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media watch with peoples input an organization of rastriya abhyudaya
month july 18, edition 000887, 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
- COALITION COMPULSIONS
- LONG ROAD TO DEMOCRACY
- GETTING WORSE BY THE DAY - BALBIR K PUNJ
- REFORM SYSTEM TO FIGHT TERROR - SHASHI SHEKHAR
- FAITH IN STATE'S ABILITY FURTHER ERODED - B RAMAN
- DEFENCE, DEVELOPMENT AND NATIONAL SECURITY - BHARTENDU KUMAR SINGH
THE TIMES OF INDIA
- AN EPIC ENDS
- THE FIFTH ESTATE
- THE WAY OF SATYAGRAHA - MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR
- 'RAGGING IS A MENACE THAT HAS PLAGUED OUR DUCATIONAL SYSTEM'
- FREE TRADE, SAFE TRADE
- GIRD UP FOR A DIFFICULT RIDE
- SEARCH AND FORGET
- OUTSOURCING TERROR - AJIT DOVAL
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
- REVOLUTION NEXT
- MAKING THE CUT
- SPEAK, MEMORY
- LOOKING AT ASIA - C. RAJA MOHAN
- CHESS AND THE CITY - JAIDEEP UNUDURTI
- HOW RUDE REALITY SET IN AT THAGLA - INDER MALHOTRA
- THE MAXIMUM THREAT - DILIP BOBB
- A LIFE OF POLITICS, PARTITION AND POETRY - UMA VASUDEV
- MEDICINE'S ETERNAL VIGILANCE - SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
- WHAT'S A TREND? - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA
- SEX BAROMETER FOR A PRESIDENT? - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA
- ZAHEER KHAN: A PIONEER IN THE ART OF BOWLING - BORIA MAJUMDAR
- ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT: ANOTHER YEAR OF WASTE - ROGER COHEN
- SUDAN TO LAUNCH NEW CURRENCY
- NO. 1 MUST ASSERT ITSELF
- THE LONG ROAD AHEAD
- ECLECTIC ARCHITECTURE, EXQUISITE FEATURES - T.S. SUBRAMANIAN
- AADHAAR: ON A PLATFORM OF MYTHS - R. RAMAKUMAR
- RECONCILIATION AND NATION BUILDING: THE MANDELA WAY - AHMED KATHRADA
THE ASIAN AGE
- WORLD ON EDGE AS US ON THE BRINK
- SPELL, INTERRUPTED - S. NIHAL SINGH
- CONTINUED RE-ENGAGEMENTT
- BLASTS CONDEMNED
- DEPARTMENT OF POSTS? OR, DEPARTMENT OF RURAL BANKING? – BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
- EDUCATION IN RURAL INDIA - BY RAM RATTAN SHARMA
- ISHWAR ALLAH TERO NAM - BY AMIT KUSHARI (IAS RETD)
- CROSSING THE LINE
- SOARING SUCCESS
- DOMESTIC ABUSE
- CAUTION: WORK IN PROGRESS
- SOME DEADWOOD STILL THERE
- CHANDIGARH, THEN AND NOW - BY ASHOK KUMAR YADAV
- IMRAN SCORES A POPULAR CENTURY - ASHA'AR REHMAN
- INDIA SHOULD BE PROACTIVE IN PROMOTING REGIONAL PEACE - IRFAN HUSAIN
- DOUBLE MINT
- NEW CLIMATE IN AUSTRALIA
- SECESSION OF THE SUCCESSFUL - SANJAYA BARU
- LAND IS LIVELIHOOD, DON'T FORGET - SUNITA NARAIN
- THE CHARGE OF THE SMALL TOWNS - N CHANDRA MOHAN
- BUFFALO ON THE TRACKS - VINAYAK CHATTERJEE
- GROWING INDIA, SHRINKING BHARAT
- MEANING OF A 'CROP HOLIDAY' THIS KHARIF - K. V. KURMANATH
- WALMART: LESSONS FROM THE MEXICAN EXPERIENCE - CHITRA NARAYANAN
- THE BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- OVERHAUL POLICY
- FAB FABLES
- WIVES OF OTHERS
- GROWTH TO OUTWEIGH INFLATION
- SMALL CARS TO DRIVE TOYOTA BRAND IN INDIA - CHANCHAL PAL CHAUHAN
- CCI GOT IT WRONG - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
- WHY THERE ISN'T AN INDIAN MURDOCH
- WORLD ON EDGE AS US ON THE BRINK
- SPELL, INTERRUPTED
- CLASH OF GENERATIONS FOR JUSTICE, FREEDOM
- I HAVE A DREAM
- MINISTER FLUNKS IN THEORY
- UNSPLENDID ISOLATION
- THIRD-PARTY REVIEW
- ADMIRABLE, ASH
- OMNIPOTENT OMBUDSMAN - AJENDRA SRIVASTAVA
- AFTER BENGAL
- ARAB SUPERHERO
- HUSAIN IS SAFELY DEAD - ASHOK MITRA
- THERE'S QUITE A LOT IN A NAME - S.N. MENON
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
- WHAT CLINTON IS ACTUALLY SAYING
- WE WANT OUR SONS TO LIVE
- WOMEN 'APPEAR' IN TURKEY'S PARLIAMENT
- LOST IN WHOSE TRANSLATION?
- MANDELA, THE EX-CONVICT WHO RECONCILED A NATION
- HOW TO ACHIEVE HOUSING FOR ALL
- HAMAS, HELD CAPTIVE BY SHALIT - BY AMIR OREN
- NOT RETIRING - BY MERAV MICHAELI
- THE END OF THE DOWNTRODDEN TIMES - BY KARNI ELDAD
- GREEN FOR THE RICH - BY ZAFRIR RINAT
- SHAKY CENSUS
- TELLING STATISTICS
- THE ORDEAL OF PROVING RAPE - S IFTIKHAR MURSHED
- WORDS WITHOUT THOUGHT - HUSSAIN H ZAIDI
- THE JUDICIARY, JUSTICE AND THE RULERS - DR A Q KHAN
- MOTHERS, SAVE PAKISTAN - ZIRGHAM NABI AFRIDI
- A TEST FOR THE ARMY - ASIF EZDI
- ISRAEL AND THE FLOTILLAS - ERIC WALBERG
- MENDING TIES WITH US
- JAILERS ARE HOSTAGES TO PRISONERS
- CHINA RIGHTLY PROTESTS OBAMA-LAMA MEETING
- ZULFIKAR MIRZA'S VENOMOUS STATEMENT - AMBASSADOR'S DIARY
- ABBOTTABAD FIASCO: AN INTROSPECTION! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
- BRAIN DRAIN PROBLEM - AHMAD A QURAISHI
- WE'RE SPENT - DAVID LEONHARDT
- GOVERNMENT MUST HEED ECONOMIC WAKE-UP CALL
- GM CROPS
- PLAYING STRAIGHT PROTECTS SPORT
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- CARBON TEST OF PM'S FIBRE
- HIGHWAY OF EMBARRASSMENT
- WHY GILLARD HAS TO WORK HARDER ON CARBON TAX
- EASY RIDERS NOT READY FOR THE ROADS
- US DEBT BATTLE: SHOWDOWN ON CAPITAL HILL
- SIR PAUL STEPHENSON'S RESIGNATION: SIR PAUL'S PARTHIAN SHOT
- IN PRAISE OF… ABDUL JABBAR
THE JAKARTA POST
- CALMING THE SEAS BETWEEN ASEAN AND CHINA - SIMON TAY
- INSTITUTIONAL REFORM: TODAY'S NEEDED NEXT-GENERATION REFORM - MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA
- BERSIH 2.0 AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM HISTORY - DENNIS G. KLOETH
- REDD+: A PATHWAY TO PROSPERITY - WAHJUDI WARDOJO AND GREG FISHBEIN
- THE ISSUE IS ABOUT SRI LANKANS
- RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF OUR VOCATION
- THE REAL TRUTH BEHIND THE POWER CRISIS - BY PATALI CHAMPIKA RANAWAKA
- MALAYSIA'S DILEMMA: CAN IT REFORM AND DISCRIMINATE? - BY BILL TARRANT
GULF DAILY NEWS
- ARABS DISLIKE OBAMA EVEN MORE THAN BUSH - BY DR JAMES ZOGBY PRESIDENT
- MACDONALD ON MONDAY
- IT'S NOW TIME TO SHOW MATURITY - BY C MOORE
- HOW THE ARAB WORLD LOST SOUTHERN SUDAN - BY LAMIS ANDONI
- CONTINUED U.S. PRESENCE UNDERMINES IRAQ'S POLITICAL UNITY - BY ARDESHIR PASHANG
- MILLIONS CELEBRATED THE 15TH OF SHA'BAN IN IRAN
BUT PEOPLE AREN'T REALLY INTERESTED IN DETAILS
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan need not feel contrite for blurting out the truth about the structurally untenable nature of the coalition Government he heads in Maharashtra. Although the Congress and the NCP are partners and political allies in the State — as also at the Centre — they are separate entities with their respective agendas. No matter how well-tuned an alliance may be, there are bound to be differences in perception and gaps in coordinated action. To that extent, Mr Chavan cannot be faulted for ruing the fact that the crucial Home portfolio is with the NCP and not the Congress; preferably it should have been with him, especially because Maharashtra is now a key frontline State bearing the brunt of terrorist attacks. Hence, it would be unfair to hold him accountable for the state of law and order in Maharashtra, although it could be argued that the principle of collective responsibility does make him answerable for lapses that may have contributed to last Wednesday's triple bombings. But the power-sharing arrangement that now offends the Chief Minister is not something new, nor is it of much concern to the people at large, not the least because the details of who holds which portfolio are rendered irrelevant when lives are threatened with such impunity. Frankly, if Mr Chavan has an issue, he should raise it with the Congress's high command for a resolution to his satisfaction. That his party's supreme leader may refuse to tinker with the arrangement is an entirely different matter: Power-sharing arrangements are more often than not driven by compulsions that have little to do with governance. For evidence, witness the mess that prevails in New Delhi where the Prime Minister has no say on who gets to hold which portfolio or in directing the framing and implementation of policy. In fact, despite the key Ministries being with the Congress, it has not helped him exercise either power or authority.
What should be of greater concern to the people of Maharashtra (and elsewhere in India) is that it took more than 15 minutes for the Chief Minister to establish contact with senior Mumbai Police officers. Apparently, all cellular networks were jammed — the load was predictably high in the immediate aftermath of the bombings — and there was nothing that Mr Chavan could do but twiddle his thumbs in despair. It is amazing that despite all the tall talk of placing new systems in place to strengthen the internal security structure we still live in times that are no different from that which prevailed when 26/11 happened. This is not about our inability to harness new technology or upgrade existing systems of communications. All that was required was to allow the Chief Minister access to the dedicated bandwave for the Mumbai Police wireless network. Had that been done, Mr Chavan could have communicated with senior police officers without any delay. This can still be done — and, indeed, it should be done in every State — but, as always, instead of looking for simple solutions to seemingly difficult problems, the official response has been to think in terms of acquiring new gadgets and sophisticated equipment. Mr Chavan has said that his Government will purchase satellite phones to ensure real time communications in future. That may impress the uninitiated and ill-informed, but it's unlikely to make Mumbai or Maharashtra any more secure than it is today.
LONG ROAD TO DEMOCRACY
IT'S LONGER THAN THE BRIDGE ACROSS TAHRIR SQUARE
In a bid to mollify the thousands of protesters who have once again returned to Tahrir Square, this time demanding Government and police officials accused of resorting to violent means to put down dissent during the last days of the Hosni Mubarak regime be swiftly punished, Egypt's transitional military Government announced last week that nearly 700 officers would be relieved from their professional duties. While some would be removed for firing on and killing protesters during the 18-day-long agitation that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, others would lose their jobs for being involved in corruption. Such largescale 'cleansing' of Egypt's powerful security apparatus is no doubt a huge concession by the ruling military. And that is not all. This past week, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces also gave into another popular demand when it announced that elections, that had earlier been scheduled for September, would be postponed to either October or November so as to give more time to the country's new political parties as they prepare themselves to compete against the Muslim Brotherhood and other similarly well-organised Islamist groups. This was preceded by the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Yahya al-Gamal because protesters perceived him to be too close to Mr Mubarak's business associates. Earlier, the former Prime Minister and several former Ministers with loyalities to the previous regime were convicted on charges of corruption and fraud. Clearly, the military council is doing its share to deliver to the people what was promised to them: Peace, freedom and democracy.
But it is also imperative for the people to realise that Cairo cannot become the seat of the perfectly functioning democratic Government in a matter of months. Today, the average Egyptian is trying to compress into a space of a few months the complex processes of configuring governance models and establishing democratic institutions that other countries have taken years and decades to achieve. Look at Nepal, for example: It has been more than five years since that country's monarchy made way for parliamentary democracy but its elected Constituent Assembly is still struggling to write up its Constitution. Understandably after years of autocratic rule, Egyptians are now impatient for democracy and are clearly under the impression that if they camp out long enough at Tahrir Square all their troubles will come to an end. This mindset needs to change. Egypt needs to give its leaders, both the ruling military today and the representatives it will elect later this year, adequate time and space to steer the country towards stable democratic rule while citizens themselves keep their side of the deal. This means they need to get out of Tahrir Square and get back to work. ***************************************
GETTING WORSE BY THE DAY
BALBIR K PUNJ
With the UPA Government floundering, the Supreme Court has no other option but to step in though overreach is undesirable.
The recent reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers not only had the media pontificating on its pointlessness for days but also highlighted the fact that the Government's last hope to convince the people of this country that it is still here to govern is now as good as dead. As it is, 'civil society' activists have declared that the emperor is without clothes after seeking (and failing) to dictate to the Government on how the proposed Lok Pal Bill should be fashioned while gaining considerable public support for their agenda.
Just how weak the Government and the Prime Minister have been rendered can be gauged from the fact that a former Minister of State for Railways, when asked by Mr Manmohan Singh to go to the site of the recent train accident, retorted: "I am not the Minister for Railways, it is the Prime Minister." A Minister of State refusing to act on the instructions of the Prime Minister? What could show the Government in a worse light?
Former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam's resignation over the Government attempt to privatise its legal defence further exposes this Government to ridicule. If the Government now loses face on a series of issues in the Supreme Court, it will not mean that the defence lawyers are professionally poor but that governance is beyond redemption. From the appointment of a bureaucrat named as an accused in a case of corruption as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner to the 2G Spectrum scandal, from the Commonwealth Games lootfest to the black money issue, the Supreme Court has repeatedly berated the Government and exposed the Prime Minister as ineffective.
The Supreme Court's decision to set up its own inquiry panel on the black money issue is the worst setback that the UPA Government has suffered till date. There may be much to say about what is termed as judicial overreach and its intrusion into the domain of the executive, but there are those who argue that the Supreme Court had no other option. What was the Supreme Court to do when it found that the Government was neither seriously pursuing the case against Hasan Ali Khan nor undertaking any efforts to bring back black money stashed abroad?
The Supreme Court's verdict in each of these cases has been similar in substance. In the case against the appointment of a bureaucrat accused of corruption as the CVC, the Government did not produce all the documents. Which means it deliberately wanted to select a particular person for the job. In the 2G Spectrum scam case, the Supreme Court had to monitor the investigations directly because the Government was not conducting its duty "with the degree of seriousness that is warranted".
Similarly, the Government's investigative agencies like the CBI and the ED were taking contradictory stands on Hasan Ali Khan and were not serious enough to arrest him for his alleged offences, including money laundering. On a host of important issues, the Supreme Court's verdicts add up to a judicial statement: This Government cannot be trusted to do its job in accordance with the law.
The Supreme Court too has come under a lot of criticism for other verdicts. For example, its decision to accept the bail petition of the Maoist-sympathiser Binayak Sen, its verdict declaring illegal the self-defence forces organised by tribal villagers in Chhattisgarh to protect themselves from Maoists and its order to the State Government to disband the force of SPOs at once, its criticism of the Union Government's 'neo-liberal' economic policies and holding them responsible for the generation of black money, and its criticism of State Governments' land acquisition policies have been perceived as crossing the boundary that separates the domain of the judiciary from that of the executive and the legislature.
Even those who fully agree with the Supreme Court's action on the issue of black money are not comfortable with its commentary on economic policies. The court was clearly straying into the domain of political ideology when it pronounced: "Price based notions of value and values, as propounded by some extreme neo-liberal doctrines, implies that the values that ought to be promoted in societies, are the ones for which people are willing to pay a price for." The Supreme Court, it would appear, blames the neglect of those values that have no market value for the mess that prevails in the country.
The Supreme Court has seemingly taken a contradictory stand on crucial matters such as an individual's rights against those of the state. In the case of Binayak Sen, the Supreme Court ruled that it was the individual's basic right to have an ideological stand and thus granted him bail. Yet, Binayak Sen had earlier been sentenced by a lower court and the High Court for actively promoting insurgency, murder and mayhem. But when it came to ruling on the legality of Salwa Judum, a self-defence initiative organised by tribal villagers against Maoist depredations, the same Supreme Court's observations could be construed as being to the contrary. While ordering the immediate disarming of SPOs, who are part of the Salwa Judum movement, the court said: "People do not take up arms in an organised fashion against the might of the state or against fellow human beings without rhyme or reason."
There is a law in this country that says taking up arms against the state is an offence punishable by death. Are we then justifying violence? If so, would it be fair to say that convicted terrorists like Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and Afzal Guru who are on death row were also justified in their actions because they too did not take up arms against the state "without rhyme or reason"?
The UPA regime and the Congress which heads it exulted when the Supreme Court took upon itself to set up an SIT to inquire into several cases related to the 2002 post-Godhra violence in Gujarat and alleged false encounters. The Government and the Congress are now in a rage over the Supreme Court setting up an SIT to inquire into black money and related issues. The Supreme Court is now being accused of judicial overreach.
The rot in the Government runs far deeper than we are prepared to concede. As a result, other institutions of our democracy are trying to steady the ship which is threatening to run aground. Obviously, what is needed is action by the captain himself and not a round of musical chairs disguised as a reshuffle of portfolios as we have just seen.
REFORM SYSTEM TO FIGHT TERROR
While the battle against terror is fought both at the geopolitical level and the criminal investigation front, India can no longer afford to postpone systemic reforms. There is not much of a gap in the views of Home Minister P Chidambaram and the BJP's Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. Can we hence see some bipartisan consensus emerge?
The relative calm on the mass terror front outside of the troubled frontier States and the Maoist-infested interior forests was shattered by last Wednesday's triple blasts in Mumbai. Much speculation is about on the perpetrators and the modus operandi. To a large measure the speculation is resting on the absence of a claim of responsibility so far.
Most analysts forget that a claim of responsibility is not particularly material when it comes to mass terror in India's major cities. One forgets the perversely selfless bombers of all incidents of mass terror between 2005 and 2007 when blast after blast occurred with no claims of responsibility. One also forgets the multiple dubious claims of responsibility that occurred before and after the blast at German Bakery in Pune. Lastly, one forgets that the only claim of responsibility to have surfaced after the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai had no reference whatsoever to either Lashkar-e-Tayyeba or Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade.
The fact is apparent motives and overt claims of responsibility have been secondary to the conspiracies behind most incidents of mass terror in India. Labels used to describe outfits have been a matter of geopolitical convenience. Attributing attacks to outfits that overtly describe themselves as homegrown such as the Indian Mujahideen serves Governments on both sides of the border with their geopolitical détente. It allows room to lower the temperature on the geopolitical front while seeking recourse in criminal investigations, thus reducing the matter to a law and order issue.
On the other hand, attributing attacks to assorted non-state entities across the border serves another purpose. It gives room to the other Government to buck international pressure, shirk responsibility by claiming no control over them.
The reality of this orphaned nature of mass terror in India's major cities is that labels, prefixes, suffixes and academic distinctions vis-à-vis state sponsorship have all become inconsequential. The bitter but barely acknowledged truth is that there is a single continuum of mass terror spanning the radical few in India all the way to the well-entrenched elite in Pakistan.
That labels, prefixes and suffixes manifest to suit a given moment in the geopolitical game was amply clear before and after the Pune bombing. If exactly a week before the bombing you had the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Abdul Makki threatening Pune city by name, a week after the blast you had multiple claims of responsibility both direct and indirect from the 313 Brigade and a new outfit calling itself Lashkar-e-Tayyeba al-alami.
A similar pattern is playing out with last week's Mumbai bombings as well. First came the news from Pakistan that Ilyas Kashmiri, who was allegedly killed in a drone strike, might actually be alive and active. Next comes this story from Vicky Nanjappa, quoting unnamed sources, that a new outfit by the name Bullet 313 Brigade. This new outfit is described as a splinter group of the Indian Mujahideen. It must be noted that while the Government of India has steered clear of making direct links between the Indian Mujahideen and Al Qaeda's extended family of outfits, this is not the first time such a link is being purported to be made.
Writing in the Asia Times Online in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks back in 2008, Syed Saleem Shahzad had reported that the Indian Mujahideen may have assisted Ilyas Kashmiri's outfit with local attacks in India. In that piece in December of 2008, Shahzad names the Indian Mujahideen's Abdul Subhan aka Tauqeer by name.
At a time like this one does miss Shahzad's reportage mixing fact, fiction with speculation, but nevertheless giving us what may be the only raw, first hand account from assorted terror and ISI sources across the border. As speculation on the 13/7 blasts hovers around Indian Mujahideen and the 313 Brigade, it must be brought to attention that the social media channels used by the Indian Mujahideen back in 2008 had become active again since around July 2010.
Of particular interest is one YouTube channel which had hosted a video on Tauqeer back in 2008. Not only has the channel been active until a couple of months ago, it also had a curious three- part video uploaded back in August of 2010. In that three-part video an Islamic camp held at Mumbra near Mumbai is referenced alongside language glorifying 26/11. The production of the videos is attributed to the same fictitious outfit — the Deccan Mujahideen, which was also referenced in the only claim of responsibility for 26/11. This brings back the question on what could have been done differently on such leads?
The botched Christmas day plane bombing at Detroit offered many lessons which were compiled by this columnist in The Pioneer back in January of 2010 with inputs on what the proposed NATGRID and the propose National Centre for Counter-Terrorism ought to do.
While the battle against terror is fought both at the geopolitical and the criminal investigation front, India can no longer afford to postpone systemic reforms. There is not much of a gap in the views of Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram and the BJP's Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley, but on the specifics of the kind of anti-terror law that would be most effective. Can we hence see some bipartisan consensus emerge on areas of common ground to address these urgently needed systemic reforms?
FAITH IN STATE'S ABILITY FURTHER ERODED
The Government's credibility in relation to counter-terrorism will suffer further erosion after the Mumbai bombings. The stale argument about the difficulties faced by intelligence and security agencies in preventing terrorist attacks will not carry conviction with the people
The Union Government is clearly embarrassed and concerned over the Mumbai bombings of July 13. 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 were 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 organisations and neutralise them. They have also been unable to identify and block the sources of recruitment.
The attacks of July 13 — like those of 1993, 2003 and 2006 and unlike those of 2008 — were multi-targetted 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-targetted 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.
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 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 ongoing dialogue process with Pakistan unless there is concrete evidence to show that either the ISI or Pakistan-trained elements were involved.
--- The writer, a former senior officer of R&AW, is a strategic affairs commentator. ***************************************
DEFENCE, DEVELOPMENT AND NATIONAL SECURITY
IF INDIA IS TO HAVE AFFORDABLE AND SUSTAINABLE DEFENCE, THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM DEFINING DEVELOPMENT AS SECURITY BOTH AT THE POLICY AND STRATEGY LEVELS, WRITES BHARTENDU KUMAR SINGH
Defence and development are supposed to be the twin facets of national security. The correlation is quite evident in contemporary international politics where security is being redefined with equal emphasis on defence and development. However, a similar correlation is yet to emerge in India. In this context, the constitution of the Naresh Chandra Committee on the review of national security is a welcome step. One of the major challenges before the committee would be to establish a harmonious linkage between the defence and development requirements in a national security doctrine and making them complimentary rather than competitive.
It is a well-known fact that the Indian debates on defence and development have been separate and compartmentalised without any attempt to link them. This great divide is further complicated by the total domination of the national security discourse by defence experts and the marginalisation of development economists. This approach has been aided and abetted by the political class that does not take developmental aspects of security seriously, allowing themselves to be guided by strategic and defence experts on these matters.
The end result is a one-sided and parochial perspective that is unfortunate for two reasons. First, it pushes the vital developmental aspects of national security under the carpet of relative insignificance. Rarely do we hear our security experts showing their concern over near incessant flooding in Assam and Bihar or for that matter the famine deaths in South India. It doesn't matter to most of them if India still has millions who go hungry every day or remain undernourished. When an Amartya Sen attempts to define these developmental issues as 'security concerns', there are no takers in the mainstream.
Second, there is too much emphasis on military matters. Often, the issues are emotionalised and metamorphosed into 'holy cows' where questioning their logic is deemed irrationality. Witness for example, the demand for raising the defence budget to three per cent of the GDP or expansion in the officer cadre of the armed forces. Both the demands are quite in contrast with the contemporary global trends.
Things would have been better had there been an institutional attempt to correlate defence and development issues.
Defence being a non-plan expenditure, the Planning Commission has largely kept out of defence matters and does not prepare the defence five year plans by itself. Similarly, the National Development Council also does not touch defence five year plans. Ironically, this arrangement does not make the armed forces happy since the defence five year plans suffer in terms of timely approval, resource commitment and plan execution. No wonder the services have recently demanded the constitution of a defence planning commission.
The finance commissions have also given a marginal treatment to defence issues and have suggested the progressive trimming of future defence budgets to curb fiscal and revenue deficits. The National Security Council Secretariat too, going by the contents of its sponsored annual publication on India's national security, perhaps treats defence and development as watertight compartments.
The annual report of the MoD too does not delve into the developmental aspects of security while describing the threat environment. Ditto for several Government-commissioned committees and commissions on defence reforms, which did not explore a possible correlation of defence and development in their reports. The only exception has been the VK Misra Committee on 'curbing of wasteful expenditure' that has been mindful about optimisation of the defence budget. The committee's recommendations, if implemented, can spare the Government from the burden of sparing additional resources hitherto meant for development.
In recent times, the Government has been talking of 'inclusive growth' in its policy statements. Accordingly, the focus, as the Prime Minister often says, should be on the marginalised sections, sectors and areas that are lagging behind. However, if the dream of 'inclusive growth' has to become a reality, it must be linked to defence policy of the country.
While the 13th Finance Commission has recommended the curbing of defence budget to 1.76 per cent of the GDP by 2014, more needs to be done so that resources are not a problem for either defence or development. For example, the diplomatic aspects of defence have to be accorded more weightage and the country should engage its neighbours in various forms of military diplomacy. Simultaneously, the services should be encouraged towards internal resource generation in non-sensitive areas.
If India is to have affordable and sustainable defence, there is no escape from defining 'development as security', both at a policy and strategy level. There is a need to broaden the concept of national security to one that encompasses defence and development as twin elements. Concurrently, strategies need to be identified that seek the progression of both without one compromising the other. Perhaps here lies the challenge for the Naresh Chandra Committee when it sits to draft a national security doctrine.
--- The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India. The writer is in the Indian Defence Accounts Service.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AN EPIC ENDS
It's a pop culture sensation to rival the Beatles or Michael Jackson. As the eighth and final film of the Potter franchise - The Deathly Hallows Part 2 - opened across the world last week, millions of fans queued up - often tearfully. The international box-office take crossed $158 million by Friday, the first day of its opening in the US and India, shattering all previous records. J K Rowling's Potter series has been translated into 67 languages, selling over 450 million books globally.
So what does a young boy with a stick have that's captured the imagination of the world? Among other things, it's revived the culture of reading books that was thought to be dying, particularly among the young. The last four books in the series went on to become the fastest-selling in history. Written in flowingly simple language, children were instantly captivated by Harry and his friends, teachers, journeys, love-lives and struggles. Rowling's achievement is that she created an intricately detailed and complexly coherent world, a fully fleshed out parallel universe that amounts to a modern mythology for its millions of fans.
In doing so she mined the rich resources of British literature, adopting tones and shades from a range of references, Merlin and King Arthur, the grey fogs and Scottish tors of Sherlock Holmes, the poignancy of Victorian England captured by Charles Dickens with a young orphan growing up in a cruel world, the quizzical brilliance of Alice in Wonderland. From this fertile ground, Rowling moved Potter in and out of a very real multicultural Britain where Potter took trains from London's Kings Cross Station (albeit at a magic platform), made friends with the Indian-origin Parvati Patil, battled class discrimination and where contemporary political references, from terrorism to extraordinary rendition, waft between the lines.
Rowling's books successfully captured the joys of innocence, the pain of death and evil, the realisation that despite challenges, moral goodness can be protected. The mythology she created featured tongue-in-cheek Latin, magicians, headmasters, friends, pets, guardians and villains - based on universal emotions, not specific religion. This made Potter popular with adults too, cheered by Rowling's basic message of a moral universe and the possibility of magic in the workaday adult world. Let it be said then - the old mythologies, whether from the Mahabharata or the Bible, may no longer suffice to meet the needs of a generation that's growing up in the 21st century. The power of the Potter phenomenon is that it fills this gap, which once made the Vatican identify it - accurately - as a serious threat.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
THE FIFTH ESTATE
When the state either fails its duties or oversteps its bounds, what recourse do the people have? The answer has been taking shape over the past few years - and the Mumbai blasts have made its outlines clearer. Within a couple of hours of the incident, a spreadsheet was afloat on Twitter with the phone numbers and Twitter handles of hundreds of people who were offering aid to victims and their families of every kind - from blood to car rides and even air tickets. The intersection of new media and social networking has been redefining our lifestyles for the past decade now. Mumbai has shown once again that when taken from the private sphere to the public, this shift towards a non-linear, all-at-once type of communication and processing of information can empower citizens to do what a lumbering, inefficient state often cannot.
The flip side of this paradigm shift - that it can also help citizens push back at an oppressive regime - has become equally clear. In the Middle East, social networking sites have played a crucial role in the Jasmine Revolution, and before it, the Iranian uprising. The evidence was there at Egypt's Tahrir Square when Hosni Mubarak faced the wrath of crowds numbering over 50,000, gathered via online communication to protest and eventually put an end to 30 years of dictatorship. In Syria, Facebook is being used to facilitate 'secret hospitals' where injured protesters are given medical attention by a band of doctors who are keeping their identities concealed for fear of arrest. The most significant aspect of this kind of information flow is that it bypasses the traditional middlemen who control conventional media altogether. It comes from and through the 'aam admi', and in the process, empowers the people. Immediate, immense and impactful, social networking websites may just be on the way to becoming the fifth estate.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
THE WAY OF SATYAGRAHA
MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR
Dear Baba Ramdev. Just some weeks ago, you were the envy of politicians, most of who ferry people and rely on bribes to bring them to attend their rallies. In contrast, you had a devoted following who supported your anti-corruption campaign by coming to Ramlila Maidan at their own cost and dipping into their wallets to support the movement. The numerous trusts and institutions you have set up are flush with funds. You have an army of dedicated cadres spread across the country who could play an important role as watchdogs of democracy, if guided properly. Yet, you messed it all up.
The bizarre drama you enacted to escape arrest by the Delhi Police - jumping down from a 14 ft high stage, expecting women to form a protective ring around you and finally fleeing the pandal disguised in women's clothing, leaving thousands of your followers to face the police wrath - was shocking. We are used to governments ordering such crackdowns. We are used to our police behaving like an army of invaders. But we were not prepared for undignified behaviour from a yoga guru, who is loved and revered by millions.
Worse still, your first response to this public humiliation was to announce that for your next round of agitation you will train a private militia to give a fitting response to police action. It must have thrilled the Maoists to hear you say that you finally understood why they have taken to the gun. But you backtracked from your statement the moment you were faced with the home minister's open threat and a hostile media reaction.
Your press conference in Delhi was no less disappointing. You explained you ran away in a woman's attire because you did not want to be hunted down like a wolf by the police. Firstly, there was not a chance that if you had allowed yourself to be arrested in full view of TV cameras, any physical harm would have come your way. In fact, you would have emerged a hero in the public eye. The quintessential quality of a satyagrahi is not his ability to stay without food for a certain number of days but to be absolutely fearless in the face of repression. Therefore, though yours may have been a peaceful agitation, it was far from being a satyagraha.
Till recently you were considered the advertisement for the miraculous power of yoga. But your behaviour on the night of June 6 was not a display of inner calm. Therefore, this is not the time for knee-jerk reactions, angry outbursts or forcing yourself on a reluctant Anna Hazare's bandwagon by announcing that you will join his fast on August 16, 2011. Not long ago, Team Hazare wooed you to join the anti-corruption movement because of your countrywide massive support base. Today, they see you as a liability.
This is time for serious introspection. Perhaps you should start by taking a course in the "Art of Living" from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Like you, he too was an integral part of the anti-corruption movement. But he was not agitated by his representatives not being included in the drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill.
To start with, you need to review the manner in which you practise and propagate yoga. Even the most elementary text or instructor, leave alone a guru, teaches us that yoga is not just physical exercise. It involves bringing body and mind in perfect union, with focus on calm breathing, the very manifestation of the life force in each of us. Pranayam is not the same as "breathing exercises" but an endeavour to gain total concentration and inner equilibrium by shutting out the noises and distractions of the outside world.
I admire the way you have succeeded in convincing millions to avoid unhealthy food and dependence on the allopathic system of medicines whose indiscriminate use does more harm than good. I also admire the way you lighted the spark in millions to stand up and fight corruption in governance. But your excessive demonisation of the allopathic system and exaggerated claims for yoga weaken your case. When you mix yoga with political or dietary sermons you take away from the seriousness of both and the lessons lose their intrinsic worth.
Moreover, bringing several thousand people together for a two-hour class transmitted on TV clearly shows that people are expected to follow your complicated yogasanas by watching giant video screens, doing what they can in their own way with very little monitoring. Yoga cannot be imparted like you teach PT to schoolchildren. Yoga needs close individual attention to ensure that the person being taught is able to obtain the correct posture and correct breathing. Otherwise, it is like any other exercise.
You have every right to nurture political ambitions or build a wealth-generating ayurvedic empire with your marketing genius. But if you wish to succeed in influencing or cleansing the politics of India, you have to understand that electoral politics requires a different genius altogether. You have to learn the art of teamwork and acknowledge your limitations in dealing with complex political and economic issues. It is naive to assume that you single-handedly have a cure for all political ills. The demand list you submitted to the government had some sensible but many absolutely untenable ideas. It also diverted attention away from your main demand. Most importantly, a yoga guru has to live up to that honorific title by acquiring inner calm. Otherwise, it is a negative advertisement for yoga.
The writer is professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
'RAGGING IS A MENACE THAT HAS PLAGUED OUR DUCATIONAL SYSTEM'
Filmmaker Manish Gupta made the anti-ragging film Hostel. He met President Pratibha Patil recently to work out initiatives to stamp out bullying. Gupta speaks to Subhash K Jha :
Why make a film on ragging?
Coincidentally, this is the first question the president asked me when i met her at Rashtrapati Bhavan. I asked her to support the cause of anti-ragging by recommending Hostel for compulsory viewings across colleges in India. I expressed to her that ragging is a menace that has plagued our educational system for decades. And it continues unabated even as we speak. The root cause of this menace is ignorance amongst students - about the disastrous effects that extreme levels of ragging can have on a student's psyche, career and very life.
Were you inspired by real-life cases like the Aman Kachroo incident?
I was inspired by that case, the Indu Anto case and the cases of hundreds of other students who i interviewed personally during my research. The president has asked me to get together all these student victims of ragging and to give them a platform to pour their hearts out on Doordarshan. I have already got a few of them ready for this initiative. I am gathering the rest. The deceased Aman Kachroo's father Raj Kachroo is supporting me and the president whole-heartedly in this endeavour.
Do you think cinema has the power to prevent ragging?
Yes. Cinema is by far the most powerful medium of modern times. It influences the youth to a great extent. It influences the way they dress, the way they talk, think and act. A film can reach out to youth like nothing else can.
What do you think of the way ragging is shown on our campus films like 3 Idiots and Munna Bhai MBBS?
I was left dissatisfied at the way Ragging was portrayed in 3 Idiots - since it was made to look funny. There's nothing funny about being stripped naked in front of the whole college and being tortured. I personally would compare it to making rape or molestation look funny. Ragging is a grave issue staring India in the eye. Innumerable students have lost their lives to it. Many have been crippled for life. The statistics are shocking - 20 suicides and 15 deaths are reported every year with ragging as the root cause. There's nothing funny about that, at least to me.
Hostel wasn't an entertainer, why make a film that you know has limited appeal?
I make films that i want to make. I tell stories that i think need to be told to the world. I do not know what the audience wants. And no director in the world knows it either. That's why we have the same director making hits and flops alternately.
What is your take on commercial cinema today - do you think you can make a Gol Maal or Dabangg?
I can never make a senseless film like Dabangg. Despite the success of the film, i think it was inane, crass and senseless. I hated the film. I wanted to walk out at the interval itself. I will never make a film like that no matter what commercial gain or success it could get me. I am not in this industry for commercial gain. I am in this industry because my head constantly floats with stories that keep screaming at me from within to be let out.
What are you making next?
A film called Ardh Satya. It talks about the plight of policemen, why they are forced into corruption.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
FREE TRADE, SAFE TRADE
One may be forgiven if, on reading the ceaseless G20 pronouncements in favour of freer trade, one infers that there is an almost universal agreement that trade matters, that freer trade is a policy to be pursued for public good.
Yet, the case needs to be made as the hostility to freeing trade, to further integration on the trade front into the world economy, is not negligible. It includes not merely the lobbyists for import-competing activities, but also citizens and groups swayed by the contrary assertions of a handful of professional economists, chief among them my former Columbia colleague Dani Rodrik and my current Columbia colleague Joe Stiglitz (both icons to the leftwing populists in India).
Rather than citing the scientific evidence that is now available in spades, anecdotes reflecting my experience with the deleterious consequences of closed or sheltered markets might be more useful.
For starters, go back to India before reforms including measures to reduce manufacturing protection began in 1991 following an external payments crisis. The shoddiness of much manufacturing production and of tradable services had become by then a constant irritant for millions. Economist Padma Desai, who had studied the working of India's Tariff Commission, has written how this commission remarked that "in an Indian car, everything makes a noise except the horn". Of course, the commission was blissfully unaware that it was its policy of granting automatic, what the economist Max Corden has called "made to measure" protection that was the cause of the predicament. Today, after almost 20 years of steady manufacturing-tariff reduction from an applied level of over 75% to about 12%, and removal of restrictions on entry by domestic private entrepreneurs, competition has made the car industry (and many others) so efficient that Tatas have produced the much-celebrated mini car, the Nano, and Indian cars are up to world standards. And finally, razor blades work so that you do not look like Johnny Depp despite a shave.
Then again, on a recent visit to Rio to give a dinner speech at a conference on capital flows by the IMF jointly with the government of Brazil, i encountered a throwback to the India of the 1980s, since Brazil is largely in the pre-reforms protectionist stage of India. We were put up at a top of the line hotel facing the beach. But i was getting tepid, not hot, water. I called for the plumber to fix it; he declared it fixed three times but it was not. Finally, two men arrived and fixed the water. But then they had messed up the flush which did not work anymore. Then came the climax: I could not tear open the soap from its package - an experience which was shared by others at the conference and extended to other items like sugar and artificial sweetener, as evidently protection had eliminated any incentive to produce better packaging. So i used my teeth. Alas, the soap stayed beyond my reach but i lost a tooth!
Was this 'necessary' infant industry protection? I do not think so. There are few instances of infants growing up unless they cease being mollycoddled. On the other hand, there are many instances of infants growing in sheltered environments turning into senile adults in diapers. Besides, there is real danger in protectionism. At best, it can prevent foreign competitors from coming into your market. But what about external markets? Sheltered industries will be unable to compete outside of their home markets!
A protectionist policy will reserve the Brazilian market for Brazilian industry, but it cannot help it survive in competition with efficient rivals when they compete in third markets. Has Brazil heard that one can be "penny wise and pound foolish"?
The writer is university professor, economics and law, at Columbia University.
GIRD UP FOR A DIFFICULT RIDE
Inflation has been perilously close to 10% in each month of the first quarter of 2011-12, which flies in the face of government reassurances that it will come down. Food is 9.1% dearer in April-June 2011 after an eye-popping 20.9% climb in the same three months a year ago. Likewise, fuel trotted along at 12.7% over the quarter, again on the back of a 14% rise a year ago. These are gloomy numbers. What they mean is R100 fetched you a quarter less of provisions at the grocer and fuel at the pump in May this year than it did in May 2009, when the UPA returned to power. If these trends continue, R100 will be worth R60 in May 2014 as the UPA completes its second stint. The scary bit is the government can do precious little to check either food or fuel prices.
The hike in fuel prices at the end of June is yet to make its impact fully felt in headline inflation numbers. The bigger worry is the government has run through most of its budgeted fuel subsidy. If crude oil prices are to be passed on entirely to consumers, the inflationary pressure will be thrice as much as it is now. The alternative is a ballooning fuel subsidy bill. Anyway, food subsidies are likely to hit the roof once the government unveils its plan to dole out grain to three-quarters of the population at below market prices. The effects of government spending on such a scale are bound to show up in the price line through the fiscal deficit.
Factory prices — which lie at the core of an economy's inflationary expectations — clocked in at a 7.2% rise in the quarter, up from 6% in the same period of 2010. This is where policy-makers have some hope. A series of interest rate hikes that began in 2010 has taken some edge off consumption. But demand for goods and services is still strong enough for producers to be able to pass on increases in material costs. The Reserve Bank of India is likely to persist with its rate tightening cycle for much of this year till it feels it has managed to put the inflation genie back in the bottle. These efforts, however, need to be accompanied by some serious belt-tightening in the government. A remote prospect with a string of states going to the polls between 2011 and 2013. Heading towards the halfway point, the UPA needs a reality check on whether its ambitious welfare credentials could come unstuck at the price line.
SEARCH AND FORGET
Remember how about three years ago American technology writer Nicholas Carr fired a salvo against the internet through his article 'Is Google making us stupid?'? He bit the hand that fed him by arguing that the internet was "tinkering with [his] brain", as easy access to readily available information was rendering him indolent — not unlike the argument in the early 90s when the 'cable TV is making us lazy' line was doing the rounds and made many TV viewers use it as an excuse to go to the loo during commercial breaks while watching their favourite soap operas.
But Mr Carr's criticism of Google had its share of sceptics who understood that the more you remember, the more you forget. Some Luddites at Harvard University and Columbia University, however, are now back trying to convince us that Google is indeed fooling around with the way we use — or don't use — our minds. The search engine is causing mental atrophy among its dedicated users, they argue. In a paper titled 'Google effects on memory: Consequences of having information at our fingertips', these anti-Googlers deduce from four experiments that "when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it". In other words, they don't remember the info but remember where they can find the forgotten info. This not only gives a 2.0 kick to the 'ends don't justify the means' argument but also reminds us of Socrates' scepticism on the development of writing, or the public perception of Gutenberg's printing press when it was introduced, both of which were feared during their times to stimulate mass amnesia.
But should we be really bothered about such a kerfuffle over the internet allegedly making us dunderheads? In this day and age when everything from bank account numbers to credit card details to phone numbers are outsourced, what's the harm in 'outsourcing' (boring and factual) information to a website when it can be re-accessed in a jiffy? Just like those lifesaving yellow post-its on the fridge. Only if you can manage to find where you last kept the fridge.
[PS: We don't quite remember whether we used Google to write this editorial.]
When a government fails to prevent, identify or neutralise terrorists, it indicates inefficiency and systemic inadequacy. But when terrorists refuse to own responsibility of an attack, the causes are much more complex and sinister. Terrorism is violence for a cause and terrorists always want the world to know about their existence, their cause(s) and the power they wield. So when they strike but don't seek publicity then they are working as a proxy.
There are strong indications that the July 13 blasts in Mumbai were a joint operation of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), certain underworld groups and external forces. If this is true, then the triple blasts were an early warning of some serious internal security threats that India may face in the near future.
The reasons behind this observation are as follows: After 26/11, the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) — IM is only a front to mislead the security agencies — has been aggressively organising themselves. Thanks to India's soft policies, security agencies are reluctant to initiate any action against anti-national elements unless and until a criminal case is possible.
The repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, (Pota) has emboldened Simi and put the law-enforcing agencies on the backfoot. In a meeting after the September 13, 2008, attacks in Delhi, the Simi leadership decided that the organisation should take advantage of the favourable environment to recruit people for jihad. They also decided to refrain from sporadic acts of terror till they strengthened themselves enough to make big strikes. While they strengthened their relations with Pakistan through the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the underworld, their role was by and large confined to assisting the Pakistan-based terrorists. Their (Simi/IM) new strengths, good ground knowledge and local contacts are worrying. India's inadequate laws, ill-equipped police force and the absence of political will to deal with the threat have only increased the problem.
Simi/IM is only a motley group of youth recruited and motivated by Pakistan for indigenisation of terror in India. It has negligible support among the Indian Muslims and all Muslim outfits have denounced their ideology and activities. Other than a vague slogan for jihad, it has no specific political demands or any cause. Its genesis lies in post 9/11 predicament of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), when the agency realised that in the changed global environment it needed a tactical shift in its strategy of using terrorism as an instrument of State policy.
To save themselves, they made Simi their front organisation. Using Dawood Ibrahim, CAM Bashir, a Simi leader from Mumbai, was called to Dubai in 2001 and the process of converting a radical Islamic youth organisation into a Pakistan-controlled terrorist outfit started. However, Simi's terrorist performance fell far short of Pakistan's expectations and many were accused of making money without doing much. But 26/11 forced Pakistan to resurrect it.
The ISI rated 26/11 as a successful covert operation but the exposure of its nationals made the overall cost unaffordable. So it re-doubled its efforts to re-organise Simi, hoping to increasingly use the group for direct actions rather than the support role they were playing. Last week's Mumbai attacks is a manifestation of this effort: Simi is being accessed, financed and controlled through locations in West Asia and the underworld is being primed to enhance its striking capabilities. The group is also emerging as a converging point for the ISI, crime syndicates, radicalised local youth to bleed India. If Pakistan and the radical forces supported by it succeed in their nefarious designs of indigenising terror, it could lead to violent communal conflicts, a long cherished objective of Pakistan. To thwart this, our response should be imaginative and well calibrated.
The next set of problems emanate from the fact that our counter-terrorist doctrines, structures and systems have evolved around the threats from foreign terrorists. Apprehending domestic problems, the government has always denied that there could be local participation. But this reality needs to be accepted so that the intelligence agencies can include domestic players in their coverage. This acceptance will also increase the role and responsibility of the district and local-level intelligence units of the states that are in a state of neglect. The National Intelligence Grid is also a welcome step and needs to be pursued on a war footing.
In the emerging scenario, the government must increase their contacts with the religious, social and civil society Muslim leaders and deny any space to foreign-inspired subversive elements. It is important that while taking firm actions against anti-national elements, the innocents are protected and collateral damages are avoided. Last but not the least, political parties should stop politicising terror since it can be catastrophic if we have to face its indigenous variant.
The Mumbai blasts are an early warning for a more serious long-term internal security threat. We have many things in our favour and the nation is capable of meeting the threats. But to do this, the political parties must start looking at the problem from a national — and not an electoral — perspective.
( Ajit Doval is former chief of the Intelligence Bureau and currently director, Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi )
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
Across much of the country, agricultural growth rates have been deeply disappointing over the past 10 years. State-wise figures released last week by a national chamber of commerce reveal that most states are stuck with growth rates hovering around 2 or 3 per cent, although there have been some standout performers, particularly Gujarat and Maharashtra, which have delivered agri-growth of over 10 per cent annually. On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released another set of figures: for the foodgrain production in 2010-11. India is expected to produce 241 million tonnes of foodgrain, a record amount. But Dr Singh took the opportunity to warn the audience that high food prices, and sustained food inflation, cannot be controlled by such record harvests alone. Only increased productivity in the primary sector overall would deliver that. Indeed, he said that below-target agricultural growth in recent years was responsible for what he called "unacceptable levels of food price inflation".
This is, of course, the correct diagnosis of what might be argued is India's most immediate and urgent policy problem, food inflation. Yet, diagnosis is one thing, and working out the correct cure quite another. The first, most important step might well be to extend the benefits of the irrigation-driven green revolution that has remade farming in the north and the west of India to the east and those parts of the south that are still largely dependent on rain-fed agricultural techniques. The second step is to look at areas that have succeeded in stepping up their rural productivity, and working out how it is done. In semi-arid Gujarat, for example, local water conservation has been prioritised by building check dams and recharging rural water reservoirs. Soil health was examined, and newer techniques introduced. And, by many accounts, the upgrade of transport infrastructure was a crucial step, too, in that better access to markets allowed farmers to see a tangible return on their effort, which served to incentivise further investment and improvement.
The longer-term steps will have to be to allow for larger landholding, and a freer market for agricultural land. Preserving agriculture in aspic, it can now be seen, hurts the rural poor who aspire to better than what their parents had; and it also leads to spiralling food prices, which pinch absolutely everyone in India. The second generation of reforms, long delayed, must include plans of this sort for a second green revolution, or we will be condemned to a depressing future of poor agricultural performance.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
MAKING THE CUT
Even on a normal day, you would wonder at how and why business — and as high-value a business as the diamond trade — had to be carried on in Mumbai's labyrinthine Opera House area. The bylanes packed with cars and the match-box offices were always seedy, in the sense of a foreboding of something sinister lurking around the next corner. Traders hang on, often ferociously, to sink-holes, even when state-of-the-art alternatives are designed and provided specifically for them, citing a million reasons. Now, after last Wednesday's terror attacks, the diamond traders may be moving, finally, to the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), which already houses the Bharat Diamond Bourse. The BKC is being "fortified" as reported in this newspaper on Sunday, and should soon host the bulk of the diamond trading community.
However, it's indeed sad when tragedy forces a re-think and action on what should have been the norm long ago. The work that Mumbai needs, in order to be salvaged as a city, is gigantic. The congested nightmare makes it doubly difficult for a city with no scope to expand, naturally, and geographically restricted to a long, narrow north-south strip. Therefore, to rescue Mumbai, the city has to be decongested on a war-footing. Following the BKC model, businesses need to be moved out of congested lanes and bylanes; slums have to be cleared and their occupants rehabilitated in affordable urban housing projects; transport and traffic infrastructure needs immediate investment and overhaul.
This is the briefest list possible of the things that need to be done to save Mumbai. Each of these comes with a million strings attached, and neither the city's local government nor the state government has been interested in lifting a finger to help Mumbai's residents and traders. On decongestion itself, approval for new building projects are getting stuck with the high-rise committee and the chief minister. Only a small fraction of the MMRDA-sanctioned affordable housing projects on Mumbai's peripheries has taken off. The solution to a badly run city cannot be its not being run at all. Mumbai needs to empty its underbelly fast. Let alone Mumbai's Shanghai dreams, even its status as India's financial capital is under threat.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
We had sensed it: our memory becoming dodgy when we had to recall a name, a date, a cricket score, a political factoid that we were familiar with, and in all probability should have remembered. In the end, in absolute despair and capitulation, we googled for that elusive information. What was happening to our memory — was our Internet dependence playing with the nodes of our remembrances? Our quiet fears were followed by a raft of experiments and books on the many ways the Net tinkered with and then fundamentally changed the way our brain worked. The latest study, "Google Effects on Memory", by Columbia University's Betsy Sparrow and others, in Science, comes up with a different, encouraging, inference: with our reliance on computers and search engines, our memory isn't putrefying, we are just better at remembering where to access information than we are at remembering the information itself.
The Net, they say, is acting like a vast external storage space of memory. It is a collective source of information that we can tap into at will and, therefore, our brains have dispensed with the memory workout that they did with astonishing rigour and regularity earlier. In a crucial experiment, participants were asked to key in a list of trivia into the computer. Those who were told the information would be erased did a better job of remembering than those who were told the details would be stored in several folders. But the latter, significantly, remembered where exactly the information was stored.
