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media watch with peoples input an organization of rastriya abhyudaya
month july 16, edition 000886, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.
For ENGLISH EDITORIAL http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com
- FOUR QUESTIONS FOR PM
- CHASING THE MONSOON
- ABC OF CRUELTY TOWARDS DOGS - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
- BAD IN INTENT AND CONTENT - SESHADRI CHARI
- EVOLUTION OF AN UNJUST LAW - NIPUN SAXENA
- A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION - IRFAN ENGINEER
THE TIMES OF INDIA
- GET DOWN TO THE JOB
- DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY - CHETAN BHAGAT
- IT SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE
- BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY - AJAY VAISHNAV
- THE RICH, THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT - JUST GRAFFITI
- KEEP AN EYE ON THE CIRCUIT
- WHO NEEDS THE UN, HUH? - ANIRUDH BHATTACHARYYA
- NATGRID CAN'T SAVE US - PRATIK KANJILAL
- BELLY UP IN DELHI
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
- PAPER TRAILED
- AS SEEN ON TV
- NATIONAL INTEREST: MUMBYE - SHEKHAR GUPTA
- AND IT DISAPPARATES - ANITAROY
- RETHINK THE COMMUNAL VIOLENCE BILL - ASHUTOSH VARSHNEY
- OFF WITH THEIR AID - RUCHIKA TALWAR
- THE CITY OF EXPERIMENT
- HERE IS MUMBAI - SHYAM BENEGAL
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
- UNITED STATES OF INDIA
- IN ADVERSITY, OPPORTUNITY
- SEIZE THE CHANCE FOR MEDIA REFORM - MARTIN WOLF
- BUILDING PAX ASIA-PACIFICA - FIDEL V RAMOS
- MURDOCH'S WATERGATE?
- AN ASSASSINATION IN AFGHANISTAN
- SNOW LEOPARDS FOUND IN AFGHANISTAN
- BREAKING GENDER BARRIERS IN SOUTH SUDAN - LAURA POWELL
- INDIAN MEDIA IN A CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT - M. HAMID ANSARI
- PROMISE OF A VIBRANT CENTRE OF IDEAS - K.N. PANIKKAR & ROMILA THAPAR
- THE LESSONS OF JULY 16, 1945 - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
THE ASIAN AGE
- SHABBY TREATMENT OF TOP LAW OFFICER
- OLD FAMILY TIES - FARRUKH DHONDY
- WHY TERRORISTS BLEED MUMBAI - SHOBHAA DE
- POLITICIANS PUT MEDIA IN DOCK - KISHWAR DESAI
- CITADEL OF CORRUPTION
- MUMBAI BLASTS
- PPP SHENANIGANS IN SINDH
- THROTTLED DEMOCRACY IN POK - BY DR MOHAMMAD MONIR ALAM
- TERRORISM WILL PUSH INDIA'S GROWTH DOWN - BY SUDHANSU R DAS
- MAXIMUM RESTRAINT
- INDIA-US STRATEGIC TIES
- UNFIT FOR CONSUMPTION
- ANDHRA IN TURMOIL AGAIN - BY T.V. RAJESWAR
- MEMORIES - BY HARISH DHILLON
- 'MADE IN INDIA'— A HIT ABROAD - VANDANA SHUKLA
- IT DOES WORK - T N NINAN
- SHRINK THE STATE - DEEPAK LAL
- FOOT IN THE GOALMOUTH - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
- FROM TREADMILL TO FAST TRACK - RENU KOHLI
- TIME FOR A SECURITY CHECK - DEVANGSHU DATTA
- NEEDED - NEW DATA BASES ASAP - RAMA BIJAPURKAR
- IT JUST KEEPS ROLLING ALONG, FOR NOW - SUBIR ROY
- CRICKET IN LITERATURE - V V
- FALLOUT OF COSTLIER LOANS
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- REFORM INTEL, POLICE
- NOW, CAPITAL FLIGHT
- A MESSI RIDDLE
- CONFESSIONS OF A DEREGULATOR
- WANT PEACE WITH PAKISTAN? QUIT STOMPING - T R RAMASWAMI
- MFI BILL: CONCERNS REMAIN - PREMCHANDER & SMITA PREMCHANDER
- CORRUPTION, INFLATION, TERRORISM
- SHABBY TREATMENT
- OLD FAMILY TIES
- SILLY SERMON
- A PARLOUS STATE
- REMEMBERING A TSAR
- LONG ISLAND - ARUN KUMAR BANERJI
- 'CENTRE MUST MAKE WOMEN FEEL SAFE'
- INDIAN POLICY IN INDIA'S INTEREST - VASABJIT BANERJEE
- ON RECORD
- LIVING IN FEAR
- THE MODERN HAZARE
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
- TOLSTOY, TERROR AND TWO CITIES' TALE
- IT'S THE POLITICS, STUPID
- MY MUSLIM CASE FOR LIBERTY
- EGYPT IS HEATING UP AND SO IS ITS REVOLUTION
- SEVERE CRITICISM FROM EUROPE ON PRESS FREEDOM
- WHY THE RELUCTANCE TOWARD NGOS?
- WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE
THE NEW YORK TIMES
- BLUNDERING TOWARD RECESSION: BEYOND THE DEBT STALEMATE
- BLUNDERING TOWARD RECESSION: URGENCY AND SENSE ELUDE THE HOUSE
- A LOOK INTO THE OCEAN'S FUTURE
- AN OPERA ON THE LOOSE
- THEY, TOO, SING AMERICA - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
- THE JOURNAL BECOMES FOX-IFIED - BY JOE NOCERA
- THE REVOLUTION IS NOT OVER YET - BY HAMADI REDISSI
- MAKING MURDER COUNT - BY MARK J. VANLANDINGHAM
- AIDING THE CORRUPT
- LEADERS' REVENGE
- KARDAR'S EXIT
- MUMBAI ALL OVER AGAIN - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
- US AND INTERNATIONALISM - BRIAN CLOUGHLEY
- DELHI UNIVERSITY ON THE BRINK - MUKUL MANGALIK
- POST-DEVOLUTION FEDERALISM - DR QAISAR RASHID
- IF KARACHI IS TO BE NORMAL AGAIN - BABAR SATTAR
- MEMO FROM USA - ANJUM NIAZ
- GILANI REASSURES SAFETY OF NUCLEAR ASSETS
- MIRZA NEEDS TO BE BANNED PERMANENTLY
- FULL UN MEMBERSHIP FOR PALESTINE
- NO WALK OVER IN N WAZIRISTAN - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
- WARDING OFF DANGERS TACTFULLY - ASIF HAROON RAJA
- US PRESSURE TACTICS — MUMBAI BLASTS - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
- CHINESE MEGA PROJECTS IN PAKISTAN - MALIK M ASHRAF
- TECHNOLOGY & GROWING INCOME GAP - KENNETH ROGOFF
- ROBUST, VIBRANT MEDIA IS VITAL FOR DEMOCRACY
- LEADERS MUST JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM
- BLACK, WHITE AND GREEN ALL OVER
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- TRAPPED IN A VORTEX OF DISCONTENT
- AFRICAN SUFFERING CALLS FOR A SELFLESS RESPONSE
- REASONS TO REJECT VOICES OF DOOM
- PHONE HACKING: SPREADING SCANDAL, MOUNTING QUESTIONS
- AFGHANISTAN: MURDER OF THE KING OF KANDAHAR
- UNTHINKABLE? ENCOURAGING SQUATTING
THE JAPAN TIMES
1. CUTTING THE NUCLEAR CORD
2. A MEDIA EMPIRE CRUMBLES - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
3. NO 'ONE SIZE FITS ALL' FOR DEMOCRACY - BY TOM PLATE
- RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF OUR VOCATION
- AN ATTEMPT TO GRASP INDIA'S ADVICE TO SRI LANKA ON TAMIL NADU CONCERNS
- LITTLE LEARNED FROM 26/11
- MUMBAI: EROSION OF FAITH IN SECURITY
- THE IMPOSSIBLE RECOVERY - VIVAN SHARAN
GULF DAILY NEWS
- ISRAELI THUGS ARE JUST ORGANISED CRIMINALS - BY PAUL BALLES
FOUR QUESTIONS FOR PM
WHERE ARE THE PROMISED SECURITY REFORMS?
In the hours following the terror bombings in Mumbai last Wednesday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the people that his "Government will do everything in its power to prevent such attacks in the future", few would have found comfort in his assurance given the UPA regime's past record in preventing such outrageous attacks. But what should really worry the people of this country is the admission by Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram that his Ministry had no information, no intelligence inputs, and no clue whatsoever that a major terrorist attack was in the offing. "This one slipped through the cracks," explained Mr Chidambaram after inspecting the sites of the latest round of serial bombings in Mumbai, bizarrely insisting at the same time that the attacks were not the result of intelligence failure. Yet the fact remains that Wednesday's attack was a classic example of exactly that: Intelligence failure. Having established this, it is important to take a look at the country's much-touted security and counter-terrorism machinery. Post-26/11, there was much hype surrounding the state-of-the-art security apparatus that was supposed to be put in place to prevent a repeat of the 2008 carnage. All most three years later, it is clear that little or no work has been done on any of the major projects that were proposed at the time. Take for example, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre. Envisioned as a broad-based counter-terrorism mechanism, the proposed NCTC was to deal with all kinds of terrorist attacks, including those perpetrated by Maoists and other insurgent groups across the country. One of Mr Chidambaram's pet projects, the NCTC is yet to see the light of day. Now, compare this to the fact that within three years of the 9/11 attacks, the US Administration had established its own fully functioning NCTC. Similarly, the proposal for a Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System, another Home Ministry project, actually conceived months before the 26/11 attacks and which aims to facilitate data sharing between all police stations, is still gathering dust for reasons best known to the Prime Minister and his team. And then there is the strange case of the stalled NATGRID. Touted to be the framework on which the "new architecture of India's security" was to be built, the NATGRID — an umbrella organisation of investigative agencies with access to 21 different databases (in other words, a wealth of security-related information available at one's fingertips) — has only received an in-principle approval for its first phase from the Union Cabinet last month.
Seen against this background, perhaps it is too much to expect that the Government, under Mr Singh's tutelage, will actively consider Mr Chidambaram's wise recommendation of creating an entirely new Ministry of Internal Security that would be solely dedicated to protecting the nation from internal security threats, much like the Ministry of Defence exists to protect the nation from foreign aggression. Currently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has a wide mandate that includes several non-security issues, including pension for freedom fighters, and a bifurcation of responsibilities would do both the Government and the people it serves much good. And then perhaps India too will be able to formulate "well-coordinated" security plans to stop "well-coordinated" terrorist attacks.
CHASING THE MONSOON
AFTER A GOOD START, WORRISOME LULL IN RAINS
With an already obvious as well as projected shortfall in monsoon rains in July, the hopes of the UPA Government to salvage the sliding economic indicators on the support of performance of the agriculture sector may not be translated into reality to the fullest extent. However, the picture is not all that gloomy considering the current water storage levels in the country's major reservoirs. The remainder of the month is unlikely to bring in showers that can compensate for the overall shortfall the country is experiencing if the projections of the Indian Meteorological Department are to be believed. The IMD had in April forecast normal rainfall during this year's monsoon at 96 per cent to 104 per cent, but the July trend has forced it to revise its prediction to lower rainfall expectation of between 90 per cent and 96 per cent. Fluidity in the world climatic system is said to be one of the reasons for the revision as the rain-positive La Nina condition over equatorial Pacific seen in the second half of last year had waned by March, adversely impacting the progress of the south-west monsoon in Asia, particularly the Indian sub-continent. Though the monsoon touched the Kerala coast, its threshold to the sub-continent, as expected, its positive conditions had got totally weakened by that time, thus sapping it of strength and vigour. Many States, including Kerala, have begun reporting a deficit in rainfall due to the long gap between rains after the third week of June, but scientists feel it is not yet time to panic or write off this year's monsoon.
What is causing concern to the 25 crore farmers of the country and the Government which expects the agriculture sector to contribute up to 17 per cent of this year's GDP is the experience of 2009 when the south-west monsoon betrayed India with a rainfall deficit of 22 per cent. However, as per indicators available, the country is not going to suffer a rainfall deficit of more than six per cent of the normal if the worse comes true. Even if that were to happen, there would not be cause for serious alarm. The worst possibility is that the country may not be able to realise the dream of hitting the grain production target of 245 million tonnes in 2011-12 as against 236 million tonnes in 2010-11, but production is unlikely to slip below last year's level and that is good news. But any further disruption in the present climatic indications would mean problems for the country as well as the UPA Government, which is already facing credibility problems due to unending scams and economic mismanagement that are primarily responsible for soaring inflation and food price escalation. A really bad monsoon defying all predictions and expectations would serve to exacerbate economic problems. That's the bad news.
ABC OF CRUELTY TOWARDS DOGS
Unsubstantiated allegations are being used to whip up mass hysteria in Bangalore against stray dogs. Is this a prelude to mass culling?
The mass hysteria being whipped up in Bangalore over the death of a toddler, Sandeep, in the city on July 1, makes one wonder: Is another savage exercise like the large-scale slaughter of stray dogs in the city and elsewhere in Karnataka in 2007 being orchestrated? The question is warranted by some of the incident-related facts painstakingly gathered by a group of animal lovers, including Levin, Rakesh Shukla and Suhas Jaishankara Somayaji. These, both shocking and revealing, can be briefly summarised as follows.
No one saw the two-and-a-half years old, who was sleeping in a hospital along with his father, dragged away and killed by stray dogs. Neither staff members nor security guards at the hospital, to say nothing of the father who was sleeping next to him, heard him scream for help or cry out in agony as he was being attacked. His body was found roughly 700 metres from the hospital at 5.30 am by his father and others who had mounted a search after finding him missing around 4.00 am.
No one in the buildings on both sides of the road, or any early morning walker, heard Sandeep cry or saw his body being dragged. Yet, even before the post-mortem report was out, the police attributed the death to dog bite while Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation authorities were more circumspect. According to a newspaper report, its Joint Director (Animal Husbandry) stated that it would be premature to believe that the boy was mauled by dogs. It could be a case of murder or hit-and-run driving. Yet a section of the media and Bangalore's population dwelt raucously on the "menace" stray dogs pose to the city. The Animal Birth Control programme, some key officials of the BBMP claim, has completely failed to control the city's stray dog population.
If the implementation of the ABC programme has failed, it has been the direct result of mass killing of stray dogs in 2007. The World Health Organisation's Technical Report Series 931, embodying the conclusions reached by its Expert Consultation on Rabies at Geneva from October 5 to 8, 2004, states, "Since the 1960s, ABC programmes coupled with rabies vaccination have been advocated as a method to control urban male and female dog populations and ultimately human rabies in Asia... Culling of dogs during these programmes may be counter-productive as sterilised, vaccinated dogs may be destroyed." In their joint introduction to Guidelines for Dog Population Management issued by the WHO and the World Society for the Protection of Animals in 1990, Dr K Bogel of the former and Mr John Hoyte of the latter, stated, "All too often authorities confronted by problems caused by these (stray) dogs, have resorted to mass destruction in the hope of finding a quick solution, only to find that the destruction had to continue year after year with no end in sight."
The authorities at BBMP must have known all this. Then why the 2007 mass killing? A report by Chitra Ramani in The Hindu of February 12, 2007, quoted Mr MF Saldanha, a respected former judge of the Karnataka High Court, as saying, that BBMP's officials were forced to pick up friendly and sterilised dogs as they had no choice. According to the same report, Mr Saldanha had written to Karnataka's Health Minister, Mr R Ashok, saying that the killing was a "knee-jerk" reaction that had administered a set back to the anti-rabies programme in Bangalore which had been doing very well.
Neutered and vaccinated dogs, whose presence in their localities is central to the ABC programme's success, were specially targetted. A report in The Deccan Herald of March 6, 2007, "Stray dogs now at home", quoted Ms Suparna Ganguly of CUPA as saying that most of the dogs brought in had been covered by the ABC programme.
Who would target the ABC programme? The number of human rabies cases, admitted to the Epidemic Diseases Hospital in Bangalore, declined from 20 in 2000 when the programme was launched in the city, to nil each in 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-February 28, 2007. A sharp decline in the use of human anti-rabies vaccines followed. A report by Sahana Charan and Afshan Yasmeen in The Hindu of March 11, 2007 quotes a doctor at BBMP's referral hospital at Banashankari as stating, "We used up more than 55,000 vials of ARV vaccine from April 2005 to March 2006. But from April 2006 until date we have used only 30,000 vials." According to a reply by the Chief Medical Officer, BBMP/BMP hospitals, to an application under the RTI (RIA/PR/31/07-08 dated 11/04/07) by Mr Gopi Shankar, a lawyer and animal lover, annual expenditure on anti-rabies vaccines declined from Rs 116,57,660 in 2005-06 to Rs 77,84, 347 in 2006-07, or a little over Rs 38 lakh.
Please note this! In a judgement delivered on December 14, 2006, Justice HVG Ramesh of the Karnataka High Court rendered inoperative the State Lokayukta, Justice N Venkatachala's order for the discontinuance of the ABC programme. A report in The Deccan Herald of January 19, 2007, under the headline, "Dog menace continues in Chandra Layout", quoted Mr G Srinivas, whose child stray dogs had reportedly attacked in the area, as saying "Dog bite incidents, which had started a month ago, have become almost every day occurrence." Mr Srinivas said this on January 17. "A month ago" would make it after December 15, 2006, just after Justice Ramesh's order.
Were the bites engineered to scuttle the ABC programme whose continued success could further reduce institutional purchase of human anti-rabies vaccines? Why did BBMP appoint Dr MK Sudarshan to head the team to conduct a performance audit of the ABC programme in Bangalore? His scathing attacks on the programme were well known, a fact also pointed by Mr Dilip Bafna of the Animal Rights Fund in a letter to the then Commissioner of BBMP. Dr Sudarshan's utterly shoddy report debunked the programme and its implementation and suggested measures that would completely undermine its purpose. Remarkably, the then Commissioner accepted it promptly, calling it an excellent report.
There are many aspects of the 2007 slaughter that suggest a sinister conspiracy to undermine the ABC programme's implementation. This writer's demand for a judicial inquiry into the entire sordid episode went unheeded. The damage cannot be undone but a repeat must be prevented.
BAD IN INTENT AND CONTENT
A legislation that seeks to divide rather than build upon the collective expression for peace and communal harmony should be rejected — and Sonia Gandhi's toadies on the NAC investigated for their real agenda
Can a Government turn into a scheming enterprise and foist upon the majority community of the country an enactment that charges them as inherently communally rowdy and out to wreak havoc on a major minority in their own land? If your answer is no, think again. The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 smacks of a sinister agenda to divide the society on the basis of religion and draw political mileage. The Bill also unashamedly violates the basic tenets of the Constitution of India. More importantly, the Bill, when it becomes an Act, would end up creating "more equal" citizens, rubbishing the Constitutional guarantee of "equality of justice".
When a Bill is prepared one can assume that the endeavour is bad in content but the intent of the government preparing it cannot generally be suspected. But this is one Bill which is unreservedly bad in intent as well as content.
The Lokpal draft Bill prepared by the members of the civil society led by Gandhian and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare was ridiculed by one Congress worthy as an attempt to destabilise the government by some "unelected and unelectable" persons. So, how did the UPA government institutionalise a body of unelected and probably "unelectable" persons under the banner of the National Advisory Council (NAC), with the specific mandate to "provide policy and legislative inputs to Government?" There is no provision for NAC in the Constitution, and certainly not for a body with a Chairperson who wields greater power than the Prime Minister of the country. The NAC is nothing but a blatant and deplorable deviation from the Constitutional scheme of governance and legislation.
The perpetrators of this obnoxious Bill have not concealed their hatred for anything Hindu or what they conveniently would term as 'saffron'. Needless their target is the Narendra Modi government of Gujarat followed by all other non-Congress and BJP governments.
The very first offensive definition in the Bill is of the expression 'group'. A 'group', the Bill says, is a religious or linguistic minority and in a given state may include the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Without any deception, Clause 3(e) makes it abundantly clear that the bill seeks to protect only "religious or linguistic minorities." The insertion of the word "linguistic" appears to be a diversion. There were not many instances of serious strife between one linguistic group and another in the past many years, except the political gimmicks in Mumbai against north Indians. But now if the Bill becomes a law, even if a presumably errant Shiv Sainik utters a word against any north Indian, the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray could end up as Azmal Kasab's neighbor in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail.
The next part of the sentence, "in any State in the Union of India" does not mean anything, because, for any Central law to be applicable to Jammu & Kashmir, concurrence of the state legislature is necessary. Therefore Clause I (2) is simply superfluous. If the naïve believe that it is possible to extend the law to Jammu & Kashmir to protect the Kashmiri Pundits, perish the thought. The tricky Clause 3 (m) contradicts any such possibility: "In the event this Act is extended to the State of Jammu and Kashmir" (not 'when', but, in the event!) "…any reference in this Act to a Law, which is not in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, shall, in relation to the State, be construed as a reference to a corresponding law, if any, in force in that State."
In plain English, shorn of legalese, the Law will never be applied in Jammu & Kashmir. This is not surprising in view of the derision that an exalted member of the NAC has for the State's minorities, the Kashmiri Pandits. She wrote in an article in Deccan Chronicle some time ago that the issue of Kashmiri Pandits has been 'highly romanticised' (sic).
The Bill assumes that no member of the majority community can ever be a victim. It is a unilateral declaration by the "wise men (and women)" of the NAC that Hindus in India are a bunch of serial offenders determined to deviate from thousands of years of tolerance, secularism and respect for other's faith. The discrimination of offences is so evident in the Bill that no member of the minority community is to be punished under this Act for having committed the (same) offence against the majority community.
If the objective of the Bill is to protect the religious minorities, from whom does it seek to protect them? The definition of 'association' in Clause 3 (b) is scary and is enough to remind one of the midnight knock of the infamous Emergency. An "accused" need not be an enlisted member of any association 'whether or not registered or incorporated under any law'. For, if the 'association' need not be legally constituted to be accused of an offence, where is the question of 'enlisted' membership? If you are ipso facto deemed to be a member of an 'association', it is enough for the act to take cognizance. No prize for guessing the target here. The entire top brass of the RSS and VHP can be sent packing to Tihar Jail on the basis of one complaint by a non-descript individual Even the street-corner Ganesh Mitra Madal in Chennai or Mumbai, which erects a huge shamiana every year, can be hauled up for "hurting the sentiments of the minority".
Clause 15 expands the principle of vicarious liability. An offence is deemed to be committed by a senior person or office bearer of an association and he fails to exercise control over subordinates under his control or supervision. He is vicariously liable for an offence which is committed by some other person. If one is still in doubt about th intensions of the Bill in this regard one has to read the lengthy provisions of Clause 15 which speaks about 'non state actors' clearly intended to target Hindu organisations like the Bajrang Dal, RSS, and the VHP. Clause 16 renders orders of superiors as no defence for an alleged offence committed under this section.
The bill creates a whole set of new offences in Chapter II. Clause 6 clarifies that the offences under this bill are in addition to the offences under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Can a person be punished twice for the same offence?Probably the most vicious attack on the Hindu community and the parties and groups opposed to the Congress comes almost at the far end of the lengthy Bill in Clause 129 (Non-applicability of limitation). According to the clause the statute of limitations shall not apply to offences cognisable under the Act. The implications of this clause are far-reaching. For instance, cases being investigated by the SIT and other Commissions in Gujarat may fail to convict the accused. With total disregards to the existing laws, any one of the 'victim' can at anytime reopen the cases against the 'culprits' and drag the case on till "death do us apart". Even those who are outside the ambit of the present cases, and you know who, can be dragged under this Bill through a revision of the cases in a superior court — and to be tried under the new act.
It is important to note that 'offences' under the Act are non-bailable. All that the Congress has to do is to wait for the Bill to be passed and then, lo and presto, Modi is banished from politics.
-- The writer is a BJP national leader
EVOLUTION OF AN UNJUST LAW
A young legal eagle identifies a minefield ahead in inter-faith relations in India should the Communal Violence Bill be passed by Parliament
The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 which has been approved by the National Advisory Council (NAC) is regrettably based on the premise that violence can only be deemed to be communal if committed by a religious or linguistic majority on the minority, and not vice versa. It has several provisions which have consolidated this presumption and which, if implemented, would result into the dispensing of justice, which is essentially preferential in character. These include:
Definition of communal violence, victim and group:Communal or targeted violence has been defined under Section 3 (c) as any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation. This means and includes that the intention of the Legislature is to prevent any act which is against the tenets of secularism.
However, the very next definition runs in contravention of the principles of secularity which the State endorses. Section 3(e) defines a group which means a religious or linguistic minority, in any state in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of Clauses 24 and 25 of Article 366 of the Constitution of India.
By including only a religious or linguistic minority, the legislature has proscribed a citizen from claiming his equitable share of right if he belongs to a religious or linguistic majority. Of particular significance is Sub-Clause 3(j) which defines a victim who is defined as a member of the minority group only. A pertinent instance could be that in India where Hindu population is dominant whereas Muslim population is a minority, if a communal riot breaks out, then only the members of the minority group can claim their right. So if there were 200 Hindu families which had to suffer the consequences as against 100 Muslim families, then under this law they have no recourse whatsoever.
Furthermore, this provision runs on a very flawed assumption which states that violence can only be perpetrated by a group of people who belong to a linguistic or religious majority and not vice versa. The objective of any criminal justice system is to uphold the rights of the society and to create a deterrence which is not to be vilified on account of one's socio, political or religious association. The nature of punishment should be equal for every individual irrespective of what religious order he professes or to which region he belongs to. This provision has mutilated the very canon of criminal law. Why should the nature of punishment vary on account of one's religious or linguistic predilection? Violence is violence irrespective of whether it is been committed by a Hindu, Muslim, Parsee, Christian, Jew, etc. The imposition of punishment should therefore be the same and should not vary according to these frivolous demarcations.
What constitutes hostile environment?:Section 3(f) further talks of what qualifies as hostile environment against a group. It means and includes any intimidation or coercive action by a majority against a minority group by virtue of his or her association with that group and lays down five circumstances wherein the Act could be deemed to be shrouded in the garb of being hostile. However, Sub-Clause (5) creates a very arbitrary standard of relying as to what conduct would result into the creation of this hostile environment. It lays down that it would include any other act, whether or not it amounts to an offence under this Act that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. This clearly brings in a state of ambiguity as to which acts would precisely fall under the ambit of this Act. Therefore it may also include a speech, a work of art like a picture, music or video clippings which may have the capability of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
The problem does not end here. Another important point worth considering is — who shall have the discretion to decide as to which Act qualifies as being intimidating or hostile. These questions need further deliberations.
Scope and ambit of "hate propaganda": The definition of the term "hate propaganda" is classified as a separate offence which has been made punishable under Section 8 of the Act. However, the scope and ambit of the definition is so broad that it can cover almost any conduct which has the capacity to incite people. It includes any Act, or words, whether spoken, written or any mode of visible representation which shall be construed to be capable of inciting violence. This provision is bereaved of pragmatism as every individual has been bestowed with the freedom of speech and expression and has a right to raise his voice in case of its violation. The legislators have not specified as to what acts would actually constitute the term. This would result into arbitrariness as a certain conduct shall be deemed to be an offence in one State but not in another.
Organised communal violence to be construed as Emergency: The most draconian of all provisions is the power which has been bestowed on the central government to construe any act of Organized Communal Violence to constitute internal disturbance within the meaning of Article 355 of the Constitution. The prerogative of determining whether an act qualifies as being tantamount to Internal Disturbance solely vests with the central government under Section 20 of this Act.
Historically speaking, India has witnessed the period of Emergency in 1975-77 wherein gross human rights violations were perpetrated by the functionaries of the State itself. The very nature of "Emergency provisions" bestows indomitable powers on the State and this can be used for political advantages as was done in Punjab and later in India. One can only speculate on the powers which the government shall enjoy once this provision comes into force as it can suo motu decide whether a situation in a particular state requires the imposition of Emergency or not. If this is further seen in consonance with the definition of the words victim and group, then this provision shall open flood gates to political maneuvers by the Centre.
Conclusion: The Bill in its present form has been reduced to a mere mockery which is against the core principles of criminal law. The autonomous nature of the National Authority is also a cause of serious concern. If a law has to prevail, then it should be universal in its approach and its enforcement should be coupled with the system of checks and balances. The present bill regrettably promises none of these and is rather looked upon as a political faux pas.
So what is the intention of the Legislature ? To promote and uphold the Constitutional virtues or to denigrate them on grounds of religion and linguistic demarcation? The question is left for us, the people, to answer.
-- The writer is presently interning with UNDP
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Under Lalu Prasad and the Left Front in West Bengal, bureaucrats faced the sack if communal riots broke out — and so these states dropped off the national communal map. The proposed Bill seeks to replicate the same environment in all state capitals
Steven Wilkinson, a US-based scholar who has been studying communal violence in India, has concluded that since Independence the body count in communal riots in India is as huge as 40,000. Though at present there does seem to be relative peace, it is more of a short lull before another possible storm. I say so because there are riot entrepreneurs, who organise, orchestrate and benefit from communal violence — the anti-social elements who get legitimacy and a role during riots on the one hand and the politicians who consolidate their vote banks on the other.
Communal violence for the making and the marking of collective and individual identity is increasing in India. Various studies have also pointed out that the victims of communal riots, particularly those from the minority community, are pushed into further economic quagmire having lost their properties and bread winners.
Vibhuti Narain Rai, former IPS officer who served with UP police and BSF and who effectively handled the 'karsevaks' who had assembled in Ayodhya in February 2002, has written after thorough research that no communal riot in India can continue beyond 24 hours unless the administration at some level is complicit. Police forces in India are fully equipped and capable of bringing under control any riot within 24 hours. The major communal riots that cause higher casualties are pre-planned over days if not months, and early warning signals are always thrown up, which the police wilfully ignore.
West Bengal, for instance, had every reason for communal busybodies and riot entrepreneurs to prosper in. The ground conditions in that state were ideal for frequent communal clashes as more than 24 per cent of the people were Muslims and the Partition of India had landed the State with millions of Hindu refugees. However, since 1977 when the Left Front government came to power in West Bengal, there were no major riots experienced. The ministers of the Left Front made it absolutely clear to the state bureaucracy that it would not tolerate communal mobilisation under any circumstances. Similarly, Bihar had witnessed major riots in Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Bhagalpur through the 1970s and 1980s. Lalu Prasad came to power with the undertaking that Bihar would be riot free during his tenure and he delivered on his promise.
No less than 31 commissions of inquiry have been appointed over riots and most of them have pointed out that communal conflagrations have no chance unless the local administration is complicit. Every state bureaucracy which "fails"to prevent/control riots work to a pattern. They ignore the need to take preventive steps even when enough intelligence is forthcoming of suspicious build-ups. Then, when riots do break out, they goof up in typical ways during the early hours, which give the mobs the head-start they require. And, finally, the real culprits are always allowed to disappear, leaving a few foot soldiers for arresting.
The proposed draft of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 (the Bill for brevity) is a step in right direction. It purports to raise the level of accountability. Henceforth, officers will be held accountable for their commissions and omissions. They could be prosecuted for failing to act or omitting to act without adequate reason. Of course in certain cases prior permission of the government would have to be obtained and there is a glitch there. The delinquent and complicit officers may hope to get protection through the simple denial of permission by the government in power. However, the risks the officer may be taking by his/her deliberate actions or omissions may be higher than before. Not only the complicit officer, but even his superior officer, if it can be proved that he had the information of the situation and failed to issue appropriate orders and directions to his subordinates. This principle is called command superior responsibility. These provisions would ensure that the administration would act even if they are not headed by a Lalu Prasad.
The Bill also provides for adequate standards to be maintained in the relief camps and no one can be forced to return against his from the relief camps. There are also clauses promising reparations and rehabilitation. The victims would have to be rehabilitated in their areas and safety and security of the rehabilitated victims should be ensured by the state. Their rehabilitation will have to be of standards equivalent to or better than what the victims had been used to prior to the riot situation.
The compensation clause is most significant and brings under its ambit new definition of a rape victim. Whereas the IPC says rape happens only when there is forcible penetrative sex, in communal riots women's modesty is outraged in many other ways like humiliation, forcible parading in naked state, insertion of objections into private parts, etc.
The Bill proposes to set up national and State-level Authorities armed with adequate powers to supervise relief and rehabilitation operations and set appropriate standards of compensation, relief and rehabilitation. These bodies would also be empowered to give appropriate directions to the investigating authorities to witness the criminal cases and take appropriate remedial measures wherever required.
-- The writer is Director, Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution
THE TIMES OF INDIA
GET DOWN TO THE JOB
A terror strike brings out two responses in our politicians. The government becomes defensive. This was apparent in the home minister rushing to deny prior intelligence on Wednesday's Mumbai blasts. Rahul Gandhi, meantime, defended UPA by claiming 99% of terror attacks are foiled by improved vigilance, even if 1% slips through.
The counter-reaction is of an opposition on the offensive. If L K Advani decried "policy failure" in defanging terrorists, Arun Jaitley questioned continued talks with Pakistan. Even as terror becomes an excuse to play political football, real issues get sidelined. Yet what we need is unity and focus to combat terrorism effectively.
Without a strong security infrastructure, the most basic democratic entitlement - of citizens' right to live, work and move freely without fear - is denied. So, the need to fast-track security reforms can't be overstressed. But this demands cohesion among security agencies, not the jurisdictional battles we're witnessing. Post-26/11, UPA did well to establish the National Investigation Agency, as also push the Natgrid to facilitate data collection and exchange. But we remain more reactive - swinging into action post-attack - than proactive about prevention. Intelligence is critical to foiling terror plots. Yet the National Counter-Terrorism Centre awaits setting up while the National Technical Research Organisation - whose tasks include phone and cyber surveillance - lacks a formal stamp. Even Natgrid, which is to link databases for online intelligence sharing, has only just got moving.
Police modernisation has also been hanging fire. Terror-targeted India is woefully under-policed. Even going by our full recruitment targets, our police-to-citizen ratio would fall way short of the UN-advocated 222 policemen per 1,00,000 people. Not just numbers, quality of policing needs boosting as well. That requires digitally interlinking police stations and better training of personnel in investigative techniques, intelligence collection and use of technology. Counterterrorism courses and exposure to policing practices overseas will help. If, at one end, beat policing can facilitate grassroots information-gathering, at the other end we need special units to solely probe terror-related crimes and decipher intelligence. Fighting terror demands both Centre-state and inter-state cooperation and coordination. So the idea of federal policing needs exploring. A dedicated counterterrorism force will perform better by not being tied down to specific precincts. Finally, security agencies need independence to act. As also support from a legal and judicial system geared to dealing with terror cases expeditiously. Delay in justice dispensation merely emboldens terrorists.
Given the vulnerabilities of our populous, chaotically expanding cities, nuts-and-bolts issues need attention as well. For instance, more CCTV cover in public places will both deter and help nab terrorists. Also, police quick response teams, municipal authorities, fire departments, medical facilities and transport services must all work together in emergencies. So, there's uniform need for better disaster preparedness, by formulating city disaster plans and regularising emergency drills.
The Mumbai blasts have yet again exposed chinks in our counterterrorism armour. And there may be plenty of blame to go around for it. But politicking with terror won't make us feel secure. Fighting it unitedly will.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
Alright, this is not cool at all. A recent survey by Nielsen has revealed that Indian women are the most stressed out in the world: 87% of our women feel stressed out most of the time. This statistic alone has caused me to stress out. Even in workaholic America, only 53% women feel stressed.
What are we doing to our women? I'm biased, but Indian women are the most beautiful in the world. As mothers, sisters, daughters, colleagues, wives and girlfriends - we love them. Can you imagine life without the ladies?
It would be a universe full of messy, aggressive and egomaniacal males running the world, trying to outdo each other for no particular reason. There would be body odour, socks on the floor and nothing in the fridge to eat. The entertainment industry would die. Who wants to watch movies without actresses?
Kids would be neglected and turn into drug addicts or psychopaths by age 10. Soon, all-male world leaders would lose their tempers at the slightest provocation, and bomb the guts out of each other's countries. In short, without women and their sanity, the world would perish.
Yet, look at how we Indians, a land of spiritual people, treat them. At an extreme, we abort girls before they are born, neglect them in their upbringing, torture them, molest them, sell them, rape them and honour-kill them. Of course, these criminal acts are performed by a tiny minority.
However, a majority of us are involved in lesser crimes. We judge, expect too much, don't give space and suffocate our women's individuality. Imagine if you did this to men - won't they be stressed out?
At a broader level, this isn't just about our women. We Indians have a habit of exploiting anyone without power. As a flip side, we are suckers for anyone with power.
We look up to corrupt politicians, keep voting them back, and feel they have an entitlement to loot us silly, because they are in power. In fact, we love power so much that when power comes to a woman, we automatically begin to regard her well too. Goddesses, female politicians, senior mothers in a household with a firm grip on family power - they all get our respect. Anyone else doesn't.
This kind of society, which values power above equality and justice, doesn't achieve too much. These societies remain like backward tribes, because they do not allow people without power to come up, even though they may have many talents. When we don't allow our women to come up, or create stress for them if they do, we are not allowing half of India to come up. When we abuse our power, we kill the exploited person's will to contribute to society. When we believe powerful people are always right, and the less powerful should be crushed, we resemble a jungle of animals. And animals don't progress, humans do.
These regressive attitudes will take a while to change. For now, i want to give Indian women five suggestions to reduce their stress levels. One, don't ever think you are without power. Give it back to that mother-in-law. Be who you are, not someone she wished you would be. She doesn't like you? That's her problem.
Two, if you are doing a good job at work and your boss doesn't value you - tell him that, or quit. Talented, hard-working people are much in demand. Three, educate yourself, learn skills, network - figure out ways to be economically independent. So next time your husband tells you that you are not a good enough wife, mother or daughter-in-law, you can tell him to take a hike.
Four, do not ever feel stressed about having a dual responsibility of family and work. It is difficult, but not impossible. The trick is not to expect an A+ in every aspect of your life. You are not taking an exam, and you frankly can't score cent per cent (unless you are in SRCC, of course). It is okay if you don't make four dishes for lunch, one can fill their stomach with one. It is okay if you don't work until midnight and don't get a promotion. Nobody remembers their job designation on their dying day.
Five, most important, don't get competitive with other women. Someone will make a better scrapbook for her school project than you. Another will lose more weight with a better diet. Your neighbour may make a six-dabba tiffin for her husband, you don't - big deal. Do your best, but don't keep looking out for the report card, and definitely don't expect to top the class. There is no ideal woman in this world, and if you strive to become one, there will be only one thing you will achieve for certain - stress.
So breathe, chill, relax. Tell yourself you are beautiful, do your best and deserve a peaceful life. Anybody trying to take that away from you is making a mistake, not you. Your purpose of coming to this earth is not to please everyone. Your purpose is to offer what you have to the world, and have a good life in return. The next time this survey comes, i don't want to see Indian women on top of the list. I want them to be the happiest women in the world. Now smile, before your mother-in-law shouts at you for wasting your time reading the newspaper.
The writer is a best-selling novelist.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
IT SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE
Champion teams begin to win before the first ball of a series has even been bowled by letting their aura nibble away at their opponent's self-confidence. On the evidence of the tame draw in the last match of the India-West Indies series, this is a lesson the Indian team hasn't learnt yet.
It's a pity, because facing England in England over four Test matches - and with the English team probably the strongest one the country has fielded in the past two decades or so - is a daunting as well as delicious prospect. Ranking aside, no impartial observer would deny that when it comes down to it, there's little to choose between the two teams. Given this, M S Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher should have seized every advantage they could going into the series.
Enough analysis has been done of the match situation, but the basic facts bear repeating: India needed 86 runs to win off 90 balls with seven wickets in hand and two greats of the game in Rahul David and V V S Laxman at the crease. At this point, the match was set for a cracking finish. It would have been difficult to score at the required rate, admittedly, but with those many wickets in hand, there was ample insurance. A team that wanted to stamp its authority on the series - that wanted to send a message to other opponents - would have gone for it. By not just settling for a draw but not even trying for victory, calling off the match with 15 overs still to go, India did exactly the opposite.
What this shows Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower is that India is still a team that prizes safety above victory. And that's a flaw they may well exploit in coming weeks. The Aussies didn't remain at the top as long as they did by backing off in crunch situations.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
Given the recent success of Team India in all formats, it is understandable if cricket fans don't want to see anything less than victory. In relation to the Dominica Test, critics are being unreasonable in taking potshots at Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Although the cynosure of all eyes till recently for taking India to the top cricket spot, he is suddenly drawing flak for adopting a defensive approach in the third and final Test against the West Indies at Dominica. Critics are lamenting his decision to end the run chase when the team required 86 off 90 balls with seven wickets in hand.
However, Dhoni did the right thing by not taking too many risks before the start of the England series. The pitch at the Windsor Park was increasingly becoming difficult to bat on. Despite this, India tried to chase the target. Despite the failure of openers Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund to give India a steady start, Suresh Raina was promoted ahead of V V S Laxman. But Raina's fall on an increasingly turning wicket elicited a judgment call from Dhoni, and he responded by drawing down the shades. Dhoni has proved himself enough. Let's leave it to him to judge the state of play and take a call accordingly, instead of making carping comments.
The wisdom of his call was established when even an established pair of two all-time greats, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, didn't look very comfortable in scoring runs. If one of them had got out, it would have created panic in the dressing room. If India had lost the third Test and drawn the series 1-1, it would have been a major setback before the crucial series against England. While fans would have loved to see India winning the series 2-0, a defeat in the third Test would have severely jolted the Indian team's confidence.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
THE RICH, THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT
NEW YORK: How rich is rich enough? If you have a lot of money, can you ever tell yourself you are satiated, perhaps even happy, and you don't really need any more?
American writer F Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." So they are, not just from us in the middle and lesser classes; they are different from one another in how they see wealth. I have had the opportunity to spend hours in conversation with persons of serious wealth, thanks to my professional life as an observer of power play. Yes, they're quite different.
Such a person once explained to me what wealth meant to him: "It is like a work of art, let's say a giant piece of sculpture. You work on it, you build it step by step, you give it form, and you refine it endlessly. Maybe at some point you lean back to tell yourself it looks fine and move on to other interesting pursuits as you watch someone else carry on work on the sculpture. But you have to keep the creation growing. Wealth is kinetic art."
This person hates flaunting money. He lives well, keeps his family in great comfort and owns luxurious houses and retreats. His lifestyle, however, is frugal. He rarely goes out to socialise, doesn't throw glamour parties and stays away from cameras. He is not Howard Hughes, who stayed eccentrically out of sight most of his life, but is shy of publicity. And he pays taxes. Not that he is fond of taxation, but he likes to stay within the law because he doesn't want the government or anyone to threaten his sanctum of power.
The late George Harrison moaned with the Beatles in the 1960s about that rapacious taxman who claimed the then 20 shillings in a British pound as "One for you, Nineteen for me". These days, no major economy has tax rates of 90% or more. In the US and in India, those rates are reasonable. Like the Indian billionaire cited above, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, two of the world's richest, pay their taxes and stay within the law even as they live very well. Buffett keeps urging fellow billionaires to do more for society while Bill and Melinda Gates now spend all their time in philanthropic pursuits.
But then there is Bernie Madoff, who spent a lifetime swindling an estimated $65 billion out of naive investors until he was found out and locked away. And there is the hedge fund mogul Raj Rajaratnam, who interacted brilliantly with a network of people in the know on company boards and on the take, mostly South Asian in origin, to grow his Galleon fund from nothing to a sought-after money managing machine on Wall Street.
An article by George Packer in a recent issue of The New Yorker narrates the rise and fall of Rajaratnam and his cronies in insider trading. He was an attention-grabbing self-made billionaire who Packer quotes as once having declared: "I'm a rogue." He loved showing off by chartering jets to take his buddies on lavish vacations. On May 11, a New York jury pronounced him guilty on 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy.
Truly intriguing is the case of Rajat Gupta, a former head of McKinsey, who apparently was happy to supply Rajaratnam with inside tips from companies on whose boards he sat. Here was a middle-class lad from Kolkata, orphaned in his teens, an IIT graduate, who had made it big globally. An impressive life story. Gupta rubbed shoulders with the rich and the powerful, was feted in India as an achieving son, and had a stash of many millions, possibly hundreds, in his pocket. Yet, he allegedly became an accomplice of a rogue. Couldn't he say no? Alas, kinetic wealth can be insidious corruptor as well as art.
In other words, we have the responsible rich and the reckless rich. Society has carefully devised ways to encourage the former while reining in the latter. It is a fine balance, not always easy to strike in a democracy.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE CIRCUIT
Every democratic society faces a trade-off between liberty and security. North Korea has never faced terrorist attacks but its people are deprived of all but the most trivial forms of individual choice. Which is why any liberal democracy, no matter what threat it may face, should be careful when it curtails freedoms and concentrates authority when trying to defend against such dangers. The history of war and terrorism is replete with laws and regulations passed by societies to defend themselves that have proven to be double-edged swords. Many are eventually revoked, but not before being responsible for more abuse than protection.
The terrible triple bombing in Mumbai has again raised demands for a number of counterterrorism measures proposed after the earlier 26/11 terrorist attack be implemented. The most contentious of these is the so-called National Intelligence Grid, better known as Natgrid. On the face of it, Natgrid makes sense. It will centralise dozens of databases that exist in the country including banking information, travel data and so on. This will then be made available on tap to India's 11 intelligence agencies who can trawl it for suspicious patterns of behaviour and suspect transactions, the type of software-driven data scrutiny increasingly used to predict terrorism. Critics argue this flies in the face of the Constitution's and the Supreme Court's strictures on privacy. It also raises the possibility of a government agency or even a minister using this information for blackmail or some other form of personal gain. These criticisms are not without basis. Natgrid's purpose is not a matter of concern. But how it will be controlled and how it will be used deserve much more public debate than has taken place so far. A similar structure in Britain has already run afoul of the courts. Many European countries have simply declined to go down that path, concluding the costs to their democratic polity outweigh the theoretical gains on the security side. The United States does allow its security agencies to mine private databases. Crucially, however, it requires that such requests be filtered through a special tribunal of former judges.
Due process in Indian security is a British Raj inheritance. Decisions, for example, on wiretapping are left to a few bureaucrats and ministers. There is no legislative or judicial supervision. This system needs checks and balances as India's security demands became more complex. Independent oversight at the apex of Natgrid , perhaps in the form of a US-style tribunal, is one way to ensure terrorism does not succeed in persuading the Indian State to undermine the nation it is seeking to protect.
WHO NEEDS THE UN, HUH?
As someone who has been trapped in midtown Manhattan's traffic gridlock every September for the past few years when heads of State and governments converge on New York for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, I eyed a recent report that the UN plans to expand its footprint in the Big Apple, with some disquiet.
The headquarters is undergoing major renovation that will cost nearly $2 billion, not including the inevitable cost overruns. That bill will be paid by the UN's member countries, including India and its taxpayers. Now, the UN wants a greater presence in land-limited Manhattan, two-thirds of an acre more, carved out of a playground. That's likely to cost another $500 million or so.
Fed up New Yorkers, of course, would rather that the UN move elsewhere altogether, another continent preferably. Keeping them company is an unlikely advocate, for reasons of his own.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi offered a similar suggestion in 2009. In a speech that ran well over an hour beyond his 15-minute limit, and was marked, but not marred, by his translator fainting — we don't know if it was the length or the content of the speech that induced the fainting spell — Gaddafi demanded the UN move its HQ to New Delhi, Beijing, or, of course, Libya.
Gaddafi was possibly irked since New York authorities would not permit him to pitch his Bedouin tent in the city. But while it was easy to dismiss his speech as a rambling rant, his call to move the UN out of New York may have illustrated the disconnect of the institution from its mandate.
With India completing six months of its two-year tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), it may be time to assess what exactly the UN is getting done around the world.
Much of the turmoil occupying the Security Council's time this year has occurred in Africa. The first wave of the Arab Spring emerged in Tunisia, before spreading to Egypt, both North African nations. In neighbouring Libya, Gaddafi is locked in a battle with his opponents and, of course, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). A new nation of South Sudan has been birthed. Somali pirates remain an international menace.
In effect, beyond the AfPak theatre, the largest events shaping the world have taken place in Africa. Since India assumed its non-permanent seat at the UNSC in January, over two-thirds of its meetings have focused on Africa and that continent has seized about 90% of its time. But here's a question: How many African countries have permanent seats on the Council?
The answer? Zero.
When the Preamble to the Charter of the UN was conceived in San Francisco, it spoke of "equal rights" of "nations large and small". The UN was a byproduct of World War II and continues to reflect the reality of a mid-20th century world. While the tortuous bureaucratic process of Security Council reform moves along like snails in molasses, the 21st century is ignored. Germany, the pre-eminent European power of today; Japan, the second-largest donor to the UN's coffers; Brazil, India and South Africa remain on the margins of the decision-making process.
Other global groups like the G20 have supplanted the UN in the economic sphere, even as the UN has been struggling for decades to define a 'terrorist'.
Obviously, that's frustrating for countries like India. And that sense was recently echoed by India's Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri while participating in an "informal thematic debate" on 'The United Nations in Global Governance'. Ambassador Puri said, "I am not entirely sure about our relevance beyond those of us who are actually involved in the industry of the UN. I think the marketplace's perception of us is quite different."
You bet, New Yorkers would say. More importantly, many would want the UN to be increasingly irrelevant elsewhere.
Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years
His column American Jalebi will appear every fortnight. The views expressed by the author are personal.
NATGRID CAN'T SAVE US
So it's official, right from the mouths of the home minister and the prime minister-in-waiting: there's no foolproof protection against terrorism. It's an unpalatable truth, but someone had to say it. After this week's bombings in Mumbai, I found myself wondering if I, a completely untrained person with hazy memories of high school chemistry, could make a fertiliser bomb. Unfortunately, I think I can, with ingredients bought from my local market and a little guidance from anarchist cookbooks which are still found on the internet, despite international concern.
Fortunately, I don't have the motivation to do it. But unfortunately, the government's intelligence apparatus is incapable of verifying my motivations. To that extent, P Chidambaram and Rahul Gandhi are being truthful — there is no 100% protection against bombers, in India or elsewhere.
Of course, they could have muscularly said that complete security is possible. The US government promised it to its people after 9/11 and has delivered. There have been no significant, successful attacks on US soil in a decade. But this was achieved at a huge political and social cost. The land of the free now values security over personal freedoms, privacy and human rights. With the Patriot Act in one hand and an assault rifle in the other, the US declared itself the winner of its war on terror after Osama bin Laden was killed, but it has actually lost. Because the conflict turned it into the very thing it used to hate, an unfree nation.
We probably don't want to go that way, investing in a huge security and strategic apparatus. We're a poor country, and we would pay an even higher social cost than the US. Fortunately, our political leadership is telling the plain truth. But it's not the whole truth, because we can improve the odds. Here, I'm not talking about the National Technical Research Organisation or Natgrid, which the home ministry has been pushing. The former is a wiretapper, the latter a network of networks that will connect several information silos, including those holding personal data. They raise serious privacy issues that would tilt the balance of power between the government and the citizen it serves. These have to be discussed and resolved before they are operationalised.
But the key to better preparedness against terrorism lies in initiatives which are far simpler and far less sexy. They have to do with human intelligence and the efficient sharing of investigative information. Two years ago, former national security advisor MK Narayanan had mooted the idea of a Citizens' Intelligence Network integrated with the police force. And five years ago, the Supreme Court had ruled for police reforms on a suit filed by former Border Security Force director Prakash Singh. Both initiatives have languished for lack of political will.
These two measures would create a professional, capable police force which has eyes and ears everywhere. It would produce human intelligence and share it intelligently and responsibly, capabilities which the intelligence community values highly. It's important because the first line of defence against attacks on citizens is the policeman on the beat. If he is not capable, no Natgrid can save us. That is the whole truth, which Rahul Gandhi and Chidambaram neglected to mention.
Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine n firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed by the author are personal
BELLY UP IN DELHI
When I am trying to explain my country to the bemused newbie, I say that she should think of it as if it were Europe, should Europe ever become a single nation. We have as many cultures, as many languages and as many diverse cultural influences as Europe and this makes it a challenging place to live. No doubt this also makes it a challenging place to report on and a challenging place to govern.
So let me say upfront, I think Delhi is a bad idea. Not as a city, not as a place to live. On those grounds, it should be judged by those who live there. I think it is a bad idea to sit in Delhi and make decisions about Mumbai. Or Goa. Or Telangana. Or Manipur.
Of course, we are a unitary State with federal features and when we were in school, we learnt about the state list and the Union list and the concurrent list. Lest you have forgotten, the central government can make laws on the Union list; the state can make laws on the state list so long as they do not conflict with the Constitution and do not conflict with Union laws and the concurrent list has subjects where both can muck about.
This should work fine you would think.
Only it hasn't.
Every time something happens, someone says, "There ought to be a law." Then someone who is better informed says, "There is already a law."
Then the writer of the second edit says, "India has some fine laws but the problem is that they are never enforced." Since we are not terribly inclined to muck about too much once the crisis has passed, since we enjoy inertia, nothing much happens after that. This is because of Delhi.
