have opted for something dirtier.

At the core of the international approach towards environmentally sustainable growth is a very simple idea. How to prevent people from punching newer holes in the ozone layer?

That does not mean people who have hitherto been doing so will continue to enjoy the privilege of doing so while new entrants would be put through the wringer.

More specifically, can the world get everyone to stop punching holes in the ozone without legally mandating it which, in any case, is so difficult to enforce?

A market approach to this problem is to financially strengthen the hands of those engaging in responsible behaviour which will, inevitably, force the less responsible into changing their ways.

The issue really is about how to get existing producers using dirtier processes (burning more coal for a unit of electricity) of manufacture to change their ways because business fundamentals require them to do so.

Of course, India currently faces an acute shortage of power and, hence, even those producing electricity using dirtier processes find takers for their output. But this need not be the case forever. Sooner or later, supply of electricity will catch up and even exceed demand. The economic argument would run something like this.

If Reliance Power, on the strength of additional revenue from carbon credits, quotes a lower price for the electricity in the market it is bound to edge out other producers who employ dirtier, but cheaper processes. There would thus be a beneficial outcome.

The incumbent producers would have to mothball their current facilities and opt for cleaner power-producing technologies sooner or later, in order to stay in business.

In other words, Reliance Power's self-restraint in avoiding bad behaviour has to be rewarded for no other reason than that it has the potential to compel somebody else to switch over to good industrial behaviour.






It's only fair that we allow television advertising the same leeway for use of edgy humour and elements like sex appeal that we do to other entertainment content.

It's amazing how youngsters latch on to every word of today's super hit songs. I had to look up a Web site to know that the song 'Sheila ki jawani' goes like this: 'I know you want it; But you never gonna get it; Tere haath kabhi na aani'.

'Sheila ki jawani', and many more such examples in a multitude of languages, are all part of the content we find suitable for national family consumption today — in cinemas or on television.

Young children are also part of reality shows on TV, singing and even dancing to these hits.

But when it comes to television commercials, we seem to be a lot more stringent as a nation, albeit with no clear definition of what can be aired and what cannot.

Same Medium, Different Standards

The first ad for Amul Macho was found suggestive enough to be banned, arguably with good reason. But there are some bans that are more debatable.

Models and actors in lingerie — and other forms of skimpy clothing abound, across media, including newspapers. But an ad featuring a male model in his Lux Cozy brief getting a peck on his cheek, from a woman looking for her dog (to find it tugging at his towel by the pool), didn't find the going lucky. It was banned. Woman enters room, finds male model in VIP Frenchie, doors close — also banned!

Why, even a woman's undergarment on a clothesline seeking out a male brief (VIP Frenchie again) a few floors below was not acceptable to some — there were no models, mind you, just the two pieces of clothing.

Bipasha Basu in Beedi jalaile jigar se piya is fine for us morally upright Indians, but not the 'chocolate man' for deodorant brand Axe's new variant. Sensationalism of the Rakhi Sawant variety can drive a man to suicide, and we're okay with watching that sort of family content.But a Fastrack ad featuring a young woman taking off her undergarment to highlight the fact that '20 per cent off can mean a lot' was found unacceptable for telecast by some channels, never mind the fact that there was absolutely no skin on show.

Towards one standard

To be sure, there are ads on air that make family viewing an uncomfortable affair. But what is a good enough standard for programming content — be it on reality or fiction shows or movies — should be the same for advertising content on the same channel. This doesn't seem the case today.

The lack of uniformity in evaluating content can be attributed to the fact that the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) handles ad-related complaints; the newly formalised Broadcasting Content Complaints Council invites viewer complaints on channels' content; and film content is approved prior to release by the Censor Board of Film Certification, which, by default, qualifies it for telecast depending on the certification.

A few 'beeps' on the cuss words, blurs and edits of a few scenes, and the content is as safe as Mickey Mouse for our kids!

The problem goes beyond the existence of three different bodies responsible for controlling advertising, programming and film content, all of which converge on television sets in Indian homes.

A film maker reminds us that the Censor Board has been accused in the past of double standards. There are critics of ASCI in the advertising and marketing universe on that count too. But given that these are the systems we have and, by and large, they seem to be working too, can we get them to allow one standard that applies to all content on television?

In 'Incredible India', advertising content seems to be more stringently criticised and controlled. . It has to do with competition, we are told — with each company quick to pull down a contestable ad of a rival that seems to work in the market.

An ad industry veteran pointed out that matrimonial ads seeking and offering 'fair' brides aren't created by corporate houses and their agencies. The fairness cream ads were reflective of society, he reasoned. Television commercials should also be reflective of the other forms of content we consume.

It's only fair that we allow our television advertising the same leeway for use of edgy humour and elements like sex appeal that we do to other entertainment content. After all, advertising has to entertain for it to engage the same consumers, on the same media that beams Munni badnaam hui. And that Munni was good enough for us to accept as the face of a pain reliever.








The recent increase in the Value-Added Tax on most of the products consumed by the people of Tamil Nadu is an inevitable outcome of a flawed industrial policy.

Inadequate infrastructure in Tamil Nadu — be it power, coastal or rail movement of raw material or finished products, as the case may be, to and from a manufacturing hub — has added to production costs. Besides, the poor quality of distribution is causing units to suffer low capacity utilisation.

If these are set right, the State will easily be able to attract the best of investment. Instead, Tamil Nadu is trying to lure investments by offering gifts. New units not only enjoy VAT exemption but also get back the VAT paid on inputs used in the manufacture. In addition, the new industries get subsidised and uninterrupted power, even as the State utility (TNEB) buys power at high cost during peak hours and at other hours of the day.

Loss of revenue to State

The new industries, thus created, have cost the Government huge sums of monies without contributing to tax revenues (VAT) for several years. To compound matters, by virtue of enjoying uninterrupted supply of power in a power-starved State, they have also ensured that existing VAT-paying units get closed down or run at low levels of capacity utilisation to release additional power required by the units that are coming up with the guarantee of uninterrupted power.

The net result is an inevitable loss of revenue to the State, as the tax-paying units are reducing their utilisation to give power to non-tax paying units.

About 15-20 per cent of the workforce of the new units are in lucrative jobs. The consumption of various goods and services by this class of employees must generate tax revenues. Equally, these units also end up generating jobs for the rest (80-85 per cent) at such meagre wage levels that few from the State find worthwhile to take them up. The units thus end up attracting talent from far-off regions, where the economic situation is direr than those in the State. The skewed industrial investment policy regime is perhaps Tamil Nadu's contribution to national integration.

Address infrastructure deficit

While framing industrial policies, it would be best to address the infrastructure deficit, which will automatically push up industrial activity in the State across the board. The achievement of full utilisation by existing tax-paying units will automatically augment the States' finances.

Moreover, once the issue of infrastructure deficit is addressed, Tamil Nadu will become the most attractive investment destination, without the State having to offer tax exemptions. The additional output will generate even greater revenues for the State.

(The author is CMD, Loyal Textiles.)









The people of Mumbai have demonstrated, yet again, the quality of resilience they are famous for, in the wake of the terror attack on July 13. We salute them: by refusing to be cowed into withdrawal from normal activity, they foil one of the goals that terrorists seek to achieve. This is not enough. All the goals that terrorists seek to achieve must be foiled through political coherence, conscious vigilance on the part of the people and restraint in speech and action by those in charge. Terrorists seek not just to blow up people and buildings. Their aim is to destroy social unity, foster enmity between sections of the people, egg on the state and its forces into hasty action against sections of the population that would lead to their collective alienation and hostility, in whose fertile ground the terrorists would gather fresh support and new recruits. Intelligence and effective policing are primary prerequisites to prevent attacks. However, if an attack does take place, it is important that the investigation that follows should not advance the terrorists' cause by jumping to conclusions on the identity of the perpetrators, leading to mistaken arrests of youths who, after going through the trauma of wrongful incarceration and the third degree treatment that does duty for interrogation in India, become converts to the cause of terror. It is heartening to note that both the political leadership and the police agencies have refrained from pointing fingers and are busy collecting evidence before making pronouncements of guilt. That both Indo-Pak and Indo-US talks would proceed as scheduled is equally welcome — any change would have conceded the terrorists ground.

Responsible politics would unite the people against terror and against divisive mobilisation that helps terrorists. For people at large to produce collective vigilance, they need social coherence, to achieve which governance needs to be fair, efficient and non-partisan. On all these counts, India's polity is sadly lacking. Facile accusations against the government and its leaders point to such failing. For society to unite against its common enemy, the politicians should eschew opportunistic schism.






A group of ministers has cleared India's right to food Bill, for it to begin a long trudge through various committees and ministries before being passed by Parliament. The Bill gives 75% of people in villages and 50% of city dwellers the right to get at least three kilograms of rice, wheat or millets per month at highly subsidised rates. For the poor, the entitlement goes up to seven kilograms a month. Set aside, for the moment, the fact that food security is best achieved by fast agricultural growth that both increases rural incomes and adds supplies and not just by focusing on distribution of grain. Let us focus just on distribution. The logistics of buying grain, storing it and then distributing it to the poor exclusively through the grossly inefficient public distribution system India has will strain the abilities of the government. For example, today, the Centre and the states have managed to pile up a staggering 65 million tonnes of foodgrain with another 25 million tonnes expected to come in after the harvest, but cannot decide what to do with it. The government did not release grain into domestic markets when food prices soared; nor could it bring itself to export grain to world markets when global cereal prices are high. The government has always grumbled about the high cost of storing and transporting food, but cannot bring itself to decentralise by building storage and distribution centres across India to cut costs.
Given these problems, the right to food should be flexible about the entitlement that it offers: states should be free to offer equivalent cash offers to the poor as well. If payments are made in cash, it will give poor people the choice to buy food of their choice from the nearest market. It will also slash the vast overhead costs of centralised procurement, storage and distribution that come with physically delivering grains. It can be pointed out that handing out cash might encourage corruption. But experience shows high levels of graft in the food procurement and distribution machinery. Any system can be bent; the idea is to devise the most efficient way to reach benefits to the poor and minimise abuses to the system.








Those bedeviled by afflictions ranging from the dread of stepping out from home for fear of bombs to figuring out whether the prospective date is, well, wholesome, can look forward to a gadget dished out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following the latest fashion, this contraption, a reveal-all pair of glasses, is also called 'social X-ray' glasses. How this works, apparently, is through a camera attached to the glasses, linked to a computer carried on oneself. The thingummy scans the facial features of whoever you look at, matches it with a set of known expressions conveying specific emotions and then through flashing lights or a voice message lets you know what the other person is thinking. All that needs to be done now is for various governments, ours included, to fund this research so as to get a claim, and then mass produce it for wider use. Police officers suitably sighted would then be able to immediately know what that unobtrusive, blending-with-the-crowd terrorist is thinking of doing next, and he can probably save a whole lot of lives. Politicians and diplomats too can have use for this, since say, talks over seat-sharing in an election or a cabinet reshuffle or about an international issue often get bogged down in endless rounds of negotiations. Since presumably both sides in any such talks will be wearing the glasses, a mere look will suffice where a talkathon might have issued.

This evolution in human communication can also, obviously, be extended to finding out what that person chatting you up at office or at a public place is really thinking. A fringe accessory is that the gadget also tells a person when to stop talking. Which should be of immense benefit for a whole lot of people in our country, TV anchors included.





As the war to unseat Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi nears its sixth month, a plethora of diplomatic chess moves are being played by great powers to negotiate an end to the stalemated conflict. Prominent among these is China, which recently hosted the head of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Transitional Council — Mustafa Abdel Jalil — in Beijing. Apart from western capitals, which are controversially arming the Libyan guerrillas and aiding their war effort through aerial strikes, the only notable port of stop for Jalil in his international sojourns has been China. It speaks volumes of the traction that Beijing has acquired over a major global hotspot that has the bearings of an intractable problem.

China has positioned itself through deft diplomacy as a credible mediator and go-between through simultaneous interlocution with Gaddafi's representatives as well as with his archenemies. Senior Chinese government officials are frequently seen in the eastern Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, advocating "political solutions" to minimise the suffering of Libyan people. The "in-depth views" that Chinese diplomats convey on their visits to Benghazi comprise a wide range of scenarios that do not exclude an end to hostilities with Gaddafi remaining in Libya or controlling parts of it while ceding authority to the rebel leadership in some regions.
As one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council which abstained from voting on Resolution 1973 that authorised "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians, China has managed to keep the door open with the Gaddafi camp. State-owned Chinese oil and gas companies had investments in Libya and their interests are obviously reflected in Beijing's attempt to assume the role of intermediary in the current conflict. On a strategic level, China is pushing for greater political gravitas as a solver of crises in Africa and Latin America, thereby burnishing its international image as an astute great power.

Interestingly, two other states which abstained on UN Resolution 1973— Russia and Germany— have also thrown their hats into the ring and are shuttling back and forth between Tripoli and Benghazi with creative proposals. The Russian gambits have thus far not convinced Gaddafi, who insists on an "African solution", but Moscow cannot be blamed for not trying behind the scenes with all its social capital. Germany has recognised the Benghazi-based rebel Council and has proposed a "roadmap for peace-building" in Libya, a venture floated in conjunction with Italy and Turkey.

The one big actor which is missing in action in the Libyan drama is India, which has yet again proved that the word 'proactive' does not exist in its diplomatic dictionary. According to inside sources privy to the Indian government, Nato has sounded out New Delhi to offer a ceasefire based on existing lines of control between the pro-Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi forces, which could be converted in the long run into a partition of the country into east and west. India did not latch on to this opening and has instead burrowed its head, ostrich-like, without any sign of inventiveness or initiative. Indian companies did not have huge stakes in Libya prior to the war and the effects of the crisis have been felt only indirectly in India via the skyrocketing prices of fuel. But India's political stature on the world stage was certainly on the line in this conflict as New Delhi boasts of its growing clout as a major power. Sadly, the lethargic and reactive nature of Indian diplomacy has shown its hand by doing what it is infamous for— sitting on its haunches and letting China grab the limelight in Libya.
    Led by a foreign minister who excelled in domestic politics but has no noteworthy area knowledge or vision in international issues, India's elephantine response thus far has been to organise a routine evacuation of its citizens from ground zero in North Africa. Dozens of banana republics did the same, but nobody in power in New Delhi could conceive a chance of stamping Indian peacemaking capabilities in the global arena by appearing to be engaged in ending the Libyan war. Public debate on the diplomatic possibilities inherent in the Libya crisis is sorely lacking. The folly of remaining stuck as an Asian power has not yet dawned in Indian policymaking circles, which abound with "strategic experts" on the US, China and Pakistan but hardly any novel thinkers who specialise in African or Latin American politics. Intellectual deficiencies marring globalisation of India's diplomacy are compounded by the absence of academic institutions that train the next generation of Indians to believe that their country must strive for greater visibility and acceptability as a desirable power for pacifying ongoing wars and disturbances.

A tendency towards conformity and justification of the existing lethargy in Indian foreign policy prevails among the country's established think-tanks, which have failed to provide alternative viewpoints on where New Delhi has missed the bus and how to make amends for it. A combination of ignorance about contemporary diplomatic trends and fear of antagonising powers-that-be has held back critical stocktaking of the limited horizons that constrain Indian diplomacy.

India's economic growth is driven by domestic consumption, but a parallel trend is evolving wherein our outward foreign direct investment (FDI) is outpacing inward FDI by miles. The fate of the world has always impacted upon India, but the emerging accumulation of overseas interests requires India to impact the world and shape the international order. The truly global spirit of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is almost pleading for a return to the realisation that New Delhi has a special mission to fulfil in the trouble-torn world.









The draft microfinance Bill justifies its introduction stating that the microfinance sector lacks a formal statutory framework. This is a fallacious argument parroted by microfinance players asking for 'regulation' and thus 'legitimacy'. Microfinance is no different from consumer/retail finance in form. If we have non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) doing the business of any retail financing, the same framework will work for microfinance. Most MFIs are NBFCs, and are being governed by an appropriate regulatory framework.

The fundamental difference between the NBFCs and the NBFC-MFIs is only about the client base. MFIs serve the poor and the vulnerable and regulation assumes greater significance because of a disproportionate balance of power between the lender and the borrower. If this is recognised then the issue is about client protection more than anything else. The current problems of MFIs have not occurred on account of their registration, capital structure, governance structure. They are on account of the practices at the client end. The draft Bill recognises this issue amidst addressing a many imaginary problems. But the Bill fails to elaborate on how this could be ensured. It goes back to the self-regulatory organisations while assigning some powers to the RBI to take punitive action. This provision of punitive action is available to the RBI as a regulator of NBFCs and it was found wanting in the light of reports of suicides attributed to MFIs in Andhra Pradesh. The last-mile instrumentality in investigating and fixing the responsibility has to be done in consultation with the state governments. The Bill fails to establish this crucial link.

The power imbalance between the institution and the client is pervasive. Institutions have greater resources, better support systems and deeper pockets than individuals. In the banking sector, we have seen that the RBI has stepped in to protect the consumers from time to time — whether it was about coercive recovery practices, opaquely loading charges, or guidelines for consumer compensation. The existing regulatory framework could very well have been used for making these interventions. In framing the "improved" version of the Bill, the drafting team has succumbed to the closet agenda of the microfinance sector: (1) microfinance activities of organisations other than NBFCs being given recognition by the RBI, and (2) opening the window for deposit taking from the customers in the name of thrift.

Both need to be examined closely. While trusts, societies and other forms of organisations are engaged in microfinance, they are not appropriate forms to scale. By definition, they carry out charitable activities and are registered under the provincial laws. By making it mandatory for all such organisations to come under its ambit, the RBI is bringing in the aspect of "dual control" that has plagued the cooperative banking sector. The regulatory framework should also recognise the most appropriate form of organisation than take a fait accompli and endorse it.

By prescribing a clause for the compulsory conversion of systemically important MFIs into a Section 25 company, the Bill traverses different legislations where legislations do not permit the unfettered use of residual claims. This forces an organisation registered under a state law to move to a central law. The constitutional propriety of this clause needs deeper examination. The more important issue is of thrift. The draft doesn't elaborate much. The argument that MFIs should be able to collect thrift/deposits has merit and risk at the same time, which can be weighed by the regulator. The argument for collecting thrift from the customers is valid because, one, the MFI in any case has a network and is in constant contact with the customers and it makes immense sense to provide this service to the poor, and, two, thrift diversifies the funding sources of an MFI, thereby making it less vulnerable to the whims of the commercial banks and will provide them with a greater opportunity to tide over any difficult periods such as the recent Andhra episode after which banks stopped funding MFIs.

But the concerns of the RBI on allowing deposit taking services should also be considered — whether this window will be used by organisations with low capitalisation to collect deposits from a section of the people who technically might not want a loan at that point. This essentially means collecting deposits from "public" and not necessarily borrowers. Talking of a net owned fund base of . 5 lakh to run a microfinance operation and also talk about thrift/deposits is a dangerous trend and the central bank should be wary of this. In all, it appears that what could have been achieved through a policy intervention by suitably reformatting the Malegam Committee recommendations within the existing regulatory framework is being frittered to a new legislation that seems to have conceptual problems.

Also, the draft Bill seems to define everything that is definable but "microfinance". Can there be a more glaring gap?

(The author is adjunct professor, IIM-Ahmedabad)







Last month, the Department for industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) put the cat among the pigeons by suggesting that FDI caps below 49% be done away with. The logic is that since any downstream investments by a company with 51% or more of domestic equity is considered domestic, foreign investors can indirectly invest in sectors like multi-brand retail, defence production, some sectors reserved for small-scale industry, etc. by forming joint ventures with this Indian company. Presently there are a plethora of sectoral caps on FDI ranging from 26% to 100%. There is a further complication in that, depending on sensitivity of sectors, FDI may come under automatic, licensing or FIPB route. Add to that the problem of crossholding between companies (for example, via mergers and acquisitions) and it therefore becomes almost impossible to determine the exact element of FDI in any sector. Hence, sectoral caps don't seem to work.

The decline in monthly flows of FDI, at least till May 2011, led some to argue that eliminating this complicated system of sectoral caps may be necessary. In this article, we will discuss two issues. Should we have sectoral caps? Why do we need FDI? Let's argue that unnecessary debate on the rather irrelevant issue of sectoral caps diverts attention from the more important issue of what exactly FDI is supposed to achieve and what is the best way of achieving this.

Sectoral caps are largely guided by the issue of control. Thus, it is felt that sectoral caps of 26% or below ensure domestic control. On the other hand, sectoral caps on FDI of 49% give control to foreign entities and are a problem in sensitive sectors. The main problem with these arguments is that equity holdings do not determine control. For example, even a 10% foreign equity holding can imply decisive control if the shares of that company are widely held. On the other hand, a 26% of equity may give no control if the shares are closely held among a few stakeholders. There is also the problem of calculating FDI holding when there is crossholding of shares between companies. In any case, when there are other considerations like security, there are instruments available with the government to ensure companies do not violate national policy. For example, in the US, defence production is in private hands yet the government has a vice-like control of sale and exports of defence production. So sectoral caps are an ineffective and merely pose an administrative complexity in clearance of FDI proposals.

However, this sterile debate on sectoral caps on FDI diverts attention from the general policy on FDI. Presumably (and here I think even the extreme left and rightwing parties would agree) the purpose of FDI is to bring in technology. Empirical trade theorists have now shown that high value-added exports are function of technology rather than natural or labour resources. What has been the policy on FDI from this perspective?
One method of bringing in technology is via foreign collaborations or purchase of drawings and designs. This was the focus of policy during the 1980s in particular. All studies show that this policy was a complete failure mainly because of the lack of absorptive capacity of domestic manufacturers either due to the lack of managerial expertise or a trained labour force. In fact, studies show that the end-result was purchase of outdated technology. Economists will understand this as the "lemon problem": underpricing of a commodity leads to only "lemons" being sold on the market.

A number of studies done since the mid-1990s gives some interesting new results. First, the "purchase of technology" route does not provide any spinoff benefits to domestically-owned companies. In fact, very few technological benefits accrue to even the company purchasing this technology. What does seem to work, however, is the sheer presence of foreign-owned firms. Thus, in areas where there is high FDI presence, domestically-owned firms get substantial benefits in the form of availability of trained labour or "demonstration effects", which lead to higher productivity of domesticallyowned firms. This " learning by doing" and competition effect seems to lead to substantial technological spinoffs. Competition leads to foreign companies bringing in new technology which domestic firms then learn to emulate. Would removal of sectoral caps then lead to an increase in FDI? No, since this is only a necessary but not sufficient condition for FDI which is primarily guided by the growth effect. However, from the point of view of domestic companies, what seems to matter is the presence of foreign firms and the removal of some sectoral caps might well ensure that. In any case, it might be useful to move the debate away from the issue of sectoral caps to one of why we want FDI in the first place. This is the issue policy must address.

(The author is faculty at JNU)









Afew hundred yards down the road from Nana Chowk to Tardeo, next to Sunkersett Mansion on the road's left, there stands a small temple. It has a handsome arched entrance and clear space on three sides. This is not one of the over-built modern temples that substitute spirituality with size and commerce; this is an old, quiet place of worship that appears ageless. It also looks like a last act of defiance against the towering monstrosities that surround it. A little further on is another, an agiary. That, too, has withstood the steady onslaught of commercial high-rise development.


These city holdouts are fast disappearing, and you have to look much harder to even see them as, one by one, they get engulfed in outsized construction. The view over the city from the balcony or rooftop of one of these tall buildings – ideally, a building on one of the city's few remaining hills — is remarkable, and for all the wrong reasons. The first impression is one of unredeemed ugliness: virtually every one of these new buildings seems to have been designed by an alumnus of the post-aesthetic school of design. Worse, none of these buildings seem to bear any relationship whatsoever to their surroundings. At Nana Chowk, there are over four towers so tall it is almost impossible to see their tops from the street; and these stand in an area where the average height is perhaps no more than three or four floors. The same story repeats itself near Khetwadi and Kotachiwadi, at Khar and Santa Cruz, at Hughes Road. More horrors are planned at Bhendi Bazaar. The trouble is typified by a nascent proposal for the development of a defunct textile mill at Prabha Devi. This 8-acre plot is being allowed to use an FSI of 10: three million sq ft of built up area. In Lower Parel, a 62-floor supertall skyscraper called the Namaste Tower is proposed (with, it seems, the primary objective of catering to the Big Fat Indian Wedding). At the narrow Hughes Road intersection, that uncrowned king of all things overthe-top, Mr Donald Trump, is building a 60-65 floor condominium; and at the even narrower Marine Lines Road near Charni Road station we are soon to have another splendid addition to Mumbai's deluxe hotels.


All these oversized developments are permitted because FSI is treated in isolation from all other factors, divorced from the needs and requirements of the locality and, consequently, the city itself. When there is a single flattened FSI that does not account for differing community or area needs, the result is what we see coming up before us.


Despite the protests of many architects, planners in complex cities are veering to using form-based codes. The traditional zoning used in our master plans segregates and freezes land-use. Using abstractions like FSI, setbacks and marginal spaces, it results in incongruities. The built form is ignored: what will the city look like? How will its buildings be used? Form-based codes attempt an upending of this view. They assess buildings in relation to each other, to city blocks, streets and public use. Form-based codes integrate an essential aspect of all planning: meaningful public participation in planning. These codes also set community standards for open and public spaces, building design and function, landscaping, signage, traffic and environmental issues. They are more sensitive to existing character and context.


How does this help the city? By shifting focus to the urban form from a 20-year frozen land-use pattern, this method of planning allows development without sacrificing quality of life. Buildings remain; their uses may change over time. They inhibit disproportionate and out-of-scale construction and support the mixed-use neighbourhoods and spread of housing types that are even today a part of our daily life, resulting in urban development that is gentler and more urbane. Developers benefit too: competing development is equally controlled, and once local standards are defined, the permission process is shorter and more predictable. Most of all, developers do not have to make in-house arrangements for local infrastructure as this is already part of the local area's form and design. Imagine buildings in the mill lands area around large central parks and median parking; or lower but more expensive apartments in Dadar next to older, less expensive ones, all sharing common public amenities.


In 2009, Miami approved a formbased code. Denver followed a few months later and now over 300 such codes have been or are being adopted across USA and Canada. Miami's code, Miami 21, involved over 500 public hearings. The result, in some neighbourhoods, was that public protests against high-rise development in residential areas finally found acceptance. The city's planning director, Anna Gelabert-Sanchez, said that the new codes reflected many community demands such as conservation and a restriction on out of scale development incompatible with the neighbourhood.


To be sure, the method is not without its critics. But at its heart, form-based codes planning reflects a principle well known in law and justice, though in a completely different context: the neighbourhood principle. If that principle, so far only applied to product liability and negligence cases, which says that a duty of care is owed to your neighbour, could be translated into city planning we might yet see a more just and humane city.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



Senior American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 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 on July 12 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 Central Intelligence Agency. 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 US 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. President 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 neighboring 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 By arrangement with The New York Times






For the people of Mumbai, the serial blasts of Wednesday were a rude reminder of their repeated vulnerability to terrorism. The loss of life and the injuries caused have not been inconsiderable. Since 1993, Mumbai has been hit by terrorists every three or four years, which is suggestive of the fact that those employing terrorism in pursuit of a certain brand of politics have tended to act with a sense of impunity. The frequency with which Mumbai has been made a terror target is surely an international record if we don't count locations in Pakistan where the phenomenon of terrorism was nurtured as a matter of state policy, and is thus a case of blowback. It is time our policymakers and those in charge of keeping the city and the nation secure dealt with the question why adequate measures have not been put in place to prevent major terrorist incidents. It is true that terrorists need to get lucky just once, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher observed. The implication is that it is hard to stop every single attack. This is what Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi sought to suggest a day after the Mumbai serial blasts. But his timing was all wrong even if the analysis was not. Whatever the case, better systems needed to be put in place for Mumbai which witnessed the horror of November 26 just over two and a half years ago. The government of India needs to ask a few tough questions of itself, not just the city police department or the Maharashtra government. It was quite pathetic to see Union home minister P. Chidambaram call the tragic Wednesday events "a coordinated terrorist attack" but declare in the same breath that there was no intelligence failure. If the home minister did not wish to demoralise the personnel engaged in the fight against terrorism, he might have done well to opt for silence. Perhaps several factors contributed to the system not being able to unearth the conspiracy that led to the latest blasts, not just intelligence failure. But the multiple intelligence departments are hardly in a position to disclaim all responsibility. It is evident that the Mumbai police is far from being at its best. It has been repeatedly found wanting in dealing with terrorism in an era in which every major city in the world is throwing in resources to develop anti-terrorism capabilities. And what is being said of the police force in the country's financial capital can just as easily be said of any metropolitan police in the country, although these have not been tested with the same regularity as Mumbai. In the specific case of Mumbai, the Ram Pradhan Committee, set up in the wake of 26/11, made a series of recommendations pertaining to the upgrading of equipment and better counter-terrorism training. How much of this has been followed up? Particularly in Mumbai, those who are meant to hunt terrorists need to liaise closely with colleagues charged with tackling crime as several city gangs have been found in the past to offer their services to terror merchants. While the ruling coalition and the police and intelligence departments cannot pretend they could not have done things differently, it is opportunistic of BJP leaders — L.K. Advani in particular — to seek to extract political mileage. Mr Advani has called Wednesday's strike a failure of policy, not of intelligence. This is a jibe without meaning. He can just as easily be asked about the debilitating record on the terrorism front when he was Union home minister. We need to close ranks in a moment of crisis, not give the impression of being a nation divided.