Our cultural evolution has been marked by what and how much we have to remember. And a change in that has often been facilitated by technological advancements. Once, people memorised entire texts, aided by mnemonic codes like rhymes and metre. Printing liberated us from the pain of such rote-learning. Now the Internet is taking it further than we ever imagined, becoming an exterior memory palace for all of us.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
LOOKING AT ASIA
C. RAJA MOHAN
As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in India on Monday for the second round of the bilateral strategic dialogue, there has been quibbling in both Delhi and Washington over a number of issues, including the fulfilment of their mutual nuclear commitments and defence cooperation.
While Delhi and Washington must iron out the many wrinkles in their bilateral relationship, Clinton's India visit will be judged by the ability of the two sides to develop a cooperative political agenda in the Af-Pak region and in East Asia, which are undergoing rapid geopolitical evolution.
Washington has made no secret of concerns on India's nuclear liability legislation that is seen by the US companies as imposing unbearable costs in building 10,000 MW of nuclear capacity that India has set aside for them.
Delhi is unhappy that the United States did not stop the Nuclear Suppliers Group from taking steps that could prevent future transfers of uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies for commercial application in India.
Sections of the US establishment continue to crib over the elimination of Boeing and Lockheed from the first round of the bidding for the sale of 126 medium-range multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force.
India, on the other hand, points to the fact that US companies have won orders for weapons systems worth $8 billion in the last few years. Delhi also suggests that American companies might be on the verge of winning other defence contracts worth billions of dollars.
Some in the US are asking what Washington has got for the political investments that the Bush and Obama administrations have made into the construction of a new partnership with India in recent years. Delhi, on the other hand, warns against letting accountants judge the Indo-US strategic partnership.
Neither India nor the United States would want to build the kind of transactional relationship that America and Pakistan have. Nor should they want to emulate the very cynical US-China alliance against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
What Delhi and Washington need is a partnership that has the political bandwidth to deal with their common threats in the Af-Pak region and the shared interests in East Asia and the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
In the northwestern marches of the subcontinent, the American raid on Abbottabad and the execution of Osama bin Laden have brought into the open the deep contradictions between the United States and Pakistan in Afghanistan and the war on terror.
Washington thought it could buy Pakistan Army's support by defeating al-Qaeda and stabilising Afghanistan. Rawalpindi's interest has been different — to establish a pliable government in Kabul and secure strategic depth in Afghanistan through the Taliban and the Haqqani network, both of which have had enduring connections to al-Qaeda.
Despite its relentless drone attacks, Washington is nowhere near bending the Pakistan army to act against the terror groups that are fighting the United States. Delhi has far fewer leverages in pressing the Pakistan army to dismantle the anti-India terror infrastructure on its soil.
Yet, Washington and Delhi think they can manage the Pakistan problem on their own and don't want to be associated too closely with each other in Afghanistan. The prospects for the stabilisation of the Af-Pak region will remain bleak until there is a measure of strategic coordination between Delhi and Washington.
Despite a very different situation, the story is similar in East Asia where Clinton heads after completing her Indian sojourn in Chennai.
In the past, India vigorously objected to Sino-American partnership — during the Cold War and after. Delhi must now come to terms with the increasingly tense relationship between Washington and Beijing in Asia.
A rising China, unsurprisingly, would like to diminish the US influence on its Asian periphery. In the face of an increasingly assertive China, Beijing's neighbours are turning to Washington for protection.
During her last visit to Southeast Asia a year ago, Clinton proclaimed "America's return to Asia" after a prolonged preoccupation with the Middle East, and extended support to China's smaller neighbours in their maritime territorial disputes with Beijing. Since then matters have taken a turn for the worse in the waters of Asia. As in the Af-Pak region, so in East Asia, the old geopolitical assumptions are no longer sustainable.
Through the last six decades, the US relations with China and Pakistan have been major sources of Delhi's wariness about Washington. The United States had little time for Indian concerns as it built instrumental partnerships with Beijing and Rawalpindi.
Today, the US ties with both China and Pakistan have entered an uncertain phase as the ties between Delhi and Washington have improved.
More broadly, India's worldview since Independence has been shaped by an enduring distrust of the West and the suspicion that the United States is opposed to India's territorial integrity and her aspirations for a larger role in the world.
India's problem today is not an unfettered Western dominance, but the increasing manifestations of American weakness in the face of a rising China and the resulting strategic ambiguities.
For an United States that must now shed some of its global security burdens, an emerging India is a valuable partner in managing the impending chaos in the Af-Pak region and promote political stability and economic prosperity in East Asia.
For nearly six decades, India and the United States struggled to limit the damage to their bilateral relations from their divergent strategic trajectories. Today, the challenge for Clinton and her Indian hosts is to build on the convergence of their interests in Asia — in the continent's southwestern and eastern parts.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
CHESS AND THE CITY
Great cities are like chessboards. Complex, fast-moving, full of traps, unexpected threats and opportunities. Sometimes a king is brought to bay, sometimes a pawn becomes a queen. Sometimes you are one of the players, sometimes you are just being played.
Chennai has made a strong bid to host the world chess championship between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand. The match, consisting of 12 games, will be held sometime in April or May next year. This is the first time such a match will be held in India. If Anand successfully retains his crown, then the symbolism of chess returning to India, the cradle of the game, will be apt. Anand himself is a product of Madras chess, honing his talent over countless blitz games at the Tal Chess Club in Alwarpet.
In all probability, chess herself was born in a city, all those thousands of years ago. Only the invention of leisure could have led to chess. Agricultural surpluses and large walls to keep enemies at bay — all that was left was a way to while away the hours before the next harvest season.
The French intellectual Guy Debord coined the theory of "psychogeography". According to Debord, psychogeography was the "study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals". Are there such psychogeographical tendencies in chess?
Hyderabad, for instance, in cricket has produced a series of "stylish" batsmen. Similarly, in chess there was the Hyderabad trio of Mohammed Hassan, Hussain Ali and Turab Ali, all known for their positional play, imbued with the leisurely languor of chess players who came from an ancient tradition of princely patronage.
From the '40s to the '90s, the Soviet Union bestrode the world of chess like a colossus. To outsiders, the Soviet machine looked a vast faceless monolith. Yet, to insiders, there were plenty of local variations. Gelfand, in an interview, talked about Minsk, his hometown, which was known for challenging theoretical duels; Riga, the capital of Latvia, where they played dashing, sacrificial chess; and the Caucasus where there was less emphasis on theory and more on subtleties and intuition.
Leafing through the index of The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games is a trawl through the strata of chess history. Modern chess really begins in the 1850s with the first international tournament held in London in 1851. Working your way through the index, it is possible to observe the ebbs and flows of history. For example, in the beginning, the names of St Petersburg, Berlin, London predominate. The tsar was an influential patron of chess and in fact the first "Grandmaster" title was awarded by Tsar Nicolas II.
After the turn of the century, the rise of America is clearly seen with frequent entries of New York. The city was a chess mecca in the 1920s, the kinetic nature of the metropolis also having a distinct stamp on the game. Bobby Fischer is probably the most famous product of the New York style.
The Soviets, starting in the '20s, had taken to chess with Communist thoroughness and soon the results began to show. The 1945 radio match between the US and the USSR was a clear sign of the torch being passed, with the Soviets wiping out the Americans. From now on, game entries increasingly refer, first to Moscow and Leningrad and then to more far-flung outposts, Kirovabad, Tbilisi, Chelyabinsk.
From the late '90s, a new entry starts turning up — Elista. Elista happens to be a wind-swept city on the Kalmyk steppes, hardly a chess metropolis one would think. The explanation is that Kirsan Illyumanzhinov, the current head of FIDE, was the president of Kalmykia and this led to many tournaments being held there, culminating in the world championship match between Vaselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik in 2006. In one of the games, Kramnik defended a long ending. This would have been merely a footnote in chess history, but in 2010 when Anand was defending his crown against Topalov in Sofia, the Bulgarian repeatedly played into that ending, which acquired notoriety as the "Elista ending".
Much more common is naming chess openings after cities. The Slav Defence, for instance, has a variation called Meran, named after the Italian town where a tournament was held in the '20s. Unfortunately, most of the major advances in chess theory have already been made, and it is unlikely that there will be a Chennai gambit or defence being introduced in next year's match.
Then there are cities or places that derive their identity from chess. The tiny seaside village of Wijk aan Zee in Holland is famous for hosting an international tournament since the '20s. It is the chess equivalent of Wimbledon. Naturally, the chess is held during the off-season, in January, with biting gales sweeping in from the North Sea. The economic life revolves around the giant Hoogoven steel mills, now acquired by Tata. There are a series of tournaments catering to players of all strengths, from the world's best to enthusiastic amateurs. It is the kind of town where you walk into a bar, and the bartender asks, "Did you win or lose today?"
No doubt, centuries from now chessplayers will stumble across "Anand-Gelfand, Chennai, 2012" in some database. Playing a game of chess, therefore, is a certain kind of immortality.
Unudurti is a Hyderabad-based writer
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
HOW RUDE REALITY SET IN AT THAGLA
It took the government leadership some time to respond to the objections raised by Lieutenant-General Umrao Singh, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Siliguri-based XXXIII Corps to its still-secret directive to the army to evict the Chinese that had intruded well south of the McMahon Line at Thagla ridge ('Grave Mistakes after Galwan', IE, July 4). The reason was that Nehru was away at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London and the more directly concerned defence minister Krishna Menon was at the UN General Assembly. This clearly indicated that they did not expect any big bust-up with China. At the same time, both were anxious that their government must be seen to be acting against the expanding Chinese encroachments.
So it was on October 3 that Menon — in consultation with the chief of the army staff, General P. N. Thapar, and Lt Gen L. P. Sen, GOC-in-C of the Eastern Army Command — decided that Umrao Singh had to be replaced. Ironically, Thapar had earlier shared Umrao's misgiving that the Indian army was in no position to take on the Chinese with their superiority in numbers, equipment and logistics. But in the third week of September, after Menon's instructions by phone from New York, the defence ministry had overruled the army chief, in a note signed by H.C. Sarin, then joint secretary in the ministry, later defence secretary and always a confidant of Menon.
Who was to succeed Umrao Singh was the next question. Thapar recommended Lt Gen "Sam" Manekshaw, and received a mouthful from an enraged defence minister. Strangely, the army chief seemed not to be aware that Sam was Menon's bete noire. Menon's own choice was Lt Gen B.M. Kaul, his favourite, then serving as the Chief of General Staff (CGS) at the army headquarters. Another source of Kaul's immense influence was he was distantly related to the prime minister. As the future trajectory of tragic events cruelly showed, Kaul's choice as the battlefield commander was a mistake of monumental proportions — for the country as well as for himself. It is worth adding that Kaul's appointment in 1959 as the CGS by superseding some of his seniors was one of the reasons for the row between Menon and Gen K.S. Thimayya, arguably India's most popular army chief so far.
This said, let me not be unfair to Kaul and ignore his many qualities. He was an excellent, indeed outstanding, military bureaucrat. He was also a man of phenomenal energy, drive and dynamism, exceeded only by his ambition. No matter how difficult the task assigned to him, his response was "can do". Actually, he tended to "overdo" it. Unfortunately, he had hardly any combat experience and this turned out to be a fatal flaw.
Characteristically, Kaul left to assume his new responsibility the very next day after making sure that this landmark in his career would be reported adequately in both The Times of India and The Statesman. The Times' story was under the byline of G. K. Reddy (though Kaul had personally tipped off Prem Bhatia, then the paper's resident editor and later Delhi editor of Indian Express). I wrote the item in the Statesman on the basis of information conveyed by a trusted aide of Kaul.
Both Reddy and I made one mistake. We reported that Kaul had been appointed commander of the "task force" formed to evict the Chinese from Thagla. The reality was different, complex and somewhat phony. As the ministry of defence (MoD) clarified, Kaul was to head the newly raised IV Corps based at Tezpur. In fact, Kaul's Corps was a phantom. No new troops except for the Corps headquarters staff were sent to it. He had to make do with the meagre forces already deployed. At the same time, Umrao Singh was not sacked. He continued to command the Siliguri Corps but his jurisdiction was confined to Sikkim, Nagaland and the East Pakistan Front. The whole of North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh, threatened by the Chinese, was made Kaul's exclusive domain.
True to his style, on his very first day at Tezpur, Kaul flew to Lumpu and then trekked to Namkachu valley where Brigadier John Dalvi's 7 Infantry Brigade faced the more numerous Chinese occupying the commanding heights. No general officer had ever before visited Namkachu. Despite his gung-ho personality, Kaul was shaken by what he saw of the terrain and the enemy. After this brush with harsh reality, he sent from the spot a string of top priority signals that had a "sobering, not to mention dismaying, impact on the army and the (defence) ministry", in the words of Maj Gen D.K. Palit, then Director of Military Operations at the Army Headquarters in the rank of a brigadier.
However, such was Kaul's make-up that despite having discerned the grave vulnerability of Indian positions, he ended his dispatch reassuringly, telling New Delhi that he would take the first step to implement its directive before October 10. Ironically, it was exactly on that day that the Chinese delivered a far more shattering blow.
On October 9, in keeping with his promise to initiate some action, Kaul sent a platoon-strong patrol to take control of Tseng Jong, a small knoll somewhat to the northwest of the Chinese positions that they hadn't occupied. Kaul calculated that once the Indian patrol got there, the knoll could be used as a "jumping point". In launching this operation, Kaul had brushed aside warnings by Brigadier Dalvi and the divisional commander in the area, Maj Gen Niranjan Prasad. Surprisingly, the Chinese did nothing to stop the Indian patrol. But the platoon reported late in the evening that the Chinese were "massing a whole battalion" against it, and he therefore expected an attack at dawn.
Nothing happened at first light on October 10. An hour later, however, nearly 800 Chinese soldiers, supported by mortar fire, threw an assault and wiped out the Indian patrol at Tse Jong. According to Prasad, Kaul was "too stunned for an hour or so to speak coherently". All he said later was that Delhi would have to do "a complete rethink".
The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THE MAXIMUM THREAT
As Mumbai's Boswell, Suketu Mehta captured the dark side of Mumbai as effectively as he did the wonder and iconic status that define the metropolis. The alluring mistress of hope, the devil of despair, the maximum city in every which way, whether providing nightmares or building dreams. It also detailed why and how Mumbai can become an addiction. Above all, it defined what makes a Mumbaikar. It is a peculiar definition, but it manages to say a lot, much like one speaks of someone being a New Yorker. Wednesday's terror strike has brought Mumbaikars into tragic focus once again — their legendary "resilience" and "spirit" starting to invite anger rather than pride from those who face the reality of being the favoured target for terrorists.
The reasons for that targeting go beyond the cliché of being "the financial centre". No other city in India has that aura, and sense of destiny, that Mumbai commands. Like New York, with which it is often compared, Mumbai stands for something unique: a city that energises those who live in it, and instills a desire to excel. Such cities have become "command centres in the borderless domain of the new global economy," as an American architect recently wrote. These are cities that cause prominent writers like Mehta, Vikram Chandra (Sacred Games, Love and Longing in Bombay) and now Aravind Adiga (Last Man in Tower) to use them as a backdrop to their novels, because of their iconic status, of the kind of people who inhabit them, and the dynamics of its neighbourhoods. Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire could only have been filmed in Mumbai to bring alive the grime and the glamour, the ambition and drive, and the dreams that it encourages its inhabitants to dream. It is that spirit which invites the terrorist's wrath, the obsessive desire to see it broken. Mumbai is more a symbol of emerging India and its growing economic clout than any other city in India, and that's what keeps the fidayeen plotting their twisted conspiracies while preparing the ammonium nitrate.
There are other reasons why Mumbai commands a special status, and not just in India. A recent meeting of architects, historians, social scientists and town planners in Paris concluded that to qualify as a "great" city or "world city", it must exert a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education and entertainment. Only a handful of cities met that criteria, and Mumbai is possibly the only Indian city that does. Technology may be a Bangalore monopoly, and the media perhaps more inclined to Delhi, the centre of political power, but in every other way, Mumbai makes the grade. Its near-legendary corporate czars are now global players, their business impact being felt in every continent. In fact, the most profitable technology company in India (TCS) is based in Mumbai, not Bangalore. In the global entertainment arena, Bollywood is now as well known as Hollywood. Canadian author Neil Frazer writes: "Global cities are the sites for global finance and other specialised service firms, the sites of key innovations, including innovations in services, and they are markets for the products and innovations produced." No other innovation in service matches the global wonder of Mumbai's unique dabba system.
There are others. Drive in from the airport, and you now cross the Worli Sea Link, a technical and engineering accomplishment that is a lesson in innovation. Take a detour past Antilla, the richest private residence in the world. It is humungous and distorted and vulgar but it's also a scale of ambition that only Mumbai would demand. Innovation and ambition are as much part of the Mumbai character as the underworld and the slums. Then there is the iconography: the original gateway to India, it now has a permanent signature of that status, the Gateway of India and the ever-elegant arc of Marine Drive flirting with the Arabian Sea. All along, the crumbling art deco mansions, sea salt rubbed into their wounds, express their own peculiar symbol of defiance — you can hurt us but never bring us down. There is history hidden behind those decaying walls. Crawford Market is the bustling area in a semi-dilapidated 1869 building where many Mumbaikars buy fruit, vegetables and meat. None of them know that the bas-relief work on the building exterior was done by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard's father.
Modern history has made it what it is today. Almost everyone in Mumbai arrived here as an immigrant over the last century, giving the city a vibrancy and cosmopolitanism that is different from other cities. Nowhere else do you find that feeling of constant movement and vibrancy: only New York has that effect. Like New York, it has a very active citizenry whose pride of place and belonging sets it apart. It's the one place where you can make a mark and also make a difference. The actor Judy Dench once said about New York: "The city has a great capacity to transform people." Mumbai has done that to so many, the count is lost.
There's a greater urgency required to ensure that Mumbai retains its special status and sense of destiny. As nation-states wane under the transforming power of globalisation, cities are growing in power, filling in the spaces being left vacant. Mumbai can play that role if politicians, bureaucrats and security agencies allow it to. There is a terrible irony emerging, a city where people find their freedoms — of choice, of opinions, of celebrations, of living — are finding those very freedoms under severe threat, and not just from the terrorists. Mumbai must survive — and thrive — if India is to survive and thrive.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
A LIFE OF POLITICS, PARTITION AND POETRY
Sheila Gujral has died with a quiet dignity that marked her whole life as a wife, mother and writer.
She was one of those rare beings who walked along the steps of greatness with her husband, Inder Kumar Gujral, with a sensitive, restrained public face and her own creative inputs as he strode the political scene eventually to become prime minister. So low-key was her public assertion that even I, who got to know her brother-in-law, the famous painter and sculptor, Satish Gujral from 1948 onwards, and later his wife Kiran, herself an artist, as also the whole family, never realised that along with the public face of responsibility and devotion which made the senior Gujrals an ideal couple, there was also this very quiet, withdrawn, sensitive wife, Sheila.
It was she who spelt out the pain and agony of Partition — and her involvement in social commitments bolstered the image of her husband at every step of his ascension from president of the New Delhi Municipal Committee to Union minister in Indira Gandhi's cabinet to becoming prime minister himself. That she wrote in Hindi brought her in direct contact with the post-Partition, beleaguered Punjabis of that era and later, of course, gave her a natural entry into the more cosmopolitan Hindi literary coterie of the capital.
Born in Lahore, Sheila got her master's degree in economics, as well as a diploma in journalism from Punjab University, two subjects which gave her the requisite background for a life grounded in the challenge faced by independent India in these very two areas and by her husband in the positions of power that he held.
But instead of prose, in which she might have encapsulated the problems and given hard solutions and advice, Sheila Gujral chose poetry as her preferred medium of expression. The result is a poem that seems to capture the sensitivity with which she harboured an ambition to let her husband fulfill these desires — or rather, aims. She was 87 years old when she died, a life fulfilled, with two sons, Vishal and Naresh, the latter also in politics like his father, Inder Kumar Gujral.
If there was still in her heart a nostalgic regret which she thought her husband would fulfil for her, it came out in a beautifully sensitive poem :
When I'm no longer there
Would you with your hands remove
All the hurt of the poor
Which I could not
When I am no longer there
With soft smiles and tenderness
Will you remove all their pain
Which I could not.
When I am no longer there
Decorate your home
With all of nature's beauty
Which I could not
Vasudev is a Delhi-based writer
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
MEDICINE'S ETERNAL VIGILANCE
Three recent events highlight the extraordinary task that lies ahead for cancer prevention. First: in late May, a WHO panel added cellphones to a list of things that are "possibly carcinogenic" — a category that also includes pickles and coffee. Second: in mid-June, formaldehyde (used in plywood manufacturing and embalming) was finally classified as a carcinogen. And third: in late June, the US issued newer and more graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. These include deliberately disturbing images of a patient with mouth cancer and of a man with tobacco smoke coming out of a tracheotomy stoma.
What connects these events? Together, they serve to remind us of three of the most potent challenges that cancer-control agencies face today. Indeed, it is essential to recognise these events as representing a progression: each corresponds to a crucial stage in the process of patrolling the borderlands of cancer. Effective cancer control depends on successful action at each of these complex stages.
The first challenge is scientific. It concerns the complexity of identifying new carcinogens, and the need for consistent standards for doing so. Take the purported link between cellphone radiation and brain cancer. This link is based largely on the so-called Interphone study. In Interphone, men and women with a variant of brain cancer were asked to recall their level of exposure to cellphone radiation. But pivotal uncertainties remain. Trials like Interphone depend on the ability of subjects to recall their prior exposures, which can be inconsistent. When some subjects' actual phone use was logged, there were broad discrepancies between actual and reported usage.
There are other difficulties. Despite a drastic increase in cellphone usage over the past decades, there has been no significant change in glioma cancer rates. And finally, the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones — unlike the radiation emitted by X-rays or nuclear bombs — cannot directly damage DNA. If cellphone radiation is causing cancer, it is doing so through a mechanism that defies our current understanding of carcinogenesis. The cellphone case is a reminder of how difficult it is to identify a new carcinogen — and how important it therefore is to have standards to make such classifications possible.
Discrepancies in standards for classifying carcinogens have led to confusion in the public realm. In contrast to the WHO, many agencies, including the National Cancer Institute, remain sceptical about the link between phone radiation and cancer. In part, the problem is semantic: the WHO's definition of "possibly carcinogenic" is much looser.
The second challenge facing cancer control agencies is political. The formaldehyde case illustrates this. Unlike phone radiation, formaldehyde has a well-established mechanism to cause cancer: it is a reactive chemical that can directly attack DNA. Sophisticated trials showed that men and women exposed to formaldehyde — morticians, for instance — had higher rates of leukaemia than unexposed people.
But some of these studies were performed three decades ago. Why have 30 years elapsed? In part, because of active lobbying by various industries, in particular, plywood manufacturers, who have tried to thwart this classification.
Identifying a carcinogen, in short, isn't sufficient. Cancer-control agencies need to bolster political support, and neutralise lobbying interests.
The third challenge for the cancer community is social. The new labels on cigarette packages are a case in point. The human trials that established that tobacco smoke is a carcinogen were initially performed in the mid-1950s (some even earlier). First, the tobacco industry mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit the data; it took a decade of innovative strategies to alter the trajectory of smoking behaviour in America. But young men and women are smoking again: consumption in certain regions has been rising. Evidently, advertising the risk to the public is not enough: cancer-control agencies need to reinvent strategies. Old warning labels generate habitual responses, so new, more disturbing labels are needed to invigorate attention.
Patrolling the world for carcinogens is a complex task. Scientific challenges morph into political challenges that lead to social challenges. If reducing the incidence of cancer is a national goal, then it is essential to recognise the many-dimensional nature of countering carcinogens.
Mukherjee is assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and author of "The Emperor of All Maladies"
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
WHAT'S A TREND?
Being a reverse wave, a trend stuns people, creates discomfort in society. It forms as a distinct character in the backdrop of history, and mainly emerges from human manifestations of being anti-establishment. This multi-directional catalyst is related to economic power that takes life forward or back. Social rebels want to be so different that people stop in their tracks and contemplate on their activity.
An individual can be impacted by the trend soberly, subtly or exuberantly. It depends on the individual.
Different types of trends emerge at different times. The advent of denim jeans was a trend that cut across society; the poor, rich, middle class, executives, farm hands, old and aged, almost everybody went through the trend. In business, it's important to understand the latent trend. Having an inkling of the future allows you to direct your business on the right growth path. Although technology is creating a futuristic trend, which people have not been associated with before, a trend takes the future as a hook to climb from, even as it is anchored in the tremendous cycles of history.
A brand at the core of the trend absorbs and anticipates the future, it drives the latent trend. Let's see how Benetton did just that to ride global business with $2,751 million in 2010, 15% operating profit margin. Benetton case study: Luciano Benetton transformed his company when he changed his brand from Benetton to United Colors of Benetton. The brand thrives on expletives and stands for anti-racism. His extreme provocations have shock value that shakes up the shackles that bind civilised society. But the point he raises is a serious social cause. Being a Caucasian, he alerts fellow Europeans to the racism ingrained in their minds. He's proved that curses and abuses can be over-stretched to defend a social cause.
Till the 1970s, racism went unbridled. Even poverty-stricken Caucasian countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal were considered inferior; the French would arrogantly dub Portuguese to be good only as concierge of condominiums. African or Arab communities hated the 'high and mighty white attitude', which oftentimes led to violence. In this atmosphere, fashion designer Benetton had the calibre, vision and guts to use abusive visual communication with anti-racism as his platform.
Fashion's origins can be traced to royalty that distinguished itself from the proletariat; it has no obvious connect to racism. By whipping up collages of different cultures, Benetton turned the sophisticated world of fashion upside down. Not only did his anti-racism pitch disturb the Establishment, Benetton fought for social justice. His political and humanitarian rights causes won him appreciation from liberals, intellectuals and the young. He plastered Western cities with daring, controversial visuals that attracted people of all societies. These people became his buyers. His platform became large, intense and inimitable.
United Colors of Benetton is always linked to colours, in clothing and in uniting races of different skin colours. His messages never abuse anyone, his images expose the totally taboo. Just imagine an outsize billboard in a prime metro area exhibiting innumerable male and female sex organs of multiple colours and races, with nothing else but a tiny United Colors of Benetton sign-off. You may publicly denounce such a picture, but wouldn't you be curious to openly see the United Colors of sex for your personal hedonism? This outrageous picture created havoc in society.
Benetton billboards communicate people's subliminal desire to see the unmentionable such as horses, symbolical white and dark, making love. This sexual fantasy with the opposite colour is hidden, especially the coloured person's revenge over white supremacy through sex. Benetton proves that a desirable object can break racism. He spoke out against incest in societies too, and iconised his clothes to reflect the wearer's liberal personality.
Fashion codes change every year, but the professional success of United Colors of Benetton is its single message magnified to overwhelming proportions. For over a quarter century, it has not bored people. The media mileage his communication gets is incredible. Just a few confrontational billboards in a country, and the media automatically starts different kinds of debate. Millions of people, shocked, disturbed or supportive of the pictures, watch these TV debates at prime time. No company can hope for such mileage even if they invest huge sums of money. Protests and turbulence have frequently knocked his door. But the cacophonous attentions his unrelenting salvos receive establish that people love to be provoked. People enjoy public exhibition of their unstated desires; they are keen to openly indulge in controversy to keep life dynamic.
A trend is a non-stop wave that has an undercurrent. It is extremely difficult to swim against the undercurrent. Trying to do so can be very laborious, and can drown you. You could ignore companies like Benetton as not being relevant for your business but you do so at your peril because you totally miss the consumer's deeper social insight, not her subjective or individualistic views. Consequently, you may fail to analyse and understand the consumers' fantasies that other industry domains are addressing. By not riding the trend, your business may fall into the undercurrent. Your organisation has to create a wave to connect to that ocean of consumers over whom you will never have physical control.
Today's trends such as hip hop, iPod, Rbk, Niketown, Fcuk, Smart car, Swatch, homosexual marriage, Bose sound, Starbucks, health and fitness are cords that link to consumers, they are not in a vacuum. If managements like Benetton have intellectually translated the world of business to a socio-philosophical mode to create the latent trend in business, so can you. Connecting to these trends will help you generate the latent trend, that better cook of current and past trends.
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top managements. Reach him at www.shiningconsulting.com
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
SEX BAROMETER FOR A PRESIDENT?
Is it a Hollywood movie or a real case? Did former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) sexually assault a hotel chambermaid as alleged? DSK has denied all seven charges against him. If proved, he'll spend 74 years and three months behind bars. Let's examine the shrieking can of worms let loose in this hot plot blending sex, money, politics, reputation, women, crime and outrage. Even the dress code of chambermaids has changed from skirts to trousers in New York's Sofitel Hotel. Supposedly the mechanism of taking off trousers makes women less vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, among the most powerful decision makers in disbursing international monetary funds, even to bail out countries in extreme recessionary crises, was arrested by New York police on May 14, 2011. How did they find him? He'd called his hotel to enquire after the mobile phone he left behind. The police heard, got into action, rushed to the aircraft about to take flight to Paris, entered the first class cabin and got kudos from a section of society for 'retrieving a criminal from his escape bid.' Paraded hand-cuffed before TV cameras in court, DSK was packed off to maximum security prison Rikers Island where die-hard criminals serve tough sentences. He was put on suicide watch.
Simultaneously, pandemonium broke loose internationally. The press ran amuck, detailing every move, speculating reasons, consequences, dissecting and bisecting DSK's character, unearthing his alleged romps with different country prostitutes. Women's groups found much to add in the cause of justice for rape victims. France was in utter shock, and severely criticised America's judicial system. Strauss-Kahn was tipped to contest and win the next presidential election as a Socialist party candidate. The French can't believe that on a woman's protest, and sans any proof, American police are empowered to take the ferocious action of relegating a responsible, high-profile public official to solitary confinement, destroying his reputation, snatching away his job, even destabilising another country's election process.
There's also been gambling on whether DSK's French political opponents orchestrated this. Tabloid website Le Post said the first person to tweet the arrest, even before the arrest, was Jonathan Pinet, a French right-wing UMP party activist. Pinet then said he got the news from his friend who works at the hotel. Le Post says the first person to retweet Pinet was Arnaud Dassier, who'd previously been implicated in revealing anti-DSK material. And the first website to mention the news, before New York Post broke the story, was 24heuresactu, a right-wing blog.
"I don't believe for a single second the accusations of sexual assault by my husband," said the ex-IMF chief's third wife, Anne Sinclair who's more famous than this second husband she married in 1991. I was an avid fan of her brilliant TV show called 7/7 in the 1980s. Her 500+ interviews included presidents Francois Mitterrand, Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton, and stars Yves Montand and Madonna. A multi-million heiress, her grandfather was Picasso's art dealer, she rushed to New York bringing "brains, beauty & cash to save her man," reported website whatonsanya. She hired the best lawyers, put up $6 million in bail, $50,000 a month to rent a New York apartment to live in house-arrest with her husband who had to wear a non-removeable electronic security tag on his ankle. She also paid $200,000 a month for round-the-clock armed guards as per mandatory rules to prevent his escape. From the beginning DSK had stated it was consensual sex, that he'd seduced the chambermaid. Women have criticised her tolerance, but Anne Sinclair is determined to prove that her husband is not a rapist.
Then suddenly the tables turned. In a stunning court hearing on July 1, 2011 Dominique Strauss-Kahn was freed from house arrest, his security tag removed, his bail money returned, but not his passport as the case is due for hearing on July 18, 2011. What happened? Prosecutors admit to 'serious credibility issues' with his 32-year-old Guinean immigrant accuser. The UK's Daily Mail reported, "Two official sources said the unnamed woman, within a day of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, spoke telephonically to an imprisoned alleged drug dealer who is accused of possessing 400lb of marijuana. In the recorded conversation she reportedly discussed possible benefits of pursuing charges against Strauss-Kahn." One paper even said she was a sex worker. It appears the maid's bank account in two years had cash deposits of over £62,000, and her five phones ran up hundreds of dollars bills every month, although she revealed possessing one phone only.
Prosecutors said the alleged victim falsified her 2004 application for asylum in USA. She said she lied that Guinean soldiers gang-raped her, tortured her husband who died in jail. She also admitted tax fraud, and lied about "a variety of additional topics concerning her history, background, present circumstances and personal relationships." She also changed her original police statement that "she fled to an area of the main hallway of the hotel's 28th floor, waited until she observed the defendant leave suite 2806 and the 28th floor by entering an elevator. Now she says that after the alleged incident she proceeded to clean a nearby room, then returned to suite 2806, began to clean that suite before she reported the incident to her supervisor." She also allegedly owned up to falsely claiming a friend's child as her own to get a higher tax refund.
Is this Hollywood film displaying American bigness becoming like a Bollywood entertainment fantasy? In the frightening movie Jaws, the shark at sea was only a robot shot in a big pond at Universal Studios, a background screen created the skyline. In this matter, who will the judge believe on July 18? DSK's maintaining consensual sex or the maid claiming rape? Will this judgment showcase America's dream of becoming emperor of global politics? Never having enjoyed a real emperor's power like Napoleon or Hitler the dictator had, perhaps in the name of freedom Americans love to impose a democratic imperial or dictatorial character while flying the American flag of liberty.
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top managements. Reach him at www.shiningconsulting.com
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
ZAHEER KHAN: A PIONEER IN THE ART OF BOWLING
Zaheer Khan versus Andrew Strauss, a battle that will set the tone for the rest of the series, was the most talked about duel at India's first press conference in England on July 14. Khan has done it against Strauss in the past, four dismissals in 2007 leading India to a series win in the process. He has done it against the South African skipper Graeme Smith as well.
His away going delivery taking the left hander's edge or the ball coming in to the left hander and getting his leg plum in front of the stumps, Khan has a penchant for picking up the opposing captain's wicket and giving India a psychological edge. His return into the mix after the West Indies series means India has its leader back, one who is at the top of his game in the Test match arena.
Khan has a swagger about him. A little tuft of hair sticking out at the back of his head—his trademark—he looks the leader India has come to depend on over the years. Just when the chips are down does Khan come up with something special to get India back into the match. South Africa 200 for 1 and going strong at the Eden Gardens in February 2010. An amazing Khan spell and the Proteas were all out for 262 giving India the opportunity to push for a series leveler. With Ishant Sharma back in form, the Khan-Sharma combination is expected to be as lethal as Anderson and Tremlett at Lords.
More than anything, Zaheer Khan's presence in the middle is a comforting feeling. It tells you that a wicket is never too far away and that one bad session is not necessarily the end for India. Khan can always marshal a comeback and his trademark celebration with both hands up in the air and a carnal scream to go with it is enough to inspire his bowling mates to put in that extra effort. He knows the virtues of being patient, the importance of being sincere all through a Test match and the art of being persistent. He won't back down in front of aggression and won't concede an inch if it comes to intensity. He is just the perfect person for a high intensity series that will perhaps decide the fight for the mantle of the world's best Test side.
A well educated and soft spoken person, Khan had come to Mumbai to become an engineer. Cricket, for him, happened by accident. And it is this well educated background that stands him in good stead at times of adversity. He knows how difficult it is to get to the top and remembers his way up there well. It also means he has a level head on his shoulders and never takes things for granted. And for the team the presence of their champion bowler means the others can rally round him and bowl more freely, without letting the pressure of the series get to them.
Though his average per wicket is more than Srinath's, there's little doubt that Khan is India's best fast bowling option after Kapil Dev. It can even be said that he is the best old ball bowler India has ever had. It is his ability to reverse swing the ball that has won many a match for India in the last three years and has given the attack the much needed extra teeth.
The only worry with Khan is his fitness. Here again, however, his level-headedness comes to the fore. Knowing fully well that he isn't the fittest around, he does not bowl all balls with the same intensity or effort. Only a couple of effort balls per over, Khan has perfected the art of keeping himself fresh for longish spells if need be.
Zaheer Khan was the man of the series when India beat England in a closely contested Test series in 2007. With both sides having improved over the last four years, India will once again depend on a Khan special for an encore in 2011. In fact, it can be suggested that an Indian win will much depend on Khan and his ability to dent the English top order, especially the Strauss-Cook combination. The anticipation, with each passing day, is growing and as Harsha Bhogle has correctly called it "it is surely going to be a series worth the wait."
The writer is a sports historian
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT: ANOTHER YEAR OF WASTE
Almost a year ago, president Obama declared to the United Nations General Assembly: "When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations—an independent sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."
It's been a wasted year.
Just about everywhere in the Middle East there has been movement—stirring, remarkable, uneven—as the region breaks old chains of despotism and seeks its slice of the modern world. But Palestinians and Israelis remain stuck in their sterile and competitive narratives of victimhood, determined, it seems, to ensure past rancour defeats promise.
It's been a year of terrible waste.
There is no alternative to resolving this most agonising of conflicts but neither party ever quite gets to that realisation. After 63 years the balance of power is overwhelmingly skewed in Israel's favour and the one country that might redress that balance—the United States—is unwilling to because its politics allow no room for that. In general when power is so skewed between two parties peace is elusive.
Obama, when he returns to the UN in a few weeks, will face the consequences of a wasted year.
As usual, there's plenty of blame to spread around. Obama had one of his worst moments last September when he brought the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the White House to announce renewed talks, only for them to unravel as Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlement expansion. Now, when the United States says to the Palestinians—"Trust us, come to the table, we can deliver"—they scoff.
It's been a year of squandered opportunity.
The Palestinians, with ample cause for frustration at the sterile maneuvering of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have lost the sense of direction that had been growing for two years under the direction of prime minister Salam Fayyad. They seem to have opted for an act of political theatre that will get them nowhere and place them in confrontation with the United States.
Fayyad's state building in the West Bank—schools and roads and institutions and security forces—led the World Bank to declare last year that the Palestinian Authority was ready for a state "at any point in the near future." But Fayyad never got recognition from Israel for his achievements: Terrorist violence is down 96% in the West Bank in the past five years.
Israel snubbed a viable partner—criminal waste.
So the Palestinian Authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, became tempted by the notion of going to the UN in September to seek recognition for a Palestinian state. It's not an idea Fayyad likes because he's a pragmatist interested in results not symbolism. The results of this approach, if adopted, will be negative.
The US will veto the Palestinian demand in the Security Council. It is possible major European allies will vote with the Palestinians and a 14-1 vote would be embarrassing for Israel. A vote in the General Assembly would go overwhelmingly in the Palestinians' favour. But this would not get Palestine anywhere.
It would not gain membership in the United Nations. US funding, to the tune of about $550 million a year, would be cut off because Congress would be incensed. The Israelis, angered, might also cut off tax revenues. The occupation would continue, along with its humiliations.
Abbas also decided to sign a reconciliation agreement with Hamas that was not thought through. It has since proved stillborn because Hamas will not accept Abbas's insistence that Fayyad remain as prime minister. Instead, Abbas should have negotiated a truce pending elections in a year that would allow Palestinians to decide who should represent them. An empty reconciliation with Hamas only gave ammunition to Netanyahu, incensed Congress and embarrassed Fayyad.
The waste is so crushing that the Quartet, meeting this week in Washington, was unable even to agree on a statement. The Palestinians liked the mention of a peace "based on the 1967 lines" in Obama's recent Middle East speech. Netanyahu loathed the speech but liked the mention of "Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people." Between the 1967 lines dear to the Palestinians and the Jewish state obsession of Netanyahu, finding a suitable form of words to encourage talks proved beyond the Quartet.
The Israeli insistence on up-front recognition from the Palestinians of Israel as a "Jewish state" is absurd—a powerful indication of growing Israeli insecurities, isolation and intolerance. There was no such insistence a decade ago.
States get recognised, not their nature, and the Palestine Liberation Organization has recognised Israel's right to "exist in peace and security." Palestinians are not going to elaborate on their recognition ahead of negotiations, while Netanyahu refuses to elaborate on what his vague formulation of "two states for two peoples" might actually mean.
The Jewish state issue is a cherry-on-the-cake issue for the last stage of any talks. So pushing it to the front of the agenda is just Netanyahu's way of putting delaying tactics ahead of strategic thinking once again.
The waste is staggering and the looming train wreck appalling.
SUDAN TO LAUNCH NEW CURRENCY
The Central Bank of Sudan, on July 16, announced that it would launch a new currency this month to avoid risks following the issue of currency of the new Republic of South Sudan. "The replacement of the old currency will take two to three months," said Mohamed Khair Al-Zubair, Governor of the Bank of Sudan, at a press conference. He said the bank was ready to negotiate with the government of South Sudan to reach an agreement that guarantees restoration of the old currency.
The Republic of South Sudan said it would launch its new currency next Monday, a move criticised by the Sudanese Minister of Finance Ali Mahmoud who said there was an agreement to continue working with the Sudanese pound for six months. — Xinhua
NO. 1 MUST ASSERT ITSELF
That India would win the Test series in West Indies wasn't in much doubt — given the relative strengths of the sides and the nature of the five-day format, which allows these strengths to play out — but the manner of victory left a little to be desired. To be fair to M.S. Dhoni's team, it lacked its first choice openers, its best batsman, and its bowling leader, all of whom have contributed immensely to India's rise to the top of Test cricket. And in the normal course of things, any series win, especially one abroad, is an event to be celebrated. But considering the thinness of the West Indies batting and the bowler-friendly character of at least two of the three pitches played on, the 1-0 result was less than satisfying. An old vulnerability, not pressing more intensely for victory, showed itself again. India has achieved many creditable successes in becoming the No.1 team — the most worthy of them being the cultivation of the ability to bounce back from adversity — but it hasn't always made full use of the opportunities that presented themselves. There has been a tendency at times to ease up after gaining a position of advantage. It is true that India hasn't lost a series since August 2008 but the best Test side in the world is judged against higher standards.
India will have to lift its level of play against England. The return of Virender Sehwag (two weeks into the tour), Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, and Zaheer Khan will aid this endeavour. Not only are they world-class cricketers, they are also first-rate influences in the dressing room. Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, who again proved their value in the Caribbean, have the benefit of entering a tour having spent time in the middle against challenging bowling. It's difficult even for batsmen as skilled as them to find rhythm after a break — something they have had to contend with, not being part of the limited-overs side. The two significant gains of the Caribbean tour were Suresh Raina and Ishant Sharma. Raina's Test career seemed in danger after his troubles in South Africa. But he worked on his problem against the short ball, and was consequently able to shine in West Indies. Another test, against the moving ball, awaits him in England. Ishant seems to have discovered the harmony, in mind and body, that deserted him after such a promising beginning. He led the bowling superbly, operating with hostility and penetration. On his and Zaheer's shoulders rests the responsibility of subjugating England's top order. But each of Dhoni's men will have to step up — the captain himself will have to shed the strange defensiveness that sometimes hinders him — if India is to repeat its series-winning performance of 2007.
THE LONG ROAD AHEAD
It was exactly 31 years ago that India emerged as a nation with an independent launch capability. On that occasion, the Indian Space Research Organisation's SLV-3 rocket, which stood just 23 metres high, succeeded in putting a 35-kg Rohini satellite into orbit. Since then, the country's spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota has seen 32 more launches of satellite-carrying rockets, six of which ended in failure. On Friday, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which was nearly twice the length and 18 times heavier than the SLV-3, took a 1,400-kg communications satellite into space. With 18 successful launches to its credit, the PSLV has matured into a versatile and reliable launcher. Although this is the first time the rocket carried a communications satellite, the PSLV had flawlessly executed similar missions with the country's first dedicated meteorological satellite, Kalpana-1, and subsequently the Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe. However, the PSLV is a less powerful rocket than its trouble-prone sibling, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which has seen three of its seven flights turn into failure. The latter, equipped with a cryogenic engine, is capable of carrying communication satellites that are about one tonne heavier.
For communication satellites, size matters. The bigger and heavier the satellite, the more communication capacity it is able to pack and the more economical the cost of such capacity works out to be. Globally such satellites have grown bulkier over the years and these days can often be in the six-tonne class. Launching small communication satellites on the PSLV is not an attractive proposition. Therefore, as a first step, it is essential that problems with the GSLV, which is expected to fly again next year with the indigenous cryogenic stage, are sorted out expeditiously. But even that rocket will not be able to launch a three-tonne satellite like the GSAT-8 that was put into orbit by Europe's Ariane 5 in May 2011. So ISRO also needs to get its next-generation launcher, the GSLV Mark-III, which will be able to carry four-tonne communication satellites, operational as soon as possible. That may be easier said than done. Both the giant solid-propellant booster for the rocket and its liquid-propellant core stage were successfully tested last year. But its new cryogenic engine and stage must also be similarly tested and proven flight-worthy. Development of a semi-cryogenic engine, which will run on liquid oxygen and kerosene, has started; this engine will be used for a more powerful launch vehicle. ISRO's launch vehicle programme has come a long way but faces many difficult challenges in the years ahead.
ECLECTIC ARCHITECTURE, EXQUISITE FEATURES
The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, which is in the news with the discovery of treasures in its vaults, is an imaginative amalgam of the Dravidian and Kerala architectural styles. If the structure of the sanctum sanctorum, the Dhwaja Sthambham and the Chuttambalam characterise the Kerala style, the influence of the neighbouring Tamil country is visible elsewhere — the wall of the sanctum of the Sree Krishna shrine has Tamil Vattezhuthu inscriptions dating to 1375 CE; the gopuram over the eastern entrance has hundreds of stucco figures, reflecting the Vijayanagara style of architecture; the stunning sculptures in the Kulasekhara mandapam and on the pillars of the rectangular prakara are by sculptors of the Madurai Nayaka period and in the vimana over the sanctum. It is a daring, dramatic fusion. This befits a temple where the presiding deity, Vishnu, reclines on a snake, in a rare depiction.
While no definitive age can be ascribed to the temple, popular belief is that Divakara Muni, a Tulu Brahmin hermit, built it centuries ago.
The Tamil Vaishnavite saint Nammalvar, of the Ninth century CE, sang 11 verses in praise of the "Annalaar [Lord] of Ananthapuram, who is reclining on a snake." This establishes that the temple came into prominence before the Ninth century CE. While Nammalvar's references to "Annalar" are unambiguous, a reference in Silappadhikaram , the Tamil epic of the Second century CE, has brought forth different interpretations. Some scholars argue that "Adaga maadathu ari thuyil amarthon" denotes the reclining Vishnu at "adaga maadam," which is the present-day Thiruvananthapuram. Mr. S. Padmanabhan, founder of the Kanyakumari Historical and Cultural Research Centre in Nagercoil, concurs. Other scholars say "adaga maadam" merely means golden temple.
The temple complex, situated on seven acres, is enclosed by fort walls. In the sanctum is "sayanamurthy," stretched out on the serpent-couch Anantha. From Vishnu's navel rises a lotus that has Brahma seated on it. Vishnu's dangling right hand touches a Siva linga . The reclining image and the serpent consist of a wooden core covered with lime plaster and katu-sarkara , which is a mix of herbs. As many as 12,008 salagramams , sacred stones found on the bed of the Gantaki river in Nepal, are embedded in the idol. Abhishekam (libations poured on the image of the deity) is not performed on it so as to keep the katu-sarkara intact.
Similarity with Tiruvattar temple
Dr. R. Nagaswamy, a former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, and Mr. Padmanabhan, point to the striking similarity between this temple and the Adikesava Perumal temple at Tiruvattar in Kanyakumari district, in terms of plan and internal arrangement. Both are dedicated to Vishnu in the seshasayee pose. Tiruvattar is the older of the two. According to Mr. Padmanabhan, the Tiruvattar temple is also called Adhi Ananthaswamy temple.
The Tiruvattar temple does not have anything like the Padmanabhaswamy temple's Kulasekhara mandapam with sculptures belonging to the late Nayaka period, said Dr. Nagaswamy.
Mr. M.G. Sasibhooshan, cultural historian and archaeologist, said the Tiruvattar temple has beautiful granite sculptures and Deepa Lakshmis in the Sivelipura and in the Balipeedam mandapam . It has two small gopurams at the eastern and western entrance points, built in typical Kerala style. While the length of the reclining Vishnu in Tiruvattar is 18 feet, the length of the Ananthasayee at Thiruvananthapuram is 16 feet, he said.
Mr. H. Sarkar, in An Architectural Survey of the Temples of Kerala (Archaeological Survey of India, 1978), says that Padmanabhaswamy was the tutelary deity of the Ay kings (whose ancestry goes back to the Tamil Sangam age) and that the temples in Thiruvananthapuram and Tiruvattar are monuments of the Ay dynasty. Both the Venad and Travancore kings, who ruled the southern part of what is now Kerala, patronised these temples. In fact, Tiruvattar fell under the suzerainty of the Travancore kingdom, which, at one stage, ruled a stretch from Kollam in present-day Kerala to Kanyakumari and the Tamiraparani river belt in what is now Tamil Nadu.
There is a row of three doors to the sanctum of the Padmanabhaswamy temple that allow one to see the deity's face and the five-headed serpent, the lotus flower with Brahma seated on it and the feet, all separately.
In front of the sanctum is the "Ottakkal (single stone) mandapam ," a massive platform fashioned out of a block of granite, which has pillars with carvings. "The ceiling is pure artistry in itself and is made of well-seasoned wood, abounding in carvings," says Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi Bayi, a member of the Travancore royal family, in her book Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1995).
The credit for erecting the platform goes to the King Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the maker of modern Travancore, during whose reign (1729-1758 CE) the temple got its present shape. Writes Gouri Lakshmi Bayi: "The work on this platform was started and completed under the direct supervision of Sree Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma in 1731 AD. It took the tireless efforts of a huge task force comprising men, horses and elephants for 42 days to bring the stone from Thirumala, a hill in the city, to the temple." This huge block of granite was somehow transported across the Karamana river.The temple has shrines dedicated to Ganesha, Narasimha, Krishna, Kshetrapalan and Sastha. The walls of the main sanctum and those of Krishna and Kshetrapalan have a wealth of murals, mostly of Krishna Leela scenes.
The sculptures in the Kulasekhara mandapam and hundreds of sculptures of Deepa Lakshmis and carvings on the pillars of the covered prakara are by sculptors of the late Nayaka period (18th century) of Madurai. The 100-foot-tall gopuram is dated to the 16th century CE of the Vijayanagara period. The life-size sculptures in the Kulasekhara mandapam are of Nataraja performing ananda tandava and urthva thandava , the highly ornamented Rathi and Manmatha, gypsies, the lion-headed Vyalas, Anusuya with a ladle, musical pillars and so on. All these have an uncanny resemblance to the sculptures at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, the Nellaippar temple in Tirunelveli and the Vishnu temple at Krishnapuram near Tirunelveli.
Gouri Lakshmi Bayi calls the Kulasekhara mandapam "an extravaganza in stone" and a "living wonder of the granite sculptures, a lavish expression of pure poetry in stone." Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma succeeded Anizhom Thirunal in 1758 CE. Karthika Thirunal built the mandapam to commemorate his receiving the title of Kulasekhara Perumal. Sculptors from the Tamil-speaking areas (such as present-day Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts) of old Travancore, and Mootha Panikkar Thottathu Ashari of what is now Kerala, contributed to the work.
The prakara , Sivelipura in Malayalam, has hundreds of Deepa Lakshmi sculptures on the granite pillars, and superb carvings of Hanuman, warriors, danseuses, couples in erotic poses, male practitioners of martial arts, and so on. The granite slabs that form the ceiling have snakes, fish and turtles carved on them. Anizhom Thirunal was the architect of the Sivelipura . The artisans were from Tamil country.
Mr. Sarkar, in his book, does not shy away from raising the question whether the Tiruvattar temple and the Padmanabhaswamy temple were built in Dravida or Dravida-Kerala style of architecture. "The question that remains to be answered is whether they were built in Dravida or Dravida-Kerala style," he says. "Frankly speaking, it is difficult to settle the issue," he adds. "But if the present form is any indication, then both were built in the indigenous Kerala style..."