Delhi is too far away to be accountable. Delhi is too far away to be able to tell what is happening. Delhi, most of the time, does not care too much anyway. If things aren't broken, they must be working.
Which is why it is time to ask for a little more decentralising of power. Can you imagine how nice it would be if you went shopping in the market and saw your MLA buying his fish? (This is always assuming that he would buy it, as opposed to accepting it graciously on behalf of his family, 'bachchon ke liye paamplet'.) This can only happen if your MLA knows that this would be good for his image, to be seen as being in touch with the people.
Would it not be a fine thing to go to the temple and find that your MP was also present for the evening aarti? Then you could look straight through him if you did not like the way he had voted on the issue of the park that was to be turned into a parking lot. He might actually vote in a way that would benefit the community.
But what do we get? We get a prime minister who is incommunicado for the best part of the year. We have a home minister who isn't asking the right questions but believes that it is best to make testosterone-rich remarks each time something like this happens. We have an Opposition party that has forgotten that our jurisprudence, created in a better and more idealistic time, maintains that you are 'innocent until proven guilty' even with old offenders and which wants to take dead people to the votebank. We have the media that can't get out of Delhi studios even when discussing an issue that happened somewhere else in the country.
So when someone from Delhi asks me what does it feel like to live in a city that is bombed on a fairly regular basis, I have to confess that I don't know. I don't know whether there is a single answer to that question. I am middle class. I live in a cosmopolitan neighbourhood that is the real estate agent's way of saying that he can't guarantee that your neighbours won't be Muslim or Christian or Parsi. I live in a building and I don't even travel to work and back. I was safe on Wednesday evening as were all the people I love. This informs my answer and it would inform the answer of everyone who lives in the urban of sprawl of Mumbai. Different person, different answer.
What are the right questions then?
The right questions are simple. How do we stop this happening? It isn't CCTV cameras and the right to break into people's lives. It isn't throwing lots of money at defence or internal security as much as the stooges of big business and R&AW would like us to believe. That's like saying, let's treat the symptoms and leave the disease to take care of itself.
So if we want to create a world without bombs, how about saying: how much have we invested in social justice? Have we created an inclusive nation? Does India shine as brilliantly for the tribal child and the rural poor as it does for my nine-year-old neighbour who goes to school in an air-conditioned SUV, hard at work on his laptop? Those are the right questions. But as long as the people framing the questions and the answers remain in Delhi, we are not going to get anywhere closer to workable solutions.
Jerry Pinto is a Mumbai-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.
T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".
Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."
No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.
Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
It is too soon to make any definitive statements on the antecedents of these latest bombings in Mumbai. However, it is not too early to evaluate some aspects of Mumbai's response to the emergency and its crumbling infrastructure. What has been highlighted yet again this week is Mumbai's continued exclusion from the horizon of Maharashtra's policy-making.
This is caused by well-understood structural factors. As is the case for most state capitals, Maharashtra's political leadership rarely worries about the voters of Mumbai, as their bases are outside the city; the capital exists, in the mental landscape of many of them, as a place where money is made, and from where funding comes. Delhi, for all its famously divided administration, has shown in the past decade or so the benefits that accrue to a city with a functional, legitimate, activist government. Unfortunately, Mumbai's local government is a joke — and has been consistently undermined by the state government, as well. The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, or MMRDA, is the state government's preferred method to undercut the municipal corporation. In areas where authority is so grievously divided, planning and investment suffer, and thus Mumbai's infrastructure deficit, its security deficit, its vision deficit. Nor can we expect any of this to change until the institutions that have caused the city's stagnation are forced to change.
The most important change is to make local government more powerful, and more accountable. Mumbai's citizenry sense their city's decline, and feel that they need someone to blame — but all those responsible seem somehow too remote. Partly, that is because they are too remote, and that nobody has a political investment in making policy that is good for Mumbai's development. That must change. Mumbai's stagnation and decline hurts the India growth story disproportionately, just as its recovery and growth would help it immeasurably. The city-state of Delhi has overtaken Mumbai in indices of liveability and security, in spite of having the Central government to deal with. India's financial centre must be granted a comparable sense of its own destiny — starting with the ability to elect representatives who really matter, to a governing body capable of raising money and investing in security and transport infrastructure. Without that, further decline is heartbreakingly certain.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality, the Janani Suraksha Yojana is a scheme unflinching in its ambition and creativeness. Launched more than five years ago, it supplements incentives like free transport with conditional cash transfer to encourage "institutional delivery". In the years since, the data has been encouraging, but regional variations are evident — as are, unfortunately, indications that the poorest women may not necessarily be the biggest beneficiaries. Clearly, a lot of awareness and infrastructural work is needed to reach the scheme to all potential beneficiaries. Crucial to this is continuous monitoring.
The UP Congress Committee may not have been motivated purely by the academic potential of an inquiry into the working of the JSY when, encouraged by party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, it decided to flood the state authorities with Right to Information inquiries about beneficiaries. The campaign for the 2012 UP elections is, for all practical purposes, in full swing, and the Congress is interrogating the Mayawati government on numerous counts. But the data collected can offer valuable trends, especially at a time when the Union health ministry has announced an initiative to strengthen the scheme, and after studies have indicated lower than average coverage in UP.
That is, if the Congress can work out the mechanics of sifting through this data. UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi's RTI inquiry about 500 gram panchayats and 110 municipal blocks of Lucknow district, for instance, has yielded 28,229 pages in reply. Pleading that Youth Congress workers may be better armed to verify the information as PCC workers are engaged in other "grass-root level" activities, Joshi has dispatched the files to Gandhi. We now await word on the party's next move.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
AS SEEN ON TV
As news of the Mumbai blasts broke, those watching from a distance could not help but think of the awful parallels with 26/11, an event that still defines our idea of terror. But there was one striking difference — back then, everything was noise and chaos. While TV channels were freely fantasising about the strike in an information vacuum, giving away vital details on air and plonking every nerve about the human tragedy of 26/11, their response has been relatively dignified and restrained this time. The urgency of breaking news has not vaporised all editorial filters, nor has the sense of competition led them into wild error. If they seemed to be winging it for major parts of 26/11 coverage, this time round, they seem to have internalised a rough emergency protocol.
Crisis situations like this demand a rapid shifting of frames for 24x7 news channels — first, the focus is on rapid news-gathering, laying on the descriptive detail, providing early information. Then, they begin to sift and sort through the facts, and arrive at explanations. Only later do they have the luxury of the long view. But as 26/11 demonstrated, many media outlets maxed out on Mumbai coverage, with no regard for privacy or delicacy, or for the tensions they were stoking with their open speculation. After widespread public recoil, the information and broadcasting ministry was compelled to issue a set of do's and don'ts for future situations, which included treating the dead with dignity, and not using graphic visual material. Television channels themselves appear to be more wary — they largely stuck to the facts as they were gleaned, and conducted sober interviews with officials and political leaders. The reason TV channels are expected to act with utmost care is because they can be so easily exploited by terrorists. If terrorism creates the bang, 24-hour news TV brings in the echo and reverberation.
If our TV channels have come to realise that their outsized power must come with stronger internal checks, then that's a highly welcome development.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
NATIONAL INTEREST: MUMBYE
Here is a question, and a proposition, rolled into one: Is Mumbai the new Calcutta? And the choice of the new name for one, and the old one for the other, is deliberate. There was a time when Calcutta was the globally celebrated metaphor for all that was wrong with India. From Oh! Calcutta to Dominique Lapierre's City of Joy, the poverty, the dysfunctionality of that city was the benchmark for all that could go wrong with Third World urban sprawl. Rajiv Gandhi brought the decline of the city to national consciousness by proclaiming that the city was dead. Even the most die-hard Kolkata-walas will not protest when I say that their city has lost that dubious "number one" status to Mumbai. In fact, not only has Mumbai become the new Kolkata, it also does not have the comfort of having a Mother Teresa to bring it succour, a sense of pride and a possible Nobel.
Check out the signals from popular culture. Four of the most prominent books centred on Mumbai (Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, Shantaram by Gregory Roberts, Suketu Mehta's Maximum City and, most recently, Aravind Adiga's Last Man in Tower) have each drawn from the seamier underbelly of India's clichéd city of dreams where streets were allegedly paved with gold. Two of the most celebrated India-themed foreign films, Slumdog Millionaire and Salaam Bombay, have followed the same pattern. Not to be left behind, Bollywood is also back to its old pessimistic view of its own city, as the success of Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (with a sequel in the works) shows. In fact, today, almost all that is optimistic in popular culture is north/ Delhi-based, from Band Baaja Baaraat to Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Even the new bestselling chicklit is based in Delhi, Anuja Chauhan's Zoya Factor and Advaita Kala's Almost Single. And this, in a city with a well-earned notoriety for being wildly unkind to young women.
Repeated terrorist attacks and bombings are only the most visible symptoms of Mumbai's decline. The boast of developing it into Asia's new financial centre, a new Shanghai, is now an insult to India's fastest diminishing city. Its policing is a disaster, the underworld is making a comeback (that is also the message from J. Dey's murder, irrespective of whose story you believe). It has lost nearly 400 lives to terror attacks in five years. And the answer to the question, "Why Mumbai?", may lie in the fact that here, more than anywhere else, do terror modules find refuge and protection from the underworld. It is also silly to go on and on insinuating that Mumbai is vulnerable because of its mixed population or communal divide. It is a horrible insinuation on its Muslims. A flourishing underworld and a sprawling slum provide Mumbai a unique sanctuary for terror. And what do we have to fight them? A most politicised and faction-ridden police leadership. And a police rank and file which, if it is fortunate, finds shelter in one of the city's rotting chawls. I invite you to visit any of these. How can a man living such a poor quality of life with his family have a sense of pride in his city, or his uniform? It is still a marvel it manages to produce great heroes like Tukaram Ombale (who died clutching Kasab's AK-47).
This is further compounded by the fact that the police reports to R.R. Patil, whose first holy objective is to fix Mumbai's "rotting" morality. So he would shut down the dance bars while the larger underworld and terror modules flourish and his police force gets more divided and demoralised. Such is the paralysis that most of the purchases planned after 26/11 have not been made. And while the chief minister blames complex scrutiny of acquisitions by the many three-letter monsters of New Delhi — CVC,CAG, CBI — the fact is the Central government belongs to the same coalition. So these are thin excuses. A Rs 500-crore plan to cover the crucial parts of Mumbai with CCTV cameras has been pending since 26/11, and if it gets approved by the cabinet later next week, it will be a collateral benefit of this week's bombings.
You cannot build a global financial centre in a city whose law and order is so uncertain. Nor can you do so in a city which is adding no new and modern schooling and higher education facilities. Deepak Parekh, one of the most respected residents of Mumbai, speaks with great pain that he has so few seats in the reputed Bombay Scottish, which he presides over, that he has to deny admissions to the children of professors in its Powai branch from the neighbouring IIT. There are too few college seats, too few engineering and medical colleges of quality and repute. No surprise then that some of the most important figures in the financial and corporate world are now relocating to Delhi. Just over the past year, two of the shiniest stars of global banking have relocated to Delhi, harassed by the nightmare of traffic, infrastructure, and possibly also a sense of insecurity. Most of Bombay's infrastructure decisions are lost in some kind of a dreaded politico-bureaucratic orbit, where these keep circling without getting anywhere. The city took nearly a decade to build a tiny sea-link at a time when the Chinese build one 14 times its size in four years and make no song-and-dance about it. What kind of a commercial capital can it be if it does not even offer its residents even one air-conditioned train seat for their daily commute? (Delhi now has 2.5 million, and Kolkata six lakh.) Can a city with just one north-south artery be Asia's financial centre? Not when just one strategically parked, and booby-trapped, truck can slice it neatly into two, snapping all contact between its only airport and the downtown.
For a long time every decision taken by the Maharashtra government was presumed to carry the stink of corruption. Now we have a chief minister whose personal honesty nobody questions, but who does not take any major decisions. Preventing corruption by not taking any decisions is a bit like banishing AIDS by banning sex.
There is, however, an essential difference between the declining Calcutta of the old and Mumbai of now. Unlike Calcutta, whose residents always maintained their love and loyalty to the city and resented any criticism of it, Mumbai's residents are now the angriest Indians. You see this anger spill over to the media, TV discussions, social networking sites and so on. A desperate sullenness has replaced what used to be eternal optimism, once upon a time in Mumbai. That is why the very idea of the "spirit of Bombay", which so fired their imagination once, now irritates them no end.
Because it is just seen as a cynical mantra to fool them to accept their fate as it is.
These bombings will surely hasten some decisions. But that will not be a solution if Mumbai has to survive as a self-respecting modern city and not degenerate into a third-world equivalent of how New York was before Mayor Rudy Giuliani cleaned it up. The new Shanghai is a dream that never will be. It can, however, be redeemed only in one way: if we can free Mumbai, and other major cities (like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata), from being colonies of their state-level politicians. That would require autonomous city governance, and the shifting of state capitals, (and therefore the political class which gets its power from votes in the hinterland, and then monetises it in the big bad city), back to the state's heartland. Take the American example, where the capital of almost no state is its biggest city (New York's is in Albany, California's in Sacramento, Illinois has its capital in Springfield, not Chicago, and so on). But that, in our system, is too radical a change to expect. Can we, instead, merely get the two-dozen-odd infrastructure-building decisions fast-forwarded in Mumbai, some de-congestion, and the police force cleaned up? Or could it be that these latest blasts haven't quite claimed enough lives for us to be shaken up even that much as yet?
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
AND IT DISAPPARATES
It all ends. It would be hard to think of a more portentous tagline. After seven books which sold so many copies that they had to be taken out of global publishing statistics because they skewed the figures so badly; 450 million copies in 67 languages; a brand valued in excess of $15 billion; and the highest grossing film series of all time, it is finally ending with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.
If you haven't read the books or seen the earlier films, you can stop reading here, and go make yourself a cup of tea: there's just too much backstory. But if you can distinguish between a snargaluff and a tentacula, then you will be looking forward to the final part, and seeing for yourself if Warner Bros' blind dragon of Gringotts is as knickerwettingly scary as the one you imagined while reading the book.
Culture-vultures sit picking over the bones of that contentious issue: books or films? As an unashamedly bookish person, I should really say: books, no question. But there's a strange thing going on with the Harry Potter book/ film thing which bears closer examination, and it's to do with Time.
Little Emma, Daniel and Rupert were just eleven in the first film: they're all now hulking and/ or gorgeous twenty-somethings. There are few — if any — films where you actually get to witness the ageing process of the lead characters in (give or take a little) "real time". The "real time" trope was used to brilliant effect in the US TV series 24 in which one minute of viewing time corresponded exactly to one minute of "action" in the lives of the characters on screen. Harry Potter does that with a larger, stretchier canvas. Each book (and film) corresponds to one year in the life of the eponymous hero and his friends — and the films do the same, more or less: all eight released from 2001 to 2011.
And the books, which virtually single-handedly led to the creation of a whole new marketing category of "cross-over literature", span a similar age: Philosopher's Stone is quite kiddish but by the time we get to Deathly Hallows, not only have the books grown in size (books 4, 5, 6, and 7 are all over 600 pages long) but also darkened and deepened in terms of tone and language — there's a fair smattering of curses in the later books, not all of them magical. The same could be said for the films — the graveyard scene in Goblet of Fire freaked me out at the grand old age of forty-something: I'm not sure if it's something an eight-year-old should watch. Although, having said that, mine was riveted.
The genius of Rowling's imagination is not in the plotting (complex though that is), nor the literary style (clunky at times), nor the themes she tackles (pretty standard, good vs evil stuff), but in the completeness of the world she has conjured up. It runs according to its own laws: there are always excellent reasons why, for example, you can't conjure up food, or Disapparate from the Hogwarts school grounds — although why you can't just use Hermione's Time-turner (from Prisoner of Azkaban, the third, and best, book in the series) to go back and stop Tom Riddle from going over to the dark side, I've never quite been able to understand.
The boxed-set of the films or the books is like your own time-turner that allows you not only to revisit your childhood, but those of the actors on screen.
All good things must come to an end and — with any luck — all bad things to a sticky one. Having successfully transmogrified the books onto screen, Potter goes digital when the website pottermore. com goes live in October. The theme park in Florida is doing brisk business, and there will no doubt be computer-games galore to come. Where's it all going to end, I'm not sure, but one thing's for certain: it doesn't all end quite yet.
The writer is a senior editor at Young Zubaan, email@example.com
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
RETHINK THE COMMUNAL VIOLENCE BILL
The communal violence bill prepared by the National Advisory Council (NAC) seeks fundamentally to change how the government deals with violence against minorities. The bill focuses on religious and linguistic minorities as well the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but religious minorities are at its heart. The bill has some undeniable strengths, but it suffers from two analytically fatal flaws. First, it places excessive faith in the state machinery. Though attached to the government, the NAC's primary function is to express civil society concerns. Civil society normally checks the powers of the state. It is profoundly ironical that the bill asks for a substantial expansion of state bureaucracy. Second, the bill assumes that India's future will be an extension of its riot-infested past, a deeply implausible point for reasons articulated below. Parliament should reject the bill.
Before I develop my critique, let me begin with a word of admiration. The largest part of public commentary thus far has concentrated on whether minorities require special protection against violence, as the bill purports to do. The NAC is right; the critics are wrong.
The question of minority rights has a fraught and embattled history in political thought. The cultural right is often opposed to giving legal recognition to the concept of minorities, saying it prevents the minorities from assimilation, instead promoting communal division, even separatism. This is fundamentally the Hindu nationalist critique of the bill.
But it is not only the cultural right that takes this view. Radical liberals also reject the notion of group rights and protections. For radical liberals, citizenship is an individual right, and individuals should be allowed freely to choose their identities. Group entitlements imprison individuals and societies, inexorably pushing them towards dangerous collective identities.
By comparison, the Hindu nationalist argument is majoritarian, not rooted in individual freedom. For them, it is Hindu values that define India's national culture, and laws should promote assimilation of minorities to the nation's presumed Hindu centre, not perpetuate a minority mindset. Their reasons might be different, but the cultural right and the radical liberals normally have a seemingly unlikely alliance on this matter.
On minority rights, we also have a tradition of moderate liberalism. A moderate liberal asks: Is a person from the minority community simply a citizen like others? Is a rich minority simply an aggregation of rich citizens, or can it still suffer from some serious disabilities?
Not simply in pre-modern history, but also in modern times, it has been easy to turn groups that the mainstream of a society looks down upon, or dislikes, into objects of collective violence. Even richer minorities have suffered such fates. Think of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Indians in Uganda, the Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Sikhs in Delhi after Indira Gandhi's assassination, and Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley in the early 1990s. This realisation — that even modern societies can easily slip into majoritarianism — is the basis for the moderate liberal claim that minorities need special protection.
Does this position imply that minorities can do no wrong? Is the majority community always to blame? By the 1940s, thinking long and hard about this question, Jawaharlal Nehru had started distinguishing between minority communalism and majority communalism. Both were bad, but majority communalism was infinitely worse. Nehru detested Jinnah's communalism, but called Hindu communalism the greatest danger to India. Why?
Unless one carefully watches, majority communalism and nationalism tend to get conflated. Following the logic that the majority community is the prime, or the only, owner of the nation, such seamless morphing is quite common. Many Sinhalese say that they define Sri Lanka, not the Tamil minority; many Malays contend that they are the sons of the soil in Malaysia, not the Chinese; Hitler argued that Jews could never be Germans; supporters of mass murderers in Gujarat (2002) called violence against Muslims an act of patriotism; the killing of Sikhs in 1984 was also described in several circles as an assertion of Indian nationalism. Two Sikhs had after all assassinated the prime minister, the highest elected official, thus desecrating the nation.
Because of these dangers, the key question for moderate liberals is not about the abstract first principles: namely, should democratic rights be individually based or group-based? Rather, we ask a historically necessary practical question: How can one expect minorities to be patriotic, if they are by definition excluded from the joint ownership of the nation, and violence against them is permitted as a legitimate act or, worse, viewed as service to the nation?
This position does not imply that minority communalism ought to be ignored. Nehru had harsh words to say about Muslim organisations and leaders during a Hindu-Muslim riot in Aligarh in 1954, and wanted those organisations punished. My own research in Hyderabad uncovered many instances when Muslim organisations were egregiously complicit in riots. Hyderabad's mass killers came in both hues, Hindu and Muslim; Hindus had no monopoly over rioting. Other researchers came to similar conclusions. Agar Hindu pachees Musalman marenge, said Hyderabad's Muslim wrestlers to Sudhir Kakar, a psychologist who also researched violence, to hum chhabbees Hindu marenge — yeh jo riot hai, woh one-day cricket ki tarah hota hai (if the Hindus kill 25 Muslims, we will kill 26 Hindus — a riot is like a one-day cricket game).
Moderate liberalism does not willfully disregard the violent misconduct of minorities; it only points to the infinitely greater subversive potential of majority communalism. Though real, Hyderabad and Aligarh are less common; the nearly helpless Muslims of Ahmedabad, Baroda, Moradabad, Meerut, slaughtered mercilessly in riots, have been more typical. Riots have indisputably killed many times more Muslims than Hindus in post-1947 India.
In sum, therefore, fundamentally because of the easy, though erroneous, equation of majorities with nationhood, a democracy must protect its minorities from violence. The NAC is right to emphasise the vulnerability of minorities and to stress that the Indian state can behave in a highly majoritarian fashion. But do we need a new law and a new bureaucracy to make that point?
Should civil servants be liable?
The second important aspect of the bill is its insistence that if "communal and targeted violence" against minorities takes place, it will automatically be assumed that the civil servant in charge of law and order has not exercised "lawful authority vested in him or her under law" and he or she "shall be guilty of dereliction of duty". The bill makes civil servants legally liable for riots. They will be fired, demoted or reprimanded, if a riot takes place on their watch.
At one level, this is a welcome insistence. Quite often, IAS or IPS officers have looked at political masters before deciding how to deal with a riot, even though the rule-book makes it clear that the responsibility of law and order at the ground level lies with the civil servant, not with the politician. By making the civil servant liable, the bill seeks to strengthen the civil servant against the politician. The NAC's assumption is that if civil servants were personally liable for riots, there is a greater chance they would act according to the rule-book, not wait for political signals from above.
But this assumption can only be half-right. The NAC has not confronted a factual question. Why has Aligarh been so riot-prone, whereas Bulandshahr, a town next door, has rarely had a communal riot? Why have Meerut and Morabadad been so communally nasty, whereas the neighbouring Muzaffarnagar and Bareilly hardly ever witnessed a communal riot after independence? Did Aligarh, Meerut and Moradabad have riots because the civil servants stationed there ignored, or supported, the killing of Muslims, or is there something about the local relations of Hindus and Muslims in these towns that made them riot-prone?
Indeed, during 1950-95, as I calculated in my book on communal violence, a mere eight cities of India — Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Hyderabad, Aligarh, Meerut, Delhi and Kolkata — had nearly 46 per cent of all deaths in Hindu-Muslim riots. Did these eight cities have repeated "dereliction of duty" by civil servants? Did the peaceful cities have especially duty-driven officials and police forces?
To be sure, there are enough cases of officials ignoring their duties during riots. Delhi after Mrs Gandhi's assassination and Gujarat 2002 have already been cited. More examples can easily be added. But it is also worth inquiring whether that is the only reason riots took place.
When I asked why he succeeded in keeping peace in smaller towns of Maharashtra but, in 1984, failed to prevent an awful communal riot in Mumbai and later in Ahmedabad, Julio Ribeiro, an outstanding police officer of post-1947 India whose commitment to duty has never been questioned, said that there was something about how social and economic life was organised in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, which made his task enormously difficult. The same question — why riots in some places, not in others — elicited an identical answer from most police officers and civil administrators I interviewed in my 10-year long study of communal violence. Would the NAC fire a Ribero, and others like him, for their inability to prevent riots?
Riots are jointly produced. They are, in part, an outcome of how the police officials and civil administrators have performed their constitutionally assigned functions. Rioting is also, in part, a result of how social and economic life is organised in a town, whether Hindus and Muslims are segregated or integrated, and what incentives or capacities such local structures have created for politicians, always in search of political gains, to inflame and polarise, or calm and unite, local communities. The same IAS officer who functioned well in Warangal often felt helpless in Hyderabad. The NAC would like to give more powers to the civil servant. But if riots are jointly produced by the state and society, dealing with one side of the equation is surely not enough.
Indeed, the NAC needs to be given another reminder about the limits of state power. Aren't state capacity and governance in the US, Britain and France much higher than in India? Yet the US could not prevent the so-called Rodney King riots in 1992, Britain witnessed racial rioting in the 1980s, and Arab migrants in France rioted in 2005. Los Angeles, Brixton and Paris burned, while the police wielded their batons and even shot to discipline the crowds. If making the state more powerful and/or rule-governed were the solution to rioting, the world would be an easier place to govern.
A new bureaucracy for communal harmony, justice and reparation?
The bill also envisions creation of a new set of state institutions: a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation, headquartered in Delhi. The National Authority will have seven members, supported by a "Secretary General, who shall be an officer of the rank of the Secretary to the Government of India". Presumably, the members will have the rank of ministers of state and the chairperson will be of full ministerial rank. The National Authority will be given police and investigative staff when necessary; it can investigate the conduct of army officers during riots; it will have the powers of a civil court for inquiry and investigation; and all district magistrates and police commissioners will be required to report to it on matters concerning communal violence. There will be corresponding institutions at the state level, too. A massive bureaucracy will thus be created.
This great institutional proposal invites a basic question: Does the NAC expect the future of India to be as riot-ridden as India's past has been? Massive law-and-order bureaucracies are normally created to deal with a frequently recurring problem, not for something highly infrequent or rare. We need to ask if riots will be occasional episodes, or regular occurrences, in the coming years. If riots are going to be occasional, we can't justify the creation of a huge permanent bureaucracy.
To treat the future as a mechanical extension of the past is almost always an awful mistake. The future is basically uncertain. That is why we use probabilistic, odds-based reasoning about the future.
What can we say about the odds of rioting in India in the next 10, 20 or 30 years? A vast amount of cross-country research on riots and civil wars has been published in recent years. And a large conclusion has emerged. According to worldwide evidence, riots are regular occurrences at low levels of national income, but only occasional episodes at middle and high incomes.
On why this is so, the research is not conclusive. But two hypotheses have been considered reasonable. First, as incomes rapidly rise, popular aspirations change and a desire for material advancement, perhaps always present, becomes more realistic. It is possible to envision a better economic future, if many others around are rising. As a result, a new politics of aspirations emerges, shrinking space for politicians to mobilise groups for communal riots. With rising prosperity, issues in politics begin to change. Communal discontent does not fully disappear, but it begins to take the form of higher-technology terrorism as opposed to low-tech mass riots. Once that happens, a riot- bureaucracy is incapable of handling the problem. Second, at higher national incomes, state capacities also increase and governance improves. The NAC believes that the latter is not happening in India and that may be true. But it shows no understanding of the rising politics of aspirations, which India is beginning to see, as it moves economically forward. Indeed, this could well be an important reason India has witnessed no big riots since 2002.
A preponderant majority of India's riots took place, when India was a low-income country. India has now become a middle-income country and is growing faster than ever before. To the extent we can make predictions on the basis of research, riots will increasingly be a matter of India's past, not its future. While it is not impossible for this prediction to be wrong, it will be a great surprise if communal riots returns to India in a big way, as the nation rises up the income ladder. The basic point is that we can't create a huge bureaucracy with unprecedented powers on the basis of a low-odds scenario.
The NAC appears to be a prisoner of India's past, especially of Gujarat 2002. What happened in Gujarat was a crushing embarrassment for all liberal Indians and every effort should be made to punish the guilty, but to build a new bureaucracy to prevent another Gujarat 2002, which is in any case unlikely in the future, will be a terrible mistake.
Indeed, the creation of such a bureaucracy and law might create perverse incentives. Conflict research shows that many people settle petty personal scores in ethnic violence, pretending that a larger ethnic cause is being served. If public servants are made liable for riots, those opposed to them, for whatever reason, might have an incentive to touch off riots — to punish a civil servant they did not like. Thus, even though the normal tendency is for the incidence of riots to go down at higher levels of income, the creation of a riots bureaucracy might counteract that trend. We could reinvent a problem, which would otherwise naturally decline.
A final point is in order. A distinction needs to be drawn between riots and prejudice. The fact that riots decline at higher levels of income does not mean that prejudice and discrimination necessarily go down. After the 1960s, the US has seen very few riots, but African Americans still end up in jail disproportionately. Rich today, Malaysia has had no big riots since 1969, when it was poor, but discrimination against the Chinese and Indians continues. Prejudice also sometimes takes the form of hate crimes, including those perpetrated by the police, both in the US and Malaysia, but riots are few and far between.
The question for India is obvious. Riots may well decline in India in the future, but will prejudice and discrimination against the Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis also go down? That is a bigger question than riots. But it requires construction of an anti-discrimination law and an equal opportunity commission, not a new bureaucracy to prevent riots.
Varshney teaches political science at Brown University and is the author of 'Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India'
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
OFF WITH THEIR AID
Off with their aid
The Obama administration's decision to withhold military aid worth $800 million to Pakistan has riled both its civilian and military leadership. Daily Times reported on July 11 that the army's PR wing had issued a statement the next day: "The Pakistan military said on Monday that it was capable of fighting without American assistance while the US administration responded that its 'uneasy ally' needed to make a greater effort in the fight against terrorists."
An editorial in Dawn on July 12 mapped the ramifications of the suspension of aid: "In response, the Pakistan military seeks to reassert its sovereignty in the eyes of an increasingly unsympathetic domestic public. But this latest move is more than just swagger, and could have very real implications. The money being withheld apparently includes reimbursements for counterinsurgency expenses as well as counterinsurgency equipment for the Frontier Corps and the military. The loss of this aid could directly impact both Pakistan's security and that of the US."
Dawn reported the foreign office's views on July 15, quoting the minister of state for foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar: "The $500 million cut in US aid to Pakistan is due to the drop in US trainers in Pakistan... the US also withheld $300 million from the Coalition Support Fund." Meanwhile, the ISI chief, General Shuja Pasha's damage-control trip to Washington is reported to have gone off "very well." The Express Tribune reported on July 15: "'Both sides were able to agree on the way forward in intelligence,' a Pakistani official said on condition of anonymity. 'This visit has put the intelligence component back on track completely'."
The PPP-led government in Sindh and the MQM have locked horns over the revival of the commissionerate system (inherited from the British Raj) of local governance. This has led to more violence across Sindh. Despite strong opposition from the MQM, the Sindh assembly went on to approve the bill to revive the commssionerate system tabled in the provincial assembly, reported The Express Tribune on July 13. This system seeks to revive the the powers of the five divisions of Sindh — Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Larkana — and their districts possessed before the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 2001, was promulgated.
This takes control away from the hands of elected representatives (many of them, across urban Sindh, from the MQM) and passes it to bureaucrats or commissioners, thus diluting the MQM's power base in Sindh's cities and towns. This has led to the escalation of violence in Karachi and some have even suggested seeking the army's help to contain the crisis. Daily Times, in its July 15 editorial, stated: "Things being as tense as they are, there are advocates of calling in the military. This should be avoided at all costs. Inviting the military to control Karachi may open the doors to another military intervention... If the military is unleashed, the fallout would be dangerous; the damage may be permanent, but the 'good' effect (peace and quiet) will not last."
Former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza's derogatory remarks about MQM chief Altaf Hussain worsened the situation, to the extent that interior minister Rehman Malik had to apologise to the MQM, and President Asif Zardari made a reconciliatory call to Hussain in London. Mirza was made to issue a televised apology. Newspapers reported that Mirza spoke about his sworn enemy Afaq Hussain of the MQM splinter group, MQM (Haqiqi) and Altaf Hussain in the same breath. He is reported to have said that if Afaq was a criminal, then Altaf was a hundred times worse.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE CITY OF EXPERIMENT
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'
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
HERE IS MUMBAI
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
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
UNITED STATES OF INDIA
It's unbelievable but with just about two weeks left before the US government defaults on its repayment obligations, US policymakers continue to play ducks and drakes. So, when their first warnings some months ago didn't work, credit rating firms like S&P were forced to issue another warning, saying there was a 50:50 chance US government debt would be downgraded. It is true the credit rating agencies don't deserve to be taken seriously given their abysmal record of both getting it wrong and colluding with companies, but surely US lawmakers can see what their actions are likely to cause. The US is the benchmark against which almost all securities are measured and any rise in its risk-metric will get multiplied manifold as it gets transmitted across the financial system. Which makes you wonder whom certain Republicans are referring to when they say that a technical default will send out a powerful message.
Even though the world will heave a massive sigh of relief when, and if, an agreement is reached on raising the debt ceiling, the real issue is that there is no credible plan to reduce the debt in the long-run. Indeed, an analysis of 45 episodes of deleveraging since the 1930s by the McKinsey Global Institute makes it conclude that such episodes of reducing debt-to-GDP by 25% can take 6-7 years and "will exert a significant drag on GDP growth".
Things look even worse across the Atlantic, and while the Greek tragedy is yet to unfold in its entirety—the Germans continue to refuse to finalise the bailout till Greek bondholders take a haircut—the fears of Italy getting sucked in look far more real, at least to bond markets where spreads are widening. Italy, of course, is considered too big to bail, with its debt-to-GDP ratio even higher than those of Portugal and Spain. And the weekend's crisis is yet to unfold. At the time this comment was written, the results of the European stress tests were still not in, though experts suggested that 10 of the 91 banks to be tested would come up short of the tier-I capital requirement of 5%—one German bank even withdrew from the test. As the IMF put it ever so tactfully in its note for the meeting of the G20 deputies a few days ago, downside risks have risen.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
IN ADVERSITY, OPPORTUNITY
First quarter earnings declared by India's largest software exporter TCS have given investors some relief. Infosys, on July 12, had sounded a round of caution, based on its vision of the volatile macro-economic environment, but TCS is exuding confidence. Market watchers and investors were pretty concerned about the sector's prospects in the near term after Infosys provided a muted forecast and raised concerns about macro-economic worries. The worry was whether demand for the outsourcing business would get impacted. But TCS has blown those worries away. The markets on Friday morning reacted very positively to TCS. Its shares surged 20% to touch an all-time high of R1,350.30 in early trade on BSE—by the end of day, it ended 2% over the previous day's close. TCS had reported a 26% rise in profit, beating market expectations. Infosys had recorded a 15.7% surge in net profit, but had fallen marginally short of Street expectations.
Cheering the firms' Q1 results, Bank of America (BoA) has come out with an "outperform" rating on TCS with a price target of R1,400. "Stellar quarter, promising outlook, robust, all round volume growth," BOA said in a raving review. Brokerage firm CLSA was not bullish. The stock is likely to underperform because it is highly valued, it said.
In the IT sector, first quarter earnings are usually impacted by a hike in wages, but TCS managed to record healthy profits despite a 12-14% rise in salaries. Volume growth during the quarter stood at 7.4% (compared to 4% growth at Infosys) and also matched Infosys's operating margins of 26%. Infosys had enjoyed leadership in operating margins traditionally, but this time TCS has caught up with it. While Infosys raised concerns on demand ahead for outsourcing because of economic uncertainties in the US and European markets, TCS denied any such trend, and TCS CEO & MD N Chandrasekaran was quite confident. "While we are watchful, as of now we continue to see sustained demand for our services," he said on Thursday. This kind of confidence is missing at Infosys. That's reflected in what Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan had to say. "There is uncertainty about when spending will be realised ... in this scenario we want to continue to be cautious," he said. Chandrasekaran did not deny the economic uncertainty, but said it has not affected demand for outsourcing yet.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
SEIZE THE CHANCE FOR MEDIA REFORM
Intimidated children rounding on the playground bully—that is the spectacle in the UK since the News of the World phone-hacking scandal exploded. As one who has long believed that the influence of Rupert Murdoch on UK public life was quite intolerable, I am delighted to see this reversal of fortune. But rage is not enough. The UK must seize this chance to reconsider the structure and regulation of its media.
The media are businesses. But they are not just any businesses. They not only reflect, but also mould, public opinion and so wield immense political influence. That is why dictators seek to control the media and democratic politicians to use them. A person with control over a substantial portion of the press and television exerts huge unaccountable influence over public life. That is (or at least was) the position of Mr Murdoch's News International.
Some would argue that, even so, it is best to leave ownership to the market and content to rights of free expression, subject only to law on libel and on intrusion into private life. But ownership does matter. The media have an intimate relationship with the functioning of the democratic polity or, in different words, the ability of the people to play an effective role as citizens.
We are both consumers and citizens, individuals pursuing our private lives and participants in public life. Classical liberals, who start by assuming that the role of the state should be very narrowly circumscribed, view the media as no more than an arena for commercial gladiators. But, in Aristotle's words, man is a "political animal". We need to make many decisions together. In the west we do this via a law-governed state responsible to the governed. This then is government by permanent discussion. The media are the forum for democratic politics. This is why they matter.
Diverse media require diverse ownership. But economic forces may generate a degree of concentration incompatible with desirable diversity. Politicians will then find themselves grovelling before proprietors who control their communications with the public. At worst, the proprietor may so twist and distort this needed communication as to transform public life. I would argue that the Fox network's rightwing populism has done just that in the US. This should not happen in the UK.
Yet, paradoxically, a powerful proprietor, such as Mr Murdoch, may also promote diversity. The Times—a decent newspaper—exists today because of subventions from News International. This need for support partly reflects the economics of the newspaper business, as the internet devastates traditional advertising-based business models.
While viewing the media as we would the business of grocers is a grave error, it is no less misleading to ignore the economics of these businesses. Media must be funded. If funds are not to come from the market, they must come from somewhere else. That, too, creates dangers, not least of domination by the state. Each country will have to strike its own balance, aware of the dilemmas, particularly in our era of profound technological change.
What is now needed is a comprehensive re-examination of the role and regulation of the media in the UK. Moreover, any conclusions of such a review must explicitly include a commitment to further review in future, to take account of ongoing changes in technology and the business environment. Such a comprehensive review would look at: the law on privacy and libel; regulation of the press; the concentration of ownership within and across media; the role of public service broadcasting; and the public funding of media, more generally, and particularly of the news.
My preliminary views are that: the privacy of the powerless needs more protection and the wrong-doing of the powerful far less; redress against malicious coverage needs to be tougher, while preserving freedom of expression; rules on cross-ownership of media should be far tighter, with the mooted position of News International in both newspapers and television ruled out, a priori; the country should continue to support the BBC through stable funding, because it defines the notion of a public weal; and we should consider whether the public good of high-quality news gathering and analysis deserves public support.
These are remarkable times. But they are also, so far, largely an outburst of rage by those whom the Murdoch press has humiliated. The prime minister's planned two-part inquiry into the hacking scandal and related issues covers much, albeit not all, of the required ground.
It is not enough to settle scores with the playground bully even though his misbehaviour has been so egregious. It is essential to design a structure of regulation that preserves freedom for the media, while curbing abuse, including concentrations of unaccountable power. The media are too important to be left to the mercies of politicians or judges. But they are also too important to be left to dominant proprietors. The UK has a golden opportunity to strike a new balance. If it does so, this scandal might yet bear rich fruit.
©The Financial Times Limited 2011
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
BUILDING PAX ASIA-PACIFICA
FIDEL V RAMOS
One of the main sources of tension in Asia nowadays are the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, China, and others have conflicting claims. In Chinese media reports, the heightened "unfriendliness" in the region has allegedly arisen from "bad rumors and speculations" on the part of Filipino commentators. But the reality is starker: the intrusions by Chinese aircraft into Filipino airspace in May; Chinese patrol boats cruising in March in the Recto (Reed) Bank, 85 miles west of the Filipino island of Palawan; and, most serious of all, a Chinese missile frigate firing at Filipino fishing boats in February near Palawan's Quirino atoll.
Will armed conflict result from these recurring—and, it seems, escalating—disputes between the Philippines and Vietnam on one side, and China on the other? War, of course, is in no one's interest. But the risk posed by these disputes is growing, because China's relations with both the Philippines and Vietnam are at their lowest point in decades. Given these tensions, it is no surprise that the issue of disputed sovereignty in the South China Sea is almost certain to claim centrestage at this month's Asean Regional Forum, and at the East Asia summit in Bali that will follow it.
Last June, I gave the keynote speech at the celebrations marking the 36th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-China diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of Philippines-China "Friendship Day" in the presence of 5,000 of my countrymen and a smattering of Chinese officials. Yet on that same day, the headlines in Chinese papers were blasting the Philippines for its historic claim to ownership of the Spratly Islands.
Of course, the governments of both countries recognise the need to maintain the stability and cooperation that have made East Asia the world's fastest growing region. The same is true of Vietnam's government and that of the US. But there is no institutionalised means to discuss and resolve the dispute, which is taking on greater significance almost daily, owing to the belief that vast mineral and energy resources lay on the sea bed around the Spratlys.
Now is the time for China, the Philippines, Vietnam, other claimants, and the US to take action to begin to diminish these tensions. What is needed, above all, is a covenant among the leaders of the Asia-Pacific region that will make peaceful dispute resolution binding on all stakeholders, big or small. Only such a pledge can provide the type of certainty that investors—any investors—will need if the Spratly resources are to be developed.
Certainly, China's leaders talk as if this is their goal. In April, at this year's Boao Forum (the Asian Davos) on Hainan Island, Chinese President Hu Jintao asserted: "Peace and development remain the overriding themes of the times. The world needs peace, countries deserve development, and people want cooperation ... China will always be a good neighbour, good friend, and good partner of other Asian countries."
It is past time to make those sentiments a reality; more than a pledge to resolve disputes peacefully is needed. Asia's governments must also begin to adhere to a far more expansive idea of open regionalism, which means that countries like India should have a voice in Asia-Pacific affairs, and they must respect the Asian interests of countries beyond the region. The US, for example, should be made welcome to participate—or continue to participate—in peacekeeping and security cooperation.
But how is Asia to reach consensus on this point? Ever since 1994, when Vietnam's President Le Duc Anh held the presidency of Asean, I have proposed to Asean leaders that the Spratlys be demilitarised as a first step toward building trust. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and associated international commitments must become the basis for productive dialogues leading to binding covenants. Joint exploration and development of the resources within and beneath the archipelago could then begin.
More broadly, the urgent task for Asian statesmen over the next 5-10 years will be to replace the region's Pax Americana, which has guaranteed regional stability for decades, with a more comprehensive Pax Asia-Pacifica that is built on inclusiveness and burden-sharing. But such an Asia-Pacific peace will be durable only if it is based on a balance of mutual benefits rather than on the balance of power.
Clearly, this concept implies burden-sharing by all Asia-Pacific countries to ensure the region's harmony and security. Pax Asia-Pacifica's institutions will need to be built, as Europe's peace was built after World War II, on strong, cooperative undertakings among the most powerful countries and regional blocs—the US, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Russia, and the Asean 10. The region's continued economic growth and progress require that we Asians contain our rivalries and avoid the arms buildups that, unfortunately, now seem to be underway.
The author is a former president of the Philippines
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011
As each new day brings ever more damaging revelations, the full scale and implications of the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers are still unfolding. The wreckage is piling up. The News of the World (NoW) , where it all started, has been shut down and public and political pressure has forced its former editor Rabekah Brooks, who was also chief executive of Mr. Murdoch's British media group News International (NI), to resign. Mr. Murdoch has abandoned his £8 billion bid for the BSkyB television network that he intensely pursued to complete his media dominance in Britain. The ripples are being felt across the Atlantic: the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that News Corporation journalists sought to gain access to the phone records of 9/11 victims, and U.S. Senators have called for investigations into Mr. Murdoch's business practices. Hundreds of incriminating emails are alleged to have been destroyed by NI executives. Senior Scotland Yard officers have complained that the company attempted to "thwart" and "obstruct" their investigation. But police have not come through smelling good either. The affair has revealed a cosy relationship between the police, politicians, and the Murdoch press. Prime Minister David Cameron, a personal friend of the Murdochs, insisted on appointing a former NoW editor, Andy Coulson, as his communications chief despite being warned about his role in phone hacking. A judicial inquiry into the scandal will look into the relationship between the press, the police, and the politicians. A separate inquiry by the House of Commons media committee will see Rupert and his son James grilled by MPs next week.
Revelations point to a culture of systematic, massive abuse of law and media ethics. Up to 4,000 people may have had their phones hacked. What has caused intense outrage is that families of the victims of the 2005 London bombings and soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were targeted in a fishing expedition for stories. Even little children were not spared. The nation was scandalised when it emerged that the phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenaged schoolgirl, was hacked by a NoW investigator. The claim that the practice was confined to a few rogue reporters is becoming increasingly untenable. Nor was it restricted to NoW . The Sun and The Sunday Times , it has emerged, used indefensible methods to obtain personal information about former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The past week has dramatically transformed attitudes towards Mr. Murdoch, prompting questions whether it could be the beginning of the end of his British media empire.
AN ASSASSINATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The killing of Ahmed Wali Karzai has created more uncertainties in Afghanistan. The controversial half-brother of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, shot dead at his home by a man identified as a trusted family aide, was the leader of the provincial council of Kandahar, which is often described as the country's strategic centre. It is here that the Taliban was born and is most powerful. Since the beginning of 2010, Kandahar has been the focus, along with neighbouring Helmand, of NATO and U.S. military efforts to contain the Taliban before the planned withdrawal of troops. Ahmed Wali was seen as crucial to these efforts. He ran Kandahar like a potentate, with his seemingly unlimited supply of money and guns, and he was known as an artful manipulator of Pashtun tribal politics, bolstering his brother's fragile presidency in a hostile region. He maintained contacts with the Taliban, and was considered pivotal to efforts at negotiating with them. At one time, it seemed that U.S. officials in Afghanistan were trying their best to oust Ahmed Wali. They were worried that his reputation for being corrupt and ruthless — he was alleged to have siphoned off chunks of international aid money and to have a role in the lucrative narcotics trade — would hurt their efforts to win the hearts and minds of Afghans. President Karzai and his brother staunchly denied the allegations. Finally, Washington decided it was wiser to co-opt him, and he became a trusted asset in southern Afghanistan. In any case, as The New York Times revealed in October 2009, he was on the CIA's payroll for helping it raise a secret paramilitary for anti-Taliban operations.
It is unclear if the man who killed Ahmed Wali did so out of personal motives or on the orders of the Taliban, even though the Taliban have claimed the assassination. Since 2010, they have carried out a number of high-profile killings in Kandahar — their victims include the provincial police chief, the deputy governor, and the deputy mayor. The elimination of Ahmed Wali, who seemed at times to wield more influence than his brother, has left the government in Kandahar in disarray. It has certainly weakened President Karzai, even though another brother has taken over as head of the Populzai tribe to which the Karzais belong. The assassination complicates the international military effort in Kandahar; it has removed a link to the Taliban and could prove a setback to drawing them into negotiations. That the death of one man with a reputation beyond notorious can have such far-reaching consequences is the tragic reality of Afghanistan today — and of the brutal war imposed on its people by the United States.
SNOW LEOPARDS FOUND IN AFGHANISTAN
A healthy population of snow leopards, elusive big cats threatened across the mountain ranges of Central Asia, has been found in one of the few peaceful areas of Afghanistan, the World Conservation Society has said.
Camera traps documented the secretive animals at 16 locations across the Wakhan Corridor, in north-eastern Afghanistan, free from the insurgency that plagues most of the country. Listed as globally threatened, only some 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards exist, scattered across a dozen nations in the high mountain ranges of Central Asia. — AP
BREAKING GENDER BARRIERS IN SOUTH SUDAN
Nura Koleji rubs her toe in the ochre dust, hugs her knees to her stomach, and keeps her eyes firmly downcast — until we hit on the one topic she is bubbling to talk about. It is not how she fled her village of Lanya when AK47-wielding soldiers arrived from the north during the Sudanese civil war. Nor how they kidnapped her brother to train him as a child soldier; how she watched as they picked out victims and shot them; or how her two uncles were among those butchered in front of her.
It is not even the topic I am here to speak to her about — why she decided to train as a mechanic. What really riles Nura is men's dominance in the workplace. Last week South Sudan, became an independent country following a 22-year war that ended in 2005. And in this brand new country, women such as Nura are keen to see changes.
At technical college
"We have a saying that one hand is not enough to clap. It's true," she tells me. "We need both sexes, not just one. There's an hereditary attitude in my village that women are weaker. I ignore those words and despise the people who say them because I have louder words in my heart telling me I am strong." Nura is not an activist; she has never heard the word "feminist." She is a 20-year-old, softly spoken Sudanese girl, wearing oil-slicked blue mechanic's overalls. When she graduates next year she, along with three other female classmates, will have defied the odds to become the first women mechanics in South Sudan. By the time we meet at 9 a.m., I've dressed, had breakfast and negotiated the potholed roads of Juba, Southern Sudan's de facto capital, to reach the technical college, a secondary school where the 470 students (85 per cent of whom are boys) train to become electricians, bricklayers, carpenters or mechanics. Nura, meanwhile, has collected water from a borehole, swept her family's compound, poured tea for her six younger siblings, revised, and picked mangoes before her two-hour walk to school. After classes finish at 3 p.m., she will sell the fruit at Juba market and put the earnings towards her £41-a-year school fees.
As her 16-year-old classmate Pamela Daniel says: "If you live here, everything is a struggle. But if you don't struggle, you may as well spend your life asleep because nothing will come to you." Nura chose this profession partly because she loves cars, partly because she would love to drive (but has neither the money nor facilities to learn), and partly because she wanted technical skills and a trade, rather than a traditional academic education. One motive, however, supersedes the rest; Nura believes there are no female role models in Southern Sudan and her ambition is to become the first.
This is quite a task for a girl whose mother is absent (she was separated as they fled Lanya during the war), whose father has no job, and whose income from trading mangoes leaves her with just enough money to pay school fees and buy shoes, but not enough for an exercise book. Even so, Nura has already overcome obstacles that halt the education of the majority of her peers. Though 87 per cent of Southern Sudanese women are illiterate, Nura and her classmates can read. While they live with their parents, the majority of girls in South Sudan girls are married off at 13. "Parents value the dowry more than their girls' education and freedom," says English teacher Emelda Elizulai Melling. And with the average dowry around 200 cows (vast numbers of the population earn less than £97 a year and the cheapest cow costs £280), it is not hard to understand why.
Even body changes are a challenge. "When a girl has them, she does not attend classes because she doesn't have the appropriate facilities," says Angelina Alel Habib, spokeswoman for Plan International in Southern Sudan. Luckily for Nura and her classmates, their teacher spends part of her wage on personal hygiene products for the girls. Then there is the fact that as the only four female mechanics students in a class of 60 boys, they faced relentless teasing and family opposition. "My neighbours laughed [at] my overalls. They said girls should not be mechanics," says 17-year-old Natalina Kiden, who would like to be a chauffeur but "doesn't want to rely on men for anything" — not even fixing a car.
Pamela, who hopes to train as an aeroplane mechanic, spent three days persuading her mother to let her go to technical college. Nura, meanwhile, likes her overalls, despite the ridicule they provoke. And she doesn't worry that men might find her independence unattractive, or that when she marries, her husband might ban her from working. "I'll talk to my husband in a polite way and make sure he accepts my work," she tells me. This, after all, is a society with stringent gender-based traditions. "When women pour water for their husbands, they must kneel as a sign of respect," says Habib. And while sharia law was not imposed in the south of Sudan as it is in the north, its strict code has still restricted women's behaviour; for instance women are not supposed to speak in public. "One of the exciting changes our independence will bring is that women will finally be able to speak freely," says Habib.
Other equalities, such as increasing numbers of women in the workforce from the current 30 per cent, will inevitably take longer. "It is not easy for men to adjust to the new economic status of women," warns mechanics teacher Francis Osumba. Juba college, which was built in the 1950s, only began accepting female students in 2005 to study bricklaying, and automechanics in 2008.
So far the students have mastered welding and engine cleaning, learned the entire anatomy of a car and even been taught how to make tables and chairs using scrap sheets of zinc — despite a poorly equipped workshop.
Nura dismisses these obstacles with touching optimism. Does she worry that male owners of car repair firms will be reluctant to hire a girl? "No," she says, insisting she will instead be a walking role model when women see her on the street in mechanic's overalls.
Osumba agrees: "The girls want to disprove people who say mechanical work is just for boys. It is not easy for them but they've passed their first and second year exams so why shouldn't they be given the same chance as the males?" Why not, indeed. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011
Despite taunts and prejudice, four girls are training to become the country's first women mechanics.
INDIAN MEDIA IN A CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT
M. HAMID ANSARI
We have been witness in recent years to rapid, and unprecedented, changes in our society, economy, and polity. These have also transformed the Indian mass media system. The growth in its scale, reach and influence, however, has not been matched by corresponding sensitivity towards non-commercial and non-market dimensions.
This aspect is of relevance because the media is the fourth estate in a democracy. It plays a major role in informing the public and thereby shape perceptions and through it the national agenda. Its centrality is enhanced manifold by increased literacy levels and by the technological revolution of the last two decades and its impact on the generation, processing, dissemination, and consumption of news.
Two other consequences of the change need to be noted:
Media platforms and devices for consumption today vary between traditional, non-conventional, and the experimental. They span traditional print, audio-visual, and digital modes. Convergence between news media, entertainment and telecom has meant that the demarcation between journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment has been eroded.