Long before the phone-hacking scandal attained volcanic proportions, I scarcely knew a journalist in London unastonished to hear that last Christmas, the Prime Minister dined at the Oxfordshire home of Rebekah Brooks. Even were she Mother Teresa, which some evidence suggests she is not, it was plainly a lapse of judgment for David Cameron to be seen to accept Brooks' hospitality, as he regularly did. This was on four counts: 1) The immensely sensitive issue of BSkyB's future ownership was on the government's plate, and Brooks is a senior executive of News International. 2) The News of the World phone-hacking scandal was ongoing, and Brooks was a deeply involved party. 3) Brooks' access to Cameron was bound to feed jealousies elsewhere in the media. 4) The theme of this article: it is doubtful that it is possible, never mind prudent, for a Prime Minister to indulge active friendship with any journalist, however sincere may be goodwill and affection on both sides. A quarter of a century ago there was a row when Peregrine Worsthorne, then Sunday Telegraph editor, recycled in print some remarks the Prince of Wales had made to him at a private lunch. Bill Deedes, member of the Cabinet and later the editor of the Daily Telegraph, observed sagely as he watched the plaster falling off the ceiling: "Journalists are, by their nature, unsuitable confidants for princes." The same applies for Prime Ministers. Of course they should have a regular private dialogue with editors and political scribes, invaluable to both sides. But they should never delude themselves that intimacy is desirable or indeed acceptable. Were David Cameron to read this, he might be tempted to mutter something about pomposity. Since his elevation, he has behaved with unaltered informality to people he knew beforehand. I suspect he is mildly irritated that some elderly folk like me, having addressed him for years as David, now do so even privately as "Prime Minister". But that is what he is. When a man or woman achieves the highest office a divide opens which cannot close again until they quit it. My kind are commentators who, whatever our personal admiration and liking for Cameron, must strive objectively to assess his successes, failures and follies in a fashion which sometimes provokes dismay in Downing Street. The era is gone, thank heavens, in which some newspapers, notably the Times, perceived themselves as a branch of government. For more than a century, a few editors with acceptable table manners enjoyed an intimacy with Prime Ministers rooted in the latters' confidence that they were on the same side. In Ian Fleming's 1955 thriller Moonraker, following a nuclear explosion in the North Sea, M tells James Bond that the government will suppress publication of the story. If leaks became dangerous, the Prime Minister would summon editors and tell them enough of the truth to persuade them to keep quiet. "They'll play along," says M confidently. "They always do if it's big enough." Not any more, they do not. When I ran the Daily Telegraph, my relationship with Margaret Thatcher was sulphurous. In 1986, it proved necessary to sack her daughter Carol during a cull of the former regime's staff. I supposed, naively, that she would recognise this as a professional necessity — an example of Thatcherism in action — rather than as a personal slight. But one of our leader-writers, ex-Tory MP Jock Bruce-Gardyne, said disbelievingly: "You can't go around sacking Prime Ministers' daughters!" After a spasm of rage, Thatcher never spoke to me again. A year or two later, I lunched with her press secretary, Bernard Ingham, a chronic complainer about criticisms from the Telegraph. I said: "But we repeatedly assert that the Tories are the only party fit to rule." Bernard said Thatcher's response to that was: "We don't want the Telegraph's support some of the time! We want support we can count upon all of the time!" Ironclad backing for Tory administrations had been the norm when the paper was owned by the Berry family. It took years for some politicians to recognise that not only the Telegraph but every title now plays by different rules. No newspaper is willing unswervingly to toe a party line. The nicest compliment I received as an editor was passed on by Douglas Hurd, who confided: "John Major doesn't like you, because he says he never knows what you are going to do next." I hope that no editor of the present generation enjoys the unqualified trust of Downing Street. It seems right for Prime Ministers to entertain journalists, but such hospitality must be extended evenhandedly. Favouritism is fatal. Over the past decade or two, the prominence of Murdoch people in Prime Ministers' visitors' books has caused bitter and reasonable resentment elsewhere. Major, back in the early 1990s, moaned incessantly about the criticism to which he was subjected by Murdoch papers. I asked: "So why do you keep inviting Rupert to Chequers, Prime Minister? He will make his decisions on the basis of cold commercial calculation, uninfluenced in the smallest degree by you giving him a nice lunch." Major made no answer, but we both knew the score. He lived in mortal dread of Rupert, as have his successors. Whatever strictures Murdoch titles heap upon Britain's politicians, they have always been too fearful of the great mogul's ill-will not to attend his annual London bunfights — and yes, Ed Miliband was at the last one a few weeks ago, alongside David Cameron. After recent events, however, I suspect that never again will the Murdoch papers hold a British national leader in such thraldom. If past Prime Ministers did not dare not appease News Corp, in future they will not dare do so, because they know how Parliament and the public would respond. As to private dealings between Prime Ministers, editors and media bosses, it needs to be said that journalists are viscerally indiscreet people. How many journalists, however close to the Prime Minister, resist whispering to a friend what David said last weekend? Even the grandest visitors to Chequers frequently rehearse elsewhere afterwards every detail of the conversation. That is why no Prime Minister should say anything to a journalist which he would find it embarrassing to read in print, possibly after being repeated at third- or fourth-hand. Every sensible person observes a distinction between professional "friends" and real ones. Journalists forge many relationships with important people which serve common interests, and sometimes reflect real liking. But such connections are rooted in the demands of our job, and usually atrophy when one or both parties retire into private life. We do not know whether Cameron's relationship with Brooks developed because they liked each other or because he was — initially — an aspiring Prime Minister, and she one of Britain's most powerful media executives. But no judgment on their association could ignore that each occupied the position they did. The Prime Minister has indicated that one consequence of the phone-hacking scandal is that future dealings between ministers and journalists are likely to be different from, and less intimate than, in the past. Yet no grand self-denying ordinance is needed. All that has been lacking in the past is common sense. The author is a former editor of the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard By arrangement with the Spectator





I have grown up learning about the importance of Shab-e-Baraat, night of mid-Shabaan, which falls on this Sunday night. As always, our house will be lit up with festive lights and filled with an atmosphere of piety. Just after sunset on the 14th of Shabaan (Sunday night), the elders of the family will visit the graves of our departed loved ones, invoking Allah's mercy and praying for deliverance of their souls. I remember Amma, my grandmother, telling us how these visits also helped us in realising our impending death so that we remain conscious of our deeds and never delay in seeking repentance for wrong actions. As soon as the elders return home, they will begin their prayers which will go on till the dawn of the 15th — they will offer voluntary nafil namaz (prayers), recite the Quran and tearfully fold their hands in supplication throughout the night. After their pre-dawn sehri meal, they will fast the next day. Halwa and food will be cooked, niaz (prayers) offered, and the food distributed amongst family, friends and the poor prior to iftaar (time of breaking the fast). In Arabic, the sacred night is called Layla tul Baraah, the Night of Pardon. Islamic tradition affirms that on this night Allah bestows his mercy to all those who seek it. His forgiveness and mercy extends to all of humanity except those who deny the truth, those who break ties with their family, the arrogant, the backbiters, the unjust, people whose hearts are filled with malice and those who spread mischief on the earth. It is believed that on Shab-e-Baraat, Allah records the names of those who would be born in the coming year and those who would die. The deeds of the living are raised on to Him and sustenance for them is decreed. On this night, Muslims pray so that Allah grants long lives to their loved ones and themselves. The Prophet said that praying for a long life is desirable for two reasons — to make up for past inequities and increase good deeds. Prophet Mohammad famously stated, "Rajab is the month of Allah, Shabaan is my month and Ramzan is that of my ummah (community)." Shabaan follows Rajab, and is the month before Ramzan. Its sanctity comes from its proximity to Ramzan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer. Other than Ramzan, the Prophet is known to have observed more fasts in Shabaan than any other month. He said fasting in Shabaan cleanses the soul and prepares it to receive blessings in the sacred month of Ramzan. Fasting on the 15th (this Monday) is particularly preferred for the Prophet fasted on that day, saying that when his record of deeds is presented before the Lord, he wished to be in a state of fast. Through a number of recorded Hadith narrations we learn that in the middle of the night of 14th Shabaan, Prophet Mohammad visited Jannat ul Baqi, the graveyard at Madinah. His wife Aisha woke up to find him missing and later discovered him at the nearby graveyard in a state of prostration so lengthy that she thought God had taken his soul back. Prophet Mohammed then raised his head and after praying explained the importance of prayer and supplication during this night. Muslims have a tradition of some daily devotions (saying namaz five times a day) beyond the obligatory rites. Additional supplications of prayer are like shields that protect from God's wrath, polish the heart and keep us connected to the Lord. In an age when speed is of premium value, exemplified by fast food and fast cars, it is easy to fall prey to worldly trappings and lose sight of opportunities for spiritual growth. However, it is important to slow down at times, take time off to attend to the requirements of the soul and ensure that it is protected from the delusory nature of the world. The author is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at





While we routinely claim that the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on October 26, 1947, and is now an integral part of the Indian Union, both in terms of national and international laws, we take little interest in what is happening in the vast area which has been in illegal occupation of Pakistan. The elections on June 26, held in a part of that area for its Legislative Assembly, for example, went practically unnoticed in our media. The strategic importance of this area is immense and China, with the collaboration of Pakistan, has been making extensive inroads into it. We call the area in question Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). On the other side of the Line of Control, it is known as "Azad Jammu and Kashmir", with the fiction of sovereignty woven around it: Its name is not even mentioned in the Constitution of Pakistan, nor does it have any representation in the Pakistan National Assembly or senate. The area of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is about 78,114 sq. km., which is roughly one-third of the total area (222,236 sq. km.) of the erstwhile princely state. Of this, about 85 per cent constitutes the two main regions of Gilgit and Baltistan and three smaller territories of Hunza, Nagar and Punial. These regions/territories, grouped together and separated from "Azad Jammu and Kashmir", have been designated as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (Fana). The area that remains as "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is only 15 per cent of the total area occupied by Pakistan and it is in this area that elections to the 49-member Legislative Assembly were held in June. The attempt of Pakistan has all along been to present this area to the world as a "quasi-sovereign" entity with a democratic set-up. But stark facts stand in the way of this attempt. "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is governed by its interim Constitution of 1974 which has quite a few trappings of sovereignty. Apart from its law-making Legislative Assembly, it has a Supreme Court and an Election Commission. Its head of government and constitutional head are called Prime Minister and President respectively. But all these trappings have little meaning — in reality, the area is run as a fiefdom of the federal government of Pakistan. According to the provisions of the aforesaid Constitution itself, there is an "Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council" of which the Prime Minister of Pakistan is the chairman and the federal minister for Kashmir affairs its secretary. The Prime Minister of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is merely its vice-chairman. The council has 11 other members of whom five are members of federal Parliament. This is an all-powerful body with as many as 52 legislative items under its jurisdiction. The council has the sole power to declare emergency and dissolve the Legislative Assembly and its decisions cannot be challenged in the Supreme Court of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir". Its vast jurisdiction and extensive powers leave hardly anything to the government of "Azad Jammu and Kashmir". Even appointments to all key posts — chief secretary, finance secretary and inspector-general of police among others — are made by the federal government. No wonder the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees has reckoned the area as "not free". The northern areas are in a much worse position. Till 2009, they did not even have a semblance of a representative body and were directly administered by the federal government through a joint-secretary of the ministry of defence. A sizeable demographic change was also brought about by settling a large number of Pathans and Punjabi Sunni Muslims in these areas which earlier had an overwhelming majority of Shia and Ismaili population. All this caused acute resentment amongst the people. A number of public agitations, including violent ones, followed. The Pakistan government relented. To assuage the anger, it issued an ordinance, notified as the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009. Under this order, to preserve the local identity, the northern areas were renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. The order also provides for an elected Legislative Assembly and a governor and chief minister. What is significant is that the entire area, which legally belongs to India, has been formally incorporated in Pakistan. The feeble protests made by the Government of India and political parties of Jammu and Kashmir and of Azad Jammu and Kashmir were ignored by Pakistan. Earlier in 1963, Pakistan had virtually ceded 5,180 sq. km. area to China, in addition to about 37,555 sq. km. which was already in its possession. India has paid dearly for not paying serious attention to the developments on the other side of Line of Control. During the last 20 years, both the "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" area and Gilgit-Baltistan region have caused grave problems. The former became an active centre for cross-border terrorism, and the latter served as an avenue of intrusion into Kargil, which resulted in the Kargil War of 1999. What should be a matter of special concern to India right now is that the Pakistan-China axis is sowing seeds for future trouble in the region. Of late, Pakistan has been giving de facto control of a vast chunk of Gilgit-Baltistan area to China for building rail and road links between Eastern China and Pakistani port cum naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara. With the completion of these projects, China would be able to transport its goods for exports to and imports from the Gulf countries in two days instead of the present period of 22 days. The Karakoram Highway is also being extended and strengthened to provide an effective link between Sinkiang province of China and Pakistan. All this is bound to establish stronger strategic and economic bonds between Pakistan and China. Both may join hands to cause more difficulties for India with regard to the Kashmir issue and also for the United States vis-à-vis its interests in Afghanistan. Already, about 10,000 soldiers of the Peoples' Liberation Army are working in Gilgit-Baltistan on road, rail, irrigation and other development projects. It is time India started taking a closer look at the events on the other side of Line of Control and evolved an effective strategy to counter their adverse fall-outs. The author is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister









APPRECIATION is certainly due to the government for a comparatively mature response to the Mumbai blasts, particularly the shunning of the standard knee-jerk reaction of pointing accusing fingers across the western border. Whether political reaction remains as restrained is yet to be seen. Sadly, the appeals against speculation from the home minister, and his assurance to keep the media updated (a lesson learnt from 26/11) will bring little comfort to the families of those killed and the 130-plus who suffered injuries of varying severity. Despite P Chidambaram rejecting the theory of an intelligence failure, "because no intelligence was available to share", the common man will continue to hold that had there been effective monitoring of the groups the minister declined to name, some pre-emptive action might have been possible. The Mumbai underworld has given strong indications in recent weeks that it was back in business; its links with jihadi goups (domestic and external) is well known, even if the connect with 26/11 was never comprehensively probed; and since there is a tendency for them to strike around "anniversaries" a higher level of alert ought to have been in place. More so when the Indo-Pak dialogue appears to be re-railing itself.      

The reality that once again the people of Mumbai have been let down by their police and the central intelligence/investigative agencies cannot be eclipsed by Chidambaram's suave handing of the media. When blood flowed at Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar it made no difference that it had been 31 months ~ hardly a lifetime you know ~ since the last terror strike in the nation's financial Capital. The contention that the target was not the economy but areas densely populated will be accepted by few, Mumbai has been targeted too frequently for that line to be swallowed. So too there will be few takers for the argument that it is "inherently difficult" to monitor all activity in crowded areas; for as the minister and others point out it was "a concerted terrorist attack". The counter-punch ought to have been delivered before the IEDs were planted.
For all the minister's lauding the intelligence/investigative upgrade post 26/11 (read since he became home minister) there are more, many more "gaps" that still require plugging. Countering known terror groups, Left-wing extremists, regional insurgencies etc. calls for more than the raising of specialised police units. The critical action is to ensure an overall police upgrade, the constable on the beat is the lynch-pin. It is true that the home minister is not in a position to directly ensure that upgrade. But he ought to be able to persuade or pressure the states into doing so. Leadership of such requisite quality, alas, has long deserted the national political establishment. And that is where the battle is being lost.




Bengal must keep its fingers crossed over the Maoist response to the multi-pronged welfare handout unveiled by the Chief Minister in Junglemahal. Mamata Banerjee has doubtless initiated the first major move to regain the confidence of the people though the eventual success will depend on several imponderables. This is commendable. Quite the most critical aspect of the package is the inclusion of the entire populace of Junglemahal in the BPL category, to be entitled to rice at Rs 2 a kg irrespective of the pay-band. However limited the area, she has sought to address the cruel irony of hunger in a country that boasts abundant grain. This is the only facet of the package that has come into force with immediate effect. The Chief Secretary's follow-up order ought to have incorporated the warning against diversion of foodgrain to the open market. The gesture reinforces her earlier announcement that forest-dwellers will be entitled to the natural resources of their habitat. The overall package covers an astonishingly broad sweep of public policy, one that will almost certainly necessitate a budgetary outlay. The execution will hinge substantially on the specific fund that has been sought from the Centre, of which there is no indication thus far. It may well prompt similar demands by other states confronting Maoist insurgency. Miss Banerjee has addressed the welfare handout to the subaltern, without making a distinction between Maoist and tribal. Which probably is why she stopped short of mentioning the term "Maoist" in course of her three public meetings in the volatile belt.

The reaction of the Maoist has been less than lukewarm. Even the turnout at the meetings was markedly less than at last year's rally at Lalgarh that she had addressed as Opposition leader. Well may the Left radicals claim that Junglemahal is now the most peaceful area in Bengal. Both sides are acutely aware that the bold initiative could founder precisely on two rocks ~ the release of political prisoners, as pledged by the Chief Minister, and the withdrawal of Central forces. The first will call for closer scrutiny of antecedents; any administration must await normal conditions before deciding on a paramilitary pullout. Having graduated from an Opposition leader to Chief Minister, Miss Banerjee has grasped the compulsions of governance. The Chief Minister needs to be more explicit on the recruitment of 10,000 policemen from Junglemahal. The objective apparently is to wean away a segment of the tribals. It would be premature, even a mite far-fetched, to jump the gun ~ in the manner of the CPI-M and the Maoists ~ and say that she may be trying to set up a variant of Salwa Judum. The CPI-M's Tripura Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar, had raised the Tripura State Rifles ~ a tribal outfit ~ to successfully counter the ethnic insurgency. Miss Banerjee must clear the air to dispel confusion over a sensitive issue.




THE Quit India movement, Netaji ('Tojo's dog'), Independence (ye azadi jhooti hai) and now Tagore ~ the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has lengthened the loop of rectification. And the latest rectification has been effected by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the Promode Das Gupta Memorial Lecture. Ironically enough, the legendary mentor of Buddhadeb, Biman Bose and the late Anil Biswas, had once dubbed Rabindranath Tagore as a "bourgeois poet". Some others had scoffed at the poet as anandabadi (one who only celebrates joy). The former chief minister may have struck the right chord on the 150th anniversary of the poet. The rectification has a political connotation no less; Mr Bhattacharjee has tried to set the record straight, acutely aware that his party has moved away from the people. Notably, he hasn't put too fine a point on it, describing Leftist critics of Rabindranath as 'dwarfed writers who couldn't understand him and who viewed the poet from a parochial perspective, which was wrong'. Aside from debunking those who had once debunked Tagore, Mr Bhattacharjee has advanced a critical defence of  the poet: "His views on the social fabric, the world, the nation and the Orient are still relevant and will continue to be so." Obliquely, Mr Bhattacharjee's presentation is a reflection on the government of which he was part for 34 years. It bears recall that the Left Front had removed Tagore's Sahaj Path from the primary curriculum. It was restored only under public pressure, almost similar to the restoration of English. As a man of literary tastes, the former Chief Minister could well have raised his voice. As with a range of other issues, the CPI-M tends only to view things only in retrospect. Mr Bhattacharjee has done so too by deviating from what the party calls the "PDG line" on Rabindranath Tagore.








THE recent terror blasts in Mumbai reveal desperation. If policymakers remain steadfast to their goal the attack even offers hope. The absence of high intensity blasts resulted in the number of casualties being considerably less than achievable in such crowded locations. Also, from the manner in which bombs were planted, authorities suspect the hand of the Indian Mujahideen. But who precisely was responsible for the blasts is less important than the motive behind the terror. In the war against terror the agenda furthered by terrorism needs to be understood even more vitally than the identity of terror's immediate perpetrators. The crucial significance of the latest attacks of course lies in their timing. Why now?

The timing suggests that a set pattern is being followed. Whenever there is significant movement towards a breakthrough in Indo-Pakistan peace talks, an event occurs to derail the process. That is why there is hope if policymakers stick to their goals. The bomb blasts suggest that the enemy perceives real possibility of a breakthrough occurring in the peace talks. The history of the Indo-Pakistan peace efforts in recent decades testifies to the existence of the aforesaid pattern.

A little after former Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif made a breakthrough for peace in Lahore, the enemy struck. Inexplicably diverse political elements such as CPI-M's late leader HS Surjeet, Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha and Subramanian Swamy joined forces to topple the Vajpayee government by a single vote. But Sonia Gandhi failed to become PM. Vajpayee continued as caretaker PM.

Subsequently the Kargil attack took place. But the Indian army repulsed the attack. In the ensuing poll, strenuous efforts were made to discredit India's performance at Kargil. It was of no avail. Vajpayee won the election. But before Vajpayee could resume the peace process, the enemy struck in Pakistan. A military coup toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. General Musharraf, the perpetrator of Kargil ruled Pakistan.

As mentioned earlier the footsoldiers of the basic policy agenda are unimportant. Politicians are manipulated by the transnational lobbies that pursue rival agendas. Human beliefs change. Human greed and ambition remain constant. The same Musharraf, who scuttled the peace process during Sharif's tenure, now resumed the peace process through the Agra Summit. Should it surprise that Musharraf too was toppled after making a near breakthrough on Kashmir after talking with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

After democracy was established in Pakistan Benazir Bhutto arrived in Karachi from the US to participate in the polls. Before arriving in Pakistan, Benazir made a statement. She said: 'Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia.' In other words she was outlining a future South Asian Union inspired by the European Union.

This diametrically opposed Al Qaida plans to create an Islamic state from areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan to become the launching pad for global jihad. That is why Benazir was killed. On 27 December 2007, I wrote in these columns: "No South Asian leader apart from Benazir had expressed these views (of a consolidated South Asia) as explicitly. She must have been perceived as an unacceptable threat. She had to go."

Now with some token US withdrawal from Afghanistan imminent, the context again throws up possibilities. Peace in Afghanistan appears unlikely without peace between India and Pakistan. Peace in South Asia is indivisible. That is why a flurry of activity between India and Pakistan to achieve lasting peace is being witnessed. Part of such activity was the speeches made in the recently held SAARC conference of Speakers and parliamentarians in Delhi. As pointed out earlier this week the speech by the Pakistan Speaker, Ms Fehmida Mirza, was crucial. She proposed the creation of a South Asian Parliament and the conversion of SAARC into a body like the European Union. She gave the game away. Just days later terrorists have struck in Mumbai. Is the timing a coincidence? How will public opinion react? How will the government handle it? What will be the fate of the Indo-Pakistan Foreign Secretaries meeting scheduled for later this month?

That is why at the start of this article it was stated that policymakers should remain steadfast to their goals. Very likely the recent terror attacks may have been inspired by elements based in Pakistan. That is irrelevant. We are not fighting simply perverse human beings. We are fighting an agenda. We have to defeat the enemy's agenda with whatever we decide is our own agenda. There are powerful enemies of India in Pakistan. There are also committed friends. We have to bond across borders with allies to fight enemies who have bonded with each other across borders.

Who is behind the agenda to divide India and Pakistan? There would be various groups. The proponents of global jihad are one such group. The Maoists could be another such group. In March this year the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) resolved to work with sister outfits in other South Asian countries to fight the "Indian expansionist hegemony" and make South Asia a base for the "world proletarian revolution." The resolution was adopted at their fifth international conference somewhere in Nepal. It is amusing that India, which is ringed by hostile insurgencies given sanctuary in neighbouring countries, is described as being hegemonic!

Therefore, for the purpose of policymakers too much time should not be wasted on identifying the immediate sources of terrorism. What matters is the agenda they further. What do matter are the invisible global transnational lobbies that pursue agendas to create the world order of their dreams. The government should stay focused on that. It must stay focused on its own agenda. The fact that once again a desperate attempt is being made to derail Indo-Pakistan peace talks indicates that the hope of a breakthrough exists. The government must do everything possible to seize it and clinch it.                                  

The writer is a veteran journalist
and cartoonist







The Mumbai blasts have demonstrated, once again, that there is a serious difference between basic policing and focused Intelligence gathering in order to form a comprehensive, pre-emptive strategy

Terror has again struck Mumbai, the beleaguered financial capital of India. Union home minister Mr P Chidambaram has said that there was no Intelligence input regarding the blast, adding: "It was unfortunate, but investigation will throw further light." And while Mumbai and the rest of the country recover from the shock of the serial blasts that killed 17 people and injured nearly 100, it is time to turn the glare on the country's Intelligence network that the government takes so much pride in but which fails to deliver every time.
The only place in the country where the Intelligence apparatus seems to be overactive is the Kashmir Valley where it seems there is an Intelligence Bureau (IB) man for every resident. Money is flowing into the Valley via the Intelligence route with Kashmiris being bribed to keep sleuths well informed. Of course, even here terror attacks are seldom foiled, but activities of the Opposition and dissidents are closely monitored and often sabotaged.
Yesterday's blasts make it clear that steps meant to be taken for an overhaul of the Intelligence and security systems after the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai have not been taken. All the bluster and promises have come to nought ~  it took the government several hours to fly a team down to Mumbai and the investigation has been left entirely to Mumbai Police that is, at best, an inefficient and compromised force. There have been many reports by investigative journalists about police lacunae in probing senior journalist J Dey's murder. Mumbai Police's limitations are so overwhelming that it can no longer function as an independent, non-partisan and efficient organisation.
There is no point in appointing supra bodies and enacting more laws when the edifice remains weak and shaky. The Intelligence infrastructure is not able to bear the weight of such supra bodies and, as the Mumbai blasts have demonstrated, once again, that there is a serious difference between basic policing and focused Intelligence gathering in order to form a comprehensive, pre-emptive strategy.
It is amazing how the Mumbai underworld is allowed to have the run of the city. Protected by politicians and police, the criminals call the shots, especially where Bollywood and real estate are concerned. Suparis (contracts to kill) are as much an integral part of Mumbai as bhelpuri is. And whenever the city is faced with a sensational assassination like that of Dey, police go through the motions of making a few underworld arrests without making any breakthrough. Ganglords and notorious criminals frequently interact with the media with police as indifferent bystander.  
It has been suggested that yesterday's blasts were a fallout of gang rivalries. Surely, with the technology at its disposal, and given the giant steps the government claims to have taken to streamline and modernise its Intelligence infrastructure, it should have been aware of the rumblings in the Mumbai underworld. Clearly, sleuths are failing and even if they are not, the Intelligence is simply not reaching those it should.
The government has to be commended for not hazarding wild guesses, as politicians usually do, regarding the possible perpetrator. But one can say with almost total certainty that once the wails of the victims and their relatives have subsided, divisive stories will be planted in the media. As it is, a false SMS aimed at capitalising on the sentiments of the victims and their kin started circulating even as the victims were being shifted to hospitals. It reminded all that the blasts had taken place on the birthday of Ajmal Kasab ~ the Pakistani terrorist sentenced to death for his role in the 26/11 carnage. It is important now for the Opposition, particularly the BJP which must be itching to capitalise on the government's lapses that led to the blasts, to act responsibly and not make statements that could polarise people along communal lines.
Home minister Mr P Chidambaram has, of course, a lot of answering to do. And while he has not been reluctant to speak to the media, the hard questions remain unanswered. It is true that the government has to be given the space to investigate the serial blasts and to ensure that the victims are treated well. But it cannot be denied that it was local residents and not police and authorities concerned who had mounted a rescue operation right after the blasts and organised transport and help to ferry the injured persons to nearest hospitals. It is obvious that the emergency services that the Maharashtra government had claimed were in place to tackle to any terror attack are actually nonexistent.
There is no doubt that India's financial capital is a prime target. And after 26/11, the governments at the Centre and the state claimed that the security and Intelligence loopholes had been plugged. But terrorists, obviously, have outwitted the authorities with them planning and triggering serial blasts in crowded localities during the evening rush hour without the state government getting any wind of it. How could this happen? This alone requires a full investigation.
It is important to identify the perpetrator as no group has claimed responsibility so far. But given that Indian investigating agencies had chased shadows for years before realising that terrorists of an entirely different hue were at work in case of Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta train blasts, it is important that authorities establish facts first before addressing the media. Scores of innocent persons have been arrested, tortured and maimed in custody for crimes they had not committed. This fuels tensions that cut into the secular fabric of the country and must be avoided at all cost.
Mumbai Police needs help. It cannot investigate on its own and like custodians of law across the country, will be tempted to arrest and detain innocent persons to cover up its own inefficiency. The Central investigative agencies need to take over and share details with the media responsibly. It is imperative to establish accountability and apprehend those responsible at the earliest. The government must take care not to go wrong this time.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman






Dark clouds continue to hover over Thai politics, and the saying that Thais have been cursed to live with one political suspense after another is not an overstatement. Over the next six days, the country will once again have to hold its collective breath, this time over whether the possibility of having its first female Prime Minister will be shattered. Ms Yingluck Shinawatra has been "suspended" by the Thai election commission (EC), and the fragile political peace depends on the further actions of the EC, which will be made public on 19 July. The EC bombshell ~ its decision to delay endorsing Ms Yingluck, outgoing Prime Minister Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva and 14 other party-list candidates as MPs ~ may prove overblown if the panel was simply reacting to complaints against the affected politicians as it traditionally does.

 But it may turn earth-shaking if the 16 ~ particularly Ms Yingluck ~ remain unendorsed next week. The bad news for Ms Yingluck is that while it is not unusual for the EC to delay endorsing accused candidates (who are normally confirmed later), it has never before acted against party-list winners in this way.An upsetting situation Disqualifying Ms Yingluck alone would be enough to send red-shirt protesters back onto the streets. But this week, the EC did more than just suspend her. Several red-shirt leaders on Ms Yingluck Pheu Thai party's list did not get endorsement, a situation that is upsetting the entire red-shirt apparatus.

 The leaders of the movement have decided to postpone next week's concert at Lumpini Park so it can "charge the battery" for a new rally if something bad happens to Ms Yingluck and the red candidates. The delay has cast a shroud of uncertainty over the process of convening the new House of Representatives and the election of the new Prime Minister. The law requires a quorum of at least 475 MPs to convene the House, whereas only 358 election winners have been endorsed. However, since the law allows the EC to "endorse first and disqualify later", analysts believe the new House could convene in time, within 30 days of the 3 July election. But even if the 475-MP quorum is met, Ms Yingluck must be in it to prevent turmoil. If she is disqualified, the Pheu Thai Party can nominate another party-list winner for the Prime Minister's post. Parliamentary problems can be dealt with, but those on the streets may not be as easy to solve. Ms Yingluck has reportedly been cleared of vote-buying after charges involving her cooking noodles for her supporters were dropped. But the EC has kept alive more serious and potentially more damaging charges concerning her involvement with banned politicians during the election campaign.

She mentioned the "advisory" role of her brother ~ the former Thai Prime Minister Mr Thaksin ~ many times during the campaign, and election posters depicting her as Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidate blatantly declared: "Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai does". Pheu Thai's rivals, the Democrats, it seems, are not in much better shape. If Mr Abhisit is found guilty of vote-buying ~ his case is related to a government-sponsored sales event on an advanced voting day ~ they may face a party dissolution saga all over again.

 Some pro-red critics claim Mr Abhisit was put among those unendorsed only to make the whole list look unbiased. However, there are analysts who believe the EC action was intended to sweep both camps away to pave the way for a new political order. Whether or not a conspiracy to rid both the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties of their key figures is brewing, the EC is not in a sound position either.

The charges against the red-shirt leaders on the party list, in particular, are complicated and may be subject to serious loopholes. The panel may have become as vulnerable as the people it has suspended, and history is not on the commission's side when it comes to legal counterattacks by its so-called victims.

Former commissioners have been jailed for malfeasance. Ms Yingluck may survive this easily if the "EC is just observing tradition" theory is correct. But whatever the EC's motives, this post-election saga has provided her with the first real glimpse of what lies ahead. If or once she's officially elected Prime Minister, a floodgate of political problems is likely to open. Her testimonies in the Thaksin assets case will come back to haunt her almost immediately, and experts believe that what she said during that trial may even match the EC's announcement in terms of loopholes.







Mr Rupert Murdoch has closed down the News of the World, the newspaper at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal that is raging in Britain at the moment. But the media tycoon has not managed to close down the story that the tabloid had been hacking into the voice mails of crime victims, politicians, actors among others. Now, a brutal spotlight has fallen on the behaviour of News International, the UK subsidiary of Mr Murdoch's global media empire.

News International insisted for many years that phone hacking was not a systemic practice at the News of the World. In 2007, when the newspaper's royal reporter, Clive Goodman, was convicted of illegally intercepting the voicemails of Prince William, the company declared that Goodman was a single rogue reporter and that editors had not approved, or even known, what he was doing.

Two years later, when fresh allegations surfaced that hacking at the paper was much more widespread than this, News International held an internal inquiry and this, we were informed, discovered no evidence of wider wrongdoing. Several senior executives of News International ~ including the former executive chairman, Les Hinton, and the News of the World editor, Colin Myler - have also appeared before parliamentary committees over the years to stress that phone hacking was the work of a single journalist.
But with the existence reported of an internal News International dossier, compiled in 2007, it became clearer that hacking was "more widespread than previously admitted" at the News of the World. In other words, this dossier suggests that senior News International executives may have knowingly misled the British public and parliament when they claimed that phone hacking was a strictly isolated phenomenon. The dossier also apparently indicates that Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor who went on to become British Prime Minister Mr David Cameron's communications chief, may have authorised the payment of bribes to police. It has been reported that Mr James Murdoch, the media tycoon's son, who was appointed executive chairman of News International in 2007, was unaware of the existence of this dossier. But even if true, this raises some troubling questions. In April 2008, Mr Murdoch personally authorised a significant out-of-court settlement to Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers' Association, who claimed that his mobile phone messages had been hacked. What questions did Mr Murdoch ask his subordinates about the truth of that allegation before signing off on the payment? And which executives were responsible for keeping their boss in the dark? Whatever the answers, it now appears that some senior figures at News International may have lied about phone hacking and also suppressed evidence of a criminal conspiracy to bribe police officers. They might also have allowed Mr Cameron to employ Coulson knowing that he had broken the law.