Gouri Lakshmi Bayi's assessment is this: "The typical Kerala features are underlined by the structure of the Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum), the Chuttambalam, the Belikkal area, the Dhwaja Sthambham and the Chuttu Vilakku or encircling lamps and the Thirumuttam (sacred open courtyards) while the Dravidian style is projected by the huge gopuram (tower) abounding with figures and projections.
The Tamil character is only natural as south Travancore had close cultural affinity with nearby Tamil Nadu regions. Moreover, many parts of southern Tamil Nadu incuding Tirunelveli were very often under the rule of the Travancore kings. Marthanda Varma himself had grown up in south Travancore and was well exposed to the Tamil influence. As such, the blending of the Tamil culture in the temple construction was unavoidable and inevitable…Since this temple too came directly under the temple tradition set down by the Namboodiri Brahmins of Kerala, it was able to retain its basic originality even though the Dravidian ideas and influences inspired its structural patterns…"
The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is indeed an eclectic edifice.
The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram is a blend of Dravidian and Kerala styles.
AADHAAR: ON A PLATFORM OF MYTHS
Two countries. Two pet projects of the respective Prime Ministers. Unmistakable parallels in the discourse. "The case for ID cards is a case not about liberty, but about the modern world ," wrote Tony Blair in November 2006, as he was mobilising support for his Identity Cards Bill, 2004. "Aadhaar…is symbolic of the new and modern India ," said Manmohan Singh in September 2010, as he distributed the first Aadhaar number in Nandurbar. "What we are trying to do with identity cards is make use of the modern technology ," said Mr. Blair. "Aadhaar project would use today's latest and modern technology ," said Dr. Singh. The similarities are endless.
Mr. Blair's celebrated push for identity cards ended in a political disaster for Labour. The British people resisted the project for over five years. Finally, the Cameron government scrapped the Identity Cards Act in 2010, thus abolishing identity cards and plans for a National Identity Register. On the other hand, India is enthusiastically pushing the Aadhaar, or unique identity (UID), project. The UID project has been integrated with the Home Ministry's National Population Register (NPR). The "National Identification Authority of India Bill" has been tabled in Parliament. Globally, observers of identity policies are watching if India learns anything from the "modern" world.
The experience with identity cards in the United Kingdom tells us that Mr. Blair's marketing of the scheme was from a platform of myths. First, he stated that enrolment for cards would be "voluntary". Second, he argued that the card would reduce leakages from the National Health System and other entitlement programmes; David Blunkett even called it not an "identity card," but an "entitlement card." Third, Mr. Blair argued that the card would protect citizens from "terrorism" and "identity fraud." For this, the biometric technology was projected as infallible.
All these claims were questioned by scholarly and public opinion. A meticulous report from the London School of Economics examined each claim and rejected them (see "High-cost, High-risk," Frontline , August 14, 2009). This report argued that the government was making the card compulsory across such a wide range of schemes that it would, de facto , become compulsory. It also argued that the card would not end identity fraud in entitlement schemes. The reason: biometrics was not a reliable method of de-duplication.
The Indian discourse around Aadhaar is remarkably similar. Almost identical arguments are forwarded in support of the project to provide a population of over one billion people with UID numbers. I argue that Aadhaar, just as its failed counterpart in the U.K., is promoted from a platform of myths. Here, there is space for three big myths only.
Myth 1: Aadhaar number is not mandatory.
This is wrong; Aadhaar has stealthily been made mandatory. Aadhaar is explicitly linked to the preparation of the NPR. The Census of India website notes that "data collected in the NPR will be subjected to de-duplication by the UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India]. After de-duplication, the UIDAI will issue a UID Number. This UID Number will be part of the NPR and the NPR Cards will bear this UID Number."
The NPR is the creation of an amendment in 2003 to the Citizenship Act of 1955. As per Rule 3(3) in the Citizenship Rules of 2003, information on every citizen in the National Register of Indian Citizens should compulsorily have his/her "National Identity Number." Again, Rule 7(3) states that "it shall be the responsibility of every Citizen to register once with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration and to provide correct individual particulars." Still further, Rule 17 states that "any violation of provisions of rules 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees."
The conclusion is simple: Aadhaar has been made compulsory, even before passing the Bill concerned in Parliament. Under the project's guise, the State is coercing individuals to part with personal information; this coercion comes with a threat of punishment.
Myth 2: Aadhaar is just like the social security number (SSN) in the United States.
There is a world of difference between the SSN and Aadhaar. The SSN was introduced in the U.S. in 1936 to facilitate provision of social security benefits. A defining feature of SSN is that it is circumscribed by the Privacy Act of 1974. This Act states that "it shall be unlawful for any…government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number." Further, federal agencies have to provide notice to, and obtain consent from, individuals before disclosing their SSNs to third parties.
The SSN was never conceived as an identity document. However, in the 2000s, SSN began to be used widely for proving one's identity at different delivery/access points. As a result, SSNs of individuals were exposed to a wide array of private players, which identity thieves used to access bank accounts, credit accounts, utilities records and other sources of personal information. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office noted that "over a 1-year period, nearly 10 million people — or 4.6 per cent of the adult U.S. population — discovered that they were victims of some form of identity theft, translating into estimated losses exceeding $50 billion."
Following public outcry, the President appointed a Task Force on Identity Theft in 2007. Acting on its report, the President notified a plan: "Combating Identity Theft: A Strategic Plan." This plan directed all government offices to "eliminate unnecessary uses of SSNs" and reduction and, where possible, elimination of the need to use SSN to identify individuals. It's quite the contrary in India. According to Nandan Nilekani, Aadhaar number would become "ubiquitous"; he has even advised people to "tattoo it somewhere," lest they forget it!
Myth 3: Identity theft can be eliminated using biometrics.
There is consensus among scientists and legal experts regarding the limitations of biometrics in proving identity. First, no accurate information exists on whether the errors of matching fingerprints are negligible or non-existent. A small percentage of users would always be either falsely matched or not matched at all against the database.
Second, errors of matching would stand significantly amplified in countries like India. A report from 4G Identity Solutions , contracted by UIDAI for supply of biometric devices, notes that:
"It is estimated that approximately five per cent of any population has unreadable fingerprints, either due to scars or aging or illegible prints. In the Indian environment, experience has shown that the failure to enrol is as high as 15 per cent due to the prevalence of a huge population dependent on manual labour ."
A 15 per cent failure rate would mean the exclusion of over 200 million people. If fingerprint readers are installed at Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) work sites and ration shops, and employment or purchases made contingent on correct authentication, about 200 million persons would remain permanently excluded from accessing such schemes.
The report of the UIDAI's "Biometrics Standards Committee" actually accepts these concerns as real. Its report notes that "fingerprint quality, the most important variable for determining de-duplication accuracy, has not been studied in depth in the Indian context." However, this critical limitation of the technology has not prevented the government from leaping into the dark with this project, one whose cost would exceed Rs.50,000 crore.
It is said that the greatest enemy of truth is not the lie, but the myth. A democratic government should not undertake a project of the magnitude of Aadhaar from a platform of myths. The lesson from the U.K. experience is that myths perpetrated by governments can be exposed through consistent public campaigns. India direly needs a mass campaign that would expose the myths behind the Aadhaar project.
( R. Ramakumar is Associate Professor with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai .)
The Aadhaar project, just as its failed counterpart in the U.K., stands on a platform of myths. India needs a mass campaign to expose these myths.
RECONCILIATION AND NATION BUILDING: THE MANDELA WAY
"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die"— throughout my 26 years in prison, this courageous and historic peroration of Nelson Mandela's statement from the dock during the Rivonia Trial kept alive the vision of the society we are striving to achieve. With a possible death sentence looming, he had boldly and clearly reaffirmed African National Congress (ANC) policy, and its commitment to the Freedom Charter, embracing its political, economic and cultural clauses. All the accused approved of the address from the dock.
At home and in exile, in the face of great danger, the ANC leadership stuck rigidly to this policy of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa and acted firmly against any deviation from it.
Hence I emerged from prison full of confidence, albeit with somewhat idealistic — even utopian — ideas about the practical implementation of the policy.
It did not take long for me to wake up to the realities of South Africa to which we had returned. More than three centuries of apartheid had left a legacy of massive poverty, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment, homelessness and — above all — racial polarisation and State-orchestrated violence.
While the unbanned ANC was engaged in re-establishing itself in branches and regions, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) continued to lead the oppressed to new heights of disciplined non-violent struggle and political consciousness. On the other hand, the continuing Third Force violence led to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) process facing collapse on more than one occasion.
That was the situation 12 months before the 1994 elections. Then came the dastardly assassination of Comrade Chris Hani, the widely revered and charismatic ANC and Communist Party leader. This single act propelled South Africa to the brink of a bloodbath, the likes of which had never been seen before. The situation called for utmost calm, courage, statesmanship and foresight. President F.W. de Klerk's government found itself in a state of panic, confusion, helplessness and impotence. In this atmosphere of unprecedented tension, ANC president Nelson Mandela rushed to Johannesburg from the Transkei and was asked to appear on television. His simple, forceful words saved the country from imminent disaster:
"Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters to the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin … Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for — the freedom of all of us."
The country responded positively to his appeal for peace, and that night, a full year before his official inauguration, Mandela effectively became the new president of South Africa. Not a single individual in government ranks, nor even in the liberation movement, had the stature of Madiba, and no one else could have commanded the respect needed to avert disaster.
During the five years of his presidency Madiba concentrated on spreading and consolidating a message of forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, peace and nation building.
Among the first steps
Among the earliest gestures was to invite the wives and widows of former Prime Ministers and Presidents to tea, and to take a special trip to the white Afrikaner enclave of Orania to pay a courtesy call on Betsie Verwoerd, the ailing widow of the assassinated architect of apartheid, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd.
I am frequently asked to explain the so-called "miracle" of our peaceful transformation. In keeping with what I believe is our government's policy, my response has been that it should be presumptuous of us to prescribe to other countries how they should solve their problems. We recall that, with only a handful of exceptions, virtually all wars and conflicts end at the negotiation table. All we can do is to relate our experiences — how in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, with a background of over three centuries of white rule and great deal of violence and bloodshed, the ANC and the incumbent government had agreed to enter into discussions; how these talks had led to the formal CODESA Conference, at which the basis of the interim Constitution was agreed upon. This in turn had led to the first democratic elections of 1994.
On her visit to Robben Island in 1996, Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway suggested the establishment of a conflict resolution centre on the island. Prime Minister Gujral of India, on his visit to Robben Island in 1997, echoed this idea. Sadly we haven't made much progress. In my view, with its recent history and the universal interest it attracts, Robben Island would be the ideal venue for such a centre.
( Ahmed Kathrada, a South African political leader, is a close associate of Nelson Mandela, who turns 93 today. Mr. Kathrada spent 26 years in prison — for his opposition to apartheid — 18 of which were on Robben Island. He is in New Delhi to take part in Mandela Day Commemoration today .)
How does one explain the 'miracle' of South Africa's peaceful transformation?
THE ASIAN AGE
WORLD ON EDGE AS US ON THE BRINK
This coming week will be critical both for America's economic future and also for the already struggling fragile global economy. A miffed US President Barack Obama has set the American Congress a July 22 deadline to decide on raising the statutory debt ceiling so that the government can borrow to pay off its debts and not default on existing liabilities. He would like to reduce the deficit from between $1.7 trillion and $4 trillion in the next 10 years, while raising taxes to boost revenues, but many Republicans — particularly those elected with "Tea Party" movement support, are adamant on not burdening the rich with additional taxes. By law, the US national debt cannot exceed a ceiling of $14.29 trillion, which it has already reached, and which can only be raised by Congress. The Republicans want a saving of $2.4 trillion, but with no new taxes. As is usually the case wherever there is a financial crisis, it is society's most vulnerable sections which are hit first. Since May, when this ceiling was reached, the government has stopped payments to some federal pension schemes and liquidated some assets elsewhere. If the ceiling is not raised by July 22, Medicare and unemployment benefits in the US could face cutbacks.
The world is watching with trepidation as both parties in the US Congress trade charges and indulge in name calling instead of putting their country first. The Moody's credit rating agency has already put the US on negative watch, while Standard & Poor has warned that it would cut America's triple-A rating (AAA), that it has enjoyed since 1917, to D (the bottom) — as they have little confidence that an agreement would be hammered out by the squabbling Congressmen in time. It is worth remembering that these rating agencies had not hesitated to reduce Greek bonds to junk even though that country had not yet defaulted in payments. They are, however, going a lot softer on the US, still the world's largest economy — around which almost every country's trade revolves.
If the United States were actually to default on payments to its creditors, it would be a devastating commentary on the state of American politics and the state of its finances. It is felt in some quarters that such a situation will never materialise; that the Republicans are famous for their brinkmanship and have done this before when Washington almost had to down shutters some months ago. They have been giving President Obama a hard time at almost every opportunity. This is not a crisis of Mr Obama's making: he had inherited massive debts from his predecessor, who merrily blew up money on unnecessary wars and lavish military contracts, while at the same time cutting taxes on the rich with abandon. It is estimated that almost 60 per cent of the deterioration in US finances is due to the contraction in revenues following the economic slowdown, and 40 per cent due to the stimulus package, which the government had to announce as the private sector was not spending.
The global financial markets are not very optimistic about America at this juncture, particularly creditors who are apprehensive about repayments. Moody's was the first to raise the red flag, jolting America and much of the world. China, which is America's largest creditor, is urging Washington to act to protect investors' interests. But even if the Republicans finally accept a token raise so that they are not blamed for what US Fed chief Ben Bernanke has warned would be a "huge financial calamity", America's reputation is already dented. Creditors may well start asking for higher interest rates, and no one is confident such a situation will not arise again and again — as is now being seen in Greece.
THE ASIAN AGE
The furore over the machinations of News of the World in the Murdoch stable exposes the risks to a free press in the fountain head of democracy and highlights the vulnerability of media to the new technological age we live in. Britain has been proverbially notorious for its taste in lurid journalism even while renowned for what are called quality broadsheets. What is harder to explain is how one person was able to own a string of newspapers ranging from tabloids known for page-three topless women and salacious stories to such a venerable newspaper as the Times. And until now he was on the way fully to control the highly profitable BSkyB satellite channel, a deal he has had to call off.
What is even more astonishing is that the monopoly of newspapers and part ownership of the BSkyB channel made him a virtual arbiter of making and breaking governments. No wonder a string of hoary British politicians ranging from Tony Blair to David Cameron and an army of others courted Rupert Murdoch, who was not shy in boasting his power to tilt the balance in favour or against potential Prime Ministers. And once his favoured Prime Minister took office, he loudly proclaimed his role.
As British Prime Minister David Cameron belatedly acknowledged, no politician was immune from courting Mr Murdoch. In plain language, British politicians were pulverised by the fear that Mr Murdoch had it in his power to destroy their political careers. With public anger mounting over the serial hacking of cellphones of murdered victims, the royals, police officials and even killed British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, an inquiry has now been ordered, which will also seek answers to how to foster a free and clean media.
The methods of collecting news regardless of the means employed, including the bribing of police officials, and how widespread the practice was are subjects for inquiry. But given the scale of the operations, a thorough house-cleaning seems to be in order. Mr Murdoch was a maverick publisher who dared and won. He took on the Fleet Street labour unions and humbled them. And his ruthlessness in beating competition was a byword in newspaper lore. How he traded on his initial success on Fleet Street to replicate the model in the United States going to the extent of becoming an American citizen to own media assets is an epic story. Mr Murdoch has been seeking to redefine the Fourth Estate.
Overall, the Murdoch saga in Britain presents a sorry picture. How could Britain lose its way, as it so obviously has? There was handwringing before ceding the Times to Mr Murdoch, as there was in the United States in the case of the Wall Street Journal, and Mr Murdoch invented the highly profitable Fox News channel as an extreme form of campaign journalism. Perhaps the end of Great Britain's empire affected its self-esteem and confidence so greatly that it was prepared to surrender to any daring adventurer with the money and gumption to stake a claim to the country's traditional riches.
The twist in the tale of the Murdoch saga has an object lesson for the world that believes in a free media. First, governments must reinforce anti-monopoly mechanisms to prevent one person or organisation cornering the media market, thus acquiring the kind of political power Mr Murdoch has exercised over the British political system. This particularly applies to the simultaneous ownership of print and electronic media. An effective supervisory provision to ensure fair play has been missing.
Mr Cameron has many crosses to bear. He had employed Andy Coulson, a former editor of News of the World, as his communication chief and although he has been suitably contrite in taking his share of the blame, it was a gross error of judgement in employing him. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has been particularly vocal in decrying Murdoch's practices. One danger, of course, is that under the guise of seeking to keep media on the straight and narrow the authorities would assume powers that could curb freedom of expression. That applies more to emerging economies than established democracies. But the manner in which Mr Murdoch conducted himself is an object lesson in how the mother of Parliaments can be kept at bay.
Modern technology is here to stay and cannot be disinvented. Rather, the cure lies in the hoary adage of eternal vigilance being the price of liberty. In Britain's case, the two major parties did not do their duty in guarding against the evil of monopoly control. And once Mr Murdoch had pretty nearly cornered the press from the tabloids to the traditional quality paper and partly owned a successful satellite channel, he had acquired too much clout to be tamed by politicians seeking to stay out of his way for fear of being vilified, with party leaders feting him in 10 Downing Street.
It needed the shock of a newspaper hacking the cellphone of a murdered girl and later discoveries of how Scotland Yard papered over earlier investigations because the investigating officers had been compromised to bring out the full horrors of a culture of sycophancy and a media group that stopped at nothing to have its way. This is without doubt the greatest setback to the meteoric rise of perhaps the most successful media buccaneer of modern times. He has had to close down News of the World to cut his losses and has for the moment lost his bid to control all of BSkyB, apart from losing his British chief executive, Rebekah Brooks. What is worse from Mr Murdoch's point of view is that his magic spell has been broken. A second looming tragedy is across the Atlantic because some American politicians are beginning to question his practices and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation. With Fox News, Murdoch has set a new idiom in broadcast journalism by aggressively slanting news to promote a political cause. In a sense, he has been a godfather of the Tea Party movement.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
India-Pak re-engagement on Kashmir centric CBMs and also other important matters of bilateral concern signifies improved and upgraded approach to the overall spectrum of bilateral relationship. There is a flurry of meetings and exchanges on the cards, beginning with a Pakistani delegation that landed in New Delhi on Sunday evening. The 13 July bomb blasts in Mumbai have not been allowed to vitiate the atmosphere of bilateral talks and Pakistan has formally, and her Prime Minister personally, condemned the terrorist act and sympathized with the victims. From smaller beginnings, there will be ascent to more important and crucial issues for deliberation including talks on nuclear security and anti-terrorist strategies. All this indicates maturing of interlocutors on both sides and their sincerity of intentions to iron out angularities. Political observers across the continents are closely watching the progress of Indo-Pak détente and the brightening of the prospect of peace in the sub-continent. The question is not who gains and who loses from what is mutually agreed upon; the fact of the matter is that it is the vast population of the sub-continent, almost one fourth of the entire human population that is going to benefit from friendly and cordial relations between the two warring neighbours. The process of re-engagement has to be looked upon from that angle.
If wisdom and statesmanship are allowed to have their way, good and friendly relations between the two countries could become a catalyst to a radical change in their economic condition. Both are developing countries and both have many problems in common. For some reasons, Pakistan is faced with more stringent economic conditions today than ever before. Though India is not in a very happy economic position as well, but she is on the path of economic improvement and is expected to emerge a strong economy in the Asian region after China. Pakistan as her next door neighbour can immensely benefit from this scenario. Trade and commerce with India on the basis of equality and justice would go a long way in cementing relations between the two countries. Europe is one economic zone and it has drawn immense benefits from it. India and Pakistan, too, can tie up in a manner so that there is free flow of trade between them. This is precisely what the US believes in. "India's economic rise presents a huge opportunity for Pakistan, a bilateral breakthrough could provide a catalyst for wider regional economic integration in South and Central Asia," Robert Hormats, Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, said. This official will be part of the delegation scheduled to be held in India this month, and from what he has said, is a signal to both the countries that the US would welcome any step forward in this direction. The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to meet later this month and prior to their meeting the two foreign secretaries are again meeting to pave the way for some definite progress and measures to be announced following the foreign minister level meeting in New Delhi. We hope that this rare opportunity will not be missed by one or the other country, and that they will not get bogged with small and insignificant things. The ground is smooth for delivery and the people in both the countries expect concrete outcome of the process of re-engagement.
There has been widespread condemnation of 13 July Mumbai bomb blasts from leadership of all hues in and outside the country. In a rare instance, the Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Maulana Bashiru'd-Din also condemned the blasts calling it inhuman. The Maulana is highly venerated in Kashmir and is considered a very senior and mature religious figure who speaks very less and very rarely on political issues. But he has taken the human aspect of the bomb blasts into view and has suggested that "people from all walks of life have to cooperate to bring an end to these acts, which result in colossal loss of human life, particularly of innocent people." Earlier other separatist leaders in Kashmir also condemned the attacks and implored people to unite against such heinous crimes. Thus while terrorism is spanning the entire sub-continent in one form or the other, there is growing realization among the civil society in both the countries, India and Pakistan, that they should coordinate their efforts to meet the challenge. Obviously, condemning terrorism also means rejecting the training and infiltration of armed gangsters on a foreign soil and inducing them to operate in India. This is not acceptable to anybody who is seriously interested in supporting peaceful atmosphere in relations between the two countries.
BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
The Department of Posts has sent the Draft Post Office Bill, 2011 to the Cabinet for approval. Courier Companies will be required to charge double the amount charged by the Post Office for letters up to 50 grams sent by Speed Post. Present charge for Speed Post is Rs 25. It will obligatory for Courier Companies to charge minimum Rs 50 for such letters. This will provide some relief to the Department. Postal delivery will become cheaper than Courier. This restriction will be removed after 15 years.
The imposition of minimum charges defies logic, however. Objective of the Government should be to bring about a reduction in the cost of these services. The Government is making efforts to bring down the cost of infrastructure such as by privatizing distribution of power in metropolitan cities. The same policy should be applied here.
It will be difficult to implement such a provision anyways. Small courier companies will issue a receipt for Rs 50 but charge only Rs 30 from the customers. The Government will be providing encouragement to the people to violate the law. This provision will be especially harmful for small courier companies. Bigger Companies presently charge about Rs 40 to Rs 100 for a letter. They will be scarcely affected. Small Companies presently charge Rs 25 to Rs 40. They will come under pressure. Some may have to close down. This will be harmful for the country. The Government must provide protection to small companies and enable them to stand up to the big brothers. Such competition alone will save the customers from the tyranny of big business.
The purpose of providing protection to the Department of Posts is to compensate it for the services provided by it in the rural areas. The Department runs many post offices in small villages. These Post Offices provide less business but cost of running them is high. On the other hand Courier Companies only serve the large-volume big city markets. Thus the costs of the Department are high. This needs to be compensated. The argument is correct. However, this compensation can be provided by imposing an 'Access Deficit Charge' on Courier Companies along the lines imposed on telecom companies.
The courier companies can be classified in categories such as those providing services in metropolitan cities, state capitals, district headquarters, small towns and rural areas. The rates of service tax can be lowered and subsidies provided to both private- and government players on a staggered basis. This will encourage courier companies to provide courier services in small towns and help spread economic development to remote areas. Higher use of courier services in small towns will reduce the losses of Department of Posts.
We have successfully followed this model in mobile telephony. The Private players pay Access Deficit Charges on the services supplied by them in urban areas and Government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited collects subsidies on services provided by it in rural areas. Private players too are entitled to receive subsidy on provision of services in rural areas. This has led to intensified competition for provision of services in rural areas. It has also exerted pressure on BSNL to improve its services both in terms of cost and quality. The same model can be applied to the postal services.
Another objective of the Government is to reduce its budget deficit by increasing income of the Department of Posts. The idea is that restriction on carrying of letters by courier companies will lead to an increase in the business of the Department of Posts and reduction of losses that are to be met from the Union Budget. It is doubtful whether this approach will be successful. Courier companies work as grease in the economy. They collect cheque from one company and deliver to another the next day at a low cost leading to growth of business. The resultant economic growth leads to higher tax receipts by the government. Restriction on Courier Companies, therefore, will impact the economy negatively. It will lead to slower delivery of documents and bring down the growth rate of the economy. That will lead to lower tax receipts and higher budget deficit of the government. The Government will also get less service tax, income tax because of less business done by courier companies. On the positive side, the new law will lead to more income for the Department of Posts and reduction of budget deficit. The final impact will depend upon the sum of two impacts. In my opinion, the budget deficit of the Government will increase. The proposed amendment will, in the main, provide more opportunities to Postal Inspectors to harass small courier companies and for indulging in corruption.
The objective of reduction in budget deficit can be better attained by allowing full freedom to courier companies to fix charges but imposing higher taxes on them.
The government can calculate the amount of subsidy it wishes to provide to the Department of Posts for its rural services and impose taxes of like amount on courier companies. The economy can bear the burden of such taxes but not that of restrictions on charges.
The Department argues that Postal Departments enjoy monopoly on delivery of letters in most countries. India is only trying to follow this international best practice. This is only partially true. The Civil Society Exchange tells on its website that the Postal Department has monopoly on letters weighing less than 350 grams in England, 250 grams in Australia and 50 grams in Netherlands and Germany. On the other hand there is no restriction in New Zealand. Japan is slated to privatize its postal services. European Union also requires its member countries to open up their postal services to private players. Clearly the international best practice is moving in the direction of privatization, not monopoly. Indeed the Postal Department has monopoly in many countries today but this is being dismantled.
The basic problem is that technological developments have made postal delivery outdated. It is cheaper to talk on mobile phones than to send a letter. Email has reduced the need to send many letters. The Department is moving into provision of financial products to regain profitability. 4000 post offices will soon have Core Banking Services. It will be possible to encash a cheque at any CBS post office. This step is in the right direction. The Department of Posts should pursue this reorientation actively and not derail the courier industry. Ten years down the line, the Department of Posts may be renamed as Department of Rural Banking.
BY RAM RATTAN SHARMA
In a country that had more rural population than any other country in the world the education was largely confined to metropolitan centres and larger cities. Even the smaller towns and other urban settlements were seriously lacking adequate educational facilities, so at that time, it looked obvious that villages were given the limited resources of nascent Independent Indian state.
In 1881, there were 82916 schools in the entire country. A separate department for education was formed for the first time during 1910 by the British Govt. As for adult education upto 1920s, the sphere was confined to few night schools in metropolitan cities while villages were totally unattended. Some Indian rulers of princely states extended support to night schools through financial support, setting up of libraries in rural areas and other sort of patronage in the 19th century. Education of rural masses was a part of the independence agenda of the national leaders. In 1946-47, the number of schools had increased to 134866, while the total enrolment stood at 10525943 students.
In 1947, India achieved independence and inherited a system of education which was characterized by large scale inter and intra regional imbalances. The system educated a selected few. The country's literacy rate was a mere 14 percent and only 8 percent of females were literate. There was social inequality gender disparity, and rigid social stratification. After independence a full-fledged ministry of education was established on 29th August 1947. It indicated the need, commitment, and determination of the Govt. towards extension and growth of education in India. Eradication of illiteracy was one of the major national concerns at the time of independence. Most of the villagers were illiterate and had no access to education centres, Govt. of India established a council for rural higher education for promoting the graduate level manpower through rural institutes. A standing committee on education was established and a national fundamental education centre was started in 1956 to boost the rural education and rural development programmes. Various states at their level also took interest in this direction. Despite these efforts, the rural literacy and did not take much headway. The literacy increased from 14 percent in 1947 to 18.4 percent and 24 percent in 1961. The Kothari Commission in 1964 took up the threads again and emphasized the need for eradication of illiteracy suggested certain measures. In 1974 the central advisory board of education recommended for non formal education programmes and for functional dimension. The National Policy on Education gave an unqualified priority to universalization of education system and there was no formal education in educationally backward states. The major thrust of policy was literacy promotion among women, schedule castes and schedule tribes particularly in the rural areas. Despite all such efforts the results were not satisfactory. Eradication of illiteracy from one of the world's most populated country is not easy. The need was for a more comprehensive and specifically targeted approach. Realizing this National Literacy Mission came into being and was implemented on 5 May, 1988 to impart a new sense of urgency and seriousness to mass education. As per the census of India 2001, the literacy rate had increased to 65.38 percent. The remarkable performance under NLC Programmes received International recognition.
The Ministry of Rural Development has been working as the apex body in implementing and supervising progammes for poverty alleviation, education, employment generation, infrastructure development, social security and allied issues. Several new initiatives have been taken to bring the children to schools. Several programmes intended to provide rural children access to education, includes stipends, free uniform and text books, midday meals and special attention to girl child education. These initiatives have encouraged parents to send their children to school. Besides, their have been attempts to keep the rural children up to date with the latest technical know how.
The progress that the country has made during the last sixty years has been remarkable. The country of villages is seen differently than it was sixty years ago by the outside world. There is much still pending work to be done, the efforts that have been made in the past, the outcome should be fruitful, more sincerity and dedication is required at all levels for success of the programmes.
BY AMIT KUSHARI (IAS RETD)
Kashmiri muslims are not fanatic muslims who hate India because India is a Hindu majority nation.Many of them are very tolerant towards Hindus and do not have any grudge or malice against the minorities.Social relations between Hindus and muslims have always been excellent- in fact it was perhaps the best in India. Common uneducated Kashmiris also know that Allah is not the sole property of muslims --He belongs to all the religions of the world. He is Rab-ul-alameen and not only Rab-ul- musalmeen.Hindus call Rab-ul -alameen as Vishwanath.Kashmiris also know it very well that all religions lead to the same God.
The flight of the pandits was really an extra ordinary event.
The Kashmiri Pundits were forced to flee Kashmir in 1989/90 because they refused to fight with their muslim brothers for achieving an independent Kashmir. They were also suspected to be spies of India.
The Kashmiri muslims, as I have found them, are very tolerant towards Hindus and they bear no malice against them , in general....although they are very religious in their day to day actiuvities. The people belonging to Ahlehadees and Jamaat-e-Islami communities need a special mention. I have seen that even in the cold weather of chill e-kalan (December/ January) they get up at 4 a.m. and go to the village mosque for fajar prayers. They observe 29 fasts strictly in Ramzan---which would appear to be a very difficult task for non-muslims.
This brings back to my mind a youg boy called Firoz Ahmed who belonged to a remote village of Pulwama district. He was my bungalow peon and belonged to a very poor family who could not afford two square meals a day and had to go to bed hungry quite often----of course, prior to his getting a govt.job . I had helped him to get the govt. job for which he was grateful to me. He had a brother called Mohammad Yaquab and he wanted me to take him also in a government job. In those days the rules were not so strict and Ministers and bureaucrats could help people get into class IV jobs. Firoz used to pray five times with a lot of devotion and he used to say that Allah always responded to his prayers. He had prayed to Allah for Yaqub's job and that in his dream Allah appeared to him to assure him that Yaqub would get a job through Kushari sahab.
I was a bit disgusted with his constant reminders about his brother's job.I told him that there was not a single class IV vacancy in my department in the whole of J&K and that his brother had no chance at all. He wouldn't listen to me and insisted that Allah could never be wrong in His assurances. " You will surely get a message from Him about Yaqub." Every morning when I woke up Firoz would bring tea for me and enquire ,"Hukm ma aao kanh?" (Did you get any order from God?"] I was sick and tired of telling him every day " No message at all-and please stop this daily nonsense. "
One night indeed I had a dream. I found myself lost in the forests of a big mountain and was trying to grope my way forward when I found a Goddess riding on a tiger just in front of me. I exclaimed," Are you the Mother of the universe?" She replied, "Yes I am." She then smiled at me and spoke in very clear Kashmiri,"Mohd. Yaqub chhu myon nechu- yaad chhu thaaun." [Md Yaqoob is my son -remember that]I asked her ,"Mother, do you speak Kashmiri?" The Goddess looked at me and laughed. "I know all the languages of the world."
Next morning Firoz asked me the same question, "Hukm ma aao kanh?" I told him," I didn't get any message from Allah but I got some sort of a message from Goddess Durga." Firoz exclaimed,"It is the same thing! When Allah has to give a message to a Kafir He takes the form of gods and goddesses, otherwise the kafir will not recognise Him." These simple words actually gave a message that all religions lead to the same God.
A month passed after the dream and I could not help Yaqub because there was no vacancy at all. However, suddenly one day I noticed that the Planning department had sanctioned quite a few posts for an office to be opened in Kargil district. There was one post of orderly also in the list. I sent the file to the Finance department for concurrence and lo and behold the Finance deparment gave their concurrence in two weeks only. Normally the finance department takes one year to send their agreement. Yaqub was ultimately posted in Kargil.
Firoz's happiness knew no bounds. He said, "I told you that an assurance from Allah can never be wrong."
I was really amazed by his unwavering faith in God. The faith was coupled with his realisation that God is only one although He may appear in different forms before people of different faiths.
(The author is former Financial Commissioner J&K)
Feedback to the writer at email@example.com or 09748635185.
CROSSING THE LINE
JUDICIARY MUST RESPECT EXECUTIVE TURF
The frequent lapses of the executive in the recent past have earned adverse comments from Supreme Court judges, some of whom have now got emboldened to cross the Lakshman rekha drawn to mark the separation of powers in the Constitution. On July 4 the Supreme Court constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to look into the affairs of Hasan Ali Khan and the Tapurias, suspected black money holders, and bring back unlawful money kept abroad. Many Indians may share the Supreme Court's conclusion that the government is not doing enough to trace black money and even share its disgust at the slow pace of investigation. But not many expect the court to take up the executive's job and appoint retired judges as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the SIT and also rope in the RAW chief, who is supposed to keep a low profile.
This happened after the court had described as insufficient the high-level committee appointed by the government to do the job. Now how and whether the SIT would do a better job is a matter of opinion. It was, therefore, quite natural for the government to move the Supreme Court and seek a recall of the July 4 court order, which, according to the government petition, impinged on its jurisdiction and violated the doctrine of separation of powers. Moreover, the original petitioner, Ram Jethmalani, had not prayed for the constitution of a SIT.
This is not the first time that the judiciary and the executive are engaged in a turf battle. Judicial activism pursued in recent years has been widely appreciated in this country. It is when judicial activism turns to "judicial overreach" that it becomes an issue. There is a very thin dividing line and any suspected or actual digression provokes a controversy. A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly has reacted to the charge of courts "exceeding the unwritten boundaries of their jurisdiction". Nobody negates the good work judges are doing in helping the needy. But frequent, harsh criticism of the executive is avoidable. It seems the government has started to assert itself by challenging the SIT order.
ISRO DELIVERS, AGAIN
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fell back on its old workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), to launch a heavy communication satellite successfully, and in doing so, it showed both its strength and weakness. The PSLV has an enviable record of successfully delivering payloads in space, while its bigger version, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) has a chequered history. After the two successive failures of GSLV rockets last year, ISRO understandably decided to make modifications to the PSLV rocket and use that for the successful launch of its GSAT-12 satellite. The satellite's 12 extended C-band transponders, when they are fully tested by the end of the month, will provide a much-needed boost to various communication services such as tele-education, telemedicine and village resource centres as well as disaster management.
A bigger and more powerful satellite, GSAT-10, will be launched later in the year by an Ariane-5ECA. The satellite has lift-off mass of 3435 kg, for which GSLVs would be needed. ISRO has been making steady progress in indigenising GSLVs, but the cryogenic engines have proved to be a formidable challenge, more so because ISRO had to start on them from scratch after Russia reneged on its deal to provide hydrogen-fuelled rocket engines and technical knowhow under US pressure in 1992. While there have been failures, there is no doubt that ISRO will be able to successfully meet this challenge, as it has done in the past.
Indeed, the Indian space programme has been much lauded, not only for its success but also the relatively low cost at which it has been achieved. Having put the Indian flag on the moon, ISRO now seeks to send Indian astronauts into space. However, that endeavour is dependent not only on the success of its GSLV programme but its continued, flawless launches. Having delivered much to the nation, it is expected that ISRO will rise to the challenge yet again, even as it gets a pat on the back for yet another successful launch.
STOP SEXUAL AND PHYSICAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Violence against women is not unknown in India. What is particularly appalling is that they are unsafe even in places where they ought to feel the safest. From a mother's womb to her marital home, a woman's very existence is threatened at every step. According to the report of UN Women (a United Nation's organisation) 35 per cent women in India face domestic violence. Not only have victims reported physical violence at the hands of their partners but a good 10 per cent have faced sexual violence too. Worse still, it's not only the men who condone violence; even women feel that domestic violence is justified.
The visible presence of women in empowering positions has done little to change their position in the family matrix. When it comes to man-woman equation it seems that the fair sex continues to remain at the receiving end. The recent case involving a diplomat proves wife beating is not restricted to any particular class. Ironically, studies have even found a direct correlation between education and domestic violence. Reports have also shown that even new-generation men are no less guilty. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, hailed as a pathbreaking piece of legislation, was expected to bring relief to women. But what to talk of holding men accountable for verbal abuse, by and large men have been getting away with physical violence too.
While the UN report has lamented the negligible presence of women as judges and rightly called for more gender-sensitive laws, clearly laws alone are not enough. Though many women have sought recourse to the DVA law and courts too have delivered heartening judgements, still domestic violence continues to be not only widespread but often goes unreported. Indeed, there is an urgent need to spread awareness that domestic abuse is not just a personal affair. At the same time men have to be reconditioned to change their convoluted notions of masculinity. Women, too, must fight gender biased attitudes. Men will learn to respect women only if the so-called weaker sex sheds its meek behaviour that grants an alibi of sorts to reprehensible acts such as wife beating.
CAUTION: WORK IN PROGRESS
SOME DEADWOOD STILL THERE
The disappointment and breast- beating over the Union Cabinet reshuffle comes from excessive expectations created in media and political circles by the kind of incestuous hype that appears to drive so much public discourse in India. Media speculation was rife and fatuous panel discussions night after night, with Opposition sharpshooters taking position among the pundits and media oracles, caused much fur to fly. When the actual event turned out to be a more modest and sober, yet business-like affair in the given circumstances, political punters and others who had placed outlandish bets felt cheated.
This is not to suggest that reshuffle has given the country an ideal Cabinet. But given the political and coalitional constraints he faced, the Prime Minister has not done too badly. Some non-performers have been put to pasture and good new faces brought in. Sometimes a change in portfolio can reflect on performance. One will have to wait and see. Some deadwood remains.
Mr Jairam Ramesh has not been penalised nor pushed out from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He did a great deal to put that once-moribund ministry on the map and ably steered India's position in global negotiations on climate change. He also took a firm line on implementation of conditionalities attached to forest and environmental clearances but perhaps pushed too far at the cost of avoidable delays in sanctioning landmark power, mining and manufacturing projects, using retrospective application of new laws in some instances to stymie progress. He had later softened his stand as in the case of the Jaitapur nuclear project. Yet he had become a red rag to the bull and this is perhaps why he was moved, yielding place to a more soft-spoken but no less savvy successor in Ms Jayanti Natarajan.
Mr Ramesh will have every opportunity to show his mettle in the important Rural Development Ministry where he will be the custodian of a number of vital grassroots programmes such as NREGA. One can have little sympathy with some ministers of state who desired no less than Cabinet portfolios, their egos outrunning their abilities or sense of service over self.
More worrying than the naming of ministers is the balkanisation of ministries and departments within them over the years to accommodate all and sundry. This has added to costs, fragmentation of responsibility and incompetence without serving any real political purpose. This is something that calls for early and urgent reform. It is a pity that the positions of parliamentary secretaries and deputy ministers have disappeared whereas they could be a valuable training and proving ground for younger talent. Similarly, the "weight" attached to ministries has been wayward, patronage and opportunities for rent seeking often being private criteria for preference rather than the social importance of the charge. Thus, water resources has been treated most casually in recent time and sometimes power, mining and health.
Ministers in absentia, like Ms Mamata Bannerjee earlier and Mr Alagizhi, also send out wrong signals and impair the culture of good governance. The Railways has been allowed to roll downhill over the years, most often being seen as a source of patronage and rent-seeking. These are important matters that demand urgent attention because UPA-II will be judged over the rest of its three-year tenure by performance — progress on interrupted economic reforms, positioning India to take its place as an emerging regional and potential global power, and administrative reforms that must include systems improvement, personnel training, lateral recruitment, autonomy to regulators and cutting out fat in staffing while providing adequate numbers of judges, teachers, doctors, policemen and other key functionaries.
The challenge before the government is not winning the UP polls through brash grandstanding or petty manoeuvres, but by policies, performance and creating the basis for the next great leap forward by critical reforms, HRD and infrastructure development. This alone will provide jobs and growth and make for poverty alleviation. The Land Acquisition Bill, the Lokpal Bill (though the issues involved are far wider, including police reform and reform of the criminal justice system) and the Equal Opportunity Bill are only some among the major priorities. Autonomy for public service and community broadcasting should also be among things to do as communication and informed dialogue are necessary for participative governance.
It is good that the matter of higher defence management has again been raised through the appointment of a high-level committee under Mr Naresh Chandra. The debate on a chief of defence staff and integrated theatre commands has been reopened. The matter was studied by the Arun Singh Committee in the Rajiv era. It was again endorsed by the Kargil Review Committee and the task force on higher defence management set up as a consequence and approved by a GoM thereafter. The matter was intensively debated within the Ministry of Defence and every effort was made to assuage the anxieties of the smaller services, the Navy and the Air Force. It was suggested that the first two CDS should come from these two services. The Fortress Command, established in the Andamans, has worked well. An Integrated Defence branch has been set up but there the matter rests.
It is necessary that a satisfactory resolution is soon found as higher defence planning and strategic thinking cannot be left to single services or a non-functional National Security Council. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, though useful, is not fully equipped for the task. A clear decision and early closure is required so that the country can plan its security and strategic framework more effectively.
Finally, there have been demands in the country, especially in Tamil Nadu, that India support the demand for a war crimes commission to probe the alleged genocide by Sri Lanka's armed forces that brought the LTTE insurgency/war to a close. These are largely based on a documentary, "The Killing Fields" produced by the UK's Channel Four TV. The Sri Lankan authorities challenge the authenticity of the film and argue that a high powered internal commission is seized of all allegations and complaints and that its verdict should be awaited.
This is not an unreasonable proposition and could be more acceptable if international observers could be attached to the commission. India should be in no hurry to demand a war crimes commission to pacify domestic opinion as its own early role in assisting the thoroughly unscrupulous and murderous LTTE constitutes a sorry tale. There is a need to act with caution here.
CHANDIGARH, THEN AND NOW
BY ASHOK KUMAR YADAV
WHILE I was moving into Chandigarh, on my maiden voyage, I was feeling excited but nervous, like a hesitant teenager approaching a beautiful maiden. I was to migrate to the city beautiful for higher studies, after completing my schooling in remote parts of Haryana.
Ecstatic as I was, I thanked God for granting my wish, to stay afloat in the lap of what was often hyped to be as stunning and vibrant as Helen of Troy. As the bus rolled in, I truly felt flabbergasted in admiration, while I explored various parts en route. Echoing with Christopher Marlowe in "Dr Faustus", I kept wondering, "Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships, and burnt …" hundreds of buses by over-enthusiasts of Punjab and Haryana, clamouring "Helen, come, here will I dwell".
I instantly fell in love with Chandigarh, renowned for its astute planning, social fluidity, throbbing culture and elitist moorings. I was over-run by scholastic milieu too, ruling in educational institutes here. With bubbly Shivaliks pulsating in the background, the city used to breathe fresh and look refreshing, like an outpouring woman, sprinkled with droplets.
The Rose Garden had justly been christened as a romantic cradle for nascent lovers, cool and thrilling. Some of us would regularly play truant from nearby DAV College to gaze upon blooming roses and rosy girls, much to the annoyance of Principal Triloki Nath. He rather coined a hilarious interpretation to what the three monkeys of Bapu preached- "Don't you see, talk or hear anything about girls". Had he had his way, he would have certainly dumped all boys in the northern hemisphere and girls in the southern hemisphere.
Chandigarh today is not what it used to be, not long ago. Earlier known for its elegance, it has now, over the years, graduated into a city of heterosexuals. Its gorgeous beauty has been ravished, architectural grandeur robbed, culture invaded, character violated.
Its heart, Sukhna Lake, gets choked rather too often; its road-arteries cry for angioplasty whereas engineers are content with installation of mere stents and routine patch-work. Surely, it is now aging fast to its unnatural demise, triggered by deforestation and consequent contraction of its lungs.
True to what Francis Bacon outlined in his essay "Of Great Place", the Chandigarhians too have become "thrice servants: servants of sovereign; servants of fame; and servants of business". Its "men in great fortunes have turned strangers to themselves", and when a Chandigarhian "sits in place, he is another man".
Even Le Corbusier, the French architect, would have been driven to the precipice of committing suicide, had he seen how haphazardly its skyline was being vitiated. Last night, an agitated Corbusier appeared in my dream and thundered, how he had created a city of dreams, out of the ashes of what was it once called, city of ghosts.
He pleaded to me, to rekindle the wonderland, he had so beautifully styled, akin to Paris, away from Paris. I instantly nodded to join hands with his "open hand", to re-discover the lost heritage. Hence, this middle!
IMRAN SCORES A POPULAR CENTURY
ALL those who frown at the Imran Khan options in politics, they presumably are the indefatigable optimists who still believe that so-called progressive politics still has a future in this country; or they are people who exist at a comfortable distance from Lahore and have no idea of the long-reigning monotony in the city.
For those who cannot escape Lahore and have fallen off the progressive cocoons, Imran Khan has already livened up the proceedings with his new spell. He has displayed his growing street power in Karachi as well as in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In Punjab, which he should be very keen on impacting, he has spun an impressive show in Multan and is now set to take his campaign to Faisalabad.
What is more, he has sought to fulfil the long-voiced demand of a programme from him by coming up with a 100-day crash plan on reforming Pakistan. In the tradition of a true guerilla fighter, the keyword that sustains his advance is withdrawal.
Mr Khan says that should his party come to power he is going to focus on political approaches to end the war on terror. Force will be the last option. Indeed, his party, the PTI, would withdraw from the war on terror and declare a war on corruption instead. The troops would be withdrawn from Fata and Mr Khan's favourite grand jirga would be constituted to bring in peace.
The government will be inclined to say that this is exactly how they viewed the Fata situation before they were compelled to employ force as a last resort. Imran Khan goes beyond this when he promises such drastic steps as the setting up of a commission to probe rights violations in Fata and Swat, cancellation of visas of all foreign security operators, not to speak of a ban on drone attacks and a blockage of Nato supplies.
Within the first 100 days of power, Imran Khan promises an independent accountability commission under a new anti-corruption law; dismantling of sugar, cement, fertiliser cartels; a Pakistan infrastructure fund contributed to by overseas Pakistanis; reduction in indirect taxation on fuel; end to deficit financing; elimination of the power circular debt and hawala transactions.
If not an exact opposite of the current government policies, Imran Khan's 100 is anti-status quo and as ambitious a vote-catcher as one can hope for. In a nutshell, it reads like a collection of all the pro-people, anti-establishment stories the journalists have a bias for in times such as these. It is reflective of the sentiments of large sections of Pakistanis. This is not about power, at least not as yet, and not about whether Mr Khan has the ability or the right conditions to change. He may not be exactly poised for a landslide in elections — he is popular enough and his calls are being reciprocated sufficiently by the public for other politicians to make adjustments accordingly. It does serve as a serious enough agent that is seeking to break the monotony of Pakistani politics.
You have to be permanently living in Lahore since the Zia days to realise how desperately some of us crave diversity and an anti-thesis to the present theme. It's been the same faces, the same politics in which the Sharifs have been — sometimes only academically — pitted against the PPP.
Nawaz Sharif is not even an MNA. Yet he gets to chair in Lahore's own imposing 'Nine Zero' meetings that are called to decide important matters of the government. He was back at 'Nine Zero' Mall last week, to oversee some corrective work of very basic nature on the famed but somewhat stalled Walled City Project.
This omnipresence of the Sharifs obviously has its merits. For beginners, the old dictum that you could never accuse the Sharifs of idleness still holds true as whatever takes place in the province by way of governance carries the Sharif stamp on it. Boring stuff, ultimately.
Imran Khan injects an element of the expected-unexpected in the air. Those who have been on the tour before Mr Khan, like the passengers on the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad's establishment-driven bandwagon, realise what miracles on-way hospitality from the right quarters can lead to. Consequently, there is visible anxiety in the Raiwind camp, which in a recent statement, considered Mr Khan to be worthy enough of playing for President Zardari.
This is not about power but about something that is more profound and permanent. The increasing discussion about Imran Khan and his politics as an option signals the establishment of new benchmarks in Pakistani politics upon which the future moderates and those who are not in this category will be judged.
Through a long process, the right has gained ground in the country as it has elsewhere in the world. It is now looking to consolidate. With past progressives failing to listen to pro-people stories crying out to be heard, it may essentially turn out to be a fight among the right to decide who gets the consolidation contract. From among their ranks will emerge leaders who we are going to address as forward-looking.
Imran Khan is an important player in the game who is in need of partners. He once had a team even if he was not known for carrying out expert plans. Today he has got a plan and should go looking for a team.
The writer is Dawn's Resident Editor in Lahore. (By arrangement with Dawn)
IN Karachi's Keamari harbour, near Baba and Bhit islands and close to the Yacht Club, is a macabre sight: scores of wooden fishing boats are quietly rotting away. A few are still riding high in the water, but most are partly submerged, their hulls and masts tilting at crazy angles.
This watery graveyard contains the life-savings of hundreds of Indian fishermen who were unfortunate enough to cross the unmarked coastal boundary between Indian and Pakistani waters. Captured and locked up, they languish in jail, sometimes for years. Their release in exchange for Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails for a similar 'crime' depends on the state of relations between the two countries.
The rotting boats and the imprisoned fishermen are apt metaphors for the situation in which India and Pakistan find themselves. Frozen in their rigid position of no-war, no-peace, both countries take out their frustration on the weakest of the weak.
As the recent meetings between Indian and Pakistani officials showed yet again, there is little stomach for a sane and peaceful resolution of their outstanding problems on either side. They go through the rituals of pretending to negotiate, knowing full well that no agreements will emerge at the end of the exercise. There is simply no political will in either Islamabad or New Delhi to cut the Gordian knot.
And yet, there was a time when there was hope for a breakthrough. Under Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, an agreement over the absurd squabble over the Siachen glacier was reached. Sadly, the Indian establishment torpedoed it before the ink had dried. And Musharraf, for all his flaws, as well his responsibility for the Kargil folly, genuinely tried to solve the festering Kashmir dispute, and presented some out-of-the-box ideas, including putting the UN resolutions aside. He was snubbed by India for his pains.
So, if Pakistan, with its huge security problems, its dysfunctional civilian government and its prickly, blinkered generals, can make serious attempts at mending fences with its neighbour, why can't India? After all, with its overwhelming military superiority, its rapidly expanding economy and the goodwill it has globally, it should be brimming with self-confidence. So, what excuse does India have for not being more proactive and imaginative in promoting regional peace?
The truth is that somehow, despite its economic and military clout, India continues to punch well below its weight in the region. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said recently that 25 per cent of all Bangladeshis hated India, he might have been undiplomatic, but he was saying something everybody knows. Here is a much smaller neighbour that owes India its very existence as an independent state, and yet anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh are rampant.
Or take Sri Lanka, an even smaller neighbour. In the closing stages of the civil war two years ago, tens of thousands of Tamils were massacred, and India could do nothing to persuade Colombo to desist. This is despite the fact that the citizens of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu were convulsed at the sight of their cousins being slaughtered.
The only time India attempted to intervene in the conflict was when it sent a peace-keeping force to the island. These soldiers were pulled out after three years following heavy fighting with the LTTE. Since then, India remained a bystander while Pakistan and China armed and trained government forces. So, although India is helping Sri Lanka with various infrastructure projects, it has very little influence in Colombo.