Increases in per capita income, discretionary spending capability, attractiveness of India as a market and as a destination of foreign investment, have all reinforced the centrality of the Indian mass media system.
As a result, media outlets assume importance not only for marketing and advertisement but also for the 'soft power' aspects of businesses, organisations, and even nations. Media entrepreneurship today is a necessary condition for any growing business enterprise, a political party, and even individuals seeking to leverage public influence for private gain.
Furthermore, the trend towards globalisation has empowered individual citizens through increased movement of goods, capital, services and ideas. Economic liberalisation and spread of digital technologies have aided it. New media have brought forth new means of individual empowerment, allowing the expression of individual ideas, opinions and identities.
I would like to explore today the implications of these changes.
The necessity for media to function effectively as the watchdog of public interest was recognised in the freedom struggle. The founding fathers of the Republic realised the need to balance the freedom of expression of the press with a sense of responsibility while such freedom is exercised. Adherence to accepted norms of journalistic ethics and maintenance of high standards of professional conduct was deemed to be a natural corollary.
Gandhi ji, a journalist himself, cautioned that "an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy." Jawaharlal Nehru warned: "If there is no responsibility and no obligation attached to it, freedom gradually withers away. This is true of a nation's freedom and it applies as much to the Press as to any other group, organisation or individual."
Issue of regulation
It is no exaggeration to say that media represent the sector of the economy that is the envy of others because of the extremely buoyant growth rates witnessed over the last two decades, in an environment characterised by minimal or no regulation. The sole statutory, quasi-judicial body set up for media regulation in the country is the Press Council of India. While it aims to preserve the freedom of the press and maintain and improve the standards of press in India, it has no way of imposing punishments or enforcing its directions for professional or ethical violations.
In the absence of any other government regulator, the focus has shifted to self-regulation by the media organisations, individually or collectively. Collective self-regulation has failed because it is neither universal nor enforceable. Individual self-regulation has also failed due to personal predilections and the prevailing of personal interest over public interest.
It is relevant to note that, to an extent, the most effective de facto media regulator happens to be the advertisers and sponsors who determine the bulk of the revenue stream of our media industry. Their aims and desired outcomes, however, might not align with public policy goals of the government or markers of public interests and may, instead, stand in opposition to them.
The common citizen, who is a consumer of media products, is thus faced with a piquant situation.
While economic deregulation has been the dominant trend of the recent past, it is premised on a dynamic market place with a system of independent regulation, especially competition regulation, to prevent cartelisation, abusive behaviour by dominant firms, and corporate transactions that derail the competitive processes in the market.
When the government, the polity, the market and the industry are unable to provide for full-spectrum systemic regulation that protects consumer welfare and public interest, who will step in to address the gap?
As we debate the issue of media regulation, the following aspects need closer scrutiny:
First, the objective of regulation in democratic societies such as the USA, France and others is to enhance diversity, competition, and localism among media outlets and to promote public interest with a focus on upholding constitutional values, protecting minors, and limiting advertising. Intrusive content regulation is minimised because those who are aggrieved can resort to legal means in the knowledge that the justice delivery system will address their grievances in a reasonable time period.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about our justice delivery system. The time taken to settle court cases deters individual citizens, and even corporate entities, from seeking legal options and forcing the search for alternative tools of administrative justice and facilitation for grievance redressal.
Second, we have not had an informed debate in the country on the issue of multiple ownership and cross-ownership nor a cogent national media policy that covers print, radio, television, cable, DTH platforms, video and film industry, internet, and mobile telephony.
In most developed countries, rules on cross-ownership and multiple-ownership are intended to prevent the emergence of monopolies and cartels and promote competition. Many States in India have a few media groups dominating both the print and electronic media. At the national level, we have seen the emergence of a handful of media conglomerates spanning the entire media spectrum. Its impact on moulding public opinion, generating political debate, and safeguarding consumer and public interest is a moot question.
Third, India is among the few democracies without active media watch groups engaged in objective analyses of the media, discerning prejudices and latent biases, and subjecting the media to a dose of their own medicine. For an industry that has over fifty thousand newspapers and hundreds of television channels, systematic media criticism is non-existent.
What this means is that in the absence of government and industry regulation, even civil society has been unable to provide an effective de facto media regulatory mechanism.
Fourth, no discussion of media regulation can ignore the recent controversy over 'paid news.' The last speech of Prabhash Joshi dwelt on this at some length.
We need to introspect whether the strategy of relying on advertisement rather than subscription as the main revenue source for media outlets has created a difficult set of ethical problems for the media industry as a whole. Once content ceased to be the revenue driver for a media outlet, the effort to leverage it as a direct revenue source began. The inability of the industry and the Press Council to go public with its report on paid news is also another pointer to the problems of self regulation and the 'culture of silence' in the entire industry when it comes to self criticism.
Fifth, the structural biases of the development process have favoured urban areas over rural ones, metropolitan areas over other urban areas, English-speaking over those speaking other Indian languages, the middle and upper classes over the others who constitute the vast majority of our citizens, and the service sectors over other areas such as agriculture.
These biases have prompted the media industry to resort to "sunshine journalism" where the focus is on the glass that is quarter-full rather than that which is three-quarters empty! When media portrayal is of a life that is always good, optimistic, going with the tide of those with discretionary spending power and their causes and pet themes, the role of the media as a defender and upholder of public interest is relegated to the background and its commercial persona takes over, replete with its allegiances to the market and the shareholders.
Sixth, no discussion of media regulation can ignore the slow erosion of the institution of the editor in Indian media organisations. When media space is treated as real estate or as airline seats for purpose of revenue maximisation strategies, and when media products are sold as jeans or soaps for marketing purposes, editors end up giving way to marketing departments.
One might ask, if the situation is so stark, what can be the way forward?
A good starting point would be for all stakeholders of the media industry to realise that the ethical underpinning of professional journalism in the country has weakened and that the corrosion of public life in our country has impacted journalism.
It is for the journalistic community to take the initiative and seek to address the various concerns regarding the profession. At the same time, all categories of regulation or binding guide lines must be strengthened with a view to securing and defending the public good – by the government, the media organisations and the industry, civil society, advertisers and sponsors, and the audience and readership of the media.
We should not forget that vibrant journalism in a democracy is watchdog journalism that monitors the exercise of power in the state, stands for the rights and freedoms of citizens, and informs and empowers citizens rather than entertains and titillates them. Vibrant journalism always springs from the bedrock of professional ethics. Our media, and democracy, are fortunate that we have shining examples of journalists who not only embody the ethical dimension, but sadly, also laid down their life for the same.
Allow me to recall in conclusion a remark of the eminent American journalist of yesteryears, Walter Lippmann. The real danger to the press, he said, springs not so much from the pressures and intimidation to which it may be subject but from the sad fact that media persons can be captured and captivated by the company they keep, their constant exposure to the subtleties of power.
( This is an excerpt from Vice President M. Hamid Ansari's address at the Bhashayi Patrakarita Mahotsav 2011 organised by the Indore Press Club on July 15, 2011 to commemorate the 75th Birth Anniversary of the late Prabhash Joshi, the distinguished journalist .)
The Indian media have grown rapidly in scale, reach, influence, and revenues. But all stakeholders must realise that the ethical underpinning of professional journalism in the country has weakened and that the corrosion of public life in our country has impacted journalism. So what needs to be done?
PROMISE OF A VIBRANT CENTRE OF IDEAS
K.N. PANIKKAR & ROMILA THAPAR
It was appropriate that the memorial to Jawaharlal Nehru should be a Museum centred on the national movement and post-colonial India. It was equally appropriate that linked to the Museum there should be a Library equipped in data pertaining to the study of modern Indian society. Politically, Nehru was a leader whose interest was not limited to the problems of the Indian nation but extended beyond national boundaries. Intellectually, his mind reached across multiple disciplines. This was evident to those who heard him converse with astronomers on one occasion and at the other end of the spectrum, with zoologists, on another occasion. A memorial to him would have to be sensitive to his larger interests.
It was fitting, therefore, that the Library had in the beginning focussed on the discipline that addressed the history of contemporary and near-contemporary events, but with the obvious understanding that the research carried out in the Library would reach out in various directions, contributing to the study of the multiple aspects of modern Indian society. This was what was being called social science in those days — and still is — and history, we historians like to believe, is the pre-eminent member of this family.
Those who constituted the Nehru Memorial Fund were persons committed to the idea that irrespective of where the finances came from — and they came largely from the government — the NMML had to be as autonomous an institution as possible, dedicated to new research on modern times and not averse to discussion at the cutting edge of knowledge. Associated with this activity were the Nehru Fellowships, which initially at least, sought scholars and specialists in a variety of disciplines.
The NMML soon acquired an impressive collection of data — the kind of material that goes into the study of society, economy and politics — and an appropriately equipped library. A serious attempt was made to ensure that books and journals were up-to-date and that other research materials, such as the private papers it had acquired, were properly maintained. This was foresight on the part of the first Director, B.R. Nanda, and his deputy V.C. Joshi. They thereby built a firm base for the future of the NMML.
With the foundation of an excellent library and a fine collection of various categories of documents, it inevitably became a centre for a range of research into Indian life and times of the recent centuries and sometimes even earlier. The centre-point was the national movement, but over the years studied in diverse ways as the movement itself suggested. This provided an inter-disciplinary character to the research sponsored by the Library. Scholars drawn from different disciplines, such as sociology, economics, political science, demography, linguistics and others, were inducted as Fellows of the Library.
There were fortnightly seminars where ongoing research was presented, or scholars from elsewhere in India and visiting scholars from outside India, were asked to present their work. People whose work one had read became persons with whom one exchanged ideas. Conferences on various themes from the social sciences drew a wide audience. Students and scholars from the universities in Delhi met there regularly for discussions, as it was centrally located and had the ambience of an intellectually happening place.
The more memorable seminars during the period when Ravinder Kumar was Director, who reached out to both established and promising scholars, were those that considered and reconsidered the concepts that were much talked about at the time, and some still are: the definition of nationalism, of secularism, of communalism; the evolution of these concepts internationally and nationally; and how they were being used politically and socially. Religion and politics was expectedly a frequent theme not unconnected with observations on caste and society. Related to this were questions of literary texts, especially in the regional languages and their take on these subjects. The economy of capitalism in a situation of emerging globalisation was in itself of interest, as was the concern with its effect on other areas of life. Even the subject of the concept of "Aryan" and its current political use evoked sharp discussion.
It became the kind of place that Nehru would have enjoyed, not as a politician, but as a person concerned with bigger issues as he was: the changing contours of his society, impinged upon by the world. Trying to understand this and give it direction, required intense thinking both on the past and the many facets of the present. The assumptions that political parties — even the one in power — could interfere in the NMML began to fall by the wayside and the institution encouraged independent research.
However, during the last decade, after Ravinder Kumar retired, the scene began to change. Scholars, seminars, lectures focussing on new ways of analysing data, seem to fade away. Equipping the Library became a less active exercise. Was this due to apathy on the part of those who were responsible for the earlier liveliness, or a directional unconcern? Or was it the pressure of parties in power using its premises and seeking its imprint? Whatever the reasons, discussions on scholarly research became infrequent. Given that there is a reluctance to decentralise control in the running of our institutions, there is little that can be done if this kind of change sets in. Unfortunately, there is predictability in the way in which we erode our best institutions.
One of the earlier Directors had referred, in private conversation, to attempts made by political parties to pressure the NMML, but that these had to be, and could be resisted, if one was firm. Parties come and go, as do governments, and from a longer perspective some elements of politics become a game of the evanescent. Those running institutions should recognise the impermanence of persons in power, and at the same time, the permanence of the institution.
It is ironic that no party today can claim an inheritance from Nehru: functioning within the global market economy is a contradiction of Nehru's policies of economic growth and development, in the context of the Indian nation and its people; the current appeals to religious identities as a mechanism of political mobilisation would have been unacceptable to him. Even if it is argued that an institution drawing on his memory should be researching the questions that were significant to him and his times, these questions have to be reviewed in the light of possible new data and analyses. Why is nationalism now being defined in different terms? Why does half the population continue to be below the poverty line? Why has the expanding middle class become less secular than before? Why has caste become so crucial to Indian democracy?
New kinds of research in the social sciences have their own directions, but it could be insightful if juxtaposed with these and similar questions. The questions don't change from decade to decade, but the answers can.
Hopefully, the historian now appointed as Director, Mahesh Rangarajan, will instil an intellectual life into the institution, keep political parties, whether in or out of government, at bay, and make the NMML a vibrant centre for ideas and discussions on Indian society.
(Professor K.N. Panikkar is Chairman of the Kerala Council for Historical Research. Romila Thapar is Professor Emeritus of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)
The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi needs a fresh infusion of intellectual life into it.
THE LESSONS OF JULY 16, 1945
The nuclear age — our age — may be said to have begun 66 years ago on this day, July 16, in 1945.
Not one but three things happened on that day, giving the world its nuclear teeth. The first was a meeting, the second was a testing, and the third was a sailing. All on the same day.
The meeting took place at Potsdam, in occupied Germany. It was attended by statesmen from three future nuclear powers — U.S. President Harry Truman, Soviet supremo Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Clement Attlee, Labour Party leader and Churchill's successor-to-be, also participated.
The discussions were on a grim subject — the terms of punishment to be meted to Germany, which had surrendered unconditionally, and to Japan, which was refusing to do so. Seeing Japan's truculence, Truman is said to have then mentioned to Stalin that the U.S. possessed an unspecified "powerful new weapon." By the time the conference ended, Japan had been given an ultimatum to surrender, or meet "prompt and utter destruction." The Allies' tenor and Japan's response were to spell disaster for humankind.
The world's first testing of a nuclear device took place, in complete secrecy, the very same day at Los Alamos in New Mexico, United States. It was witnessed by J.R. Oppenheimer, the director of the project; the physicist Kenneth Bainbridge, and a few carefully selected scientists and military personnel. At the moment of detonation, the ground swelled, shook, pummelled, rose and fell, sending up a plume of light so bright that every blade of grass in the vicinity stood out in the sharpest and most eerie relief. The Atom Bomb had arrived.
Oppenheimer is stated to have said, quite simply: "It worked." Later, he was to turn famously to the Bhagvad Gita and quote from it: "I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds." Bainbridge's reaction, less known generally, was no less significant. Turning to Oppenheimer at the site he said: "Now we are sons of bitches, all."
Unaware of what Truman had told Stalin, of what Oppenheimer was saying to himself, of what Bainbridge told Oppenheimer, the crew of U.S. cruiser Indianapolis sailed from San Francisco on a mission that was directly related to both those proceedings. Carrying in large wooden crates parts of a device the captain and crew knew was important but not how important — or how ugly — the cruiser was bound for Tinian Island on the South Pacific. From there, bomber planes were to take off with the device, none other than the "powerful new weapon," for its twin destinations in Japan, ending the War and starting an age, the nuclear age.
The vessel reached Tinian Island, off-loaded its cargo and sailed off casually on July 29. Its operation had been kept so secret that it was on no radar of the Allied forces. This was, for the crew of Indianapolis , a disastrous folly. A Japanese I-58 submarine sniffed the unprotected cruiser and, creeping up to firing range, rammed two torpedoes into it. Within 15 minutes, the 9,800-tonne vessel with formidable speed and firepower was under water, 880 of its 1,196 crewmen sinking with it.
Worse was to follow. As the survivors grouped together, holding hands, hoping to be spotted by some U.S. Navy or Air Force craft, tiger sharks smelt blood. Before anyone could react, 200 to 300 of those "eating machines" were upon them. While the sorties of bombers over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still a week away, about 400 of the men who had unwittingly carried the bombs from the U.S. to Tinian, were devoured by sorties of jaws.
On Day 3, an anti-submarine patrol spotted the surviving, struggling men surrounded by sharks. A daring rescue operation began, but only 317 of them survived.
Estimates say that within the first two to four months of the bombings, acute effects killed 90,000 to 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki. About half of them died on the first day under the direct impact, from flash or flame burns and falling debris. Indianapolis was doomed by strategic miscalculation, and its men by the most unexpected retaliation from nature's autonomous dynamics.
What do the July 16, 1945 Potsdam, Los Alamos and Indianapolis experiences show?
Potsdam shows that the tallest of statesmen can take decisions history would loathe. Los Alamos shows that the greatest of scientists can take steps humanity deplores. Indianapolis shows that the smartest of strategists can take paths destiny defeats.
Those three experiences tell and ask countries such as India, occupied as they understandably are with issues concerning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, the following:
1. Nuclear statesmanship is not about using or not using nuclear weapons, but about using or not using statesmanship. It is about becoming or not becoming 'I am become Death.'
2. Nuclear intelligence is not about gathering sensitive information about nuclear activity elsewhere but about being aware that even in the 21st century, unforeseen realignments can occur, with deployments of larger-than-ever arsenals becoming as real a possibility as in the Cold War period. But more credibly, of "rogue" individuals or small groups accessing modern nuclear technology to blackmail the world.
3. The major nuclear challenge today being that of nuclear mega-terror, our civilian nuclear power stations (not to speak of other nuclear installations) need to be proof against the radioactive "core" and its stock of spent fuel-rods being vulnerable to (a) plain purloining of sensitive materials, and (b) a rogue aircraft crashing into them. Are our nuclear power stations designed to hold out against such an attack?
4. Radioactive waste from nuclear power stations remaining hazardous for an eternity, we need to seal off our N-waste in depositories in a way that will be safe against leakage via groundwater, or through fissures caused by earthquakes, or in any other way. Our disposal systems have to pass the world's toughest tests.
5. Our nuclear reactors, installations and stores having to be so safe as to stand up to earthquakes and tsunami of the Fukushima kind and other Bhopal or Chernobyl-type plant collapses, and nuclear sabotage including actual, physical purloining of materials and parts, they should, if need be, re-designed and re-located.
6. The independent nuclear regulatory authority proposed to be set up must therefore play the Devil's Advocate, not State Counsel.
7. But above and beyond all this, the words of Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, need to be heard: "The prime advantage of nuclear power, whether fusion or fission, is that it simultaneously solves two problems: limited oil reserves and global warming. But a preferable option, on both environmental and security grounds, would be renewable sources."
The lessons of July 16, 1947 should come to us, in Tagore's words "as a shower of mercy," and not as jaws we cannot escape from.
( The author is a former Governor of West Bengal .)
The experiences of that fateful day, which may be said to have set off the nuclear age, tell and ask countries such as India several important things.
THE ASIAN AGE
SHABBY TREATMENT OF TOP LAW OFFICER
The circumstances surrounding the departure earlier this week of solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium, an outstanding member of the Bar, speak of a certain tastelessness, not to say high-handedness. The shabbiness associated with the episode is reminiscent of the sacking of then Indian Navy chief Adm. Vishnu Bhagwat by
defence minister George Fernandes some years ago. Irrespective of the merits of the case (in both instances) — and the government may well have had some things to say, as did the other side — what stands out is the denuding of a high official's dignity. A democratic government, unlike an autocratic or authoritarian one, ought not to behave like that. A contrast is offered by the recent case of the sacking of the US Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was removed by President Barack Obama as commander of American forces in Afghanistan. The Army commander had made indiscreet observations about senior members of the US administration in an informal conversation with a journalist not meant for publication. He later acknowledged in public that he was in error, and hence could have been asked to go right away. And yet the US President invited him for a personal interview before the axe fell. Subsequently Mr Obama even had some nice things to say about the dismissed officer at a public function.
Mr Subramanium sent his resignation when the communications ministry engaged another senior advocate to defend its head, Kapil Sibal, when an NGO charged that the reduction of penalty for an Anil Ambani company amounted to corruption. The matter was linked with the 2G case, which the solicitor-general was himself handling. The taking away of the part of the 2G brief that had relevance to Mr Sibal's action was done in a peremptory manner in that Mr Subramanium was not informed in advance of it, much less consulted. It is conceivable that someone else might have lumped it and carried on, as though nothing had happened. But Mr Subramanium clearly felt his professional pride was injured, as was his office. Merely because the government appoints the S-G, should it behave with the individual holding that high office in a rough and ready manner? Is there nothing called institutional propriety that comes into play?
True, M. Veerappa Moily, the then law minister, did ask the S-G not to press his resignation, and suggested that the Prime Minister could take a call on it. Perhaps the S-G desired that the PM should hear him and somewhere indicate — even informally — that injustice had been perpetrated in the handling of the matter. But the PM did nothing of the kind, and soon on taking charge, the new law minister, Salman Khurshid, made it clear the S-G's position was now vacant.
The sorry episode is in sharp contrast with the way political members of the government are dealt with. Two Cabinet ministers were recently compelled to leave the government due to their actions which are alleged to have caused huge losses to the exchequer but personal gains for them. And yet it took months for them to be eased out, as the government proceeded with cases against them with extreme wariness. Were it not for weeks of media exposures, and scathing comments by the Supreme Court, it is just possible the ministers might still be in office. The bottomline is, thus, not the innate respect holders of top institutional office deserve when they go about their job in an upright and professional manner, but the fear of political retaliation from a member of the government even if his tenure attracts attention for the wrong reasons.
THE ASIAN AGE
OLD FAMILY TIES
"On hearing him say he loved her She felt like a fairy queen
When all he meant in saying it Was that the grass in spring is green."
From The Songs of Sinbad by Bachchoo
My great grandmother, Avabai Antia, my mother's father's mum to be precise, had an irreparable leg. At least that's what I
assumed, because she walked about the house on crutches and, as far as I remember, never left it. She must have had a broken or damaged shin, femur or hip and all those decades ago medical science hadn't acquired the skill to repair it or perhaps our family didn't have the means to have it repaired.
I can't remember how or when she died and haven't in all these years enquired as to when and under what circumstances she stopped being "bapaiji" or "mota mai", the Queen Mother of the house and went to her rest, presumably in the care of Ahura Mazda, to that great hospital in the sky where lameness is abolished.
I remember her in her long-sleeved Parsi blouse and embroidered saris worn the "other way" from that which my mother and aunts wore them, with the flap coming forward over the right instead of draping backwards over the left shoulder.
Her wooden-framed cane chair was placed perennially at the front door so she could look through its curtains across the eight feet of veranda to the busy street beyond.
She would deposit the crutches beside her chair as she settled down and then summon us, my sister, myself and cousins, to play. Her favourite game and ours with her was "Pawra Poiss". It entailed her sticking her legs, damaged as they were, in front of the chair and each of us taking turns to sit in the crook between her stockinged legs and feet while holding both hands in hers to retain balance. The feet would then be moved up and down to become a sort of human-leg see-saw which would undulate to the rhythm of the verse she would loudly enunciate:
Mama ney gheyrey jaiss
Mamo aapey larvo
Khooney beysi khais —
Mami aavey maarvaa
Nhasi nhasi jaiss..."
Which roughly translated means, "I went to my uncle's house, he gave me some sweeties which I sat in the corner and was eating when aunty came up to beat me and I deftly ran away."
There's a lot of folklore entangled in the verse and something about the relationship of a daughter-in-law to her sister-in-law's children.
The point of the recollection, though it will stimulate some wonder, is not that a lame old lady played leg-see-saw. It is to emphasise how naturally we accepted the joint family in which several generations lived together even in the latter half of the 20th century and certainly even to a very large extent in India to this day and into the future.
Long after my great grandmother passed away, our household consisted of my grandfather, my maiden aunts, my sister and me. Into this household in Pune was brought, from Mumbai where she lived on her own, my late grandmother's elder sister who stayed with the household for several years till she died. My father's family, the Dhondys, also lived in a joint family household. The disintegration of this arrangement began when my grandfather's brother qualified as a doctor, married a rather grand lady and broke ties with the family to live in what we now call a "nuclear family". I suppose on joining the Army my father did the same. Professional careers took them away.
Though family ties even in urban India remain strong, the development of the country, the requirements of capitalistic wage labour at all levels and the spread of the economy inevitably leads to the break-up of the joint family and begs or will soon beg the question — what happens to the old?
It's a necessary question because in highly developed countries in the West the tradition of old people living on with their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren is all but dead. It's not that the European races are genetically disposed to be less caring about filial ties, but that the patterns of social development have turned the aged into a section of the population for whom the state has through the last century, and in an accelerated form after the Second World War, increasingly taken responsibility.
There are thousands of public, state-subsidised homes for the aged and privately run institutions to which those who can afford to pay send their aged relatives who cannot fully look after themselves and live alone.
Over the last few months in Britain the general recession which swept over the economy hit a network of these care homes which were run by a company called Southern Cross. These were homes for the aged essentially paid for by the state out of taxes. The sector was, under successive governments, both Tory and Labour, privatised. In other words the people who ran the homes were paid by a private company who operated the homes for profit, taking money from the state. The private firm, as one of their profit-making manoeuvres, sold off the buildings housing these homes. They then began paying rent to the new landlords who now owned the buildings. Last month it was announced that thousands of homes for the aged would have to close because Southern Cross could no longer pay the increased rents which the sub-prime crisis and recession have brought and still make a profit.
The government has had to announce that no old people will be thrown in the street as a result of Southern Cross' going to the wall. Their relatives are far from clear as to what the government proposes to do with those who will be rendered care-homeless.
The Southern Cross embarrassment is today's small crisis in a sector of government responsibility that will pose huge problems. The population of Britain is living longer. Advances in medicine and general advances in living standards mean that life expectancy has dramatically increased. This tilts the balance between the section of the population earning a living and paying taxes and those beyond retirement age who are paid for out of these taxes. There is no escape from that dilemma. And there is very little chance of granny and grandpa being readmitted to the nuclear family to turn it into an extended one once more.
THE ASIAN AGE
WHY TERRORISTS BLEED MUMBAI
Horror of horrors! Mumbaikars actually stayed away from work the morning after the latest bomb blasts. Yup, those devastating ones on Wednesday that ripped out the city's gut. In case you are saying, "Oh really? How come? We always thought nothing stopped the people of Mumbai from going to work… not even bomb blasts," you'd be spot on. Nothing does!
The only reason for mass absenteeism on Thursday morning was water logging on train tracks! Imagine the irony of it all. Hundreds of commuters remained absent from work, not out of a sense of fear that there could be more blasts, but because they were stranded at suburban stations. Had it been a clear day, you bet downtown offices would have been as crammed as always. That's Mumbai. Never say die! Even when death stares you in the face. As death did on the July 13 when three blasts exploded in crowded areas during peak hours. Eighteen people were killed in approximately 12 minutes. The death toll is bound to go up. But at the time of writing, 18 was the official figure. But does the number really matter? We in Mumbai are supposed to smile philosophically and "move on". Why? Because we are "so resilient". Because we "must work". Because the "spirit of Mumbai" is so amazing.
All of this is accurate. But it is of zero comfort. We have reached a stage where the old anger has been replaced by revulsion. We watch the faces of politicians preaching across channels, advising us to "stay calm". And we want to puke. Contempt for authority is a dangerous tool, especially in democracies. The time has come for citizens to demonstrate their own asli people-power and demand answers from those in authority. This has happened across the Arab world, and it can (should!) happen here. The writing is on the wall. Ignore the hitherto suppressed wrath and ire of the people of this metropolis and invite terrible retribution. An Arab Spring could rapidly turn into a Mumbai Monsoon, with a raging flood of protests that could flatten those who continue to mete out shabby treatment to the citizens of the City of Gold.
AS ALWAYS, it was the man and woman on the street who rose to the challenge and mobilised help within minutes of the blasts. Social networking sites were overloaded with posts and tweets offering any and every kind of assistance. The generosity, the spontaneity of several online communities was not just commendable, but stupendous. People set up help lines, info lines, hot lines and reached out to complete strangers without the slightest hesitation. Whether it was medical help or car rides, places to crash out for the night or hot meals for the hungry, people were going the extra mile to comfort fellow citizens.
Contrast this outpouring of genuine care to the total indifference of netas like R.R. Patil, Maharashtra's home minister, who was largely untraceable and invisible post-blasts. Fortunately, the new bloke, Prithviraj Chavan, did show up at the affected sites to speak briefly to the media. But what did the chief minister say? Oh… he trotted out predictable platitudes about terrorists striking at the heart of India etc. Having said his piece, he was bundled into a waiting car and that was it. But at least he had the brains to turn up. Contrast his gesture with Vilasrao Deshmukh's (who can forget his casual stroll through the corridors of the bombed out Taj Mahal Palace after 26/11, accompanied by his movie star son and a dodgy filmmaker?). And let me not forget our cops. This time they arrived swiftly enough, swinging their lathis and swaggering around the carnage, looking suitably grim. The top cop assumed an air of "I mean business" but failed to convince anybody that he indeed did. After an unimpressive walkabout, the Internet was flooded with sardonic comments about these keepers of the city's law and order, notably by a blogger called Pranav Gandhi who described Mr Patil's job as "the best job in the world" (no responsibility, no work… but a secure berth in the Cabinet, that too with the same portfolio!).
I am convinced there is something seriously wrong with us, the people of Mumbai. We are the "most attacked" city on earth… and we accept this dubious "honour" passively, like it is a part of our collective destiny to be frequently bombed. This is not stoicism, it is not resignation, and it most certainly isn't resilience (how I hate that word). So what is it? I'd call it stupidity. Plain stupidity. We think we are being heroic when we react like this when, in fact, we are being foolish. Utterly foolish. We do nothing about this sorry state of affairs and carry on like blasts are "normal". Like blasts "happen". Like we are supposed to sit back and accept attacks, chanting, "Hey, this is Mumbai!" It is because of this very idiotic attitude that terrorists love us! They can't get enough of the city. And they are going to keep bombing us. You know why? Because they can.
While we brag, "Mumbai rocks! People are so jealous of us. Look at our glittering city. Look at our billionaires. Look at the gold and diamonds in our stores! Come on, who wouldn't want a piece of this action? Who wouldn't want to destroy Mumbai?", they attack! Yes, we really are that dumb. We refuse to hold anybody responsible. We refuse to make anybody answerable. We refuse to protest. What do we do instead? We show off! We get back to business as usual within hours of an attack and boast about it to the world. As if it's something to be deliriously proud of. But hello! The facts are slightly different. Mumbai is attacked over and over again for the simple reason that it is possible! That it is ridiculously easy. Anybody can walk in with a couple of bombs and trigger them off — no problem. It can happen tomorrow morning… even tonight. That's how exposed and vulnerable Mumbai remains. Frankly, we are asking for it. We deserve it. If that sounds harsh — sorry! It's the truth. The terrorists know this, too. They take advantage of Mumbai's nakedness. They laugh. They mock. Nobody is in charge here — not even the cops… so long as the city's VVIPs are well protected, the aam aadmi doesn't matter. The bad guys are well aware of Mumbai's weaknesses… of Mumbai's impotence… its powerlessness to deal with calamities… emergencies… crises. Even after this Black Wednesday, we continue to grin, shrug and say, "Zindagi na milegi dobara".
Party on, guys! Tomorrow is another day… if it comes!
— Readers can send feedback at www.shobhaade.blogspot.com
THE ASIAN AGE
POLITICIANS PUT MEDIA IN DOCK
The Rupert Murdoch saga gets more and more murky with each passing day, and one wonders how far the ripples will spread. All his efforts at damage control so far (shutting down News of the World, buying back his shares) have not been too successful. Already some shareholders in the United States have lodged a legal case and the
Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating if there was any hacking into the phones of the victims of 9/11. There would be severe repercussions if the latter had taken place, leading to a deeper erosion of the tycoon's fortune and credibility. Will the disenchantment with Mr Murdoch spread to his Asian empire as well? Just as the banks provided the tipping point for the recession — is this going to lead to a global media meltdown? The questions are piling up every day.
Two decades ago, as a TV professional, I still remember the excitement when the Murdoch brand arrived in India and the possibilities it had generated for private players who queued up to partner him. The country experienced a dizzy freedom as it was finally released from the shackles of Doordarshan. Economic liberalisation finally meant globalisation of the media stakeholders as well. Murdoch continues to do well in Asia, and it seems that his empire over there is unscathed by the controversies in Britain and the US.
But in Britain, right now, the Murdoch brand is tainted (even though he may not have personally endorsed phone hacking) and in the last one week, any residual respect or even adulation has rapidly evaporated. Of all the recent scams in Britain this is probably most "wholistic" as it involves not only the press, but politicians and the police as well with more, and more disturbing details pouring out.
The most shocking part of the tale continues to be the revelations of the alleged close relationship between the UK police and the News of the World, which was shut down last week. Moreover, while we examine the cosy nexus between them we must remember that this is not unusual as in India, where we hear about corruption of all kinds. But the events here should definitely make us question the oft-repeated assertion that people are corrupt when they are poorly paid; those who are advocating the introduction of a "facilitation fee" to stop sleaze should rethink that facile solution, as events here
unfold and demonstrate that corruption does not originate in poverty.
In Britain, the blow to police trustworthiness is more severe because Scotland Yard is lauded as a benchmark of efficiency and investigative propriety, and even the metropolitan police is considered largely above suspicion. Now, all that is rapidly changing.
The stories spilling out, almost in an embarrassing avalanche, indicate alleged payments by journalists to the police, who chillingly and casually revealed private details of individuals they should have been protecting. From the Royals to the politicians no one was spared. Despite vehement denials from senior members of the police force to a parliamentary committee this week, there is a growing realisation that the police has shown no interest in unearthing the rot within their own system.
The latest arrest of Neil Wallis, an executive editor of the News of the World, has added further grist to the mill. He was apparently even employed by the metropolitan police as a public relations consultant. Similarly, it has now been revealed that even while the police was conducting a previous inquiry into phone-hacking allegations, top cops were enjoying lunches and dinners with scribes from the Murdoch stable. This, too, could have led to incomplete investigation. Coincidentally, one of the police officers involved eventually became a columnist for a Murdoch paper.
The interesting thing is despite British Prime Minister David Cameron being allegedly accused of favouring the Murdoch press, no one from the government has tried to block the multiple inquiries (in pleasant contrast to the fuss over the joint parliamentary committee and the Public Accounts Committee in India!).
Even though both the demands for teaching the Murdoch press a lesson and the call to revoke his bid for BSkyB has come from young Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, the government has sensibly and quickly acquiesced. A pragmatic Cameron may have understood that by resisting the inevitable he would face enormous flak for a longer period. The behaviour of the coalition government and the Opposition has, despite the rancour, actually upheld the values of democratic debate and transparency.
In fact, as the witnesses are called to depose before various parliamentary committees we will see them being grilled live on TV. So this week we have watched powerful policemen fumbling to explain their behaviour and next week it will be interesting to see Mr Murdoch and his son James defending their actions before the media culture committee. This is better than any reality show with a built-in penalty. Perjury can land a jail sentence. This entire televised deposition supports the argument that the Indian Parliament must and should also televise the proceedings of their select committees.
However, the atmosphere in the UK Parliament is extremely febrile at present: akin to when the stories of the MPs expenses were reeling out. At that time Mr Cameron was the Leader of the Opposition and he forced the hapless Prime Minister Gordon Brown to march to his tune, taking the moral high ground. In this case, it is Mr Miliband who has suddenly (much like Colin Firth in The King's Speech) found his voice and gravitas. He ensured a three-hour debate in Parliament this week on the Murdoch scandal and almost certainly saw the end of the BSkyB deal, which would have given the media tycoon a larger and more profitable empire here. All that is history.
Unsurprisingly, politicians who have often been the target of a hyperactive press are having a grand time putting the media in the dock. But there are many inter-related issues of ethics and journalism. For instance, one of the most-celebrated stories of recent years — WikiLeaks — also came from hacked data. Similarly, the story of the MPs expenses had emerged from an illegally obtained CD for which money had been paid by the Telegraph. Thus, as everyone debates the phone-hacking issue, some guidelines will have to emerge on how press integrity can be maintained without compromising its freedom.
This is a multifaceted story that will probably run for at least a year. Ironically, its high ratings would have thrilled the canny investor in Mr Murdoch were he not starring in it.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
CITADEL OF CORRUPTION
The two-volume copious report of the State Finance Commission, a quasi-official body on prevalence of corruption in the State, now before the government shakes the faith in the very concept of an elected government. It is as much an eye opener for the ruling coalition in the State as for the Union government, which, in its diehard appeasement policy, trivializes the responsibility of upholding the principle of good governance. The 3-member panel, headed by former bureaucrat Dr Mehmood-ur-Rehman, was constituted in 2007 to suggest measures for bringing reforms in the administration and for equitable development of all the three regions of the state. A study by global organization Transparency International had rated J&K as the second most corrupt state in India in 2005 while in 2008 another study by the organization rated J&K as "alarmingly corrupt." In its report submitted to government, the State Finance Commission has termed certain public offices as "citadels of corruption and festering sores." In very clear terms the report indicts the government for either being a party to the corruption and corrupt practices or inefficient and incapable of remedying the festering sores. It says, "The laws to deal with rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money are falling short of the need and the existing apparatus to deal with corruption has not touched the subjects beyond the fringes. Corruption is so all pervasive, omnipresent and ubiquitous in J&K that very few nooks in corridors of administration will willingly countenance discussion on it," the Commission has warned in chapter VIII (volume II) of its voluminous report. Citing examples, the report mentions that role of ethics and pubic morality in allotment of public contracts, procurement of material, engagement of public servants, disposal of business in offices and courts, issuance of permits and licenses, manufacturing of goods and pharmaceuticals, and even plying of vehicles on the highway is depressingly poor." On "citadels" of corruption, the report mentions: "We are compelled to name the offices. These are offices of Regional Transport Officers in Jammu and Kashmir, and their sub-offices in the districts, office of excise commissioner and offices of excise and taxation officers, office of sales tax commissioner and sales tax officer, all traffic postings and office of traffic commissioner."
The contents of this report, assiduously prepared by a very responsible semi-official team, cannot be underestimated in the overall context of J&K State. How sad that it ranks as the second most corrupt state among the 28-federating units of the Indian Union. From smallest to highest item of development, the State runs to New Delhi with a begging bowl and the patrons there waste no time in pouring crumbs in it. There is no accountability worth the name for enormous cash doles offered by the centre in one form or the other to keep the state on crutches. Morality and ethics, prime ingredients of good governance are nowhere to be seen. The report has even named some offices by way of example where corruption has seeped into all sections, and the transport department is at the top. The report concludes that the main reason behind the recurring traffic accidents on national highway resulting in loss of innocent lives is the rampant corruption in this department. The state government has not filled the post of Vigilance Commissioner nor activated the Vigilance Department in a befitting manner. This is the reason why we say that the faith of the people in the elected government is getting eroded. There can be no worse a commentary on the performance of the government than the report in question. It is a verdict on corruption in the state. Hence it is time for the state government to open its eyes and see the writing on the wall. There is no short cut to good governance and people cannot wait long whatever the remaining time of the tenure of the present government.
Despite tall talks by the Union Home Ministry about streamlining of intelligence on counter-terrorism and repeated assurance to the civil society of protection of life and property, three consecutive blasts have happened in the financial hub of the country. Who does not know that terrorist acts cannot be prevented 100 per cent given the composition of Indian civil society, the largeness of her population and size and other things. But that does not mean the administration can take the people for a ride. By and large, in the present case of bomb blasts, the media has raised eyebrow on the efficiency of country's counter terrorism arrangement and rightly so. Unlike previous history of terrorist strikes in this country, the media has desisted from raising the accusing finger towards Pakistan. In fact, appreciatively, Pakistan has reacted with good sense of responsibility and maturity to the tragic bombing. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, while speaking at an important meeting opened his speech with condemnation of Mumbai blasts and expressed his government's sympathy with the victims. He also said that a similar message from him and the President of Pakistan had been sent to New Delhi. Nearer home, the separatist leaders in Kashmir, too, have sympathized with the innocent victims of the blasts and condemned the terrorist act. While all this helps us believe that primarily it is the Home Ministry that has to be accountable for happenings like these. There is a strong feeling in the civil society that soft handling of terror and terrorists in this country will lead to more tragedies and disasters and loss of innocent lives than reduce the pressure of terrorists. There are commentators who believe that India is incapable of handling terrorism as it should because of dubious role of many political leaders and organizations and also because of the government concerned more for vote bank politics than curbing terrorism. Entire onus comes to the Home Minister who will be called upon to justify continuance in his position as the pivot of country's safety and security planning. It makes little sense to claim that all terrorist groups are within the radar of the Home Ministry. Such utterances cannot serve deterrent to terrorists, and Mumbai blasts have to be taken as terrorists' challenge to this kind of bombast.
PPP SHENANIGANS IN SINDH
Pakistan, by most accounts, is going through one of its darkest phases since its birth some sixty odd years ago. The polity continues to be divided as ever, showing no signs of reconciliation. Even Field Marshal Ayub Khan's Pakistan, 11 years after its birth, in retrospect, seems more stable. The first military dictator of the country was somehow confident that things would be sorted out - a thought that never materialize, Ayub finding himself outmaneuvered by the politicians, with the upcoming Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ayub's Foreign Minister ensuring that the military dictator wrote his own political epitaph.
Fatima Jinnah, the Qaed-e-Azam's sister who at one time fronted the opposition to oust Ayub lost a presidential election but the lady obviously was no match for the cut-throat politicians already in the fray. Ayub did at one time point to the root cause of his country's problems - aside of Kashmir - its misplaced emphasis on a strong federal polity.
He then moved on to suggest absolute autonomy within the federation for all Pakistani provinces and in the case of then East Pakistan he had hinted at even a relationship governed by treaties, thus enabling the present Bangladesh to remain a part of the federation. Unknown to him many politicians in West and East Pakistan were opposed to any such suggestion.
And none more bitterly than Z.A. Bhutto, who at the end of a crucial general election in the two wings of Pakistan refused to accept the verdict which gave Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Awami Party and an overall majority. Bhutto would have none of it which led to the secession of East Pakistan. To Ayub Khan's credit it must be said that, unlike the run of mill politicians, he was aware of the cultural, and racial differences between the majority Punjabi West Pakistan and those inhabiting the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan. As was evident during the later part of more than a decade long rule East Pakistan had its own aspirations.
No matter how historians view the Ayub years in Pakistan's life one thing is clear that he was aware of the deepset incongruities in Pakistan's make-up. And I have not yet mentioned the transformation of a megapolis like Karachi, Pakistan's first capital and its economic nerve-centre, after nearly three crore Mohajirs (migrants from India) landed in the country, the majority of them in Sindh. So much so that today the Mohajirs and the Pushtoons, the latter drawn to the country's commercial capital by their thirst for jobs, far outnumber the original Sindhis in the entire Sindh suburbia. If you are looking for a proof of the discontentment in Karachi, remember that in the last week alone 100 lives were lost in the city in free fall now.
It is a city divided sharply along ethnic, cultural and sectarian lines. Even if you were to ignore the first two of the divisive elements mentioned above, there is the deadly divide between Shias and Sunnis. Add to this myriad mosaic the presence of a million Bangladeshis and Afghans.
Over the years Karachi has become the city of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr. Altaf Hussain who has been calling the shots from his exile in London. Quoting from a recent issue of the Karachi-based Dawn it is also the city where the ruling PPP in Islamabad and the Awami National Party, founded by the late son of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Wali Khan hold eight out of a total of 41 seats that Karachi has in the Sindh Assembly, the rest are with the MQM. The party's closest rivals are the religious parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Sunni Tehreek which can, according to Murtaza Razvi, a Dawn columnist, claim to bag a large number of votes but fall short of winning any seats in the presence of the MQM. You don't have to be particularly clairvoyant to admit that anyone who attempts to put the MQM out of the political reckoning in Sindh can only come to grief. Gen. Ziaul Haq and Nawaz Sharif tried it during their days of glory but the little success.
The Asif Ali Zardari-led Pakistan People's Party in a repeat performance of the two has abandoned the local government system whose elections were postponed on the silly ground of unsound law and order situation in Sindh, as if the rest of the country is a picture of peace, prosperity and stability.
The MQM which had been in an uneasy coalition with the PPP in Sindh has since withdrawn from it. In a situation which sees the Mohajirs and others like them having taken over all the urban centres of Sindh, the rural Sindhis continue to live in virtual serfdom under all kinds of Wadehras and landlords of assorted types. The PPP, with a substantial hold on rural votes, sees itself isolated in all the urban centres. The ethnic factor and the urban-rural divide has been a constant cause of trouble. The problem with the PPP is that whenever it is in power it hates to share it.
The resignation from the Sindh Government as well as from the governorship of the province by the MQM has opened a can of worms. The opposition benches have accused the PPP of rigging and postponing elections to the "Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly" (AJKLA). Two of its seats are in Karachi - the AJKLA constituency is Pakistan-wide because of the presence of a large number of Kashmiri refugees, spread across the country who are registered voters to the Assembly and not to Pakistan National Assembly (Parliament).
The rigging charge came in very handy to the MQM but there is the other side of the truth. The most difficult to swallow for the MQM is the loss of the Karachi city Government which guaranteed its position as the ruling party in the country's most populous and prosperous city. It's something like the Congress Party losing its hold on the Delhi government, the difference being that while elections in Delhi cannot be postponed or deferred indefinitely, the PPP has done exactly that in Karachi by canceling the local elections.
The "secular", "democratic" PPP has in the meantime decided to forge an alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami which has a sizeable vote bank in Karachi. The bait held out for the JI in return is to grant its nominee the governorship of Sindh. The PPP may thus have scored a point over the MQM but at what cost? Only time will tell.
The party founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and nurtured after him by his late daughter Benazir Bhutto has always taken great pride in flaunting its democratic credentials (falsely it would seem after having seen Z.A. Bhutto practice his version of democracy whenever he was in power).
The PPP manoeuver in Karachi may have given the unpopular Asif Ali Zardari an opportunity to see the MQM out of power in his home city but it doesn't augur well for the future. A country already bedeviled by lawlessness of monumental proportions, PPP shenanigans in Sindh will only ensure the strengthening of terrorist factions but also help Nawaz Sharif to spring a surprise on Zardari at the next elections. Sharif, surely, will find a way out to pacify the MQM and other anti PPP groupings in Sindh.
THROTTLED DEMOCRACY IN POK
BY DR MOHAMMAD MONIR ALAM
It is a travesty of democratic values that even after more than six decades, the Government of Pakistan has not yet been able to evolve and ensure a credible and democratic process in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). On the contrary, Islamabad has adopted a hegemonic as well as a colonial policy towards entire POK which comprises of 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan. In purely notional terms, 'AJK' has the status of an 'autonomous' state, while Federally Administered Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) has remained solely dependent upon the federal government of Pakistan.
It needs to be brought out in unambiguous terms that Pakistan Occupied Kashmir denotes the total area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani occupation. The same includes what Pakistan calls 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir which constitutes an area of 13, 297 sq, kms and the Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) which covers an area of 72, 495 sq.kms. Both these parts are directly governed by Islamabad. Apart from these two areas under illegal occupation, Pakistan via a boundary agreement in Mar 1963 unilaterally and illegally ceded an area of more than 5,180 sq. km area from Gilgit-Baltistan (Aksai Chin) to China.
On 28 April 1949, the Government of Pakistan and 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir signed the Karachi Agreement by which, the 'AJK' Government agreed to place all affairs related to Northern-Areas under control of Pakistan. For the past sixty - three years, though Pakistan has been using the nomenclature 'Azad' (free) Kashmir, but in reality the state languishes behind the façade of a sham constitution, and a puppet President and Prime Minister. Ironically, the term 'Azad' which literally means 'free' is akin to slavery in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Since its occupation, Pakistan has adopted a colonial as well as hegemonic attitude towards POK and through various laws and decrees issued from time to time by Military Chiefs as well as the National Assembly, Pakistan has attempted to further its permanent claim over these areas. Pakistan's draconian decrees, laws and repressive policies policy towards POK has manifested in unmitigated resentment among the local populace.
On the face of it 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir, is an autonomous entity having a President, Prime-Minister, Parliament and constitution. But in practice, 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir is a Province kept in suspended animation. Thus, proposals of "autonomy" and "self-governance" which are routinely mooted by Pakistan appear ridiculous. This aspect becomes clear when we analyze the policies framed by Pakistan to govern areas under its hegemonic control.
As already mentioned, Gilgit-Baltistan is administered and controlled directly by Islamabad. But till today, the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan remains undetermined and political autonomy is a distant dream. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been deprived of their basic political and civil-rights. Further, local inhabitants are embittered by Islamabad's unwillingness to devolve power to its elected representatives. Resultantly, a nationalist movement, which seeks independence, is gaining ground. An alarming consequence of this denial of basic political rights is the rise of sectarian extremism. Taking advantage of the weaknesses of the imposed dispensation, religious organisations espousing a narrow sectarian agenda are fanning the fires of sectarian hatred and violence in a region where Sunnis, Shias and Ismailis have peacefully coexisted since times immemorial.
Moreover, violating a landmark verdict by the Pakistan Supreme Court in 1999, which directed Islamabad to extend within six months fundamental freedom to the Northern Areas, thus allowing its people to be governed by their elected representatives, the region continues to be ruled by executive fiat from Islamabad through the federal ministry for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA), whose minister is its unelected chief executive. The Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC), the region's elected legislature, is powerless, as the civil and military bureaucrats run its affairs. By depriving elected institutions of even a modicum of authority and marginalising moderate political forces, Islamabad has empowered sectarian groups and allowed them to secure a firm foothold in the region.
The military's patronage of Sunni jihadis has also promoted sectarian strife in the Northern Areas, initially witnessed during General Zia-ul-Haq's rule when the state empowered Sunni Islamists at the cost of the Shia minority. Since then, violent sectarian clashes have frequently occurred in the Northern Areas. Under erstwhile President and Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, the military had retained its alliance with Sunni Islamists for multiple domestic and external goals, thereby further weakening moderate forces in a region where religious extremism was once unknown. It is well known that the federal government has failed to take any meaningful steps to address the wider issues of constitutional neglect and political disempowerment in the Northern Areas.
International Crisis Group (ICG), a think tank based in Brussels, in its widely publicised special 'Asia Report- April 2007 ' titled "Discord in Pakistan's Northern Areas" has highlighted the plight of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It mentions that with the denial of political space and basic rights discontent in the Northern Areas was on the rise, and the political vacuum was exploited by extremist groups to promote their sectarian goals. Implementing the recommendations of Pakistan's Supreme Court and extending basic rights and political freedom to the Northern Areas could restore some of the goodwill which has been frittered away by Pakistan through protracted mismanagement.
(The author is Director, Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu)
TERRORISM WILL PUSH INDIA'S GROWTH DOWN
BY SUDHANSU R DAS
The fresh terrorist attack on India's financial capital Mumbai took 21 lives, injured 141 people and left behind many orphans, widows and helpless people. The series of terrorist attacks will not only paralyse India's growth center but to create a state within a state. India's inability to nip terrorism in the bud is one of the main reasons why the menace is eroding the economic growth benefit. It is not only the loss of lives and livelihood but terrorism has created huge trust deficit in the society. Though there has been no authentic survey to estimate the damage due to terrorism across the country the loss will run into billions of dollar if we take into account the damage to economic assets, relief and rehabilitation packages, various forms of compensations, death of elite security personnel, cost of deployment of forces, huge productivity loss, burden of orphans and widows on families, loss due to closure of small business, damage to property, loss due to bandh, migration of people, cost of acquisition of sophisticated anti terrorist weapons and upgradation of surveillance technology etc. Mr V K Saraswat, the Scientific Advisor to the Defense Minister reportedly said India is well equipped and has the skill to carry out US type operation in Pakistan. He further said our democratic system and policies do not allow us to go to another country and start killing people. Mr Saraswat promised to include unmanned battle field, single command center, unmanned ground aerial and underwater vehicles, unmanned tank and gun mounted robots, high powered laser, microwaves, particle beams and anti satellite weapons. All these futuristic weapons and his bravado to carry out US type attack will not hide India's inability to collect grass root level human intelligence on terrorist network across the country. It attributes to India's inability to identify quality human resources for an elite intelligence agency on the basis of pure merit without which India will jeopardize its security.
In a span of five years from August 2003 to November 2008 more than 21 terrorist attacks in India took nearly 2000 lives and injured three times more than the number of death. The 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai pushed sensex to 12000 points below. The terror attack was meticulously planned in Pakistan to damage India's financial capital which fetches 40% of foreign trade, collects 60% of custom duty, 40% of income tax, 20% of central excise and generates $ 10 billion corporate tax. The insurance claim for the damage in Taj Hotel due to 26/11 attack was Rs 180 crore. Nearly 50000 skilled and unskilled jobs in tourism, floriculture, animal husbandry and handicraft sector have been reportedly lost due to recent violence in Kashmir. There is need for an aggressive awareness campaign in Kashmir about the objective of life which is to attain peace, prosperity and blissful family life which is enshrined in all religions.
When religious terrorism bleeds urban centers, the maoist violence has affected lives and livelihood in 182 out of India's 626 districts. The productivity loss in those districts is huge as violence affects small economic activities, tourism, trade, banking, academic session, infrastructure and collection of minor forest products etc. The Home Ministry was planning to induct thirteen MI-17 multi purpose heavily armed combat helicopters with infra red jammers to hit Maoist gurillas in dense forest. The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has also declared establishment of a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and four NSG hubs in different parts of the country along with a slew of anti terrorist measures, which may trap innocent tribal in the unavoidable cross fire.
