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Thursday, August 11, 2011

EDITORIAL 11.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month August 11, edition 000808, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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































































At a time when the issue of land acquisition by the Government has become a major bone of contention between the land owners and the authorities, the Supreme Court has done the right thing in directing that once the Government acquires land for public purpose, it cannot change the usage of the land for any other purpose. By adding that doing so will invite judicial intervention, the Supreme Court has made it obliquely known that such actions could be struck down eventually. This is a landmark ruling since it comes from a five-member Constitution Bench of the court and will set the tone for all future land acquisition minus the acrimony that has currently been on display in various parts of the country. In fact, the changes in the usage of land, coupled with inadequate compensation Governments have paid to the owners — particularly farmers — have been at the core of all recent protests. In some cases, State Governments have taken over land from farmers at throwaway prices and then resold it to developers at higher prices, thus making a killing at the cost of the hapless owners. In other instances, State Governments have persuaded unwilling farmers to give up fertile land in the name of public projects. The farmers feel cheated because they justifiably believe they have been short-changed in the process. It must be remembered that there are thousands of farmers in the country who, for reasons of a better economic future, would willingly sell their land, but they would naturally expect the Government to offer them market rates for their asset. Had the farmers been properly compensated for their acquired land, there would perhaps not have been the kind of backlash that we have witnessed recently.

State Governments have for long taken refuge in the law that gives them the right to acquire private land for public good. While the Supreme Court has not tampered with that right, it has now held such acquisitions accountable in the larger public interest. This is just as well, because the belief held in some quarters that Government should be barred from acquiring fertile land was an extreme one. State Governments will always need land for a host of infrastructure projects and throwing a spanner in such acquisitions will only obstruct development. While Article 300A of the Constitution does give Government the right to acquire private property, it was always understood that such acquisition must be expressly in the larger public interest. Given recent cases where State Governments took over land from the farmers and sold them to real estate developers at a huge profit, the Supreme Court has very pertinently observed that the purpose must be "primarily public and not primarily of private interest and merely incidentally beneficial to the public". Various States have been grappling with the contentious matter and drafting their own land acquisition policies to handle the issue. But the best policy would be the one that makes the land owners genuine stakeholders in the nation's development process. A system that not only takes away their land but also leaves them with a ridiculously low compensation cannot be the basis for any development. Now it is time for the Union Government to present before the people a just Land Acquisition Bill that takes care of all valid concerns.






Irrespective of which Pakistani agency picked up the bill for the Union Government-appointed interlocutor on Jammu & Kashmir Radha Kumar's visit to Brussels to attend a conference or whether or not she accepts further emoluments from the exchequer for her services, it is absolutely imperative that the Ministry of Home Affairs should come clean. The Ministry cannot ignore the application filed under the RTI Act seeking details of Prof Kumar's foreign travels. Hence, she must disclose full details, as must the other two interlocutors. In response to the RTI query, the Ministry had requested Prof Kumar to make available the necessary information. Enraged at what she possibly views as the Government's audacity, Prof Kumar has refused to do so and also said that she is willing to give up her remuneration to protect her privacy. For the past 11 months Prof Kumar has been accepting a hefty compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh per month from the Government, which places her at par with public servants and thus brings her under the ambit of the RTI Act. There is no reason why the Government should make an exception for her. Instead, Prof Kumar must be compelled to make public her travel records, especially given that her colleague on the panel, Mr Dileep Padgaonkar, is already under the scanner for accepting the hospitality of the Kashmiri American Council run by Ghulam Nabi Fai and funded by the ISI. The Government would be well-advised not to cave in under pressure from 'intellectuals' who have scant respect and lesser regard for their country and who have been protecting all those who junketed at the expense of agencies not known to be friendly towards India. Indeed, it is surprising that rather than take a tough stand, the Ministry of Home Affairs has gone out of its way to protect and placate Prof Kumar.

The whole affair has now become murky and needs to be looked into without any further delay. Mr MM Ansari, the third interlocutor on the panel, has justifiably raised his voice against both Mr Padgaonkar and Prof Kumar for accepting junkets to attend 'conferences' on Kashmir funded by the ISI. In popular perception, that raises a big question mark on their ability to fulfil their task in a fair and unbiased manner. For Prof Kumar to take umbrage over Mr Ansari's comments and threaten to resign from the panel is not only churlish but also serves to fuel speculation that she has a lot to hide, which may not necessarily be true. Be that as it may, it is amazing that the Ministry of Home Affairs should rush to her defence; there is no reason for the Government to cover up for her travels to foreign shores. This, and the transgressions of the two interlocutors, have diminished the credibility of the panel. The sooner it is disbanded, the better it shall be. ***************************************







The solution to our current economic woes, especially inflation, does not lie in RBI hiking rates every few weeks but in building infrastructure.

As India prepares to celebrate its 64th Independence Day, we could look at the present economic situation both as an opportunity and a threat. Only a lack of imagination, which we are quite capable of demonstrating, will make it six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. Meanwhile, the world media has been reviewing 20 years of Indian reforms and wondering when the stream of progress disappeared underground like the legendary Saraswati.

Consumer growth, and in this one needs to include, despite the stretch, private sector investment in capacity expansion/modernisation, is bound to be impacted by the RBI's rate-hiking spree, with the Finance Minister saying there may be more increases to come. Ditto for the equity markets and the job market, though short-term debt funds are doing well in this high interest scenario.

On the street, this will mean fewer new cars and less frequenting of bars. It will mean less home buying and more renting. People will pre-pay loans and pay off credit card balances, even as new loans will grow scarce, particular, and pricey. All this fiscal discomfort is upon us in the cause of taming inflation, particularly food prices, and also because it is now hovering at just under double digits, making short work of any earning increases one might garner.

But as usual, there is a silver lining to this cloud when it is realised that one need not quarrel with the stringent Government action to control inflation, because it can be done without sacrificing GDP growth too. Except that the growth, like in China over several years of double digit postings, has to come from Government and public sector investment in long gestation period infrastructure, making up for shortfall in resources by contracting foreign credit, development funds and supplier/partner equity.

This will entail getting away from the paranoid dogma of post-colonialism and Third World socialism which imagines that every foreign trading partner is an avatar of the East India Company. International firms have long shaken their heads in disbelief at some of our tender conditions. It is as if we are not only holier-than-thou but distrustful and precious as well.

Instead of this inferiority complex ridden outlook, we must attract Government-to-Government funding and expertise, like the Japanese funding of the Delhi Metro and its largely French know-how. Also, we should set up consortia, made up of public and private enterprises, nominally from home with its slim pocket-book and substantially from abroad, instead of the other way around. We need to have all these players in it together in order to make an equitable buck for each, while moving India's development ambitions along.

This is the kind of investment, both in financial quantum and years of input, India requires before we can hope to see an output that the private sector cannot properly handle. It is actually much too small. The public sector, unlisted in the most part, monopolistic in strategic areas too, is several times larger, as a recent report pointed out, but even it is not up to the task, both financially and managerially.

Fortunately, the Government is thinking along these lines already. Recently, it has moved to sweeten the terms of FII investment in infrastructure bonds with a shorter lock-in period, chastened by a luke-warm response to a three-year sticker. The Government also thinks it is time to permit substantial foreign investment in multi-brand retailing, not just in consumer durables and apparels but also food, and lift restrictive conditions on foreign entities, confined so far to minority stakes.

This is excellent news because, if implemented, it will prevent rot and wastage of our agricultural produce, create refrigerated cold chains, modernise procurement practices and raise value-addition and food processing standards, and increase the remuneration of farmers and other producers. But setting all this in motion and thereby delivering qualitatively better options to consumers at more competitive prices will, of course, take time.

Similarly, as consumers everywhere are bracing for higher electricity tariffs, it is a good time to put in those state-of-the art nuclear power plants from France, the US, Russia, Canada and Japan that were fought for so hard by UPA1. Nuclear power plants have a considerable gestation period before they get to turning out stable, long-term and relatively cheap power. A nuclear power plant from France's Areva, for example, has a life-span of around 60 years.

They need to be sited, because of threat of terrorist or enemy attack, not on the beach, like protest-ridden Jaitapur in Maharashtra, but at secure locations. After all, they could well be, in the charged South Asian theatre, be targetted for maximum impact. But dozens of nuclear power plants, fuelled in due course by domestic uranium since we have now found very large deposits, plus one of the largest global availabilities of thorium, makes this form of power generation the logical choice of the future. More so since we have to import over 70 per cent of our petroleum products and demand is growing all the time. Petroleum prices are indeed one of our most critical cost-push factors contributing to inflation.

There are other projects in the defence realm, the building of our own aircraft carriers and other large warships, nuclear submarines, the building of military aircraft, satellites, missiles and their delivery systems, protective and defensive clothing and so on, that can be developed in the interim. We can substantially help the economies of the West at this critical juncture, even as we help ourselves in these strategic areas to reduce our dependence on imports. Then there is the building of strategically important all-weather tunnels in the North-West and North-East.

And even if we were to accomplish only a small proportion of some of the things outlined here, along with other infrastructure work also underway, the building and retention of a 10 per cent or more growth rate would be assured for several years to come. This, with proper long-term contracts signed and without spiking inflation. It would also, thanks to the new infrastructure to come, as the former Indian kings built palaces in times of famine and US President Hoover built the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression, set the stage for a prolonged consumer-led boom in the future.

The alternative to this growth by other means could well be not just a slow-down but recession. And while that will certainly stop inflation in its tracks, it will sorely damage, if not put an end to, the India growth story. Surely we don't want that to happen. Instead we want to reboot, at 64, the next leg of the reforms process, led this time by the infrastructure sector.







Historically, England has faced economic deadends many times but it has managed to tide over them. Similarly, violence and anger are not alien to Britain where the masses have rioted often. Yet, the anger, the thoughtlessness and the criminality of the acts on the streets of London cannot be justified by the fact that the rioters are healthy, vibrant youth with nothing to do and nowhere to go

The only surprising thing about the riots that erupted at Tottenham in London is that they have been allowed to go on for so long. The police seem to be losing this one to the looters, so far. On a daily basis too, on the streets, they strive to maintain their authority, yet are subject to funding and administrative pressures. The tide of the force on the streets rises and falls with uneven regularity.

Much has been written about the perils of consensual policing, about the leadership vacuum, about the fallout of the welfare state that creates a generation with nothing to work towards. All of these combine with the simmering discontent that has been layered with layoffs, spending cuts on social services, long queues for the NHS (admittedly free at point of use medical care), jobs being taken by hardworking competitors from the expanded European Union, the obvious rewards that immigrants have been able to garner to build visible wealth. The list goes on. And it would be more relevant if reason had anything to do with the current situation.

The trigger this time was about communities, about demanding a response, an explanation from the police for their actions. Such accountability from public servants, via peaceful protest, is certainly what keeps institutions and communities in balance. It is the month of August, with leaders and key workers away on holiday. A phrase from my interactions with civil servants echoes — "It is beyond my pay grade to do this". I am confident that the officers on the spot felt incapable of dealing with the situation — this probably was not in their job description.

But the anger, the thoughtlessness and the sheer criminality of the acts cannot be covered up by the fact that it was a mass that was made up of healthy, vibrant youth with nothing to do and nowhere to go. A generation that sees no respite from the recession, its shops on the high street boarded up, its manufacturing in disarray being taken over by upstarts from other countries. A generation (or two) that can barely read, write, spell or do maths. And this is not for lack of native intelligence, nor sheer grit or strength. The rioters are not short of any — as evidenced by the comprehensive sheet of instructions being circulated about how to avoid being identified even if captured by CCTV cameras. Or by the choice of shops to loot, and the effective escape from the authorities.

It is no secret that youth gangs in some parts of London (and other cities) terrify the middle-aged, middle-class, middle of England folks. Gang wars have been common, with canine forces being employed by either side to kill and maim. Schools have metal detectors to ensure knives and guns do not enter the premises. Secondary school teachers have been attacked for seeking nothing more than good manners in a classroom. Gangs of 'hoodies' (youth with hoods pulled over their faces to avoid detection by CCTV cameras when shoplifting, etc) gather at street corners and harass residents — challenging youth to either be with them or against them. Admittedly, most areas are safe — and those that are not are on riot maps for all to see.

These are youth who have rarely had a chance, say sympathisers. They never learned to value themselves. They have never been held to account and had dysfunctional families. Disempowered by their dependence on the state, disenfranchised by their inability to compete. A confused set of values, a faulty compass of right and wrong.

This is in direct contrast to middle-class values that remain strong. Of fairness, endeavour, enterprise, hard work, the occasional moan and the inevitable cup of tea. The nation survives on its spirit of 'get on with it' — witness the clean up attempt, the ladies who shouted down the rioters, the communities that came together to ensure that right was done.

Time and again in its history England has had economic deadends staring at it in the face. And they have through sheer grit managed to come through — whether it was the conflict with Spain (and its Armada), whether though colonisation, or whether through claiming new lands such as Australia and sending its boatloads off home shores. It sees another such economic crisis — with no way of paying for its masses, its old, its children. And nowhere to send them.

Britain has long had this debate about what it means to be British. A construct that never found true definition. A society still divided by class. A country of football hooligans and cricketing gentlemen. Where rugby is the true sport of the upper classes — a bloody bone breaking fight for glory. Historically and recently, the masses have rioted often. Violence is not alien to this nation, nor is anger. Its history is bloody, many of its wars fought street by street, hill by hill. A small nation of great power — a nation clashing with itself.

-- The writer is an education stategy consultant who has lived, worked and taught in London for a over decade.







The House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked the Obama Administration not to allow China to open any more Consulates till such time the US is allowed to open a Consulate in Lhasa. India should emulate this strategy as we have stronger reasons for a Consulate in Lhasa

The Chinese, who have already been annoyed by the meeting of US President Barack Obama with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House during the former's recent visit to Washington, DC, have reasons to be further irritated and concerned over the directive on July 20 by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee to the Secretary of State that China should not be allowed to open any more Consulates in the US until Beijing allows the US to open a Consulate in Lhasa.

The Foreign Relations Authorisation Act Fiscal Year 2012 passed by the Committee said: "The Secretary shall seek to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, to provide services to United States citizens travelling in Tibet and to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet, including Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces and, until such consulate is established, shall not permit the establishment in the United States of any additional consulate of the People's Republic of China."

There is reportedly a pending request from the Chinese Foreign Office for permission to open Chinese Consulates at Atlanta and Boston. Now, these two may not materialise unless and until Beijing allows the US to open a Consulate at Lhasa.

India should emulate the US and should not allow Beijing to open any more Consulates in India until it permits India to open a Consulate in Lhasa. We have a much stronger case than the US for a Consulate in Lhasa.

Non-Governmental supporters of His Holiness in the US have organised an exhibition in the US to educate the public about the Panchen Lama. They also intend to start a movement to ensure that the Chinese do not disregard the Tibetan traditions in imposing their own Dalai Lama on the Tibetan people when His Holiness is no more. The Chinese interference in the traditional religious practices of the Tibetans in order to impose their own Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama on the Tibetan people could become an important issue in the future interactions between Washington and Beijing relating to Tibet and His Holiness.

While passing the resolution on a US Consulate in Lhasa, the House Foreign Affairs Committee also expressed serious concerns over the increasing suppression of religious freedom in Tibet and directed representatives of the US Government to call for a cessation of all interference by the Government of the People's Republic of China in the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism during exchanges with officials of the Government of the People's Republic of China.

The Panchen Lama nominated by the Chinese authorities after arresting the Panchen Lama selected by the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was to tour in Tibet during July to attend functions held in Tibet to mark the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese People's Liberation Army and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. According to latest reports from Tibet, he did not undertake the tour which was deferred indefinitely without giving any reasons.

The Nepalese Police arrested on August 5, Thinley Lama, the new volunteer coordinator of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in Kathmandu, after he had held a news conference in which he called for the protection of the human rights of the Tibetan refugees living in Nepal. There has been intense pressure on the Nepalese Government by Beijing to ban what is projected as the anti-China activities of the refugees. In the first week of July, the Nepalese Police, under pressure from the Chinese Embassy, tried to prevent the refugees from celebrating the birthday of His Holiness. Thinley Lama is a Nepal resident and acts as the representative of His Holiness in Nepal.

Human Rights groups have condemned the action of the Nepal Police in detaining Thinley Lama and appealed to the international community to intervene to stop the persecution of Tibetan refugees by the Nepalese authorities under pressure from Beijing.

They allege that the Chinese Embassy has been more aggressive in urging Nepal to take action against Tibetan refugees since last month when a new Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Yang Houlan, assumed office. China says there are no Tibetan "refugees", but only illegal immigrants.

It has been reported that as a quid pro quo for curbs on the activities of the refugees by the Nepalese authorities, Beijing has offered financial assistance for the development of the tourist infrastructure in Nepal, including for the development of the infrastructure at Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha.

In the meanwhile, reliable reports from Tibet say that the Chinese authorities refrained from taking any action against about 5,000 Tibetan monks, who defied the orders of the authorities and held a meeting at Lithang Gonchen in the Sichuan Province from July 15 to 24, for discussions to promote Tibetan cultural values and national unity. Initially, the Chinese authorities tried to prevent the meeting, but when the monks expressed their determination to go ahead with it, they did not intervene.

All the proceedings were held in the Tibetan language and all the participants were required to dress typically like Tibetans. There were discussions not only on religious, social and cultural issues, but also on the need to preserve the Tibetan language and the unity of Tibetans living in Tibet's traditional three provinces of U-Tsang, Kham, and Amdo — all now occupied by China. The monastery of Lithang Gonchen, which hosted the meeting, had sent invitations to over 100 other monasteries — both in Kardze and in neighbouring prefectures — to take part. About a half of them participated.

Representatives also came from the Kirti monastery, in Kardze, from where about 300 defiant monks were arrested and moved to re-education camps in March this year following an incident of self-immolation by a young monk to protest against the Chinese rule. The Chinese have continued to reject requests from international human rights organisations for permission to visit the detained monks of the Kirti monastery.

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







Conflict in any form has a devastating effect not only in terms of violence, destruction of lives and property, collapse of services and compromised pace of development but in more unseen ways, which are equally devastating. The effects of protracted conflict are insidious, marring the psyche of the people, causing injuries which are not visible but nonetheless cause immense pain and trauma.

If we look at Kashmir today, the evidence of such injuries are apparent. The region which has seen bloodshed and violence in so many forms has given rise to a generation which has not known peace. Apart from the actual flash-points and fallout of this violence, there's an underlying tension, sense of insecurity that does not leave the people.

Like the youth anywhere, there are questions, a seeking of answers beyond what their previous generation has to offer. But living in this kind of compromised peace, the answers are harder to find. Evidence of changing patterns are becoming apparent. Kashmiri society has always inculcated a respect for elders. This is now changing. Abiding by the views of parents, listening to their advice, directions, all of this has been replaced by hardened attitudes. When confrontation between the generations reaches a flash-point, things get worse and often out of control.

More and more Kashmiri youth are attempting suicide. This has been a growing phenomenon and recent reports have shown that since January 2011, about 35 young people, both men and women made attempts to commit suicide in Handwara and Kupwara districts of North Kashmir. Often the trigger for taking this extreme step seems petty.

On June 21, following an altercation over a mobile phone, newlyweds, Mehraj-ud-Din Wani, 35 years and his wife Rukhsana living in Khan Mohalla Punzwa village in Vilgam Handwara consumed a poisonous substance. They were spared a painful death after being rushed by others in the area to Sub District Hospital at Kupwara where doctors washed their stomach and after a day of observation, discharged them. In the same week, there was a report of an unfortunate incident from Dardpora village, Kupwara district. An unmarried woman in her 20s, following a heated argument with her parents about household matters, gulped down what turned out to be lethal poison. She succumbed before any attempts to save her.

The toll is adding up to a very disturbing picture. Over the these last six months of the year, seventeen FIR's of 'serious nature' related to suicide attempts have been registered in police stations in Kupwara and Handwara districts. Nine women and three men lost their lives while the remaining four women and one man had a narrow escape.

Suicide in Kashmir is not an isolated phenomenon. It is related to the larger social, economic and political dimensions of the region as it lurches from one phase of violence and strife to another. According to Mr. Manzoor Hussain, who teaches sociology at University of Kashmir, there is an endemic fear, turmoil, depression within society. Late marriages are becoming a pattern in Kashmir which brings with it attendant problems of frustration, of rootlessness amongst the youth. Social evils like dowry which have existed over time add to the worsening situation.

There are probably no easy answers but there is a growing concern on how to stem this tide, how to orient young people to create a more peaceful and stable life for themselves. Mr Hussain advocates inclusion of 'Moral Education' in curriculum, a revisiting of foundational principles and values for the youth to imbibe. This he feels could help in finding answers to the stress and trauma faced by the youth. In fact, this view finds a resonance, in an even more specific way. Maulana Mohd Iqbal, President 'Wefaq ul Madaris' (a body of Madarsas), Kupwara, relates the increase in suicidal tendencies amongst youth to leniency reflected by parents and Ulema towards the tenets of Islam. This dilution of core religious orientation is exacerbating the situation and pushing the young people towards this extreme step.

In Kashmir, the social fabric of society has been under duress for long years now. Young people are very much a part of this and in fact like the youth everywhere, need a hand that steadies them, guidance that helps their lives come on to some track and equally important, a resilience and perspective that comes from an ethos, spiritual and cultural.

Understandably, there are no simplistic solutions to this complex problem. There are many factors operating. Chief Medical Officer Kupwara, Dr Ghulam Nabi Khan believes, people have easy accessibility to organic-phosphorous (poisonous substances). He also is of the view, that the trigger for sudden rise in suicides is domestic situations and their inability to overcome problems, big or small. He feels the leaders in our society need to address the issue, focus on creating awareness and sensitise people to the dangers that the youth sometimes teeter on. A top police officer on conditions of anonymity said that the youth lack moral and religious education and take extreme steps over minor issues.

The challenges before the youth in Kashmir are immense. They are troubled today and the avenues to help them overcome these seem to be inadequate. Perhaps what they require is understanding from society and their leaders at a more expansive, deeper level. To combine the moral and religious aspects of dealing with youth with practical steps for their routine problems, the obstacles they face within the family or in society. For it is the youth that the future is based on and what will shape the region's development, its road to a peace and harmony.









While the BJP's all-out offensive against the Prime Minister's Office for corruption over the 2010 Commonwealth Games might be part of a larger political strategy, there are certain specific charges that the government must answer. Suresh Kalmadi might rightly be in the dock for malfeasance, but he couldn't have had a free rein without the support, tacit or otherwise, of his political bosses. It is fast becoming clear that the system set up to organise the games stymied accountability and diluted oversight.

The questionable process by which Kalmadi was appointed chairman of the games organising committee (OC) strengthens this perception. As is tradition, the original bid document for the games provided for a government appointee to head the OC. Kalmadi, as Indian Olympic Association president, was supposed to assume the post of OC vice-chairman. Yet, on the PMO's direction in December 2004, Kalmadi was nominated to head the games executive body - a decision subsequently ratified by the GoM in January 2005. In doing so, the OC became an independent body outside government purview, even though it was the taxpayers' money that paid for it. This, despite the fact that three former sports ministers continued to raise objections against the arrangement.

The government owes the nation an explanation of why it persisted with Kalmadi despite the obvious pitfalls. Why did it choose to disregard the counsel of its own sports ministers? Current sports minister Ajay Maken has claimed that the bid document was inexplicably changed. If so, why did it wait for so long to divulge this important detail? Similarly, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit too can't ignore the allegations made by the CAG audit and
Shunglu committee reports. Her regime stands accused of tweaking bidding processes and playing ducks and drakes with public money. The plethora of civic bodies and sub-committees set up to ready the capital city for the international event only facilitated the lack of accountability and diffusion of oversight, many would say deliberately to facilitate loot of the public coffers.

The opposition has done well to turn the heat up on the government in Parliament. Transparency and accountability in governance cannot be treated in a stepmotherly fashion. However, the BJP dropped the ball somewhat by using former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda to cast unverifiable aspersions on the government and the Congress high command. Such tactics are bound to lower the quality of debate in the House and create acrimony. A huge amount of legislative work remains pending. A repeat of the disastrous winter session needs to be avoided.






England has caught the Greek disease, as economic hard times and austerity measures have been followed by unprecedented riots and violence across English cities. The proximate trigger for the violence was the shooting of Mark Duggan - a 29-year-old black man - which police say was in self-defence. But the riots have taken on a momentum of their own since. They have been amplified by such modern tools of the trade as smartphones, social media and networking sites, implicated in unrest from the Arab world to China. It can't be a coincidence that English cities are burning at a time when the UK economy is in parlous shape, with job cuts, unemployment, growth that's been below 1% over the past year and negative before, the eurozone imploding next door. Add to that a recent OECD report, which says that the UK has among the lowest social mobility rates in the developed world.

The English riots will rip a hole through the 'Big Society' rhetoric of UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Those rioting with such intensity hardly see themselves as fitting into any larger social whole. The unrest leaves him between a rock and a hard place. The UK is one of the few western economies with a tough and credible deficit-reduction plan - which marks it out, for example, from the US. But it could be left grappling with a political crisis if the riots go on. In which case it will be tempting to scapegoat immigrants, global competition and so on for Britain's woes. That should worry us, given intensive India-UK trade ties and a large Indian diaspora in the UK. It's best, for our own sakes, that the riots stop quickly.




                                                                                                                                                            TIMES VIEW



It seems that the elderly are no longer free to travel when and where they will - at least as far as the Indian Railways is concerned. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is likely to make it mandatory for those above 70 years of age who are signing up for one of its package tours to travel with a younger companion. And there`s another proposal on the table as well - those in the 60-70 age range may have to carry a certificate from a doctor saying they are fit for the journey. The IRCTC`s intention is clear enough; it wants to protect itself from any liability for senior citizens. But in the process, it is taking on aspects of the nanny-state and being patently unfair to an entire segment of the populace.

senior citizens have a higher chance of having health problems when undertaking long journeys. But how and when to undertake those journeys is nevertheless a matter of personal choice. What the IRCTC is well within its rights to do is, first, ensure the choice is an informed one by making senior citizens aware of the travel conditions and hardships; and second, ask them to sign an agreement freeing the IRCTC from any liability for the indi-vidual`s health issues. What it cannot do, however, is curtail that choice entirely - which, in effect, is what the proposed conditions mean. Not every senior citizen is in a situation where it`s possible to have a younger companion.

It is the IRCTC`s responsibility to ensure that reasonable medical facilities are available on its tour packages wherever possible. That and informing senior citizens of the risks are the best ways to deal with the issue. If its proposal is implemented, where does it stop? Will we see airlines refusing to let on passengers who don`t meet certain health criteria next?







So the mighty Amreeka's credit rating has been downgraded, as if it were some Skymiles card changed from platinum to gold because you are no longer high-flying enough. Courtesy Standard & Poor's, the US of A has been demoted from AAA to AA+ for the first time since 1917. This is really a bummer for Obama who has lost more of both, credit and ratings.

White House is not just acting Moody. It's claiming that S&P has made a projecting error of - Jeez! - two trillion dollars. To ornery folk, this reaction sounds more like a zeroes sum game, considering that the most functionally innumerate agency, even one in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's, would find it difficult to misplace so humongous an amount.

Unfortunately when
America sneezes, the rest of the world still plunges into a full-blown flu pandemic - and, worse, a panicdemic. So, not since the time of Lehmangled Bros has every stock exchange index been so shamed. The Nikkei is in a twist; Hang Seng is poorly hung; London would rather not have this kind of fire in its bedroom, boardroom or streets; and our own sensex is unable to get it up. In fact the bulls stand naked and beared.

Ah well, keeping up with the Dow Joneses was never easy, even at the best of times.

Still, all is not lost. Quite the contrary. India is uniquely placed to make a killing from this universal bloodbath. Its weapons are the positive energies which course through its primeval chakras, and its ancient please-adjust facility for jugaad. With their help, we can bow respectfully to the slain America, and then run away with its mantle.

No longer should we settle for covert colonisation via pappad-wielding students, Patel motels and even sleek legislators. India should become the new America.

This is no pecan-pie in the sky. Just think of everything you associate with the home of the brave and the land of the fee, and then see how easy it is to replicate it. We already have seven seminal parallels.

One, the most compelling idea of America is that it's a country of migrants. So are we. Each of our cities seems to bear this version of Ellis Island's famous inscription: 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to huddle in even greater masses in my slumsa¦'

Two, say 'America', and the world thinks 'Hollywood'. Say India, and what does the world think? No free popcorn for the correct answer. In fact we have integrated these two most potent American symbols: Bollywood flaunts the star-spangled banner, no?

Three, the hamburger. Not only have our streetside eateries offered a kabab-roti long before old McDonald started his cattle farm, we have even muscled into his domain with the McAloo Tikki.

Four, since we know American history only from its films (and the Americans can't even claim vice versa), our next point of reference is the whooping, galloping Wild West. India's western and most westernised city has always been wild in ways both desired and embarrassing. In Mumbai, even cops get high at rave parties, and 'Shoot out at OK Cafe' is equally routine, and not corralled into any particular area. The wild west has serious competition from the wild everywhere else.

Five, across urbania, all manner of cowboys are driving out the simple native Indians.

Six, much before America discovered this sensibility, India has steadfastly believed that Black is Beautiful.

And, finally, what used to be said about American tourists is now even more applicable to Indians: Overweight, over-loud, and over here.






The IRCTC's plans to have some criteria for the health eligibility of elderly citizens travelling on their package tours is a step in the right direction, designed to enhance the safety of passengers. Note that this is not for normal travel, just for package tours which can be arduous. The IRCTC is keen to provide cheaper rail travel in trains by announcing new concession norms for senior citizens in an era of rising inflation.

To start with, the IRCTC`s proposals - like fitness certificate for those in the 60-70 age range and the provision for a younger companion in the case of travellers above 70 years of age - are very much needed as a matter of principle. Let`s not forget that senior citizens have a higher chance of having health problems when undertaking long journeys. Merely informing senior citizens of the risks involved in package tours is not enough. There has to be a legal way to ensure that they and their families are making informed decisions. Equally imperative is the provision to declare that travellers are carrying requisite medicines with them to help the railway staff to better respond during any medical emergency.

To question the IRCTC`s intention is baffling. Under the current norms, the agency`s liability is only to provide first-aid to a patient on the train and medical services at the next or closest station. However, in its efforts to improve medical facilities both at stations and on the train, the Railways has decided to appoint a doctor with other medical services on long-distance trains. For package tours like Bharat Darshan and Bharat Tirth, the agency has already advertised to attract doctors on-board trains. They have been offered free travel and complimentary passes for a compa-nion. The IRCTC, therefore, cannot be accused of transferring liability when it comes to senior citizens - the package is designed to take better care of them.






Welcome to the post-modern riot. The riots that broke out in London have been remarkable on a number of fronts. One was to be reminded of Britain's long history of class conflict, something that has not been evident as mob action for a quarter of a century. An entire generation of Britons have lived without experiencing anything that would recall the Peterloo massacre or the crushing of the Yorkshire mining unions. The other is the curious agenda of most rioters. While they were drawn from the underclass, mostly working class whites and blacks, they had no political agenda. Their definition of inclusivity was access to branded consumer products ranging from gaming machines to high-end footware. Banks and ministries, icons of capitalism and government, were largely ignored. Finally, the speed with which the riots spread, popping up in exactly the places where the police were not, reflects the challenge law-and-order authorities face in an age of smartphones and social networking websites.

Britain, like many Western nations, has seen its economy metamorphose over the past several decades. What was once the great manufacturer of the world has become a hub of financial and publicity services. Those who once worked assembly lines became minions for low-end service providers. These sectors have been devastated by the global financial sector with consumer demand contracting. Faced with debts, the Cameron government has promised massive cuts in welfare expenditure. While these deficit-reducing actions have yet to take place, one has to presume they fed into a sense among marginal urban youth groups that the system had little concern for their condition. This sense of exclusion helped at least prepare the ground for the street anger that exploded following the police shooting of a Caribbean man. But in the same way that class has become a much fuzzier concept in the 21st century, an unusual number of rioters come from walks of life normally associated with sturdy burgher values.

These riots, like a summer storm, will probably disappear as quickly as they came. They will bruise but not wound the Conservative-led coalition government. But it is clear the sense of economic uncertainty, coupled with an evident leadership deficit, that pervades much of the world has put many societies on a short fuse. The trigger could be austerity in some countries, inflation in others, but the shock and awe that PM Cameron is experiencing could well befall almost any government in the world today.






The Delhi Police should change its motto from 'With you, For you, Always', to 'Better Late than Never'. The reason for this suggestion, however, is not because our portly men in khaki are usually the last to arrive at a crime scene but because they have a knack of waking up only when they reach a dead end. To cut a long story short, the Delhi Police has decided to weed out fat, potbellied and lethargic policemen from its traffic units and replace them with fit (and handsome, we hope) policemen.

While being fit is probably one of the main criteria for being a part of a force, we wonder why it took so long for the powers that be to crack the whip. Next week, Delhi Police will hold fitness tests to figure out who stays on the road and who goes back to the barracks to shape up. All the 4,305 traffic constables will have to take the test. A senior policeman said that they want the unit to be "full of smart and honest men." We wish the same, but disagree wholeheartedly with the direct link that is drawn between being portly and dishonest. Show us one portly and dishonest policeman, we will show you 10 others who are reed thin and yet rolling in cash.

Along with the usual physical tests that the men will undergo, there should be some other unconventional (simulation) tests to equip them with modern policing: for example, how to keep their temper under control in event of road rage, how to get out of 'I know-your boss' challenges thrown at them by the supra VIPs of the Capital city; how not to saunter in with their lathis and whistles much after a peak-hour traffic gridlock is threatening to lead to near riots — and the toughest of all, to put it down politely, how to stay away from people who become instant ATMs when hauled up for traffic violations (real or imagined). So give us those generously proportioned policemen any day, we will manage but the greedy ones are what we detest.









It was 10.30 in the morning, the first Monday of August. I was on a routine visit to the library, tracking references for an article that I was writing. The library, that of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), happens to be my favourite one. The ambience of the place is ordinary and down-at-heel. But it has an extraordinarily rich collection of old books and journals which once made it the most famed archaeological library of South Asia.

That day, in its reading room, I happened to see three notebooks of an unknown writer. Satpal Singh brought these to me, hoping to solve the mystery of their authorship. In a place that is awfully short-staffed, Satpal happens to be one of those exceptional old-time officers who is quick to recognise rare books and unfailingly draws the attention of interested readers to them.

The notebooks that he asked me to examine were hand-written in black ink and pencil, in the same flowing hand. They were thick and hardbound with spines that bore dates and volume numbers. The writer had simply omitted to imprint his name on them. Handwritten notebooks in an archaeological library are unusual enough, and as I riffled through their pages, my curiosity about this singular set of volumes very quickly turned into astonishment. These were no ordinary journals. They were the jottings of an intriguing individual as his travels and learning made evident.

The index at the beginning of each notebook that records the places that he visited and the thousands of miles that he covered, reveals an explorer of enormous vitality. As he travelled around, he made notes on all kinds of archaeological sites, accompanied by pencil sketches of sculptures, coins and monuments. That he was not simply doing this out of an antiquarian interest was obvious from the cross-references in the notebooks to the coordinates of places that were visited and described by the Chinese pilgrims Fa Hsien and Hsuan Tsang. He actually seemed to be moving around the countryside with the journals of those pilgrims in hand. The notebooks are also peppered with delightful asides that this writer-explorer picked up in the course of his travels — village  names which could be derived from trees, the demons and ghosts that 'peopled' all kinds of places, even the 'pipal' tree roots that he found in the sandy soil at Mahabodhi where the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Usually, such notebooks form the basis for later publications and, as I realised that morning, can be useful long after the lives and times of their authors.

But who could this archaeological explorer be? The intrepid explorer was a colonial, there was no doubt about it, as his quaint spellings of place names and the people that he mentioned, made clear. That he was not John Marshall, my favourite archaeologist of colonial India, I already knew because this is not his handwriting. Besides, Marshall was born a year after the first of these notebooks began, dated as they were from 1875 to 1881. From those dates, I guessed that these were also unlikely to be James Prinsep's journals. Prinsep died in 1840 and while he was an outstanding discoverer of ancient scripts and dynasties, he hardly moved out of Calcutta, after he became the secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Could it be James Burgess, the architectural scholar who is known to have conducted surveys from the 1860s till the 1880s? He too had to be eliminated from the list of probables, since he mainly worked in western and southern India while this explorer was busy surveying north India.

Following this process of elimination, it dawned on me that these could only be the hitherto undiscovered notebooks of one man: Alexander Cunningham. He was the one archaeological explorer in India who, in the latter part of the 19th century, traversed and published on the sites that are recorded in the notebooks — Mahabodhi, Sarnath, Mahasthan and so many others. In 1861, Cunningham was appointed as India's first archaeological surveyor by Lord Canning. Eventually, he became the first director general of a government department of archaeology, better known as the Archaeological Survey of India, when it was created in 1871. These three notebooks seem to have been penned by him during his 'director general' years.

How, though, could I completely sure of this? For the next half-hour, I moved back and forth from Cunningham's published surveys to the notebooks. Comparing them, I was profoundly thrilled to discover that my hunch was correct. For one, Cunningham frequently uses identical sentences in his publications and his notebooks, for instance while describing Deo Barnarak or the meteorite worship that he witnessed at Andhara in 1880-81. For another, there are cross references in his publications to nuggets of information that are available in his notebooks. Cunningham's published report on Kurkihar makes this clear. He tells his readers that he is not providing all details but mentions the "record in my notebook of 37 figures now collected together at and near the temple of Bageshwari... also ten inscriptions of about AD 800 to 1000 of which one was set up by two Sakya mendicants from Kanchi (Kanchi-vasika) or Conjeevaram." Sure enough, in his 1879-80 notebook where Kurkihar is documented, there is a descriptive list of those 37 images and inscriptions including the one that records the donation of those bhikshus who describe themselves as residents of Kanchi.

During the decades that I have spent researching and writing on ancient India and its explorers, this is the first time that I have experienced the exhilaration of providing a name, and one as illustrious as that of Alexander Cunningham, to a cache of what, till now, were nameless notebooks. I have discovered this, thanks to Satpal, in the 150th year of Cunningham's appointment as archaeological surveyor, and in the very institution that is mounting the celebration of that anniversary — without realising that it has for all these years harboured these notebooks.

My advice now to the ASI is this: celebrate Cunningham in the most appropriate way, by preserving and publishing those precious notebooks.

( Nayanjot Lahiri is professor at the Department of History, University of Delhi )

The views expressed by the author are personal







History shows that cricket is no stranger to controversy or corruption

A ny cricket historian worth his salt will tell you with a chuckle that history has a knack of repeating itself when it comes to the so-called gentleman's game.

When England's Ian Bell was run out and then recalled under controversial circumstances by India's captain MS Dhoni last week at Trent Bridge, the closest parallel was from a Test match in 1974 at Port of Spain, involving England's Tony Greig and West Indian batsman Alvin Kallicharan.

But cricket and controversy have been uneasy bedfellows since the dawn of the game and few epitomised this rocky relationship more than England's WG Grace, cricket's first superstar.

It was Grace's underhand tactic of running out Australia's Sammy Jones in 1882 when Jones had innocently stepped out of his crease to pat down the turf which led to a chain of events culminating in the creation of the mythical `Ashes', ever since a symbol of supremacy between England and Australia. It happened at the Oval and Grace's action so incensed the Australians that they vowed revenge.

"We can do this thing," said their champion fast bowler Fred `The Demon' Spofforth to his fellow Aussies. Fired up, he blasted out the English batting in their second innings for a paltry 77 when the victory target was just 85. Spofforth's match figures were magnificent -7 for 46 and 7 for 44.

Cricket was struck by its greatest crisis in 2000 when South African captain, the late Hansie Cronje was revealed to be on the take from illegal bookies. Cronje, India's Mohammad Azharuddin, Pakistan's Salim Malik and others were banned by their respective boards for their alleged role in match-fixing and the scourge of corruption continues till today.

But they were not the first to be so punished.
That ignominy befell the champion batsman of the day, William Lambert, way back in 1817. The evidence against Lambert was circumstantial (no sting operations those days) and he could well have been the rampant till the mid-19th century with trav elling pros playing high-stakes winner-takes it-all matches, a format ripe for corruption Lord's was rife with bookies and violen brawls often broke out at matches aroun England. After Lambert's ban, the clean-u began and bookies were evicted from th grounds, only making a comeback in 197 under strict regulations.

The Indian Premier League and befor that the Indian Cricket League, cricket in Sharjah and Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket brought big money into the game, leading to tags of mercenaries and freelance cricketers.

But guess what? Cricket had its fair share of sporting impresarios and businessmen paying the pros big bucks going back to the early 18th century as teams rode on horseback from village to village around England.
There are a series of matches on record in 1700 where the winning team for each game received the-then princely sum of 10 pounds Sterling. The advent of the railways in the 1830s led to the wider spread of the game with even more money coming in. Today there is a new wave of jet-set cricketers who are either not skillful enough or simply not interested in playing for their countries and are busy plying their trade in the numerous cash-rich Twenty-20 leagues that have sprung up around the world following the financial windfall of the IPL.

And while Packer was thought to have been the first to bring coloured clothing into cricket in the late 1970s much to the horror of the traditionalists, cricket teams going back centuries wore coloured shirts of various hues to distinguish their villages.

None quite as tasteless as some of the IPL outfits though.

The writer is Delhi-based freelance sports journalist and writer The views expressed by the author are personal






The events in London say something about the beaten-down lives of the rioters

T he first day after London started burning, I spoke to Claire Fox, radical leftwinger and resident of Wood Green. On Sunday morning, apparently, people had been not just looting H&M, but trying things on first. By Monday night, Debenhams in Clapham Junction was empty, and in a cheeky touch, the streets were thronging with people carrying Debenhams bags. Four hours before, I had still thought this was just a north London thing. Fox said the riots seemed nihilistic, they didn't seem to be politically motivated, nor did they have any sense of community solidarity. This was inarguable.

I think it's just about possible that you could see your actions refashioned into a noble cause if you were stealing the staples: bread, milk. But it can't be done while you're nicking trainers, let alone laptops. In Clapham Junction, the only shop left untouched was Waterstone's, and the looters of Boots had, unaccountably, stolen a load of Imodium. So this kept Twitter alive all night with tweets about how uneducated these people must be and the condition of their digestive systems. It remains the case that these are shopping riots, characterised by their consumer choices. I wasn't convinced by nihilism: how can you cease to believe in law and order, a moral universe, co-operation, the purpose of existence, and yet still believe in sportswear? Alex Hiller, a marketing expert at Nottingham Business School, points out that there is no conflict between anomie and consumption: "If you look at Baudrillard and other people writing in sociology about consumption, it's a falsification of social life. Consumerism relies upon people feeling disconnected from the world."

Leaving Baudrillard aside, just because there is no political agenda on doesn't mean the answer isn't rooted in politics. Theresa May is keen to stress that this is "pure criminality", untainted by higher purpose. "We're not going to be diverted by sophistry," is the tacit message. "As soon as things have calmed down, these criminals are going to prison, where criminals belong."

Those of us who don't have responsibility for public order can be more interrogative about what's going on. It's just a glorified mugging, conducted by people who ask not what they can do for themselves, but what other people should have done for them. At the other end of the authoritarian-liberal spectrum, you have Camila Batmanghelidjh's idea that this is a natural human response to the brutality of poverty.

Between these poles is a more pragmatic reading: this is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it.

The Guardian The views expressed by the author are personal




I admire the manner in which Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has been so calm and collected even when accused of wrongdoing in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.

Yes, bone-chillingly calm. No doubt she plans to call her detractors for high tea and hope that her cucumber sandwiches will disarm them.

Come on, she says that she is willing to submit to any sort of questioning, I think that's a  lot better than most politicians in the dock.

Oh yes, I notice how she ever so elegantly suggested that all sorts of other organisations were responsible, all the while saying that she was willing to cooperate fully.

You don't see Suresh Kalmadi being quite so accommodating.

No, but it is so much easier to pass the buck when you talk in a convent accent, wear tussar and look like my grandma.

I remember how she waded through the floodwaters to reassure people that the Games village would not be inundated.

We must patent this new method of gauging floods, the Sheila wadometer.

Do say: Another round of scones, anyone?
Don't say: She is not game for it now.





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






Both Houses of Parliament did put up a struggle to transact scheduled business on Wednesday, before the presiding officers succumbed to what is now becoming the new normal: adjournment for the rest of the day. The BJP's ire was targeted at Home Minister P. Chidambaram, and they asked for his resignation over police action against a rally of the party's youth wing. In Parliament a day before, on Tuesday, the opposition had demanded the resignation of the governments at the Centre and in Delhi over the CAG report on the Commonwealth Games. Since the beginning of the session last week, that has been the way of it. Each day Parliament has appeared to be under siege, as the opposition's subject of the day — 2G scam, land acquisition, price rise — is sought to be taken up to the exclusion of all else.

Parliament always involves an element of political theatre, and this session was expected to be highly charged. But parliamentary politics also demands a keen sense of proportion. Proportion, however, has thus far been abandoned altogether. The opposition clearly reckons that this is its best chance to test the government's mid-term stability, and is intent on casting every issue as a grave crisis. The government has decided that assertiveness is the best form of offence, that to be seen to yield could be taken as a sign of nerves. The result is a default position of permanent siege, with Question Hour routinely sacrificed and the legislative agenda postponed serially.

That agenda is substantial. There is the backlog on account of the washed-out winter and truncated budget sessions. There is, also, a long list of bills listed for introduction, among them the contentious Lokpal bill. And, given the questions about land acquisition flaring up around the country, it was hoped that MPs would use the floor of the House to begin raising the issues the proposed amendment must negotiate. These are issues of grave importance and to address them responsibly debates must be nuanced. Nuance, however, cannot be found amidst all-or-nothing confrontations. The political class has to find a way of exiting this zero-sum gameplan, and get Parliament back to its normal rhythms. It is as easy as heeding the propriety of allowing Question Hour to function, of putting the government through the rigour of cross-examination that the daily exercise involves — and indeed, of being responsive to the opposition's agenda, and conceding its demands for a debate. In this give-and-take lies not the makings of a deal, but the large-heartedness required for the legislature to regain its institutional heft.







In this season of political rancour, it takes real talent to stand out the way Nitin Gadkari does. The BJP president has perfected the low, personalised insult — even while making a point with potentially serious import, what startles most listeners is his willingness to take it to the mud-pit. He has compared Sonia Gandhi's commitment to fighting corruption to Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism, called the Congress a "party of thugs", declared that Digvijaya Singh had "lost his mental balance" and now, alleging that Sonia Gandhi was directly responsible for putting Suresh Kalmadi in charge of the Commonwealth Games, Gadkari dared any "mard ka baccha" to file a defamation suit.

Gadkari might fancy himself a straight-shooter, an outsider from Maharashtra who has no patience with Delhi's silky courtiers. He often frames his approach in terms of machismo — defending the Bellary brothers earlier, he has spoken of himself as a "mard rajneta", someone with the backbone to support those who had been with the party through good and bad times. However, that impatience with the often hypocritical manners of public rhetoric often goes too far — in his effort not to be another Delhi smooth-talker, he ends up flouting the norms of basic civility.

As the leader of our main opposition party at a time when it should be doggedly holding the government to account, Gadkari's kind of coarse confrontation helps no one. It fritters away the BJP's real advantage at the moment, and changes the subject to one of injury and insult. Right now, when public discourse is so polarised, the effort should be to expand the realm of reasonable disagreement, rather than crank up the heat.







This weekend the most watched sporting league in the world is due to start its 2011-12 season. Yet successive nights of rioting in London, and the consequent postponement of a football match between England and Holland, has caused even the English Premier League's security arrangements to be closely scrutinised. And, as the people of the United Kingdom struggled to explain the violence and looting, 200 delegates of the International Olympic Committee descended on the host city of the 2012 Games to watch a beach volleyball demonstration held at the Horse Guards in Whitehall, within bowshot of Downing Street. The spectacle went off smashingly, apparently — once it was brought forward by 90 minutes, so as to finish before nightfall.

Immediate concerns apart, a carefully organised, high-security period like the Olympics is considerably different in nature from a period when an unprepared police force is tackling mass looting, so it would not be sensible to judge security arrangements for 2012 on the basis of these three nights. However, there is a larger question here, one that speaks to the power and point of hosting events like the Olympics in the first place. The British government's hopes from the Games make uncomfortable reading in the light of recent events: to transform East London; to inspire a generation of young people to local volunteering, cultural and physical activity; to demonstrate that the UK is a creative, inclusive and welcoming place to live in. If the purpose was to rebrand an entire swathe of one of the world's greatest cities, to demonstrate the vibrancy of the communities that call it home, then the images that have been coming out of East London — particularly Hackney, one of the Games' major locations — do tend to undermine the Olympic mission.

The challenges for the UK government are, therefore, substantial. Yet one should never underestimate the ability of events like the Olympics to, indeed, build solidarity even within communities as stressed as those which produced East London's young rioters. It seems London did not just want the Games. It needed them, too.







The credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded US sovereign ratings from AAA to AA+ after the US government failed to agree on a path of fiscal consolidation. On August 5, the US Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling of the US as required by the Public Debt Acts. The agreement reached among political parties in the country was to inflict no pain until the end of 2012. The lack of fiscal tightening indicated the difficulties America has in arriving at a political consensus for reducing the fiscal deficit. The political discourse that preceded the last-minute increase in the federal debt ceiling undermined the credibility of the US government's commitment to deficit reduction and contributed to the downgrade. Fiscal analysis was the other component.

The markets, however, continue to have faith in the US government and its ability to service debt without default or inflating its debt away. For the same fiscal situation and lack of a clear path of fiscal consolidation, another country may not have had the same trust of the markets. The lack of alternative safe and liquid assets implies that the markets continue to see US securities as safe assets. The downgrading is thus unlikely to have people start thinking that the US government is going to default on its debt, and holding of US government bonds is unlikely to go significantly down.

At the same time, Europe is also facing immense difficulties. Sovereign ratings of the UK, France or Germany continue to be AAA for the moment. But is the fiscal scenario for these governments any better than that of the US? In 2010 the deficit to GDP ratio of the UK was above 10 per cent. Owing to the recent crisis and the action taken by the government, its debt to GDP ratio climbed to 80 per cent of GDP, somewhat less than that of the US which stood above 91 per cent. The crucial difference, however, appears to be a tight fiscal policy put in place since May 2010 by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. If the GDP growth slips or if the strategy of fiscal austerity is compromised, the credit rating of the UK will fall again. At the moment, there is support for austerity, but if the London riots lead to rethinking about benefit systems and ways to tackle unemployment, this policy could change as well.

France is in a much more precarious position than the UK. It not only has a high public debt of 82 per cent, and a high deficit of 7 per cent, there is also no support for fiscal consolidation. After the US downgrade, markets expect France to be the next country to see a downgrade. This is reflected in the market for credit default swaps of France which rose sharply this week.

The German economy, with fiscal deficit at 3 per cent and public debt at 83 per cent, is seen to be the healthiest economy in Europe. There is popular support for a tight fiscal and one would have thought that even if weaker European nations get into trouble, Germany would be safe. The recent purchase of Spanish and Italian bonds by the ECB poses a danger to this story. If the ECB gets into trouble and Germany has to bail it out, the German fiscal situation would be in as much trouble as France. It is difficult to see how the German government would continue to get popular support for keeping German and European banks afloat through buying poorly rated European bonds if the German taxpayer has to ultimately pay.