The British broadcasting regulator Ofcom declared last week that it will look into the question of whether Mr Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire is a "fit and proper" owner of the broadcaster BSkyB. While Mr Murdoch has abandoned his bid to extend his media empire in the UK by taking a majority stake in BskyB in face of unprecedented public disapproval, now another question must surely be asked: is an organisation that appears to have covered up evidence of corruption and illegality fit and proper to run any part of the media in Britain?







There is only one direction in which Afghanistan seems to be heading — from bad to worse. If the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul a fortnight ago left any doubt about this bitter truth, the murder of Ahmed Wali Karzai should make it evident. As in the bombing of the hotel, the assassination of a figure who is no less than the brother of the president of Afghanistan and a pillar of the country's administration has left in its wake concern over the kind of future that seems to await the nation once the foreign forces depart. Although the footprints of the Taliban are not as obvious in the assassination case as they were in the hotel attack, it goes without saying that both incidents mark advantage points for the Taliban insofar as any setback for the Afghanistan government invariably translates into a victory for them. The death of Ahmed Wali Karzai is bound to leave a gaping hole in the power structure in Kandahar, a province which is said to be the spiritual homeland of the Taliban. Through the intricate network of relationships that Ahmed Wali Karzai had built in his roles as a tribal leader, provincial councillor, ace businessman and plain bully, he had provided invaluable support to his brother, helping him win elections, and extending and safeguarding his authority at a time when it was under threat from both the Taliban and Hamid Karzai's Western allies.

Not merely that, despite the allegations against the younger Karzai — his involvement in drug trading, corruption and the use of private militia to sustain his authority — the Nato forces had found in him a dependable ally. Ahmed Wali Karzai had provided sufficient stability in the south for the allied forces to shift focus to east Afghanistan. He had also facilitated the ongoing dialogue with the Taliban. His death, besides politically crippling the president, sets back the pace of the allied operations. There is a threat of resurgent violence in the region. Rival tribes, even rival Karzai brothers, could be trying to fill the gap. The power vacuum created by the assassination, in fact, is the clearest possible reminder of the state that democracy in Afghanistan is in. The over-dependence on individuals, no matter how unsavoury, to bypass the more arduous task of institution-building, so that the exit plans could be furthered to the mutual convenience of both Mr Karzai and his foreign allies, is behind this sordid mess.






It is bleakly ironic, if not ethically dubious, to praise a city for its fabled resilience, hours after it was devastated by multiple blasts. In the last 20 years, Mumbai has been torn apart by 28 explosions and one terrorist siege that probably remains unparalleled in the history of terrorism. Such statistics alone should discourage any feelgood rhetoric about Mumbai's extraordinary capacity to spring back to 'normal life' from the direst of crises. If Mumbaikars continue to move on, time and again, after each instance of terrorism in their city, it is because they have no other alternative. Life cannot come to a standstill simply because the State cannot be relied upon to ensure public safety. After each terror attack, safety regulations in major metropolitan cities of the country are stepped up for a few weeks before the investigations lose steam, judicial backlogs pile up, and people have no option but to wager with fate and to carry on with business as usual. This pattern seems to have been etched in stone by now, and even the shocking 26/11 attacks, after which many tall promises were made by the authorities, seem not to have made much of a difference to people's perception of safety in public spaces. After the triple blasts in some of the busiest parts of Mumbai on Wednesday, the chief minister of Maharashtra could, at best, come up with what sounded like a lame comparison: "We are much better prepared than 26/11 [this time]." The Union home minister was even more laconic, and stated what seemed to be the obvious — that the blasts were coordinated attacks by terrorists.

As far as preparedness is concerned, the reality on the ground told a rather different story. In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, chaos reigned over the city, the hospitals were in disarray, and rumours spread like wildfire. Clearly, for a city that has been wrecked by sporadic terror attacks, the level of preparedness left much to be desired. And, if such is the state of security in the financial capital of the country, which is already a favourite target among extremists, one shudders to think what life must be for ordinary citizens in the relatively less important and smaller towns and cities spread across this vast subcontinent. In the past three years alone, there have been more than a dozen major terrorist attacks across the country, costing close to 500 lives. Should this be the standard of 'normality' in India?





One lives to learn — or unlearn. The working head of what passes for this country's Planning Commission is unambiguous about it. One important measure to fight inflation, he believes, is to raise prices. That is to say, to stop prices from rising, you must first raise prices. The gentleman has heartily endorsed the recent serial increases in the prices of petroleum products since such increases will, in his view, succeed in bringing down prices.

Does not this assertion bring back to mind the startling pronouncement, some 50 years ago, by the five-star army general of the United States of America: to save Vietnam, it was, in the first instance, imperatively necessary to destroy that country? The American general did not have the benefit of an Ivy League education and fell back on crude McCarthyism when queried on the rationale of what he had said. The working head of India's Planning Commission, on the other hand, has a background of both Oxbridge sophistry and World Bank hauteur. He is also a fanatic believer in the archaic Quantity Theory of Money in the manner of the great neo-liberal guru, Milton Friedman. The suspect assumptions underlying that theory do not detain him. Any increase in price, he is cocksure, lowers the overall demand for goods in the market, since buyers have to spend more on the commodity of which the price has been raised and now have less resources at their disposal to spend on other things, the demand for these things will shrink. In a free market, this will have a dampening effect on the prices of these goods: inflation will thereby abate. To make even more explicit what the Yojana Bhavan eminence implies: if, say, the price of kerosene is hiked, the petty clerk or the poor rickshaw puller will have to make a larger outlay for obtaining kerosene, and will hence have less money to buy not just the foodstuff he wants to cook on the kerosene stove, but other essential goods too. As a sequel, the demand for foodgrains as well as all those other commodities will decline, in the process pulling down the general price level.

There should in any case be no lingering doubt regarding the meaning of meaning. The government, which includes the Planning Commission, is most anxious to reduce the number of the poverty-stricken in the country. The subconscious is at work: if some of the wretched poor have less money to buy food, they will starve and, hopefully, die without a murmur. That will result in a decline in the percentage of population below the so-called poverty level. In terms of the Yojana Bhavan boss's implicit logic, to raise prices is a holy act which kills two birds with one stone: it disciplines inflation and at the same time reduces the number of the infernal poor who are a bit of a nuisance to Resurgent India.

Spiralling prices, of course, hurt the poor most. In case the phenomenon persists, the huge multitude below the poverty level, denied food security, are bound to starve and face extinction. Why beat around the bush, those currently guiding this nation's destiny want to get the poor out of their hair. Inflation is a handy instrument to fulfil this objective. The deputy god of the Planning Commission has, however, made a tactical error; he should not have gone overboard and claimed that a price rise helps to suck money out of the system and, in consequence, the rate of inflation falls. He has actually indulged in an inexactitude. When the petty clerk or the humble rickshaw puller pays the extra money for kerosene — and which amount he is, therefore, unable to spend on food and other necessities — that money does not go out of the system, it swells the pocket of the trader and the coffers of the oil company which processes the kerosene. It stays in the market and helps the trader to withhold stocks. Or the extra profit it creates for the oil company exerts pressure on the market, if not in the food sector, maybe in the luxury goods sector or the machinery and equipment producing sector. That apart, the market is hardly free. Even if the poor are compelled to buy less food, grain prices need not fall, traders and hoarders have enough clout, enabling them to wangle easy bank credit, which makes it possible to hold back stocks and avert any drop in grain prices. The rich peasants and the trading community can also pull the necessary strings to ensure larger purchases of foodgrains by State agencies and stem a fall in market prices. India, who does not know, is an enchanting country where, at one end, people die of hunger and, at the other end, surplus stocks of foodgrains rot in government warehouses with the authorities most adamant about not releasing even a minuscule fraction of the stock for the starving people. To do so, the admonition rings out, will have an adverse impact on the 'incentive' of traders and surplus-raising farmers.

If in a nitpicking mood, one could have also mentioned that the Yojana Bhavan savant totally ignores the cascading effect of a rise in food and fuel prices on the structure of costs across the entire system; inflationary forces, instead of being checked, will rage like wild forest fire unless controlled by stern regulatory measures. But all that is beside the point. What is at issue is the class question. Rising food and fuel prices, if allowed free rein, will in due course decimate the poor and the lower middle class. Rest assured, prices nonetheless will continue to soar as per the wishes of quarters that matter. Fudged economic reasoning is mainly for the consumption of the gullible. Inflation is a class instrument, it transfers resources from the poor and the weak to the rich and the strong. This is the ruling idea at this moment in this country: plunder the poor to augment the wealth of the rich.

True, the Indian case is not sui generis. It is the same story wherever neo-liberal imperialism has extended its reach. Greece, a poor relation occupying a puny corner of the European Union, was inveigled into giving up its own currency, the drachma, and cross over to the euro. Its government and central bank thereby lost all control over monetary policy which became the domain of the European Union and the European Central Bank. A bunch of tycoons, in cahoots with fly-by-night investors, had launched a number of industrial and commercial projects which received the backing of unscrupulous speculators and supercilious credit agencies. The relevant stocks were made to zoom. What goes up often comes down. The bubble burst, share prices of the newly floated ventures plunged, quite a number of corporate entities went bankrupt, including some which had Greek government collateral. In the ensuing panic, there was a run against State securities, the exchequer was rapidly drained, the country landed in a grim financial crisis. The authorities could only watch helplessly; they had no control over either interest rates, or capital movements. The EU, meaning its principals, France and Germany, advanced a conditional loan which soon got exhausted. They have now agreed to lend another installment of roughly 40 billion dollars so that the Greek government can emerge out of the crisis, but the conditions this time are far severer. These include a steep increase in taxes heavily loaded against the poor and middle classes, across-the-board cuts in public expenditure targeting social security provisions such as old age pension, unemployment allowance and subsidized education, apart from major slashes in salaries and wages in all sectors. The working and middle classes will have to go through acutely rough days, none knows for how long. Such is the writ of the neo-liberal imperium: the poor have to pay for the sins of the indolent rich whose pastime is to play with stocks and bonds.

It is class war. The times, the rich have judged, are propitious for finishing off the filthy poor, no question of showing any mercy. Even the cruellest of the cruel, though, ought to have at least a minimum sense of decency. By all means plan the liquidation of the poor by raising, with extraordinary frequency, prices of foodstuff and fuel, but, please, do not insult their intelligence, do not pretend that, by raising prices, you are in fact smothering inflation and thus ameliorating the lot of the poor.





And they have blown it yet again. A damp squib rejig, nothing that could even remotely be called a reshuffle. This cabinet, given that a general election is due in a few years, should have created a sense of firm statesmanship at the helm through the selection of fresh incumbents. Alas, that was not to be, and the opposition parties must be sighing deeply with profound satisfaction. Another foot forward, for no crafting of theirs. The two sensible appointments were those of Salman Khurshid and Jayanthi Natarajan. For the rest, even the shuffling made no real sense. When the 'government' maintained on television that governance will improve with this readjustment, there were peals of laughter from some viewers. Finally, the many dentures and wigs, stuck in a time warp, prevailed.

With this game of non-musical chairs, one positive signal has gone out — early elections are bound to be announced towards the end of this year, because, as it stands today, the Central Team is not strong enough to pull it off till 2014. It cannot hang in for three more years and work towards ensuring that an honest corrective kicks in. That does not appear to be the intention. Sadly, no change of the faulty operating grid was enunciated. No induction of squeaky clean fresh faces in the council. No professionals as lateral entries anywhere. Nandan Nilekani, for example, would have made a great human resource development minister, thereby allowing Kapil Sibal the opportunity to devote his full attention to the telecom ministry, which needs to be restructured with deft precision.

This tamasha was merely more of the same, non-transparent past. There was no attempt at sending 'strongmen' back to the states to conquer back Madhya Pradesh, a Maharashtra that is on the edge, and Andhra Pradesh that brought in the numbers to tilt the balance in favour of the Congress. Had that been the motive of the reshuffle, the general elections would have been in 2014, heralding the possibility of a clear victory for a single party. Alas, political thinking and the laying of a strong base for the future have been overtaken by denial and intellectual inertia.

Warped politics

Clearly, a return to good governance is not the priority; instead, politicking is the mantra. Get Khurshid to pass the lok pal and food security bills; get Jairam Ramesh to construct and table the land acquisition bill, and then, declare the midterm polls and scramble to win, maybe even a larger mandate. This is the only survival strategy for a possible third term. Short-term thinking and antagonism to the aspirations of a young and agile nation are disturbing. Soon Air India will be 'exposed' and another scam will unravel. The government will run for cover. Coalition dharma will be the excuse again for corruption and bad practice. A 'this too shall pass' syndrome and a status quo that has diluted dignity and probity in public life have severely damaged India.

There is blatant disrespect for new ideas, for individuals who are energetic, young, or even middle aged. There is discomfort with unknown initiatives or alternatives, as well as with fresh challenges. It is a shame that those in their dotage cling on to office. Change will happen and growth will race ahead only when the intellectually debilitated, old and staid, predictable and comatose, leave their gaddis. Making errors of judgment and mistakes is the prerogative of the young. Give them the baton and allow India to move forward.

Why this aversion to risk? Why this desperate attempt to mark time, to survive a little longer and discredit governance and leadership? Why this reluctance to step aside and make way? What merits this warped rajniti?







Preparing to host his colleagues for the Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul on July 15-16, the Turkish foreign minister called Thursday for a solution in Libya before the holy month of Ramadan so that the situation in the North African country does not deteriorate.

"If a cease-fire cannot be maintained and air raids continue during Ramadan, that would only be a gift to Moammar Gadhafi," Ahmet Davutoğlu told a group of journalists at the historic Çırağan Palace by the Bosphorus where the fourth Libya Contact Group meeting will be held.

That leaves only a half a month ahead of the group of countries, since Ramadan starts Aug. 1.

Davutoğlu was proud to say that it was the Turkish proposal which will be discussed as a road map for a solution to the ongoing civil war in Libya.

The road map that Turkey is proposing could be summed up as follows:

• First a cease fire should be declared between Gadhafi's forces in the capital Tripoli and the resistance forces based in Benghazi. That ceasefire should be monitored by the United Nations. "Turkey is willing to take part in that monitoring force," Davutoğlu says.

• Then, the basic needs of the strife-torn cities, such as water, food and fuel, should be supplied again under U.N. auspices.

• "In the meantime, an exit strategy for Gadhafi to leave power, but not necessarily the country, should be sought by revising the U.N. Resolution 1973 if necessary," Davutoğlu said.

A journalist asked whether that means a "Hosni Mubarak-type solution." "It could be," Davutoğlu answered.

Another colleague asked whether it would be safe for Gadhafi to stay in the country under such circumstances. "If an agreement is reached, that would not be a problem," Davutoğlu said, smiling.

• Turkey's proposal is to set up a restructuring commission for any post-Gadhafi Libya. According to the proposal, the core of the commission would consist of five people: Two from Tripoli who would be accepted to Benghazi, two from Benghazi who would be acceptable to Tripoli and a fifth who would be named by those four who would set up the basis for a new constitution in Libya.

• One of the most interesting suggestions in Turkey's road map draft is to avoid acts of revenge after Gadhafi. Ankara thinks lessons should be drawn from the devastating de-Baathification process in Iraq, which is now seen as the main reason of the resistance to the new regime to be established in the country.

The Libya conference takes place at a time when Turkey's relations with the European Union are strained because of the Cyprus issue. Davutoğlu said a day before that if no solution is found to the reunification of the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus by 2012, Turkey might freeze its political relations with the EU and would not recognize the Greek-run Republic of Cyprus as the term president in the second half of that year.

When reminded of the reaction of EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, who said that "it was not time to make such comments," Davutoğlu replied: "On the contrary, I believe it is the time to say that. We are trying to call them to take measures before it's too late. That is what we are trying to do in Libya as well."






Turkey's policy towards Syria since the beginning of the country's uprising can at best be described as ambiguous. This is not very surprising. The events there and the regime's inability to respond to the demands of the opposition, presented an important difficulty for Turkey. After all, the level of improvement in Turkish-Syrian relations pointed to a major change and it represented the cornerstone of Turkey's new foreign policy in the Middle East.

Turkish-Syrian relations were poor historically, marred by historical grievances, territorial claims and ideological differences. In the late 1980s two additional problems were added to the already overcrowded list of problems. Turkey's launching of the Southeastern Anatolian Project, or GAP, to utilize the waters of Tigris and Euphrates by building and extensive irrigation networks, led to water dispute between the two countries. Turkey's security concerns in regards to Syria's policies further contributed to the deterioration of relations. From Turkey's perspective the main issue was Syrian support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the residing of its leader in Damascus. As a result the climate of mutual suspicion and mistrust reigned. The problems in Syrian-Turkish relations culminated in a crisis in October 1998 when Turkey threatened Syria by use of force if it did not cut its support to the PKK. The row ended when Syria let the PKK leader leave the country and the two countries signed the Adana Accords on Oct. 20, 1998.

Since 1998, however, the relations between the two countries have been transformed. Economic, security, political cooperation went well beyond normalization. A friendship was developed at the leadership level. Visas were lifted. The two countries began to talk about economic integration. Syrian-Turkish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council, consisting of meetings of ministers of the two countries under the chairmanship of the prime ministers, was initiated. In short, Turkish-Syrian relations became an interesting model for peace building.

At the same time the development of relations to this extent meant that Turkey has heavily invested in the status quo, the continuation of the existing regime in Syria. The possibility of regime change can mean the loss of all this. More importantly, the regime change can instead bring instability and chaos at Turkey's doorsteps. All these concerns led to a more cautious policy on the part of Ankara, careful not to completely alienate Bashar regime.

On the other hand, Turkey has been hosting Syrian opposition meetings, the last one being widely reported at the end of May in Antalya. These meetings pointed to Turkey's desire to send a message to Bashar regime as well as to establish links with the opposition and to help to consolidate it. However, the Antalya meeting angered the Syrian regime and its supporters. Even some of the opposition was concerned. Some were wary of any foreign intervention in their affairs. Others were concerned about the extensive participation of members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the meeting as they were scared the uprising could be hijacked by them.

Thus, Turkey's policy is still trying to navigate its way through the complexities of Syrian politics today. The stakes are quite high and the trajectory of the regime is still uncertain. Under these conditions the strategy seems to be muddling through. But one thing seems clear; whether the regime goes or not, Turkish-Syrian relations have already transformed once more.





A fire and consequently an explosion at an ammunition depot in a shabby naval base in the Greek Cypriot side not only killed six people and wounded many people but also impaired one of the power plants of southern Cyprus, producing a very serious energy shortage. July, August are the hottest months of the island. Energy shortage is no joke. Particularly in view of the already simmering economic difficulties, like northern Cyprus southern Cyprus as well cannot risk its services sector that constitutes the backbone of its economy.

For the past several years the Turkish Cypriot side has finally acquired with assistance from Turkey a power plant and has put a full stop to hours-long electricity cuts all through hot summer months. The plant has the capability of producing, though very expensively as it consumes fuel oil, more than enough electricity required by northern Cyprus.

Though it preferred not to hear some officious proposals for the declaration of mourning for a day or two and to fly flags at half mast to demonstrate solidarity with the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriot government offered the Greek Cypriot administration to provide it with up to 150 megawatts of electricity, an amount that would considerably, though not totally, eradicate the electricity shortage problem. Days have passed since the Turkish side made the offer. Greek Cypriots are without electricity for hours and hours everyday because of the shortage. Hoteliers are complaining. Temperatures are hovering over 40 degrees centigrade. The Greek Cypriot government is still pondering whether accepting electricity assistance from northern Cyprus might compromise its "sole legitimate government of entire Cyprus" status?

This is a humanitarian issue. Turkish Cypriots did not think for one second about extending their hand in help to their neighbors out of their belief that as two people sharing the same homeland before any other country or that people, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, should rush to each other's help at time of need, be it an acute energy shortage because of a blast or a forest fire or whatever. Foolishness and monkey business are so rampant in southern Cyprus, however, that for the past many days the Greek Cypriot administration has been trying to decide whether the electricity administration or the chamber of industry should have talks with the Turkish Cypriots to determine how much energy the north might supply south and for how long. This isolated problem indeed demonstrates the mental fatigue in southern Cyprus that has successfully killed all efforts to find a resolution to the inter-communal problem of power sharing on the island for the past almost half century.

Rightly, Turkish officials and Turkish Cypriots are complaining that the latest direct talks process would have been going on for three years in September. If no stone was left unturned over the past 45 years of inter-communal talks have been continuing in various formats, if there is political will for a settlement, indeed there can be a deal, two peoples can go to a referendum to vote on that deal and in the first quarter of 2012 the Cyprus problem can become history with the creation of a new partnership state on the island.

In Ankara not only is there optimism that a Cyprus deal might finally became discernible but also a deep concern as reflected by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that missing this opportunity as well might produce an unprecedented crisis in Turkish-European Union process and beyond.






SEMIH İDIZ - S I D I Z @ M I L L I Y E T . C O M . T R

Credible news reports indicate that one of the things U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be pushing for during her talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu while in Turkey – where she is to attend the Contact Group on Libya meeting – will be missile defense.

Daily Milliyet's Aslı Aydıntaşbaş reported Thursday that Ankara was "preparing to give the green light" to hosting key elements of the project on its territory, a topic that has stirred controversy in Turkey, and left the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration at odds with Washington and its NATO allies in the past.

Ankara's main objection has been that any documentation or agreements about the project should not indicate Iran as one of the targets of the proposed system. Ankara also demanded that the command of any assets on Turkish soil be in Turkish hands. A third demand was that intelligence obtained through the system should not be shared with Israel.

It was these conditions and demands that prompted two U.S. Republican Senators to write to Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to express "concern over recent reports that the administration may be nearing completion of a bilateral agreement with the Turkish government to base a U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-Band) radar in Turkey."

Senators Jon Kyl and Mark Kirk were reported by Global Security News Wire as wanting written assurance that technical information gathered through this project be made available in real time to Israel, so that the data might be fully integrated into its battlement management and control. Other reports said they also want the control of the whole system to be in U.S. hands.

Apparently the senators prefer that the radar be based in the Southern Caucasus, which in this context means Georgia or Azerbaijan but not Armenia, where Russia is entrenched militarily. Defense analysts indicate that this suggestion is not viable given that these two countries are unreliable from the U.S. security point of view. They say Turkey is the only real option and this is why Washington is pushing for a deal with Ankara. But this does not mean problems with Turkey have been totally ironed out, despite reports to the contrary.

Ankara's demand that Iran not be named as a potential target can be overcome. Not naming Iran does not mean the missile threat from Iran will not be one of the main targets of the defense system. Recent saber rattling from Tehran suggesting U.S. bases – and Turkey plays host to such bases – will be targeted by Iranian missiles in the event of any attack by Israel guarantees this.

As for the command issue, that has reportedly been resolved within the context of NATO's joint command structure. Any assets on Turkish soil will thus be commanded by the U.S. and Turkey.

The problem for Ankara, however, remains sharing intelligence that has been gathered through this system with Israel. Whether Turkey likes it or not, it is obvious that U.S. and Israel missile-defense planning are inextricably intertwined. It would not make any sense to assume that intelligence will not be shared between these two allies because Ankara does not want it. In the meantime, the Israeli media has reported that Israel is working on $2 billion-2.3 billion "National Emergency Plan" for the world's most advanced missile defense system.

According to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, all of the systems in the plan "rely on various radars, which will be united and linked to U.S. and Israeli satellites as part of the layout."

It is not clear therefore how the ruling Justice and Development, or AKP, administration, for which "nuclear Israel" is the real regional threat, will give the "green light" for the missile defense system on Turkish soil without a loss of face in the country given its previous stance – especially when it is apparent that no U.S. administration can guarantee to Turkey that intelligence will not be shared with Israel.

To assume that this guarantee can be given simply goes against the grain.





Only a week after the president of the state-run Turkish Aviation Institute pledged that Turkey would send its own shuttle into the space by 2023, a simple glider operated by the same office simply crashed.

Not funny enough? Then read the story of the man who was awarded the prize "The Policeman of the Year" in 2010 and was indicted this week for embezzlement. Turkey's officialdom is always so full of humor – often of the black kind – that there is hardly any room in the country for unofficial, fabricated humor.

Most recently, the humor magazine Harakiri has been forced to shut down after being slapped with a 150,000 Turkish Liras fine by the Prime Ministry's Children Protection Board for being a "harmful influence on the morality of minors." Harakiri released its first issue in May 2011, but the board quickly declared that three drawings in the first issue were "inappropriate" and banned the sale of the magazine to underage minors, in addition to levying the fine. Speaking of humor, the board found that Harakiri "directed Turkish people to laziness and adventurism" and "encouraged adultery." No humor magazine could probably have been more humorous. And the board that reports to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could not have jeopardized laziness in a country where people work so hard that their productivity can only compare to that of the Japanese, Swiss and Nordic nations. But I still don't understand the "adventurism" part. How could a couple of cartoons be dangerously encouraging adventurism while the film "Valley of the Wolves: Palestine," in which the hero, Polat Alemdar, storms into Israel to take revenge of the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid, does not. I cannot think of anything more adventurous than entering Israel the way Alemdar does; "Why have you come to Israel?" an Israeli soldier asks him. He proudly declares: "I have not come to Israel, I have come to Palestine!"

And most recently, the official Turkish humor machine invented a profession unknown to the rest of the world when a court indictment labeled the translator of William Burrough's "Soft Machine" as a "porn translator." That happened when the book's Turkish publisher and the "porn translator" had to stand trial last week on charges of obscenity.

The trial is the second in a row against the same publisher, Sel Yayıncılık, which faced the same charges last year after it published Guillaume Apollonaire's "The Exploits of a Young Don Juan."

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found that Turkey violated freedom of expression laws and hindered public access to a work belonging to the European literary heritage. The European court's ruling had come after another publisher (with the help of another "porn translator") published the Turkish translation of Apollonaire's "The Eleven Thousand Rods."

All that is the gradual transformation of Turkey towards a not-so-European destination by means of social/moral engineering, skillfully crafted by the ruling Islamist/conservative/or-whatever elite. In Turkey in the year 2011 unofficial humor is banned, and so is "encouraging laziness and adventurism." And so are books "that belong to the European literary heritage."

How soon honorable ministers, did you say would Turkey become a full member? Oh, did you, by the way, say that the European Union blocked our well-deserved membership because of Cyprus? Ah, the official humor machine again!






Getting half of the votes for a new term after nine years in power gives huge clout to a political party – and the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has given strong signals that it will take advantage of its clout to the fullest extent. In the crucial area of economy, the signals do not bode well for organized labor.

Introducing the 61st government's program in Parliament on July 8, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan laid out an ambitious target of cutting the nation's jobless rate to 5 percent by the year 2023. The official unemployment rate stands at 10.8 percent as of March: it is down from a post-crisis peak of 16.1 percent in February 2009, but nevertheless is unacceptable for an economy that aims to rank among the world's top 10. Today, the April figures will be revealed as a drop to the single-digit level is expected, but many analysts will tell you it is seasonal.

The jobless rate has always been the Achilles' heel of the AKP rule, smirking at policy makers among other data that on paper displays a rosy economic outlook. The official number of unemployed is over 2.8 million, but the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, or DİSK, adds those "who have lost hope to find a job" to the figure, reaching the mind-boggling figure of 5 million.

It's no surprise, then, that in every opinion poll the Turkish public puts joblessness as the top problem, even ahead of the Kurdish issue, education, health care or security.

Thus, the renewed focus on joblessness should be a welcome development. But it seems that Erdoğan aims to solve the problem through changing the definition of what a job is.

"To increase employment and reduce the unregistered economy, we will remove the rigidity of our labor market, in light of an understanding of a secured flexibility and the principle of protecting the individual, not the job," Erdoğan told lawmakers on July 8. He then announced that there was a "problem" of severance payment in Turkey, which "created pressures for payment on companies and has become one of the main problems in working life." Paradoxically, he added that most workers in Turkey were not receiving this severance pay anyway.

Thus, the first salvo in a potential collision course with organized labor has been fired. With eager support from business groups, the government will probably move as early as autumn to kill the right to severance pay. The next step could be introducing a "regional minimum wage," which would be even lower than the current 660 Turkish Liras ($401) per month.

To tell the truth, the government has the upper hand, as labor unions remain weak even three decades after the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup, which stripped labor of many hard-won rights. According to December 2010 data, the number of unionized workers stands at 3.2 million, around 59 percent of the labor force. But the number of workers who benefit from collective bargaining (really organized labor, if you will) is only half a million – and even they are divided among three rival confederations.

I remember attending a meeting of industrialists years ago in the western city of Bursa. Responding to various criticisms toward the government, one businessman had asked: "Did any other government let you employ workers and do business in such convenient conditions?"

As Erdoğan prepares to make it much easier to hire and fire, the firm "class perspective" of that businessman is proven to be on the mark.






I will review two viewpoints of the prime minster that he expressed during the government program's debate in Parliament.

The first one Is the following sentence: "You will receive 26 percent and you will act as if you are dominant; you will receive 13 percent and act as if you own the place. There is no such thing. If sovereignty belongs to the people unconditionally, then you will surrender to this."

This is how the prime minister speaks when he is analyzing the June 12 elections. In fact, there is no sense in what he is saying but I want to refer to one or two aspects.

At what percentage of votes will the prime minister recognize the right "to act dominantly" to the opposition? Should the opposition "surrender" for example, if it receives 2 percent less votes than the ruling party? Or does the ruling party that has received four times more votes than the opposition have all the right to "act as if it owns" the place? Is there such a calculation? The essence of the viewpoint is wrong; the "right of sovereignty" does not belong to the ruling party or the opposition but to the people as a whole. When the prime minister says, "You have to surrender," I guess he means respect and commitment to the decisions that those powers (legislative, executive and judicial) that have the right to use the power of sovereignty have made on behalf "of the nation" without disrupting its integrity. Respecting those decisions made on behalf of the nation does not mean "surrendering" to them and that they are not to be "criticized."

In his speech the prime minister, right after his words that meant a desire to leave the past behind, denounced the Republican People's Party, or CHP, by starting a discussion about "what İsmet Pasha did." The first sentence of the prime minister in his reference to the CHP was: "If they are still stuck at the agenda, the issues of the past and cannot get over the 1940s and come to terms with today, we do not see this as a healthy environment for serving the country."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was complaining that the opposition was stuck in the past and was not able understand the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, 2023 vision. Erdoğan is right, daily politics cannot be based on historic examples. Parties should not write history, they should benefit from history.

Erdoğan sees no harm to refer to events that occurred before democratic right after saying that the opposition is stuck in the past without reading the government program, "We know what prices this country paid because of İsmet Pasha, we know all this."

Now, perhaps it is time to ask, "Hey Erdoğan, shouldn't you also remember what prices this country did not pay because of İsmet Pasha?" İsmet İnönü can be criticized, his wrong decisions can be spotted and pointed at but shouldn't it also be taken into consideration that as his starting point being the "national chief" of a one-party, where he moved his country in 12 years including a five year period of a world war? İnönü enabled Turkey to transfer from a one-party regime to elections of a multi-party, secret ballot, open counting system administered by judges.

It is yet to be seen where Erdoğan moves Turkey in 2015. If he manages to facilitate a constitution of United Nations and the European Union standards come into effect, he will just make it to the level of İnönü in the rank of successful statesmen.

Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece originally appeared Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






With the backdrop of the Arab Spring, it is no surprise that Turkey and Israel have renewed their dialogue. Jerusalem and Ankara's shared strategic interests are becoming ever clearer, particularly with the ongoing unrest in neighboring Syria. These interests serve to catapult both sides over the obstacles that have hindered their reconciliation since the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010. With renewed understanding of the benefits of their close cooperation and partnership, Israeli-Turkish reconciliation today is imminent.

There has been a recent flurry of activity between Israeli and Turkish officials. First, apparently under pressure from Turkish officials, the İHH, the organizer of last year's Gaza-bound flotilla, announced that the Mavi Marmara would not participate in an upcoming flotilla. Next, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a congratulatory note for his re-election victory stating, "My government will be happy to work with the new Turkish government… in the hope of reestablishing our cooperation and renewing the spirit of friendship." Israeli Deputy PM Moshe Ya'alon purportedly held private discussions with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu regarding a reconciliation document.

Turkey understands that if it wants to play a leadership role in the Mid East and still influence Israel's policy, then it has no choice but to deal with Israel as a key regional player. The likely collapse of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime will hold significant repercussions for Turkey and Israel, making their cooperation ever more critical. Emboldened by his re-election, Erdoğan has increased leverage to re-establish ties with Israel without losing face.

For Israel, the benefits of renewed ties are clear. Turkey can assist Israel with its national security concerns: from the Palestinian attempts to gain recognition at the United Nations, to Hamas' stance in the Palestinian unity government, to the nuclear ambitions of Iran. Reports that President Barack Obama and Erdoğan have increased their dialogue suggest that the U.S. also understands the benefits of providing Turkey with the leadership tools it needs to exert influence throughout the region in a way that can advance shared Turkish and Israeli interests.

Turkish-Israeli reconciliation is feasible and has three distinct components. First, Turkey's relations with Israel will strengthen its role as a regional mediator, particularly between the Palestinian factions. Hamas' Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' recent visit to Turkey during Ankara's efforts to assist party reconciliation is telling. Even more so was Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's moderate rhetoric with regard to Turkey's outreach to Hamas, saying: If Turkey is successful in moderating Hamas, "We [Israel] would kiss the hands of every Turk."

Next, Turkey and Israel have a choice: reach a formula under which Israel expresses "deep regret" for the flotilla episode and compensates the bereaved families of those killed in 2010, or agree on a qualified Israeli apology for the "inadvertent" deaths of nine Turks without placing the blame directly on Israel. Either way, it behooves each side to downplay the findings of the upcoming U.N. report on the flotilla incident to prevent reigniting the argument. Finally, Turkey's President Abdullah Gül, perhaps in response to Netanyahu's letter of congratulations, could extend an invitation to President Shimon Peres to visit to Ankara. Such a visit would affirm the end of the spat, allowing the two men to publicly renew the historic ties between their nations.

The tensions between Israel and Turkey could be imminently relieved by a dialogue that emphasizes their shared interests. As the Arab world takes to the streets in search of democracy, the two established democratic nations of the region now have a unique opportunity to work together to serve as pillars of stability, and to return to the work of advancing security and peace in a region gripped by chaos.

Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.









On Jerusalem Day last month, tens of thousands of youngsters active in the religious Zionist movement marched from the city's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to the Western Wall Plaza in what is known as the Flag Parade. Some turned the march into a frightening demonstration of nationalism, racism and violence.

Today, this route will be followed in reverse by another march that is the opposite of the rightists' march. Instead of calling for death (to the Arabs ), it will raise a joint cry for life - for an end to the occupation and recognition of Palestinian independence.

The march is a joint venture of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which emerged from the weekly protests against the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, and the popular committees of the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. It is meant to be neither a Palestinian demonstration in which some Israelis participate, nor an Israeli demonstration in which some Palestinians participate. Rather, it is meant to be a joint demonstration by the peace-seekers of both nations.

This Jerusalem March has special importance because of its timing. When the Knesset is legislating more and more laws aimed at restricting the right to protest, this march will be an important challenge to them. When the government is insisting that Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and thereby thwarting any chance of holding peace negotiations, this demonstration will challenge the stasis.

After citizens of Arab states proved how correct and effective nonviolent protest can be, today's march will try to apply this principle to the battle for the rights of the Palestinian people as well. And at a time when Israel is closing itself off to a world that is growing ever more condemnatory of its behavior, this march can demonstrate that, in spite of everything, there is also another Israel from which other voices can still be heard, voices different from those of the anti-democratic nationalists who have lately been producing a vociferous, almost unanimous chorus.

It must be hoped that this march will pass peacefully, and that right-wingers will not try to sabotage it. Responsibility for ensuring this happens rests with the police. It must also be hoped that the march will indeed serve as a milestone for all those who seek peace and favor nonviolent protest, Israelis and Palestinians alike.







To what lengths must we go to ensure that a shareholder's stake in a bank, even only partial control, is the stake recognized by the Bank of Israel? This issue is now under discussion in the Knesset Finance Committee in the form of a bill aimed at determining how a bank that does not have an approved controlling group will be run. The bill's initiators - the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel - are going too far.

The banks, with the exception of Bank Leumi, have controlling shareholder groups approved by the central bank. At Leumi, the state is in control, after shares were transferred to it following the stock manipulation crisis of 1983. The state is also in control via a "shares committee" that nominates candidates for the board of directors at the shareholder meeting. The state decided to privatize Bank Leumi, and when it despaired of the attempt to sell shares to a controlling group, it decided to sell them on the market.

But the treasury and Bank of Israel are not content with selling on the market and prohibiting shareholders from coordinating their votes for the board at the shareholder meeting. They want to transform the process of selling the shares, rightly called privatization, into re-nationalization.

Under the proposal, only an investor who holds at least 2.5 percent of a bank's stock can propose to the annual meeting a candidate for the board - but one and only one, even if he, like Shlomo Eliahu, holds 9.6 percent of the shares. Who is entitled to propose candidates? Again, a committee made up of people who have no connection to the bank's ownership. The committee can nominate any number of candidates and thereby control the bank. The shareholders' right to propose any number of candidates, as is customary at any company, is denied. A shareholder's holding above 2.5 percent does not increase his right to nominate candidates.

The treasury and the Bank of Israel want to improve the state's position at the expense of shareholders. The state will sell its shares and is no longer exposed to risk. Meanwhile, the shareholders will risk their money, but control remains in the hands of a "public committee," as it did when the state held a large stake in the bank.

This is a disproportionate and negative proposal. It denies the right of anyone holding a stake above 2.5 percent the right to nominate more than one candidate. It assumes that the shareholders do not have an interest in the bank's success and the shareholder meeting cannot control the bank, even when there is no controlling group.

The opposite is the case: The shareholders have an interest in the bank's success. There is no reason to prevent their participation in choosing the board of directors, as is customary at other companies.

The Bank of Israel has significant tools for supervising the banks. It approves or rejects top officials and the people elected to the board. And the bank's operations are under constant supervision.

Moreover, a director's obligation is to be loyal to the bank, not to those who nominated or voted for him. In addition to denying holders of large stakes the right to nominate directors, the proposal in question is to a certain extent aimed at an individual.

Eliahu is Leumi's largest shareholder, with 9.6 percent. He has said he intends to organize a controlling group and request permission for control from the Bank of Israel after it sells its remaining shares. It's hard to understand why he hasn't done this yet. Perhaps he thinks that under the existing law, his stake suffices to elect enough directors to give him influence. Possibly he fears being rejected as unqualified for controlling the bank. But if Eliahu is not qualified, who is?

The Bank of Israel's permission to control a bank has not proved to be a tool that ensures that the central bank will be pleased with those receiving this permission. The alternative of renewed nationalization is even worse. Therefore, it is better not to choose this drastic path and perhaps instead to focus on supervising the board's behavior, the bank's officials and the bank itself.







The next elections will probably be held in two years' time, but the battle for the heart of the voter is already heating up. Who will win? Silvan Shalom, Dalia Itzik, Shalom Simhon, or Shlomo Buchbut? Each one of them has wonderful ideas for how to improve our lives.

Shalom wants us to have "a real weekend". He is proposing that Sunday becomes a day of rest, and that we return to working half a day on Fridays, so that we will have two and a half free days every week. It is true that in the United States they work five full days, and that's also the case for most of the world's countries. But who is poor America as opposed to the rich power that is Israel? We can make do with only four and a half days.

Shalom contends that the overall number of hours will not drop because an extra half an hour of work will be added to every working day. But Shalom is well aware of the "law of diminishing marginal output," and therefore he knows that the output in the last half hour will be extremely low.

Similarly, it is clear that many of the workers will not remain at work for six full hours on a Friday, because "preparations must be made for the Sabbath." The result will be absences, cutting corners and evasions, so that Friday will become a work day that is neither effective nor productive and the total amount of production in the economy will decrease.

However, in a poll about the idea conducted by the newspaper with the biggest distribution in this country, Shalom's proposal was favored by an overwhelming majority (73 percent ). The public likes the idea of working less. If someone were to suggest lengthening the rest days to include Mondays as well, it would win 100 percent agreement.

Itzik, too, has proposals for making the citizens' lives better - or rather, for those of the female citizens.

This week, she succeeded in getting the Knesset to approve, in a preliminary reading, a draft law that would cancel raising the retirement age of women to 67. According to her proposal, which won wide support from all the parties - from Tzipi Hotovely to Zahava Gal-On - women will still be able to retire at the age of 62.

It is true that, on various occasions, Itzik, Hotovely and Gal-On have spoken about the importance of equality between women and men, but they are referring to equality of rights only. Not duties. From their point of view, let the women retire at the age of 62 and let the men go on working for another five years to pay for the pensions of the women. All of this is even more outrageous in view of the fact that women live four years longer than men, on average, and therefore they should actually retire at a later age than men.

Itzik, Hotovely and Gal-On are not concerned that this "amendment" in actual fact harms women, because employers will not find it worth their while to invest in promoting women to management positions, or to accept older women for jobs, because of their short work prospects. What is important to them is simply the image that they have supposedly done something for the good of women, and therefore women should be grateful to them when they go to the polling booths.

Shalom Simhon, the Industry, Trade and Labor Minister, is also looking for the public's love. As the person who is seen as the obvious representative of the agricultural lobby, he is vehemently opposed to lessening the high taxes that are imposed on imported milk products. Simhon knows, of course, that this is the only way it will be possible to lower the prices of cheese and yogurt on a permanent basis, but he wants to continue to give a treat to his traditional voting public, the farmers.

However, Simhon also wants to curry favor with the general public. That is why he is suggesting supervision over the prices. But all of us know that government supervision is good for the producers but bad for the consumers. First, it is very easy to circumvent such supervision. Secondly, were there such supervision on the price of cottage cheese today, its price would be NIS 6.30 per container (due to public pressure, its current price has dropped to only NIS 5.90 ).

It is also a fact that, when the "diaper war" broke out recently, Mega began importing disposable diapers from Turkey - a move which led to a drop in prices on the local market. Put simply: competition works, supervision does not.

And there are a great many more proposals in the Knesset to "make the people feel good," such as the proposal to lessen VAT on food products and apartments. Or the proposal calling for a decrease of the excise on gasoline. And Shlomo Buchbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, has called on the prime minister "to cancel the VAT on water."

All of them are good. All of them want to lower taxes. All of them want us to work less. So just imagine what will happen when the date of the elections gets even closer.







And more about the Boycott Law, which was passed this week by irresponsible people, while the frightened captain hid in the belly of the ship. The 18th Knesset will become infamous as for being light-headed but causing heavy damage, which is probably irreparable.

It seems everything possible has already been said about this law: That it's anti-democratic and anti-constitutional, and exposes Israel to public disgrace. But nobody has said that it's a deviation from the ancient Jewish tradition, from a rich national culture. Only someone lacking in Jewish awareness, an ignoramus when it comes to Torah, could be caught in such an heretical act.

What is the value of purification and cleansing on Yom Kippur eve, in the Kol Nidrei prayer, without the boycotts of the preceding year and those to be decreed in the coming year? And how can we be released after the fact from all the vows, obligations, oaths or anathemas, if we didn't impose them in the first place? The new law obviates the purpose of the prayer.

After all, it's well known that every good Jew needs at least two synagogues, one to pray in and one to boycott: He will not set foot in it under threat of death, nor cross its threshold. A congregation that does not have a few ostracized people or institutions cannot be considered a holy and mentally sound congregation; and a boycott on Shabbat is a pleasure.

It's not clear that boycotting and ostracism are a Jewish invention, but there's no question that Jews are among its outstanding developers. Some kind of demon suddenly entered this coalition, which is inciting it to deeds that are not part of Jewish nature - for that alone they deserve to be boycotted.

I would expect the minister of education - another deserter from the Knesset plenum - who nurtures heritage and Israeli culture studies, to enlighten his culturally disadvantaged colleagues: What do you have to do with this legislation - as though you were "post-Jews" - that ignores the boycott that was imposed on Akavia Ben Mahalel; that rejects Shimon Ben Shetach, who wanted to boycott Honi the Circle-Maker; that hardens itself against Rabbi Gershom - the "Light of the Diaspora" - whom we would probably not remember were it not for his boycott.

And where are those guys Baruch Spinoza and Uriel D'Acosta, whose names are familiar to the initiators of the law only due to the boycott imposed on them by the rabbis of Holland, and not necessarily due to their philosophical teachings?

And how will we learn and be taught about historical boycotts of Hasidim against Mitnagdim, and mainly Mitnagdim against Hasidim? And about the Orthodox world that observes negiah (prohibition against physical contact between unmarried men and women ), and has been excommunicating the Reform movement for over 200 years.

How goodly are your boycotts, O Jacob, your ostracized ones, O Israel, only some of which we have enumerated, and why interrupt a magnificent historical chain? But the minister of education is silent, finding refuge in the den of the patriarchs.

The law is not only anti-Jewish, it is anti-Zionist. The path of the nascent state was paved with boycotts: Boazim (Jewish farmers ) boycotting halutzim (pioneers ) and vice versa; protectors of Israeli produce boycotting Arab labor; Ze'ev Jabotinsky boycotting the Zionist Histadrut labor federation, and David Ben-Gurion paying him back.

If only the disciples of Jabotinsky had learned how to break - yes, to break - and not only how to boycott. But as post-Zionists, they knew only how to climb the iron wall.

And eventually, after independence, Ben-Gurion removed Herut (the forerunner of Likud ) and Maki (the Israel Communist Party ) from the Israeli community and buried them outside the fence. They were great men, the founding fathers, with great boycotts and great dreams; their successors are grasshoppers, for whom even a small boycott is too big.

Faithful to tradition, let us boycott settlements and their products, and even call on others to follow in our footsteps. And we won't be counted among post-Jews and Zionists, the new Hellenists, Zeev Elkin and his partners. And the more they legislate for us, the more we will violate unacceptable laws. Because there is no longer a choice: If we don't want to swallow them, then we can only vomit them out.








Once upon a time there was a man who had a basement in his house where a giant mammoth died. At first, the slight smell that emanated from the basement bothered only those who had sensitive noses and gentle souls, but shortly afterward the neighbors also became aware of it, and then the stench spread far and wide.

As time went on, the carcass attracted insects and bugs of all kinds, but the owner of the house found it convenient to ignore this. What did it matter if there was a cockroach or ants here or there, running along the panels? Indeed he knew very well what this unpleasant thing was that was endangering the entire building already, swarming with pests and rotting there among the foundations, but because of the unpleasantness involved in getting rid of it, he preferred to put it off.

After some time, a new owner came to the building and decided the policy had to be changed - no longer should they delay taking care of the root of the problem - that is to say, getting rid of the carcass - but instead sanctify the existing situation by finding ideological reasons for not changing it. "The problem is not the carcass in the basement," he explained, "but rather the intolerable greediness of the creatures that are feeding on it. Until such time as these creatures change their nature and stop eating away at everything, there is no point in doing anything since even without the carcass they will merely look for another objective - bread crumbs or a jar of sugar in the kitchen."

When it became known that there was no longer any chance or hope of removing the carcass in the future, the entire building became an object of repulsion; and meanwhile the ants and bugs that were swarming over the walls and floors increased in number until they created a feeling almost of siege. They came in through the window, and when that was sealed, they entered from under the door, and when that was shut off by a floor rag they burst out from the electricity switches.

"You see?" the man said to the members of his household. "This simply proves that they don't want to eat the carcass; they want to eat us. They are not attacking the basement but rather the entire house."

That being the case, and with the same internal logic, the man rose, picked up a clog in one hand and an anti-bug spray in the other, and began chasing every ant and insect individually to catch them, squash them or send them back, one after the other, to the place from where they had come. From time to time he went off craftily to spray the nests and the places of departure in the backyard too, as well as those that were far off, as a preventive measure.

After that, he even tried to shut up all those members of the household who complained and warned about the rot. And between running around here and running around there, our friend sat down panting and sweating on the edge of a chair, celebrating a temporary victory but preparing himself heroically for the next swarm, so that this "preparedness" became the spice of his life. Where would it come from the next time - from the window, from the door or through the sink?

This may be a scathing allegory and one that is not pleasant to read; but remember it the next time you see the hysterical rushing around of thousands of policemen and soldiers trying to push back protesters at the airports, the beaches, the borders (and soon at the eastern no-border in the heart of the land ); remember it during the next daring operation to prevent "flotillas" and "flytillas" and the kamikazes carrying protest banners; during the next attempt to stop any criticism via legislation and to push back with pathetic legalistic attempts waves of protest from inside and outside the country; or every time you see an Israeli diplomat waving a thin fist at an empty hall in the losing battle against loneliness and ostracism; and especially remember this allegory every time they repeat the farce.

"We will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the landing strips, we will fight in the fields and on the streets," as Benjamin Netanyahu stands at the head of the assaulting forces - the Churchill of the pesticide, spray and sealant services.






That delegitimization crowd is not only vicious but dangerous, all right. It's growing in strength and reach. It can worm its way in anywhere. Anywhere. Forget the flotillas and flightillas - the enemy is already within the gates. It's erasing the Green Line. It speaks piously, but trades birthrights for pottage.

Now these despoilers of Israel's reputation as a light among the nations have infiltrated the Knesset itself, and under cover of darkness - emotional and ideological darkness - have coaxed, suborned, seduced, bribed or otherwise ensured that 47 duly elected members would carry out their evil, self-discrediting work. Imagine! Agents of Hamas, Col. Gadhafi & Co. - aided, no doubt, by the ghost of the grand mufti himself - cunningly contrived this stampede in favor of a national gag order to ban any call to boycott anyone or anything Israeli, that is, tied to "the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage."

Diabolical timing, too. Just at this crossroads in world history, when Egypt and Tunisia - imagine, Arabs! - have been fighting and dying for a regime that would uphold freedom of speech and the press, Israel, the bastion of democracy in a neighborhood well known for its nastiness, has chosen to look like either an Islamist monstrosity or a craven apologist for the cottage cheese industry. How did Israel's enemies manage this insult to democratic rights, not to mention common sense? Did they pay off in dollars, euros or shekels? Won't this be the anti-boycott law that launches a thousand boycotts? Does the devil not quote Scripture?

It was an especially shrewd, if demoniacal, touch to coax the 47 defenders of the God-given Right Not to Have to Listen to Bad People to include settlements in its protected zone. For not so long ago, wasn't the mayor of Ariel suing in Tel Aviv District Court to refund the value-added taxes the locals had paid, on the grounds that "the Ariel local council and the municipality, composed of residents of the region, convenes in the region and is managed from Ariel," and therefore did not belong to Israel proper? For that matter, has anyone looked to see who paid for that mayor's campaign costs?

The delegitimizers are on the march, O ye naive of Israel, and let no one forget it! They dispatched dybbuks into the minds of rabbis to command them to prohibit Jews from renting to Arabs. They organized a Jerusalem Day march where people chanted "death to Mohammed" and "death to all leftists" while the police escorted them. There was a time when such things could not take place in Eretz Israel. But now the disguises of the delegitimizers are transparent. They will stop at nothing.

It's true, O Israel, that you did what you could to safeguard your institutions and dispel the danger of demoniac possession. You did indeed welcome the George Soros-obsessed American crackpot conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, who showed up just before the debate to personally aerate the Knesset. Otherwise, who knows what might have happened? Soros himself, or one of his henchmen, might have parachuted into Jerusalem, to pay off even more MKs to make Israel look like a pathetically trembling, paranoid, stiff-necked nation. Had Beck not exerted himself, even Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak might have showed up to vote with the Delegitimizing 47, to augment the devil's own ranks. The mighty defense minister and the majestic prime minister themselves would have thrown their weight onto the side of the enemy!

Who's under whose control? Speak of the devil.

Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, is the co-author (with Liel Leibovitz ) of "The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election." He advocates a boycott of settlement commerce, and has written and spoken for years against boycotting Israeli entities strictly because they are Israeli.







Considering how much is already known about the Holocaust, it is remarkable how much new information historians continue to uncover - especially with regard to international responses to the Nazi genocide. What is equally remarkable, however, is how slow some museums are at keeping abreast of the new research and updating their exhibits. This kind of foot-dragging seriously undermines the effectiveness of institutions that have been entrusted with a critical mission. Because museums attract such large audiences and therefore play a crucial role in public education, it is particularly important that they keep up-to-date.

The case of the Bergson Group is instructive. In the 1940s, these dissident activists sponsored more than 200 ads in American newspapers, organized dramatic protest rallies, and lobbied the U.S. Congress to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from the Nazis. Although the Bergsonites played a major role in the battle over U.S. refugee policy, they were for many years left out of Holocaust museums, even after scholars, journalists and the Jewish public had begun to pay recognition to their contribution. Whether the cause was carelessness, political bias or bureaucracy, the result was the same: an inexcusable gap in the historical narrative.

In recent years, however, new scholarship (by professors David Wyman, Monty Penkower and others ) and a groundswell of public interest have brought about a startling change. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C., finally added the Bergson Group to its permanent exhibit. Newly opened museums in Philadelphia and Los Angeles included the activists as well. And this Sunday, on the 70th anniversary of the Bergson Group's creation, Yad Vashem will host a major public symposium on "The Bergson Group and America's Response to the Final Solution."

The Bergson Group has at long last entered the mainstream narrative, but what about others who raised their voices in protest, even if less effectively? Museums should, for example, at least mention the handful of athletes who boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the activists who smuggled 2,000 refugees out of Vichy France in 1940-41, and the Jewish Theological Seminary rabbinical students who influenced numerous synagogues to hold rallies for rescue in 1943.

Recent cutting-edge research by professors Stephen Norwood and Laurel Leff deserve Holocaust museums' immediate attention. The story of America's response to Nazism and the Holocaust can no longer be told without mentioning their findings.

Norwood's 2009 book, "The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower," documented the efforts by leading American universities, including Harvard and Columbia, to forge friendly relations with Hitler's regime and Nazi-controlled German universities in the 1930s.

Leff's work likewise constitutes an indispensable part of the story that museums need to tell. Her 2005 book, "Buried by The Times," is the only comprehensive study of how The New York Times covered the Shoah. Research by Leff in 2006 compelled the Newspaper Association of America to publicly apologize for turning its back on German Jewish refugee journalists in the 1930s. Now Leff is preparing to unveil groundbreaking research on the response of the American medical community to the plight of Jewish doctors fleeing Hitler. How long will it take for such important information to find its way into Holocaust museums?

Not that Holocaust museums are the only institutions that need to make use of the latest work in the field. Other history museums share that obligation. It has been eight years since Prof. Greg Robinson uncovered obscure 1920s newspaper columns by Franklin D. Roosevelt - shortly before he ran for governor of New York - opposing Asian immigration to the United States on crudely racist grounds and advocating an ethnically exclusive American society. Shouldn't the Roosevelt museum, in Hyde Park, New York, at least explore the possible connection between FDR's writings and his attitude toward European Jewish immigration?

Forthcoming research is likely to cause more controversy, not less. My colleagues and I at the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies have embarked on a study of the response of American churches to the Jewish refugee crisis. Our preliminary findings indicate that more than a few institutions and organizations will be embarrassed by the results of the study. But that is no reason for museums to shy away from adding the new information to their exhibits.

The process of analyzing fresh historical research and correcting museum exhibits cannot be completed overnight. Museum staff members understandably need sufficient time to vet documents, arrive at responsible decisions, and prepare new texts and panel designs.

Still, more can be done to expedite the process. Whether that means involving additional staff members, bringing in outside historians, or simply making it a higher priority, museums must make it their business to update exhibits in a timely fashion.

Historical accuracy alone would be sufficient reason to do this. But much more than the historical record is at stake. After all, the ultimate purpose of every Holocaust museum is not merely to learn about the past but also to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. The Bergson Group and others who promoted rescue can serve as powerful moral role models for the next generation.

In an era where genocide is very much a reality, the public should not have to wait years to learn about those who spoke out against the Holocaust and those who didn't. That information is more than just a historical curiosity: It offers lessons that could make a real difference in our own time.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, He is author of 14 books and editor of the new book "Millions of Jews to Rescue," by the late Samuel Merlin. Merlin was a senior leader of the Bergson Group.







PARIS - France's outrage at how the New York police and judicial apparatus initially handled Dominique Strauss-Kahn after his arrest received almost as many headlines in the United States as the accusation of sexual assault leveled against him by the Sofitel hotel housekeeper. It was widely perceived there as yet another demonstration of Gallic idiosyncrasy. Less noticed was the fact that the case led the French to indulge in a brand of speculation more often seen as typical of the American worldview: conspiracism.

Three days after Strauss-Kahn's arrest, a full 57 percent of French believed that he had been framed. Among his fellow Socialists, that figure was 70 percent. Though possible plotters were never explicitly mentioned, innuendos in political circles pointed toward the highest echelons of power in France. As evidence that the then-International Monetary Fund managing director had indeed had sexual relations with the chambermaid began to surface, hints at the possibility of foul play receded in the media, only to reappear two weeks ago, after it was revealed that the accuser had a troubled record and DSK was freed from house arrest.

To the Anglo-Saxon eye, these facts may flash a warning that, yes, as the rest of the world has long suspected, the French are insane. Didn't all the evidence point to some sort of sexual assault? Didn't Strauss-Kahn's track record with women demonstrate that he is a sex addict? The idea of a conspiracy was irrelevant. The man had obviously shot himself in the foot all on his own, no help needed.

Three factors, which together delineate the current political landscape in France, can enlighten the nonplussed observer trying to make sense of this nation's folly.

Factor No. 1: the surreal timing of the event. Before his arrest DSK had been on his way to Paris to declare his candidacy for his party's nomination for the 2012 presidential election against incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Factor No. 2: For well over a year, Sarkozy has had the lowest approval ratings for any president since de Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic in 1958. In March, the figures had hit their absolute nadir - 22-percent approval - since Sarkozy's election in 2007. Nothing he tried - no communication strategy, no spin expert - has been effective in reversing the downward curve. No French president in living memory has generated more hatred among voters than Sarkozy, whether because of the glitzy style, so unpalatable to the French, he brought to the presidency, or his constant flip-flopping, pandering to the extreme right or chronic embrace of cronyism. Yet his determination to run again and win is stronger than ever, and he is widely seen as a man who will stop at nothing to get there. Even the timing of wife Carla Bruni's pregnancy at 43, after almost four years of marriage, has been questioned.

Factor No. 3: In February, Strauss-Kahn's popularity rating had reached 76 percent. Though as IMF chief he could not yet formally declare his candidacy, opinion polls had consistently placed him 20 points ahead of Sarkozy as the political figure the French wanted most to have as their next president. Besides the prestige of his international stature, his center-left, decidedly pro-market views, which he embodied far better than his Socialist rivals Francois Hollande and Martine Aubry, seemed appealing not only to left-wing voters but to many disgruntled former supporters of Sarkozy as well. In comparison, Hollande and Aubry, who were trailing behind Strauss-Kahn (but remained ahead of Sarkozy ) in the polls, were mainly viewed as lackluster, unattractive candidates.

Add to all this the fact that a key security man for the Accor hotel chain, owner of the Sofitel in New York, was Sarkozy's guest in the presidential booth at a soccer game in Paris the night of DSK's arrest, and that the head of security at the Sofitel has just been offered, at 65, a lofty position in an industrial group owned by one of Sarkozy's best friends.

What do you get? A conspiracy theory, with Sarkozy's shadow hovering over it. To those whom DSK's arrest robbed of what they saw as their only chance to deny Sarkozy a second term, no other possible plotter has seemed a better fit for the job.

True, Strauss-Kahn apparently had some form of sexual exchange with the maid. True, he is a known womanizer, now facing another (also suspiciously timed ) lawsuit for attempted rape in France. But so what? To his supporters none of this substantiates the possibility of rape. At most it might lend credence to the idea that an ill-wisher, aware of Strauss-Kahn's Achilles' heel, somehow arranged for the housekeeper to enter the room when she did. In fact, many pundits here have been far more disturbed by DSK's ostentatious display of money since his release. This is France after all.

One undeniable fact is the fateful dimension of the event: Whatever happened at the Sofitel that Saturday may well have determined France's future for the next five years. Even if he is cleared soon, it's highly unlikely that Strauss-Kahn will still want to run. Days after he was freed from house arrest, 65 percent of French believed that he should no longer seek election. With DSK, his image somewhat tarnished, now removed from the race, commentators seem to believe that Sarkozy will gain reelection, that he will win by default, because the dearth of competent political leaders in France will prompt voters to be guided by fear of the unknown rather than rational choice. But in French politics it's never over till it's over. The commentators could yet be proven wrong. According to the latest polls, 56 percent of French are now hoping the left will win. Regardless of the candidate.

Corinne Mellul is a political commentator.





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



As negotiators in the debt-ceiling talks sputtered and raged, the chill reality of an imminent government default crept up Wednesday and made a mockery of their gamesmanship. Two major rating agencies warned that a once-unthinkable downgrade of the nation's credit rating would be at hand if this crisis was not immediately defused.

That finally punctured the careless notion, popularized by Tea Party lawmakers like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, that default would be a minor inconvenience. Standard & Poor's said a downgrade could occur if any required payments were missed, even if bondholders were paid first. Moody's said a new process for dealing with the debt ceiling was needed. Although the bond markets have yet to be roiled, there are fresh indications that China and other investors are beginning to get nervous.

The alarms could not be much louder, but myth-making is still impeding the desperately needed deal.

Many House Republicans persist in acting as though they are doing President Obama a favor by considering a debt-ceiling increase at all, and that in exchange they should get all the spending cuts they want. In fact, the debt ceiling is an artificial method of keeping an eye on borrowing that Congress itself imposed nearly a century ago. The president didn't "ask" for an increase; he simply reminded Congress that the authority to continue borrowing had run out because of spending already incurred, largely because of wars, the recession, growing entitlement programs and the Bush tax cuts.

The rating agencies' message is that the debt ceiling should never have been used as a vehicle to force cuts in the size and the role of government. The nation's debt will require long-term reduction. But the fundamental debate about the nature of government cannot be held in a matter of days while the nation's credit rating hangs in the balance. There is too much pride and politics in the way.

Republicans began the hostage-taking to achieve their ideological goal of shrinking government, resisting all attempts at compromise involving new tax revenues. The White House tried to impress independent voters with its own spending-cut proposals, and to salvage some stimulus measures. The ceiling was never very wise, but until now it has been used only to give Congress a voice in government borrowing, not as a radioactive weapon.

Having picked up the weapon, though, neither side has seemed able to set it down. At last, a few senior Republicans have started to realize that the weapon, used in this way, is too powerful to be controlled. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said default would be bad for his party's "brand" and would allow the president to shift blame for the poor economy onto Republicans.

What he really meant, of course, was that default would expose the huge Republican role in creating the economic crisis. Republicans have not only consented to the skyrocketing deficit, they have also blocked any consideration of programs to put Americans back to work, all while blaming high unemployment on President Obama.