The Maoist leaders cannot duck the moral responsibility of causing this carnage. Their positive response will save the lives of thousands of innocent tribal and security personnel. Over the years they have successfully channeled the tribal reaction to poor Governance and corruption in back ward districts into violent guerrilla activities. Under an Integrated Action Plan(IAP), the Union government has proposed to spend Rs 13000 crore to erase the trust deficit and improve governance in Naxal hit districts. The maoist leaders can monitor the implementation of development projects and participate in governance. They can also offer an alternate economic model for tribal development and win election if they enjoy the support of the tribal.
In order to consolidate the gain from economic growth, the Union Government has to strengthen its internal security. The first step must be to recruit security personnel on the basis of pure merit under a specialized national recruitment board. Safety of the republic should get the priority over religion, caste and language. Once we induct quality human resources for the job, the investment on training is bound to yield result. Every religious place and school must come under Government scanner so that no word of hatred will emit from those places. Similarly the clerics from all religions must play the role of reformer. The problem of internal security should not dog India's progress.
MUMBAI CARRIES ON
THE general reaction to Wednesday's three blasts in Mumbai, coming after 31 months of the 26/11 attacks, has been one of restraint, which is remarkable. Despite the grave provocation, Mumbaikars have kept their cool and resumed normal life, defeating the terrorist design of targeting the city's social cohesiveness and peace. Since the immediate investigations were inconclusive, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister did not jump to conclusions or point a finger at Pakistan. However, BJP leader L.K. Advani could not hold himself. He blamed the UPA policy on terrorism and questioned the rationale of pursuing Indo-Pakistan talks. Rahul Gandhi could have kept quiet to avoid the kind of response he has got.
The terrorists got ample support from TV channels, which gave Mumbai non-stop coverage accompanied by visuals of the devastating happening and unguarded comments. This is certainly not the opportune time for fault-finding. Let the public in general and the grieving families in particular first come to terms with the tragedy. The police needs public support, not criticism. Londoners set an example of responsible behaviour when the July 2005 blast shook Britain. The media did not over-react. Mumbai is repeatedly targeted perhaps because the impact here is the maximum both in terms of casualties and media publicity. In fact, no city is safe, given the haphazard growth, crowded and chaotic bazaars and lanes littered with randomly parked vehicles everywhere.
Once the dust settles down, the government will be — and should be — held to account for the frequent loss of innocent lives. The anti-terrorism strategy needs a review. A lot has been done but there are still shortcomings: shortage and poor training of policemen and lack of Centre-state intelligence coordination. A National Intelligence Grid was proposed after 26/11 but it is yet to materialise. Some people see the grid as an affront to privacy. Some of the people who make maximum noises at terrorist attacks are also those who resent security checks. If the US has avoided another incident after 9/11, it is partly because their VIPs willingly submit themselves to police searches. The public mindset here needs a change.
INDIA-US STRATEGIC TIES
THE ISSUES THAT NEED IMMEDIATE FOCUS
THERE are two major issues which may have a bearing on India's relations with the US — the situation in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal is completed in 2014, and the new guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies — if Washington DC does not play a proactive role to help New Delhi in protecting its interests. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will be in New Delhi on Monday on a three-day visit to India, must be ready with American answers to satisfy India's concerns. India will be appreciative if the US shows its readiness to honour its commitments related to the fight against terrorism with the Af-Pak region in sharp focus and the NSG's waiver granted to New Delhi as a consequence of the Indo-US nuclear deal. It is true that India does not figure in President Barack Obama's scheme of things as prominently as it did during the days of the George Bush administration. But it is obligatory on the US to use its clout in the NSG to ensure that nuclear cartel's new guidelines, announced recently, do not deprive India of the advantages that it got after the Indo-US nuclear deal was operationalised.
The US-led NATO pullout from Afghanistan is unavoidable in view of the American domestic compulsions, but there are factors which cannot be ignored in the interest of peace and security in South Asia and the rest of the world. The US should not allow Pakistan to influence the course of events in Afghanistan, where the Taliban continue to remain a major factor despite the international military drive to eliminate the extremists. There is need to keep aside the pro-Pakistan Taliban factions during the ongoing negotiations to induct the extremists in the Afghanistan government because of their masters' (Islamabad's) unholy intentions in the war-ravaged country.
The pro-Pakistan extremist elements in Afghanistan may try to derail the Hamid Karzai government whenever they find the right opportunity to help Islamabad realise its dream of strategic depth. The agenda of these Taliban factions — to establish their own government in post-2014 Afghanistan — is unlikely to change. Any new strategy for Afghanistan — where India has made huge investments in nation-building projects — must be finalised in consultation with all the regional powers, which, too, have a stake in stability in the Af-Pak area.
UNFIT FOR CONSUMPTION
MID-DAY MEALS POSE A CHALLENGE
OVER 50 students of government schools in three villages of Kurukshetra district fell ill on Thursday after consuming mid-day meal in which a lizard was found. The same day, the students of the senior secondary school of Raghuwana village in Sirsa district refused to eat the mid-day meal alleging that the food given to them was fungus-infested. Even one such incident should be unacceptable. Unfortunately, these come to light almost on a regular basis, without much action. All that changes is the location. That shows that there is something seriously wrong with the implementation of the well-meaning scheme aimed at improving the nutritional status of children and encouraging children from disadvantaged sections to attend school.
While the Cooked Mid-Day Meal Scheme has successfully addressed classroom hunger and also helped increase attendance at most schools, the quality of the food has been suspect at many places. A nationwide Planning Commission survey last year found startling lapses in the programme. Logistical issues like absence of cooks, kitchen sheds and stores, besides the non-involvement of gram panchayats, dog the scheme. In Bihar, a staggering 72 per cent students complained about the quality of the food. Twentythree per cent of the students in Punjab and Karnataka had the same grouse about the food. At many places, the grains used for making the meals had rat droppings or were insect-infested.
Not only do teachers have to frequently take time out of their duties to help prepare the meals, but students also have to pitch in for washing the utensils – spending up to nine hours of their valuable school time per week in some states in this task. That by any standards is a shocking situation. Since the shortcomings are known to the government, it must conduct a thorough review and take corrective measures lest the scheme starts scaring away students instead of luring them in.
ANDHRA IN TURMOIL AGAIN
ONLY THE CREATION OF TELANGANA CAN HELP
BY T.V. RAJESWAR
Andhra Pradesh is in a state of turmoil once again with political turbulence threatening to burst out from the Telangana region. The majority of the elected representatives from Telangana, cutting across party lines, submitted their resignations to the respective presiding officers in the state and at the Centre. They included 12 Members of Parliament and 81 MLAs, all belonging to the Congress from Telangana. In a show of unity in demanding Telangana, the MLAs of the Telugu Desam Party, the CPI and the BJP also resigned. In all, 99 of the 119 MLAs from the Telangana region decided to resign.
The Telangana Joint Action Committee, coordinating the agitation, used this opportunity to give a call for a 48-hour bandh on July 5 and 6.
The Congress general secretary-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, tried to dissuade the legislators from precipitating a crisis in the state, but to no avail. The Chief Minister of Andhra, Mr Kiran Kumar Reddy, also could not succeed in making them change their decision.
The Telangana agitation has assumed a more serious dimension after the resignation of parliamentarians and legislators. The Congress high command and the government are unable to arrive at a decision. The December 9, 2009, statement by the Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, cannot be overlooked, much less forgotten. The Telangana legislators are demanding the implementation of the promise made in 2009.
The Justice Srikrishna Report is another major issue which has not been dealt with satisfactorily so far. Apart from the preliminary discussion with the Home Minister and with the party leaders from Andhra Pradesh on the various recommendations made by Justice Srikrishna, nothing has been done. It was announced that after the assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducheri, a decision would be taken. However, there has been no movement on the issue.
The Andhra crisis illustrates the inability of the UPA government to arrive at a decision in respect of the complicated Telangana problem. In fact, this attitude of drift has been noticed for well over 50 years. It may be recalled that the State Re-organisation Commission of 1955 with Justice Fazal Ali as Chairman had inter alia recommended the formation of Telangana state. This recommendation was ignored by the Centre. There were indeed no valid reasons why the recommendation was not implemented.
In handling the socio-political issues emanating from the Telugu-speaking districts of the erstwhile Madras Presidency, the Centre had shown little understanding. When the demand for Andhra state snowballed into a major agitation in the early 1950s, Potti Sriramalu's announcement of fast-unto-death on the Andhra issue was ignored by the Centre. The death of Sriramalu led to extensive riots and damage to public properties in the Telugu-speaking districts of the Madras Presidency, which included Rayalaseema and Telangana. The Andhra state, which came into being in 1953, initially had its capital in Kurnool in the Rayalaseema area. Even at that time, there were demands for Telangana as well as for a coastal state. However, the Telangana demand was consistent and this was conceded by the Fazal Ali Commission, but not implemented by the Centre.
There were widespread agitations in the early 1960s. The Telangana Praja Samiti led by Dr Channa Reddy spearheaded the agitation demanding the declaration of Telangana as a state. However, Dr Reddy gave up the agitation, joined the Congress party and became a minister in the state. Later he emerged as Chief Minister of Andhra. But the demand for Telangana was never given up. The agitation was revived in 2009 by K. Chandrasekhara Rao, who headed the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, a composite body consisting of various parties and groups.
The Justice Srikrishna Committee report, recommending various options, has been under examination by the Centre, but it has not been able to make up its mind regarding its implementation. At one stage, the Centre almost decided to reject the Telangana demand, but announced the formation of a regional council with constitutional guarantees.
The present crisis, precipitated by the resignation by so many MPs and MLAs representing the Telangana region, is far more serious and cannot be ignored. Apart from the law and order problem, which can possibly be handled with mixed results, stability in Andhra Pradesh itself is at stake. If the MLAs' resignations take effect, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh is most likely to fall. An alternative Congress government is nowhere in sight unless a favourable decision is taken on Telangana.
Andhra Pradesh goes in for the next Assembly elections in 2014 along with the parliamentary polls. The prospects for the Congress party appear dim not only in Telangana, but also other regions, particularly Rayalaseema. Unless Telangana is conceded, the Congress may be wiped out in the districts in this region. In Rayalaseema, Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, who has raised the banner of revolt against the Congress high command, is most likely to capture most of the seats for his newly formed YSR Party. In the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, people may partly vote for the Congress and partly for other parties like the TDP. Should the Congress go adrift and face such a huge setback in 2014 elections?
The Congress Core Committee discussed the Telangana crisis when it met on July 6. The Home Minister also held a Press briefing but there was no decision on the burning issue of Telangana.
The reports from Hyderabad speak of the situation having reached a point where only an announcement regarding the formation of Telangana can bring about a change. The Centre and the Congress, however, seem to be in no mood to oblige those demanding the creation of a Telangana state. Whether the crisis will be resolved soon remains to be seen.
The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal.
BY HARISH DHILLON
I do not bank on memories and even when I visit my children in Sanawar, a place where I lived for 30 years, a place where every nook and corner should be layered with memories of my childhood, my years as a teacher and later as Headmaster and the memories of my children's childhood, nothing stirs in me.
Then last winter, when the children, most of the staff and even the Headmaster were away, I took a long walk in that most beautiful place in the world. I came, finally, to the door of the Headmaster's residence. And then memory, as elusive and as unbidden as love, asserted itself.
I looked at the squat, ugly little building of the kitchen which had escaped the fire of 1996 because it was detached from the main house. It had, when I was a teacher, been Phiroza's kitchen. She was the Headmaster's wife and kept an open house and an even more open kitchen. But the memories that came back to me had nothing to do with Phiroza's culinary delights.
Sanawar was an isolated place then and what is taken for granted today was just not available. I baked the children's birthday cakes because there were no cakes available in the neighborhood. On one of my son's birthdays I ran into trouble: the sponge just did not rise. I finally realised that there was something wrong with the flour. The remedy lay in Phiroza's kitchen. I went up and 'borrowed' some flour. By four in the morning I had the cake ready.
I was stage manager for the Founders' play. The day before the first performance, the heavy, glazed cotton curtains donated by Mr Shammi Kapoor in memory of his wife Gita Bali, were put up. I waited patiently while Raj Kumar and his friends ironed the curtains. But they didn't do a very good job because when Gopal finally put them up, there were enough creases in them to keep them four inches above the stage floor. We took them down again and then we ran out of coal. Once again I remembered Phiroza's kitchen. I borrowed some charcoal, went home and made some coffee and omelets for my dhobis and by five in the morning, when the curtains were hung up again, they touched the floor.
After the house had burnt down, a visitor asked if he could go up and see the ruins. When he came back he shook his head at me and smiled: "I saw three young men in the kitchen, attempting to put together shards of blue and white porcelain which they had retrieved from the ruins. I told them that you can't put broken pots together again. They replied that they were not trying to mend pots – they were trying to put together their Sahib's memories."
Memory was playing tricks again: it was pushing me into nostalgic yearning for a way of life which had once been and was now lost forever. I braced myself against the sudden gust of wind and walked quickly away.
'MADE IN INDIA'— A HIT ABROAD
FROM THE MASTERS OF MINIATURE ART TO THE BEST OF CONTEMPORARY ART- INDIAN ART IS ON VIEW AT VARIOUS ART GALLERIES OF EUROPE AND AMERICA. THE SCALE AND SCOPE OF THESE EXHIBITIONS IS INCONCEIVABLE FOR THE ART GALLERIES IN INDIA.
Rudra veena exponent Ustad Asad Ali Khan once observed that the day is not far when Indians will have to go abroad to procure a veena, or, to just listen to the veena. In terms of visual arts, perhaps, the situation has already arrived. Blame it on the lack of good galleries, curatorial expertise, inadequate research facilities, or, sheer co-incidence- almost all the great artists from the land, from classic miniature art to contemporary art are showcased abroad this summer. Does that mean Indians have to travel abroad in order to see the best of Indian art?
Also, despite the very best organisational skills of the galleries abroad- with their vast experience in well researched documentation and technology assisted expertise in display, the curatorial attempt to identify Indian art with certain motifs and a strong urge to define 'Indianness' sometimes becomes a limiting factor of these vastly successful exhibitions. For, the Indian art scenario is thriving, is multi- hued, and is far more adventurous in its creative search than a few names that keep appearing in the foreign shows. Their signatures have become recognisable with the time-tested materials and motifs that represent a stereotyped India. This restricted insistence on defining Indianness by foreign galleries that invest millions of dollars and years of hard work in organising these mega shows leaves a first- time viewer of Indian art with certain biases about Indian art.
Indian Highways in Europe
It took over two years for the exhibition titled "Indian Highway" to reach Lyon in France, from London, where it started, and about five years in its preparation. The exhibition of contemporary Indian art does more than just travel- it takes a new spin with every stop it takes. With works of around 30 contemporary Indian artists–including Nikhil Chopra, Bharti Kher, Jitish Kalat and Subodh Gupta, the exhibition is reinterpreted each time to fit changing venues, by making room for new works and to satisfy curatorial whims for each of its new phase. The show found its first home in December 2008, in a crammed Serpentine Gallery in London before unwinding in Oslo, then it went to the Danish city of Herning, to reach Lyon this summer, where it will be on view till the end of July. It is supposed to come back to Delhi, but no one is sure when?
Some critics in London raised questions about Indianness of the works of artists like Bharti Kher, born and brought up in London, who they thought would have more in common with Damien Hirst than with Husain, whose works were later withdrawn from the show because of brewing controversy back home, adding to more confusion about what should and should not come under the parameter of Indian art in these shows.
Some also expressed concern that the Indianness of the work defined by bindis, rickshaws and steel tiffins may overshadow–and sometimes take precedence–over artistic merit. Others suggest that this is done to make the show more palatable to a Western audience, who may find it difficult to come out of its perceived 'image' of India. But the show has improved from its London avatar, with focus on themes like urbanization which has given it a sharper edge. Perhaps by the time it reaches Delhi, it will be an even better show for the home- viewers in India.
Indian Masters get a name-Zurich
One cannot help wondering why this could not have been done, here, in India. The Way Of The Masters – The Great Artists of India, 1100–1900, shown at Museum Rietberg, Zurich, between May to August, 2011, traces landmarks of 800 years of Indian painting with some 240 masterpieces by more than 40 artists. For the first time an exhibition offers a place of pride to the names of the anonymous painters who remained in oblivion for centuries despite greatness bestowed upon their art. The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the entire history of Indian painting. What makes it unique and exciting is that the focus throughout is on individual painters rather than on miniature art itself, as has been the practice.
A result of decades of painstaking research to identify individual artists- for which small signatures were deciphered microscopically, pilgrim registers were searched for artists' names and genealogies, and systematic stylistic comparisons were made to ascertain the names. In addition, the museum is accompanying the exhibition with a major publication on its findings on the unsung painters which would provide new bases for further research in miniature art.
More than forty artists at the centre of the exhibition, whose works convey a broad and comprehensive idea of Indian painting to the visitors are picked from different geographical regions. The earliest exhibits are illustrated manuscripts from the twelfth century, the latest works- from the early twentieth century are large-format paintings from Udaipur, which in their choice of composition and perspective reveal the growing influence of photography. It is a unique effort on the part of its three renowned curators, Milo C. Beach (Smithsonian, Washington), B.N. Goswamy (India) and Eberhard Fischer (Zurich), to lend an identity to the most significant painters from over 800 years of history and area spread from Esfahan in Iran to Delhi and the Deccan in India. The exhibition will also be shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 26 September 2011 to 8 January 2012. Chances of its travelling to India are bleak.
New masters in Venice
India is making a debut at the 116 year old Venice Biennale, one of the world's biggest and the most elite art carnivals that draws the best of visual art selected from across the world. The exhibition, with its 28 settled country pavilions, built inside the Giardini, has, for the first time given space of about 250 sq metre to India for four months ( June- Oct). The Indian pavilion showcases seven contemporary mixed media art works christened "Everyone Agrees: Its About to Explode" by four leading artists.
For a country of a billion people, with the diversity that only India can absorb, selecting such works that make a " strong symbolic statement about the country", in the words of Ranjit Hoskote, who curated the exhibition, was not an easy task.
The India exhibition includes new-age installations, video art and paintings by New York-based Zarina Hashmi, Gigi Scaria of Delhi, Amsterdam-based Praneet Soi and Guwahati-based Desire Collective Machine (DMC) – a multi-disciplinary art collaboration between two young artists, Sonal Jain and Mrigankya Madhukaillya. Zarina Hashmi represents "post-partition and diasporic sentiments". She challenges the perceptions of space and borders through her work – in the way familiar locations in the country are delimited, traversed and the memories they invoke in us. The DMC has shot a 35 mm film portraying cultures, realities and change in the region. Praneet Soi works across spaces with the marginalised potters and clay idol makers of Kumartuli – an old potters' colony by the bank of the Ganges in Kolkata, he has created a 50-feet mural in Venice. Mixed media artist Gigi Scaria represents the internal migration, his works portray the changing social realities and "interpretations of home". He has made video installations. The show is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, this was for the lack of financial support that India could not participate in The Biennale for 116 years. And ordinary Indians who cannot travel to Venice will be deprived of seeing it.
Paris- Delhi- Bombay
For a country viewed as an emerging economic power, the form of unique confrontation of perspectives on its cultural complexity draws fresh artistic energy. Expressed through artistic experiences and creative visions, Paris- Delhi- Bombay, an exhibition of Indian and French artists on display at Centre Pompidou in Paris, is a unique amalgam of visuals on India, with all possible contradictions and genres, documenting and yet eluding India of a million shades.
Whereas the possibility of two cultures merging into one remains perennially debatable, the exhibition is certainly an unprecedented example of Franco- Indian collaboration, created on a scale that is enormous. With a long and impressive list of art historians, curators, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers and anthropologists from both the countries, who worked with a team from Centre Pompidou on the concept of the exhibition for over four years, the analysis and reports prepared by the experts were then sent to select artists, majority of whom then worked on special commissioned works. The 30 artists from India are well known names like Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya and Sudarshan Shetty, to the very young quirkier voices of Tejal Shah, who is never shy of expressing sexuality of a different shades and Nikhil Chopra, whose works with performance art have created a unique niche. The curators were careful to select artists who made their first mark in the India of the liberalized economy; therefore reflecting global aspiration in the Indian art. Most of the artists filtered for the show are in the age group of 35 to 60, barring Vivan Sundaranm and Nalini Malini, both of whom have continued the process of rediscovering themselves. The exhibition which started in May will run through September, 2011.
High art accessible abroad
Director Amit Dutta, in collaboration with miniature art expert Eberhard Fischer created the first ever authentic, visually engaging documentary on Nainsukh, the greatest Indian painter of the eighteenth century. "Nainsukh" was shown at the Venice Film Festival and in shorter versions as well as in a special show at, The Way Of The Masters, Museum Rietberg, Zurich.
"One can be India in different ways from different locations. India is not a territorially bounded entity. It expands in the global space of imagination." Ranjit Hoskote, curator, Indian art show at Venice Biennale.
IT DOES WORK
INDIA WILL ACHIEVE ITS GOAL OF HALVING THE LEVEL OF POVERTY FROM 51% IN 1990 TO 24% BY 2015
T N NINAN
A United Nations organisation officially declared last week that India is on its way to achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on poverty reduction. Spelt out in 2000, the goal was to halve the level of poverty, compared to a base year of 1990 — when 51 per cent of Indians lived on less than $1.25 per day. That number, the United Nations says, is likely to drop to 24 per cent by 2015. China's poverty numbers will have shrunk even faster. Largely because of China and to some extent India, the global poverty figure will have dropped from 42 per cent in 1990 to an estimated 15 per cent by 2015. Yet, neither Africa nor South America nor any South Asian country other than India seems likely to achieve the goal of halving poverty in a quarter-century. The correlation between rapid economic growth in China and India and poverty reduction in these two countries is too obvious to miss.
Did I hear cheering anywhere in the stands occupied by the poverty industry? Not on your life. Instead, Brinda Karat, the CPI(M) leader, was quoted as saying at the function to release the United Nations report: "Though the report is optimistic of meeting the MDGs, it cannot be achieved unless accompanied by a reversal of the current policies." For breathtaking lack of logic, that is almost Goebbelsian.
More pertinently, Amartya Sen has pointed out that Bangladesh has been doing better than India on a variety of socio-economic indicators; in some cases, the gap in performance is very large. Indeed, India cannot take much comfort in most of its indicators, since they have substantial room for improvement. But the fact is that Bangladesh is not likely to achieve the goal of halving poverty by 2015, while India is. Professor Sen has also pointed out that China's socio-economic indicators too are much better than India's. But they would be, wouldn't they, since China's per capita income is more than twice India's.
This is not to get into verbal callisthenics about growth or/with/for/and social justice, of the kind that India's planners indulged in endlessly during the 1960s and 1970s, when neither objective was being achieved, but to make the limited point that all goals – like reducing poverty – become easier to achieve when there is faster growth, as China and India have now shown. If that is beyond reasonable dispute (though the poverty industry is unlikely to concede the point), the real issues are twofold. First, making sure that rapid growth continues, a point rightly emphasised at all times by Manmohan Singh; and second, designing policies aimed at tackling deprivation and improving human development indicators in the most efficient and least wasteful manner possible.
This goes to the heart of the debate about whether the government should directly provide or simply pay for what private agents are asked to provide (as with education); and whether to deliver in cash or kind (as with foodgrain). There is no one answer, but at least there is lively debate, including on whether 50 per cent or 75 per cent of people should get grain subsidised to the extent of more than 80 per cent of cost, when the prevalence of poverty (however measured) is more limited. What is not being debated in the same way is the employment question. The United Nations report says India has by far the highest percentage of informal employment in the non-agricultural sector. Surely, there is a case for changing labour laws such that greater employment in the organised sector is encouraged. Yet, the subject is a political hot potato, and not on anyone's list of priorities.
SHRINK THE STATE
AN UNWARRANTED EXPANSION OF STATE POWER DOES NOT AUGUR WELL FOR BRICS ECONOMIES
All the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – seen as "shining" are currently in actual or incipient trouble. I had discussed China's case in my previous column ("China's hubris", June 18). Brazil's so-called social democratic "Brasilia consensus" is now being aped by many other Latin American countries not seduced by Hugo Chávez. Its basis is the macroeconomic stability introduced by Henrique Cardoso, combined with Lula's adoption of the Mexican Progresa programme of conditional cash payments to the poor, financed by the commodity price boom. The resultant rise in consumer credit, shortage of domestic savings – with investment increasingly financed by foreign investment leading to a growing current account deficit and currency appreciation – and an expansion of the vast and inefficient public sector have led to overheating and a rise in inflation. A hard landing, particularly if the commodity cycle turns, is likely.
In Russia, growth has been fuelled by the commodity boom. But most of the gains have been appropriated by various public and private "mafias" generated by Vladimir Putin's authoritarian capitalism. Inflation is rampant and many highly educated and talented young people who find that their prospects are blocked by nepotism are emigrating to the West. Recognising this, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev has sought to privatise the state monopolies – particularly in the resource sector – created under Putinism, but is unlikely to succeed since his mentor is breathing down his neck. Without weaning the country off its resource-based mono-economy, as Mr Medvedev realises, Russia will not be able to maintain growth, a prospect further clouded by the Russian demographic collapse.
In both cases, as in China, the current woes can be attributed to a halt in and, in some cases, a reversal of the processes of implementing the classical liberal policy package called the "Washington consensus", after its partial implementation in the eighties and nineties led to rising growth rates and reduced poverty. But it also provided the means to expand the scale and scope of their government's inherent dirigiste impulses. The pendulum that had been swinging worldwide from the mid-eighties away from dirigisme to economic liberalism – emblematic of which was the fall of the Soviet Union and its empire – has been swinging back, not least in India.
The Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance's (UPA's) victory in 2009, which was expected to herald a new dawn for the "dream team" of economic reformers, has turned to winter. With a government beleaguered by various scams, and in which power is wielded by Congress party president and her acolytes but responsibility is laid at the door of the increasingly helpless reformist prime minister, the well-known second-generation reforms are stalled. Moreover, the governance is increasingly being taken over by an economically illiterate judiciary — witness the recent astounding statements about black money and economic liberalisation by the Supreme Court.
The political processes resulting in a similar halt in economic liberalisation in these hitherto fast-growing economies, and which now cloud their future economic prospects, should not surprise readers of this column and of my works on the predatory state and on how past dirigisme breeds crises leading to reform, which, in turn, leads to the next cycle, as happened in Europe during much of the modern period (The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity and Growth by Deepak Lal, H Myint). But there are differences in the future paths that these four economies, governed by different polities and resource endowments, are likely to take.
In both Russia and China, the authoritarian regimes have bestowed untold riches on the predators controlling the state. In Russia, the siloviki have garnered the rents from the commodity boom through their control of natural resource-based state monopolies. In China the top functionaries of the Communist Party of China and their descendants – or the "princelings" – have their fingers in most of the lucrative pies of crony capitalism. In both countries, discontent is growing on this score, compounded in China by land expropriation by officials, which has led to many riots. But there is more hope of Russia, with its quasi-democratic system, being able to fend off this discontent through political means, a prospect not currently open to China. Both face the same problem that brought down some of the authoritarian regimes in the Arab Spring, and which haunts others: a growing educated and young population that desires economic opportunities and personal freedom. The former is more important for Russia, the latter for China. Both could lead to political crises, particularly if the economy slumps.
In both Brazil and India, the democratic system provides a safety valve for popular discontent. It also leads to populism, particularly in creating entitlement economies. In Brazil, given the dominant Christian cosmology emphasising egalitarianism, there is a political need to distribute some of the natural rents to the larger polity. The danger is that the entitlements thus created could become unsustainable with a fall in commodity prices leading to a crisis.
In India's case, two kinds of populism need to be distinguished. The first, embraced by the UPA, is redistributive with an extension of state largesse. It views the majority of citizens as being dependent children who need the state to provide for them. The other is to empower the people who are fully capable, autonomous beings held back by various impediments created by dirigisme, and the state's failure to provide the basic public goods of law and order and merit goods. This form of populism is being adopted by Nitish Kumar, Narendra Modi and perhaps Mamata Banerjee. Indian polity doesn't need redistribution with growth, as those infected by Western cosmologies seem to believe, but greater opportunities to serve people's own ends. India is an aspiring, not an egalitarian, society. It is tragic that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which could espouse the "good" populism", is engaged in mindless tamashas.
The current problems of governance and a halt in growth prospects are owing to an unwarranted expansion of the state, after the economic liberalisation generated by the past crisis of dirigisme had reversed economic stagnation or decline. To avoid the next crisis, it is time to shrink the state.
FOOT IN THE GOALMOUTH
THE PROJECT TO REMOULD STREET CHILDREN CAN DO WITHOUT KOLKATA COPS AND POLITICIANS
SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
Watching Jeremy Browne, Britain's strapping young junior minister for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, kick four footballs and autograph each in a Kolkata slum, I wondered if the British Council's true purpose in organising the event was to rehabilitate wayward youth or reform errant policemen. Neither perhaps. Perhaps Goalz, the project partnered by Kolkata police, the municipal corporation and six football clubs, is intended to teach Trinamool Congress politicians punctuality and politeness.
The inspiration for Goalz is Britain's equally eccentrically spelt Kickz through which policemen engage delinquents, present and potential, from the toughest areas. The British obviously – and commendably – take Goalz seriously for the British Council chiefs from London and Delhi flew in for a 40-minute event down a scruffy lane winding through bustees. That's besides Sanjay Wadwani, Britain's ethnically innovative rugger-playing deputy high commissioner in Kolkata, and a man with a bulging briefcase trailing the minister. Goalz is a wonderful idea to rescue youths from the twilight zone of crime and politics and keep them mentally and physically alert.
This isn't the first football theme Kolkata has picked up from Britain. Over 30 years ago, Rudraprasad Sengupta deftly adapted Peter Terson's play, Zigger Zagger, so that instead of projecting football hooligans and their pursuit of drink, sex and trouble, Nandikar's Football dramatised the game's magic grip on adolescent minds. It still enthralls packed houses.
Kolkata may not be quite India's sports capital, as Browne put it. But the legendary goalie, Goshto Pal, frozen in stone on the Maidan, recalls a heady July afternoon in the high noon of empire when barefoot Bengali lads in Mohun Bagan (a Goalz sponsor) colours humbled booted soldiers of Britain's East Yorks regiment. As the victory procession stomped through the streets of India's then capital, fans urged the players to storm Fort William.
Football nationalism is also a British import. England-Scotland matches still resonate to "Flower of Scotland," celebrating the 14th century Scottish victory over England at Bannockburn.
However, Baichung Bhutia's engagement with Bury F C in 1999 also confirmed that football's free-for-all knows no borders. I thought Michael Nyarko at Browne's kick-off was like Mohun Bagan's Nigerian Okori Cheema until he opened his mouth. He's pure London, Crystal Palace in fact. Michael and Rubel Ahmed, whose Bangladeshi origins are also lost in his London persona, are training 10 Indian coaches to give disadvantaged Kolkata teenagers (12-18) three games a week.
I am not quite sure of the police role in this worthy project to remould street children into responsible citizens. Dapper in a business executive's natty blue suit, Ranjit Kumar Pachnanda, who became police commissioner in March at the Election Commission's behest, speaks of football and friendship. We may not know it, but the glossy magazine he gave the VIPs spoke of the force's benevolence. It was aptly called Protector.
But Kolkata cops can't do much protecting if they can't climb a five-foot wall to save a family from robbers because their trousers are too tight (bellies also too bulging?), as was reported recently. Maybe, their job is not to kick a ball but to kick youngsters with "Goalz or else …" threats to the pilot project's six chosen sites.
The politicians' part is also problematic. The veteran coach who was heard muttering "We should first learn punctuality from the British before thinking of turning Calcutta into London" must have had in mind Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and Sports Minister Madan Mitra who ambled in unconcerned well after the ceremony was over and Browne had left to catch his plane. Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee didn't show up at all. Neither did Mamata Banerjee though the Press Trust of India announced she would launch the project.
Perhaps the chief minister took fright at Mitra's proposal to "achieve peace in the troubled Jangalmahal area through football". A Trinamul vs. Maoist fixture? Doesn't sound all that friendly. Trinamool vs. CPI(M)? Outright war.
Sujata Sen, the Council's East India director who organised the launch, says Kickz has brought down the crime rate in England by 60 per cent. "We hope to achieve something similar here." Amen to that. But the British Council may have to do it with only the football clubs, without police or politicians.
Tailpiece: As the police contingent stumbled and shambled past, pot-bellies quivering, in a Republic Day parade, a crowd of little boys began chanting, "Chawanni! Chawanni!" Why chawanni? "Because they demand chawanni – four annas – all the time!" Inflation must have pushed up the rate long before the humble chawanni was banished but the nickname sticks.
FROM TREADMILL TO FAST TRACK
Expanding the share of manufacturing in the country's economic base is likely to prove very difficult
The Indian manufacturing sector has had to run very fast in order to stand still in this millennium. Despite an exceptional performance in the first decade, its share in the overall gross domestic product (GDP) has remained between 15 and 16 per cent. A new policy on manufacturing now aims to raise this stake to a quarter per cent by 2025. For this to happen, the sector needs to step off the treadmill, get onto the tracks and sprint very fast. Its run, however, is likely to face resistance from shrinking markets abroad and higher inflation rates in the coming times.
Assuming that real GDP grows at an average annual rate of eight per cent over the next 14 years, the new manufacturing policy's objective translates into a five-fold increase in the size of the sector in real terms; from the current Rs 7,730 billion to Rs 35,818 billion in 2025. This, in turn, implies a real growth rate of about 12 per cent each year, entailing a steep jump relative to historical trend; by way of comparison, decade average growth rates for manufacturing are eight per cent in 2000-2010 and 5.7 per cent in 1991-99.
In the five years to 2007-08, the manufacturing segment grew at an annual average rate of 10 per cent in real terms, outpacing India's strongest ever GDP growth of 8.9 per cent in the period. It also contributed to more than half of the increase in private investment in this period: real private investment growth averaged 17 per cent annually but business spending on machinery and equipment grew much faster at 31 per cent. The sector increased its share in aggregate investment to about 42 per cent, equalling that of the services segment, while the economy-wide investment rate rose from 27.4 per cent to 39 per cent.
Despite these spectacular dynamics, its portion of the GDP pie increased just one percentage point!
External demand was critical in accelerating the growth momentum in manufacturing during 2003-07. Global output growth averaged an unprecedented five per cent in this period, outstripping the previous record mean of four per cent in 1984-89. This fuelled the robust export growth of these years — an annual average of 22 per cent. Indeed, growth in manufacturing is closely correlated with subsequent export growth in this period (correlation of 0.70). Globalisation has strengthened the manufacturing-export linkages substantially in the 2000s: the two correlate strongly at 0.60 over 2000-10 compared to a non-existent association in the preceding decade. And, although exports directly account for approximately 15 per cent of aggregate manufacturing output, machinery and equipment investment and export growth are as strongly correlated.
Despite the stellar export statistics of this period, overall manufacturing appears to have steadily lost competitiveness since 2000. This is observed from plotted values of revealed comparative advantage (or RCA, an index with values below one indicating relative disadvantage of a country in that segment) in the Reserve Bank of India Annual Report (August 2010: pg 67). Reproduced here (see chart), the RCA in overall manufactures is observed falling below one by 2008. Competitiveness losses are more marked in textiles that exports two-fifths of its output, contributes 14 per cent of industrial production and employs about eight per cent of the labour force: the RCA shows a steep fall from 5.5 in 2000 to less than 3.5 by 2008. By one estimate (Deutsche Bank Research, May 13, 2011), terms-of-trade losses have been as much as 15 per cent over 2000-2010.
Strong growth has also induced structural changes like in diversification of exports from low-skill to higher-skill products; import-substitution in segments like steel, metals, etc where domestic capacities exist; and channelling of foreign direct investments flows into non-traded segments like housing and construction, indicating the relative unattractiveness of the tradable sector to foreign investors. Some of these could portend a weakening ecosystem for manufacturing that is hard to regain on permanent destruction.
The strategy of the new policy to arrest the treadmill performance and falling external competitiveness of Indian manufacturing is to create national investment and manufacturing zones (NIMZs) à la China. The zones, however, are just one part of the Chinese story. The other – central – part has been its exchange rate policy of undervaluation to keep exports consistently competitive abroad. Further, studies show that critical differences between Chinese and Indian manufacturing companies lie mainly in size (the median Chinese firm employs 400 vis-à-vis 88 in India), labour skills (Chinese labour has higher computer and IT skills) and labour flexibility other than infrastructure; the NIMZs would address mainly the infrastructure problem.
Then again, the macro-economic environment – external and domestic – which is a significant determinant of manufacturing growth is no longer what China faced in its years of double-digit growth. The period of Great Moderation that kept prices benign for a long time was a boon for countries like China because it kept input costs, including real wages, low. This is now all but over and global inflation rates are poised considerably higher due to high levels of public debt, and charging fuel and commodity prices. Though the global scenario affects all countries equally, India is especially impacted due to its high import-dependency for oil and other commodities. On the domestic front, too, persistent inflation threatens to erode the low-cost advantage of India's manufactures as other input costs like raw materials, wages, interest rates and other prices escalate.
Looking ahead, can we expect an external environment of the preceding decade? The global economy has little means to deliver the high growth rates of 2003-07: the developed economies have to shrink as they address their large levels of private and public debt, distressed financial systems, unemployment and loss of competitiveness. The rest of the world cannot deliver such growth rates alone, especially as food, fuel and commodity prices pose a serious risk to inflation and limit growth.
Expanding the share of manufacturing in the country's economic base by an additional 10 per cent is thus likely to prove very difficult in the post-crisis world.
The author is Consultant Professor, G20 Project, at ICRIER and is former staff member of IMF and RBI. email@example.com
TIME FOR A SECURITY CHECK
Human beings are creatures of habit. Like other politically unaffiliated people of my generation, I think of renamed cities by their old names. Since that is not the house style, I shall not refer to the Western metropolis by any name at all.
Terrorists are human beings and, therefore, also creatures of habit. In intercepted conversations, the creatures who caused chaos on November 26, 2008, and their handlers, used the old name of that city. Since the early nineties, the city has been a default location for terror attacks.
There are several interlinked reasons for this. The city is a very soft target. There are multiple ways to enter by sea, land, rail and air and those routes cannot be shut down or policed. It is also insanely congested, guaranteeing lots of casualties in any act of terror. The crowds make it impossible to put effective physical security checks in place. Therefore, the terrorist can pick times and spots.
The crowding is a consequence of the driving forces that make the city India's financial capital. Ilya Prigogine, Nobel prize winning chemist and chaos theorist, once described how great cities develop around hot spots of specialisation.
Human habitations start at desirable locations — river banks, the seaside, fertile fields, defensible strong points and so on. As communities grow, individuals specialise. As more individuals specialise, a positive feedback loop develops. More talented individuals migrate into the hot spot. It becomes a city, once it hits a critical mass of people with widely diversified specialisations. That attracts new successive waves of migration as the feedback loop gets more powerful.
At some stage, the city has to develop sophisticated governance systems to manage population concentrations and cater to the citizens' needs. If this is done with common sense, it creates a better environment that attracts even more people, who add further value to the hot spot.
The waves of migration continue because there is an enormous upside for any ambitious individual. There are jobs, and business opportunities galore at every price point. But there is no governance. The city has grown unsupervised. Its civic services and public transport systems have long been overwhelmed. The pressure on space is so high that real estate prices compare with New York, which has about 20 times the per capita.
So what exists is a chaotic mess inhabited by millions of specialists, mostly focused on their goals of making a living. Unfortunately, some of those specialisations are criminal. The city has always had a symbiotic relationship with its low-lifers. This is inevitable where normal governance is absent. The mafia fills the vacuum and acts as a parallel government, providing all sorts of "services" including loan-sharking, dispute resolution and so on.
In the seventies and eighties, the criminals smuggled gold. Once gold was decontrolled, they found new revenue streams in drug dealing, kidnapping, oil adulteration etc. They managed the real estate deals. They financed the film industry. The city cannot survive without them — they service too many needs.
The criminals turned terrorists in 1993. Given their intimate knowledge of the metro's underbelly, they are formidably effective at this. The biggest don lives in Karachi and remote-controls a multi-billion empire in his old hometown. There are a dozen other dons and thousands of young men willing to be cannon fodder in the hopes of becoming dons. It's just like Bollywood, where all the extras dream that they will become stars some day.
If the terror is to actually stop, the city must provide governance of an order that renders the bhailog irrelevant and, thus, cuts the umbilical links between organised crime and terrorism. It must develop local and global intelligence that can offer credible warnings of impending terror attacks. Nothing in the historical record suggests that this is at all within the realms of the possible. So what we'll get instead are more terror attacks and more platitudes about resilience.
NEEDED - NEW DATA BASES ASAP
The solution isn't to have lots of small surveys done on different parts of India and assume that data from each is representative of all of India
The Reserve Bank of India governor has expressed the urgent need for better official data on which to base policy, and pointed out the dangers of basing policy on incorrect or unstable data, but the ministry of statistics and programme implementation has been given to someone who reportedly doesn't want this unimportant job. Yet this function does need far more energy and participation from a wider set of players, particularly when the country is going through rapid change that is so unstructured.
As the heterogeneity of the new India grows, there is a greater need for more mega sample size "ground-level" surveys of households and individuals; and more micro (one- two- or three-person) informal enterprises to understand what is going on. The fundamental assumptions based on which the traditional, official and national surveys have been designed need to be re-visited. How India works and earns has gone through a great deal of change. There are many more Indias now than before, and their patterns of living, earning and spending are diverging. Several new kinds of multi-occupation individuals and households, and multi-earner households have emerged. Expenditure heads have undergone big changes too. We probably don't know enough to even know what the changes are, and hence what needs to be changed in the design and questions and the measures in the surveys that are traditionally done. State-level disparities are far wider than ever before, and the state is becoming the unit of both policy action and business planning. Anecdotally, much of this is known. But analytical rigour to these anecdotes is still to come. Besides the anecdotes, all true, often contradict each other depending on where they are drawn from.
We need to go through a discovery phase from scratch. And discovery requires many more discoverers, each looking at the same population with different lenses. We have a hang up about "official" and "not official" data bases, rather than thinking in terms of "good" and "bad" data bases. We have a horror of different data bases not "matching." But its time to shed that horror — more people trying to solve a problem using different tools and methodologies, and even more people working on explanations for the divergences will eventually cause greater clarity in the form of newer and more robust mental models of current trends. Earlier, expenditure was a good surrogate of income. Now it isn't for the middle and upper income groups. Earlier rural households were easily classifiable into where their main source of income came from — agriculture or not; now it is more complex than that. Earlier the categories of expenditure for the rich and the poor were pretty much the same. Now they are not. We now need to measure indebtedness of the middle and upper class households a lot more carefully, to understand more than what the aggregate credit data of banks will tell us. Most of India does not have regular jobs. Yet everyone, for the most part, earns a livelihood doing something or the other. The services economy also includes all the micro providers of services of some kind or the other. We still don't exactly know how India earns, leave alone spends based on the categorisations people use to think about their expenditure. If household expenditure is supposed to be a pillar of India's economic growth, then the more we know about this the better; and one National Sample Survey (NSS) alone isn't enough to capture such a hydra-headed monster that is at least three countries in one.
The solution isn't to have lots of small surveys done on different parts of India and assume that data from each is representative of all of India; or to cobble them all together and say we have the whole jigsaw pieced together. The trouble is that we don't even know what the whole jigsaw is supposed to be. How can it be? The need of the hour is to have large, descriptive surveys that describe thoroughly what is going on in India, grossed up from the household or the individual. Properly done, this requires humongous sample sizes, even with the smartest design. Who pays for this? The good news is that both corporate India and the policy-making India actually require pretty much the same data platforms, and for once, are willing to come together and volunteer time, advice and money for a good cause. There are no divergent data interests here. What diverges is how they use it. What analytics they bring to it, what conclusions they draw from it are to each, his own. Policymakers look at using data to influence outcomes, corporate India is agnostic to outcomes but looks at exploiting emergent patterns. To seriously make financial inclusion work by building sensible and safe business models, there needs to be a descriptive data base that is consumer-centred for everyone in the game. Build the data base, and the analytics will automatically follow, the same way apps are written prolifically to ride on tech platforms. Economists can look at the data using their tools and market strategists using theirs.
Policy research organisations and think tanks must see development of such fundamental data bases as a core activity and shed the notion that this is not "pure play" policy, just low-end survey work. In order to walk down the policy development road, the road must be built first. And we don't have such a road. And borrowing international comparisons as a substitute is unlikely to work either, because nowhere else in the world does such a confounding hybrid and "off pattern" evolution path exist.
The author is an independent market strategy consultant
IT JUST KEEPS ROLLING ALONG, FOR NOW
Cities with a history and a personality have a distinctive rhythm of their own. What may ordinarily seem earth shaking often creates nothing more than a ripple. As in the immortal song Ol' Man River, the city "jes' keeps rollin' along". As I prepared for one of my periodic stays in Kolkata I got ready to see a new avatar of it, not a transformed entity maybe but at least noticeably different — the way people note that your walk differently, a bit jauntily, after you have landed a much sought-after job.
The change has certainly been epochal, gone are 34 years of the Left rule which had shaped every aspect of life. People's democracy had at last arrived, no matter what People's Democracy may think. But a few days into my stay I realised the city in its majestic indifference, much like the massive Ganga that flows by it, had scarcely taken notice. It took citing the odd faded election graffiti with the emblematic flower exhorting you to vote the Trinamool to remind that a political tsunami has just come and gone.
The predictability started right when the IndiGo flight arrived before time, took a dip with the luggage coming, pronto, but recovered sharply as the taxi rattled along a supposedly prestigious Eastern Metropolitan Bypass in abysmal condition, the rains having merrily created a moon surface of potholes. I ticked myself off for forgetting that a Kolkata road must have potholes as big as they are wide.
Conditioned as I was by the slogan of Parivartan, I looked high and low for days for change. It was a see-saw experience. Yes there was a change of sorts, the streets appeared a trifle cleaner, the year-long Trinamool rule at the Municipal Corporation apparently taking effect. The grounds around the Dhakuria Lake looked cleaner too, even if by only a shade. A proud police claim that it was beautifying a corner got its English beautifully wrong.
But how little things had changed was driven powerfully, if silently, home by a remarkably easy-going bandh by private buses, mini buses and taxis to protest against the unwillingness of the government to increase fares after the diesel price rise. Anything that affects public transport automatically grinds the city to a halt and the leftists in their time used to ensure the success of bandhs, even if the government in Writers' Building could not officially support it, through the device of incapacitating public transport. If you thought that the dethronement of the powers that had made this kind of political action an art form would mean its decline, if not temporary demise, you would be wrong. The sight of unrecognisable traffic-light streets, with only private cars and a few government buses plying, underlined the fact that the ol' city just keeps rolling along in its time- honoured way.
But the bandh aided reflection and the thought came that the surface may look as placid as ever but the eddies and undercurrents could begin to script a new story. Violence is so much a part of public life in the city and the state that a major political change was expected to be inevitably accompanied by widespread violence. But not only had the Left been beaten by an unbelievable margin, such was the confidence created by victory that the Supreme Leader aka Didi ordered that there should be no badla or revenge.
So as the days after the results rolled by eventlessly the sense of apprehension that had built up in the expectation of violent resolution of many old disputes began to dissipate. The city and the state slowly breathed a silent sigh of relief, and went back to peacefully following their well-set routine — complaining about hugely costly vegetables and buying less of them, complaining about even costlier fish but buying it nevertheless, and relaxing on a bandh every month or two.
So just as unchanging mighty rivers over time slowly change course, life will remain a struggle and a hundred factories will not blossom in a year or two, but beneath all this there will be less of stress, less of violence, be it political or local, and more of "live and let live". The Supreme Leader will keep distributing largesse, and coffers at home and in the government will remain empty, but some of the past tension will be gone.
Within the first few days, the wife and I joined our friends to watch a movie that was supposedly not too bad and doing well, part of a new mini wave of well produced commercially not-so-unsuccessful films that are keeping the multiplexes at least partially filled. It was about a lecherous old pop singer who against his base instincts, but in keeping with his basic instinct, promotes a young singing sensation. On returning home when I asked our daughter what she thought of Bengali Pop, she surprised me by saying it was quite good compared to the other such regional genres in the country. So we may be seeing the beginnings of a new cultural process.
Normally, strife and deprivation are the mother of creativity. The Left captured popular imagination when creative artistes in the fifties and the sixties produced the new music and theatre of protest. But a dissipation of tension and conflict in public life (Didi has said that she has no quarrel with leftism but only phony leftists) may lead to post-modern creativity. It will take time for any such change to become clearly visible. Till then the city will keep moving in its time-honoured way, creating an impression of changelessness.
CRICKET IN LITERATURE
Academic sport history has not made it big with mainstream publishers because of a commonly held view that sport is too enjoyable a business to be entrusted to academics. The thrills of sport, especially team games, must be reproduced as far as possible on page and TV screens. If an exception has to be made it would be in cricket, which has a considerable body of literature, imperial and post imperial: the first dominated by English publishers for the best part of three centuries, the second by an internationalism that removed England as the centre of cricket.
Hence, several questions arise. Does cricket as a genre possess some intrinsic qualities that explain why the sport attracts writers of the highest literary culture? Or has cricket attained its special position because it has been appropriated by men of letters? The answer will be found in a combination of both: writing defines cricket as a metaphor for life's glorious uncertainties, as much as the game influences the writer. In The Cambridge Companion to Cricket (special Indian price: Rs 395), Anthony Bateman and Jeffrey Hill (editors) have anthologised the principal themes and issues that have emerged as the game has developed over the past two-and-a-half centuries.
The book consists of 17 essays by a team of 20 international contributors, each an authority on some aspect of the game as it has evolved over time. Chapters range from the early development of the game to its growing popularity in the former British colonies, its celebration in literature, and the money that is now raked in by some cricket boards and players — and of course the controversies that surround them.
Here is a breakdown of the chapters: Cricket pastoral and Englishness; Cricket in the eighteenth century; Corruption in cricket; Broadcasting and cricket in England; Bodyline, Jardine and masculinity; Don Bradman: Just a boy from Bowral; The packer cricket war; New Zealand cricket and the colonial relationship; C L R James and cricket; Reading Brian Lara and the traditions of Caribbean cricket poetry; The detachment of West Indies cricket from the nationalist scaffold; The Indian Premier League and world cricket; Hero, celebrity and icon: Sachin Tendulkar and Indian public culture; Conflicting loyalties: nationalism and religion in India-Pakistan cricket relations; Cricket and representations of beauty: Newlands Cricket Ground and the roots of apartheid in South African cricket; Writing the modern game; and Cricket and international politics. The chapters are followed by a further reading list that will give some idea of the richness of literature generated by the game, beginning with Wordsworth, Byron, and Hazlitt down to A A Milne, Jerome K Jerome, Arthur Conan Doyle and P G Wodehouse. (Incidentally, cricket metaphors like "take the shine off the ball"; "in the deep"; "the slips"; "a long innings"; "a sticky wicket"; "hit for a six"; "clean bowled"; and others have now passed into everyday spoken and written language.)
Such anthologies inevitably provoke a mixed response. But their great advantage is their variety, the promise of containing something for every reader: you can dip into it, backwards and forward, put it down, wander around and come back to it afresh. Three basic themes tie the essays together: of change, of globalisation, and political and cultural contexts in the countries where the game is played.
Before going into some of the issues that have plagued cricket in the modern world, let's look at some myths and legends around the heroes of our times. First Donald Bradman. Tom Heenan and David Dunstan tell us that "as an administrator [Bradman] was governed not by ideals but by the financial bottom line and the conviction that cricketing power was the preserve of a White, Anglo-Australian elite. If his views had prevailed, cricket might been split along racial lines".
A recurring theme is hypocrisy in international cricketing circles which can be seen from western reactions to the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the financial rewards for the chosen ones. Boria Majumdar tells the story of when the legendary Arthur Morris, a key member of Don Bradman's invincible team of the 1940s, was asked what he got out of playing cricket, his answer was "poverty". With the cricketing revolution brought on by the IPL, "contemporary cricketers have a radically different answer to a similar question. Most will suggest, 'We became millionaires.'"
Mr Majumdar elaborates: "One billion dollars in TV rights for a ten-year period, 12,700 advertisement slots on Sony Entertainment Television (the host broadcaster) for 59 games between 18 April and June 1, 2008, all sold, hitherto unthinkable players earning $1million in prize money, $5 million for title sponsorship rights for five years, unprecedented television ratings and capacity crowds in practically all the games in the first year of existence — what the IPL has unequivocally driven home is that the shift of the nerve centre of cricket to the subcontinent is now complete."
There is a lot more in the book that manages to be both a serious academic contribution and an entertaining read for all cricketing enthusiasts.
FALLOUT OF COSTLIER LOANS
If higher borrowing costs hit consumption growth, especially in the auto and housing sectors, one can expect the impact to be felt all around.
Some policymakers continue to insist that growth will stay the course and that GDP will expand at the expected rate of 8 per cent. Analysts too suggest a slowdown, but not one major enough to get worried about. This is indeed surprising because most indicators that matter, such as investment growth, suggest a palpable drop in economic momentum. What had helped bolster the confidence that growth would steam along was consumption growth, especially the robust expansion of sales of consumer durables. Now even that engine may run out of steam.