Or take Nepal, another of India's neighbours that has gone though a long and bloody civil war. Although the land-locked nation's economy is almost completely integrated with India's, New Delhi was unable to intervene in the civil war, or in the long political crisis that has paralysed the country.
Even within India, the expanding Naxalite insurrection, as well as other separatist movements in Mizoram and Kashmir, highlight the establishment's lack of imagination and self-confidence. These problems have been around for decades, and continue to get worse rather than better. Surely some creative ideas ought to have been put forward by now. But force seems to be the only answer New Delhi is capable of.
India's successful entrepreneurs have seized opportunities created by globalisation, as well as by their country's growing middle class and its trained manpower. Indian politicians, diplomats and civil servants, on the other hand, retain their old mindset from an era when India was just another developing nation. Instead of using its expanded hard and soft power to have a greater say in the region, India appears to be a timid player on the world stage.
In order to translate its growing strength into influence, India need not be the bully on the block, as it has so often seemed to its smaller neighbours. Given its resources and expertise in many fields, it can reach out to extend a helping hand. It can and should expand trade, and encourage its entrepreneurs to invest in the region.
The regional organisation, Saarc, must be reactivated to become the platform for expanding regional trade and travel it was designed to be. But for any of this to happen, India needs to break out of its timorous frame of mind and think big. Before it can be seriously accepted as a major global player, it has to sort out its regional disputes.
Whenever I have suggested that India can afford to be magnanimous as it is so much more powerful than Pakistan, I am routinely attacked by Indian readers. But what's the alternative? Clearly, Pakistan's generals are too insecure to take the initiative, and its shaky civilian government is in no position to take up from where Musharraf left off.
However, both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have expressed their desire to normalise relations with India.Somehow, the political elites as well as the media in both countries are quite content with the status quo. They seem to think that it is perfectly normal to stay locked in a confrontation for decades when the rest of the world is moving ahead. And while India has done phenomenally well in recent years, the majority of its population still lives in abject poverty.
A few years ago, I was at a conference in Colombo to discuss the Kashmir problem, and a retired Pakistani general said: "India is a big country with a small heart." It is high time Indians proved him wrong.
(By arrangement with Dawn)
DO NOT DEVALUE THE CENTRAL BANK AS AN INSTITUTION
Next week the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will come forward with its quarterly review of the economy and of monetary policy. In less than two months, the tenure of the incumbent RBI governor, Duvvuri Subbarao, comes to an end. Those who have built India's great institutions have believed for a long time that decisions pertaining to appointment to high offices should always be taken several months ahead of the actual appointment. But the Indian government has become habituated to last-minute announcements. Hopefully, in this case, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take a view and make an announcement about Dr Subbarao's tenure within this week so that the RBI can take a view about the economy and monetary policy with a greater degree of certainty in the week after.
There has been an avoidable and ill-informed public debate on the merits and demerits of giving an incumbent governor an extension. Rather than depending on political whim and ministerial discretion alone, it would be helpful, both for the RBI as an institution and for policy making in the country, if government's prerogative on such matters is combined with some professional criteria. In fact, such criteria have emerged in the process of selecting RBI governors over the past two decades. With few exceptions, most central bank governors have come from the limited pool of deputy governors or secretaries in the Union finance ministry and have been given a five-year tenure. It is understandable that the government should regard experience on Mint Road or in North Block as the minimum qualification for the job, and would seek policy stability through fixed-term appointments.
At this time, the question is a more limited one of whether the incumbent should get an extension of term or not, rather than who should constitute the pool of potential candidates. On this question, history offers an answer. In the past half century most governors, with few exceptions, have served a five-year term. Indeed, some of the best-known governors who were able to leave their mark on the institution and policy were given five-year appointments. In the more recent past, with the singular exception of S Venkitaramanan, every other governor has been given either a five-year term or an extension of two or three years after an initial three-year term.
Against this background, and in the current context, it is only to be expected that Dr Subbarao would get an extension and be allowed to serve a five-year term. It has been reported that three former RBI governors have taken the view that a central bank governor should have a five-year term. If so, the die is cast. There is no reason the government should ignore such sage advice.
The point has been made in the media that the Union finance ministry has opted for single-term appointments for financial sector regulators like the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and so on. It is useful to reiterate the point this newspaper has repeatedly made that the RBI governor is not just another financial sector regulator like the Sebi chief. Indeed, the central bank governor in all modern economies occupies a unique position in the policy apparatus and that uniqueness should continue; more so at a time when India needs to preserve and protect institutions of governance against the rising tide of arbitrariness and declining quality of available manpower. The government must do nothing that devalues the institution of the central bank.
NEW CLIMATE IN AUSTRALIA
THE DOMESTIC CARBON TAX INITIATIVE SHOULD BE WELCOMED
Better late than never. Australia, the world's biggest per capita polluter, and yet a hesitant signatory to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, has now mooted a domestic carbon pricing regime that can put the country on the track to clean development. Its top 500 environment-polluting industries will have to pay a carbon tax from July next year which, three years later, will be replaced by a market-based emission trading system on the lines of the European Union's internal emission trading scheme. Part of the revenue generated from the carbon levy will be used to help businesses and industries adapt to the new system and switch to cleaner forms of energy. Though the new plan is laudable, it remains to be seen how it will be implemented. Apart from the lack of a political consensus on the move, and opposition from some key industry groups, the country's dismal record in combating global warming does not inspire much confidence. It is worth recalling that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's own Labour Party had opposed the carbon tax in its election manifesto. She is forced to go in for it now, largely owing to post-election compulsions of running a minority government with support from independents and, more significantly, the Greens party that had made climate plan a precondition for its support.
Australia, along with the US, had refused to accept the Kyoto accord in 2002. Though it ratified it later in 2008, it settled for an extremely soft emission target of limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the 2008-12 period to 108 per cent of 1990 levels. This essentially meant the country could legitimately raise, instead of cutting down, its total emission load by eight per cent. Australia is the most vulnerable country to the adverse impacts of climate change. Apart from being the world's driest inhabited continent, the bulk of its land mass is highly prone to droughts and extreme heat. Climate change is making itself felt in Australia with the gradual rise of average surface temperature since 1910. Business as usual will mean another 1°C rise by 2030 which will, in turn, lead to an increase in the frequency of droughts and extreme heat events. It is, therefore, good that Australia has come up with a climate plan that is in tune with the global trend of greater reliance on domestic initiatives to combat global warming; all the more so since there is no sign of any agreement on a binding and target-based successor to the Kyoto protocol, which expires next year. Even developing countries, including the ones developing fast like India and China which were not obliged to take on emission cuts under Kyoto, have now set their own internal targets for emission control. Australia, with its per head emissions being nearly 17 times that of India and four and a half times that of China, needs to do much more on this front.
SECESSION OF THE SUCCESSFUL
DOES RISING OUTWARD FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT SHOW INDIA INC HAS ARRIVED OR IS LEAVING?
Last month the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) put out the latest data on outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) from India. The liberalisation of restrictions on Indian investment abroad has helped Indian companies acquire assets worldwide. Investments by domestic Indian companies in overseas joint ventures and wholly-owned subsidiaries were estimated at $16.7 billion in 2010-11, up from $10.3 billion in 2009-2010 (see table). Total outward FDI in the decade 2000-2010 has been estimated to be $80 billion.
The RBI report notes, "The policy which was evolved as one of the strategies for export promotion and strengthening economic linkages with other countries has been streamlined significantly in scope and size, especially after the introduction of FEMA [Foreign Exchange Management Act] in June 2000. In the post-2003 period, the policy has enabled corporate entities and registered partnerships to invest in bona fide businesses abroad, currently to the extent of 400 per cent of their net worth, under the automatic route."
OUTWARD FDI FROM INDIA
April to May 2011
As reported by Authorised Dealers in Form ODI
In terms of destination, the main target countries for such OFDI have been the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Mauritius, the Netherlands and British Virgin Islands, with Africa becoming an increasingly popular destination. The manufacturing sector reportedly occupied the largest share in India's OFDI in 2009-10.
The website of India Brand Equity Fund hails this as a sign of India Inc's growing global clout. It adds, "Indian companies, which are well experienced in dealing with overseas M&A [merger and acquisition] markets, are now back on the acquisition trail, with 40 per cent of those planning an acquisition in the next three years expecting their deals to be in foreign countries." It quotes Mahad Narayanamoni, M&A partner with Grant Thornton India, as saying, "This reflects a coming of age for Indian businesses."
According to Mr Narayanamoni, "Indian companies are now more experienced in dealing with overseas M&A transactions and are considered serious contenders for acquiring global businesses. Acquiring global brands, gaining access to overseas markets and leveraging new technologies for Indian markets are some of the key drivers for outbound acquisitions by Indian companies."
Without doubt, some of the OFDI represents export-promoting investment, and helps acquire new technology and new managerial skills, promote both corporate and country brands, secure access to raw materials and establish mutually beneficial relations of interdependence. Thus, rising OFDI represents a welcome trend.
However, it is worth asking how much of the spurt in OFDI represents the "coming of age of Indian business", and how much of it is a "flight of capital" from, as Indian business leaders are increasingly complaining, a worryingly difficult domestic business environment.
The man who built India's best (Hyderabad) and biggest (Delhi) airports, G M Rao, is busy scouting for business outside India, after bagging contracts in Turkey and Maldives. One of India's auto czars, Venu Srinivasan, has been reportedly following in the footsteps of his sambandhi, N R Narayana Murthy, taking part of his business to China. Mr Murthy inaugurated the Shanghai campus of Infosys earlier this year, while Anil Ambani has been accessing funds and equipment from China. India's rising corporate stars – Analjit Singh, Sunil Mittal and Gautam Thapar, to name a few – are spending an increasing amount of their time managing business abroad, since growth outside India seems easier to achieve. More than half of Ratan Tata's business today is outside India and Shashi Ruia says his children want to take more of the family business away from India.
Has Indian business "arrived" globally, or is it "departing" from India? Is this a new "secession of the successful", coming a generation after the flight of professional middle class talent that created the so-called global Indian diaspora?
Ironically, it comes two decades after India Inc got worried about the return of foreign capital to India. In 1993, one of the doyens of traditional Indian business, Hari Shankar Singhania, joined hands with Rahul Bajaj, L M Thapar, M C Arunachalam, Jamshyd Godrej, B K Modi and C K Birla to write a note to the P V Narasimha Rao government seeking a "level playing field" on which they could compete more effectively with multinationals.
Mr Singhania refutes the charge that this group, dubbed the "Bombay Club", was seeking protection from external competition. Instead, he says, quoting from their note of 1993 (this writer has a copy of the original note), "The aim of Indian industry is to be as competitive as any of its peers in the world. Its vision is that it becomes multinational, in fact a world player. This can be achieved by concerted action by Industry and Government. Therefore, the range of economic reforms must be widened and its pace accelerated."
That, indeed, seems to have happened. But today Indian industry is fleeing home because of what it sees as the "drift in policy" and the "paralysis of decision-taking" in government. Indian business seeks neither protection nor government subsidy, says Mr Singhania, but an environment of greater trust and confidence in which it can take long-term investment decisions and speed up existing projects. It wants an end to what it sees as an environment of uncertainty, drift and growing hostility towards business and enterprise.
As the original manifesto of the so-called Bombay Club put it so eloquently two decades ago: "Indian Industry has been constantly urging for liberal business environment and welcomes the economic reforms which are directed towards integrating the Indian economy with the global economy. This will secure faster growth which alone will generate employment, increase exports and give substance to social objectives."
Is anyone listening?
LAND IS LIVELIHOOD, DON'T FORGET
IT IS A CHALLENGE TO ACCOMMODATE THE VIEW THAT THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO GROWTH AND WELL-BEING
My article about people fighting against Posco has brought various responses in the past fortnight ("Posco: take the land but give life", July 4). They call for clarification and further discussion. The question is about the value of current livelihoods of the people in coastal Orissa. Is earning from betel nut farming being exaggerated to reinforce the view that people are fighting projects because they are better off today? The equally valid question then is, why are the people so apparently poor "if they are earning Rs 10 lakh to Rs 17 lakh per hectare each year", as I had said?
Questions arise that speak of our inability to understand two things: one, what makes people, poor in our eyes, oppose growth we believe in; and two, what makes people poor?
First, an explanation: my colleague Sayantan Bera, who travelled across the Jagatsinghpur region of Orissa to meet villagers resisting the Posco takeover, will tell you the problem is our misinterpretation of reality. Land ownership in this area is not measured in hectares but in decimals — one hectare is equal to 250 decimals. Most people own some 10 to 30 decimals of land, which is 1/25 or 1/30 of a hectare. So, based on the profit estimate I gave in my previous article, a household earns Rs 40,000 to 70,000 per hectare for the land it holds — not a lot of money if it is seen in this way and certainly not enough to make them middle-class rich.
But the important issue is that this earning is "good" enough for them to fight till death the acquisition of their land. The reason is that this money comes on a monthly basis, and comes year after year. The earning of Rs 3,000 to 4,000 every month per household takes people marginally above the wretchedly low poverty line (also called the starvation line). But this earning comes regularly – it is their subsistence – and, more importantly, it gives them economic security year after year.
It is this equation with land that we find difficult to understand. I saw this when I visited other poor regions that are resisting industrial growth, which comes with our promise of progress. In Nimalapedu village of forested, tribal Andhra Pradesh, I was confronted with the same confusion: a poor village with no access to electricity, housing or other signs of economic wealth had fought, and won, against the calcite mining project of the powerhouse of Birla. Then I visited Kalinganagar, where 13 tribals had been killed fighting against a steel project. The question "why" was even more incomprehensible when you considered the people fighting change were poor — they lived in mud-and-thatch huts, which would be exchanged for brick houses; they lived under risk of rainfall and crop failure, which they would give up for cash compensation. The rainfed agricultural fields with low produce will be exchanged for houses in colonies built by the company for resettlement. From our eyes, they looked impoverished and marginal. In our view, the future looked only brighter.
These tribal farmers are different from the relatively prosperous farmers in Gujarat, fighting against the takeover of their land and waterbody for the Nirma cement plant. But even in the Nirma case, where farmers are more linked to the markets and more capable of "adapting" to new industrial economic futures, the livelihood option that land provides is valued intensely. It is this difference between them and us we cannot comprehend.
Everywhere I have been, people resisting takeover have told me that "land is their mother. They cannot sell it". This is a sentiment that most of us (literate and urban Indians) cannot grasp. For us, land is property, which we buy and sell, to suit our interest. We also cannot understand this obduracy because we do not understand the value of land-based occupations.
This is partly because for so long we have discounted the option of land-based livelihoods in our economic vision. We have only understood farmers are desperately poor, driven to suicide and migrating to cities. All this is true, but it is equally true that land-based occupations provide sustenance to millions. And if the voices coming from Jagatsinghpur, Nimalapadu and Kalinganagar and the scores of mutinies across the country are to be believed then this land-based occupation is still worth fighting for.
It is time we understood the struggle for land, water and forests as fight for livelihoods. If we do, we will deal with protesters with respect, giving them the right to decide whether to approve of the takeover of their land and asking them for the price they are willing to accept in return. I say this knowing that in our estimation the availability of land and water will be the biggest impediment to economic growth.
If we understand this connection then we will also learn to take the current occupations more seriously. We will then work to improve economic returns from the land so that it can compete with the returns from profitable and economic activities. I don't believe the challenge is to pit one economic future against another. But it is certainly a challenge to accommodate the view that there are many ways to growth and well-being. The aim is to get there. Together.
THE CHARGE OF THE SMALL TOWNS
POLICYMAKERS NEED TO FOCUS ON SMALLER TOWNS TO REDUCE URBAN POVERTY
N CHANDRA MOHAN
The discourse on poverty in India focuses mostly on its rural dimension because the vast majority of poor come from the countryside. However, with faster growth since the economic reforms of the 1990s, a slow but persistent urbanisation of poverty – a shift from its concentration in rural to urban areas – has been observed by researchers. Urban India accounted for 26 per cent of the poor in 2004-05, according to National Sample Survey data. Economists have also noted that although consumption expenditures have grown faster in urban than rural areas, the post-reform period, 1993-94 to 2004-05, saw a slower pace of urban poverty reduction when compared to the pre-reform period of 1983 to 1993-94.
Peter Lanjouw and Rinku Murgai of the World Bank presented their ongoing research on "Urban Growth and Rural Poverty in India: Evidence from National Sample Survey and Poverty Map Data" at a workshop organised by the Centre for Policy Research. "Unpacking" the urban poverty numbers, they systematically found higher poverty ratios in smaller towns (population of less than 50,000) than big cities (1 million-plus): in 1983, the poverty ratio was as high as 50 per cent in smaller towns – higher than even rural poverty – when compared to 29 per cent in big cities as against the urban average of 42.3 per cent. The same picture also obtains in 1993-94 and 2004-05.
Although urbanisation of poverty, thus, appears to be a small-town phenomenon, Lanjouw and Murgai's data also show that small towns led the charge on poverty reduction in urban India since the reforms period.
Even if the overall pace of reduction that took place in urban areas was relatively slower than before, the main contributor to this reduction has been small and medium towns rather than big cities. However, their finding of a higher incidence of poverty in smaller towns, including the changes over time, has been observed by others as well, like Himanshu and Amitabh Kundu of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Dipak Mazumdar and Sandip Sarkar at the Institute of Human Development in Delhi.
The big question, naturally, is what aspect of the post-reform process is responsible for this. Mazumdar and Sarkar say this possibly stems from a trickle-down effect powered by the decentralisation of non-agricultural activities to the smaller towns. Alternatively, smaller towns might have enjoyed stronger growth during the post-reform period due to commercialisation of agriculture. Himanshu, for his part, favours a not-so-different explanation in terms of the growing specialisation of activities in urban India. The bigger cities, thus, appear to be specialising in services, while manufacturing activities are being shifted to the small and medium-sized towns, enabling these to contribute more to poverty reduction.
Lanjouw and Murgai take a different track in focusing on the impact of urban development on rural poverty in the post-reform period. Their work illustrates that urban consumption growth contributes to growth in the rural non-farm economy, and thereby to rural poverty reduction.
They speculate that the link from urban development to rural poverty reduction might have been stronger if urban poverty reduction had been centred on India's smaller towns and cities. It is in such small towns and cities that the bulk of the urban poor are concentrated, and these same towns and cities are also more tightly connected to surrounding rural areas. This pattern has also been observed in urban Brazil.
The policy implications from such work for poverty reduction strategies are obvious. Why have policymakers bypassed small towns altogether in big-ticket expenditure programmes? For instance, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Bharat Nirman have a rural focus, while the National Urban Renewal Mission concentrates on big cities. Clearly, there appears to be a policy bias towards the provision of infrastructure to metropolises than any effort to target small towns. Since the urban poor are concentrated more in the small towns, there are strong normative grounds to focus on the latter and also for the instrumental role they play in reducing rural poverty argue Lanjouw and Murgai.
Though the dynamism of small towns in reducing urban poverty since the 1990s is undeniable, a complicating factor is that the incidence of joblessness has also gone up in them when compared to the medium-sized towns and cities. The rate of unemployment on the basis of current daily status – which captures the average volume of unemployment in a day or intermittent unemployment – for males has increased sharply from 7.2 per cent in 1993-94 to 8.7 per cent 2004-05 in the small towns. In contrast, joblessness rose less sharply in metros over this period. Isn't it possible that while some of the bigger small towns have reduced poverty, a growing proportion of them at the lower end are also suffering? In other words, small town India is perhaps declining in relative importance over time. This writer's doctoral dissertation on Aspects of Dualism in India's Urban Labour Market had argued that smaller towns have indeed witnessed a decay of artisan activity such as handloom weaving, resulting in growing joblessness.
From the Ivory Tower makes research from the academic world accessible to our readers
BUFFALO ON THE TRACKS
OR WHY INDIAN RAILWAYS URGENTLY NEEDS TO BE COMMERCIALISED
Drawing-room chatteratti had been quite dismissive when Lalu Prasad was appointed railway minister. He was not a PLU ("people like us") and, with a fodder scam and Bihar-down-the-tube personal history-sheet, seemed hardly likely to do any good.
As the turnaround story started gathering momentum and successive rail Budgets started presenting glowing financials and operating ratios, the scepticism started getting replaced with grudging acceptance that something good was indeed happening. But this feeling was also laced with a degree of suspicion that the turnaround was no "real" improvement but an astute play on increased axle-loads and clever rejigging of commodity freight rates.
The Indian Railways did transform from near bankruptcy to post a Rs 25,000-crore annual cash surplus in 2008. Considering that the railways is one of the world's largest state-owned enterprises with around 1.4 million employees, over 63,000 km of network that operate 13,000 trains every day, this was indeed a phenomenal achievement. One also has to take into account that it was achieved in just four years — between 2005 and 2008. Lalu is said to have remarked: "My mother always told me not to handle a buffalo by its tail, but always catch it by its horns. And I have used that lesson in everything in my life, including the railways."
It is also very clear that post-Lalu, under Mamata Banerjee's watch and thereafter, the Indian Railways has once again lost its sizzle, and turnaround economics have faded away to be replaced with numbers pregnant with serious apprehensions. With Banerjee moving to Writers' Buildings, there were some feeble attempts at wresting control of the railway ministry with a Congress-appointed minister. Planning Commission and PMO officials have also been circling overhead like hungry hawks trying to "take charge" and give direction.
The Congress wanted to take over the ministry at a time when the Indian Railways' operating ratio (the money spent to earn Rs 100) has not been encouraging. While in FY09 the operating ratio was 90.5, in FY10 and FY11 the numbers were 94.7 and 92.1 respectively. The funds balance for FY11 fell from the budgeted Rs 5,062 crore to Rs 3,100 crore. The current fiscal has witnessed a further fall of another 56 per cent to Rs 1,365 crore. Passenger fares are where they were eight years ago, but freight rates were raised six times in 2010-11 itself. Due to this differential treatment, the fare-freight ratio of the Indian Railways is a minimal 0.3 against 1.2 in China and 1.4 in South Korea. Struggling to make ends meet, the railways have also demanded a doubling of gross budgetary support from the government of Rs 39,600 crore in 2011-12 against a year ago.
The Planning Commission has asked the railways to draw up a roadmap to implement specific suggestions during the 12th Five-Year Plan, which begins on April 1, 2012. The key suggestions include increasing passenger fares, minimising cross-subsidisation between passenger and freight earnings, and setting up an independent tariff regulator. The Commission has formed a working group headed by the Railway Board chairman for this purpose. The group will submit its report by August 31. The report will later be considered by a steering committee of the Planning Commission for inclusion in the 12th Plan document.
We now have a new railway minister in Dinesh Trivedi from Trinamool Congress, a new chairman of the railway board in Vinay Mittal, and the public and media screaming blue murder about the safety record and governance standards of the Indian Railways. This new round of musical chairs at Rail Bhawan is expected to lead to a fresh round of jousting to see how the power equations play out between Didi calling the shots remotely, her minister toeing her line, and the PMO and Planning Commission hawks trying to do right by the country. Between Lalu and Mamata, in spite of the cycle of ups and downs operationally, the real issues relating to institutional and structural reform have just not been addressed. This subject was brilliantly dealt with in the epochal Rakesh Mohan Committee Report on railways submitted in February, 2002. Though the railway establishment has distanced itself from it, few can argue against its recommendations that call for a separation of roles into policy, regulatory and management functions.
The Committee Report had pointed out with much anguish that: "Indian Railways over the past decade has fallen into a vicious cycle of under investment, mis-allocation of scarce resources, increasing indebtedness, poor customer service and rapidly deteriorating economics. The root cause of the decade of decline is an unstable political system increasingly driven by short-term political compulsions."
The privatisation of rail networks, infrastructure and services has been a controversial issue throughout the world. For instance, in the UK, serious objections were raised against the privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s. Treading carefully, the Rakesh Mohan Committee advocated "commercialisation", rather than outright privatisation. It, then, went on to suggest that the Indian Railways must eventually be corporatised into the Indian Railways Corporation (IRC). The government would need to set up an Indian Rail Regulatory Authority (IRRA), which would be necessary to regulate IRC's activities as a monopoly supplier of rail services. IRRA was necessary to distance IRC from the government.
The IRC would be governed by a reconstituted Indian Railways Executive Board (IREB). The government of India should be in charge of setting policy direction, and constituting IRRA and IREB.
The report suggested that once the broad framework of a proposed restructuring is accepted, the government of India and ministry of railways would need to set up a special task force to frame new legislation enabling a new organisational framework. This task force would have to start operations with a thorough review of the Indian Railways Act and the Indian Railway Board Act. New legislation would need to be drafted so that it:
- Mandated corporatisation of the Indian Railways into the IRC
- Permitted a revamp of the railway board
- Redefined the relationship between the government and a revamped IREB
- Provided for exemption from taxation – excise, sales tax, etc – for the period of transition, say, five to seven years.
- Permitted private participation in railway operations.
- Facilitated the induction of personnel form outside the railways
- Mandated the subsidisation of social responsibilities to the extent of funds provided by the government
- Set up a social safety net to take care of surplus labour.
The task ahead has been very clearly spelt out.
Learning from Lalu's mother, the time has come to take the Railway Reform bull by the horns, not the tail!
The author is Chairman of Feedback Infrastructure. These views are personal. firstname.lastname@example.org
GROWING INDIA, SHRINKING BHARAT
As higher urbanisation has long-term consequences for governance, the latest numbers should serve as a heads-up to the planners.
More Indians are moving into towns now. According to the 2011 Census, the urban population grew by 90.99 million between 2001 and 2011. The absolute increase in the rural population over this period was 90.47 million. Put differently, urban population grew by 31.8 per cent, a little over two-and-a-half times the corresponding decadal rise of 12.18 per cent for the rural population. The speeding up in the growth rate of urbanisation is marginal — 31.8 per cent, against 31.4 per cent over the previous period. In terms of States, Tamil Nadu leads, with 48.5 per cent of its population living in urban areas. (Kerala is at 47.72 per cent, Maharashtra at 45.23 per cent and Gujarat at 42.58 per cent.)
This is an inflexion point and it could become important in several ways. Some of these are a cause for concern; others for celebration. A major worry ought to be the fact that the number of net buyers of food in the country will be higher than the number of producers. This is bound to put upward pressure on food prices, if there is no improvement in agriculture productivity. Since that seems a distant prospect, in view of the fragmentation and sub-division of holdings, and since there is no move to amend the laws that govern property succession, India will soon have to import food on a scale similar to China. Very few countries experiencing rapid economic growth have been able to avoid this predicament. They have all been countries with favourable land-people ratios. On the positive side, however, is the fact that cities are excellent engines of growth. Economists don't agree much on what the drivers of growth are, but on one thing they do concur: urbanisation. The agglomeration factor brings down costs all around and this helps firms grow. Some may argue that while these benefits are mostly private, the costs of meeting urban infrastructure needs are public. While this may be true in an accounting sense, the overall economic benefits can hardly be gainsaid. There is also the benefit that accrues to the financial sector, which is able to tap into savings and make them available for investment much more easily. For over 40 years now India has been trying to take banking to the rural areas, with not much success. An increased rate of urbanisation will reduce the pressure on banks to go unprofitably into rural areas.
Higher urbanisation also has long-term consequences for governance. There will not only have to be an increase in the number of urban bodies, such as municipalities, the way in which they raise funds will also change. In sum, India is in for a new set of governance problems, both in terms of structures and in terms of systems and manpower, which it is currently ill-equipped to handle. That is why the latest numbers should serve as a heads-up to the Government.
MEANING OF A 'CROP HOLIDAY' THIS KHARIF
K. V. KURMANATH
Farmers over three lakh acres may not grow crops this kharif to protest against negative incomes. Yet, policymakers are unmoved.
Issues related to farmers do not generally get the same kind of attention as news related to food inflation. Take for example, the 'crop holiday' announced by farmers in Andhra Pradesh for this kharif season. Don't think that this phenomenon will be confined to Andhra Pradesh. Those leading the 'crop holiday' campaign have begun to talk to their peers in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, asking them to go on a partial crop holiday as a mark of protest against net negative incomes.
These farmers belong neither to the rain-fed areas nor the drought-prone regions. They belong to the water-rich districts of East and West Godavari, Krishna and Nellore. The reason for not growing kharif crops is: it has become unviable. The cost of production is far higher than the returns they get.
The extent of area under crop holiday is not insignificant. Farmers' organisations have put it at three lakh acres! One may dismiss this, saying that it is just a fraction of the total arable land in the country. But when you convert acres into yields, it will certainly send a chill down your spine. At five tonnes an acre (two in kharif and three in rabi), the country is all set to lose 15 lakh tonnes this year!
If more farmers in Andhra Pradesh and other States join this new kind of protest, the extent of loss would be much higher and pose a serious threat to country's food security. More than the loss itself, the desperation in the farming community poses a long-term challenge.
A farmer posed a simple but pertinent question to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture recently. "Why should I bother about country's food security, when my own financial security is not taken care of," he asked.
And he had good reason to say this. While the cost of production for an acre of paddy is Rs 19,050, returns are only Rs 19,575. If you add rental of Rs 6,000 and managerial costs of Rs 2,000, farmers end up with huge losses. In the absence of its own assessment mechanism, the CACP (Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices) depends on State bodies to collect information that, generally, becomes obsolete by the time it calculates cost of cultivation. According to the Confederation of Indian Farmers' Associations (CIFA), the data the Commission uses are three years old. The Commission used data of 2007-08 while calculating costs for 2010-11, resulting in a skewed picture.
As a result, instead of getting higher compensation to cover the increase in inflation and input costs, farmers end up incurring losses. Farmers are criticising the Government for not factoring in realistic changes, such as the steep increase in labour costs post NREGA.
During the peak of agricultural operations, labour costs could go up as high as Rs 350. And a 75-kg bag of paddy gives only Rs 700 income to farmers!
EXCESS RABI STOCKS
Overflowing stocks from the rabi crop have only added to their woes. Most farmers in the water-rich areas are saddled with 30 per cent of the produce from rabi still lying unsold. Asked whether permission to export will help them, they say they asked for it five months ago, when they were expecting a bumper crop. After dillydallying for so long, the Centre gave the permission only now.
The farmers would have been empowered with better bargaining capacity had the Government announced the same around the procurement season. "What's the use announcing it now? It will only help exporters and traders," a farmer says. Frustrated and disillusioned, farmers thought it best to skip a season rather than increase their debt and desperation. And that is why they are unwilling to withdraw their agitation. This has already had a cascading effect. Several thousand people who are directly and indirectly dependent on agriculture are not finding the jobs they get around this time. This, in fact, should have set off alarm bells. It, unfortunately, did not. It has not even acted as a pinprick to policymakers, both at the national and State levels.
The problem deserves immediate attention, because it is not a problem that can wait. After suffering for several seasons, it occurred to the farmers that it makes sense (by not making losses) for them to skip a season. This mirrors a serious crisis in Indian agriculture. If the thinking in the water-rich areas is such, one can only imagine the plight of those farmers in rain-fed areas.
One can argue that this is just a protest and that farmers cannot afford to do this forever. Agreed. But this is a strong political statement by farmers, with serious implications for food security and employment in rural areas. This crisis is driving the youth away from agriculture and allied activity. You find almost no young people to carry out farming chores or to work in the fields. And this is certainly not going help the country as it braces to feed 140 crore people in 2026.
WALMART: LESSONS FROM THE MEXICAN EXPERIENCE
WalMex provides access to a larger market, but also puts pressure on its suppliers to improve their products' appeal and forces them to accept low prices relative to product appeal.
Should foreign direct investment in retail be allowed or not? Reams have been written on the possible ill-effects of allowing entry to giant retailers such as Walmart and Tesco. Equally, a great deal has been said about how it would give a boost to local manufacturers, improve the supply chain and so on.
Even as the debate simmers and the government dithers, here's a paper from Mexico that looks at the impact of Walmart's entry into Mexico on Mexican manufacturers of consumer goods.
In a study called Supplier Responses to Wal-Mart's Invasion of Mexico (NBER Working Paper No. 17204), Leonardo Iacovone, Beata Smarzynska Javorcik, Wolfgang Keller, and James R. Tybout show how Walmart de Mexico (Walmex) provides access to a larger market. But, at the same time, it puts continuous pressure on its suppliers to improve their products' appeal; and it forces them to accept low prices relative to product appeal. Mexico opened its doors to foreign investors in 1986 and Walmart entered the country in 1991 through a joint venture with a major Mexican retailer. After six years of explosive growth, Walmart took majority control and by 2003, it had become Mexico's largest private employer.
What were the effects of this mercurial rise and ascendance? The authors have used something called an industrial evolution model.
Its distinctive feature is that a bag of heterogeneous producers can choose in every period whether to sell their output through Walmex or through traditional retailers.
Those who opt for Walmex reach a larger consumer base, but they have to accept Walmex's pricing schedule, and this generally leads to lower mark-ups.
The authors say their modelling exercise was informed by a series of interviews on the impact of Walmart's entry they conducted with Mexican firm representatives and industry experts.
Those interviewed frequently mentioned that Walmex's entry had considerably sharpened the distinction of high versus low performing firms. They also stated that among firms choosing to deal with Walmex, the productivity effects were often positive.
According to the authors, simulations of the model also showed that the arrival of Walmex had separated potential suppliers into two groups — those with relatively high-appeal products and those with lower-appeal products — and that both reacted differently.
The former choose Walmex as their retailer, whereas those with lower-appeal products do not. "High-quality firms will invest in upgradation and innovation in order to sell their products through Walmex, while low-quality firms will not.
At the industry-level, the model predicts that productivity and the rate of innovation may increase, both because market shares are reallocated to the stronger firms and because within-firm performance improves," say the authors.
The regression results are strongest on sales and productivity. High quality firms sold more and became more productive in response to Walmex' FDI in Mexico, while low-quality firms lost ground in both dimensions.
The study results are less clear on pricing, where the authors admit their analysis does not yield a clear pattern. "Future work will have to clarify whether this finding is unique to the behaviour of Mexican plants or not; in the latter case the model will have to be modified so that the decision to sell through Walmex depends not only on quality, but also on additional factors, such as the specific geographic location of the supplier relative to both Walmex retail stores and Walmex distribution centres," they say.
The study shows that trade and FDI liberalisation may also have important indirect effects. Not only did the FDI deregulation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) reshape the country's retail market by facilitating Walmart's entry into Mexico, it also had a major impact on the upstream manufacturing industries.
On the retail front, Walmex acted as a catalyst for good business practices in the sector. Following its lead, the industry modernised its warehousing, distribution and inventory management.
On the supply chain front, Walmex not only introduced the system of channelling deliveries from suppliers through centralised warehouses, it also required delivery trucks to have appointments and drivers to carry standard identification cards. Audits, fines and quality standards were introduced.
Thanks to these changes, there was a significant decline in distribution costs faced by Mexican suppliers. Critically, Walmart's spectacular reach helped suppliers reach a larger segment of the Mexican market.
But against the positive effects, "one must weigh the capital losses imposed on entrepreneurs whose profitability is reduced, sometimes to the point of exit, and the welfare losses of consumers who preferred the brands driven out of the market," note the authors.
The relationships studied by the authors reveal that performance improvements in the goods-producing sector may have had their source in other sectors of the economy.
This is important because most formal analysis to date had focused on the goods producing sector, which is shrinking rapidly in many advanced economies while, in contrast, other sectors of the economy are much less understood.
So, the authors conclude, there may be high returns in identifying the exact reasons for changes in companies' performance in response to trade and FDI liberalisation.
THE BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
The ire and pessimism of people against politicians post the twin bomb blasts in Mumbai's diamond hub was best summed up by Praveen Mehta, a diamond trader of Zaveri Bazaar. Dubbing the police efforts to trace the culprits a waste of time and money, Mehta lamented: "We are still spending crores on terrorists such as Kasab and Afzal Guru, even after catching them red-handed. Both of them are in jail for years, safe and taken care of by the Government, while we Mumbaiites are become more and more vulnerable".
Austerity and discretion
One of the first casualties of the Finance Ministry's austerity drive seems to have been a media conference planned by Minister for External Affairs, S.M. Krishna, a day before the recent Cabinet reshuffle. The conference and lunch, first scheduled at the upmarket Taj Mahal hotel, was shifted to the Conference Hall of the Ministry and finally postponed, much to the chagrin of the journalists covering the MEA. While the press conference right on the eve of the Cabinet reshuffle suggested confidence that the Minister would not be affected, the abrupt changes in venue and the following cancellation left room for speculation.
Did the Finance Ministry's directive on austerity lead to the changes or is this a case of 'when being secure in a Ministry why pick up cudgels with the all-powerful Finance Ministry?'.
India's space ambitions seem to be getting a share of the blessings of Lord Balaji of Tirumala. The Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Radhakrishnan, doesn't miss a chance to get the blessings of the Lord before a flight. Just the day before the launch of the PSLV C-17, he visited the abode of Lord Balaji at Tirupati and offered prayers.
His predecessors, Dr Madhavan Nair as well as Dr K. Kasturirangan, did much the same. Hopefully, the Lord will bless ISRO with successes in the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) programme, which is floundering with more failures as of now.
Smoke , but no alarm!
For Richard D. Reidy, the American CEO of Progress Software, it was a maiden experience — lighting one oil lamp after another to mark the expansion of the IT facility at Cyberabad recently. He kept looking at the ceiling where fire alarms were placed, expecting the sensors to hoot.
The curious CEO asked his colleagues the significance of lighting the lamps. A photographer explained with a Sanskrit sloka 'tamasoma jyotir gamaya', which means, 'from darkness towards light'. The CEO's face lit up as he posed more queries, even as his gaze went up once more to see that the sensors did not react.
Old habits die hard
It's perhaps easier to shift Ministers from one Ministry to another than change their thinking. This is what a colleague realised recently. A veteran politician was shifted from one Ministry to another in the Cabinet reshuffle. However, his speech at a function turned out to be repeat of ditto what he had delivered in the earlier Ministry.
The only changes were names of the people being mentioned in the talk and at the event. If the Minister was asking one section of the industry in January to think global and become second to none internationally, he was parroting the same line even now.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
ALLOCATING TELECOM COMPANIES DEDICATED SPECTRUM IS THE ROOT PROBLEM
The Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) are engaged in a protracted dispute over what to do with 74 of the telecom licences issued since 2006 that have delayed roll-out of services. In some cases, cancellation of licences are warranted, in some others, levy of penal fines called liquidated damages. A larger point of public interest gets drowned in the noise as these two squabble over who deserves what penal action: allocating dedicated spectrum to individual service providers is a stupid idea that a populous country like India cannot afford. Ironically, Trai keeps asserting in its letter to DoT that nonutilisation of allocated spectrum results in loss of revenue for the exchequer, parroting the nonsensical thesis popularised by the CAG report on 2G licences, that the primary purpose of radio waves is to generate revenue for the government. Human ingenuity has made it possible for electromagnetic waves to carry huge amounts of information, of which voice is just a small subset, and untrammelled access to that information has the capacity to greatly improve human life, creating new income, disseminating knowledge, sparking new ideas, improving education, health, politics, governance, social relationships and business. Realising this potential is the primary purpose of spectrum usage. Government revenue is a derived benefit. Policy and regulation must have and embody this vital clarity.
Trai is entirely right to urge that spectrum should not be hoarded by allottees who do not deploy it in service. Every Indian must have access to high-speed broadband. For that, all spectrum must be available to all carriers of data, complementing optical fibre networks at the last mile. The surest way to end hoarding and wastage of spectrum is to effect a paradigm shift in policy. Put all spectrum in a common pool, at the disposal of a handful of competing exchanges that individual operators access whenever a subscriber initiates a call. Real-time spectrum sharing and spectrum hopping technologies are available today. What is lacking is the vision and the will to transcend legacy practices and vested interest.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
IF INDIA WANTS TO MAKE SEMICONDUCTORS, THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD
The government is calling upon technology providers and investors, both foreign and Indian, to set up semiconductor fabrication plants or fabs in India. The domestic demand for electronic hardware is indeed growing fast. It would be useful to insulate semiconductor prices from import volatility and a commercial fab at home could be game-changing for the manufacturing ecosystem. If our incentives and exhortations have not induced foreign or domestic investors to set up a fab in India, it would make sense for the Centre to set up an industrial fab on its own, rather than waste funds on yet more global solicitation. Several state-owned non-commercial fabs already supply defence and aerospace industries. What is required is to coagulate technology-intensive investments and skills and ramp up operations to a new level. The setting up of wafer fabs will rev up development of products, both upstream and downstream in the value chain, and so boost existing capability in very large scale integration (VSLI) design, probably to launch the next generation of information technology devices and knowledge systems.
However, setting up a top-of-the-line fab has multiple risks, apart from the obvious one of rapid technological obsolescence. A fab costs about $5 billion and to amoritise such investment over a five-year schedule — given the pace of technical change — costs well over $3 million a day. So world-class project implementation would be key, unmarred by, say land acquisition squabbles. Quality power, water supply and a dust-free environment are critical as well. All of which explain why global fab players are not keen to set up shop, yet. Also, the current domestic demand for semiconductor chips, at about $6.5 billion, does not quite seem to warrant a fully mature fab ecosystem. But the demand is expect to zoom to $50 billion by 2020. Hence the need for the centre to be forwardlooking and prioritise technology development, by setting up an industrial-scale fab. The public sector is meant for strategic industries, which today means not steel and hotels but fabs and telecom network equipment
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
WIVES OF OTHERS
A REALITY SHOW WANTS TO FOCUS ON WALL STREET WIVES. HOW ABOUT ITS DESI VERSION?
In what way would the wife of a bond trader be different from, say, the wife of an investment banker? Or for that matter, the wives of brokers, insurance salesmen or plumbers? What would their daily routines be like? Would their chores be materially different from yours? Would they suffer the same anxieties and make similar choices as millions of other women do? If you keep awake at night pondering these weighty questions, worry not, help — or at least a television reality show — will soon be at hand. Devon Fleming and her friend Sammi Mendenhall are trying to put together a show called Wall $treet Wives. This, we are told, will be shot in a reality format, featuring four or more women married — or formerly married — to men who've worked in "investment oriented" positions on Wall Street. A casting call has gone out and candidates are awaited.
But this bold project has its pitfalls. Ms Fleming is married to a banker and she'd previously pitched a show featuring, who else, but herself, to television networks and had been politely turned down. The channels apparently wanted the ladies to have cat fights on air and generally chew each other out. Such a scenario was anathema to Ms Fleming's sensibilities, and the project did not take off earlier. But this time the two ladies are determined and we look forward to the progress of her project with bated breath. With more than 500 channels on cable, India does not lack television content. Nor does it lack reality TV. For over a year, our markets have been choppy and directionless. Folks tired of staring at their Bloomberg or trading screens might be yearning for something else to watch. Like entertainment that mixes markets with other domestic concerns. So, how about a shot at Dalal Street Wives?
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
GROWTH TO OUTWEIGH INFLATION
THE END OF MONETARY TIGHTENING MAY BE CLOSE AT HAND, BUT EASING WOULD HAVE TO WAIT TILL INFLATION IS TAMED
Since late 2010, the Asia ex-Japan region's inflation problem, especially in India and China, has captured the attention of policymakers, investors and the man on the street alike. Sharp spikes in the prices of selected items, first in food and then in fuel-related items, have been spilling over into more broad-based inflation pressures, as evidenced by rising core inflation over the course of the past six months. Looking ahead, the emerging headwinds to growth in the region make us feel that the balance of risks would be tilted more towards the downside risks to growth for the second half of this year.
We are anticipating that GDP growth in the Asia ex-Japan region will moderate further to 7.6% in 2H2011 from 8.1% in 1H2011 and 9.4% in 2010. Moreover, some downside risks to both domestic and external demand growth have emerged. Domestic demand growth will moderate further in the quarters ahead due to the lagged impact of tightening measures. The persistently high inflation rate in the recent past is directly eroding the purchasing power of consumers, weakening consumption growth. This moderation in domestic demand is most evident in combined passenger car sales for the region excluding Singapore and Hong Kong, where sales have declined by 1.5% in May 2011 as compared to a year ago, a far cry from the double-digit growth seen just a few months ago.
This curtailment in domestic demand has been the result of policy actions intended to bring inflation under control. Recall that as the global credit crisis unfolded, policy-makers in the region had embarked on boosting domestic demand through loose fiscal and monetary policies in order to offset the collapse in external demand. However, the policy boost to domestic demand lacked the underlying productivity dynamic of a private sector-led growth, which resulted in a swift return of the inflation problem for the region. Even as inflation was rising, policy-makers remained concerned about a potential slowdown in developed world growth and hence they reversed the fiscal and monetary policy supports in a calibrated manner. Unfortunately, the effects of the incremental tightening measures have begun to make its impact felt at a time when concerns over sovereign debt issues in Europe and the US have emerged. This has resulted in downside risks to external demand, emerging from the potentially weakerthan-expected demand in the developed world. Indeed, exports growth has already hit a soft patch in June, with seasonally-adjusted exports for South Korea and Taiwan declining by 7% as compared to a month ago.
The continued moderation in domestic demand growth is likely to combine with the downside risks to external demand in 2H2011, increasing the downside risks to growth for the region. We believe that the moderation in domestic demand growth is likely to present a greater downside risk to the region's growth as compared to external demand. Within the region, we remain most concerned about growth in India and continue to see downside risks to our growth outlook — to the extent of 0.5 percentage point to our estimate of 7.7% for the 12 months ending March 2012. In China, we expect growth to moderate to 8.7% in 2H2011 from 9.6% in 1H2011 because of the effects of policy tightening measures to control inflation.
The concerns over growth in the second half of this year, however, do not imply a major improvement in inflationary pressures. Headline inflation for the region is expected to peak around June-July 2011 and will remain close to peak levels before easing towards the end of the year. Tailwinds to inflation remain strong. Given that some countries in the region have not fully passed on the costs of elevated global commodity prices, inflationary pressures from high commodity prices are likely to remain, unless a meaningful correction takes place. Indeed, the trajectory of commodity prices, especially oil, remains the key risk to our 2011 base case inflation forecast for the Asia ex-Japan region. Moreover, persistently high headline inflation has already resulted in ahigh level of inflation expectations in some of the key countries in the region.
What does this mean for policy action? We believe we are entering the last leg of monetary tightening in the region. With domestic demand growth in the region showing clear signs of moderation and the emergence of some concerns on developed world growth, we believe it is unlikely that policy-makers will initiate any aggressive tightening in the near term. We are expecting the rate hike cycle for the region ex-Taiwan to end by 3Q11, while we expect Taiwan's central bank to continue hiking rates in each of its quarterly meetings until year-end.
However, we must emphasise that although we think we are closer to the end of monetary tightening in the region, we do not believe policy-makers are likely to embark on a path of any kind of easing in the near term. Given the backdrop of a persistently high inflation rate that will remain above policymakers' comfort zone for the rest of the year and heightened inflation expectations, we believe that policy-makers would be wary of embarking on any quick monetary easing, for fear of stoking inflation further. In other words, we believe that the uncomfortable starting point of inflation will mean that policy-makers may have to see some undershoot in growth rates before easing can begin.
MANAGING DIRECTOR, MORGAN STANLEY RESEARCH
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
SMALL CARS TO DRIVE TOYOTA BRAND IN INDIA
CHANCHAL PAL CHAUHAN
World's largest carmaker, Toyota Motor Corporation, has ambitious plans for its new small car Etios, made specially for India. However, it will also be sold in other emerging markets where consumers are gradually opting for compact cars. Hiroji Onishi, President, Asia-Pacific Region, insists that India plays a key role in Toyota's global growth strategy. He admits that the company has not been so aggressive in India so far, but plans to push sales of its newly-launched small cars.
"The Etios platform, both in sedan and hatchback, will make inroads in India and other emerging markets. It is a futuristic car that is bound to make a dent in similar markets. While the potential is immense, we believe that the Etios range should ideally account for large proportion of our sales as we increase our focus on other emerging markets," he says.
Toyota has a marketshare of around 5% in India and the plan is to double the share by 2015. Industry watchers say the company has positioned itself well in the domestic market in terms of pricing. Its compact car Etios Liva — priced between . 3.99 lakh and . 5.99 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) — is the cheapest premium hatchback in India and has notched up over 3,500 bookings within a fortnight of its launch.
"The sedan, that was developed keeping in view the diverse needs of global customers, has already gained strong acceptance for its performance, fuel efficiency and design in India. Small cars are slowly gaining acceptance across the world and India takes lead as world's largest market for such compact cars," he says.
Toyota is renewing its strategy for the India. It has followed a top-down approach after launching its bigger vehicles like Camry sedan and expensive SUVs such as Prado and Land Cruiser. The strategy met with a fair amount of success, prompting the company to roll out smaller cars like Etios and now Liva for the local consumers. Toyota plans to increase its portfolio as the global company and hopes to grab a large slice of the market in emerging economies — Russia, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa — in the near future. "The line-up of cars that we have in India is not sufficient to cater to the growing demands of this market," says Onisha, the chief architect of the company's Asia strategy. He foresees a huge potential for two categories of cars in India — one at the lower end and cheaper than the Liva and another in a higher segment. It is also looking at a compact SUV to target young customers in India.
The feasibility of producing quality automobiles in India is not in question anymore, though scale it yet to be fully achieved. Industry watchers say Toyota's localisation strategy has compelled other carmakers, including new entrants like Volkswagen, to follow suit and make cost-competitive cars here. Honda has already established a R&D at its Greater Noida plant to bring down its car prices. A two-year effort by its engineers saw City getting cheaper by . 66,000, while the yet-to-be-launched car Brio is expected to be much cheaper than the originally planned price of . 5 lakh.
Toyota claims it has set new benchmarks for all other global carmakers in India, both in terms of price and quality. Even the largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki is feeling the heat now as the (base price) of Liva is lower than Maruti's Swift. So, the psychological price advantage of Swift, whose base model is priced at . 4.09 lakh, may no longer be there.
The hatchback segment that is the fastest-growing category in the country's 2.5-million passenger car market. And competition is intensifying, with companies launching new models. After Liva, Honda's Brio, also developed for the Indian market, is set to be launched in September this year.
However, Toyota does not seem to be worried about yet another competitor. The reason being the steady sales of most of its cars. This is in contrast to the rest of the world where serious quality concerns have dented Toyota's sales. There has been a recall of over 14 million of its vehicles worldwide. The company's US subsidiary is reported to have announced a recall of 82,200 hybrid vehicles due to some flaws on the computer boards last moth. However, there has been no recall of the cars sold in India.
Around 5-million cars are expected to be sold in the country by 2015. On its part, Toyota plans to ramp up production to 2.1 lakh cars by 2012 and beyond, aiming at a 10% marketshare. "We grew too fast globally. But India is a buoyant market for us. There has been strong acceptance of Etios, based on its performance, efficiency and design. The car has been developed keeping in view diverse needs of customers across various geographies," Onishi says.
PRESIDENT, ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
Toyota Motor Corporation
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
CCI GOT IT WRONG
For a body that has often been derided as toothless, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) bared its fangs last month. Without justification! In an unprecedented order, it held the National Stock Exchange (NSE) guilty of abusing its dominant position and ordered it to charge an appropriate price (as against zero at present) for trading in the currency derivatives (CD) market and pay a hefty penalty of . 55.5 crore to boot.
Prima facie, the order is at odds with the Commission's declaration (on its website) that its aim 'is to make markets work well for consumers through effective competition'. No wonder many of us scratched our heads as we read the almost 200-page majority order that, among other things, directs NSE to charge an 'appropriate price'. What is an 'appropriate' price? Appropriate to whom; suppliers of the good or service or to consumers?
As members of the public, whose interests the CCI is presumably guarding, there is an obvious sense of unease; an unease evidently shared by two of the Commission's members who have given a note of dissent. For one, how are consumers better served by being made to pay for something they were getting free till now? Can competition be more effective than in a market that is almost equally divided between three players, NSE, MCX-SX and USE with MCX-SX in the lead, albeit marginally?
The majority order quotes a number of overseas cases on abuse of dominance to back its ruling. It argues that even though NSE is not dominant in the CD market, it has used its dominance in the equity, futures and options and wholesale debt markets to cross-subsidise the CD market and engage in predatory pricing to drive out competition.