Mr. McConnell knows such sophistry would be impossible if a default caused the economy to collapse. That is why he has proposed an escape hatch, allowing the debt ceiling to be lifted without required spending cuts as long as all blame falls on Mr. Obama. Though Mr. McConnell's concern is partisan and parochial, others at the table should seize his idea, or some of the variations being discussed, if they care about the brand of the United States.






India's government showed extraordinary restraint after Pakistani terrorists killed more than 160 people in Mumbai in 2008. The fear ever since then has been that another attack could spark a war between India and Pakistan, rivals with nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, Mumbai suffered three more bomb blasts in which 17 people died. Many crucial facts, including the identities of the killers, are not yet known. Indian citizens deserve answers to their many legitimate questions. So far, Indian officials seem to be reacting in a measured and responsible way.

Pakistani leaders condemned the bombings. But words are cheap. They need to work with their Indian counterparts to find whoever is responsible. If Pakistanis were behind this latest horror, Islamabad must ensure that they are brought to justice this time.

Pakistani officials previously acknowledged that the 2008 attacks were partly planned on their soil by Pakistani extremists. Instead of cooperating with India's investigation, they insisted on handling the case themselves. Pakistan has four suspects in custody, but the trial is moving too slowly to be considered credible. Pakistani courts are notorious for acquitting most terrorism suspects.

By Thursday, no group had claimed responsibility for the latest attack. And with so much riding on it, Indian officials were right to not jump to conclusions. "We are not pointing a finger at this stage," said Palaniappan Chidambaram, India's home minister. A senior American law enforcement official said early signs suggested the culprits could well be India-based militants.

After 2008, relations between India and Pakistan plunged into a dangerous two-year freeze. The countries only recently revived a dialogue; we are encouraged that Indian officials say they plan to proceed with talks set for later this month. President Obama has offered American investigative help to India. He and his advisers also need to be having blunt conversations with Pakistan about the cost of any more foot-dragging.

Indians are angry and asking why their government did not ensure their safety. Indian officials say they have made significant security reforms but it may never be possible to stop all terrorist attacks. That is true, but New Delhi still must learn from this experience and keep trying to perfect its intelligence and counterterrorism efforts.

After the 2008 attacks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned that his country would retaliate if hit again. We applaud his continued restraint and urge both sides to think hard about the horrifying cost of a war.





Throughout the long scandal of sexual abuse by rogue priests, the Vatican has blatantly resisted the idea that civil law must trump church rules in confronting criminal acts. This was evident again in the revelation that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland continued to cover up abuse cases long after it had issued rules to protect children in 1996.

"The law of the land should not be stopped by crosier or by collar," Prime Minister Enda Kenny declared after receiving a detailed report on Wednesday showing that abuses were occurring as recently as 2009.

A principal factor in the cover-up, the government study found, was a Vatican letter in 1997 warning Irish church leaders against full cooperation with law enforcement authorities. The papal representative wrote that the anti-abuse policies conflicted with church law and should be considered "merely a study document."

This turned criminal law on its head and, as the study noted, gave bishops "freedom to ignore" the tougher rules and protect abusers in the church. In the diocese of Cloyne, investigated in detail by the Dublin government, church officials did not act on complaints against 19 priests in the 13 years after the rules were put in place.

The new findings showed that the abuse was not confined to previous generations. "This is about Ireland now," said Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland's minister for children. As usual, apologies were offered, this time by John Magee, the longtime bishop of Cloyne, who resigned last year. Bishop Magee had been accused of improperly embracing a seminarian, but that allegation was dismissed.

With the pedophilia scandal under investigation worldwide, Vatican officials point to new, tougher rules. But the rules, which do not require dioceses to report allegations of crimes to the police, are considered only advisory guidelines to bishops. The Dublin government has enacted a new law making it a crime for anyone, church officials included, to fail to report child abuse to civil authorities. The Vatican has a valuable lesson to learn in Ireland.





Republicans in the House of Representatives — with the support of some key Democrats — seem determined to destroy the intricate and essential web of laws and regulations protecting the country's environment. Their latest target is the hugely successful 1972 Clean Water Act.

On Wednesday, the House approved the cynically named "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act," a bill that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to oversee state water quality standards and to take action when the states fail to measure up. This bill is not about protecting states' powers. It is about allowing industries, farmers and municipalities to pollute.

Among its chief sponsors are John Mica, Republican of Florida, who is angry at the E.P.A.'s recent crackdown on the agricultural pollutants that are destroying the Everglades, and Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia, who is furious at the agency's effort to stop mountaintop mining from poisoning his state's rivers and streams.

President Obama has rightly threatened to veto the bill if it survives the Senate. Absent federal oversight, states are likely to engage in a race to the bottom, weakening environmental rules to attract business.

This assault on the Clean Water Act reminded us, briefly, of 1995, when a Republican-controlled House under Newt Gingrich tried to undermine the same law. That effort enraged independent voters and energized moderate Republicans.

These days, moderate Republicans are as scarce as hen's teeth, and independent voters are preoccupied with the budget and the economy. This is all the more reason why the Senate and President Obama must ensure that this destructive legislation goes no further.






Fort Worth

THE new secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, will soon face the challenge of significantly reducing the Pentagon's budget. As directed by President Obama, he will have to find at least $400 billion of savings over the next 12 years, or $33 billion per year — about 5 percent of the current annual defense budget. His decisions will reshape our armed forces for decades to come and determine whether we live in a more or less dangerous world.

Having overseen the preparation and execution of the defense budget, I urge Mr. Panetta to resist the temptation to quickly kill procurement programs and research and development activities. Nor should he make proportional cuts to programs across the board. History shows that this would result in a hollowed-out force that will embolden our enemies. It's the easiest way to go, but also the worst.

Instead, Mr. Panetta should first cut the department's civilian workforce before reducing the size of the military force. The Pentagon rightly pressures industry to reduce overhead costs, but it is far more inefficient itself. Starting in 2003, the number of active military sailors was reduced by over 60,000, but efforts to cut the Navy's civilian workforce failed due to onerous government and union rules and regulations. Mr. Panetta should seek blanket authority from Congress to shrink the Pentagon bureaucracy. Cutting 100,000 of 700,000 is a reasonable target. And there should be no additional outsourcing, thereby forcing the Pentagon to operate more efficiently.

Second, Washington must do more to encourage the sale of defense equipment to our friends and allies abroad, like the littoral combat ship, the mine-resistant ambush-protected armored vehicle and a host of other combat and combat-support equipment. Manufacturing equipment for the American and foreign militaries simultaneously saves Washington money because more units are produced and overhead costs are shared, and it creates thousands of American jobs. The savings generated by international sales are too big to ignore, yet in too many cases the Pentagon has been only lukewarm in supporting such sales.

Third, the Pentagon should put a moratorium on starting any new procurement programs. Instead, it should use the money to increase the rate of production on existing ones and complete them faster and for less. All too often, the Defense Department fails to control its appetite, with too few dollars chasing too many programs. The result is the formation of "procurement death spirals," during which the Pentagon buys fewer and fewer units at higher and higher prices.

Fourth, the new secretary of defense should adjust the military's "tooth-to-tail ratio" — the ratio of fighters to support personnel — which is increasingly out of balance. During my time at the Pentagon, a large number of Army soldiers never deployed to a combat zone, whereas many of those who did were sent multiple times. Mr. Panetta should concentrate on cutting administrative workers — not the fighting force, intelligence personnel and front-line maintenance troops. Such cuts would greatly increase efficiency.

Finally, the Pentagon should give the heads of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force and combatant commanders more say in decisions over buying equipment, including weapons. Right now, they identify their requirements at the beginning of the lengthy process for procuring equipment, but they do not have sufficient voice later on in the process — sometimes many years later — when there are opportunities to reduce costs. Too often, outdated specifications and contract language bind the government and the contractor to expensive purchases that have only marginal benefits. If service chiefs and combatant commanders were given the chance to modify unnecessarily complex or costly features, they could save time and money.

Mr. Panetta has served America admirably for decades, as a congressman, White House chief of staff and C.I.A. director, and he inherits the world's finest military. But as he takes on his formidable new responsibility, I urge him to draw a lesson from the past. During the nearly five-year span between the end of World War II and America's entrance into the Korean War in 1950, we let our armed forces deteriorate. As a result, America was woefully unprepared for the brutal fighting on the Korean Peninsula.

Budget decisions do have consequences, and making the right ones is crucial for our nation's security.

Gordon R. England served during the administration of George W. Bush as secretary of the Navy and deputy secretary of defense.






THE past few years have been a golden age for street food in New York City. You could get just about anything from a food truck in Midtown Manhattan — from waffles and schnitzel to halal chicken and lamb over rice — despite the fact that street vending is for all intents and purposes illegal there.

Last month police officers in Midtown cracked down and asked many trucks to leave their spots. Everyone is blaming a court case in May, in which a New York State Supreme Court justice reinforced a regulation saying that no "vendor, hawker or huckster" can sell merchandise from a vehicle parked in a metered space. But although enforcement was scattershot, that regulation has been used against Midtown food trucks for decades.

The crackdown's real catalyst was the recent explosion of high-end food trucks in Midtown. For the first time, blocks were host to three or four trucks at once. And instead of the old-school food vendors, who are often immigrants used to navigating the gray areas of the business, most of these trucks were operated by a new breed of entrepreneur looking to capitalize on what (falsely) appeared to be the hippest, most profitable trend in the food business.

Food truck regulations have always been purposefully vague and selectively enforced in New York City. The government does not want to strip the city of one of its treasures (can you imagine a New York without hot dogs?) nor can it fully legalize street vending, because opening up hundreds of rent-free spots would damage the real estate economy.

So street vendors and the city long ago struck a tacit deal: the city allows vendors to sell food but reserves the right to kick them out of practically any spot at any time, and vendors keep their heads down, careful not to upset their relationships with the nearby brick-and-mortar businesses, with the police, and with each other. When disputes come up, vendors compromise or move. 

Many of the new food trucks' operators have ignored these unwritten rules. Some early entrants onto the scene, like the Treats Truck and Wafels & Dinges, spent months cultivating spots and relationships, which allowed them to settle into areas that were previously unoccupied. But many new trucks have taken the quicker route, parking where others have found success rather than trying to create a space of their own.

As a result brick-and-mortar business owners who tolerated one truck out front one or two days a week started seeing more and more each day, and eventually got fed up and called the police. Even as an ardent food truck supporter, I find it hard not to sympathize. They pay high rents, only to see food trucks parking free on their doorsteps. There is no denying that the increase in food trucks is unsustainable. 

Some are tempted to look to other cities, like Los Angeles, arguably the birthplace of the high-end food truck trend, for solutions. But it is facing an almost identical situation. Mexican vendors called loncheros spent years working out a compromise with the city that allowed them to sell food without interfering with brick-and-mortar businesses, but a wave of fancy food trucks parking in high traffic areas led to a similar crackdown.

Portland, Ore., which has become a mecca for street-food lovers, rents out spots in privately owned parking lots to vendors. But those food trucks operate more like restaurants than street vendors. New York is trying something similar in a Queens parking lot and under the High Line, an elevated park in Manhattan, but it won't do much good for trucks or lunchers in the city's more crowded areas.

Some vendors and food-truck fans are circulating a petition asking the city to change the parking rule. But even if it does, other regulations still make most Midtown parking spots off limits. As tempting as it is to try to change New York City's laws and establish clear rules for vendors, it's not likely to happen. And it shouldn't.

Vendors and fans are actually better served by the status quo. New York's street food scene is unique and vibrant precisely because it exists in that legal gray area. Traditionally only immigrant and small mom-and-pop businesses were willing to risk the city's intermittent crackdowns. The vague rules have long deterred any passionless big businesses looking for the next lucrative franchise. Turn street spots into legal real estate controlled by the city, and it will be only a matter of time before street food becomes just as bland and generic as that of any fast-food restaurant in Midtown. 

So instead of fighting to change the laws, vendors who are passionately committed to their food trucks should do what street hawkers in New York have always done after big crackdowns like this one: wait for it to end and then return to Midtown bit by bit, in a way that is respectful to the rent-paying businesses. Or ditch the truck and open a brick-and-mortar business. It's the way New York street food has endured for the past 150 years, and the only way it will be here for 150 more.

Zach Brooks runs the Web site Midtown Lunch.







Gunmen once again roamed the streets of Karachi shooting at will and placing entire neighbourhoods under siege. Reports of violence also came in from other cities of Sindh and there is a real danger that this could accelerate creating a situation that boils completely out of control. What is happening in Karachi is a terrible tragedy. At least 15 people were reported dead in the latest spree of killings, including a member of the Rangers. What makes the prevailing state of affairs, with fear stalking the streets of Karachi, even more tragic is the fact that it could quite easily have been avoided. Thinking in rational terms there seems to be no logical explanation at all for the crazy verbal attack Sindh Senior Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza suddenly launched on the MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain at a dinner hosted by the ANP. The determined minister resisted attempts to prevent him from speaking to the media and told newsmen, using the provocative language that we have become so accustomed to hearing from him, that the leader of the breakaway MQM Haqiqi group, Afaq Ahmed, was the true leader of the Mohajirs and that, if Afaq was a criminal, Altaf Hussain was a bigger criminal than him.

Obviously attempts by PPP leaders including Interior Minister Rehman Malik and President Zardari to distance themselves from what Mirza had to say are pointless. No one is willing to listen. Mirza, who has repeatedly created nothing but trouble is known as a crony of Zardari. There can be no other reason why he has continued to be granted posts in the government and allowed to do what he has been doing. What will be done now to stop him? There is also the matter of what motivates Mirza to deliver his rants. Surely he knows such remarks will only stir up the worst possible kind of trouble and put at risk the lives of ordinary people who have no role to play in the political battle unfolding in the city. The situation in Karachi was already volatile. Following MirzaÕs comments it grew worse with the sound of gunshots ringing out from areas across the city and the life of people almost completely paralysed. Alongside the stains of blood that death brings we also have deep emotional and psychological suffering. For days people had been living under a state of siege, too afraid to leave their homes even to purchase food. The brief hope that had crept in of a return to normalcy has again vanished. What is happening in Karachi is a disaster not only for the city or for other towns in Sindh but also for the country as a whole. It means that we are further away than ever before from the stability we need to live productive lives and escape the constant state of crisis we are enmeshed in. Violence continues to expand and with this comes even greater peril for every citizen in the country.







India is in a state of emergency yet again: two days after the 5th anniversary of the 2006 attack on Mumbai's suburban railway line, three near-simultaneous explosions rocked crowded neighbourhoods of India's financial capital on Wednesday evening. According to India's home ministry, at least 21 were killed and 141 injured in what is being called the most potent attack since 2008 when militant gunmen led a 60-hour siege on the city and left 166 people dead. While initial suspicions have fallen on two groups: the homegrown Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, Home Minister P Chidambaram has refused to speculate about the group behind the latest attacks. His reluctance to name suspects is a departure from earlier attacks when Indian police and politicians immediately rushed to blame Islamist groups. This is a mature response, since ongoing investigations in a few recent attacks previously attributed to Muslim organisations have revealed the involvement of Hindu activist groups.

This is certainly not the time for unnecessary acrimony given that the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet in New Delhi at the end of this month in the latest round of peace talks. India broke off the peace dialogue after the 2008 assault on Mumbai, blaming Islamabad for failing to crack down on the LeT. Talks were resumed earlier this year, and in recent days both countries have exhibited a spirit of harmony on several instance. Chidambaram felt the need to firmly contradict as "highly exaggerated" a New York Times story claiming that the Pakistan army had a reserve army of 14,000 militants to be unleashed on India at a future date. Next, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "Pakistan views India as the most important neighbour." Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's acknowledgment that Pakistan was moving toward a rethink on terrorism was also carefully noted in Pakistan as a positive development. The changed tone of India-Pakistan statements is an encouraging harbinger of the upcoming foreign ministers' talks. In the aftermath of the latest attacks in Mumbai, it is important for India to continue to display maturity and not unleash its fury on Pakistan. Statesmanship lies in evolving a joint India-Pakistan strategy to fight terrorism. A concrete step in this regard would be to activate the 2006 Joint Anti-terror Mechanism and institutionalise real time intelligence gathering and sharing. At a time when India and Pakistan need to draw closer together to end the war in Afghanistan, both must steer clear of zero-sum conflicts and refuse victory to inimical elements that want the India-Pakistan relationship to sour.







"My centre is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack."

– Marshal Foch (First World War)

Under attack from all sides, this should be the motto of the Pakistan Army in these trying and, I daresay, bracing times. For what can be more bracing than the winds howling, the storm-clouds bursting, the earth shaking beneath your feet, but your heart steady and your resolve unshaken?

The army's past is less than glorious. It has done things for which it has been justly criticised: interventions a hapless nation could have done without, saviours and messiahs – a depressing gallery of four – whose collective output has contributed more than anything else to bring us to our present pass.

But, in a remarkable turnaround, the army has started doing the right things: refraining from political interventionism, thereby supporting democracy; standing up to the United States and refusing to subordinate national interests to American interests. Far from getting credit for this welcome change of course, it is being targeted by agenda-driven cynics from within and American scheming without.

Not that the Americans are our enemies. We should avoid going down this road. But they have their own agenda, and their own pressing concerns vis-à-vis their quagmire in Afghanistan, which may not be in full harmony with our interests.

The Americans want the Pakistan army to expand its Pakhtun wars, to go into North Waziristan in a big way and set ablaze the entire length of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Only then will their insistence that we "do more" be appeased. This at a time when they are exploring avenues to talk to the Taliban.

In other words, as they themselves explore the peace option they want us to go all-out for the war option. Wanting to ease the pain of their exit from Afghanistan, they are entitled to look out for themselves. But doesn't the same logic apply to us? The Americans may be past bothering about what happens to us when they begin their long retreat from Kabul and Kandahar, but we have to look out for ourselves.

And because the Pakistan Army, after the blind acquiescence of the Musharraf years, has finally started to think for itself instead of jumping to American dictation, the Americans are deeply upset because they are not used to this, certainly not from us.

They are right to insist that Pakistan should not play double games: running with the Taliban and hunting with the Americans. These double games have hurt Pakistan more than anyone else. But they are wrong to insist that in operational matters – the how, why and when of Fata operations – General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, should take its cue from Central Command, Florida.

So not liking this new streak of independence, the Americans are striking back in whatever way they can: editorial broadsides in the New York Times (often a sounding board if not outright mouthpiece for the American establishment) calling for a change of command in the ISI; and, in the latest from Washington, the suspension of 800 million dollars of military assistance.

This last doesn't make sense at all. Far from making the GHQ bend it will only stiffen its resolve and strengthen those who say that Pakistan should say good riddance to the American alliance. But then great powers, imperial powers, are not unknown for doing things that don't make sense. That they may be able to get away with it is an altogether different story.

If ours was not a house divided – if external pressure was the only thing the army command had to worry about, it would be no great matter. But apart from American pressure, the army is also under snide and cynical attack from within because, and this is the astonishing part, of its support for democracy.

Support boils down not to extending bayonet protection to the government but simply to non-intervention, a demarcation of lines between the political and military spheres. This precisely is what makes some elements of the domestic scene deeply unhappy; for the past three years their most cherished wish has been for the ISI to destabilise the government and the army to step into the ring. They are not bothered about the consequences as long as the army forsakes its neutrality and swings a battleaxe to the central government's head.

A section of the media, indeed a very determined section, retired civil servants, diplomats and generals – dignified by the appellation of civil society, which is a new coinage in these parts – have been in the forefront of this campaign. But the GHQ not obliging, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is being attacked for not doing his national duty.

Which is pretty tough for any army chief: damned if he does, and now damned if he doesn't. There's no pleasing Pakistan's cynical chattering classes.

From all the signs available, the Americans would dearly love to see the last of Kayani. But since this is easier said than done, they are gunning for the next best thing: a change of guard in the ISI, their real bete noire since the Raymond Davis affair. And they are being aided, even if inadvertently (unless it is not inadvertent at all), by domestic voices accusing Kayani and Pasha of shirking their responsibility by not playing the political games their predecessors played with such zest, and with what disastrous consequences we don't have to be reminded.

The answer to this scheming, and there is a whole lot of it afoot in Islamabad – a city dedicated since its ill-judged inception to conspiracy and intrigue – is to keep calm and not panic. Not a lesson easily learnt because, if we remember, after the Bin Laden affair the GHQ's response, either by itself or through its conduit the Foreign Office, was to sputter and fulminate – issuing communiqués that were barely literate, let alone being shining monuments to logic.

But there was a welcome change of tone in the statement after the last Corps Commanders' Conference – the first after the suspension of US military aid. It was restrained and controlled, as such things should always be. Fulmination may suit pulpit-mongers, but not soldiers.

We were taught precis-writing, the shorter writing of a longer note, when I was in Kakul (1967-69). More than ever is this skill required in these storm-tossed days.

But to return to the main road, not only is the army under attack, Pakistan is under attack. Nor can we harbour the illusion that this hostility will cease any time soon...because the more the American adventure in Afghanistan goes sour, and doesn't play out according to American wishes, the greater the temptation to strike out at scapegoats, none more readily available than Pakistan.

So we should keep calm, always remembering Odysseus's words, "Patience, stout heart, thou hast endured far worse than this." Drum-beating and wailing, two sub-continental proclivities, we should avoid and engage with the Americans civilly – leaving shrillness to the howling of the winds – and keep to our course. But also remembering that the days of double hunts and double games are over. On some middling Himalayan peak we should bury the remains of jihad and raise a monument over it, offering our final prayers as the bugles sound. Of all the follies perfected by GHQ, which what once-upon-a-time gave the appearance of being a veritable foundry of follies, this was about the worst.

As for domestic cynics who would like to push the GHQ into the fires of interventionism – and who wouldn't be found anywhere when the need arises to pull the army's chestnuts out of the fire – they are best left to their own devices. No need to agonise over their well-deserved misery.

The next 18 months, leading up to the next elections, are likely to be about the most crucial in Pakistan's history, for they will determine whether we are at all capable of a peaceful and democratic transition of power. Imperfect and rickety as the applecart of our present democracy is, there is no alternative to the democratic process, however much we may hate some of its manifestations. The GHQ's role is crucial. It has to help in keeping the ship of state from rocking too much.

The old Mukesh song has it wrong: "sub kuch seekha ham ne, na seekhi hoshiari"... we have learnt everything except cleverness. The Pakistani nation has learnt too much cleverness. Now it must learn a bit of patience.

Tailpiece: Another person who could learn the virtues of restraint is Zulfiqar Mirza. Of a walking time-bomb there is no more perfect example.










Karachi is not just Pakistan's biggest city, it is also its only city. This statement might tick off people across the country, but it is based on a simple premise: in no other urban settlement in Pakistan are women and minorities so seamlessly a part of public life.

Tall women, short women, thin women, fat women, women in saris, women in dresses, women in kurtas, women with dupattas, women with dogs, women with spray cans, women with balls, women in shorts, men dressed as women, women dressed as men, women on billboards, women in offices, women on buses, women on horses, women on both sides of counters, women with rehris, women with credit cards, there are hundreds of thousands of birds of paradise pottering around Karachi generally making the world a saner, better looking place.

Just the other day I watched a prostitute in a burqa successfully negotiate her way onto a motorbike a mere two seconds before an art student in skinny jeans gave me the finger for daring to honk at her for darting across the road in front of my car. Did I want to hop out and punch her face in? Of course. Did I? Of course not, I'm a woman and it would be beneath me. What I did, adopting the wisdom of my foremothers, was point to the woman in skinny jeans and say 'don't ever marry a woman like that' to my sons.

Evidence of Karachi's religious diversity too, is also all around us. But it is a shadow of what it once was. The city, built and nurtured by minorities, is now a place where they feel besieged rather than at home. Karachi is the closest we have come to Jinnah's ideal of a progressive, pluralistic space. It is a cultural barometer for the health of the nation. Which brings me now to the turf war that nobody is talking about, the cultural turf war, the one for the soul of the city.

This war is played out not with guns and bullets but with subtle intimidation. In recent years there has been an increase in expressions of retrogressive attitudes to women and the ideological Other. I know women who have been born and brought up in Karachi and walked to the bus stop on their own in shalwar kameezes with their dupattas on their heads who now wear burqas to work and are accompanied to and from the bus stop by male relatives so they won't be harassed. I know Christian and Hindu mohallas where most original inhabitants have been coerced into leaving and those who remain forbidden to celebrate their holy days because music is 'offensive to believers'. I know people of certain sects who have left Pakistan rather than live with the daily fear of their fathers and sons shot dead. And where once a street I pass everyday would be filled with shouting, screaming, barefoot slum kids tumbling around a ball, there is now only a pack of feral boys and, walking past them with their eyes timidly cast down, three year old girls swathed in fabric so only their faces are visible.

This exclusion, the fencing in, is anathema to the spirit of Karachi. This is what a lot of people think but not enough talk about when we talk about Karachi's support for the MQM. It is not what the MQM stands for. It is what the MQM stands against.

Do they stand against it with guns and thugs? Perhaps. Then again, our friends from other climes don't make visits permanent through the judicious use of cough syrup. Feudals' guards do not disrupt traffic by juggling oranges. My President has not illegally squatted on a beachfront thoroughfare by placing Lego blocks across it. Militant and rapist friends of the JI do not send children to checkpoints with cake. And when jiyalas attacked and dismantled an arts festival a couple of years ago, they did not do it with feather dusters.

The point is, iss hamam main sab nangay hain. And the ruling party's 'anti-violence' stance seems even more hypocritical when juxtaposed with the alliances it has made with individuals and entities that are in polar opposition to a lot of what defines Karachi's character.

The term 'sons of the soil' is currently being bandied about a lot. If those who love and respect this cityscape must be called anything at all, let them be called children of the sea. Like the sea Karachi lies besides, it makes no distinctions between what washes up on its shores or who does or does not have a right to a life of the mind and a life of the body. This is a fiercely urban dispensation, characterized by greater literacy and political self-awareness than that of traditional feudal fiefdoms. And by aborting the growth of a system designed to cater to it, and reverting again to an antiquated one designed to crush it, the PPP has shown that it does not respect, care about, or understand Karachi.









"And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die."

– Marcel Proust

Despite Proust, or perhaps because of him, the attempt to recapture past is not so in vain; especially if it can bring a certain degree of solace to the heart in this age which has all but lost it. Soaking in blood, the post-9/11 world offers no respite from the daily dose of horror: one day it is the ubiquitous American drone which extinguishes lives of some innocent babes in a remote valley in the once idyllic north of Pakistan; the other day it is a car bomb in the midst of Mumbai rush hour, the third day it is a security forces operation to reconquer their own land. Amidst the flow of this ever-present torrent of blood and violence, there is the distance past when the state of Pakistan was obsessed with "introducing" this land to the rest of the world.

Everyone knew India, but not many people knew where Pakistan was on the map and thus throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Pakistan's tourism department was busy "selling" Pakistan to the would-be tourists. Remember those beautiful passages describing the enchanting Hunza Valley and the picturesque north with its snow-clad mountains; the brochures about the charming Kalash valley and a Karachi that we have all but forgotten. Then, there was the imperial Lahore, where Mughals once lavished their genius of building and gardens.

Those were the days when the colonial charm of the nineteenth century buildings had not yet departed and Lahore's Tolinton Market, its Kim's Gun and its Town Hall were all symbols of a bygone era filled with nostalgia of rajas and the angrez sahib. There were still men who could remember the good old angrez sahib with warmth, almost with love. I do not mean the educated class, but the ordinary illiterate or semi-illiterate man who had perhaps never come into contact with a white man in his life but who had seen his rule, from a distance: the on-time trains; the postal service, a lone man managing traffic on the Mall, which was still the Thandi Sarak, the Cool Road. And it was literally so. As soon as one went beyond the red building of the high court, one felt a fresh cool breeze coming from the old trees which lined the Mall.

Even the nether side of the Mall, without that cool breeze, had its own charm. I especially remember the calm that seem to hang over the two roads which branched off the Mall from both sides of the National College of Arts; they were both sleepy streets; one led to the public library, which used to be one of the best in the country, and the other, starting at the corner of the Town Hall, went toward the MAO college. What I really want to recall, however, is an unnamed man – whose memory has invoked this "Quantum Note".

We simply called him chaat wallah admi, the man who sold chaat. He used to stand inside the compound of Town Hall, under the shade of a cluster of old trees. We used to stop by his cart on our way back from the college. At that time of the day, the heat of the sun was particularly strong and streets would be almost empty. The cart would have a white cloth over it and there would be no one around it. But as soon as we put our bicycles against a tree, the man would show up as if emerging from thin air.

His chaat always had the same taste: a lemony-sweet-and-sour taste which we would ravish in the deadness of the hot afternoons of Lahore of a bygone era! One can almost die with nostalgia for that calm and tranquil Lahore, where blood in public space was unheard of; it was an era before mass killings. Of course, there were robbers and murderers, but these were organised, old-fashioned, gangs, and they did their business with "professional ethics": they had their own areas of operation, there were honourable exchanges between them and the police knew all of them and the underworld operated within a certain realm which seldom overlapped with the lives of ordinary people.

A minister in that era was a celebrity whose coming and going marked the high point of a shopkeeper's life in the Tolinton Market, but if the president himself came, as Ayub Khan did, it was a life-long memory for the entire area. I recall, with a certain degree of sorrow, the long vanished "Gol Bagh", the public garden in front of the Town Hall, where Z A Bhutto had his first greatest public gathering in Lahore. It was in that gathering that a new era was born. During that public meeting, the baboos of Lahore Corporation were ordered to flood the garden, electric wires were then broken and thrown into the water and the crowd dispersed in panic. That garden was renamed as Naser Bagh; both Naser and Bhutto are men of an era which no one can bring back.

That world is gone forever; the man who sold the delicious chaat is perhaps no more, but the charm of his noble face, the blessings of his daily honest living, the small universe in which he lived and died is worth a remembrance in this season of strife and blood.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:






Three people were killed and 28 wounded in Mianwali on July 4 when police fired on them for protesting against long spells of power outage. Street protest to draw attention to the government's failure to provide electric power – a primary necessity especially during the sizzling months of summers – is now the only option. The enormity of the problem hardly needs elaboration. Prolonged load shedding during summers not only paralyses human lives and saps mental and physical energy but also severely hampers industrial production, and in turn has a destructive impact on national exports. Had we lived in a country without resources, and in the middle of a scorching African desert, we would have understood the government's helplessness to meet our basic needs. But certainly not in the land of five rivers, plains, valleys and mountains. The inability to generate hydropower despite all the available natural resources is almost beyond comprehension.

In the last three decades, both varieties of Pakistan's ruling elite – the politicians and the generals – have only been mouthing lofty ideals but doing little in substance. From Gen Ziaul Haq, who treated the Constitution as not worth the paper it is written on, to the PPP's Benazir Bhutto, the PML-N's Nawaz Sharif, and Commando, the only thing any of them did with sincerity was to try to stay in power for as long as possible. None of them had the urge to serve the nation. To an extent, Nawaz Sharif has an edge over others for the prominent landmark he left – the Motorway.

Some criticise Ayub Khan for usurping power, but he more than atoned for it by building the Mangla and Tarbela Dams. What would have happened if the two dams didn't exist? And how gracefully did he bow out, without lurking in the shadows, as does the Commando. Had Gen Musharraf could have easily built the Kalabagh Dam during his nine years in power. Instead, what he did was swagger. What an abominable act it was for a head of state to hound and assassinate an octogenarian citizen, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, using state power.