In its June credit policy the Reserve Bank of India had confirmed strong consumption growth but cautioned of a slow down in "interest-sensitive" sectors such as automobiles. It did not require the apex bank's insight to issue that warning as consumer lending rates were bound to move up in the wake of the RBI's own persistent increase in its key rates. The last spike may have been modest, at 25 basis points, disappointing those analysts who wanted a stricter intervention, but the effect has been evident down the line, with a slew of banks gearing up for hikes in their respective base rates. Led by the State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, the two largest banks, virtually every bank is increasing its base rate — the minimum lending rate — to cover the cost of funds that has gone up on the systematic increase in the RBI's repo rate, that more than doubled since it began its monetary tightening, and now stands at 7.5 per cent. While some banks have also increased deposit rates, most are tinkering with lending rates. The sectors that will be affected the most are precisely those that are interest-sensitive, such as housing and automobiles. If the higher cost of borrowing does affect consumption growth, especially in these two key sectors, one can expect the impact to be felt on the rest of the economy as well. Recall that the auto sector was the key driver of the 'green shoots' recovery in 2009, after the government's expenditure and fiscal sops; the growth of auto sales and housing led to higher demand for steel and cement, and an invigorated supply-chain down the line to the consumer, reflected in higher retail sales. What is more, such sales also encouraged global auto companies to look at India as a major manufacturing hub.
With investments sluggish on account of a cloudy policy environment, consumption may now drop on account of higher cost of borrowings and the impact may be more serious than policymakers are willing to admit.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
REFORM INTEL, POLICE
WIDE-RANGING POLICE REFORMS WILL ALSO ENSURE BETTER INTELLIGENCE-GATHERING
The latest blasts in Mumbai are a glaring instance of intelligence failure, in the sense not so much of our intelligence agencies sleeping on the job as of systemic gaps between the police and the people. The blasts posit the need to re-envisage our intelligence setup and implement wider police reforms. True, not every terrorist act can be prevented. In all likelihood, for every atrocity perpetrated, dozens of other such plots are thwarted. But consider the range of gaps in our policing/ intelligence apparatus, and it is clear that terrorists have a higher probability of success. In the case of the police, the list of ills is long — ranging from issues like organisational structure, infrastructure, including training and equipment, work culture, political interference as well as corruption and brutality. Then, the fact is we are still governed by the Police Act of 1861. Some changes might have been made, but the basic framework remains the operative principles of a colonial law meant to control and regulate subjects, not serve citizens. Many committees and reports have recommended various reforms, yet the police force is far from being the responsible and accountable public service it should be. To implement wide-ranging reforms, thus, is a pressing need.
One aspect of those reforms is community policing. This also means a closer interface between citizens and force personnel. It is clear that a lack of that facet means a failure exists at the micro level to generate intelligence. That aspect dovetails with a sorry and alarming fact: the abysmally low representation in key intelligence services of members of minorities, specifically Muslims, as pointed out by the Sachar report. Random arrests of members of the community, instances of fabricated evidence and charges and a general sense of alienation from the police all add up to a worrying scenario. Setting up the National Investigation Agency was deemed necessary after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Now, apart from ensuring greater coordination between intelligence outfits, wider police reforms must be implemented. The gaps in the set-up are too glaring. Terrorists must find it harder to hatch plots, carry them out and evade the law.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
NOW, CAPITAL FLIGHT
WHEN CAPITAL IS GLOBALLY MOBILE, IT IS NOT JUST FOREIGN CAPITAL THAT GETS CHEESED OFF
Policymakers fretting over why foreigners no longer seem too keen to invest in India can take a break. And start worrying about the flight of capital abroad. Two-wheeler maker TVS reportedly plans to shift two-thirds of its export production to China. Carmaker Hyundai has relocated the production of i20 to Turkey. There are many other instances as well. The flight of capital is unfortunate and should be reversed. The government must move swiftly to restore India's image as an attractive investment destination, for Indians and foreigners. Land, power, water, logistics, labour, environmental clearance, loans, interest rates, transaction costs, taxes — in short, all the determinants of post-tax returns — India has to be competitive on all these fronts, to attract investment when capital is globally mobile. TVS has reported cited labour troubles as a prime reason for shifting to China. Given the emerging shortage of workers in China and the likely upward pressure on wages there for the foreseeable future, it is unclear that this is a persuasive argument for relocating to that country. However, there is no gainsaying that reform of labour laws and practices is a must as manufacturing growth accelerates and industry undergoes pressure to slash costs and raise productivity. Many strikes tend to centre on the demand to make temporary workers permanent, and gain recognition for unions. Workers and unions complain that several workers continue to remain temporary after continuous service, in violation of laws that ban protracted employment of temporary workers. However, employers are wary of recruiting workers who cannot be retrenched even if economic conditions demand cutbacks in production and workforce.
Companies need flexibility to hire/retrench workers, but they should also be liberal on compensation during retrenchment. The law must provide for flexible hiring but with in-built social safety nets. One enterprise's workers represent part of the market for the rest and raising the living standards of workers at large is a sound strategy for growing business and increasing profits.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
A MESSI RIDDLE
WHY LEO MESSI CAN'T GET HIS BARCELONA FORM WITH ARGENTINA'S NATIONAL SIDE
What's the matter with Messi? When the diminutive Argentine 24-year old plays in the red and blue shirt of FC Barcelona, you can see why he's called the greatest footballer of this generation. Early this year, he won FIFA's Golden Ball for the second time in a row and has netted 53 goals in 55 games for the club this season. If you include the 24 other goals that he helped set up, you begin to understand the phenomenon that's Leo Messi. But something happens to the phenomenon when he puts on the sky blue and white stripes of his national team, Argentina. By the time the team crashed out of the 2010 World Cup with a 4-0 loss to Germany, Messi had yet to score. In the seven years that he's played for Argentina, Messi has appeared in 59 matches, but managed to score only 17 times, nothing compared to his eye-popping strike rate at Barcelona. At the Copa America, now on in Argentina, Messi has been a subdued presence, shining only in the last match against Costa Rica.
It's easy to argue that national level matches are tougher than club games, so Messi has to work harder, for less, when he plays for Argentina. But that's not really correct: these days, the quality of football played at European clubs rivals what we see at the Copa or the World Cup. Messi's performance variations can be explained better by the fact that he plays — and trains — with his Barcelona team far more extensively than he does with the national side. The kind of game he plays requires everyone else to pitch in with the same intensity that he does, and instant, and near-telepathic, coordination is vital. Hence, for Messi to play as well for the national side as he does for his club, there are two options: one, move to a club in Argentina; two, change nationality and don the red Spanish jersey!
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
CONFESSIONS OF A DEREGULATOR
HINDSIGHT SHOWS THAT WE OUGHT TO RETURN TO THE MUCH MORE TIGHTLY-REGULATED FINANCIAL SYSTEM OF THE PAST
Back in the late 1990s, in America at least, two schools of thought pushed for more financial deregulation — that is, for repealing the legal separation of investment banking from commercial banking, relaxing banks' capital requirements, and encouraging more aggressive creation and use of derivatives. If deregulation looks like such a bad idea now, why didn't it then?
The first school of thought, broadly that of the United States' Republican Party, was that financial regulation was bad because all regulation was bad. The second, broadly that of the Democratic Party, was somewhat more complicated, and was based on four observations:
• In the global economy's industrial core, at least, it had then been more than 60 years since financial disruption had had more than a minor impact on overall levels of production and employment. While modern central banks had difficulty in dealing with inflationary shocks, it had been generations since they had seen a deflationary shock that they could not handle.
• The profits of the investment-banking oligarchy (the handful of global investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase, among others) were far in excess of what any competitive market ought to deliver, owing to these banks' deep pockets and ability to manoeuvre through thickets of regulations.
• The long-run market-return gradient — by which those with deep pockets and the patience to take on real estate, equity, derivative, and other risks reaped outsize returns — seemed to indicate that financial markets were awful at mobilising society's riskbearing capacity.
• The poorer two-thirds of America's population appeared to be shut out of the opportunities to borrow at reasonable interest rates and to invest at high returns that the top third — especially the rich — enjoyed.
These four observations suggested that some institutional experimentation was in order. Depression-era restrictions on risk seemed less urgent, given the US Federal Reserve's proven ability to build firewalls between financial distress and aggregate demand. New ways to borrow and to spread risk seemed to have little downside. More competition for investmentbanking oligarchs from commercial bankers and insurance companies with deep pockets seemed likely to reduce the investment banking industry's unconscionable profits.
It seemed worth trying. It wasn't.
Analytically, we are still picking through the wreckage of this experiment. Why were the risk controls at highly-leveraged moneycenter universal banks so lousy? Why weren't central banks and governments willing and able to step up and maintain the flow of aggregate demand as the financial crisis and its aftermath choked off private investment and consumption spending?
More questions arise from the policy response to the subsequent recession. Why, once the magnitude of the downturn became clear, weren't governments eager to step in to return unemployment to normal levels, especially in the absence of higher inflation expectations, upward pressure on prices, or even interest-rate increases that would crowd out private investment spending? And how has the financial industry managed to retain so much political power to block regulatory reform?
Moreover, how to restructure the financial system remains unclear. The Glass-Steagall Act's separation of investment from commercial banking greatly benefited the established oligarchy of investment banks, but somehow the entry of competitors from commercial banks and insurers increased financial companies' profits further.
There were significant profit opportunities for financial intermediaries that could find spare risk-bearing capacity, carve out securities to take advantage of it, and thus take a middleman's cut from matching risks with investors who could gain from bearing them. But the advent of derivatives concentrated risk rather than dispersing it, for there was even more money to be made by selling risk to people who did not know how to value it — or, indeed, what risks they were bearing.
And central banks' failure to regard their primary job to be the stabilisation of nominal income — their failure not only to be good Keynesians, but even good monetarists — raises the question of whether central banking itself needs drastic reform. Back in 1825, the Bank of England's Governor Cornelius Buller understood that when the private sector had a sudden panic-driven spike in demand for safe and liquid financial assets, it was the Bank's responsibility to meet that demand and so keep bankruptcy and depression at bay. How can his successors know less than he did?
It may even be the case that we ought to return to the much more tightly regulated financial system of the first post-World War II generation. That system served the industrial core well, at least as far as we can tell from the macroeconomic aggregates. We know for certain that our more recent system has not.
PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
WANT PEACE WITH PAKISTAN? QUIT STOMPING
T R RAMASWAMI
Which is the longest war in history? We are told that the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage in the 3rd. century BCE century was the longest. It actually lasted 118 years. Well, if things go the way they are going now, India and Pakistan are surely going to break that record. Since breaking records, in cricket or otherwise, is a national pastime of two countries separated by ego created borders, this should be too easy. After all, the leaders are hardly likely to get killed. Since 1947, war and peace has been waged with gusto. Any number of trains, buses, official talks, unofficial initiatives by media, have been held. It took just one week to bring down a wall for the Germanys to be united. If we wanted we could have had peace, forget union again. What exactly is preventing this? I got the answer in a recent holiday to Amritsar. I witnessed the retreat ceremony at the Wagah border. It beats any filmi or Indian Premier League opening ceremony. Crowds gather daily (it's free) for a hyped display of presumed nationalism and patriotism. Like any other show, there are balcony and stall seats. There is a cheer leader to coordinate the chanting of slogans. In the hour preceding the actual ceremony, people compete to run up and down to the tune of patriotic filmy songs carrying the national flag while their friends and relatives take videos/photos. It is so syrupy that you could get diabetes just watching it!
The ceremony is asli Bollywood — two heroes trying to outclass each other and trying to prove whose is louder, bigger or longer. What needs 10 minutes has been stretched to a tortuous one hour. Mercifully, there are no intervals! The "Mine is bigger than yours" affair starts with the words of command — unintelligible to even those who have been in uniformed service — like the alaapana of a classical singer elongating each word and showing how long he can hold his breath and sometimes sounding like a wolf baying at a full moon. Selected tall soldiers unnecessarily march many times up and down and stomp like martinets in a Charlie Chaplin comedy. Shoulder/arm flexing, eye-to-eye glaring, chest puffing with arms akimbo are all part of the choreographed act. India has gone one up by getting two female soldiers (heroines?) to open the proceedings. Pakistan cannot respond but they sometimes bring their lone Sikh soldier to participate!
It is time that this natak is suitably snipped and the aggressiveness removed. Crowds come only because it is free and filmy and they will disappear. The solemnity and meaning of an ancient army ritual, post which the dead and injured are removed, has been diluted by those who don't seem to have understood it and have borrowed a serious script and tamashafied it. The Border Security Force (BSF) of course would want this bit of publicity to continue but if we really want better relationships, it has to start here on the ground and not with the Prime Ministers. One suggestion — why not start shouting "Pakistan Zindabad" and then watch whether they can match us? We lose nothing and it will really show our strength.
If this tamasha is a planned one with mutual consent then it says a lot about the intellect and maturity of those in charge of the two paramilitary forces on both sides. And BSF — get a better bugler — the present one sounds as if he has not eaten for days.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
MFI BILL: CONCERNS REMAIN
PREMCHANDER & SMITA PREMCHANDER
The Union ministry of finance has placed the draft of the Microfinance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill 2011 on its website for wide discussion. This is a departure from the previous occasion in 2007, when the draft was presented to Parliament after discussions with a small group. The Bill positions itself to create an enabling environment for the "orderly growth and development of the microfinance sector and microfinance institutions, to promote financial inclusion". Claiming these development objectives, it then proceeds to outline two major decisions: to establish a new category of "systemically important MFIs" and to set up microfinance development councils.
As we see it, there are two gaps in the sector, a development gap (financial exclusion of large sections of the population) and a regulation gap (lack of regulation of many MFI/NGOs operating in the informal sector to provide financial services).
In principle, the regulation of the many NGO/MFIs who currently meet the credit supply in rural areas is welcome. The issue, however, is regarding the norms to be established in case MFIs start taking deposits. The new institutional form, a "systemically important MFI" — with a capitalisation of . 5 lakh — will be permitted to accept savings from the poor living in geographically remote regions. Thus, an inherently more risky organisation is to be created to serve a vulnerable clientele. The poor outside the traditional banking system cannot be expected to have the financial acumen to evaluate the quality of a registered MFI.
The current limit of . 2 crore of capital for deposit-taking has been kept with depositor safety in mind. If this level is appropriate for a normal depositor, there is no rationale to offer a lower level of safety for the deposits of the poor, the target segment for the "systemically important MFIs". Registration with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will lend a credibility that will be misleading.
The experience of MFIs offering deposit services has thrown up malpractices like charge for the savings service, low interest rates, lockin features and in certain cases, conversion of deposits into equity — an instrument which even some financially literate do not understand. The lack of power and financial literacy of the poor allows MFIs to get away with such practices. The recent push from the RBI and the government for financial inclusion has resulted in banks taking steps to reach all the unbanked villages in India, directly or through banking correspondents. The microfinance development council can find ways to increase the outreach of banks, regional rural banks, cooperatives and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) which are approved for deposit-taking. The savings needs of the very poor could well be met through post offices, which have a very wide network across the country. Increasing the outreach of quality institutions is preferable to weakening the institutional structure by reducing capitalisation norms for deposittaking institutions.
Regulations like the Microfinance Bill should be fair to the poor while promoting the sector. The development gap can be bridged by expanding the outreach of the existing institutions, and also by supporting the growth of NGO/ MFIs and their systems till they can comply with the rigour required for deposittaking organisations. The answer lies in increasing the capacity of the smaller MFIs, and not permitting them to access the poor people's savings before they are capable of protecting these.
The question then arises as to who should regulate. Earlier versions of the bill suggested that this function be relegated to Nabard. It is a welcome shift that the RBI has agreed to continue to play its central regulatory role. However, clause 38(1) states that the RBI can delegate the superivision to Nabard or any other entity. Here we enter into some difficulty as no national bank is in a position to play a regulatory role, and certainly not Nabard, which has built pecuniary interests in the sector by launching Nabard Financial Services (Nabfins) to provide microfinance services. By entering the microfinance market as a "provider" of microfinance, Nabard has already disqualified itself from a regulatory role. Only the RBI can regulate MFIs as of now, and set standards that do not distinguish between different categories of depositors.
Finally, clause 4 of the bill stipulates the size of the microfinance development council to be between seven and 13 members. The minimum representation of women is specified only for the members who may be nominated to the council at the discretion of the government [clause 4(g)], the number of which is ambiguous (anywhere between zero to 6). Considering that 90% of clients of MFIs are women, it would be fair to expect that at least half the positions on the council at both the state and central levels must be women.
(Premchander is Visiting Professor in Finance at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). Smita Premchander is the Secretary of Sampark, an NGO based in Bangalore)
CORRUPTION, INFLATION, TERRORISM
ALL OF THESE THREE PERSISTENT MALADIES ARE NEITHER UNRELATED, NOR UNAVOIDABLE
The latest terror attacks will invariably lead to the following discussion. Who did it? What does anybody gain from such random acts of terror, especially against innocent civilians? Why Dadar station, and why Zaveri bazaar? (These are places thronged by ordinary working folk.) Why don't we have more close circuit television (CCTV) cameras, like London, which has more than million cameras in public places? How do we deploy more police to remain vigilant? When and where is the next attack?
These immediate questions need answers. A tragedy forces us to focus our attention to the here and now. It may then seem insensitive to discuss broad macro issues, when people have died in a bomb blast, and many are seriously injured. But this is also the occasion to make the larger connection: between corruption, governance, inflation, and yes, even terrorism. We as taxpayers have a right to get efficient, low cost services from the government. We have a right to live in an economy with low and stable inflation. We have a right to live in a terror free society. We continue to sacrifice these rights, because we think that problems like inflation and terrorism are inherently intractable, and inevitable. Of course terrorists have agendas, and extremists are looking to kill, spread hatred and keep a debilitating and expensive war alive. But the terrorists have repeated successes, also because of the environment ("maahol" in Hindi) created by the macroeconomic mismanagement, irresponsible government spending, unlimited corruption and flouting of laws.
Take inflation. Commonly understood as arising from shortages, i.e. gap between supply and demand. But inflation has now been persisting for almost three years. The poor and lower income class in cities are the worst affected. The higher food prices might have partly benefited poor farmers in rural areas, but the poor of cities are not farmers. But inflation is also caused because of large leakages due to corruption. The government is unable to use fiscal subsidies like lower taxes on fuel, to shield us from inflation. That's because the government is permanently impoverished. That's because many legitimate sources of tax revenues are given a wink and a nod. The Comptroller and Auditor General has pointed out some glaring lacunae. Even a traffic policeman who fails to collect a fine, and takes a bribe instead, is contributing to government deficit. A builder who shows a lower price for a flat, leading to lower stamp duty, is contributing to deficits. When more than fifty foot over-bridges are initiated, and half are then scrapped, that's waste of public money. All of these contribute to deficits, leading to poor services like poor municipal schools, or to inadequate CCTV cameras in public places. The link between black money spent in elections and poor governance is the same. The politician who bribes voters today with illicit money, will want to recover his "investment" in the five years of his tenure. So this will directly lead to empty state treasury (since there will be a lot of "approvals" and "clearances" which will be given against "speed money"). Empty treasury means bad schools, bad hospitals, high inflation, and yes, greater probability of a successful terror attack. (On a different note, have you made the link between malaria, debris, unauthorised construction, builder mafia, illegal sand mining, and lax oversight and approvals from the BMC? Don't blame malaria merely on mosquitoes and the rain!)
A few years ago an NGO did an informal survey to find out common concerns of Mumbaikars. The top four items were jobs, traffic, health and housing. Other items were education, open spaces, recreation, law and order, security and so on. It is high time we learn that all of these flow from the same 'Gangotri' – corruption and misgovernance. And we as voters, or as taxpayers, can do something about this.
The circumstances surrounding the departure earlier this week of solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium, an outstanding member of the Bar, speak of a certain tastelessness, not to say high-handedness. The shabbiness associated with the episode is reminiscent of the sacking of then Indian Navy chief Adm. Vishnu Bhagwat by former defence minister, Mr George Fernandes, some years ago. Irrespective of the merits of the case (in both instances) — and the government may well have had some things to say, as did the other side — what stands out is the denuding of a high official's dignity. A democratic government, unlike an autocratic or authoritarian one, ought not to behave like that. A contrast is offered by the recent case of the sacking of the US Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was removed by the US President, Mr Barack Obama, as commander of American forces in Afghanistan. The Army commander had made indiscreet observations about senior members of the US administration in an informal conversation with a journalist not meant for publication. He later acknowledged in public that he was in error, and hence could have been asked to go right away. And yet the US President invited him for a personal interview before the axe fell. Subsequently Mr Obama even had some nice things to say about the dismissed officer at a public function. Mr Subramanium sent his resignation when the communications ministry engaged another senior advocate to defend its head, Mr Kapil Sibal, when an NGO charged that the reduction of penalty for an Anil Ambani company amounted to corruption. The matter was linked with the 2G case, which the S-G was himself handling. The taking away of the part of the 2G brief that had relevance to Mr Sibal's action was done in a peremptory manner in that Mr Subramanium was not informed in advance of it, much less consulted. It is conceivable that someone else might have lumped it and carried on, but Mr Subramanium clearly felt his professional pride was injured, as was his office. Merely because the government appoints the S-G, should it behave with the individual holding that high office in a rough and ready manner? Is there nothing called institutional propriety that comes into play? True, Mr M. Veerappa Moily, the then law minister, did ask the S-G not to press his resignation, and suggested that the Prime Minister could take a call on it. Perhaps the S-G desired that the PM should hear him and somewhere indicate that injustice had been perpetrated. But the PM did nothing of the kind, and soon on taking charge, the new law minister, Mr Salman Khurshid, made it clear the S-G's position was now vacant. The sorry episode is in sharp contrast with the way political members of the government are dealt with. Two Cabinet ministers were recently compelled to leave the government due to their actions which are alleged to have caused huge losses to the exchequer but personal gains for them. And yet it took months for them to be eased out. The bottomline is, thus, not the innate respect holders of top institutional office deserve when they go about their job in an upright and professional manner, but the fear of political retaliation from a member of the government even if his tenure attracts attention for the wrong reasons.
OLD FAMILY TIES
"On hearing him say he loved her She felt like a fairy queen When all he meant in saying it Was that the grass in spring is green." From The Songs of Sinbad by Bachchoo My great grandmother, Avabai Antia, my mother's father's mum to be precise, had an irreparable leg. At least that's what I assumed, because she walked about the house on crutches and, as far as I remember, never left it. She must have had a broken or damaged shin, femur or hip and all those decades ago medical science hadn't acquired the skill to repair it or perhaps our family didn't have the means to have it repaired. I can't remember how or when she died and haven't in all these years enquired as to when and under what circumstances she stopped being "bapaiji" or "mota mai", the Queen Mother of the house and went to her rest, presumably in the care of Ahura Mazda, to that great hospital in the sky where lameness is abolished. I remember her in her long-sleeved Parsi blouse and embroidered saris worn the "other way" from that which my mother and aunts wore them, with the flap coming forward over the right instead of draping backwards over the left shoulder. Her wooden-framed cane chair was placed perennially at the front door so she could look through its curtains across the eight feet of veranda to the busy street beyond. She would deposit the crutches beside her chair as she settled down and then summon us, my sister, myself and cousins, to play. Her favourite game and ours with her was "Pawra Poiss". It entailed her sticking her legs, damaged as they were, in front of the chair and each of us taking turns to sit in the crook between her stockinged legs and feet while holding both hands in hers to retain balance. The feet would then be moved up and down to become a sort of human-leg see-saw which would undulate to the rhythm of the verse she would loudly enunciate: "Pawra poiss Mama ney gheyrey jaiss Mamo aapey larvo Khooney beysi khais — Mami aavey maarvaa Nhasi nhasi jaiss..." Which roughly translated means, "I went to my uncle's house, he gave me some sweeties which I sat in the corner and was eating when aunty came up to beat me and I deftly ran away." There's a lot of folklore entangled in the verse and something about the relationship of a daughter-in-law to her sister-in-law's children. The point of the recollection, though it will stimulate some wonder, is not that a lame old lady played leg-see-saw. It is to emphasise how naturally we accepted the joint family in which several generations lived together even in the latter half of the 20th century and certainly even to a very large extent in India to this day and into the future. Long after my great grandmother passed away, our household consisted of my grandfather, my maiden aunts, my sister and me. Into this household in Pune was brought, from Mumbai where she lived on her own, my late grandmother's elder sister who stayed with the household for several years till she died. My father's family, the Dhondys, also lived in a joint family household. The disintegration of this arrangement began when my grandfather's brother qualified as a doctor, married a rather grand lady and broke ties with the family to live in what we now call a "nuclear family". I suppose on joining the Army my father did the same. Professional careers took them away. Though family ties even in urban India remain strong, the development of the country, the requirements of capitalistic wage labour at all levels and the spread of the economy inevitably leads to the break-up of the joint family and begs or will soon beg the question — what happens to the old? It's a necessary question because in highly developed countries in the West the tradition of old people living on with their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren is all but dead. It's not that the European races are genetically disposed to be less caring about filial ties, but that the patterns of social development have turned the aged into a section of the population for whom the state has through the last century, and in an accelerated form after the Second World War, increasingly taken responsibility. There are thousands of public, state-subsidised homes for the aged and privately run institutions to which those who can afford to pay send their aged relatives who cannot fully look after themselves and live alone. Over the last few months in Britain the general recession which swept over the economy hit a network of these care homes which were run by a company called Southern Cross. These were homes for the aged essentially paid for by the state out of taxes. The sector was, under successive governments, both Tory and Labour, privatised. In other words the people who ran the homes were paid by a private company who operated the homes for profit, taking money from the state. The private firm, as one of their profit-making manoeuvres, sold off the buildings housing these homes. They then began paying rent to the new landlords who now owned the buildings. Last month it was announced that thousands of homes for the aged would have to close because Southern Cross could no longer pay the increased rents which the sub-prime crisis and recession have brought and still make a profit. The government has had to announce that no old people will be thrown in the street as a result of Southern Cross' going to the wall. Their relatives are far from clear as to what the government proposes to do with those who will be rendered care-homeless. The Southern Cross embarrassment is today's small crisis in a sector of government responsibility that will pose huge problems. The population of Britain is living longer. Advances in medicine and general advances in living standards mean that life expectancy has dramatically increased. This tilts the balance between the section of the population earning a living and paying taxes and those beyond retirement age who are paid for out of these taxes. There is no escape from that dilemma. And there is very little chance of granny and grandpa being readmitted to the nuclear family to turn it into an extended one once more.
CORRUPTION NOT IMPORTED
RIDICULOUS is the extent to which AK Antony will go to project his goody-goody image. If Transparency International awarded brownie points for the wisecrack of the year there would be no competitors against his cautioning foreign arms suppliers "not to try to corrupt our people". Actually there would be little need to refer to that agency's listing to ascertain the ugly spot India occupies therein; and in terms of corruption in defence deals an authentic picture would be painted by the number, and variety, of cases being processed against military and civilian officials. Right from the procurement of foodgrains and vegetables, through uniforms and petroleum to dud ammunition and artillery pieces there runs a common thread ~ kickbacks. Indeed if there is one aspect of defence procurement in which the country is totally self-reliant it is the underhand element. So reality confirms that there is no requirement for international arms suppliers ~ who would not be so hypocritical as to claim to be always above board ~ to be told not to try to corrupt "our people". For, they are "enlightened" and experienced enough to know that few files move in an Indian secretariat unless its path is lubricated with slush money. Antony needs no reminder of the number of underhand deals detected during his watch: and aam aadmi is alive to the reality that if some big ticket deals have come under the scanner it is essentially because a stink was raised by the rival supplier who failed to strike a winning deal.
The relevant point is that sermons like the one from the defence minister have as little relevance as Rajiv Gandhi banishing "middlemen" from defence purchases, which was exposed as a myth by the Bofors backblast. Any claim to have cancelled deals as soon as corruption was suspected has to be weighed against the impact of prolonged shortages of critical equipment, the near paralysis of the acquisition machinery ~ upright and efficient persons wish to be no part of it. The remedy does not lie in sermons, adding more red tape. In Antony's tenure some major deals were aborted ~ did any speedy punishment accrue to the officials whose role was deemed dubious? Ideally a clean minister should command the leadership qualities that would inspire his team into matching rectitude ~ alas, on that score even Dr Manmohan Singh has come a cropper!
A PARLOUS STATE
FISCAL MANAGEMENT POORER
THE West Bengal government is poor; its fiscal management poorer still. The point that it succeeded to a virtually bankrupt inheritance is well taken; the cavil has been aired extensively since it assumed office two months ago. It was also the present finance minister's campaign plank in Khardah. Yet there has been little or no effort towards resource generation, an astonishing failure considering the crisis and one that it shares with the previous dispensation. With no positive assurance from the Centre on a bailout package, the administration lives in hope. Precisely that the market borrowing and lending prescription will see it through in terms of clearing debts and little else. In sum, it boils down to an exercise in self-deception, one that has prompted the government to engage in a bout of profligacy to satisfy certain constituencies. The crucial question ~ does it have the funds to cope with its employment handouts? ~ remains unaddressed.
The decision to waive the sales-tax on LPG cylinders has doubtless benefited the domestic consumer; equally has a parlous state sacrificed a fair measure of revenue. A raft of job-generation schemes has been unveiled with scant regard to the fiscal commitment. It reflects poorly on departmental coordination that employment schemes are first unveiled at cabinet meetings and then sent to the finance department for vetting. This appears to be a conscious policy of proceeding from conclusion to premise. In effect, 65,000 posts are to be created in the departments of Home (police) and school education without the concurrence of finance. So too with the rehabilitation package for landlosers in the Sundarbans. The entire administration appears to be delightfully ignorant of the fiscal outlay this will entail. It is cause for alarm if objections raised by the finance department are overlooked. The additional expenditure will be enormous for a government that struggles to clear salaries and pensions. From one government to another, six months of the current financial year have been covered by two votes-on-account, assuming that the budget will be presented in September. Mired in a fiscal mess, the West Bengal government has tied itself up in knots. The former finance minister was known to be tightfisted. As a report in this newspaper reveals, the present finance department is kept out of the loop.
REMEMBERING A TSAR
PUTIN'S THROWBACK IN TIME
Exactly a hundred years after the assassination in 1911 of Pyotr Stolypin, the ruthless Tsarist Prime Minister of Russia, there is an element of pregnant symbolism ~ no, not a swingback ~ in the incumbent's attempt to commemorate, indeed lionise, the memory of one of his brutal predecessors. Vladimir Putin, the real power behind the Kremlin, has launched a nationwide campaign to celebrate Stolypin's 150th birth anniversary. What must raise eyebrows across the world is that the "celebration", as Putin calls it, is the brainchild of one who has guided Russia's destiny for several years in the post-Soviet era. He is intent on rescuing Stolypin from the footnotes of contemporary Russian history and accord him the pride of place. Streets and at least one university are to be renamed after him, and ministers have been asked to donate a month's salary for the erection of a monument in Moscow. There is yet no reaction from President Dmitry Medvedev, who represents the consumerist face of Russian society and is often at odds with the Prime Minister over policy. Clearly, after decades of Soviet disdain for the politics of the Tsarist era, Putin is anxious to revive public admiration of a man who remains one of the icons of Soviet history. The Prime Minister's throwback in time is unlikely to be readily convincing to the generation then unborn. What will they know of the Tsars and the Bolshevik Revolution who only jets and shopping malls know?
Though historians have credited Stolypin with social reforms in the early years of the 20th century, the fact remains that he had cracked down with ruthless severity on Left-wing revolutionaries who were up in arms against Tsarist autocracy. Hundreds of opponents were executed, so mercilessly indeed that the hangman's noose came to be known as "Stolypin's tie". It is a tie that still binds the two very different Prime Ministers and separated by a hundred years. Putin hasn't explicitly explained the underpinning for this national celebration of sorts. He has though advanced a virtual endorsement of Stolypin's policies: "The head of government had to exhibit an iron will, personal courage and an ability to accept the burden of responsibility for the situation in the country." A century later, Putin, while supporting reforms, is unwilling to democratise too quickly. It is the way history often works.
KACHCHATIVU A FESTERING SORE IN RELATIONS WITH LANKA
ARUN KUMAR BANERJI
THE dispute over fishing rights in the waters around Kachchativu has soured India's relations with Sri Lanka despite the upswing in trade and economic ties, as highlighted by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in his article "Across the Straits" (The Statesman, 21 June). Over time, more than 500 Indian fishermen have been shot dead, their boats sunk or destroyed and fish worth crores of rupees seized by the Sri Lankan navy. India confined its response to routine protests. The violence against Indian fishermen reached its peak during the height of the ethnic conflict.
The Tamil militants in Sri Lanka often used the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu as sanctuaries where they enjoyed considerable local support. And the LTTE used the Palk Strait for smuggling arms. Since the Lankan navy patrol boats could not always distinguish between the genuine fishermen and the LTTE's surrogates engaged in smuggling arms to Jaffna, they took the easy option ~ harass the fishermen in the Palk Strait. They were suspected to be LTTE agents who might have inadvertently entered Lankan waters.
It is a measure of the reckless strategy of the Lankan navy that its depradations continued even after the destruction of the LTTE. As recently as 21 June 2011, 23 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were taken into custody and their boats seized. This was barely five days after the visit to Sri Lanka by a high-level Indian delegation, comprising the National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, the Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao, and the Defence Secretary, Pradip Kumar. They had visited Colombo to discuss the two issues ~ Indian fishermen and the Sri Lankan Tamils.
India's stand has often irked the Opposition, most importantly in Tamil Nadu. After the formation of the AIADMK government in May this year, the pressure on New Delhi for a satisfactory solution of the fishermen's problem has increased.
The problem originated in the colonial era. Historically, the island of Kachchativu, a barren stretch covering an area of 285.2 acres and located in the Palk Strait, never belonged to Sri Lanka. It belonged to the Raja of Ramnad. The dispute erupted during the first quarter of the last century. The waters around the island are rich in prawn, and fishing has been the primary source of income for people in the coastal districts on either side of the Palk Strait. Since the British were in control both of India and Ceylon (as it was known then), they tried to contain the conflict, without resolving the issue. Officials of the Madras Presidency and the Ceylon government met in Colombo in 1921, for delimitation of the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. Though no agreement could be reached over the ownership of the island, the two sides concluded a deal in favour of "delimitation of the jurisdiction for fishing purposes ... independently of the question of territoriality". The delimitation line was "accordingly fixed three miles west of Kachchativu". It was a patchwork solution as it failed to address the main issue of territoriality. Although the agreement did not recognise Ceylon's sovereignty over Kachchativu, the country subsequently staked its claim. It is significant that after the agreement was signed, the Secretary of State for India expressed his doubts about its validity; it was never ratified by the Colonial Office.
It is against this background that one has to examine India's maritime boundary agreements with Sri Lanka. Since Independence, the Kachchativu issue has regularly been raised in Parliament by members from Tamil Nadu. Neither Jawaharlal Nehru nor Indira Gandhi were prepared to make it an area of friction in ties with Sri Lanka. It involved the issue of citizenship of Indian Tamils living in Sri Lanka.
India signed the first Maritime Boundary Agreement with Sri Lanka in 1974 to settle the dispute over sovereignty of Kachchativu island. Delhi ought to have relied on historical evidence on the ownership of the island. Instead, it chose to hand it over to Sri Lanka by removing one of the "minor" irritants in bilateral relations. While the 1974 accord broadly followed the "median line" principle, it made an exception in the Palk Bay in relation to Kachchativu. Implicit was an attempt to placate Sri Lanka. The government was clearly in a hurry; it did not even bother to consult either the Tamil Nadu government, then under the DMK or to get a Bill passed by Parliament ~ as required by the Constitution ~ to approve the secession of territory to Sri Lanka.
Two factors made it easier for India to hand over Kachchativu to Sri Lanka. First, the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M Karunanidhi, was facing corruption charges levelled against him by the Opposition AIADMK. He was not in a position to take up the Kachchativu issue with New Delhi with the seriousness it deserved. Second, despite widespread protests against the agreement ~ Atal Behari Vajpayee even called it unconstitutional ~ legal opinion was divided over the question of sovereignty over Kachchativu.
The 1974 agreement was viewed by India as a package deal; while it conceded Sri Lanka's claims to sovereignty over the island, it was expected to protect the traditional rights of Indian fishermen and pilgrims. Article 5 of the agreement stated: "Indian fishermen and pilgrims will enjoy access to visit Kachchativu as hitherto".
Once India recognised Sri Lanka's sovereignty over Kachchativu, it was unrealistic to assume that the government in Colombo would allow Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lanka's territorial waters or the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Any intruder, whether by accident or design, would be treated as a poacher in Sri Lankan waters.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the Sri Lankan government had a different perception of Article 5. In its reckoning, the rights of Indian fishermen were restricted to the right to dry fishing nets in the island and to have unhindered access for pilgrimage. This was made explicit in March 1976, when the second Maritime Boundary Agreement was signed. It delimited the boundary between the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal and made specific reference to the rights of fishermen. There was an exchange of letters between India's foreign secretary and Sri Lanka's secretary for defence and foreign affairs. Paragraph 1 of the letter stated: "The fishing vessels and fishermen of India shall not engage in fishing in the historic waters, territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of Sri Lanka nor shall the fishing vessels of Sri Lanka engage in fishing in the historic waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of India, without the express permission of Sri Lanka or India, as the case may be."
Would these limitations be applicable to the fishing rights around Kachchativu as well? There was no satisfactory answer to this question either from the government of India or from the government of Tamil Nadu, as these provisions would have nullified the assurances given by Swaran Singh in 1974. By 1976, few had the courage or opportunity to oppose Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's decisions.
In 1954, the Indian government under Nehru had virtually consecrated China's control over Tibet without gaining anything in return, except the promise of friendship. Twenty years later, Mrs Gandhi committed the same mistake, for which Indians ~ especially the fishermen of Tamil Nadu ~ are suffering.
Kachchativu island presents a humanitarian problem and may be settled amicably, given the goodwill on either side. The India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries is said to be working towards a satisfactory resolution of the fishermen's problems. One hopes India's diplomatic finesse will be effective on the island.
The writer is retired Professor of International Relations, Jadavpur University
'CENTRE MUST MAKE WOMEN FEEL SAFE'
Ms Yasmeen Abrar, acting chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW), has been working for 17 years to improve the lot of vulnerable women and children in India. Her stints at Nari Niketans, hospitals, Shishu Grih, Rajasthan Mahila Bal Vikas Samiti and Rashtriya Mahila Kosh and two terms at NCW have moulded her as a gender activist. She believes that it is not enough to merely enact a law or impose sanctions in order to promote a fear-free, crime-free society for women where they can work, move and live with dignity. Ms Abrar thinks it is necessary for the government and civil society to work together to mitigate gender discrimination and spread awareness. In converation with AJITA SINGH.
Crime against women is spiralling even as gender justice has taken a back seat. Your view…
Not really. It is not as if women were completely safe during the Mughal or British era. Crime against women used to be as pervasive as it is today but was rarely reported. But with increasing awareness, victims are now coming forward to demand justice. Media and agencies that assist in providing protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims have also played a major role in getting them to open up.
Rapes and other sexual crimes are being committed with impunity across the country. Delhi has earned itself the sobriquet of Crime Capital Unsafe for Women. What is the NCW doing about it?
The NCW is doing a lot towards preventing such crimes and bringing to book the culprits besides assisting victims and rehabilitating them. Though it's primarily the job of police to prevent crimes, people and civil society should play a proactive role too. It is important not to ostracise the victims. People should come forward to reach out to them. Even basic discharge of civic duty helps curb crime and give victims some hope.
As an autonomous body, we try to give every possible help to victims of sexual crimes. But police need to be more alert and strict as well an non-partisan. There should be no leniency for wrongdoers no matter what their social or political status is. If other countries can curb crime against women, why can't we?
A UN report has ranked India as the fourth most unsafe country for women. What do you have to say about it?
We can't say that India is unsafe as far as laws aimed at protecting women are concerned. But yes, there is no strict and sincere implementation of such laws. The government needs to do much better. Also, like I said before, people and civil society need to be more vigilant and empathise with the victims. If the state is encouraging women to step out of the confines of their homes and make a significant contribution to nation-building, it must ensure that they are safe and able to evolve as capable citizens with dignity and free of any fear for their life and person. And, a domestic or menial worker should be able to feel as much safe as a women from a privileged background.
Despite anti-trafficking initiatives, human trafficking is rising in India. Your view.
It is true that more and more Indian women and children are being trafficked every day ~ both across international and state borders. Poverty forces women, adolescents and young boys and girls to leave the safe confines of their homes in search of a living. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, poor mothers accompanied by their children are picked for work at BT cotton fields. Once they have served their purpose, such mothers are trafficked across the border and the hapless young children are left behind ~ at the mercy of touts. To curb the menace, the NCW has taken a special initiative. A national-level monitoring committee has been set up to identify and rescue such vulnerable groups before they are trafficked out of the country. The commission is working so that new laws with more teeth are enacted and existing laws are effectively implemented to end the scourge.
Why are new laws needed? Aren't the existing laws enough to tackle the menace?
The current laws lack provisions to put traffickers out of business for good. These lax laws need to be strengthened. The NCW is trying to draft a new legislation and persuade the government to at least modify the existing laws so that trafficking-specific deterrents are factored in. There is an urgent need to make punishment and sanctions much more stringent.
What action is NCW taking to bring down the rate of crime against women?
The NCW organises seminars, conferences and talks to generate awareness among people about women's rights and how to provide relief ~ monetary, medical or otherwise ~ if a victim of violence approaches them for help. This is over and above our consistent fight for more efefctive legislation. The NCW got the Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act of 1994 modified so that female foeticide can be arrested. Many clinics are still working in violation of the Act and we have a central monitoring committee in place to identify such offenders. Of course, people need to be more aware and we are working on that too.
Another law to be enacted at the initiative of the NCW is the Domestic Violence Act, 2000 which came at a time when domestic violence against women was rising like never before. The incidence of domestic violence was lower even little more than a decade ago but of late, there has been a spurt. Since there are problems in implementing this law, we are trying for modifications to make it more effective. The Bill that needs appropriate amendments is the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill. The commission is extremely worried at the rising rate of crime against women at their places of work.
What does the NCW propose to do about reports that the sex of girl children is being changed in Madhya Pradesh to satisfy their parents' craving for a male child? Isn't this another form of female foeticide?
In my opinion, there is not much truth in such reports. Doctors and best medical experts in the field say that it is not possible to do such a thing. However, the NCW is keeping an eye. If we find an iota of truth in the reports, I will personally probe the matter.
Many young lives are being lost in the name of honour killing. How does the NCW propose to prevent it?
There is no honour in killing innocents. Murder is murder no matter what the motivation is. It is nothing but culpable homicide which warrants punishment. Perpetrators of such crimes should be hanged or sent to prison for life. In fact, the entire family of the perpetrator should be punished for abetting such as crime. I have visited Alwar in Rajasthan thrice with NCW teams for preventing girls from getting killed "for honour's sake".
Is there any substance to reports of gangrape committed by law enforcing officers in Bhatta Parsaul village (Uttar Pradesh)? What is the ground reality?
The NCW has taken suo motu cognisance of reports about police raping women protestors there. The NCW team has prima facie evidence to substantiate not only one but many allegations of such gangrape and molestation. Our views were vindicated when the UP government itself conceded that atrocities against women had indeed been committed. We are really happy that a probe has been ordered following our demand that charges against policemen be investigated and the perpetrators punished.
There is a perception that the NCW toes the government's line…
Being an autonomous body we take suo moto action. Though the NCW does not ignore directions from the government, we are not bound to follow its diktat. Due attention is paid to cases or references coming from the ministry of women and child development, under whose aegis we work, but action is taken only if the NCW deems it fit.
INDIAN POLICY IN INDIA'S INTEREST
Recent articles by scholars of Indian foreign affairs argue that the Indo-US relationship can be bettered: if India discards the "draconian law" it has enacted for establishing nuclear power plants on its soil; if India buys US fighter aircraft for the air-force because India allegedly makes such deals for reasons of foreign policy; and, if India votes in line with the USA on armed intervention in West Asia. But things are really not simple.
As for the Civil Liabilities for Nuclear Damage law, these scholars do not consider that it had been enacted in order to provide clear guidelines about the fixation of responsibility and the amount of compensation in case of a nuclear incident. The law has four main goals: first, clarifying what will be considered as a nuclear incident; second, who will be held responsible for such nuclear incidents; third, who may apply for compensation and how they can do so; and, fourth, establishing the process and institutions of adjudication. However, the original draft passed around in Parliament ignored various angles pertaining to which parties would be held liable and who could make claims against such parties. Moreover, and most importantly, law asked for an administrative institution for adjudication that would trespass the Constitutionally-established prerogatives of the judiciary and obstruct the democratic right of legislative oversight. All of these problems have acquired renewed relevance after the recent nuclear disaster in Japan.
As for the fighter jets deal, the F-16 and F-18 aircrafts offered by the USA were, in their basic structure, more than 30 years old. Also, the USA would not transfer technology to India, something the Europeans have promised to do with the Dassault and Typhoon aircrafts. Furthermore, a deal with Europe means India will not be affected by US sanctions or policy pressures, akin to the pressures India faced from the USSR in the past. So, yes, the deal is politically motivated, but in Indian and not US interest.
In terms of Indian support for US intervention in West Asia, such scholars ignore the precedents that such interventions establish for the practice of international relations. If Libya today for democracy, perhaps Yemen for democracy tomorrow, followed by, eventually, an international intervention in Kashmir? One most not forget that even Libya's Arab neighbors are hesitant to give military aid to rebels, while the Chinese, the Russians and members of the African Union are tacitly against any North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) intervention. Just like China, India's first need is to secure natural resources and markets for its growing economy. Thus, the nature of other countries' internal affairs, if they do not directly affect us, should be of little concern to New Delhi.
Many scholars are insiting that US businesses are not profiting from Washington's relationship with New Delhi. Given the connection between business and politics in the USA, it is implied that India's intransigence could cost it US Congressional support. Perhaps it's time to ask as to what US businesses can offer Indians that bussiness from other countries cannot? The logic of comparative advantage theory, on which international capitalism is based, should not be lost on the powers-that-be. There seems to be an increasingly strident suggestion that India should be grateful and accept US products. But if India does that, shouldn't it be actually allowing a political-military power to establish monopolies?
It's now apparent that the USA is trying to muscle its way out of a declining economy that can be attributed to bizarre economic policies of simultaneously lowering taxes, going to war, and permitting cowboy capitalism. A similar situation arose in the 1920s and 1930s when the declining Lancashire textile industry allied with die hard imperialists in the British parliament to pressure Indian trade and tariff policy. The Lancashire lobby did not realise at the time that the problem did not lie with vindictive Indian politicians or Japanese businessmen dumping cheap textiles. Rather, the problem lay with outmoded technology and the high cost of labour in Lancashire.
In the world of business, as well as foreign policy, the Indian government's only permanent responsibility is to serve the Indian people. US policymakers and foreign policy pundits would do well to heed the words of Indira Gandhi uttered at Columbia University in 1971: "We want help; we want support; we welcome sympathy. But basically, in the world every individual is alone and every nation is ultimately alone. And India is prepared to fight alone for what it thinks worth fighting for". Perhaps Indira's Congress party, headed by her daugher-in-law and with her grandson as a general-secretary angling for the Prime Minister's post, would like to take a lesson?
The writer is a freelance contributor
As far as I am concerned, this is the last reshuffle before we go to polls (in 2014). This exercise has been as much comprehensive as possible.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh after the latest reorganisation of his Council of Ministers
All cities in India are vulnerable to attacks. Pakistan-Afghanistan is the epicentre of terror.
Union home minister Mr Mr P Chidambaram
We can stop 99 per cent of the attacks but 1 per cent may just happen. We must strive to stop 100 per cent attacks.
Congress general-secretary Mr Rahul Gandhi
It's early to speculate on who perpetrated it (the latest Mumbai blasts). Our priority is to get the injured people to hospitals where we have ensured a steady supply of blood other than ready operation theatres.
Maharashtra chief minister Mr Prithviraj Chavan
After 5.30 p.m, a lot of traders come back to their offices with unsold diamonds in their pockets. We believe lots of diamonds were lost when such traders were injured or had to flee for their life.
A diamond trader at Opera House ~ one of the blast sites
Food for all ~ that's the top priority of our government.
West Bengal chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee in Junglemahal
A strike will not solve any problem. A state, which is going through a cash crunch, knows the precarious economic condition of the middle classes. We do not want to burden the people more. We are with the masses.
West Bengal transport minister Mr Subrata Buxi on transport fare hike
There is no doubt that the Left Front had made some mistakes. Many Leftist writers had denigrated Rabindranath saying they couldn't understand the poet's works. Rabindranath was seen from a parochial perspective, which was wrong.
Former West Bengal chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
The alliance is very much there. It will continue and will be strengthened.
Union finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee on the Congress' ties with the DMK
Even if the Taliban say that they have killed my brother, I call on them to come and make peace.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai
At the rate ministers are resigning, hardly anyone will be left to shuffle.
CPI-M leader and Politburo member Mr Sitaram Yechury a day after Mr Dayanidhi Maran quit as the Union textile minister
Now another Copa is starting. I want to thank people for standing behind us tonight ~ we had missed such affection.
Argentinian forward Lionel Messi
LIVING IN FEAR
The image of James Bond, flamboyant, flashy and with a licence to kill, is the bane of the intelligence world. The reality of the secret world is mundane. It involves the cumbersome process of intelligence gathering followed by the tedious task of sifting through an enormous mass of information and then analysing the relevant material as evidence to build up a case for action or policy-making. The running of agents, the garnering of information and analysis — all tasks performed at different levels by members of the intelligence community — demand slow-burning energies, not sudden spurts of dynamism. The aim of intelligence gathering and analysis of information is to provide vital inputs to the policy-makers. When the information and analysis are inadequate or when they falter, policy-making related to security inevitably suffers. This context is important to bear in mind now since Mumbai has once again been made the target of an attack. It is easy to say that there has been an intelligence failure, but such a catch-all statement conveys nothing. Where exactly is the failure located within the supply chain of intelligence gathering?
The issue is important because it is possible to drastically reduce, if not eradicate, the kind of attacks that Mumbai has been made to suffer. The United States of America and the United Kingdom have demonstrated how this can be achieved. In both the countries, there has been no recurrence of terrorist attacks after September 2001 in New York and July 2005 in London. The reason for this is not because terrorists no longer consider these worthy targets. On the contrary, the intelligence communities of these two countries, by keeping a few steps ahead of terrorists, pre-empt threats. The citizens of the US and the UK feel relatively less threatened because of better gathering and analysis of information by the various security agencies. The state of affairs in India is suggested by the home minister's admission that there was no intelligence regarding the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai. Obviously, something is amiss if the intelligence agencies were clueless about an attack that was as well planned (the planning must have taken time and communication) as the serial bomb blasts. It could be said that one reason for India's vulnerability is its proximity to Pakistan — the base for the most violent attacks across the world.
The statement that there is no fool-proof security system is a self-evident truth. There is always the one per cent chance. No person or place can be protected against a suicide bomber. But in India, it is not only the suicide bomber who is getting through the security net. Hard intelligence gathered on the ground or eavesdropped in cyberspace or the air and the sifting and analysis of this information need to be ratcheted up if the people of Mumbai and other parts of India are to sleep safely at night.
THE MODERN HAZARE
A MAN OF COURAGE AND DECENCY POLITICS AND PLAY: RAMACHANDRA GUHA
In the winter of 1947-48, the Indian cricket team visited Australia to play four Test matches. Australia, led by Don Bradman, were by some distance the finest team in world cricket. India, on the other hand, were greenhorns, having only played 10 Test matches, without winning any of them. To make matters worse, some of the country's top players were not available for selection. These included three superlatively gifted batsmen: Vijay Merchant, Mushtaq Ali, and R.S. Modi.
Merchant and Mushtaq Ali were India's opening pair; one was classical and orthodox, the other inventive and unorthodox, to quote one critic, "as dissimilar as curry and rice, but just as effective in combination". Both had batted well on India's tour of England in 1946, as had Modi. All three were automatic choices in any Indian eleven of that time. And all were unavailable for the tour Down Under.
The loss of the three Ms would have hurt the team in any case; here, because of the quality of the opposition, their absence was catastrophic. Australia had the deadliest opening attack in the history of the game, comprising Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, and the gifted left-handed seamer, Bill Johnstone. With bowlers like these, and batsmen of the quality of Bradman, Arthur Morris, Lindsay Hassett and Neil Harvey, Australia won the series by four matches to nil.
Only two Indians emerged with any credit from this unequal encounter. One was Vinoo Mankad, who always bowled restrictively and occasionally batted well. The other was Vijay Hazare. In the Adelaide Test, Hazare scored a hundred in each innings, his dominance of the opposition recalled by Keith Miller in his autobiography, written years later, where the Australian all-rounder spoke with feeling of the sublime onside play of the Indian and the impossibility of setting a field for him.