Free pricing, it says, was driven by NSE's 'longing for dominance'. But is dominance per se objectionable? Not according to competition law in many countries (including Article 82 of the European Commission's Act) with far more experience on anti-trust issues. It is only misuse of dominance to the detriment of consumer welfare that is objectionable.
So the question boils down whether there any evidence of misuse of dominance; whether NSE's pricing strategy was predatory and done with an intention to drive out competition or whether it was done as part of its business strategy to grow the market. Assuming, as the majority order suggests, NSE did use its deep pockets to cross-subsidise its operations in the CD market, could MCX, with its dominant position in commodities' trading, not have done likewise for MCXSX? Remember, the economic interest of MCX in MCX-SX according to none less than the capital markets regulator, Sebi, is over 70%, (the matter is now in court) so 'deep pockets' are not unique to NSE.
If as on date there is no evidence of consumer welfare being hurt and the market is competitive, should the theoretical likelihood that continuance of this behaviour might result in harming future consumer welfare be grounds for action by the CCI today? Not unless there is irrefutable evidence to that effect, and there is none. Despite this, the majority opinion has jumped the gun and concluded NSE's pricing is predatory.
Ironically, competition authorities with much more experience in anti-trust legislation have acted with much more circumspection. Vinod Dhall, former CCI chairman who advised MCX-SX on this issue, admits that what constitutes predatory pricing is a mixed question of law and fact and each case has to be decided on the specifics of the case. And the specifics in this instance are that the economics of pricing in network industries (where you have high fixed costs and zero or negligible variable costs) is very different from pricing in other industries. It is possible to charge zero or close to zero, as users of email who have long enjoyed free service should know. This is something the majority opinion completely ignores.
Stock exchanges, moreover, are public utilities. The Jalan Committee on Stock Exchanges, which wrestled with the question of how commercial functions of stock exchanges should be regulated, finally concluded that profits should not be a major driver.
Yes, there is the possibility that the peculiarities of network industries could lead to monopoly pricing once market share has been grabbed. But CCI's jurisdiction is over extant practices, not over possible future practices or outcomes. So while it is well within its rights to consider, say, abuse of dominance in the context of NSE's denial of its application code to MCX-SX, on the far more tricky issue of the possibility of future abuse (since it cannot possibly have a problem if prices remain zero) it needs to tread more warily. Particularly when there is nothing to establish abuse as on date, especially since Sebi as the regulator of stock exchanges can always step in, as it did with mutual funds when it mandated waiver of entry loads. In the interim there is no need to deny consumers a free service on the bogey of abuse tomorrow.
WHY THERE ISN'T AN INDIAN MURDOCH
IT SEEMS UNLIKELY THAT A MEDIA BARON IN OUR COUNTRY WILL WIELD AS MUCH POWER AS THE NEWS CORP CHIEF HAS HAD IN UK
As British Members of Parliament united against Rupert Murdoch last week, the most revealing quote came from one of his advisors who ruefully said, "Not even Saddam Hussein managed to unite the Commons like he did. Talk about revenge being served cold."
Faced with such unanimous and unprecedented political opposition, Mr Murdoch has retreated but the scale of the public fury raises an interesting question: how could a media baron ever become so powerful? And could it happen in India?
Every politician likes a friendly press but what we are seeing unravelling in Britain is something special in the usual media-politician equation. Incredibly, media reports of the parliamentary proceedings have described a new kind of euphoric freedom among MPs. If one didn't read the names or the details, it would almost be like they were shaking off the yoke of a Mubarak-like dictator in a new British Spring.
The reason why Mr Murdoch has been the Darth Vader of politicians' imaginations is simple. Ed Miliband, the British Leader of Opposition, explains the fear saying, "many people have believed that you can't win without Murdoch, you can't win without The Sun."
It is a fear that dates back to 1992 when the Conservatives won a close election that Labour' Neil Kinock had been expected to win in opinion polls. The Sun ran a vigorous campaign against him, culminating in telling its readers on voting day: "If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights". When Kinock finally lost, the paper ran a banner-headline that has come to epitomise the Murdoch era: "It's The Sun wot won it".
This is why Tony Blair, when invited by Murdoch to Australia in 1995, when he was still aiming for Prime Ministership, said when you are invited into "the lion's den, you go, don't you."
So, could this happen in India? Can one imagine a media baron wielding such power in this country? It seems an unlikely prospect.
India today has the highest newspaper circulations in the world and also the most expanding TV market anywhere. There are all kinds of equations between media owners and politicians at the central level and in the states. Indian media owners do have influence but Murdoch's special place in the British polity grew from the extent to which his media outlets could influence voting patterns, or at least be perceived to be doing so.
In a small, relatively uniform country like Britain, a mass circulation paper like The Sun is a powerful vehicle for direct political mobilisation. In a diverse country like ours, it is a totally different story. At the national level, our vibrant English language press, for instance, influences the middle classes and opinion-makers but is of little relevance to the vast majority of voters.
The influence of the press in Hindi and other languages is specific to their regions. Geographical and linguistic diversity by itself dictates a plurality of media voices and it is this basic but underestimated feature of our polity that mitigates against the creation of a onesize-fits-all vehicle to reach voters.
A good example is Mayawati who won a majority in UP without ever courting the press. In fact, her political strategy deliberately excludes the national and regional press on the assumption that it is biased against her anyway and in any case, it never reaches her voters.
If anything, the politician-media nexus is skewed in favour of the politicians. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, 11-12 of the state's 14 TV news channels are indirectly or directly controlled by politicians or their proxies. From Tamil Nadu to Orissa, politicians control cable TV distribution networks and their own TV channels as well.
With Murdoch himself, in early 2003, just four days before the new all-Hindi Star News was to launch, the Vajpayee government changed the goalposts by ruling that no foreign company could own more than 26 per cent of a TV news company, bringing them on par with the rule for newspapers.
That by itself was a bad decision: it meant to keep out foreign influences in news but ignored the fact that much of the muck we see in our press is homegrown, not foreign. Yet, it underscored the reality of the name Rupert Murdoch meaning different things in different countries.
His influence in Britain is unique, across party lines. It is a country where, he signifies an "avatar of power in its purest form" as one newspaper put it. His role is completely different in the US, where he symbolises the voice of the Right, as embodied by the hugely profitable Fox News. But in China, he has often been in the position of a supplicant, in order to get more access to the market. Nothing symbolised this better than his politically loaded comment on the Dalai Lama in 1999 as "a political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes."
In India, the political class might have been full of suspicion in the glory days of the 1990s when his satellite TV networks were bringing down the monopoly of Doordarshan but in the end, News Corp has been like a 'normal' media company – large and influential but nowhere near being the sinister force it is seen to be in British politics by its critics. Just like other big domestic media groups.
WORLD ON EDGE AS US ON THE BRINK
This coming week will be critical both for America's economic future and also for the already struggling fragile global economy. A miffed US President, Mr Barack Obama, has set the American Congress a July 22 deadline to decide on raising the statutory debt ceiling so that the government can borrow to pay off its debts and not default on existing liabilities. He would like to reduce the deficit from between $1.7 trillion and $4 trillion in the next 10 years, while raising taxes to boost revenues, but many Republicans — particularly those elected with "Tea Party" movement support — are adamant on not burdening the rich with additional taxes. By law, the US national debt cannot exceed a ceiling of $14.29 trillion, which it has already reached, and which can only be raised by Congress. The Republicans want a saving of $2.4 trillion, but with no new taxes. As is usually the case wherever there is a financial crisis, it is society's most vulnerable sections which are hit first. Since May, when this ceiling was reached, the government has stopped payments to some federal pension schemes and liquidated some assets elsewhere. If the ceiling is not raised by July 22, Medicare and unemployment benefits in the US could face cuts. The world is watching with trepidation as both parties in the US Congress trade charges and indulge in name calling instead of putting their country first. The Moody's credit rating agency has already put the US on negative watch, while Standard & Poor has warned that it would cut America's triple-A rating (AAA), that it has enjoyed since 1917, to D (the bottom) — as they have little confidence that an agreement would be hammered out by the squabbling Congressmen in time. It is worth remembering that these rating agencies had not hesitated to reduce Greek bonds to junk even though that country had not yet defaulted in payments. They are, however, going a lot softer on the US, still the world's largest economy — around which almost every country's trade revolves. If the US were actually to default on payments to its creditors, it would be a devastating commentary on the state of American politics and the state of its finances. It is felt in some quarters that such a situation will never materialise; that the Republicans are famous for their brinkmanship and have done this before when Washington almost had to down shutters some months ago. They have been giving President Obama a hard time at almost every opportunity. This is not a crisis of Mr Obama's making: he had inherited massive debts from his predecessor, who merrily blew up money on unnecessary wars and lavish military contracts, while at the same time cutting taxes on the rich with abandon. It is estimated that almost 60 per cent of the deterioration in US finances is due to the contraction in revenues following the economic slowdown, and 40 per cent due to the stimulus package, which the government had to announce as the private sector was not spending. The global financial markets are not very optimistic about America at this juncture, particularly creditors who are apprehensive about repayments. Moody's was the first to raise the red flag, jolting America and much of the world. China, which is America's largest creditor, is urging Washington to act to protect investors' interests.
The furore over the machinations of News of the World in the Murdoch stable exposes the risks to a free press in the fountain head of democracy and highlights the vulnerability of media to the new technological age we live in. Britain has been proverbially notorious for its taste in lurid journalism even while renowned for what are called quality broadsheets. What is harder to explain is how one person was able to own a string of newspapers ranging from tabloids known for page-three topless women and salacious stories to such a venerable newspaper as the Times. And until now he was on the way fully to control the highly profitable BSkyB satellite channel, a deal he has had to call off. What is even more astonishing is that the monopoly of newspapers and part ownership of the BSkyB channel made him a virtual arbiter of making and breaking governments. No wonder a string of hoary British politicians ranging from Tony Blair to David Cameron and an army of others courted Rupert Murdoch, who was not shy in boasting his power to tilt the balance in favour or against potential Prime Ministers. And once his favoured Prime Minister took office, he loudly proclaimed his role. As British Prime Minister David Cameron belatedly acknowledged, no politician was immune from courting Mr Murdoch. In plain language, British politicians were pulverised by the fear that Mr Murdoch had it in his power to destroy their political careers. With public anger mounting over the serial hacking of cellphones of murdered victims, the royals, police officials and even killed British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, an inquiry has now been ordered, which will also seek answers to how to foster a free and clean media. The methods of collecting news regardless of the means employed, including the bribing of police officials, and how widespread the practice was are subjects for inquiry. But given the scale of the operations, a thorough house-cleaning seems to be in order. Mr Murdoch was a maverick publisher who dared and won. He took on the Fleet Street labour unions and humbled them. And his ruthlessness in beating competition was a byword in newspaper lore. How he traded on his initial success on Fleet Street to replicate the model in the United States going to the extent of becoming an American citizen to own media assets is an epic story. Mr Murdoch has been seeking to redefine the Fourth Estate. Overall, the Murdoch saga in Britain presents a sorry picture. How could Britain lose its way, as it so obviously has? There was handwringing before ceding the Times to Mr Murdoch, as there was in the United States in the case of the Wall Street Journal, and Mr Murdoch invented the highly profitable Fox News channel as an extreme form of campaign journalism. Perhaps the end of Great Britain's empire affected its self-esteem and confidence so greatly that it was prepared to surrender to any daring adventurer with the money and gumption to stake a claim to the country's traditional riches. The twist in the tale of the Murdoch saga has an object lesson for the world that believes in a free media. First, governments must reinforce anti-monopoly mechanisms to prevent one person or organisation cornering the media market, thus acquiring the kind of political power Mr Murdoch has exercised over the British political system. This particularly applies to the simultaneous ownership of print and electronic media. An effective supervisory provision to ensure fair play has been missing. Mr Cameron has many crosses to bear. He had employed Andy Coulson, a former editor of News of the World, as his communication chief and although he has been suitably contrite in taking his share of the blame, it was a gross error of judgement in employing him. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has been particularly vocal in decrying Murdoch's practices. One danger, of course, is that under the guise of seeking to keep media on the straight and narrow the authorities would assume powers that could curb freedom of expression. That applies more to emerging economies than established democracies. But the manner in which Mr Murdoch conducted himself is an object lesson in how the mother of Parliaments can be kept at bay. Modern technology is here to stay and cannot be disinvented. Rather, the cure lies in the hoary adage of eternal vigilance being the price of liberty. In Britain's case, the two major parties did not do their duty in guarding against the evil of monopoly control. And once Mr Murdoch had pretty nearly cornered the press from the tabloids to the traditional quality paper and partly owned a successful satellite channel, he had acquired too much clout to be tamed by politicians seeking to stay out of his way for fear of being vilified, with party leaders feting him in 10 Downing Street. It needed the shock of a newspaper hacking the cellphone of a murdered girl and later discoveries of how Scotland Yard papered over earlier investigations because the investigating officers had been compromised to bring out the full horrors of a culture of sycophancy and a media group that stopped at nothing to have its way. This is without doubt the greatest setback to the meteoric rise of perhaps the most successful media buccaneer of modern times. He has had to close down News of the World to cut his losses and has for the moment lost his bid to control all of BSkyB, apart from losing his British chief executive, Rebekah Brooks. What is worse from Mr Murdoch's point of view is that his magic spell has been broken. A second looming tragedy is across the Atlantic because some American politicians are beginning to question his practices and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation. With Fox News, Murdoch has set a new idiom in broadcast journalism by aggressively slanting news to promote a political cause. In a sense, he has been a godfather of the Tea Party movement. * The author can be contacted at email@example.com
CLASH OF GENERATIONS FOR JUSTICE, FREEDOM
I realise that I should be in Washington watching the debt drama there, but I've opted instead to be in Greece to observe the off-Broadway version. There are a lot of things about this global debt tragedy that you can see better from here, in miniature, starting with the raw plot, which no one has described better than the Carnegie Endowment scholar David Rothkopf: "When the Cold War ended, we thought we were going to have a clash of civilisations. It turns out we're having a clash of generations." Indeed, if there is one sentiment that unites the crises in Europe and America it is a powerful sense of "baby boomers behaving badly" — a powerful sense that the generation that came of age in the last 50 years, my generation, will be remembered most for the incredible bounty and freedom it received from its parents and the incredible debt burden and constraints it left on its kids. It is no wonder that young Greeks reacted so harshly when their deputy Prime Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, referring to all the European Union loans and subsidies that propelled the Greek credit binge after 1981, said, "We ate it together" — meaning the people and the politicians. That was true of the baby boomer generation of Greeks, now in their 50s and 60s, and the baby boomer politicians. But those just coming of age today will never get a bite. They will just get a bill. And they know it. You can see that when you walk around Athens' central Syntagma Square, where young people now gather every evening to debate the crisis and register their protests at the future being imposed on them. The facades of banks around the square have been defaced, and flapping in the wind are two large banners. One says "IMF Employee of the Year" and has a picture of Prime Minister George Papandreou, and the other says "Goldman Sachs Employee of the Year" and pictures George Papaconstantinou, the former finance minister. (And these are the good guys, trying to fix the problem.) Nearby is a picture of a baby, saying: "Father, whose side were you on when they were selling our country?" And the more blunt: "Yield to rage," "Class war, not national war," and, finally, "Life — not just survival" — a message that seemed filled with foreboding about what the next decade is going to be like for young Greeks. I was struck by one big similarity between what I heard in Tahrir Square in Cairo in February and what one hears in Syntagma Square today. It's the word "justice". You hear it more than "freedom". That is because there is a deep sense of theft in both countries, a sense that the way capitalism played out in Egypt and Greece in the last decade was in its most crony-esque, rigged and corrupt deformation, letting some people get fantastically rich simply because of their proximity to power. So there is a hunger not just for freedom, but for justice. Or, as Rothkopf puts it, "not just for accounting, but for accountability". "There are no jokes about this crisis," Greek novelist Christos Chomenidis told me. "Everyone is in a bad temper. It feels like nearly everyone is against everyone. If the economic situation gets worse and worse, I am afraid for what can happen." The other day striking Greek cab drivers tried to muscle their way into the minister of infrastructure's office — only to discover that it was already full of his own ministry's striking employees. Take a number, please. That brings up another similarity between Greece and America: that the necessary may be impossible, that baby boomer politicians in the age of Twitter may not be up to addressing problems this big. The hole is too deep and power too fragmented. The only way out is by collective action — where ruling and Opposition parties unite, share the pain and take the necessary steps. But that is not happening here or in Washington. There are Eric Cantors everywhere — reckless baby boomer politicians for whom no crisis is too serious to set aside political ambition and ideology. But there is an adult lurking. China has been buying Spanish, Portuguese and Greek bonds to help stabilise these Chinese export markets. "These are delicate times, and we take a positive role," Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, told the British newspaper Guardian in January. This is a role America used to play, but can no longer afford. Anyone who thinks that this economic crisis, if prolonged, won't also hasten a global power shift has never heard of the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, sets the rules. "We are so used to the Americans providing the solutions for Europe and leading," said Vassilis T. Karatzas, a Greek money manager. "But what happens when we are both in the same boat?" What happens is that both the American and European dreams hang in the balance. Either we both put our nations on more sustainable growth paths — which requires cutting, taxing and investing for the future — or we're looking at a world in which democracies are going to turn on themselves and fight over shrinking pies, with China having a growing say over how big the slices will be.
I HAVE A DREAM
Only students securing 100 per cent marks are to be admitted into Delhi's prestigious colleges. This news sent shivers down the spine of the brightest of students. Fortunately, there's no cut-off mark in my college; for many of my students with low marks have made their mark in life more meritoriously than those who've secured the highest. Many of these not-so-bright students have thought big and dreamt big. The Bible is full of dreams, dreamers, visions and visionaries. In what could be called a "divine dream", God conceives of a most beautiful cosmos and wants us to be co-creators with Him. God also breaks into human experience through dreams and visions: appearing to Jacob in a dream and calling Samuel to be a prophet through a vision. In Genesis, Joseph dreams of greatness and soon becomes a famous interpreter of dreams. He interprets the dreams of prisoners and of powerful Pharaoh and is consequently appointed governor of Egypt. In the Gospels, Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, receives divine revelations through dreams. World religions promote dreams and visions of community; for example, Hinduism proposes Ram rajya as an ideal state of society and Lord Krishna gives Arjuna a vishvarupa darshan of the cosmos. Jesus preached the "Reign of God" wherein all people would live as God's children. Christians also envision a "new creation in Christ". Psychologists have theorised about dreams. In his seminal work, The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud argued that the stimulus for dreams is often found in the "residues of the day" and are forms of wish fulfilment. Dreams arise from one's unconsciousness and tell us about ourselves, our latent desires and repressed needs. Speaking of wish fulfilment, there are those who dream of doing great things and leave no stone unturned to achieve them. Former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Azad wisely wrote, "A dream is not what you see in your sleep, but is something which does not let you sleep!" When most mortals were content with walking, the Wright brothers looked up to the skies and designed wings to fly. Indeed, most inventors dare to dream big dreams and translate them into reality by dint of hard work. Quixotic! From Spanish novelist Miguel Cervantes comes this adjective that summarises who his creation Don Quixote — the Man of La Mancha — is: a crazy visionary, pursuing lofty but seemingly unattainable ideals. His theme song The Impossible Dream goes like this: To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear with unbearable sorrow, To run where the brave dare not go... To strive, when my arms are too weary, To reach the unreachable star... This is my quest, to follow that star, No matter how hopeless, no matter how far, To be willing to give, when there's no more to give; To be willing to die, so that honour and justice may live... History has innumerable examples of personalities who have dreamt seemingly impossible dreams and even sacrificed their lives to translate them into reality. The author is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
MINISTER FLUNKS IN THEORY
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has an "invisible" spokesman who can neither be seen nor heard — only read. Unsigned statements from this "spokesman" are delivered at the desk of every journalist but a stony silence greets you if you happen to question "his" identity. Whenever a scribe wishes to ask a question or seek a reaction from this "spokesman", he is nowhere to be found. Also, questions regarding the identity of the spokesman have been brusquely brushed aside by Chief Minister Mayawati. No one at the sprawling BSP office in Lucknow has ever heard of him and when questions are raised, party workers exchange mysterious glances and simply walk away. For TV channels, this anonymous spokesman is proving to be a major problem since every statement on the screen needs a face — pretty or otherwise! Now with the Assembly elections approaching, the search for the ever-elusive spokesman has intensified. There are even SMS jokes that promise extra talktime for life if anyone can correctly name the BSP spokesman. Another SMS promises a free ticket in the next election for the same reason. Any takers? Jobs for the boys The Supreme Court (SC) order making Salwa Judum unconstitutional and disbanding it has not really made it irrelevant. Rather, the special police officers (SPOs) — tribal cops recruited on honorarium to assist security forces in anti-Maoist operations — are much more in demand now. The state BJP government was quick to react to the SC verdict, assuring the SPOs that none of them would be rendered jobless and that they would be absorbed in the state police as regulars. The assurance serves two purposes of the ruling BJP. One, it will prevent the SPOs from moving to the Maoist fold. Two, the SPOs, with a strength of nearly 6,000, will help the BJP retain its tribal votebank in Bastar region, where the ruling party holds 11 out of 12 Assembly seats. The principal Opposition party, the Congress, is also wooing them by trying to cash in on their disillusionment following the SC order. The party has promised to take up the issue in Delhi to ensure their permanent rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the Maoists have also extended an open invitation to SPOs to join their rank, promising them "roti, kapda aur makaan and also security". Ph.D. dream Most netas are skilled in practical politics but Rajasthan's minister of state for education Mangilal Garasia learned the hard way that there is a big difference between theory and practice. Mr Garasia, who took the Ph.D. entrance examination conducted by MS University in Udaipur on May 15 to study his favourite subject political science, has flunked. When the result was declared on July 13, the minister's name was missing from the list of successful candidates. Although Mr Garasia claimed that he had done fairly well in the exam, the result proved otherwise. Mr Garasia, a three-time member of the Legislative Assembly, represents Gogunda constituency of Udaipur. The result disappointed his followers who were waiting to greet the minister with bouquets and sweets. All wannabe politicians in his region regard Mr Garasia as a source of inspiration for practical politics, but for theory they would have to look somewhere else. "If the question paper included issues like dharnas, bhookh hartal and waade, there was no question of any politician flunking," a Congress worker quipped. Mamata's green impulse West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's impromptu announcements are causing serious problems for her Cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats. Addressing a gathering in Kolkata to promote the green cause, she was scheduled to announce planting of one crore trees in the state in the next one year. But when she rose to speak, she suddenly changed the original plan and announced that the state government would "distribute" one crore saplings in schools and colleges and plant three crore saplings on its own. "If need be, we will also plant another one crore saplings because green is our life and soul," she declared. In effect, a sudden steep rise in the number of trees to be planted — from one to four or even five crore. State forest minister Hiten Burman, who was present on the occasion, was aghast at the daunting prospect of procuring five crore saplings. Given the party's (Trinamul) name and work at the grassroots level, the minister needn't feel daunted in his green task. Reward in reverse The recent reshuffle of the Union Cabinet has put the Congress leaders of Assam in a fix. A day before the Cabinet reshuffle took place, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had claimed that there will be an increase in the number of leaders from the state in the Union Cabinet. As the media also started speculating about the inclusion of at least one minister, the party projected it as a reward for sweeping the Assembly polls with a record-breaking 78 seats. And yet Bijoy Krishna Handique was dropped from the Union Cabinet on health grounds and Pawan Singh Ghatowar was included, but only as a minister of state. Now no Congress leader is coming forward to respond to the charges of the Opposition that the party rewards leaders by demoting them in the Union Cabinet.
GADDAFI REGIME DE-RECOGNISED
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya has lost his locus standi or what little was left of it. He scarcely has an option but to quit the rusted throne that he has held on to in the face of a ramped-up NATO offensive since April. He has effectively been de-recognised by no fewer than 30 nations at last Friday's meeting in Istanbul of the International Contact Group. His regime has been declared as "no longer legitimate". As he stands in unsplendid isolation in his tent, the rebels can be said to have scored a momentous moral victory. The National Transitional Council, the main opposition group, has been recognised as Libya's government by the 30 nations. That marks the triumph of the upsurge as in several other parts of the Arab world.
The significance of the recognition goes beyond the political; no less crucially, the NTC will be entitled to Gaddafi's overseas assets that had been frozen by the Western powers. That itself is an economic boost for a beleaguered nation. The victory of the rebels, therefore, is as much moral as it is financial. There is hardly a precedent in contemporary history of a country's government being de-recognised by a section of the comity of nations. Friday's decision signals a watershed development in the Afro-Arab world as indeed in international relations. Logically, it should also mark the end of the Western blitz that has killed civilians, including members of Gaddafi's immediate family.
Yet the outlook remains ever so uncertain. The rebels have acquired a new status. And more than a military offensive, it is international diplomacy ~ to secure the exit of Gaddafi ~ that will now be on test. A measure of success may yet help resolve the deepening humanitarian crisis over the refugee issue.
Gaddafi, for now, has refused to give up and his regime has vowed to fight on. Yet there appears to have been a certain comedown with his emissaries reportedly putting out feelers for a deal that will allow him to go into exile or let him remain in Libya. The latter prospect seems improbable. The transition will be far from smooth, if at all.
SKELETONS IN NREGS CUPBOARD
Theoretically, third-party evaluation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, now renamed after the Father of the Nation, is to be welcomed. Hopefully, it will yield an objective feedback on a gigantic public sector failure in large parts of the country. Details of the evaluation of what was touted as a flagship welfare scheme have been a matter of political conjecture since 2004, when the United Progressive Alliance assumed office. Far from benefiting the target group to the extent possible, the NREGS has been reduced to a subject of inter-party wrangling before elections, whether to Parliament or the Assemblies. But the scope of this third-party evaluation would seem to be limited if it covers only 100 districts across the country. Nonetheless, the broad trends ought to be discernible through any honest review. As a facet of public policy, it is an issue of tremendous import. It devolves on Mr Jairam Ramesh, the new rural development minister, to ensure that the data will be in the public domain without the citizen having to take recourse to the RTI Act.
The third-party review, seven years after the scheme was launched, would appear to be the brainchild of the Planning Commission. Neither ministerial representatives of the Centre nor the states are to be involved in the exercise. While the composition of the third party is yet to be announced, Yojana Bhavan is intent on inducting the services of "professional and selected institutes".
The exercise has to be decidedly academic; there has been a surfeit of political projections by the various parties over the past seven years. Such surveys have only obfuscated the reality to suit the party in power in the states. The primary stipulation of 100 days of work a year has not been fulfilled. In parallel, going by the Planning Commission's projections, the number of Maoist-affected districts has risen from 60 to 78 and barely 5.5 crore households have benefited out of the target group of 11 crore. The third-party review might expose more skeletons in the NREGS cupboard. So be it.
A GENTEEL GESTURE "REGISTERS"
BOLLYWOOD thrills, titillates, tantalises, sometimes traumatises. Seldom do its leading lights offer something ~ at least in real life ~ that actually elevates. One of those rarest-of-the-rare acts of grace was self-scripted: and came moments after the nation took yet another low blow. The, reportedly, "most beautiful woman in the world" earned a different kind of admiration when she requested a deferment of her being conferred the French L'Orde des Art des Letters (Order of Arts and Letters). Not because she sought to conceal her "baby bump" but she felt it would be heartless to indulge in a celebration within hours, possibly less than 60 minutes, of the triple bomb blasts in the city where she lives and does much of her work.
With matching grace did the French envoy to India concede her request, Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont went on to publicly declare his country's sympathy with the victims of terrorism and extend his country's support in a time of crisis. Critics might carp at Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan's publicity-oriented political correctness, but since there are no reports of other major public functions having been cancelled, her gesture does exude elegance. Lesser folk would have acted thus only if state mourning had been officially declared. Some might contend that what she did runs contrary to the theory that displaying the "show goes on" is an effective way of defeating the terrorists' prime objective of disrupting normality. However, this was an essentially personality-oriented event, and she placed personal glorification at a lesser priority than empathy with Mumbaikars who have suffered so much these past 17-18 years.
In a nation where movie stars and sports personalities command as much public adulation as political leaders, in periods of trouble they must "react". Time was when Bombay's Best regularly went to forward areas to entertain the troops, and cricket matches were played to raise funds for calamity relief. True deferring acceptance of a not-so-rare award does not quite equate with those other gestures, but it had the authentic ring of spontaneity, and proved that the lady's glamour is not just skin deep.
SHORTCOMINGS OF THE DRAFT LOKPAL BILL
CIVIL society's version of the draft Lokpal Bill suffers from serious drawbacks. Some of the proposals even violate constitutional provisions; they threaten certain basic rights of citizens. Misgivings have been expressed to the effect that a Lokpal, set up along the lines suggested by Team Anna, will sanction unwarranted intrusion into the rights of public servants and elected representatives. To hand over enormous powers to one entity, which is not accountable to any elected body, is unprecedented; it also raises the question of constitutional propriety.
First, the Bill proposes to confer the powers of investigation and prosecution on a single authority, namely the Jan Lokpal. Both functions ought not to be discharged by a single entity. If an investigative agency is given the power to prosecute, it raises a serious human rights issue. Prosecution of crime is a public function, one that is different from investigation. The prosecutor is considered impartial and independent. It is no secret that investigative agencies are often overzealous and partisan. The two authorities must be separate. This is the integral feature of the modern criminal justice system.
The Law Commission of India, in its 14th report on reforms of judicial administration 1958, suggested that the prosecution wing be separated from the police. A public prosecutor should be personally indifferent to the result of the case. He should place the available evidence regardless of whether it goes against the accused or helps him. The public prosecutor should be as impartial as the court.
The CrPC, as amended in 2005, provides for a separate Directorate of Prosecution. The judicial decisions delivered, particularly after 1973, have established that the prosecutor is an officer of the court whose duty is not merely to secure conviction but to bring true facts before the court. In the celebrated phrase of Justice Krishna Iyer, "the Criminal Procedure Code is the only master of the public prosecutor…." This is also the trend in many other countries.
The draft Bill presented by Team Anna is heavily biased towards the Jan Lokpal. It proposes to vest enormous and unprecedented powers in it, authority that is likely to be abused. Clause 22 of the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill deals with punishments and penalties. It states that a Bench of specially appointed judicial officers, upon enquiry, shall determine the penalty to be awarded to the public servant concerned subject to the approval by a higher authority appointed by the Lokpal. No right of appeal is given to a public servant. Approval of penalty by a higher authority is not equivalent to appeal. There is no example of such a drastic proposition. It is true that the High Courts' power of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution shall remain unaffected, but the scope of such power is considerably limited. When a panel sits in appeal, it can go into the merits of the case, but a High Court cannot do so in exercise of the power of judicial review.
The draft Bill is thus a brazen attempt to curtail the invaluable right of appeal of a public servant. A hierarchical appellate structure with the final appeal on a point of law to a higher court is a core principle of administrative and constitutional law.
The Bill proposes that the Jan Lokpal will have the power to intercept and monitor data or voice transmitted through telephone or internet. He can give appropriate directions to public authorities and can also pass interim orders during the case hearing. His officers can order confiscation and attachment of property. These are judicial powers with a bearing on the rights and liberties of citizens which cannot be delegated to a non- judicial authority. These powers are not subject to appeal.
The Bill seeks to limit the High Courts' power to review. Clause 12 states that the High Courts shall not ordinarily stay the orders passed by the Lokpal. Further, if a matter is not decided by the High Courts within two months, the order of the Lokpal shall be final. Any attempt to blur the Ombudsman and the courts is unacceptable.
The institution of ombudsman that the draft Bill purports to create is unique in the sense that it is not accountable to any external agency, much less to any established organ of the State. The draft Bill proposes that the Lokpal may be removed from office for an alleged "act of misbehaviour". But the expression has not been defined. Further, there is no provision on investigating a charge of corruption against the Lokpal.
The definition of public servant in the Bill does not cover the Lokpal. This is a major loophole in the draft which needs to be addressed.
Considering the wide range of powers that are proposed to be conferred, the Lokpal may become authoritarian and arbitrary. Instead of a single Ombudsman, several such posts can be created as in Europe. England and Wales, for example, have a Parliamentary Ombudsman (PO), health service commissioners (ombudsmen) and local commissioners.
No attempt has been made in the Jan Lokpal Bill to avoid the overlapping of jurisdiction with courts and tribunals. This duplication of work can only create confusion.
The institution of Lokpal is sought to be created to plug the gaps that exist in the existing mechanism of grievance redressal. It is expected to offer an effective, easily available and non-legal remedy. A strong legislation on the Lokpal is imperative. The country needs an institution which is proactive and not an overarching authority. To create an institution with exceptional powers, bypassing constitutional precepts, is no answer to the rising tide of corruption and maladministration.
Team Anna must realise that a strong Lokpal does not mean a Lokpal with unbridled powers just as strong law does not imply one that imposes stringent punishment. The draft Bill calls for reflection. Change per se does not necessarily mean for the good.
West Bengal had made its name as the ungovernable state of India for 30 years. Not that it did not have a government; it had in fact India's most stable, least displaceable government. But it faced a smouldering rebellion, which finally succeeded and brought in a new party to displace the discredited communists. Now that West Bengal is quiet, political life in India is in danger of getting boring. Luckily, rescue is on the way. Telangana promises to be the Bengal of the 21st century.
It took 34 years for change to come to Bengal; Telangana has been waiting much longer. Telangana is not a state waiting to happen; it is a state that was created and then obliterated. In its brief existence, it was called Hyderabad. It came into being with the Indian police action which annexed Hyderabad state in 1948. But then, Potti Sriramulu of Madras wanted to free his fellow Telugus; he starved himself to death rather than submit to the domination of Madrasis. So the Telugu provinces of Madras were separated into Andhra Pradesh. The new Andhras had the coastal districts; they longed to annexe Hyderabad state, for then they could build dams on Krishna and Godavari rivers and take the water downstream for irrigation. Sriramulu's suicide gave them the chance. It forced Jawaharlal Nehru to set up the Fazal Ali Commission on state reorganization. It noted the reluctance of Telangana Telugus to merge with the coastal people. They feared that the coastal people would take away revenue, capture bureaucratic jobs and, weaned away from alcohol in the old Madras state, would run the whole of Hyderabad dry. And so they did when linguistic mega-Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956. Hyderabadis went about shouting, "Idli sambar go back," but all their shouting could not get rid of the coastal people.
They still have not; and if the Central government has its way, they will not. For although the Srikrishna committee it appointed laid out all the options with apparent fairness, in a secret chapter the committee gave it some questionable advice on how to outwit Telangana separatists. As feared by them, Andhra Pradesh has been an excellent proposition for the coastal people who are loath to give up the water and the revenue, and have the political muscle to wrestle Telangana to the ground. So the present indications are that the Centre will maintain the status quo, the Telanganites will continue to agitate, and the Andhra Pradesh government will continue to kill and maim the agitators. Andhra Pradesh has been a front-runner, together with Tamil Nadu, in the race for growth unleashed by the reforms of the 1990s; now the industries that have thrived in Hyderabad will look for other locations, and Maharashtra will get back into the race. Now is the time to leave old-style states behind, and to reorganize India into city states.
Suleiman Bakhit, a Jordanian educated at the University of Minnesota, is an entrepreneur with a difference. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when Mr Bakhit was a student in the United States of America, he was attacked on the streets for looking like an Arab. Instead of becoming embittered, Mr Bakhit took upon himself the task of visiting schools and speaking to children about the realities of the society he came from. He wanted to convince his audience that Arabs are not a typically violent people but ordinary and humane like any other. In the course of his interactions, one child asked him if, like Batman or Superman, there were Arab superheroes and comic books. The answer, Mr Bakhit realized, was an emphatic 'no'. So, he set himself the goal of becoming "the Walt Disney of the Arab world". He learned to draw cartoons, created a set of characters and built up a storyline. His comic book series, one of the three in the Arab world, proved to be a huge success, and was recently turned into a popular game called "Happy Oasis" on Facebook.
Mr Bakhit's personal achievement — he is a TEDGlobal fellow — as an entrepreneur is perhaps of less consequence than the unprecedented social reform he has brought about. His fantasy world has gripped the imagination of a society that is traditionally reluctant about spending money on books, and especially on those with pictures in them. The characters that appear in his books — which include a woman in a burqa — are not only expected to give Arab children some positive role models to look up to, but also to change deeply entrenched misconceptions about Arabs in the West. However, the real world of geopolitics is hardly child's play, and video games are a weak defence against aggressive prejudices. Mr Bakhit must be well aware of these truths — why else are his comic books set in 2050 and in a world where both oil and grown-ups have disappeared?
HUSAIN IS SAFELY DEAD
POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES TO THE SELF-EXILED ARTIST EXPOSE INDIA'S HYPOCRISY ASHOK MITRA
Jibanananda Das, now acclaimed as the most significant figure in Bengali poetry in the post-Tagore era, composed the cameo of a poem in his later years. It is in the form of a narrative, oozing in sarcasm and debunking the myth of his aversion to social realities. He describes the proceedings of a post-midnight soirée held by a sample of Calcutta's underclass: the venue is the dirty pavement, right next to a leaking public hydrant, that abuts a downtown street intersection; an eerie stillness which has supplanted the roar of chaotic traffic during the long hours of the day and the evening. Those in attendance are the usual sprinkling of street beggars, part-time pickpockets and other riff-raff, tattered clothes and diseased bodies. But each has as much a mind of his own as a point of view. They are discussing a most important issue: who, pray, is the beneficiary if one of them is donated a free bottle of medicine, but only after he is dead? Arguments and counter-arguments fly across the pavement. That is all. The poet does not inform us whether a vote was taken at the end of the debate.
The farce taking place in the country since the passing of Maqbool Fida Husain in London last month would have drawn a chuckle from Jibanananda Das. Messages of condolence are flooding the newspaper pages; long editorials extolling his contributions spill into even academic journals. Television channels have collected the usual crowd of resident pundits to unravel the mystery of Husain's eclecticism. The Hindutva crowd has of course kept mum, politicians of all other hues are fiercely in competition to record their lament at the shuffling of mortal coils by this great son of India. Disappointment is expressed at the failure of reported efforts to have his body brought back to India and entombed here with appropriate solemnity and grandeur. Magazines have brought out supplements on Husain's life and works. A number of seminars and workshops have already been organized on the same theme; more are planned. Exhibitions of his paintings in the personal collection of industrial tycoons are in the offing. A couple of short documentaries Husain produced are in intense demand for special shows. Earnest rookie directors had perhaps shot stray scenes from Husain's daily perambulations while on a visit to Delhi or Bangalore and woven them together; these patchworks too are beginning to find a market. Anecdotes around Husain are suddenly a dime a dozen. The dhaba he frequented while visiting Calcutta is threatening to turn into a tourist attraction. Trust several books on him to be on the anvil; eminences grises, such as State governors and peripatetic Nobel laureates, will be busy releasing them in city malls. And — this was inevitable — voices have already been raised suggesting a posthumous Bharat Ratna for the great Maqbool Fida Husain, the barefoot vagrant who won for India a place of reckoning on the global map of contemporary art but nonetheless had to scamperingly leave his homeland for fear of his life.
Can there be any greater instance of collective hypocrisy? Politicians, including those in government, who are now unloading torrents of crocodile tears over Husain's death in exile, hardly stirred themselves when circumstances were being created to hound him out of the country. Had they exerted themselves and taken a determined stand against the vandals who had targeted exhibitions of Husain's works, it could have been a different story altogether. The prime minister and his cabinet colleagues looked the other way when atrocious anti-Husain incidents were taking place in the very heart of the nation's capital. Non-Bharatiya Janata Party, non-Congress parties too could have, jointly as well as severally, launched a searing campaign in defence of Husain's — and every other citizen's — right to creative activities of all genres howsoever distasteful these might be as per the code of aesthetics of any other citizen or group of citizens — with the only reservation that these must not encroach upon the fundamental rights of others. That apart, a portraiture of, for instance, a nude Saraswati should not be any more erotic than the medieval sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses in various amatory positions observable in the temples of Konark and Khajuraho. True, to be outraged by Husain but make a beeline for Khajuraho is in the domain of one's personal prerogative. To demand a ban of Husain's work or create a situation vicious enough to compel him flee the country was, however, something totally out of alignment with the tenets of a free society. Why deny it, there was also an undercurrent of a sickening attitude echoing the crooked, not-quite-uttered-but-implicit assertion that if some damsel was fated to be violated, that act should be the exclusive right of only a hoodlum belonging to her own religion or caste rather than that of an outsider.
Civil society activists could have thronged New Delhi's Jantar Mantar or Ramlila grounds to demand the end of the sordid ongoing drama. Scholars of weight and art connoisseurs, currently busy giving discourses and writing long tracts on the genius of Husain, could have addressed the Union and state governments seeking adequate measures to protect Husain's right to free expression, failing which — they could have given the ultimatum — they would resign from all official committees and commissions, including cultural bodies like the Lalit Kala, Sangeet Natak and Sahitya Akademis or the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. There was not a squeak from these categories.
Call this hypocrisy or call this cowardice, it has a solid material basis. Political parties by and large have their eye on the main chance. They want to come to power. To capture power, it is necessary to win votes. Around 80 per cent of the national electorate, they reason — even if clandestinely — are from the majority community. Debauchery indulged in by deities is a subject never to be discussed; the affairs of gods and goddesses are out of the jurisdiction of ordinary mortals. Painting the goddess Saraswati in the nude by one such mortal — that too by one who does not belong to the denomination — was a different matter. One never knows, it could affect the susceptibilities of a substantial section of voters; so why take an unnecessary risk, it was safer to be circumspect and not be too vocal against the religious bigots harrying Husain, let him take care of himself.
Civil society groups, alas, are hardly innocent Simple Simons either. Several of them are, in supposedly authentic Gandhian tradition, of a religious bent; a controversy concerning, say, the depiction of an unclad female deity was not exactly their cup of tea. The culture vultures are even more calculating. They, the bulk of them, prefer to be always in the limelight, it bloats their ego. There are, besides prospects of collateral dividends to be considered. Government patronage ensures opportunities for both being at the receiving end of public notice and selection for official goodwill trips to charming distant countries. The credo is, come hell or high water, be on the right side of the establishment. Those in authority had decided to throw Husain to the wolves; the so-called intelligentsia hastened to take the cue.
Any way, all is well that ends well. Now that Husain is safely dead, everybody can breathe easy and pile homage upon homage on him. As for the BJP, there was, of course, no problem ever. Husain-baiting promised a swelling of its vote bank; it could afford to relax. One or two of its leaders, with the reputation of being culture buffs, had some early Husains in their private collection; these were hastily removed from the living room and stashed away. Meanwhile, the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government is exceedingly happy with its tourism development corporation which continues to make a roaring business carting tourists, foreign and native, to see the Khajuraho stoneworks — and die.
The layers of hypocrisy have no bottom.
THERE'S QUITE A LOT IN A NAME
Recent reports in newspapers indicate that the chief minister is examining the possibility of changing the name of West Bengal to either Banga or Bangla. The explanation is that in meetings in New Delhi, West Bengal is one of the last states that is asked to make a presentation. Having attended many such meetings, one can sympathize with the situation where, by the time the West Bengal minister or his representative is asked to speak, three-quarters of the audience are already in various stages of stupor.
On the dais itself, most of the dignitaries, by late afternoon, are fast asleep or desperately trying to keep awake so that the TV cameras do not catch them with their eyes closed — this is also true of some prime ministers as well. Normally, daylong meetings also include a rich and sumptuous lunch. The food served at Delhi meetings normally swim in oil. Keeping awake after such a lunch remains a Herculean task.
From the cultural point of view, it is perhaps appropriate for West Bengal to go ahead with a change of name. Erstwhile East Bengal has now become an independent country, Bangladesh. While surfing the internet through Google, I came across an item to explain the derivation of the name, "Bengal".
Tracing the roots
"The name 'Bengal' is derived from the Sanskrit 'Vanga' and, strictly speaking, applies to the country stretching southwards from Bhagalpur to the sea. The ancient Bangla formed one of the five outlying kingdoms of Aryan India, and was practically coterminous with the delta of Bengal. It derived its name, according to the etymology of the Pundits, from a prince of the Mahabharata, to whose portion it fell on the partition of the country among the Lunar race of Delhi. However, a city called Bangala, near Dhaka, now washed away, is supposed to have existed in the Muslim period and appears to have given the name of Bengal to the European world. The word Bangala was first used by the Muslim rulers; and under their rule, like the Bangla of pre-Muslim times, it applied specifically to the Gangetic delta, although the later conquests to the east of the Brahmaputra were eventually included within it. In the Mughals' division of their Empire for fiscal purposes, it formed the central province of a governorship, with Bihar on the north-west, and Orissa on the south-west, jointly ruled by one deputy of the Delhi emperor.
"Under the English and later the British, the name of Bengal has at different periods borne very different meanings. Francis Fernandez applies it to the country from the extreme east of Chittagong to Point Palmyras in Orissa, with a coast line which Purchas estimates at 600m, running inland for the same distance and watered by the Ganges. This territory included the Muslim province of Bengal, with parts of Bihar and Orissa. The loose idea thus derived from old voyagers became stereotyped in the archives of the East India Company. All its north-eastern factories, from Balasore, on the Orissa coast, to Patna, in the heart of Bihar, belonged to the Bengal Establishment, and as British conquests crept higher up the rivers, the term came to be applied to the whole of Northern India."
Why it all began
Of course, if West Bengal decides to change its name and bring itself into the B category, we still may have a situation when all other states decide to also change their names to the A category, in which case, we will still remain the last state to make a presentation in a formal meeting in Delhi when the recipients are already asleep.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WHAT CLINTON IS ACTUALLY SAYING
A brief summary first: The day before the Libya Contact Group meeting was hosted by the Turkish government in Istanbul on July 15-16, militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, ambushed Turkish soldiers near Diyarbakır and killed 13 of them.
Looked at from a different angle, it was as if the PKK was trying to send a message to the United States and major European powers that there was not only the Arab Spring; the PKK was alive and kicking to cause enough disturbance, aiming for Kurdish autonomy. The PKK move risked the talks its convicted leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been staging with government agencies, but was in line with the organization's eighth congress decision, which stated in its Stalinist jargon that the Arab Spring enabled the circumstances for a Kurdish revolution. Possibly a strategic misreading of the bigger picture, but still a big pain in the neck for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Tayyip Erdoğan.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Istanbul for the Libya conference. But her agenda was beyond that. Weeks before, appointments were arranged with Turkish opposition and nongovernmental figures.
It was interesting to observe that Clinton managed to talk to all four parties present in the Turkish Parliament in one single day, discussed very Turkish matters like the Kurdish issue, the need for a new constitution and Turkey's flammable neighborhood – something that President Abdullah Gül or Erdoğan have not succeeded in doing so far.
She summed up the message to Turkey, not only the government, but especially the government in a live show on CNN Türk with selected young people.
Clinton praised the role of Ankara in messy situations like Syria and Libya and gave support against the PKK's actions. Yet, to the government's displeasure, she said it was difficult for her to understand journalists in jail and the limitations on the media, especially on the Internet. The message is that Turkey, with its growing economy (after Turkey, Clinton's stop was Greece) and stable politics (relative to the neighborhood, of course), has the backing of the United States. That support could even grow into a real, strategic partnership if Turkey could puts its house in more order, upgrading it to European standards.
There are two more issues to be worked out in the coming days and weeks, like the strain with Israel and the missile shield project; but there are no reliable details for a dependable analysis on those yet.
Before concluding, an important detail in Turkish politics, which might have an effect in its international relations, should be underlined.
The Erdoğans, Tayyip and Emine, visited the Güls, Abdullah and Hayrünnisa, for lunch at the presidential residence in Istanbul on Saturday. That was the first socializing event between Emine Erdoğan and Hayrünnisa Gül since Abdullah Gül was elected as president in 2007. This event brought an end to rumors that the two ladies were not talking to each other, which caused speculation that there was a rift between the two top politicians. This development might be another side effect of the 50 percent support Erdoğan received in the June 12 elections, and it makes the next presidential elections really worth watching.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WE WANT OUR SONS TO LIVE
There might be many questions that the military should answer regarding the latest terrorist incident. Rightly, many people are now asking those questions. Where were the unmanned reconnaissance planes? After last week's kidnappings why were adequate security arrangements not taken, and terrorists were given the golden opportunity to ambush soldiers?
Was it a mistake to send the head of the National Intelligence Organization to talks with the imprisoned separatist chieftain serving an enforced life term? Since the separatist gang and its political collaborators and penslingers in the media have been all talking about the probability of an escalation in terrorist acts on and around July 15, should Turkey instead concentrate its intelligence capabilities inside the country and outside, particularly within the gang, and try to take all possible counter measures? Is there a deficiency in intelligence gathering? Did this country not establish a new undersecretariat to achieve higher coordination in intelligence gathering?
Terrorism is and was the number one problem of this country for the past 25 years. We have lost count of how many thousands of people perished in this menace. Some 35,000, 40,000 or what? Only in the past month tens of beloved sons of families perished in terrorist acts. There is of course no meaning in being obsessed with security, like the Israelis, it would make living in Turkish cities unbearable. Yet, terrorism is a very serious threat and when and if security measures are started to be compromised or neglected for some "more important" reasons, the hearts of some mothers and fathers start to burn. There should be no letup in the fight against terrorism. Yet, in this country because of some creative thrillers, be it the Ergenekon or the Sledgehammer, written by the Center for Excellence in Concocting Evidence, officers and generals who became heroes of the fight against terrorism are banished behind bars under charges of plotting to overthrow the government of the country. Trials of some of them have started, while others are waiting to learn what they are indeed accused of.
In the mean time all the probable actors of this theater have apparently developed a high degree of hypocrisy. The government is negotiating on the one hand with the imprisoned chieftain, while on the other hand just to win some more votes is delivering statements far more nationalistic than the nationalist groups. The chieftain has been sending messages through his lawyers – how and why that is allowed by the state is still a mystery – that there has been progress in the "negotiations" with the government. Yet, without the involvement of the same chieftain the gang would not have staged the latest barbarism. The Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, has totally forgotten that it is a political party, but promoting terrorism in any way possible, most lately with the autonomy declaration.
It is high time to realize that this is a problem that has been traumatizing our people for so long. Apart from national and territorial integrity of this country, whatever it takes, we have to end this menace. Engaging in a revanchist strategy will only worsen the sufferings of our people as the young man who die in fighting the terrorists and the young man who die fighting the state are our young boys. They are all our sons and we should be able to say loudly today: Enough bloodshed. We want our sons to live.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WOMEN 'APPEAR' IN TURKEY'S PARLIAMENT
Turkey's political stalemate following the recent elections has overshadowed a key development; the near doubling of women deputies in the Ankara Parliament (Meclis): 14 percent of the Meclis members are now women.
This sudden visibility – women's "appearance" in the Meclis – is part of a decade-long trend. In 2002, the number of women deputies was 4.4 percent. The 2007 elections saw this figure double to 9.1 percent. Now, the 78 women in parliament make up 14 percent of the 550 deputies.
This recent trend notwithstanding, Turkey's history demonstrates the slow and circuitous nature of women's empowerment in the legislative bodies of government.
Beginning in 1935, Ataturk's reforms gave women the right to political representation in Turkey, well in advance of women in European countries such as France.
However, until Turkey became a multi-party democracy in 1946, women's presence in the Parliament was based on an unofficial quota of 4-5 percent. Deputies in this pre-democracy period were first selected by the government, and then put to a popular vote.
After politics opened up for competition in 1950, women's share in the parliament dropped to 0.61 percent. This figure remained around 1-2 percent until economic liberalization under the former Prime Minister Turgut Özal in the 1980s. The subsequent rise of a middle-class laid the groundwork for the increase in representation of women in the 1990s.
This was a slow process, with the ratio rising from 0.88-1.34 percent in the 1980s, to 2-4 percent in the 1990s.