The downgrade of the US and eventually of Europe is a measure of the unsustainable nature of the fiscal policies of these governments. It is sometimes argued that the fiscal expansion in a balance sheet recession is a good thing. A balance sheet recession, such as the one being witnessed in the US today, is one where households and firms are de-leveraging and contracting expenditure. At such a time, fiscal expansion is necessary to offset the contraction in demand that is happening through private spending. This means that instead of seeing it as a negative, fiscal expansion should be seen as a positive.

The system of ratings, it is argued, should be different in a balance sheet recession, so that that rating does not become a stick to beat the government with. Therefore, a case is made against fiscal contraction at the time of recession. In the case of the US, since it seems that the economy is unlikely to come out of recession for another two years, it would be wrong to start contracting government demand. Even if the deficit leads to inflation, to some extent this may not be bad for the economy.

This is perhaps one reason why despite the downgrade there has been no significant shift away from the dollar. The fact that the dollar is a reserve currency and the US government can issue more dollars allows it more leeway to run large deficits than, say, India would have been able to do.

The downgrade and the political discourse in the US have had the effect of increasing uncertainty in the world. An increase in uncertainty is often accompanied by an increase in risk aversion. This leads to a reduction in money invested in emerging economies, usually perceived to be more risky than the US and Europe. This could mean a reduction of foreign investment flowing to emerging economies, including India.

The failure to reach a consensus on fiscal consolidation is also a reflection of the need for the US economy for continued fiscal stimulus. Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, has indicated that markets should expect to see two more years of expansionary US monetary policy. This again indicates expectations of weak growth. Lower growth in

the US and Europe would mean lower growth for the rest of

the world, including emerging economies and Europe. India cannot be cut off from a global slowdown and is likely to see difficult times ahead.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi










Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle, a man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself — W.B. Yeats

Commemorating a literary anniversary is easier done than tracing the history of a book. Although, at the heart of the former exercise lies a moral dilemma. Choosing one book's anniversary over another's is an instance of the relativity of all judgement. This is the 60th year of The Catcher in the Rye. It also happens to be the half-century crossover for Joseph Heller's Catch-22, with only 12 years to go for the century-marker of the good book it came out of, Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk, the pioneering, unfinished anti-war novel.

The success of Hasek and Heller lies in the impossibility of the situations, or of the anti-heroes' actions, that drive the plots. Do soldiers not rebel, or run away? Aren't they at least instinctive shirkers? Yes. But as soldiers would say, Yossarian could never be one of them, certainly not in his entirety, because he could not have been. Yet, many a soldier had become an instant fan (that is, immediate to their reading, not the publication) of Heller's 1961 novel, grateful for how accurately and empathetically it caught their predicament. So, in a remarkable tribute to the spurious syllogisms in the novel, Catch-22 turned an unlikely farce into a defining fictional contribution to anti-war thought and activism.

Celebrated as such, through 10 million copies sold, the book was equally denounced (its reviews were mostly very, very dismissive) for lampooning World War II, the "good war", because this was the one war — unlike World War I, Korea or Vietnam — where the moral axis was clearly defined, the cause hammered home beyond any doubt. This was the Norman Podhoretz line, hit upon again and again in the early days of Catch-22, which later retrospectively analysed how counter-culture and Vietnam (the bad war) clouded judgement and enabled the collapsing of Hitler and Ho Chi Minh. However, every return to Catch-22 makes the novel appear less and less funny. That apart from the pronounced darkening of tone and matter as the half-way line is crossed. So where does the farce progressively disappear with each reading? It doesn't. We become used to it, and not because of any lacuna in Heller's imagination or craft but because of our increasing awareness of the other things Heller was doing. For one, the "idiot" Svejk, through his absurd comicality, judges authority as stupid and becomes thereby the good soldier. Yossarian, through the defiantly comic, underscores the absurdity of authority but problematises Heller's own (and our) judgement on him. Oh yes, he is the focus of Heller's empathy. But does Heller privilege pacifism over his smashing of other idols?

The trick is to never lose sight of Yossarian — not the name on the printed page but his embodiment of the thematic and rhetorical axes of the novel. What else does he explosively denounce? In a recent essay, Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler (1998) and The Shakespeare Wars (2006), rejects the decades-old, lazily assumed anti-war premise of Catch-22 and argues for the book as anti-theodicy (theodicy bridges the logical gap between human ills, evil and an omnipotent god), a "tour de force of anti-Deism". His clinching evidence is Yossarian's attack on god ("a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed") which forms the "blasphemous heart" of Catch-22. Now Rosenbaum, a "New Agnostic" pitted against "New Atheists", should be taken with a pinch of salt on theo-anything. He isn't discovering for us the bile in Yossarian's denunciation of god, but his claim that this transcends the denunciation of war and death, making the book an indictment of the "evil of existence... and the creator of that existence" is one of the definitive interpretations of this over-read and over-interpreted book, which ironically pushes it back in history. The abyss within Yossarian is the abyss of life, opened up by a writer who, as Howard Jacobson said in a 2004 essay included in one of the 50th anniversary editions, belonged to the Rabelaisian school of "inexhaustibility", who gave the impression of never minding his words.

For a book that bequeathed to the English language a name for the inherently illogical, Catch-22, we know, would have been named "Catch-18" had it not been for Leon Uris's Mila 18. But despite Rosenbaum's forcefulness on an old idea, the biggest idol that Heller broke was the sanctity, or untouchability, of certain things beyond the realm of the comic imagination. Not even the good war could escape it, announced with perhaps the most contextually absurd opening line of a war/ anti-war novel — "It was love at first sight." If every narrative has its element of discourse which shapes history (even of reading and writing), then we, millions of Catch-22 readers unknown to each other, are Heller's imagined community who have had 50 good years. Let us now await the release later this month of Erica Heller's memoir: Yossarian Slept Here.








The chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Hamid Ansari, thought he had found a solution to the problem of raucous scenes, disruptions and adjournments during Question Hour: shift it from 11 am to 3 pm. At the start of the day's business, members are impatient to ventilate their grievances. This is especially so as former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee abolished Zero Hour, the small window of opportunity between the end of Question Hour and the start of scheduled business, which was a free-for-all space when MPs used their lungpower to voice views on what they considered matters of pressing importance, and for which no prior notice was required. The presence of TV cameras was, of course, an added incentive for MPs to make their presence felt. It was in the hope of getting a more orderly and meaningful Question Hour that in the last session, the Upper House shifted it to the early afternoon, even though the Lok Sabha continued to schedule Question Hour as the first business of the day.

Ansari's experiment in switching timings proved unsuccessful. Noise and interjections might have disrupted Question Hour in the morning, but by afternoon the House was almost deserted. Frequently starred questions could not be taken up for discussion because the MPs who had tabled them were playing hooky. This session, the Rajya Sabha reverted to the 11 am timing, which may be noisier and more disruptive, but nonetheless more participative.

Question Hour, in fact, is an extremely important part of a parliamentarian's duties. Unfortunately, many MPs tend to take this privilege rather lightly and do not accord to it the attention and commitment it deserves. Question Hour is an opportunity for individual MPs, as opposed to political parties, to highlight public grievances and point out flaws in the working of the government. Questions that bring out lacunae in the system have, in the past, led to commissions of inquiry and even legislation. Before the RTI Act came in force, it was the only effective method of extracting information from the government and ensuring some transparency and accountability. Indeed, old-time reporters recall that a number of scoops emerged from information buried in voluminous question papers.

Since the government is in the dock during Question Hour, officials take the exercise very seriously. For more than a fortnight before the start of a Parliament session, bureaucrats burn the midnight oil attempting to file responses in time. Answering each question takes great investment in terms of cost, manpower and time. When Parliament is in session, preparing replies takes priority over all other official work in the secretariat. Starred questions are answered orally, and MPs have a right to ask supplementary questions — these are the real headache. Bureaucrats have mastered the art of answering unstarred questions with a series of evasions and obfuscations. "The matter is under consideration", "The data is being compiled", and "Does not apply" are some of the standard responses in getting a ministry or department off the hook. Another practice is to supply data and statistics that are peripheral to the actual question. The starred questions are the real problem, since ministers have to be thoroughly prepared on all aspects of the subject under discussion. To provide false information could attract the charge of a breach of parliamentary privilege. An inarticulate M.K. Alagiri and a nervous Murli Deora, as ministers, generally preferred their junior ministers to field the questions. Although earlier prime ministers were meticulous in making an appearance on days when questions concerning the PMO were taken up, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not so regular and often delegates the job to his junior.

There are MPs like Rajeev Chandrasekhar, B.J. Panda, Mabel Rebello, Sumitra Mahajan, Harin Pathak, K.S. Rao and L. Rajgopal among others, who stand out for doing their homework diligently and framing their questions intelligently. Several have a secretarial staff to assist them. On the other hand, others misuse the privilege, either putting frivolous questions or, worse, at the behest of vested interests like arms agents and industrial houses filing leading questions against rival corporates. But ever since 11 MPs were expelled from Parliament after being caught on camera by investigative journalists, accepting cash to ask questions, parliamentarians have become more careful. Cash for questions is not a malady restricted to the Indian Parliament. A decade back, the mother of all parliaments was rocked by scandal when it was discovered that Egyptian businessman Mohammed Al-Fayed had paid some members of the House of Commons £2,000 for each question tabled in Parliament. Compared to this figure, our expelled MPs had offered their services for peanuts. BJP MP Hema Malini faced some embarrassment when it was discovered that she had posed a question relating to water

purifiers, given the fact that she endorses a particular brand of purifiers.

At any rate, the Rajya Sabha's short-lived experiment has demonstrated that the only way to ensure a meaningful Question Hour is not the time of day, but the commitment of our MPs.







There was a great deal of violence on TV this week, and it was difficult to decide which was worse: the accounts of Tamils allegedly brutalised by Sri Lankan security forces in the island's northern region of Vanni (Headlines Today) or a London in flames after violent clashes and vandalism reduced it to one burning question: can it host next year's Olympics safely?

There was rioting of another kind in New Delhi too, as BJP workers took the battle against the government's alleged corruption to the streets and received a few body blows in return; the Opposition gave the Treasury benchers a tongue-lashing in Parliament over the CAG's CWG report on Monday and Tuesday; at least one TV news channel telecast a police lathi-charge of Congress workers in Lucknow (News 24); and there was the violent, heartstopping fall in markets around the globe and in India, which threatened economic doom.

That's not all: there were violent verbal duels in Indian news TV studios as Congress and BJP leaders went for each other's throats, but since they do that every single evening and still haven't managed to throttle one another, we'll ignore them for this week.

Headlines Today had what they called a "world premiere" on Tuesday: it was, according to them, the first visit by a journalist to Sri Lanka's Vanni region in the last two years. Here, journalist Priyamvatha recorded the touching and compelling tales of the woebegone: middle-aged Rosy who recalled how her entire family had been killed in an aerial cluster bomb attack, a tearful Rathi described the loss of a son and a husband as they sat outside eating dinner and fell to splinters from similar bombs, Lavanya remembered the sight of "brains that came out of their heads" as Tamils were murdered, Sundari said Sri Lankan soldiers held up sanitary napkins and underwear to humiliate the women, then back to Rosy who claimed she drank water from drains, wells filled with dead bodies.

Since this was a delicate subject and extremely critical of the Sri Lankan armed forces, the faces of all those interviewed were masked in mosaic. Whether the flimsy disguise was enough to hide them from official scrutiny is debatable. Headlines Today says it is on a mission to expose the unjust treatment of Tamils in the northern region and this "world premiere" special follows the recent screening by the channel of Britain's Channel 4 documentary revealing the atrocities by Sri Lankan armed forces on LTTE cadres and Tamils during the civil war. It is a great effort, wish we could see more like it.

On Monday night, BBC World also disappeared undercover, in Zimbabwe, to document the violent fate of workers in diamond territory. An odd moment to go there when CNN was broadcasting live footage of the riots in London and specifically the rampaging mobs in Hackney. Oddly, the BBC also seemed to find the financial implications of the falling share markets worldwide far more compelling TV than the events in its own backyard. Wonder if this was an editorial decision or mere coincidence?

The State of the Nation, meanwhile, has been creating many disturbances throughout our country and none more so than in the TV news studios. Panellists who appeared on the poll-debate by that name on CNN-IBN were extremely agitated by the findings. Jaya Jaitly and Swapan Dasgupta, for instance, worked up quite an upper lip sweat trying to explain why, despite everything that could go wrong is going wrong for the Congress and the UPA, the poll still found that Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi were the people's top choices for the prime minister's post.

India Most Desirable (Star World) was quite a riot too, but in an entirely different way (Star World). Simi "Kiki" Garewal's guest was Ranveer Singh, who had the girls in the audience swooning and squealing all over him. He cried when his parents spoke of him, he said Band Baaja Baaraat co-star Anushka deserved someone better then himself and then there was an entertaining interlude between him and "Kiki", who really tried his patience. He ended up with a girl in his lap and in his arms, which created quite a commotion.







Three years ago, Barack Obama's unlikely presidential dream was given wings by rapturous Iowans —- young, old and in-between — who saw in the fresh-faced, silky-voiced black senator a chance to leap past the bellicose, rancourous Bush years into a modern, competitive future where we once more had lustre in the world. "We are choosing hope over fear," Senator Obama told a delirious crowd of 3,000 the night he won the Iowa caucuses.

But fear has garroted hope, as America reels from the latest humiliating blows on the economy and in Afghanistan. The politician who came across as a redeemer in 2008 is now in need of redemption himself.

Many of his Democratic supporters here in Des Moines, Iowa, who once waited hours in line just to catch a glimpse of The One, are disillusioned. "We wish he'd be more of a fighter," said one influential Democrat with a grimace. Another agreed: "You can't blame him for everything. I just wish he would come across more forceful at times, but that is not the dude's style. Detached hurts you when things are sour. You need some of Clinton's 'I feel your pain' compassion."

Obama's response on Monday to Friday's Standard & Poor's downgrade and to the 22 Navy Seal commandos and eight other soldiers killed by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan was once more too little, too late. It was just like his belated, ineffectual response on the BP oil spill and his reaction to the would-be Christmas Day bomber; it took him three days on vacation in Hawaii to speak about the terrorist incident when the country was scared about national security, and then he spent the next week callously shuttling from the podium to the golf course.

His inability to grab a microphone and spontaneously assuage Americans' fears is strange. If the American servicemen had died on a Monday, he wouldn't have waited until Wednesday to talk about it. He doesn't like the bully pulpit, just the professor's lectern. After failing to interrupt his Camp David weekend to buck up the country on one of its worst days in history, he tacked on his condolences for the soldiers' families to his economic pep talk, in what had to be the most inept oratorical segue of his presidency.

He long ago should have gone out into the country to talk to Americans in person and come up with a concrete plan that people could print out from the White House website and study. Hasn't he learned how dangerous it is to delegate to Congress? His withholding and reactive nature has made him seem strangely irrelevant in Washington, trapped by his own temperament. He doesn't lead, and he doesn't understand why we don't feel led.

Speaking from the State Dining Room of the White House, he advised America it was still "a triple-A country" like some cerebral soccer coach urging the kids to win one for the London Interbank Offered Rate. With traders hearing nothing new, just boilerplate about "common sense and compromise" on deficit reduction, the Dow Jones industrial average, which had already fallen 410 points, fell 20 more points while the president was talking around 2 O'clock. By the 4 pm close, the Dow was 634 points lower.

Obama has spent a lifetime creating his persona — superior, wise, above all parties and interests, all-seeing, calm, unflappable. But Obama's assumption that you can rise above ascribing villainous motives has caused him to waste huge chunks of his first term seeking bipartisanship from Republicans who were playing him for a dupe. And it has led to Americans regarding the nation's capital as a place of all villains and no heroes.Maureen Dowd








'Loot and scoot'

Backing the BJP's anti-corruption offensive, the RSS has come out all guns blazing against the government. The special Independence Day issue of its weekly Organiser is titled "Politics of loot and scoot". The editorial, and article after article, attack Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The editorial says the UPA is giving the impression that it has more to hide, in the aftermath of all these scams.

"There was no other time in our democratic history of the last six decades when so many ruling alliance leaders were cooling their heels in Tihar jail. There was no other government which had to sack so many ministers and chief ministers on corruption charges. There was no other time when so many skeletons of scams tumbled out of the ruling party cupboards as now."

It adds, "To top it all, at no other time has an Indian prime minister looked so lost, inadequate, indifferent and unfazed as Manmohan Singh. And his party chief and the real person who wields power is so brazenly insensitive, secure and remote from public scrutiny."

It claims that this situation has creation a situation in which the general perception is to lynch the entire political class: "People feel helpless and they have lost faith in the political class... Witness the unanimity of the political class to protect their perks and privileges." The editorial blames the Congress for creating this disaffection for the political class.

Hope for better

The Panchjanya also has a special Independence Day issue titled "Suraaj ki aas" (hope for good governance). The editorial laments what it identifies as widespread corruption, unending scams, economic mismanagement, mishandling of national security and minority appeasement as some of the challenges facing India in its 64th year of independence. "True, the country has made some technological and economic development in these years, but it has to travel a long way in establishing itself as a self-reliant, self-confident, prosperous and strong nation," it says. It claims that Gandhi's dream of Ramrajya and "suraaj" has been shattered by the acts of his own followers and now it was up to the people of this country to take responsibility for ensuring good governance. "Corrupt, power-greedy politicians cannot give us good governance. This has been proved by the record of the last 64 years," it says. Another article claims that the judiciary, media and an aware public are the new saviours of our democracy.

Hindu patrimony

An Organiser article draws attention to the large number of objects from the Indus valley civilisation in American and European museums and libraries, and says India should demand these back.

"Should the people of India, Greece, Egypt and Africa, and the Native Americans succeed in getting American and European museums and libraries to return all objects which constitute the tangible roots of ancient civilisations, and thousands of years of history pre-dating the cults of Jesus and Mohammed, then the Louvre, British Museum, Smithsonian, Vatican and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, to mention just five, would be emptied of all their prized possessions," it says.

The writer claims to have seen objects inscribed with Saraswati-Indus script in the British Museum alone. "There are currently around 4,200 such inscribed objects of which over 2,500 are seals and sealings," the article claims. "This is invaluable and priceless wealth, our history and heritage, objects which define national self-identity, which we must bring back. This is wealth which cannot be replicated, regenerated or renewed... India has to take the lead in this direction as only India can, because India's Hindu civilisation is still alive and vibrant," it concludes.







Dear editor: I am writing to clarify that the purported letter of resignation published in The Indian Express ('I will not attend any meetings with Mr Ansari', August 10) was not given to your paper by me. I did indeed speak to your reporter about the allegations that were made against me ('Radha Kumar quits J&K panel after Ansari's attack', IE, August 9), but I spoke about my own name alone. I did so because I believe there is a campaign to discredit our mission and forthcoming report even before it is submitted, and irrespective of who we are the mission is an important one.

The conference which I organised in the European parliament in 2006 was in my capacity as a programme director at the Delhi Policy Group, an independent think-tank. The Delhi Policy Group was the sole organiser of the conference, and it was in the nature of a sitting with Baroness Nicholson, who had been appointed to write a report by the European parliament. All the people who attended it were people of the highest integrity. They spoke their opinions freely, without let or hindrance, and in doing so they served the people of India and the people of J & K.

As a democracy it is incumbent on us to uphold freedom of speech within the bounds of truth and civility. While the Delhi Policy Group is an institution which is widely respected, and the diaspora centres currently in the eye of a storm are dubious, the Indians and Kashmiris who are being maligned for attending meetings of the latter are mostly people who are and should be respected for their courage and selflessness, not denigrated for seeking to engage with people of opposing views.

Yours sincerely,

Radha Kumar Member, Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir










Some months ago, when Duvvuri Subbarao was at odds with the finance ministry on how quickly new bank licences should be given out and the criterion for deciding these, few thought he'd get the extension that most of his predecessors got after completing their three-year term. But with the US and European crises getting murkier—the odds of a US recession are said to be one in four—the government wisely decided that rocking the boat wasn't a good idea. More so since Subbarao, who was baptised by fire (Lehman collapsed within a short while of his taking over), has done a good job of keeping India relatively insulated from the extreme volatility that followed Lehman. Indeed, despite the sharp increase in inflows and the rupee volatility, Subbarao stayed away from the traditional policy of buying dollars—given how exports still grew, he appears to have been vindicated.

Given the banking sector has come out relatively unscathed even after a period of high growth, Subbarao's leadership has been good for RBI. Although some, like the latest issue of The Economist, suggest RBI has been somewhat lax in giving out what it calls get-out-of-jail cards and prefers to not recognise bad loans if it thinks doing the right thing would put the banking system's stability at risk. Introduction of the base rate, similarly, has ensured the transmission of monetary policy is faster; the policy paper on deregulation of savings rate shows RBI was on the right track, though nothing has come of it so far. Many criticise Subbarao for being in sync with the finance ministry after taking what looked like an independent stand—this, however, is a bit of a myth, since the system will collapse if both are at loggerheads. But since the good that men do is oft interred with their bones, if India's growth collapses, Subbarao will probably be remembered for his sharp 50 bps rate hike at a time when both global and Indian growth is slowing. While there are divergent views on whether this was the right policy, and even on whether RBI should be looking at CPI or WPI to determine policy action, what was inexplicable was the conclusion, as recently as July 26, that India's growth momentum was still strong—indeed, it didn't need the S&P downgrade for RBI to figure out the challenges to global growth were serious. What is true, though, is that this endeared him to the inflation-scarred political class.





Going by the data on indirect tax collections from April to July given out by the finance ministry, there's little evidence of a slowdown. These taxes—customs, excise duties and service taxes—the ministry data show, grew by over 27% over those in the corresponding period last year. Indeed, given that the budget targets for the entire year project a growth of 17.4%, this showing is quite fantastic, and suggests that budget targets will be exceeded smartly. The numbers, however, need to be interpreted with care. For one, a 27% growth is far lower than the 38.3% growth in 2010-11 in these three categories of indirect taxes—so even the 27% is a clear slowing. Two, there could be a problem with the data. Data on the finance ministry's Website for the April to June period isn't directly comparable with what the ministry gave in the briefing (for April to July) since the Website data is on a net basis (after removing the share of the states) while the other is on a gross basis. If you add back the states' share to the Website data, as you should, the data is compatible, except in the case of customs duties. In this case, the adjusted April to June data show customs duty collections of R57,600 crore while the April to July data give a figure of R50,705 crore! It would be nice if all the data was from the same series and the obvious inconsistencies corrected.

Interestingly, the indirect taxes data is at sharp variance with the direct taxes data—while the former is said to have risen 27%, the latter fell 8%. The obvious reason for this is inflation. While inflation raises revenues, and therefore the indirect taxes which are based on prices, the same doesn't apply to corporate taxes—indeed, most companies are showing slowing bottom line growth. While that would explain direct taxes slowing, it doesn't explain why they've fallen. If you take direct and indirect taxes, a logical thing to do while assessing overall economic performance, you find the growth in the April to July period is just under 11% as compared to the budget target of 18.5%. The Central Board of Direct Taxes has explained the fall by saying there is a surge in tax refunds, but it does seem a bit strange that this should be continuing four months into the financial year—in which case, you'd think the tax data put out would give data net of the refunds. At a time when there is considerable confusion over just how badly growth is slowing—the IIP is still very volatile—you'd hope that the tax data would at least give you a clear picture.





Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, has torn up his institution's implicit rule book by buying Italian and Spanish sovereign debt. Does this make him Europe's great defender, who has turned back a near-fatal onslaught by market forces? Or is he rather a Molotov cocktail-throwing radical, tearing down the foundations of the eurozone's social contract by opening the door to monetised public deficits?

He could, of course, be both. It is quite possible, indeed plausible, that the project of monetary union can only survive if some of the premises on which it was founded—such as a ban on using pooled resources to help members states who cannot pay their debts—are jettisoned. If so, Mr Trichet is indeed a revolutionary, but one whose radical measures aim at preserving the established order.

There is a more likely possibility: that for all its radicalism, the ECB's action will not have much effect at all. Granted, the immediate impact of the governing council meeting on

Sunday and the next day's market intervention was tremendous. Driving down the sovereign yield of a euro 1,600bn-a-year economy by almost a full percentage point shows that the ECB is no pushover.

The question is not about the force of the ECB's punch but about its staying power. Its intervention in the sovereign bond markets of Greece, Ireland and Portugal is instructive in this regard. These are much smaller—more cheaply manipulable—than those of Spain and Italy.

The ECB launched its Securities Markets Programme in May 2010, when the first eurozone rescue of Greece was arranged. It later added Irish and Portuguese bonds to its portfolio. Before this week's intervention, the SMP held 74bn euros worth of government securities from these three countries. That is 14 per cent of the around 520bn euros of bonds they have outstanding, presumably more if counted at face value. Since Italian and Spanish bonds amount to some 2,250bn euros, and trade at higher prices than those of the small peripheral countries, the ECB would need to spend well more than 300bn euros to hold a similar share. If the goal is to induce markets to offer states low-borrowing costs, this amount of bond-buying is clearly far too timid to succeed. Greek 10-year bonds now yield about 15 per cent; Irish and Portuguese ones about 10. Why expect any more success from buying Italian and Spanish bonds?

The answer depends on what precisely the ECB wants to do: make markets lend at reasonable rates, or permanently substitute its own favourable rates for unsustainable market yields? For now, the answer is surely the former: the ECB—and everybody else in their right mind—must hope the intervention will flip market psychology so that investors return at normal prices. This is not a delusional proposition: everywhere except Greece, the biggest cause of rising yields has been self-fulfilling market worries about market access.

But the effect of policy on market psychology is never mechanistic, least of all in times as uncertain as these. The ECB's action, instead of reassuring investors, could quite possibly make them think that if such a desperate measure is needed, it is better to get out of the market and stay out until things look better. This could accelerate the crisis. More probably, doubts will simply linger until market panic flares up again.

What then? It will be the true test of the ECB's radicalism. If markets remain unconvinced that Italy's or Spain's market access is secure, the

ECB has only one tool left. That is to take over the whole market—buy all new or outstanding Italian or Spanish debt at a certain yield—or promise to do so, which it can only credibly do by actually going ahead.

It is inconceivable that the ECB would do this, and there are reasons why it should not. One is efficacy: it is not clear how Italian and Spanish access to private debt markets at reasonable terms would be secured by supplanting those private markets with monetary financing.

Moreover, purely monetary action cannot provide the public sector with real resources on a sustained basis without those resources ultimately being paid for by the private sector. The usual way that this happens is through an inflation tax: net holders of nominal claims see the real value of their assets eroded. In a currency union this would affect all countries and amount to a real transfer from creditor country citizens to debtor states. Transfers can happen in other ways: if bonds were not honoured in full, the entire eurozone must help make the ECB whole for its losses. Whichever the mechanism, transfers resulting from monetary policy are anathema to the terms Germany thought it secured for the euro.

But this outcome can only be ruled out by finding another solution, and soon. Creditor nations' taxpayers are already exposed. Politicians must grasp, then explain, that their money is best protected by putting it explicitly behind the commitments made to solvent but illiquid sovereigns. The obvious way to do this is the most impolitic one: boost the eurozone's rescue facilities—the European Financial Stability Facility and the future European Stability Mechanism—to a level that can cover the entire eurozone's gross public financing needs for the next couple of years, some 3,000bn euros.

This would end the crisis. EFSF and ESM bonds, like US ones, will not face buyers' strikes, regardless of ratings. It would also be profitable—a point missed by politicians who complain about "unjustified" yields. If markets price bonds irrationally, the EFSF can make money for taxpayers by buying them. Sadly, not everyone has Mr Trichet's capacity for such radical thinking.

© The Financial Times Limited 2011






The sharp rise in domestic interest rates may soon begin to tell on the credit quality of India's corporates. Already, most companies are unable either to absorb the impact of rising interest rates themselves, or to pass on the impact to customers. Crisil, therefore, expects that the rising interest rates will significantly erode companies' profitability and raise their interest outgo in FY 2011-12.

Crisil's rating actions so far in 2011 already hint at the dip in companies' credit quality. In the first quarter of 2011-12 alone, there have been 105 rating downgrades (and 185 upgrades)—vis-à-vis 269 downgrades (and 605 upgrades) through all of 2010-11. This is consistent with our expectation, as outlined in an earlier release ('India Inc's credit quality peaking—pressures on profitability to increase; demand will be key monitorable') that credit quality pressures may increase if demand moderates.

In a bid to rein in intensifying inflation, RBI has hiked the benchmark interest rate by a cumulative 175 basis points since January 2011. Banks have increased their interest rates in response to RBI's measures by 175 basis points or more from January 2011 till date. A study by Crisil on its portfolio of 5,500 rated corporates indicates that the hike will drive their interest outgo upwards by R11,700 crore, and an erosion in their net profits by 7.6% in 2011-12 (over the estimated net profit levels for the same year in the absence of a hike).

The rise in interest outgo is expected to reduce the companies' interest coverage (a key ratio that measures the sufficiency of their operating profitability to service interest on borrowings) by 14%—to 3.62 times for the year ended March 31, 2012, from 4.19 times for the same year in the absence of a hike. Crisil's analysis assumes that its portfolio of rated companies will report a sales growth of 20%, a contraction of 1.5% in operating margin, and an increase of 18% in debt levels in 2011-12.

The spiralling interest rates may dampen aggregate demand, and thus reduce the flexibility of companies to pass on the impact of the hike directly to customers. Demand may moderate for companies in industries such as automobiles, real estate and retail—which are especially sensitive to consumer demand—if they hike product prices to cover interest costs. The rising interest rates may result in a 10% to 13% increase in EMIs for housing loan borrowers, thereby restricting their ability to buy new houses to some extent.

Highly leveraged industries such as textiles, metals and mining, and hotels, may be more vulnerable than other industries to rising interest rates. Companies in these industries have higher levels of debt on their balance sheets, substantial portions of which are linked to floating rates, and may witness large interest outgo; the median decline in their net profits may, therefore, exceed 18%.

Small companies that depend largely on the domestic banks for funds are likely to be the most affected by the current interest rate regime. The increased interest costs will impact their cash accruals in the near term, and thus, their credit risk profiles. Small companies—with turnovers of less than R100 crore—may face a 16.6% decline in net profits on account of the hike in interest rates (see Table). For the larger companies—those with turnovers exceeding R500 crore—the dip in net profits may be as low as 6.1%.

Companies with strong capital structures and robust profitability are comfortably placed to absorb the interest rate hikes. Engineering and pharmaceutical companies, for instance, have strong profitability and low debt levels; this will restrict the median decline in their net profits to less than 6%. Moreover, corporates with healthy funding mixes—including foreign currency borrowings, and fixed-rate bonds and debentures from the domestic capital markets, in addition to bank loans—will be better cushioned from the impact of the hikes in interest rates on domestic bank loans.

Given the steep rise in funding costs, and the slowdown in demand in the domestic and global markets, the revenue growth and profitability, and therefore, credit quality, of India's corporates will remain constrained through 2011-12. Nevertheless, the easing of global crude oil and commodity prices, in addition to primarily domestic consumption-focused businesses and strong balance sheets, may provide India's corporates with some respite.

The author is director, Crisil Ratings






If you want a more picturesque idea of how large the US debt is, here are some comparisons to put the figure in context. Even if you spent $1 million a day since the time of Jesus Christ, around 2,000 years ago, you still wouldn't come close to having spent as much as America's $1.7 trillion deficit (as of 2010). If you constructed a building out of 100-dollar bills, then America's $114.5 trillion of unfunded liabilities would be far higher than both the Empire State Building and the World Trade Centre, the tallest building in the US until 9/11.





If you feel that despite the rising rates of student enrolment, the quality of education they are receiving is still under par, a report by the University Grants Commission (UGC) tells you why. The report,submitted to Kapil Sibal, found that India needs 3,00,000 more professors to bridge the shortfall in the higher education sector. Specifically, the report found that the 15 IITs and the 20 National Institutes of Technology (NITs) face a faculty shortfall of 30-35%, needing 1,693 and 1,522 more teachers, respectively. Central universities face a shortage of 30%. A separate report by UGC found that between 2006 and 2009, the number of university level institutions grew by 100 and the number of colleges grew by 7,887. In contrast, the number of teachers grew by only 1,00,000, clearly not enough to match the number of new higher educational institutions. Recently, the government told Parliament that it had allowed the IITs to hire expatriate Indians to cover the shortfall they face. This is a stop-gap fix. It applies only to the IITs and, even if it was broadened to cover all universities and colleges, there wouldn't be enough NRI and PIO teachers to handle the 25 million students the government aims to add to the existing 15 million. The real shortfall will have to be patched up with teachers from India. And towards this, teaching must be transformed into an attractive area for employment. Apart from putting numbers to the shortage, the report also highlights some problems that impede the development of a healthy strength of faculty members, such as the establishment of a reliable database of teachers, and various other administrative hurdles and delays.

As higher education enrolment grows (at more than 7% since 2007), the number of institutions is also going to have to grow to keep up. They've put a number to the shortage of teachers, which is only going to increase. Now it's time to do something about it.







The famine in Somalia has piled more misery on the people of a country wracked by a civil war for two decades. A famine alert is declared when two out of every 10 people have access to less than 2,100 calories; four out of 10,000 children, or two out of 10,000 people die every day; 30 per cent of the children suffer from acute malnutrition. The United Nations has declared that two regions in southern Somalia — southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle — are in the grip of a famine that is killing six out of every 10,000 children under the age of five every day. Nearly 3.7 million people are directly affected by the crisis, and over 2 million require emergency aid. A severe drought since 2009 in the Horn of Africa has affected three other countries — Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. But it is only in Somalia that the crisis has escalated to such severe proportions. As the eminent economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has shown, famines are man-made. From 1991, there has been no government in Somalia. The war has destroyed people's livelihoods. The U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government controls only parts of the capital Mogadishu. Southern Somalia is controlled by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate that contributed to the crisis by driving out international aid agencies two years ago on the suspicion they were western spies. Only in recent weeks has the group permitted these organisations back; some days ago, it also withdrew from parts of Mogadishu it controlled, leaving the capital fully to the TFG. This has allowed the U.N. to begin delivering some aid, but the security situation is still precarious and concerns are high that al-Shabaab might siphon off aid. The U.N. has called on the international community to contribute $300 million by mid-September to facilitate emergency assistance. It wants to raise $2 billion over the long term to pull the country out of the humanitarian disaster.

It is disquieting that New Delhi, which declared a comprehensive engagement with Africa just two months ago at the second India-Africa summit, has not yet responded to the unfolding crisis in Somalia. The silence surprises all the more considering that earlier this year the government appointed an envoy to the country, 20 years after the Indian Embassy closed down. At the May 2011 summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised $2 million to the African Union Mission for Somalia, which is helping the TGF to maintain control in Mogadishu. But making a significant contribution to the humanitarian effort is a more urgent, life-saving priority. It is time that economically rising India came off the benches on this one.





There is "no strong evidence" to conclude that cutting down the amount of salt consumed every day reduces the likelihood of normal people or those with hypertension dying or experiencing cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This is the finding of a Cochrane Review published recently in the American Journal of Hypertension (AJH) . The study was based on a meta-analysis of seven randomised controlled trials involving 6,250 participants who were followed up for at least six months. The meta-analysis covered people with normal blood pressure, hypertension, and those with heart failure. The finding, which comes in a line of dubious studies published in reputed medical journals, flies in the face of an overwhelming body of evidence showing a clear link between reduced salt intake and health benefits. Unsurprisingly, the results attracted wide publicity in the electronic and print media. But a comment published in The Lancet ("Salt reduction lowers cardiovascular risk: meta-analysis of outcome trials," by Feng J He and Graham A MacGregor) exposes the limitations of the Cochrane Review study and tries to undo the damage. It shows that the paper by Rod Taylor of the University of Exeter and others in the AJH is scientifically flawed on major counts. The data of normal and hypertensive patients that enabled Taylor to arrive at the conclusion were not statistically powered; in fact, a re-analysis of the combined data by He and MacGregor revealed that there was a significant 20 per cent reduction in cardiovascular events when the daily salt intake was reduced by 2.0-2.3 grams. Another major flaw was the inclusion of the trial involving heart failure patients without undertaking the necessary adjustments.

It is well known that increased salt intake poses a major challenge to the kidneys' ability to flush out the sodium. Greater salt intake leads to increased water retention in the body, which is one of the major factors in the development of hypertension. The evidence of a salt-BP link comes from a variety of sources — animal studies, human genetic, epidemiological, migration, population-based intervention, and treatment studies. According to a 2008 paper in the Journal of Human Hypertension , elevated blood pressure alone is responsible for 62 per cent of strokes and 49 per cent of coronary heart disease worldwide. Denial in the face of all this evidence is dangerous. All efforts should be aimed at following the World Health Organisation's recommendation that people should cut down the daily salt intake to 5 grams, eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly.







Eleven weeks after the annihilation of an entire company of the Central Reserve Police Force in a Maoist ambush in April 2010 near the village of Tarmetla — the largest single loss India has ever suffered in a counter-insurgency campaign — Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had fighting words for the consultative committee which exercises parliamentary oversight of his Ministry.

Mr. Chidambaram said the Chief Ministers of the four States worst hit by Maoist violence — Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand — had agreed to set up a unified command centre for joint operations. The Centre would help strengthen the police infrastructure and provide helicopters. The Planning Commission's Member-Secretary would head an Empowered Group to monitor development projects in the most affected areas, thus draining the swamps of backwardness in which the Maoists thrived. "The government is confident," he concluded, "that the problem of Left wing extremism will be overcome in the next three years."

Nothing that has happened since Mr. Chidambaram's July 2010 address gives reason to believe his assertion. India's Maoist insurgency has become progressively more lethal: last year, the MHA says, 1003 people were killed, up from 908 in 2009 and 721 in 2008.

Last year, the MHA observed in its annual report that "the overall counter-action by the affected States in terms of Left-Wing Extremists killed, arrested and surrendered has shown much better results." This time round, the annual report has held out no similar words of reassurance — and with good reason. Even though Mr. Chidambaram's war has all but disappeared off our television screens, the evidence shows it has run into big trouble.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the MHA does not provide breakdowns of the fatalities it records. However, an independent database maintained by the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) reveals a disturbing reality: despite massive investments in new forces and equipment, fewer insurgents are being eliminated while more police and civilians are being killed.

In 2007, 294 Maoists were recorded killed in police action; last year, the number was down to 170 — the lowest since the United Progressive Alliance government took power. However, the killings of both civilians and security forces have grown. In 2005, 150 police and 281 civilians were killed; last year, the numbers were 277 and 626.

Fatalities are not, in themselves, evidence of failure or success in combat: the early phases of counter-insurgency campaigns often witness sharp escalations in violence, as security forces push into regions where their adversaries held unchallenged power. The numbers from the ICM database, however, show that the ratio of insurgents to police killed is declining — which means the insurgents retain their edge.

In the autumn of 2009, Mr. Chidambaram initiated a sweeping offensive against Maoists: tens of thousands of personnel were mobilised in an effort to displace the insurgents from their strongholds. G.K. Pillai, former Home Secretary, announced that he hoped that "within 30 days of the security forces moving in and dominating the area, we should be able to restore civil administration."

In the year-plus since, that hope has shattered. Finding themselves lacking the combat skills and intelligence needed to outmanoeuvre insurgent units in the forests — a lesson hammered home by the killings at Tarmetla — the Central forces have been doing little other than protecting their camps.

Chasing a chimera

Experts predicted just this outcome. Even as the media applauded the anti-Maoist offensive, the former Director-General of Punjab Police, K.P.S. Gill, warned that New Delhi was chasing a chimera. There was, he noted, a pattern: "months of State denial, appeasement and progressive error; paralysis in the face of rising Maoist violence; and the final, almost effortless, resolution as the rebels simply melted away in the face of the first evidence of determined use of force."

The ICM's Ajai Sahni, in turn, prophesied that the retreat of Maoist groups would offer "no more than scant and fleeting comfort." The strategic reality, he noted in a November 2009 article, was that "if there is a concentration of State forces on particular nodes, the Maoists will disperse and intensify operations in other areas; if there is a dispersal of State forces, these will be subjected to persistent and corrosive attacks at their points of vulnerability."

India's Mughal-era mode of counterinsurgency, consisting of despatching large numbers of forces to contain distant rebellions, had led to protracted stalemates in several States, the experts noted — and the Maoist campaign would prove no different.

New Delhi didn't listen — and has since continued to demonstrate a remarkable unwillingness to learn from experience. Each successive annual report of the MHA has underlined the need for a holistic response to the insurgency — but has never devoted a word to why multi-million rupee investments in schools, roads or hospitals have yielded so few results.

In 2008, the MHA advised violence-affected States to push forward with a nine-point programme that included "time-bound action for augmenting the police force," development of "suitable incentives for persons who are posted in these areas," putting up "secure police station buildings," setting up units "with special commando/jungle warfare related training," ensuring that public services were "available and accessible to people" and creating "mechanisms for public grievance redress."

These same points, in exactly the same words, have figured unchanged in annual reports since — for example, in paragraph 2.7.7 of the annual report for 2009-2010, and paragraph 2.7.9 in 2010-2011.

Even the most obtuse bureaucrat ought to have realised that the repeated use of copy and paste commands on his word processor wasn't likely to make a policy work. However, funds continued to be spent on building non-functional schools and highways that existed only on paper. Even a bridge across the Godavari to link the economic hub at Karimnagar to Bhopalpattinam, which Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh agreed to build in 2007, is yet to be constructed.

The writing on the wall has become painfully clear: without order, development is just not possible and New Delhi has no coherent strategy to bring about this precondition for progress.

Reimagining strategies

MHA strategists have, in the main, dealt with the problem by escalating it up the bureaucratic ladder. Mr. Chidambaram's 2010 inter-State committee was just the latest in a series of similar bodies charged with implementing development. In 2007, the MHA set up a Naxal Management Division under the command of an Additional Secretary to ensure "periodic review and close monitoring of the Action Plans drawn up by the States."

Later, in February 2008, the Cabinet Secretary began chairing meetings to coordinate responses to the Maoists.

As Dr. Sahni noted sardonically, it would have been no small achievement "if the State could even 'restore civil administration' to vast expanses of rural India where the Maoists have no presence whatsoever, but where virtually the entire apparatus of governance has vanished — at least some of these areas are little more than a stone's throw away from Delhi."

Last year, after the Tarmetla massacre, Mr. Chidambaram urged Indians to "remain calm, hold our nerve, and do not stray from the carefully chosen course that we have adopted since November 2009." The time has come for New Delhi to consider whether that chosen course is, in fact, a useful one.

Premised on the belief that counter-insurgency campaigns must be population-centric — in other words, dominate territories and thus deny insurgents contact with the population — the strategic foundation of India's war on Maoist insurgents has proved to be flawed. There are, quite simply, just not enough troops to secure the continental scale of the terrain involved.

Insurgents have known for centuries that superior forces can be defeated. Napoleon Bonaparte believed his 1808 occupation of Spain would be a "military promenade." Instead, France found itself bogged down by a protracted guerrilla struggle that lasted six years and compelled the commitment of three-fifths of its imperial army. The Irish insurgents who fought the British in 1848 were taught to "decompose the science and system of war." "The force of England," advised the radical James Lalor, "is entrenched and fortified. You must draw it out of position; break up its mass; break its trained line of march and manoeuvre; its equal step and serried array."

In 266 BC, the chronicles of the ancient historian Aelian recorded, emperor Antigonus II Gontas laid siege to the city of Megara. The Megarans had no weapons with which to break the ranks of Antigonus II's battle elephants. No weapons, that is, bar their wits — and Megara's pigs, which were rounded up, doused with resin, and set on fire. The squealing animals ran in flames towards the elephants, which panicked and fled killing many of the emperor's troops.

India's battle elephants, too, have failed to uproot the red flag from the large swathes of central India where the Maoist insurgency has embedded itself. Insurgencies are small commanders' wars: wars that depend on the training, commitment and skills of leaders on the ground, not armies of conventional scales and resources. Fighting the Maoist insurgency will need careful planning and sustained innovation. New Delhi seems to have, in its arsenal, only big sacks of cash and even bigger words.

Fighting the insurgency will need careful planning and sustained innovation. But New Delhi seems to have only big sacks of cash and even bigger words.







The ruckus in the parliament over the report of the CAG has once again put the entire nation into a state of dismay. It is really unfortunate that the senior colleague in the coalition government should begin to question the authority and jurisdiction of an institution incepted by virtue of constitutional provision. The terms of reference, the jurisdiction and the scope of reach of the CAG is well defined in our Constitution. To raise questions on these aspects or on the propriety of this arm of democratic institution is uncalled for. If any political party in or out of power has any questions and doubts in regard to the jurisdiction of CAG, the proper action is to move a bill for amending relevant clauses in the Constitution but not to try to denigrate the institution in the very house which has sanctioned its inception. Earlier, almost the same irrational stance was adopted in regard to PAC and even now its authority is being subtly challenged and sought to be undermined in the very house that ordained its inception. This clearly indicates trust deficit of the ruling coalition in democratic institutions of the state. How can the masses of people expect a fair deal on serious issues like the glaring scams at the hands of parliamentarians when the ruling party and its colleagues are beset with unnecessary trust deficit? It is bad strategy to try to pass the buck and hold previous regimes responsible for something that is admittedly wrong and should not have happened. If the ruling coalition finds it really bad, it should have taken proper remedial measures when it assumed power and came to know about the irregularity. When that is not done, the inference is that it has become complacent with the decisions and policy of the previous government. Where then is the scope of passing the buck to someone else?
The institution of CAG is not a party-man or party institution: it has no political affiliations. Its only duty is to serve national interests to the best of its ability and protect the nation against damages that would shape owing to mismanagement of the national exchequer. Naturally it is the governance or administration, in simpler terminology that comes under CAG's scanner. He has to be honest to reflect his observations to the government essentially to make the government aware of where its losses occur and how to plug them. If all this is being called interference with the administration or the policy of the government, one can say there is big gap in understanding the nature of job that CAG is required to do.
The government is bound to take the report of the CAG in all its seriousness because it is something like running commentary on the performance of the government. Rightly, the observations of the CAG have to be put on the table of the house and discussed by the people's representatives as it is a matter of public interest. The right course of follow-up action on CAG's report is to ask the Parliament to decide how to correct the mismanagement. Obviously, this means that those to whose doorsteps the CAG has brought the onus of mismanagement shall have to be accountable to the nation. This is not a question of launching defamation tirade against one or the other person. Those whose names have appeared in the report or are indirectly answerable for their alleged acts of omission and commission should not take it a personal vendetta but a part of their official duty and responsibility to convince the nation of their administrative fairness.
Scams and corruption are national shame. Emphasis has to be on preventing and even eradicating the malaise, and not on making it a pretext for launching a campaign of defamation or personal vendetta. The law of the land will take care of the course of events once a scam is brought to light and subjected to investigation. It leaves no scope for personal revenge and vendetta. If the tainted personalities begin to challenge the authority of the investigating and supervising institutions, it clearly shows that they have things to hide. This is what happened to prime accused in 2-G and in CWG scams. In the process of accountability if heads have to roll, let it be for it is attributable to the democratic rights of the Indian nation and not to the alleged ill-intentions of the democratic institutions, something unjustifiable.






The incident of fake encounter in Surankot of Poonch area, in which a person of imbalanced mind was gunned down by the security forces, is shocking. We don't expect the security forces and especially the army to indulge in such mindless acts. Why was not the identity of the victim ascertained before he was gunned down allegedly in Hari forests? The worst is that the security forces and the police claimed that they had gunned down a wanted militant commander. As is being reported in the media, two SPOs carried out the operation with the motive of winning kudos and medals and promotion. The Army is reported to have made the statement of gunning down of the victim as LeT commander on the reports furnished by the local police. This too is unacceptable. The Army ought to have made its own investigation before endorsing the statement of the two SPOs. The Defence Minister has rightly called for the report from army on this incident. Hopefully after the report comes in, the Defence Ministry will take necessary action to plug repetition of such tragic incidents that tarnish the otherwise good image of the Army. This is a rare case in which the Army endorsed the statement just on the certification of the local police. Naturally, when the facts will be out, the Army shall have to be more careful and considerate in issuing or in endorsing statements. If it is of Army's own doing, well the question of passing the buck does not arise. While this is being said, it has to be remembered that the Army is deeply engaged in building confidence and good relations with civilian population in its respective areas of operation. The people have always welcomed and valued Army's goodwill gestures.








The recent order of the Supreme Court of India in relation to Greater Noida land case has sent shock waves to affected builders, buyers and housing loan organizations but has sparked jubilation amongst the affected land owners whose farm land was requisitioned by Govt. of Uttar Pradesh through Noida or Greater Noida Authority.
The decision will have far reaching impact in the country and curtail the authority of the State Govt. to quite an extent. But at the same time will strengthen the rights of the cultivators on their land.
The excesses done by the Govt. of various states on land acquisition under the shadow of 'public interests' has been exposed with this recent order.
The ramification of such order will have multiple effects to the stake holders of country's realty business.
The State Govt. has done a business at the cost of farmers and deprived them of the legitimate price. In the case of Shahberi village of Greater Noida, a total of 156 hectors were requisitioned by the Noida authority for which they paid a price of Rs. 800 per square meter much below the market price.
They however, sold the land at the rate of Rs.1200 per square meter making a profit of Rs.400 per sq. mtr. If the land was requisitioned on the 'public interest' why did they make a business out of it? The words 'public interest' would have been appropriate if the authorities had made roads, bridges, railway tracks etc in the over all interest of the general public but selling the land to builders was certainly a dubious act as rightly observed by the Supreme Court.
There are more villages and small towns in the country of which the land has been requisitioned by the govt. and sold to the builders on account of public interest and expectedly the affected people would knock the door of law for justice. Singur in west Bengal is one such case in the recent past for which the final order of the court is awaited.
The state govt. is empowered to make a master plan to make infrastructural development but they should not make a business out of it at the cost of others. Let developers fend for themselves if they have to make a business. Constructing residential accommodation in govt. acquired land was safe up till now as ownership of the land after govt. acquisition was clear and undisputed but the present order of the Supreme Court has set aside such notion.
The court has also said that states are misusing a century old colonial rules for favouring the developers and industrial houses. An amendment to the age old colonial rules on land acquisition is pending with the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PAC) but no one knows when it would see the day light.
There is a possibility of rates going down in realty sector and especially in Uttar Pradsh but other areas where such misuse of authority has not taken place may not get the brunt of court order. Some experts are of the view that the court order will not have any impact in the National Capital Region (NCR) but the ground reality can only be examined after a month or two.
The most affected out of the parties will be the middle income buyers who may have to run from pillar to post to get back their hard earned money which they have already paid to the builders. Likely big builders will dole out options to their customers to shift to other projects which are not under dispute but many small builders would not have such options to shift their customers to other projects.
Financial institutes those have given loans to buyers will have instruments to recover the loan amount. The big builders may refund some money to the buyers but the small builders would not be able to do so as they would have spent the money received from their customers in the project.
The court has given August12, 2011 as the last date for settlement but it is unlikely that a settlement will be reached out side the court because of various peculiar issues in relation to Greater Noida cases.
In the mean time the Central Government of India is ready with a draft land acquisition bill which is expected to be tabled in Lok Sabha in this monsoon session. A huge debate is expected as political parties with vested interest are apprehensive on the outcome of the bill. It is likely that a number of amendments will be moved by various parties when the bill is placed in the parliament.
The private builders have been kept out of this bill and therefore, they have to approach the land owners directly for any deal. The draft acquisition bill is basically compensation based. It also has a provision of job offer to the affected family or cash in lieu of. The bill deals in resettlement and rehabilitation primarily but lays restriction on multi crop irrigated land acquisition as well.
Land acquisition or land related issues are basically the nodal point of corruption, a system needs to be worked out and implemented to prevent under hand dealings.
The judgment of the Supreme Court has come at a time when things were going beyond limit.
There is a need to formulate the acquisition bill in such a manner that poor farmers are not harassed.