Let us compare the attitude of our cabal towards our mega power projects with that of the Chinese leaders towards theirs. And what they have accomplished since the days we conceived Kalabagh Dam. China's Three Gorges Dam over the Yangtze River was planned much later than we had thought of constructing Kalabagh Dam, the feasibility study of which alone left the taxpayers Rs1.12 billion poorer. However, construction of the Three Gorges Dam was not to be smooth. Western powers, led by the United States, mounted a concerted campaign to declare China's dam, the highest and largest in the world, an ecological disaster in the making. Yet the US so far refused to sign the 1992 Kyoto Protocols to control the emission of greenhouse gases, which are rapidly increasing global warming.

Large projects always have both advantages and disadvantages. The Three Gorges Dam does have a few disadvantages, as will Kalabagh Dam if it is built. When the viability of large projects in considered, their pros and cons have to be weighed against each other. Decisions of national importance are never without dissension, but these have to be ironed out for the sake of national interest. To know how China has achieved what we have so far failed, here is a brief comparison between the Three Gorges Dam and the Kalabagh Dam. First. human displacement: the Three Gorges Dam has displaced 1.2 million, while Kalabagh Dam will displace only 48,000 (34,000 from Punjab and 16,000 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa). Which of the two provinces will suffer more is for the reader to decide.

The proposed site of Kalabagh Dam is 120 miles downstream of Attock Bridge. In other words, its upstream water escalation, being only 90 miles, will never show up near Attock Bridge, which is the confluence of rivers Indus and Kabul. How will Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa suffer is hard to understand. Wasn't Nowshera inundated by floods when Kalabagh Dam didn't even exist? Unfortunately, politicians belonging to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh have politicised a purely technical issue for political motives. Their careers depend on opposing Kalabagh Dam, even if that means pushing the country into backwardness. While the rich use generators and other means, the middle class and the poor of the country suffer from power crisis, and when they protest, bullets mow them down.

Compared to Kalabagh Dam backflow of 90 miles upstream, the Three Gorges Dam is 390 miles, which has submerged a river valley that had 1,400 rural towns, 900 assorted factories, 1,208 sites of historical importance, including places of worship and graveyards as old as 30,000-50,000 years. This is the sacrifice the Chinese people have given to be lit cheaply, permanently, and without load shedding.

Therefore, it's time the government decided to go for the construction of Kalabagh Dam, instead of opting for pork-barrel rental power projects and IPPs for the siphoning off of hefty commissions.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.








The storm gathering around Pakistan just got thicker with the bomb attacks in Mumbai. Already under severe pressure from the Americans, these bombings will be used to further ratchet up the bullying.

It is interesting that President Obama immediately issued a strong condemnatory statement and expressed solidarity with the Indian people. No problem with that, because these are indeed terrible and condemnable happenings. One does note in passing though that more deadly attacks than this in Pakistan hardly elicit any response from the American leaders.

Be that as it may, it is the US offer to assist in the investigation of the Mumbai bombings that creates some suspicion. In normal times, this would be an innocuous offering but the context now is different. Ever since the Osama raid, Pakistan is being accused of all manner of wrong doing. What would stop the US from hurling another poisoned dart towards it?

Consider. Without any proof, the most senior American military leader, Admiral Mullen has accused the Pakistani government of ordering Saleem Shehzad's murder. If someone at his senior level, and one considered to be a friend of the Pakistani military, can hurl such unfounded allegations, what would stop the FBI, if it ever got involved, from declaring that Pakistan is behind the Mumbai bombings?

These may sound like paranoid ramblings but events have brought us to this sorry pass. Not a day passes without some new charge being brought against Pakistan and more specifically against its military. Sometimes this comes from senior levels of the US government but often through the American media quoting unnamed officials.

It is to the credit of the Indians that as of this time of writing the response of the government and the media has been restrained. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has hinted at the involvement of a foreign hand but that has not as yet been followed up. This may change as the public pressure wells up but creating a crisis like situation would not be to any one's advantage.

The last thing that both countries can afford is another eyeball to eyeball confrontation. It may suit the Americans, in their current frame of mind, to add more pressure on Pakistan through the Indians. But, does it suit the two countries or the South Asian region? I suspect that the Indians understand this and hence the measured response so far.

This of course assumes a certain recognition in India that a destabilised Pakistan is not in its national interest. It presupposes that the continuing engagement between the two countries is not because of outside pressure but from a cold realisation, that hostility leading to a conflict suits no one. If this is true, it is difficult to see India becoming a pawn in the American game to corner Pakistan.

It hurts me immensely to say this because I am a strong proponent of better relations between Pakistan and the United States. It is not in our national interest to become an adversary of the US. For a small country to be on the wrong side of the most preeminent military power in the world cannot be good.

Similarly, the US has strategic interests in the region that make Pakistan an important country for it. There is also a long history of cooperation between the two stretching to the early days of the cold war. It is tragic that hostility has increased to such levels that people have begun talking of an open conflict.

News emanating from Washington, not from the American but Pakistani sources, who claim to know all, is of US plans for an outright assault. Someone has even been mentioning specific targets, apparently three hundred and sixty two in number, that are in American sights and warning friends to move their residences away from security or intelligence installations.

If this is all part of American brinkmanship, in which some Pakistanis have been wittingly or unwittingly recruited, it is sad. Given the long history of cooperation between the two countries, it should not come to a point where threats are being conveyed through proxies. It would be much better if both sides take a deep breath and ease the tensions.

Pakistan has every interest in fighting Al-Qaeda and the Americans know that because no one has suffered more than it has. Nearly thirty-five thousand Pakistanis, civilians and soldiers, have been killed by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. There is no rational logic why the Pakistani state would support this terrorist organisation.

The real problem is the end game in Afghanistan and also, as some suggest, the cooperation with Iran in the gas pipeline project. If the hubris of power was not there, the Americans should understand Pakistan's concerns. Taking on the Afghan Taliban would not only be militarily difficult in a rough terrain, it would create multiple complications.

For one, it would unite the Afghan militants with the Pakistani Taliban and create a bigger problem of insurgency than Pakistan already has. Secondly, the Americans ignore the historical desire of all Pashtuns to create a separate state for themselves. Taking on the Afghan Taliban amounts to uniting all Pashtuns against Pakistan posing to it an existential threat.

Thus carrying out US wishes for what to it are peripheral regional objectives, has the potential to completely destabilise Pakistan. It is almost a cliché that just force of arms cannot keep a people together. They have to feel a part of the whole to remain tied together. Launching an assault on the Afghan Pashtun is inviting total alienation of an ethnicity that is vital to Pakistan's survival.

The Iran pipeline project is again part of a survival mechanism for the country. Pakistan is energy deficient with gas and electricity stoppages now a common occurrence. It is in its vital interest to get energy from wherever it can, and no place is easier than Iran. If the US has any real concern for Pakistani people, it should understand this.

On its part, Pakistan must cooperate with the US wherever it can without jeopardising its national interest. Al-Qaeda is a common enemy so that is not a problem. Whatever positive role Pakistan can play in bringing about peace in Afghanistan, it must. On a larger canvas, both can collaborate to change mindsets that create militancy whether in Pakistan or abroad.

As the sixth most populous country in the world, Pakistan has interests and obligations. It has to protect its integrity and work towards the welfare of its people but also, ensure that the country does not become a launching pad for international terrorism. It needs to be a part of the larger global community not outside it.

The United States as the global leader needs to support Pakistan to ensure that poverty and illiteracy in it do not combine to create a bigger problem for the international community. The war of words must stop.








Some of us had said it weeks ago. Not because we are wise or prophetic. This has become so predictable. There is a pattern to it. The MQM is out of power and the life and property of people in Karachi are put at stake. Bloodletting becomes the order of the day and economic activity comes to a halt. The whole country begins to suffer but the city itself and its hapless working class citizens suffer the most.

And lo and behold, in the midst of all this, no other than the honourable senior minister of the Sindh cabinet, the veteran PPP leader and the husband of the speaker of the national assembly, Zulfiqar Mirza, blasts at the party and leadership of the MQM.

The statement is made nowhere else but at the dinner hosted by the ANP leader of the province, Shahi Syed, the main adversary of the MQM. In a charged statement, he also says that Afaq Ahmed, the leader of the MQM Haqiqi, is the longest serving political prisoner in the history of the country after Asif Ali Zardari. He calls him the true leader of the 'Mohajir nation', the term he chooses to adopt for the community of people whose ancestors migrated from different parts of India and who now largely speak Urdu as their first language. (I use 'largely' intentionally and would come to this later.)

On a lighter note, one would say that the PPP stalwarts in Sindh like Taj Haider and Kamal Azfar should now lead those members and voters of the PPP who belong to the 'Mohajir nation' to join MQM Haqiqi. For Afaq, according to Mirza, provides the real leadership to the nation Haider and Azfar belong to.

But I wish things could only be discussed lightly. People are being killed right, left and centre in Karachi while arson is rampant. Hyderabad, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas also witness incidents of firing, sporadic violence and shut down of markets after Mirza's statement.

One irresponsible statement by a person in a responsible position has set Sindh on fire and given a new lease of life to the hawks within the so-called 'Mohajir nation' who had already started demanding the division of Sindh as soon as the MQM felt politically isolated in the province.

It is not just what Mirza said, it is also the timing of it all. The PPP leadership at the highest level realised the mistake and not only that it distanced itself from Mirza's views, the federal interior minister tendered an apology. Mirza too has aplogised but the damage is done.

Sindh has been long going through immense pressures of economic hardships, urban-rural political divisions and pains of assimilation of non-Sindhi speaking Sindhis in a newly emerging society and culture of the province. This process is tedious and turbulent anywhere and takes longer than we wish. That is the very reason that I object to the term 'Urdu-speaking' used for a community of people. They are Urdu-speaking Sindhis.

We must not forget that there were many dialects and languages from Gujarat (India), Kathiawar, Katch, East Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, etc. spoken among those who have migrated to Karachi after 1947.

Over centuries, Sindh accepted and absorbed Pathans, Mughals, Memons and a large number of Baloch tribes. It is both the tenacity and graciousness of the land and people of Sindh. The three parties feuding in Karachi, but most of all the MQM, have to finally learn to shun violence, accept all stakeholders and work towards the prosperity and benefit of all living in Sindh.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email:








KILLING of 21 innocent people in Wednesday's three bomb blasts in busy localities of Indian city of Mumbai was indeed shocking and that is why it has been deplored everywhere. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani rightly reflected sentiments of Pakistani people by conveying sense of grief and sorrow over the tragedy to the Indian leadership.

Killing of innocent people anywhere in the world cannot be condoned, as taking away life of people without any fault of theirs is a heinous crime and the culprits naturally deserve to be dealt with iron-hand. As usual, investigation has been ordered and hopefully, in the days to come, Indian authorities would unearth those behind the incident. It is somewhat encouraging that unlike past, Indians, this time, did not instantly raise accusing fingers towards Pakistan, as they had been doing on almost every such occasion — to blame Pakistan without waiting for the inquiry and investigation and in some cases their claims regarding involvement of Pakistan proved hundred percent wrong. Initially, Mumbai Police has suspected the Indian Mujahideen — banned domestic organisation — of its involvement in the blasts but the timing of the incident raises many questions and it is quite likely that after a day or two Indian leaders and media start whipping Pakistan again, linking the tragedy, in some way, with ISI or LeT. Terror revisited Mumbai at a time when ISI Chief Lt. General Ahmad Shuja Pasha was in Washington on a mission to rebuild the damaged relationship with the United States and bridge the trust deficit. It could be part of the pressure tactics to put maximum pressure on Pakistan and as happened in the wake of attack on the Indian parliament, the latest episode could be exploited to mount tension between the two countries so as to increase difficulties of Pakistan. India wriggled out of the composite dialogue process after first Mumbai attacks and analysts are expressing apprehensions that the latest incident could be exploited to get rid of scheduled meeting between Foreign Ministers of the two countries in New Delhi at the end of July. We wish all this proves wrong.






POLITICAL problems do crop up in democracies and civilized societies but nowhere these are compounded by the party in power as we witness in the case of differences between the PPP and MQM, erstwhile allies both at the centre and in Sindh. Ever since, the MQM decided to say goodbye to the coalition, which is democratic right of the party, deliberate provocative attempts are being made by the PPP to raise the ante.

Apart from the questionable manner with which the PPP got three crucial bills approved from the provincial assembly during a rumpus of worst order, it once again launched the unguided missile of Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza on Wednesday, who churned out extreme sort of remarks against not only the MQM but also the entire Urdu-speaking community. This was the first public comment made by Mirza after his upgradation recently as Senior Minister in provincial set up and the kind of language used by him made all serious-minded people to conclude that he was not worthy of the office entrusted to him. Mirza drew uncalled for comparison between MQM chief Altaf Hussain and dissident Afaq Ahmad and castigated Urdu-speaking community and according to reports a number of localities in the city descended into violence soon after his scornful remarks. It is regrettable that instead of taking damage control measures, the PPP leadership has opted to confront the MQM both politically and administratively, which is considered to be a sure recipe for unrest and chaos in the country's commercial and economic hub. Of course, the President sent PML (Q) leader Ch Shujaat Hussain to Karachi to make attempts for mending of fences with the MQM but despite his ability to deliver Ch. Shujaat can hardly succeed when each and every move of the Federal and Provincial Governments is provocative and takes the tension to new heights. Both the President and the Prime Minister have been demonstrating extreme sense of patience and accommodation at the centre as part of the policy of reconciliation and the same spirit and far-sightedness is needed to handle the crisis in Karachi.







FEDERAL Cabinet at a special meeting in Quetta Wednesday took several important decisions on issues which were agitating the minds of the people of Balochistan including formation of a committee for dialogue with the estranged Baloch leadership and lifting of ban on recruitment. But what is particularly worth mentioning is the announcement by Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan that the Cabinet decided to form a Commission to investigate into Nawab Akbar Bugti's episode.

Since the death of Nawab Bugti, who was in his 80s, in the wilds of desolate Balochistan in August 2006, there had been no movement in his case. We wish such a Commission would have been appointed by the then government and by now it would have come out with all the details and the issue would have been settled. Anyhow the incumbent government has done well to appoint a Commission under a Supreme Court Judge to investigate the circumstances which led to the death of Nawab Bugti who was a towering political personality and enjoyed great influence in the Province. There should be no doubt that the Commission would go through all the details by recording statements of those involved as well as the witnesses. Balochistan has since been witnessing incidents of violence particularly in the Baloch dominated areas where people of other provinces particularly from Punjab have been targeted. Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister during the press conference on Wednesday came out with a figure of 134 deaths of Punjabis during the past two and a half years at the hands of miscreants but we think the number is much higher while hundreds of families have migrated even from capital Quetta after receiving threats. No doubt there is a sense of deprivation among the people but that does not mean to start killing fellow countrymen and Muslim brothers. When educated and professional people would shift to other provinces, there would be brain drain and ultimately Balochistan would suffer in development. Turning back to the Commission into Bugti's episode, we expect that it would be given a time frame to complete its report and the findings would be made public and that would send a positive message to the people that the Government was serious in addressing their grievances.









What is the industry with the lowest qualifications and the highest rate of profit? Even a high-school student in India can give the correct answer: politics. In these days of electronic banking, those politicians who keep most of their funds in India are being forced to account for a bigger and bigger part of them. The self-provided statistics of the wealth of legislators are certainly gross underestimates, but even these show that wealth rises by ten and even twenty times once a politician gets elected, and even more if she or he becomes a minister. Income-tax officers know that the Opposition of today may become the Ruling Party of tomorrow, hence they usually avoid looking closely into the tax returns filed by political heavyweights (unless ordered to do so by their political bosses).

Even if the Income-tax department does conduct an enquiry, a politician usually gets away. An example is the case of a former minister in Karnataka State, who was caught with billions of rupees in bank accounts controlled by him. This worthy simply declared that all the money came as gifts from his thousands of admirers. When the Income-tax department refused to accept such an explanation, he furnished a long list of names and addresses of people who claimed in writing to have gifted cash to him. Many of these were so poor that the amount they were presumed to have gifted was more than their annual income. When this was pointed out to an individual, he claimed that he and his family so admired the politician ( who is in his 40s) that they sold all their jewellery to make the donation! The Income-tax department had finally to accept the explanation and close the case, leaving the politician to enjoy the wealth that he had brought out into the open.

Of course, even in the case of the politician mentioned above, most of his wealth would be undeclared. These days, the bigger leaders are careful to avoid keeping their stash of cash in India. Instead, they put it away in offshore banking institutions, and every now and then use "hawala" channels to bring a part of it back to India, especially when elections get held. During general elections, so big is the demand for rupees that the value of the dollar falls against the rupee.

This loot has been going on for decades, ever since the 1960s, although these days there is fear that the assets held abroad may be exposed. The credit for this must go to President George W Bush, who after 9/11 stripped away the secrecy provisions of offshore banks in order to locate and confiscate terrorist funding. By about 2005, few banking institutions dared to keep client details secret from the US and from countries within the EU. Had the Indian government been zealous in finding out the extent of cash held by its nationals abroad, by now a huge cache of money could have been recovered. However, top politicians and officials are much more interested in preventing such details from ever becoming public than they are at discovering hidden hoards of cash.

As both ruling as well as opposition politicians are adept at making money illegally, neither is seriously interested in getting back the estimated $1.2 trillion of loot that Indians are said to hold in Swiss and other offshore banks. For a while, there was the hope within the middle class that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would seek accountability among the powerful. However, the Cabinet reshuffle that was carried out two days ago indicates that the Congress Party leadership still has the upper hand over the government. About the only thing that the PM achieved was to shift Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to another portfolio. Over the past two years, Ramesh had acted as though he were in Europe rather than in underdeveloped India. More than a dozen mega projects were held up because they were denied environmental clearances by Ramesh, who became the favourite of the NGOs for his anti-industry stance. However, a week ago, when Manmohan Singh told some newspaper editors that "poverty is the worst polluter",it was clear that his patience with the obstacles to investment created by Environment Minister Ramesh was at an end. However, Congress President Sonia Gandhi (who shares her son Rahul's affection for Ramesh) ensured that he was not dropped from the Council of Ministers, but was promoted to Cabinet rank, even while losing the Environment portfolio ( but getting another equally important).

Manmohan Singh wanted some ministers known to have amassed wealth to quit, but failed to have his way. The most notable survivor is former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is a close friend of Sonia Gandhi's principal advisor, Ahmed Patel. Despite several reports of scams and even censure by the Supreme Court, Deshmukh continues to be a Cabinet Minister, as do others who too are said to have become wealthy through politics. Interestingly, it was during his tenure as Chief Minister that Maharashtra State saw the maximum number of farmers suicides. Despite this, he has been retained, not least because of his fund-raising skills. Some ministers have quit, including Dayanidhi Maran, who within the past three decades has seen his family rise from obscurity to great wealth. While he was Telecom minister, there were whispers in Delhi about the way in which he was supposed to have pressured telecom companies to give stakes to his family.

Maran was so confident of the power of high office that he even demanded that the Tata Group give concessions before he cleared their files. During his time as Telecom Minister, a handful of companies monopolised the industry,which is the fastest-growing in India. Mobile telephone charges were extremely high in India, despite the fact that under Maran (and before him, the BJP's Pramod Mahajan) spectrum was given away almost free of cost. Consumers could not keep their numbers if they switched to a new operator. It was only after Maran resigned as Telecom Minister that companies other than the few nurtured under him were allowed to enter the field. Of course, even today call charges are high, though not by as much as they were under Maran. Interestingly, it is A Raja, the minister under whom competition increased and charges decreased in the telecom sector, who is in jail. Maran is still a free man, even though he has been made to quit the Manmohan Singh Cabinet.

Especially since 2005, the rate of increase of GDP in India is getting based less on increases in potential than in the denudation of resources. Iron ore is flowing out of the country, while coal is denied to existing steel companies in India and given to those with no expertise in producing coal or steel. During the past few years, huge blocks of coal have been given away almost for free to corporates who till now have not set up the power plants that was the excuse for their getting the coal. Several of the lucky recipients of coal blocks have sold them in the open market, making huge profits. Whether it is coal or land or other state-controlled assets, they are being picked up for very low prices by a few favoured groups, and later resold at huge profits. India is becoming what Russia has been since the Yeltsin era began two decades ago, a haven for those with influence and a hell for those with ability.

Looking at the way Prime Minister Singh has been denied permission by his party to drop those in his team who are known to be dishonest, it seems unlikely that matters will improve anytime soon. Once, the talk all across the world was of India Shining. These days, sadly, the buzz is more about India Stinking. The stench of corruption is everywhere.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.







A group of young parliamentarians from Pakistan, led by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly is visiting China as part of the celebrations of 60 years of Pak-China friendship. The group comprises young parliamentarians from across the divide, to present a wide cross section from Pakistan. Anusha Rahman Khan of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), belonging to Central Punjab, Saima Akhtar Bharwana, an independent MNA from Jhang, Sabeen Rizvi also of PML (N), Mr. Sajid Hussain Turi of FATA, Pakistan People's Party's Nadeem Afzal Gondal from Sargodha, Dr. Lal Chand of PPP from Sindh and a representative of the minorities of Pakistan and Asghar Jatt, also of PPP, hailing from Southern Punjab completed the delegation. Abdul Qadoos, the Bureau Chief of APP's Peshawar office and I are also part of the delegation representing the media.

The tour commenced with a visit to Urumqi, the capital of Xingjian province, which comprises 47 different ethnic groups out of which the Muslims are in a majority with the Uyghurs taking over 47% of the total. The Cummunist Party of China (CPC), which is hosting the visit, wanted to showcase both the industrial and the agricultural strength of the province so we were taken to Shihezi City an industrial metropolis, where we toured the Xinjiang Alzzeeh Textile Mill and the Tianye Company which manufactures PVC pipes. The lesson to be learnt was that waste product was being turned into cement and other construction materials while the grounds were being used to harvest tomatoes to produce sauces for local and export markets. On return from Shihezi, we visited a cotton and grapes farm, which is being operated on scientific and cost effective lines. At Urumqi, we stopped over at the Goldwind turbine manufacturing plant, which was established in 1998 but in just over a decade has become one of the world's leading total wind power solution provider by harnessing one of nature's gifts to mankind, the wind and is providing cost effective solutions to Australia, USA, Germany and many other nations.

I had first visited Urumqi in 1974 and my last visit before this one was in 1987 thus I had the opportunity to compare the growth and development of this provincial capital. It was a pleasure to see it emerge from the boondogs of the seventies and eighties into a sprawling metropolis with the modern amenities of communication and technology. The roadsigns are in Chinese as well as in the old Turkish/Arabic script while the city has numerous mosques and Islamic centres. The people of Xingjian are very hospitable and the majority being Muslims, the famiiar greeting of "Assalam-o-Alaikum" (May peace be on you) added to the sense of camaraderie. The whole city was bedecked with red banners, a remnant of the 90th birthday of the formation of the CPC and the celebrations accompanying it. We had the opportunity to meet the CPC elders in the province as well as renowned Muslim scholars, besides Pakistani students at the Islamic Medical University and the Agriculture Institute.

The students on their part were overjoyed to rub shoulders with the young parliamentarians and some of them expressed their difficulties with the hope that the representatives of the people in the parliament will help resolve matters like the recognition of their degree in Pakistan. The hospitality of the Xingjianis is traditional and warm hearted while their cuisine is close to Pakistan's and their culture too reflects similiar sponatanity like our folk dances. Masood Khan, Pakistan's ambassador to Beijing hosted a lunch for the visiting Pakistani delegation and also a dinner in their honour. The Embassy of Pakistan went out of its way to make the visit successful and the delegates comfortable. Mr Kundi departed for Pakistan from Beijing due to political expediency and Anusha Rehman Khan, the Secretary General of the YPF assumed leadership for the remaining portion of the visit and conducted the proceedings with poise, dignity and grace. Two seminars were organized by the CPC, one with experts from China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations and Beijing University on the development of sino-Pak Relations and the other with an expert from the Central Party School on the CPC's party building.

While the first one pertained to a frank discussion on the extent of relations as well minor irritants, the second one was an eye opener, especially for the YPF on how the CPC recruits, trains and grooms party members, its unique features and its functioning. The delegation had numerous questions, some of them difficult ones but the expert handled them deftly and with patience but provided elaborate responses. He also extended an invitation to the young parliamentarians to attend courses on political party building and governance at the CPC's Central Party School

The last leg of the tour was to the eastern port city of Qingdao. Lying across the Shandong Peninsula while looking out to the Yellow Sea, Qingdao is a major seaport, naval base, and industrial centre. The world's longest sea bridge, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, links the main urban area of Qingdao with Hungdao district, straddling the Jiazhou Bay sea areas. In 2009, Qingdao was named China's most livable city. Visits to the Haier Group, which has set up an industrial zone in Pakistan, besides 22 international trading centers was a very educative experience. Mr. Xu Hang, Deputy Director General of Standing Committee Qingdao People's Congress received the delegation and briefed them on the history and progress of the sprawling metropolis. It became apparent that the CPC had chosen the itinerary of the visit with metculous care and thought. Commencing with the relatively less developed but ethnically diverse yet harmonious Urumqi, followed by the high level meetings and discussions on CPC's raison d'etre and ultimately to one of the modern wonders of the world Qingdao gave food for thought to the young parliamentarians from Pakistan. They will certainly be taking important lessons home to concieve and perhaps adapt some of the innovations of CPC.

Despite being from diverse backgrounds and political parties, the young parliamentarians showed unsusual harmony aside from minor jostling, which is a positive sign and promising for the future of democracy in Pakistan. Faisal Karim Kundi was his usual composed and dignified self while Anusha Rehman, especially after she assumed leadership was considerate, controlled and working hard to make the most of the visit. Sabeen Rizvi and Saima Akhtar Bharwana. were enthusuisatic and zealous in asking questions. Nadeem Afzal Gondal depicted his experience and grasp of political thought while young Asghar Jatt, though young in experience was keen to ask for support for his own constituency. Sajid Hussain Turi was equally concerned about the development of FATA.

The most interesting participant was Dr. Lal Chand, whose humorous quips and subtle comments kept the delegation amused but on on a serious note, he was earnest in inquiring regarding the dealing of CPC with the ethnic minorities and considering the plight of his community in Pakistan and bringing them in the mainstraem of national development. All in all it was an invigorating and highly informative trip, which will help bring the people of China and Pakistan even closer and cement the already strong bonds between the two brotherly neighbours.







Sincerity of intention in all our actions is to please no one but Allah only. Sincerity is a very important factor in the life of a Muslim, for all his activities are judged only on the basis of his intention. If it is good, the action is good, and if the intention is something other than the attainment of the Divine Approbation, then the deed is not reward able at all. Sincerity can rightly be called the life and soul of the entire moral edifice of Islam. If the action lacks sincerity however dignified or pious it may be it will not fetch any reward from Allah.

Intention can be defined as the heart's determined will and the effort to pursue it with consistent action. An earnest intention of a believer is his strong will and an exclusive determination to seek Allah's pleasure with total and complete sincerity. Commitment to the concept of Tawheed – the Oneness of Allah (SWT) gives birth and nourishes such an intention. Any act performed with a sincere intention to please Allah (SWT) fills the believer's heart with extreme delight, ecstasy and contentment, a feeling which is hard to express but can be experienced. According to Shari'ah, intention's focus should be Allah and His pleasure alone. Action should not be a superficial physical performance of worship or a verbal expression of words or meaning of the Holy Qur'an or the repetition of traditions of Prophet (SAW), as it will be a soulless ritual, and an exercise in futility. It can and will have a positive effect on character and personality if consciousness of Allah (SWT) embedded in the heart is the source of motivation. Such a consciousness causes unison between heart, mind, body and soul to produce "Sua'leh fikr-o-amal" i.e. pure thought and pure action and the desired result of worship.

Sincerity has been interpreted as being upright, sincere, truthful, pure, distant from show and ostentation in one's intention and conduct, and being closed to the things that cloud or foul one's heart. Purity of intention, straightforwardness in thoughts, not pursuing any worldly purposes in relations with Allaah, and loyalty in servitude to Him are also included in the meaning of sincerity. One of the condition that Allah accept the deeds from his slave when it done with pure intention and the reward for such types of deeds is incredible. Let us take an example of Musa (Aalihus salam) when he met with Two women.

Musa (Aalihus salam) is so exhausted but even though in this condition he love to do good deeds,' his intention is pure without a bit of evil in his heart about those two women. Directly, straight forward to the point He said: "What is the matter with you?" They said: "We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man." (sura Qassas verse 23). Musa (aalihus salam) not engaged with them in chit chat like "what your name, how old you father, don't you have brothers, how you manage this task everyday and so on. Subhanallah what a pure intention of Musa (aalihus salam). He watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: " My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me! (verse 24). Allah indeed gave him a reward. He (Subhana Wa T'ala) wed one of these two women to Musa (alihus salam) he found refuge in their home and after that prophet hood…. For more on this, 'one can refer sura Al-Qasas (28 Sura). Let us keep our intention pure in all our affair. Allah love this and He (Subhalan wa T'ala) will reward us no matter how small our deeds may be.

Allah's Messenger (Sallalahu alihuwa sallam) said, "The deeds of anyone of you will not save you (from the (Hell) Fire)." They said, "Even you (will not be saved by your deeds), O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "No, even I (will not be saved) unless and until Allah bestows His Mercy on me. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target (Paradise)." (Al-Bukhaari)

The Muslim believes in the great importance of intention and its importance for the remainder of his deeds, both of this world and the Hereafter. This is because all deeds are based on intention. Depending on the intention, the deed is either valid or void. This belief in the necessity of having an intention for every deed, and the obligation to make the intention proper, is based on Allah's Words (which mean): "And they were not commanded except to worship Allah (being) sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah (poor due). And that is the correct religion."[Quran 98:5]. Allah also said (what means): "Say (O Muhammad): 'Indeed, I have been commanded to worship Allah (being) sincere to Him in religion.'" [Quran 39:11].

Islam has emphasized that the sincerity and purity of intention behind any action is a condition of its acceptability by Allah (SWT). It is very unfortunate that majority of Muslims lack this understanding, and their practical life is totally devoid of this essential pre-requisite, which renders their acts of worships as mere ritual. Purity of intention has a charismatic force which sharpens perception, enhances comprehension, perfects intuition, creates awakening, and propels a revolutionary change in the individual and thus in the society at large. That is how Prophet (SAW) and his companions created an ideal society in a lawless environment. Deliberations in the Holy Qur'an and a study of Prophet (SAW)'s life unfolds that each Aayah of Allah's message educates us and each moment of His Messenger's life sets an example for us of the sincerity and purity of intention.







The inefficiency of bureaucracy has always been blamed for all the ills which have been facing the country. Perhaps even rightly so, as the bureaucratic ritualism and red tape surrounding each and every activity of the public and government organization has deterred them from taking any firm initiative. In Pakistan the government machinery and its everyday working is run by bureaucracy and even we depend on them to manage everything. But over the years the civil servants and public officials have stepped away from the basic job description, of serving the public and have adopted the approach of applying their authority over the citizens, whom they have vowed to serve. This unchecked and most of the times unlawful use of authority, can be observed to have increased every time a democratic setup has been replaced by a dictatorial rule. This has also resulted in large scale corruption and nepotism, as they realize that they are answerable to no one.

Article 19-A introduced in the 18th Amendment of the 1973 Constitution presents a silver lining in the clouds. The article directs the public institutions to share the required information of public interest with the citizens. This has been called as the Right to Information (RTI). According to the Freedom of Information (FOI) law, which governs the rules and regulations of RTI, this information is not only to be shared on demand, but periodical publications are also required to disseminate information. This can be termed as the first step of truly empowering the people, in contributing towards the governance of the country. Unfortunately although almost everyone knows the political aspects of the 18th Amendment, but there is no awareness regarding RTI or FOI. Either the people have been deliberately kept in the dark over the subject or the aspect has been overshadowed by the political perception of the amendment.