Since the late 1990s, however, women's demands have accelerated the rate: In each election, the ration of women legislators has nearly doubled, reaching 14 percent on June 12. If this current trend holds, at least a quarter of all deputies in the 2014-15 legislature will be women.
Among the parties, women comprise 30.5 percent of the parliamentary club of Kurdish nationalist Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, followed by main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which have 14, 13.8, and 5.6 percent women, respectively, in their parliamentary clubs.
Although the BDP is yet to distance itself from the violence used by the Kurdistan Workers Party, the high number of women among their ranks – coupled with the fact that one of the two party co-chairs has historically been a woman – suggests a positive aspect of the party; namely, that they are the leading party in terms of women's representation.
On the other hand, the CHP has recently elected a woman, Bihlun Tamayligil, as the secretary general of the party under its new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. This is the first time a woman has been number two in CHP, signaling that the party is indeed liberalizing, as analysts suggested it would, following Kılıçdaroğlu's election as its head in May 2010.
Women's rising legislative profile has also impacted the conservative MHP. Turkey's most traditionally male dominated party, the MHP now has three female deputies who make up 5.6 percent of its parliamentary club. Furthermore, for the first time, a woman, Ruhsar Demirel, has been elected to serve as one of the 16 deputy chairs to the party leader.
The AKP has also seen an increased share of women in its ranks. Up from 8.8 percent in 2007, women now comprise 13.8 percent of its parliamentary group. One of the 12 deputy chairs to the party leader is also a woman.
This is good news. Nonetheless, female representation in the executive branch of government remains an area of improvement.
In Turkey's parliamentary democracy, the real power lies with the cabinet. Out of the 26 positions in the new government, only one is filled by a woman, Fatma Şahin, who heads the Ministry for Women and the Family - now symbolically renamed the Ministry of Family and Social Policies.
Translating women's heightened power in legislature into an increased share in the executive branch will be a test for Turkey in gender equality. Given the dramatic rise of women's representation in the Meclis over the past decade however, this is, perhaps, unavoidable.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
LOST IN WHOSE TRANSLATION?
Saturday was a hectic day, as Istanbul hosted the 4th Meeting of the Contact Group on Libya in the confined surroundings of Çırağan Palace.
Of course the big story was the presence of Hillary Clinton, her meetings with Turkey's leadership and especially what she was going to say at the press conference with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu.
My professional duties, though, sent me early in the morning to the premises of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate at the ancient neighborhood of Fener in Istanbul where, Clinton was expected with great anticipation.
One of the most problematic aspects of covering stories involving world leaders is that you can never be sure of their schedule – it is usually secret, and worse – the program changes at the last moment often with you being the last to be informed about it.
Something of that sort happened on Saturday when the visit of the head of State Department to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos was suddenly put forward by a few hours, probably in order for her to fit with the last hours of her busy schedule in Istanbul, before she headed for Athens. Only a few of us managed to reach the Patriarchate on time, others did not, among the unlucky ones were most of Turkey's TV media.
Clinton arrived at Fener heading an impressive delegation of U.S. dignitaries and had a private audience with the Ecumenical Patriarch for about three quarters of an hour. No statements were made to the few members of the press after the meeting; we had to be content with the warm handshakes of Clinton in her impressive turquoise suit and the Patriarch.
The absence of public statement, of course, does not necessarily mean there was no information about what was deliberated in that private meeting. "Well informed sources" as the well known professional jargon goes, briefed us that "Hillary Clinton expressed the full support of her government towards the demands of the Patriarchate among which the reopening of the Halki Seminary, was the dominant issue." "Halki should open after 40 years of silence," the same sources told us quoting Clinton and adding that "inter-religious dialogue and environment" were also among the discussed topics. We also learnt that Clinton addressed Bartholomeos by saying "after all you are known as the Green Patriarch." Of course, we could not verify all these by a third "independent source" – a good old professional principle – but we could not fail to observe that the presence of the U.S. delegation in Fener generated a noticeable cordial atmosphere for everybody involved. There was a feeling of hope and anticipation that the Americans could use their weight on the Turkey's new government to find, at last, a solution on Halki.
But it was what followed that challenged our journalistic skills somewhat. After her visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Clinton went for a meeting with Davutoğlu and the customary joint press conference followed. The press conference was broadcast live by some Turkish TV channels one of which was private NTV. At around the tenth minute of the conference, Clinton on her part said she had the opportunity to address concerns about restrictions of freedom of expression in Turkey, and then she said the following in English, "And of course, I hope that sometime soon we can see the reopening of the Halki Seminary that highlights Turkey's strength of democracy and its leadership in a changing region." The NTV interpreter could only start her sentence by saying "Fener…." but missed the rest of the sentence.
What we heard from the NTV translator in Turkish was not the official translation and most probably not what the official translator appointed by the responsible ministry, was sending through the earphones to the Turkish participants attending the conference. However part of the Greek media gave the story as "censorship by Ankara on the Halki issue."
We were not present at Clinton-Davutoğlu press conference and we could not verify whether the Turkish participants heard the reference on Halki. However, both NTV and the state TRT websites quoted Clinton's statement about Halki in full.
On such delicate issues and during such critical times, perhaps we, as part of the media, should be more cautious in jumping to hasty conclusions.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
MANDELA, THE EX-CONVICT WHO RECONCILED A NATION
It was 1990, a grey, wintry morning in Brussels, when my best friend in the city, Sally Swart, phoned and said only three words: "He's coming out."
"Who's coming out?" I demanded. I spent the rest of the day with Sally and her husband Rian watching their television for the moment when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela emerged from a prison outside Cape Town after 27 years behind bars.
South Africa was then an unhappy country. It was immersed in apartheid, the policy by which the white minority monopolized power and the black majority was voteless. There were riots, arson, killings and international sanctions.
Sally, Rian and I had left South Africa to see the world and advance our careers. But many others had left South Africa in despair, believing it wouldn't change; it would only get worse.
As we watched the hazy TV pictures of the prison entrance, we knew then that South Africa had changed. What we didn't know was how the change would be shaped by the tall, elegant man striding toward the gate and greeting the crowd with a clenched fist.
Until that moment, none of us knew Mandela. His writings were banned in South Africa. All we had was his statement in court in 1964: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society …"
He had spent most of the 27 years in a prison on Robben Island, a flat islet in the bay of Cape Town. When we drove the highway that skirts the mountain overlooking Cape Town, we would look out to the island, wistfully. "Whenever I see the island, I greet Nelson by extra-sensory perception," the white activist Sheila Lapinsky once told me.
Mandela did not disappoint. In four swift years, he and President Frederik De Klerk reached an agreement that brought peace to the nation. Conventional wisdom says negotiators have to trust each other. But De Klerk, a champion of apartheid who turned against it, and Mandela did not.
How then did they succeed? What lessons can we learn in a region that yearns for peace between Turks and Kurds, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, Israelis and Palestinians?
First, Mandela and De Klerk knew they had to reach a settlement. When their talks began to drag in 1992-93, the violence intensified, culminating in the assassination of Chris Hani, a popular black leader killed by a white man. The country seemed to be on the brink of a bloodbath. Mandela and De Klerk set a deadline: one person, one vote elections would take place in April 1994. Then they hammered out the constitution. With the will to do it, they did it.
The second lesson is that their need for each other outweighed their mutual distrust. At one point, Mandela said of De Klerk: "Whether I like him or not is irrelevant. I need him."
Third, Mandela and De Klerk had the courage to face down the dissenters in their own camps who protested as they made big compromises. In his excellent biography of Mandela, Anthony Sampson recalls the "negotiators on both sides would often find it harder to persuade their own colleagues than their opponents."
I saw Mandela only once. In the election of 1999, I took my wife, a Turk, to a Johannesburg shopping mall where he was expected. We were in a café when a big, well-dressed white man rushed by, knocking tables and chairs out of the way. Mandela had arrived and the man was determined to shake his hand.
Mandela made a short campaign speech, and then reached out to take hands. I watched proudly as he shook my wife's. It was "firm, reassuring," Meltem recalled.
He was besieged by people wanting his hand; his guards trying to control them. Mandela obliged, smiling broadly, but the twinkle in his eye showed he knew they were making too much fuss.
To me, this is Mandela's loveliest quality: his humility, so different from the intimidating presence of his Afrikaner nationalist predecessors. And from this flowed his reaching out to opponents. I was astonished when President Mandela hosted Percy Yutar, the utterly right-wing prosecutor of his 1964 trial. Yutar said afterwards Mandela was a "saintly" man.
But Mandela was not trying to be saintly. He was trying to build a nation. And he did.
Jasper Mortimer is a freelance journalist, who worked for The Star of Johannesburg for many years, and now reports on Turkey for French radio and television. This article was written for Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday.
HOW TO ACHIEVE HOUSING FOR ALL
It started with the cottage cheese rebellion and has now moved to a protest over affordable housing. But while the issue of milk prices is relatively easy to resolve, the issue of housing and rental prices is a much bigger and more complex problem.
There are no shortcuts or magic formulas. You can't lower rents by subjecting them to price controls. It won't work. The introduction of rent control would mean the development of a black market, with landlord simply demanding part of the rent "under the table." And the moment the law allows landlords to charge a specific sum, the said sum will automatically become the minimum everyone will charge - and rents will go up even in neighborhoods that are less desirable.
As long as there is a serious shortage of apartments, prices will continue to rise. And this is why there is a need for concerted efforts to increase supply. Nearly two years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the "mother of all reforms" to resolve the housing shortage, saying the Israel Lands Administration must be transformed into a "lands authority" that would flood the state with land for construction and thus lead to a drop in land prices. Last Monday, however, a bill Netanyahu submitted to advance the issue failed to pass.
Netanyahu also suggested shortening the procedures - now very cumbersome and expensive - needed to get building plans approved, so that new buildings could go up more quickly and the price of construction could come down. But this move has also got stuck in the Knesset.
There's more: It's difficult for young people to move to the Tel Aviv suburbs while working or studying in the big city because our public transportation system is relatively backward compared to most of the world. It's difficult to live in Bat Yam, Holon or Yehud, and to get to Tel Aviv by public transportation in a reasonable amount of time, since government after government failed to invest enough in roads, trains or bus lines, and never built a subway system in the Dan Region, although it's been talked about for 40 years.
Another solution to the housing problem would be to allow the construction of very tall residential towers, which would substantially increase the supply of apartments and reduce their cost. Absurdly enough, most mayors oppose the building of apartment towers for various reasons, thus blocking a way to reduce the pressure.
There are things that can be done. The government has to make an effort to resolve the problem and allow residents a reasonable life.
HAMAS, HELD CAPTIVE BY SHALIT
BY AMIR OREN
Last year, on the eve of his appointment as head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi carefully studied the justifications, outlined in the report of the Kahan Commission's investigation of the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre, for the dismissal of Maj. Gen. Yehoshua Saguy - MI chief at the time of the first Lebanon war. In general, most MI directors have taken pains to memorize the Agranat Commission Report on the failures of the military establishment in the period leading up to the Yom Kippur War, in the hope of escaping the fate of Maj. Gen Eli Zeira, the then head of MI, who resigned in the wake of the report's recommendations.
Kochavi, in contrast to his predecessors, found that Saguy had correctly predicted that the entry of the Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut was liable to result in a massacre. He was discharged because his warning came across as a weak protest and the intelligence information in his possession was not submitted with requisite speed to the political leadership.
Kochavi's take-home lesson from this could be termed, in free translation from Hebrew, "You can't say 'I told you so' without screaming it." Kochavi is speaking out, to his superiors, while also allowing, and even encouraging, the substantive experts below him in the military food chain to differ with him and to tell him that he is wrong.
As a result of the frequent dismissals from the post, the position of MI director is seen as a mine field, best avoided by officers who fancy themselves as chief-of-staff material. This is an obsolete characterization.
Saguy, in 1983, was the most recent MI chief to leave the office in disgrace. The precedents set since then augur well for Kochavi. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was Kochavi's commander in the Paratroops, and every time in the past that a serving chief of staff and MI chief came from the Paratroops or the Sayeret Matkal special ops force - the MI director went on to become chief of staff: Examples are Ehud Barak and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Moshe Levy and Dan Shomron, Moshe Ya'alon and Shahak.
Kochavi comes from the school that believes that MI needs a commander, not a chief analyst; that it's best for the MI director to come from - and return to - the top brass of the ground forces, at the rank of a district commander or above. Even though people in the MI post will also be expected to have a grasp of strategy, their main function is to provide lists of enemy targets prior to and during military operations.
The two most important intelligence topics about which the head of MI in Israel today reports to the chief of staff, the minister of defense and the prime minister, are Iran's nuclear program, and the missile and rocket threats to the state. The director of MI, not MI's research officers or even the heads of the Mossad or of the Shin Bet security service, is responsible for the operations that create intelligence information - including those carried out by Sayeret Matkal, which even such an outstanding officer as Kochavi was not party to in his previous assignments - and the materials they produce.
At the same time, at present, Kochavi must also decipher the Palestinians' international riddles related to moves in September, the policies of the Obama administration, the ferment in the Arab states, and the civilian assaults on Israel's border fences. One of the lessons learned in the north from the events of Nakba Day resulted in the assignment of a network intelligence officer from Unit 8200, MI's central intelligence-gathering unit, to the Golan Division, in order to accelerate the gathering-research-warning process.
In light of these onerous tasks, special effort is required to ensure constant attention to the matter of Gilad Shalit. The appointment of a team to reexamine the case of the abducted soldier, headed by Col. (res. ) Lior Lotan, reflects the desire of Gantz and Kochavi to continue to pursue new channels - cautiously, so as not to hurt the feelings of Shalit's family, of the Shin Bet, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and of his special negotiator David Meidan.
A deal for the release of Shalit currently appears possible only if Israel knuckles under completely to the dictates of Hamas. It is not worth it for the organization's leadership in the Gaza Strip to accept anything less in exchange for ending the West's ardent pursuit of it, and to absorb the freed prisoners - some of whom were, prior to their capture by Israel, more senior than Sheikh Ismail Haniyeh, Ahmed Jabri and Mohammed Def.
It's crowded at the top for the Palestinians, too. The heads of Hamas in Gaza are as unenthusiastic about bringing in more rivals as those who want Mahmoud Abbas' job are about the return of Marwan Barghouti. Or, for that matter, as Eli Yishai is about Aryeh Deri.
The decision makers in Hamas are captive to the Shalit case, just like their Israeli counterparts. And since Netanyahu has good reason for fearing the fickleness of public opinion, which will stop counting Shalit's days in captivity in favor of counting the number of Israelis killed in terror attacks carried out by the Hamas parolees, it is encouraging that Gantz and Kochavi are not giving up on the possibility of deriving some gain from the reexamination of Shalit's case.
Let us hope that those who support raising the retirement age for women are right; that the many MKs who voted for the bill sponsored by Dalia Itzik and Zahava Gal-On against raising the bar were doing so in order to be rewarded by women voters in the next election. I wish it was true, because if it is, it means that for the first time in our history women were finally perceived as voters whose views and priorities merit attention from elected officials. Women themselves should take notice: If we count all of a sudden, we should use this to obtain equality, a thing that will benefit all of society.
And there's nothing you can do about it - the reality is that equating retirement age for women to that of men is not an act of equality, but of inequality, a move that harms women and worsens the already unequal conditions. Of all the arguments put forward to stress the point, there's one that has hardly been mentioned: the huge amounts of full-time work women do in the household and in raising children. Women don't get paid for this work, it doesn't count toward a pension and is not even recognized as interchangeable with the money the man brings from his paid work. He is considered the breadwinner, while she is considered someone he "supports."
Since 1878, when the Association for the Advancement of Women first demanded that the work women do around the house be included in the official statistics, and right up until 2009, when the treasury pushed through a law that effectively canceled the recognition of child treatment for tax purposes (the Vered Perry verdict, upheld by the Supreme Court ), the establishment has been burying the issue as deep as it possibly can, because of its high "cost" to the economy. Calculating that cost reveals the hypocrisy and exploitation in the position of the male establishment represented by the treasury.
After the Perry verdict the Tax Authority announced that the annual cost of recognizing caretaker payments for tax purposes would be about NIS 3 billion. In other words, women do work worth at least three billion shekels every year, unpaid and without any of the benefits of paid work, such as a pension.
This sum is obviously a very partial estimate, including as it does only raising children and not household work. A partial calculation done in Canada in 1998 showed that a woman invests 72 percent more time than the man into the unpaid work of raising their children - and this, again, is without the household work. The total paid and unpaid work done by women is estimated by the same study to be higher than all the work men do by five weeks of full-time work a year.
In other words, any work a woman does outside the house that's calculated for pension purposes should be added to the full-time job she's already working in inside the home. As a result, not only is the woman's paid work shrunk by the presence of her other job of taking care of the children, going on birth "leave" and missing working days to attend to sick children - but this unpaid job also shrinks the pension she deserves.
Despite all the changes brought about by the feminist revolution and the entry of women into the public arena, the work women do at home and in raising children remained semi-transparent. Economically, it's still not counted. And so long as it's not counted, it's as if it doesn't exist, and it's impossible to estimate its worth and consider remuneration. Of course, merely quantifying and pricing these jobs alone will not lead to their equitable distribution between women and men, but at least it will be clear what should be divided.
It is obvious why the establishment denies the economic worth of women's work: A society controled by men enjoys it. But why do women comply with it? How did women fail to flood the court with demands to recognize the child-raising expenses after the Perry verdict? If women become an electoral power, we may be able to produce the political will necessary for this much-needed change. Meanwhile, instead of babbling about pension age "equality," notice that women not only don't get a pension for all the work they do at home, but also that they never actually retire.
THE END OF THE DOWNTRODDEN TIMES
BY KARNI ELDAD
This week the Knesset passed a welcome law: the Boycott Law. This law makes it possible to bring to court anyone who calls for an economic, academic or cultural boycott of the State of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, and sue them for damages.
If imposing a boycott is a means of expression, the Boycott Law does indeed restrict it, but according to The Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, the law in which this right is enshrined, these basic freedoms are not to be affected except by means of a law with a worthy purpose and in a proportionate way.
"By means of a law," includes the Boycott Law. Israeli democracy, by means of its elected legislators, has passed a decision by a large majority that forbids treating the heroic inhabitants of Judea and Samaria as though they were cottage cheese. As usual, when a rightist-nationalist law is passed, the left wakes up, moans and waves the flag of democracy.
The Labor Party, for example, is convening an emergency discussion of the topic: "The threat to democracy on the part of the extreme right and other elements."
However, this law did not just barely pass by a single vote and it is not a matter of a rightist minority. This time is was a majority of the people's representatives. This law is allowable, worthy and constitutional.
And its purpose is worthy - there is none worthier. The end has come to the era when we were downtrodden, when they incited against us, when they stole our bread because of our political beliefs or where we lived.
The part of the nation that is gladly prepared to accept that we are a human shield between us and the Arabs, the part which benefits from the taxes we pay, the part which accepts the blood of our wonderful sons that is spilled in the defense of its pubs and cafes - this selfsame public is not allowed, morally, to boycott our fruit.
This law limits freedom of expression in a proportionate way. Every individual, of course, is entitled to buy whatever he wants. We will not deploy supermarket inspectors to examine whether somebody bought Arabs' olive oil and not settlers' olive oil. But no group is going to rob us, incite against us or deny us culture. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has explained how difficult it will be for him to defend this law before the High Court of Justice. Therefore, permit me to give you some advice: Imagine that this law, which ostensibly violates a Basic Law, is some other law that violates a Basic Law. The Disengagement Law, for example. Learn from your predecessor, Menachem Mazuz, how to defend democratic laws.
It's very easy when it comes from the left. In 2005, the expulsion of 10,000 citizens from their homes did not look like a disproportionate violation of human rights. In the state's response to petitions against the disengagement it was argued, inter alia, that the issue of the evacuation "is at the heart of the government of Israel's and the Knesset's diplomatic judgment, and therefore the honorable court should not dare to address it."
Further on, it was made clear that the worthy purpose was to "extricate the sides from this stasis and to lead to a better security, diplomatic and demographic reality."
So in fact the court does have a say in policy, and it does not intervene if the move is worthy in its eyes. The champions of freedom of expression who are screaming with all their might that the Boycott Law violates freedom of speech have decided to punish two Knesset members from Kadima who dared not to vote against the law ... by denying them their right to speak in the Knesset on agenda items or legislation for three to six months.
And another thing: Paragraph 500 of the Punishment Law says that anyone who conspires to harm the ability of somebody to earn a living is sentenced to two years in prison. Thus, the Boycott Law is lenient and stipulates the payment of damages only, and not imprisonment as in the previous law. Would those champions want us to return to the days of yore and make the punishment more severe?
GREEN FOR THE RICH
BY ZAFRIR RINAT
Last week Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan continued on his dizzying journey to make Israeli society more environmental. A few days after announcing his intention to try to change consumption habits so that Israelis will buy fewer products that are not really essential, together with other ministries Erdan launched an advanced standard for green construction. This standard is supposed to make living in new homes and homes undergoing renovation more frugal in terms of electricity and water consumption.
Praise is due to Erdan for not having stopped at confronting the wasteful and polluting consumption culture, but also for trying to change it. However, a number of disturbing questions arise with regard to the increasing gap between those who are able to choose what to consume and how green their homes will be, and those who find it hard to buy the most basic commodities or live in homes of their own.
The green building standards, like the Environmental Protection Ministry's public service broadcasts urging a change in consumption habits, are currently directed mainly at the well-off. The ministry has indeed promised to encourage the introduction of green building standards for a broader range of populations, and says intelligent consumption serves weak populations, but someone who has to make do with little doesn't need some celebrity to explain to him the deleterious effects on the environment of excessive consumption in a jocular television public service broadcast.
In extensive parts of Israel today, especially in the Negev and the Galilee, hundreds of thousands of people live in unrecognized locales or in local authorities where the economic situation is grim. The infrastructures are miserable to the point where the inhabitants are burning, as fuel, what is left over from the consumption culture the minister wants to change. In many places the sewage facilities are collapsing and the talk about saving water look tasteless.
In the Negev there are dozens of unrecognized Bedouin villages where the inhabitants learned long ago how to use solar energy and manage with a limited quantity of water because they have no hookup to electricity or water. The ministry Erdan heads is placing difficulties in the way of securing budgetary funding for dealing with environmental hazards in Bedouin locales in the Negev.
A few months ago Erdan visited the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, some of which he defined as green, and praised the activity there to set up wind turbines and solar panels. In the near future we will no doubt see him inaugurating office buildings defined as green. But the real battlefront awaits him in the Arab locales and urban neighborhoods - of Jews and of Arabs - where investment should be made in the physical and social infrastructures, rather than in another outpost or new neighborhood of towns in Judea and Samaria.
Clearly the Environmental Protection Ministry alone will not change the economic and social reality in Israel. However, if the minister has already taken on pretentious missions, and rightly so, he should set in motion moves not only in what his ministry's people call "focus authorities." These are towns that are strong enough and organized enough to participate in the changes the ministry has recently enacted in the area of waste recycling.
Of all the ministers of the environment in Israel, Erdan apparently has the most developed understanding of the new environmental thinking in the world, especially in social and economic contexts. It is very important that his ministry influences the stronger part of society that consumes most of Israel's natural resources, but he should also be making his contribution to advancing those who have been left behind and need a basic basket of environmental protection services.
I. THE NEWS
It would appear that there is both an intelligence-led state of preparedness on our northwestern borders; as well as an unwanted blowback from our successes in Swat and elsewhere. In recent months, there have been a numbers of raids-in-strength from the Afghan side of the border into Mohmand and Bajaur tribal agencies as well as in Upper and Lower Dir. Both the invaders and our own forces have suffered heavy casualties. There are now reports that militants numbering as many as 1,500 and based in Afghanistan's Kunar and Nuristan provinces want to open a second front by attacking Chitral. In previous attacks, our forces suffered as they were fewer in number than their attackers and were not as well armed either. Our level of preparedness has been raised by the deployment of an FC wing to Chitral and forces in Upper and Lower Dir have been augmented as well. The militants are reliably said to be affiliated with the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and most of them originate in the Malakand division and the Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions. They find ready support in Afghanistan, and with Nato and Isaf forces spread thinly along what all concerned acknowledge to be an impossible border to effectively seal or police, are able to operate with relative impunity in a terrain well-suited to their type of warfare.
That they are seeking a new area of operation is in all probability linked to the successful operation in Swat which dislodged them and delivered a substantial defeat, but not a knockout blow. Several key Taliban commanders such as Maulana Fazlullah escaped from Swat to live and fight another day, and the Taliban have an established reputation for durability and operational flexibility. Although they are numerically small compared to the forces ranged against them, they are able to engage forces disproportionate to their size, and sometimes win engagements because of their greater flexibility and mobility. There is more than a suspicion that they are now supported by elements within the Afghan authorities. We are pushing the Afghans and Nato to set up more border posts on the Afghan side, but in a time of force contraction in Afghanistan and the Afghan army widely reported to be infiltrated by Taliban sympathisers we must expect further incursions. Forewarned is forearmed goes the saying, and in this instance a warning heard and heeded. Yet defeating the Taliban militarily, as all their opponents have discovered, has to be accompanied by ideological victory as well – and thus far that has eluded all of those who seek to defeat them.
I. THE NEWS
The census which began in April with a household count has run into trouble, particularly in Sindh. There are reports that several members of the Sindh Census Committee have rejected the household count because it contains serious errors, and that census workers have come under pressure from ethnic groups to skew the count. Given the tensions that are evident today, this is perhaps unsurprising as political parties battle it out in bloody turf-wars. It is alleged that teahouses, public toilets and washrooms, and even electricity poles have been counted as 'households'. The enumeration of the population is a regular exercise in most countries. It is a necessary policy and planning tool, and universally recognised as one of those activities which links to a functional democracy and transparency in the delivery of public services. Herein lies the heart of the problem, because in Pakistan we are changing where we live, becoming increasingly urbanised, and vote banks and voting patterns are changing as a result – all of which translates into an unusual sensitivity about census-taking.
By the 2020s, about 50 percent of our population will be living in the cities. Many of our political leaders derive their power from rural landholdings and the tied voters that live on them. If a census confirmed that those voters were no longer on the land but in the cities, then, and for the first time, there is a significant crack in feudal politics. The current census has already been delayed by three years, partly by the 2010 floods but also by underfunding, and with elections due in under two years, the question of voter lists and voter registration comes into sharp focus. We have the highest population growth, birth, and fertility rates in South Asia, an average age of 21 and two-thirds of the population are under 30. We have 70 million school age children – but 40 million of them are not in school. As a whole, we create only a million new jobs every year. The Planning Commission deputy chairman last year estimated that in order to give a job to each of the almost 100 million under-20s, GDP growth would have to expand to 9 percent – from the 2.4 percent that it is currently. The government has designated 2011 as 'Population Year' in an effort to raise awareness of the demographic time bomb that is ticking away. Completing the census will potentially alter political geography, and the old loyalties of rural Pakistan may no longer hold true in a population which lives in cities.
I. THE NEWS
Sometimes statistics, generally regarded as dull columns of figures, tell stories that are vital to solving the problems of our country. A new report by the Islamabad based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has linked levels of food insecurity with growing violence and conflict in various parts of the country. The report notes that in Fata food insecurity stands at a soaring 67.7 percent. In Balochistan it is 61.2 percent. We all know that levels of instability and militancy are highest in these areas. Even in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa levels of food insecurity at 56.2 percent seem to factor among the rising problems of the province. This finding gives us an important clue as to how the situation can be dealt with. It seems obvious that militancy can end only when the basic needs of people are met.
What is also disturbing is the level of regional disparity in terms of food insecurity in various parts of the country. In Islamabad, for example, only 23.6 percent of people lack sufficient food. Even this number is too high. However, when compared with other regions, the discrepancy is striking. There is no reason why there should be such sharp contrasts in standards of living across the country, given that this breeds neglect and disillusionment among people, which in turn lead them to take up arms or use other means to retaliate against the state which has done so little for them. As the SDPI points out, this should be a guiding point in the formulation of future policies so that we can begin to address the issues which keep us embroiled in conflicts.
THE ORDEAL OF PROVING RAPE
S IFTIKHAR MURSHED
The Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Munawar Hasan, insisted during a recent television talk show that under Islamic law four witnesses were required to prove rape. When the host observed that this stringent evidentiary requirement made it impossible to convict a rapist, he stunned viewers by asserting that victims should not report the crime as it was important in Islam not to contaminate society by publicising such evils. Shorn of sophistry the implication is that rapists need not fear punishment. JI leader's pronouncements must have sounded like music to their ears.
When questioned closely, Munawar Hasan retorted by accusing the talk show host of contradicting sacrosanct Islamic tenets and sternly advised him to re-enter the religion by reciting the kalima. Thus the befuddled anchor had been all but excommunicated for daring to oppose a questionable interpretation of Islamic law. The mischief is derived from the offence of Zina Ordinance incorporated in Ziaul Haq's 1979 Hudood laws which places adultery, fornication, rape and abduction in the same category. Thus a rape victim is required to produce four witnesses, failing which her accusation becomes a confession of adultery thereby making her liable for punishment.
This is at complete variance with Islamic law under which it is the perpetrator of rape and not the victim that is punished. In a well-authenticated Tradition, a woman reported to the Prophet (PBUH) that she had been forced to commit adultery; he punished the perpetrator but not the woman. Similarly Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab punished the rapist of a slave girl but did not prosecute her. These and other Traditions as well as the writings of Islamic legal scholars absolve rape victims of any transgression.
In Islamic jurisprudence rape is not categorised as a criminal offence under zina (adultery) but under the crime of hiraba which involves forcible taking, highway robbery, terrorism and waging war against the state. Scholars have demonstrated that it is in discussions of hiraba that the crime of rape appears. For example the Fiqh-us-Sunnah which summarises the main traditional schools of Islamic law, hiraba is defined as "a single person or group of people causing public disruption, killing, forcibly taking property or money, attacking or raping women (hatk al'arad), killing cattle or disrupting agriculture."
The classification of rape under hiraba is also confirmed by some of the most eminent scholars of Islamic law. According to the Maliki School, a person who "obstructs the road, even without the intention to take money, intending to harm someone, or intending to rape a woman" is liable for punishment under hiraba. This was elaborated by Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240) in his comments on an incident in which a group was attacked and a woman among them was raped. The question arose whether the crime was an offence under hiraba as weapons were not used and neither was any money taken. Ibn 'Arabi's terse response was "hiraba with the private parts" had occurred and this was infinitely worse than the mere taking of money.
Ibn Hazm (994-1064), the renowned Cordova-born theologian of Arab-Persian decent, who, as a follower of the Zahiri School of Law, believed that only the "explicit" and not the hidden meanings of the Qur'an were admissible. Despite this literalist predilection, he defined a hiraba offender as "One who puts fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces, in the palace of a caliph or a mosque, with or without accomplices, in the desert or in the village, in a large or small city, with one or more people...making people fear that they'll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped whether the attackers are one or many."
These views of some of the most outstanding thinkers and scholars leave little doubt that in Islamic jurisprudence rape, which is a crime of violence, is an offence under hiraba and cannot be included as a sub-category of the Zina Ordinance. In a hiraba prosecution, the rapist and not the victim is the focus. The almost impossible condition of four witnesses is dispensed with and circumstantial evidence including those of forensic experts is admissible. The classification of rape as a zina offence with its stringent evidentiary requirements has resulted in the persecution instead of the protection of women. Thus criminals went free while the victims were punished.
In 1983 alone, 1,684 cases of zina were reported to the police, the following year the number increased to 1,842. The Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women, which was established in 1999 as an advisory body for the eradication of laws discriminatory to women, reported that 80 percent of the female prisoners in 2003 had been convicted for alleged adultery after they had failed to prove allegations of rape. A human rights survey conducted in mid-2006 revealed that a staggering 200,000 Hudood-related cases were pending in the courts and this had resulted in the unjust detention of those awaiting sentence, mostly women. By early 2007 there were 6,500 imprisoned females in Pakistan.
These figures, like all statistics, are cold-blooded and do not depict what these victims of the law, particularly women, have undergone since the promulgation of the Hudood Ordinances. Rape victims have been violated while in police custody, they have been ostracised by their peers and in, a patriarchal society with its skewed code of honour, many have been killed by their own families.
In June 2006, the Council of Islamic Ideology, which is an advisory body with no power of enforcement, proposed that women detained under Hudood charges be released on bail. In a unanimous decision in April 2007 the Council ruled that a woman forced to have sexual intercourse should not be considered guilty of adultery but should, instead, be viewed as a victim of rape. The press note issued on the occasion stated: "In this case (rape), the woman will be a complainant and the state will be bound to investigate, arrest the rapist and punish him if the crime is proved."
According to the late Justice Dorab Patel of the Supreme Court, rape, even in a civilised jurisprudence, is difficult to prove because it is usually un-witnessed. The burden of proof rests with the prosecution and, under the rule of prudence, courts cannot convict a person accused of rape on the exclusive testimony of the victim. Common sense is however abandoned under the Hudood laws because rape victims are prosecuted for adultery on the basis of two questionable assumptions. First, the allegation of rape was false because the accused was acquitted and second, the allegation is an admission of sexual intercourse and implies a confession of adultery. In other words the implied confession is an admission of guilt while an allegation of rape is a repudiation of guilt.
Justice Dorab Patel recalled: "The law declared on this question by the Supreme Court in Rehmani's case (PLD 1978 SC 200) is clear beyond any doubt. We held in this case that only a statement which is a clear admission of guilt, or of the facts constituting the guilt, is a confession. We also pointed out that a statement cannot be treated as a confession by relying on the inculpatory part and excluding the exculpatory part." The assumption that an unproven allegation of rape amounts to confession is, therefore, contrary to the law declared by the Supreme Court.
The application of laws that do not protect but persecute ordinary citizens can never generate justice. When such laws are wrongly presented as being divinely ordained they are immoral. These reasons warrant the repeal of the Hudood Ordinances only then will the shadow of fear in which Pakistani women live, dissipate.
The writer is the publisher of Criterion quarterly. Email: iftimurshed @gmail.com
I. THE NEWS
WORDS WITHOUT THOUGHT
HUSSAIN H ZAIDI
"What ails our society?"
"In one sentence, it's the discrepancy between words and thought, desire and action. We want peace and security but promote violence and fanaticism. We talk of reason and sanity, of logic and moderation but enthrone sentimentalism and sensationalism and extol belligerency and bigotry. Little wonder, then, that gruesome gangs, malevolent mafias and blood-thirsty terrorists rule the roost. Remember what William Shakespeare said in Hamlet: "Words without thought never to heaven go." "But ours is not the only society in which such discrepancy exists."
"Yes, of course. This is universal. But there are few other societies in which the discrepancy between words and thought, desire and action is that glaring. And look what's happening in ours: Killing and molestation, loot and plunder are becoming our favourite pastime. The people are increasingly taking the law into their own hands. The entire society is swept by emotionally charged, high-sounding words of demagogues wearing different garbs here and there. They pass some nasty remark and scores of lives are lost in no time. The very next day they retract their statement but the damage can't be undone."
"Isn't the government responsible for this state of affairs? All said, it's for the authorities to ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights."
"Yes, the governments, past and present, are partly responsible for the mess we're in. They injected religion into politics, not for some moral end but only to save themselves. They mismanaged the economy and squandered and plundered national wealth. They wittingly perpetuated the culture of poverty and illiteracy and befooled the people in the name of Islam or democracy. But, as 19-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill once noted, the most serious threat to civic liberties stems not from the government but from society itself, which cannot bring itself to accepting diversity of views. This astute observation is perfectly applicable to us – a multi-ethnic society composed of people professing different creeds and speaking different languages. The edifice of such a society must rest on the pillars of a pluralistic philosophy, which accepts diversity of beliefs and ideas, practices and codes, and languages and cultures, without trying to reduce the diversity to a unity.
However, in our case religion and politics have increasingly been used as instruments of hatred and animosity, violence and disruption. The political parties which claim to have a nationwide character have no qualms about playing the ethnic card when they find that to their advantage. Religious parties and scholars deliberately promote religious bigotry and fanaticism. To them, the root cause of all our problems is the existence of more than one sect or creed and the panacea for all problems is simply the elimination of all rival sects and creeds and the establishment of a monolithic society. To them, the state, instead of grappling with such pressing problems as poverty, unemployment and deteriorating law-and-order situation, should devote all its energies and use all its resources to accomplishing a single task – establishing the supremacy of one sect or creed in the name of Islamisation. And if the state is not willing to do so, the clergy will do it on their own."
"I object. The connection between religion and politics exists all over the world. Why, then, you're castigating it in our case?"
"I don't disapprove of a connection between religion and politics, per se. Religion can provide a moral basis to politics. Unfortunately, in our case religion has been abused for political purposes and given a militaristic interpretation. In the eyes of many religious outfits, killing innocent non-Muslims or Muslims of another sect is jihad if it helps promote the cause of their creed. A society where poverty, unemployment and ignorance are endemic and an analytical, rational approach to problems is lacking and where lethal weapons are easily available, it is not much difficult to use people as a tool for committing violence in the name of religion. Religious extremism, apart from sharpening differences among the followers of various schools of thought, has taken a toll on the economy. Nothing is more fatal to investment, domestic or foreign, than an environment of death and destruction. Even the best investment packages offered by the government are of little help in investment promotion if the law-and-order situation is bad."
"But there can be a dialogue with the militants, don't you think?"
"I'm not against a dialogue with the militants. But the failure of the Swat deal in the recent past reminds us that the jihadi ideology precludes tolerance of any dissent, difference or opposition as, they believe, tolerating any antithesis would constitute kufr. Thus, according to that ideology, democracy and parliament are illegitimate, being a Western concept and a Western institution and thus an antithesis of the Islamic political system. The constitution, the legal system and all subordinate institutions which are based on democratic ideals are likewise branded as un-Islamic. Those who profess a different creed or have a different moral standard are looked upon as an evil. Women who do not put on the veil or men who do not have a beard are considered impious. Men and women who mix with one another are regarded as essentially wicked. Those who listen to music commit a grave sin. All such wicked or impious people have to be reformed – by the use of force, if need be.
"Based on this ideology, in recent times, the Taliban established a monolithic, retrogressive society in Afghanistan, where even a slight departure from the enforced code of conduct was severely punished. Such a society was nearly established in Swat by the Sufi Muhammad-Fazlullah combine and is the goal of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and allied movements. Such an ideology is obviously incompatible with modern society, which is multiethnic, multicultural. In such a society, social order has to be based on a pluralistic philosophy – tolerance of religious and cultural differences within society permitting the various groups to practise their distinctive cultures while cooperating in larger social, economic and political life."
The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: email@example.com
I. THE NEWS
THE JUDICIARY, JUSTICE AND THE RULERS
DR A Q KHAN
In one of my previous columns I had mentioned how Bill Clinton squarely defeated the old foxy George H W Bush in the 1992 [resodemtoa; election. Clinton did not criticise Bush or his past decisions on Iraq and at home. He concentrated his campaign solely on the deteriorated economic situation and unemployment in the country. He won the elections easily, against all odds. Similarly, after the Second World War, British voters gave a rude shock to Sir Winston Churchill, the virtual victor of the war, by voting him out. They realised that the time for war was over and that Churchill's leadership was no longer desired. They now wanted a leader to rebuild the country and put the economy back on track. We need to make similar, drastic changes to our leadership.
In another of my columns I had discussed justice, the necessity for it and its relation to Divine edicts. Because of their importance and to refresh the memory I repeat some here:
1. Surely Allah loves the just. (5:42)
2. Believers! Be upholders of justice and bearers of witness to truth for the sake of Allah, even though it may be against yourselves or against your parents and kinsmen, or the rich or the poor, for Allah is more concerned with their well-being than you are. (4:135)
3. Believers! Be upright bearers of witness for Allah, and do not let the enmity of any people move you to deviate from justice. Act justly: that is nearer to God-fearing. And fear Allah. Surely Allah is well aware of what you do. (5:8)
4. And when you speak, be just, even though it concerns a near of kin. (6:152)
5. Surely Allah enjoins justice, kindness and the doing of good to kith and forbids all that is shameful, evil and oppressive (16:90)
6. Say to them (O Mohammad) "I believe in the Book that Allah has sent down. I have been commanded to establish justice among you. (42:15)
Our history is full of quick and just golden judgements. It started with our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and continued in exemplary fashion under Hazrat Umar (RA), Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA), Mahmood Ghaznavi, Harun-ar-Rashid, Alauddin Khilji, etc. Nobody, even these kings, could dare to disobey the orders of a Qazi, or judge.
On Oct 12, 1999, Gen Musharraf staged a coup against Mr Nawaz Sharif and made the country hostage to his dictatorial regime. His very first deed was to attack the Supreme Court, even though he had personally promised Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqi that he would not touch it. Not only was the chief justice removed from office through the PCO but was also detained in his home, with all communication lines cut off and his driver and servants removed. After some years when Justice Iftikhar Ahmad Chaudhry had become chief justice, Gen Musharraf called him to his Camp Office, had him surrounded by the directors of the ISI and MI, others and demanded that he resign. Using the carrot and stick approach, he offered the chief justice an excellent alternative job or dismissal through a reference to the Supreme Judicial Council. Iftikhar Chaudhry was detained for five hours, the flag was removed from his car, he was confined to his house and all facilities removed. He and his family were not even allowed into their own garden, his daughter had to take her examinations at home and his young son was not allowed to go to school. Despite all this, Musharraf had the guts to say that he had only followed the law. If he was following the law, why had he not sent the reference to the Supreme Judicial Council and made the chief justice non-functional without all the mischief? Ultimately, the Lawyer's Movement and public pressure forced the restoration of the chief justice and those judges removed under the Provisional Constitutional Order. As the saying goes: "For every Pharaoh there is a Moses."
The lawyers' community and the whole nation were jubilant after the restoration of the chief justice and other deposed judges and were eagerly and hopefully looking forward to quick and fair justice in future. Unfortunately, this optimism and hope soon gave way to despair and hopelessness. There are two reasons for this malaise. The first is the presence of a most incapable, intriguing and corrupt ruling junta. Most of them have a criminal record and are experts at bypassing and/or delaying the judicial process and decisions. From day one, they have made lying and ignoring judicial orders a state policy. They are under the illusion that the judiciary cannot do anything and is nothing but a toothless tiger. They can scare the judges by sending a few hundred supporters to the courts and shouting derogatory slogans against them. Unfortunately, they have succeeded to a certain extent. These people are like a gang of lawbreakers who terrorise the whole community, but one day somebody takes care of them and then they are soon forgotten, becoming history.
The second main reason for this malaise is the judiciary itself. I sincerely hope that the judiciary takes this criticism in the same positive spirit in which I am venturing to offer it. After Musharraf's departure and the restoration of the judiciary, people were justly hoping that criminals, cheaters, looters, bank loan defaulters, land mafias, etc. would be dealt with immediately and put behind bars. Nothing of the sort happened. The high-ups carried on their dirty practices as before, and their actions led to increased load shedding, unemployment, inflation, shortage of most daily necessities, hoarding, etc. and the judiciary, for reasons best known to it, gave them a free hand. Nobody was taken to task, except for the removal of two or three unqualified and corrupt officers posted by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Here are a few strikingly disappointing cases. Nothing has come of the Swiss money-laundering case involving more than a billion dollars; the advocate general, former Justice Abdul Qayyum, wrote an illegal letter and the case was closed. Our high commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, was caught on film by a Geo team collecting all the proof of the crime and taking it from Switzerland to London. After many weeks, these papers were flown to Islamabad and handed over to Babar Awan for "safekeeping." The court should have taken immediate action after Geo's revelations. Now not a trace of that proof of the crime will ever be found. Babar Awan flatly and insultingly ignored the orders of the Supreme Court ordering him to write a letter to the Swiss Court to reopen the case, all the while walking about arrogantly.
(To be continued)
I. THE NEWS
MOTHERS, SAVE PAKISTAN
ZIRGHAM NABI AFRIDI
Adiah Afraz's article titled 'The idle and the ideal' (July 10) reminded me of a few instances in my tough student life abroad when we would be invited over to our Pakistani and Indian friends' homes and be given a reminder of our lives back in our own where we were spoiled like kings. After a sumptuous meal we would all remark in unison that Pakistani/Indian mothers were the best in the world. 'And the root of all the problems being faced back home in our country', would be my follow-up remark in an almost inaudible manner aware of the controversy it would generate.
As Adiah points out it seems that among the well-educated women in Pakistan the role of women at home has increasingly become looked down upon. What is extremely unfortunate is that housewives themselves are increasingly failing to realise the importance of their roles in the home especially as mothers. The manner in which mothers rear the future human resource of our state will ultimately decide the destiny of our nation. The link between the two should be as obvious as day and night if one observes the myriad of problems facing Pakistan.
Before enunciating the link between our mothers and the state of the nation, it is necessary to clarify that, to various degrees and extent, this applies to women from the entire spectrum of our society. However, here it is especially applicable to the women from the same socio-economic class I assume Adiah too refers to in her article. The lucky ones who unlike the majority of their counterparts in this country live in relative and even excessive comforts and who, in order to make the lives of their children more meaningful, significant and purposeful have available to them access to all the facilities modern life has to offer be they in the form of sources of information like books and magazines or health and fitness, leisure and recreation through membership of clubs, gyms and sports complexes.
Essentially, these mothers, undoubtedly out of love for their children, unwittingly, groom them, from the very beginning, to get in the habit of relying on crutches. Such training begins the day the child realises he or she can get his or her maid to get a glass of water for him or her, or have a snack prepared for them at any odd hour their voracious adolescent appetites desire. Rooms can be left resembling the devastation left only in the wake of a hurricane simply to be fixed by domestic helpers. In the absence of house-chores and consequently, any development of a sense of responsibility towards the upkeep, maintenance and smooth-running of a home, one finds that almost everywhere in Pakistan, from the work place to the classrooms and playgrounds; and from the public parks to the roads that we drive on, everyone carrying with them the 'somebody-else-will-clean-up-my-mess' mindset. I hope the readers are beginning to see the link between training in the household and the state of their nation.
The manner in which we treat our domestic staff i e male/female servants, drivers, ayas, malis and chowkidars sets a shameful precedence for children from the upper strata of the socio-economic jungle in this country to pick up on class differences and to learn to treat those from the lower rungs of the class ladder in a patronising manner. A well-intentioned youth in his early teens who wishes to take his driver or domestic-helper out on a treat to KFC on his birthday would be told by his parents that 'these people don't like KFC; they are only used to eating desi stuff'. While people with, seemingly, as incompatible a cuisine and taste as that of the Chinese and Vietnamese have picked on something considered universally delicious like KFC and other western fast-food items; our servants, drivers and ayas, our children learn, are somehow naturally incapable of having the same desires, wishes and aspirations as the common man anywhere else around the world.
Our children grow up 'coming to terms' with the 'fact' that the 'good things in life' that we pursue are neither for our domestic-helpers nor for their children. Consequently, as adults they live completely disconnected lives with the masses of their countrymen only to be united when a calamity strikes. And thus, the lucky few, exposed to knowledge and opportunities the majority of children in Pakistan cannot even dream of, find it hard coming up with any motivation and energy to come up with a plan of action other than philanthropy and charity to better the lives of their down-trodden brethren.
Mothers need to realise that teaching their children how to utilise their leisure time in a healthy and constructive way is as important as inculcating good study habits. Leisure time is that vital ingredient that created reformers, philosophers and innovators who having felt a stir in their souls by observing the erroneous ways of their society used leisure time to assimilate their thoughts into a solid plan of action eventually offering solutions to its problems.
To be concluded...
The writer is a freelance contributor who can't wait to vote for PTI in the upcoming elections. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I. THE NEWS
A TEST FOR THE ARMY
The writer is a former member of the Foreign Service.
Shortly after the US raid in Abbottabad last May which killed Osama, it was reported from Washington that the White House would soon be delivering a "sterner message" to Pakistan to cooperate more in relation to the American strategy in the Afghanistan war. Since then, this message has been conveyed to Pakistan by officials of the Obama administration and the US military in various forms and through a variety of channels: in public statements, in confidential contacts, and through media leaks.
The gist of that message is that Pakistan should either take "certain steps" demanded by Washington in support of its war in Afghanistan or be prepared to face the consequences. What these steps are was conveyed by Hillary Clinton and Mullen on their visit to Pakistan on May 27. Unless Pakistan took military action against the Haqqani network, the Pakistani leadership was told, and gave free rein to the US intelligence to operate in Pakistan, the billions of dollars a year in military and development aid promised to the country would dwindle and the US would act alone against the militant groups that threaten its forces in Afghanistan.
This message was reinforced by Panetta, then CIA director, in his meetings with Pakistan's military leadership in Islamabad on June 10. Since taking over as the Defence Secretary, Panetta has declared that Zawahiri, the new leader of Al-Qaida, is in Pakistan's tribal areas. Panetta has also promised "an increasingly aggressive campaign" to hunt down the network's 10 to 20 remaining senior leaders in Pakistan and other countries.
The suspension of $800 million in military aid to Pakistan announced by Obama's chief of staff on July 10 is an indication of Washington's frustration that its warnings to Islamabad have not produced the desired results. About 100 US trainers, most of them believed to be from the US Special Forces, who were told in May to leave the country, have departed. In addition, the issuance of visas to US military and intelligence personnel has been somewhat restricted.
How all-encompassing the CIA network in Pakistan has become is clear from some of the facts which come to light following the Abbottabad raid. It has now been revealed that the CIA had hired a number of local informants who helped the US to plan the raid. Some of them have been interrogated or arrested by the Pakistani authorities. Among them are the owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to watch Osama's compound, a retired army officer who copied the number plates of cars visiting the place, and a doctor who ran a fake vaccination programme to collect DNA evidence from Obama's children.
Unknown to the ISI, these suspected agents provided vital information which enabled the CIA to track down Osama to his compound. The CIA reportedly also had the help of local agents who assisted the raiding force during the attack. Pakistani military officials were reported by the BBC as saying that the government had arrested some people who threw flares into Osama's compound to guide the approaching US helicopters and others who helped the helicopters refuel within Pakistani territory.
Washington also has other complaints against the Pakistan military. Pakistan has demanded that intelligence cooperation between the two countries should be formalised under a bilateral agreement. The American preference is to continue the present open-ended arrangement which has enabled the CIA to build up a vast presence, giving it virtually unrestricted capacity to spy on Pakistan's own agencies, and to "monitor" the country's nuclear programme.
In addition, Washington has reportedly demanded that American military personnel be stationed in all airbases of the country. The military's rejection of this atrocious demand has been logged in Washington as another sign of Pakistan being an untrustworthy ally.
The New York Times has said that the suspension of military aid was a move to "chasten" Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and to press its army to fight militants more effectively. A Pentagon spokesman told the media on July 12 that equipment aid – amounting to $500 million out of the total announced cut of $800 million – was directly tied to decisions by the Pakistani military to expel American military trainers and to put limits on visas for US personnel. "If those things change," he said, "then this aid will change as well."
The foremost US concern is clearly not the training of the Frontier Corps, but ensuring that the presence of US Special Forces in the guise of trainers and the CIA spy network, which has been built up in Pakistan assiduously, is not whittled down or dismantled. The US keeps its spies and Special Forces in Pakistan to track Al-Qaeda militants in the country but their mission is wider. They also cover Pakistan's nuclear programme and the monitoring of imports and exports of nuclear technology.
The suspension of military aid and the delays in the payment of the Coalition Support Funds are not the only tools being employed by the US to pressure the Pakistan army. An even cruder tactic is the way in which American officials have pointed the finger at the ISI for the murder of Saleem Shahzad, first through leaks to the media by unnamed officials, and then through a public statement by Mullen that the murder was sanctioned by the Pakistan government. This was followed by a New York Times editorial calling for the removal of Pasha and for the US government to "use its influence to hasten Pasha's departure."
We do not know what evidence the US has of the ISI's involvement in Shahzad's killing. But we do know that if the ISI had been more compliant in meeting US demands, American officials would not be accusing it of involvement in the murder. If the ISI was indeed involved, those responsible for giving the orders must be brought to justice and Pasha, as the head of the organisation, must go. But these decisions must be taken in Pakistan and any American attempt to influence them must be firmly rejected. Regrettably, our civilian government has remained silent with regard to this matter.