In view of the emerging challenges and threats to agriculture sector, vis-à-vis national food security, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed a strategic framework to improve food security, enhance opportunities for inclusive growth, augment competitiveness of Indian agriculture and create adequate and quality human resources to address the concerns. Some of the major concerns include, natural resources degradation, increasing biotic and abiotic pressures, declining input use efficiency, post-harvest losses, decreasing profitability in farming, quality human resource and farm extension. To deal with the challenges effectively, ICAR is coordinating, guiding and managing research, education and extension in agriculture, including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences, in the country.
The comprehensive initiatives taken by the Council have led to notable accomplishments in natural resource management, input use efficiency, climate resilience, secondary agriculture and economic transformation of farmers through technological interventions. The year 2010-11 has been agriculturally rewarding as we have observed record food grain production touching 242 million tonnes in farm season (July-June) according to the 4th advance estimates released recently. The food grains comprise rice, coarse-cereals and pulses. The record output was largely because of a sharp rise in production of wheat to 86 million tonnes against 81 million tonnes in the year before. The record high oilseed production of 31 million tonnes is another notable accomplishment to cheer. Further, a high production in horticulture, 234.4 million tonnes could also be achieved through policy and technological support.
Among new projects, a National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture is a noteworthy one launched with the objective to assess impact of climate change on the agriculture and allied sectors, and for evolving cost-effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. The Project has a budget outlay of Rs 350 crore for XI Plan; out of which Rs 200 crore is allocated for 2010-11, and Rs 150 crore for 2011-12 on the research infrastructure, capacity-building and on-farm demonstrations of available climate-resilient technologies.
During the year 2010-11, 60 varieties/hybrids of crops including major food crops of rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet and pulses were released/ recommended for cultivation in different agro-climatic regions of country. During the year, 629 tonnes of nucleus seed, 9,554 tonnes of breeder seed, 7,745 tonnes of foundation seed, 3,471 tonnes of certified seeds and 10,443 tonnes of truthfully labeled seed were produced for large scale multiplication to ensure timely supply of quality seeds to farmers.
To address the problem of decreasing soil and water productivity, the GIS based soil fertility maps, using soil-test data was prepared for 500 districts spread over 21 states of India. The data have revealed that soils of most of the districts have low to medium amount of nitrogen and phosphorus and medium to high amount of potassium. Existing ridge-and-furrow system of irrigation was modified for in-situ rain water harvesting (10% than the earlier 1% of rain), which increased castor yield by 30%. A decision support system was developed for facilitating location specific nutrient management.
With a view to enhance profitability and livelihood security, integrated farming is being promoted in all the ecological regions with the desired technological backstopping. An Integrated Farming System Component Selection Model is found useful for selection of the components of the integrated farming system based on the expected profit under the prevailing constraints, and also for suggesting beneficial components from profit as well as land and water productivity point of view.
With repositioning of its approach towards entrepreneurship and livelihood security, the ICAR has made a strong commitment for socio-economic transformation of the Indian rural population. The research programmes, educational initiatives and extension activities have been reoriented to meet the objective. Efforts are being made to ensure free flow of knowledge, crossing all barriers on the way. The ICAR has adopted open-access policy for its highly-rated research journals and other literature of importance. The website ( has transformed into a treasure house of agricultural information and knowledge for various categories of stakeholders. On an average, more than 2, 00,000 visits are recorded per month from around 166 countries reflecting the global presence of Indian agriculture. Consortium for e-Resources in Agriculture (CeRA) is providing free online access to more than 2,900 international journals and 124 libraries of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS). During the year 2010-11, 64 patent applications were filed and 10 were granted making the total as 481 and 58 respectively.
Under the ICAR award scheme, two new prestigious awards have been instituted, namely ICAR Norman Borlaug Award and ICAR Challenge Award. The total numbers of awards to be given annually in specific categories have been increased from 13 to 22. Similarly the award money has also been enhanced in most of the categories.
The ICAR has repositioned its approach in the formulation of 12th five year plan to bring a demand driven and technology led revolution in the country. The Council will focus more on the commodities and the areas where private sector would be reluctant to venture. Secondary and specialty agriculture and the strength inter-departmental platforms will be harnessed to sustain the benefits of agricultural research and development. At national level, initiatives such as National Agricultural Education Project, National Agricultural Entrepreneurship Project, National Agricultural Science Foundation and National Agricultural Innovation Foundation have been envisaged to further strengthen and accelerate the process of transformation. However, in all these initiatives the Council is making a forward march with Farmers First approach.
The research and development programmes during the year have armed ICAR with preparedness to meet future challenges, especially of prospective global climate change vis-à-vis depleting and degrading natural resources. We envision that innovations in agriculture would transform existing slowdown in agriculture sector into a vibrant and competitive sector by harnessing untapped opportunities in domestic and global markets. The Council firmly believes that agricultural research and development would augment farmers' income, generate employment opportunities, conserve natural resources, restrict imports, promote exports and increase value addition for higher and inclusive agricultural growth.
Appropriately backed by frontier sciences and techniques, a surge in production and productivity of major commodities is on the way to realize the dream of rainbow revolution.







But Sengupta, who is 46 and has worked more than 30 of those years as a domestic worker in various households, has no trouble understanding the issues involved.
"Because it's women's work, and it's the dirty household jobs, the work we do is not taken seriously-even though people wouldn't be able to run their lives without us," she said. "But unlike the norms in offices, every house I have worked in has had different ideas of what I should be paid, how much time off I can have, how much sugar I can put in my tea. Maybe people won't follow the laws overnight, but if there are laws in place protecting workers like me, people might think before they treat us badly."
The platitude most commonly heard in India is that domestic workers are part of the family, which belies the depressing slew of stories about underpaid or physically abused workers. A 2005 National Human Rights Commission study and a 2008 study by the women's support group Jagori have documented how this section of the Indian labour market is especially vulnerable to trafficking, financial and sexual exploitation and forcible confinement.
The ILO estimates that there are at least 4.75 million domestic workers employed in private households in India, of which 3.4 million, or roughly 72 per cent, are women. Until a few years ago, domestic workers in India had few rights and were poorly organised. For some, the sense of powerlessness is still strong.
Gita, who works as a household helper in Gurgaon, voiced the frustrations of many when she said: "Tell me, will the government tell my employer to give me a day off every week and a salary raise? Because if I tell her, she will fire me." For the same reason, she did not want her full name to be published. Gita's 10- to 14-hour daily shift nets her Rs 5,800, less than $130, a month.
Other people in India are more aware of shifts and changes in the laws, which may parallel a rising discomfort among members of the middle class with the often feudal ways in which domestic workers have historically been treated.
Sister Jeanne Devos, a Belgian-born Roman Catholic nun and national coordinator for the National Domestic Workers' Movement, has been monitoring the situation of such workers since the mid-1980s.
"The situation is changing rather fast, and in the last five years we have seen great improvement," Sister Jeanne said. Seven Indian states have passed laws bringing domestic workers under the Minimum Wage Act, a small but significant recognition of basic rights.
Social security benefits will be available for the first time soon, with the government announcing health insurance coverage for domestic workers and three family members. And Sister Jeanne hopes that the norms set by the ILO convention will be accepted by individual Indian states, even if it takes a few years for the Central government to ratify the convention.
One of the more contentious issues for domestic workers in India is the question of workplace safety. A landmark bill in 2010 tackling sexual harassment in the workplace was criticised for omitting domestic workers. The argument of its framers was that it would be difficult to police private homes.
Reiko Tsushima, senior specialist on gender equality and female worker issues at the ILO, offers a nuanced perspective. "Domestic work has often been considered an extension of women's work, and there needs to be a consensus that the home is also a workplace," she said. If all Indian states accept the labour ministry recommendation that domestic workers be covered under the Minimum Wage Act across the country, said Tsushima, this would underline that the home is a workplace.
"It has been a very exciting time in the last five years," she said. "The hope is that domestic workers will have ground to stand on with the new policy and legislative developments, and that the idea that they are entitled to rights will take hold. A significant part of policy and legislative focus up to now has been on social protection/welfare, but it's shifting towards rights and regulating working conditions."
One of the strongest voices among domestic workers is that of Baby Haldar, whose best-selling memoir, "A Life Less Ordinary," was published in 2002. Haldar, 37, has been fine-tuning a sequel and continues to work as a maid
in the house of a professor she considers a mentor and friend.
"There needs to be a change on the ground," she said. "I am treated with respect, but so many other women are not. The courts and the Government pass many, many laws. What we really need is an acknowledgement that the work we do in a household is important."
In her memoir, Haldar wrote about the households she'd worked in before she found her present employer, where the dignity and rights she felt entitled to - good working conditions, free time - were denied, as they have often been to domestic workers in India.
"Some people understand that we are looking after the most precious things in their lives - their homes, their children, their parents, their mental peace is in our hands," she said. "That attitude among employers needs to spread. "Changing the law is good, but the real change we want, it starts with respect." (INAV)


******************************************************************************************THE TRIBUNE





A task force of the Human Resource Development Ministry has estimated the shortage of teachers in India's colleges and universities at 54 per cent, up from the ealier 40-50 per cent. This in a country faced with high unemployment is unsettling and unacceptable. Governments at the Centre and in states have failed to raise education spending over the years to meet the growing demand for higher education in a rising India. As a result, new government colleges and universities that alone can make higher education accessible to a vast majority of students from the middle and lower classes are not enough and the existing ones are ill-maintained. Most are located in cities and those in towns are in neglect, the staff shortage there being the worst.


Though private institutions are coming up with flashy buildings and sprawling campuses, their business-oriented education model caters to a small elite minority. By luring government faculty with fatter salaries, they have pushed public sector institutions into a deeper mess. In Punjab the faculty crunch has become serious due to the near government bankruptcy. The state public service commission has been rendered workless. Ad hocism prevails. Guest teachers with UGC qualifications, including Ph.D., are hired at a fraction of the salaries paid to the regular staff. Even Delhi University makes do with part-timers. Some suggest teachers' retirement age be raised. Others want it to be cut and the condition of Ph.D for a teaching job waived.


A top professional institution like Punjab Agricultural University, which contributed significantly to the Green Revolution, is sinking due to lack of resources. Vice Chancellors plead for a bailout, while the Chief Minister's reported advice to overcome the crisis is: sell university land. The condition of the state's government medical colleges, where teachers have to be shifted around to escape disaffiliation from the Medical Council of India, is no better. Short-sighted politicians at the helm in states spend more to promote self interest and personal comfort than education that can lift an entire community.









The election of Dr Lobsang Sangay as the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Tibetans. He has taken up the reins of power at a time when the Dalai Lama has surrendered his political authority. The Dalai Lama's role remains confined to only religious matters. Dr Sangay, the third elected leader of the Tibetans, has all the necessary qualifications to guide the destiny of his people. A product of Delhi University and Harvard Law School, he understands the intricacies of the Tibetan cause and the difficulties in leading a people living in exile. There may be much expectations from the new Prime Minister, and he may try to fulfil them to the extent possible. But there are serious limitations for a government which has to function in exile. There are peculiar difficulties the Tibetans are faced with as a people whose homeland remains under the control of a different government.


Prime Minister Sangay has offered to hold negotiations with China so that the Tibetans are not denied basic human freedoms, justice, dignity and identity. He has no problems with the Chinese people, but is opposed to the Chinese policies for Tibet. China has been consistently trying to change the demographic character of Tibet by encouraging the majority Hans to settle in large numbers in Tibet. Tibetan cultural symbols are gradually disappearing. There is no proper upkeep of the historic monasteries there. Even the course of Tibetan rivers is being changed.


The new political head of the Tibetans, therefore, has major challenges ahead. His people aspire to shift from Dharamsala, their temporary abode, to Tibet, the land of their forefathers. But this is unthinkable under the circumstances. The Chinese government is in no mood to give any concession to the Tibetans. Anyone in Tibet who dares to raise his or her voice against the Chinese government is given severe punishment. Prime Minister Sangay wants general autonomy for Tibet, but the Chinese are not prepared to negotiate on the issue. However, when the Tibetans have an independent political leader, it should be easier for the Chinese to hold a dialogue.
















There is no end to the stories of young men from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh suffering in foreign lands due to their desperation for jobs abroad. However, what the boys who landed up in a huge farm in Iraq have narrated is too painful to hear. In all, nearly 40 youths were promised jobs in West Asia by some Punjab-based placement consultants. They did not know what kind of jobs they will get on reaching their claimed destination — Dubai and Iraq. This happens in most cases where unauthorised travel agents or placement consultants are involved. Sometimes these job-seekers end up as bonded labour and are given too risky work to do, as it happened in the case of these unfortunate boys. They were asked to clear live bombshells from farms near Karbala and Al-Najaf in Iraq. Their captives had the least regard for their lives.


A few years back some Indian truck drivers were compelled to transport goods between Kuwait and Iraq, though entering Iraq at that time was like going to a hell on earth. The conditions in Iraq are very bad even now though insurgency there has declined considerably. Most areas in that war-ravaged country are not safe to travel. Live and used bombshells remain piled up in many areas. There is an elected government in Iraq, but it is not able to control law and order. It, therefore, remains a virtually lawless country.


Immediately, the Government of India should do everything possible to save the lives of the trapped Punjabi youths in Iraq. The two young men who have managed to come back have provided enough details about their captors and the location of the farms they have been working under gruelling circumstances for nearly 17 hours. Besides getting them back home, the authorities should take their agents to task for their unpardonable conduct. All unauthorised agents should be identified and hauled up for playing with the lives of young job-seekers. No unauthorised company should be allowed to function as consultants for jobs in foreign lands. Those who do so clandestinely deserve to be punished severely.









In recent months, controlling inflation has been the main focus of the Reserve Bank of India. Since March 2010, for the eleventh time on July 26 it raised the repo rate — the key short-term lending rate — by half a percentage point to 8 per cent. Inflation control is becoming a major problem in China though its rate of inflation is much lower than India's 9.4 per cent and is at 6.4 per cent.


Inflation in China is partly the result of a huge amount of liquidity (4 trillion yuan) released in the economy after the Financial crisis hit the world in 2008. But even before the financial crisis, for years China gave subsidised loans to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the privates sector. This resulted in much over capacity in the real estate sector and the strengthening the SOEs, but because of its low interest rates China has been able to get a competitive edge over India. Inflation is now up in China mainly due to higher wage rates as its abundant labour supply is no longer assured because of fewer young people joining the labour force as compared to India due to its one-child policy.


In a bid to control inflation, China has raised the repo rate by a quarter percentage point (third time this year) to 6.5 per cent. The government hopes that this will take care of the phenomenon of the negative real interest rate (interest rate minus inflation) and prevent money from flowing out to non-monetary assets.


Despite all efforts, inflation in India remains unabated because of strong external factors like global oil price hike and higher international commodity prices that have jacked up industrial costs. Food inflation, however, remains volatile and seasonal with cereal prices climbing up due to higher minimum support prices offered to farmers by the state governments. The RBI, by raising interest rates, may help to suck out the extra liquidity in the economy and increase savings, but instead of bringing down inflation, it is likely to stave off demand and investment.


Whereas in India a higher interest rate will affect investment and credit offtake, in China it is expected to influence the consumer demand more. In India, there has already been a decline in industrial growth which was only at 5.6 per cent in May 2011 as compared to China's 15.1 per cent in June. China has built ultra-modern infrastructure in recent years and spent 50 per cent of its GDP on fixed assets like transport facilities and factories in 2010.


Government enterprises have also become powerful and 39 out of 42 Chinese companies listed on the Forbes list of 500 world's biggest firms are state-owned enterprises. They, however, have a low return to equity and have gained in weight and stature from low interest rates and easy access to land. They have also got staggering non-performing assets (NPAs) and with higher interest rates, their performance will worsen and there will be more NPAs.


Higher interest rates and relatively higher growth prospects in both the countries, however, will attract foreign institutional investors to pour money into the Indian and Chinese stock markets, though there has been a crash in world bourses following Standard & Poor's downgrade of the US debt rating for the first time in history. There will be a temporary retreat of FIIs from these countries but not for long. The lower credit rating will mean that the US will have to raise interest rates from near zero, which will affect its own economic recovery as financing of public and private debt will be costlier. It could mean a slowdown in demand so that commodity prices will come down and oil prices may stabilise, which may bring down the inflation faced by China and India in due course.


The biggest economy in the world, the US, is not facing inflation but a colossal public debt which crossed the government's stipulated limit recently. Currently the US debt stands at $14.6 trillion. A default has been narrowly averted by a compromise deal between the Republicans and the Democrats, and the limit has been extended by $ 2.4 trillion, but it will also mean a huge spending cut and an austerity package and higher interest rate outgo. It could mean lower export growth for India and China and the rest of the world.


Whether China, which holds the biggest amount of US Treasury bonds ($1.16 trillion), will keep buying them in future is the moot question. It cannot afford not to do so for fear that their value would crash which will in turn devalue its own holdings of US bonds.


Growth in the global demand will also be constrained by Japan's struggle with reconstruction after the March earthquake and the debt crisis in Europe. China, anticipating this problem, has been keen to boost domestic demand but may not be able to do so with higher interest rates necessary for containing inflation. If inflation continues and global demand recedes, India too will not be able to expand the capacity of the manufacturing or services sectors, resulting in unemployment.


The huge government debt will require higher service charges. The government's interest rate payments will take up more than 20 per cent of its current (non-Plan) expenditure, leaving less resources for Centrally-sponsored social development schemes.


Apart from slow export growth, inflation will dampen the demand for consumer goods. Durables will be adversely affected in India as people will postpone their purchases. Even car sales have witnessed a stagnant demand recently. Infrastructure building in India may slow down.


By contrast, China does not have to invest huge amounts in infrastructure. But its competitiveness may be eroded, which has been due to the low cost of capital, land and labour. Much of that advantage stands threatened by inflation pushed up by higher wages and higher interest rates. Its basic assets of a modern infrastructure, and educated and disciplined labour force will help in withstanding any serious decline in GDP growth. The FDI in China is also slated to grow.


The US may undergo a slow recovery and unemployment will remain a problem. In India, the continuance of inflation for another year will undoubtedly spell misery for people with fixed incomes. But with growing clouds over the world economy, the lower global demand may dampen oil and commodity prices. India's commodity exports may be hit and the RBI may be spared from increasing the repo rate further. India's growth rate will decline more sharply than that in China, whose problem of rising wages and overcapacity will remain. In short, China will fare the best!








When the Aswan High Dam was under construction, the fact that a number of exquisite, ancient Egyptian temples would be submerged, aroused universal condemnation. Funds were raised to save the temples through relocation. We watched with fascination as the media reported the success of these efforts. With painstaking skill most of the temples were sawn into blocks, transported to higher ground and then reassembled.


Some of the most wonderful buildings ever built by man were thus saved for posterity. But they were dead buildings. No priests had conducted prayers; no congregation had come to worship for centuries.


I was reminded of these temples recently when I drove through Bilaspur. The monsoon had not set in and the level of the waters had receded sufficiently to reveal the ancient temples that the dam had submerged. They were temples that were alive, temples where people worshipped, where prayers were offered for the newborn, the newly married and the dead and blessings were sought for the sick and the ailing. Yet they were submerged without any effort to save them.


My mind went further back and I remembered seeing the low summer water of the Tehri Dam revealing the remains of human habitations. They were just shells now, skeletons of the homes they had once been. I couldn't help thinking of the wonderful homes that they had once been. A house becomes a home when it contains the memories that come with at least three generations having lived there. I looked at these houses and I swear I could see the smoke-charred walls, smell the dung of the animals who had been tethered in the ground floor, hear the voices of women as they called their children home from play in the gathering dusk. The ghosts gradually disappeared in the gathering gloom and the silent tombs were left as mute reminders of the pulsating life they had once been home to.


My mind wandered again and I thought of another village in Wales which was submerged when a dam was built to provide water for the city of Liverpool. The displaced inhabitants were dispersed all over the world and the human suffering caused was all but forgotten. Yet seven years later, when the lake was emptied for essential repairs, the displaced inhabitants, those who were still alive and the descendants of those who weren't , descended on the village, repaired their homes and a few even replanted their gardens. They would be submerged again, they knew, and yet for a little while they savoured the joy and comfort of being home again, something they sorely missed in the soulless, newly built, concrete houses that they now lived in.


What is it with us as a people? We have the richest heritage in the world, most of us, at least in the villages, are deeply rooted in our homes and yet, when it comes to respect for the past we must be the most insensitive people in the world.










There are many girls who are unable to reproduce, as they are infertile due to one or many reasons. Previously there were no solutions for this. But, with advance technology there are ways which have made it possible for the infertile women also to conceive. If women are unable to fertilise their own eggs, it is their mothers who help them by providing the frozen eggs.


In a fascinating — and extremely moving development — a Canadian mother had frozen her eggs so that they could be later utilised by her seven-year-old daughter, who cannot have children naturally.


Approximately six British mothers have frozen their eggs for their daughters, who later gave birth to their half brothers or half sisters. By this advanced technology, these fertilised eggs are inseminated with the sperm of the daughter's husband with the help of conventional IVF or In Vitro Fertilisation.


In the case of the daughters who suffer from MRKH syndrome, where there is absence of uterus in the body, mothers have even agreed to carry the baby for their daughter – becoming a surrogate for their own daughter and giving her the greatest gift of all – the gift of life.


Age limit


But, it is also a point to note that there is a certain age limit within which the mothers can donate their fertilised eggs for the future use by their daughters. The age limit is 40 years, as after this age, the eggs are considered to be of poor qualitiy. It may also happen that an infertile woman can take the help of some other women to have the fertilised eggs, but according to the doctors the mothers are the best donors of the fertilised eggs for their daughters.


According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, the maximum time period of storing the eggs or the embryos is 5 to 10 years. But, there are certain conditions to store the eggs, and if all of these conditions are properly fulfilled then the eggs can even be stored for 55 years.


There are many psychologists who have criticised this idea of giving birth to the half siblings, as in the later stage the daughter may develop some psychological problems, as the babies would get confused about the relationship to their mother and grandmother.


But, many other people have found this objection to be very silly, and according to them it is always better to have a child through such revolutionary means than being childless. The daughters can become parent one day with biological link, and this is more important.


Egg freezing


In India also, egg freezing has definitely come forth as a boon to all the females who can now entertain their wish of delayed pregnancy due to their career, mutual agreement between couples and most importantly for women who could not bear children at all. Egg freezing gives the bliss of parenthood to many, research has it, and egg freezing increases the chances of having successful pregnancy by 20-30 per cent.


Further, it is very important to know how the doctors gather the fertilise eggs from the mothers for their daughters and how it is implanted at last.


Extraction: The growth of the eggs is induced with the help of injections and also with certain pills. The eggs are extracted from the follicles of the ovary, where there is a fluid that is surrounded by eggs. With the help of extraction this fluid and the eggs are brought out.


Freezing: In the process of freezing the doctors remove the fluid from the eggs. In this process, if crystals of ice are formed, they can damage the eggs. To avoid this stage, the doctors soak the eggs in an "antifreeze" solution and freeze it there. There are two techniques of doing it, one is slow freezing and the other is vitrification.


Fertilisation: When the daughter is ready to be pregnant, then the frozen eggs are activated. In this process there is a technique called ICSI, which means Intracystoplasmic Sperm Injection, and with the help of this technique the sperms are fertilized with the eggs, and after 48 hours of incubation in controlled sterile conditions the embryos are formed.


Implantation: At the last stage with the help of a thin flexible tube, the embryos are implanted into the women's uterus. These are the four techniques by which the egg implantation takes place with the help of the egg freezing.


Risks involved


The women can be at risk due to the following reasons.


Unprotected sex: It is always advisable to have safe sex. If you have unprotected sex and have slept with multiple partners then there are high chances of having sexually transmitted infections. This will lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and due to this a woman can even become infertile. So, to have a happy maternal life, you should always try to have safe sex, and try to avoid multiple partners.


Smoking: There are many women who are in the habit of smoking. They should remember that smoking has a very serious effect on the estrogen production. This can damage the complete process of egg production. Smoking for women is very injurious, and it can even make her infertile. The eggs are at a great danger due to smoking and there are high chances of miscarriage due to this.


Drugs and alcohol: Alcohol disturbs the menstrual cycle, and so there will be many problems in conceiving and in the production of the eggs. The level of testosterone is increased due to the consumption of alcohol. This hormone is produced in men, and it has presence in the female body. If the level is increased then it can have serious impact on the growth and development of the future child leading to problems which include mental retardation. It is very important to set a limit on alcohol.


In India egg freezing is not that common. Mothers are not that advanced to help their infertile daughters to become pregnant. But, with new advances, Indian women are also trying to freeze the eggs for future use.


Dr. Shivani Sachdeva Gour is Director and Fertility Consultant, ISIS Fertility Centre and Visiting Consultant


Fortis La Femme







Human sperm freezing has been there for quite some time, and it took about 50 years to develop the processes for human egg freezing.


These days there are different processes with the help of which it is possible to freeze the fertilised eggs. The mothers can also be donors of the fertilised eggs for their daughters provided their fertility hormone levels are appropriate.


There is much confusion regarding the process of egg freezing. Most of the people want to know whether the eggs survive in proper condition during the process of freezing. They are kept in the liquid nitrogen storage containers that help the eggs to remain protected for a long period of time. It has also been found that in a single group of eggs, some of them survive and some do not. The eggs that have survived are then inseminated with the sperms and amongst them some fertilise and some do not.


There are different ways by which the eggs are obtained from the donor's body; this is done with the help of four different processes. The four processes include extraction, freezing and storage in liquid nitrogen at minus 175 degrees temperature


In the process of egg freezing, eggs are retrieved from the woman after hormonal stimulation – exactly 36 hours after the "trigger shot" and frozen. These frozen eggs are then fertilised with the sperms of the husband and the resultant embryo is inserted in the womb of the recipient. The success rate of pregnancies through egg freezing is about 30-40%. In fact many women of the age of 50-55 years can get pregnant through this technique.


Now a days many women freeze their eggs because they opt for career rather than producing children. By the time they start planning for babies, they have crossed the fourth decade of their life or the peak time of conceiving. These women who are more than 37-40 years of age then resort to treatment of infertility by their gynecologist. If they still do not become pregnant they take help of newer technologies like IVF - In Vitro Fertilization (test-tube baby).


This egg freezing procedure is legal in all the places and we are sure that very soon, it will also become commonplace in India, and the infertile women will also have a smile on their face with little babies along with them. — SSG











 Some years ago, I read a book on Tagore by the eminent Bangla poet, Buddhadeva Bose which said that Tagore commented on the distance between him and his younger contemporaries through a character called Amit Ray in his novel Shesher Kabita (The Last Poem). Ray talks satirically about Tagore's lyricism. "Now is the time", he says for compositions which are sharp and straight – like thorns, or arrows, or dagger thrusts – not like flowers at all – like streaks of lightning and the pain of neuralgia."


 Damayanti Bose Singh, the daughter of Buddhadeva Bose (1908-1974) the leading poet of the post-Tagore generation, clarified some of the issues involved. She writes, "The post-Tagore poets of Buddhadeva Bose's generation never doubted that Tagore was indeed the first 'modern' poet/writer of Bengal and held him in great veneration. At the same time they were greatly aware of the danger of following him: they would perish under his giant shadow. He gave them the light to see the future, but they knew that they had to strive hard and relentlessly to establish their own voices and identity. They consciously and loudly declared themselves as 'modern,' and amazingly it proved to be their time."


The Kolkata group "Kallol" and the "Pragati" group in Dhaka were the two most fearless groups, says Damayanti. They published controversial authors. Buddhadeva Bose was branded as an "obscene" writer after his first major book of poems, Bandir Bandana, and his first short novel Rajani Holo Utala. He was in his 20s at the time. He also published and edited "Pragati" from Dhaka in which he promoted very different poets – Jibananda Das, for instance, and Bishnu Dey. From 1935-1961, he edited and published, from Kolkota, a quarterly called 'Kavita' which showed what modernism meant for him.


Bose did not ask for a poem from Tagore for the first issue of 'Kavita' Damayanti says, "which was like blasphemy at the time. Only poets of Bose's generation were included. Perhaps the young editor wanted to make a statement through this deliberate action, that the modern poets were self-sustaining. Then he sent the issue to the Master, humbly asking him for his opinion and requesting him for a contribution for the second issue, with enough trepidation in his heart for his initial defiance. Tagore understood as a father would when a son openly defies a parent for the first time, somewhat more loudly than necessary, to establish his adulthood."
    Damayanti continues, "Bose always acknowledged Tagore as the first modern poet of Bengal. There started a rather intimate relationship between them which remained till the great man's demise. Tagore contributed generously to 'Kavita' in spite of his broken health, during the last six years of his life. When a 'Tagore' is born in a country at any time, the culture itself changes. Every educated Bengali is indebted to him for all time to come."


 And did Damayanti know Tagore? "I didn't 'know' him, but he knew me, and named me 'Kakoli' when I was a chirping one and a half years old."


 Now an author in her own right, Damayanti suggested I look at Ketaki Kushari Dyson's translations of Bose's poems, both for the quality of the translations and for the informative introduction. (OUP paperback 2009). "By the 1940s," Dyson writes, "it was no longer the question of whether one was following Tagore, or rebelling against him, that was dividing Bengali writers, but the question of whether or not one had become a Marxist." Around 1938, she adds, the second conference of the All-India Progressive Writers' Association was held in Calcutta, but "such a politically tinged cultural movement was still broadly humanistic rather than narrowly ideological." Tagore sent a message to the conference, and Bose was on the organising committee, but made it clear that he did not believe propaganda was the highest form of literature.



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




No modern corporation would take a decision on the appointment of its chief executive a few days before the announcement is due and be apologetic about it, saying that further delay was not possible given the exigencies of the situation. That is precisely what the Union government has done in giving Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao a two-year extension 22 days before his term expires. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee claimed that there was no reason why any decision was required to be taken at this point in time since "there was time till September"! True, when Dr Subbarao was appointed RBI governor in September 2008, his appointment was announced five days before the end of the five-year term of Dr Y V Reddy, the then RBI governor. Appointments to senior positions in the Indian government – including the Cabinet, foreign and other senior secretaries, heads of intelliegence agencies and large public sector corporations – are all made at the eleventh hour. This policy of eleventh-hour appointments reveals the kinds of pulls and pressures that operate in such appointments and, in doing so, devalues the final decision, however good. Moreover, the newly appointed person is given very little time to familiarise herself with the job — most of the learning takes place on the job. In recent months senior officials, even in critical ministries, have walked through revolving doors spending barely weeks in a job before retiring. None of this is acceptable modern management practice for a large nation with a professional bureaucracy.

In the specific case of Governor Subbarao's extension, Mr Mukherjee's bizarre explanation that this was done because of the uncertain global environment only underscores the point that such decisions ought to be taken well in advance. Mr Mukherjee seems to imply that the government has been forced by unexpected global developments to take a decision on the appointment, or the extension of tenure, of a central bank governor at the eleventh hour, rather than a minute before midnight! This is a typical Indian response, which justifies last-minute action on grounds of compulsion and force of circumstance, instead of explaining why action was not taken in advance, which would have averted the need for an eleventh-hour response.

Better late than never, the government has done well to extend Dr Subbarao's tenure because he has offered the central bank mature and reassuring leadership in difficult times. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done well to reassure the banking and financial circles and macroeconomic authorities in India and abroad that professionalism will matter more in such appointments.

In the coming weeks, Dr Subbarao will have to bite the bullet on several important policy decisions, including the policy on new private sector bank licences. He would now be able to continue to take an independent and professional view, without being pushed around by politicians. To be sure, Dr Subbarao has not pulled any punches. Nor has he shied away from making his views known on a variety of issues such as the distinction between RBI as an institution and other financial sector regulators, and the limits to monetary policy when fiscal policy runs amok. RBI has maintained its focus on fighting inflation and must continue to do so even as it points to the limitations of monetary policy and to the need for a wider policy response.






Mumbaikars in particular and Indians in general should be grateful that what they got after a Panama-registered tanker ran aground last weekend were tarballs of oil and gunk on Juhu beach. The environmental crisis, grave as it certainly is, could easily have been overshadowed by another 26/11. Given the time it took before the Coast Guard and anyone in authority thought fit to act, M V Palit could well have disgorged AK 47-wielding terrorists on to one of India's most crowded beaches instead. After all, that was the chosen mode of entry for 10 heavily armed men who held Mumbai hostage for 60 hours in 2008. Or the ship may have been packed with explosives that could have killed many hundreds of curious onlookers who thronged the beach until the police belatedly decided to clear it. The inaction over M V Palit was inexplicable and worrying for several reasons. While Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had assured a Parliamentary Consultative Committee in October last year that "significant progress has been made since the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai to strengthen coastal security", it appears the defence ministry has remained a laggard. The home minister had provided details of a two-phase scheme to provide assistance to strengthen infrastructure in terms of "boats, police stations, jetties, vehicles, equipment and trained personnel". Neither this, nor the Rs 70-crore three-tier security ring (Coast Guard, Navy and newly created maritime police) was in evidence when another tanker, M V Wisdom, ran aground on Juhu in June and was stuck for 20 days before a foreign salvage company managed to do what the Navy and other domestic salvage companies could not. Yet this incident does not appear to have alerted anybody – certainly not the Indian Navy nor the Coast Guard – to the possibility of similar incidents. Second, the drifting M V Palit, which was abandoned many weeks ago in the Gulf of Oman, was no small skiff. It was a 1,000-tonne vessel that was visible on the horizon for nearly 100 hours before the authorities decided to take action.

Just before the Pune bomb blasts in 2010, Mr Chidambaram had drily observed that the fact that there had been no terrorist assaults since 26/11 was pure luck. He is justified in his honesty since pre-empting domestic terrorists of any religious hue is a challenge in a polyglot, crowded country like India. But the same cannot be said of maritime security. The coastlines are hardly so crowded that a ship should be able to slip under a detection system for which the taxpayer has paid so much money. The home ministry is reportedly awaiting an inquiry report from the Chief of Naval Staff. Hopefully, the defence ministry will also wake up and find out what is happening and order a satisfactory review of maritime security procedures.






Nearly three years ago I had noted that the period 2003-08 was the best sequential five years of macroeconomic performance that India had ever achieved, according to the usual criteria of growth, inflation, external balance, fiscal deficit and aggregate investment ("The halcyon years, 2003-08", Business Standard, October 9, 2008). By the spring of that year the international commodity price shock had hit our country and in September the global financial crisis came to a spectacular climax. I ended my column on a nostalgic note: "Even as the economic indicators turn inexorably negative, let us not forget those halcyon years. Who knows when (or if) they will return." Now, after three years, it may be instructive to take stock.

As readers may recall, after almost ignoring the distant thunder of the gathering financial storm right through the summer of 2008, contemporary commentators – including the World Bank, Goldman Sachs and Citibank – quickly went to the other extreme after the financial meltdown in America in September and predicted a sharp slowdown in India's growth to below six per cent in 2009-10. As it happens, the Indian economy surprised most people by its resilience, thanks, in part, to the good old-fashioned, fiscal populism of spring/summer 2008 (well before the post-Lehman rationalisation of "fiscal stimulus") and the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) adroit monetary and exchange rate management. True, growth slowed to 6.8 per cent in 2008-09. But it recovered quickly to eight per cent in 2009-10, confounding the tribe of pessimistic forecasters.

It would, however, be a serious error to think that we have emerged unscathed and are back to repeating those "halcyon years". A glance at the accompanying table shows the clear worsening of our macroeconomic performance according to each and every significant indicator. Comparing the three pre-crisis years (column 1) to the three most recent years (column 2), it is evident that growth has slowed significantly, inflation has been substantially higher, the external current account deficit has more than doubled, and the combined (Centre plus states) fiscal deficit is 60 per cent higher. The rate of domestic investment has also fallen a little.

Purists may object that it is not fair to include 2008-09, the peak year of global financial turmoil, in the "after" period. Accordingly, the table includes column 3, which restricts the "after" period to 2009-10 and 2010-11. Doing so improves growth a bit but worsens inflation and the external deficit, with no change in the fiscal deficit and aggregate investment outcomes. Basically, the economy's recent macro performance continues to remain well below pre-crisis levels on all counts.

One dimension of macroeconomic performance has been omitted from the discussion above, namely, aggregate employment. India's employment data are woefully weak and incomplete. The overwhelming majority of the country's labour force works in the unorganised or informal sector, with low earnings and high insecurity. That central fact has not changed over many decades. A few weeks ago the government released the National Sample Survey 66th Round large sample survey data on employment for 2009-10. Although total employment increased very little over the five years since 2004-05, some government spokesmen and analysts drew comfort from the decline in the unemployment rate (on a "current daily basis") to 6.6 per cent from 8.2 per cent in the previous large sample survey of 2004-05. However, this may simply reflect a marked and surprising drop in the labour force participation rate (especially amongst females) over the same period. Besides, with only 15 per cent of workers being in "regular wage/salaried" employment, the unemployment rate is a poor indicator of trends in employment conditions.




After I

After II

2011-12 *

Economic growth (% per year)





Inflation (GDP deflator, % per year)





Current account deficit (% of GDP)





Combined fiscal deficit (% of GDP)





Gross domestic investment (% of GDP)





Gross fixed investment (% of GDP)





* Author's projections                                              Source: Central Statistical Organisation and Reserve Bank of India

What about the future, including the current year, 2011-12? The information available till early August is hardly reassuring. In America, GDP growth slowed to a measly 0.8 per cent annualised rate in the first half of 2011, including a surprising weakness in consumption. Except for Germany, most of Europe is mired in mounting problems of debt and financial stress. After the horrendous damage of the tsunami and the debacle in Fukushima, Japan is expected to show negative growth in 2011. Amongst the world's large economies only China continues to power ahead at nine per cent-plus. Despite the prevailing economic gloom and uncertainty in the developed world, India's exports did remarkably well in April-June, 2011. But the commerce ministry has clearly warned that such dynamism may not continue in the present global context.

Exports aside, the rest of the Indian economic data are not reassuring. According to the new index, industrial production growth slumped to 5.7 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in April-May, 2011 from 8.2 per cent in 2010-11, not to mention the high double-digit rates of 2005-08. Headline inflation (WPI) continued at nine per cent-plus in June and is projected to stay high through the next few months by both the RBI and the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC), before declining to a 6.5-7.0 per cent range by March 2012. RBI estimates that the central government's budgeted fiscal deficit will be overshot by a massive one per cent of GDP because of oil sector subsidies and related revenue cuts. These factors point to continuation of high short- and long-term interest rates.

High and rising interest rates are only one of several factors damping investment. PMEAC's recent report highlights others, including: "the spate of corruption related controversies over the past one year", bottlenecks in key infrastructure sectors of power, roads and ports, various restrictions on mining coal and other ores, delays in forest and environment clearances, shortages of skilled labour, and political uncertainties. The lack of meaningful economic reforms over the past few years is surely also relevant. The impact on investment is showing in the data. Capital goods production, which had surged at 30 per cent a year in 2005-08, grew by only 6.6 per cent YoY in April-May 2011. In the stock market, the pace of new issues has slumped. The HSBC purchasing managers' index hit a 20-month low in July. Reports of delayed, postponed and cancelled projects abound. It is more than likely that the rate of aggregate investment in the economy will drop in 2011-12, with unfortunate consequences for growth in subsequent years.

As for projections of overall economic growth in 2011-12, while official agencies are still optimistic (RBI projected eight per cent in late July and PMEAC forecast 8.2 per cent more recently), investment banks have dropped their projections significantly over the past month (Morgan Stanley to 7.2 per cent and Citibank to 7.6 per cent).

Taking all this into account, my own guesstimates for 2011-12 of key macroeconomic performance indicators are summarised in column 4 of the table. As for the years beyond, it depends mostly on the government's ability to shake off the prevailing stasis and seriously implement its long-awaited reform agenda. The "halcyon years" show no signs of return as the global economy faces renewed stresses.

The author is honorary professor at Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India
The views expressed are personal






The recent downgrade of the United States sovereign credit rating by Standard and Poor's (S&P) has left many people speechless.

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has likened S&P's attitude to that of "a young man who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he is an orphan". S&P and its sister rating agencies, he says, have played a major role in causing the current budget crisis in America by blessing mortgage-backed assets that later turned out to be worthless. Another Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, has viewed credit rating agencies as one of the key culprits in the 2008 global financial crisis.

The bipartisan Financial Crisis Enquiry Commission of the US Congress has concluded in its report: "The three credit rating agencies were key enablers of the financial meltdown … the mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed without their seal of approval."

According to US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, S&P showed "terrible judgement" in lowering the US government's credit rating. "They've handled themselves very poorly. And they've shown a stunning lack of knowledge about the basic US fiscal budget math," he adds.

Amid such widespread distrust of the rating agencies, how come global financial markets have reacted in unison and so violently in response to the downgrade by S&P?

Generally speaking, how have financial interests – whose interests, after all, S&P represents – gained such power over even sovereign governments like the US?

The first step, says Manchester Business School's Ismail Erturk in his book Financialisation at Work, was when Western countries, starting with Britain and the US, moved from a defined-benefit pension scheme for their workers to defined contribution schemes. This meant that vast pools of capital, representing the savings of working people in these countries which add up to 100 to 200 per cent of the two countries' GDP, soon came looking for higher returns from the bond and equity markets.

The second step started in the 1970s, says Peter Hall (in the same book), professor of Government at Harvard University. The British government, almost bankrupted by the demands of the British public-sector trade unions, started borrowing heavily from the financial institutions in the City of London. To facilitate such extensive borrowing, the British government decided to use the Bank of England's minimum lending rate as the controlling lever. This, says Professor Hall, had the unintended effect of making the buyers of government bonds act in cohesion — they would either buy government bonds together or hold off together till conditions became propitious. They realised that the more they held back, the more desperate the government would become.

Since it was a matter of life and death for these bond traders to predict the likely direction of interest rates, they started employing economists who soon discovered that the amount of bonds the government wanted to sell depended on the rate of growth of money supply as well as the amount of public spending the government was planning to make. And once a government set a target for money supply, as many governments did in the 1970s to curb the raging inflation of that time, the markets soon figured out that governments had to choose between raising interest rates and cutting public spending plans.

The markets could now hold governments to ransom. They could force a government to cut public spending outlays or face higher interest rates. The rating agencies are merely the messenger boys for this line of thinking.

Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz are not the only ones damning the immense power that financial interests have come to gain over governments. Voices against financial interests now include powerful politicians in many different countries, from many different economic persuasions. The downgrade of the US government debt by S&P may turn out to be what Thomas Birkland has called a "focusing event", in his book titled An Introduction to the Policy Process. A "focusing event" is a sudden and rare event that sparks intense media and public attention because of its sheer magnitude. Such an event can make groups, government leaders, policy entrepreneurs, news media and the public pay attention to, and stay focused on, a problem till a solution is found.

The S&P downgrade may be one such focusing event that powerful groups may use to launch a wholesale attack on the immense power over governments that financial interests have gained in recent times.  








If West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wants Kolkata to take after London, perhaps the first thing she should do is think bridges. Yes, bridges, London's bridges, because that's where lies the secret of the beauty and dynamism of the city she so wishes to copy.

Up and down from Westminster, there are 24 crossings across the Thames. Most of them were built in the 19th century, as the city was growing on both sides of the river, reflecting an early dawn of wisdom on the part of the authorities that its future depended on the integrity of its two sections. Five bridges were added in the last century and two more have been built so far in the 21st to cope with new urban pressures.

The bridges have opened up London, bringing order to its landscape and mobility to its traffic, and perhaps saved the Thames from degenerating into a forgettable urban gully. It's not that there are no traffic gridlocks in London. In fact, because of gridlocks, the city government enforces a congestion charge on motorists. But imagine what would have happened if Greater London's 7.8 million people and 3 million cars had no easy access across the river. There would have been two Londons doubling up on themselves, huddled in their own separate coops with little social, cultural, or business interaction between them.

If Greater London, with a 1,572- square kilometre (sq km) area, can have 24 crossings to bridge its divide, why should Metropolitan Kolkata, with 15 million people (heading towards 21 million by 2025), 1.5 million vehicles (to reach 3 million over the next decade), and an area of 1,854 sq km, be content with only four across the Hooghly? How can we inject into this important urban basin a greater degree of cohesion and mobility if the river serves only to keep the region's three municipal corporations, 38 municipalities, 72 cities, and 527 towns and villages apart?

Kolkata and Howrah could have been a liberating influence on each other had they really been regarded as twins for all planning purposes. But sadly, in all our urban calculations, they've remained mutually exclusive. This explains why, after the first two Hooghly bridges were built in 1932 (Bally Bridge) and 1943 (Howrah Bridge), nobody bothered to build another one until 1992, when Vidyasagar Setu came into being. The fourth one, Nivedita Setu, which is more like replacement bridge for Bally than a truly new one, had to wait another 15 years. Yet, the hard fact is that, without linking up the two and letting one flow into the other, it's impossible to open up the clogged arteries of both and make their hearts beat freely again.

At least half a dozen more bridges are needed between the two cities, not only to extend their major east-west roads across to the other side but also to link them up with existing or future inter-state highways. Connections and ease of access make a city livable, and London is not the only example on earth to prove the point. There are others in Asia itself.

There are no fewer than 27 bridges across the Han River in the Seoul National Capital Area, which have helped integrate South Korea's most important economic hinterland that also includes Incheon and Gyeonggi and has a population of 24.5 million. Seoul itself, having a population of over 10 million, is today a much better place to live in, cleaner, greener, healthier. With the bridges opening up newer urban areas, businesses no longer need to crowd in on the city centre and people have newer choices for housing.

Shanghai's Pudong area across the Huangpu River owes its phenomenal growth, in a short period of time, largely to its bridge and tunnel links with the city's western sections. Four major bridges and five subway tunnels (with two more under construction) have transformed the once fallow farmland, two-thirds the size of Greater London, into a thriving business and financial district of over 5 million people, where Shanghai's new international airport is located and China's tallest building (and the world's second tallest), the 128-storey Shanghai Tower, is fast rearing its head.

Even Bangkok, once notorious for its traffic logjams, is a different metropolis today than 20 years ago. Its arterial roads and no fewer than 11 bridges across the Chao Phraya represent a valiant effort to cope with a population of some 10 million people and almost 25 million registered vehicles. And, in a massive effort to rid the inner city of population and infrastructural overloads, Ho Chi Minh City has planned to build 10 large bridges across the Saigon River. The authorities believe they'll need at least 50 more in the next five years to meet the needs of a rapidly growing mega city of more than 10 million people.  







Universalisation of elementary education is a constitutional provision, a national commitment in India. Over the years, the government has made several efforts to improve access to education for all children, provide infrastructure facilities in schools and teaching learning materials in classrooms to facilitate meaningful curriculum transaction. Despite these numerous programmes, a detailed survey on school facilities, that is, District Information System on Education (DISE), presents a somewhat dismal picture of the school facilities in India.

The data reveal that accessibility remains a serious concern since there are merely three primary and 1.5 upper-primary schools per 10 square kilometre. Further, the percentage of schools with basic provisions like toilet facilities and electricity connection is exceedingly low. Merely 27 per cent of schools in the country have electricity connections and only 58 per cent of schools have separate toilets for girls. The prerequisite for quality education is adequacy of teachers. A comparison with China shows that the pupil teacher ratio (PTR) in 2008 was 17:1 compared to 34:1 in India. Although, there has been a steady improvement in PTR in India from 47:1 in 1995 to 34:1 in 2008, it remains far behind international standards.

The Right to Education Act 2009 (RTE) mandates a PTR of 30:1 in order to ensure that children learn better in classrooms — there is a wide disparity across states in this indicator. In nine states PTR was higher than the prescribed norm in 2009-10 with Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand leading with more than 40 children per teacher. Eight states are close to China's PTR – most of them are small states – Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Sikkim, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya and Puducherry. 

Average pupil teacher ratio in primary schools













Source: World Bank, DISE

For states where average PTR is much above the norm, it will take immense resources to get schools on track — 87.67 per cent of primary schools in Bihar have PTRs exceeding 30. In eight states, more than 50 per cent of the primary schools exceed the PTR norm — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and also, interestingly, Delhi, whose average PTR is 28. In nine states more than a third of the primary schools have PTRs higher than 30 — Daman & Diu, Orissa, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. Except for Assam, the north-eastern states perform well on this indicator, while Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are the best performers in the south.

The wide divergence in PTR across the country only demonstrates the existing inequality in India on yet another front. In addition to PTR, the RTE mandates other norms for facilities — library, playground, safe drinking water, separate toilets for girls and boys and so on. Most of the schools are lagging on all these fronts. While statistics are being collated for coverage of these norms, much remains to be achieved in outcome, actual learning and meaningful schooling.

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










With the stock market taking time off from diving practice, is it okay for its ultimate minders, the political class, to go back to business as usual? Unfortunately not. Because business as usual has come to mean politicking that cares two hoots for the collective good, leave alone morals and principles. The saner voices in the Opposition (like that of Mr Yashwant Sinha) say that the government does not make an effort to reach out to make progress on urgent legislation. What is visible from the outside is the Opposition's one-point agenda to embarrass the government, by hook or by crook. The government, with liberal assistance from an activist Comptroller and Auditor General, who holds press conferences and from whose office draft reports leak in a strategic fashion, gives the Opposition plenty of grist for its mill. The net result of an unrestrained Opposition taking on a listless government is that economic agents in the world's second fastest growing large economy find themselves caught within a cocoon of inertia and uncertainty. Destructive politicking on Capitol Hill has led to one rating agency downgrading the world's largest economy, which still churns out some of the most competitive companies and innovative technologies. Such politicking is of use to Indians only by way of negative example, as something that should remain a preserve of Washington. The Indian political class must realise the dangers of partisanship sans concern for the collective good.

The government must reach out to the Opposition, visibly and sincerely. India needs to transit to a goods and services tax at the earliest, and this cannot happen if BJPruled states continue with their objections. At the same time, where it requires no legislative support from the Opposition, the government should make bold to initiate reform of its own accord. Releasing farmland for nonagricultural use, removing outdated restrictions on the movement and marketing of farm produce, expanding the judiciary, thorough reform of political funding and a thousand other such reforms, call for political initiative and little else. The government must now summon the requisite initiative.






 Gold is on a roll, with prices surging to $1,780.10 per ounce on Tuesday, but its dazzle is unlikely to endure and only those who are very confident of knowing when to exit gold should give in to the temptation to invest in it. Gold peaked as investors chased assets other than the dollar and the euro in the wake of bipartisan politicking in Congress over revising national debt limits, leading to a downgrade by rating agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) and worries over European debt. Investors have headed for the yellow metal, perceived as a safe haven during troubled times. This is a repeat of what happened in the peak of the financial crisis in 2008. Fund managers turned to gold as an asset of the last resort and exchange traded funds that invest in gold became popular. Gold was sold to meet margin calls and redemption payments. Central bankers also swapped the yellow metal for dollars. Gold prices have climbed by 25% in 2011, as the turmoil in the US and Europe has boosted demand for the metal. However, there is no reason to believe that the rally in gold prices will continue. Today, the world's central banks hold 30,684 tonnes, according to the World Gold Council. The chances of some central banks selling some gold to take advantage of these high prices cannot be ruled out. Gold prices could drop in the medium and long term, when these economies stage a recovery.