Still there are citizens who are aware and there are organizations, who have been working on freedom of information in Pakistan since a long time. There have been information requests filed under the article, by certain individuals and organizations. Recently nine information requests have been filed with various departments in Baluchistan. These requests are queries on developmental work and other civic issues and demand no information on any sensitive issue. This has been initiated with the hope that once precedence has been set and a habit has been developed in the citizens, to engage and question the government machinery, perhaps there will be an improvement in the prevalent situation. But it has been observed that the filing of the information requests with the relevant departments has been ignored. Where the law clearly states that a response to the applicant should be given within 21 working days, the application seems to be lost somewhere in this complex bureaucratic setup. Although there is a way to file complaints over non-compliance of these requests by the public departments, but this process also takes a common citizen through a complex set of procedures. The complaints have been filed with the Provincial Mohtasib by the concerned citizens and it is hoped that as the office of Mohtasib is there to resolve the complaints of the public, it will also take concrete measures in this regard.

This withholding of information in the backdrop of bureaucratic ritualism and red tape is unacceptable. The public demands to know what is happening in the state apparatus, why there is so much corruption, where and how are the funds for various projects being utilized, why is there a shortage of resources and energy, who or what is responsible for the deteriorating security situation? It is understandable that this is a nascent democracy and of course it will take time to brush aside the mindset present in our institutions, nurtured by dictatorial regimes. In the end, it will all come down to the insistence of the citizens to hold accountable the public officials and pressurize them in giving the answers to the questions, which concern every Pakistani. Just as the state machinery has been forced to reveal the Kharotabad incident report, which had been initially decided to be kept a secret, but under considerable public outcry was released; the institutions will also have to be pursued into the habit of sharing information with the public.

The withholding of information, only points to the fact that there is something wrong and the picture that is being painted to the masses is not an accurate one. The mindset and perception present in our public sector departments has no place in a democratic setup. The lowest ranking official to the highest seat of power are answerable to the people. The institutions and officials have declared and vowed to serve the public and not their own vested interests. It has to be realized by the officials and the public also that, times have changed and democracy demands the active participation of the citizens in the governance of the country. The country is no longer run by a junta, where the citizens have been kept at the bottom of the pyramid. The concept of democracy values the opinion of each and every individual and these opinions will only be generated if proper information is available to them. Right to information is a tool which serves the purpose of not only disseminating information, but also strengthening the institutions in the long run.

—The writer is a development practitioner.







Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is a company with a chip on its shoulder. His defy-the-establishment sensibility has built a print and television empire, to the despair of more traditional (and, Murdoch would say, elitist) rivals. But the phone-hacking scandal that now envelops one of Murdoch's British publications shows how corrosive this style of anything-goes journalism can be. It's been known since 2006 that Murdoch's News of the World published exposes of the British royal family based on illegally intercepted phone messages. But the paper, backed by Murdoch's top lieutenants, has insisted that the hacking was the work of a single reporter and an outside consultant. The newspaper rebuffed demands for a wider investigation — aided, according to press reports, by police officials who feared their private lives would be exposed by News Corp. publications if they pursued the inquiry too aggressively.

This pyramid of denial is crumbling. The British public is outraged by reports that the hacking involved thousands of targets, including a 13-year-old murder victim, prominent politicians and law enforcement officials. The fallout has already begun: As the furor surrounding the scandal grew this week, News Corp. withdrew its bid for complete control of British Sky Broadcasting, of which it already owns a share. What's more important, the police are now asking Murdoch's lieutenants the question at the heart of any cover-up investigation: What did they know and when did they know it?

How much did Murdoch know? That will be a key question in British police and parliamentary inquiries in coming weeks. Murdoch is often described as a "detail man" who speaks with his top media executives several times a day. But that doesn't mean he condoned illegal actions by others. News Corp.'s resistance to investigation was on display last year in its response to a New York Times Magazine piece that appeared Sept. 1. The article detailed the failure of Scotland Yard to investigate the breadth of the hacking by News of the World, and quoted anonymous employees saying that Andy Coulson, the paper's editor at the time, was aware of the phone snooping. The article also quoted a February 2010 Parliament report that accused News of the World officials of "deliberate obfuscation" in their denials. The Murdoch camp's reaction to the Times probe was telling: Rather than admitting error, Bill Akass, managing editor of News of the World, warned the Times sharply against publishing the article. When the Times went ahead anyway, Akass sent an indignant letter arguing that the paper had attacked Murdoch's publication because of the Times' rivalry with the Wall Street Journal, News Corp.'s American flagship. "It seems to us that your investigation has always been tainted by a vested interest in its outcome which means it is in serious and multiple breach of your own ethical guidelines," Akass argued. His aggressive letter, posted last year on the Times Web site, makes interesting reading now, in light of what has emerged.

This sense of victimization goes deep in News Corp. Executives have often responded to criticism with aggrieved indignation — arguing that opponents are elitist and out of touch with the masses. In a November 2010 speech to a conference of British editors, Akass defended his brand of tabloid journalism against the "snobbish elite," saying that their complaints were "a kind of proxy for sneering at the working class." That line, denouncing critics as snobs, was vintage Murdoch. You hear the same theme when Fox News trumpets its right-leaning coverage as "fair and balanced," even as the cable network's commentary includes a roster of Republican presidential aspirants. Fox commentators argue that other, more traditional news organizations are out of touch with the real America. Murdoch himself complained about the "allegiance to the upper class, to the liberal attitude" of the Boston Globe when he bought the rival Boston Herald in 1982.

In the fair-and-balanced spirit, let me grant Murdoch one important point: He wouldn't have been so successful if some of his venerable rivals hadn't, in fact, been elitist, skewed to the left and sometimes just plain boring. Murdoch's publications and television networks may have coarsened standards, but they are also entertaining. Being irreverent is not the problem. The media world could use more of that Murdochian energy, not less. The trouble with the Murdoch empire is something that Alexander Hamilton, America's wisest observer of the dangers of populist rhetoric, would have understood. News Corp.'s identification with the common man seems to have bred an arrogance and contempt for traditional rules.

In the name of the masses, anything goes. Sadly, these qualities are characteristic, through history, of those who claim to speak in the name of the people and, buoyed by mass popularity, begin to cross the lines.

— Courtesy: The Washington Post







AFTER the optimism engendered by the killing of Osama bin Laden and statements by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta suggesting a strategic defeat of al-Qa'ida is within reach, the bombings in Mumbai are a sharp reminder the terrorist scourge is undiminished.

The last thing we should do is underrate the threat it poses.

The bombings are also a reminder that almost three years after the last, much bigger assault on the city by jihadists from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has close links to al-Qa'ida and the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, Islamabad has done little to bring to book those responsible. This is the case even though the assailants arrived by boat from Pakistan and were directed by commanders in Pakistan. That is something that should not be forgotten as the ISI chief, General Shuja Pasha, arrives in Washington for urgent talks following the Obama administration's decision to suspend a third of its annual $US2.7 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.

Definitive responsibility for the latest Mumbai attacks has yet to be ascertained. The city has a horrendous history of similar attacks. Not all have been the work of international terrorists. On Black Friday in 1993, the Muslim-dominated underworld was responsible for 15 bomb blasts that killed 250 people and injured 1100 as retaliation over Hindu-Muslim riots. In 2006, seven co-ordinated explosions ripped through trains on Mumbai's crowded commuter train network, killing 180 and injuring hundreds more. This was clearly shown to be the work of LET, which frequently operates through local militant groups, including the Indian Mujaheddin. But it was the audacious November 26, 2008, assault when jihadist commandos arriving from Karachi laid siege to Mumbai for three days, killing 174 and wounding 600, that unequivocally exposed the involvement of LET and the degree to which it is linked to the ISI. Evidence of this has emerged in Indian courts and in a Chicago trial where evidence was given that ISI officials helped plan and fund the assault. Significantly, the latest attacks in Mumbai took place on what is known as Kashmir Martyrs Day

when LET and other jihadists commemorate those killed in the protracted struggle to oust India from its part of the disputed territory, an issue dear to the hearts of Pakistan's military leaders.

Both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have been quick to condemn the Mumbai bombings. Precedent shows, however, that all too often Pakistan's civilian leadership does not have a clue about what the army and the ISI is up to.

The choice for Pakistan's leaders, civilian and military, is clear. If they do not want to come under suspicion whenever attacks occur, they should stop their double-dealing, act against groups such as LET and join the fight against terrorism. They cannot have it both ways. In 2008, there were fears the two nuclear-armed nations would go to war over Mumbai. That is a recurring nightmare, and it is in Pakistan's own interests to rein in groups such as LET before they spark a wider conflict.

India has shown infinite patience in dealing with terrorism originating in Pakistan. So has the rest of the world. That patience is wearing very thin.





FOR those who inhabit a black and white world, deciding what to do about global warming is easy.

Coal is good -- or bad. Nuclear is bad -- or good. Wind power is good -- or ridiculous. On it goes, with zealots choosing sides based on preconceived ideas and eschewing facts that might challenge their views of the world.

Few surprises then in the position the Greens have taken about carbon capture and storage -- technology that captures CO2 from burning coal and stores it underground. A good idea surely, one the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes could cut more than half of all emissions up to the end of the century. But for Greens, anything to do with coal is, ipso facto, bad, which is why Bob Brown blocked CCS from applying for money from Canberra's new $10 billion renewables fund. In a black and white world, even technology that could help the planet is not worth backing if it is not on the Greens' colour chart.

Then again, time heals. CCS is the ugly duckling of carbon dioxide management measures, in the same way that nuclear power was on the outer for decades but is now embraced by some who once trashed it. Consider for a moment the ironies of General Electric being lauded for its work on wind power, when its investment in nuclear power stations was once regarded by green advocates as a reason to boycott it. It is not just climate change that generates dogmatism.The attack on CSIRO genetically modified crops in the ACT yesterday is another example of a blinkered world view that denies the potential for this technology to be used to improve the sustainability of Australian farmers.

In a monochromatic world, carbon dioxide becomes the bad guy of greenhouse gases with rather less attention given to the contribution of methane and even water vapour to global warming. This is not to deny the case against CO2, nor that CCS is still not commercially viable. Simply to note that for some, demonising coal is an article of faith because of its role in industrialisation as much as for its role in global warming.

Coal, ipso facto, is not white, but the Greens show their true colours when they seek to destroy fossil fuels. They should understand that this issue is too important to treat as a medieval morality play pitching the forces of light against the forces of darkness.






JAN Cameron and Graeme Wood have shown that business and the environment are not mutually exclusive.

These wealthy entrepreneurs have snapped up the Gunns Triabunna native forest woodchip export mill for $10 million. This direct action from committed environmentalists promises to create jobs and protect native forests.

If the price was indeed a good deal, then it reflects the acumen of the new owners, whose remarkable track records in business should help them succeed in the wine and tourism development they envisage for the prime site on Tasmania's east coast.

The transaction will hasten the closure of the mill in three to five

years and has angered the state's timber industry, which had expected Triabunna to remain operational for decades as an integral part of the logging industry in southern Tasmania. How the asset is used, however, is a matter for the owners and the timber industry had every chance to buy it from Gunns but failed to do so.

Mr Wood, the creator of the tourism website, and Ms Cameron, founder of the outdoor clothing chain Kathmandu and owner of the Chickenfeed discount stores, support the restructuring of the timber industry to replace logging native forests with plantation growth. They also acknowledge the importance of employment. Their local standing will depend on their ability to provide it.

The terms of sale require them to lease the mill as an export woodchip business consistent with the recent accord between conservationists and timber groups. Longer term, as Tasmania makes the transition away from its over-reliance on logging to other industries, prosperity and jobs will depend on entrepreneurs with the capital and know-how to create and run viable enterprises using the state's comparative advantages.

These are ideal for agriculture and tourism.

Mr Wood and Ms Cameron have recognised the potential of the Triabunna site, which has access to a deep harbour suitable for cruise ships.

Investment in environmentally friendly projects will prove sustainable only if they succeed commercially.

The buyout of the mill, while causing deep anxiety for families that depend on logging for their livelihoods, promises much for Tasmania. The sale reflects the market at work, and we hope that local communities, as well as the environment, stand to benefit.






THE revelations about the conduct of some journalists and editors employed by Rupert Murdoch's News International group in Britain are of great and abiding concern to all right-thinking people, not least journalists and other media companies. The use of phone taps, the practice of hacking, the systematic payoffs to police are deeply abhorrent, immoral and have no place in legitimate media organisations, a fact acknowledged by Murdoch and his executives, including the head of his local operations at News Ltd, John Hartigan.

These practices need to be exposed and rooted out of the industry. They threaten to undermine the trust of the public in journalism and the operations of any media dedicated to holding those in power to account and shining a light on society's dark places.

Some people are taking great delight in watching the house of Murdoch crack, if not crumble, and would be pleased if his local operations were also shown to be infected by a virus born in the now-deceased tabloid, the News of the World. In turn, there has been an ill-advised attempt by News Ltd to smear its local rivals - and the ABC - with suggestions of untoward contacts and snooping. For example, the editor-in-chief of The Australian has accused the Herald and our sister newspaper The Age of being equally guilty of hacking by printing the WikiLeaks material. This is a wild distortion, ignoring the difference between the reception of material of public interest from a whistleblower and the underhanded ferreting out of private and personal information from individuals. For instance, the revelations about the health of the child of the British chancellor and future prime minister only two days after Gordon and Sarah Brown learnt the news themselves, were disgraceful both for the fact they were published at all and for the manner in which we are told they were obtained.

We are fortunate in this country to have a robust, competitive but largely well-behaved media. That is not to say the media are perfect and are not guilty of excess and, at times, poor behaviour. Any viewer of the ABC's Media Watch program or a follower of the rulings of the Australian Press Council will know only too well that the media are not beyond criticism and sanction. But, by and large, Australian journalists err on the side of respect and, despite an overzealous approach to some subjects, fulfil a vital role in the democratic process.

It would be a travesty if, in the absence of evidence, the standing of the local media - and that includes Murdoch's own outlets - was brought to News of the World levels. Further, it would be an act of gross stupidity if News Ltd's attempts to deflect attention from the British tabloid virus in a much larger part of the Murdoch empire ended up lowering the standing of all journalists.

So far, Hartigan has taken the moral high ground, ordering an investigation into payments by his newspapers over the past three years. He has also made a sensible and laudable statement about the events in Britain. He now has a duty to ensure that the people under him remain consistent with that even-handed approach.

Any media organisation that wishes to gain and hold the respect of its readers and viewers knows that it is duty-bound by a code of ethics. In turn, most journalists in this country are well aware of the rules and limitations surrounding their daily work.

At Fairfax, we have several such codes, developed over the years to assist employees to do their job - and do the right thing. The Herald has not tapped anyone's telephones. Our code of ethics states we do not pay for stories. We have, however, employed a private detective on one occasion in recent years, to help find the Caroline Byrne murder suspect Gordon Wood in Europe. This was a public service.

Fairfax Media's code of conduct has a preamble which asks all employees to consider the following questions as they undertake assignments: "Would I be proud of what

I have done? Is it legal? Is it consistent with Fairfax's values, principles and policies? Do I think it's the right thing to do? What will the consequences be for my colleagues, Fairfax, other parties, and me? Are my actions transparent? Is there anyone else who I should make aware of my actions? What would be the reaction of my family and friends if they were to find out? What would happen if my conduct was reported in a rival publication? What would be the impact if rumours started with our stakeholders or employees that Fairfax was engaged in this practice? Do my actions put anyone's health and safety at risk?"

We aspire to those standards every working day. We understand that unfairness can sometimes be caused in the fast-moving business of news gathering and deadlines. We expect to be scrutinised as vigorously as we put others under the spotlight. But we would wary of initiatives to use the offences of Murdoch's British operations to impose new controls and penalties that could be misused. A free, vigorous and accountable media is essential in a democracy. It may be time to have another look at media practice in Australia. A Senate inquiry may be valid; but it may also do nothing more than provide a forum for aggrieved politicians. The stories coming out of Britain make for uneasy reading - and do give everyone in the media a reason to reflect. But the experience in Britain should not be used to damn all media, in all parts of the world.





THE traditional image of the public library is that of a hushed space lined with bookshelves and furnished with cubicles where budding authors toil away on debut manuscripts under vintage desk-lamps. The reality, of course, is that public libraries have long been so much more - they are important community hubs where people can not only borrow books and seek a quiet place to study or write, but attend free workshops and talks, borrow music and movies, and use fax machines and photocopiers. They can also hire meeting rooms, join bookclubs, play video games, find out about other services in their area, and, crucially, use the internet and other new technologies, such as electronic readers, that they may not otherwise be able to afford.

In fact, as big book chains close and expensive digital technologies proliferate, libraries are becoming increasingly relevant as information hubs and social spaces, especially for people who may be on lower incomes such as pensioners and students. In particular, the recent closures of Borders and Angus & Robertson bookstores seem to be driving a resurgence of public library use in regional centres.

In Geelong, which no longer has a sizeable bookstore, one in three people are library users, and the number is growing. Patty Manolis, the chief executive of the Geelong Regional Library Corporation, has described the rise in library use in the past year as ''amazing''. While she believes it is too early to say just how influential the loss of bookstores has been on this growth, she notes that library use of electronic books and the digital press is also rising exponentially. There are plans for three libraries to open in the growth centre of Geelong and surrounds in the next six months, and all three will offer newspapers both on iPad and in print.

At a time when Victoria's libraries are expanding and evolving to meet growing community demand, and Melbourne is declared a City of Literature, it seems logical that libraries should receive adequate funding. Instead, the opposite is happening - Victoria's public libraries are facing funding cuts which could see their opening hours reduced, internet services pared back, projects dropped, and jobs lost. The Baillieu government is slashing funding to public libraries, and these cuts will leave councils with an estimated $5.7 million less to spend on libraries over the next four years. Understandably, councils are deeply concerned about these cuts, particularly councils that encompass areas with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage and lower than average numbers of people with computers at home.

It is ironic that the Baillieu government's decision has come to light during the school holidays, a time when many public libraries are busy running free programs for children and teenagers, from computer lessons to ''wizard crafts'' in celebration of the final Harry Potter film release.

It is ironic too that someone whose surname is ''Baillieu'' and whose ancestor was financier and politician William Lawrence Baillieu should take such action against public libraries. The University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library owes its existence to the William Lawrence Baillieu Trust, which in 1944 provided £105,000 towards its establishment. There is also a marked hypocrisy to the Baillieu government's stance. When in opposition, the Coalition railed against Labor's ''miserable'' 19.9 per cent contribution to the overall cost of running public library services. This figure has fallen to 19.2 per cent, and the Baillieu government's latest cuts will see it fall further.

When politicians talk about wanting to build strong communities, they need to think about the services and mechanisms that foster social well-being. Libraries are indisputably, and, it appears, increasingly, part of that mechanism.





THE tidal wave of outrage at the British phone-hacking scandal is causing ripples across the world. British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a public inquiry that could lead to News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch having to answer questions about the conduct of his editors and journalists. In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she is open to Greens leader Bob Brown's proposal for an inquiry into local media practices, ownership and ethics.

The erosion of public trust has been enough to prompt the chairman of News's Australian media division, John Hartigan, to order an internal investigation to establish whether all payments over the past three years by domestic outlets, including the Herald Sun and The Australian, have been legitimate. In this context, it is understandable that many people will be questioning media standards in general; all journalists are on notice.

From The Age's point of view, this is not a bad thing. Quality journalism cannot exist without an ethical compass. The journalists and staff of this newspaper are bound by a comprehensive code of conduct that has long been available for the world to see. Not every situation can be foreseen, but the Fairfax code of conduct poses a dozen questions that would have ruled out the unethical and illegal behaviour that has been exposed in Britain. These include: ''Would I be proud of what I have done? Is it legal? Is it consistent with Fairfax's values, principles and policies? Do I think it's the right thing to do?'' and critically, in the context of information obtained by phone hacking, ''Are my actions transparent?''. In other words, was the means of obtaining the information disclosed?

The Age expects to be subjected to scrutiny just as it scrutinises others. We cannot help noticing, though, that News Limited has chosen this time to devote attention to The Age's legitimate reporting of political parties' use of databases of private information about voters. The false accusation of hacking reeks of a diversionary tactic. The Age's journalists acquired the information through a whistleblower with access to the Labor Party database. The articles were transparent in informing readers about these circumstances.

Newspapers and other media stand or fall by their journalistic integrity, as the defunct News of the World found out after it, by its own admission, ''lost its way''. The British experience should not automatically damn all media. Quality journalism brings many benefits to society, from exposing corruption and wrongdoing to leading essential democratic debates.







The government took a tiny decline in last year's birth statistics as an excuse for putting off recruiting more midwives

In January last year, when David Cameron may just have known he was going to be a dad again, the future prime minister penned a brief opinion piece arguing that every mother should be able to give birth in a relaxed local setting instead of what he dismissed as "one of Labour's baby factories". He promised to increase the number of midwives by 3,000 and he proposed putting them in charge of a network of birthing centres bringing together all maternity services. The script might have been written by the Royal College of Obstetricians. Yesterday they produced a report arguing for all of the above. The report also makes a persuasive case for a new approach to women's health. But however sympathetic Mr Cameron sounded in January 2010, it is not likely to influence government health policy anytime soon.

For a start, the government took a tiny decline in last year's birth statistics as an excuse for putting off recruiting more midwives. Unfortunately, this year's figures show the number of births resuming its upward trajectory. According to the Royal College of Midwives, the service is already 25% below what's needed. There are lots of midwives in training, just no jobs for them to go to. These figures are an important backdrop to the cosy headlines calling for more home births. Home births and births in maternity-led units involve low-risk mothers – and fewer midwives.

The royal college wants to provide a high and uniform quality of health care for every woman in Britain. That means big changes in the way it is organised. The report paints a devastating picture of uneven standards, where survival rates from cervical and ovarian cancer can be three times higher in some areas than others. The use of emergency caesarians is equally varied. Most depressingly, the rate of perinatal mortality is improving too slowly to catch up with the best in Europe: 6.8 deaths per 1,000 births here, against only 4.7 in Spain or 3.2 in Austria, suggests there is plenty of scope to do it better.

And even if the improvements envisaged by the report could be delivered within the diminishing NHS budget, at its core is a large stick of political dynamite. In an era of more older mothers, with more underlying health problems, and significantly more multiple births, there is a strong case for concentrating scarce resources in centres of excellence where consultant care is always available. A centre of excellence sounds much nicer than a baby factory. But it still spells closure for many much-loved maternity units, and it means local political battles in which arguments in favour of the de-medicalisation of birth will look suspiciously like a justification for NHS cuts.





The Cornish coastguard station has a unique standing

For nearly 200 years the coastguards, founded to keep down smugglers, have been keeping up endangered seafarers. The next couple of months sees the high-summer peak in demand as hundreds of people are brought safe ashore, rescued from ill-judged cliff climbs, beach walks taken in ignorance of the tides and sea voyages abruptly ended by submerged objects. Yesterday, the government recognised that its plans to slash the service, leaving just three stations around the UK operating all day every day, while many others were closed altogether, were simply too risky. Not every station has been reprieved: Brixham, whose MP Sheryll Murray lost her fisherman husband in March, will still close despite warnings of more deaths. But around the world those who like messing around in boats will send out a cheer at the news that (relatively) nearby Falmouth has seen off the transport secretary Philip Hammond's plans to end 24-hour service. The Cornish coastguard station has a unique standing as the UK coordinator for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety system. Whether it's a teenager in trouble off Bali texting her boyfriend in Scotland to call Falmouth for help, a family sinking 300 miles off South Georgia, three people in trouble off Sri Lanka, or earlier this month, the 15-man crew of a tanker in the North Arabian Sea, Falmouth is there to coordinate a rescue, patch your call through to a doctor or simply call your mum to tell her you are still alive.





The Murdoch family's doomed attempt to snub the culture committee was shocking in its arrogance and an ingenious attempt to exploit the multiplicity of investigations

Lord Justice Leveson is by all accounts a clever and persistent man, good at picking his way through detail and resistant to sweeping declarations of intent. This is all to the good. The inquiry he is about to head into phone hacking and media standards will demand a rigorous focus. Its draft terms of reference are extraordinarily broad; a weak chair would soon become lost amid the many demands being placed on his panel and his investigation might become tangled in the long grass. A cynic might even wonder if that was not the expectation.

Reporting to two different cabinet ministers on two different timescales, he has been asked both to "inquire into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press" and "the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International and other newspaper organisations". He has also been tasked with inquiring "into the extent to which the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in such misconduct". All this must happen, remember, while the police conduct their own parallel investigations and prosecutors consider their findings. On top of that two parliamentary committees – stung by their own past inadequacies – are competing to summon witnesses. The Murdoch family's doomed attempt to snub the culture committee ("Mr Murdoch regrets, he is unable to appear today...") was at the same time shocking in its arrogance and an ingenious attempt to exploit the multiplicity of investigations.

After the cover-up comes the deluge. This must not be a repeat of Iraq, in which three extra inquiries gradually uncovered the truth, but in a way which has left those responsible unscathed and the law unaffected. Is the Leveson inquiry intended to produce new law? To be a forum for uncovering what went wrong? Or a forum for apology? It can be all these things, but most of all it must operate from clear principles about the sort of media this country wants and the freedoms it should be allowed.

Nick Clegg had a go at defining the principles in a speech calling for "freedom, accountability, plurality". He traced the disgrace of the News of the World to a "fundamentally corrupted relationship between politics, the media, and the police". That's true, but identifying the problem is not the same as agreeing on a cure. Every MP now purports to think that the Murdochs are too powerful and that hacking was a disgrace. Some may be tempted to impose heavy regulatory restrictions on the media as a result. Many, after all, want revenge for the press's role in exposing their expenses – using a stolen computer disc bought by the Daily Telegraph. But good journalism is not the same as journalism that keeps people in power happy. Indeed, it is the opposite.

The Sunday Times, for instance, investigated the abuse of expenses in the House of Lords. The Guardian pursued BAE over bribery, to the fury of Tony Blair. Panorama exposed corruption surrounding the football world cup. The News of the World, even, reported on abuses inside the Pakistan cricket team. All of these reports might have fallen foul of ill-judged media regulation. It is easy in theory, but not practice, to define what is appropriate. Sir Brian Leveson will have to take care that his panel protects and extends genuine media diversity, by breaking up oligarchies: between News International and politicians of both parties, for instance, or between the News of the World and the Metropolitan police.

Mr Clegg quoted Baldwin's warning that the press exercised "power without responsibility". In response, note the less-familiar words the Guardian editor CP Scott used before his famous comment about facts. "The newspaper is of necessity something of a monopoly, and its first duty is to shun the temptations of monopoly. Its primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted."






The Bank of Japan's tankan economic survey for June, released in early July, shows that the economy was in bad shape that month but expects that it will rebound in September.

But attention should be paid to factors that may hamper economic recovery, including power shortages.

Reflecting the effect of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the diffusion index (DI) — the percentage of companies expecting a good prospect minus the percentage of companies expecting a bad prospect — for major manufacturers was minus 9 for June, or 15 points down from March, the first dip in 15 months.

But the DI for three months later is plus 2, pointing to better conditions.

The June DI for the auto industry was minus 52, or a fall of 75 points from March, the biggest drop since the tankan survey started in November 1992. But the DI for three months later is plus 6, showing a dramatic upturn.

While the June figures reflect the negative effects of the March 11 disasters, those for three months later show that the restoration of supply chains for parts and components is accelerating economic activities.

Capital investment planned by large enterprises in all industries for fiscal 2011 is 4.2 percent higher than the corresponding investment in fiscal 2010. Large enterprises are looking forward to an increase in demand as the reconstruction of the devastated areas makes progress.

The BOJ's report on regional economic activities shows that production and personal consumption are picking up, including the areas hit by the disasters.

However, the expansion of economic activities is partly supported by special budgetary measures taken by the central and local governments in the wake of the March 11 disasters, as well as by companies that have increased the rate of operations to mitigate emergencies. If these factors are eliminated, economic recovery may hit a snag.

The newly introduced stress tests that are to be conducted on the nation's nuclear power facilities may further decrease energy supplies.

Yet increased interest in green energy sources and power-saving efforts can offer new business opportunities for innovative enterprises. The government should create policies that will help invigorate such businesses.





Not a man to let last summer's costly failure to land the 2016 Summer Olympics deter him, Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced on July 5 at a reconstruction seminar that Tokyo is ready to host the 2020 Games "at any cost." Mr. Ishihara claims that hosting the games would contribute to Japan's recovery from the March 11 disasters and showcase it before the world.

While all means of accelerating the rebuilding of the disaster-struck region should be pursued with vigor, not only do Tokyo's chances of winning the bid appear to be slim, but also it's questionable whether hosting the 2020 Games in Tokyo would accomplish this objective.

If Tokyo goes ahead with its bid it will face a steep and expensive uphill battle. It may be true, as some observers claim, that Japan's desire to host the games to showcase its recovery from 3/11 would garner empathy from many members of the International Olympic Committee.

Such sentiment, however, would likely be outweighed by the selection of Pyeongchang, South Korea, to host the 2018 Winter Games, as the IOC generally refrains from holding consecutive games in the same region.

Following Pyeongchang's selection, some IOC members reportedly stated that Japan should consider bidding for the 2024 or 2028 games instead. Given that Tokyo's failed bid for the 2016 games cost the capital's taxpayers ¥20 billion, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government should not simply plow ahead while claiming — as Gov. Ishihara recently did — that the decision to hold the 2018 Olympics in South Korea "has nothing to do with us." It should carefully weigh the odds — and public sentiment — before making a final decision.

It's also debatable whether hosting the games in Japan's capital would have a significantly beneficial impact on reconstruction efforts in the devastated areas of Tohoku.

The Japan Olympic Committee has stated that events such as soccer could be held in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures — but would the funds generated by such events outweigh the costs of preparing for them, and would the construction of sports facilities be the most effective way to advance the region's recovery?

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government says that it has ¥400 billion in a reserve fund that can be used for Olympics-related purposes. It should keep in mind that as Tokyo taxpayers ultimately foot the bill for this fund, it should be used in a manner that brings them the greatest benefit.

During its 2016 Olympic bid, the metropolitan government stated that hosting the Olympics would have an economic ripple effect of ¥1.56 trillion for Tokyo and ¥2.83 trillion for the nation as a whole. It should publish data that can support this claim and convince the public that it would be better to spend ¥400 billion on an Olympiad rather than use it to fund projects that would directly improve Tokyo residents' quality of life, such as improving medical services — which have been slashed by the Ishihara administration — building more day-care centers and expanding the use of green energy.






HONG KONG — Henry Kissinger has distilled many words of wisdom from four millennia of Chinese civilization, and several centuries of Western diplomacy, including almost half a century of personal experience at the sharp end of power politics. He has captured headlines and captivated some of the world's best commentating minds with his 580-page book "On China."

Most reviews and comments have been favorable, though professor Andrew Nathan in the upcoming Foreign Affairs neatly dismisses the tome as "really neither history nor memoir. Its purpose is to argue that the United States should yield gracefully to China's rise in order to avoid a tragic conflict."

This month marks 40 years since Kissinger feigned sickness in Pakistan and made a secret flight to China to pave the way for President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the country the following year. For me, Kissinger's biggest failure is what he omits.

By the fawning way he used Pakistan as his launchpad, Kissinger's diplomacy was also helping to perpetrate one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, the slaughter of about 1.5 million people and the flight of 10 million refugees whose only crime was to express their wish for democracy through the ballot box and peaceful protests.