It is remarkable that while putting pressure on the Pakistan military to open a front against the militants in North Waziristan and to withdraw steps taken by the army to cut down the heavy presence of US Special Forces and the CIA, Washington has carefully refrained from making any demands on the civilian government. Washington has also sought to assure the government that civilian assistance would not be affected by the partial suspension of military aid. The recent flurry of high-level contacts between Pakistan and the US on the question of suspension of military aid has also been mostly at the military level.
The army does not have an unblemished record when it comes to standing up to US pressure. It was complicit in the shameful deal for the release of Raymond Davis. Its policy on drone attacks is full of contradictions. And now there are reports that it has backed away from the demand for the evacuation of the Shamsi Air Base, in response to a US pledge to limit its use of the base to drones that need to land because of bad weather.
The mounting pressure from Washington for the return to Pakistan of US "trainers" who were expelled last month and for full freedom being granted to the CIA to build up its spy network in Pakistan is another test of our national resolve.
The stakes are high but our elected civilian government has washed its hands of all responsibility in the matter and left it entirely to the military. It is to be hoped that the army will pass this test. If it does, it will largely regain its standing as it was before the Abbottabad and Mehran disasters.
I. THE NEWS
ISRAEL AND THE FLOTILLAS
The efforts by Israel to prevent Freedom Flotilla II from leaving Greece have been largely successful. Of the original 10 ships, only the French ship Al-Karama (dignity) with 10 activists including French politicians, which sailed from the French Corsica two weeks ago, and the sabotaged-and-repaired Juliano, were able to elude the Greek coastguard as of early this week.
Israeli special operatives were able to dive in Greek and Turkish waters to sabotage some of the ships, including the Juliano and the Irish Saoirse. Both vessels had their propellers damaged – if they had not discovered the damage, they could well have sunk at sea.
"Anonymous" (Israeli) complaints of unseaworthiness were used by Greek authorities to delay other ships. The Greeks, clearly acting on Israeli-US orders arrested the captain of the American ship, and then did the same to his crew members who went on a hunger strike outside the US embassy in Athens on 4 July, the anniversary of American independence.
The Israeli government has thus extended its illegal blockade of Gaza to Greek ports. Greece offered to ferry the aid to Gaza in cooperation with the UN, an offer the activists turned down as "insufficient", since their mission was also about the rights of the Palestinian people and not just about aid.
The response of the US Congress was to vote 407-6 to suspend funds to the Palestinian Authority should it pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN in September.
As always, Israel achieves its narrow, tactical victories at the expense of its long term strategy of achieving respect as a legitimate nation; instead, isolating itself further as a rogue nation with no concern for human rights or the welfare of others, despised by most of the world. In a 2010 European opinion poll 60 percent saw Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.
It extends its criminal siege of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank to Greek ports and European airports. It acts to encourage anti-Jewish sentiment where there is none, as it insists it speaks on behalf of the world's Jews, its very raison d'etre being to act as a "safe haven" for them.
The Flotilla, composed of well-meaning, perhaps naive peaceniks, was never intended to best the world's most dangerous and highly militarised society. With virtually all the world's governments in thrall to Israel, its sole purpose was first, to show Palestinians that they have the world's people behind them and to encourage them to keep up their heroic resistance, and second, to highlight just how reprehensible Israel is as a state, how unprincipled and untrustworthy as a partner.
By its actions, the Israeli government and its cheerleaders have unwittingly done their part in this pro-Palestinian public relations campaign. Whatever the fate of the Flotilla, it has acted as further fuel to the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) campaign and the struggle to delegitimise Israel, or rather to assist Israel in its self-inflicted process of delegitimisation as an apartheid state.
Appropriately, this week, the seventh anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling against the separation wall, the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) and the Palestinian Boycott National Committee called for an immediate and comprehensive military embargo on Israel.
Israeli politicians are smirking at their ability to stymie the Freedom Flotilla II. But, writes blogger Saker, this is a Pyrrhic victory for the Israeli ship of state. They are like those partying on the deck of the Titanic, who were oblivious to the fact that, thanks to their hubris, their ship would soon rest at the bottom of the ocean.
MENDING TIES WITH US
IT is encouraging that some of the initiatives taken by Pakistan have proved productive and the rapid downslide in relations after the US
attack in Abbottabad in May that killed Osama bin Laden, has been checked. Not only that there are indications that the ties would return to normalcy as dialogue between the two sides continues at various levels.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua at a briefing on Saturday stated that strategic convergence is emerging between the two countries that would lead to a win win situation for both sides. This became possible as Pakistani and US officials visited Islamabad and Washington without much publicity. The latest interaction was DG ISI's one day talks in Washington where in he frankly explained Pakistan's position visa viz terrorism, sharing of intelligence and other issues. Similarly before taking up his new post as CIA Chief, General David Petraeus held talks with COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in Rawalpindi. These meetings, one is confident, have removed misunderstanding on key issues between Pakistan and the United States. Another irritant cropped up earlier this month when reports were leaked out to the US media that Washington has stopped the release of $ 800 million aid to Pakistan. However the Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh during a meeting with Prime Minister Gilani Saturday informed him that the US civilian assistance to Pakistan would continue. It is demonstration of pro-active foreign policy approach of Pakistan that the misunderstandings between the two countries have been checked. Pakistan and the United States are old allies and minor differences on some issues normally do crop up which are settled through face to face meetings. But what is needed is that orchestrated propaganda against Pakistan in the western media through deliberate leaks of issues must be stopped. Pakistan has been extending all the support in the war on terror and it suffered the most in economic terms and in human lives as compared to any country. Our economy witnessed massive downslide due to acts of terrorism and violence while more than 35,000 people lost their lives. Despite that there are unending statements in the American media that Pakistani intelligence agencies were extending support to the Taliban which are far from reality. If Pakistan had been offering any support to the Taliban, there would not have been suicide bombings and attacks on its security posts killing troops and civilians. Therefore we would stress that US should well remember that drone attacks and interference in Pakistan's internal affairs through different means cannot be condoned. At the same time Pakistan's role in the emerging strategy in Afghanistan should be recognized to ensure continuity in relations. On the other hand there is also need to change the mindset in Pakistan government circles. There should be no unnecessary statements about continuity of American civilian aid and instead we should make concerted endeavors through good governance to stand on our own feet as a respectable nation instead of taking begging bowl every where to meet our financial needs.
JAILERS ARE HOSTAGES TO PRISONERS
ONCE again prisoners in Larkana Jail went on a rampage on Saturday, broke gates and made jail officials hostage. Earlier on at least two occasions, the prisoners staged similar demonstrations challenging the authority of the jail officials.
The jail authorities were forced to launch an operation with the help of police and rangers and according to reports at least 70 agitating prisoners during the operation surrendered themselves to the Larkana Central Jail officials. The prisoners went on a rampage protesting against the process of some 200 prisoners' shifting to some other jails. Similar incidents also happened in Sukkur and other jails of the country. There is no doubt that there is complete lawlessness in prisons which have in fact become nurseries for promotion of crimes. It is in the knowledge of every one that drugs and arms are being supplied to the prisoners by the jail officials and the criminals operate through mobile phones directing their colleagues for carrying out criminal activities. Even knowledgeable circles say that some prisoners are released at night to go home or to carry out crimes with the connivance of senior jail officials and politicians of the respective areas. Jails have thus become dens of crimes instead of reforms to make the prisoners useful citizen when they come out. The incident at Larkana Jail shows that everything is going wrong in Pakistan and there is need for reconsideration of jail manual, reform laws and introduction of a strong monitoring system to avoid such incidents.
CHINA RIGHTLY PROTESTS OBAMA-LAMA MEETING
PRESIDENT Obama met privately with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Saturday despite a warning from Beijing that the meeting would risk damaging relations between China and the United States. Following the meeting between the two, Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed strong indignation saying the act has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, hurt the feelings of Chinese people, damaged Sino-American relations and demanded the US side to adopt immediate measures to wipe out the impact.
The Chinese protest over the meeting was right as Dalai Lama is not accepting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and living in exile in India. The meeting took place ahead of high level exchanges between China and US. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Shenzhen in southern China, Vice President Biden is expected to visit chine this summer and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, is scheduled to travel to Washington later. According to reports, the White House kept the meeting in low key and no photographer was allowed inside. A statement after the meeting also reflected the delicate balance Mr. Obama sought to strike saying he expressed strong support for direct talks and a resolution between China and Tibet that protects both Tibetans' rights and China's claim to the territory. But Mr. Obama also stressed the importance he attaches to building U.S.-China cooperative partnership. Such diplomatic niceties would surely not satisfy Beijing. Tibet has always been a part of China and no sovereign country can allow others to meet the so-called exiled leaders. China which has achieved massive development in the past couple of decades and is world's second largest economy is investing a lot to develop Tibet and the people there are now reaping the fruits of this development with improvement in living standards, education, health, jobs and communication facilities. The Tibet issue touches on sovereignty and it touches on the unity of Chinese territory and hence the Chinese Government was well within its right to protest over the meeting.
CHINA RIGHTLY PROTESTS OBAMA-LAMA MEETING
PRESIDENT Obama met privately with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Saturday despite a warning from Beijing that the meeting would risk damaging relations between China and the United States. Following the meeting between the two, Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed strong indignation saying the act has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, hurt the feelings of Chinese people, damaged Sino-American relations and demanded the US side to adopt immediate measures to wipe out the impact.
The Chinese protest over the meeting was right as Dalai Lama is not accepting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and living in exile in India. The meeting took place ahead of high level exchanges between China and US. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Shenzhen in southern China, Vice President Biden is expected to visit chine this summer and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, is scheduled to travel to Washington later. According to reports, the White House kept the meeting in low key and no photographer was allowed inside. A statement after the meeting also reflected the delicate balance Mr. Obama sought to strike saying he expressed strong support for direct talks and a resolution between China and Tibet that protects both Tibetans' rights and China's claim to the territory. But Mr. Obama also stressed the importance he attaches to building U.S.-China cooperative partnership. Such diplomatic niceties would surely not satisfy Beijing. Tibet has always been a part of China and no sovereign country can allow others to meet the so-called exiled leaders. China which has achieved massive development in the past couple of decades and is world's second largest economy is investing a lot to develop Tibet and the people there are now reaping the fruits of this development with improvement in living standards, education, health, jobs and communication facilities. The Tibet issue touches on sovereignty and it touches on the unity of Chinese territory and hence the Chinese Government was well within its right to protest over the meeting.
ZULFIKAR MIRZA'S VENOMOUS STATEMENT
Dr Samiullah Koreshi
Although ruling circles would like to put Zulfikhar Mirza's statement under the rug that the Muhajirs were what he said paupers, naked and famished when they came to Sindh), (on partition of India in 1947) and at that time Sindh gave them shelter. He tried to paint the Muhajirs as poorest of the poor to whom Sindh gave shelter in 1947. I still feel that this wild statement should be commented upon at length, as this is a feeling which quite often manifests itself from time to time in some circles. My family was among the Muhajirs who fled from their home in Delhi to Karachi in October 1947.I witnessed all the holocaust which made the Indian Muslims run for their lives to Pakistan after our homes were ransacked, localities put on fire, men, women children butchered and hell was let lose on Muslims of Delhi, North India, East Punjab and Bihar. Our house was ransacked like no one ever lived in it, neighboring Muslims houses were burnt their inmates put to sword by kirpan swaying mobs. He need read "India wins Freedom" by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stating that Gandhiji kept fast unto death – in which he was killed by a fanatic Hindu, Godse, - demanding that the atrocities on Delhi Muslims should stop and they be brought back to their abandoned homes. Why we the Hindustani Musulmans were looted , children, women old people were put to death by fanatic Hindu mobs? Because we supported creation of Pakistan while we were from that part of India where Muslims were in minority and still solidly voted for creation of Pakistan in the 1946 General Elections. Without this unanimity Pakistan would not have been created.
If our home were not burnt, in our case, we had not the slightest idea of coming to Pakistan in 1947. Muslims of Delhi and Agra considered themselves as an embodiment of the glorious past of Muslim History, the most cultured, the most sophisticated society in India. As Urdu's famous poet Mir has said " Delli jo ek shahr tha alam main intikhab, rahtey they muntakhib he jahan rozgar key, Jis ko falak ney loot kar wiran kar diya Ham rahney waley hen usi diyar kay ." .
We did not arrive in Pakistan on our own decision after the partition of India in 1947, we were thrown out from India by fanatic Hindus mobs. Zulfikhar Mirza's statement shows that the Muhajirs came to Sind seeking shelter, like those who went to US, Canada or U.K for greener pastures.. Had Hindustani Musalmans not voted for Pakistan, no Pakistan could have been created. .Muslim areas after areas were subjected to arson, one million Hindustani Musalmans, men, women, children, were put to death, 80,000 women were abducted by mobs, children were cut into pieces – entire Muslim localities, after localities met the same fate in north, eastern and central India, East Punjab was got cleared of Muslims, 7 million Minority Muslims were made to flee from India, etc. Our "crime" was that we solidly supported creation of Pakistan.
Not only we gave sacrifices in lives – Hindustani Musalmans also sacrificed their wealth, cultural heritages, and famous educational centers, We sacrificed the wealthiest Muslim States of Hyderabad, Rampur, Junagarh, etc. Nizam Hyderabad was not only one of the richest man in the world, but perhaps at the time of independence of Pakistan, his State was richer than all the native States in West Pakistan plus West Pakistan of that time. Hyderabad was more like a rich kingdom. On Independence, when Pakistan was bankrupt, after India stopped transfer of Pak's share from the Reserve Bank of India, Hyderabad gave money to Pakistan and some of its gold was flown to Pakistan by two dauntless pilots. The first frigate/destroyer of Pakistan Navy, Zukfikar, was a gift of the Ruler of Rampur State ( in North India.). Raja of Mahmooudabad, a Taluqadar of Oudh, who was a leader of Pakistan Movement , came to Pakistan, became penniless went to London worked as Director Pakistan Center, and died there penniless; Abdu Sattar Seth a business magnate of Madras, who financed A I M L , came to Pakistan, was sent as Pak Ambassdor to Cairo, died pauper in a flat in Burns Road Karachi ; daily the Dawn published his pathetic photo of death in that flat. Ruler of Junagarh State, acceded to Pakistan, sought refuge in Karachi, his heir are living on petty privy purse in Karachi.. Benazr's grand father Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto was in Junagarh's service as his states' Dewan or chef Administrator; Governor General Ghualm Mohammed had been in Hyderabad's service, Sr Zafrullah Khan later Pak Foreign Minister , in Bhopal's service.
Anybody differing from my statements can consult the District and Regional "Gazetteers" written by the British administration in pre-Independence days which give copious details of the rich, the mighty and the most prominent people of those areas. In business the only rich Muslim business magnate were Sir Adamji, banker Habib ( of Habib Bank) and Bombay and Calcutta business men the Memons, Khojas, Bohras, Agha Khanis and leather magnates of Kanpur (UP). No bloody communal riots took place in their areas. Yet to make the country of their dreams, Pakistan rich, and competitive with India eventually , they transferred their businesses to Karachi. Had they not come to Pakistan, Karachi would not have become hub of Pakistan's economy. The role of these Hindustani Musalmans, and after that of Chinutees of Punjab was pivotal and even now if they leave Karachi for any country, they will be welcomed with open arms anywhere, Karachi's industry would come to stand still.
In education the biggest Muslim institutions were in India, Aligarh Muslim University, Usmaina University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Deoband, Nadwa, etc. The spread of education among Hindustani Mussalmans , men and women, was highest in India. Lahore and Muslims of Jullundur were other educated communities. William Darlymple in his book " TheLast Mughal" writes that Delhi had the largest number of educational institutions on the eastern side of the Suez at the time of the Mutiny in 1857.
The contribution of these "Muhajirs" to Pakistan's economy, industry, education is not insignificant. It has been very condescendingly said that where ever the Muhajirs are in Pakistan they are Pakistani, but the fact is that the "Muhajirs" were co-partners in the movement for creating Pakistan. It is a blow on Pakistanism. I worked in Muslim Students Federation from the age of 17.. Therefore, I resented Zulfikhar Mirza's statement.
It s most unfortunate that this time the two groups who were mainly involved in the so-called ethnic clashes were the Pakhtuns and the "Muhajirs" . Both are Pakistani people. Karachi is big enough to give all its inhabitants opportunity to earn living. I have great admiration for the Pakhtuns who are brave, called "Sword Arm" of Pakistan, honest, open hearted and most hospitable persons. We can look at New York which absorbs all kind of heterogeneous people which has made New York so prosperous that it is richer than many countries .
However, let me conclude my comments with a couplet:
ABBOTTABAD FIASCO: AN INTROSPECTION!
AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
Even after more than two months, public anger against America's cowardly ambush in Abbottabad has not receded. It has changed in form. From an outrage against the armed forces, it has transformed into a national resolve; an anti-America attitude. Focus of anger has largely shifted from the armed forces to other reasons leading to Abbotabad fiasco. A recent survey indicated that 79% Pakistanis did not consider it as a military failure alone. It was a pleasant surprise for the people of Pakistan that for a decade their armed forces have been foregoing about 70% of American military aid to support civil sector economy. After Iran, America has lost another ally in Asia, the people of Pakistan, and that too for times to come. Neither public opinion would reverse nor would the national leadership be able to go against it. In long term perspective, armed forces have no option but to scale back their dependence on American cash and technology. Once again, time tested strategy of self reliance and indigenization of 'sanctions days' needs to be re-invoked.
Armed forces of Pakistan held the Soviets at bay during their protracted occupation of Afghanistan. Political leadership of that time was clear about the status of war and its who's who'. When Prime Minister Junejo gave clear orders to shoot intruding Soviet aircraft, even if they had to be chased into Afghanistan and shot down in Afghan airspace, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) displayed brilliant skills and shot down a number of intruders without any combat loss. Nation expects similar resolve and direction from the present political leadership. Today, the PAF is equipped in a much better way; it has acquired additional capabilities and competencies. The only reason why it could not react to shoot the American intruders over Abbottabad is because who's who about the so called war on terror is ambiguous at the national as well as at military leadership level. It was never envisaged that while those with whom PAF is fighting shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy would ditch it is such a way.
Likewise, only a year back ISI topped the ranking of ten best intelligence agencies of the world with a citation that its agents have never been caught under camera. Out of complacency it committed a cardinal sin of trusting CIA. Beside other attributes Operation 'Geronimo' (Abbottabad attack) has a unique distinction of being an operation by a superpower against its own ally. It was indeed a stabbing at the back; a misadventure against an ally who had suffered the most in supporting America's fight in so called war on terrorism. Had America publically announced the location of Osama, and asked for his extradition, in all probability Pakistan would have obliged. But Americans never wanted to capture Osama alive; they could not have absorbed his revelations during a fair and independent trial. Only dead Osama suited Americans. Adopted method also carried the advantage that Pakistan could be blamed for all American failures in Afghanistan. And a sense of insecurity could be created amongst the masses of Pakistan to rupture the bond of trust between the armed forces and the people.
Ongoing criticism of Pakistan on its 'failure' to do the US bidding or for providing safe havens to some groups of anti-US militants, as well as the mounting pressure for taking certain actions is a part of well thought out psychological war against Pakistan. Venomous Secretary Defence Leon Panetta has promptly picked up the threads from where he left them as Director CIA. During his recent visit to Kabul, he urged Pakistan to go after Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Pakistan needs to call the bluff and ask Americans to pinpoint Al-Zawahiri's exact location and make an offer of conducting a joint operation. The US media has also stepped up its campaign of vilification against Pakistan, by finding holes in the military and ISI's performance and reincarnating the old stories regarding some former Generals' kickbacks for allegedly supplying nuclear secrets to North Korea. Admiral Mike Mullen sternly stated that the Pakistani government had "sanctioned" the killing of a Pakistani journalist. American ambassador in Islamabad violated the diplomatic norms and made an uncalled for statement during recent Karachi disturbances.
Announcing the decision to hold back a portion of aid, the US said Pakistan was an important ally but there were "difficulties" to overcome in this relationship. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley told ABC television that Pakistan had "taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid". "When it comes to our military assistance, we're not prepared to continue providing that at the pace that we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. Pentagon has stated that Pakistan's aid would be resumed if the expelled 'trainers' are again permitted to resume their functions. The US trainers stationed in Pakistan were monitored and found involved in illegal operations that aimed at acquainting themselves with the Pakistani terrain in FATA, KPH and Baluchistan. Hence they were expelled.
Reacting to American decision to withhold a portion of aid, Pakistan's military spokesperson said, "The US decision will have no significant effect on Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts...The Pakistan Army will continue its operations in the tribal areas as it was doing in the past." On an average, Pakistan gets $600 million a year under the Coalition Support Fund. During the recent years, flow of CSF was often interrupted on one flimsy pretext or the other. During the last ten years, against an expected figure of over US$ 13 b, Pakistan got US$ 8.6 b as military aid. Out of this amount, only US$ 2.6 b went to the military, rest was used by the government for civil sector budgetary support! For quite some time, the American Joint Special Operation Command, in unison with infamous Black-water category troops, has been conducting assassinations of high value targets in Pakistan. This clandestine guerrilla war inside Pakistan was further hyped by General David Petraeus while he was commanding the US troops in Afghanistan, in collaboration with former CIA chief Leon Panetta. It is not without reason that the duo has been retained in Obama's new war team.
Time has come for Pakistan's national leadership to undertake a holistic review of Pakistan's multidimensional relations with the US. There is a need to clearly articulate the steps that Pakistan would undertake in case of a repeat of Geronimo like cowardly act. Military leadership needs to come out of an aura of complacency and upgrade the readiness posture to minimise the chances of success of such operations in future. Moreover, public opinion needs to be informed that even with full military readiness, there would still remain some chances of success of such cowardly covert missions.
The Inquiry Commission looking into Abbottabad incident is expected to conduct a wholesome probe digging into the reasons that led to this strategic fiasco. It would be worthwhile to refer to the recommendations of Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission, and extent of their implementation. Commission must also evaluate the correctness of our national policy after 9/11 which led to incremental proliferation of American influence in some important institutions including the media. There is also a need to re-evaluate the military doctrine and the efficacy of our Higher Defence Organisation by comparing it with contemporary models. Commission would only do a worthwhile service to the nation if it comes out with convincing findings to fix the responsibility alongside concrete recommendations to avoid recurrences.
—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.
BRAIN DRAIN PROBLEM
AHMAD A QURAISHI
The students of Pakistan are known for their extra ordinary achievements in the field of academics. Doctors, engineers and IT professionals of exceptional quality have been produced in Pakistan. The students perform very well in their practical lives. But the question is why we don't see them working in our hospitals, industries and business organizations? Where do these extra ordinary brains vanish?
The answer is that our country is suffering from the phenomena of brain drain. This is because our best student lot is captured by the western countries like UK and USA. The need of the hour is that we should try to stop this costly brain drain or at least take measures to minimize the loss.But before we come up with some suggestions to stop this brain drain, we need to look at some of the reasons behind this phenomenon. Firstly, the level of higher education in our country is not up to the international standards. Therefore, students go abroad for higher studies and eventually end up being absorbed into the lucrative foreign market. Secondly, students who do come back and want to work do not get the kind of remuneration which they think can be easily earned abroad. This discourages them and they leave their country. Thirdly, there is lack of motivation among the students to work in their homeland on lesser salaries. The reason is the lack of patriotic feelings and tilt towards material gains.
Fourthly, the qualification which the students earn from abroad have little application in their home country as they are designed to fulfill the requirements of the country from where they have studied. Lastly, the higher living standards and freeway living style attracts the students as they want to enjoy their life to the fullest.
Now let us look at some facts and figures in support of this phenomenon of brain drain being suffered by our nation. According to a report in the The Observer, London, "Pakistan is facing a massive brain drain as record numbers of people desperate to leave their politically unstable, economically chaotic country swamp foreign embassies with visa applications-The biggest numbers of applications for British visas are from Pakistan. Doctors, lawyers and IT professional and leading the exodus, but laborers and farmhands are joining the queues of malnourished people who gather daily outside the US embassy in Islamabad".
Zaffar Abbas from Islamabad writes that "Gallup-Pakistan says the survey indicates that many Pakistanis are gradually losing faith in the country's economic future". "The latest survey has strengthened the widely-held view that there has been a continuous brain drain from the country in the past decade". "The poll indicates that not only qualified professionals and university graduates, but even semi-skilled or unskilled workers want to leave Pakistan in search of better prospects".
We as a nation need to inculcate patriotic feelings in our new generation to an extent that they should love their homeland more than the attractive life of any developed country. Secondly, the standard of education should be improved with intent to promote research. The courses and the syllabi should be according to the local and national requirements of the country. External degree programmes of foreign universities can be introduced to give foreign qualification.
Thirdly, the number of quality degree awarding institutions should be increased in a way that each year a few new universities are established to give greater opportunities for studying. Fourthly, the students with a caliber to become a national asset should be retained in their homeland even at a higher cost. The government should not lose them to foreign lands.
Lastly, the societal attitude needs to change regarding the way it looks and gets impressed from the material gains of western countries. The society needs to understand and communicate that there are a lot more important things in life than just the material comforts. Hence it can be concluded that we need to build our nation by building a strong national character. We can grow and progress when our people start pooling the best of their energies in developing their own homeland.
There is no shortage of explanations for the economy's maddening inability to leave behind the Great Recession and start adding large numbers of jobs: The deficit is too big. The stimulus was flawed. China is overtaking us. Businesses are over-regulated. Wall Street is under-regulated. But the real culprit — or at least the main one — has been hiding in plain sight. We are living through a tremendous bust. It isn't simply a housing bust. It's a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making.
The auto industry is on pace to sell 28 percent fewer new vehicles this year than it did 10 years ago — and 10 years ago was 2001, when the country was in recession. Sales of ovens and stoves are on pace to be at their lowest level since 1992. Home sales over the past year have fallen back to their lowest point since the crisis began. And big-ticket items are hardly the only problem. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently published a jarring report on what it calls discretionary service spending, a category that excludes housing, food and health care and includes restaurant meals, entertainment, education and even insurance. Going back decades, such spending had never fallen more than 3 percent per capita in a recession. In this slump, it is down almost 7 percent, and still has not really begun to recover.
The past week brought more bad news. Retail sales in June were weaker than expected, and consumer confidence fell, causing economists to downgrade their estimates for economic growth yet again. It's a familiar routine by now. Forecasters in Washington and on Wall Street keep saying the recovery's problems are temporary — and then they redefine temporary.
If you're looking for one overarching explanation for the still-terrible job market, it is this great consumer bust. Business executives are only rational to hold back on hiring if they do not know when their customers will fully return. Consumers, for their part, are coping with a sharp loss of wealth and an uncertain future (and many have discovered that they don't need to buy a new car or stove every few years). Both consumers and executives are easily frightened by the latest economic problem, be it rising gas prices or the debt-ceiling impasse.
Now, the economic version of the law of gravity is reasserting itself. We are feeling the deferred pain from 25 years of excess, as people try to rebuild their depleted savings. This pattern is a classic one. The definitive book about financial crises has become "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," published in 2009 with exquisite timing, by Carmen M. Reinhart, now of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Kenneth S. Rogoff, of Harvard.
Sure, house and car sales will eventually surpass their old highs, as the economy slowly recovers and the population continues expanding. But consumer spending will not soon return to the growth rates of the 1980s and '90s. They depended on income people didn't have. The choice, then, is between starting to make the transition to a different economy and enduring years of stop-and-start economic malaise.
History, however, has a different verdict. If governments stop spending at the same time that consumers do, the economy can enter a vicious cycle, as it did in Hoover's day. The prospect of that cycle is one reason an impasse on the debt ceiling, and a government default, could do so much damage. Global investors may be the only major constituency that has been feeling sanguine about the American economy. If Washington unnerves them, and sends interest rates rising, the effect really could be calamitous.
A deal could avoid the Mellon-like problem of having government cut back at the same time as consumers. The Federal Reserve, the Obama administration and Congress seemed to learn this lesson in 2009, when they aggressively responded to the crisis, only to turn more passive in 2010 and spend much of the year hoping for the best. It didn't work out. Today, the most obvious options for stimulus are extensions of jobless benefits and of a temporary cut in the Social Security tax.
A more promising approach could instead offer a tax cut to businesses — but only to those expanding their payrolls and, in the process, helping to solve the jobs crisis. Along similar lines, a budget deal could increase funding for medical research and clean energy by even more than President Obama has suggested. These are the kinds of investments that have brought huge returns in the past — think of the Internet, a Defense Department creation — and whose price tags are tiny compared to, say, Medicare or the Bush tax cuts.
Politics, of course, makes many of these ideas unlikely to happen anytime soon. Unfortunately, though, these debt-ceiling talks won't be the final chance for Washington to help the country recover from the great consumer bust. That's the thing about consumer busts. They last for a very long time. — Courtesy: The New York Times
GOVERNMENT MUST HEED ECONOMIC WAKE-UP CALL
AS Italy and Spain feel the brunt of the European sovereign debt crisis that has savaged smaller economies and the US seeks a debt ceiling of $US17 trillion to avoid defaulting by August 2, Treasury's Red Book of advice to the Gillard government a year ago is worth revisiting.
The federal budget, Treasury warned, will need to be tightened more, given the risk of a further global financial crisis prompted by a double-dip US recession, European sovereign debt fears or a China relapse. The predicaments of the US and Europe and the fact that the slower, non-mining side of Australia's two-speed economy is grinding along so slowly should be a wake-up call for the government. It needs to focus on more than selling the carbon tax to a sceptical electorate and should ensure that Australia heeds the mistakes of others by avoiding excess debt.
A measure of the malaise was highlighted last week when David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra admitted that sales had fallen off the cliff as "aspirational customers just stopped spending" over the past six weeks. DJ's profit downgrade of 15 to 20 per cent sent retail shares plummeting. Lack of consumer confidence and the trend towards online retailing are the main problems, but as retailing flounders, the government has exacerbated the problems by saddling retailers with an antiquated industrial relations built around steep penalty rates in the evenings and at weekends when more customers are choosing to shop. For as long as she holds out against greater flexibility in the labour market, Julia Gillard is closing off an important avenue for protecting profitability and employment.
At this stage, few economists are backing Westpac chief economist Bill Evans's view that interest rates could be cut as soon as December and by up to one percentage point within 18 months. Although the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment is approaching the depths of the GFC, massive mining investment is in the pipeline. Should it prove necessary, however, the Reserve Bank has scope to cut interest rates to contain the fallout of any major slump. Given the federal budget deficit running at more than $22 billion, however, another big fiscal stimulus in such circumstances would be problematic. There is no doubting the efficacy of the Rudd government's $900 cash payments during the onset of the GFC in helping the economy, including retailing, weather the storm, nor the fact that the hefty surplus left by the Howard government was an invaluable buffer. In tighter circumstances, however, the scope for major government largesse in the event of a sharp downturn would be limited. There would be no scope for building more school halls - only regret that $16.2bn was not better invested.
The fact the Gillard government is relying on the budget contingency fund for almost $3bn to close dirty coal-fired power stations and that its carbon package is not revenue-neutral is a sign of its inability to offset new spending with cuts. Low-level confidence will make Ms Gillard's task of promoting the carbon tax more difficult. And although details of the tax are now released, doubts remain about its impact on the economy. The effects of a Coalition government undoing the tax from 2013 is another unknown factor undermining business certainty.
As Paul Kelly wrote on Saturday, Australia has declared its economic confidence by pricing carbon at a time the US and Europe are reeling under debt. The Prime Minister concedes that Australia is "not immune from global events" but argues she has picked a good time to act with Asian growth, strong terms of trade in the booming minerals sector, low unemployment and strong investment. Business groups, however, fear this is a bad time to forge ahead when much of the world is stagnant and major nations have stalled on climate action.
Confidence is vital to economic health, but the Australian Industry Group's Heather Ridout is close to the mark when she says many people feel they're on Struggle Street rather than in a turbo-charged economy. Labor cannot ignore the fact its promised return to budget surplus in 2012-13 could be the first casualty of a major recession. For that reason, while the economy remains strong, tight budgeting is essential.
GENETICALLY modified crops were sown on 148 million hectares, or 10 per cent of world's arable land, last year.
No case has been confirmed of damage to an individual or the environment. Most GM crops are resistant either to insects or to herbicides. Where insect-resistant GM crops have been grown, there has been a dramatic fall in the use of insecticides. Where herbicide-resistant GM crops have been grown, soil cultivation is eliminated (direct seeding) or markedly reduced. Under these conditions, soils are less subject to erosion.
With the growing of both insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant GM crops, there has been an enormous benefit to the environment. Why then is the green movement so adamantly opposed to GM crops? Is it possible that they are not really interested in protecting the environment?
PLAYING STRAIGHT PROTECTS SPORT
COLLINGWOOD star Heath Shaw has paid a high price for betting that Pies captain Nick Maxwell, normally a defender, would kick the opening goal in a game against Adelaide on May 22, in which he was to be given a role in the forward line.
The foolish but contrite Shaw will miss the next eight weeks of the competition and was fined $20,000 for his role in what proved a failed bet that would have won him $1000.
Shaw is the first AFL player suspended for gambling. Maxwell was fined $5000, with a further $5000 suspended, for "recklessly disclosing inside information" on tactics to family members, who, unknown to him, placed bets totalling $85 on him kicking the first goal.
Officials made the right call in setting the bar high. As the AFL's football operations manager, Adrian Anderson, says, while the penalty might be considered harsh, it is important to establish a precedent that prevents more serious integrity issues arising. Exotic bets on individual performance rather than team effort put the integrity of any code or sport at risk, a trend that fans and players recognise as deplorable.
Cricket is a prime example. Betting scandals on the subcontinent show how quickly faith in even the most popular games can be eroded once the whiff of corruption leaves fans with the impression that outcomes might have been manipulated by players with wagers at stake on such issues as who will bowl no-balls at particular times. And Australian fans, who were overjoyed as the home side snatched an unexpected victory against Pakistan in Sydney in January last year, still feel affronted by match-fixer Mazhar Majeed's shameful boast that he earned pound stg. 1.3 million because Pakistan threw the match.
The NRL, too, has been touched by a serious betting scandal, which could see two former players and a players' agent jailed after they were allegedly involved in a sting that saw a deliberate attempt to ensure a penalty goal was the first scoring option in a Bulldogs-Cowboys betting plunge last year.
At least Collingwood, the current AFL premiers, have no qualms with the penalties applied to Shaw and Maxwell. It is encouraging to see football authorities taking the issue seriously and following the same hardline approach as the racing industry's stand on doping and working with law enforcement agencies to minimise the potential for corruption.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
CARBON TEST OF PM'S FIBRE
THERE are relatively few times in politics when a government launches a policy which it fervently believes to be right, while knowing it is unpopular and risky. One occasion was the Howard government's introduction of the goods and services tax in 2000, after suffering an adverse election swing on the issue. The same government's adoption of Work Choices was a more hubristic case, based on parliamentary gains and a miscalculation of the public response.
Now Julia Gillard's government is in the grim position of having taken a stand on a fundamental policy change while at the nadir - it hoped - of its popular support, only to find that the baseline has dropped even further. The findings of the Herald-Nielsen poll show political disaster staring at federal Labor. If an election were to be held now, it would face a wipe-out similar to the massive defeat of NSW Labor in the March state poll.
While Labor MPs must have been expecting a long, hard job of public persuasion ahead of them, perhaps not to show much gain until the carbon scheme and its tax offsets come into operation in July next year, they will undoubtedly be disheartened by the sharp swing of approval away from Gillard, who is the spearhead of their campaign. With Tony Abbott leaping ahead as preferred prime minister, caucus members will have more doubts about the wisdom of dumping Kevin Rudd last year and be asking themselves: is it the policy, or is it her?
Certainly, the carbon policy has been landed on a public newly apprehensive about the global economic outlook and feeling battered by cost-of-living increases, particularly in power bills. The government has not yet managed to persuade most people they will be no worse off under carbon pricing. Only 6 per cent think they will be ahead. Feelings about the carbon scheme have steadied, but at a clear margin of disapproval.
But Gillard does have a problem of trust. She has not overcome the crude ''Ju-liar'' taunt based on her pre-election statement that her government would not adopt a carbon tax. She has not yet struck the right tone with the public. But who else could sell this policy? Switching leaders would make the government look even more like NSW Labor; the bargain with the Greens and independents would need to be renegotiated. Labor may have little choice but to bring a broader range of ministers to front-line advocacy, and trust their case will become more appealing to Australians over the next two years before an election must be held.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
HIGHWAY OF EMBARRASSMENT
VISITORS to Australia from Europe, North America and, increasingly, from Asia are often bemused to find a country with such mediocre transport infrastructure. And discoveries go the other way. As Michael Wesley, head of the Lowy Institute, says in his book There Goes the Neighbourhood, Australians who think they come from the rich, lucky country are nowadays chastened to find an Asia that builds infrastructure with an ease that appears beyond our capacities. Nowhere is Australia's lamentable record more graphically on show than along the Pacific Highway.
The main traffic artery between Sydney and Brisbane, two of Australia's biggest and most dynamic cities, remains what it has been for decades: a disgrace. About half the 664-kilometre stretch between Newcastle and the Queensland border still consists of one traffic lane in each direction. Like the north coast railway line meandering just inland, confining trains to the pace of the steam age, much of this highway still traces the same dogleg route laid out in the 1930s, when cars were relatively new inventions and few people ventured far beyond towns and farms.
Built around technology unimaginable 80 years ago, cars have since become central to Australia's way of life. Baby boomers escaping city stresses are swelling the coast. Byron Bay and other highway towns are now meccas for pleasure-seekers. In 13 years, the Pacific Highway will have to serve a forecast coastal population of almost 1 million people.
With cars, buses and freight trucks jostling for space, it has become a death trap. The shocking deaths of 56 people in two bus crashes near Kempsey and Grafton 22 years ago sparked a federal political bidding war to give the entire highway two traffic lanes in each direction by 2016. Yet, as the Herald analysis by Jacob Saulwick has revealed, of the 327 kilometres still to be built, only 69 kilometres are scheduled by 2014.
Anthony Albanese, the federal Transport Minister, says he wants the rest finished on deadline. The last federal budget offered $1 billion over four years, on condition the NSW government make an ''appropriate'' match. Bickering of an all-too-familiar kind has resurfaced. The O'Farrell government's claim that the impending carbon tax will make its costs too high is quite feeble. The shot by Duncan Gay, the NSW Roads Minister, at Rob Oakeshott, the north coast independent federal MP who supports the tax, is pathetic. A rich country like Australia has no excuse to let this cardinal artery languish any longer. Both governments should finish the job quickly.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
WHY GILLARD HAS TO WORK HARDER ON CARBON TAX
LABOR's campaign to sell its carbon tax is off to a bad start. The Age/Nielsen poll reports that after a week of hearing about its pros and cons, 52 per cent of voters are opposed to the tax and compensation package, while just 39 per cent support it. Fifty-three per cent believe the package will leave them worse off, and virtually all of these want the Coalition to rescind the tax if it wins office. For anyone, from whatever side of politics, who believes that Australia must do its fair share to stabilise greenhouse gas levels and head off global warming, these figures make sombre reading.
They are not the only sombre development. There are increasing signs that Australia's already sluggish growth has dropped down another gear - and retailers blame it partly on consumers' fears of the carbon tax. Never mind that Treasury modelling estimates most households will end up better off from the tax package, or that any package designed to spend $4 billion more than it takes will make the economy move faster, not slower. The Coalition's relentless scare campaign against the tax, like Labor's scare campaign against the GST a decade ago, is forecast to hurt consumer confidence for a year or two, until the tax is bedded down and people realise it was not the big shock they expected.
Labor now faces a long, hard grind. It has to persuade Australians that the carbon tax is a pain worth bearing to tackle a global threat too big to ignore, and which other nations too are tackling, each in its own way. It has to persuade us that the burden of the tax falls fairly, compensating most people, so that only the well-off will pay the full bill. It has to persuade us that it has protected vulnerable industries, so that cutting carbon emissions will not mean exporting jobs. And it has to do so with three handicaps. First, as Tony Abbott has shown, it is easier to sell a negative message than a positive one. Second, many voters feel they have heard enough already and switched off. And third, Labor does not have leaders who can sell its message, leaders whom the public warms to, whom people feel they can trust. It will ignore that reality at its peril.
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If an election were held today, the Gillard government would be annihilated. At 26 per cent, Labor's primary vote is the lowest of any major party since these polls began 39 years ago. But the poll found it is not only Labor's leaders we distrust. Despite the Coalition being so far ahead, more people still disapprove of Mr Abbott than approve of him. Australians don't like their leaders to be so relentlessly negative, so bereft of positive policies. While they share Mr Abbott's negativity about Labor, they want him to be something more than a leader whose policy is just to make war on virtually everything the government is doing.
The Coalition's own climate change policy is trivial, yet it tries to tell us this would cut per capita emissions by 33 per cent by 2020. Its economic policies are unclear. Its proposed spending cuts at the last election were found by Treasury and the Finance Department to be overstated by $10.6 billion. What is there here to inspire our confidence and trust? The next two years will be a test of Australia, and its leaders, on both sides.
The most poignant words last week came from independent MP Tony Windsor: the real beneficiaries of Australia's carbon tax package, he said, will be people not yet born, all over the world, who will be one step further on a long journey to end global warming. But the cost falls on us, here and now, because it tackles our part in warming. This is a modest start, with modest costs, as part of a loose coalition of nations tackling climate change the world over. If we care for those who come after us, we cannot afford the risk of leaving them a planet where the icecaps are melting, seas are rising, low-lying land is being flooded and today's food bowls are turning into tomorrow's deserts. Let's stop the whingeing, and make it work.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
EASY RIDERS NOT READY FOR THE ROADS
VICTORIA has a glaring gap in its road-safety regime: the testing and licensing of motorcyclists. As The Age has revealed, the system is regarded as ''a joke'' and ''totally inadequate'' by accredited private providers who conduct testing for VicRoads. Car licences outnumber motorcycle licences 11 to one, but the ratio of car-to-bike fatalities is four to one. Almost one in three deaths and serious injuries among riders involved novice riders. Police note that rider error caused about 70 per cent of trauma crashes, compared with 50 per cent for other drivers. Everything points to inadequate training and testing.
Compared with car driver licensing, the motorcycle version is amazingly lax. Training is optional. Even though riders are inherently more vulnerable than car drivers, motorcyclists have a ''test-only, no-training option''. The test involves the bare minimum of road skills: ''the ability to ride slowly, the ability to corner at 10km/h and the ability to stop'', says the manager of Honda's national training program, Mark Collins. A novice may obtain a licence after three months on a learner permit without ever riding in traffic and without the 120-hour supervision and logbook records required for a car licence. New or out-of-practice riders can be horribly unprepared for today's traffic hazards: 54 of the 115 rider fatalities since January 2009 were in the 40-to-59 age group.
Given that motorcycle and scooter registrations have doubled in a decade, and that the riders' death toll is so high, the need for reform is more urgent than ever. Eighteen years after a parliamentary inquiry found VicRoads had a policy of ''not implementing any programs that could be construed as encouraging motorcycling'' the policy has gone but the gap in road safety programs remains.
The Baillieu government has asked Parliament's road safety committee to report on the issue by June 30 next year, but it has also disbanded the Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council, a valuable source of expertise. However, the council initiated a trial of ''coaches'' for 1200 newly licensed novice riders whose safety record after 12 months will be compared with 1200 who receive no instruction. The results could have informed the committee, but are likely to come too late.
The Age would expect, though, to see the trial confirm what tougher licensing rules for car drivers have shown. Longer and more rigorous training and testing of inexperienced drivers saves lives. Yet change could be two years a
US DEBT BATTLE: SHOWDOWN ON CAPITAL HILL
A debate vital to the US and world has been hijacked by voodoo economics and silly posturing
In any halfway-normal week, the focus of the press would not be on crisis at Wapping, but squarely on the looming meltdown in Washington. When even the American president ditches his normally measured speech to warn of "Armageddon" if the latest battle in Capitol Hill is not resolved soon, it's worth paying serious attention.
For months, Barack Obama has been seeking the go-ahead from Congress to exceed the official limit on government borrowing. This is not such an unusual request for a president to make, or for politicians to grant – permission has been sought by Mr Obama and George Bush, and given 10 times in the past decade alone. Nor is it unknown for Democrats and Republicans to play party games with the budget – as a promising young senator for Illinois, Mr Obama himself voted in 2006 to deny the White House an increase in the debt ceiling. But it's one thing to engage in brinkmanship when the world economy is humming along nicely; it's rather more worrying when Europe is also convulsed over its own sovereign-debt crisis; when the world economy is still struggling to come round from the battering of 2008-09, and when credit-rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's reckon there's a 50-50 chance that they could slash America's credit-rating within 90 days. We can (rightly) debate the worth of pronouncements from ratings agencies, but the brute fact is this: the repricing of risk that would inevitably follow from changing the official credit-score of the world's biggest economy would cause ructions in markets that could easily rival the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
On those grounds alone, there should be plenty of reason for Republicans to reach a bargain with Democrats. And there is an unarguable case for an increase of the debt ceiling. The US economy remains mired in a slump, with nearly one in 10 of the workforce out of a job and house prices still falling. With interest rates at rock bottom, Washington has little option apart from to resort to fiscal policy – which is presumably why America's top central banker, Ben Bernanke, warned last week that failure to raise the debt ceiling would be "calamitous".
But like an extreme version of last year's fight between Gordon Brown and David Cameron, this is at root an ideological argument over the size and legitimacy of the state. Michele Bachman and Tea Party Republicans pretend that a default by the US government would be a minor inconvenience. Other Republicans are open to raising the debt ceiling, but only at the price of slashing public spending, rather than balancing the books with tax rises too. A debate vital to the US and world has been hijacked by voodoo economics and silly posturing.
SIR PAUL STEPHENSON'S RESIGNATION: SIR PAUL'S PARTHIAN SHOT
The manner of the Met chief's departure underlines the extent of the crisis now gripping media, politics and policing in this country
Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation last night was doubtless inevitable following the double revelation, within 48 hours, of his secret PR adviser and his subsidised stay at a five-star health spa. But the manner of his going at once underlined the extent of the crisis now gripping media, politics and policing in this country while also ensuring that the prime minister himself is now firmly in the spotlight over questions of judgment and his willingness to take responsibility for them.
Sir Paul's departure followed on from the disclosure on Friday that he had – unknown to politicians or the press – hired as his adviser on media strategy the former deputy editor of the News of the World at the time that the newsroom was something of a phone-hacking production line. Neil Wallis – who was a frequent dining companion of Sir Paul – was himself arrested on Friday morning in relation to phone-hacking inquiries by Sir Paul's own officers. Within 24 hours it was revealed that Sir Paul had enjoyed five week's of free accommodation at the luxury health spa, Champneys, while recovering from an illness. As luck would have it, Champneys' PR adviser was the selfsame Mr Wallis. Sir Paul's fate was sealed.
Sir Paul's long resignation statement protested his innocence in all respects. But one crucial passage effectively pointed the finger at Downing Street, drawing an comparison between Mr Cameron's hiring of Andy Coulson and his own recruitment of his deputy. The point was implicit, but widely understood: "I'll take responsibility: what about you?" And thus a crisis which, for a long time, was perceived as a relatively contained issue of journalistic ethics, started lapping at the door of the prime minister himself.
As Ed Miliband said yesterday, this saga is changing the very psyche of British politics. It was notable that the immediate reaction to the arrest of Rebekah Brooks at lunchtime was entirely sceptical. Was it a piece of chaff to distract attention from headlines about Sir Paul, or was it a conspiracy to give Ms Brooks an excuse for not giving evidence to MPs on the culture media and sport committee tomorrow? That detracts from the proceedings' significance, but not by much; the Murdoch dynasts, Rupert and James, will still be there. But the MPs should take care. They will have to work hard – and in a more disciplined way than last week – to prevent the hearing turning into a master class in media manipulation which allows the witnesses to avoid the real questions about which of them knew what, when. Those are the answers that must be ferreted out in order to expose the most important question: the real extent of complicity in criminal activities by News International's most senior figures. Those are the answers on which the Murdoch media empire hangs.
But the hearing down the corridor is in the domestic context almost as important. Sir Paul has much to tell the home affairs committee. He is certainly right to say that questions about the conduct of some very senior officers will hang damagingly over the Met for as long as the public inquiry takes.
Belatedly tackling the investigation with vigour, the Met has now made 10 arrests. The overwhelming majority are former NI people. These are threads in the web of influence that Rupert Murdoch has constructed. What it means is richly illustrated by Friday's publication of the prime minister's contacts with the media: in 15 months there have been 26 encounters with NI executives and editors, including at least four with Ms Brooks. It is just as richly illustrated by Neil Wallis. Ed Miliband was right to demand that media ownership be reconsidered. The dominance of News International is the gibbet on which hang the careers of two chief executives, two newspaper editors, some 200 journalists – and now the commissioner of the Metropolitan police.
IN PRAISE OF… ABDUL JABBAR
The most effective campaigner for the victims of the worst industrial accident in world history
Early in his insightful new book on contemporary India, The Beautiful and The Damned, Siddhartha Deb meets a determinedly unassuming man. Abdul Jabbar is "short, pudgy, with ... thick glasses", with a "surprisingly truculent" manner. Yet the author comes to realise his subject is "a local demigod". For Jabbar is perhaps the most effective campaigner for the victims of the worst industrial accident in world history. In December 1984, more than 27 tons of deadly gas leaked from the Union Carbide plant into the city of Bhopal, killing an estimated 22,000 people and leaving over 150,000 severely disabled. For such a huge tragedy, the settlement has been tiny: the American multinational long ago paid £282m (or around £2,000 for each victim) in compensation, and only last summer was anyone convicted for the disaster – eight local employees, one of whom had already died. Jabbar's own house was only 2km from the factory, and he spent that first night taking family and neighbours to hospital. Soon after, he set up Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, the first victim-campaign group. Today, "Jabbar bhai" still fights for compensation for the poor, and runs vocational classes for widows and others. The personal cost has been great: one broken marriage and a struggle to pay bills, while the Bhopal leak damaged both his eyes and his lungs. Yet he continues to show an unassuming nobility, tending to victims rather than MPs or press, and giving his all to an often-forgotten fight.
THE JAKARTA POST
CALMING THE SEAS BETWEEN ASEAN AND CHINA
Demonstrations in Hanoi against China ended when the Vietnamese government finally acted on July 10 to round up protesters.
The rare public protests, held on weekends for over a month in front of the Chinese Embassy, employed nationalistic slogans and symbols. Thought to have been officially tolerated, or even encouraged, they started soon after China's navy had turned back a Vietnamese oil-drilling research boat in a disputed area of the South China Seas.
This sets a potentially tense context to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), soon to be held in Bali, Indonesia. ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan hopes the meeting can bring the ASEAN foreign ministers and all major regional powers, including China and the US, to have a constructive dialogue on the issue and the differing claims.
Discussion at the ARF is needed as the issue goes beyond bilateral China-Vietnam ties. Similar controversies have erupted between China and the Philippines, following Chinese moves to build an exploratory rig near the Palawan waters.
Filipinos abroad took to the streets in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, where they have large expatriate communities, to protest against what they called "Chinese bullying".
Potentially resource-rich areas around the Spratly and Paracel Island groups are also claimed by Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The US has gotten into the act. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, started his official visit to China this week with a warning that incidents in the disputed waters of the South China Sea could escalate into conflict. The Admiral pledged to maintain the US military presence in Asia.
It was the US, after all, who gave voice to the escalating concerns, when State Secretary Hillary Clinton raised the issue at last year's ARF. Since then what has happened is widely regarded as damaging Chinese diplomacy in the region after a decade of increasing friendship with its neighbors. Now, however, the issue is also emerging as a test for ASEAN.
The group has emerged as the most acceptable host in the region, and has gained a central position from being able to convene dialogue among the rising powers.