Wall Street's tremors are resonating in India in the form of stock market plunges. Between January this year and now, the return from equities is negative. However, gold is on an upward journey. The conventional asset hardly has any commercial or practical uses. Nevertheless, the country is the largest consumer of gold. Clearly, this is one commodity for which Indians have a huge appetite. The rise in global price has done nothing to curb domestic demand, especially during the festive season. The cultural affinity for gold has been buttressed by high inflation. The decline in real interest rates has led households to increase the allocation to physical assets like gold. However, when things stabilise, gold will fall. Indians should invest in more productive assets instead of gold.







Tea for most Indians, is more than a beverage. It is a wakeup call, a solace, even a euphemism for that little extra than can go a long way in resolving problems. It is also a metaphor for the multi-faceted nature of this gargantuan nation, as it appears in different forms in different regions. Varying from delicately aromatic to robustly spicy, translucent to milky sweet, light to viscous, it still remains uniquely uplifting for all who partake of it. The case to make it the national drink of India, therefore, must be taken as more than just terroir tactics in a world that is increasingly aware of the importance of provenance. It should be a matter of some embarrassment, however, that despite the national spread of tea from the Himalayan foothills to the Nilgiris, India is yet to see an indigenous brand of tea that not only spans the nation but also captures the tastebuds of the wider world.

While the Tatas and the Apeejay Surrendra group should be commended for bagging mass market foreign brands like Tetley and Typhoo, the fact is that when Indians think 'good tea', the only labels that come to mind are those of multinational brands, who built their reputation on Darjeeling and Assam but now happily use the produce of African or south-east Asian nations with less cachet. Even Sri Lanka — for a long time in the same boat as India when it came to the lack of a distinct profile in the tea world — now has an upmarket brand that applies the same tactics that has yielded rich dividends for wine makers and olive oil producers. It has succeeded in repackaging Ceylon tea as a luxury beverage, while India rejoices in its 'cheap c h a i' image. Merely declaring tea to be India's national drink will not do: learn from Sri Lanka's Dilmah.






If there is one thing that India needs to learn from the ongoing turbulence in world markets, it is that bad politics can skewer an economy through and through, whatever its fundamentals. The partisan opposition of the BJP to a goods and services tax, dressed up as state level dissonance, is a good example of what needs to be purged from the body politic, in the economy's interest.

The US economy is not in crisis, its politics is. The Republicans have successfully thrown reason and intelligence from the national discourse on economic policy, and browbeaten the Obama administration into accepting policies that will hurt the economy. Of course, it is Obama's fault that he has allowed some flat-earth fundamentalists to set the agenda. However, some of the problems with US debt and taxes are structural, to solve which taxation and accounting have to graduate from their obsolete national framework to the global one in which US companies work. Let us accept, first and foremost, that the huge global imbalances that have been the stuff of policy haggling between the US and China merely reflect the obsolescence of national accounting and resultant failure to capture actual economic strength. Apple, the only computing company to have made a success of mutating into a consumer electronics company, today challenges Exxon Mobil for the crown of the most valuable company in the US. It does product innovation, intellectual property development, engineering, brandbuilding and marketing in the US and actual manufacturing in China. When Apple products are shipped out of China for sale around the world, these inflate China's exports and balance of trade. But the gross profits, the bulk of the value added, in such production of Apple products, accrue to Apple, a quintessentially American company. China retains a tiny proportion of the value added, by way of wages. This is not the case with Apple alone. A whole range of American companies are pioneering multinational companies, who move capital, R&D, production and routine administration around the world, so as to maximise profits and minimise tax payments. US tax laws are just not meant to keep abreast of such transnational value creation by US companies. Rather, special interest groups and their lobbyists have succeeded in creating tax laws that sport high nominal tax rates that sit comfortably, thanks to the nature of politics there, on top of low effective rates. The US has one of the lowest tax/GDP ratios among the developed countries of the world: about 24% as against an average that is ten percentage points higher for the OECD, the club of the rich countries, as a whole.
At the same time, the US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, health insurers and lawyers profiteering at the expense of the exchequer. Inflated healthcare costs are, of course, a function of politics. Nominally, American incomes are supposed to be taxed on a global basis. But, effectively, a large part of the incomes of American companies does not flow back to the US and escapes taxation as well. Exemption of the incomes of foreign subsidiaries, tax breaks on money kept outside, etc see to this. If an American company generates profits out of its manufacture in China but chooses to keep them at some off-shore location, these profits do not show up in US national income accounts, widening the current account deficit. To infer American economic decline from its large current account deficit (at present a respectable 3.5% of GDP, down by more than half the pre-crisis peak) would be to fail to appreciate the disjunction between globalised economic activity and the outdated attempt to capture it through national accounting frameworks.


The same global/national disjunction underlies much of the misgiving on US reliance on external savings. Within conventional national income accounting, no one questions why some people save while others invest. It is considered a problem only when gross domestic investment is considerably out of sync with gross domestic savings. These savings are mediated to investment as debt or equity capital. A variety of risks attend on such mediation of savings to investors, depending on the channel and form used for the purpose. In a globalised economy, too, some people prefer to entrust their savings to some others who are better at investing, often outside their own national frontiers. The most preferred destination for global savings is the US, because it is not just the safest but also the most adept at identifying investment opportunities around the world.
At least in India, let us be grateful for this penchant for the Chinese peasant to tighten his belt and hand over the extra saving so generated to the US for its financial intermediaries, in the form of venture funds and private equity, to fund fledgling start-ups in Bangalore and Noida. However, added risks of currency, politics and macroeconomic management accompany such trans-border mediation of savings. When things start going wrong, the chain reaction could end up hurting peasants who never imagined they were part of the globalised economy. The short point here is that the flow of global savings to the US — it shows up as a colossal US debt — should not be interpreted unidimensionally as a sign of US economic weakness.
If the US can rid itself of politics that brands taxes and regulation as forerunners of unchristian, evil communism, the government can capture its fair share of the income generated by American entrepreneurship and ingenuity deployed worldwide. Let us not get too worked up over any US economic collapse and its fallout.










When this writer was a school boy in Kerala's capital, Trivandrum, which like Delhi, runs on connections and coteries, one of the many anachronisms on active show was the Travancore Raja's daily trip to Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The temple is now in the news for its treasure trove.

Padmanabha is Lord Vishnu and the temple is run by a private trust chaired by the present Travancore Raja, more a title now than a function. Travancore is the traditional name of Trivandrum and adjacent areas. The King used to travel, if memory serves right, in a sky-blue Impala which filled the narrow roads of the city. It had a number plate in red on which was an embossed engraving of a white conch shell, the royal emblem.
As the car cruised past, school boys, CITU men and other unemployed intellectuals would bow down deep from the waist in acknowledgement of the royal passage around 8.30 in the morning. The Raja's chest was bare and he would gravely nod, a microscopic movement of his head, and our day was made.
The present Raja still makes that trip, and they still bow to him. The king pays a fine of . 15 to the temple on days he doesn't call on Vishnu, which says something, though one is not sure what. Perhaps, humility? Convention? The Raja's lineage is the famous Marthanda Varma's, the first Travancore King who in 1750 dedicated his kingdom to Padmanabha Swamy. The temple itself is much more ancient; it finds many a mention in Tamil literature, beginning from the 8th century onwards.

Recently the temple's vaults, all except one, have been opened and reportedly the treasure is estimated to be worth around . 1 lakh crore. The rumours have it that the last, unopened vault with a serpent's engraving on its door, is home to even more wealth. The lore is that if you open the door of this vault, the sea will rush in and the city will be drowned. This is not an altogether bad prospect, since the garbage-laden city could do well with a wash. Early this week, under the directions of the Raja, a handful of priests and astrologers conducted a Deva Prashnam, a secret ritualistic operation to find out the will of Lord Vishnu in regard to the treasure. The panel was led by Madhur Ranganatha Bhat who said the signs he received from Vishnu indicated the "treasure will never be lost." Another inference drawn through the Deva Prashnam was that the treasure should be kept in the temple itself.

Predictably, Vishnu doesn't want the wealth to be touched. According to the Brahmin priests, who are naturally closer to the God than a Nair, Muslim or Christian, Vishnu said: please, don't mess with my gold. He also said, in signs to that effect, that the vaults should not have been opened at all to begin with. A lot of people in the state are buying this superstitious nonsense. But for an observer, it is relevant to ask: what does a God want with gold?

Urban Kerala is not a poor place if you compare it with Bihar or Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, thanks to the petro-dollars. But if you travel into the remote villages and tribal areas, poverty and malnourishment are only too visible.

And, across the spectrum, there is a crying need for funds and good work in environmental projects, river protection, alternative energy resources, institutional and enterprise building, and medical care; the cost of the last has gone through the roof in recent years. One lakh crore is good money to take care of some of those important problems.

But India is a crass, naïve society which believes in breaking a coconut and lighting a lamp before a rocket is launched. And they still call the country secular. And Kerala, for all its intellectual pretensions, is just as naïve when it comes to matters of God and religion. It is just pure idiocy to believe that a bunch of priests can sit together and get to know what Vishnu wants. If Vishnu was really that concerned with his wealth, he wouldn't have suffered the vaults to be opened in the first place.

The question that the treasure raises is not so much what the temple deity wants as a reliable agency that can manage the funds for men and women who desperately need it. Gold is good for man; God should be happy with ghee.







Not only did the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) comprehensively defeat the LTTE insurgency — the first such victory in the 21 century, but it also returned the country to a high growth rate path of 8%. That's the judgment Central Bank of Ceylon governor Ajith Cabraal made during the international conference last month at Colombo. He considers the Sri Lankan military very productive, winning the war on the cheap: for $5.5 billion between 2006 and 2009, which is 4% of the GDP. By contrast, the US has spent nearly $1 trillion on its unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That government message is not going out loudly enough. Instead, it has to justify victory and confront western allegations of human rights violations amounting to war crimes.
The LTTE knew that killing the economy would result in Sri Lanka becoming a failed state. It chose economic targets in Colombo — the Central Bank, international airport and hotels — launching suicide attacks that also destroyed tourism. Although the annual economic loss during the war was around 1-2% of the GDP, the economy grew for the most part, at 6% as the insurgency was confined to the North-East.

Previous governments did not attempt defeating the LTTE militarily for fear of costs, high political uncertainty, loss of investor confidence and lack of political will. No one knew how India would react but most of all, few believed it was possible to subdue the LTTE. So when the campaign was launched with hopeful titles like Eastern Awakening and Northern Spring, military commanders pursued a measured strategy of attrition and recapture of territory, certainly not the rout of LTTE. This is akin to India's capture in 1971 of Dacca, which was never envisaged in the original plans, regardless of claims made later.
The SLA deservedly congratulated itself on doing the unthinkable — conquering an invincible LTTE, thanks to its leader Prabhakaran's strategic follies including fighting positional battles instead of employing unconventional tactics, its forte. What surprised Sri Lanka was India's strategic cooperation in the destruction of the LTTE. Recently one Sri Lankan minister said that Sri Lanka did not think India will allow the war to continue after the fall of Kilinochchi. Western pressures were used to end the war. In 2009, the EU withdrew the GSP plus concession on textiles which resulted in a recurring loss of nearly $200 million and the IMF delayed giving the loan.

What surprised Prabhakaran was a 'transformed' SLA led from the front by unrelenting commanders, backed by resolute political leadership and the adulation of the majority Sinhalese community prepared for any sacrifice to end the LTTE reign of terror. Mr Cabraal said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had ordered full financial support for the war, which was reflected in successive defence budgets managed by the President's younger brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former army officer. He pioneered fast-track weapons acquisition ensuring troops had the wherewithal to fight. Pakistan and China, India's twin adversaries, were the main suppliers of military hardware as India provided only defensive weapons.

Two years after the war, the investment on defence has paid off. The economic indicators are striking. There is a brain gain instead of the usual brain drain. Inflation is down to single figure, unemployment below 5%, fiscal deficit down from 6.8% to 5%, malnutrition down from 35% to 13.5% and poverty down to 7.6% in 2009-10 from 15.2% in 2006-07 — the fastest reduction in the world. GDP has more than doubled in the last five years to $56 billion and is expected to reach $98 billion in 2016. Tourism is booming and earning annually $600 million. Sri Lanka is calling it Asia's miracle.

The focus in the last two years is on post-conflict development in North and East where there has been virtually no development for the last 30 years. Planning for this had started eight months before the end of the war. An estimated $2.5 billion is expected for reconstruction of the North-East for the next three years. The growth rate for the Eastern Province, which was liberated in 2007, is an impressive 14%. For genuine national reconciliation, development alone won't do, especially as a substitute for political devolution.
A hardnosed Indian in Colombo observed that Sri Lanka ladai ki jeet ke nashe mein hai (hangover of victory). The new Rs 1,000 note carries pictures of Mahinda Rajapaksa and soldiers hoisting the Sri Lankan flag in the iconic Iwo Jima style. Combing military power with will power has enabled the tiny island nation to recover its sovereignty and restore economic development. India could almost never replicate the Sri Lanka model of defeating insurgency by all-out use of force with unacceptable collateral damage.

(The author is founder member of the Defence Planning Staff)









Dr D. Subbarao has got a two-year extension of his term as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. This continuity spells good news for an economy that has increasingly been feeling the strain of policy paralysis in a beleaguered government that is fighting a new crisis every passing day. The world economy has not yet recovered from the global crisis of 2008. But another set of challenges is already on its way, given the panic across the world following the recent downgrading of US debt by rating agency Standard & Poor's. These are volatile times in which the macro-economy needs to be steered by a safe pair of hands — which it has in Dr Subbarao. Market participants and observers, both here and abroad, will, no doubt, see it as a confidence-building measure for the economy.

Dr Subbarao, when he took over three years ago, stepped into the rather large shoes of Dr Reddy.  Many doubted if he would measure up — especially because, by then, Dr Reddy had developed a halo as a saviour of the Indian economy, when the rest of the world was in crisis.  Dr Subbarao has since proved his mettle after his baptism by fire during the global crisis of 2008.  Over the past three years he had to first unwind a tight monetary policy and infuse phenomenal amounts of liquidity.  Equally, as the economy began recovering and inflation pressures began to mount, he has had to wind the tape back and tighten monetary levers during the last year. He also increased the frequency of policy actions to about 45 days so as to impart a measure of gradualism. Through this difficult period, he has been consistently communicating the reasoning behind various decisions and left the markets with a reasonably clear idea of what they could expect.  There were occasional hiccups when his inflation-fighting credentials were questioned. And some wondered whether he could stand up to the government on reining in the fisc or on matters of RBI autonomy, especially in view of his earlier stint as Finance Secretary.

The record would probably show that he has passed the test, in his own simple style. He has tried to improve the conduct of monetary policy, bring in more transparency and communication, and demystify the office of Governor — all goals he set for himself at the start of his first term. The decision to retain Dr Subbarao at the central bank's helm for another two years is, therefore, very welcome, although one wishes the government would make up its mind on top positions far sooner than it did in this case, to avoid unnecessary suspense in these uncertain times. The remaining part of his tenure will, no doubt, be devoted to improving on his record besides handling the principal challenge of controlling inflation without choking growth.






Small steps add up to a large stride, especially if they follow each other in quick succession. A large stride after a series of small ones makes it a giant stride. The latter can be dangerous at a time of great uncertainty when time brings in vital new information.

If monetary policy is thought to act with a lag, as the cumulative effect of past steps is beginning to slowdown the economy, why is policy aiming for a further decrease many months into the future?


Policy affects forward-looking expenditure components, such as investment, today. This reduces capacity tomorrow.

Just as the government taxes only salary earners, high interest rates tax the most dynamic interest-elastic component of the economy. Other risks are emerging, as the widening interest differential raises short-term foreign debt in volatile markets.

An argument for higher rates is firms' profits are still high, implying they have pricing power that needs to be taken out. But many firms become cash-rich during a high growth phase, so as interest rates rise they make money from higher nominal interest rates, while large debtors become insolvent.

Another argument is real loan rates that affect investment are low while real interest rates are negative for savers.

The absence of inflation-indexed instruments for savers is a major shortcoming. But in India investment tends to be low when real interest rates are low. The reason is episodes of low real interest rates have coincided with supply shocks when costs are rising for both firms and consumers. Larger instalments on loans reduce consumer durable demand. As demand falls production and capacity expansion is reduced.

Does falling demand reduce inflationary expectations and therefore reduce the prices firms set today? It may not if the impact of output on costs is low and costs themselves are rising, with interest rates contributing to those costs. A large output sacrifice is then required for a small effect on inflation.


Does falling demand reduce employment and wages thus reducing costs and prices? The Graph, based on ASI (Annual Survey of Industry) data, shows that in the downturn that followed peak interest rates after the East Asian crisis, manufacturing real wages did not fall — these are indexed to inflation.

But non-manufacturing real wages which are not indexed fell. India's large informal labour was forced to bear the brunt of the slowdown.

Will that happen again as growth and employment rates fall sufficiently? It may not, because now informal wages are also partially indexed through schemes such as NREGA. Employment growth will fall but sticky real wages can keep up cost pressures.

Informal wages especially are indexed to food prices, since food is a large part of the budget. So what can anchor inflationary expectations is a softening of food inflation.


While monetary policy is moving too fast, government action on the supply side continues to be glacial. NREGA needs to be focused on creating assets. Officials do implement a clear target.

If creating assets, such as water recharge, had been given as their objective to all the officials involved, employment would also have been created as a by-product.

Instead, NREGA functioned as a leaky dole. States have competitively raised minimum wages in the scheme since the Centre foots the bill. They should be told they will have to bear the cost of any increase in wages.

Multi-brand FDI in retail, the only measure on which there seems to be some action, will take long to fructify. Domestic changes to improve inter-state connectivity and competition in agricultural marketing can be faster, and would make FDI more effective when and if it did come in.


There have been international pressures on India' s overheating and the need for a sharp rise in interest rates. A July Economist article, based on IMF research, put India among "sizzling 7" countries, on highly contestable grounds.

The IMF's credibility is low. It was wrong about India in 2008 and about East Asia earlier. A biased management makes it harsh on emerging markets and soft on advanced countries. So the advice imposes excessive employment sacrifices on emerging markets while pumping up bubbles in advanced countries that are bursting all around us.

But the IMF was probably preaching to the converted, since our policymakers have always reacted strongly to inflation.

The norm was to tighten in response to commodity price shocks, although even the most conservative inflation targeting bank responds only to demand shocks. Our response to inflation is higher than any Taylor rule.

This time the RBI did wait patiently for supply-side improvements, and has reverted to its historical sharp tightening only after the Government did not, or could not act.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Britain has seen four straight nights of looting and rampaging by mobs of deprived youth, mostly of Afro-Caribbean background. The riots in London are said to be the worst in a generation. With the deployment of 16,000 police personnel, the crisis appears to be tapering in the capital. The big picture is one of urban society in decay. The trigger was the fatal shooting by an elite armed Scotland Yard unit of a young gang member at Tottenham in North London. Such events are common enough in all major cities and cannot explain the stupefying scale of what we saw. The seriousness of what transpired can be gauged from the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, having had to cut short his vacation and call a special session of Parliament on Thursday, which will no doubt reflect on two clear aspects — the criminality, and also the key issues pertaining to the social fracture. It is a staggering thought that the authorities briefly contemplated calling out the Army. For Britain, which is averse even to the use of water cannons against rioting mobs, this is blasphemy. It has been suggested that social spending cutbacks to curb the government's subsidy bill at a time of deepening financial crisis contributed to the buildup of bitterness which found such violent expression. It is also acknowledged that one million young people in the 16-24 age group in Britain are unemployed. Overwhelming sections of these are likely to be from among the Caribbean black community who number about two and a half million. Unlike, say, in France, where poor immigrants are most likely to be living in cramped public housing on the edge of cities, the deprived racial minorities in Britain live in the heart of urban spaces and can unleash great disorder when they strike out at the system. These circumstances, however, do not appear to provide an adequate explanation of the phenomenon that is still unfolding. Unlike immigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the youth among the Afro-Caribbean settlers in Britain tend to lose their cool as an identifiable group on a fairly regular basis. This doesn't have to do with whether the Conservatives or Labour are in power, although more trouble has occurred under Tory rule. So the cause or causes of the malaise are likely to be deeper than what can be explained by cuts in social welfare spending. What is perhaps true is that there has been no sustained effort since the 1950s, when Afro-Caribbean communities arrived in Britain, to deal with their alienation. Policies for a "multicultural" Britain put in place simply did not address issues arising out of sociology and economics squarely enough. (The story of South Asian immigrants has been somewhat different, although they too have been discriminated against at various times, as they came from societies where acute despair wasn't always the next stop.) It will be a pity if the British Parliament does not reflect on measures to deal with basic sociological concerns, which are not always a matter of more spending. It will be noted that the recent rioting has not been against symbols of government (as was the case in France in 2005). Mostly black mobs have gone berserk looting shops for clothes, television sets and the like, in short driven by a consumerist passion in an unequal capitalist framework. Class angst has got mixed up with colour and race here.






The recent swearing-in of Dr Lobsang Sangay as the Prime Minister of the government-in-exile marks the beginning of a new stage in the political struggle of the Tibetan émigré community. The 43-year-old legal academic from Harvard was elected to the post earlier this year. Although he is the third elected Prime Minister of the government-in-exile, he is the first one to assume the position after the Dalai Lama formally relinquished his political role. In consequence, Dr Sangay could be much more influential than any of his predecessors. But he also assumes office at a time when the external and internal challenges confronting the Tibetan exile community are much greater. The Dalai Lama's decision to step down as political leader was a reflection of these challenges. His adoption of the "Middle Way" as a negotiating stance has cut no ice with two generations of Chinese leaders. The "Middle Way" aims to secure autonomy for Tibet under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama sees this as the only feasible way of preventing the erosion of Tibetan identity and culture. The Chinese, however, regard the Dalai Lama's demand for an autonomous "Greater Tibet" as a veiled attempt at secession. China's suspicion of the Dalai Lama has deepened since the unrest in Tibet and elsewhere in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics. Although the Chinese government resumed contacts with the Dalai Lama's representatives there is little doubt that they were uninterested in any serious negotiations. Beijing was merely marking time and hoping that when the current Dalai Lama passes on the Tibetan exile movement will come to juddering halt. This is precisely why the Dalai Lama has paved the way for an elected Prime Minister to assume political leadership. But Dr Sangay may be no more acceptable to the Chinese as a political interlocutor than the Dalai Lama himself. Dr Sangay has repeatedly stated that he will persist with the Middle Way approach. In his speeches and writings, he has also rejected a key precondition advanced by Beijing: that the Tibetans should acknowledge that Tibet has historically always been a part of China. The Tibetans have been unwilling to do so, for it might further undercut their case for autonomy. Further, Dr Sangay has insisted that the Dalai Lama remains the paramount leader of the Tibetans. Finally, and perhaps most problematic, is the new Prime Minister's past membership of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the more militant faction of the exile community. Ironically, this may also be the trickiest aspect of the internal challenges confronting him. The TYC's political stance has diverged from that of the Dalai Lama for the past few years. The youth groups call for the independence of Tibet and oppose the notion of autonomy under Chinese Constitution. Some of them are also averse to ruling out armed struggle against the Chinese administration in Tibet. The TYC's militancy has fed on the obduracy of the Chinese government. It sees the Dalai Lama's diplomatic stance as hardly effectual. The political faultline in the exile community came to the fore in the aftermath of the 2008 uprising in Tibet. Later that year, the Dalai Lama brought together different voices from the community to discuss the way forward. The final statement of the meeting expressed support for the Middle Way, but it also conceded that if there was no progress towards autonomy, the goal could be shifted to independence. Notwithstanding his previous association with the TYC, Dr Sangay has already had some run-ins with the radicals. His purported remarks at a conference in Washington D.C. in October 2008 have come in for sharp criticism. The radicals claim that Dr Sangay spoke in favour of civil rights and political representation for Tibetans under the Chinese Constitution. In particular, he drew a parallel between Tibetans and African-Americans in the United States. Such a position, they argue, is a step back even from the Middle Way — which envisages an internally autonomous Tibet capable of maintaining its cultural identity — and is tantamount to political "integration" of Tibet with China. Whether or not this accurately captures Dr Sangay's views, such criticism reflects the sharpening political divide in the exile community. And it may well circumscribe the new Prime Minister's room for manoeuvre. Dr Sangay has been involved in numerous Track II dialogues with Chinese scholars over the past decade-and-a-half. He is an acknowledged academic expert in conflict resolution. But his first challenge will be consensus building among his own people. Dr Sangay has called on India to play a more active role in the resolution of the Tibetan problem. He has gone so far as to request the Indian government to "consider Tibet as one of the core issues between India and China". Such a stance is unlikely to be adopted by New Delhi. Since 1954, India has consistently maintained that Tibet is a region of China. It does not accord political recognition to the government-in-exile. But it does keep its links with the exile leadership in good repair. This is important for a variety of reasons — not least because the Tibetan issue could potentially cast a major shadow on India-China relations. The delicate balancing act performed by India could become more difficult in the future. Issues such as the selection of the next Dalai Lama will be fraught. It is important, therefore, that New Delhi begins considering ways of mitigating the mistrust between the Chinese government and the Tibetan exile community. India's ability to do anything on this front will depend on how the new Prime Minister-in-exile squares up to the multiple challenges confronting him. * Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







The film Aarakshan, which deals with the reservation policy in the education sector, has stirred up a controversy before its release this Friday. Directed by Prakash Jha and starring Amitabh Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan, it has angered Dalit and backward caste politicians who claim the film is anti-reservation. Jha and his team point out that the film has been cleared by the Censor Board without any cuts. Anjum Rajabali, the scriptwriter of the film, says that this "menacing trend" of demanding to see a film even after official clearance will "reduce our freedom of expression". Rajabali, a former journalist, began his scriptwriting career with Drohkaal, which he wrote for Govind Nihalani in 1994. Four years later his film Ghulam, with Aamir Khan, gave his career a fillip and Raajneeti (2010), for which he wrote the script, screenplay and dialogue, established his reputation as one of the most original, credible scriptwriters in Bollywood. In an interview to Sidharth Bhatia, Rajabali talks about Aarakshan and says people should focus on the film, not the politics of it. What is Aarakshan about? We know that reservation is the core of the story, but what stance does it take? Actually, the film also takes head-on the exponentially mushrooming commercial and private coaching sector, which is turning into a rapacious monster that is not doing any good to learning. Regarding reservation, since the characters in Aarakshan personify different shades of opinion on the issue, they do take strong stances. Not so much the film, I'd say. Why a film on reservation at this moment, when the issue is dormant? The issue is hardly dormant! As long as casteism exists here, so will reservation, and it'll continue to agitate public opinion. Even now, film or no film, all you have to do is just mention the topic in any public space — train compartment, college canteen, pub, anywhere — and see how the debate goes wild! And so emotionally charged will it be that there won't be a resolution. This is one never-ending debate. What do you make of the protests and agitations? This trend of menacing filmmakers and demanding to see the film even after Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) clearance, is going to reduce our freedom of expression. At some stage, this extra-constitutional censorship is going to go out of hand. Moreover, regarding Aarakshan, my own feeling is that you might fault it as a film, but I don't think it is politically problematic. Politicians in Maharashtra and elsewhere want to see the film before you release it. Have you agreed? Personally, I don't see why one should. But, it is the producer's call. And his stand has been clear. If a government officially asks to see it, or if the court directs him to show it, he will. Until now only the Uttar Pradesh government has requested that. We're showing it to them. Did the censor board ask for any specific cuts that you did not want to make? No. The CBFC cleared it for a U/A certificate without a single cut. It's really ironic that while the CBFC is becoming more sensitive, liberal and progressive, these other forces are moving in reverse gear! Can the complex issue of reservation be reduced to a simplistic equation of merit vs quotas? No, obviously not. Hence, they're never merely counter-posited in the film. Moreover, let's face it, this whole notion of merit itself, and how it is determined today, is questionable. How is scoring high in competitive exams with the aid of coaching classes meritorious in any true sense! Your films have been mainly political or on strong social subjects? Do you think political films work at the box office? And was the decision to take stars motivated by increasing box office appeal? I really don't see why a film on any subject shouldn't work. I mean this seriously. Jaideep (Sahni) wrote a very popular film on women's hockey! Amole (Gupte) swung a story about a dyslexic child! Both released in the popular space. Right now, a larger canvas may still need stars as they help bring the crowds in. But, at the end, it is the film that sends them back satisfied. Was there any disagreement between you and the director on the stance and ideology of the film? There was very little disagreement at the ideological level. What took months of arduous and sometimes rancorous debate was what to show in the film and how far to take it. In the end, how will this film carry forward the debate on reservations? Or shall we just see it as a film and nothing else? We tend to overestimate a film's ability to influence public opinion. The overriding reason people go to watch a film is to get emotionally involved with the drama of the story. However, what Aarakshan could do is remind people of the issue, maybe revive the debate for a while until it settles down to the uneasy equilibrium where it has been all this while.








Sensex, Nifty will be normal Subhash C. Aggarwal Indian policymakers have reassured the nation not to panic because of the downgrade of US credit rating by Standard & Poor's. But the Indian capital market will continue to suffer jolts, which could be termed as massive, since stocks in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan will continue to be in deep red, including those of the US. This is natural because the world has become a global village and its increasing interdependence will result in such shocks whenever economies malfunction on account of any bad development. Interestingly, because of this major adverse international development, a tiny number of experts have expressed doubts about the growth story of Indian economy, which, in my view, is unlikely to be affected due to the strong fundamentals on which India's macro and micro economic movements are carrying on. You will shortly notice the indices, Sensex and Nifty, returning to normal and regaining the range appropriate under the current circumstances and then stay range bound before making an upward move in the next five to six months. Why do I make this assessment? Because we know for sure that Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) will continue to invest in India and developing economies and their current withdrawals should not be seen as trying to create panic in the Indian capital market. The current tumult is entirely temporary and will disappear because nobody can afford to ignore growth, which is bound to happen in India. If you look at the figures of May and June, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has gone up substantially and the government is approving FDI proposals with greater gusto because investors have faith in the Indian economy. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has been repeatedly assuring the nation that India will be able to meet its growth target of eight per cent and contain fiscal deficit at 4.6 per cent of its GDP. That is very encouraging. I would advise the Indian government to take inflation and corruption head on. Commodity prices will begin to settle and indications of this are already there before us. We need to strengthen supplies to control food inflation, and this can be done by ushering in agriculture and financial sector reforms without any delay. Things will then improve even further. There has to be zero-tolerance for corruption. The Reserve Bank of India ought to apply a moratorium on any further increase in monetary policy rates to keep our interest rates under control. All these measures, to my mind, will go a long way in boosting confidence in India. * Subhash C. Aggarwal, chairman and managing director, SMC Group * * * Economy and markets suffer By S. Narayan The government has come out with a statement that the Indian economy is strong and that the financial crisis in the US and Europe will not impact India. But that may not be a correct argument for a number of reasons. First, the share of exports in our total GDP has been rising quite significantly in last eight to 10 years. The trade-GDP ratio, which was just 10-12 per cent in early 2000, has now crossed 35-36 per cent. Moreover, our exports are no longer just traditional items like gems, jewellery and spices. They are more sophisticated engineering goods, which means that Indian manufacturing sector has become integrated into the globalised economy. If this is true, any draw down in growth in the US and the EU will definitely impact the exports sector, whether it is garment, pharmaceuticals or engineering goods, and definitely there will be a softening. Apart from this there will be a huge impact on the financial sector as well. We are already seeing that FIIs are pulling out of the Indian markets because the Sensex is falling. This results in two things. First, the opportunities for raising fresh equity capital for Indian companies decreases and therefore fresh capital formation is bound to decrease. Second, the lack of base in financial markets will derive down market capitalisation of the whole economy. Several analysts have said that Indian markets have been the worst-performing equity markets during the course of this year, and the crisis in US will only aggravate the situation by making equity markets in India less attractive. Also, Indian companies which were looking to raise debt overseas, will not be able to do so. This is because if those economies are not doing well, there will not be adequate capital to fund Indian companies. So, again, India will be devoid of the much-needed capital for growth. It is now becoming difficult to argue that the fiscal deficit target of 4.6 per cent will be met. We are already seeing that revenue collections are low, and if the manufacturing sector also goes into a downturn, as is expected, the revenue collection targets may not be met. If adequate revenue collection doesn't take place, the fiscal deficit will continue to be high. We don't see the government reducing subsidies and expenditure, so the gap between earning and expenditure will remain quite large. If fiscal targets are not met and then you have substantial debt which is overhanging towards the next year, it will reduce the strength of the economy and reduce growth. Overall, one doesn't see GDP growth of 8.5 per cent happening at all. Something close to 7 or 7.5 per cent is possible. (As told to Pawan Bali) * S. Narayan, former finance secretary







All of us have read or at least know about the Ramayana. But do we understand its vision? Even those who were present at that time and watched the events unfold would get deluded by the spell of maya (illusion). They could gain clarity only by listening to the story of Rama again. Like Parvati, who saw Rama lamenting Sita's absence and wondered how He could be the Lord if He also cried and felt sad like ordinary mortals. Her doubts and delusion were cleared after listening to the story of Rama (Ramkatha) in detail from Lord Shiva. It is not enough just to listen to the story or watch a television serial on Ramayana. Serious thinking on what is heard is important. If a student goes to a medical college, we expect him/her to come out a doctor, not a patient. Similarly, if you study the Ramayana, you must become like Rama and not Ravana. It is Rama's vision of life that is the true vision of Ramayana, which we must comprehend. Everyone has a vision of life, whether it is couched in philosophy or not. A person's behaviour, actions and reactions are based on his vision and values. An atheist who does not believe in God, scriptures or saints, and thinks that this body and the world around is all there is, will naturally value money and pleasures more than anything else. His goal in life will be to earn money and enjoy life. This importance attached to money is reflected even in our everyday language. We hear many women say, "I don't work, I am only a housewife." The never-ending work done by her does not earn any money directly; hence it is not considered work! This is because we value money. Work that does not pay is not considered work. This is how our values are decided by our vision of life. Higher vision of life triggers questions like, "Who is this God I am serving?" and "What is the purpose of my life?" The thirst for self-knowledge arises. On analysing life we find that the Lord alone dwells in all people, all creatures, all things. We will, therefore, not develop hatred even towards our foes and detractors. This is the vision of life we should have. Lord Rama's vision of life offers us a standard against which we can measure ourselves and improve. Even his enemy, Maricha, said: "He is the very embodiment of dharma." Dharma is that which integrates and creates harmony within us, in our inner being, outside, in our family, and so on. If we hold on to dharma, it will protect us. It is said, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for everything." If you don't have any higher values or goals in life, you will fall easily. It is said that knowledge is our friend in our travels, the spouse is our friend at home, medicine is the friend for the ailing and dharma is our friend after death. In the Kishkindha Kanda of Tulsi Ramayana, we find many gems of wisdom embedded in the poetry. Some verses describe the monsoons. The search for Sita had to be halted during this period. Rama and Lakshmana lived in a cave on the Pravarshana mountain. They did not play cards or hunt to while away their time. Rama used to tell Lakshmana kathas (stories) — their conversation increased devotion and dispassion; they talked about how a king should live and rule his kingdom, and about common sense, which is so uncommon. We shall see in detail what the rains have to teach us in my next column. — Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit © Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.







BETWEEN David Cameron's bluster ~ he has vowed a crackdown on the "thugs" ~ and the lament of E Nan, a black baseball player of Hackney ~ "we ain't got jobs, no money" ~ lies the anarchy that has mired Britain since Sunday. A year after its victory this is the first major racist challenge that the Conservative-led coalition faces, 26 years after a similar crisis confronted another Tory administration, that of Mrs Margaret Thatcher. The challenge today is decidedly more forbidding, of a kind that no peace-time Prime Minister of Britain has ever countenanced. The shooting of a 29-year-old black, Mark Duggan, in Tottenham has ostensibly lent the spark to riots in London, that have now spread to Croydon, Birmingham and Ealing. Yet beyond the immediate provocation is the simmering discontent and the grim reality of  economic deprivation and social marginalisation of a segment of the populace that is clubbed as Britain's "inner-city youth", predominantly belonging to the Afro-Caribbean community. The core of the issue, therefore, is as social as it is economic. The dearth of economic opportunities is beyond dispute and permits no hedging by the establishment. It has bred social disaffection that successive dispensations ~ Conservatives to New Labour to Con-LibDem ~ have scarcely been able to address. Tension rages beneath the simmering disaffection and suppressed anger, and violence a further inch beneath tension. Street gangs have bared their angst, and London today bears witness to the worst riots in decades. Mr Cameron has rushed back from Tuscany to salvage the country; so too has the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, having cut short his visit to Canada. As in the Arab world, post-modern technology may well have fuelled the riots; the use of Blackberry handsets by riotous mobs is now specifically under investigation. The cloud over next year's Olympics must seem incidental when we reflect on the larger context. Britain's multicultural image stands blighted and the wounds, suffered since Sunday, will not be easy to bandage.
The London police is under flak primarily because of its handling of the explosive situation in the aftermath of Duggan's shooting by the Metropolitan Police's Trident Team. Apparently no lessons have been learnt since the fiasco that led to the killing of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 ~ purely out of suspicion ~ soon after the outrage in the Underground. In truth, mistrust of the police has intensified since the shooting of Menezes to the death of Ian Tomlinson (2009) and to Mark Duggan (2011). Between them, they signify the underbelly of contemporary Britain. There is intolerance on both sides, matched with the absence of a conciliatory approach, let alone a strategy towards normality. As London burns, this is the critical gap that must immediately be bridged. Britain has reached a tragic pass, and Mr Cameron faces the biggest test of his stewardship.




INSUFFICENT would be the fingers of both hands to keep track of the number of inquiries ordered or reports sought from the Army by the defence minister into fake encounters, high-handedness, misbehaviour and so on. The findings for some strange reason are seldom made public, but that they and the action taken thereafter have had little impact is evident from AK Antony finding it necessary to order an inquiry into the cold-blooded killing of a mentally challenged person in Poonch a few days back. It is conceded that the local army personnel were misled by a Special Police Officer and a member of the Territorial Army ~ neither were full-time security force personnel ~ but can people be gunned down on the basis of flimsy "evidence"? And who embroidered the story about the victim being a dreaded LeT commander, that there was an operation lasting several hours before he was neutralised and who planted the weapon near the body? Does the Army expect anyone to believe all that was an "aberration" ~ the camouflage it consistently uses? As disturbing as the killing itself ~ and in the prevailing conditions in Jammu and Kashmir or the North-east mistaken identity and "seeing" militants behind every bush is perhaps a professional hazard ~ is the covering-up of the misdeed. It is criminal abetment that cannot be explained away as protecting a comrade-in-arms. The wounds of Chittisinghpora, Machhil have been re-opened.
Army Headquarters takes exception to criticism, cries "foul" at the drop of a beret, but clearly has failed to get a message across to the troops on the ground that they have neither licence to kill, nor are they entitled to the AFSPA shield. It is a failure of leadership that the brass is not man enough to acknowledge. Since "kills" no longer count (at least officially) for awards and cash prizes, an immediate study is required to explain why fake encounters persist. A single murder ~ a fake encounter is nothing short of that ~ undoes all the goodwill action, and since both J&K and the North-east have their sub-identities it adds to the people's sense of isolation. Thus fuelling the argument that Army deployment is now part of the problem rather than a critical element of the solution. A sad reward for the commitment and gallantry that has also been displayed in those regions.




DAILY reports of  killing, abduction and attacks on civilians speak vividly enough of insecurity being widespread in Manipur. Add to this the economic blockade of  highways, sometimes on flimsy grounds, bandhs, strikes and protests by different organisations to highlight their grievances, and the picture of chaos and confusion is complete. On 1 August, five people including two schoolchildren were killed when a bomb strapped to a scooter went off at Sangakpam bazaar near Imphal. This was the second such act since November 2005 when explosives left hidden in a shack were set off in Imphal's largest market complex, killing two people. Since valley-based outfits were not known to resort to such terror tactics, outsiders' involvement was suspected. In the Sangakpam incident the NSCN(IM) was initially blamed but it denied the charges. Chief minister Ibobi Singh, however, said there was  "concrete evidence" of  the outfit's involvement and it was aimed at Autonomous District Council members. A few weeks ago, a bomb exploded at the ADC complex at Khuman Lampak stadium. Elections to the ADC were held in May-June last year (after two decades) amid protests by Nagas in Manipur hill districts who feared this would upset their "Greater Nagaland" concept.
What with the Nagas in Manipur demanding a separate administrative unit, the hills are also in turmoil. Of grave concern is the raking up of a demand for conversion of the Sadar Hills of  Kangpokpi (Kuki area) in Senapati district (Naga dominated) into a separate revenue entity. It has been a bone of contention between the Nagas and Kukis for more than three decades. The status quo was maintained through memoranda of understanding signed in 1981, 1992 and 1996. Since the traditional rivalry between the two communities is well known, the administration must ensure that the ongoing agitation in the hills does not get out of control.








THE Chinese Communist Party is celebrating its 90th birthday this month and it has much to celebrate. Mao's successful Communist revolution was made possible by the active participation of the peasantry and not the urban proletariat, which was supposed to be the vanguard of the revolution for Marx. Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao in 1978 after a power struggle with the hardliners who wanted to continue with Mao's policies. Unlike Stalin, who killed all his rivals and those who thought differently, Mao allowed his detractors to survive, though he stripped them of all important  positions and humiliated them in public.
While Mao was fondly attached to the Marxist dogma, Deng was pragmatic. This is  evident from his observation that "the colour of the cat did not matter as long as it can catch mice". This pragmatism helped to rebuild China at a time when a large segment of the population was looking for a way out from the excesses of the Mao regime. The chaos of the Great Leap Forward programme and the famine of 1955-56, which killed more than three million people, were still fresh in public memory.
In spite of the growth of heavy industries and limited progress in urbanization, China's basic problem was the existence of non- productive collectivised agriculture which catered to the needs and subsistence of 80 per cent of the people. Notably, agricultural reform was not initiated by the state. In 1978, the Chinese peasants divided the communal land amongst themselves. It started with 18 per cent of the families in Xiagang village. The reform was initiated by the people themselves and was facilitated by Deng.
By 1982, 90 per cent of the country's rural peasantry were engaged in household production and agriculture was booming. Private trade system developed at the grassroots and with huge surpluses which were sold outside the system of the Communist state. This led to the emergence of new institutions to transport and sell agricultural products. By 1983, the overwhelming majority of consumers in the cities could purchase their products in markets created by the people.
The commercialisation of agriculture was the first important step towards modernisation. In spite of initial hesitation and hurdles, the new Deng administration encouraged these initiatives. The Chinese economic miracle originated in agriculture. Many private manufacturing units developed in predominantly agricultural provinces such as Hanan and Guangzhou. Rural entrepreneurs provided the essential capital and consumer goods to the cities and also financed airports and highways.
Deng and his successors followed a consistent policy of attracting foreign capital and technical know-how. Emulating the experiences of Japan and the newly industrialised countries ~ South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore ~ China started selling manufactured goods at competitive prices in the international market. The first trade zone in China bordered Hong Kong. In 1978, Chinese trade accounted for less than one  per cent of the world trade, but at present it is eight per cent. Its economy is the second largest and is expected to surpass the USA's in a few years and emerge as the largest. If the 21st century is increasingly becoming an Asia-Pacific periodisation, it is largely because of the Chinese economic miracle with its unprecedented double-digit growth rate for more than three decades. This was maintained even during the recent economic meltdown.
The policy ensured impressive returns for the foreign investors. Despite the brutal suppression of the democratic aspirations at  Tiananmen Square, Deng and his associates provided effective leadership and solved the problem of succession in 2002. A younger lot of technocrats and businessmen was inducted into the system.
In all categories of human development China is far ahead of other comparable nations. Many of its universities figure in the world's top 100. The country is advancing rapidly in pure science and fundamental research. Its triumph in space science, infrastructure, dams and railways has impressed the entire world. Defending the concept of implementing socialism with Chinese characteristics its Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, once asserted that it allows China to "make decisions efficiently, organise effectively and concentrate resources to accomplish large undertaking". The brilliant organisation of the Olympics in Beijing and then of the Asian Games in a new city enhanced China's international stature.
However, in spite of such impressive achievements China does not claim that there is a Chinese model in the same way that the Soviets did in the heyday of Communism. One major virtue of the Chinese leadership is its extreme caution while taking decisions so that the delicate balance within society is not disturbed. In maintaining social discipline and the rigid hierarchical structure the Confucian culture and tradition is often invoked. The continuity of Chinese history and also its enormous contribution to world civilisation and science is used as unifying tools. This was demonstrated during the Beijing Olympics.
Even as late as the 1990s, there was no middle class in China. Now, there is a sizeable urban middle class, and it provides the most powerful base in legitimising the rule of the Communist party. The voice of dissent is still feeble as the middle class is more concerned with economic advancement and less with democratisation and multi-party rule. One very important reason for this apathy is the lurking fear of chaos and an economic downturn. The privatisation of farmland is not undertaken officially on ideological grounds; but more than that is the fear of an uncontrollable exodus from the rural to urban areas.
China's cities compare favourably with those in Europe, the USA, Japan and the newly industrialised countries. But this has been achieved at a terrible cost. Urban migrants from rural areas are still considered rural despite the fact that they have lived in cities for decades. This has created a second category of citizens who are denied housing, educational and medical benefits. Unrest is common because of this untenable discrimination; it is quelled, as we know, with repression.
The Communist Party leadership also faces another dilemma. As Roy Medvedev remarked long ago, democracy is as much a necessity for economics as it is for politics. This problem is highlighted by the fact that a large percentage of Chinese entrepreneurs are a part of the crony or oligarchic capitalism. They can create enormous wealth by virtue of their social networking rather than innovation, business acumen or entrepreneurship. However, the party has also moved in certain positive directions, notably the enactment of property law, which is the first major step to establish the rule of law in contrast to arbitrariness.
The future course of China's success will depend on the capacity of the next generation of the Communist party leadership to initiate a definitive move towards building an enduring structure, one that is based on the rule of law and democratic principles and norms. In the reckoning of the party, a developed state is a reformed state with an institutionalised democratic order. The projection that China will emerge as a predominantly middle class country over the next decade coupled with  the deft handling of state affairs by the party leadership recalls Napoleon's remark: "If China wakes up, it will shake up the world".
The writer is retired Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi








On the 64th birth anniversaries of India and Pakistan, people should make it clear that each country is not a playground for any dynasty. Democracy means rule of the people, by the people and for the people

WHEN India and Pakistan are celebrating their 64th independence anniversaries, the scions of the two dominant families are also happily entering their adulthood in the political arena. Rahul Gandhi in India and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Pakistan are equally conscious of their dynastic clout that gives them the power and privileges they have come to enjoy without holding any government office.

They dress simply – Rahul in kurta and pajama and Bilawal will soon be returning to Pakistan and wearing salwar and kameez (the attire that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto prescribed). But both dynasties have tons of money, most of which they have reportedly stashed away abroad. Everyone remembers the luxurious country estate priced at crores of rupees (more than four million pounds) that Asif Ali Zardari purchased in the English county of Surrey. In Rajiv Gandhi's regime, the Bofors gun scandal was a byword for corruption. Both dynasties — of Nehru-Gandhi on the one hand and Zulfikar-Benazir Bhutto on the other – are conscious of their support among the gullible whom each have fed on slogans: Mrs Gandhi promising the electorate she would oust poverty (garibi hatao) and Bhutto's vowing to give the common man access to food, clothes and housing (roti, kapda aur makaan).

Without doubt they have each let their respective nations down because people on both sides still wallow in poverty and helplessness. But the past sacrifices of Jawaharlal Nehru in one country and those of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir in the other have still sustained the hope that the two dynasties would one day deliver the dream that they had sold.

Indeed, the two families have the halo of martyrdom around them, which the Congress in India and the Pakistan People's Party are able to cash in on during the polls. One may criticise Mrs Gandhi for driving away morality from politics during the Emergency from 1975-1977, but, at the same time, who can forget she was assassinated by her own security men whom the intelligence agencies correctly identified as doubtful. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto may have rubbed his opponents the wrong way, or suppressed free speech, but people recall him as their saviour who gave his life because he wanted democracy to live.

When the peoples of the two nations will remove the blinkers from their eyes is difficult to say because Pakistan remains a feudal society and India a middle class-led democracy with a wobbling Parliament. Yet one thing is certain: the common man will some day assert himself and undo the spell of the dynasties and their misgovernance.
Stirrings are already visible. The Anna Hazare phenomenon in India, underlining the appointment of a Lokpal (Ombudsman), is bringing out people's resentment in the open. Strangely, in Pakistan more and more people are finding solace in fundamentalism, as if religion will find a solution to their problems or dismal poverty. Unfortunately, terrorism is the harvest of seeds of fundamentalism sown at one time.

Both India and Pakistan are victims, although the latter is more to blame because it had made terrorism part of its policy. The beheading of two security men by terrorists who then returned to the haven of Pakistan has remained uncondemned by Islamabad. In India, chief minister Narendra Modi has suspended an IPS officer because he alleged Modi's complicity in the Godhra riots in Gujarat.

Since India is an open society, the corruption of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen is discussed even in Parliament. The two major parties, the Congress and the BJP, are vying with each other in hurling charges of corruption. The fact remains that both parties have indulged in corruption and nepotism wherever they are in power in the states and whenever they assumed office at the Centre. In Pakistan, corruption in high places is an open secret, but it is seldom discussed because the government is harsh in dealing with whistle-blowers. Many journalists have died in exposing even a minor scam.

Sadly, none of the political parties in either country ever thought of providing free education. This should have been a priority with the enlightened Nehru, or with the first martial law dictator in Pakistan, General Mohammed Ayub Khan. Had the two nations been educated, they would have been resourceful enough to start enterprises and oust social ills from their lives. Today — after more than six decades – India's literacy is around 70 per cent while Pakistan's remains way down. Instead, the rulers on both sides have cultivated prejudices in the hearts of the people. The hatred between India and Pakistan is one of the fallouts.
Another fallout has been the lack of character in the upper class. It has no sense of social obligation. The dazzling malls that have come up are full of women who flaunt their Rs 16-lakh purses and of men who think that clothes with foreign brand names give them distinction and the intellectual air which they otherwise lack. They have no pride in indigenous goods. Even otherwise, one cannot buy eatables which are not adulterated. The worst is that even medicines are not without impurity. Children are the real sufferers because the best of hospitals do not provide a clean environment and many patients pick up infection from there.
Perhaps it is time for the two countries to introspect about where they are heading and what their goals are. A little soul searching cannot do any harm. It is no use picking one party or one person as a scapegoat. In this bathhouse, we are all naked. The problem with us is that we have lost sensitivity.

We may talk about poverty, but we, the privileged class, really do not know what the poor go through, or how they live. Mahatma Gandhi, who led us to freedom, said that the country would now usher in an era where everybody would have food to eat, a house to live and an opportunity for gainful employment. Nehru talked about a tryst with destiny and promised to fulfil the dreams with which the people had lived during their bondage.

The founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, promised equality to all in religion and opportunities. His dream of a pluralist society has been belied by the modern Pakistan. India can at least say with pride that it has established a secular society. Yet what the rulers and dynasties in both countries have to realise is that they are far from what the founding fathers had promised. At least they should have met the minimum needs of the common man and, above all, they should have established democratic, secular polities.