To play a lone hand was not an uncommon experience for Vijay Hazare. He did that always for The Rest, his team in the Bombay Pentangular, then India's premier domestic tournament. In the 1943 tournament, for example, The Rest defeated the more fancied Muslims in the semi-final on account of a superb double hundred by Hazare. In the finals, Hazare's team came up against The Hindus, who had within their ranks the likes of Merchant, Mankad, Lala Amarnath, and C.S. Nayudu. On the other side, The Rest had no bowlers of quality, and just one decent batsman. Although they lost by an innings, one man shone through the ruins — Vijay Hazare, who scored a staggering 309 out of The Rest's second innings total of 387 all out.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Hazare bravely bore the burdens of The Rest; in the 1940s and the 1950s, he oftentimes did the same for India. When India were 0 for four in a Test match in England, it was left to Hazare and his fellow Vijay, Manjrekar, to come together in a retrieving stand that restored some respectability to his side. In the first part of the 1950s, three Commonwealth sides toured India — in the 15 fiercely fought, albeit unofficial, 'Tests' that they played, the man that bowlers of the quality of Sonny Ramadhin and Jim Laker found hardest to dismiss was Vijay Hazare.
Hazare's character, and his status in Indian cricket, are captured in a fascinating, forgotten short story by the Marathi writer, N.S. Phadke. The story is called (in its English translation) "Thy Name is Burden". Its main character, named Bihari, is clearly modelled on Hazare. As he went into bat, with the score usually reading 10 for two, "fifty thousand people would send up loud cheers of applause as soon as they saw him". All expected him to repair the innings, set it back on track, and thereby save the prestige and self-respect of the Indian cricket fan.
Seeking to get inside his subject's head, Phadke writes of how Bihari/Hazare "was inwardly groaning under this strange burden of popularity and responsibility". When his side's opening pair went out, he "wanted to look hard at the play going on in the middle, since his turn was due. He must study the swing and direction of the balls. He must decide how to face the bowling. He must watch each ball very carefully". The demands of his profession called for such focused attention, and yet "his heart rebelled against the strain. How he wished to close his eyes, and stretch his limbs and go to sleep! … He had no strength left to walk this road to fame! He wished that this road would some day come to an end".
Phadke writes of how Bihari/Hazare saved his side in England and Australia, and at home, and was thus "considered the backbone of India's team. Match after match, he had to carry his side on his shoulders". The popularity of Bihari/Hazare had gone on increasing, but "with popularity his responsibility too. He had carried this double burden on his shoulders endlessly. This tyranny of retaining his own fame and bringing more and more glory to India".
Like the cricketers of today, Bihari/Hazare "had to play first class cricket almost all the year round. When the Indian season was over, he went to England to play in Lancashire League matches. When the English season was over, he returned to India to play in the Tests. India! Lancashire! India again! Struggle for runs! Struggle for wickets! Struggle for averages! Unending struggle! He never had an occasion to play freely and to enjoy himself! He didn't even have time to be ill and to lie in bed…."
Towards the end of the story, Phadke speaks of a secret fantasy entertained by Bihari/Hazare. "He wanted to be done with cricket. He wanted to throw the bats away. He wanted to lead a quiet peaceful happy life — away from the madding crowd! He would purchase lands on the outskirts of his home town. He would grow vegetables and flowers. He would have a few cows and bullocks, and also hens. He would dig a beautiful well, draw water from it, swim in it to his heart's content, get ill with cold, and enjoy the luxury of lying in bed. All this was going to happen some day…. His shoulders ached with the burden of fame and responsibility. His head was splitting with the strain of concentration. He would make his last appearance in some big Test like this, and then he would say 'Goodbye cricket!' He would put an end to the ordeal of living in the limelight of popularity."
No historical analogy can be exact, but still, it may be worth pursuing the question — who is the modern Hazare? Going by Phadke's account, one might say it was Sachin Tendulkar, who, for much of his career, has had to bear "this strange burden of popularity and responsibility", to score hundreds upon hundreds to maintain his fame and keep his team afloat. But one can also make a case for Rahul Dravid. For one thing, his style is more akin to Hazare's, sound and orthodox — coming in at 5 for one, which soon becomes 10 for two — he seeks to patiently rebuild the innings, whereas Tendulkar would seek rather to play some flashing shots and immediately take the initiative away from the opposition.
These past few weeks in the West Indies, Rahul Dravid had indeed been the modern Hazare. As in Australia in 1947, three of India's finest batsmen — Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir — cried off from the tour. Here, as then, there were only two experienced batsmen left to carry along a bunch of novices. Laxman, like Mankad in 1947, has batted bravely on occasion — but the Hazare of this tour has been Rahul Dravid. That India won the series is owed largely to the magnificent hundred he scored in the second innings of the Test match in Jamaica.
Like Hazare, Dravid is a man of courage and decency, content to play — and live — in the shadows of his more glamorous team-mates. Like Hazare, his contributions to Indian cricket have been colossal, and probably under-appreciated. It is time that one of the present, and very gifted, generation of Indian writers treated his achievements and his character in a subtle work of fiction. I suspect, however, that its ending will see its hero living not with animals in a farm, but among books in a library.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
TOLSTOY, TERROR AND TWO CITIES' TALE
On Wednesday, a series of bombs in Mumbai killed more than 20. Almost simultaneously, 15 suspects were rounded up in Ankara, linked to the triple 2003 terror attacks in Istanbul which killed 56. In both cases suspicion fell on jihadist groups, apparently home-grown among local political pathogens.
Otherwise, there was no common hand. We've become accustomed to the local autonomy of terror, scripted on only a vague consensus of symbolic targets.
But a hard-to-define mutuality still runs through our distinct struggles – despite 5,000 kilometers and very different societies. For we are the brackets at either end of the world's "arc of crises," a term first coined in 1979 for the territory between Istanbul and Mumbai. The phrase was renewed by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke in 2008 to describe the zone between the Carpathians and the Himalayas shortly before he was dispatched there as point-man by a new U.S. president.
More recently, futurist George Friedman has given a different name to this real estate that is home to 70 percent of the world's energy production and a comparable percentage of its terror, war, drug trafficking and human misery: The "Eastern Mediterranean-Hindu Kush Theater."
Which invites me to attempt analysis of this "arc" with the famous first line of Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
For within this most dangerous zone, only two countries are alike in the fullness of their economic and democratic success which – while not without faults – is also home-grown. These are Turkey and India, each led by their powerful cultural and financial capitals of Istanbul and Mumbai. The failures driving the "crises" are all different: All shades of imperialism notwithstanding, the woes include tribalism and corruption in Afghanistan and Pakistan, functioning authoritarianism across the Central Asia republics, dysfunctional authoritarianism in the Arab states and a hybrid democracy/police state in Israel.
We analyze endlessly the root causes behind the failures at this arc of convergence that has nonetheless given the world its first cities, the written word, agriculture, empires, the major religions and what we call civilization. But in our many "model" debates we blur its two prime successes. This 23-nation "arc" produces about 12 percent of the world's GDP. Of that, more than half comes from Turkey and India. Of that, at least 75 percent of the capital and 25 to 50 percent of manufacturing originates in the cities of Mumbai and Istanbul. Every night a sure majority of millions of "arc" TV's flicker with entertainment produced in one of these two cities. Journalists may struggle for oxygen in Istanbul and Mumbai but in between they suffocate.
I cannot fathom the mind of the terrorist. But I do understand that what is targeted for destruction is democratic pluralism, diversity of values and freedom of expression. The declared target of jihadism, however, is the economic and cultural dominance of the "West." So it is ironic that the most formidable challenge to that dominance is in fact the success that Mumbai and Istanbul represent. Or perhaps, it is not ironic at all.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
IT'S THE POLITICS, STUPID
For a professional economist, the global crisis is a heaven-sent opportunity to observe what is normally unobservable. Crises are good laboratories. Nowadays, I am thinking of the dynamics of policy response in the case of a "global economic crisis" versus an "economic crisis in one country." The policy response to an economic crisis is almost always a political one. The question is this: Is an economic crisis an opportunity to start dealing with the long-neglected structural problems of a country? Or Does the latter eventually require a political crisis? Which one do you think is easier? "Crisis in one country" case or a "global economic crisis case"? Looking at the Turkish experience, I tend to favor the first one. Look at Italy, for example. Berlusconi vs. Tremonti is more understandable as part of this dichotomy. Or the theatrics of Obama-GOP horse trading on the debt-ceiling argument. I think even under intense crisis conditions, it's the politics, stupid. All the theatrics is just because of that. Let me start the discussion.
Did you follow the tension between Italian prime minister and his finance minister a few days ago? Let me start from there. It was before the Italian parliament's decision to enact a 48 billion-euro package to deal with the increasing tension coming from the markets. Italy has done nothing to face its structural deficiencies since the beginning of crisis. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had other things to do up until now. The markets became acutely aware of those structural deficiencies only recently, and market participants are starting to see the same problems differently when they become tense. This time it is Italy. Wait for Spain also.
The expenditure reduction package was designed by the Italian government. It is important to calm down the tension. However, two days ago, before the package was passed, Berlusconi told an Italian journalist that "You know he [Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti] thinks he's a genius and that everyone else is stupid. I put up with him because I've known him for a long time and one has to accept the way he is. But he's the only one who is not a team player." This was right after the finance minister himself was caught calling a ministerial colleague a "cretino," or idiot. Then the damage was done. As it was before the parliament's decision, the flight from Italian debt led to a sharp increase in yield. As such, it has a short-term cost. The Tremonti-Berlusconi row may have long-term consequences. But it is still there. Why?
I think the difference lies in the fact that this is a global crisis, not a crisis in one country. Consider Turkey in 2001. The fire was only in our house then. Responsibility lay completely with the government in Ankara. Credit lines among Turkish banks were cut off. Every day one or two banks were taken under the custody of the Deposit Insurance Fund Administration. This was just one year after the incompetence of the emergency management units of the government became highly visible when a major earthquake hit the most populated northwestern regions of Turkey. Then the economic crisis led to a political crisis. In the 2002 elections, all the parties of the previous coalition government were punished severely by voters, giving Recep Tayyip Erdogan the chance to lead the country. That also theoretically enabled a period of major structural transformation (though what happened in practice is the subject of another discussion).
In the case of Italy, however, the situation is different. The Italian crisis is unfolding in the midst a global crisis. The political elite of Italy think that they have the right to say "Hey, we didn't do it." I can hear Berlusconi saying: "It is the damned Americans and this wise guy Tremonti who got excited. They are the cause of your pain."
Why have the Europeans not been that quick in finding a solution? Politically there is room to maneuver. Like the case of Berlusconi. This is a global crisis, not a crisis in one country.
However, I find the theatrics in Washington D.C. highly surprising nowadays. Wasn't it all because of the Republicans? Why is there no refrain of "it's the politics, stupid" in Washington?
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
MY MUSLIM CASE FOR LIBERTY
Over the years, in this very column, I have tried to advance a political philosophy that can be called "Muslim liberalism." It is, in a nutshell, a liberal view of politics and economics within an Islamic theological framework. It has been the basic filter through which I looked at religious issues, and even some of the Turkish affairs, which I saw as case studies for the broader questions regarding the future of the Muslim world.
Admittedly, my arguments did not convince all readers. For there are many people, both in Turkey and the West, who believe that "Islam" and "liberalism" can come together only to form an oxymoron. That's probably why some of the same people suspected that I must be a "cunning Islamist" who wants to dilute Turkey's wonderful secularism with sweet talk, only to pave the way for an authoritarian Islamist regime.
Well, people are free to believe in what they want to believe. But I have stood behind my conviction that a Muslim liberalism is possible. About three years ago, I even decided to write a book about it. An American publisher, W.W. Norton, welcomed the idea. After a lot of work on my side, and some good editing on theirs, I finally put out a book: "Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty."
The term "extremes" here might imply all the unpleasant facts that are associated with radical Islam – such as intolerance, coercion or violence. But there is also a deeper meaning to the term. For, as I show in my book, the modern Muslim world has been traumatized by two mutually opposing yet complementing "extremes:" Secular authoritarianism versus Islamic authoritarianism. Both of these forces tried to capture the modern state, in order to use it to advance their similarly illiberal ideologies. One camp banned the veil, for example, while the other camp imposed it. One camp justified tyranny in the name of "progress," whereas the other camp justified it in the name of God.
However, there is a third way beyond these two extremes, a liberal way, and it has surprising roots in the Islamic past, as I unearth in my book.
I built this case by first going back to the very genesis of the faith. It might be news to the modern reader, but the birth of Islam was actually a great step forward for individualism, which had been denied by the harsh tribalism of pagan Arabs. The Quran's unyielding monotheism, which defined humans as "God's vicegerents on Earth," created the autonomous individual and gave him (or her) personal responsibility and dignity.
No wonder proto-liberal schools of thought emerged in the first centuries of Islam. The Murjiites ("Postponers") defended religious pluralism, arguing that disputes among religious factions should be "postponed" to afterlife, only to be reconciled by God. Another school named Mutazilites not only supported human's freewill, but also argued that reason is as important as revelation in the pursuit of truth. Thanks to such ideas, the medieval Muslim world flourished, and, in the words of Bernard Lewis, "offered vastly more freedom than any of its predecessors, its contemporaries and most of its successors."
In "Islam Without Extremes," I not only reveal some of those little-known liberal strains in Islam, but also explain why they were eclipsed by the more dogmatic and intolerant versions of the faith. I also show how there is hope for the future, as signaled by Turkey's ongoing silent Islamic reformation and the recent Arab Spring. Besides, I advance my own arguments for Muslim liberalism, with cases on "freedom from the state," "freedom to sin," and "freedom from Islam."
This Monday, July 18, is the book's launch date. It will be available in bookstores across the United States, and online stores such as Amazon. Meanwhile, my own website (thewhitepath.com) offers its free Introduction chapter.
Just to let you know. And also to remind that the story of Islam is much more complicated, and fascinating, then what many think.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
EGYPT IS HEATING UP AND SO IS ITS REVOLUTION
The second revolution in Egypt started July 8. Following the attacks on Tahrir Square the Tuesday before, the previous call for millions to demonstrate and sit in on Friday July 8 gained more momentum and appeal. Putting the Revolution "first" was the banner under which all political groups reunited. The Tahrir spirit was back improved and with vengeance. The summer sun did not seem to dissuade too many and huge shades and tents were set up to accommodate. The sit-ins continue and threaten civil disobedience. Two weak responses from the prime minister and an almost threatening response from the military gave rise to a major demonstration to start at 5p.m. Tuesday. For those who expect revolutions to be clear, predictable, controllable and even stable, this might come as a surprise. The aftershocks are expected to continue.
Amidst all one tries to do away with the anxiety it all brings. My main anchor is to revert it all to the beginning. The solid conviction I bounce off all events unfolding against is: Anything must be better than before. My reference to the future is my knowledge of why it all started. I have to keep reminding myself and others. Now we at least have a chance of more options. The door is open. Egyptians have a choice.
Ironically, for a whole population that has never had the privilege of choice, the process can be difficult. No option is always easier and had always required no active participation. The road map was conceived and implemented for you. The citizen became the recipient. For generations who stood at the receiving end, giving can be challenging. We make a big mistake when we think of giving as only a one way road. It never is. A culture of giving must assume all able to give and all able to take, it is but an exchange of all human capital. A common mistake is often the perception of material capital as a one-way process from the rich to the poor.
Even the obvious was ignored in Egypt as philanthropy and caring for the other became marketing ploys and slowly but surely everyone turned a blind eye. When economies are solid even the so called poor are givers, in the worst case scenario they don't turn into recipients or beggars.
All isms that have assumed only duality rather than a diverse, dynamic constituency seem to have only bred values of competition, aggression, scarcity and eventually some form of war. Healthy living models must assume diversity, inclusion, partnership and abundance. In the final analysis it is one set of values that create our political, economic and social systems as a community. When the set of values is eroded, distorted or is inconsistent, the community is in crisis. To re-adopt and have majority agreement on a set of values is human communities' biggest challenges. They have to reinvent themselves. They must become the change. The only one must be both universal and specific to the community. Deep within the Egyptian culture lays that basic set of values. We have to dig deep and long to bring it back to the surface.
One wonders what the tug of war will produce. What is certain is that it will continue in different forms. For a successful outcome, the will of the Egyptians must eventually prevail.
Paraphrasing Dwight Eisenhower: "A people that values its privileges above its principles will soon lose both."
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
SEVERE CRITICISM FROM EUROPE ON PRESS FREEDOM
The Council of Europe's Swedish commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg's, report on the situation of press freedom in Turkey based on his findings during his visit in April draws attention to the existence of an extremely concerning scene.
The importance of the report is that the widespread criticism voiced in the Western world for a long time on the situation of press freedom in Turkey is coming this time from an institution, from the top level responsible in the field of human rights in Europe.
When the topic is human rights, the fact that Hammarberg has an immense reputation in the international arena, for example his receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 on behalf of Amnesty International while he was the general secretary, no doubt adds a huge weight to the report.
Taboos are being discussed, but…
Hammarberg starts his report with quite a strong praise and welcomes "the progress made by Turkey in recent years concerning a free and open debate on a variety of human rights-related issues." In another section of the report, the progress Turkey has made is also welcomed on "having a free and open debate concerning human rights-related issues which were previously considered to be sensitive or taboo subjects."
However, in the nearly 20-page report, the only parts that can be considered positive about Turkey are these two sentences. Other parts are mostly criticisms.
The report examines the issues in the field of press freedom in three sections. In the first section, issues stemming from legislation such as the Constitution, the Turkish Criminal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law are listed. In the second section, "serious dysfunctions of the domestic judicial system affecting freedom of expression" is discussed. In the third section, "Actions of non-state actors affecting freedom of expression and of the media in Turkey" is assessed.
One of the most interesting points of the report, I guess, was that under the third section, a subsection named "Concerns about the media landscape in Turkey" has been opened including a strong emphasis on the presence of problems on the principle of "editorial independence." This subject, if I remember correctly, is being expressed for the first time by a Western international organization at this level.
In this subsection, it has been pointed out that, "Practically all the major commercial channels and newspapers belong to holdings, some of which also have very large interests in other sectors (industry, finance, telecommunications, and tourism)."
Following this, the report says "the editorial independence of newspapers and broadcasting media concerning the affairs of the conglomerations they belong to is often called into question in the Turkish media" and adds that "a great degree of suspicion" exists in this area.
Right there, one of the most hard-hitting findings of the report comes. The commissioner refers to the "chilling effect" concept that is frequently referenced in the West to explain the timidity and shyness caused by official pressures on the press.
Hammarberg highlights "that this media landscape can potentially intensify the chilling effect of certain actions of politicians and the administration."
Government to act with more restraint
Another interesting point is that Hammarberg considers that in such a situation, "politicians and the administration" should have "a particular degree of vigilance and restraint on their part." In other words, he is exerting responsibility on the government to eliminate the "chilling effect."
It is also noteworthy that right after this finding of the Council of Europe commissioner, the next paragraph contains, "In this connection, the Commissioner noted in particular that a tax fine ordered in 2009 against the Doğan Media Group, was perceived by some as a reprisal for criticism against the government by the Group."
Meanwhile, the fact that the print media is very comment-oriented is among Hammarberg's critics. The commissioner also points out to the critics on the space allocated to commentators as opposed to the very marginal room allocated to investigative journalism and first-hand reporting as well as the "imbalance" in the field of salaries and remunerations.
The largest space in the critics of Europe's Human Rights commissioner is occupied by judiciary.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist of daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared Friday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff. The related Council of Europe report can be found at https://wcd.coe.int/wcd/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1814085
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WHY THE RELUCTANCE TOWARD NGOS?
Earthquakes are Turkey's reality just as they are California's or Japan's. It is a reality we do not enjoy facing.
Recently, we had the opportunity to discuss this bitter reality with Professor Mustafa Erdik, the director of Kandilli Observatory at a meeting of the Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers Foundation, or MAG.
MAG is a nongovernmental organization founded after the 1999 Marmara Earthquake with the support of the Swiss. It aims to raise awareness and train people nationwide primarily on earthquakes through organizations at neighborhood level.
When you come to think that 71 percent of Turkey's population lives on risky first or second degree earthquake zones, MAG is actually doing an important job. The executive board includes several representatives from leading companies of Turkey's private sector.
Up until today, MAG has reached 58 neighborhoods out of a total of 932 neighborhoods of Istanbul. In such a vital issue, I think, there can only be two reasons for not progressing fast.
First is that to participate "voluntarily" in a nongovernmental organization is unfortunately not a very common practice in Turkey. The second reason is, I think, the point of view of the state toward NGOs.
Just as "voluntarism" is not a settled concept, similarly the state's working with the NGOs, seeking cooperation with them and mechanisms of consultation have not yet settled.
It could also be that institutions within the state that are to cooperate with NGOs are inadequate.
Why is Eurasia tunnel in court?
In the MAG example, the institution to cooperate is understood to be Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, affiliated to the deputy prime minister's office. But I have doubts on whether the cooperation is managed well.
Other examples of the state acting reluctantly toward the NGOs come up frequently. Istanbul is preparing for the Eurasia Tunnel Project that will connect the Asian side to the European side under the seabed, a project many people have not heard of yet.
The Eurasia Tunnel will pass a little north of Marmaray, which will also connect the two continents by an undersea tunnel but with a railway. The project is being taken to court by the Turkish Union of Engineers' and Architects' Chambers, or TMMOB's, Chamber of City Planners.
The Eurasia Tunnel project is being sued.
Relevant parties often debate that during the Eurasia Tunnel project, which Europa Nostra also opposed with concerns that it would damage the historical peninsula's appearance, the government has not consulted NGOs.
How correct is it that the project has been opened for tender without any opportunities for Istanbul residents to debate whether the Eurasia Tunnel, which only cars and minibuses can use, is actually necessary and the route of the tunnel?
When you consider that a referendum is organized in Switzerland to build a church in a neighbourhood...
Decisions to be made in a city like Istanbul that has a unique location indeed concern everybody who resides in this city including me.
Citizens have no trust
The same goes for removal of the State Ministry in charge of Women without consulting women's associations.
Women's organizations which have been struggling within the women's movement for years are justifiably reactionary against the removal of the State Ministry in charge of Women and forming of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies in its place without having been consulted.
As true as it is that the state is reluctant against the NGOs, it is also true that citizens do not embrace the NGOs with a great deal of love.
Recently, an important research of Greenpeace including Turkish people's views on nuclear power plants was published. I witnessed that some colleagues were sarcastically approaching the report that showed the majority of Turkish people were against nuclear power plants.
I asked the reason. I got the answer, "Can you rely on Greenpeace?"
Excuse me? Greenpeace is one of the most trustworthy NGOs of the West. Greenpeace is organizing several activities with the Green Party which is getting stronger everyday in the political stage in Germany.
I indeed reminded my colleague who instantly has a sarcastic smile at the mention of "Greenpeace," that it was Cem Özdemir, the co-chairman of the Green Party, who was supporting the Greenpeace activists who were protesting the train carrying radioactive material from France to Germany last year.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE
Voice mail hacking, e-mail snooping, ferreting information for a price. The old and new media do it to further their interests in the face of cut-throat competition. Privacy, as we once knew it, has ceased to exist. Big media brothers like Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and sisters like Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the now defunct News of the World, could be watching your every move, listening in to what you say and reading what you write.
It is their business to know, for the advertisers to know, for everyone to know, because you are a product of the peeping times.
It's a creepy feeling living your private life the way they want you to live it. Ever wondered how they mould your thoughts and screen your emotions, while they make merry with their millions.
As the New of the World newsroom now resembles a crime scene, it is important to ask how it all came to this.
We, the people wanted the sex, sleaze, gossip, break-ups and the break-ins. The media went to great lengths to get them for us because the ordinary was boring. Now, the masses, draped in self-righteousness and dripping crocodile tears, are complaining they went too far by hacking into a dead girl's phone. What hypocrisy!
We loved to know what went behind the scenes of love, war and hate. Struggling celebrities were happy to give them to us until they got to the top of the ladder. Once they got there, the media began to find ways of bringing them down, celebrating their slips and misses, as the marqee names staunchly guarded their privacy from prying eyes.
Don't we deserve the media we get, like the many politicians we elect to hold high office? There is no room for stragglers in the new media age. The conventional press is turning increasingly yellow to sell to a declining number of people migrating to television and the Internet. Ethics can take a hike.
To survive in the social media landscape amid intense competition, desperate journalists resort to putting a spin on events and influencing the flow of news. They heckle and bug their sources, while selling their souls to the highest corporate or political bidder.
Corporate journalism and politics have become perfect bedmates, snuggling up to each other and blowing the competition out of sight. Power and information are a heady mix that's hard to resist. Power is information and information can get you power.
A journalism professor once told his students that a gripping story should have a mix of religion, royalty, sex and suspense. A student grasped the idea pronto and wrote a one-line report which ran like this: "Oh my God,' said the princess. 'I'm pregnant. Whudunnit?"
Newspapers are not the only ones with voyeuristic tendencies. Only last week, Internet giant Yahoo was flayed for allegedly planning to spy on emails on behalf of advertisers.
Yahoo had allegedly changed its "terms and conditions" to get permission to view and scan emails to benefit advertisers, of course. Many users were up in arms over the blatant intrusion of privacy. According to the new change in "terms and conditions of use," Yahoo will be able to spy on incoming emails from individuals and businesses without prior permission or warning.
Google does it with their mapping, Facebook has been watching your face with recognition software, you are tracked on Twitter as you Tweet. Nothing is secure electronically. But we don't seem to mind as long it doesn't affect us.
We are happily connecting to people we haven't met, blissfully unaware about who we are networking with, while getting entangled in a maze of information. The more you know, the more you can bleat about, drop names and peddle influence.
But do we know enough about personal privacy and its invasion, defined as an ''intrusion into the personal life of another without just cause, which can give the person whose privacy has been invaded a right to bring a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity that intruded?" It "encompasses workplace monitoring, Internet privacy, data collection and other means of disseminating private information."
According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project, 36 percent of Netizens seek online support for health, family and mental health issues. The research claims 24 percent of them signed in with their real name and e-mail address. Everything they say online could be stored somewhere.
Then there are stalkers, hackers, hookers, trackers and tweakers of information, like the News of the World. Nobler professionals like retailers and bankers also care to know about you and your spending habits, which you gleefully provide to further your clout. Feeling good is all about feeling important which is entwined with a lack of privacy.
So be scared...really scared. Don't say we didn't warn you.
*Allan Jacob is chief reporter of Khaleej Times.
******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES
BLUNDERING TOWARD RECESSION: BEYOND THE DEBT STALEMATE
"Catastrophic." "Calamitous." "Major crisis." "Self-inflicted wound." Those are some of the ways Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, has described the fallout if Congress fails to raise the debt limit by the Aug. 2 deadline.
In Congressional testimony this week, Mr. Bernanke also warned that the Fed would not be able to fully counter the damage from a default, including the possibility that spiking interest rates would roil borrowers worldwide and worsen the federal budget deficit by making it costlier to finance the nation's debt.
That's not all of it. Brinkmanship over the debt limit is only one of many epic economic policy blunders now in the making. Even if lawmakers raise the debt limit on time, the economy is weak and getting weaker, as evidenced by slowing growth and rising unemployment.
Instead of coming up with policies to strengthen the economy, the Republicans are demanding deep, immediate spending cuts, which would only add to current weakness. The White House, meanwhile, has suggested cuts should be phased in slowly and has said that more near-term help would be good for the economy. That is a better approach. But President Obama has done too little to argue the case, on Capitol Hill or with the public.
Upfront spending cuts could make sense if the budget deficit were the cause of the current economic weakness. If it were, interest rates would be rising, not at generational lows, as the government competed with the private sector. The real cause is lack of consumer demand in the face of stagnant wages, job uncertainty and the continuing payback of household debt from the bubble years. Without strong and steady consumer demand, businesses will not hire, and a self-sustaining recovery cannot take hold.
In such a situation, government must fill the gap with spending on relief and recovery measures. Premature spending cuts will only make things worse by pulling dollars out of a frail economy. Contrary to the claims of Republicans, and some Democrats, that the nation cannot afford new spending, the government could, and should, borrow cheaply at today's low rates in an effort to bolster demand and, by extension, support jobs.
A place to start would be to extend what little stimulus remains on the books, including the $57 billion-a-year federal unemployment insurance program and the $112 billion payroll tax cut for employees. Both are scheduled to expire at the end of 2011, despite the fact that conditions have deteriorated since they were enacted last year.
Another crucial step would be to reauthorize the highway trust fund, at least at existing levels. The fund, which is paid for mainly by the federal gasoline tax, will allocate $53 billion to states in 2011 for roads and mass transit, supporting millions of jobs. The House version of the highway bill calls for deep cuts, and the better Senate version has not garnered enough Republican support to pass.
It is also past time for lawmakers to move forward with plans for a federal infrastructure bank to provide seed money for major public works.
In his testimony, Mr. Bernanke emphasized that the deficit was a serious problem, but not an immediate one. He is right. It can be solved over time, with spending cuts and tax increases, as the economy recovers.
Recovery, however, requires the creation of millions more jobs, starting now, than the current economy is capable of generating. It is time for the government to step up. If it doesn't, the weakening economy is bound to become even weaker.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
BLUNDERING TOWARD RECESSION: URGENCY AND SENSE ELUDE THE HOUSE
The increasingly urgent cries to resolve the debt-ceiling stalemate — from Wall Street, bond rating companies, the Federal Reserve chairman, the White House, the Senate and pretty much everyone else — seem unable to penetrate the soundproof bunker built by House Republicans. Their leaders announced on Friday that they would waste precious days next week on a hopeless crusade for spending caps and a balanced budget amendment.
The measure they propose would make a radical cut of $111 billion in 2012, then limit federal spending to 19.9 percent of the gross domestic product by 2017, far less than the current 25 percent and not nearly enough for Americans' needs. It says the debt ceiling could go up only if Congress approved a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a meaningless proviso since Republicans don't have the necessary two-thirds majority even in the House, let alone the Senate.
At this late stage, this plan is a dangerous delusion suggesting that the House leadership regards the gravity of a default as seriously as it does global warming. Perhaps it didn't notice that Standard & Poor's, the rating agency, said on Thursday that the failure to raise the debt ceiling would most likely have "detrimental and long-lasting" effects on economic growth.
President Obama took to the microphone yet again on Friday to plead for his overly generous offer to the Republicans to cut up to $3 trillion in federal spending over the next decade — including disturbing reductions in entitlement spending — in exchange for modest increases in tax revenues, which he noted that most Americans supported. It remains astonishing that Republicans spurned an offer that would have drawn cries of protest from many Democrats. (We don't like it either.)
They did so in order to proudly reject the slightest hint of tax increases, but as the president pointed out on Friday, the interest-rate jump produced by a default would end up being a more onerous tax on everyone.
Mr. Obama dismissed the coming House vote as "a political statement," and even Speaker John Boehner suggested that the real action would come after his members waved their balanced budget flags. Senate leaders are working on a plan that would lift the ceiling in exchange for a more modest package of cuts. Though the proposal seems to lack necessary tax revenue increases, it remains the most likely vehicle to end the crisis. But first the crush of reality will have to persuade the House to vote for it.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
A LOOK INTO THE OCEAN'S FUTURE
There is simply no exaggerating the importance of the oceans to earth's overall ecological balance. Their health affects the health of all terrestrial life. A new report by an international coalition of marine scientists makes for grim reading. It concludes that the oceans are approaching irreversible, potentially catastrophic change.
The experts, convened by the International Program on the State of the Ocean and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, found that marine "degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted." The oceans have warmed and become more acidic as they absorbed human-generated carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are also more oxygen-deprived, because of agricultural runoff and other anthropogenic causes. This deadly trio of conditions was present in previous mass extinctions, according to the report.
The oceans' natural resilience has been seriously compromised. Pollution, habitat loss and overfishing are dangerous threats on their own. But when these factors converge, they can destroy marine ecosystems.
The severity of human impact was reinforced last week when scientists concluded that seven commercially important species, including marlin, mackerel and three tuna species, were either vulnerable to extinction, endangered or critically endangered according to I.U.C.N. standards. The solutions that might help slow further degradation include immediate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, a system of marine conservation areas and a way to protect ocean life that goes beyond national jurisdictions.
This is the work of nations, but such goals require pressure from ordinary citizens if there is to be any hope of bringing them about in the face of opposing political and economic interests. As the new study notes, changes in the oceans, caused by carbon emissions, are perhaps "the most significant to the earth system," particularly because they will further accelerate climate change.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
An Opera on the Loose
The New York City Opera's schedule for the coming season is not quite busking in the streets, but close. The company, which used to present as many as 20 productions in a season at Lincoln Center, will present four, which will be staged at BAM, El Museo del Barrio, and the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College. If the opera management has its way, the chorus and the orchestra would be demoted from full-time employment to freelance status.
The New York City Opera can no longer afford to be what it once was, and the overwhelming reason is bad management. In the past few years, difficult ones for any arts organization, the opera has overspent its budget and reached into its endowment while underselling its tickets. It shut down for a year for an expensive renovation of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. And it stalled artistically when Gerard Mortier, hired to replace Paul Kellogg as general manager in 2007, tried to direct the company from Paris and then bolted in late 2008 after a budget dispute.
Leaving Lincoln Center is not necessarily the wrong idea. Mr. Kellogg tried unsuccessfully to find the right location, and the right backers, for a new, more intimate and affordable opera house. Now what is left under George Steel — a roving troupe with a sharply reduced schedule — is a ghost of the opera's former creative self.
Last week Mr. Steel said that the opera's new home stage will be New York City itself — "a glittering theater with eight million seats." We appreciate his enthusiasm. New York deserves two full-scale opera companies, and with the right management and enough creativity, it can support them, as it has done for years. We hope Mr. Steel can begin to rebuild what has been lost.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THEY, TOO, SING AMERICA
BY CHARLES M. BLOW
Last week I spent a few days in the Deep South — a thousand miles from the moneyed canyons of Manhattan and the prattle of Washington politics — talking to everyday people, blue-collar workers, people not trying to win the future so much as survive the present.
They do hard jobs and odd jobs — any work they can find to keep the lights on and the children fed.
No one mentioned the asinine argument about the debt ceiling. No one. Life is pressing down on them so hard that they can barely breathe. They just want Washington to work, the way they do.
They are honest people who do honest work — crack-the-bones work; lift-it, chop-it, empty-it, glide-it-in-smooth work; feel-the-flames-up-close work; crawl-down-in-there work — things that no one wants to do but that someone must.
They are women whose skin glistens from steam and sweat, whose hands stay damp from being dipped in buckets and dried on aprons. They are men who work in boots with steel toes, the kind that don't take shining, the kind that lean over and tell stories when you take them off.
They are people whose bodies melt every night in a hot bath, then stiffen by sunrise, so much so that it takes pills for them to get out of bed without pain.
They, too, sing America. But they're the ones less talked about — either not glamorous enough or rancorous enough. They are the ones without champions, waiting for Democrats to gather the gumption to defend the working poor with the same ferocity with which Republicans protect the filthy rich, waiting for a tomorrow that never comes.
People think of them as somehow part of America's past. But not so. No, most aren't STEM workers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers), who grow up high where all can see. But they are the root, underfoot and out of sight, growing just the same.
The Economics and Statistics Administration of the Department of Commerce issued a report this week that touted STEM jobs as "driving our nation's innovation and competitiveness," having higher wages, and projected to grow "by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations."
But there's another side to that story.
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out, half of the top 30 occupations expected to see the largest job growth over the same period, and seven of the top 10, are low-wage or very low-wage jobs. Only eight even require a degree. Most simply require on-the-job training.
The people who work these jobs are the backbone of this country, and will continue to be. In fact, Washington could learn a lot about backbone from listening to them. We would all be better served by politicians who work as they do — willing to do the things that no one wants to do but that someone must.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE JOURNAL BECOMES FOX-IFIED
BY JOE NOCERA
It's official. The Wall Street Journal has been Fox-ified.
It took Rupert Murdoch only three and a half years to get there, starting with the moment he acquired the paper from the dysfunctional Bancroft family in December 2007, a purchase that was completed after he vowed to protect The Journal's editorial integrity and agreed to a (toothless) board that was supposed to make sure he kept that promise.
Fat chance of that. Within five months, Murdoch had fired the editor and installed his close friend Robert Thomson, fresh from a stint Fox-ifying The Times of London. The new publisher was Leslie Hinton, former boss of the division that published Murdoch's British newspapers, including The News of the World. (He resigned on Friday.) Soon came the changes, swift and sure: shorter articles, less depth, an increased emphasis on politics and, weirdly, sometimes surprisingly unsophisticated coverage of business.
Along with the transformation of a great paper into a mediocre one came a change that was both more subtle and more insidious. The political articles grew more and more slanted toward the Republican party line. The Journal sometimes took to using the word "Democrat" as an adjective instead of a noun, a usage favored by the right wing. In her book, "War at The Wall Street Journal," Sarah Ellison recounts how editors inserted the phrase "assault on business" in an article about corporate taxes under President Obama. The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner's conservative views. That's half the definition of Fox-ification.
The other half is that Murdoch's media outlets must shill for his business interests. With the News of the World scandal, The Journal has now shown itself willing to do that, too.
As a business story, the News of the World scandal isn't just about phone hacking and police bribery. It is about Murdoch's media empire, the News Corporation, being at risk — along with his family's once unshakable hold on it. The old Wall Street Journal would have been leading the pack in pursuit of that story.
Now? At first, The Journal ignored the scandal, even though, as the Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff pointed out in Adweek, it was front-page news all across Britain. Then, when the scandal was no longer avoidable, The Journal did just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way. Blogging for Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman, the media critic, described The Journal's coverage as "obviously hamstrung, and far, far below the paper's true capacity."
On Friday, however, the coverage went all the way to craven. The paper published an interview with Murdoch that might as well have been dictated by the News Corporation public relations department. He was going to testify before Parliament next week, he told the Journal reporter, because "it's important to absolutely establish our integrity." Some of the accusations made in Parliament were "total lies." The News Corporation had handled the scandal "extremely well in every way possible." So had his son James, a top company executive. "When I hear something going wrong, I insist on it being put right," he said. He was "getting annoyed" by the scandal. And "tired." And so on.
In the article containing the interview, there was no pushback against any of these statements, even though several of them bordered on the delusional. The two most obvious questions — When did Murdoch first learn of the phone hacking at The News of the World? And when did he learn that reporters were bribing police officers for information? — went unasked. The Journal reporter had either been told not to ask those questions, or instinctively knew that he shouldn't. It is hard to know which is worse. The dwindling handful of great journalists who remain at the paper — Mark Maremont, Alan Murray and Alix Freedman among them — must be hanging their heads in shame.
To tell you the truth, I'm hanging my head in shame too. Four years ago, when Murdoch was battling recalcitrant members of the Bancroft family to gain control of The Journal, which he had long lusted after and which he viewed as the vehicle that would finally allow him to go head-to-head against The New York Times, I wrote several columns saying that he would be a better owner than the Bancrofts.
The Bancrofts' history of mismanagement had made The Journal vulnerable in the first place. I thought that Murdoch's resources would stop the financial bleeding, and that his desire for a decent legacy would keep him from destroying a great newspaper.
After the family agreed to sell to him, Elisabeth Goth, the brave Bancroft heir who had long tried to get her family to fix the company, told me, "He has a tremendous opportunity, and I don't think he's going to blow it." In that same column, I wrote, "The chances of Mr. Murdoch wrecking The Journal are lower than you'd think."
Gail Collins is on book leave.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE REVOLUTION IS NOT OVER YET
BY HAMADI REDISSI
SIX months ago, after weeks of protests, the Tunisian people gathered in front of the Interior Ministry to demand that their longtime president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, leave the country. He fled for Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14.
But the country's future remains uncertain. Giant sit-ins by opposition groups plagued the interim government that replaced Mr. Ben Ali. As in the French Revolution, they came armed with "Lists of Grievances." The standoff ended when an interim prime minister, Béji Caïd Essebsi, an old hand in Tunisian politics, took office at the end of February. He managed the trick of both placating the impatient and not alarming those who want nothing to change.
The key to establishing a new democracy will be how the interim government deals with members of the old regime. Unfortunately, it has been reluctant to bring them to justice immediately, opting instead to leave this pivotal responsibility to the government that will take power after elections in October.
There has been some progress. The assets of Mr. Ben Ali's inner circle have been confiscated, his party has been dissolved, the secret police have been dismantled and a number of high officials are being investigated for abuse of authority and misuse of funds.
Yet the flawed and lumbering legal system has not satisfied a population yearning for genuine justice. So far not a single dollar transferred out of the country by the Ben Ali family has found its way back to the state's coffers, not a single police officer implicated in the murders of almost 300 protesters has been convicted and not a single member of the ruling clan that fled the country has been extradited to Tunisia — including Mr. Ben Ali. The interim government has relied on a traditional legal process headed by the same magistrates who worked for the old regime rather than pursuing a system of transitional justice — with truth commissions and informal trials — which would be faster and more flexible.
The trial of Mr. Ben Ali and his wife took place on June 20, with the couple facing close to 100 charges, including conspiracy against the state and possession of drugs and weapons. They were sentenced, in absentia, to 35 years in prison and fined $66 million. But in the absence of both the accused and their foreign lawyers — Tunisian law prohibits Tunisians from being represented by foreign lawyers — many decried the trial as a mockery of justice.
But this is much ado about nothing. The justice system, albeit freed of the worst of its constraints, is still barely functioning. Judges in Tunisia are among the most poorly paid in the world, just behind their counterparts in Bangladesh.
The social problems that prompted the current unrest also continue to poison the transition process. Endemic unemployment and low levels of education could undermine Tunisia's democratic transition. The school system, which has long hurt Tunisia's competitiveness by favoring quantity over quality, desperately needs in-depth reforms. Meanwhile, more than 1.2 million Tunisians, over 11 percent of the country's population, live in poverty. (The interim government's estimates have placed the figure as high as 24 percent.)
Mr. Essebsi requested $25 billion in aid over five years at the recent meeting of the Group of 8 powers in Deauville, France. The G-8, along with other governments and institutions, endorsed a combined $40 billion aid package for Egypt and Tunisia — an amount that pales in comparison with the modern-day Marshall Plan that the region desperately needs.
On Oct. 23 Tunisians will decide whether they want a presidential or a parliamentary system, and elect a new government. More than 90 parties could appear on the ballot, meaning that a highly divided assembly is likely. Early polls show that Al Nahda — the previously banned Islamist party — enjoys the support of more than 20 percent of voters.
To its credit, Al Nahda accepts the rights that have long been enjoyed by Tunisian citizens — the most far-reaching in the Arab world — and the newly established principle that women and men should serve in the future democratic legislature in equal numbers. To placate the West, it wants to fashion itself in the image of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P.
Yet unlike the A.K.P., Al Nahda has never abandoned its hopes for an Islamic state and is strongly opposed to the separation of religion and the state. Moreover, it favors a draft constitutional provision, along with Arab nationalists and the extreme left, that would ban the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel. This is a foolish position that harks back to the obsolete rhetoric of the 1960s.
Tunisia is seeking to fully integrate its Islamists — but perhaps at its peril. If Al Nahda emerges from the election with a dominant plurality, it may decide to be modest and support a government of national unity, so as to reassure Washington and the country's foreign lenders. And if it ends up in a minority position, it will probably bide its time, knowing that one day it could win and run the country.
Whether Tunisia's Islamists follow the moderate example of the A.K.P. or regress into radical Islamism will depend on the willingness of new leaders to chart a responsible course and on secular and moderate parties' capacity to challenge pan-Arab and Islamist groups. Only then will we know whether Tunisia's revolution represents a triumph of liberalism or an open door for extremists.
Hamadi Redissi is a professor of political science at the University of Tunis and president of the Tunisian Observatory for a Democratic Transition. This article was translated by Vivien Watts and Matthew Watkins from the French.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
MAKING MURDER COUNT
BY MARK J. VANLANDINGHAM
A CITY'S population size is more than just a number: it determines how many representatives it can send to the state legislature and Congress, and it often determines how much money it receives from state and federal programs. Bigger cities, and faster-growing cities, tend to attract more business investment, professional sports teams and public attention.
Not surprisingly, cities pay a lot of attention to the Census Bureau's annual population estimates, which take place between the decennial censuses. And when these come in lower than expected, many will fight hard to revise them upward — 39 cities and towns successfully challenged their 2008 estimates alone.
But, because the process is so politicized, it often results in significant overestimates. While local governments and civic boosters might cheer such an outcome, population overestimates can ultimately lead to a dangerous misallocation of scarce public resources.
Such overestimates have been especially problematic for New Orleans. According to the original census estimates for 2007, the city's population stood at 239,124, which independent sources, like voter turnout and death records, indicate was a reasonable guess. But after heavy lobbying from then-Mayor Ray Nagin's office — claiming the bureau's methods missed large numbers of poor residents — the number was revised upward by about 20 percent, to 288,113.
A similarly successful challenge to the 2008 initial estimate led to yet another substantial uptick; combined, these revised estimates put the city on pace to recover almost all the residents it had lost after Hurricane Katrina within a few years.
Several of us living in the city, who were monitoring its repopulation rates, knew these figures were implausible. And yet city hall cheered the results.
Until, that is, the 2010 census count was released this year, showing the actual population size was almost 100,000 people smaller than what the revised numbers implied it should be — a psychological bucket of cold water thrown on a still-fragile city. The inflated estimates misled government, businesses and residents as they made life-altering decisions about where, when and how much to invest in the city's recovery, and they diverted attention from some of the most serious problems that New Orleans was facing — and still faces — after the disaster.
Take, for example, the homicide rate. The revised estimates of population size diluted the city's murder rate, since a larger population results in fewer murders per capita. The lower rate may have stemmed some damage to tourism and investment; certainly the numbers allowed the government to spend its precious resources on items other than public safety. But in reality, they obscured the fact that in the years after Katrina, New Orleans had not only the nation's highest murder rate, but a rate never before recorded for any American city.
Had the Census Bureau held firm on its original estimates, the singularity of our murder morass would have been apparent, and we would have been better positioned to marshal the local, state and national resources required to fight it. An inability to effectively monitor our city's population has likewise hampered New Orleans's efforts to plan for our future health care needs, education needs and other essential services. Consultants have found, for example, that a hospital under construction is larger than needed for the number of people who actually live there.
Such over-adjustments are not limited to New Orleans. Of the 38 other successful challenges to census estimates in 2008, 78 percent resulted in a figure that now appears to have been too high.
No one should fault a city for cheering its own recovery, and cities should be free to challenge estimates that they suspect are too low — indeed, many challenges are initially correct. But the process has become politicized in a way that favors short-term interests: cities are often less concerned about getting the number right than in getting the number higher, leaving the resulting problems to subsequent administrations to sort out. Moreover, the Census Bureau is led by appointees without fixed terms, making them vulnerable to political pressure.
One immediate solution, then, would be to appoint bureau directors for five-year terms, which would help ensure that population figures are based on scientific evidence and would help limit political influence from elected officials, their constituents and special-interest groups.
Doing otherwise is no favor to the local jurisdiction requesting an uptick. The day of reckoning always comes, and in the meantime, cities like New Orleans are left without the data needed to direct scarce resources toward their most pressing problems.
Mark J. VanLandingham is a professor of sociology and demography at Tulane University.
I. THE NEWS
AIDING THE CORRUPT
The government has its credentials on display yet again. The Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq informed the Supreme Court on Friday that the government would not be restoring its bête-noir Zafar Qureshi to the NICL investigation. The response of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was that if the government chose not to abide by the rulings of the Supreme Court, then the court would form a judicial commission to examine the matter. The NICL scam, let us remind ourselves, involves the misappropriation of billions of rupees allegedly by some very 'prominent' and influential figures. The government has fought the Supreme Court and the investigating officers tooth and nail for months, knowing that if due process and diligent police work follow through to a satisfactory outcome, the big names may have a hard time. This is a government that almost like no other is in denial-mode when it comes to corruption, and to have to confront a finding of guilt in the NICL case is its worst nightmare.
It is not often that we can point a finger at an officer of the law and say 'there stands a good man', but that would appear to be the case with Zafar Qureshi who was leading the investigation of the NICL scam. He was leading it with some success, enough success for the powers that be to grease the stairs for him and four of his colleagues and engineer their transfer to far-flung corners of the state. The banished foursome has been reinstated after intense pressure, but Qureshi remains in banishment. The Supreme Court has jousted with the government, attempting to ensure that the investigation stayed on-track and the joust has now turned into mortal combat. The court wants to see the restoration of our national wealth to the exchequer and the dispensation of natural justice; the government wants to protect corrupt and criminal elements at the heart of the establishment and avoid justice of any description at whatever cost - even if the cost is the sacrifice of honest officers doing an honest job. The Supreme Court stands between a rapacious government and the rule of law. It is not difficult to know which of them deserves the full and unstinting support of this nation.
I. THE NEWS
After 24 hours of violence which saw life in Karachi come to a screeching halt, we hope Zulfiqar Mirza is satisfied. Nothing could stop the rabble-rousing minister on Wednesday night as he made incendiary, and borderline racist, remarks against the MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain. But by Thursday night, he did not even have the nerve to face the cameras or the public, and offered a meek apology via a short videotaped message. Given the pattern of violence in Karachi – which is turned on and off like a faucet – it is inconceivable that the parties involved cannot stop it. It is no surprise then that the intensity of violence started declining in the second half of the day, and the guns fell silent only after the MQM chief appealed to people to 'end their peaceful demonstrations against the racial and highly bigoted language' used by Mirza. His remarks and his discreditable apology signify the larger thinking of the Pakistan People's Party leadership and show where their hearts, and real interests, lie: in elections. Just as the PPP has in the last three and a half years been singularly focused on completing its terms–governance, the people and all other incidentals be damned–now too, with elections drawing closer, they're only focused on votes. Hence, statements like "Sindh will be divided over my dead body" are aimed at rousing nationalistic sentiments and helping the PPP emerge as the true defender of Sindh. The irony is that most analysts had expected Nawaz Sharif to ultimately use the ethnic card and cause trouble but, as it turns out, it's the PPP that seems to have decided to nudge the country towards ethnic strife, starting with Karachi.
While PPP leaders and ministers have tried to distance themselves from Mirza's statements, the truth is that he has only put into words what is the PPP leadership's overall attitude. But the PPP government must not forget that such raucous, ugly outbursts are usually delivered from a position of weakness and anxiety, and not strength. Governments normally bring out the dog whistles when they are faltering. No one expected democracy to be an immediate panacea to the problems of Pakistan or Karachi. But neither did anyone expect such a hasty return to the terrible days of the 1980s – or imagine that democracy would become the leaders' revenge against the people.
I. THE NEWS
After all efforts to resolve outstanding differences proved futile, the government has decided to accept the resignation of Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Shahid Kardar. He is the third SBP governor to leave office under the current administration and the second to resign prematurely. Institutional politics, differences with the government over borrowings at high commercial interest rates from a select group of banks, and large allocations to the highly political Benazir Income Support Fund are some of the reasons that seem to have pushed Kardar out. But all the grandiose causes aside, it seems Kardar has paid for not compromising on principles. What his detractors are calling a "stubborn attitude" is Kardar's unwillingness to compromise on the autonomy of the State Bank. In his short tenure as the SBP governor, he was known for his open opposition to what he considered poor fiscal management on the government's part, especially its failure to contain a widening deficit, which was six percent of gross domestic product in the fiscal year ending June 30. The bimonthly monetary policy announcements from the central bank under Kardar's tenure always contained scathing criticisms of the finance ministry's mismanagement of the economy.
Like his predecessor Salim Raza, Kardar too had difficulty persuading members of the federal cabinet to tame state-owned enterprises and implement economic reforms, including expanding the tax net, as per promises made to the International Monetary Fund. The timing of the resignation of a professional and competent economist such as Kardar could not have been worse – the government is about to enter into negotiations with the IMF later this month for the restoration of the $11.3 billion bailout programme. It is almost certain that his resignation will now pave the way for the appointment of a "loyal" head of the central bank; someone more willing to support ill-thought policies initiated by the government.
MUMBAI ALL OVER AGAIN
AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
Terror struck Mumbai at 6:50 pm on Wednesday. Within an hour Ram, a regular follower of my ramblings, posted this message on my Facebook page: "Terrorists have caused mayhem in Mumbai. Can you write against it in the same manner you castigated (sic) Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts? Why you are not uttering a single word when bomb blasts happened against Hindus? Empty rhetoric is not enough sir! Please write specifically against Muslim terrorism that has caused maximum damage in India."
I read Ram's message on my BlackBerry even as I watched the horror unfold in Mumbai on television. The feisty Barkha Dutt of NDTV was already on air doing what she does best – grilling politicians and officials on the events of the day.
Her persistent quizzing of eye witnesses to the serial blasts on Wednesday in her now familiar, I-am-right-there-with-you manner reminded me of another time and another tragedy – the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Barkha earned herself many a plaudit for her reporting of 26/11, and justifiably so.
She was clearly hoping to repeat the performance. And she wasn't alone. It was Mumbai mayhem all over again and the media was out to sink in its teeth in the biggest news story of the day after weeks of endless droning on about corruption and Mamohan Singh's cabinet expansion.