Yet, there is no mention in the book, not a sentence of regret, not a word of apology, not even a passing note that the bloody birth of Bangladesh was brought about because Kissinger, reaching out to China, simultaneously encouraged the Pakistan military to butcher the people of East Pakistan, as it then was. It is their tragic 40th anniversary, too.

To set out the facts, in December 1970 the Bengalis of East Pakistan, separated by 1,600 km of Indian territory from West Pakistan, where the military lived and ruled, voted overwhelmingly in the freest and fairest elections Pakistan had seen for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Awami League, which stood on a platform of greater autonomy — not independence — from West Pakistan.

The Awami League won 160 of the 162 seats from East Pakistan, giving it an overall majority in the 300-member constituent assembly for Pakistan.

For the next three months there was deadlock as President General Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of the People's Party, which had majorities in two of the four provinces of West Pakistan, played obstructionist games about the terms on which the assembly would meet to arrange a new civilian constitution.

The deadlock was broken when Yahya sent troops to arrest Mujib and his key lieutenants and let the army loose on East Pakistan. Tanks were sent to deal with Dhaka University students, who had been active in protests against the military regime. The army set fire to apartments and then mowed down their fleeing occupants. The military reign of terror spread far and wide beyond the cities. The World Bank said whole villages had just ceased to exist.

By all eyewitness accounts the soldiers conducted mass murder and rape. Estimates of the dead range up to 3 million. About 200,000 women were raped and almost 10 million Bengalis fled to refugee camps in India.

One gruesome picture showed a bloated crow hopping on piles of corpses, its glittering eye contrasting with the bulging sightless eyes of the dead.

The rest of the world condemned the atrocities and sent aid for the refugees. Nixon and Kissinger said nothing but kept supplying aid, including military aid, to West Pakistan and encouraged other countries to divert military hardware to Pakistan when public opinion and Congress tried to block U.S. military deliveries. Kissinger sent a message to Yahya praising his "delicacy and tact" in Operation Searchlight, as the Pakistan Army called the crackdown. In July 1971, Kissinger objected to the idea that the Pakistan army should get out of civilian administration in East Pakistan to help the relief efforts, claiming, "Why is it our business how they govern themselves?"

Archer Blood, the U.S. consul-general in East Pakistan, and his entire staff were so appalled at the callous attitude of their own government that, in April, Blood sent the rightly famous eponymous cable of dissent: "Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities ... Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy ... But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state..."

For his courage, Blood was called a "pansy" by Kissinger, silenced, recalled early and transferred.

Kissinger continued to support Yahya and the Pakistan military through thick and thin, beyond the need for Pakistan's good offices in opening the door to China. As war between Pakistan and India, strained by the costs of housing and feeding the refugees, loomed toward the end of 1971, Kissinger was urging China not to be "a silent spectator" at the impending dismemberment of its ally Pakistan.

Kissinger was wrong at almost every turn, even if he could justify the murder and mayhem of Bengali civilians, women and children to satisfy his diplomatic ego.

He was wrong to see India or Indira Gandhi as a Soviet stooge. Whatever her many faults, Gandhi was never anyone's stooge, and anyone with any understanding of India would see in it a civilization as rich and historic as China's.

He was wrong, and insulting to both countries, to imagine that East Pakistan "would become a Bhutan" — how shallow to compare a tiny Himalayan kingdom with a teeming country of 100 million people in the floodplain of the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers.

He was wrong to assume that India would move on with Soviet backing to carve up West Pakistan and upset the political balance of the whole area as far as the Middle East.

He was wrong to regard Bangladesh as an eternal "basket-case" economy that would forever need foreign aid, although the original expression was not his.

Bangladesh will struggle to reach middle-income status, but is on the way there. Bangladeshis are proving that they may not be as intelligent as Kissinger, but they are brighter, more economically productive and less destructive than Pakistani generals.

He was wrong to support the Pakistan military. It is a mystery how someone as intelligent as Kissinger could support a group so stubborn and stupid as the top Pakistani generals under Yahya Khan. By doing so, he set the precedent for military might as a substitute for political negotiations, for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to disregard the wishes of the electorates in Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province, and later for the army to overthrow and execute Bhutto.

If the United States had persuaded Yahya Khan to concede autonomy and even independence to East Bengal, then it would have saved the deaths and devastation of one of the world's poorest areas that had been damaged by decades of misrule by the Pakistan military. It would have improved America's standing in the world, boosted its relations with India and changed the culture in Pakistan.

Perhaps then, the whole history of Pakistan's troubled frontier areas with Afghanistan would have been changed before Islamic extremists appeared on the scene.

Equally dangerously, a few years later in the mid-1970s Kissinger missed the signals coming from Afghanistan. Afghanistan's then President Sardar Mohammed Dauod gave me an interview, pleading for renewed American interest and investment to counteract the Soviet economic domination that Daoud himself had originally encouraged.

If he talked to a small-fry newspaper editor — I was founder-editor of Business Times in Malaysia — Daoud must have tried to get the message out to people who could influence politics and investment flows.

Was Kissinger asleep or just dreaming of his global realpolitik that he missed a chance to effect a practical change to a dangerous world?

Daoud was overthrown in 1978 by leftists who were a precursor to Soviet-backed communist rule, and to the creation of U.S.-fomented Islamic rebels using Pakistan as a base and Pakistan army and intelligence and U.S. supplies as their weapons. The rest is not merely history, but continues to haunt the whole world today.

Dr. Realpolitik Kissinger, in defiance of all the proud traditions of his adopted country, did not give a damn about democracy. He will no doubt reply that "On China" is about China, the differences between Chinese diplomacy based on the game of wei qi, which teaches the art of strategic encirclement, rather than chess (which Kissinger should know originated in India, 13 centuries before Clausewitz), with its concepts of clashes and total victory, and his meandering meetings with Chinese leaders over the past 40 years, and definitely not about Bengalis who got in the way.

But what is diplomacy that does not have regard for the people it affects, and who are diplomats who regard millions of victims as mere collateral damage?

Kissinger may not be the monster who was Mao Zedong, responsible for 40 million to 70 million deaths of his Chinese comrades. But it would have been good if in his declining years Kissinger had been humble enough to acknowledge and apologize to those whose lives he blighted by his pursuit of power.

Kevin Rafferty covered the East Pakistan cyclone and 1970 elections and the Bangladesh war of 1971 for the Financial Times.






People can either publicly or privately deny any wrongdoings they are accused of. However, once an accusation is legally formulated and openly revealed in a court proceeding, there is no such escape strategy for them — they have to prove their innocence in court.

The same strategy should also be valid for a number of persons whose names were implicated during the opening session of the Southeast Asian Games bribery scandal trial at the Corruption Court in Jakarta on Wednesday. They include Democratic Party members Angelina Sondakh and Mirwan Amir, and I Wayan Koster of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

In public, the three have repeatedly denied their involvement in the scandal as alleged by former treasurer of the Democratic Party, Muhammad Nazaruddin — the man at the center of the scandal — through limited communication via Blackberry Messenger with several media outlets. But their names, plus South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin, were mentioned by Mohamad El Idris, the first defendant standing trial for the scandal, in the indictment prepared by prosecutors of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

The defendant, who is the marketing manager for PT Duta Graha Indah (DGI), the winner of a contract to construct the athletes' village for the SEA Games in Palembang, South Sumatra, was indicted for bribing Nazaruddin and Youth and Sports Ministry secretary Wafid Muharram.

It has become obvious that Angelina, Mirwan and Koster cannot hide behind the legal loopholes anymore, especially when the allegations had been verbally launched by Nazaruddin, who is at large, and had never been legally documented as required by the Criminal Code Procedures (KUHAP). The three, however, will remain free persons unless the KPK, which is solely handling the investigation into the scandal, takes the initiative to investigate them.

There have been surprising developments during the prosecution of the scandal. Logically, the KPK should not hesitate nor have any doubts about taking the initiative to continue with investigations into persons already implicated by court testimonies.

Such initiatives are necessary in order to uncover the truth behind the scandal, particularly to net and prosecute all persons who are allegedly responsible for or involved in it. And according to media reports, Nazaruddin had also implicated many other persons, including Democratic Party officials whose ranks are higher than Angelina and Mirwan and high-ranking officers at the National Police headquarters.

It is true that the KPK is preparing cases against Nazaruddin, Wafid and another suspect, Mindo Rosalina Manullang, the marketing director of broker company PT Anak Negeri that was founded by Nazaruddin. And there is a strong possibility that the defendants might reveal in court the involvement of other persons in the scandal.

So far, the KPK has yet to name more suspects despite the revelation by Nazaruddin. The anticorruption commission has become famous for its solicitous approach in each of its maneuvers prior to declaring suspects, so as to prevent its investigations from being halted due to lack of evidence. But once the defendants in the future court proceedings implicate more names in the scandal, the anticorruption commission should not hesitate to follow them up with an investigation.

The scope of the investigations might be expanded with the possible involvement of high-ranking officials in the republic. This might prove to be a bitter pill for all of us to swallow, but such a thorough investigation is necessary to quell corruption, once and for all.






The career of the late Zainuddin MZ, known as a preacher to a million followers, tells us about another side of Indonesian Muslims' religiosity.

Indonesians are fond of religious preachers. Religion, and religious piety, has dominated the public for a long time. Religion is a vital element to control Indonesian politics.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Indonesia witnessed several religious preachers who came and went. Good fortune sided with those who entertained the public with religious jargon and terms. These preachers mixed the ingredients of religious advice and humor, which were easily understood by Indonesians.

From the 1980s to the early 1990s, Zainuddin was a rising star. His speeches were broadcast on radio and TV, and were recorded in cassettes and CDs, which are still widely sold. Nobody could mistake Zainuddin's voice — the ways in which he greeted the audience, told funny jokes, and closed speeches.

Additionally, some preachers were often critical of the New Order regime. I still remember that when I was in senior high school, a mosque in my village had difficulty getting permission from the local authority to invite a preacher, who had a reputation for his harsh criticism of the New Order regime's policies on Islam.

Indeed, Soeharto was careful about "political Islam" and any seeds of radicalism, which might endanger the government. Police often monitored religious ceremonies. Religious preachers were often accused of inciting hatred against the government. Any use of religion in public was deemed dangerous.

On the other hand, religious speeches were indeed essential elements in various Islamic ceremonies, such as the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (Maulid), memorizing the day the Koran was sent down to earth (Nuzul al-Qur'an), and the evening journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem and the heavens (Isra Mi'raj).

As far as the public is concerned, Syukran Makmun came prior to Zainuddin's fame. But Makmun's hoarse voice is often monotonous. His jokes are not always funny. By contrast, Zainuddin successfully managed his tone. He created many amusing anecdotes.

Zainuddin's career is perhaps comparable only to that of Abdullah Gymnastiar, aka Aa Gym, who, unlike Makmun and Zainuddin, was not trained at a traditional religious boarding school (pesantren).

Besides Aa Gym's charisma, and his calm and tranquil performances on the stage that charmed Indonesian Muslims, particularly women, the media contributed greatly to Aa Gym's success. Indeed, it is the media and method, not particularly the message, which played a vital role in Aa Gym's public show.

Whereas Zainuddin's speeches often contained theological and complicated religious matter, Aa Gym's messages are often modest, humble and plain, dealing mostly with ordinary daily life.

Later generations of public religious preachers, from Arifin Ilham, Hariyanto, Yusuf Mansur, Mamah Dede, Jefry al Bukhori, to Maulana, more or less walked in Aa Gym's footsteps. Instead of religious messages, most of them exploited the media to cover their stage performances.

Religious sermons, like soap operas, comedy shows, and other TV programs, have turned out to be public entertainment.

Note that the media, which raised the figure of Aa Gym, also caused his tragic fall. His second marriage, which cannot be accepted by his first wife, was blown up. Thus, the media played a critical role in the rise and fall of
Indonesian religious preachers.

The role of religious preachers in the Indonesian public domain indicates that the people still deemed oral traditions as higher than reading. To listen to preachers giving speeches entails less effort than reading books. In various ceremonies, religious speeches were important elements that some people enjoyed. They seemed thirsty for religious advice and humorous anecdotes. Struggling with their own hard lives, they wanted to listen to the stories of an eternal comfortable life in paradise in the hereafter.

However, not only do most preachers undermine life in this world — which is indeed temporary — compared to the eternal world after life, they also ridiculed science, logic and reason. On the pulpits, many preachers challenged scientific discoveries, which, according to their belief, were untenable. They then called upon the audience to return to "piety" and religious dogma. They stressed that human reasoning can never surpass religion.

Indeed, religious speeches have nurtured conservatism, fundamentalism and even radicalism.

Many commentators and pundits have so far concluded that radicalism is not an indigenous character of Indonesian Islam. Many have pinpointed that radicalism in the country came from outside influences brought by transnational organizations and networks, such as the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI).

However, we should not neglect the role of religious preachers' messages broadcast for more than three decades on radios and TVs every day. People are used to listening to religious dogma, which they prefer to logic and reasoning.

The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.






I don't usually remember the content of Friday sermons, but somehow this particular sermon during Friday prayers in the bustling city of Bandung was different.

The preacher was lecturing about the virtue of honesty and asked a question that has lingered in my mind to this day. His question was: "Can ill-gotten wealth be considered as good fortune [rezeki]?"

As the preacher continued with his sermon, my mind drifted back to the days when I was a high school student.

I remembered one evening, it was nearing 8 p.m. and I was heading toward the bus station in Blok M, South Jakarta.

I remember seeing a rubbish cart on the pavement but something next to it made me stop dead in my tracks. Beside the cart, sheltered from the cold night wind, I saw a mother feeding her two young children.

I stopped and kept my distance from them, protected by the darkness of the night, to observe this heart-breaking sight.

I saw the mother hand-feeding a plate of rice and a small piece of meat to the mouths of her hungry children. I could see and feel through the children's eyes the daily pain and suffering they had to

Each mouthful of rice they swallowed had given them the hope of coping and surviving yet another day. "God bless this mother and her children. Give them the strength to survive and provide them with the happy lives they deserve," I prayed quietly to myself.

It is state funds, originally allocated for people like that mother, that corrupt thieves in this country have stolen to maintain their lavish lifestyles or fraudulent agendas. I want them to see the eyes of these children every time they line their pockets with their dirty money.

I gave the mother Rp 5,000 (58 US cents), with the sincere hope of lessening her burden. That was all I could do.

After the sermon, I picked up a newspaper at a street corner that once again reminded me of all the corruption and stealing taking place in this country.

Each person in power tries to be righteous by denying any wrongdoing and accusing others as common criminals.

The words of the preacher started to make perfect sense of what is happening around us today.

Looking at the picture in the newspaper of a corrupt tax employee being led away by state prosecutors, I wondered what was going through his mind.

Did he honestly think he could escape the law and live happily ever after without a single care in the world? Even if he did manage to evade the law, how would he feel, as a low-level civil servant, to be riding a car fit for a president? Dark-tinted car windows would be required to hide his shame, if he has any.

Don't get me wrong. Money is important and I would love to have lots of it as long as it is rightfully mine! I personally believe that the Laws of Nature never rest and will always maintain the universal balance in life.

Every action one does must be based on good faith and good intentions. Not the perfect traits for any politician but I truly believe that eventually honest officials and politicians will prevail.

The people can sense the sincerity and the positive energy emitting from honest politicians and thus give their support and, most importantly, their blessing.

Take the case of the two people who were arrested and are currently being tried for selling iPads without proper Indonesian instruction manuals via the Internet. According to the charges, these people have violated the Consumer Protection Law and Telecommunications Law.

I suspect the original intention of the "sting" operation was to extort free iPads but when the scenario failed to go as planned, the police had no choice but to continue the role as impeccable enforcers of the law while, at the same time, unwittingly becoming the laughing stock of society.

Again, please execute this sting operation in good faith and with good intentions. By doing so, you can read the Consumer Protection Law and other relevant laws with better clarity.

Otherwise, you will be chastised by the same society you are supposed to serve and protect.

Can you imagine, as a result of this case, if I sell my old German car, I will get eight years in prison because the manual is in German! What kind of society are we creating who fear the arbitrary use of criminal charges by their government?

This country has serious problems and needs serious people to resolve them. Every day we read about a government busy with its internal strife but hardly any news about its achievements in running the country. The time has come to stop all this nonsense.

No more comedians or pseudo-intellectuals getting valuable air time on television, expressing their absurd opinions. No more people with lack of integrity holding high offices. No more indecisiveness from our leaders.

We need to bring back honest politicians, honest law enforcers and honest people and I truly believe the day will come when this country shall again be a great and respected country as it is destined to be!

To answer the preacher's question, ill-gotten wealth can never be considered as good fortune (rezeki) because you will lose it as easily as you stole it.

God Bless Indonesia!

The writer is a graduate of the School of Law, University of Indonesia, and currently working in the telecommunications sector.






Ibn Arabi, a great Sufi master, once said: "My heart became an image of every picture; it is the place for a Dervish to dance; it is a monastery for a monk to learn.

"It is a house for all or none to worship. It is a Ka'ba to make the pilgrimage. It is the ten commitments of Thora, it is the holy Koran — my religion is the religion of love. Wherever I direct my face it is love to God."

Yunus Emre, a Sufi teacher in 13th-century Turkey, also taught: "Love is like the shining sun; a heart without love is nothing more than a stone."

"Love to all, malice to none," Mu'inuddin Chisti (1141-1230), the celebrated Sufi saint from India, advised his students.

Only through that way, according to the founder of the Chisti Sufi order, can we "develop river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality".

These Sufi words are not only inspiring, they are everlastingly fragrant, heaven-sent, and represent the force of moderation and tolerance in Islam.

Very popular in the past, such inspiring words can scarcely be heard in the public sphere of the contemporary Islamic world, however.

The stage of the contemporary Islamic world, dominated by an increasing influence of Wahhabism, is currently more preoccupied with hedonism, politics, legalism and outer forms of Islam.

The Islamic world is lessened and engulfed by the struggle to enforce Islamic law; fatwas from ulema institutions; challenges to local practices as being anti-Islamic; and attempts to prove other Muslims as blasphemous or non-Muslims as non-believers.

Inner enlightenment and growth of conscience are suppressed in the name of religious authenticity and textualism. The world needs the wisdom of the Sufi.

Sufism is more concerned with the unity of being, the oneness of humanity and oneness within the "Light of the Divine", rather than with political unity.

Sufism emphasizes the contents rather than the cloth, communitarianism rather than individualism, humanity rather than identity, love rather than hatred.

"The Sufis' main goal," according to Syaikh Hisyam Kabbani, a Sufi teacher in America, "was never to become the leaders of a country but rather to become its social workers."

Within the deep thirst for spiritual enlightenment, it is very pleasing that the wisdom of Sufism, with its fragrance of the ancients, will scent Jakarta this month. Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, will host an international Sufi meeting July 15-17, 2011.

From this meeting, we hope there is something we can do to counter the emptiness, violence, ecological destruction, greed and corruption that currently work hand-in-hand to destroy the planet. It is also to be hoped that an alternative will be offered to the practice of public Islam, which is currently trapped in the authoritarian concept of religion.

The public expression of Islam not only fails to enlighten people but also impoverishes people from their humanness. Public Islam lacks tender-heartedness and fails to respect the sacredness of life. Public Islam also fails to prevent people from becoming corrupt.

Islam, as expressed in the public sphere, is left only as a form, without substance. It is within such a spiritual vacuum that hatred, suspicion and fundamentalism escalate.

The loving message of Sufism can offer freshness to the Islamic world and the current world order. Sufism, defined as the esoteric form of Islam, is the core of Islam. Its essence is self-purification, the training of the heart so that it is able to experience, feel and listen to the Divine presence.

At the core of Sufi teaching is the belief that God is ever-present in everything. This understanding makes a Sufi respect the sacredness of every life form on earth. Sufis believe that only from a steady connection with the Divine — not thought — can the self grow and achieve enlightenment.

As Rumi, a great Sufi master, once described: the Divine is like the Ocean and the self is like used water. Only through entering the Ocean, can used water be purified.

Nowadays in the Islamic world, the used water has become disconnected from the Ocean and is continually reused. Be aware, therefore, that behind the noisiness of the current Islamic resurgence is spiritual emptiness; separated from Divine presence, Islam is left merely skin-deep.

Sufism invites us to fullness and meaningfulness. Through training our hearts, it allows our spiritual connection to love and consciousness flourish.

Far from the principles of Sufism, the oil-rich Islamic countries indulge in hedonistic lifestyles. They show little solidarity toward the rest of the Islamic world and the problems facing humanity.

They think that they can perform Islam formally and abandon the connection to the Divine. In the separation of self from the Divine, ego rules.

Four crises are facing the contemporary world: a lack of inner peace and meaningfulness of life; ecological destruction; protracted conflicts and wars; and corruption. All four are created by greed and the tyranny of the ego.

In the effort to reconnect to the Divine, Wahhabism offers nothing except dry doctrine. Mouth mentions God, but heart worships worldliness. It cannot offer a solution because it puts thought, blanketed with scriptural quotations, on everything.

It fails to nurture love and respect toward those living "outside the fence". In contrast, Sufism uses wisdom of thought to awaken the wisdom of the interior, and uses that interior wisdom to feel the Divine presence.

Feeling the Divine presence, one can discover his ability of awareness, creativity and love beyond the ability of the intellect.

Unfortunately, Wahhabism, once popularized by colonialism, continues to have influence over the Islamic world. There are at least three reasons for this. First, the Saudi regime, the primary advocate of Wahhabism, controls the most important Muslim sites in the Islamic world: Mecca and Medina.

Second, the Saudis have petrodollars to support the internationalization of this religious ideology and so reach isolated places.

Third, the US often ends up working together with radicals, as we see currently in many parts of Islamic world, such as Libya and Afghanistan in the past.

In general, Sufi groups get less support from the current world order. For world peace and the
advancement of humanity, the forces of moderation and humanity in the world should work together to support the Sufis so that they can give more to the world. Peace in people's hearts will create peace in the world.

As Kabir Helminski, an inspiring Sufi writer in the US puts it: "A school of love is a corrective to both the authoritarian concept of religion, lacking in Mercy and a materialist ethic that indulges human ego."

The writer, former member of Nahdlatul Ulama's Executive Board of Australia and New Zealand special branches, is a lecturer at the Semarang State University.








The horn of Africa is back in news. Somalia's human tragedy tale has taken a new turn as millions sit on the brink of malnutrition.

The country is deep in the throes of hunger, and poverty has taken a toll in all walks of socio-economic life. To add further misery is its unending political strife that has denied the east African country of its future. The recent report of the UNHCR that stipulates that a quarter of Somalis are either displaced within the country or living outside as refugees is quite disturbing.

This is so because of the worst drought in 60 years, which has literally compounded the violence scale in the country and beyond. The mass exodus that is visible on its borders with Ethiopia and deep into the Middle East across the Suez and Europe is a strategic issue of a dying nation. Something serious is in need of being done, as the human catastrophe cannot be addressed by piecemeal measures.

The world body's concern is not in isolation.

It has been supplemented by warnings from the UK aid agencies Oxfam, Save the Children, and the Red Cross, calling for immediate food supplies and other accessories to over 12 million people in the continent.

However, what the aid agencies are asking for instantly is not a big deal. It is merely a figure of $150 million. It goes without saying many times of that figure is just wasted at the hands of imprecise bombings and sorties that the obsessive West and NATO fly across the continent, and the waywardness at work over Libya is an amazing example.

The UNHCR says that more than 50 per cent of Somali children arriving in Ethiopia and Kenya are seriously malnourished, and are in need of state-of-the-art relief measures. Food items, potable water, shelter and medicines are inevitable. This call comes as a test case for the developed world, to pour in their resources to save and subsequently rehabilitate a crippled generation.

Somalia has to gear up to fight a war within. And that is a struggle against its socio-economic and political odds. From piracy to poverty there is lot that is disturbing and Mogadishu cannot just ignore it anymore. The flight of around 200,000 Somalis in a span of 100 days indicates the worst is yet to come.

-Khaleej Times





In a game of checkers or chess, the two players ponder over each other's moves, unless there is match-fixing. As politics is often akin to a game of checkers or chess, a move by a nation, a group or a person makes others wonder why, unless the move is a pre-arranged one, like in a fixed match.

When the United States announced this week it was withholding US$ 800 million in military aid to Pakistan, it was like a move in a game of checkers or chess. If the game is a genuine one, then the move must have surely made Pakistan wonder why. After all, Pakistan is fighting the United States' dirty war, not only killing its own people but also allowing the Americans to kill them. But if the move is a pre-arranged one, then it is the people who are being taken for a big ride, like the spectators at a fixed match.

The relations between Pakistan and the United States appear to have been on the rocks since al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US troops in an operation that gave a damn about Pakistan's sovereignty. Signs are emerging of a major turmoil in the atmosphere that sustains US-Pakistan relations.

Since, the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was forced to join the US war on terror, a euphemism for the imperialist war, in October 2001, Pakistan and the US have been engaged in a kind of politics that bears features of match-fixing.

Be it the case of Raymond Davis, the CIA mercenary who killed two Pakistani youths in Lahore in January this year and got away like in a case of detective fiction or the US raid on the bin Laden hideout in Abbotabad near Islamabad or even the regular US drone attacks on the Pakistani people, there is high level of collusion between the two countries.

Award-winning journalist Bob Woodward in his book Obama's Wars claims that when the then CIA chief Mike Hayden visited Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari at New York's Intercontinental Barclay Hotel and broached the subject of drone attacks and civilian deaths, the Pakistani President, who was then just months in his office, said, "Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me."

Woodward interprets this statement as an important green light from the Pakistani president for the Americans to kill Pakistani civilians in the hunt for al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Understanding the match-fixing-like relations between the two countries in the post 9/11 period is as tough as an American trying to understand a game of cricket.

It is more complicated because Pakistan has two centres of power - one dominated by elected leaders and the other by the military which itself is further divided with Pakistan's spy arm, the Inter-Service Intelligence, being a law unto itself. The US maintains its relations with all the centres of power. For example, on Thursday night, the ISI chief flew to Washington for one-day crisis talks.

With power so divided, the Pakistani government and the military, at times, do not know each other's moves or secret deals with the US. A classic example is the military's demand that the United States wind up the drone base in Balochistan. The defence establishment wanted it closed but the information ministry said no such decision was taken.

Given the history of Pakistan's collaboration with the US at the cost of the country's sovereignty, one wonders whether the current crisis in the US-Pakistan relations is genuine. But it appears that Pakistan — more so, its military — is playing a serious game this time.

All of a sudden, Pakistan has woken up and asked the Americans to close down the drone base and downsize its military presence in the country. Days before this order, the military asked the British military personnel operating in Pakistan to pack up their bags and go home. In return, the US military chief Mike Mullen embarrassed the Zardari government by suggesting that it sanctioned the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. Admiral Mullen, who is the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, has little or no authority to make a politically-sensitive statement, unless he has the approval of the White House. Of course, the Pakistani government slammed the statement as irresponsible. Then came the announcement that the US was withholding military aid to Pakistan, which had over the years obtained more than US$ 14 billion in military and economic aid.

The sense of alarm that Pakistan is suddenly displaying may be linked to the US willingness to take the war to Balochistan, a region troubled by separatist politics and lawlessness. It is here that Pakistan finds it difficult to compromise its national interest to please the US. The US appears to be highly disturbed over Pakistan's oil and gas pipeline deal with Iran. Iran has completed its part upto the Balochistan border.  It is now left for Pakistan to complete the project. The project, on the one hand, will cut down Pakistan's energy bill and give the much-needed fillip for an economic boom. On the other, it will also give Iran a strategic outlet to export its oil and gas not only to Pakistan but to other countries such as India and China. India has withdrawn from the project under US pressure.

Then there are fears that the US may work towards dismembering Balochistan from Pakistan.

Pakistan's decision to close down the US drone base probably is a bid to thwart US moves aimed at taking the war to Balochistan. Pakistan accuses India of aiding and abetting the Baloch separatist movement, which also receives covert US support.

If Pakistan's Balochistan becomes an independent state with US support, Iran will be surrounded and it will be only a matter of time before the new state extends its borders to incorporate Iran's Balochi region where the US-linked Jundullah group is resorting to terrorism and spreading separatism.

If the war engulfs Balochistan it may also deny China the much looked-forward to a land-and-sea link with the Middle East through the Gwadar port and the Karkoram Highway across Pakistan.

Nuclear power Pakistan, or its military, seems to have woken up. But corruption being the bane of Pakistan, match-fixing a la politics cannot be ruled out.





The Creative force within us wants to use us all to be its medium, for the upliftment and re-creation of family, society and the earth. We may find ourselves living in a tumultuous world of uncertainty. We may even believe, we are caught up in the force of cause and effect; a victim of circumstances. Yet, rising to the realm of hope, we believe freedom is within grasp for ourselves.

Our life, wherever we are or find ourselves, is for a purpose. Nobody need say their birth or existence had been accidental. One may have been even born out of a rape incident, whether in the marital sphere or outside. Another could say their parents detested their existence as a child. Yet in the mighty realm of creation, everyone born receives life, which is the supreme gift of the Creative force.

It was reported in the Daily Mail, London and carried in a local Sunday newspaper of July 10 that president Barack Obama's father had made plans to have the future president adopted. When his eighteen-year old wife, Anne Dunham, was five months pregnant, they planned to give the baby away to the Salvation Army. Destiny however decided otherwise. The not needed one rewrote history by becoming the first Afro-American president of the United States and thereby the most powerful man in the world.

Each one then, is called to make his or her indelible mark, and make we shall, however insignificant we may think we are. Where we are placed, be it in family or position in society, is for the purpose of uplifting those in our lives. We need to however, listen to the Creative force, which speaks directly into our conscience; other times through people or events. That gentle nudge or coaxing, to correct that broken or strained relationship in family. Our workplace or society, that cries to put right the oppression or insensitivity, which looks out for the one who is destined to help. What is to be our inner response in such situations? That proactive response determines our own fulfillment, peace and freedom.

Some don't realize the seriousness of their existence to heal, recreate, and enrich the family or society they live with. They choose to ignore the Creative forces promptings, or cry of people or events to reach out and bring noble values or higher responses to the needs of others.

Others desire initially, to uphold and live noble values, or want to give necessary responses to needs of those in family or society, but when the values of the world and greed for self glory clash and challenge them, they opt to give up the good intentions they had.

Still others decide to live exemplary lives of integrity, but worries of life; that is insecurity and problems they encounter, make them change course and find themselves of little use to themselves or others. Deceitfulness of wealth, another major issue, drives people, especially those in authority to resort to mismanagement, corruption or abuse of power. The end result is an unavoidable breakdown of good governance. We see it today, be it in the C.P.C; C.E.B; Education mess; Agricultural pesticide; External Affairs Ministry and other areas.

Finally there are those who are receptive to the Creative powers prompting. The courageous ones who respond to the pleas and cries of those they are to care for. They, the ones, who are sensitive to events, however turbulent and tender it with sympathy, understanding and patience. May our country give birth to such, for family and government, our nation yearns for.







It was 7.20pm in Mumbai on Wednesday when I received the first of a series of similar text messages. It was a simple "Are you OK?" from a concerned overseas friend. I was perfectly fine, sitting in a cafŽ working away on my laptop.

It was soon followed with another message and then an e-mail enquiring about my safety and whereabouts.

I turned to my companion Mark, an American student doing research, to ask if he knew something was wrong.

He didn't and suspecting something was afoul we quickly turned to my laptop and tried to find out what was happening.

We found that three places in the city had been struck by a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts that claimed the lives of 21 people and injured at least 131.