On the 64th birth anniversaries of India and Pakistan, people should make it clear that each country is not a playground for any dynasty. Democracy means rule of the people, by the people and for the people.

The  writer is a veteran journalist and commentator






THANKS to some recent Supreme Court orders and directions, sex workers, particularly trafficked women, can hope for a new life of dignity. Although past experience of many steps marred by hypocrisy is not encouraging, when India's highest court takes a lot of initiative and also involves experienced social activists in this effort, then it is time for all concerned to utilise these newly created opportunities to ensure a new beginning can be made.

The Supreme Court has done well to identify three aspects. First, there is the issue of largescale trafficking of girls and women from several parts of the country, taking advantage of the poverty of these areas. The overwhelming majority of trafficked girls are from very poor families, with a special concentration in some geographical areas as well because some communities/castes have suffered historical injustice. Efforts will have to be made to ensure adequate attention to economic development and social uplift of these areas and communities, apart from strict action being taken against traffickers. In addition, there are special problems arising from trafficking outside the country, including Nepal and Bangladesh.

Criminals engaged in the racket can be very cruel and at the same time they also enjoy high-level connections. Therefore, special efforts will have to be made, the Supreme Court backing, to ensure that the traffickers are actually punished. Otherwise the more common experience is that, at the most, only lower-level gang members are caught.

The second aspect of the court's directives is to identify those sex workers who want to leave the profession. It has directed the Centre and the states to prepare a scheme for rehabilitating sex workers. In addition, it has given directions for a survey of sex workers in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. However, the task of rehabilitation cannot be separated from the other task of curbing traffickers and criminals who control prostitution rackets. Rehabilitation in an alternative occupation is not always a choice that a woman trapped in prostitution can easily exercise. So, along with alternative work opportunities, security from the terror of criminals is also needed.

Since individual rehabilitation is not easy for a large number of women, and also difficult to implement and monitor, the possibility of  community rehabilitation can be explored by which many women can stay at one place and work together. However, as and when better prospects become available for any of them, they should be free to opt for a better life.

The third concern is to try and ensure a life of dignity for those sex workers who choose to continue in the profession for reasons of their own. Here it is important to mention that some existing laws have been the cause for repeated harassment of workers and the denial of dignity. Such laws that no longer serve a social purpose need to be changed. At the same time it should be pointed out that complete legalisation of prostitution has not helped in places where it has been tried in recent years. So regulatory laws are needed that serve wider social goals. Some recent legal initiatives in the Philippines (where trafficking problems have been particularly acute) as well as in Sweden and Norway have been praised and can be considered for India's conditions.
   The priority should be to protect sex workers from harassment aimed at extracting money and favours from them, which serves no larger social goal. It is also necessary to protect children of sex workers (or former sex workers) from social stigma.

 While these three aspects deserve simultaneous attention, another disturbing dimension that has to be kept in mind is the increase in prostitution and the sex trade in recent years. According to official estimates, there are about three million prostitutes in India at present and their number has increased by about 50 per cent over 1997-2002. According to an even more shocking estimate given recently by Ruchira Gupta, founder-president of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, the sex industry has grown by 17 times in the past 15 years.
   While such estimates may differ, one hopes the survey taking place as a result of the Supreme Court's directives will be helpful in understanding this phenomenon of rapid increase. If the reasons for this rapid escalation are not tackled then merely tackling the existing situation will never be adequate.

The writer is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi









CONFUCIUS said, "Forget injuries, never forget kindness." In today's world this does sound a little outdated. We're more prone to taking umbrage to injuries inflicted upon us and generally leave no stone unturned while seeking revenge. We forget that "kindness is the oil that smoothen the friction of life" and that "if we cannot be clever, we can always be kind".


 Are people of some countries kinder than those of others? Can kindness be a "national trait"? I don't know the answers but in my frequent travels to Thailand over the last three decades I have repeatedly been the lucky recipient of many acts of spontaneous no-strings-attached acts of kindness. Sure, these were "little" acts, but they've left a mega-impact. In many cases, I cannot even recall the faces of those kind people. They made me feel humble but blessed. There is no hope of ever being able to repay those who were unselfishly kind, all I can do is cherish their generosity.


During my first visit to Thailand in 1980, I was at a bus stop, studying the city map in hand, not sure about the bus I should take to my destination. I asked a schoolboy in uniform – about 12 years old? – which one I should take. He did not appear to understand much English but seemed to have understood my predicament. With a smile, he gestured for me to wait. After some time, he pointed at an approaching bus. As it stopped and after some people emerged, he took my hand and boarded the vehicle. He told the conductor about my destination and insisted on paying my fare of two baht. Some stops later, he indicated we should get down. He gave me a big smile, shook my hand and crossed the road to a bus stop opposite. He'd come with me only to ensure I reached my destination.


On the same trip, I'd gone to a shirt store. Having found nothing of interest, I walked out. Outside, I was fumbling in my pocket for a light for my smoke when a shopgirl saw me, rushed out with a matchbox, lit my cigar and gave me the matchbox. I still have it as a treasured memory. Such acts have kept on happening during my many trips to Thailand.


A few months ago, I was in the eastern city of Nakhon Si Thamaraat. I went into a cyber café to check my email and to have the images on a full memory card transferred to DVD. I found that for some reason the image transfer was not happening on a disc I'd had taken along. A young woman – part of the shop staff – came over and told me it was not possible to get my work done on that particular computer. She took the memory card and my DVD disc and said she would do my work on her office computer. After about a half-hour, I went to the office but she was not there. But one of her colleagues gave me the memory card and a new DVD disc with the images from my camera. She also returned my disc saying there was something wrong with it and it was not usable. When I asked how much I had to pay, the answer was, as the other girl had told her, "No charge." I was very surprised because at other places I would pay around Rs 100-150 for the work. My insisting on payment was not accepted. The next day, just before leaving Nakhon, I took a box of cookies for the girl who had done my work as a token of gratitude, but the debt of her kindness continues to hang very heavy.


A few days later, the same problem arose when I was in the small seaside town of Sichon. Directed to a cyber café, I asked the young proprietor where I might get a good Thai meal. He started giving me some directions but then gave up halfway and asked me to wait for a few minutes. He left, changed into street clothes, returned and asked me to get on to the pillion of his 150-cc Suzuki. We drove for a good 20 minutes till we reached a nice, neat, small restaurant in the main street. He spoke in Thai to an old lady and her young daughter about me and my hunger. I offered him a meal, or a beer at least, but he declined. With a cheery wave, he drove away, presumably back home. I had one of the best Thai meals for less than Rs 100!


My stay at Sichon, a seaside resort, was a bit far from the main town and the best means of transport was the pillion of a motorcycle-taxi. When the need arose, the resort staff would telephone a motorcycle-taxi and it was there in a short time. The morning I was leaving the resort, I asked the staff to kindly get me a taxi and was a bit puzzled when an animated discussion ensued. After a few minutes, one of them came over and told me I should wait for about 15 minutes and the owner would take me to the bus stop. So there I was, in the extreme airconditioned comfort of a spanking new Honda City. A very pleasant but rather serious man, the owner did not have much English but did his best to engage in polite conversation. It was almost all about the beauty of Sichon and its beaches and how he hoped I'd had a comfortable stay at his resort and whether I would come back some day. The "bus stop" was a few wooden tables in a small roadside restaurant with taxi drivers enjoying a morning chat and cups of jasmine tea. The owner got down, talked to the people at the bus stop, returned, picked up my bags and helped me cross the busy road. He told me my bus would arrive in about 25 minutes, warmly shook my hand and drove away. These may be just small acts of kindness, but as an experience these rate as highly with me as the wondrous sights of Niagara Falls, the Colliseum…. You get the point!










West Bengal's financial cupboard can no longer be described as bare. When the new finance minister of the state, Amit Mitra, took his oath of office, he must have felt like old Mother Hubbard. His illustrious predecessor had left behind an empty exchequer. The new government and the new finance minister had no alternative save looking to the generosity of the Central government. The latter has provided some funds though this has not matched the expectations of the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, who took recourse to the Bengali version of the proverb, "Half a loaf is better than none." The Central government cleared an amount of Rs 21,614 crore. The contention of the West Bengal government is that, out of this amount, Rs 6,600 crore would have been available to the state in any case. This means that the Central government's generosity is not as grand as it is being made out to be. The significance of the funds being provided by the Union government, however, lies elsewhere. It allows Mr Mitra some breathing space to carry out the financial responsibilities of governance. The new government has come to power in the wake of a slew of promises. To fulfil these promises money is required. Governance cannot survive on rhetoric and fresh air. Mr Mitra can now get on with his job and leave the task of dealing with Delhi to his leader.

The Central government's funds have not quite come with a sermon but it is not entirely bereft of advice. The Union government would like to see the state government explore avenues to generate more revenue. There is sense in this. It is the opportune moment for the new government to make some structural changes in the state's economy and fiscal arrangements. Raising revenues is a part of the changes. The other is cutting costs. Neither of the two steps is going to prove popular. Raising revenues involves imposition of new taxes and hiking present levels. Reducing costs will mean cutbacks on wasteful expenditures and meaningless subsidies. An electorate pampered for the last three decades may not view the introduction of fiscal discipline with pleasure. But this government has the political backing to take tough decisions without bothering too much immediately about electoral consequences. The chief minister also has the charisma to talk to the people and persuade them. The shadow of populism should not be allowed to fall on the state's economic health.








Rebels everywhere take their time to change into realists. In the Northeast, almost every ethnic rebellion began by wanting to secede from India. There is nothing unusual, therefore, in the fact that the charter of demands submitted by the United Liberation Front of Asom rules out the state's secession from the country. Like other armed groups in the region, the Ulfa used the idea as a rallying cry for its militancy. Some of its leaders may have believed in it, but the realists among them knew the absurdity of the idea. Arabinda Rajkhowa, the Ulfa chairman, and his colleagues have been sensible in dropping the idea right at the beginning of the peace talks with New Delhi. It is necessary that irrelevant issues do not cloud the talks. It is a pity, though, that thousands of lives were lost over three decades in Ulfa's battle for a "sovereign" Assam. The Ulfa leaders should have realized long ago the futility of their armed struggle. There was never any hope for them to achieve Assam's separation from India by waging an unequal battle with the Indian State. The idea had little political or moral support among the majority of the Assamese.

In fact, most of the demands that Ulfa has placed before the Centre are economic in nature. It is perfectly logical for a state to claim special rights to its natural resources. It can justifiably claim some protection for its demographic and other identities. Assam's fears about illegal immigration from Bangladesh are not without basis. The "anti-foreigner" agitation in Assam in the 1980s, which caused a lot of bloodshed and ended in the Assam Accord of 1985, attracted the whole country's attention to the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Unfortunately, neither the Centre nor the state government has done enough to implement the suggestions made in the accord. The Ulfa leaders have done well to raise the issue again in their charter of demands. But peace and stability in Assam are the best guarantee for its economic development. Three decades of Ulfa's violence not only caused death and destruction but also ruined the state's economy. No matter how long it takes for the peace deal to be sealed, Ulfa must not return to its violent ways ever again. Mr Rajkhowa should have nothing to fear from spoilers in the anti-talks camp if he keeps his commitment to peace. The talks are his best chance of redeeming an unsavoury past.






Anders Breivik is a rightwing Christian terrorist who bombed government buildings in Oslo and killed 69 boys and girls in cold blood with automatic weapons on a little island near Oslo.

His political orientation suggests that he chose these children to kill because they were attending a youth camp organized by the ruling Labour Party, an organization he detested, but he also killed them because they were innocent. Breivik is a symbolist: he needed to kill a critical mass of innocents to shock Norway, Europe, indeed the world, into paying attention to his grievances and prescriptions. What we saw on Utoya was ritual child sacrifice performed with a Glock. After shooting them on land and then shooting them in the water (as they tried to swim away), Breivik described the killings as grotesque but necessary.

This parade of composure and dispassion is part of the persona that Breivik has taken some trouble to construct. Breivik's narcissism, his keenness on military costume, medieval and modern, shouldn't mislead us into thinking of him as a dysfunctional adult playing at soldiers. Breivik is a special kind of monster; he's the internet stalker on steroids, the anonymous bigot who hones his hatred in a dozen chatrooms, a fanatical autodidact who begins to see himself, thanks to the anonymity and equality of the worldwide web, as a world-historical intellectual.

And he is an intellectual. Breivik has careful ideological positions, a world view that makes sense of the noise of the modern world and a highly developed sense of historical mission. He has a 1500 page political manifesto posted online which sets out his grievances, his hatreds and his plan for the world. Contrary to the stereotype of the monster as loner, Breivik sees himself as part of a global uprising against Muslims, immigrants and black people (so often contained in the same vile body) and in his mind, he is surrounded by allies in this struggle. Islamophobic bloggers like Daniel Pipes, best-selling bigots like Mark Steyn, the skinheads of the English Defence League, Israeli Zionists beset by violent Arabs, Indian 'Sanatan Dharmists' threatened by fertile, fast breeding aliens are, in his obsessive manifesto, potential comrades-in-arms.

For Breivik the children he killed were individually innocent but collectively guilty because they were associated with the Labour Party which supported multiculturalism and had been instrumental in allowing the Muslim migration that now threatened Norway's white, Christian identity. Reading Breivik's online rants, the Indian reader will immediately recognize his loathing of the Labour Party and other advocates of multiculturalism as the exact equivalent of the Hindu Right's denunciation of its own bogeyman, the 'pseudo-secularist'.

The reflexive assumption that the killings in Norway were the work of Muslim terrorists made many rightwing commentators look silly but their stupid bigotry is less worrying than the justification that has been offered for their 'mistake'. The standard defence has been that while these bloggers and journalists were wrong to jump to conclusions, their error was understandable because Islamist terror is overwhelmingly the main threat to peace in Europe. The conviction that terrorism in Europe is coterminous with Muslim mayhem is so widespread as to need no explanation or documentation. The only problem with this conviction is that it's wholly false.

In 2009, there were 294 terrorist acts in Europe (not including the United Kingdom) of which one, yes, one, was committed by a Muslim. The vast majority of terrorist attacks in 2009 (237 out of 294) were perpetrated by white, non-Muslim separatist groups, mainly in Spain and France. In 2007, two out of a total of 581 terrorist plots had been inspired by Muslim radicals, whereas in 2008 not a single one of 441 documented terrorist attacks was carried out by a Muslim.

These figures aren't compiled by some bleeding-heart liberal think tank dedicated to manufacturing alibis for bad Muslims; they are cited in a report called the Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010, compiled by an European Union agency, Europol. In its own words, "[t]he TE-SAT aims to provide law enforcement officials, policymakers and the general public with facts and figures regarding terrorism in the EU, while also seeking to identify trends in the development of this phenomenon. It is a public document produced annually on the basis of information provided and verified by the competent law enforcement authorities in the EU Member States."

These figures, therefore, are officially endorsed by the EU's member states. According to the report's typology of terror, most terrorist attacks in Europe are carried out (in descending order of frequency) by separatists, leftwing terrorists and rightwing terrorists. The incidence of Islamist terror attacks in Europe over the last three years has been vanishingly small. And yet this grotesquely violent killing in Norway had respectable journalists in the Washington Post and the New York Times looking for Muslim connections that didn't exist.

As it became clear that the killer might well be a blond, rightwing Christian, the New York Times, that pillar of the liberal press in America, tried to salvage something from its earlier assumption that the perpetrator was a Muslim jihadi:

"Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out terrorism as the cause of Friday's assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking al-Qaida's signature brutality and multiple attacks. If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from al-Qaida," said Brian Fishman, a counter-terrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.

Notice that the first sentence of this passage suggests by implication that if Muslims weren't responsible for the Oslo killings, mass murder wouldn't amount to terrorism. Even when the killer turned out to be a white, Muslim-hating Christian, al-Qaida remained, in some speculative way, responsible for the violence. The main lesson of the Oslo tragedy has been that "terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target". Replace 'American' with 'Indian' and Glenn Greenwald could be writing about us.

In majoritarian discourse, no violence committed by non-Muslims can be legitimately labelled terrorist because such violence is either trivial (compared to global jihad) or retaliatory, the involuntary response of a goaded majority. This form of passive-aggressive denial rules out the possibility of majoritarian terror while simultaneously holding out the threat of massive violence if the tolerant, much-tried majority is provoked beyond endurance. A good example of this position is Chandan Mitra's criticism of those who pointed to Hindutva terrorism in the aftermath of the Malegaon explosions:

"The fact is that individual miscreants or petty bomb peddlers do not constitute anything like Hindu terror groups; they have no sympathy, at least yet, from the community. But stoked and insulted repeatedly, the tolerant and largely passive Hindu might just start justifying the actions of fringe groups. By nature, the Hindu can never be a terrorist. Secular-fundamentalists should not provoke him to a point where he seriously contemplates the option." (Italics mine.)

Anders Breivik didn't just seriously contemplate the option, he acted on it. We can either grant such acts the preemptive absolution Chandan Mitra recommends or we can learn to call terrorism by its proper name regardless of the identity of the terrorist.







Late last month, Pakistan's erstwhile president, Pervez Musharraf, was quizzed by a private television channel about the possibility of Osama bin Laden having hid himself in Abbottabad for five years before he was located and killed. If the five-year time frame were established, it would have overlapped with Musharraf's tenure as Pakistan's president — he relinquished power in 2008. He denied the possibility vehemently. But at the end of the interview, it was clear that he had not answered his critics satisfactorily, especially on issues relating to Pakistan's military not having taken decisive action in North Waziristan and being soft on the Haqqani faction even though the group's closeness to the Taliban is well known.

In fairness to Musharraf, the news channel has given him another chance to clear his position in an article on the website. The general has done an adequate job of defending the military, though understandably, not the ruling government. The general elections in Pakistan are due in 2013. Musharraf has formed a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, and has used this article primarily as his party's election manifesto. As can be expected, certain India-centric issues feature prominently here.

One of the issues raised to beat India is, not surprisingly, Kashmir. "The freedom struggle in Indian-held Kashmir started in 1989.... [It] has tremendous public sympathy in Pakistan and has given birth to several Mujahedeen groups.... That is the core towards stopping the religious militancy of the Kashmir-orientated Mujahedeen." There is no doubt that there is a large dose of truth in the observation. More than a few heads of Western democracies have expressed the need to "sort out the Kashmir issue" so as to eliminate it as a factor that might turn their own citizens into militants. With Iraq presently off the radar for foreign militants, Palestine, Kashmir and the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt remain hotbeds of militant activity.

Fresh look

In India, public opinion is veering in favour of the government taking a fresh approach to the problem. Ever since Independence, thousands of Indian security personnel have been stationed in Kashmir to fight insurgencies, which are, more often than not, sponsored by Pakistan. A disproportionately high amount of money has been spent over the years for the development of the region at the cost of the rest of the country. This is arguably the biggest failure of successive governments since Independence.

The state elections in 2008 drew the highest percentage of voters in a generation and much expectation was centred on the new chief minister, Omar Abdullah, whose fresh young face seemed best suited to institute better governance as well as to bring about peace and prosperity in the valley. But election promises — like repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which shields security forces from scrutiny apart from giving them nearly unlimited powers — went unfulfilled. These continue to aggrieve the population.

In an attempt to have a fresh look at the problem, New Delhi should assign to the state government the task of enforcing law and order in the valley in a time-bound programme. The army will still be at the border and can be brought in at short notice. It will continue to do what it has been doing since Independence — only this time at the state government's behest.

A decision along the above lines will give extended peace a chance in the region for the first time since Independence, and also pre-empt hard liners in Pakistan from getting mileage in the days leading up to the 2013 general elections. This will pave the way for the election of candidates on the basis of merit rather than on the strength of their anti-Indian rhetoric. There are thus enough reasons to give it a shot.






Constable Michael Sanguinetti was being breathtakingly stupid and shamefully chauvinistic when he said at the York University safety forum in Toronto that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized". Well, there are people like him. Appallingly, these people still seem to represent the larger cross-sections of society. So, women in Canada decided that they have had enough. They protested by walking the streets dressed like "sluts". Their protest rallies spread to other countries, became bigger, and were called the Slutwalk. It spread across 60 cities worldwide as a backlash against society's tendency to put the blame on victims of sexual assault by saying that they had dressed 'provocatively'.

The Slutwalk demonstrates the power of the feminist voice. It cannot be denied that such dissent was warranted. It is also true that such protests are relevant in almost every country today. So, when the girls of Delhi joined the Slutwalk or the "Besharmi Morcha", it seemed right, especially since Delhi is one of the most unsafe cities in the world for women.

Nonetheless, when an Indian woman looks at the Slutwalk from a distance — from, say, a remote village in Bihar, Jharkhand or Manipur, or even from a distant alley in North Calcutta — a certain amount of scepticism creeps in. A scepticism about feminism's reach and scope in a country as diverse and culturally complicated as India. It would be unfair to question the legitimacy of the Slutwalk that represents the urban, middle-class Indian woman's demand for her right to dress as she wants. On the other hand, it cannot be forgotten that India is a country where a large number of women are not allowed to be born, and a larger number are not given enough food to survive, let alone proper education and a healthy life. An even larger number are married off at an early age, raped randomly and repeatedly; sometimes killed, wounded or tortured by their own family members. The right to choose their dress is a distant proposition for them.

It is not that these women are not spoken for or that their plight is not taken up as issues of protest. But these issues are so 'mundane' for the urban woman — who is often not directly affected by them — that rarely does a rally to protest against female foeticide, child marriage or dowry death gather as much momentum in the media as the Slutwalk or the Pink Chaddhi campaign did, for instance.

In this context, an interesting fact rears its head. The sexual harassment at workplace bill was passed by the Indian Parliament last year. It will protect professional women from being sexually harassed or assaulted in their workplaces. It is a laudable achievement for Indian feminism, to say the least. But the bill is rather selective: it creates a restricted zone in which the urban, middle-class working woman is protected in most of her avatars. But outside that stereotype, there is a whole world of working women to whom the bill will do no good. The legal battle that led to the passing of the bill had started with the case of Bhanwari Devi — a social worker in a village in Rajasthan who had tried to stop child marriage, and was gang-raped as a consequence. It is ironic that for such women, the bill still provides no definitive protection.

Is feminism an all-pervasive, homogenous ideal with set principles, or is it a social reality that is subject to constant influx depending on the society it is being applied to? How meaningful has the urbanized feminism of India been to women across the country who struggle for the basics of survival? Globalization has brought to us the opportunity to make common cause with the world. It has also given us the option to choose our own worlds. Is 'feminism' a fantastical word that the urban Indian woman has picked up in order to 'belong' to a distant wonderland? These are dangerous questions, yet inevitable, because it seems that the face of feminism in India needs a cleaner mirror.







"Our little girl Susan is a slut and pleases us mightily," says Samuel Pepys. But then he was writing in 1664. Slut is a funny noun. A desk is quite unmistakably a piece of furniture, a dress is a piece of clothing, a glutton is someone who eats too much, a doctor is someone who practises medicine, a whore is someone who has sex for money. Not so slut. The word seems to have surfaced in the English language around the 14th century. At different points in its long and industrious career, it has meant someone who is slovenly or untidy, a lively person, a female dog. The Oxford English Dictionary still maintains that it primarily means a "slovenly woman". But if you've forgotten to, say, make your bed or take a bath today, it is unlikely you will be called a slut.

Maybe it is this uncertainty of meaning that has made the word a site for dispute, with each user imputing values to it according to his or her own viewpoint. If the internet is anything to go by, the dominant contemporary meaning of slut is a woman with 'loose morals', and it is used in a pejorative sense. Of course it makes perfect sense to define one semantically shifty term with another one. 'Loose morals' here does not refer to cheating, dishonesty, disloyalty or cruelty. It does not even refer to sexual aggression or manipulation. A slut is a woman who likes to have sex, lots of it. Clearly, this constitutes sexual misbehaviour, at least for a woman.

Men who have lots of sex, on the other hand, are largely congratulated. So there is no word quite like 'slut' to describe them. They may be 'studs', much like exquisite breeding horses, or 'casanovas', suggesting guitars in the moonlight. A 'gigolo' is a professional, while a 'rake' is quite dashing. Way back in the 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer did speak of "a sluttish man", but he meant someone who was untidy. Since then, however, the word has mostly been used to describe untidy women, or 'slatterns'. Cleanliness and order, like sexual purity, must be the preserve of women.

Maybe it is the lack of this order that disturbs many people, this inherent messiness, this refusal by such women to conform to social and sexual norms. And the safest way to deal with it is to condemn it. When women across the world joined in the 'Slutwalk' recently, they were defying this condemnation. They were fighting for the right of every woman to be accepted as she is. But perhaps they were also reaching towards a different way of understanding the word, 'slut', one that goes beyond mere acceptance.

Surely disorder need not always degenerate into squalor? Why can it not mean a liberating lack of inhibition and with it, a certain boldness? The word, slut, could then refer to a generous sexuality, an ample desire that spills over the bounds of what is considered socially acceptable. It could convey the pleasure of a sexuality recognized and embraced. And if sluts are to be female, then this would remain a peculiarly female pleasure. Maybe the word could even be returned to some of the warmth and playfulness that Pepys spoke of centuries ago, to that quality that seemed to please Susan's family so much. Only this time, women may well claim this pleasure for themselves, as if to say, "We are sluts and it pleases us mightily."







Worldwide fame may come once in a while, but perhaps it is not such a good idea to wish for it. I doubt if the Canadian policeman who asked women not to dress like sluts is actually enjoying his fame. Some policeman in Toronto — and we all know his name. And may actually be irritated enough by his crass stupidity to want to leave it out of discussions. His remark expressed an extraordinary muddle of notions: that it was fine to address women with a term of gender-abuse, that slut means sex worker and all sex workers dress skimpily, that slut also means promiscuous and promiscuity is bad, that promiscuous women are undiscriminating and they advertise their sexuality by dressing in a particular way, that men are helpless victims of women's exposed skin, that women in loose, long-sleeved, full-length attire are never raped — and so on and so forth. In short, the remark was an astonishing vestige, in the sense of an archaeological trace, of an ancient attitude that smells of worse than mothballs.

That such an attitude can still be expressed as a safeguard against rape by the very institution that is meant to protect all citizens may lead us to question whether the West is at all different, as is often claimed, from places like India when the woman's body is the crux of the issue. Perhaps even more revealing was the explosion of protest all over the world, from Toronto and London to Bhopal and Delhi. Such worldwide anger is certainly impressive, and is being seen by many as a landmark in the global women's movement. There are many questions too, for example, whether the word slut can or should be 'reclaimed'.

Yet there is something that the angry protestors share with their hated policeman — and all of his kind: a special awareness of the female body. Making sexual assault the victim's fault, and that only if the victim is a woman, is older than the hills, as is damning the 'slut' after exploiting her. So the parade of anger may also raise a tentative question about the strength of the wisdom accumulated by years of the women's movement, with its processions, protests, anniversaries, lobbying, changes in law, its huge academic funding, its teachers and researchers, its seminars, books and papers, its real struggles and occasional triumphs.

The man should have been punished for using abuse in public and for abusing his position by giving completely erroneous — and potentially damaging — instructions. That is, suggesting that women covered like sacks are safe. Or the students could have protested then and there and turned him out in disgrace. End of matter. Why lose it? Are women sure about how they perceive their own bodies? Or how they position themselves in matters of their own sexualities? Are they clear about the ways in which their sexuality relates to their bodies? When a man rapes or sexually assaults a woman, it is the man's problem, it is not a 'women's issue'. Women must surely know that; in this day and age, there is no need to let a stupid man get under our skin.

Bhaswati Chakravorty



******************************************************************************************DECCAN HERALD




The Supreme Court's harsh observations about fake encounters should wake up the law-enforcement authorities to the undesirability and dangers of extra-judicial killings. The court is right in condemning them as cold-blooded murders which fall into the category of the rarest of rare crimes that call for the most stringent punishment. It is a different matter whether the killers in uniform should be hanged to death but the observation may be taken as an expression of the court's dismay over the tendency of the police and other security agencies to take the law into their hands and award summary capital punishment to suspected law-breakers. It is not only those who are suspected to be involved in criminal activities or terrorism who are killed in fake encounters. Even innocent people become victims of arbitrary killings, and there are a number of such cases, especially in disturbed areas like Kashmir.

The latest incident is from Poonch where a special police officer and a territorial army jawan picked up a mentally challenged young man, shot him in the forest and passed it of as an encounter with a Lashkar-e-Toiba gang. It was claimed that the man who was killed was a divisional commander of the LeT from Pakistan. The fake encounter was staged to claim rewards and promotions for a brave fight against terrorists. The culprits have now been arrested and are facing interrogation. Similar killings have taken place before also. They tarnish the image of the security forces and alienate common people. It is not only in Kashmir and the North-East that men in uniform resort to such killings. Though on paper there is a zero tolerance policy towards human rights violations, in practice they are quite common all over the country.

The rule of law demands that even the worst criminals are entitled to a proper investigation and fair trial. The argument that inadequacies and problems in the investigative system and delays in the judicial process make punishment difficult in many cases is wrong and unacceptable. In many cases, as in the Poonch incident, it is not even suspects but innocents who are done to death. A fake encounter does not happen on the spur on the moment. It is planned and executed with careful consideration and is therefore no different from deliberate crime. Such killings should have no place in a civilised and legal society.







Few will disagree that Lobsang Sangay, the new prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile, has the toughest job in the world. He has taken over the political role of the Dalai Lama, who will continue as spiritual leader of the Tibetans. Sangay is the Tibetan government-in-exile's first elected leader and thus represents a break from its feudal past. Not only will he one day become the face of the Tibetan movement but also, he will need to convince young and increasingly militant Tibetans worldwide that the path of moderation in dealing with the Chinese government is the best option available to the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama is among the world's most popular and a widely respected leader. Sangay is unknown outside the Tibetan community, but he has his task cut out by connecting with the Tibetan people.

Soon after his election in May, Sangay announced that he is willing to talk to the Chinese government 'anytime and anywhere.' Beijing's response was on expected lines. It described the government-in-exile as a 'separatist political clique' with 'no legitimacy at all.' Sangay must persist with his offer of negotiations for a political settlement of the problem. More importantly, he will need to show Tibetans that negotiating with Beijing is rewarding. Else the Tibetan movement, which has been showing signs of radicalism, will turn violent post-Dalai Lama. Sangay has publicly expressed support for the Dalai Lama's policy of seeking 'meaningful autonomy' for Tibet under Chinese rule. Still, there is some scepticism over his position, which is fuelled by the fact that he was a member of the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress. More worrying, however, are his reported pro-American leanings. There is concern in some quarters that he might take on board the American agenda. Hopefully, he will not as that will deal a death blow to the Tibetan cause. Tibetans deserve a fair settlement. That will not come through confronting China or acting as a pawn of the Americans.

As for China, if it is planning to ignore Sangay in the hope that post-Dalai Lama the Tibetan movement will fizzle out, it is treading a perilous path. Ignoring Sangay's offer for talks will encourage radical Tibetans to take up arms. Sangay represents China's last chance to make peace with the Tibetans. 









Democracy should not drift into anarchy. While solving one problem, we shouldn't get into a bigger problem.
The Indian citizens are going through a sad phase when one scandal is erupting after another. 2G spectrum, CWG part 1 (culminating with the arrest of Suresh Kalmadi), allegations of deliberate mismanagement of Air India, CWG part 2 (allegations against the chief minister of Delhi) and Karnataka's mining scandal. Parliament is spending days together debating these scandals; it is more of a battle between the ruling and opposition parties. Anna Hazare and associates who arrived as a breath of fresh air are themselves threatening to turn stale with some of their inappropriate actions.

It was shown on most national television channels; Anna was burning the Lokpal Bill document on the streets of Delhi. India has witnessed such actions mostly during the Independence movement. However, the situation is totally different now. We have a democratically elected government. It is not an imperial dominance by the British Raj where the Rowlatt Act suiting the foreign rulers was to be resisted by symbolically burning its paper copies. Lokpal Bill, as drafted now, may be lacking in several aspects. It will be debated in  parliament and that may take some time. It is even possible that a Lokpal bill with some significant limitations may be passed for now. But, one has only to improve upon it. The system that we have chosen needs patience. Fighting the foreign rule and voicing divergent opinions in a democracy are two entirely different things.

Anna Hazare is an eminent person who has brought in socio-economic reforms in interior Maharashtra by peaceful ways. With all due respects to him, one needs to point out that burning copies of a bill is not suited in the present times. Jantar Mantar is not the Tahrir Square where an oppressive regime is being fought.

Also, it does not befit Anna Hazare's image to call a Union minister (Kapil Sibal) as not deserving to be a minister in the cabinet. He made such a statement on TV channels. A minister in the cabinet is selected by the prime minister and appointed on oath by the President of India. Denigrating any such appointee, because of a difference of opinion, will only damage the democratic process. Caricaturing in cartoons by a cartoonist or in a spoof may be okay. But, when social leaders of pre-eminence take recourse to publicly questioning the worth of a prime minister's appointee, the injury to the democratic process is that much more painful.

Lokpal bill, the version that is envisaged by Anna Hazare and associates, is seen by them as a panacea for the ills facing our country. It is 'this or nothing else' stance that is at the root of these inappropriate actions by these reformers. In the history of the nations of the world, hard posturing has almost always had negative consequences unimagined earlier. During 1990, no one including the then prime minister V P Singh had imagined the flare-up that took place over a conflict on reservations policy. Similarly, no one had expected the 1984 carnage.

Delicate  matter

Dealing with public sentiments is a delicate matter. Passions could be aroused easily; dousing the same would be difficult. There is a fine line – a Laxman Rekha – with the protests. One is hopeful that Anna Hazare and associates are seasoned enough to know that line.

'Civil Society' is a rather nebulous phrase coined in the context of this protest. There is no definite count as to who all constitute a civil society. There is no definite accountability with this 'group' or society. Who should be held responsible for any action under this loose arrangement? The moment one coins such a phrase, it means it is different from the 'citizens of India.' Otherwise, where is the need to coin a new phrase? If such a civil society were to hold any protest or debate, it does not mean it is done on behalf of all the citizens. It has no mandate. Theoretically, anything can be done by anyone under the umbrella phrase of 'civil society'. It is potentially a dangerous concept.


Tomorrow, any 'civil society' will then come up with any odd 'cause' or issue and conduct a referendum. Is it acceptable to Indian citizens? Are we going to do away with our hard-earned parliamentary and legislative democracy and replace public decisions by referendums? India will then resemble a 'banana republic'. Public decisions need a structure of governance. They cannot be decided by 'passion of the moment.' We would then have confused issues, confused decisions and even more confused implementation, leading to another round of the very same.


One respects differences of opinion. A democracy is precisely for that. But, a democracy should not be made to drift into anarchy. In order to solve one problem let us not get into a bigger problem.

In the context of Lokpal bill, another pertinent point to note is that corruption is not just an act but it is an attitude. The tightest version of Lokpal bill, including the prime minister or whosoever, can only punish the guilty—after the act. In India, we do not have dearth of laws.

We have flaws in our attitude towards laws which are ultimately meant to guide people-to-people behaviour. For that we need neither fresh laws nor chain of fasts. We need many persons with the zeal of Anna Hazare to bring about a transformation in our social attitudes. That is a slow but sure way out of this morass.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)







Away from the prying eyes of the media, the public and more importantly loved ones of Cipriano Fernandes, the government has very sneakingly, closed the investigations into his custodial death, all but officially.
The appalling brazenness with which the government led by its Home Minister Ravi Naik, has sought to protect policemen of the Panjim police station, charged with killing Cipriano Fernandes, has shamed Goa. But there is no remorse. Braz Menezes was supposed to conduct an investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Cipriano Fernandes on January 9, this year, after spending a night in the custody of the Panjim police. Menezes was supposed to report to the DySP Crime Branch Mohan Naik under the overall supervision of O P Kurtarkar (SP Coastal Security).

To the people of Goa, Home Minister Ravi Naik gave an assurance that a Special Investigation Team would be formed led by O P Kurtarkar, which would investigate all aspects of the case raised in the magisterial report. Cleverly, it seemed that this was the SIT. The truth is, this team was never formed and no action against the policemen will be taken unless the non-existent and non-functional SIT submits its report.
The handling (or the absence of it) of the Cipriano custodial killing case, has been a huge mockery of the faith people place in the law and order and justice system. This faith has almost dwindled but it is still the place to go to, because for a person who is wronged, the police station seems to be the pace to go, still. 

Never in the history of Goa has the government been so insensitive. The police department is used as a backroom of the local political leader. Drugs are sold, fake currency is distributed, money lending businesses flourish, all from Goa's police stations. Add to that their complicity in either being involved or being supporters of prostitution rackets, the sordid story takes a different level.

There is acute pessimism because the people of Goa do not see it as a problem deeply affecting their lives. In a culture where everyone knows everyone, there is always someone in the panchayat or the police station to get work of individuals done. That settled, the larger issue of what is happening to the state does not proceed beyond tinto conversations.

But this can't go on. The inertia of knowing the mess the police is in and doing nothing about it will come back and hit governance hard. It's a monster that will come back and haunt. A serious solution can be discussed, if we look beyond Goa being policed just by people from here. More cadre posts need to be created. The SPs and DySPs of all districts and areas should be drawn from the cadre and not from the Goa police.

The functioning of the Police Establishment Board has to be robust and all appointments should be done by this Board with the approval of the DGP. In short, in all matters of transfers and postings of policemen and officers, the political arm of the government, should have absolutely no control.

There is a great degree of repetitiveness in what we write about Goa's police. It is no secret that we churn the same issues and present them in contexts that are relevant. We do this because we hope that sometimes somewhere, our sheer persistence will strike a chord and move a stone of this stubborn mountain.







These three letters together figure frequently in newspapers followed by 'report', but if you think it refers to a scam, you have another thing coming. It is only the beginning. Shades of 'it's a long way to Tipparary, it's a long way to go', the favourite World War II song. The letters stand for Comptroller and Auditor-General.
There are enough hurdles to encounter before justice is finally delivered. Like when it was found that the first IFFI report (2004) showed an excess expenditure, Congress MLA Mauvin Godinho filed a complaint against the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to the CAG Devika Rani. It then went to the Public Accounts Committee and a CBI enquiry was instituted. It took a couple of years before Parrikar was absolved. But that's where it ended. The probe didn't go further and the culprit went scot free.

Likewise, in the two following IFFIs, the same thing happened and the losses incurred were heavier, but the Opposition leader (this time the BJP) did not complain to CAG. And hence no action was taken... But in case of 2G spectrum scam, it was the Supreme Court that stepped in and instituted a CBI enquiry in which Telecom Minister A Raja's head rolled. There is no dearth of scams in this beautiful paradise State of ours.
One glaring instance is the Goa Housing Board (GHB) scam in which 67,000 sqm of Communidade land at Reis Magos had been acquired by a private builder, Mahadev Homes from Mumbai.

There were alleged to have been four bidders, all in fake names by the same party. The GHB committee then constituted Francis Silveira, D B Shanke, Atanasio 'Babush' Monserrate and Pratapsing Rane.
What is even more alarming is that land priced at Rs 6000 to 7000 per square foot, was sold at a rock-bottom price of Rs 500. Aren't the kickbacks obvious? Why are the concerned parties not approaching the PAC? Is it because the 'challis chor' were adequately looked after?

The State Urban Development Association under Joaquim Alemao's chairmanship is believed to have purchased sweeping machines, which are lying unutilized for years while the Margao Municipal Council has purchased Rs 50 lakh worth software from the Kalyan-Dombivili Municipal Corporation for the Citizen's Facilitation Centre, which was inaugurated way back in August 2007. But the facilitation centre, it seems is in need of facilitation and is yet to see the light of day...

Then, there is a failed garbage plant at Sonsodo costing Rs 8 crore. But let us leave the CAG for the time being and deal with the age-old problem of mining. The closure of illegal mines in Bellary (Karnataka) has had a ripple effect on Goa. The Goa Pollution Control Board has awakened from a deep slumber a la Rip Van Winkle and reacted by suspending (not stopping) 38 illegal mines. Will there be a follow up? Incidentally, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa's head rolled, but not before smashing a colleague's laptop and slapping another.

Meanwhile, the show goes on with everything on hold. The Medium of Instruction issue is still hanging fire. Poor, poor students and what concocted figures to support Marathi.

The dance parlours continue to flourish with Calangute MLA Agnelo Fernandes denying the charge and rival Joseph Sequeira saying the opposite.

This writer believes Sequeira. Meanwhile, this sleaze operation (are we going to rival Bangkok, with a name like Goa it doesn't seem so?) continues. And so does the Costao-Alvernaz murder case that has not been completed in all of two decades.







The violent riots in Britain are entirely different from the Israeli summer protest. In Israel the middle class, which bears the main economic and civic burden, is rebelling against the cost of living. In England the most neglected margins of society are rebelling.

The protest leaders in Israel are the sons and daughters of the backbone of society - educated young people in a country where social mobility is greater than is common in the conservative West. In Britain the fire was ignited by impoverished immigrants and minorities and spread to the lower class, which suffers from severe unemployment and profound economic and cultural poverty that is handed down from one generation to the next in Britain's class-based society. Intercultural and interracial tensions are also playing a significant role in the riots, whose opening volley was apparently the shot that killed the young black man Mark Duggan in Tottenham.

In Israel the protest is moderate, and it's sweeping along a broad and varied public that identifies with it, its leaders and its messages. Even the prime minister admitted this week that the protest is justified, or at least it's being met with understanding. In Britain the uprising has turned into a killing field. From the beginning, rioting, arson, vandalism, looting and violent clashes have claimed a high price - three dead in Birmingham, dozens injured, both civilians and policemen, and more than 1,000 arrested.

Outside observers are limited in their ability to assess events in other countries, but many British commentators are pointing a finger at David Cameron's government, which, according to Nina Power in the Guardian, implemented a series of "brutal cuts" in government spending that weakened the welfare services and the police. She claims that Britain is "a country in which the richest 10 percent are now 100 times better off than the poorest."

Despite the differences between the two countries, the Israeli government should listen to the expanding public protest; the factors that created huge gaps in Israel should be restrained. The government must work rationally to prevent the outbreak of another protest here, fueled by frustration and anger at both wealthy businessmen and the government - something that is liable to risk all society.







Three concepts burst from the belly of the earth in the summer of 2011: nation, state and social justice.

The power of the concept "the nation" lies in the fact that it can be read both from the left and the right. From the left, it's the storming of the Bastille, the red revolution, the organization of the working class. The nation is the rebellion of the oppressed against tyrants and dictators. From the right, the nation is the Jewish nation. The nation is the coming into being of a national entity.

That's why what happened here in the past month is unprecedented. Suddenly Israelis arose in the morning and felt they were a nation and began to walk. Suddenly a political power appeared that is not a party, ethnic group or sector. No longer a cold, sterile and socio-academic Israeli society, but a warm, concrete and smart Israeli nation. A nation that is broad, focused and potent. A nation that is both all of Israel and every individual in Israel. A nation that is all the Israelis, who are embarking on a battle against their exploiters.

The power of the concept "the state" lies in the fact that it offers a new state. Not a state from the top down, but a state from the bottom up. Not a state of foreign policy, defense and bureaucracy, but a state of citizens and human beings. Not a Jewish state against Palestinians, Arabs and gentiles, but an Israeli state against oligarchs, robber barons and centralized tycoons.

The demand for a welfare state now is only part of the story. The heart of the matter is the profound yearning for an ethical state that will restrain the market, block exploitation and reduce injustice. A just and insightful state that will express the desires of the Israeli community and organize Israeli life fairly. A state that will no longer serve selected minorities, but all Israelis. The people's state.

The beauty of the concept "social justice" lies in the fact that it is totally retro. There's nothing more fifties than social justice. There's nothing more Hashomer Hatzair than social justice. But suddenly, via Facebook, the fifties are making a comeback, the spirit of Hashomer Hatzair is making a comeback. And the battle cry of the comeback is not an advertising slogan, but the heartfelt cry of a nation that is demanding the most basic thing: justice. Justice, not charity. Justice for the individual and justice for society. Jewish justice, Israeli justice, universal justice. Social justice.

The 300,000 who demonstrated Saturday night have dispersed. Maybe they'll return another Saturday night, maybe not. But the three concepts of the 300,000 won't be erased. They have been engraved. Even before a political or economic revolution has taken place here, these three concepts have brought about a conceptual revolution. A revolution that says we will no longer allow reckless capitalism to tyrannize us via reckless privatization. We will no longer allow the unrestricted connections between big business and government. We will not accept Darwinist social gaps. The nations demand the reestablishment of a state that will guarantee social justice.

The achievement is a rare one; it's greater than the left, the right, the government and the protest leaders. It must not be abused, it must not become a missed opportunity. This is the task of Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. In one sense his task is similar to that of Dr. Israel Katz, who redefined Israel's social policy after the revolt of Israel's Black Panthers movement in 1971. In another sense, his task is similar to the role of Michael Bruno, Eitan Berglas and Stanley Fischer, who crafted the plan to stamp out inflation, which saved Israel in 1985.

But in a third sense Trajtenberg's task is unprecedented. Everything that happened here in the past month is being channeled to the desk of this wise and ethical economist. He's the one who has to translate the conceptual revolution into a logical work plan. He's the one who has to shape Israel's de facto New Deal. He's the real revolutionary.

If Trajtenberg does his job properly, neither the conservatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the radicals of protest leader Daphni Leef will be able to stop him. A million Israelis will take to the streets for a worthy document by Trajtenberg. A nation that has just arisen will stand behind a formative document by Trajtenberg.






What's left of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? What remains of his ideas and worldview? To judge by his statements - nothing whatsoever. The man who was portrayed as an ideological statesman, a writer and a thinker, the man whose views some pundits have vied with one another to worship, has been left denuded of his ideas, backpedaling on his entire doctrine.

He should be praised for his flexibility, but we should also ask, if this is the way things are, what do we need him for? If he has given up all his ideas and adopted others instead, why not go straight to the source, to the people who held another ideology all along?

It began with the Bar-Ilan speech. The Greater Land of Israel disappeared, at least in words; the great dream dissipated. True, Netanyahu didn't put anything from that speech into action, but he drew back completely from his ideas, explicitly conceding that he had made a historic mistake.

Right after that, he folded another flag - the war against Iran. Netanyahu has made an international career out of that, and here Iran is, going about its business, with Netanyahu's Israel doing almost nothing about it. That flag has been put in storage along with another - the war on terror.

And another specialty of "Mr. Terror" has become irrelevant: The Palestinians have realized that terror doesn't move their agenda ahead so they've chosen another path, completely unconnected to Netanyahu and his policies, perhaps despite his policies. Israel's greatest hawk has become a passive observer from the sidelines - not doing much, certainly not in making his ideas a reality, and even conceding that he was mistaken about them.

All right, we've said that in foreign affairs and security Netanyahu realized that he has to be in sync with at least some part of the world, at least with some part of reality, so he has given up his impossible ideas. If he had also applied his lessons learned, we could praise him. But of course he has done nothing, only folded his flags and sunken into do-nothing impotence.

But he still had the economy - his second area of expertise. Here, too, his ideas and doctrine are well-known. He even implemented some of them when he was finance minister; reducing the public sector, corporate tax and income tax was close to his heart. But amazingly he's backing off from that too, shedding all his neoliberal and capitalist feathers. Now he says the opposite should be done, the very opposite.

It's only words. To Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg he said: "I understand a change in my views is needed." In support of his statement, he told Trajtenberg that he had read a new book about Theodor Herzl, that Herzl also changed his opinions. "I'm talking about a fundamental change in your positions," the professor said, and the prime minister said yes. Thus did Netanyahu pledge that he had changed his views. The socioeconomic doctrine he fostered is gone, too.

Yes, it may be justifiably claimed that Netanyahu is only talking the talk. He only wants to satisfy America - that's why he sold his statesman's soul for pennies. He only wanted to satisfy Trajtenberg, so he sold his socioeconomic doctrine for a mess of pottage.

But when the prime minister talks, his statements mean something. There are only two possibilities. Either Netanyahu is all talk and doesn't intend to change things and change himself. If that's the case we have a prime minister who is misleading and tricking us, and we should get rid of him quickly. Or he really does intend to cast off everything he has preached for years. If so, why do we need him, of all people? Let's elect someone who was right all along.

Maybe we'll find, as some small measure of comfort, that Netanyahu has impressive organizational skills. That at least he'll be a good manager for us. Oops, half his office has resigned, and the other half is on the way. He's not a good manager either.

Well, at least maybe he's a media wizard, as he has been dubbed. But Israel's international standing, especially that of its government, leaves no room for doubt about that. He understands nothing about public relations. The fact is, no one in the world still buys his goods, even when they're marketed in his highly polished English. So what do we have left? What's left of Netanyahu? Nothing, nothing at all.






 A friend of mine who recently came back to Israel after living in the United States for 30 years asked me if she was correct in her recollection that, before she left, no one had made a very big deal about Tisha B'Av. It's weird, but the truth is that I, too, remember that, many years ago, nobody did make a big deal about it.

The Sephardic half of my family, the part that had spent a few generations here before I was born, would refer to Tisha B'Av as "Tchabob." The elders of their community would reference this date for two reasons: First, it was known that one did not swim in the ocean on this date or the 10 days that preceded it, because the period posed a danger of immediate drowning to anyone who stuck so much as a foot into the water. Second, the expression "Eicha-Tchabob face," was used to describe someone with a face so ugly it disqualified him or her from a shidukh (arranged match ).

The Ashkenazi half of my family - the ones we'd refer to as the "galutis" since they, my father among them, had come from the Diaspora - would go to work on Tisha B'Av as if it were any other day. First, this was to escape the chains of his ultra-Orthodox upbringing, from which he'd emigrated in the first place. Second, it was because Tisha B'Av then was an "optional day" for public service workers - and who in his right mind would choose to take a day off when his wife wouldn't let him take the kids to the beach?

So Tisha B'Av was like the Fast of Gedalia and the Fast of Esther - fast days that only the super-religious observed.

Even during my first 10 years in Jerusalem, I cannot recall Tisha B'Av being a sort of mini-Yom Kippur, but I do remember exactly when that started to change. It was 20-something years ago when then-Mayor Teddy Kollek was caught dining on Tisha B'Av in a luxury, non-kosher restaurant (which means that even restaurants were open then ). He came under heavy fire for not taking the sensitivities of the capital's religious and Haredi population into account.

My heart aches with longing for such a mayor in Jerusalem. In Tel Aviv and Haifa, of course, they continued to eat on Tisha B'Av as usual. So what turned Tisha B'Av into a national day of mourning? Who needed that?

For a few years already, I've come to suspect that the primary reason for the proliferation of holidays and fast days from year to year is to provide material for Jewish enrichment classes in kindergartens and elementary schools, as well as for all the secular batei midrash.

For example, Shavuot has turned into a gold mine for all the secular batei midrash and Reform synagogues, which now hold Tikkun Leil Shavuot (all-night study on Shavuot eve ). Even more annoying is the fact that Tu B'Av (the 15th of Av ), which until 15 years ago no one paid attention to, has been turned into the "holiday of love," the preferred holiday for those who otherwise are careful to observe only one Jewish custom - the custom not to learn Torah on Christmas Eve.

Tu B'Av actually looks more like a clever business initiative launched by all the life coaches, dating websites, matchmakers and other charlatans who make fortunes off the distress of those who have difficulties finding a mate. They, in turn, are in cahoots with all the party organizers, chocolate makers, fashion designers and gift manufacturers - all operating with a sprinkling of divine spirit.