This is commendable considering that, aside from Indonesia, the nine other ASEAN members are middle to smaller states with neither economic heft nor military power.
Its role emerged because ASEAN is a trusted host, relative to others, and because it has developed
norms for peaceful coexistence and increased cooperation among neighbors.
These two characteristics cannot be automatically commanded in dealing with the South China Sea.
With Vietnam and the Philippines loudly protesting the issue, and claims by two other ASEAN members, the group will not automatically be seen as neutral. With the Obama administration having held two Summits with ASEAN and coming to the East Asian Summit at year's end, it would be too easy for Beijing to sense some in the group are hoping to lean on America.
ASEAN cannot immediately solve the complex and intricate claims over potentially important resources. Indeed, the members with claims in the disputed area cannot be asked to put aside their interests. But there are at least three things ASEAN can do to prevent the differing claims from escalating to conflict.
First, ASEAN needs to remind Vietnam and the Philippines that the group as a whole cannot and should not be expected to blindly follow their national interests. Indeed, it would be helpful if nationalism and flag waving were toned down, rather than allowed and even encouraged to demonize China.
Second, ASEAN as a group has to set the context of the overall relationship with China. Economic ties have grown deeper and wider and are projected to grow still further. With the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, total trade value should soon go beyond US$300 billion per year.
Two-way investment will also grow, with Beijing encouraging major Chinese enterprises to invest in ASEAN countries and look beyond mining and resources, at manufacturing and energy.
Third, ASEAN as a group must think not about only balancing power with power, even as they reach out to the US. While the US military presence has been a factor for stability, the urgent need is to develop norms and habits for peaceful cooperation.
ASEAN, with neither capacity nor ambition to military assertion, must develop itself as a normative power.
The South China Sea, and the overarching relationships between the group and China, will be a place to grow and test this potential for ASEAN.
Given the relative shift of growth and opportunity from the West, ties with China will grow more and more important. Given the rise of China, mental attitudes have to adjust to avoid the poles of fear and subservience.
The China-ASEAN relationship is too important and complex to be held captive to any single issue or the narrow interests of any one state.
Where differences exist, dialogue should not be stifled. But it is a conversation best guided by calm, context and norms, if not a shouting or potentially shooting contest may result.
ASEAN at the upcoming ARF must make efforts to calm the seas before anyone can usefully debate how to divide them.
The writer is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and the author of Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post Crisis Divide from America. The SIIA will convene the ASEAN and Asia Forum on Aug. 4 in Singapore. The forum will bring together leading thinkers in the fields of environment studies, politics and trade for a comprehensive discussion on the world's current energy and economic challenges
THE JAKARTA POST
INSTITUTIONAL REFORM: TODAY'S NEEDED NEXT-GENERATION REFORM
MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA
"Institutions are just institutions; marriage as an institution can prevent a breakup, but ultimately what matters is love. There must be a culture leading to a love of fiscal rectitude, and we're not there yet." (Carlo Cottarelli, the head of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department, on US fiscal discipline, IMF Survey online, April 18, 2011).
If there is one national history written with a golden ink that this current government can leave behind, it is institutional reform. Institutional reform is a part of behind-the-border reforms that must be prioritized following the economic liberalization, starting with investment liberalization in 1967 when foreign investments such as Freeport started to reach Indonesian soil. In fact, this is belated recognition.
Behind-the-border reforms and on-the-border reforms are in fact different sides of the same coin. However, economic liberalization in Indonesia has not been balanced by behind-the-border reforms.
One implication of this is a lagging national competitiveness and resilience. Indonesia should not be in hubris with her economic resilience during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Much of the resilience has been built up through a very painful structural reform during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. The decline in some tradable sectors due to the ACFTA is just a sign that behind-the-border reforms are needed, including institutional reforms.
Institutional reform is not only about washing out backhanders, but increasing economic incentives in our education system, making the business more climate friendly, and placing the checks-and-balances system to make public institutions and public officials accountable to people.
Furthermore, institutional reform is not only about rules and incentives but personal integrity (Basu, 2010) and "A love of rectitude" (Cottarrelli, 2011). Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the former finance minister, asserted that reforms must come from the people (Tempo, April 2011). Institutions are organs of a country through which she functions.
Hence, economic, political and social activities depend on them. Institutions are very close to the people's daily life and malfunctioning institutions are affecting directly the day-to-day activities.
Indonesia is often mocked as "a low middle-income country with high economic potential" that will always be "a low middle-income country with high economic potential" hundreds of years from now.
Institutional reforms are needed to graduate from a low middle-income country to a high-income country. Therein lies the rub. Institutional reform has pre-conditions to succeed. Sri Mulyani contended that "an effective and knowledgeable civil society" were "pre-conditions for the sustainability of reforms".
The endogeneity between institutions and people's welfare can trap Indonesia as a low middle-income country. Dixit (2008) called this a "middle-income trap" in which building up rule-based institutions is too expensive while relation-based institutions are no longer sustainable in a wider economic market.
The policy implication of this is that institutional reform must be hand-in-hand with educational reforms. Indonesia has a disappointing record in education: The highest share of no schooling, lowest percentage of tertiary education completion, and lowest average years of schooling out of the total population aged 15 and over, compared to South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, China and Thailand (Lipsey and Sjoholm, 2011).
Related to education, a recent study conducted by the Royal Society in London shows that among the G20 countries, Indonesia has the lowest (and a negative) annual growth in GDP spending on research and development between 1996 and 2007. ILO also recently voiced a concern about the lack of supply of skilled workers in an increasingly highly-specialized and skilled work demands in the service sectors.
Decentralized education budget seems to pose more threats than promises of reforms in the education sector. Economic incentives in the education sector need much room for improvement: A monthly pension of about Rp 3 million for a retired researcher working for more than 50 years at a prestigious state research institute seems to be a mockery at the importance of research and education.
Mapping out national priorities under the national, regional and global commitment, there are echoing agenda: Infrastructure-connectivity, food and energy security, inclusiveness, and green development. However, these key areas to support a quality growth need healthy institutions to function.
For example, the land acquisition bill reform needs to be passed in the case of infrastructure. Among the five structural reforms, namely regulatory reform, competition law, public sector governance/bureaucratic reforms, corporate governance and legal and economic infrastructures, as outlined in the APEC New Strategy on Structural Reforms, of which Indonesia is a member, regulatory reforms should be prioritized. Competition law was passed in 1999 and is being monitored by the Supervisory Commission of Business Competition (KPPU).
Corporate governance and legal and economic infrastructure follow much of the international standards, including the Basel standard. Law No. 25/2009, and the Presidential Regulation No.81/2010, on public sector governance and bureaucratic reforms have also been passed. But, regulatory reforms lag behind.
Institutional reforms will automatically lift up the Ease of Doing Business index, an indication of Indonesia's business competitiveness. Institutional reforms will also ensure that the pro-growth strategy internalizes other dimensions namely pro-poor, pro-employment and pro-environment.
For example, a better monitoring helps the current resource-dependent growth internalize the environmental costs, a better business environment helps the growth of manufacturing industries to create employment and a better public sector governance helps the provision of public good reach the poorest.
Otherwise, contradicting approaches to "pro-growth, pro-poor, pro-employment and pro-environment" strategies will continue to exist and hamper development.
Institutional reform should not be played down and should be made national priority if Indonesia is to succeed in the above mentioned key areas. One pre-condition of success is educational reform to create a vibrant civil society. But, this decision lies in the hands and hearts of the Indonesian people.
The writer is a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, and a lecturer at the School of Economics at the University of Indonesia.
THE JAKARTA POST
BERSIH 2.0 AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM HISTORY
DENNIS G. KLOETH
If history is anything to go by, then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak better understand that the riots of Saturday, July 9, were merely ringing the bell for the final round of a fight in Malaysia between "rulers" and the "common people". After decades of political suppression, the latter clearly aim at putting an end to a 54-year grip on power by the country's ruling party.
The start of democratization or the "Asian Spring", in all of Asia, perhaps, may be a foregone conclusion, but for governments such as the ones of Malaysia, Myanmar and China (to name just a few), history may well be their best teacher and advisor. Over the past 60 years, "people movements" around the world have proven to be an unbeatable force.
Going down the road of history, one could see that, in the 1960s, European students were setting up democratic movements. They were clearly dissatisfied with the world they inherited from their parents and in a bid to have "a say" in the way (their) universities were run and in support of the urban poor, in May 1968, they took to the streets.
The social unrest, ignited by the Paris Student Riots, brought a rather abrupt end to what seemed to be an unchallenged grip on power by Charles the Gaulle, who, so it seemed, by many in his Old Order clique were given a mandate to a presidency for life. In 1968, the people of France clearly triumphed!
The Spring of 1968 saw the birth of the US anti-War Movement in the US, a movement that actually organized its first rally in New York's Time Square on May 2, 1964. Eleven years later, in 1975, the Vietnam War ended in a rather embarrassing defeat of a seemingly unbeatable American army by (North) Vietnamese peasants. The people of (North) Vietnam clearly triumphed!
From 1922 until 1989, from Moscow, the Communist Party indirectly controlled all levels of government in the Soviet Union and as far as power is concerned, many parallels can be made with the current government that rules the waves in Malaysia, Myanmar and China.
On Jan. 5, 1968, in Czechoslovakia, reformist Alexander Dubéek came to power and demanded reforms that grant additional rights to the citizens in an act of partial decentralization of the economy and democratization.
The so called "Prague Spring" was the first ever attempt by "common people" that were ruled by the Soviets and the Communist Party to change their lives for the better. Soon, in other Soviet Union states too, opposition against the leadership in Moscow grew. In 1991, the Soviet leadership saw its wings severely clipped and the Soviet Union finally collapsed. People's power proved to be more powerful than feudal and power-hungry rulers. It truly is unbeatable.
In 1986, people's power in the Philippines brought to an end a long-lasting dictatorship and grip-on-power by Ferdinand Marcos. Seemingly untouchable, after more than two decades, the opposition – that came from "the people" and that worked for "the people" – took control over a new future. Marcos fled!
In May 1998 the unthinkable happened when, after more than three decades of iron grip, Indonesia's strongman Soeharto fell. After more than three decades, the people of Indonesia finally had stood up and had spoken. Now it was Indonesia's turn for chance into a democracy.
Although, today, struggling with its new found status and having to deal with severe forms of corruption and political weakness of its leaders, Indonesia is now recognized as a democracy and an economic "powerhouse" and here too, overnight, people's power turned out to be able to change the course of history.
In November 2010 and under pressure from the majority of "descent" people of this world, the military junta in Burma (Myanmar) signed an order authorizing the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who, for more than 15 years, was detained in a bid to prevent the "common people" from having a voice and from interfering in the military's murky policies of suppression that are aimed at acquiring even more power and more wealth. Myanmarese surely are nearing their goal of being freed from military rule.
More recently, the first month of 2011 brought to light social unrest and anti-government protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, three Arabian countries that for decades were ruled by feudal and unscrupulous and corrupt leaders and their families and cronies, who were holding on to power by the formation of security rings close to their palace grounds. In many Arab states, the common people are gradually gaining ground in their battle for a better life and future.
Although brought to politics (and power) by huge sums of money and on the back of existing electoral pockets that are faithful to her brother Thaksin, by way of General Elections Yingluck Shinawatra stands the chance to prove her weight in gold as Thailand's next Prime Minister.
Whatever Yingluck's political future may be, at least the people of Thailand were given a chance to speak up and vote for the person they seem to trust. Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gracefully congratulated Yingluck, and the defense minister said that the army accepted the result. So far, In Thailand, democracy and the common people clearly triumphed!
Actually, the latest elections in Singapore (May 2011) are the clearest example of how a "ruling party" can gracefully accept "power sharing". The Island State elections clearly have shown a shift away from the ruling PAP (People's Action Party) party in favor of a growing opposition block. With 60.1 percent of the votes, it was the PAP's worst election outcome since Singapore became independent in 1965.
However, the gracious manner in which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reached out to the opposition and realistically addressed issues related to the party's decline in popularity, shows a great sense of intelligence as well as a sense of reality and commitment and holds a promise for the betterment of all Singapore people, regardless of political preference.
Not only from history can Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak learn a lot about the lurking danger of not willing "to share power", but certainly can he learn a lot about grace and dignity from the man whose party led Singapore from the day of its independence, that, by the way, resulted from Singapore's expulsion from Malaysia and only after social unrest blossomed and eventually created disputes between the PAP and the powerful Alliance Party, then Malaysia's strongest (ruling) political party.
Surely, like with Singapore, Prime Minister Najib Razak is not in the position of giving the Bersih 2.0 movement "a piece of land" and allow it to break away to become a "second" Singapore. Times have changed and the Bersih 2.0 movement finds rooting in all levels of Malaysian society.
With the founding of this movement, the unthinkable reality of "power sharing" for the Malaysian government has come to be an (unthinkable) fact from which there is no escape. It merely is the beginning of the end of a 54-year grip on power.
The author is a writer and a journalist in Indonesia.
THE JAKARTA POST
REDD+: A PATHWAY TO PROSPERITY
WAHJUDI WARDOJO AND GREG FISHBEIN
In September 2009, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono committed Indonesia to a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and up to a 41 percent reduction with international assistance, while growing the economy at 7 percent per year at the same time.
As emissions from forests and peatland forests account for more than 60 percent of Indonesia's overall emissions, the concept of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is gaining traction as a critical effort to meet these goals.
REDD+, simply stated, is a government-led program of policies and incentives that protect and enhance natural forests, while supporting the country's overall economic development goals. The President has assigned top government officials to lead this effort, donor countries have committed over a US$1 billion to the cause, and in May 2011 the President signed a two-year moratorium on the conversion of primary forests to commercial activities.
As these REDD+ efforts gain steam, a debate is emerging over their impacts on the Indonesian economy and the prosperity of businesses and communities that work in the forest. How, some ask, can we protect forests, and at the same time allow vital industries like timber products and oil palm to flourish?
How will we create jobs and wealth for the Indonesian people? How can Indonesia meet the President's "7/41" growth and emission targets? These are all excellent questions. In fact, REDD+ will not only accommodate the growth of these critical industries, it has the potential to accelerate growth and prosperity in Indonesia. Three key points to keep in mind.
First, REDD+ is not about slowing growth, but about growing in a smarter way that minimizes impacts on the forest. For example, emerging research by The Nature Conservancy in East Kalimantan indicates that with better logging practices, timber concessions can reduce their forest impact and carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent without reducing jobs and the volume of timber produced.
This is achieved through better forest management planning, the use of narrower logging roads and skid trails, and more sophisticated felling practices. Another example – Indonesia has approximately 35 million hectares of degraded land that could be used to expand oil palm, fast growing tree plantations and other agricultural industries, instead of clearing native forest.
Training timber companies on reduced impact logging and preparing degraded lands for production will take money, but these are precisely the types of investments that international REDD+ funding is intended for.
Second, REDD+ will enhance Indonesia's international competitiveness and access to markets. Global consumers, corporations and governments are increasingly insisting on a legal and sustainable supply of forest products, oil palm, beef, seafood and other commodities. The US Lacey Act prohibits importation of products derived from illegally harvested timber.
Global corporations like Walmart and McDonald's are adopting socially and environmentally sustainable purchasing practices.
And the government of Indonesia and the European Commission recently completed negotiations on an agreement to promote legally harvested and sustainable timber in Indonesia, and to improve the attractiveness of Indonesian timber products in the European market.
Through REDD+, Indonesia has an opportunity to become a global leader on sustainability. Indeed, without improved spatial planning and production practices, Indonesia may lose access to key markets in the coming years.
Finally, REDD+ will ensure that Indonesia improves its natural resource management and maintains clean water, clean air and other benefits of healthy forests, which are vital to long-term national prosperity.
Rapid, poorly planned economic growth will compromise these important natural services. We all have seen, for example, how the harmful haze generated from burning forests can impact Indonesian prosperity and compromise relationships with neighboring countries.
REDD+ is particularly critical for the local communities that live in forested areas, and are most impacted by industrial expansion in rural areas. A more sustainable approach will help these communities maintain healthy forests and the associated clean air and water, while benefiting from growing economic opportunities.
The Nature Conservancy is working with district, provincial, and national governments, timber and oil palm companies, and local communities in the District of Berau, East Kalimantan to test this green development approach through a practical, on-the-ground example.
The Berau Forest Carbon Program will demonstrate how REDD+ can support long-term sustainable growth, create jobs, protect forests, and reduce carbon emissions, while providing a model for economic development for Indonesia and beyond.
So, indeed, the President's commitment to reduce emissions 26 percent to 41 percent while sustaining 7 percent annual growth is attainable. However, considerable hard work lies ahead to make this vision a reality. Over the coming years, Indonesia will need to reform its historical spatial planning and industrial practices, and transition toward a new green development model, funded in part through international REDD funding.
More immediately, a permanent REDD+ Agency needs to be established that is independent of existing line ministries. REDD+ is a complex issue beyond the purview of any one ministry, and the new agency is needed to play the critical role of leading and coordinating the national REDD+ strategy across the whole government. Together, governments, NGOs, businesses, and the public need to get behind Indonesia's ambitious yet critically important green development goals to put the country on a pathway to prosperity.
Wahjudi Wardojo is Senior Advisor on International Forest Carbon Policy for The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia and Greg Fishbein is the Managing Director for Forest Carbon for The Nature Conservancy in Washington, DC.
India, has once been referred to by the President as "our relative" while China is a friend. And though India is to some extent once again meddling in Lanka's internal affairs and while there are certainly several issues relating to the minority communities in Sri Lanka, many political observers would readily agree that neighbouring India is much more interested in its own status, economic and defence problems than it really is about a poor Tamil in Sri Lanka.
As for Sri Lanka, a change has occurred in the balance of power backing Sri Lanka i.e. China replacing the US led West as the post 1977 regional power balance.
The 1977 the pro Western policies of late President J.R.Jayewardene irked the then Indian Premier Indira Gandhi. This led to India covertly backing the armed conflict in the north. However thereafter even without India's backing this situation continued for almost thirty years and was brought to an end only by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
But globally a lot has changed during these three decades. The Cold War ended. USSR (for the uninitiated the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) disintegrated. The world has now become uni-polar with the US as the only super power (with ofcourse its cohorts the Western European countries). India was backed by USSR at that time and India had always been nervous about US and the West in general. It is still is with Diego
Garcia as a military US base in the Southern Indian Ocean. But now China is rivalling the West and this has complicated the globalised
world. While the world still remain unipolar, China has emerged as a possible contender to the US.
China is now a "friend" of Sri Lanka and India still remains a "relative". But unlike the US led West of the 1980s, China is more dangerous to India than to the West. Tables have changed now and India with its ambition of being the Indian Ocean Police has a complicated relationship with the US and its allies, Russia.
Coming to the main point basically what determines Sri Lanka is its geography. Sri Lanka's turmoil is pivoted on that and this makes geopolitics more important than anything else for Sri Lanka. As such Sri Lanka should and must consider this important factor seriously if it wants stability.
Meanwhile, the President has his own Aegean Stable to clean. Factors like Sinhala only etc has a lesser impact than they had three decaded ago when opportunities were less and the economies were closed and inward looking. But the Tamils and Tamil speaking Muslims today need a dignity and peace in their life. The President should make them feel at home. Whether the PC police force is national or not the Sri Lankan State needs to include more Tamils and Muslims in the State machinery.
China, the US led West, and stupidly naïve Sri Lankan diaspora or India are not sincerely concerned about Sri Lanka or the Tamils; neither should they have to. But the President must. The issue at hand is not merely international or regional politics, it is about the ordinary Sri Lankans and their peaceful everyday life that is important.
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.
BY PATALI CHAMPIKA RANAWAKA
Minister of Power & Energy
It is true that a power crisis has emerged. This information is given to the general public by the people with knowledge, people without knowledge as well as the people who wish to distort the truth. People get confused and worried with the wrong understanding of the facts. As usual the Minister of Power & Energy is pointed by the media, cartoonists and also the politicians. Therefore, I decided to relate my story.
It is true that there were some unscheduled power cuts in different places of the country. Usually power is interrupted in two ways. The first one is the pre-informed scheduled interruptions for urgent maintenance work and the second one is the power intrruptions and failures which take places from time to time due to accidents. There are over 1000 like these incidents island wide in a day. The majority of them is in the medium sized incidents.
However, this time there was a power interruption of the third category. Unscheduled power interruptions, this was due to the non - functioning of five power plants in the country including the two main thermal power plants (Lakvijaya- Puttalam and Yugadhanavi-Kerawalapitiya). If these five power plants are duly operated, we can cover 40%-50% from our electricity requirements. We severely felt the weakening of the power plants due to the limitation of electricity generation caused by the shortage of hydro power. The capacities of water levels in the reservoirs were reduced to 20%. The water levels of Castlereagh (7%) and Maussakele (14%) are coming down to unusable limits for electricity generation. Due to this reason, hydro power which could provide up to 35%-45% from the electricity consumption was restricted. The eventual result is the breakdown of the electricity system failing to meet the demand. Therefore the CEB was compelled to curtail electricity in different areas to prevent this situation. Finally, with the gradual restoration of Kerawalapitiya and Puttalam thermal power plants, the system returned back to its normalcy. The unscheduled power cuts in different parts of the country were controlled. This was not a long term issue as some people predicted, but just a temporary problem; an emergency situation from 1st June to 9th June. If this happened in the past, there would be continuous power cuts until the rains are received. This time we were able to provide electricity using thermal power. If thermal power plants work properly we are able to provide electricity continuously at this level. The CEB endeavours to perform its responsibility. In order to realise this crisis, we should understand the electricity consumption in the country along with its consumption pattern.
Usually, the total electricity consumption in the country is around 25-35 GWhs per day. On a sunny hot day as the use of air conditioners and water is high this is increased up to 34 GWh. The electricity consumption on holidays, cold and rainy days it comes down to 25 GWh. accordingly. The first challenge is to maintain the energy supply of 25-35 GWh throughout the day. The demand occurred in a moment (power) is also important. This is low as 800 MW from 10.00 pm to 04.00 am. In the day time office and factory times (08.30 am- 04.30 pm), this fluctuates up to 1500 MW. Between 06.30 pm and 09.30 pm this is increased up to a maximum level of 1900 MW. Therefore, the second important point is to supply this maximum power demand.
This pattern changes within the year too. In the festival times (January- April) and in the hot weather (February – May) the electricity demand goes up and in the cold times it comes down.
If the power supply is not organized with a proper understanding on the daily and annually pattern, it is inevitable that problems arise.
Generally, the main hydro power stations (Laxapana – Mahaweli complex) of the CEB has a capacity of 1200 MW, if the water level is satisfactory 45% from the electricity demand and if in a year with droughts 30% could be provided with them.
In the context of thermal power stations, CEB owns five main power stations with a 750MW of capacity and out of them the Lakvijaya power station has a 285 MW of capacity and if it functions properly they could provide 20% from the annual demand of the country. There are nine power stations owned by the private sector and they have a capacity of 710 MW. Out of them three power stations (Yugadhanavi, Lakdhanavi, Heladhanavi -392 MW) are belonging various Companies of CEB owned Company called Lanka Transformers Ltd. Kerawalapitiya Yugadhanavi power plant is operated with special liquid fuel and when it generates electricity properly, it could provide 20% from the electricity requirement of the country.
In addition, there are 94 mini hydro power stations (170MW) and 03 wind power plants (30 MW). Accordingly, the total capacity of the country (except for Jaffna) is around 2860MW. As the maximum capacity required by the country is 1900 MW, this is a very good situation. In this scenario, we cannot see a possibility of power crisis.
What really happened?
In the first half of this year (2011) heavy rains were recorded. Until June last year, 2146 GWh has flowed to our reservoirs. (In 2010 only 1767 GWh flowed). Further, the year too began with a successful initial storage of 1100 GWh. As a result, our reservoirs were able to produce 2900 GWh in the first half of the year. Generally, from April to the end of July rain comes with the South-West monsoons but this time the rain was less. For instance, when the month of June is considered generally for a 30 year average Castlereagh receives 631mm of rains, but this time it was limited to 230mm. Though Maussakale should usually receive 530mm of rains but it received only 170mm. The Meteorology Department is also of the opinion that generally South - west monsoon rain is reduced by around 70%.
Some questions why the CEB couldn't save water. When considering Laksapana and Mahaweli Complex, the consumption of water is carried out in three ways. First is the drinking water requirement (major source is the Kelani river). The second is agricultural requirement (major source is Mahaweli river). The water is released for hydro power generation only after fulfilling the above requirements. Further, in the first week of June the South - West monsoons became active and reservoirs were too prepared for that. What has happened now is that the condition of the monsoon is totally changed. Now it rains in the dry season (January - March) and it is dry in the rainy season (April - July). Similarly, the forest cover which is the natural coverage to protect the water potential is also destroyed. This is the major factor for water shortage. This irregular nature of rains and draught will be severe in the future. If the country doesn't plan a long term programme to conserve water and climate change related water stresses. We will have to face a severe shortage of water for drinking, agricultural and power generation purposes and also to disasters caused by floods.
With the shortage of water, mini hydro power too is limited. The only alternation left is the thermal power. The CEB and the private sector had a capacity of around 1460 MW and it was sufficient to generate electricity during the whole 20 hours expect 6 p.m. to10 p.m. Similarly, those power stations could provide 28 - 30 GWh per day.
If that was the case, the whole energy could be obtained by thermal power plants by limiting the hydro electricity for 4 hours at night peak.
Why it did not happen that way?
It is because that five thermal power plants became idle. Puttalam Lakvijaya (285 MW), Kerawapitiya Yugadhanavi (270 MW), Kelanitissa JBIC combined Cycle (165 MW), Kelanitissa GT7 open cycle Gas turbine (115 MW) and Embilipitiya ACE Power (100 Mw) were tose five Power Stations.
Under these circumstances, it is not possible for the power system at all to provide its maximum capacity (1900 MW) or daily electricity requirement (35 GWh). There is a risk of collapsing the whole system owing to this pressure on the other machines (an incident similar to this took place on the New Year festival day on 13th of April 2007). Owing to this requirement, the CEB Control room had to disconnect the electricity in different areas from time to time randomly.
However, after the Yougadhanavi Power plant –Kerawalapitiya and the Lakvijaya Power Plant- Puttalam came to their normal operations on June 6 and June 9 respectively, the unstable situation that prevailed for June 01 to June 9 ended. As the government has constructed new power stations after the year 2005, we have been able to avert possible power cuts even during the dry seasons unlike in the past. If Yugadanavi (2010) Lakwijaya (2011) are not there at least 8-10 hour permanent power cuts should be scheduled and imposed like in 1995-2005.
The UNP – PA governments delayed the constructions of coal power plants or huge hydro power projects to satisfy various political groups and the International Monetary Establishments from 1990. The eventual result was the power crisis emerged in 1996. Thereafter, the purchase of thermal power from the private sector began. It paved the way to the CEB financial crisis. There is no joke like this as the people who destroyed the electricity sector technically and financially now give their voice on a power crisis.
Even if the electricity could be generated with thermal power (diesel and furnace oil), it is very expensive. We obtain the lowest cost thermal power from Horana ACE Power and it costs Rs. 14.86 per unit when it reaches the consumer. The highest cost of thermal power we receive from Aggreco Ltd Jaffna and it costs us Rs. 31.61. In general the thermal power unit from the private sector costs us Rs. 18.96 in 2010. The cost of electricity unit in the Kelanitissa GT 7 Power station is Rs. 48.98. In return, we sell unit of this electricity at Rs. 13.00
In that manner with every thermal power unit, the CEB incurs a loss of Rs.6.00. So, if 6000 million of thermal power units are annually generated (the whole of demand will be around 10000 million units.) Annual loss is 36 billion rupees.
At last this becomes a burden on the public. In the other way round, respectively it would be Rs.3.57 and Rs.4.29 from hydro-electric units such as Laksapana, Mahaweli. Generally a unit of hydro-electricity is Rs.4.84 (when considered the power plants including Samanala). Accordingly, from every hydro-electric unit a saving of Rs.8.00 is gained it should be noted that now daily loss incurred to CEB is around rupees 120 million. In future, the price of fuel would be further high; therefore generating electricity using fuel would also be a very expensive task.
The Price of coal which is considered as low is also going up. In 1990, unit of electricity produced with coal (only energy cost – except for capital expense) was 18 cents. In 2000, it became 90 cents. In 2010 it was Rs.6.00. Now in 2011 it has become Rs.10.71. Accordingly, by 2020 it will be around Rs.35 – 45. As a result even if everyone is supplied by electricity at time, all of us should keep in mind that the era of cheap electricity is over.
In this endeavour, the contribution by public is also necessary.. That is the saving of electricity. Especially, during 6.00 – 10.00 p.m. avoid the use of water pumps, washing machines, Irons and use them at different times. As refrigerator is the main consumer of electricity, switching it off if for 2 – 3 hours will not affect the food items at all. As Air conditioners consume a huge amount of electricity, economical use of them is really essential. In addition, you all can contribute to this effort by limiting the street lamps of municipal councils, and Pradesiya Sabhas from 7.00 p.m. – 5.00 a.m. and also by limiting the use of electricity to light the advertisements etc.
The floods and the droughts resulted by the shortage of oil, coal and gas and the climatic changes would be the burning issues of the world in the future. If Sri Lanka is not well prepared for this situation, the future of the country would be very dull even if it has many power stations.
BY BILL TARRANT
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad sits at a vast desk cluttered with work, hands clasped before him and looking at his visitors with a slight smile.
Dr. M, as he is popularly known, was prime minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, the first commoner to ever hold the post in a land with nine sultans. His demeanour suggests the country physician he once was, ready with a frank diagnosis — and in his first interview with the foreign media in five years, he doles out prescriptions for what ails his nation.
The man who made Malaysia part of the "East Asia Miracle" with a massive inflow of foreign direct investment doesn't think much of it today. The former miracle economy, now a muddle, needs a new policy direction, he says in his office in Putrajaya, the administrative capital he built on old plantation land in the 1990s.
"We should not be too dependent on FDI anymore," says Mahathir. "We've come to the stage when locals can invest. They have now the capital. They have the technology. They know the market. And I think they can manage big industries." His thinking is at odds with government policy. But it gets to the heart of a debate over the future of Malaysia, a former emerging market star now in danger of becoming an also-ran, stuck in the dreaded "middle income trap."
Foreign investment has been dwindling since the onset of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. Capital outflows have even exceeded inflows in four of the past five years. This has been accompanied by an alarming "brain drain" of emigres voting with their feet against Malaysia's prospects.
Malaysia is counting on foreign investment to provide a quarter of the investments needed to fund projects under its "Economic Transformation Programme," which aims to turn the country of 28 million into a fully developed nation by 2020.
The challenge is vastly more complicated by the exodus of talent that hits directly at Malaysia's aspiration to become a high-income nation focused on knowledge-based industries.
"For Malaysia to stand successful in its journey to high income, it will need to develop, attract and retain talent," the World Bank said in a March report. "Brain drain does not appear to square with this objective: Malaysia needs talent, but talent seems to be leaving."
The rise of China and India in the region has overshadowed the export-dependent "Tiger Cub" economies of Southeast Asia, all struggling with their own reforms. Thailand has been at a dangerous political impasse for six years. Indonesia is consistently ranked as among the world's most corrupt countries. The Philippines is battling long-running insurgencies.
Yet Malaysia does not compare well with its peers in the eyes of investors. A March report by Bank of America's Merrill Lynch ranked Malaysia the second least popular market after Colombia among global emerging market fund managers and tied with India for least favourite among Asia-Pacific managers.
A chief difficulty is the nation's balky affirmative action programme.
Ethnic Chinese account for most of the brain drain. The reason 60 percent of them gave for why they moved out of the motherland was "social injustice", a World Bank survey says.
They are referring to the "Bumiputra" (sons of the soil) policy that discriminates against Chinese and Indians, who account for a third of the population, in favour of majority Malays for all kinds of things — places in universities, jobs, shares in companies, home mortgages, government contracts. The government acknowledges the policy.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has launched a new edition of the policy called the New Economic Model that is meant to correct the inequities, mainly by making preferences need-based and not race-based. But as the World Bank report noted, "limited headway has been made on this front."
It is certainly not popular with the rank and file Malays in Najib's UMNO party.
Making significant reforms to the system is crucial to Malaysia's aspirations, but any rollback of privileges for the majority is a big political risk for any government that tries it.
It is the Malaysian dilemma.
GULF DAILY NEWS
ARABS DISLIKE OBAMA EVEN MORE THAN BUSH
BY DR JAMES ZOGBY PRESIDENT
A FEW months back I had a quick exchange with President Barack Obama about America's standing in the Arab world.
When I mentioned we would be conducting a poll to assess Arab attitudes two years after his Cairo speech, he said he expected the ratings would be quite low and remain low until the US could help find a way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Well, the results are in and the president was right. In our survey of more than 4,000 Arabs from Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, we found favourable attitudes towards the US had declined sharply since our last poll, conducted in 2009 after Obama's first 100 days in office.
Back then, Arabs were hopeful he would bring needed change to the US-Arab relationship and the early steps by his administration reinforced this view. As a result, favourable attitudes towards the US climbed significantly from Bush-era lows.
But as our respondents made clear in this year's survey, those expectations have not been met and US favourable ratings in most Arab countries have fallen to levels lower than they were in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration.
In Morocco, for example, positive attitudes towards the US went from 26 per cent in 2008 to a 55pc in 2009. Today, they have fallen to 12pc. The story was much the same in Egypt, where the rating went from 9pc in 2008 to 30pc in 2009 and has now plummeted to 5pc.
A review of the poll's other results makes it clear that the continuing occupation of Palestinian lands is seen by most Arabs as both the main "obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East" and "the most important issue for the US to address to improve its ties with the Arab world".
That Palestine trumps all other issues measured in the survey throws cold water on the wishful thinking of analysts in the US and Israel, who want to imagine that, in the context of this "Arab Spring", Arabs now feel "that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not as central to their lives as they were led to believe" (Bechor, Yedioth Ahronoth, July 14, 2011).
What our respondents tell us is the second highest ranking "obstacle to peace and stability" is "US interference in the Arab world", which explains why the US role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya is neither viewed favourably in most countries, nor seen as improving Arab attitudes towards America.
In fact, when presented with several countries and asked to evaluate whether or not each of them plays a constructive role "in promoting peace and stability in the Arab world", eight in 10 Arabs give a negative assessment to the US role - rating it significantly lower than France, Turkey, China, and, in four of six Arab countries, even lower than Iran!
This is sobering news that should send a strong signal to all Americans and serve as a check on the reckless behaviour of lawmakers.
For example, when Congress invites the Israeli Premier to give an address that challenges and insults the president - and then gives the foreign leader repeated standing ovations - they are telling Arabs that America can't and won't play a constructive peacemaking role.
And when Congress continues to obstruct diplomacy and supports bills cutting much-needed assistance programmes for the Palestinians, Lebanon, and Egypt, they are sending Arabs the wrong message at the wrong time.
If anything, the results of this latest poll demonstrate how precarious the US position is in the Middle East and how important it has become for US policy-makers to pay attention to what Arabs are saying to us.
GULF DAILY NEWS
MACDONALD ON MONDAY
There is something deeply hypocritical about Republicans in the US Senate refusing to allow President Barack Obama to raise the country's borrowing limit above $14.3 trillion.
The reason that the US is so deeply in debt, and let us remember it was a net lender rather than a borrower as recently as the mid-1960s, has nothing to do with Mr Obama's ambitions or policies.
It was George W Bush who took the word trillion out of the sphere of astrophysics and put it into the financial lexicon.
Under the last Democrat administration Bill Clinton all but balanced the national budget.
Then along came Bush the younger who promised lower taxes, smaller government and less spending.
He then hawked the US family silver to finance two unnecessary wars that can't be won and cut taxation for the richest Americans before presiding over the partial nationalisation of the nation's finance industry in the wake of the financial meltdown in the US.
To be fair that catastrophe was more to do with Ronald Reagan and his deregulation of the industry back in the 1980s. But it is still an issue where blame must rest fairly and squarely with the Republicans.
Last month I was asked to speak to a few financial experts about the effect a US default on its debt would have on Bahrain after one ratings agency said this was a possibility and may result in a downgrade of US bonds.
Not surprisingly most people I spoke to did not wish to comment on a scenario that they believed was not a possibility.
The closest I got to an answer was that a default by the US would not affect Bahrain.
What would affect Bahrain, I was assured, would be the global financial Armageddon that such a default would cause across the entire world economy.
We now have three rating agencies saying the US may well lose its AAA rating on its debt even if there is no default, though why anyone continues to put much store by rating agencies, given their performance of totally missing the 2007 financial crisis, beggars belief.
The bottom line is that hypocritical Republicans are just trying a Mexican stand-off to get President Obama to cut his budget spending.
The worst case scenario is that the Senate would hold off agreeing to an increase in borrowing above the current level for a couple of days beyond the August 2 deadline.
But when public sector workers started to get laid off because the government could not pay their wages they would crumble and agree to the borrowing.
Laying off millions of government employees at a time when unemployment is at record levels and the economy is sluggish is not a passport to electoral success for the senators.
Interestingly, while the rating agencies are threatening to downgrade US bonds, investors are by and large very bullish on them.
Since February the returns of 10-year bonds has fallen from 3.5 per cent to 3pc and people are still buying them.
This is probably because most European bonds do not look all that great at the moment.
Which brings us to Greece and why its problems are a lot different to those in the US.
The US currently has no problems servicing its debts and no problem raising money on the debt markets.
If it defaulted, which it will not, it would send the global economy into the biggest recession in history.
Americans would stop buying cheap Chinese exports and Japanese cars, causing mass unemployment in both those countries.
With the US default there would be an immediate fall in the value of the US dollar which would make imports far more expensive while at the same time making US manufacturing much more competitive.
But the bottom line is that the US is not in the euro and, if push came to shove, the US could pay off its entire $14.3trn of debts tomorrow.
It would not have to go cap in hand to the European Central Bank or knock on the door of the International Monetary Fund.
The US Treasury could, if it wished simply print $14.3trn and post it off to the Chinese and the various financial institutions who have been funding Bush's wars.
Such a move is unthinkable because of the mayhem it would create across the world economy, but if it is an unacceptable option it remains an option.
Greece is in no such position.
Greece, because it gave up the drachma, is not in a position to print money or to offset its debts by allowing its currency to devalue.
Importantly, unlike the US, Greece does not have the kind of economy that, even with massive spending cuts, will ever be able to pay off its debts.
Indeed while the cost for the US to borrow on global markets has been falling, in spite of a supposed crisis, the cost of borrowing for Greece has been rising steeply.
The real difference between the US and Greece is that if the Greeks do default, and I am convinced that they will have to at some point in the not too distant future, the fallout globally would be minimum.
If they defaulted tomorrow it would put a lot of pressure on the Irish and Portuguese economies and put some pressure on the euro.
But if they stagger along for six months or a year, giving those two countries time to get their finances in order then a default followed by a return to the drachma would hardly be a world shattering event.
Russia managed to default back in 1998 and far from that being a disaster Russia is now seen as one of the countries, along with India, China and Brazil, which will dominate the global economy in the second half of this century.
Watch this space!
It is now 50 years since the Soviet Union managed to put the first cosmonaut into space when Yuri Gagarin managed to circle the earth for just over 100 minutes.
I remember this well because within hours of the news being broadcast on the radio the message was getting garbled and most of us kids at Riddrie Primary School were under the impression that spacemen had arrived from Mars rather than just one having taken off from Russia.
Not to be outdone the US, who had been playing catch up in rocket technology, lobbed Alan Shepard into space a month later, though he was only up for about 15 minutes.
But since then the US has been pretty much in the forefront of space travel whether it be landing men on the moon, vehicles on Mars or sending rockets all the way to Jupiter.
Now, after half of a century of domination in space, all that has changed.
With the final flight of the Space Shuttle the US can no longer send anyone into space without hitching a lift on a Russian space launcher.
It would appear that Russia is now the only country that can fly men across the solar system.
I wonder if this says anything about the US's slow demise from its once dominant position as the world's most rich and powerful nation?
- Arthur Macdonald
GULF DAILY NEWS
IT'S NOW TIME TO SHOW MATURITY
BY C MOORE
So here we are, more than a week into the National Dialogue and our friends at the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society still haven't stormed out yet."
Well, that was how this column was going to start a week ago, but that is sadly no longer the case.
The fact they were at the National Dialogue in the first place should be applauded - not only because it took them over four months to get there, but because the only way out of the mess they helped create is to get everyone around the table to talk.
But the most casual observer could have written the script for Al Wefaq's dramatic walkout even before its members took offence at comments made by their old enemy, MP Jassim Al Saeedi, last Tuesday.
I'm not here to defend Al Saeedi, a firebrand whose cousin was killed by anti-government factions in the 1990s.
But I do think an opposition organisation like Al Wefaq should have a much thicker skin.
After all, the National Dialogue is not only about mapping out a new political landscape for Bahrain, although Al Wefaq - which was already skipping sessions focusing on social and economic issues because it didn't view them as important - seems to think it is.
It is, in fact, an opportunity for people from all walks of life to have their say on key issues connected to Bahrain's future, as well as an important part of the healing process that this country must go through - and that may well include the occasional bust-up.
I personally don't care what they talk about at the National Dialogue. The fact that people are talking is enough for me, especially when I think back to March, when the tension was so thick you could cut it with a sword.
That's why Al Wefaq needs to swallow its pride, just as Al Saeedi must too, and come out to play its role.
However, my own suspicion is that Al Wefaq doesn't really want the process to work.
Its "will they, won't they" approach to deciding whether to take part in the National Dialogue this time round appeared to be more a reflection of divisions within the organisation itself than brinkmanship, as seemed to be the case in February and March.
If it couldn't agree sooner on such an important subject - despite claiming to represent so many people - how could it ever function in a democratic government?
In addition, the political opposition in Bahrain made a huge miscalculation when it took to the streets to demand the toppling of the regime.
Instead of stirring up support for the revolution from those on the sidelines, it woke up a whole new generation - generations even - of Bahrainis who simply did not agree with them.
Bahrainis who had probably never even voted before are now demanding a say in their country's future and, suddenly, Al Wefaq can no longer claim to represent "the people" - at least not in the way they did.
Meanwhile, its old foes in the Al Asala and Al Menbar camps, both Sunni Islamist groups, have been absorbed by the much punchier Abdullatif Al Mahmood and his National Unity Assembly - which is now ready to take on the US single-handed, let alone Shaikh Ali Salman and his boys.
Watching from the stands, it would appear that Al Wefaq might have bitten off more than it could chew.
Throw in the fact that a huge chunk of the population simply don't trust the organisation or agree with it, you have to wonder how democracy can succeed unless Al Wefaq starts respecting the views of others.
Its leaders claim they do not follow orders from Iran and do not want to turn Bahrain into an Islamic state, but is the organisation prepared to sever its ties with religious leaders abroad?
Al Wefaq has already stopped Shi'ite women getting increased rights in domestic courts (otherwise known as Sharia or Islamic courts) because they couldn't approve it without permission from Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani in Iraq.
In the system of constitutional monarchy that Al Wefaq is pushing for, I'm afraid the Grand Ayatollah shouldn't be getting any phone calls asking if it's OK to pass laws that directly affect Bahraini people.
Al Wefaq is an Islamist group and no amount of pandering to the Western media should disguise that fact.
And if its brand of democracy is one that denies rights to women, while its men stage walkouts every time they get upset, I'm afraid it's time Al Wefaq grew up.
Jassim Al Saeedi would do well to follow the same advice.
HOW THE ARAB WORLD LOST SOUTHERN SUDAN
BY LAMIS ANDONI
The division of Sudan into two states is a dangerous precedent. The Arab world has to draw the right lessons from if it wants to avoid the break-up of other Arab states into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.
The birth of South Sudan is first and foremost a testimony to the failure of the official Arab order, pan-Arabism, and especially the Islamic political projects to provide civic and equal rights to ethnic and religious minorities in the Arab world.
The jubilation that swept the people of southern Sudan at their independence from the predominantly Arab and Muslim north attests to the long-standing feelings of repression and alienation by a people, the majority of whom were born into the post-independence Arab world.
Granted, British rule planted the seeds of ethnic and religious divisions in Sudan and elsewhere in the Arab world. Western and Israeli intervention have played crucial roles in fueling secessionist trends in southern Sudan, and stand to benefit the most from the division of the country.
Avi Dichter, Israel's former interior security minister, once said: ""We had to weaken Sudan and deprive it of the initiative to build a strong and united state. That is necessary for bolstering and strengthening Israel's national security. We produced and escalated the Darfur crisis to prevent Sudan from developing its capabilities.""
But the Arab world cannot simply explain secession as a product of a Western-Israeli conspiracy.
If anything, it is the repressive regime in Sudan, combined with an incompetent and corrupt official Arab order, that drove legitimately disaffected people in southern Sudan into Western and even Israeli arms seeking independence from a failing Arab world.
Intellectuals in the Arab world should not comfort themselves by pointing - even though rightly so - to Western hypocrisy and double standards in supporting, embracing and recognizing the new state of South Sudan while effectively blocking the emergence of an independent Palestinian state.
South Sudan, with its capital in Juba, is the world's newest country Arabs should look at their serious blunders and moral failures by facing the fact that the South Sudanese are an oppressed people whose grievances were against Arab rule and not against Western domination. It is true that the people of South Sudan may still find themselves prey to greedy Western governments interested in their rich natural resources, but that does not change the reality that people of the new state celebrated the end of what they viewed as oppression by an Arab and Muslim elite.
Whether the leaders of the new state will prove less repressive and less corrupt than the Khartoum government - and there are indications that they may disappoint their people on both counts - is at the moment irrelevant considering what secession itself says about the Arab world.
The unwillingness of the Arab leadership in Sudan to embrace a very rich, diverse culture that connects the Arab world with Africa underscores the urgency of reconsidering not only the Arab political systems, as the Arab Spring has done, but also the failure of prevailing political ideologies and political parties to adequately address the rights of ethnic and religious sects and groups.
The pan-Arab nationalist movement proved to be less capable of dealing with ethnic minorities and nationalities than with religious minorities. Pan-Arabism as an ideology did not condone sectarianism, and was never an exclusively Muslim school of thought. While rooted and influenced by the predominantly Muslim culture, it was secular in orientation and did not differentiate between existing religions in the Arab world. In fact, some of its most prominent founders and thinkers were Arab Christians, mostly from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt.
But while pan-Arabism was initially an anti-colonial movement, some of its branches - especially the Ba'ath Arab parties that ruled Syria and Iraq - demonstrated and practiced destructive chauvinist policies and actions against other ethnic groups and nationalities. The case of the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq testify to different degrees of exclusivist, supremacist and racist policies by both Ba'athist political parties.
Hence the influence of pan-Arab nationalism on the political culture has not always been positive. Instead, it has actually created racist and chauvinist attitudes that obstructed serious condemnation and criticism of the way the national Sudanese government in the North dealt with the people of the South.
However, the post-independence regime in Sudan had never become part of the pan-Arab project, as it was mostly influenced and even led by the strong Islamist movement there.
It is also true that the Sudan case is not a model of an Islamic rule that many Islamists might be advocating, and many would argue that it contradicted the tolerance upon which an Islamic system is meant to be based. But it is a case in which an Islamic movement had the opportunity to create an Islamic model of inclusion and peace, and failed miserably.
In Sudan in particular, these ailments have finally led to its breakup. The political system in Sudan, like the systems in some other Arab countries, has evolved from three military coups d'etats in the last 55 years of independence.
It was only natural that the system could not deal with the country's diversity. This gave a golden opportunity to foreign interference and eventually division.
It is only legitimate for the people of the new state of South Sudan to celebrate their independence, but it is also a critical point, while Arab uprisings are demanding freedom and justice, to remember that we cannot establish a better Arab order without embracing diversity and pluralism, instead of narrow nationalist or religious ideologies that have only served as tools for dictators.
Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.
(Source: Al Jazeera)
CONTINUED U.S. PRESENCE UNDERMINES IRAQ'S POLITICAL UNITY
BY ARDESHIR PASHANG
"All U.S. troops must leave Iraq by the end of December 2011." This is perhaps the most important section in the bilateral security pact that was signed more than two years ago between Iraq and the United States. However, contrary to what has been promised, the U.S. is now trying to maintain its military presence in Iraq, and even some officials such as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Jeffrey James, have warned that if U.S. troops are withdrawn in the near future, the country again will be plunged into the flames of insecurity.
This has caused different reactions among the main Iraqi ethnic and religious groups, namely Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. In other words, the fragile political unity in Mesopotamia (Iraq) is now heavily overshadowed by the idea of extending the presence of U.S. troops.
Stances of different Iraqi groups
Iraq is comprised of three main ethno-religious groups: the Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. However, the recent elections have shown that the diversity of opinions in the country is far beyond these three categories. The position of these major groups can be summarized as follows:
Shia Arabs: The coalition government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has the highest representation in the parliament, and supporters of the group are regarded as the most powerful ethnic group in the Iraqi population. The opposition accuses Maliki of having secret ties with U.S. officials and attempting to extend the U.S. military presence in the country, but the government is officially urging U.S. troops to leave the Iraqi soil based on the bilateral security pact.
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, led by Ammar Hakim, and the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, have both adopted a mild stance toward the issue. They are advocating the implementation of the security pact, but they also want to talk about the possibility of continued U.S. presence in Iraq.
The Sadr movement, under the leadership of Muqtada al-Sadr, is the second largest group in the Iraqi parliament, which strongly opposes the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. The alliance between Sadr and al-Maliki was very important in ending the political stalemate in 2010.
Sunni Arabs: Ayad Allawi is a secular Shia who is leading a large group of Sunnis in the country. The position of the group is quite similar to that of the Maliki government. However, the group backs a continued U.S. presence in order to reduce the influence of Iraq's neighbors.
Another Iraqi Sunni faction, mainly the supporters of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and people loyal to the Iraqi al-Qaeda are greatly opposed to U.S. presence. This has caused a great pressure on Sunni MPs in parliament.
Kurds: The Iraqi Kurds are the only ethnic group which has adopted an almost unified stance, favoring the continued U.S. presence in the country. The reason is that the Kurds are mostly concerned about the fate of Kirkuk.
The perspective ahead
Last year, Iraq experienced one of the longest political stalemates, which was finally resolved by establishing a national unity government based on the plan proposed by Massoud Barzani. The government led by Nouri al-Maliki included all parties in the parliament. However, given the old disputes and rivalries between the above-mentioned groups and the differences on the issue of continued U.S. presence, the political unity in Iraq is now in a very fragile state.
The harsh statements issued by the Sadr movement in recent days have shown that any decision to extend the presence of U.S. troops can lead to the collapse of the government, leading to more instability in the country. Moreover, the Sadrists will be able to make alliances with other Iraqi groups which can seriously change the current political structure in Iraq.
It can be said that Maliki is now locked in an unprecedented dilemma. On the one hand, he needs the support of the U.S. to push ahead with his plans, and on the other the continued U.S. military presence can cause more trouble for his government.
Ardeshir Pashang is a researcher at the Centre for International Peace Studies (IPSC) which is based in London
MILLIONS CELEBRATED THE 15TH OF SHA'BAN IN IRAN
TEHRAN (Press TV) -- Millions in Iran on Sunday celebrated the 15th of Sha'ban which is the birthday of Imam Mahdi, the twelfth and the last Imam of Shia Muslims.
Every year streets and villages across Iran are illuminated on the fifteenth of the month of Sha'aban in the lunar calendar. Additionally special ceremonies are held in Iran's most religious cities Mashad, and Qom.
Based on Shia faith the twelfth Imam lives among his people but remains unknown until the day he reappears as a savior of mankind, filling the world with his blessings.
According to the belief of Shias and some Sunnis Imam Mahdi is hidden by God and will unite all Muslims at the time of his reappearance.
During the night of the occasion the believers gathered outside their homes. They filled the streets celebrating the event while seeking forgiveness and repenting to God, praying that their hidden Imam will rid the world of error, injustice and tyranny.
The 15th of Sha'ban is also marked in other countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
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