I felt sick in the pit of my stomach as I watched the chaos on TV with those fleeting images of bodies lying around and half naked, bloodied victims crying out in pain. Were they Hindus or Muslims? Who knows? Who cares? They all looked the same. Their pain was the same. And as I watched the number of casualties slowly rise, I prayed silently: God, please, please...let it not be another 26/11! Let it not be another outrage in our name! Please, not in our name again!
My fears were not unwarranted though. The media – and friends like Ram – had already concluded that this was a crime by "Muslim terrorists" from across the border or their ready army of recruits within India.
Within minutes of the blasts, a somber NDTV reporter was telling the presenters in Delhi that Indian Mujahedin and Lashkar-e-Taiba were likely behind the attacks. Who had concluded that – and how? How could you determine the guilt for something like this even as the victims were being rushed to hospitals?
As my numbed mind half registered these fleeting facts, I grieved for Mumbai and its never-say-die people who are punished again and again for making this amazing city, which embraces everyone's dreams, their home.
And my eyes kept returning to the accusing message on my phone. I reached out to key in a swift reply, as I often tend to do, but checked myself. Someone inside me suggested I shouldn't dignify such accusations with a response. But Ram isn't like any other reader. I've known him now for some years. He doesn't just dutifully follow my rants but often writes back, clearly hoping to reform my corrupt self. And I respect his candid feedback and disagreement.
This is why it hurt to see that even reasonable people like him thought this way. God knows we Muslims are no saints. We have our share of warts and all. But is it fair to put us in the dock every time something like this happens in Mumbai – or elsewhere in India? We are not the only sinners around.
Why are no questions raised about the possible involvement of Abhinav Bharat and the RSS men whose fingerprints have been discovered in the recent terror attacks across India, from Hyderabad's historic Mecca Masjid to the popular Sufi shrine in Ajmer to the cross-border Samjhauta Express.
Only last month, the National Intelligence Agency had announced the charge-sheeting of top RSS apparatchik Swami Aseemanand and four of his associates in all these cases. Yet no theories were forthcoming from television pundits on the possibility of Hindu groups executing these strikes to avenge those arrests.
And God knows – and my regular readers would agree – that even as I often tend to talk about the concerns and grievances of Muslims, I have been one of the fiercest critics of my own kind. From confronting rising extremism within Muslim societies to the corruption and ineptitude of 'Muslim leaders' and our tendency to forever live in the past, I have covered it all – often ending up angering my fellow believers and ruffling the powers that be.
And yes, I have also written ad nauseam, for what it's worth, condemning terrorist violence attributed to Muslims in the strongest possible terms. From my scathing piece following the 7/7 London bombings, "Not in our name, no!" to numerous others protesting the attacks targeting religious minorities and innocent Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Just Google and see; it only takes seconds to check. Indeed, why go that far. Just look up the article protesting the terror strikes on Mumbai three years ago. Titled "No time to hide for Muslims," it offered a much needed reality check for Pakistan and said what needed to be said about the dangerous lunacy of characters like Hafez Saeed of Lashkar.
Understandably, the article, reproduced by Germany's Der Spiegel and Hindustan Times, upset many of my close friends from across the border who are conscious of the mess they have made of Jinnah's Pakistan but wouldn't like it rubbed in by people like us. And it's not just this humble hack but eminent Islamic scholars and intellectuals, including those from the revered Al Azhar Sharif, have described violence targeting innocents as a grave sin against Islam and humanity. Sheikh Sudais, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, went to the extent of saying that extremists and suicide bombers will all "burn in hell."
So please spare us these sanctimonious lectures telling us to "condemn Muslim terrorism." And why should a community of 200 million – indeed the whole Islamic world – stand up and hang its head in shame every time a bomb goes off somewhere? What does it mean? This mindset doesn't just reveal a predictable ignorance of our reality but also betrays a condescending attitude towards Muslims that permeates the whole of the Indian media and intellectual establishment.
Every time something awful happens somewhere, the first thing police do is round up young Muslims from the neighbourhood. This charade has gone on for so long that you have Muslim intellectuals and talking heads forever rushing to television studios to condemn whatever they are supposed to condemn.
It's this mindset that makes Muslims strangers in their own country despite having lived in this land for a thousand years. How long are we supposed to bear the cross of the Partition and the creation of Pakistan? Why should we prove our loyalty to the country time and time again? Why is it that no one ever questions the loyalty of those who butchered over 2,000 people in Gujarat nine years ago?
We love India and are loyal to this great land as much as the next Indian. Nobody has any right to lecture us on patriotism. We are no longer prepared to stand out there and take this nonsense every time someone runs amok.
Terror knows no faith and terrorists believe in no religion. Whether we're Muslims, Hindus, or Christians, we are all its victims. Indeed, if it's any consolation, more Muslims have been killed, and continue to be killed daily in scores, by those so-called Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. We only end up advancing the terrorists' agenda when we target a faith or community for the actions of a few black sheep.
The writer is based in the Gulf. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I. THE NEWS
US AND INTERNATIONALISM
At least we now know Pakistan's standing with the US government: slightly above Burkina Faso but below Outer Mongolia. Recent statements about Pakistan by central figures in Washington have made it clear that the US demands and expects nothing but total obedience and subservience from those nations unfortunate enough to be associated with it. It's similar to the way Rupert Murdoch has treated successive British governments – with a combination of insolent menace and patronising disdain.
US international influence is immense, but Washington chooses to ignore the fact that power should involve responsibility. It is apparent that internationalism is acceptable to the US government only if America's authoritarian dominance is unquestioned.
On July 10 the New York Times reported that "the Obama administration is suspending and, in some cases, cancelling hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Pakistani military, in a move to chasten Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and to press its army to fight militants more effectively." The story was fed to the NYT by the usual anonymous sources who were "congressional, Pentagon and other administration officials granted anonymity to discuss the politically delicate matter." In other words, the campaign of anti-Pakistan invective has the direct authorisation of Mr Obama and Congress. The gloves are off, and outright bullying is official policy.
But the discarded gloves of Washington are somewhat bloodstained. Take, for example, the case of the CIA 'contractor' Raymond Davis who went free after murdering two Pakistani citizens. This squalid affair encapsulated Washington's attitude to internationalism and to Pakistan in particular. Imagine what would have happened if an ISI employee – or any foreigner – had shot dead two Americans on the streets of New York. There would have been hysteria throughout the country, and not the slightest possibility that the killer might ever be released. The frenzy of the media and Congress would have equalled the post 9/11 passion. But the CIA can, with impunity, kill people on the streets of a nation which the US treats as a petty puppet, even going so far as to proclaim that the Pakistan Army does not fight militants "effectively", which is not just grossly insulting, but also sheer nonsense.
Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002, before which Pakistan had no suicide bombings and no insurrection in the tribal areas or Taliban terror attacks in its cities, the army has suffered the deaths of over 3,000 soldiers at the hands of extremists, which is double the number that the US has had killed in Afghanistan. And now Pakistan has over 140,000 troops in the west of the country fighting a war that was caused directly by the influx of militants from Afghanistan after the US Crusade.
The current instability in Pakistan is almost entirely the responsibility of the US whose politicians and generals whine that Pakistan is "not doing enough" and which intends to "press its army to fight militants more effectively." (The Pakistan army's decisive defeat of the Taliban in the Swat region in 2009 is ignored because it doesn't fit in with the propaganda.)
The insults don't stop at accusing Pakistan's soldiers of incompetence. The senior military figure in the US, Admiral Mullen, appeared intent on denigrating the country's leaders with his bizarre declaration that the vile murder of Saleem Shahzad, the brilliant investigative journalist, "was sanctioned by the government" of Pakistan. This is a statement with grave implications of criminality. The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has made a public proclamation to the effect that the government of Pakistan authorises murder. To make such an important pronouncement requires solid intelligence, so incontrovertible evidence must exist that details precisely how and by whom Saleem Shahzad was killed, and on exactly whose orders the murder was committed.
The crime has international connotations, in that one country has declared another responsible for an action that is patently in violation of the principles of International Law, because the alleged offending nation, Pakistan, could be guilty of a crime against humanity. So International Law and procedures should now be invoked, and the evidence that has been gathered by the United States must be produced to the world at large.
The problem is that the US detests internationalism. The International Court and the United Nations Organisation are anathema to Washington which does as little as possible to further their objectives. Take, for example, UN peacekeeping.
Pakistan has 9,582 soldiers serving with UN peacekeeping missions worldwide. Guess how many the US has on such duty. Go on -10,000, perhaps? That would be a reasonable number. But perhaps it's not quite so many. Maybe half that would be a better guess, given American troop deployments at over 800 bases all round the world. So could we suggest 5,000? We could, but we would be wrong, because the United States of America, with military forces totalling 1,477,896, contributes exactly thirteen uniformed personnel to UN global peacekeeping. This, alone, is a clear indication of Washington's approach to its international responsibilities.
But in spite of the US attitude, let there be an independent UN inquiry into the death of Saleem Shahzad. It could run concurrently with an International Criminal Court investigation of the murders committed by Mr Ray Davis. That would demonstrate real international accountability by all concerned. Are you holding your breath?
The writer is a South Asian affairs analyst. Website: www.beecluff.com
I. THE NEWS
DELHI UNIVERSITY ON THE BRINK
'Universities besieged anywhere impoverish universities everywhere'
(Graffiti on campus)
Delhi University (DU), one of India's premier public institutions of higher learning, with 400,000 students and 8000+ teachers spread over 75+ colleges and the school of open learning has been spun into a crisis by its own administration. Soaring eligibility percentages – 'cut-offs' – for admission, triggered though not caused by the flawed April directive from the administration to do away with pre-admission forms, will lead ironically, into an academically diminished University during the 2011-12 session.
Large numbers of teachers, students and non-teaching staff have been complaining over the past few years about over-crowded class rooms, libraries and laboratories, increasing workload in rapidly worsening employment and working conditions, declining student-teacher interactions and falling academic standards and values. Anxieties regarding inordinately high school leaving (CBSE) marks, inadequate state funding, and the uneven spread of quality higher education across the country, and among DU colleges have been repeatedly voiced.
Calls have gone out to college and university administrations to secure and expand employment and infrastructure, including hostels, especially for women, so that problems stemming from admission procedures and 'over admissions' may begin to be addressed without closing all doors to increasing numbers of admission seekers, while taking care that the ratio of reserved to general seats is maintained at new student strengths. Currently, 'over admissions' take place in the general category only, mocking the proportions between reserved and general seats. Teachers have also been demanding thoroughly debated course revisions and a re-appraisal of the internal assessment scheme introduced a few years ago.
Sensitisation campaigns by students and teachers against gender, class, caste, abilities, community and race based discrimination on campus, have also drawn attention to rampant sexual harassment and the violence lurking just under the skin, exploding with increasing frequency in orgies of blood-letting by, and among young men on university streets and in college hostels, messes, canteens, class rooms and corridors. They have forcefully argued for effective intervention by the university and college administrations towards creating an enabling environment in which teaching-learning can happen unhindered and all may benefit equally from the educational opportunities at DU.
Unfortunately, the near silence of the administration on these and other concerns, their refusal to listen and encourage existing debate, multiple ideas and energies from below so that academic reform could come to the university organically, have meant the steady impoverishment of intellectual life at DU.
The crippling blow to DU's academic, intellectual and democratic integrity and standing has come however, over the last two years, from the arbitrary decision of the administration, at the behest of the ministry of human resources development (MHRD), to rapidly and thoughtlessly impose semesterisation on a university the size of DU, swaying to the rhythms of an annual calendar. The head of the elephant – wonderful logo of DU – we were told, must replace the tail and vice versa, no matter what the consequences. No reasons proffered, no questions to be asked, this top-down 'academic reform' had to happen tomorrow though no one seemed to know how.
Out of the blue, leaving existing ills to fester, huge qualitatively new crises have been inflicted on the university. All energies are now being directed at tearing apart a time-tested and academically sound, though by no means perfect annual system of honours teaching. A massive structural change with huge implications for the quality and texture of university life is being rammed through as a decision already taken instead of having been proposed as an idea to be democratically, patiently and open-mindedly discussed by members of the academic community.
Neither the questions raised internationally regarding the assumed superiority of semestered education, especially at the under graduate (UG) level, nor the grave academic, pedagogic and functional concerns articulated by teachers and students regarding semesterisation at DU, have even been acknowledged. No thought has been given to all the strands in the web of university functioning that would need to change – nor to whether this is possible or desirable – if this 'reform' is to truly enrich academic and intellectual pursuits at DU.
Irresponsible and thoughtless adhocism is substituting for preparatory groundwork and well-defined structures. No one seems to know, for instance, how semester-based timetables are to be made or two university wide examinations conducted in one year. Sound decisions questioning semesterisation taken at department general body meetings of teachers from across colleges and the patient brainstorming and 'epic battles' that have given us meaningful syllabi are being rubbished, and teachers forced to improvise course structures, truncate existing papers or cobble together new ones overnight.
If the experience of forced cut-paste semesterisation in the 13 science courses is anything to go by, the prospect of a university-wide debasement of the substance of teaching and learning, a huge spike in alienation and anxiety among students and teachers, the large-scale exclusion of the most vulnerable students through increasing failure and drop-out rates, and unimaginable administrative chaos at the DU stare us in the face, perhaps even the break-up and sacrifice of this university at the altar of commodification.
Worse still, semesterisation, accomplished through attacks on the structures, practices and spirit of democratic functioning has blown a hole through the sense of freedom without which no university can survive.
The conscious and aggressive exclusion of most members of the university community from the processes of 'academic reform', the contempt for debate and the exchange of ideas, the silencing of the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA), the relentless intimidation and harassment of teachers, and the flagrant violation or at best the reduction of democratic procedures to legal niceties by the administration augur ill for the future of rights, autonomy and the rule of law, so central to generating new ideas and ways of being at universities.
Shockingly, even the Delhi High Court (HC), reserving judgement on the issue, has, in partisan orders since November 2010, allowed the DU administration to go ahead with semesteristion while increasingly curbing the rights of teachers to dissent and protest.
With 'dons' armed with emergency powers on the rampage, courts and cops in tow, DU, shrouded in fear, is suffering its biggest possible loss and being destroyed.
The merits or otherwise of semestered education apart, semesterisation at DU, driven by the immediate and long-term needs of capital and state rather than by academic logic and requirements, has brought this university to the brink of academic catastrophe. 'Academic reform', ironically, has been its cry, the vilification of teachers the ruse. The implications for generations of students and employees at DU, and for higher education and democracy everywhere are grave indeed.
The DU teachers' movement, down but not yet out, needs to unshackle thought, speech, debate, writing, the DUTA and collective protest from the fear ruling the university at present. Reaching out beyond DU and across borders, it needs to assert the role of all members of the academic community in re/making the university with the richness of visions and understanding that can only come through free and democratic debate on the web of issues demanding urgent attention.
Until this happens DU will remain vulnerable to the continued imposition of the impoverished truths of the few, like the one that abolished pre-admission forms this year, further compounding the current crisis. The hope lies in that the current silence among teachers, reflecting largely a forced, reluctant complicity with the unconscionable, retains the possibility of distress, critiques, 'no-saying' and progressive visions for education sparking 'springtime of the peoples'.
The dissonant opening notes to 2011-12 may yet hide symphonic harmonies.
The writer is associate professor in History at Ramjas College, University of Delhi. Email: email@example.com
I. THE NEWS
DR QAISAR RASHID
On July 1, Pakistan entered the post-devolution phase. The federation is now beset with three main challenges.
The first challenge is inter-provincial disharmony. The idea of devolution was not only to empower provinces by reducing the powers of the centre there but also to establish inter-provincial harmony. The new situation is more likely to increase inter-provincial discord. Out of the four provinces making up the federation, two are confronted with the issue of their subdivision along linguistic lines. In Punjab, there is a demand for a Saraiki province. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the residents of the Hazara region seek a separate province.
The presence of inter-ethnic conflict is the second challenge. For instance, in Sindh, especially in Karachi and other urban centres, the ethnic tensions are grave and need immediate attention. A month ago, no one could have imagined that the elections in Azad Kashmir would jolt the political arrangement in Pakistan. The MQM, then an ally of the PPP, parted company with the ruling party in a disagreement regarding two Azad Kashmir Assembly seats. The MQM resigned from all government positions. That action was a blow to the central government. Subsequently, a series of serious clashes broke out in Karachi and continued for almost three days, while the police and the Rangers watched as spectators. The situation remains extremely tense with little sign of improvement in the immediate future.
The political dispute between the PPP and the MQM over the Azad Kashmir elections turned into ethnic confrontation between the workers of the ANP and those of the MQM in Karachi. In such a situation, any attempt to exploit ethnic difference for political gains would be loaded with serious repercussions that are bound to weaken not only the province in question but entire federation. Economic deprivation is already a strong factor in the breeding of ethnic disunity in society.
Pakistan's political sphere has three kinds of contenders. There are the large mainstream political parties such as the PPP and the PML-N; political parties based on ethnicity, such as the MQM and the ANP; and religious political parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam, with their different political agendas.
In Pakistan if religion is considered a unifying force, ethnicity is deemed a splitting factor: both ethnicity and religion are potent but have been working at cross-purposes with each other. Both ethnic and religious parties interpret federalism in their own ways. Nevertheless, two features are common between these parties: first, in an effort to be heard both resort to violence; and secondly, both flourished under military regimes. In a way, military rule in the past might have benefited Pakistan economically but it has weakened the federation.
The third challenge is the effects of the absence of local bodies across the country. Under the Constitution, local bodies elections were due in September. The elections were postponed under one pretext or another. No politician realises the fact that people cannot prize democracy at the national level if they do not practise and enjoy the fruits of democracy at the local level. The revival of the commissionerate system and attendant systems in Sindh (through ordinances issued by the acting governor of Sindh on the advice of President Zardari) is less to administer the province more effectively than to penalise the MQM for its decision to leave the treasury benches and join the opposition. This could create unforeseen problems for Pakistan. The federal government has put the whole system at stake. The situation is reminiscent of the imposition of Governor's Rule in Punjab in February 2009 for two months when the Sharif brothers were disqualified by the Dogar court. The action was basically to foil the Punjab government's efforts in support of the lawyers' movement.
One of the reasons of denial of the local bodies to people is that the local government system introduced in 2001 is the legacy of a military dictator, Gen Pervez Musharraf. But the government could have opted for the introduction of its own version of the local bodies system.
Inter-provincial disharmony and inter-ethnic conflict are indicative of the fact that the formation of a homogeneous multi-cultural Pakistan remains a distant dream more than six decades after the independence of the country. The increasing ethno-linguistic differences are blighting the concept of federation. After nearly 64 years of Pakistan's creation, regional and ethnic identities are as strong as ever and one common national identity remains an unrealised objective.
The permanent presence of paramilitary forces such as the Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary for maintenance of law and order in Balochistan and Sindh is not a healthy sign, because it shows that the government is not serious about securing a political solution. These paramilitary forces are meant to be deployed only under special circumstances and for limited periods of time.
The ultimate solution for inter-provincial and intra-provincial disharmony lies in dispensing democracy to people at all tiers of the federation – national, provincial, and local. This is fundamental to their real empowerment.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
I. THE NEWS
IF KARACHI IS TO BE NORMAL AGAIN
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.
If democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people, why do the people of Pakistan under democratic rule feel so desperately helpless? Why is it that after every decade or so a self-proclaimed messiah is able to usurp state control and the people do not prevent such a khaki saviour from appropriating their right to rule themselves? Let us dismiss at the outset the desirability or viability of khaki rule, controlled-democracy, a government of technocrats, the Bangladesh model, or any other concoction of the sort. Let us also reiterate that, no matter how excruciating continuing to suffer the present dispensation might seem, there is no sustainable alternative to supporting continuity of the constitutionally prescribed political process.
But does this automatically mean that we ought to settle for a farce in the name of democracy? Can the majority of a nation meaningfully distinguish between khaki saviours and civilian despots, both of whom unleash dogs of praetorianism upon them? If democratic rule doesn't translate into a system of governance ensuring municipal services to the ordinary citizen, why should he care about it? Will our unquestioning support for civilian autocracy strengthen or weaken democracy? Will we not be liable for complicity if we allow despots to proclaim territories of our country as well as political parties as personal fiefs and lord over them while masquerading as democrats? Will such politics of provincialism and tyranny not discredit the notion of self-governance and rule of law?
How will the ordinary citizen be empowered, his rights upheld and his interests served when political parties are treated as personal estates by their top leadership, sky-high barriers to entry within the political arena pre-empt the emergence of viable alternatives, and law and administrative machinery of the state is used to strengthen the hegemony of existing power brokers? And who will secure the rights of citizens to life and liberty, when patrons of parties already entrenched within a monopolistic political landscape unabashedly claim proprietary rights over territories they believe ought to fall within their dominion?
The mayhem in Karachi is yet another reminder of how our ruling political elites are primarily committed to adding more turf to their respective fiefs by acquiring greater control over state power and means of patronage, abusing power and exploiting public resources to nurture networks of personal patronage, and then using the state's administrative machinery and patron-client networks to protect and defend personal fiefdoms. Karachi is in the throes of an ugly turf war between the MQM, the ANP and the PPP over the extent of exclusive and shared rights to own and exploit Karachi at will. And across Sindh's political spectrum the conduct of actors pointing fingers at one another is hardly distinguishable.
Let us start with the MQM. Here is a political party whose importance and strength emanates from its stranglehold over Karachi and its ability to unleash violence and bring the commercial hub of Pakistan to a grinding halt at will. That MQM chief Altaf Hussain continues to manoeuvre like a puppet this major political party with such significant representation in the Sindh and National Assemblies should be a case study in political science. Unless Altaf Bhai is a saint with unfathomable charisma, the reverence exhibited during his jocular telephone addresses and the complete absence of disagreement and dissent within his party ranks can only be understood in terms of fear.
Speaking to Karachi-wallas in private settings, you'll hear umpteen stories of barbarism attributed to MQM goons and the familiar allegation that this is a "fascist party" whose sustenance lies in its ability and willingness to use violence and extortion as instruments of policy. But you will neither read about concrete allegations that can be brought before a court of law nor hear about them on any of the few dozen news channels. Anyone critical of the MQM and Altaf Bhai is unable to set foot in Karachi, as experienced by Imran Khan during the Musharaf regime. Criminal cases implicating the MQM do not go anywhere. Remember May 12, 2007, and the 45 innocent citizens who lost their lives as violence suddenly erupted across the city while the whole country watched in disbelief?
Continuing to mollycoddle the MQM is no prescription for Karachi's malaise. But the joint PPP-ANP game plan of beating the MQM at its own game by raising competing militias and supporting them by appropriately tweaking Sindh's legal and administrative structures is the recipe of an even bigger disaster. It is claimed that the PPP-MQM alliance was unnatural from the word go. It was only a matter of time that the PPP would try and push the MQM back to its pre-Musharraf zone of influence in Karachi and Hyderabad, a move that the MQM would bitterly resist. And then there is the ANP, whose constituency and power within Karachi has grown manifold over the last decade without a proportionate enhancement of representation within government.
The unfortunate lesson that the PPP and the ANP seem to have learnt from the MQM's rise is to raise their own militant wings, arm them to the teeth and be ready and willing to fight pitched battles across the city in a bid to acquire and control more territory. To add fuel to fire, the PPP has also unleashed the hate-and-prejudice-spewing Zulfiqar Mirza upon Karachi: he not only stands accused of transforming the PPP's Aman (peace) Committees into instruments of violence but also represents the feudal mindset that perceives the title of "badmash" (goon) as a mark of honour. Keeping such a character at the helm could only mean that the PPP-ANP alliance in Sindh has decided to expand the terrain of their respective fiefs within Karachi by cutting the MQM down to size through use of force.
In this backdrop, the logic of introducing retrograde legal and administrative changes by reviving the commissionerate and discarding the Police Order, 2002, becomes obvious. All our political parties supported the 18th Amendment and wrote in Article 140A of the Constitution that each province shall "devolve political, administrative and financial authority to the elected representatives of the local governments." Article 32 of the Constitution already mandates the state to "encourage local government institutions composed of elected representatives of the areas concerned." Now, in utter disregard of these unambiguous provisions, provincial governments in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh have revived the commissionerate system that is based on the conviction that the citizen is unworthy of self-governance.
Be it disregard for an elected local-government system, scrapping a law conceived at transforming a colonial police structure into a citizen-friendly, service-oriented police, or abolishing the constitutional requirement to introduce democracy within political parties, the contempt exhibited by our political party heads for any instrument capable of empowering the ordinary citizen is all too obvious. And this, in turn, underscores the tragedy of democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law in Pakistan.
The only lasting solution to Karachi's ailment is an agreement between all political parties to (i) deconstruct fiefdoms and the reign of terror that sustains them, (ii) de-weaponise and begin to function within the realm of law, and (iii) compete for political control on a level playing field on the basis of superior service delivery. Karachi as the commercial and industrial hub of Pakistan will keep attracting people from all over the country and its demography will continue to change. Unless the MQM, the ANP, the PPP (and even the Jamaat-e-Islami) realise that dividing this sprawling metropolis into fiefs and allocating control and ownership of territories and people on the basis of ethnicity will no longer work, this wretched city will continue to bleed.
I. THE NEWS
MEMO FROM USA
Know the new psychics of America. Their informed powers are not metaphysical but sourced from inspired stories told by dons of the CIA. These cerebral creatures are actually editors and reporters. Post-Bin Laden, their vote on the role of the Pakistani army and the ISI is split. Some newspapers have warned America not to cut off aid, or needle Pakistan, while others have gone for its jugular. In the eye of the storm has been Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, known in his circle as ASP. Many of his detractors, Admiral Mike Mullen included, hoped he would be toast by now. But ASP has pugnaciously stuck to his guns, or rather his job, and refused to allow the press or Mullen to sit in judgment over him. The "sack him" slogan is the weakest out of Islamabad, but the loudest on the pages of the New York Times. For a week before the clarion calls of the world's most influential newspaper for ASP's removal, its Islamabad-/Washington-based correspondents ferreted out damning testimony, albeit from nameless US officers (read, the intelligence agencies) on the ISI and its chief.
Pasha's silence is deafening. But for a measly rebuttal by the army spokesman, the Pakistanis are left to draw their own conclusions on whether the ISI had a hand in the dastardly, brutal slaying of journalist Saleem Shehzad. The US, meanwhile, in a fit of angst, announced it was stopping $800 million worth of aid to the army. The GHQ still didn't lose its cool. Gen Kayani must have in his characteristic style lit up another cigarette, made smoke rings and merely shrugged his shoulders.
But why now has Kayani rushed ASP to Washington DC? Surely not for a picnic by the Potomac? If we lend credence to the "psychics" then we are being told by them while they peer into their crystal balls that Pakistan is desperate for the $800 million dollars cut from its ration card doled by the US. Prime Minister Gilani, who abuses America one day and then turns up at the American ambassador's July 4 celebrations, is now openly lamenting the loss of the aid cut-off.
Is Gilani or, for that matter Zardari, or for that matter Kayani, suffering from schizophrenic symptoms? Pasha's symptoms one cannot diagnose. He rarely opens his mouth.
On the eve of the ISI chief's arrival in Washington earlier this week, the Washington Post and the Financial Times (who must have spied on his travel itinerary) wrote editorials containing warning shots for the Obama administration. The Financial Times ended its op-ed by acknowledging the money crunch faced by America; nonetheless, it forewarned that should Pakistan become a failed state, "explaining a failing Pakistan would be harder still" for America.
The FT's bottom line? Stop this "empty gesture!" Suspending aid has no threat value for Pakistan.
The Washington Post's editorial, headlined "Squeezing Pakistan," echoed the same – that Obama wants an "accelerated" withdrawal of his troops from Afghanistan, but if "Pakistan's government and army can't be counted on to cooperate" against fighting the extremist forces, the US may have to revisit its exit plans.
The WP's bottom line? Pakistan is indispensable.
That said, aid to our army is a hard sell for Obama here in America. Why should we pay? ask the taxpayers. But nobody is concerned about the tripled non-military aid to the Zardari administration. Why is America silent on how the president, prime minister and their cabal of corrupt filching US dollars? Because America's aid to Pakistan is purely of transactional nature – reward and punishment. The US rewards Zardari for his cooperation; it punishes Kayani and Pasha for not always falling in line.
The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: anjumniaz@
GILANI REASSURES SAFETY OF NUCLEAR ASSETS
THE meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) on Thursday was very timely as it took place in the backdrop of a systematic and coherent propaganda campaign orchestrated by the US-led West creating a false impression as if the nuclear assets of the country were not safe and could fall to Taliban or militants any time. As NCA is the relevant platform to discuss such issues and formulate a counter strategy, it was encouraging that the meeting made some of the very pertinent declarations including the one to maintain credible and reliable minimum deterrence and thwart with full force all conspiracies against nuclear programme and nuclear assets.
This, coupled with firm resolve expressed by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to foil designs of enemy, would surely help allay fears and boost morale of the nation. In fact, there is absolutely no question of any threat to the nuclear assets of the country, as there is a world class command and control system in place and it was beyond capacity of any group or country to infiltrate into the system in the presence of multi-layered security arrangements. That the country's nuclear assets are in safe hands is also acknowledged even by the top civilian and military leadership of the United States in their public comments but still deliberate leaks are made to American and Western media to create confusion on the issue. Apart from psycho-war, Americans have also been trying to gather information about Pakistan's nuclear programme through under-cover agents like Raymond Davis and they are now-a-days extremely annoyed over their expulsions. The timing of a letter purportedly written by a North Korean official to legendary Pakistani scientist Dr A Q Khan, full-fledged programme done by VOA on the so-called letter, reports of increased vigilance of Pakistan-related companies in the US and host of reports casting aspersions about Pakistan's ability to safeguard its assets are developments similar to the situation created by the US before launching aggression against Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, an issue on which even the UN was lied and hoodwinked. We are sure that the country has necessary expertise and determination to address all challenges provided fissiparous tendencies are buried deep into ground and attempts are made by all political parties to strengthen unity of the nation.
MIRZA NEEDS TO BE BANNED PERMANENTLY
AT long last, President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday did what he was supposed to do much earlier in the interest of his own party, the province of Sindh and the country. He summoned Senior Minister of Sindh Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza to Islamabad and reportedly imposed a ban on all his political activities. Circumstances also forced Mirza to swallow his bitter and loathsome words as he had to issue a written statement apologizing for his objectionable conduct.
All this was done after a lot of damage was done following a fiery and highly provocative statement made by the Minister a day earlier, which was condemned not only by MQM against whom it was directed but also different segments of the society. No one can assess the damage done but as per media reports at least 17 innocent people lost their lives, dozens of vehicles were set on fire, and Sindh especially Karachi was at standstill as mark of protest against Mirza's derogatory remarks. The situation was saved when MQM chief Altaf Hussain made an appeal to his followers to remain calm and end their protest. We believe that the President has done well by restraining the unbridled Zulfiqar Mirza, whose statements are often devoid of sanity and one may say reflective of some sort of manufacturing fault. We have nothing personal against Dr. Mirza who is otherwise a respectable person and successful business tycoon and whose better half Dr. Fehmida Mirza has earned laurels even from the opposition in her capacity as first Speaker of the Muslim world. But we must bear in mind that the situation in Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular was volatile and cannot afford the luxury of churning out wild remarks that could plunge the city and the country into further chaos. There is already polarization in the city because of presence of a number of hostile interests like mafia of all sorts, parties with conflicting ideologies and programmes, people with different ethnic background, and legal and illegal arms and ammunition. In addition, there are credible reports that foreign hand is also active in spoiling conditions there as insecurity and turbulence in Karachi affects the entire economy and destabilizes the country. Therefore, mere summoning of Mirza to Islamabad and banning him from issuing statements temporarily would not be of much consequence, as the circumstances demand a permanent ban on his political activities and role in PPP's own interest and for the sake of the province and the country.
FULL UN MEMBERSHIP FOR PALESTINE
FOR the first time, it seems, the Arab League is moving in the right direction on the issue of Palestine, as it has declared to formally support the bid by Palestine to seek full membership of the UN. A communiqué issued by AL says it has decided to go to the United Nations to request the recognition of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and to move ahead and request a full membership.
We hope that the League would not rest after making a verbal pledge but take practical steps to realize this objective when the UN General Assembly starts its annual session in September this year. This means intensive diplomatic activity by the Arab League, the OIC and sympathizers of Palestinians to secure the necessary numerical majority at the General Assembly when voting takes place on the request of Palestine. Though mere approval of the General Assembly would not work as the Security Council is also required to endorse the move where sword of a US veto is hanging in balance but the US can be persuaded not to exercise its veto power or abstain from voting especially after a statement last year by President Obama that Palestine could be admitted as a full member by the time the UN meets in September. As for required strength in UNGA, Egypt's U.N. Ambassador, Maged Abdelaziz, told reporters in New York on Thursday that 112 countries now recognise a sovereign Palestinian state and more are expected to do so in the coming months. After admission of South Sudan as new member of the world body, the move needs support of 129 member states to fulfil the condition of two-third majority, which should not be difficult to secure as more and more states are looking increasingly favourably on the idea, largely due to frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and what they see as its recalcitrance over settlements and other issues holding up peace talks.
NO WALK OVER IN N WAZIRISTAN
NEWS & VIEWS
Some of our intelligentsia, politicians and media men, who have infatuation with the US, often remind the nation of dire consequences if Pakistan does not listen to America. The moment the government directed to vacate the Shamsi airbase, the pundits including our own palmed-off galaxy shouted in unison that this would further ratchet up tension between the two countries. After 9/11, when symbols of economic and military might of the sole super power were hit and invincibility of America as a military power was shredded into smithereens, these elements were of the opinion that refusal to join the war on terror would be lethal for Pakistan. Over the years, Pakistan has given tremendous sacrifice while fighting war on terror yet Pakistan is accused of providing safe haven to the militants. A debt-ridden America, whose debt is equivalent to its Gross Domestic Product, is fighting a costly lost Afghan war, and thus decided to make a scapegoat of Pakistan for its collapses in that battle. So awry has gone its Afghan foray that even the world's armies together cannot now extricate America from that quagmire. For America's foibles, failures and shenanigans in Afghanistan, Pakistan has had to suffer the consequences of the Afghan war.
But the US and its allies contend that this tribal agency is the sanctuary of the Afghan Taliban's Haqqani group and its Al Qaeda allies, from where they plan and launch attacks on the American and their allied coalition forces in Afghanistan. But this is a deceit and a big lie. For, the Haqqanis command respect and have unstinted support of all the tribes in the entire eastern Afghanistan, the whole of which are under their complete sway. They need no outside safe havens for planning or staging attacks, as they have their bases inside Afghanistan; they plan their actions there; they launch their attacks from there. And they do it without any hindrance or obstruction, as the whole of the region is practically outside the pale of the occupying armies. If indeed they really deem the Haqqani group the only irritant left to deal with for their Afghan war's success, why have they not secured the eastern region so far? Only a couple of days ago their commanding general in Afghanistan David Petraeus declared that the coalition forces would move in to subdue and capture the region. This means that they have not yet conquered eastern region; so how can they claim North Waziristan being Haqqani group's redoubt, if at all?
The question is what the US and NATO forces have been doing during the last nine years. They claim that they have complete control over the south including Helmand and Kandhar. But President Karazai's half brother Ahmed Wali has been assassinated in Kandahar the other day. In April 2011, Police Chief Khan Mohammed Mujahed was assassinated by his own bodyguard-turned-suicide-bomber. Then in May, one of the most important anti-Taliban commanders in northern Afghanistan, General Daud Daud, was assassinated by a bomb planted in the Takhar's governor's office.
Earlier, in October 2010, Engineer Omar, governor of Kunduz, was blown up by a bomb planted in the floor of the mosque where he used to pray. That point besides, the Foreign Policy website stated: "There were even reports that the United States had considered putting Ahmed Wali on its "kill/capture list," during the heyday of the debate in late 2009 over what to do with corrupt actors in Afghanistan. The dilemma that the U.S. military and NATO had repeatedly confronted, without success, was that Ahmed Wali was at the heart of both the order underpinning the Afghan government in Kandahar and the corrupt, exclusionary dynamics that have fueled much of the insurgency".
So far as Pakistan is concerned, there is a long list of American betrayals and the last of the American effort to humiliate Pakistan is that it has decided to suspend military aid to Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan military has said that they would continue with the ongoing operations with our own resources; and there is a message in this statement. In fact, Pakistan elected leadership should have told America thank you for all you had done and thank you for stopping your aid, and that Pakistan would do without even economic aid with the strings attached. The goal is difficult to achieve but it is possible if we decide to live within our own means by tightening the belts, controlling corruption and wastages, and by leading a life of austerity. With the present state of relations, the prime minister should not have gone to attend the 4th July US celebrations in their Islamabad embassy, and the representation of a minister of the cabinet would have been in order. To make it worse, he also delivered a speech stating that friendly relations and cooperative ties between Pakistan and the United States would continue to grow in diverse fields and greater people-to-people contact.
Yet the White House spokesman chimed that this relationship has never been perfect; but the question is how could it be? Never ever has there been an end to American demands that keep coming in incessantly. All the time the US leadership insists on Pakistan to do more. Actually, the US is very angry with Pakistan since the CIA killer-contractor Raymond Davis was detained here for murdering two Pakistani nationals in broad daylight. The US demanded his release and got him back ultimately. America wanted more visas for CIA agents and it got those too. On the heels of navy SEAL commandoes' raid on the Abbottabad compound, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and a sullen US top military commander Admiral Mike Mullen descended on Islamabad, got together their vassal state's political and military leaders, asked them to swallow the humiliation of the raid, honour the agents on the CIA payroll to spy on the compound. Pakistan has refused to comply with all those unreasonable demands, and it should under no circumstances cave into their pressure.
Today, the nation is confronted with gigantic challenges, both external as well as internal. Externally, a heady super power is sending ominous signals – the 2nd May incident was a prelude. Internally, the nation is hopelessly entangled in a vicious terrorism involving a multiplicity of terrorist forces including foreign proxies, homegrown militants, sectarian fanatics, ethnic firebrands and criminal thugs. Yet, if the US makes any mistake of sending troops to North Waziristan, the entire Pakistani nation will unite to fight shoulder to shoulder with the armed forces against the adventurer. Agents of imperialism should remember that there will be no victory parade by the NATO forces. On the contrary, if other countries of the region start settling their scores, it could end up in a World War III. It is worth mentioning that war between Iraq and Iran lasted for eight years, and Iraq had the support of the US, European countries and the Arab World, yet they had to cut a sorry figure. The Afghanistan project has also failed, and any mistake could be very costly for the US and its allies. However, the government, the opposition and the entire nation should work to rid Pakistan from the US stranglehold, to live honourably and with dignity.
—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.
WARDING OFF DANGERS TACTFULLY
ASIF HAROON RAJA
Both Gen Musharraf and President Zardari went out of the way to accommodate US legal and illegal wishes. They were successfully brainwashed that the chief threat to Pakistan 's integrity and to their rule was from local extremists and not from India and that the US was Pakistan 's well-wisher. To keep our rulers scared and committed to fight militants with full strength, not only aid was made conditional to its performance in war on terror but also sponsored terror attacks were organized against sensitive installations. Attack on GHQ was organized in 2009 to spur Gen Kayani to undertake mother of all battles in South Waziristan . Our rulers have got so fixated with the US fed threat that they have become oblivious to the fact that as against the paltry sum of $10.5 billion allocated for 2002 - 2009, only one-third was received by Pakistan most of which was payment for services rendered. Share of Pak Army was $1.8 billion only. Yearly $1.5 billion Kerry Lugar Bill was meant to rob Pakistan of its sovereignty. In 2010, only $ 179.5 million was received and for 2011, the promised tranche of $300 million has so far not been paid. In the wake of soured relations, $2.7 billion close support fund to Army is suspended. $800 million, catering for previous expenditures incurred has been withheld to punish Army. War on terror has cost Pakistan over $68 billion.
Investments have ceased and economic activity has almost come to a grinding halt due to energy crisis and disturbed security and law and order situation. Human losses are several times more than the collective losses suffered by coalition forces in Afghanistan while social traumas are incalculable. Pakistan is suffering grievously on all counts but our rulers are still clinging to the aprons of haughty USA despite its discriminatory and distasteful behavior. Ten-year war has not only given tremendous experience of fighting guerrilla war to both Army and militants but also has removed inhibitions and fears of each other. The militants could not have continued fighting for so long without external support and safe sanctuaries across the border. In case the militants that had remained loyal to Pakistan and its Army till 2004 are brought back into our loop, they can give a great boost to Pakistan 's defensive effort against twin threat which it faces now in wake of soured relations with USA . If steps are not taken towards de-radicalization, situation will further worsen in coming times since militancy has spread to every nook and corner of the country and have-nots are getting more and more radicalized.
The low intensity conflict (LIC) has caused substantial wear and tear to the weapons & equipment and has also fatigued the troops living away from families and peacetime stations and living amid hazardous environment where life has become cheap. Casualty rate would have been three times higher had the units not perfected drills and adopted innovative techniques to counter the menace of improvised explosive devices and sudden raids on isolated posts in FATA and Swat region. Low intensity conflict training imparted to units and attractive welfare package to troops since 2008 has paid dividends. In order to preserve arms and equipment and to keep the Army battle worthy to confront the real enemy across the borders, there is a definite need to plan its de-induction from restive areas and to hand over counter terrorism responsibility to a separate force under a separate HQ. Counter terrorism force should be created for each major urban centre to deal with urban terrorism.
In 2007, there were active plans to handover frontline security duties to Frontier Corps (FC) and Frontier Constabulary duly trained by the Army and US-UK trainers. Latter had been imparting training to FC men in Warsak and some other locations since 2005. Not only several FC wings were raised to make additional battalions, their scale of weapons and equipment was also enhanced to add to their firepower and to enlarge their scope to carryout defensive and offensive tasks independently. By now, the FC should have been sufficiently trained and enriched with considerable experience to tackle militant threat along the border regions independently. Opinions on war on terror whether it is our war or someone else's war, and whether militants are terrorists with whom no talks should be held are sharply divided. Those claiming that it is not our war far exceeds those who think on the lines of USA . This division in perceptions is to the advantage of militants and disfavors security forces embattled with militants.
It will be incorrect to assume that both external and internal intelligence shields are to be provided entirely by ISI. The ISI's primary responsibility is to act as a first line defence against external threats and its internal wings primarily keeps a watch on anti-state elements and performs counter intelligence duties. Its political wing created by ZA Bhutto does dip into political affairs of the country, which is undesirable. The IB, Special Police, FIA and CID all under Ministry of Interior are principally responsible for internal security but have somehow taken up a backseat and left everything to the ISI. Notwithstanding the urgent need to bring greater harmony between different agencies and to harness all intelligence resources and bringing them under one roof for national level coordination, there is a need to define the areas of responsibility and scope of each agency to avoid of duplication of work.
The US devised an effective homeland security system which helped in thwarting 9/11 type recurrence. In 10 years, no serious terrorist incident has occurred in USA . Likewise, Europe has also put in place modern techniques to prevent terrorism. Other than bombings in Madrid and London , no major terror incident has taken place in any European country. Even India has improved its security system. On the contrary, Pakistan which is the worst victim of terrorism has yet to devise a credible homeland security system to foil acts of terror. Series of cross border attacks from Afghanistan have occurred recently to give an impression that Afghan Taliban are carrying out reprisal attacks to avenge OBL's death. The Afghan Taliban have so far stuck to their policy of directing their activities against occupation forces in Afghanistan only and not to meddle in Pakistan affairs despite efforts of foreign agencies and RAAM based in Kabul to create rift. The revenge phobia is confined to Pakistan only where TTP aligned with al-Qaeda has carried out several reprisal attacks at its own and at the behest of foreign powers.
The US promises enduring strategic partnership but its acts do not match its words since it has been treating Pakistan as an ally as well as a target. Of late it has become antagonist. Pakistan needs to carryout postmortem of its ten-year alliance with USA and determine whether it proved beneficial or harmful. If it is evaluated that the US has been using Pakistan to serve its own interests only and harbors ill designs against Pakistan , we need to determine whether we continue with this self-destructive conformist policy or radically change it or suitably modify it? In case it is concluded that there is a definite need for re-assessing our relationship, we need to determine whether our future policy will be confrontationist or pragmatic so as not to out-rightly antagonize USA till its departure in 2014. Given the tense geopolitical situation, fragile economy, unstable political conditions and restive home front, further degradation of our relations will be least desirable and will amount to playing into the hands of India, Israel and militant forces desiring Pak-US clash. Tactful handling will be required to ward of looming dangers but not at the cost of compromising Pakistan 's sovereignty and dignity.
—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.
US PRESSURE TACTICS — MUMBAI BLASTS
LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
On July 13 evening three bomb blasts have been reported in the crowded Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazar areas of Indian financial hub "Mumbai" In these blasts 21 killed and more than 113 individuals have been injured. Indian government put New Delhi and other states capitals on high alert. According to an eyewitness the fire has been brought under control in Zaveri Bazar. Home Ministry has confirmed the serial blasts in Mumbai. Union Home Secretary RK Singh spoke to CNN-IBN and said, "I have spoken to DGP and Chief Secretary. Chief Secretary will get back to us with details. No confirmation about the intensity of blast."
Meanwhile an unknown Mujahideen Organization and Ultra leftist militants of Nexlites movements have claimed the responsibilities of blasts and said that Maoists people are determined to fighting against occupied Indian Security Forces. Earlier in the last week of June 2011, Maoist freedom fighters killed six policemen in two separate attacks in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The ultra-leftist fighters normally are using dense jungle for their activities. In the same week of June they entrenched deep in jungles across a swathe of northern and eastern India only in one Maoists area in one incident, four policemen died when their vehicle hit a landmine in the rich iron ore area of Kirandul, 415 kilometers from the state capital Raipur. It is mentionable here that Maoists struggle has become now uncontrolled and spreading vastly in the Maoist area despite brutal actions of security forces against them. It is notable here that as result of security forces' actions the death toll till January 2011 has been rose up to 1250, whereas was till the end of 2010,a recorded dead were 1,169 . The Maoist movement, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption, and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas of India and has completely been converted into freedom movement. However Indian political leadership does not accept this movement a movement of liberators. In this connection while addressing a meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the insurgency India's main internal security threat. In my opinion rocking of Mumbai and Maoist claim are not interlinked since attacking Mumbai now could be aiming on;
(Firstly) Sabotaging Indo-Pak Dialogue Process. The Mumbai has been rocked by the unknown terrorists when recently Indio-Pakistan bilateral negotiations have been resumed after couple of years. In this regard, the Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India met in Islamabad, on 23-24 June 2011 for bilateral talks on Peace and Security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges. In this connection three sessions of talks have already been held. It was well known fact that the stated talks were held in a frank and cordial atmosphere and both sides reiterated their intention to carry forward the dialogue process in a constructive and purposeful manner. Thus, blasting of Mumbai in this time frame is a mere try of leveling ground for those anti Pakistan forces who are interested to sabotage Indo-Pakistan recent talks. The regional security environment has become a real threat to the peace. It's U.S who has the intentions to stay in this region for her evil design of capturing Central Asian resources and sale her weaponry to Indo-Pak.
(Secondly) U.S. Pressure Tactics Pakistan. Clear cut cracks between Pak-U.S. relations have been noticed after unilateral U.S action of OBL killing. Washington has started blaming Pakistani intelligence agency for hiding Osama in Abbottabad'. Thus , the relations between two countries further deteriorated when Americans asked Pakistan to carry out operations in the area of Pentagon's choice in Waziristan. But Pakistan refused to carry out the operations as per American designs. The same has become the bone of contention between two frontline allies of war on terror. Pakistan has changed visa policy for American security personals and trainers and dispatched hundreds of them back to U.S. The worst kind of anti Pakistan blame game has been launched in American and western media. Meanwhile, U.S. has refused to provide the military aid of 800 million dollars to Pakistan. However, political and military leaders took a courageous stand and refused to come under pressure for the aid of some millions. On July 13, 2011, ISI chief General Ahmad Shuja Pasha has also carried out one day visit of Washington. The purpose of his visit was to exchange of intelligence sharing on war of terror. According to the media reports, at this occasions U.S offered for restoration of military aid if Pakistan Government Issue visa to the personal of U.S. security forces and trainers. At this occasion, Pakistani political and military top brass has refused to come under American pressures and decided to stand by for her national interest. Thus, to put more pressurize Pakistan, American probably has started attacking Pakistan on various fronts like attacking Pakistani western border while using Afghan forces and local elements. US carry out sabotage activities in various cities through notorious agency CIA and then later on starts alleging Pakistan for militancy in India. Mumbai blast of July 13, 2011 is one of the worst activities of CIA in which 13 innocents' persons. The sole purpose of Mumbai blast could be to involve Pakistan in the attack, widen gulf between Pakistan and India, forcing Pakistan to implement American agenda in war on terror.
Concluding, I would like to say that leadership of Indo-Pak should display patience against such type of blasts and must try to read the underline and should display unity to fight back regional terrorism and stand against untidily against any foreign invasion in the region. Pakistani president, Prime Minister and interior minister have condemned the Mumbai blast.
CHINESE MEGA PROJECTS IN PAKISTAN
MALIK M ASHRAF
China has played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties between them. The first major initiative in this regard was the setting up of Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila; a project of immense importance that nudged the process of industrial development in Pakistan and continues to contribute to the overall progress of the country in a big way. The construction of KKH Highway, termed as the eighth wonder of the world not only laid the foundation for an infallible and eternal friendship between the two neighbours but also generated tremendous economic activity in Gilgit-Baltistan besides boosting trade between the two countries.
Currently China is working on a plan for the up-gradation of KKH at an approximate cost of $500 million and in building 165 Km Jaglot-Skardu and 135 KM Thakot-Sazin roads in Gilgit-Baltistan at a cost of Rs.45 billion. China would pay 85% of the cost while Pakistan will contribute 15%. A rail link between the two countries is also envisaged to be built. Besides these monumental projects, China is also helping Pakistan to tide over the energy crisis. Currently the Chinese are working on 15 mega projects in the energy sector in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. A very significant project in hand is the upraising of the Mangla Dam reservoir by sixty feet. As part of resettlement of the dam affectees, the Chinese firm, International Water and Electric Corporation ( CIW&EC) is also working on the construction of a bridge over Jhelum river in the same area. Another very vital project is Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Power Project which aims at diversion of the water of Neelum river through a tunnel into Jhelum river, at a cost of US$12.6 billion.
The Chinese are also entrusted with the responsibility to commission Kohala Power Project at a cost of US$ 2.155 billion with a capacity to generate 1050 MW of electricity. China's Three Gorges Project Corporation is constructing Diamir-Bhasha Dam on the Indus river with a total investment of US$ 12.6 billion. In addition to these undertakings the Chinese firms are also working on six other mega power projects in Gilgit-Baltistan that include : US$7.8 billion Dasu Hydropower Project, US$ 70 million Phandar Project, US$ 40.01 million Bashu Hydropower Project, US$ 44.608 million Harpo Hydropower Project and US$ 6 billion Yulbo Hydropower Project. China is also investing an amount of US$ 300 million in housing, communication sectors. The Indians are very wary of Chinese involvement in development projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir and view it as a calculated move to build Chinese influence in these areas, a charge vehemently dismissed by China. China is also helping Pakistan in the nuclear power sector. A nuclear power plant at Chashma with a power generating capacity of 330 MW of electricity has already been completed and integrated with the National Grid recently and two more similar plants are scheduled to be completed by 2016-17. The agreement for these projects was signed on June 8, 2010 during President Zardari's visit to China, notwithstanding the fact that US raised objections on the nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The Chinese brushed aside the apprehensions on this account by informing the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) during its meeting at Christchurch, of its decision to build Chashma IV and V in Pakistan. In the backdrop of US-India agreement for cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear technology, which Pakistan views as a discriminatory act, the Chinese help assumes a great significance and reflects the strength of friendship between the two countries. These two plants are part of the PAEC programme to generate 8800 MW of nuclear power for the country to supplement other sources of power generation. An arrangement for soft Chinese loan to fund the construction has also been inked. The participation of China in exploiting copper reserves at Sandak and the development of Gawadar Port in Balochistan, though not liked by some regional and international powers, are undertakings of immense economic benefit to the people of the province and the overall development of Pakistan.
The trade between the two countries has also been expanding. China is the fifth largest source for Pakistani imports. The bilateral trade between the two countries touched US $7 billion mark in 2008.Under a five year programme lunched in 2006 this volume is proposed to be enhanced to $ 15 billion by 2012. In the past few years, the Chinese have made an investment of US$ 1.3 billion in Pakistan. A number of Chinese companies are working in the oil and gas, IT, Telecom, Engineering, and mining sectors.
As is evident, China has made an unfathomable contribution to the economic progress of Pakistan and with the completion of the new ventures, especially in the energy sector, Pakistan can rightly aspire for an era of sustainable economic growth in the country. It is an irrefutable reality that relations between Pakistan and China have been growing from strength to strength irrespective of who was in power in Pakistan. However the exponential expansion in these relations during the present regime reflects a marked departure from our perennial propensity to look up to the West, particularly US for our security and economic progress.