Don't believe me? One of the bigger dating websites is organizing a "speed dating" event at the Western Wall especially for Tu B'Av. Let us pray that on such an evening, even a girl with an Eicha-Tchabob face will be able to find a boyfriend with whom she'll be able to take the "Selihot tours" that will be taking place in the capital two months hence.






The young protesters in the tents represent new hope for the state, as well as for the older generation that has despaired of ever seeing a significant struggle to change the public agenda.

But to move the quarter-million-strong demonstration to the next stage, five dilemmas must be dealt with.

First dilemma - leadership. This is a sore point. Movements such as these are allergic to leaders and becoming institutionalized. But without leadership it would be impossible to sum things up and conduct negotiations.

Compromise proposal: a fixed delegation, part of which would be replaced every month - perhaps by raffle, as they did in ancient Athens - to report to the general assembly once every two to three days.

Second dilemma - a lot or a little? In the film "Slumdog Millionaire" about the Indian youth who contends in the television game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," there's a moment in which the boy wins 10 million rupees and faces the choice - take the money and quit, or risk everything to answer another question and win 20 million.

That is, should the protesters make do with what they can get out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now and stop the protest, or continue to achieve much, much more. I hope they continue.

Third dilemma - the settlers. The struggle has been hindered because the protest cannot point to the source of money to fulfill their justified demands. The statements made so far are not reliable and it is easy for the treasury professionals to contradict the numbers. It is well known the money can come from only three sources - the settlers, the ultra-Orthodox and the bloated defense budget.

The tent people are afraid to say it, for fear of being labeled "leftists." This is true. But at a certain point they will have to speak explicitly.

Fourth dilemma - an overall view. Until now they have made a list of demands, each one separately, and it looks like a menu in a restaurant. At some point they will have to incorporate all the items into one overall view. They will have to portray to themselves and the rest of the public the image of the state they want - and the picture will have to include important answers to the "political" problems, heaven forbid.

Fifth dilemma - a new force. Clearly pressure from below can achieve something, even a lot, but real change can be achieved only in the political arena. Knesset members cannot be forced to legislate laws against their views; they must simply be replaced.

This is doubly true of Netanyahu, who appears to be willing to change his worldview in an instant. Netanyahu is reminiscent of the comedien Groucho Marx, who said: "These are my principles and if you don't like them, well, I have others."

Before the next elections, the tent dwellers will have to decide if they want to take part in them and form a large new force that will change the entire political map. I very much hope they decide they do.

So far, the movement has conducted itself in an intelligent, creative manner. All its major decisions have been correct and the mistakes have been minimal, if any. (In my opinion the demand to conduct the negotiations on camera was correct. )

But this is just the beginning. The hard part is still to come.

When they launched this protest they probably did not imagine it would go as far as it has already gone. But now a historic responsibility, which comes only once every few generations, is placed on their young, inexperienced shoulders. They can change Israel fundamentally - in the words of one of their slogans: "Get our state back!"

A monumental opportunity. Let's cross our fingers.




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



Five months after Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin pushed through a law stripping public unions of their bargaining rights, the Republican Party has paid a price. Two of the state senators who backed the law were thrown out of office by voters on Tuesday and replaced with Democrats. Mr. Walker's opponents did not succeed in turning over the Senate, but it was still an impressive response to the governor's arrogant overreach.

Recall elections are extremely difficult to win; only two had succeeded in the state in the last 80 years. The districts lean Republican, and getting people to turn out in an unusual off-year election is always a struggle. Had Democrats won one more district, they would control the Senate, but they were also trying to send a warning to Republican lawmakers around the country who are trying to break public employee unions. In that, they succeeded.

Republicans will not admit this, but the numbers showed significant strength for Democrats even in the districts they lost — strength that could grow if lawmakers continue cutting spending and taxes while reducing the negotiating rights of working families. In one rural senatorial district that had not elected a Democrat in a century, the Democratic candidate reached 48 percent of the vote. Another race was also close, and as Nate Silver noted in The Times, the overall results suggest that a contemplated statewide recall of Mr. Walker himself would be too close to call. (Two Democrats face recalls next week.)

Mr. Walker and his colleagues tried to paint the unions as unwilling to sacrifice a bit of their pensions and health benefits in rough fiscal times. It was heartening to see more than 160,000 Wisconsin voters reject that false notion. The unions had already agreed to significant concessions on both; what the Republicans really wanted was to break their organizing ability by ending bargaining on anything except wages and limiting raises to inflation.

The measure they enacted, which would block withholding of union dues from state employees' paychecks, was aimed solely at labor's political power and had nothing to do with the state budget. But Tuesday's vote proved that the unions and the middle-class voters who support them remain a potent force.

It was probably a stretch for union supporters to go after six incumbent senators, rather than concentrate their forces on the most vulnerable. Nonetheless, voters around the country who oppose the widespread efforts to undermine public unions — largely financed by corporate interests — should draw strength from Tuesday's success, not discouragement.







Never has the world economy depended so much on the success of developing nations. A misguided focus on budget cutting has plunged the European Union and the United States down paths that will prolong their economic stagnation and perhaps tip them into another recession. The International Monetary Fund was forecasting 2 percent growth in the euro zone before the financial crisis spread to Italy. The Japanese economy is shrinking. Some top economists put the odds of a double-dip recession in the United States at 1 in 2.

These dire prospects, along with the realization that economic policy is blocked by political gridlock in the United States and complacency in Europe, have sent spasms through financial markets, which could further sap growth. Fortunately, developing countries, which account for almost half the globe's economic output, are growing faster than the industrialized world: in June the I.M.F. forecast that they would grow some 6.5 percent this year and next. Their growth spares the world utter economic stagnation.

Yet developing countries are not robust enough to keep the global economy from sinking in a morass for long. Their economies remain vulnerable to financial turbulence and economic weakness in wealthy nations.

Even a flood of money moving to developing nations, as investors react to the lack of growth in the industrial world, would create new challenges. It would stoke inflation and asset bubbles in developing economies: annual inflation in Brazil is running at 6.85 percent. And it would push up the value of their currencies, hindering exports.

China, the biggest developing economy, is still more a caboose than a growth engine, dependent on rich countries to buy more than 40 percent of its exports. In 2009, China led efforts to help the global recovery, investing heavily in infrastructure and boosting consumer spending, but today it is taking the opposite tack and trying to combat inflation, which is running at 6.4 percent.

To keep its goods cheap, it has allowed its currency to rise only about 6 percent against the dollar since June 2010, even as the dollar has plunged against other currencies. Last month, the I.M.F. called on China to help global growth by letting the currency appreciate more rapidly, which would make Chinese goods more expensive around the world and give a break to competing manufacturers.

China has so far resisted that advice. It lashed out at economic mismanagement in Washington after the Standard & Poor's downgrade, which could potentially reduce the value of its $1.1 trillion stash of American Treasury bonds. Rather than berate Washington, it should abandon its currency manipulation. China's leaders have said they want to put more money in the hands of consumers through social programs and higher wages, and to rely less on exports. They can do this without stoking inflation by allowing the renminbi to rise significantly.

The burden of global growth cannot be placed on China alone. Germany has the third-largest trade surplus in the world, after China and Japan, sapping growth in its European neighbors. The United States and the European Union must focus more on spurring economic growth. They should have all along.





For nearly 20 years, New York City failed to require sex education in all public schools. Individual schools decided whether students were provided vital programs that could help them avoid disease and teenage pregnancy.

This school year that patchwork system will finally change, replaced by a new sex education requirement for all students in public middle and high school. In middle schools, preteenage students will be taught about puberty, sexuality, the benefits of abstinence, teenage pregnancy and issues like sexual stereotyping. In high school, those lessons will be offered with more depth and detail, with an emphasis on preventing pregnancy and diseases, including H.I.V./AIDS. High school students can already get free condoms from school health resource rooms, but now teachers will be required to explain how to use them.

The sex education push is part of an initiative by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to address the needs of young black and Latino men in the city. Dennis Walcott, the schools chancellor, said on Wednesday that new statistics helped to convince him and other officials that better sex education classes were necessary, especially in minority neighborhoods. Teenage pregnancy rates in those areas are far higher than in other parts of the city. And more than half of new H.I.V. cases in the city are in black and Hispanic men, Mr. Walcott said. Black and Hispanic youths have more sexual partners and are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases.

Parents will have the option to refuse to allow their children to attend classes on birth control. But school officials should make certain that most of the new curriculum is available to all students. Some youngsters are having sex at age 11. To protect their health and futures, as Mr. Walcott said, "we cannot stick our heads in the sand."








Signing legislation to save Yonkers from default in earlier hard times, Gov. Hugh Carey raised his voice in song: "Who cares what banks fail in Yonkers?" he trilled at his cabaret best. "Long as you've got a kiss that conquers?"

The governor's death on Sunday at 92 recalls the swirl of hard-nosed political realism and capering bonhomie that Mr. Carey thought voters deserved for electing and putting up with him for eight years. He could wax dark and moody, but his preference for the upbeat was signaled at his inaugural in 1975, when he had 12 of his children strut past the Albany ward heelers and down the center aisle of the Assembly to the bagpiped Irish quickstep of the "Garryowen."

The family was to see him to his grave on Thursday on his beloved Shelter Island, after a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral for the gifted public servant, who staved off bankruptcy for New York City in a harrowing but determined process that, these days, seems like alchemy. Mr. Carey was a Democrat who led business and labor into a hard pact of deliverance and retrenchment, and Republicans, too. The days of wine and roses were over, as he said, but not bipartisanship.

Mr. Carey's wit would erupt in nonstop narratives. Try to interrupt to ask if he had dyed his hair and he would segue into a lecture on life's "sebaceous roots" at springtime. He would ask with a sneer about the "honorable bodies" in the Legislature. He slyly dismissed a rival as "a very athletic supporter" of someone else.

His metaphor for serving the public was his family ritual as breakfast chef, flipping pancakes at a big griddle for a clan clamoring in Bruegelesque display at long tables. Mr. Carey radiated bliss. "The appetites certainly become very aggressive," he explained, making the frantic pouring, flipping, dishing seem like a city bailout. "Then the sweat, the heat of the kitchen diminishes," he said of placating the masses. Hugh Carey made it hard to doubt his hope to be remembered as a man who "loved the people of New York as much as he loved his own family."







Perhaps every generation of geezers since Adam and Eve has whined about young people, and today is no different. Isn't it clear that in contrast to our glorious selves, kids these days are self-absorbed Facebook junkies just a pixel deep?

No, actually that's wrong at every level. This has been a depressing time to watch today's "adults," whose talent for self-absorption and political paralysis makes it difficult to solve big problems. But many young people haven't yet learned to be cynical. They believe, in a wonderfully earnest way, in creating a better world.

In the midst of this grim summer, my faith in humanity has been restored by the saga of Rachel Beckwith. She could teach my generation a great deal about maturity and unselfishness — even though she's just 9 years old, or was when she died on July 23.

Rachel lived outside Seattle and early on showed a desire to give back. At age 5, she learned at school about an organization called Locks of Love, which uses hair donations to make wigs for children who have lost their own hair because of cancer or other diseases. Rachel then asked to have her long hair shorn off and sent to Locks of Love.

"She said she wanted to help the cancer kids," her mother, Samantha Paul, told me. After the haircut, Rachel announced that she would grow her hair long again and donate it again after a few years to Locks of Love. And that's what she did.

Then when she was 8 years old, her church began raising money to build wells in Africa through an organization called charity:water. Rachel was aghast when she learned that other children had no clean water, so she asked to skip having a ninth birthday party. In lieu of presents, she asked her friends to donate $9 each to charity:water for water projects in Africa.

Rachel's ninth birthday was on June 12, and she had set up a birthday page on the charity:water Web site with a target of $300. Alas, Rachel was able to raise only $220 — which had left her just a bit disappointed.

Then, on July 20, as Rachel was riding with her family on the highway, two trucks collided and created a 13-car pileup. Rachel's car was hit by one of the trucks, and although the rest of her family was unhurt, Rachel was left critically injured.

Church members and friends, seeking some way of showing support, began donating on Rachel's birthday page — — and donations surged past her $300 goal, and kept mounting. As family and friends gathered around Rachel's bedside, they were able to tell her — even not knowing whether she couldn't hear them — that she had exceeded the $47,544 that the singer Justin Bieber had raised for charity:water on his 17th birthday.

"I think she secretly had a crush on him, but she would never admit it," her mom said. "I think she would have been ecstatic."

When it was clear that Rachel would never regain consciousness, the family decided to remove life support. Her parents donated her hair a final time to Locks of Love, and her organs to other children. Word spread about Rachel's last fund-raiser.

Contributions poured in, often in $9 increments, although one 5-year-old girl sent in the savings in her piggy bank of $2.27. The total donations soon topped $100,000, then $300,000. Like others, I was moved and donated. As I write this, more than $850,000 has been raised from all over the world, including donations from Africans awed by a little American girl who cared about their continent.

"What has been so inspiring about Rachel is that she has taught the adults," said Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water. "Adults are humbled by the unselfishness of this little girl."

Yet this is a story not just of one girl, but of a generation of young people working creatively to make this a better world. Mr. Harrison is emblematic of these young people. Now 35, he established charity:water when he was 30, and it has taken off partly because of his mastery at social media. (He's not as experienced in well-drilling, so the wells are actually dug by expert groups like International Rescue Committee.)

Youth activism has a long history, but this ethos of public service is on the ascendant today — and today's kids don't just protest against injustices, as my contemporaries did, but many are also remarkable problem-solvers.

As for Ms. Paul, she's planning a trip on the anniversary of her daughter's death next year to see some of the wells being drilled in Africa in her daughter's name. "It'll be overwhelming to see Rachel's wells," she said, "to see what my 9-year-old daughter has done for people all over the world, to meet the people she has touched."

Rachel Beckwith, R.I.P., and may our generation learn from yours.






Pella, Iowa

If the Iowa Republican debate were to provide a truly accurate mirror of the race at this juncture, Tim Pawlenty would wear a sandwich board, with a scrawled plea to the state's voters: "Save me." Michele Bachmann would spin onto the stage in a giant teacup, to find a microphone three times the size of anyone else's and a spotlight four times as bright. Newt Gingrich, looking characteristically put out, would unveil a new campaign slogan: "The Glower for This Hour."

And the party's most likely nominee, Mitt Romney? He wouldn't show. The less seen of him, after all, the better.

That's not my harsh assessment. That's been his de facto campaign strategy this summer.

His curious absence through the debt-ceiling showdown even set off a spirited name game in the news media, with different scribes lofting different sobriquets: the missing Mormon, the phantom front-runner and (courtesy of Ben Smith of Politico) a denizen of the Mittness Protection Program.

Couple his low profile with his history of reinvention and you wind up with a candidate who campaigns in disappearing ink. It's tough to get a read on him, and he leaves no strong impression.

He did, in fact, emerge from Mittness Protection and materialize (or is that Mitterialize?) in Iowa on Wednesday, in advance of the debate, which he will actually attend. But he'll leave before the straw poll on Saturday. Now you see him. Now you don't.

I saw him midday here in Pella, where he took a seat at a drab conference table in a drab conference room for a meeting with about a dozen local business leaders. There was no campaign regalia, no boldly colored backdrop, nothing to draw or hold the eye.

"Looks like I get a microphone," he said, noting the instrument before him. "But I'm not planning on saying much."

Over the ensuing hour, as the business leaders bemoaned the economy, he did a lot of listening and nodding, punctuated with such measured words in such a mild voice that it was possible to register only his teeth, tan and dangling forelock. Assuming you eluded slumber.

Can Romney get all the way to the White House like this? There's still plenty of time for him to step it up, but, for now, he is doing something risky and remarkable: asking people to vote for him while encouraging them to look away. The case he's making is more anti-Obama than pro-Romney, and it's only when he's bashing the president that his words catch fire, or his emberlike approximation of it.

He personifies the Republican bind in 2012. Party leaders believe (with excellent reason) that Obama is eminently beatable, yet they're fretful (as they should be) that they're squandering that opportunity with a field of candidates too weak for the task.

Rick Perry doesn't really change that. His record in Texas is more complicated and less flattering than the bonanza of job creation he and his supporters extol, and he may be a Texan too soon with a political orientation too conservative for a country still shaking off George W. Bush. The attention lavished on him over recent days suggests Republicans' yearning for someone to swoop in and save the day.

This yearning has even bequeathed poetry, with Bill Kristol penning sonnets of sorts to politicians he wishes would run. Following up on a Chris Christie poem he published in March, Kristol used the most recent issue of The Weekly Standard for an ode to the likes of Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

"At our back we all now hear/Time's winged chariot hurrying near," he wrote, referring either to the few months left to get into the race or to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." It wasn't clear. He further implored the resisters to "manfully embrace your fate/and boldly be a candidate." That he didn't say "womanfully" suggests a prudent change of heart. Kristol helped foist Sarah Palin on the world.

Suddenly, she's en route to Iowa, endlessly teasing out the mystery of her intentions. As for Romney, his comportment on Wednesday was less manful than muted, less bold than bland. He seemed to be running for management consultant in chief.

"Wouldn't it be nice," he asked the business leaders, "if people in Washington actually spent a part of their career working in the real economy?" When someone responded that it should be a prerequisite, he said, "If that's the case, then I'm in."

He'll need a more rousing argument, starting with the debate, for which I offer this couplet of counsel: "Find your passion and some will/Lest Chitty turn you to road kill."







BEFORE I was elected to Congress, I was a physiologist at the Navy's School of Aviation Medicine. For our successful missions to transport men to the moon and return them safely to Earth, I invented a series of respiratory support devices, which we tested on primates, including Baker, a squirrel monkey. Before humans were rocketed into space, Baker was the first primate to survive a trip into space and back; Able, her counterpart on the flight, died from an allergic reaction to an anesthetic during a procedure shortly after the landing.

At the time, I believed such research was worth the pain inflicted on the animals. But in the years since, our understanding of its effect on primates, as well as alternatives to it, have made great strides, to the point where I no longer believe such experiments make sense — scientifically, financially or ethically. That's why I have introduced bipartisan legislation to phase out invasive research on great apes in the United States.

Today is the start of a two-day public hearing convened by the Institute of Medicine, which is examining whether there is still a need for invasive chimpanzee research. Meanwhile, nine countries, as well as the European Union, already forbid or restrict invasive research on great apes. Americans have to decide if the benefits to humans of research using chimpanzees outweigh the ethical, financial and scientific costs.

The evidence is mounting that they do not. For one thing, many new techniques are cheaper, faster and more effective, including computer modeling and the testing of very small doses on human volunteers. In vitro methods now grow human cells and tissues for human biomedical studies, bypassing the need for whole animals.

Such advances have led to a drop in primate research. Many federally owned chimpanzees were bred to support AIDS research, but later proved inferior to more modern technologies. As a result, most of the 500 federally owned chimpanzees are idling in warehouses. Ending chimpanzee research and retiring the animals to sanctuaries would save taxpayers about $30 million a year.

We also know more about the consequences of invasive research on the animals themselves. Biomedical procedures that are simple when performed on humans often require traumatizing restraint of chimpanzees to protect human researchers from injury, as chimpanzees are five times stronger than humans. For instance, acquiring a blood sample from a chimp can require a "knockdown," or shooting it with a tranquilizer gun. If you've seen video of a knockdown, you know it is clearly frightening and stressful.

Moreover, even the mere confinement in laboratory cages deprives chimpanzees of basic physical, social and emotional sustenance. Numerous peer-reviewed studies of chimpanzees in sanctuaries who had previously been confined in laboratories have documented behavioral symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronic and traumatic stress harms chimpanzees' health and compromises the results of experiments conducted on them.

There is no question that chimpanzees experience pain, stress and social isolation in ways strikingly similar to the way humans do. James Marsh's recent documentary, "Project Nim," chronicles the 27-year life of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was the subject of a controversial research project that involved raising him as though he were a human. Nim was taught sign language — and he used those signs to tell his human interlocutors that he was traumatized by his living conditions.

Nim isn't alone. In his book "Next of Kin," Dr. Roger S. Fouts recounted his reunion with a chimp named Booee. After 13 years of separation, and after Booee was deliberately infected with hepatitis C, Booee recognized, signed and played with Dr. Fouts, to whom he had given the signed nickname of "Rodg." Other visitors reported that Booee used the American Sign Language gesture for "keys," indicating that he wanted to get out of his cage.

Stories like these, as well as my understanding of the state of biomedical research, persuaded me to sponsor the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act with Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. The bill would phase out invasive research on great apes and retire the 500 federally owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries.

Continuing innovations in alternatives to the use of invasive research on great apes is the civilized way forward in the 21st century. Past civilizations were measured by how they treated their elderly and disabled. I believe that we will be measured, in part, by how we treat animals, particularly great apes.

Americans can no longer justify confining these magnificent and innocent animals to traumatic invasive research and life imprisonment.

Roscoe G. Bartlett is a Republican representative from Maryland.







OUR son lives next to a Turkish mosque on Kingsland Road in Hackney, where some of London's worst mob violence has occurred. When looters rampaged through Hackney last weekend, there were few police officers to stop them and residents had to chase them off with butcher knives, truncheons and baseball bats. Vigilante action succeeded where normal policing failed.

Kingsland Road resembles the bustling, ethnically mixed streets of Brooklyn. During the day, it is a home of sorts for unemployed young men with nothing to do; Britain's youth unemployment rate is currently over 20 percent. During the economic boom a decade ago, though, nearly as many were out of work, and they did not all turn to crime.

To counter the risk that they might, there were storefront drop-in centers for young people in the neighborhood; these places are now shutting down, as are other community services, like health centers for the elderly and libraries. Local police forces have also been shrinking.

All are victims of what people in Britain call "the cuts" — the government's defunding of civil-society institutions in order to balance the nation's books. Before the riots, the government had planned to cut 16,200 police officers across the country. In London, austerity means that there will be about 19 percent less to spend next year on government programs, and the burden will fall particularly on the poor.

The rioters in London appear to be young men of varying races — despite reports of a monolithic mob of alienated "black youth." But there is a racial dimension to this drama. The wave of riots began with protests against the police killing of a young black man, Mark Duggan. While initially peaceful, the demonstrations soon descended into violence. When the unrest spread to Manchester on Tuesday, many of the rioters there were apparently white.

An old-fashioned Marxist might imagine that the broken windows and burning houses expressed a raging political reaction to government spending cuts — but this time that explanation would be too facile.

The last time Britain saw widespread rioting, in the 1980s, street violence came after a long and failed political struggle against the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, which suppressed trade unions and decimated social services. Today, the rioters seem motivated by a more diffuse anger, behaving like crazed shoppers on a spree; while some of the shops looted are big chains, many more are small local businesses run by people who are themselves struggling through Britain's economic slump.

There has been a change in national temperament that has affected decent citizens as well as criminals. The country's mood has turned sour. Indeed, the flip side of Britons' famed politeness is the sort of hooliganism that appears at soccer matches and in town centers on weekend nights — an unfocused hostility that is usually fueled by vast quantities of alcohol. Fears of anarchic urban mobs date from Shakespeare's time, and Prime Minister David Cameron has summoned these old fears, describing the present conflagration as "senseless."

Mr. Cameron was good at selling people on the idea of cutting costs, but he has failed to make the case for what and how to cut: efforts to increase university fees, to overhaul the National Health Service, to reduce the military and the police, even to sell off the nation's forests, have all backfired, with the government hedging or simply abandoning its plans.

In attempting to carry out reform, the government appears incompetent; it has lost legitimacy. This has prompted some people living on Kingsland Road to become vigilantes. "We have to do things for ourselves," a 16-year-old in Hackney told The Guardian, convinced that the authorities did not care about, or know how to protect, communities like his.

A street of shuttered shops, locked playgrounds and closed clinics, a street patrolled by citizens armed with knives and bats, is not a place to build a life.

Americans ought to ponder this aspect of Britain's trauma. After all, London is one of the world's wealthiest cities, but large sections of it are impoverished. New York is not so different.

The American right today is obsessed with cutting government spending. In many ways, Mr. Cameron's austerity program is the Tea Party's dream come true. But Britain is now grappling with the consequences of those cuts, which have led to the neglect and exclusion of many vulnerable, disaffected young people who are acting out violently and irresponsibly — driven by rage rather than an explicit political agenda.

America is in many ways different from Britain, but the two countries today are alike in their extremes of inequality, and in the desire of many politicians to solve economic and social ills by reducing the power of the state.

Britain's current crisis should cause us to reflect on the fact that a smaller government can actually increase communal fear and diminish our quality of life. Is that a fate America wishes upon itself?

Richard Sennett is a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and New York University. Saskia Sassen is a professor of sociology at Columbia.









Area residents who now make a point to look for and buy locally grown food from this region's farmers in stores, restaurants and local farmers' markets have excellent reasons for being more careful about what they eat.

Local food is typically fresher, tastier and healthier because it's grown more naturally and gets to market faster. It also contributes significantly to the local economy and the revival of sustainable, local farms and traditional methods of agriculture -- including free-range grass-fed animals and, often, organically grown produce.

Gaining Ground, the Benwood Foundation-sponsored initiative to promote the use of locally grown food and the economic vitality it provides, has calculated, for example, that raising the percentage of spending on local food from the current 1/10th of 1 percent to 5 percent would represent $100 million in local economic development.

It would, in addition, help residents here avoid most of the health risks and toxins that have become the hallmark of industrialized corporate farming. Food giant Cargill Corp.'s massive recall last week of 38 million pounds of ground turkey meat possibly infected by an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella is a case in point. (We pause to wonder how much storage room it would take to house 38 million pounds, and how that meat will be disposed of.)

Cargill's tainted turkey meat owes to the way most industrial farms treat their meat-producing animals and fowl. Like most giant industrial farms, Cargill regularly administers an array of antibiotics to its animals, whether caged or crowded into huge feedlots and buildings, to promote faster growth and to prevent or mitigate the possibility of diseases in the animals.

With such routine, low-dose use of the pharmaceutical industry's most effective antibiotics, however, the animals that ingest these drugs, and the humans who in turn ingest the animals' meat and eggs, have developed increasingly high levels of bacterial resistance to these valuable antibiotics. Such resistance to antibiotics over the last 20 years has now become a huge problem.

The strain of salmonella, known as Heidelberg, suspected in the 38 million pounds of Cargill's recalled ground turkey meat, for example, has now become resistant to three different antibiotics that were once commonly effective against the disease: Streptomycin, tetracycline and ampicillin.

America's industrialized corporate farms should adopt European protocols and stop using antibiotics in healthy animals to mitigate the disastrous trend of resistance to antibiotics. But they have refused to do so voluntarily, and they also have long resisted efforts by medical and health groups to get the Food and Drug Administration to ban the routine use of antibiotics in healthy animals.

The FDA, under the clout of corporate lobbyists and their compliant politicians, has sadly continued to sanction routine antibiotic use for healthy animals. The pharmaceutical industry, which profits hugely by selling up to three quarters of its antibiotics to corporate farms, has also supported its customers' lobbying efforts.

Corporate food producers argue that such regular antibiotic use is necessary to provide the healthiest, lowest-cost meats in the world. Of course, they ignore the shifted medical cost for humans, and the difficulty of creating replacement drugs to continue the threatening cycle of antibiotic resistance.

Until corporate farms demonstrate that they care more about their customers' (and animals') health than they care about cheaper, unhealthy meat, more Americans generally -- and growing numbers here -- will find it wiser and healthier to look for locally grown food brought to local markets by farmers who follow healthier agriculture.

As they do, this community's rapidly growing local food movement will prosper, and spread into more stores, restaurants, schools and institutions. That's a healthy prospect, and one worth noting on this week's celebration of National Farmers' Market Week.






Throughout history, there has been an inclination to dislike a person who brings bad news. In extreme cases, that may have led literally to shooting the messenger. But when the message needs to be heard, it is wrong to attack those who deliver it.

So it is disturbing to learn that Senate Democrats may be considering an investigation of the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, after S&P recently lowered the United States' credit rating from the top level, AAA, to AA+. The downgrade angered President Barack Obama and many Democrats in Congress.

In delivering the bad news, Standard & Poor's cited the failure of Congress and the president to deal aggressively with our catastrophic debt. S&P had urged lawmakers to reduce deficits by at least $4 trillion over 10 years, but Congress managed only a little over half that level of deficit reduction in the recent deal to increase the debt limit.

It is understandable that the downgrade of the United States' credit rating is frustrating and embarrassing to Obama and Democrats in Congress. The downgrade occurred on this president's watch, after all, and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for most of the past four and a half years. They obviously do not want to be held accountable for the breakneck spending that contributed to the first-ever U.S. credit downgrade by a major rating agency.

But even if not all the fault for the downgrade and our nation's economic troubles rests with Democrats -- and it doesn't -- they are wrong to attack the credit rating agency, which is simply responding to Washington's fiscal recklessness.

And the fact is, it is not only S&P that is worried about America's debt problem. The two other main rating agencies -- Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings -- said they, too, might lower the United States' credit rating unless there is serious effort to reduce debt. And a smaller but highly regarded agency -- Egan-Jones Ratings Co. -- had already downgraded U.S. bonds from AAA to AA even before S&P took action.

Surely the Obama administration and Senate Democrats do not believe there is a conspiracy among all these agencies to lower or at least consider lowering our country's credit rating without justification.

And yet the Senate Banking Committee is "gathering information" about S&P's lowering of the credit rating, The Associated Press reported. That might be innocent enough, but with the committee's chairman, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., almost simultaneously calling S&P "irresponsible" for reducing the rating, it looks like an attempt to intimidate S&P or any other agency that might reduce America's credit rating.

Meanwhile, the president has spoken dismissively of S&P, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said of the agency, "[T]hey've handled themselves very poorly ... ."

We disagree. The problem doesn't lie with the rating agencies. It lies with elected officials in Washington who still are not focused on the overriding need to slash our federal debt.

They should be zeroing in on that issue -- not shooting the messenger.





One of the rights of passage for American teens is a trip to a testing center to take the exam that if passed allows them to obtain a driver's license. It is a visit that involves equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation. It many instances, unfortunately, it also requires a substantial investment of time. The wait, many Tennesseans can tell you, is often epic. Gov. Bill Haslam and the Department of Safety want to reduce it. A lot of folk would be mighty pleased if they can.

The governor gets points for even tackling the problem. Wait times have been a problem for years and earlier efforts to shorten them have floundered. Haslam, however, is resolute. He mentioned the lengthy waits in his State of the State talk in March. Now, his administration has a plan to reduce the average time in driver service centers from about 50 minutes to less than 30 minutes. Good luck with that.

There are physical problems and semantic problems to be overcome. Even the current wait times are problematic. Officials admit the current average of 51 minutes does not always include the time individuals wait before reaching a center's front counter to be issued a number. That's when the state starts counting wait time.

Sometimes, though, it can take an hour or more to reach the counter. Clearly, the total time it can take or obtain or renew a license or transact other business can be lengthy.

Officials hope to reduce waits by extending center hours, streamlining administration and oversight, and upgrading computer systems. The effort will be complicated by increasing workloads at the centers.

A new law requires Tennessee voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. Registered voters without a driver's license or acceptable ID -- typically the elderly, the disabled and the poor -- can get a photo ID for free at service centers, but the additional foot traffic could complicate the effort to reduce wait times.

The wait at centers around the state currently varies considerably. The average wait at the Bonny Oaks Center here is about 67 minutes, among the state's highest. At the center on Cherokee Boulevard it is about 45 minutes. In Cleveland, it is almost 75 minutes. The shortest waits in the state, the Department of Safety reports, are about 20 minutes. The longest is in Blountville, where it takes about 85 minutes.

If the administration's plan to shorten wait times is successful -- and here's hoping it is -- Tennesseans of all political persuasions and ages will have reason to celebrate.






Many of us would agree that our federal government regularly spends too much, taxes too much and runs deficits that are too high.

Now Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are naming three members each to a 12-member congressional "super committee" for the purpose of coming up with recommendations for cutting $1.5 trillion or so from federal deficits over the next 10 years.

How would you like to be on that committee?

"What an opportunity!" many of us might think. Just consider all the unnecessary, unwise, excessive, wasteful, "pork-barrel" and other nonessential spending that we could cut out of the budget -- focusing our taxes on responsible uses.

But remember: All the appointed members of the "super committee" will be politicians, and every spending item has a host of lobbyists and other supporters who believe "my item" is essential and just can't be cut.

It is not encouraging that one of the early members named to the committee is Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. She has been nicknamed the "queen of pork" for her eagerness to steer federal spending to her home state.

Does she sound like someone who is likely to be helpful on a committee whose stated purpose is to cut deficits significantly?

And does it comfort or worry you that the committee will also consider imposing tax increases?

It surely will be interesting -- as well as important -- to see what this bipartisan committee recommends, specifically.

Once the panel comes up with its recommendations, the full Congress will have to accept or reject them. Then we can judge whether the committee is very "super."






"Detroit" used to be a virtual synonym for "cars," because so many American automobiles were made in and around Detroit.

But in recent decades, we have seen car manufacturing grow all around the nation -- with Chattanooga now being a big center for making Volkswagens, and other Volunteer State sites making cars or car parts. Nissan plants are in not-far-away Decherd and Smyrna. There are plans for $1.6 billion in investments to make electric-powered Nissans in Tennessee by 2012. General Motors also has a manufacturing presence in Spring Hill, and Toyota has a facility in Jackson.

All told, the auto-manufacturing industry employs 106,500 Tennesseans -- so far.

That's news we welcome. We also welcome Business Facilities magazine's decision to name Tennessee the top automotive state in America. In descending order, the next nine states are South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Mississippi, Texas and Indiana.

We are proud of Tennessee's top ranking and the high rankings of several surrounding states -- and the economic prospects that represents.









Israelis used to make a political joke in the first few years of Bashar al-Assad: Syrian generals trembled as the father Assad entered the room; the son trembled as generals entered the room.

Not anymore. Nowadays Israelis join Iranians, perhaps uniquely on the indispensability (for the time being) of the son Assad as the president of Syria, despite mounting pressure from all over the world regarding the violent methods Assad's generals use against their own people who demand more democracy.

Turkey acts as one of the spearheads of international diplomacy to convince Assad to stop the excessive use of force on his citizens, which claimed more than 2,200 lives according to Turkish records since March when the protests first started.

Yet, like many others, Turkey doesn't want Assad to go now despite diplomatic indications that the United States is set to call him to empty his chair. This is also despite reports sent to Ankara that said that at the very moment when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced Syrian tanks had withdrawn from Hama and Turkish Ambassador to Damascus Ömer Önhon joined noon prayers there, other Syrian tanks and troops were carrying out similar operations in towns in the west of the country near the Turkish border.

The reason why Assad is ignoring almost all calls and warnings and ultimatums is the same with his indispensability in the eyes of so many countries, especially the neighboring ones. Because, no one knows who is going to replace Assad and no one is sure whether the situation will be any better under his successor.

That is the reason why Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan reacted in anger to the Turkish main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu when the latter asked, "What are you going to do when your patience is exhausted? Are you going to go for a military intervention?" Everybody concerned knows there are no conditions for military intervention in Syria; like Libya or Iraq. And Assad knows that one of his main powers keeping him in his chair is his weakness.

There are two more reasons to explain why Assad feels himself safe and considers his position as different from the position of, say, Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, despite warnings from Ankara.

First of all, the motivation that lead the opposition out onto the streets was their desire for a life they deserve. At first they had a pressing demand for Assad's resignation, but as it became clear that Assad would give no concession, everyone from the Muslim Brotherhood to the liberals want to see him go. But the Syrian opposition is not well organized and they do not have any force other than their quantity; huge numbers filling the streets.

Secondly, there is no crack within the ranks of the Assad regime, unlike the situation in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Gadhafi's Libya or Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. It is a well connected clique sharing – mostly – the same religious sect and more importantly the same Baathist ideology.

That is why Assad has nine lives. And despite the circumstances, if Assad takes positive steps in the coming weeks and months in parallel to what Turkish President Abdullah Gül had advised to him in his letter delivered by Davutoğlu last Tuesday, it will mean that Assad is convinced that those steps are for the good of his regime and of his country, not because of hollow threats.






As the world's and Turkey's markets swoon, currency values gyrate and global investors rush back to their chalkboards, a moment please to focus on the real "deficit." America and Europe can pay their bills and Turkey can get its increasingly messy house in order. The real problem is not a lack of credit but a lack of political credibility. That, in turn, is a result of the most important deficit: a deficit of ideas.

There are good ideas about. They are just not being hatched where meaningful, say in America's White House or Germany's Chancellery.

One suggested in the New York Times was a $50 billion fund for small business. Use it to pay, the writer argued, 20 percent or so of the wages of new hires for two years. This would be a good idea in the United States, where joblessness is at 9.5 percent. But a version of it would be even better in Spain or Portugal where unemployment is nearing double that.

Two good ideas come from Harvard's Kenneth Rogoff. In Europe, let the Germans have a disproportionate share of fiscal power in exchange for a bit more integration of the fracturing European Union – along with the debt writedown to which Germany is so averse for the most troubled countries, particularly for Greece. I'll play the spoiler and add the fact that always so infuriates Germans: the forgiveness of half its 32 billion mark debt by most of the rest of Europe (Greece included) in 1953. This gift was to power the subsequent "German miracle."

Rogoff's idea for America would ease the weight of its distribution of bad mortgages, the "subprime" prelude to the 2008 recession. As prices have collapsed, millions of homeowners now owe more on their dwellings than the properties are worth. Have banks write down these "underwater" mortgages, he suggests, in exchange for a share of future home price appreciation.

A good idea closer to home comes from economist Onur Bayramoğlu, with an Istanbul think tank called the Global Political Trends Center, or GPoT. Last week he produced a comparative analysis of Greece's problems today with Turkey's a decade ago. It's a long analysis which you can read at But the upshot is a call for some shoulder-to-shoulder action by Greeks and Turks.

Greece could take a page out of Turkey's 2001 playbook, imposing commercial criteria and professional boards on its dominant state banks, just as Turkey did with Ziraat and Halkbank. The template of Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency, or BRSA, is there for the taking and could ease assistance from the EU, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, Bayramoğlu suggests.

Bayramoğlu's last suggestion for Greece is a strategy for its "reindustrialization." Greece no longer makes much of anything, a slide away from productivity greased by the happier days of EU subsidies. Now its place in the eurozone makes it difficult to improve its competitiveness. But it still needs to renew its entrepreneurial spirit and Turkey's experience could help its Aegean neighbor. So how about an "Aegean manufacturing compact" linking Anatolian industrial muscle to Greek maritime industries?

It's just an idea. What we really need are a few more.






Last week's generals' resignations received wide coverage both by media and on the agenda of the political elite. So much attention could be extraordinary for some people; however, understanding the nature of the civil-military relationship in Turkey – without drifting with the tide of the daily ideological debates – is only possible with some background information. My intention is to contribute to understanding the nature of the civil-military relationship in Turkey, and the direction it's going.

As all over the world, the nature of civil-military relations in Turkey is changing. The pace, manner, and results of the change are relevant to the character of the military as well as the economic and social structure and political history of the nations. Debates could be traced back up to two centuries in Turkey. But before going that far, let's zoom in on the important milestones within the last five decades that have shaped the civil-military relations.

The first event we have to focus on to understand the civil-military relationship is the military coup on May 27, 1960. This intervention deeply influenced not only civil-military relations, but also the core structure of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, by ruining the chain of command due to its dramatic outcomes like the execution of the prime minister and its anarchic character.

The second important milestone in civil-military relations was the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, following the Jan. 24, 1980 economic decisions. The Jan. 24, 1980 decisions, which laid the foundations for the liberal economy, initiated a process that radically changed not only the economic, but also social and political structures and ideological points of view of Turkey. Generals, who executed the Sept. 12 military coup, by supporting respective policies, actualized those decisions that would erode their position in the long run. Without their contribution, construction of the new economic order would have never been possible. As a matter of fact, one may find clues about today's "new Turkey's Anatolian tigers" in the generals' decision.

Yet another important development affecting civil-military relations and core of the military is the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, movement. While the PKK's protracted insurgency strategy, based on attrition, affects the nation's economic, social, political and ideological structure radically and slowly, at the same time it greatly distresses the state apparatus. Those circumstances, on the one hand, have added a new dimension to the civil-military relations, while on the other hand unavoidably strained and wore out the military's own structure.

Accelerating the change were not only the developments in Turkey. Important global developments also affected civil-military relations. So much so that the end of the Cold War and the rise of the liberal ideology in the 1990s have greatly distressed the civil-military relations, the role of the TSK and its core in Turkey, just like it did elsewhere in the world.

Another tuning point over the role and structure of the TSK and civil-military relations is the so-called Feb. 28, 1996 "post-modern military coup." This pounce that cleared the "Islamic" Erbakan government from power by "soft" means has provided the TSK with an "unrealistic" position. Yet in the medium-run, it has caused important changes in its own structure and on the civil-military relations. Next week, I will continue writing by dwelling on these issues one by one.






Recently the Prime Ministry's Information and Communication Technologies Authority, or BTK, held a press conference. Tayfun Acarer talked about some changes to the Internet profiling that should have begun on Aug. 22. Acarer said they have listened to people and decided to have a test period of three months and decreased the number of profiles from four to two. There will only be family and children profiles. Acarer underlined that there has been misunderstandings about the intentions of the authorities. He claimed that the reason why his institution was involved with the filtering is because of the Consumer's Right Legislation of July 28, 2010. He said it is a consumer right to have a "clean" Internet and all that they are doing is ensuring consumers will enjoy their right properly.

I have written about this subject many times. In fact many other writers and journalists raised their voices against BTK's plans. Many of us tried to make BTK understand that the issue of filtering by the government is not about consumerism, it is about censorship. It is a good thing there will be only two filters but as long as there is filtering by the government subjected to the government's ideals, it means censorship. This cannot be denied.

Acarer also explained that filtering will be done by a group of specialists consisting of 11 people. I can only say that it is nothing but a bad makeup to sell government oppression to us. Can it be imagined that those 11 people will act differently than how the government thinks about larger issues? He said there would be three representatives from the Ministry of Family Affairs, the BTK would have two representatives, four specialists (pedagogues, sociologists) and two from the Internet Board. The members of this so-called independent group will be selected by the ministry. Also there won't be any lawyers, biologists, philosophers and the like who could counter the opinions of the government. Who can stop the 11 to be selected from banning a website about Darwin? Who can stop them from banning a leftist web portal?

BTK is still missing the real point about the filtering and it seems that they will insist on misinterpreting the reaction of the people. I cannot understand why people cannot be left alone to decide for themselves.

While Turkey is trying its best to be the first country in AGIT to have governmental filtering to "protect" its children from the evil Internet in the real free world children are making miracles. A 10-year-old hacker from California who goes by the online handle CyFi announced in a presentation Sunday to the DefCon Kids crowd that she had discovered a bug in several games for Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones, CNET reported. If there is a kid like her in Turkey she won't be able to connect any resources with the governmental filtering.

Acarer says people can choose not to implement the child filtering but it is all about supporting youngsters. With the current environment where BTK and the rest of the authorities are trying their best to make families scared of the Internet, it is getting harder and harder to be a parent who supports freedoms.

Probably you have heard about the young volleyball player who got hit in a public bus because she was wearing shorts. We are scaring our kids of the Internet just like we scare our kids from wearing shorts. We are becoming a very intolerant society and that's what we are against.







Not all shorelines are green. Some, like Namibia's, can resemble hell with the fires out. So does the coast of Yemen, especially where the Red Sea arcs south to lap the beach at Aden. Rock-flaked hills of a charcoal-purplish color rise up behind the port. The only trees are a few failing transplants. For some months in Aden the cold water tap in the bath runs stinging hot. Film crews looking for the desolation of an outer planet could pitch their tents here.

It's a stretch to imagine what led Ptolemy and the ancients to call these harsh precincts Arabia Felix. Fabulists in the old days may have been inspired by travelers' tales of the lush green fields along the plateau of the Hadramaut, a thousand kilometers inland, or of the city of Shibam there, with its baked-mud eight-storey tower dwellings. It still tests the imagination to think that a century ago Aden, a principal British Empire fueling station, was one of the world's best-known seaports.

Up until a few years ago the visitor trudging Aden's streets could still see masonry cratered by shellfire during the tank battles of the 1986 civil war that broke up the then People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, and led finally to its merger in 1990 with the Sana'a-based rival North of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. From the time of the merger to the outbreak of revolution earlier this year, the South's tribal and other insurgencies have been President Saleh's chronic headaches, greater even than al-Qaeda, one of whose suicide boats blew a hole in the U.S. destroyer Cole as it sat at anchor in Aden in 2000, killing 17 American sailors.

In past years Yemen's civil spasms have been neuralgic for neighbors and others – for Egypt (Hosni Mubarak led bombing missions over it in the 60s), for Saudi Arabia, which more than once reacted by claiming Yemeni territory, and for Moscow, which made the South a disciplined Soviet satellite, only to lose it. Now the U.S. is the main concerned onlooker, and for good reason. A large share of the world's shipping comes down the Red Sea from the Suez Canal and rounds the bend into the Indian Ocean at Aden, headed for the factories of Asia. Chances of geography have made Yemen a strategic red-flag country.

These days the question hovering over Yemen is not whether the rump Saleh government will fall, but which way. America and Saudi Arabia would wish to see things stably patched up among the safer, more conservative anti-Saleh forces, to keep Yemen from becoming another Somalia, a totally failed state. Yet while Yemen and Somalia do have common traits, from fractious gangster tribesmen to trackless wastes, there is across Yemen a sense of common nationhood lacking in Somalia.

Certainly al-Qaeda, struggling to recover after the loss of Osama bin Laden, would benefit from a real foothold in Yemen. Its franchises have migrated to set up cells at the top and bottom of Africa. In Yemen, al-Qaeda has a rallying voice in the U.S-born Anwar Al-Ahlaki. To date he has escaped the U.S. drone strikes aimed at him. It is hard to estimate his impact, although there have been presumed al-Qaeda attacks on southern towns recently. Al-Ahlaki's calls for a new caliphate could well be submerged, however, in Yemen's jumble of tribal struggles, and as a new military hierarchy rises out of the revolution.

In the end, an old Yemeni social tradition could help bring things together. The country's males are unified in their attachment to qat, catha edulis, a mildly narcotic local shrub to which they bow down every day, shuttering their businesses around noon, gathering at their favorite haunts, and sitting cross-legged in amiable circles, chewing its green leaf, rising to heights of mutual goodwill, and dispelling all problems. Who knows? In the midst of the country's current confusion, who's to say that a few qat councils mightn't ease the way to peace?






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

The meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday constitutes a significant event in the international campaign focused on Syria lately.

It is not a coincidence that as Turkey launches this latest diplomatic attempt, many countries and organizations have also expressed tough criticism of the Assad regime.

The fact that the bloody incidents in Syria have reached the dimensions of a massacre has prompted even those countries which have been silent or cautious up until now to voice their concerns loudly.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah condemned the incidents in Syria for the first time and called on Assad to end the violence. Like Saudi Arabia, two other Gulf countries, Bahrain and Kuwait, withdrew their ambassadors from Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council issued statements condemning the Assad administration. The chief imam of the al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt came out against Damascus.

It is a significant development that the Arab world for the first time is raising its voice in a chorus against the Assad regime even though some of these countries are lead by authoritarian kings or leaders. The public uprising in Bahrain was crushed by brute force. And besides, with contributions of troops from Saudi Arabia… This is one of the contradictions of the Arab world.

However, this is also a reality that the vice surrounding Syria is tightening and that the Assad regime is gradually becoming isolated.

Nobody says 'resign'

Including Turkey, an interesting aspect of the attitude of all the countries that are increasing their pressure against Syria is that Assad is still the addressee, and hopes of change are still being pinned on him.

No one from either the West or the East has called on Assad to resign as in the case of Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi. This call had an immediate effect in Egypt. In Libya, the process has not been finalized yet.

In fact, incidents in Syria for example are more tragic than Egypt. But the international community still maintains the wish and hope that the transformation in this country can be made without a change of regime.

The primary reason for this is that Syria's political structure and the strength of its regime is different than other Arab countries. To tell the truth, Assad is not a person who would obey the word "resign." He relies on his own army, the Baath party, his intelligence organization and support from Iran.

Because of this and other similar reasons, nobody for now has openly asked Assad to resign. Instead of this, they advise him to withdraw his army from cities and end the firing on the public. The demand from Arab countries (for example King Abdullah) is only this. Western countries – and, of course, Turkey – in addition to this call for Assad to make democratic reforms fast, demand that he come to terms with the opposition and organize free elections.

With or without Assad

Will this change and transformation occur with or without Assad?

At this phase – since it is a weak probability that the regime will be toppled – the option of forcing Assad to change his politics is preferred more.

How will this happen? Again at this phase, the method to be applied should be to keep Damascus under political pressure and to force the administration to come to terms with the opposition.

Signs coming from the region and the West also point to the formation of a "coalition of pressure" against Syria.

Will this be enough to bring Assad to reason? If it is, then it is good for everybody. Otherwise, other options could be considered, such as boycotts or economic sanctions – nobody, presumably, is considering the military option. We hope that it will not come to that point.

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






As feared, talk of creating new provinces seems to have given rise to a host of new demands. Increasing numbers of people are advocating division of larger units into smaller ones, essentially along ethno-lingual lines. The latest suggestion to this effect has come from ANP Provincial President Afrasiab Khattak at a meeting in Peshawar. He has proposed that a Pashtun province be carved out of Balochistan as a means to unite all Pashtuns. Anyone remotely aware of the issue of nationalism in Balochistan and the tensions that persist between the Baloch and 'others' in the province would be able to imagine the issues this could give rise to. The last thing we need is more trouble in Balochistan – and it has to be said, we expect greater wisdom from a veteran political activist such as Khattak. The whole matter of redivision appears to be spiralling out of control. It is questionable whether the creation of a large number of smaller provinces would solve any problems at all. Indeed, the opposite could happen. As some have noted, creating provinces on the basis of language is not necessarily a sound step. It may lend credence to the idea that people who are different cannot coexist. Given the ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity that characterises Pakistan's population, this entire concept is exceedingly dangerous.

We would like to believe that we live in a civilised age, when minor matters of ethnicity, caste, or race do not matter in the national scheme of things. The idea surely should be to bring people together rather than divide them into ever smaller groups. If this happens, it is perfectly possible that new demands for further separate units will continue to be made. It is true that Balochistan has a sizeable Pashtun population – the ANP holds two seats in the provincial assembly while the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the JUI-F, both of whom mainly represent Pashtuns, hold a few more. Khattak has rationalised that all Pashtuns need to be united. We must ask why. Numerous Pashtuns, Punjabis and Baloch live in Karachi, and a significant number of people of Pakistani origin live around the world. In this day and age, success lies in people learning to live together, not in separating from one another. We must therefore encourage an acceptance of diversity and, with it, tolerance.






For almost five months there have been protests in Syria against President Assad's regime, and for much of that time his response has been a brutal and increasingly bloody suppression of dissent. International efforts to influence or intervene have been largely fruitless, and American talk of yet more sanctions being imposed is no more likely to bring change. As a deal-maker, the US ambassador to Syria has cashed in his neutrality by visiting Hama, one of the loci of revolt. The Turks, who have an 800 kilometre border with Syria and historically enjoy good relations with them, are pushing a hard line that is being met with a hard Syrian response. There is no thought or desire internationally for a military intervention, and meanwhile dozens die by the day.

A possible game-changer is Saudi Arabia. It has recently withdrawn its ambassador to Syria, as has Bahrain. The Saudi king, in an unusually strong statement, called for an end to Syria's 'death machine'. The Saudis are key players in the Arab League, which for the first time in the crisis has strongly criticised the Syrian regime. There may be a pressure-wave building in the Arab world that may be more effective than non-Arab interventions. The Syrians are more likely to be open to back-channel efforts than direct confrontation, and the options for Assad are now few. It is possible that there could be defections from within the army, but those which have happened thus far have been by individuals who did not take their units along with them. The army is anyway dominated by the Alawite minority that would be the principal loser in any shift in the power structure. Ultimately, there will be change, but it may be that the only way to effect this is civil war as dialogue other than on the surface and devoid of anything but a veneer of substance, is a dreadful prospect.







It's the same old story again: the law is being relentlessly and systematically relegated to the margins by capricious leaders. This week, the spotlight is on Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who – according to the Managing Director Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab – has had several cases registered against Azam Saeed, a Lahore-based architect, who was contracted to build a park in front of the chief minister's house in Murree in 2009. Here is a classic case of a senior leader wanting things done on a whim (the CJ of the Lahore High Court has himself described Shahbaz's actions as 'whimsical orders') and of a bureaucracy caught in the middle, unsure whether to break the law or seek the wrath of the political bosses. The TDCP managing director told the court that the cases were filed against the architect because he had not completed construction work despite receiving money as per the contract. However, details of the case reveal that six cases were lodged against the petitioner in rapid succession, one of them on the preposterous charge of stealing his own building materials from the park! And while there are complaints galore about the police failing to register cases despite various court warnings, here a case was filed over a complaint received by post!

It is up to the court to get to the bottom of the matter and decide whether the charges are fabricated, and if they were in fact made at the CM's behest. But there are two important lessons in all of this. One, as rightly pointed out by the LHC CJ, bureaucrats are not duty-bound to act upon the whimsical orders of their 'higher authorities'; they cannot follow orders with their eyes closed to the matter of their legality or illegality. Two, nothing could be more dangerous and discouraging than the perception that the person manning one of the most important offices in the country will break the law at whim. This episode thus brings to the fore one of the bigger problems of Pakistani politics: the decayed internal accountability of politicians who have forgotten that they are answerable for their behaviour to their colleagues, their parties, their constituencies and to public opinion.







If people's rights are denied at the grassroots level by centralisation and the need of people's meaningful participation is ignored, the political process creates parochial regional schisms. This leads to deprivation and alienation of the smaller constituent units. The process of alienation is particularly acute in countries with disparate social, linguistic and local affinities, such as Pakistan. Unscrupulous local politicians having no hope of national recognition tend to exploit the situation, further exacerbating prevailing tensions for their own petty individual interests. Unfortunately, good leaders who have emerged have become prisoners of the system and been unable to buck the trend.

To quote my article, "Making the federation effective," about the creation of more provinces (Nov 27, 1999), "the major reason why the finest experiment in nationhood in its time turned into a disaster was that the people of East Pakistan felt ignored and disparaged. A feeling of isolation ('the defence of the East is in the West') during the 1965 war, along with economic and political disparities and discrimination, perceived as well as real, became the bedrock for separatism.

"When partners in any venture feel they are being short-changed and their counterparts are insensitive to their needs, the process of dissolution of the union starts. While economic reasons did contribute heavily, four decades since 1971 inter-provincial disharmony in the remaining part of Pakistan has assumed crisis proportions. The major partner often blames the others for a lack of 'patriotism', 'the last refuge of a scoundrel', (to quote Samuel Johnson)."

Democracy is meant to flow upwards from the populace. The ultimate irony is that Musharraf's military regime, which by nature of its existence meant "centralisation", devolved power to the people while today's "democratic" system wants to concentrate power in a few hands. Our "democrats" want it to permeate only partially downwards, coming to a dead stop at the chief ministers' level, giving him, after the 18th Amendment, the status of that of a viceroy's during British rule, the "king" in this case being the president of Pakistan in Islamabad. Only a moron would be unable to understand why. The commissionerate system, taking away power from the stakeholders at the grassroots level, has stoked the demand for more provinces.

The Presidency played politics by creating commissionerates and trying to deny the right of local rule in Karachi and Hyderabad and the other major urban areas of Sindh. The PPP spokespersons gushed on primetime TV about the advent of a "new era". There were widespread "celebrations", all paid for by public money, of course. Pragmatic politics, coloured by the blood of innocents in Karachi, ultimately prevailed and the commissionerates were revoked through an ordinance, but only for Karachi and Hyderabad. This effectively left two systems of administration in the province. Unfortunately, the genie of the division of Sindh then came out of the bottle unexpectedly. Confronted by the enraged reaction from its own rank and file, the PPP hierarchy furiously back-paddled and restored the local governments system throughout Sindh. For the first time since he engineered the takeover of the PPP on the strength of Ms Benazir Bhutto's will, Asif Zardari learnt a lesson in Realpolitik, that money cannot buy everything. Or has he?

With 60 percent of the population of Pakistan, Punjab is accused by the smaller provinces of domination. For the most part the masses in Punjab suffer the same deprivation and discrimination as anyone else in Pakistan. With administrative power concentrated in Lahore, the province has become unwieldy. Urban growth is much more pronounced there than rural development, leaving agriculture, the backbone of our agriculture-based economy, relatively neglected. The same home truth is largely ignored in the other provinces. The four provinces of Pakistan are too large to administer, either in terms of population or of area. Decisions or problems of even the smallest nature are invariably referred to Islamabad. The divide between federal cadres (the District Management Group – DMG) and the Provincial Civil Service (PCS), and similarly in the Police Services, further contributes to bad governance.


The PPP government has set the ball rolling for a Seraiki Province. Bahawalpur is holding out for the status of a separate province, on the basis of the status it enjoyed before the imposition of One Unit in 1954. Hazara, having its own distinct identity, claims to be a separate province in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Would it not be crass politics to confine the principle of "good governance" to Punjab or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa alone? If indeed people's good is of paramount interest to our rulers, should we not apply the same principles to Sindh and Balochistan? What effect will it have on the unity of the federation if this is not done?

Maj Gen (r) Masood Burki's "Blueprint for Viable and Stable Pakistan" written in the mid-1990s should be examined in depth before any decision to the unity of the Federation is taken, lest the decision proves to be counterproductive. Gen Burki studied countries populated like Pakistan, with diverse people having different languages and cultures – e.g., Switzerland, Belgium, India and Nigeria. Switzerland has German, French, Italian and Romansch as its national languages. Ethnic Germans (70 percent of the population) dominate Switzerland (like Punjab does in Pakistan). Switzerland is divided into 26 self-governing (and quite independent) cantons. In 1947, India had seven provinces and a few Union-administered territories despite the country having 24 distinct languages. For better administration and to ease ethnic diversity, 15 more provinces were created in India by 1999, and the Union territories increased to nine. India recently created more provinces and may create even more. Nigeria, which went through a civil war in the 1960s, went from three regions to seven states to 19 states before a semblance of unity and cohesion could be achieved.

Gen Burki recommended 17 provinces in a reasonable balance between populations and area sizes. In the light of socio-political changes in Pakistan since 1999 and on the premise that there will be no right of secession, the National Assembly taking over any provincial government if it feels the country's sovereignty is endangered. The number of administrative units could be increased. Punjab could have been divided into four provinces, Potohar (Rawalpindi), Punjab (Lahore), Seraiki (Multan), and Bahawalpur. Similarly Sindh should also have four, with Karachi (minus the port and adjacent areas), Hyderabad and Upper Sindh and south-eastern Sindh). Similarly Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa needs such entities: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (Peshawar), Hazara (Abbottabad), the Federal Administered Tribal Areas and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Fata and Pata). Balochistan should have four administrative units, Quetta-Kalat, the Hazara (mainly Pakhtun) area north of Quetta, the Marri-Bugti areas along with the Pat Feeder area (with headquarters at Sibi) and Mekran Coast (Pasni). The Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) already constitute a separate entity. All these take the number to 17. The Federal Administered Territories should include Islamabad and Port Qasim. Even our smallest province will be larger than scores of countries of the world. The administrative head must be an elected representative, not a bureaucrat. While the preparation of the plan piecemeal would be counter-productive, implementation, on the other hand must be carried out in stages, on a graduated scale.

If disparities, real and/or perceived, are done away with through the creation of more provinces, and a feeling of being genuine and equal partners is created in the populations of the new provinces, the change will make the federation much more effective and viable. To quote Gen Burki, "we need unity through the will of the people, where people feel secure and do not nurture fears of domination" of one ethnic group by another.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9. com







London was mostly peaceful on the night of August 9, but there was looting and fire-setting in other parts of the country. After four nights of widespread mayhem and destruction it is possible to draw some cautious conclusions as the how and why of this unprecedented breakdown of law and order in a country widely – but not always correctly – perceived to be peaceful.

Although the trigger for the initial disturbances in north London was the shooting of a man who, it now transpires, was armed but did not shoot at the police about to arrest him – all that followed had no connection to the incident at all. None of the incidents had any political element, no ideological foundation in any developed sense, no religious or sectarian factors; but all had the common element of greed. As one police officer interviewed on the BBC said 'This was not an angry mob, it was a greedy one.' None of the rioters was protesting against anything, and the few that were caught for interview by the media channels and asked why they were doing it blamed 'the rich'. The rioting was not confined to poor or underprivileged areas, and affluent places such as Ealing in west London were targeted.

This was no mass movement either. The numbers of people, predominantly young, causing the trouble was small. One commentator in the British press said that perhaps no more than 10,000 people in total were involved and it could be less than that. Television images do not show densely-packed crowds but loose collections of men with a scattering of women who were confronting the police but not fighting them on a large scale. They were more interested in what they could steal or burn than battling the police.

What the rioters wanted, and took away or destroyed in large quantities, was consumer goods, preferably luxury items or designer brands. They looted stores selling the same fashionable sportswear that many of them were already wearing, and carried off flat-screen TV's and mobile phones and their accessories. They were not desperate hungry people looking for food and stripping the supermarkets – other than of alcohol – they wanted the products that to them indicated wealth and 'richness' and success or kudos in the eyes of their peers. In the process of obtaining them they torched hundreds – perhaps thousands – of cars that were parked in the wrong place at the wrong time; and hundreds are homeless as their flats were above now burned-out shops.

There has been criticism of the police in that they did not do enough quickly enough, and when they did act it was with insufficient force or authority. The British police forces have considerable experience over decades of controlling or subduing very large crowds, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. They have developed crowd management techniques, with the notorious 'kettling' being the best known, and are regarded as being effective controllers of large-scale civil disorder.

What they were confronted with in the last four days was something they had never had to deal with before. Small groups of highly mobile people who were not susceptible to the same management methodologies as large groups of either slow moving or densely-packed protesters. The looters were not unified under a common banner other than criminality and despite rumours that they were, did not have a central command or organisation driving them other than their existing gang affiliations. The groups were mostly local and knew their 'turf' – the nooks and crannies that enabled their fluidity and elusiveness and they could appear and disappear at will.

There has been considerable comment on the role that the social media has played in all of this, with some of the more lurid media outlets 'blaming' Twitter and Facebook for the riots, as if they were in some way directly responsible for them. Blaming either is as inappropriate as blaming the hammer for hitting the nail. However, there is clear evidence that the social media were used by looters to coordinate their actions, decide on targets and warn one another of approaching police. There is a developed culture of 'flash-mobbing' in the UK where groups of people can quickly arrange to be at a particular place at a particular time, but it has not previously been used as a tool in applied criminality on this scale.

Facebook and Twitter were used with criminal intent, but they are not of themselves causative factors in the rioting; more it was the rioters who chose to use them with criminality in mind. Many of the rioters were using Blackberry devices which carry a level of encryption that make them difficult to track and intercept, unlike mobile phones which leave a footprint everywhere they go.

Much of the action was caught on CCTV and despite the hoods many wore rioters will be clearly identifiable, and subsequently arrested. The police were also filming the action and there are hundreds of hours of TV footage that can be mined for identities. Over 760 have already been arrested in London and many more will be. The rioters have blighted their own lives as well as destroyed the property and livelihoods of their victims. So...why?

Social commentators are already busy, but there is little commonality of view. What appears to be emerging is that there is a disaffected underclass, indifferently educated in many cases and with either no job or little prospect of one, who conclude that they have little to lose for themselves by criminal action in pursuit of the goods they want. Many of the opportunist looters will have seen the ease with which goods went out of the front of smashed shops. 'If they can do it so can I' – and so they do. Britain along with the rest of the developed world is in a period of austerity. Social benefits are being cut everywhere, many poorer people are feeling they have less than they had before. Now read that scenario across to Pakistan and be afraid. Be very afraid.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:







On May 14, 1999, Pope John Paul II bowed and kissed a copy of the Holy Quran presented to him at the Vatican. The gesture earned him the respect and admiration of Muslims the world over. On the contrary, on Sept 22, 2006, his successor Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture to university professors and students at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria. He cited a dialogue between a Persian and mediaeval emperor Manuel II Paleologus, which said: "Show me just what Mohammed [PUBH] brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The words created a furore and caused anguish amongst Muslims the world over.

On Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey, Steve Doocy, the co-host of Fox News' Fox and Friends, asserted: "This is the Pope's first visit to a predominantly Muslim country. Now, keep in mind, it was just a couple of months ago that the Pope had some comments about Islam and violence. Next thing you know, Islam turned violent and essentially proved the Pope's point." On a report about a meeting between the Pope and Muslim envoys to address tensions over Pope Benedict's remarks, Pat Robertson, host of the Christian Broadcasting Network Club, said: "It's amazing how the Muslims deal with history and the truth with violence. They don't understand what reasoned dialogue is."

These sad and tragic times are a wakeup call for the Muslim world. It has seen the West, seizing the Sept 11 attacks as a pretext to further its own global agenda. Afghanistan was supposed to serve as a conduit to the Central Asian energy resources. Iraq with its own oil reserves, a bonus, would have been the vigil base controlling the Persian Gulf. Terrorism was the perpetual phantasmal demon they required. To keep the threat alive, the malicious indictment of Islam began with vehemence.

Quoted are just a few of the countless statements mocking and vilifying Islam and its adherents. They become all the more repulsive and shocking coming from members of the intelligentsia of the developed world. They have helped foster an image of fear and hatred against Islam throughout the West. It is tragic that these luminaries of their given fields have used their influence not to heal but exacerbate the divide.

After the killing of Osama bin Laden, columnist Debbie Schlussel wrote on her blog, "1 down, 1.8 billion more to go." During the American presidential race, she wrote: "Should Barack Hussein Obama be president when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam?" Member of the Dutch parliament Geert Wilders published an open letter titled "Enough is enough." He wrote: "Ban the Quran," saying the Holy Quran has no place in our constitutional state."

The most quoted reference about Islam by the US Senate foreign policy consultant Republican James George Jatras was: "In short, Islam is a self-evident outgrowth not of the Old and New Covenants but of the darkness of heathen Araby." Televangelist Rod Parsley, a key ally of then-presidential candidate John McCain, called for eradicating the "false religion". Parsley has written several books outlining his fundamentalist religious outlook, including the deeply anti-Islamic Silent No More.

Jim Welker, a Republican from Colorado, sent emails to his constituents titled: "Beware of Islam in America." Part of the text read: "Can a devout Muslim be an American patriot and loyal citizen? He must submit to the mullah, who teaches annihilation of Israel and destruction of the Great Satan, America." Winston Churchill III, grandson of British statesman Winston Churchill, is an author and former member of the British Parliament. Speaking at an American university he condemned "radical Islam," terming it a threat to western civilisation similar to that as the Nazis and the Soviets.

Nationally syndicated radio talk shows are the most powerful medium that mould American public opinion. The top five shows have a weekly following of over 35 million listeners. The Rush Limbaugh Show reaches more than 13 million listeners weekly, the largest radio audience in America. Limbaugh has played a great role in Republican Congressional victories.

When a British prison changed the direction of its toilets to accommodate Muslim inmates, he said on his show: "We are going to reorient the direction of a toilet because Islamic code prohibits Muslims from facing or turning their backs on the direction of prayer when they use the bathroom? What do they do on an airplane? Go to the cockpit and say, I got some box cutters and if you do not turn this airplane 45 degrees for the next two minutes I am going to hijack you?" These remarks were carried amongst others by the British tabloid The Sun and the Fox News.

Sean Hannity hosts the second-highest-rated talk show Hannity's America on Fox News Channel. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books. In response to the desire of Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, to be sworn in on the Quran, he commented: "It will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones."

The Savage Nation aired through 400 stations across the US has a weekly audience of over 10 million. The host, Michael Savage, said on his show: "Keith Ellison won't swear to uphold the oath of office on the Bible. This is unbelievable. So what is next? A witch gets elected, and she says she shall only be sworn in with her hand over a pentagram? Tell me when this ends, the tyranny of the psycho, whacked-out minority." In another show he said: "To save the United States, lawmakers should institute outright ban on Muslim immigration and on the construction of mosques." Michael Savage, who holds a doctorate from the University of California, is a recipient of the "Freedom of Speech Award".

In a CNN Headline News programme, Glenn Beck said, "The Middle East is being overrun by 10th-century barbarians; if they take over we are going to have to nuke the whole place."

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:

(To be concluded)






The thing to do is to identify the actual villain behind a crisis, such as the violence we are witnessing these days. In Pakistan, the trend is to look for a foreign hand. Take the crisis confronting democracy in Pakistan. The factors behind it are local, not foreign.

First, democracy is afflicted with a crisis of ownership. Democracy has not become a part of political culture in Pakistan and is disowned at the micro level of society. It seems that Pakistani politicians have failed to convince people that democracy can serve them better and how the destiny of Pakistan is intertwined with democracy. This is the reason why a battle is still being fought between democracy and authoritarianism more than six decades after independence.

Second, the reach of democracy is limited within society. For instance, democracy does not extend even to political parties. Democracy is considered mostly as something involved in running the affairs of the country. This is why authoritarianism is still rampant at the family level, being most in evidence as male domination. Political parties are a one-man show conducted by one man or woman who is head or chairman of a party. An attendant feature is dynastic politics. Political shenanigans of various sorts are used to attract votes and create a semblance of democracy at the national level.

Third, all efforts are made to keep the Election Commission susceptible to manipulation. The narrow political base of political parties renders them vulnerable to "political outsiders" who tinker with the electoral system and bring forward a lot of compromised politicians. That is how the concept of controlled democracy is born. Attached to that is a controlled parliament, which is amenable to any in-house change brought about by the actors external to parliament. In such a situation, politicians enjoy trappings of high office without real power to formulate a policy. A weak electoral system offers space for clandestine intrusion into the political domain. Independence of the Election Commission is, thus, vital for making the electoral system foolproof and make the introduction and continuation of representative democracy possible.

Fourth, corruption done by politicians is blighting the face of democracy. In the past, the collusion between the bureaucracy and the military to run the affairs of the country dwarfed the relevance of the political institution. The rest of the job was done by the politicians themselves when they indulged in financial corruption whenever they took power. Every elected regime carried a list of corruption cases to be condoned by the law enforcement agencies and the courts. The scourge of corruption has soiled the reputation of politicians. People think that democracy is failing to yield its promised fruits of good governance and prosperity.

Fifth, bad governance mars the standing of democracy. People are seething with anger at the government's mismanagement of the Railways and its failure to deal with the electricity crisis. Further, in the face of the price hike, people are now labouring harder and living more frugally. In fact, people are forced to skimp on necessities to make their supplies last longer as a means of beating the inflation. Consequently, politicians are discredited and deemed incapable of running the democratic system. On the other hand, the idea of running the country with the help of technocrats is getting popular: Pakistan can be run better by technocrats (specialists) than politicians. The way governance is delivered, it is sapping people's confidence in democracy.

Sixth, the absence of the local government system has impeded the road to a truly democratic future. Since 1947, if any dream has been left unfulfilled, it is the dream of regular elections at the local level. One result of the elections of 2008 was that it became certain that local bodies elections would not take place during the tenure of the present government. Non-party elections held by the past military regimes at the local level engendered a political interest group which became a dependent of the regime. That group is still waiting for the next stint of the military at the helm of affairs. By not holding local bodies' elections under one pretext or another, the government is manifesting a lack of concern not only for the democratic rights of people but also for people's democratic education.


Seventh, the government's failure to deliver on its promises has harmed the credibility of a democratic regime. Recognising how effective slogans such as bread, housing and jobs could be, a political party likes to cast itself as the true guardian of the dispossessed. Consequently, a wave of compassion is generated, a sympathy vote is garnered and, later, lapses in performance are papered over. The practice is continued. People, however, are becoming aware of these stratagems, thanks to the efforts of the media, and are not going to be hoodwinked time and again.


The writer is a freelance contributor.








 The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

It seems really odd that our media continues to be obsessed with the continued MQM-PPP farce, the tussle between the executive and the judiciary and all kinds of other issues rooted in the murky national political arena, even while a far larger problem looms.

A number of recent reports have spoken of growing food insecurity in Pakistan and the fact that a majority of people simply do not have enough to eat. This should be a problem that draws far greater focus from political leaders given its gravity.

Pakistan, as a country which grows enough wheat to feed its people, should not be confronted with so many starving citizens nor should it suffer from levels of hunger which match those of sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that this is happening is shameful.

A report by the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) reveals that 48.6 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity. The levels are worse at 67.7 percent in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas followed by Balochistan, where the rate is marginally lower. The SDPI links food insecurity with growing conflict, violence and militancy in the country.

This is hardly a far-fetched conclusion. We know that militant groups thrive on recruiting desperate young men and boys who see no hope for the future, face ceaseless joblessness and come to believe, when the right propaganda is directed their way that a gun in the hand will give them the power and sense of purpose they seek.

The level of despondency that exists here can be gauged from incidents of the kind recently reported in which eight young Pakistanis stuffed into a cramped container died at the Turkish border while trying to make it to Greece.

They had paid agents large amounts from their savings and had even borrowed money so they could go overseas. Others before these young boys from Sialkot have followed a similar route. Some no older than 14 or so years have been apprehended on the Afghan or Iran borders. Others have tried to cling on to wheels of airplanes headed overseas. This degree of desperation is unusual and indicates the plight of millions.

A recent report by Oxfam makes things even plainer. The survey states that Pakistan is one of 21 countries in the world where food insecurity has grown as a result of fluctuations and increases in prices.

About 120 million people or two-thirds of the population spend 50 to 70 percent of their incomes on food. One can only imagine what is left to meet other urgent needs including healthcare and the education of children.

Humanitarian agencies' fieldworkers report rising levels of malnutrition among men, women and children. The impact on women and children is most severe. Levels of stunting and wasting among children is said to be growing.

Concern has already been expressed by Unicef over this situation, uncovered to some extent after the floods of 2010 and exacerbated but not created by them. Experts believe the hunger existed well before water swept over large tracks of land and left people everywhere along the Indus homeless and destitute.

What is most disturbing about this situation is that official policies have, in many ways, directly created the crisis. The decision last year by a government that has consistently described itself as 'pro-people' to raise the wheat support price to Rs950 per 40 kg from the previous rate of Rs550 for the same amount has had a drastic effect and comes under terse criticism from international agencies such as the World Food Programme.

While the government, including the prime minister himself, asserts that the price increase is intended to help the rural poor and prevent smuggling to neighbouring countries notably Afghanistan, one can only wonder if the leadership considers this a reasonable step given the starvation it is causing.

It is true some farmers have benefitted from the increase. But the millions who live off salaries, remittances or other fixed incomes in both rural and urban areas can simply not manage.

To add to complications farmers growing sugar-cane or other crops are switching to wheat – creating the threat of a sugar shortage and further price rises in the future. It appears a key factor behind the steep increase is to collect rural votes – but the morality of this needs to be examined against the spectre of mass hunger.

We need to direct more attention towards the issue. The matter is of course a humanitarian one; the knowledge that people die regularly simply because they cannot get enough to eat is horrific. It deserves far more media attention – going beyond the relatively isolated incidents of a family committing suicide or parents selling children. But the problem is also one of security.

Links between poverty, militancy and deprivation have been well established. There is no coincidence in the fact that the worst problems lie in the most deprived areas – Fata and Balochistan. We cannot rid ourselves of terrorism till the key issue of the people is addressed and food for all ensured.

While it is obviously Pakistan's own leaders who need to act in the interests of their people, and place the need to tackle starvation on a much higher priority, we also need more international attention directed towards the issue.

The development of the people holds the key to the future and the escape from the growing violence we face. Beyond militancy, this comes also in the form of growing crime, frustrations unleashed in other ways and a growth in intolerance and desperation.

There have been warnings already of a descent into anarchy if people cannot get enough food. The hunger of millions in an agrarian nation is a crisis. It is a much bigger one than the quibbling between political parties or even the power crisis.

More and more international studies are highlighting the extent of a silent calamity, to which, even now, there appears to be indifference from the political leadership and a lack of readiness to bring in the changes in policy needed to curb food price inflation of around 18 percent seen over the past three years or create the opportunities to earn a livelihood that people everywhere so desperately need.









Three days before Independence Day on Aug 14, there is another day that should be marked in the country, celebrating the white strip on our green flag. Minorities Day on Aug 11 is a reminder of the address by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah before the First Legislative Assembly on that date in 1947, in which he declared that followers of all religions would be equal citizens in the new country.

At the same time, Aug 11 is a painful reminder of how, contrary to the Quaid-e-Azam's vision, Pakistan's minority communities have been turned into second-class, particularly in the past three-and-a-half decades.

The Gojra Massacre of July 30, 2009, was a latest display of the level to which the level of intolerance has descended, in this case involving our Christian community. It is a matter of national shame that two years after the tragedy, the judicial inquiry into Gojra has not been made public.

The Gojra Report of Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman of the Lahore High Court and now chief justice of the Islamabad High Court, was completed back in October 2009. The independent judiciary should have acted to ensure the Report was at least made public, even if there were impediments in the immediate implementation of its recommendations. The continuing denial of equal rights, which amounts to denial of basic fundamental rights to our non-Muslim citizens, is a scar on the collective conscience of us Pakistani Muslims.

Since we are discussing Gojra, let us see what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), said of Christians. In 628 CE, the Exalted Messenger of Universal Mercy (PBUH) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of the St. Catherine Monastery in Mount Sinai. As Muslims we are bound by the sacred Covenant. An English translation of the document by Dr A Zahoor and Dr Z Haq reads:

"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a Covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far. We are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and, by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

"No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's Covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

"No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the Covenant till the Last Day."

The Charter of Privileges should be made law and, ideally, be included in any future constitutional amendment and must enjoy constitutional protection. This will go a long way in protecting Pakistan's religious minorities. Moreover, it will give meaning to Aug 11 and serve as a reminder to the majority Muslim population of Pakistan of their responsibility to protect Pakistanis who follow other religions. Only then will the ghosts of Gojra be buried.

The writer blogs at Email:









AFTER the passage of constitutional 18th amendment when NWFP was renamed as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, people of Hazara launched a movement for creation of a separate province for them. Since then demands are being made by all ethnic groups for separate provinces for them and there is no end to it.

While there were proposals for the creation of Hazara, Saraiki and Bahawalpur provinces, ANP has come out with its own demand for a separate province of Southern Pakhtunkhwa for the Pakhtuns living in Balochistan and giving representation to FATA in KP Assembly. Provincial President of ANP Senator Afrasiab Khattak speaking at a Party meeting on Tuesday went further by saying that Pakhtuns across the country were one nation and no one can divide them through their separate geographical positions. With general elections only one and a half years away, there would be more demands for new provinces as political parties consider it a tool to gain popularity among the people. But in our opinion it would not be politically and financially advisable to create as much provinces as being demanded. Provinces or smaller units are created to ensure better governance and provide facilities to the people nearest to their homes. However acceding to the demands for provinces on ethnic or linguistic basis would be suicidal for the country and in no case be accepted by the political leadership of the country whether in government or outside because that would lead to further linguistic gulf in the country and weaken our national unity. In fact nowhere in the world administrative units are formed on linguistic or sectarian basis. The politicians who are in the forefront in raising such demands must also do some soul searching to the dangers that lay ahead. In addition the country would not be able to meet the heavy financial burden with the establishment of new provinces. There would not be just more Governors and Chief Ministers but entire new administrative set ups that would eat out all the resources and nothing would be left for development purposes. Already the country is facing major financial crisis due to heavy non-development expenditure and additional provinces burden would be unbearable. We would therefore stress that national interests should be priority and it is time that politicians should sit together and decide about the new provinces rather than making it an election issue.








WITH no significant discovery of oil and gas in the country over the past few years and the already explored reserves depleting fast, the authorities are frantically making efforts to manage the ever increasing gas demand. After two days a week load-shedding in winter and three days a week in the ongoing summer, there are reports that the Government is now considering for a drastic five-day gas cut for CNG sector.

According to reports in the media the government might ultimately be forced to stop gas supplies to the transport sector. These measures were discussed by a special ministerial committee on load-shedding chaired by the Finance Minister and attended by concerned Minister and officials. We think that the energy crisis, which has already impacted the national economy adversely, is going to create a major upheaval. CNG dealers and transporters are already protesting over the shortage and increasing tariffs of gas and with their heavy investment they would not accept the decision to shut down this sector altogether. We have been emphasising in these columns for the last several years that the country would be in difficulty if timely steps were not taken for the import of gas from Iran, Turkmenistan and Qatar. Turkmenistan is desperately seeking markets for its huge gas deposits in Daultabad gas field close to Afghan border with a capacity of exporting 230 billion cms a year. Similarly Iran has repeatedly stated that it was ready to meet Pakistan's gas and electricity demand. However for one reason or the other, the three gas import projects are not being implemented with the required degree of urgency. Apparently the successive governments did not give due importance to the future needs of the country and today we are in a situation where the entire energy supply system could collapse. There is only routine oil and gas exploration in the country and no extra ordinary efforts have been made to exploit the potential in Balochistan which has vast gas reserves if the already discovered fields are a guide. The reason for lack of exploration in Balochistan is law and order which needs to be addressed on urgent basis by holding talks with the disgruntled elements and assuring due return to the land owners and the provincial government if a discovery is made. We hope that the Government would give serious considerations to the energy crisis on a top priority basis as any further CNG supply cuts would be suicidal for the country and the system.








RIOTERS went on the rampage in Britain for a fourth night on Tuesday as central Manchester, Birmingham and Salford saw serious looting and disorder and gangs waged running battles with police. Groups of young people consistently evaded police attempts to stop them, breaking into a series of upmarket shops and setting a branch of the clothing chain ablaze.

The riots point to the wider unrest among the youth in Britain lacking opportunity and angry at the system. The rioters showed some of the same characteristics as the pro democracy demonstrators in the Middle East to which the western countries called "Arab Spring". While the Middle East demonstrators marched in the hope of change in the government and system, the Britain's violence has been almost nihilist, focused on looting. The riots in Britain is an indication that the youths in West were desperate because of non fulfilment of their genuine desires and needs and there is a danger that the on going financial crisis may create further desperation among a whole generation of young people and engulf the entire West. The West invested resources and time in building and launching movements in several Arab countries but paid no attention to the changes in the minds of their own youths. Today it happened in UK and tomorrow similar incidents could be in some other western countries. The unfortunate incident of Norway should also serve as a reminder to the west as to what could happen to them if they continued interference in the affairs of other countries ignoring that the volcano may be about ready to erupt in their own countries.








Although politicians are apparently respecting independence of judiciary, but the past couple of weeks have been a testing time for democracy in Pakistan. The politicians and political parties have a checkered history of relations with other democratic institutions (judiciary, executive and lawmakers) in a trichotomy of power. By tweaking the media and using photo-ops with military and judiciary, PPP is trying to bluff people and the West that democracy is safe. However, behind this veneer it is struggling to work in harmony with democratic institutions and state itself. In a democracy, judiciary, civil and military establishments representing state, allows ruling political party to run routine affairs of the country as per its party manifesto. However, demands for protecting authority of chief executive and failure to show equal respect for other state institutions are hypocritical. It is a threat to democracy, democratic institutions and the state. There is a need to get rid of this culture of double standards to boost democracy in Pakistan.

The selective use of constitutional provision (article 245) of military acting in aid of civil power (AACP), in aid of judiciary (article 190) and establishment (ESTA Code) is weakening democracy. Historically speaking, armed forces have only been executing government's AACP demands and ignoring calls to act in aid of Supreme Court. Similarly, chief executives, judiciary and military establishment have failed to protect rights of civil servants spelled out in ESTA Code. In a trichotomy of power, a true democracy can only build up if all concerned are willing to respect Constitutional and legal rights of each other.

PPP needs to understand that democracy gives it 33 percent share of in the power trichotomy while the remaining 67 lies with state including judiciary, lawmakers and establishment. The constitution recognizes courts power of judicial review, makes judiciary superior to executive and the lawmakers, and acknowledges judiciary as the only authority to interpret the Constitution. PM and PPP must respect constitution and execute orders of judiciary to make democracy strong. There is a link between doctrine of necessity, resignation of governments and democracy. Judiciary, politicians and civil society are saying that due to changes in the constitution, doctrine of necessity and dictatorships have ended. It is a positive development but Pakistan needs culture of resignations to make democracy accountable. In advanced countries, resignations are a symbol of accountability and acceptance of failures. Pakistan must end use of military and civil force to quash political protests. Governments use force to avoid political accountability, avoid resignations, stymies opposition's democratic right to bring in-house change and weaken system of 'checks and balances' in a democracy. They are important parts of democracy. Thus, strength of democracy and end of doctrine of necessity in Pakistan is directly proportional to government's willingness to resign for its failures to serve democracy, be willing to be held accountable by the state, and avoid using military to save itself from a political mess.

Outrageous tactics are being used in Karachi to repress the public seeking their right to life, work and security. Army's top brass is right in showing concern over the law and order situation in Karachi and its ramifications and implications on the country's economy. Country has witnessed shameless display of politics of resignations for vested stakes. It has eroded public's trust in sanctity of vote, office holders, lawmakers, state and democracy. Resignations have timelines; they are not and cannot be open-ended. The resignation and return of Governor Sindh merits legal scrutiny and accountability. The undoing of commissioner system with an ordinance, alleged non-existence of rules for opposition in Sindh Assembly and target killings in Karachi are an affront to democracy. Commissioner system should be restored. The election system allowing continuation of dynastic controls on political parties, nepotism and lack of transparency are destroying country's politics and faith of public in politics. All this merits to be addressed by all concerned including State, Supreme Court and Election Commission to restore writ of the state and bolster democracy.

Judiciary needs to be expanded and strengthened to reinforce democracy at the grassroots. Reportedly, the number of courts has not increased in Pakistan since its independence. Pakistan needs to quadruple the existing number of courts and make sure that at least there is one court next to every police station, school, hospital and local market to dispense justice to the public. The judges and magistrates by visiting the next-door police stations daily can end torture, corruption and dispense justice. In addition to increasing courts, China is sending mobile courts in far-flung areas of the country to settle minor cases of divorce, property and violence. They work in local schools or town halls on weekends. No democracy can serve its people or grow stronger unless it is ready to ensure justice and support independent judiciary.

Professional policing lies at the heart of strong democracy and a state. The UK riots have once again shown that independent police is a threat to state and democracy. British police has failed to discharge basic professional duties, win trust of the community and protect taxpayers. It has exposed failures of self-monitoring and shown the need of control of deputy commissioner to ensure professional capabilities and physical fitness of police. The News of the World scandal has already exposed police corruption of UK police. Police has to be present on the street and fight crime to win trust of the public unlike British and Pakistani police which are only serving ruling elite and riding gaudy vehicles. Pakistan needs to return police under district magistrate, bring them on streets to fight crime, depoliticize it, and make it accountable to law of the land and state and serve the public.

Pakistan should have an independent foreign policy to build up democracy. Pakistan should develop Asia policy to protect its economic and geo-strategic interests. Eighty-four percent Pakistanis oppose Afghan strategy, America's so-called war against terrorism (SWAT) and minimize contact with America. They want to have strong relations on equal terms in the region including China. Islamabad should make Asia policy to save Gwadar which at the center of Indo-US Asia policy to control energy and trade corridors in the region. The buildup in Strait of Malacca, Vietnam's offer to India to set up a naval base in South China Sea and Japan's release of 'China threat theory' have increased the importance of Gwadar. It gives China a shortcut of 11,000 to 13000 kms. China produces 6002 million tons of steel annually as compared to India's 62 million. China is importing most of the raw material. Pakistan can earn $400-600 bn annually by making transport corridors of eight to ten lane/track high-speed rail/road. The calculations based on freight charges and toll income from Karachi to Peshawar show potential income. It explains destruction of Pakistan railway and demands for its privatization.

Under its Asia policy, Islamabad should immediately secure Balochistan to protect national interests. The media reports of 'US prepares for worst case scenario with Pak nukes', anti-Pakistan Kerry-Lugar bill, choking of energy sector and US brokered anti Pakistan Afghan Trade agreement are pressures to force Pakistan to become part of Indo-US anti-Asia policy. Balochistan is being turned into Sinai to protect west's interests. As part of Indo-US policy, Washington insists on befriending Pakistan; Mullen finds Balochistan important and US Pakistan mission wants to open a consulate in Quetta.

Islamabad should relocate 20-30 million Pakistanis to Balochistan to secure control of 46% landmass of the country, help employ 7 million locals by generating jobs with help of domestic growth based economy to secure national economic and security interests. Thus, an independent foreign policy and strong economy will fortify democracy. Finally, ruling elite is riding in shining cars. The taxpayers expect the same glowing standards of democracy and accountability from them.







London burnt all night on 8/8 and I inhaled a lot of smoke that billowed from a Croydon furniture store that was established in the Victorian times and fed five generations. Many of the shops that I used to pass by almost daily are no longer there. They have been gutted to ground in the fires that were raged by criminals – some so young that they might evade legal action. Images of loot and plunder, of thuggery and thievery will haunt us all for a long time. The cacophonous reaction from the police, the politicians and the public will also feed the electronic airwaves and newspaper columns for days but will it solve the underlying malaise that is impacting the contemporary British society? Questions are far too many and answers are scant.

What happened to London and Londoners on 8/8 is frightening but what may follow could be a nightmare. Images of that nightmare were witnessed in Dalston and Upton Park where local businessmen and shopkeepers – mostly ethnic migrants — stood outside their shops armed with metal bars or baseball bats ready to engage the looters. They think police only arrives after the incident. "Police don't stop the criminals so we have to, to protect our businesses ourselves," a Green Street goldsmith told me. Fear is heightened among ethnic communities. They rightly or wrongly fear that times ahead would be far more testing for them. "It happens whenever this country is facing economic downturn," a retailer said who has lived in Britain for over 40 years. "I've spent more of my life in London than the country of my birth but somehow I am made to feel every day this is not country."

These fears may not be wholly justified but they are being talked about. People removed their cars for the first time from their drives into garages to avoid arson. Many shopkeepers kept their business shut for the first time in years lest they become victim of a wanton attack. Weeks will be needed to count the total costs of losses but initial estimates say they would run into many millions of pounds. Hundreds of people have been rendered homeless after fires burnt down their flats. Thousands will have to wait for days to know when they could start their job, as businesses would take time to reopen.

Banks, ATMs, technology stores and retail outlets were the primary targets clearly explaining whom the looters were — gangs of young men, women, boys and girls. Societal or peer pressure is crippling the youth to showcase latest gadgetry and fashion accessories even if possession is through looting and stealing. Social deprivation, boredom, unemployment, recession are just the buzzwords to hide from owning responsibility. The so-called community workers or youth leaders who have been telling the world through their television interviews how lonely and unrepresented the British youth is largely bull. There are millions of Britons who are going through worst economic hardship but they don't get up one morning and embark on a looting rampage. There are thousands upon thousands of young boys and girls who know their parents can't afford to buy them the latest Apples or Blackberrys. They may sulk but don't form stealing gangs for illegal gain.

British society has been allowed to wither away in the name of too much freedom and too many liberties. We live in times where parents are afraid of their progeny; teachers are scared of who they taught; police are pelted with bricks and missiles; essential services heroes are stoned; and the state shies away from establishing its writ.

The politicians may have returned from their cushy holidays to issue statements of little consequence. Claims that the culprits will have to face the law sound like a joke. British politicians today were sounding exactly like their Third World counterparts – promising what is hard to deliver. Will the Parliament change the existing laws and name, shame and incarcerate the proverbial under-age criminals. Calling the Army into civilian areas or arming police with water canons or permitting them to resort to rubber bullets will only make the offenders disappear for a while. It will not eliminate them. It will only heighten their sense of thrill and criminal engagement.

Who will tame the hordes of young boys and girls from broken families in a society where unschooled teenagers are producing children and expecting the state to take care of them? Figures on absent fathers and teenage mothers might not be mind boggling for many; they nonetheless reveal a trend where the society is heading. The last figures by the British Crime Survey revealed more than one house break-ins every minute. A government of Oxbridge yuppies, many say, can only talk about problems. Solving the same is beyond their capacity. Talking heads and political commentators seem more concerned about London and its image ahead of 2012 Olympics. My fear if what if people started taking law into their own hands and in a future rampage rally. What would happen if people died in those skirmishes? London might be the most cosmopolitan metropolis in the world but some of its districts are problem pits. Relations between communities can get nasty if not dealt sensibly.

Since there is no sense in what we saw this week, similar senselessness on racial lines can make matters much worse. Throwing more police on London streets will make many others towns vulnerable. The societal malaise will not go away with cosmetic posturing. Government needs to get tough with its citizens in a day-to-day life too. If citizens are allowed to live their lives by their own rules then they start taking the state lightly. Britain today can't afford living on the edge. The youth need to be tackled before they become hardened criminals. It is not enough to ask parents to keep their young ones inside; other stake holders will have to be given those powers back which they historically enjoyed. After all Britain once ruled the world. There must have been something different in those schools, classrooms, teachers and parents that is lacking today.

—The writer is a London-based journalist of Pakistani origin and an experienced political analyst of international repute.









Nimrod (Namrud) ruled over Babylon with absolute might and power, the pelf of which drove him to command people to worship him as their divine Lord. His Royal astrologer however predicted his downfall at the hands of a mere common from his subjects who would not only challenge his authority but also rise as a formidable tide against idolatry. Thus blissfully ignorant of the ways of Allah, a frenzied Namrud embarked on an unnatural strategy of separating all men and women in his kingdom, to ensure that no such child was ever conceived. Azar's wife retreated to the loneliness of the Babylonian hills and it was there that Abraham (Prophet Ibrahim) was born in a cave. His sustenance descended from Allah and thirteen years later he returned into the city and took apprenticeship with a master sculptor, his own father Azar.

"They said, build him a furnace and throw him into the blazing fire!" (39:97). Abraham was cast into the fire for defying idol worship, but the flames cooled by divine ordinance. "We said O fire! Be then cool and means of safety for Abraham." (21:69)"This failing they then sought a stratagem against him." (39:98).Interpreting the verse, (39:97-98), Allama Yousuf Ali says, "The argument of Abraham was so strong that it could not be met by argument. In such cases evil resorts to violence and, or secret plotting. Here there were both, violence consisted throwing him into the fire – a blazing furnace. But by the mercy of Allah, the fire did not harm him so they resorted to plotting. But even the plotting was a boomerang that recoiled on their hands."

Other than Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh), Hazrat Ibrahim is the only other prophet whose Sunnat is enjoined upon Muslims in the Holy Quran. This is indeed a unique honour. Not surprisingly then Hazrat Ibrahim is the father of the doctrine of monotheism and was mentioned to Hazrat Muhammad in the early Meccan Sura Al-Nahl: "Abraham was an exemplar, obedient to Allah, upright (Hanif)…..""Then we revealed to thee: follow the faith (milla) of Abraham, the upright one (Hanif) and he was not of the polytheists." (16:120-123). And again to a Sura belonging to the last Meccan period: "My Lord has guided me to the right path, to a most right religion, the faith (milla) of Abraham, the upright one (Hanif) and was not of the polytheists." (6:162) .

The legacy that Abraham too left for his progeny was one of monotheism. Abraham's unflinching faith in Allah is mentioned in Surah Al-Baqr, Ayat 131, "Behold! His Lord said to him: Bow, (thy will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the universe." Hazrat Ibrahim made a moving supplication to Allah: "O! My Lord bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous; grant me an honourable on the tongue of truth, among the latest generations." (19:83-84). Haj the pillar of Islam in indeed the manifestation of the acceptance of Hazrat Ibrahim's prayers. Hajj and all its rites are a continuum of Abrahamic traditions. "And then we assigned to Abraham the place of the House, saying , do not set up ought with me, and purify My House for those who make the circuit, and who stand to pray and who bow and prostrate themselves. And proclaim among men, the Hajj…" (22:26-27)

Historical data suggests that the concept of Hajj existed even before Abraham but the Hajj in its true spirit evolved from the authority of Abraham. Hazrat Ibrahim was divinely ordained to not only rebuild the Kaaba and purge it of idols but also to institute Hajj. In Sura Al-Baqra (2:125) the Holy Quran states, "Remember We made the house, a place of Assembly for men and a place of safety…". Later in the same verse, "We covenanted with Abraham and Ismail that they should sanctify My House…." This establishes that the Kaaba stood as a building even before Abraham and that he rebuilt is along with his son. "..and remember Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the house (with this prayer): Our Lord accept (this service) from us.." (2:127) In Sura Al-Baqra, from Ayat 196 to 203, the various rites of Hajj are described for the pilgrims to complete. The principal rites are: (i) wearing of the Ehram from certain fixed points on all roads leading to Mecca. As soon as the Ehram is adorned by the pilgrim, the prohibitive conditions come into operation and the pilgrim is now committed to the worship of Allah and must refrain from all worldly varieties. (ii) Circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba seven times, typifying activity by kissing the Hajra Aswad. (iii) a short prayer at the station of Hazrat Ibrahim (2:215) and then running between Mt.Safa and Mt.Marwa (2:158) symbolizing the patience and perseverance of Hazrat Hajra.(iv) listening to the great sermon of Hajj.(v) the visit to the valley of Mina and the hill of Arafat , where all pilgrims stand on their feet from noon to sunset and invoke blessings of the Almighty. (vi) 10th Zilhaj, Eid Day –sacrifice of animals is performed in the valley of Mina. The National Geographic in its November 1978 issue carried an article of Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf, Director Islamic Centre, Washington, where he comments on this remarkable emotional drive in Muslims: "what is it that impels the Muslims to make this journey involving great sacrifice, hardship and cost, and doing so ardently and lovingly?". He answers it himself: "we each carry within our heart a divine element. Torn from the womb of existence and ushered, crying into this world, we spend all our energies in the pursuit of a state of happiness. This restless, incessant drive is no more than that divine element within us seeking its origin."

The purpose of Hajj is to attain spiritual loftiness. ".. and make a provision with you for the journey. But the best of provisions is the right conduct…." (2:197). Pilgrims are expected to be self-sufficient and not resort to begging. It should be noted that in the above verse Allah reminds us to move away from a physical state to a more spiritual awareness. The best provision is fear of Allah. Between 8th, 9th and 10th of Zil Hajjah , all rites are performed by pilgrims. The Hajis leave the gates of Mecca with prayers, "repentant and devoted to the service of Allah, we now return home and bow in humility and gratitude to Him." Each pilgrim's heart thunders in prayer "O! Allah let this not be the last time we pray before the Kaaba."







For years it was assumed that economic sanctions and diplomacy would produce a pliable negotiating partner in Iran. But Iran's truculence has effectively undermined the once-popular notion, while a degree of confusion and consternation has gripped the international community. The often-unstated hope is that denial of critical technologies and sabotage can slow the Islamic republic's nuclear program until, somehow, an alternative strategy, or an agreement, emerges. The thinking has been that time is on our side and that Iran's weak scientific foundation can be further derailed through such pressure. Contrary to such presumptions, however, Iran's scientific infrastructure has grown in sophistication and capability in the past two decades.

Iran is an outlier in the history of proliferation; nearly every middle power that obtained the bomb has had substantial assistance from an external patron. China acquired from the Soviet Union not just technical advice but also the means of building a nuclear reactor, weapon designs and a supply of ballistic missiles. China in turn provided Pakistan sufficient enriched uranium for two bombs, helped with the construction of its enrichment facility and plutonium reactors, and furnished bomb designs. Israel received from France a nuclear reactor, an underground plutonium reprocessing plant and weapon designs. India, which has long claimed its nuclear program as an indigenous accomplishment, conveniently leaves out the fact that it received a nuclear reactor from Canada and 20 tons of heavy water from the United States. Isolated and ostracized, South Africa came closest to Iran's predicament, as it had to rely largely on internal resources for constructing the bomb; but it did receive from Israel tritium, which is critical for the explosion of thermonuclear weapons.

Although Iran received Russian assistance for completion of a light-water reactor that cannot be misused for weapons purposes, and, more ominously, rudimentary centrifuges from Pakistan, Tehran never enjoyed the type of external patronage that other proliferators garnered. Moreover, no other state has confronted such systematic attempts to place stress on its nuclear program through denial of technology and computer virus penetration. (Indeed, if Pakistan and Israel had faced the obstacles confronting Iran, their paths to the bomb would have taken much longer.) That Iran has crossed successive technical thresholds, has managed to sustain an elaborate and growing enrichment network, and is about to unveil a new generation of centrifuges are all indications of its scientific acumen.

What made this possible? The 1980s were a calamitous decade for science in Iran as a revolutionary assault on the universities and the prolonged war with Iraq deprived the educational sector of funds and state support. But this changed in the 1990s, despite sanctions and export controls that were imposed on Iran after the 1979 revolution, as the political elite — conservatives and reformers — sought to revive scientific research. New organizations such as the Zanjan Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences and the Institute for Theoretical Physics and Mathematics were created; old institutions such as Sharif University of Technology were revived.

The Atomic Energy Organization, which was protected by Hashemi Rafsanjani even in the heady days of revolutionary turmoil, enjoyed a new management team and greater state allocations. In a country where politics is often a blood sport, reformers and reactionaries have found common ground in their commitment to scientific development. The results have been impressive: The number of scientific papers produced by Iranian scholars in internationally recognized journals has increased dramatically, while many universities have sufficient resources and faculty expertise to offer their own doctoral programs.

Rather than suffering shortfalls or inhibitions from curtailed funding as a result of sanctions, the state has proved a generous patron of sciences. Iran's scientists have emerged as strong nationalists determined to transcend fractious politics and provide their country the full spectrum of technological discovery, including advances in nuclear science. Iran's pariah status has ironically engendered an esprit de corps within its scientific community. Researchers resent being shunned by their international colleagues, are annoyed at being excluded from collaborative efforts with Western centres of learning and are angered at the targeted killing of their colleagues. In today's Iran, rulers and scientists have crafted a national compact whereby the state provides the resources while the scientists furnish their expertise. A dedicated corps of scientific nationalists is committed to providing its country with the capacity to reach the height of technological achievement and, in the process, provide the mullahs with the means of building the bomb.

Exact estimates vary, but in the next few years Iran will be in position to detonate a nuclear device. An aggressive theocracy armed with the bomb will cast a dangerous shadow over the region's political transition, but the consequences will not be limited to the Middle East. An Iranian bomb is likely to unleash the most divisive partisan discord in this country since the 1949 debate about who lost China. In the end, neither the turbulent Mideast order nor the partisan politics of Washington can afford an Islamic Republic armed with nuclear weapons. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. — Courtesy: The Japan Times


MQM blames PPP for the killing of 300 innocent people in Karachi in the month of July. People were targeted in their homes in various Mohajir colonies and in random firing by armed hooligans day and night. Amazingly the federal as well as the provincial governments both looked the other way and did nothing to stop the carnage. When the media reported extensively as the dead bodies were carted in large numbers to hospitals and the families of the dead were crying and tearing their hair and beating their breasts on the TV screens day and night, the government got frightened and the prime minister, who had kept himself aloof and had not spoken a word on the woes of Karachi flew to the city but didn't do much except making a few vague statements.