The enhanced economic, political and strategic cooperation between China and Pakistan will contribute immensely to warding off the lurking dangers and consolidating the gains of the efforts made for changing the economic situations of the people of both the countries. This renewed and vigorous engagement between the two countries is an encouraging development as it will greatly benefit Pakistan by re-invigorating commercial and industrial activities and creating new jobs. This might also restore the confidence of the international community in Pakistan as a safe place to invest.
TECHNOLOGY & GROWING INCOME GAP
Until now, the relentless march of technology and globalisation has played out hugely in favour of high-skilled labour, helping to fuel record-high levels of income and wealth inequality around the world. Will the endgame be renewed class warfare, with populist governments coming to power, stretching the limits of income redistribution, and asserting greater state control over economic life? There is no doubt that income inequality is the single biggest threat to social stability around the world, whether it is in the United States, the European periphery or China. Yet it is easy to forget that market forces, if allowed to play out, might eventually exert a stabilising role. Simply put, the greater the premium for highly skilled workers, the greater the incentive to find ways to economise on employing their talents.
The world of chess, with which I am closely familiar, starkly illustrates the way in which innovation in the coming decades may have a very different effect on relative wages than it did over the past three decades. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a brilliantly inventive chess-playing "automaton" toured the world's capitals. "The Turk" won games against the likes of Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin, while challenging many great minds to penetrate its secrets. Concealing a human player in a shifting compartment amid a maze of impressive-looking gadgetry, it took decades for outsiders to correctly guess how the Turk really worked.
Today, the scam has been turned on its head: chess-playing machines pretend to be chess-playing humans. Desktop-based chess programs have considerably surpassed the best human players over the past decade, and cheating has become a growing scourge. The French chess federation recently suspended three of its top players for conspiring to obtain computer assistance. (Interestingly, one of the main ways to uncover cheating is by using a computer program to detect whether a player's moves consistently resemble the favoured choices of various top computer programs.)
Of course, there are many other examples of activities that were once thought exclusively the domain of intuitive humans, but that computers have come to dominate. Many teachers and schools now use computer programs to scan essays for plagiarism, an ancient transgression made all too easy by the Internet. Indeed, computer-grading of essays is a surging science, with some studies showing that computer evaluations are fairer, more consistent, and more informative than those of an average teacher, if not necessarily of an outstanding one. Expert computer systems are also gaining traction in medicine, law, finance, and even entertainment. Given these developments, there is every reason to believe that technological innovation will lead ultimately to commoditization of many skills that now seem very precious and unique.
My Harvard colleague Kenneth Froot and I once studied the relative price movements of a number of goods over a 700-year period. To our surprise, we found that the relative prices of grains, metals and many other basic goods tended to revert to a central mean tendency over sufficiently long periods. We conjectured that even though random discoveries, weather events and technologies might dramatically shift relative values for certain periods, the resulting price differentials would create incentives for innovators to concentrate more attention on goods whose prices had risen dramatically. Of course, people are not goods, but the same principles apply. As skilled labour becomes increasingly expensive relative to unskilled labour, firms and businesses have a greater incentive to find ways to "cheat" by using substitutes for high-price inputs.
The shift might take many decades, but it also might come much faster as artificial intelligence fuels the next wave of innovation. Perhaps skilled workers will try to band together to get governments to pass laws and regulations making it more difficult for firms to make their jobs obsolete. But if the global trading system remains open to competition, skilled workers' ability to forestall labour-saving technology indefinitely should prove little more successful than such attempts by unskilled workers in the past. The next generation of technological advances could also promote greater income equality by levelling the playing field in education. Currently, educational resources — particularly tertiary educational resources (university) — in many poorer countries are severely limited relative to wealthy countries, and, so far, the Internet and computers have exacerbated the differences.
— Courtesy: The Japan Times
ROBUST, VIBRANT MEDIA IS VITAL FOR DEMOCRACY
AT a moment when the nation faces some particularly difficult choices, we are reassured to know that the relationship between politicians and the press is in such rude health.
A Prime Minister struggling to win public support for a controversial reform has taken out her frustration on journalists, accusing them of writing too much "crap". The leader of a minor party holding the balance of power is uncomfortable with public scrutiny and demands the media submit to greater external control. A populist Opposition Leader sidesteps difficult questions as newspapers such as this one delve beneath his rhetorical flourish for evidence of credible public policy. Meanwhile, the fourth estate, overtaken by its competitive instincts, is disputing the high ground, fueling a vigorous public debate about the proper role of the press. So far so good, for if peace were declared between politicians and journalists or a truce signed between professional rivals, the public would have cause for alarm. At The Weekend Australian, which has been speaking its mind to politicians since 1964, this has been just another week at the office. We hold those who aspire to lead the nation in high esteem and enjoy cordial relations with most, but they would be unwise to see us as their friends. In our first edition, we put them on notice that we would be beholden to no political party, and we have kept our word.
The scandal engulfing the British media is a reminder, however, that journalists are not above the law. There is no criminal immunity for journalists, nor for a publisher who disregards the responsibilities of corporate governance. The corruption of journalism at the News of the World (owned by News International, a British subsidiary of News Corporation, which publishes this newspaper) is deeply worrying but the folly of the competitive London press is a lesser threat to democratic values than a meek, monocultural media. Laws have been broken, privacy invaded and trust abused but these incidents are being dealt with in the full glare of the public eye. Inquiries will apportion blame and ask why the police failed to pursue the case. Where internal and official inquiries failed to reveal the extent of the problem, prolonged scrutiny from rival media has.
The London tabloids are known for a fierce competition that has fostered great energy, innovation and entertainment, as well as pushed journalistic practices right up to, and sometimes over, the edge. In Australia, competition in the newspaper market is less frenetic but we have seen a similar journalistic jousting between the commercial television current affairs programs. However, attempts to draw parallels between London and Australian newspapers are misplaced, although this has not stopped our commercial rivals at Fairfax, and the publicly funded ABC, from attempting to settle old scores by conflating the NOTW with this newspaper's robust reporting. Our rivals have used our ownership structure rather than the quality of our newsrooms to campaign against us. Fairfax newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne have demonstrated a peculiar fascination for the story, repeatedly putting it on their front pages. At the ABC, there have been blatant attempts to use the revelations to undermine the work of all Murdoch-owned media entitities. One ABC radio presenter called the closure of the NOTW the "triumph of good over evil". Really? Former editor of The Age Michael Gawenda, warns that a sober approach is required rather than gloating from rivals that could damage the standing of journalism.
The subtext to much of this criticism is that a commercially successful, global corporation such as News cannot practice good journalism. Implicit in the attacks by people such as Greens leader Bob Brown is that the profit motive corrupts. We are not surprised he should see special virtue in publicly funded media, and not just because of the favourable treatment he and colleagues enjoy on the ABC. While anti-populism is considered a virtue by some at the ABC, contempt for the consumer is a luxury the commercial sector can never afford. Unlike the ABC's audience, our readers hold the ultimate sanction, the power to cancel their subscription, which ensures we answer to them, not the powerful.
Critics of our commercial success spend far too much time analysing our motives. Indeed, much of what passes for journalism these days indulges in a postmodern analysis of the media, with young reporters more interested in deconstructing the stories than finding them. Good newspapers pride themselves on obtaining fresh information, revealing facts and describing what is happening in the world. We do this not by hacking phones but by walking the streets, asking people questions and checking facts. We have ultimate faith in our readers, who will use this information to form their own views and make their own decisions. This is the philosophy that has enabled this newspaper to report from the leading edge on a range of issues from children overboard to the home insulation fiasco. Journalists are constantly slighted for going too far in pursuit of stories, yet their job is to hone their skills to bring relevant information to the public.This is a complex issue, and the tension between freedom of information, the public interest, privacy and good taste cannot be resolved by regulation or legislation. It relies on the good judgment and moral conviction of individual journalists and their editors, with the ultimate test being the public interest. Again, that test is inherently subjective and decisions taken by journalists are subject to challenge in the court of public opinion, where a newspaper's reputation is enhanced or broken.
It is nothing new. In 1987, a phone conversation between then Victorian Liberal leader Jeff Kennett and federal Liberal frontbencher Andrew Peacock was intercepted electronically by a political activist group. They ensured the conversation was reported in The Sun and elsewhere, leading to Mr Peacock's sacking. In August 2007, an ABC journalist sparked a political furore when he revealed his version of a conversation with then federal treasurer Peter Costello, conducted two years earlier and agreed to be off-the-record. This week, we have learned new details about the alleged hacking of Labor Party files by journalists, including senior editors at The Age. A similar public interest test applies to the publication by Fairfax of WikiLeaks documents and the lionising of Julian Assange. His trove of secrets has come from files allegedly pilfered by US soldier Bradley Manning. Through these WikiLeaks actions, confidences have been breached, official secrets revealed and laws allegedly broken. We do not dispute that some of the material has been in the public interest but there are legitimate questions about the mass release of documents, some of which had the potential to put people's lives at risk. This is not to draw a moral equivalence with phone hacking except to remind readers about the extensive grey areas journalists confront every day. Stepping over the line is justified only in extreme cases when there is no other way of recovering material in the public interest.
Finally to the serious allegation aired on ABC TV's7.30 program on Thursday that The Australian and other News Limited newspapers have subverted professional judgment to campaign for regime change in Canberra. A review of our editorials since the federal election, which can be found on our website, is enough to put paid to that suggestion. The fate of a government is decided on the floor of parliament and so long as Julia Gillard can command a majority there, she remains Prime Minister. Robust scrutiny of government is, however, the responsibility of journalists. For politicians or other critics to sully this work by apportioning an imaginary motive of regime change is as insulting as it is desperate. Readers know we have worked assiduously to track accountability in the expenditure of taxpayers' funds. Investigations into the home insulation scheme, the school halls program and the NBN have uncovered matters of legitimate public concern. Our journalists have been diligent, ethical and accurate.
News Corporation employs more journalists in the English-speaking world than any other organisation. It tends to promote strong and independent editors, such that many of its mastheads routinely differ on crucial issues. These journalists and their media outlets base their success on a compact of trust with their readers. Calls for greater press regulation, opportunistically made here on the back of the British revelations, should trouble every supporter of democracy. Senator Brown has made no secret of his disdain for this newspaper. We are one of the few organisations prepared to hold the Greens to account as they exercise power with Labor. We will argue against press regulation on the merits of the issue. We will not be intimidated into giving Senator Brown, or anyone else, an easy ride.
LEADERS MUST JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM
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.
BLACK, WHITE AND GREEN ALL OVER
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.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
TRAPPED IN A VORTEX OF DISCONTENT
SOMETHING odd is happening in Canberra. The Federal Parliament has risen for its long winter recess, but the politicians are still hanging around instead of disappearing for their usual ''fact-finding'' tours in warmer parts of the world. As much as we disapprove of out-and-out travel rorts, we do wish our politicos would broaden their minds.
The needle is stuck in the groove of our political discourse, and needs to jump to a new track or at least to a new movement in the present one.
Whether it is because her own political antenna has gone awry, or because she is badly advised, or simply spooked by dreadful opinion polls, Julia Gillard seems to have developed an unfortunate knack of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. This week's descent into pathos - the game but shy girl self-portrayal - inevitably focuses attention on her personality and away from the big, important issue just when things were beginning to go a bit better.
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The deal with Telstra means one potentially iconic achievement, the national broadband network, seems within her government's grasp; she now has the parliamentary numbers to push through the carbon tax; yesterday's big buy by BHP into shale oil is proof enough that new rather than old energy sources are the way of the future.
Moreover, her Monday appearance on the ABC's Q&A program was one of her best, while Tony Abbott has problems of his own with the ever-helpful Malcolm Turnbull, restive backbenchers, and now some hard questions about the financing of his ''direct action'' approach to reducing carbon emissions.
What on earth persuaded Gillard this was a good time for a reprise of the ''real Julia'' gambit? She would do better to stop trying to finesse and spin the political process. It would have been better to announce the carbon scheme while Parliament was sitting, rather than dribbling out leaks, orchestrating a grand announcement just after Parliament rose, and now hoping that frequent appearances will persuade a wary public.
Meanwhile, from the mood Abbott has whipped up, many of us seem to think Armageddon is close at hand. How is it that Australians can feel so hard done by that they imagine themselves "battling" the 0.07 per cent rise a carbon tax will impose on our cost of living, as if the future of Australia as we know it is somehow at stake?
How have we reached this psychological point of "We'll all be ruined", when a simple outward glance would reassure us that Australia is sitting near the top of the world's richest nations?
The explanation is not the facts, but the quality of the political and media debate, or lack thereof. It's the intellectual vacuum around the carbon tax - in particular - which is drawing us into a vortex of incomplete information and hysteria. Indeed, to say we are having a debate about the carbon tax would be to give credit where it is not due.
We are getting entrenched positions from both sides of the argument. Until the carbon tax comes into force and we can assess its real impact, we can expect speculation, grandiose claims and fearmongering. It might be true that the carbon tax "could", for example, add $150 a year onto our public transport costs, but so too "could" the world oil price swing upwards and add a great deal more to our petrol bills and bus tickets.
The carbon scheme may turn out to be the boldest structural reform yet seen in our economic history, or it may just be another incremental, cautious step, like the decision to charge for truckloads of garbage 30 years ago instead of letting councils and others dump them at no cost.
So we face weeks and months of the same: from Abbott, simplistic sound bites about a ''big new tax'' and hard hat, fluoro vest TV cameo stunts; from Gillard, talk of a green revolution that won't hurt anyone. Both sides insult the intelligence of the Australian public.
Our leaders would serve us better to disappear for a while, to study what is happening in the world and how it might affect Australia: the fragile condition of the European monetary union, the potential insolvency of the US government; the sustainability of the Chinese and Indian growth models; the potential reorientation of Japan, the latest thinking on energy and climate change. Get us out of the Canberra vortex, someone!
Any port, or starboard, in a storm
THE news yesterday that the O'Farrell government intends putting the NSW Maritime and the Roads and Traffic Authority into a single new agency, Roads and Maritime, has us a little intrigued about how the two cultures will mix. Can we expect speed cameras on the harbour, or a points system for boat helmsmen, for example? Likewise, when nautical types take over road traffic, will they be expecting port to give way to starboard, or power to give way to the equivalent of sail (the pushbike)? Still, it will be nothing like the clash of cultures when the proponents of roads are put together with those of rail, and told to work out coherent, complementary development programs. This is the exciting, sweeping promise in the top co-ordinating body's change of name from Transport NSW to, wait for it, Transport for NSW. One word, it seems, encapsulates a whole new philosophy about getting us to work and play. After so many years of ''dead slow'' in NSW, is this the four bells signalling ''full speed ahead''?
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
AFRICAN SUFFERING CALLS FOR A SELFLESS RESPONSE
THE images have a haunting and familiar beauty. The beauty belies the brutal fate inflicted upon the people whose gaunt faces give such power to the photographs published today. Tragically, we have seen such images before, when past famines gripped the Horn of Africa. Now, as The Age's Matt Wade reports, the region's people are suffering the worst drought in six decades.
As many as 1.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes as wells dry up, crops wither and livestock die in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, South Sudan and northern Kenya. On the Kenya-Somalia border, the influx is pushing numbers in the world's biggest refugee camp towards 500,000. About half the people who survive the trek across the desert to reach the camps in Ethiopia and Kenya are acutely malnourished. The children are dying.
In the past, the world responded generously to relief appeals. This year, as one disaster follows another, the response has been slower. World Vision Australia has raised less than half its target after six months. United Nations agency appeals are facing similar difficulties. Australians ought to reflect on the fate of up to 12 million people whose lives depend on funding for water, food, shelter and care. While Australians rage against a few thousand boat arrivals and the burden of a carbon tax, the emissions it aims to cut appear already to be driving climate change in the Horn of Africa. The World Food Program warns that the increasing frequency of drought has led to almost constant food insecurity. It is time for Australians to forget about their own selfish concerns and act to help those whose lives are in the balance.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
REASONS TO REJECT VOICES OF DOOM
THE slump in consumer confidence and the associated decline in retail spending revealed this week were seen by some to suggest the Australian economy is fragile. Retailers blamed the federal government's carbon tax for their woes. This is a dubious claim in light of other factors undermining the confidence of Australian households: the potential global fallout from the gridlock in Congress over the US budget; the economic shambles in Europe, particularly the debt crisis in Greece; concerns about the cost of living and energy prices; and doubt about the Gillard government's ability to be effective in a hung parliament.
Perhaps the most concerning cloud on our economic horizon is the situation in the US, where the brinkmanship in Congress has reached outrageous levels, with discussion of debt default by the world's biggest economy. Were this to occur, global financial markets would panic. That jolt would almost certainly cause a second global financial crisis only a few years after the first crisis plunged most industrial economies other than ours into recession.
But the likelihood is that Congress will avoid any such catastrophe. Equally, it is probable that the carbon tax will not bring about the horrors tipped by the doomsayers, just as the introduction by the Howard government of a GST did not lead to the disasters heralded by its vociferous opponents. The Age, like the majority of Australians, supports action on climate change. And The Age urges that our political leaders seek to improve the quality of policy debate. Less rhetoric and more substance around issues would buttress consumer sentiment. It is a time when Australians ought to be encouraged to see the bigger picture: the state of the Australian economy is robust; indeed it is seen from afar as a model of success.
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Interest rates are relatively low and stable, inflation might be edging up but is essentially long-tamed and unemployment is below 5 per cent, a remarkable achievement considering there are leading industrial economies that have been jammed lamentably higher than that for decades. House values, the main source of security for most Australians, might have slipped a little in the past few months but have been rising strongly for years. Household debt levels are being reduced, which is the other side of the retail spending coin and is in line with the prudent desires of the Reserve Bank.
Fuelled by the relentless negativity of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, fears abound that the carbon tax and the mining tax will shackle our economy. Given the associated offsets - the income tax cuts and compensation payments - these fears are misplaced, particularly in an economy that is not overtaxed by international standards.
There is much room for serious debate about public policy in Australia. Given the fragility of sentiment revealed this week in Australian back streets and the retail hit being taken on main streets, those in the corridors of power should lift their eyes a little higher and resist the pettiness and opportunism that has come to characterise political debate here.
The widely admired state of the Australian economy is the result of crucial policy changes undertaken by our governments in the past quarter of a century. The reformers have come from both sides of politics, and they led the debates with a gravitas and authority Prime Minister Julia Gillard seems to lack, as does Tony Abbott. Perhaps some of the decline in consumer confidence reflects this.
The world recognises Australia's hard-won strength. Without being complacent or blase, we should too, and therein find confidence to optimise the advantages, some natural, others created, of our nation.
PHONE HACKING: SPREADING SCANDAL, MOUNTING QUESTIONS
News International has spent too long trying to contain a commercial crisis, rather than face up to a much more important scandal
The phone hacking scandal, far from fading, continues to astonish. Of all the headlines in the past day or so perhaps the least surprising was the resignation of Rebekah Brooks as head of News International. Much more disconcerting – because it again throws into question the judgment of the prime minister – was the news that David Cameron invited his former press spokesman to stay with him at Chequers in March 2011. And quite flabbergasting was the news that the most senior officers at Scotland Yard had hired Neil Wallis, Coulson's former deputy editor at the News of the World, as an adviser.
Let's start with the flabbergasting. By the autumn of 2009 everyone knew that the "rotten apple" defence of News International was in tatters. This paper revealed in July 2009 that James Murdoch had paid out perhaps £2m in hush money to conceal evidence of criminality within his own company. Yet – on the day of his arrest over the phone hacking that went on under his watch – we learned that Mr Wallis had been hired by the Metropolitan Police in October 2009 to advise the commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson; the assistant commissioner, John Yates; and the head of press, Dick Fedorcio. This appointment, which continued for 11 months at around £1,000 a day, appears to have been known to only a few within Scotland Yard.
It is hard to convey how inappropriate and ill-judged this appointment was. If anything served to reinforce the perception that there was an unedifyingly cosy relationship between the Yard and News International, this was it. Did Sir Paul and Mr Yates not pause to consider how it would look, even if we listen to their assurances that he did not become involved in media advice on phone hacking? When these distinguished policeman called at the Guardian's offices in December 2009 and February 2010 to pour cold scorn on our reporting of phone hacking and the police response to it, did they not think it appropriate to mention that they were being advised by Mr Wallis?
The fact that these senior officers were so coy about this appointment – and the strange coincidence of timing which meant that it came to light only after Mr Wallis's arrest – causes natural suspicion, which will be for the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Commons' home affairs committee to investigate. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who only last September dismissed concerns over phone hacking as "politically motivated codswallop" must show that he is now taking this seriously.
Mr Cameron does show signs of taking the matter seriously, if only because the implications for him are increasingly serious. The revelation that he paid for Mr Coulson to stay at Chequers just two months after he was forced out of Downing Street must again cast grave doubt on the prime minister's judgment. Mr Cameron may have earlier claimed that he was giving a "second chance" to an "innocent" man – but by the time Mr Coulson resigned in January there was steadily mounting evidence that the former News of the World editor had allegedly presided over an office industry of employees hacking into other people's phones. Going by appearances, Mr Cameron still considered his twice-disgraced former employee part of the inner circle. Downing Street deserves commendation for releasing details of contact with media executives, but they will surely only add to the questions about the kind of people the prime minister considers friends.
Finally, there is Rebekah Brooks. Nearly two weeks after this paper revealed that she was News of the World editor while staff were hacking into Milly Dowler's mobile, Mrs Brooks finally resigned. The delay amplifies the impression that News International has spent too long trying to contain a commercial crisis, rather than face up to a much more important scandal. But they now leave a dwindling band of executives in the spotlight of public scrutiny, foremost among whom is James Murdoch.
AFGHANISTAN: MURDER OF THE KING OF KANDAHAR
Some hope the death of Ahmed Wali could be an opportunity to establish what Kandahar has long lacked – decent government
"This is a country ruled by kings. The king's brothers, cousins, sons are all-powerful. This is Afghanistan. It will change but it will not change overnight." The speaker, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was, as the quote implies, very much more than the head of Kandahar's provincial council. The half-brother of the president Hamid, he was suspected of protecting the drug cartels, although no one ever got the evidence to prove it. Millions of dollars of US military spending flowed through his hands. He rigged elections and got Taliban prisoners freed. Nothing moved on his patch without his say so.
So when Ahmed Wali was gunned down on Tuesday by a family retainer, reactions were mixed. Hamid Karzai cried in public at his half brother's funeral. But some hope that his death could be an opportunity to establish what Kandahar has long lacked – decent government. The city is not only the powerbase of the Karzai family, but the focus of Barack Obama's surge of 33,000 soldiers. And the ripples cast by the assassination spread well beyond.
Without his younger half-brother, Hamid Karzai is more vulnerable to a palace coup. The president has not just lost his enforcer in the south, but one of his "go to" men. Even if the brothers Karzai manage to fill the gap, the assassination should ring alarm bells in Washington and London.
A lot is riding on the theory that when US troops withdraw, the Afghan National Army (ANA) will hold the territory that has been captured. US generals love to talk in numbers. The man in charge of the training programme, Lt General William Caldwell says that by November the combined strength of the Afghan army and the police with be 305,600. Let us set aside for a moment the observation that out of that number, there is still only one battalion, 600 men, capable of planning and executing operations on their own. Set aside too, that Afghan soldiers are widely believed to be underfed.
At best, US and ISAF trainers are building a disembodied force, operationally independent from the machinations of the Karzais, the warlords, drug barons and tribal elders. Ahmed Wali's murder shows not only that it is unlikely that the ANA will be able to keep the Taliban out of Kandahar when US troops depart. It also shows that the strategy of fighting an insurgency on behalf of a corrupt ruling oligarchy which is hated by its people (in the areas where allegiance matters most) is fatally flawed, too. Ahmed Wali became both too big for the CIA to jettison and the source of fundamental doubts about what US troops are leaving behind. At this rate, the legacy of occupation could well be either a return of the Taliban or civil war.
UNTHINKABLE? ENCOURAGING SQUATTING
No law will stop squatters trying, until the need for affordable housing is met
Faced with rising homelessness and high rents, the government has dreamed up a brain-bending wheeze – criminalising people who put empty buildings to use. Back in the day, squatters enjoyed protections derived from a 1381 act of parliament, as well as an ancient common law right to claim land on which no rent had been claimed for a dozen years. But in recent decades things have got tougher, thanks both to restrictive legislation and the great push to register land, which protects owners against forgetting about property they no longer use. Now, disused buildings are to gain more decisive priority over people seeking shelter. In a speech drafted to delight the Sun, back in the distant days of last month when this was a priority, David Cameron ripped up Ken Clarke's sensible prison plans, re-roasted the old Tory chestnut about blasting at burglars, and then – for good measure – pledged a new squatting offence. This week, a green paper emerged, which dripped with the embarrassment of the officials who'd been ordered to write it. Its "impact assessment" acknowledged the risk of vulnerable people being made destitute. Of course homeowners need to know they won't be powerless if they get back from the shop and find an army of crusties have moved in – but they already have this assurance. No law will stop squatters trying, until the need for affordable housing is met. Until then, instead of waving sticks, ministers should find ways to foster the responsible filling of empty homes.
THE JAPAN TIMES
CUTTING THE NUCLEAR CORD
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday that he would like to turn Japan into a society that does not have to rely on nuclear power through a planned, stage-by-stage reduction of this reliance. His statement clearly points to a phasing out nuclear power over a long period — a great change in Japan's energy policy.
His idea as a long-term goal is reasonable in view of the fact that the accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plants have underlined the inherent difficulty in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations in this earthquake-prone country.
But his announcement lacks concrete planning to realize the idea. He also apparently skipped consultations with Cabinet members and leaders of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. The prime minister must make strenuous efforts to first form a consensus within his Cabinet and the DPJ.
Mr. Kan also needs to have detailed discussions with Cabinet members, DPJ leaders and bureaucrats to work out a long-term road map concerning the phase-out of nuclear power plants, the development of renewable energy sources and a temporary increased use of fossil fuels for power generation.
Without the groundwork, he will face an uphill battle to gain cooperation from the nuclear power establishment, which includes bureaucrats and utility officials, and the nation's manufacturing sector, which needs a stable power supply.
To prevent his idea from being taken as a political maneuver to prolong his political life, he must flesh out the goal with necessary concrete steps for implementation so that his successor can adhere to it.
Mr. Kan said that the crisis at Fukushima No. 1 has made him understand that nuclear power generation is a technology that "can no longer be controlled" with the traditional approach to safety. His perception is correct.
The nuclear accidents are so serious that there is a strong possibility that most of the residents of Fukushima Prefecture who have been evacuated may not be able to return to their homes for a long time.
Other factors also make the continuation of nuclear power generation difficult and untenable. Spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power stations is piling up at storage facilities and these facilities will be filled up in a not so distance future. A facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, to dispose of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants has been unable to start operation because of a series of mishaps.
The technology to bury high-level radioactive waste has not yet been established. Even if it is established, burying such dangerous waste for tens of thousands of years will pose a serious moral question because such entombment can cause seriously damage the health of future generations.
The cost of nuclear power generation is not cheap if the cost for disposing of radioactive waste and subsidies to municipalities that host nuclear power plants are taken into consideration. An estimate by Ritsumeikan University professor Kenichi Oshima that factors in subsidies to hosting municipalities and for the development of nuclear technology shows that the cost for generating one kWh of electricity is ¥10.68 for nuclear power, compared with ¥9.9 for thermal power and ¥7.26 for hydroelectric power.
When a major nuclear accident occurs, monetary compensation for the victims is enormous, not to mention the damage to health. Nuclear power generation embodies structural discrimination in that while nuclear power plants are built in the countryside and residents there are exposed to potential dangers from such facilities, those who benefit the most from nuclear power generation live in urban areas.
If these factors are squarely looked at, it is clear that the time has come for the government to rethink its traditional policy of promoting nuclear power generation.
Last year, the government adopted a policy of increasing the percentage of nuclear power generation in the nation's total electricity output to 53 percent by 2030.
In his announcement, Mr. Kan said that "in view of the major accidents" at Fukushima No. 1, it is his responsibility as prime minister to rethink the policy. Such a change to the policy will be welcomed as a logical step by a majority of people.
Mr. Kan pointed to the possibility that after the stress tests on reactors are conducted, nuclear power plants that have been suspended for regular checks may be restarted.
In view of a fear among manufacturing firms about severe power shortages, this is reasonable as a short-term policy. But there is also the possibility that all nuclear power plants may halt operations as a consequence of the stress tests.
The government and the power industry should present concrete data on available power plants and their total output, and show how much electricity people will have to save. Mr. Kan will be able to persuade people to cooperate when he presents hard data.
Because nuclear power accounted for about 30 percent of Japan's power generation before the Fukushima nuclear accidents, it is impossible to immediately abandon nuclear power. Mr. Kan should be thinking in terms of at least 20 to 30 years for the transition.
As a first step, he must make serious efforts to ensure an early passage of a bill that institutes a system in which utilities will be required to buy all the electricity generated through renewable sources at an established fixed price.
THE JAPAN TIMES
A MEDIA EMPIRE CRUMBLES
LONDON — Scandals have often dominated the British media, but few have been as remarkable as the revelations which have been appearing almost every day about the misdeeds of journalists on the British populist mass circulation Sunday paper The News of the World. This was owned by News International which is run by Rupert Murdoch, Australian by birth and American by choice. Because of its illegal practices it was being boycotted by advertisers and it has now been closed after 168 years of operation.
News International also owns in Britain the populist daily The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. News International has in addition 39 percent of the shares of the very successful satellite broadcasting company BSKYB. Murdoch has been trying to get permission to buy the rest of the shares in this company thus consolidating his control of a significant share of the British media.
Murdoch has accepted that, in view of the scandalous behavior revealed at The News of the World his bid for the remaining shares in BSKYB should be dropped. British public opinion, in light of the shenanigans which have been revealed, would not at present accept that News International is a fit and proper company to take control of BSKYB.
Phone hacking by News of the World reporters and agents acting on their behalf first came to light in 2005. As a result of police enquiries into alleged hacking of the personal telephones of Princes William and Harry, the paper's royal correspondent and a private detective, used by him to obtain information by illegal methods, were convicted and jailed in early 2007.
The then editor of The News of the World was Andy Coulson, who denied any knowledge of the hacking. He resigned as editor, but has recently been arrested on suspicion of authorising payments to police officers for information. He had been taken on by Prime Minister David Cameron as his public relations adviser but, because of increasing leaks about phone hacking at his former paper, he resigned from his position in the Prime Minister's office.
Cameron had appointed Coulson possibly on the recommendation of Rebekah Brooks, who was Coulson's predecessor as editor of The News of the World, and is now chief executive of News International in London — and is a personal friend of the prime minister. It has been reported that Cameron was warned against choosing Coulson but decided to ignore the warnings. He is now being accused of making a serious error of judgement in appointing Coulson.
The allegations against The News of the World have been coming out in quick succession. It first emerged that a number of celebrities including politicians, actors and sportsmen had had their phones hacked by the paper, which in some cases admitted responsibility and agreed to pay damages.
Leaked emails subsequently suggested that payments had been made to police officers for information. This was followed by reports that the phone of a murdered schoolgirl had been hacked and messages deliberately deleted in such a way as to suggest that she might still be alive, thus complicating the police investigation into the case. This revelation caused a furious reaction that grew in intensity as it was reported that the mobile phones of victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London and of the families of soldiers who had been killed in Afghanistan had been hacked to provide "human interest stories."
The public were further shocked by reports on July 11 that a police officer in the royal protection squad had asked for £1,000 for a book containing the private telephone numbers of members of the royal family and household staff.
The News of the World is not the only Murdoch paper to be accused of illegal practices. It is alleged that The Sunday Times attempted to obtain information illegally about a purchase of a property by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and that The Sun illegally obtained access to the medical records of Brown's handicapped son.
Allegations have been made against other newspapers such as The Daily Star that they too have benefited from illegal devices such as phone hacking and blagging (where someone pretends to be someone else and obtains by deception confidential personal information).
Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have been too close to News International and Rupert Murdoch in particular. Their hope and expectation had been that in return for indulgences News International owned media would report favorably on their policies. It has been reported in this context that Rebekah Brooks made it clear that anyone who questioned too closely New International's activities would be targeted by the organization.
No one comes out of this with an enhanced reputation. The reputation of News International, its chairman Rupert Murdoch and his henchmen in particular his son, James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks have all been seriously tarnished. Cameron's judgement in appointing Andy Coulson to run his press office has been shown wanting. The politicians in both the Conservative and Labour parties, who cozied up to Rupert Murdoch and News International, have demonstrated their sycophancy towards the media. The police failure to pursue the investigation into phone hacking with due diligence and the apparent cover up of the receipt of corrupt payments for information puts them in the spotlight.
The government under pressure from Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour opposition, have agreed to set up two enquiries. One of these will look into the way in which the investigation has been conducted; the other will consider what measures are needed to ensure that the press adheres to ethical practices in its pursuit of news. Both enquiries should go ahead quickly but it is important that the inquiry into the way in which the media operates does not lead to restrictions on press freedom which would unreasonably curb investigative journalism. This is necessary to ensure open and fair government that is not open to corruption.
Hugh Cortazzi served as U.K. ambassador to Japan from 1980-1984.
THE JAPAN TIMES
NO 'ONE SIZE FITS ALL' FOR DEMOCRACY
BY TOM PLATE
Abu Dhabi UAE — "Political man" is a complicated species. Cultural conditions and history differ widely. Humility in the interpretation and prediction of human nature is the wisest bet.
The evolving "Arab Spring," as the media term it, is viewed through Western eyes as if the transformation of Ali Baba and the Seven Thieves into Thomas Jefferson and the International Court of Justice. This is a joke, and an insult to Arab political man.
Western eyes are often shaded by ideological or provincial thinking. Other political cultures arise from different circumstances than the West and shape their thinking accordingly. Western democratic forms of government transplant only with dignity and are no cure-all.
The Philippines with a Western-style democracy has less economic development to show for it than any number of autocracies. Even in the United States right now, our sometimes elegant and venerable democracy seems on the verge of running out of gas. Its theoretical one-man, one-vote inclusiveness seems mostly notable nowadays for producing brain-dead divisiveness along partisan lines and thus gridlock.
The Arab Spring is especially complicated — and hugely important of course.
Regarding Egypt, almost all Western observers imagine that ancient civilization as evolving Western style. But we should wager a different outcome: Yes, people there are frustrated and angry ... up to a point. But they have not been through the horrendous experience of people in the former Soviet Union or even, (closer to home) in Syria, under the cruel and evil thumb of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Egyptians are volatile but not desperately irrational. They want palpable material progress and won't settle for less. But the ousted long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was no totally evil Assad, much less a devil Stalin. Somewhere in their hearts Egyptians know this. They simply want choices and a sense of genuine hope for themselves and their children. What particular political form allows them to attain that is not as big a deal to them. They will be flexible on form as long as they get results in hand.
In Indonesia, the late President Suharto was a dictator, to be sure, but he was no Mussolini. He left behind a mainly unified country now proceeding to develop at its own pace and style its own Muslim democracy. It is a potentially thrilling story. Malaysia is now in street-demonstration turmoil, even as the economy has been solid. The government's police-crackdown response has only made the country less stable. Just because politicians have been elected more or less democratically — as is the case with incumbent Prime Minister Najeeb Razzaq — doesn't make them smart enough to handle the tough spots of governing. Crackdowns are almost always a mistake unless they are early, decisive and rare. Machiavelli taught us that.
In neighboring Singapore, former leader Lee Kuan Yew, now 88, was no "Little Hitler," as a New York Times columnist once tarred that country's exceptional modern founder. And so when in the recent election Lee's long-ruling party garnered "only" 60 percent or so of the total vote, he felt the winds of change blowing in his face and retired from government for a long-deserved rest. His country now moves slowly toward a genuine two-party system, but don't hold your breath and think it will become Switzerland or Sweden next year. In some sense Singapore will always be Singapore.
A yearning for clone-like Western-style democracy is not universal. Neither is it wise. Surely Afghanistan would be better off with an Islamic Lee Kuan Yew than, say, a Western Jimmy Carter. Democracy fundamentalists who continue to believe Iraq is good to soon copy the British Parliament had better not get their hopes up. Even if preying Iran decides not to exploit after the Americans exit, Iraq without some kind of modern Leviathan might just be ungovernable.
The political tsunami in Thailand well illustrates the folly of simplistic thinking. The recent election of the opposition by a powerful 2-1 margin was as much about what the Thais don't want as what they do. On the not-wanted side, the majority said they don't want military government that produces little more than ribbons for generals, and they don't want more than half the country left out of the inner circle so that the greedy elite can slurp up all the spoils themselves. If a parliamentary democracy now headed by Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of the incisive but controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, laboring in the shadow of a still-active monarchy, can produce that change, fine. If not, then further change will come. They might even rent a Lee Kuan-Yew for a time if things don't get better.
People everywhere want opportunity and choices. They want better governance, whatever form it takes; and they want a voice and a measure of participation. How precisely they get it is less important than that they do. The point is extremely simple, even though human beings are not. If democracy provides progress, that's what they want. But what they are searching for isn't a political ideal but something more down-to earth: a practical and credible political delivery vehicle. It only stands to reason.
Tom Plate is a distinguished professor of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. © 2011, Pacific Perspectives Media Center, Beverly Hills, California.
But a sordid story within the story was exposed this month with the outrageous scandal of telephone hacking and other unethical practices which led to the sudden closure of world media giant Rupert Murdoch's flagship, the 'News of the World'. The fate of the popular 168-year-old News of the World, which was by far the largest selling English language weekly newspaper in the world, has important lessons for Sri Lanka and its independent media.
To reach and maintain the highest values and principles of journalism, those in the media need to remember that freedom and rights are directly linked to responsibilities. To the extent we fulfill our responsibilities, to that extent we are entitled to our rights. Similarly to the extent we fail in our responsibilities, to that extent we forfeit our rights whatever the government may or may not do and whatever crude or vulgar propaganda the kept press or other state media may propagate.
The lead story or the headline principle for the free media is a sustained commitment to free, accurate and balanced reporting, feature writing and editorial comment. Objectivity and integrity are essential. Journalists need to remember they are the voice of the poor, marginalized or oppressed people and the instruments through which the people exercise their fundamental right to the freedom of information and expression. If journalists forget or fail in these responsibilities and only seek personal gain or glory through bylines or unethical buy lines it would be better for them to find another job instead of causing serious damage to what is more than a profession and in the highest sense is the vocation of journalism.
Creative and imaginative writing, pro-active and investigative reporting and feature writing are important. As the famous American publisher William Randolph Hurst said – news is something that somebody wants suppressed, the rest is advertising. The rest include media conferences, political or other meetings and seminars and statements issued by state or other agencies. Yet if the fundamental principles are not maintained, investigative journalism may become counter productive and lead to sensationalism, scandal-mongering, unbalanced or unfair reporting and personal vendettas as we saw in the "News of the World" and other British tabloids in recent decades. To what extent the world news magnate Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation bosses knew about these scandalous practices or promoted them will be exposed in the probes to be conducted by a media committee of the British House of Commons next week
As the news that wrecked the News of the World is revealed, we hope that journalists in Sri Lanka and other countries will learn the right lessons and principals in balancing or blending rights with responsibilities to sustain and strengthen their vocation.
Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao recently summed up the last forty year's history of Indo-Sri Lanka relationship at a meeting with the visiting Sri Lankan and Maldivian journalists in New Delhi on July 5. She said that the Indian government cannot remain insensitive to the sentiments of the Tamil Nadu government, about issues affecting the Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka. She also, in a way, had theorized the relationship between the two counties in one sentence.
The statement by Rao who was also the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka between 2004 and 2006 was supplemented with another angle of the story by the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Professor GL Peiris three days later in Parliament. He said that Sri Lanka would not be able to achieve its development goals without India which was going to play a vital role in achieving such targets. Speaking during an adjournment debate, Professor Peiris told Parliament that no country could formulate its economic development goals in isolation.
With the statement by the Indian Foreign Secretary a series of incidents, mostly unpleasant, took place between the two countries for the past half a century would be called back to one's mind, probably from arming, funding and training of the Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups and pressurizing Sri Lankan leaders to negotiate with those groups in the early eighties by the Indian authorities. Sri Lanka has paid dearly in its failure to grasp the importance of the concerns of both India and Tamil Nadu in the seventies and eighties.
The iconic of all the events between India and Sri Lanka was the military meddling by the former into the latter's affairs in 1987 following an imposition of a political treaty on the latter under duress. Although India was somewhat humiliated in this manoeuvering as both Sri Lankan government as well as the LTTE and the island's Tamil people on whose behalf India was said to have intervened, stood against it later, the giant neighbour showed what it was and what it can do, if necessary.
India's concerns as well as those of Tamil Nadu have not been a secret or something that had been ignored by the Sri Lankan leaders after late nineties, presumably owing to the country having burnt its fingers by mismanaging the relationship between the two countries in eighties and early nineties. Hence, governments of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, during the peace process with the LTTE, made it a point to keep India abreast on the goings on.
Mahinda Rajapaksa regime seems to have realized this vital fact as fundamental in dealing with the LTTE. In an interview with the Indian journalist V K Shashikumar, which appeared in the "Indian Defence Journal" in October 2010, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, while recalling Vadamarachchci debacle, had to say this: "We knew that while other countries could or would resort to economic sanctions, only India had the power to militarily influence the course of our war operations."
In the same interview Mr. Rajapaksa related a story that would depict vividly the Indian influence on the war, even when the victory was within reach. He says: "A day before Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi went on a fast on April 27, 2009 in Chennai protesting against the SLAF offensive against the LTTE, Menon (former Foreign Secretary, India and the now National Security Advisor Shiv Shanker Menon) called me on my cell phone at 4.30 pm. …..Within six hours of Karunanidhi going on fast we could defuse the crisis in Tamil Nadu by issuing a statement announcing the end of combat operations and shelling inside the 'No Fire Zone', which led to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister ending his fast."
Presient's Secretary Lalith Weeratunge too in an interview with the Daily Mirror last year referred to this incident and said "With the halt in use of heavy weaponry the Congress gained strength and the victory in Tamil Nadu can be attributed to this decision by the Government of Sri Lanka." One might argue that these incidents point to the length and the width of Sri Lanka's sovereignty. However, addressing Tamil Nadu concerns seems to be vital for the reconciliation here.
However, as in the case of Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu politics, especially in respect of Sri Lankan ethnic issue, is driven mainly by blind emotions and not by pure reason or logic. For instance, the politicians in the State who even did not wave a black flag when LTTE leadership including its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran was decimated in May, 2009 all of a sudden began to cry foul as elections were approaching. As the Sri Lankan politicians do, Tamil Nadu leaders too are marketing the communal feelings to win elections.
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.
The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's reported decision to visit Mumbai in the wake of the new series of orchestrated and timed explosions on July 13 reflects his embarrassment and concern over the blasts.
The embarrassment arises from the continuing deficiencies in our counter-terrorism capability even after the much vaunted improvements introduced after the 26/11 strikes. The deficiencies relate to the preventive and surveillance capabilities of our intelligence agencies and the police. The concern should be over the likely negative political impact of the success of the terrorists in circumventing the security measures.
The Government's credibility in relation to counter-terrorism is likely to suffer further erosion----particularly in Mumbai, whose population has been the target of five instances of high casualty terrorist attacks ---in 1993, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011. The argument about the difficulties faced by the intelligence and security agencies in preventing terrorist attacks will not carry conviction to the people. While they may accept one or two surprise attacks, they would find it difficult to accept repeated attacks not only in Mumbai but also in other cities.
Other cities---New York. Madrid and London---have had isolated mass casualty attacks, but the police was able to ensure that there were no more attacks. It would be natural for the public to ask why this has not been possible for our security agencies.
Despite arrests made after past attacks, terrorist organisations still have at their disposal a seemingly unending stream of recruits who are willing to be trained and used to carry out attacks. A worrisome aspect is that our security agencies and the police have been unable to quantify the total number of trained terrorists still available to the organizations and neutralize them. They have also been unable to identify and block the sources of recruitment.
The attacks of July13,2011, --- like those of 1993, 2003 and 2006 and unlike those of 2008--- were multi-targeted and well orchestrated with a single modus operandi. They required good motivation and some training and not sophisticated expertise. The 2008 attacks were commando-style and multi-targeted with multiple modus-operandi---use of explosives and hand-held weapons and hostage-taking. They required considerable training and sophistication. Hand-held weapons were used in addition to explosives in 1993 too.
No claim of responsibility has so far been made. There has been no electronic interception of suspect messages----electronic chatter as professionals call it----which might give a clue as to who might have been responsible. The security agencies are, therefore, groping in the dark in identifying the organisation responsible.
Coastal security and immigration controls have been tightened up after the 26/11 terrorist strikes. The possibility of outsiders sneaking in to carry out the attacks is somewhat low. The greater possibility is that the attacks were carried out by some people normally resident in India---- maybe, Indian nationals or foreigners. The investigating agencies should keep an open mind and avoid jumping to conclusions.
The reports about a wired body and a separated head being found in one of the spots need to be carefully investigated. If these reports are correct, this would be a disturbing indicator of an act of suicide terrorism with possible foreign influence.If these reports are ultimately ruled out as not correct, the only other possibility is of timed strikes, which might have been carried out either with mechanical (clocks or the alarm mechanism of a mobile telephone) or with chemical timers. The 1993 strikes were carried out by Dawood Ibrahim's men with chemical timers of US-origin obtained by them from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The reported use of ammonium nitrate speaks of a lethargy in imposing checks on the sale of nitrogenous fertilisers despite this being repeatedly used as the explosive material by different terrorist groups in copy-cat acts in different countries of the world. Western countries have imposed checks on the sale of nitrogenous fertilisers. In Canada, sleeper cells were caught when they sought to buy nitrogenous fertilisers. It is not clear whether we have imposed similar checks.
Whether it is the Indian Mujahideen (IM) or any other organisation which is ultimately found to have been responsible, it wanted to disprove the official claims of having broken its back. This may not remain a one-city phenomenon. We must be prepared to prevent the danger of similar attacks in other cities.
We should not allow the latest blasts to disrupt the on-going dialogue process with Pakistan unless there is concrete evidence to show that either the ISI or Pakistan-trained elements were involved.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi)
Over the last few years, there have been many ways to look at the post financial crisis of the United States economy, and not all perspectives suggest a continuing recessionary environment. This has especially been true given the sovereign debt crisis inEurope, which has in recent times taken attention away from the epicentre of the financial markets. However, it can now be argued that all perspectives are closer to converging.
On last Friday, the U.S unemployment numbers for the month of June were released, and this indicated that a very dismal 18000 jobs were created, and unemployment has climbed up to 9.2%. While the private sector added 57,000 jobs, government workers dropped by 39,000. On analysing the way the recovery has shaped up so far, there seems to be a deeply entrenched duality in the way the American economy has responded to repeated fiscal stimuli.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was formulated as a response to the financial crisis, was signed into law on February 2009. Obama's optimistic team of economists, led by Christina Romer, produced a report which suggested that without the envisioned $288 billion in Federal tax cuts and $499 billion in Federal government spending, unemployment rate would approach 9%, whereas, with the stimulus, it would not exceed 8%. Since economics is not an exact science, the authors of the report can be forgiven for making incorrect forecasts. However at the same time, the right questions must be asked about where the money went.
In a recent study by eminent economists Timothy Conley and Bill Dupor, benchmark point estimates suggest that the aforementioned Act added/saved approximately 450,000 state and local government jobs, simultaneously destroying close to one million private sector jobs. Since funds from the Act were primarily used to offset state revenue shortfalls and increasing Medicaid entitlements, there was little in the way of encouragement or actual fiscal support for the private sector. Upon receipt of funds from the Act, states could legitimately use the money to offset expenditure and therefore use the funds as revenue - making the two mutually substitutable. In the study, it is also argued that without the Act, government employees would have been forced to look for private sector jobs.
The White House had suggested that the Act has created 3 million jobs, and this works out to $266,000 per job. Whether or not it has been "worth it" is a subjective call, but it is clear that the debt incurred from job creation of this sort cannot possibly be repaid. Borrowing heavily from the private sector to create jobs, at the outset, seems counterintuitive and un-American. Given the size and contribution of the private sector to the U.S economy, especially from smaller businesses, the Obama administration seems to be playing a dangerous and unsustainable game. If there is to be a palpable recovery, there is almost unanimous consensus amongst economists and commentators that it has to be driven by the private sector.
The Bureau of Labour Statistics claims that the number of unemployed persons is touching 14.1 million, while the total labour force of 153.4 million has remained closed to unchanged over the month of June. The most worrying statistic hidden below all the headline numbers is the number of long term unemployed - those who have not found jobs for over 27 weeks, accounted for 44.4% of the total unemployed. Any arguments about "just in time" employment patterns are discredited because of this number. It no doubt follows that the number of people falling out of the workforce due to complete discouragement from not being able to find a job is going to exacerbate the entire employment situation in the country.
The problems in the job market are herculean, and there seems to be no Hercules in the current administration who has the gumption to publically admit that all solutions devised so far are merely just playing for time. The pervasive duality behind the ever increasing fiscal burdens in the real economy, while easy credit, is fuelling pre-crisis level price to equity ratios (23.75 last) in the stock markets, is creating the perfect storm. The S&P 500 index, which lists the top 500 companies (by market cap), closed at 1344 last week, at levels similar to those before the unravelling of the full effects of the crisis. Equities are expensive and money is cheap.
If ever there were a case for a double dip recession after the financial crisis, it is now. It can be argued that summer is usually a bad time for the job market or that a higher rate of structural unemployment is the new normal - but there is no hiding from the fact that things have panned out quite contrary to the originally outlined recovery plan. Given that filibustering in the U.S Congress is going to continue unabated until the elections next year, unemployed workers have little in the form of real hope.
In the President's Budget this year, it was assumed that the U.S economy would grow at 3.1% this year and 4% next year whereas evidence so far suggests that there is no reason to expect a growth rate above 2% this year. Now, more than ever the disconnect between the political economy and the real economy is going to be highlighted. The incoherence in policy making, and the complete disregard of long term timelines, makes the entire situation seem similar to that of the climate change debate. It seems like the stakeholders in the U.S economic debate are tired with all the "economic pornography" - with all the apocalyptic warnings about debt ceilings, trade deficits, faltering housing recoveries and stubborn unemployment, and are waiting for externally created solutions.
GULF DAILY NEWS
ISRAELI THUGS ARE JUST ORGANISED CRIMINALS
BY PAUL BALLES
A THUG enters your home, decides to stay, makes you his servant and locks you up in the worst conditions.
When the neighbours complain about what's going on in your home, the thug tells everyone that you are terrorists who want to destroy him and his family.
When the thug is told that he must treat you as equals in the house he has taken from you, he refuses - complaining that would leave him indefensible.
That's Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. He's the latest in a long line of thugs who have burgled as many homes that weapons from America could allow.
Krav Maga Instructor Nima Sirazi comments cogently on the double-talk used by burglars like Netanyahu to con the public: "The oppressed becomes the oppressor, the culprit becomes the victim, occupation is security, illegal colonisation is cultural liberation, aggressive expansion is righteous reclamation, genocide is self-defence, apartheid is justice, resistance is terrorism and ethnic cleansing is peace."
Netanyahu is not alone of course. An even worse thug is the ex-nightclub bouncer Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister.
This larger-than-life burglar stole one of the settlement properties for himself, kicked out the Palestinian home owners, moved in and insisted the occupation was necessary as a defensible border for Israel.
Writing in Haaretz, Gideon Levy reveals how Ilan Baruch, a veteran Israeli diplomat, acknowledged his inability to represent or explain Israeli policies. Last week he handed in his resignation letter.
Levy said: "Our diplomatic corps today is comprised primarily of spineless propagandists void of values or a conscience."
He points realistically to how Israel's diplomats know what the world thinks of their country's machinations, their thievery and attempts to cover it all up.
"They know that under Lieberman's watch the Foreign Ministry has become a vessel of rage towards the entire world," said Levy.
"They know that no ambassador is sufficiently adroit to explain the brutality of Operation Cast Lead, or the pointless killing on the Mavi Marmara ship."
Israel's diplomats "know that no country on the planet actually accepts the occupation, the settlements or the indications of Israeli apartheid", adds Levy.
Despite what Israel's diplomats know, they remain silent. After all, the leading thugs and robbers are their bosses.
If these thugs were Italian, they'd be called Mafioso, arrested and jailed for being guilty of organised crime.
But such a comparison with common thieves who steal others' property is not possible for thugs who have protection.
The US Congress is like the family of a Mafia don, treating Netanyahu like the head of La Cosa Nostra.
How long can Israel's thugs keep getting away with the travesty of justice that's no better than organised crime in America?
"Although Jews constitute only two per cent of the American population, they have a disproportionate political impact: pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990," reports activist-writer Bob Burnett.
Organisations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and American Jewish Committee do more damage to Jews than any organised, Jew-hating group. They stimulate what they call anti-Semitism, or anti-Jewish feeling.
Writer Rand Clifford noted: "Americans have been so meticulously trained to ignore evidence in favour of what they want to believe, in conjunction with what they are wanted to believe, that too many have been rendered unable to objectively weigh evidence."
They hold the position that nothing Israel does can be wrong and everything their organisations do must be accepted - an extremely dangerous position to hold.
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