The MQM leader Farooq Sattar made a highly emotional speech in the National Assembly blaming PPP for hatching an ugly conspiracy to steal its mandate in the next general elections through violence in Karachi. He alleged that the ruling party had persistently been creating a nexus with terrorist groups in the city since November 2008. Mr. Sattar defended Altaf Hussain's call for the deployment of the armed forces in Karachi to curb the terrorism and mass killing of Mohajirs. He also called for judicial probe in the sudden eruption of target killings in the city. Mr Sattar demanded compensation for the dependents of those killed by the terrorists. He submitted a list of 500 alleged terrorists.

This was followed by a no holds barred telephonic address to the Mohajir community by Altaf Hussain. He even had to apologize for some objectionable remarks about Sindhis. It is however surprising that with all this sound and fury by the MQM leaders Governor Ishrat ul Ibad Khan who had returned to Karachi to resume his duties, was secretly negotiating with President Zardari for the return of MQM to the fold of the PPP government. It has now been reported that a deal has been clinched between Governor Ishrat ul Ibad and Baber Awan to return to old LG system in Sindh and MQM is poised to join the PPP government any time soon.

One wonders what happened to those hundreds who lost their lives on the streets of Karachi. What happened to their families? What about compensation for the families of those who were killed in the "dark alleys" of Karachi. What had they done? What was their crime, except their allegiance to MQM? Altaf Hussain has declared that MQM will support the Government in its sincere effort for durable peace in Karachi. He said that his party always gave preference to the interest of the country and it will continue to work for the collective good of the nation. Well said indeed! But this time his credibility has been eroded so much that his followers may not believe his word easily. It may be recalled that when he pulled out of the government, members of the PPP government were saying openly that Altaf Bhai will rejoin the Government pretty soon as he did twice before. They were right!

After a few weeks the Sindh government reverted to the City District Government system in Karachi and poor Commissioners who were installed recently were reverted to their old positions. MQM, which was unhappy about the restoration of Comissionerate System, was overjoyed with its victory forgetting all about the 300 deaths of innocent people in three months, their destitute families and their "yateem" children. Only the Awami National party; which has some representation in the Sindh Assembly was unhappy, not because of Mohajir deaths, but because they were not consulted. The ANP leader Shahi Syed expressed the view that reversion to the local government system is an attempt to create an ethnic division in the province.All said and done MQM will return to power with PPP and enjoy their ministries with all their perks. The recent killings will be forgotten as soon as MQM ministers start attending office, although the sporadic killings still continue in the city and innocent people are still dying on the roads of Karachi.

Here I am reminded of a poem of Faiz Ahmad Faiz quoted below: Hum jo tareek rahon main maare gaye, Daar ki khusk tehni pe waare gaye, Lab pe harfay ghazal, dil main qandeel-e-gham, Hum chaley aaey, laey jahan tak qadam, Qatl gaahon se chun kar hamarey alam, Aur nikleinge ushaaq ke qaafle.








For years it was assumed that economic sanctions and diplomacy would produce a pliable negotiating partner in Iran. But Iran's truculence has effectively undermined the once-popular notion, while a degree of confusion and consternation has gripped the international community. The often-unstated hope is that denial of critical technologies and sabotage can slow the Islamic republic's nuclear program until, somehow, an alternative strategy, or an agreement, emerges. The thinking has been that time is on our side and that Iran's weak scientific foundation can be further derailed through such pressure. Contrary to such presumptions, however, Iran's scientific infrastructure has grown in sophistication and capability in the past two decades.

Iran is an outlier in the history of proliferation; nearly every middle power that obtained the bomb has had substantial assistance from an external patron. China acquired from the Soviet Union not just technical advice but also the means of building a nuclear reactor, weapon designs and a supply of ballistic missiles. China in turn provided Pakistan sufficient enriched uranium for two bombs, helped with the construction of its enrichment facility and plutonium reactors, and furnished bomb designs. Israel received from France a nuclear reactor, an underground plutonium reprocessing plant and weapon designs. India, which has long claimed its nuclear program as an indigenous accomplishment, conveniently leaves out the fact that it received a nuclear reactor from Canada and 20 tons of heavy water from the United States. Isolated and ostracized, South Africa came closest to Iran's predicament, as it had to rely largely on internal resources for constructing the bomb; but it did receive from Israel tritium, which is critical for the explosion of thermonuclear weapons.

Although Iran received Russian assistance for completion of a light-water reactor that cannot be misused for weapons purposes, and, more ominously, rudimentary centrifuges from Pakistan, Tehran never enjoyed the type of external patronage that other proliferators garnered. Moreover, no other state has confronted such systematic attempts to place stress on its nuclear program through denial of technology and computer virus penetration. (Indeed, if Pakistan and Israel had faced the obstacles confronting Iran, their paths to the bomb would have taken much longer.) That Iran has crossed successive technical thresholds, has managed to sustain an elaborate and growing enrichment network, and is about to unveil a new generation of centrifuges are all indications of its scientific acumen.

What made this possible? The 1980s were a calamitous decade for science in Iran as a revolutionary assault on the universities and the prolonged war with Iraq deprived the educational sector of funds and state support. But this changed in the 1990s, despite sanctions and export controls that were imposed on Iran after the 1979 revolution, as the political elite — conservatives and reformers — sought to revive scientific research. New organizations such as the Zanjan Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences and the Institute for Theoretical Physics and Mathematics were created; old institutions such as Sharif University of Technology were revived.

The Atomic Energy Organization, which was protected by Hashemi Rafsanjani even in the heady days of revolutionary turmoil, enjoyed a new management team and greater state allocations. In a country where politics is often a blood sport, reformers and reactionaries have found common ground in their commitment to scientific development. The results have been impressive: The number of scientific papers produced by Iranian scholars in internationally recognized journals has increased dramatically, while many universities have sufficient resources and faculty expertise to offer their own doctoral programs.

Rather than suffering shortfalls or inhibitions from curtailed funding as a result of sanctions, the state has proved a generous patron of sciences. Iran's scientists have emerged as strong nationalists determined to transcend fractious politics and provide their country the full spectrum of technological discovery, including advances in nuclear science. Iran's pariah status has ironically engendered an esprit de corps within its scientific community. Researchers resent being shunned by their international colleagues, are annoyed at being excluded from collaborative efforts with Western centres of learning and are angered at the targeted killing of their colleagues. In today's Iran, rulers and scientists have crafted a national compact whereby the state provides the resources while the scientists furnish their expertise. A dedicated corps of scientific nationalists is committed to providing its country with the capacity to reach the height of technological achievement and, in the process, provide the mullahs with the means of building the bomb.

Exact estimates vary, but in the next few years Iran will be in position to detonate a nuclear device. An aggressive theocracy armed with the bomb will cast a dangerous shadow over the region's political transition, but the consequences will not be limited to the Middle East. An Iranian bomb is likely to unleash the most divisive partisan discord in this country since the 1949 debate about who lost China. In the end, neither the turbulent Mideast order nor the partisan politics of Washington can afford an Islamic Republic armed with nuclear weapons. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. — Courtesy: The Japan Times







MONEY can't buy happiness, but it can help buy a life for disabled people and the families who care for them. Which is why the National Disability Insurance Scheme outlined yesterday makes sense and has been accepted in principle by both sides of politics.

A prosperous society like ours can do better than the fragmented and often inadequate systems in place at present to help the disabled. As Bill Shorten, Assistant Treasurer and the man who has championed the idea for the past three years, said yesterday: "There are four pillars which assure the quality of Australian life for all -- the minimum wage, the age pension, compulsory superannuation and Medicare. The NDIS has the potential to be the missing fifth pillar."

The Productivity Commission report shows Australia how to move from a system of rationed benefits to one based on the right to access a universal insurance scheme. Everyone would be insured and about 410,000 people would receive funding support. The proposal acknowledges disability is a tragedy for individuals and their families, but it is also a community responsibility. It strikes a balance between private and public effort and offers a lifeline for the army of unpaid carers who in recent decades, as institutions have closed, have been left to manage as best they can behind the doors of their own homes. The proposal has the added bonus of freeing up unpaid carers for work outside the home, adding to national productivity.

Along with a no-fault National Injury Insurance Scheme for those who suffer catastrophic injury, such as major brain or spinal cord injuries, the NDIS would save many victims from the costly process of trying to sue for damages. Universal insurance, based on an actuarial assessment of the needs of a disabled person, would bring an end to the disproportionate court judgments that see some people awarded huge payouts while most other disabled people struggle to find someone to sue. It should bring an end to the "lawyers' picnic" that sees local councils risk being sued for a surfing accident, for example.

An NDIS does not come cheaply; at $13.5 billion a year, it will almost double present state and federal funding. The Gillard government agrees we need an NDIS, but has wisely appointed two new committees to chart the path forward. The government will have to find an extra $6.5bn a year, but the bipartisan support and the widespread community recognition of the need for a better deal for the disabled and their families is a positive. The commission's preference is for a federal scheme with the states relieved of their spending and the extra money coming from consolidated revenue. Funding would be locked into legislation to protect the scheme from the vagaries of annual federal budgets. The commission suggests the extra money come from cuts in other areas, fiscal drag or tax increases. It includes the option of a hypothecated tax or levy, but it is lukewarm on this mechanism.

It also outlines an alternative model for state and federal governments to pool funding, although it prefers the federal model. That idea could face the usual hurdles from some states; the West Australian government says it will not hand over responsibility to Canberra and the other states may baulk at a suggestion they cut indirect taxes as part of the trade-off with the commonwealth. It will take time to work through these issues, but the commission has fashioned a scheme that avoids a central bureaucracy and outsources delivery to business,

not-for-profits, disability service organisations and state and territory providers. The timetable for implementation is realistic, with a gradual rollout over five years from mid-2014. The scheme is big on choice, with disabled people able to build their own bundle of services.

The speed with which the NDIS has moved from a good idea to in-principle policy is remarkable. Credit goes especially to two people -- Bruce Bonyhady, the president of Philanthropy Australia, who raised the idea at the Rudd government's 2020 Summit in 2008 and then worked with advocates, parents and providers to push the issue with Labor, and Mr Shorten, who as parliamentary secretary for disability and children's services from 2007 to last year tirelessly lobbied his colleagues and promoted the cause in public. Combined with pressure from parents at breaking point, they moved disability from the margin to the centre of policy. This is "bottom-up" policy, driven by people in the frontline, but rigorously reviewed by the commission. There is more work to be done, but Australia has the chance to introduce a modern, rational and equitable scheme for the disabled.





IN the broad sweep of history, the realignment of economic power from the northern hemisphere to the developing world is more of a positive than a negative, although it poses serious, if not alarming challenges for developed nations.

Billions of people in China, India, Brazil and other growing economies have real opportunities to lift themselves out of centuries of poverty but will also need to grapple with problems such as environmental protection. But the day of reckoning has arrived in the West, especially in Europe and also in the US, after decades of building up excessive debt on the back of Japanese and Chinese savings. Fortunately, almost 30 years ago, Australia recognised the shift in global economic power under the Hawke-Keating governments, which modernised the economy so it was better positioned to link into Asian growth and compete globally.

Future Fund chairman David Murray nailed an uncomfortable truth yesterday about current global instability when he told ABC radio that when governments fall into excessive debt, they borrow growth from the future. This is why it could take 20 years for robust growth and normal patterns in financial markets to return. For all the attention focused on Standard & Poor's downgrading of the US's credit rating to AA+, the subsidy-ridden, museum-piece economies of Europe face far greater upheavals if they are to rebuild prosperity. In so far as they have mustered the political will to initiate austerity measures, governments in Spain (rated AA by S&P), Italy (A+), Portugal (BBB-) and Ireland (BBB+) have encountered surly resistance and destructive strikes from populations accustomed to generous feather-bedding, unproductive work practices and short hours. In Greece, with a CC credit rating and facing bankruptcy, last-ditch spending cuts drew violent protests, while broad public backlash against Prime Minister David Cameron's stringencies in Britain shows how difficult reform will be. Without it, however, Europe faces decades of poorer living standards that many will find unpalatable.

While recalcitrant Keynsians cling to the fantasy that politicians can continue to stave off serious economic reform, Australia and, to some extent, the US are more attuned to the real demands of the global economy. For all its populism, the Tea Party was a circuit-breaker in helping overcome the US government's addiction to debt. But compared with Europe, the US's flexible labour market, lower taxes, smaller government and economic diversity better equips it to restore growth. Faced with no real alternatives, George W. Bush and Barack Obama responded to the subprime crisis appropriately, steadying the ship by buying assets and equity from troubled financial institutions. Washington's one error was the inconsistency of saving Bear Stearns in March 2008 but not bailing out Lehman Brothers in September, prompting other investment banks to close down credit. As we have said before, the Rudd government responded swiftly and effectively to the GFC with early stimulus payments that hit the mark. Unfortunately, its school building program was excessive and not shovel-ready and failed to deliver the productive infrastructure the nation needs. Australia avoided recession, but the Building the Education Revolution program is still being rolled out, to the detriment of the budget bottom line.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating gave Australia a jump-start in the 1980s by making the nation more open and competitive. They prepared Australia well for prosperity in the Asian century by cutting protectionism, deregulating the financial system, initiating competition policy, supporting privatisation and embarking on labour market deregulation. That process, which was advanced to the benefit of workers and business by the Howard government, must be revisited. Like all of the developed world, we cannot maintain or improve living standards without lifting productivity by working and investing harder and smarter. As Europe has discovered, the era of cossetted economies built on debt is over. As David Murray says, Australia needs a significant reduction in government debt and policies to drive private sector investment and success.






WE have no particular truck with the American Tea Party but its members are right about one thing at least: the US is carrying too much debt. The Chinese leadership agrees, and so do the financial markets. Three years after the credit excesses that led to the global financial crisis, the globe has been hit with another financial reckoning and realignment of economic power. Whether or not it comes to be defined as the double-dip recession, the world faces the prospect of several years of bear markets and lowered expectations, especially in Europe.

The Tea Party forced Washington to the brink and has been unfairly blamed by some for the Standard & Poor's downgrade. But the impact of the lower rating on the US economy is more symbolic than real. It will make politicians there cautious about priming the economy but will not destroy profits or the entrepreneurial capitalism that will eventually pull America out of crisis.

The real debt disaster is in Europe, where the slide towards bankruptcy of several economies cannot be arrested without a massive reallocation of debt, with German taxpayers taking on the burden of their more profligate neighbours. Events in recent months have revealed the flaws in the common currency, with countries of such disparate economies locked together by a single exchange rate and unable to devalue and trade their way out of trouble. Every day brings evidence the eurozone faces economic and political challenges that are testing the bonds of the European project.

Australia, so much better placed than Europe and the US in terms of debt, jobs and growth, is not immune to the global realignment of economic power. Robust fundamentals will help us weather lower commodity prices and a bear market, but the speed with which the dollar dropped yesterday shows how we are locked into the rest of the world via China. A fall off in demand in struggling economies in Europe and the US means a slowing of Chinese exports, which in turn will slow our mineral exports. China pulled no punches when it admonished Washington for its debt "addiction" but there are two sides to this coin and Beijing will come under pressure over its own trade surplus with the US. China must move to a more balanced economy, stimulating domestic demand and allowing its currency to strengthen further. In Australia, Labor's economic credentials will be tested as it attempts to get the budget into the black in 2012-13. This is a problem of its own making, having spent about twice as much as needed to stimulate the economy during the GFC. The Australian named former prime minister Kevin Rudd as its 2009 Australian of the Year because Labor helped stave off a recession through its "cash splashes" in 2008 and 2009. But we consistently argued that our Keynesian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, overshot the mark with stimulus spending on schools and insulation, which added to the deficit and diverted capacity from private development. As Australians come to terms with a global slowdown, the Gillard government will be pressed to explain why it is increasing debt with a $36 billion expenditure on the National Broadband Network and at the same time adding to household bills with a carbon tax.






AMONG the shibboleths shaken by this week's market turmoil, faith in our system of superannuation should not be one. Yes, the past few weeks have been a blow for retirees and near-retirees with their money in shares. Even retirees who thought they were safe by keeping their money in cash now face lower interest rates should global turmoil force the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates.

Bitterness has grown and become targeted at Australia's two-decade-old system of superannuation, which forces employees to have 9 per cent of their income set aside in a super fund they can only access in retirement. Australians have amassed more than $1 trillion in superannuation savings this way; a sizeable, but fragile, nest egg for the nation. Super fund members inevitably lose some of this sum in fees. Now the latest market slump means a typical investment in a super fund has barely kept pace with inflation over the past decade.

But what is the alternative? Try as we might, humans have always struggled with the notion of postponing consumption today, to save for future consumption. Indeed, the historic lack of enforced savings means many senior Australians are left to eke out a living on the government pension. All Australians should aspire to a more comfortable level of retirement than that. Enforced savings help to keep savers on the straight and narrow.

The other reason for compulsory superannuation is to reduce the burden on the public purse from an ageing population. The budgetary pressure of providing a full pension for the demographic bulge of baby boomers now hitting retirement would seriously strain even Australia's relatively robust finances. Indeed, governments around the world are providing a very good demonstration of what happens when government revenue-raising fails to keep pace with spending. Such short-sightedness has not turned out well for them or the world economy. Indeed, the lack of savings in Europe and the US is arguably the underlying reason behind this week's turmoil.

A system of compulsory saving is admirable, but there are valid questions to be asked about the appropriate investment of these savings. Australians have typically assumed a ''she'll be right'' attitude to their super. The present turmoil is a reminder of the benefits of diversification and lifecycle investing. Most financial advisers agree that young people can afford to be in riskier asset classes such as shares, but those approaching retirement should move to safer, fixed-interest, investments.

This is the sort of week that should make us question everything, but not act in haste.






BRITAIN is not part of the troubled euro zone, and up to now seemed to be taking its own economic medicine after the global financial crisis with much more consensus than the US. Only three months ago it was basking in the sheer happiness of the royal wedding, with street parties and other forms of neighbourliness breaking out spontaneously all over.

Just as the political and business leaders were settling down to their summer holidays in ''Chiantishire'' (Tuscany) and other pleasant spots, however, an ugly dose of reality has intervened. Angered initially by the shooting death of an allegedly armed ''gangster'' during a police arrest, the underclass of London erupted in protest that quickly turned to riots and looting, copied in many other cities over four nights.

Many instant and quite predictable analyses have been made. The facilities that might have kept these youthful rioters engaged have been shut down. The police have been distant and overbearing (a left-liberal view) or alternatively, ''turned into social workers'' (a conservative one). It will take quite some study to discern any sociological pattern. The initial racial element has been diluted by the wide range of young people among the rioters. The victims of looting and burning include the entire ethnic spectrum of British society.

The police role does indeed need close scrutiny. The shooting is already subject of a coroner's inquest. Whether enough manpower and non-lethal weaponry were deployed early enough must be another matter for inquiry. As tough as it might have looked, it would have been far better than the opportunistic burning and looting of businesses and the criminal records that hundreds of young people will now add to their disadvantages. Now unprecedented numbers of police have had to be deployed, use of plastic bullets authorised on the British mainland for the first time, and even army units put on alert to assist police.

What can be safely suggested is that the rioters come from a strata of young people from broken families, broken schools and violent housing estates who are given no useful role in the modern post-industrial economy, and know it. In this Britain is far from alone. The deconstruction of blue-collar and clerical jobs, the concentration of wealth at the top, and the relentless pushing of consumerism are a volatile mix seen in many places. France had its riots six years ago by an element condemned by the then interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, as ''scum''. The phenomenon is far from unthinkable here.






FARCICAL scenes in a small Guangzhou courtroom this week have served as a reminder, if any were needed, that the modernisation of China is far from finished and that maintaining good relations with the emerging global superpower remains one of Australia's greatest foreign policy challenges.

In April, Premier Wen Jiabao personally assured Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Matthew Ng, an Australian entrepreneur facing charges including bribery and embezzlement over his business dealings in China, would receive an open trial. On Tuesday, China reneged. Officials at Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court went to extraordinary lengths to prevent members of Mr Ng's family and the media from attending the first day of proceedings. The hearing was relocated at the last minute from one of the biggest courtrooms to one of the smallest. Authorities ensured most of the seats were filled with representatives of Guangzhou Lingnan, the state-owned company that Mr Ng's supporters believe is the ''invisible hand'' behind his prosecution. When The Age approached one of the Lingnan officials, he refused to answer questions, saying in Chinese that he could not speak Chinese.

The Australian government's response was swift. Trade Minister Craig Emerson, leading an investment delegation in China, personally delivered a strongly worded protest to a leading member of the Politburo; Australia's new ambassador to Beijing, Frances Adamson, demanded a high-level audience with China's Foreign Ministry; and Australia's consul-general in Guangzhou, Grant Dooley, said: ''We think this sends a very negative message about the openness of the Chinese judicial system and also sends a negative message to the foreign business community doing business in China.''

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It is pleasing that Australia did not soften its words for fear of causing offence to the nation on whose economy this country increasingly depends. Commercial considerations should never be allowed to compromise Australia's commitment to its values.

The Chinese should take heed of the firm but friendly warning issued by Australia. It is more than 30 years since Deng Xiaoping launched China's quest to become a global power though the Four Modernisations, in industry, defence, agriculture, and science and technology. Progress has been stunning, but political reform remains the missing fifth modernisation. It cannot happen in the absence of an open and transparent justice system.






THEY knew. Two years before The Age reported allegations of bribery by Reserve Bank subsidiaries, senior officials kept in-house information about activities that have led to criminal charges. In 2007, senior bank officials on the board of wholly owned subsidiary Note Printing Australia saw documented evidence of bribery. Not until 2009, after Age reports involving half-owned subsidiary Securency, were those bribery allegations, but not the NPA matters, formally referred to police.

The Reserve Bank has long denied any prior knowledge of the bribery concerns. In the RBA's 2009 annual report, governor Glenn Stevens expressed confidence in its subsidiaries. In May 2009, when The Age inquired about the money trail, deputy governor Ric Battelino said: ''If this is happening, it is against all the policies and procedures that the RBA has put in place.'' But there was no ''if'' about the flouting of rules. Both companies intend to plead guilty to charges of bribing officials in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, covering a period from 2000 to 2006.

It is extraordinary that Reserve Bank subsidiaries, with RBA officials on their boards, should be the first companies charged under the 1999 foreign bribery laws. Australian Federal Police charged an eighth former executive yesterday. It is even more extraordinary that after The Age's reports on Securency, the bank did not hand over its reports on NPA's activities, which compelled the company to sack sales agents in 2007, until the AFP requested these.

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When the first charges were laid last month, Mr Stevens said: ''The Reserve Bank deeply regrets that the governance arrangements and processes in the companies at that time were not able to prevent or detect the alleged behaviour that has led to today's charges.''

Also open to question is testimony to a parliamentary committee in February when Mr Stevens suggested that the Age reports were the first anyone at the bank or on its board knew about any allegations of corrupt dealings. ''A question would be: is there any way that anyone in the RBA ever knew anything?'' he said. ''I am pretty sure the answer to that is no.'' But the answer is emphatically yes.

In May 2007, Mr Battelino and the NPA board, including four senior Reserve Bank members, saw evidence that sales agents had paid bribes to secure currency printing deals. The potential breach of Australian law was identified by the bank's chief auditor, who reported to the RBA board's audit committee, which Mr Battelino headed in 2007. Audit committee minutes are circulated to the board. Law firm Freehills was called in to assess evidence of offences.

The audit report and Freehills report were made available to police, at their request, only last year. Dubious practices had continued at Securency - which shared several board members with NPA - for another 2½ years. Had the Securency revelations not triggered a police investigation, NPA may well have avoided scrutiny and charges.

The Age has called for an inquiry since 2009. The major parties shut down attempts to launch a Senate inquiry and may not welcome scrutiny of events that happened under both Coalition and Labor governments. The AWB scandal was politically embarrassing, too, but the global fallout compelled the calling of a royal commission to investigate payments to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.

As with AWB, NPA and Securency were actively supported by politicians, trade officials and diplomats. AWB, however, was not a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank, which must set the standard for integrity. An entirely independent inquiry is needed to establish how the central bank failed in its oversight then did not immediately refer such serious allegations to police. A parliamentary inquiry is no longer adequate for such a task. The integrity of Australian governance is at stake.








China has bought Russia's Varyag for $20m and given it its first sea trials – but it won't change the balance of power in the South China Sea

The history of ships is sometimes more eloquent than that of their owners. The 33,000-ton Varyag was designed as a Soviet multi-role aircraft carrier. Its sister ship the Kuznetsov survived, but by the time the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the Varyag was a white elephant marooned off a port in the Black Sea. It had not only lost its electronics, but carelessly, its country too.

Enter China as a buyer in the car boot sale for Soviet technology. The Varyag was bought for a mere snip, $20m, by a travel agency claiming they would use it as a casino off Macau. No surprise that it ended up in the hands of its real owners, the People's Liberation Army. Yesterday the Varyag, refitted, with a new radar mast, was given its first sea-trials. One super-power bows out, and another, after an interval of 19 years, steps up.

China's first aircraft carrier will not change the balance of naval power in the South China Sea. The PLA said they would use it for training and as a model for future carriers. But as a mark of future intent, the refurbished carrier is not lost on its immediate neighbours with whom China has a series of territorial claims, Japan and Vietnam, nor the region's other maritime powers, the US and India. China has been thinking ahead. It has planned its naval strategy for expanding eastwards for the next 30 years. Japanese defence analysts say that by 2015 China could have built three nuclear carrier battle groups.

The next question is where China will project this force. The South China Sea is a relatively small area for three carrier battle groups. There is a territorial dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, west of Okinawa, and a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japan coastguard boats near the islands resulted in a major diplomatic incident in September last year. These islands belong to the first island chain in the Pacific and beyond lies a continental shelf whose underwater resources are also in dispute.

Japan is not the only neighbour to be concerned by the projection of Chinese naval power. Hours after the trial began, Taiwan unveiled a missile which it pointedly described as an aircraft killer. There have been maritime incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese survey boats. Further afield, the Indian Ocean is fast becoming contested, with a string of ports constructed with Chinese help in Burma, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Chinese analysts say China is already a maritime power and needs an appropriate force like the US and British Empire had. But that is precisely the problem. All that will encourage is a regional arms race.





Excited post-match crowds streaming through cities that have already suffered riot damage is a recipe for trouble

Even in more peaceful times, there can be something intrusive about the early start of the football season. In this country, football is so redolent of the winter months that, at the best of times, football in August is something to be got through before the nights draw in and the serious stuff begins. These, though, are not the best of times, and the case for delaying this weekend's English league matches rests on a unique and quite different argument. The problem this week is so obvious that it is a surprise the decision has not already been taken. Large and excited pre- and post-match crowds, sometimes drink-fuelled, streaming through shopping streets in often rundown parts of Britain's cities, some of which have already suffered serious riot damage in recent days, are a recipe for further danger and uncertainty, made more febrile by the current mood. Police officers, many of whom will have worked long overnight shifts to keep the peace in city streets around the country this week, will inevitably need to be deployed again in numbers. It is a cocktail of extra and easily avoidable tensions which the country, the fans, the local residents and the police themselves can all well do without. The football authorities have sensibly postponed several games already this week . Now they need to postpone much of the weekend programme too. Let's try to get our collective breath back this weekend, get our priorities right, and not run the risk of further avoidable mayhem.







The tone and language used by David Cameron to address the riots must shape the national mood

The murder of three young men in Birmingham, in what police are treating as a deliberate hit-and-run attack as they tried to defend their community against the looters, marks a new low point in the destruction of the web of mutual obligation that allows society to prosper. Britain's second city is facing the terrible risk that racial violence will add an even more explosive element to the violent disorder that has spread around the country over the past four nights. With great dignity, Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon – at 21, the youngest of the three victims – appealed for calm. So did the area's MP, Shabana Mahmood, and the Bishop of Aston, Rt Rev Anthony Watson. If their calls are not heeded, David Cameron will be facing a much graver problem of interracial violence. If this happened, the fury of the disposessed that underlies this week's unforgivable looting would pale as a social problem in comparison. It is easy to be sceptical about the importance of parliament. Today, the tone and the language the prime minister finds to address the challenges he faces needs to shape the national mood.

There is universal condemnation of the looters. There is no "bloody good hiding" moment, as there was after the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots when Bernie Grant attacked the police. Across class, age and ethnicity, empathy is almost entirely lacking. Of course it is. Desperately needed jobs have gone, family businesses have been destroyed, young families have been left homeless and now three – four, counting a shooting in Croydon – lives have been lost. All this to indulge a mad consumerist greed. On the steps of Downing Street yesterday, Mr Cameron echoed the anger and disbelief he has heard in the 24 hours since he returned from his holiday. He sounded, as he needed to, like a leader taking charge as he endorsed the use of baton rounds and even water cannon if the police thought they were necessary. He rightly stressed that his priority was to restore order. (Birmingham could all too readily show what failure might mean). He condemned the lack of responsibility, the sense of entitlement and the impunity that allowed people to detach themselves from morality. All of this is an understandable response. It is what many people are thinking, magnified on countless tweets and innumerable blogs: a kind of national vigilantism on the rise. It should not be encouraged.

Of course it is understandable, even admirable, that people are ready to defend their neighbourhoods, as the three murdered men wanted to do. It is hard to sneer at the newly formed Enfield defence force, at least while it is just an ad hoc group in white T-shirts, and not racist elements hijacking a local group. But Mr Cameron has to move the country on. There are good reasons why security is done by the state. The police need the means and the public support to enable them, and them alone, to do their job. That is the first point Mr Cameron must make. The second is much tougher, particularly since his attack yesterday on a society that was "not just broken but sick" was enthusiastically received by longstanding critics. He needs to revisit the spirit that animated his 2006 hug-a-hoodie speech. He was right then to warn of the degree of social injustice in Britain, the insecurity it causes and the fear that insecurity provokes. He should reflect on the murder rate, the rape rate and the 30% long-term youth unemployment in the communities that have been disfigured by rioting, and he might dwell on the impact on the poorest in society of a whole generation encouraged to borrow and to buy.

Ed Miliband too has a tough day ahead. Tories have been unscrupulous in trying to present the opposition as apologists for violence. It is – as Harriet Harman tried to say on Tuesday's Newsnight – much more complex than a question of cuts. It is not all about politics. It is not, it is clear from the overworked courts, just about poverty. But nor is it only getting the lid back on and walking away.






Many are nervous and preparing for the worst as former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin is heading home to face justice after more than 75 days on the run.

The public at large, however, are similarly anxious to see how the runaway tale will come to an end as Nazaruddin has, in an apparent move to fight back, leaked so many untold stories which, if true, will bring scores of top politicians and state officials down.

Following his capture in Colombia's resort city of Cartagena on Sunday, controversy has been rife over whether he deserves witness protection due to the information, if not secrets, he is keeping. Nazaruddin seems to hold a lot of cards that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) will have to handle with care if they are to unveil the whole story about the corruption saga that former House of Representatives politician has built.

It comes as no surprise that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is also the Democratic Party's chief patron, has expressed concern about Nazaruddin's safety. As have anticorruption watchdogs, who have insisted that Nazaruddin be put in the custody of the Witness and Victim Protection Agency to keep him outside influences that might bar him from telling the whole truth.

Nazaruddin is by no means a voluntary whistle-blower, let alone a hero, but the KPK has no choice but to start with him in a bid to resolve the puzzling corruption cases in which he is implicated. For the sake of the corruption crusade for which we yearn, Nazaruddin must reach home safely, and so must his bag of evidence. There would be no excuse if the KPK and Indonesian authorities lose that bag as has happened in the past when law enforcers have halted an investigation because evidence goes missing.

Prior to his arrest by Colombian police, Nazaruddin transferred the bag to Indonesian ambassador to Colombia Michael Menufandu. Many believe it contains digital storage media with information on the role of the Democratic Party's leaders in the embezzlement of state funds through government projects.

Several times Nazaruddin claimed during an interview with Indonesian media while on the run that he was in possession of documents and video recordings that could implicate his Democratic Party colleagues, notably party chairman Anas Urbaningrum. Nazaruddin has also named KPK senior officials Chandra Hamzah, Ade Rahardja and Johan Budi, who have all failed to qualify in the ongoing selection of KPK leader candidates.

Of course we cannot take Nazaruddin's allegations for granted, particularly due to his poor credibility. He fooled the public when he claimed he had never met Youth and Sports Ministry secretary Wafid Muharram, a suspect in the SEA Games graft case, who eventually led the KPK to Nazaruddin. Later on, he sneaked unnoticed to Singapore for what he called "medical treatment" just 24 hours before he was hit with a travel ban.

Nazaruddin's 75-day sojourn that began in Singapore is another case that may explain how the mafia operates in our law enforcement force. It is difficult to believe he could escape the ban in the first place without help from one or two people. Nazaruddin has said it was Anas who had asked him to hide until after a national leadership change in 2014, but that's not enough.

Too many questions are lingering over how far Nazaruddin will go in unraveling the corruption cases centering on him, considering his clear intent to shoot Anas down. While it is too early to predict the end of Nazaruddin's saga, we just hope that he has a safe, if not pleasant, flight home.





Muslims all over the world celebrate Ramadhan as the month of blessings, forgiveness, and most importantly the month of the revelation of the Koran.

Back to 610 AD at night in Ramadhan, the Prophet Muhammad received the first divine revelation: "Read in the name of your Sustainer who has created", etc.

Muslims are encouraged to read, recite and appreciate the meaning of the Koran. This month-long reading is God's teaching of literacy, that being literate is quality cherished by God Almighty.

Once a year Ramadhan comes down to Muslims, now of around 1.4 billon in number, to remind them of the importance of literacy. An illiterate can neither spell God, nor read and write His Words, let alone His unwritten words, namely the whole universe.

The literacy campaign by the Prophet was indeed a strategy not only of education, but also of civilization. Fascinating in particular is the expansion of Islam: Within a century it had spread from Arabia to the Atlantic and Central Europe.

To repeat, this miraculous military achievement was driven first and foremost by commitment to reading, i.e. education. Islam through Ramadhan reiterates literacy skill as basic for development and civilization. Unfortunately, many Muslim politicians and bureaucrats take literacy education easy.

Generally Ramadhan is linked to fasting, which is more universal in practice. To fast means to restrain from, say, eating, drinking or physical exercise for informed reasons.

A diabetic is advised to take less sweet food and drink; likewise an old person is suggested to do less physical exercise. Thus, by norm in any race, ethnicity and nation throughout history, self-control is the wisdom of life.

Fasting is optional yet medically and mentally advisable. However, during Ramadhan all Muslims fast for 29 or 30 days. This obligation applies to every Muslim health wise capable to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from shortly before sunrise to sunset.

Fasting is well defined to avoid physical and mental disorder. As a matter of faith, shaum (fasting) practiced by Muslims is quite distinct in several ways as follows.

First, fasting has two dimensions, physical and spiritual. Physically fasting is to forgo eating, drinking and sex; but spiritually it is to perform a ritual as obliged by God. Fasting, like daily prayers, is ibadah (worship) to God, namely as evidence of piety and submission.

Man is a spiritual being and fasting during Ramadhan is spiritual refinement.

Second, fasting is an individual as well social undertaking. Muslim communities all over the world observe Ramadhan collectively. Fasting is performed at the same time across nations, ethnics and communities.

This is to suggest that all Muslims, despite social and racial differences, are unified by the ritual to build cross-national solidarity and achieve common goals.

Third, fasting varies in degrees. Physical fasting forgoes only physical seduction and temptation, while mental fasting forgoes bad conduct such as idle talk, lying, backbiting, self-overrating and overestimating, arrogance, slandering, defaming, character assassination, and the like. Physical fasting is indeed a prerequisite of the mental type.

Physical fasting should be done in tandem with mental fasting. Most people survive physical fasting, but fail mental fasting. The Prophet Muhammad once said that a number of fasting people were, alas, just enduring hunger and thirst. This suggests that mental fasting is superior to and presupposes physical fasting.

People are now confused and irritated by political hullabaloo, whose end is never in sight. Yes, politics is always noisy and quarrelsome. Or as Groucho Marx puts it, "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies."

Given that, politicians are responsible for current political backbiting, self-overrating and overestimating, arrogance, slandering, defaming and character assassination.

The month of Ramadhan is the right time for our politicians to ponder and reflect whether they are practicing physical fasting or mental fasting, or neither. Being hungry during Ramadhan is meant to develop empathy toward millions of country men still in poverty. For them decent housing and education is a luxury.

Fourth, fasting is a strictly timed ritual. Only when it is done right will it produce physical, spiritual, moral and social benefits. Obviously fasting instructs us self-discipline in terms of time, laws, and regulations. Muslims — by way of fasting during Ramadhan — are supposed to be exemplary citizens committed to rules and regulations.

Fifth, during Ramadhan family members flock together for dinner and breakfast, a moment of sharing and caring, which can be overlooked throughout the year.

The whole family should be grateful to Ramadhan for it reunites the family, so that family cohesion is assured. Family is the smallest unit of the community, the collection of which forms a nation. Establishing cohesion and brotherhood within a family is tantamount of establishing those within the country.

Sixth, during Ramadhan, Muslims are encouraged to do congregational evening prayers in mosques. The message is clear enough, to develop social cohesion, unity and solidarity. Collective prayer is encouraged to pull together communities falling apart.

We are witnessing the nation falling apart due to political ambition and interest. Many political parties are already in existence and new ones are coming on to the stage. The more parties you have, the more difficult it is to manage the nation.

Seventh, Ramadhan ends with the Idul Fitri festivity, where people — regardless of their faith and religion — celebrate the day.

People, some thousands of miles away, visit each other to ask for true forgiveness. People, especially public figures, hold open house programs to share food and drink. The end of Ramadhan sets a new life afresh to begin a new life. A bright future is in sight.

Evidently, Ramadhan is month of education and social solidarity. It teaches us to live modestly, to speak and act correctly, to develop empathy for the poor and weak, and to work side by side to solve common problems of the nation.

The writer is a professor at the Indonesia University of Education, Bandung.






I offer you three options. First: We will not only let you continue the conflict, but we will in fact supply ammunition and weapons for both sides until such time that the conflict ends by itself.

"Second: The government will increase the military and police forces in order to crush anyone who starts a conflict — this option will for sure result in large-scale casualties. Third: The parties to the conflict must sit down together to have a dialogue and negotiate in order to find a peaceful resolution."

These three options were presented clearly, unequivocally and emphatically by then Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla to the conflicting parties in Poso, Central Sulawesi, back in 2001. And there was really no other option available than the third one — which was also the option the parties chose.

The dialogue process in Malino (part I) ensured and resulted in peace. The life of the people returned to normal.

I shared my experiences from assisting Pak Kalla in resolving the conflicts in Poso, Ambon (the Moluccas) and Aceh at a peace forum in Switzerland in 2006.

I explained how the three options shocked and woke the conflicting parties up and encouraged them to take the avenue of dialogue.

I also shared in the forum the strong words Pak Kalla communicated to those parties in Poso and the Moluccas who claimed to undertake their activities in the name of religion: "Do not believe that you, who kill or is killed by a follower of another religion than yours, will go to heaven. You will all go to hell."

The more than 30 attending proclaimed experts and specialists on peace and conflict resolution were taken by real surprise with the approach of Pak Kalla — who by the way is not an expert, and does not have any formal education in conflict resolution — to solving conflicts.

However, as is evident, the conflicts in Poso, the Moluccas and Aceh were resolved successfully and in a dignified manner.

It is not surprising that several domestic and foreign universities have afforded Pak Kalla Doctor Honoris Causa titles. He is different from most people who generally subscribe to the principle of NATO (No Action Talk Only).

It is not unwarranted that some people describe him as The Man of Action. Pak Kalla and his team worked on the ground or in the field until they understood the root causes of the conflict and then provided solutions based on input from the grass-roots level.

It is very unfortunate that those (self-) proclaimed experts and specialists who are clever in doing analyses and have never resolved a conflict give premature statements of actual facts.

This is what happened also in the opinion piece by Michael Vatikiotis titled "Resolving conflict in Indonesia" which appeared in the July 30 edition of The Jakarta Post.

Mr. Vatikiotis neither knows, understands nor has experienced the conflict resolution processes of Poso, Ambon and Aceh — which I was involved in as a member of Pak Kalla's core team.

Mr. Vatikiotis does not know how Pak Kalla emphasized the importance of building mutual trust between the conflicting parties and safeguarding the dignity of each party.

Mr. Vatikiotis does not know how the process was done; from the phase of identifying and approaching the various actors, to the phase of exerting influence on the actors in a humane and familiar manner, be it through their children, wives, parents or other relevant parties. It is a gross misstatement to say that women were not involved.

And reaching a peace agreement is not the end in a peace process. After the peace agreement, implementation and monitoring of the provisions of the peace agreement must be carried out. It includes overseeing and fostering the peace.

Many things have been done or are done by the government and peacemakers in Indonesia in overseeing and fostering peace; however, for obvious reasons, not all of them are exposed to media. This is what is meant by fully integrated conflict resolution.

We always place the conflicting parties on the same level. We invite the parties to sit together at the table as a symbol of their equal status as dialogue partners. All parties have the right to speak and express their respective opinions.

Next week we will celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Aceh Peace Accord and the peace there has so far continued to progress positively, which is at least a kind of proof that we Indonesians have done things right.

The writer was a member of the Conflict Resolution Team for Poso, the Moluccas and Aceh and the team leader for the Helsinki Negotiations. Now he chairs the Special Delegation of the President of the Republic of Indonesia for Peace in Papua.






Dramatic changes in the global economy and markets since the financial crisis have reshaped the investment landscape. Risks and opportunities are surfacing in unexpected places and we believe that addressing these changes effectively requires fixed income investment strategies that are more flexible and opportunistic.

Investors looking for income and stability have historically focused on government bonds, while those looking for higher return potential have focused on emerging market bonds, high yield corporate bonds and other riskier sectors of the market. In many ways, the fallout from the financial crisis has turned this paradigm on its head.

Major government bond markets today offer investors a yield of about 2.1 percent, one of the lowest yields ever on major government bonds (Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index as of Aug. 1, 2011). Perhaps more importantly, low yields may also undermine the role of government bonds as a source of stability in an overall portfolio.

That's because income is a key buffer against the risk of rising interest rates. For example, in four of the last 11 years, rising interest rates have caused the Barclays Global Aggregate Index (which generally consists of more than 50 percent government bonds) to decline in price, resulting in a capital loss. However, the index's total return was positive in all 11 of those years because income more than offset the price decline.

At the same time, many major developed governments are running large deficits and are borrowing more and more to fund those deficits. These countries are now "walking a tightrope", trying to preserve growth, which is needed to support existing debt, while tightening fiscal policy in an effort to reduce their borrowing needs.

Any missteps could lead investors to demand much higher rates for investing in government bonds and existing bonds that pay lower rates would lose value, as has already occurred in several European countries.

Considering today's small income buffer and rising fundamental risk, we think the risk/return profile of developed government bond markets is materially different from its historical profile.

Fortunately, the global bond market is more than just developed government bonds. Other sectors of the market have also undergone significant — but more positive — changes following the financial crisis.

Some of these are long-term, such as the transformation of many "emerging" countries into key drivers of global growth. Many countries still considered "emerging" offer bond investors better growth and debt fundamentals compared to their developed-country peers, as well as higher income.

Other changes are more cyclical in nature, but create potential opportunities for investors willing to expand their search for value in the bond market.

In the wake of the financial crisis, the corporate sector has become much more conservative, cutting costs, reducing leverage and raising cash. These are material changes that reduce risk for bond investors, while corporate bonds continue to offer yields we consider attractive relative to government debt.

In our view, these changes in the bond market require an equally fundamental change in the way investors approach their bond portfolio. The traditional paradigm has been a constrained approach to fixed income, focusing primarily on government and government-related debt while making small allocations to other sectors that might provide more attractive return.

This approach made sense in world where government debt offered attractive income and low risk, and other sectors were more prone to volatility. We think it makes less sense today. Non-government sectors certainly still hold the potential for volatility. But so does the developed government bond market, as we've already seen in parts of Europe.

What's the answer? First, we think bond portfolios need to be more global, pursuing opportunities wherever they arise. Second, we think risk should be taken based on the opportunity set and diversification, rather than consistently focusing on government debt when the reward may not be worth the risk.

Finally, in an interconnected world where risk appetite is a global force and can shift on a moment's notice, we think bond portfolios should have the flexibility to make meaningful shifts between riskier sectors and government bonds depending on the environment.

In our view, this approach offers investors the best opportunity earn an attractive return for their bond market risk.

The writer is managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. The opinions expressed are his own.





Papua looks to have turned into a land of violence. Between July and August this year alone, 15 civilians and nine members of security forces fell victim to shooting incidents, and another 19 civilians were victims of clashes between civilians.

All these acts of violence exploded when leadership was barely present. Barnabas Suebu ended his five-year term as the governor on July 24. The central government has appointed Director General of Regional Development Syamsul Arief Rivai as acting governor, whose jobs include ensuring the gubernatorial election, which is expected to be held in October run peacefully.

In neighboring West Papua, the problem related to the gubernatorial election has not been settled yet either. The central government appointed Director General of Nation Unity and Political Affairs Tanribali Limo the acting governor of the province, just a few days after the gubernatorial election took place with a very low turnout.

The central government sparked controversy in forming the West Papua version of the Papua People's Assembly (MRP), a blatant violation the 2001 Papua Special Autonomy Law. Jakarta clearly imposed its will on the Papuans in the case of the establishment of the new MRP in West Papua province.

At the same time, the leadership of the Papua People's Assembly in the Papua province was elected but has not been installed, and therefore the assembly cannot conduct its duty as mandated by the special autonomy law.

Amid the political division, demand for referendum in Papua is also getting louder. Thousands of indigenous Papuans staged a peaceful demonstration recently, raising their demand for a referendum.

More Papuans are expected to join the call for referendum because the government has failed to consistently implement the Papua's autonomy law. Neither the government has any plan to comprehensively evaluate enforcement of the special autonomy law despite its 10 years of existence.

The government has not demonstrated its political will to address corruption that is rampant in Papua and West Papua provinces. The Papuans get the impression that the central government is deliberately protecting the corrupt officials in the two provinces although some public officials were brought to justice for graft.

Lately, certain groups in Papua have been putting pressure on the central government to form a Central Papua province. They are hoping to communicate their aspiration to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

All those events only conclude that the general situation in Papua and West Papua provinces is messy and chaotic.

Papuans view the central government has no united response to this chaotic situation in Papua. It is clearly manifested in the different comments raised by government officials in Jakarta. It seems that each state institution has its own opinion on Papua and its problems.

At the grassroots level, several state institutions have been touted as influential forces, at least in dealing with the Papua issue. The people always talk about the involvement of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), the Indonesian Military, the National Police, the Home Ministry and Office of the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.  

The presence of the five institutions is strongly felt by the Papuans in their daily lives, as against other state institutions. Most Papuans in the rural area have never heard state agencies except for the five institutions.

Despite the government's commitment to a prosperity approach for Papua, people in the remote villages continue experiencing the implication of a security approach, adopted by the five institutions. Unfortunately, each of the institutions advance their respective missions. They even have conflicting interpretations on the situation on the land of Papua.

As a result, often Papuans feel they are misunderstood by these institutions. They feel accepted by one state institution but ignored by others.

Therefore, the Papuans want to know how Yudhyono will address the mess in Papua.

The fundamental question will be: Who cares about Papua?

Papuans still remember vividly Yudhoyono's remarks in his state address on Aug. 16, 2010. He declared the government's commitment to a constructive communication with the Papuans.  

Since then the Papuans have been waiting for the realization of the promise. They have been waiting for a special envoy who is officially appointed by Yudhoyono to visit Papua and prepare the way for constructive communication.  

Papuans find nobody within the government is entrusted to establish the communication with the Papuans to address their grievances, needs, aspirations and hopes.

With the absence of such an appointed person, Papuans do not know whom they can talk to in Jakarta.

Every minister is busy with their respective duties.

Taking the present situation on the ground into consideration, there is an urgent need of having somebody who is fully in charge of the whole western half of the Island of New Guinea.

Being a special envoy, the appointed person will be representing the central government for the whole territory of Papua and communicating official positions and messages from Jakarta. The special envoy should be officially appointed by the President. The appointment should be based on a Presidential decree that elaborates his duty. It will give the appointee a strong legal foundation.

Without the presence of a special envoy, Papuans will believe they have been left alone. If that happens, the Papuans will seek their own ways to articulate their grievances. It will come as no surprise, therefore, if Papua becomes an international issue in the near future.

The writer is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.




On behalf of WWF Global Forest & Trade Network - Indonesia (GFTN - Indonesia) members, in particular those operating near, or within, the area designated as the Heart of Borneo (HoB), on the island of Borneo, I would like to issue the following response to an article titled "Group Criticizes Global Forest Protection Effort", printed in The Jakarta Post on July 26.

GFTN - Indonesia strongly and categorically disputes the findings and related conclusions that form the basis of the Global Witness (GW) report, particularly in the context that the WWF "greenwashes" companies that conduct natural forest management in Borneo.

Many of the assertions in the report are just plain wrong, or else are based on an incomplete understanding of the process and procedures the report attempts to critique.

For example, claims made in regards to the Malaysian company Ta Ann are both inaccurate and misleading.

Linking the company's current forestry operations, which were sanctioned in 1999, with the HoB Declaration, which was signed by the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia in 2007, shows a clear lack of understanding of the on-ground reality in the HoB — a lack of understanding that also brings in to question other assertions made in the GW report.

In contrast to the report allegations, Ta Ann has never been a forestry member of the GFTN.

The GFTN's work with Ta Ann in Malaysia is confined to trade membership and is directly linked to two of its mills where constructive engagement with the company has led to marked improvement in chain of custody issues and high conservation value forest assessment within its existing concessions.

Neither of these advances would have been possible without the existence of the GFTN process and the willingness of the company to engage in that process.

Neither does the GFTN sanction illegal behaviour from within its membership — another erroneous claim made in the report. Assertions of illegal logging activity in the Heart of Borneo are not only incorrect, but they once again reflect poorly on the diligence with which the report's authors have researched issues.

The 22-million-hectare area, as decreed under the HoB Declaration, is not one large protected area. Instead, it is a mosaic of conservation areas, forest and wildlife corridors and, most significantly, areas that have been designated for sustainable development — which can include logging, mining and palm oil production.

Indeed, as widely published on the WWF's HoB websites and literature — currently 40 percent of the HoB area is under some form of concession or permit for natural resource use.

The challenge for the three government signatories of the Heart of Borneo Declaration, organizations such as the WWF and other partners, is creating the environment for sustainable development in these concession areas.

In response to the allegation that the GFTN processes are not transparent or difficult for third parties to call to account, this claim, too, strays from the truth.

Since the completion of a third-party independent review in 2007, the GFTN has worked hard on transparency issues. The program lists all participants on its website ( and has released a public information document that describes the scope of these relationships.

Balancing the "commercial in-confidence" needs of GFTN members with the equally strong desire for transparency in all its activities involving approximately 300 companies and 25 sovereign WWF offices is a responsibility the GFTN does not take lightly.

Anwar Purwoto
Director of Forest, Terrestrial Species and Fresh Water Program, WWF-Indonesa



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